Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why Israel is important to the Christian

Acts 28:20 For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.”

Note to readers: For those wanting to prayer more specifically for Israel, the following link is excellent in guiding the reader through such an effort:

As we come to the 28th chapter of the book of Acts, we find Paul finally arriving at Rome, where he will eventually make his appeal to Caesar, answer his critics and gain opportunity to share the Gospel. Even though Paul would end up under house arrest in Rome, chained to a Roman soldier for two years - the time would prove to be among the most fruitful years of Paul's ministry. As Paul leaves the Island of Malta (upon which he landed in Acts 28:1-10), he make his way to Rome. 

After some preliminary remarks about his experiences on the way to Rome, we find Paul getting an audience with some people, explaining how he had arrived at Rome, and what he expected to take place. In expounding upon his chains and being under the constant supervision of a Roman soldier, we find this interesting statement in Acts 28:20 about him being chained "for the sake of the hope of Israel". It is with that statement that I am interested in unpacking in today's post. Paul clearly saw what he was undergoing as having to do with not only God's master plan for the Gospel throughout the world, but even more specifically with God's program for Israel. Whether Christians realize it or not, God still has a plan for Israel and Israel's ultimate destinity is intimately related to our own. Today's post is all about unfolding the three hopes that are gained when the Christian pays closer attention to Israel, God's abiding interest in it and how such a focus can strengthen the Christian's hope overall. Notice what scripture has to say about the following three hopes attached to God's promises to Israel and for those who adovcate the interests of His chosen people. 

1. The hope we find in prayer.
Psalm 122:6-9 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:“May they prosper who love you. 7 “May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
8 For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good." 

I know of a dear man of God with whom I pray with often.  Everytime that man prays, he prays for the peace of Jerusalem. There is something supernatural attached to praying for the peace of Jersualem. It is commanded and attached with a promise. The prophet Daniel models this for us in Daniel 6:10-11 "Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God." By getting ourselves in order with what God has said in His Word, we can move on ahead in prayer. Hebrews 4:16 reminds us of the hope we find when coming to God in prayer: "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." So Israel is important to the Christian because of the hope we can find when praying for it, but notice a second hope....

2. The hope of the Gospel.
Paul clearly attaches all that he has went through for the Gospel's sake to the destiny of Israel. Without a doubt, when Paul mentioned anything about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, oftentimes he would mention Israel. Romans 1:16-17 states:  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealedfrom faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Why is it so important to be interested in the affairs of a people with whom we may or may not have direct contact? Because the Jewish people are still God's people. Seeing Paul's burden for their lost condition reminds us of the burden we ought to have not only for them but lost people in general. Notice what he writes in Romans 9:1-5 "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." Notice the anguish of heart with which Paul writes concerning his fellow Jews. Should you and I not also have the same kind of burden for the lost - whether Jew or Gentile. Increasing our interest in the affairs of Israel makes us more sensitive to the necessity to share the hope of the Gospel. Paul expresses such hope for their salvation in Romans 11:25-26 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of thismystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” So Israel is important to the Christian for the reason of the hope it encourages us to find in prayer and the hope of the Gospel to which it points. However, notice one more hope that is associated with focusing greater attention on the spiritual warefare of Israel, namely....

3. The Hope of the Second coming.
Notice once again what Paul writes in Romans 11:26 "and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” When the scriptures says: "all Israel will be saved", that is referring to those select Jews within the nation, a number only known to God, who by His grace will turn to the Messiah in His second coming. Scripture ties together the timing of Christ's second coming with the salvation of Israel. Zechariah 12:10 states: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn." Undoubtedly Zechariah's prophecy was speaking chiefly of what would take place at Christ's second coming, however this same passage finds a partial fulfillment in what Jesus achieved in His first coming. John 19:37 quotes nearly verbatim Zechariah 12:10 in reference to what Jesus was undergoing during His time on the cross. 

The Apostle John saw in the piercing of Jesus in the side by the Roman spear the intiation of a series of events that would lead to the ultimate fullfillment of Zechariah 12:10 at Christ's second coming. The cross is ever associated with the second coming, being that what Jesus achieved on the cross and in the resurrection necessarily guarantees what He will accomplish when He comes back the second time. Revelation 1:7 quotes Zechariah 12:10 in reference to Christ's second coming: "Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth willmourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen." 

Closing thoughts:
Today we have considered why Israel is important to the Christian, based off of Paul's remarks in Acts 28:20. We as Christians living in America are oftentimes so tethered to the things of this world that we rarely think about the second coming. I have found whenever I am praying for Jerusalem, immediately I am lifted in prayer from my immediate concerns to global concerns. As I pray for Jerusalem, the Spirit of God begins to deal with me regarding my role in telling others about the Gospel. Then in focusing more direct attention on the welfare of Israel, I find myself thinking more about Jesus' second coming. All three engender greater hope in the Christian, which is why Israel is important to the Christian. 

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