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The failure of Israel

The failure of Israel

This is a very helpful articulation of faith, Andrew, and echoes much of the understanding that I feel I’ve been led into on my personal journey of faith.

I would, though, like to ask you to think about your number four a little, with me. This is a line of thought I’ve returned to again and again over the past six years or so, since I was first introduced to it. I find it exciting and thought provoking.

Israel as ransom nation. Alongside the other elements of their calling which we are more familiar with, there is this sense of sharing the calling of the “suffering servant,” of Isaiah 49-53, the one whom we, as Christians, more easily identify with the Messiah, Jesus.

In Jewish thought, the Messiah and Israel, of course, share a mystical overlap. Both “Son of God” (see Matthew 2.15) [note: ancient Jewish literature Enoch 105.2, 4 Ezra 7.28-29, 13.32-52, 14.9 refer to the Messiah as the Son of God; see also Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics for exposition of this idea], the Messiah “identifies with and embodies national Israel”; the servant in Isaiah 49 is both Israel and he who restores Israel, etc.

What does this inform us of Israel’s judgement and rejection and suffering? Unlike the Messiah, their suffering is not seperate from their own sin and disobedience. But did Israel simply, as you put it,

fail to live up to its calling to embody and manifest the reality of God in the world.”?

Is it not rather, possible to say that their “failure,” - like the “failure” of Jesus, the crucified, rejected prophet - was actually necessarily ordained by God’s eternal purpose and, in fact, the very epitome of their calling and service to God?! If this is the case, we begin to see that as a nation, they are the ultimate servant nation - a “ransom nation” - chosen by God to suffer his rejection, that all nations might be brought into the knowledge of God’s “kindness and severity.”

Let’s take a close look at some key verses from Romans 11: verses 8-11 and 25-26, (I am using the Complete Jewish Bible) in an effort to substantiate this idea.

[8] “God has given them a spirit of dullness -
eyes that do not see
and ears that do not hear
right down to the present day.
[9] and David says

Let their dining table become for them a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a punishment. [10] Let their eyes be darkened, so that they can’t see, with their backs bent continually.”
[11] “In that case, I say, isn’t it that they have stumbled with the result that they have permanently fallen away?” Heaven forbid! Quite the contrary, it is by means of their stumbling that the deliverance has come to the Gentiles in order to provoke them to jealousy”

[25] …brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed… It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Israel, until the Gentile world enters in it’s fullness…

The way I read it is this: Israel’s stumbling over the stumbling stone (1 Peter 2.8) “makes room” in the purposes of God for the Gentiles to come in. Israel paid the ultimate price, as a servant, by being rejected and cut off from the Messianic covenant, in order that we Gentiles could enter into it. In this sense, they share in the Messiah’s suffering.

Will they then share in his vindication?

[26] …it is in this way that all Israel will be saved.

Yes! It is in this extraordinary way that Israel will be saved, vindicated, ressurrected, joined to the Messiah again, wholly, completely, Jew, Gentile reconciled as One New Humanity in Yeshua, Jesus.

[12]Moreover, if their stumbling is bringing riches to the world - that is if Israel being placed temporarily in a condition less favoured than that of the Gentiles is bringing riches to the latter - how much greater will Israel in it’s fullness bring them!…

[15]if their casting Yeshua aside means reconciliation for the world, what will their accepting him mean? It will be life from the dead!

So, was Israel a failure? Or is it (still) a suffering servant, to whom we Gentiles should show extraordinary love, respect and humility towards? I say yes, and that our role towards them in showing this love is to “provoke them to jealousy” over their Messiah:

[30] Just as you yourselves were disobedient to God but have received mercy now because of Israel’s disobedience, so also Israel has been disobedient now, so that by your showing them the same mercy that God has show you, they too may receive God’s mercy…

[33] O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgements! How unsearchable are his ways!”

[note: I am aware that the CJB translation can be objected to; there is not room to justify its renderings here, but suffice it to say, I believe that they are justified and they are certainly explained in the accompanying Jewish New Testament Commentary, DH Stern, JNT Publications, Maryland, 1992]

As ever, interested in your thoughts (and, those of others, of course).

My (tentative) beliefs By: Andrew (39 replies) 20 February, 2004 - 20:19