Israel and the Returning King
Is God preparing Israel for the Messiah? By Clare Lambert
When was the last time you had a conversation with anyone about Israel that wasn’t about politics?
As I prepared myself, three years ago, to head out to Israel for the first time to study the Holocaust I had plenty of those conversations. In hindsight, I am amazed at how little prior awareness I had, or certainly any meaningful discourse, concerning Israel and the purposes of God.
But when was the last time you took a serious look at what God has to say about Israel and the Jews in the light of current world events and the returning king?
I pose these questions because I believe they must be wrestled with, something I felt compelled to do as I stood on the mountains of Jerusalem, looking afresh at what the Bible says about Israel and the return of Jesus.
In fact, I felt compelled to ask questions I had never considered before: ‘Is this nation of Israel still significant in the ongoing plans of God? Are the ‘chosen people’ still chosen?’
During a break in our week of study at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre, our group took a tour of the Old City. A Jewish friend from home had asked me to take her hand-written prayer to place in one of the cracks of the Western Wall. I was glad to have this errand as, quite unexpectedly, I felt that I was intruding on what is effectively an open-air synagogue.
However, what happened in these moments was to radically alter my perspective. As I, a follower of Jesus, placed my palms against those cool stones, surrounded by the weeping and praying of Jewish Orthodox women, I had a profound encounter with the Lord.
These simple words rung in my ears, “I love these people. I love this place.”
I knew that an invitation had been issued to dig for treasure, to wrestle with the word of God and it was to be the moment that began a deep longing in my heart to see salvation come to the Jews.
My search for answers to these questions has been life-enhancing and life-changing, but I believe that this was not simply a personal calling; rather these were questions I was to bring back to the church. As a predominately Gentile church have we, to a certain degree, lost sight of our Jewish heritage and in doing so are we missing some important truths that are right under our noses?
In Romans 11, Paul speaks at length about his people, the Jews, and asks passionately, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!"
He then exhorts Gentile believers, in verse 18, to tread very carefully with regards our attitudes: “Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches.”
The sad truth is that the church has failed to heed these words over the centuries and thus been stained by a long and terrible historic association with anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution.
There have always been, of course, many exceptions to this rule in the church. From relatively recent history one can highlight two notable examples in Jonathan Edwards and CH Spurgeon. Driven by his interpretation of scripture, Spurgeon made a very clear statement:
“I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough about it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this. I imagine that you cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the Children of Israel...”
In Genesis 12: 2-3, God made a generational covenant with Abraham, through Isaac, which incorporates land, descendants and blessings.
Is this a non-conditional, eternal covenant? The answer to this question is surely vital in our consideration of where this leaves Israel now. We must apply the answer to this question to any opinion we have regarding the Jewish people on the streets of our towns and cities, those living in the modern state of Israel and the land they inhabit.
There is no doubt that not only is Israel becoming a ‘stumbling block’ for many nations but also that a modern exodus is taking place, partly attributable to increasing anti-Semitism. Record-breaking ‘Aliyah’ (Israel immigration) figures in 2014 confirm this as Aliyah rose by 28 per cent last year, and figures are expected to be even higher for 2015.
Aliyah from Western Europe is greater than from elsewhere, particularly from France. Although disturbing, I believe this to be a prophetic migration (e.g. Ezekiel 11:11-12, 28:25, Isaiah 11:10-12).
Something significant is taking place. Paul clearly teaches that one day the Jews will see clearly and will embrace Jesus as their Messiah. Will God find the church slumbering or will we be alert to the signs of the approach of this promised miracle?
In our area, suddenly after 18 years of our ministry here, the local synagogue is reaching out to our church to build relationships. God is doing a new thing. What’s happening in your neighbourhood?
We are awaiting a glorious future Kingdom, reigned over by our Jewish Messiah whose throne will be set in a New Jerusalem. While we wait for that day, while we are loving, serving and witnessing for the sake of the gospel, let’s not lose sight of God’s continuing plans for Israel and the Jews.
Clare Lambert’s book The Returning King – is God preparing Israel for the Messiah? is published by Instant Apostle and available from Christian bookshops and Amazon
Clare is a church leader at Stanmore Baptist Church, Midlessex and involved in youth work, prayer and healing ministries. She is married to Baptist minister Shaun Lambert, author of A Book of Sparks.