A pastor recently shared with me that when God saved him as a college student some radical changes happened. Scripture affirms that upon regeneration God makes some supernatural, radical changes in the sinner as He makes them a saint: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17; CSB). One immediate profound change he noticed was his newly acquired love and affection for Israel. Such a positive attitude toward Israel is in keeping with the heart of every true, Bible-believing Christian. Love for Israel is the very heart of God. To be a child of God and a disciple of Christ is to love what God loves and hate what God hates. Scripture clearly reveals who and what God loves. God loves Israel.
God Formalized His love for Israel
God promised to create the nation of Israel around 2,000 BC during the days of Abraham. Actually, God told Abraham that he would become the father of Jews, the progenitor of the nation of Israel. This promise is the Abrahamic Covenant. Here is what the LORD promised Abraham:
Go from your land [southern Babylonia],
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you [Canaan].
I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,Gen 12:1-3 (CSB)
I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you”
Abraham was seventy-five when God made this promise. When Abraham was about eighty-six God formally ratified the covenant by commanding Abraham to slaughter five different animals. God Himself passed through the bloody sacrifice and swore an oath unto Himself that He was committed to Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites, forever (Gen 15). God swore an oath to Abraham (Gen 26:3). God keeps all of His oaths, perfectly, forever. And this oath was not contingent upon Abraham’s faithfulness, nor the loyalty of his descendants, the Jews. It was an unconditional oath that God made with Himself that could never be broken, rescinded, or changed. It was irrevocable. “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater to swear by, he swore by himself” (Heb 6:13; CSB).
God’s Promises to Israel
In this divine promise—the Abrahamic Covenant—God made many amazing promises. He promised to make Abraham a “great nation.” God did that. He took 70 Israelites in the days of Jacob, and over 400 years multiplied them into a people of more than one million during the days of Moses (1400 BC). God told Israel they were a great nation as they were about to enter the Promised Land under Joshua. And He said they were a great nation, not because they were such wonderful people; rather, they were a great nation only because God, the true King of their nation, was great (Deut 7). Almost 4,000 years after being created by God, Israel still exists as a nation…the oldest nation on earth. God has preserved them. He has made them great.
God also promised to Abraham that He would bless those who bless Israel and He would curse those who treat Israel with contempt. The history of the Old Testament shows how God kept that promise over and over again for centuries. God has never revoked this promise to Israel. God told Abraham that the covenant He made with him and his descendants, the Jews, was not a temporary reality, a fading type, or a conditional contract. It was a permanent, unilateral promise. The LORD said to Abraham, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7; NASB). “Everlasting” means forever.
Remember when Abraham was 75 and God told him to go “to the land” that God would show him (Gen 12:2)? At that time, God promised Abraham, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Gen 12:7). Some time later God repeated the land promise: “for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever” (Gen 13:15). Later when Abraham was 86, at the time God formally ratified the covenant with an oath, He repeated the eternal land promise: “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it” (Gen 15:7). And again, He repeats it: “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates’” (Gen 15:18.) Years later, when Abraham was 99, God gave the formal seal or sign of the covenant—circumcision. Here, God again repeats the land promise to Israel: “I will give to you and your descendants after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen 17:8).
In addition to the promises of making Israel into a great nation with ongoing, divine protection as well as giving them perpetual rights to the Promised Land, God also promised to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham (i.e., the Nations) (Gen 12:3). The New Testament makes it clear that this is a prophecy about the coming Messiah who would come from the loins of Abraham, as a Jew, to be the Savior of the world (i.e., “the families of the earth”). Matthew begins his Gospel highlighting the fact that Jesus came from Abraham to be the Savior of the world (Matt 1:1, 2, 17). Luke’s Gospel does the same thing (1:55, 73; 2:32; 3:34). John’s Gospel says it explicitly (cf. John 4:42). The Apostle Paul calls the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12 “the gospel” (Gal 3:8). It is the good news of God—His promise to send a Savior to the world.
Paul’s Love for Israel
The importance and long-term—even eternal—implications of the Abrahamic Covenant as promised in Genesis 12 cannot be overstated. In many respects, the entire Old Testament is a commentary on the fulfillment of Genesis 12. The eternal New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus at the Last Supper is a further fulfillment of the covenant of Genesis 12 (Luke 22:20). And it is important to remember that God used the nation of Israel to carry out all the details of His redemptive plan. Paul reminded Gentile Christians in Rome of this truth, saying in effect, don’t forget the “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, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh” (Rom 9:4-5). In other words, Paul is saying, “Hey Christian…everything you hold as sacred, and every spiritual blessing you have in your life, including a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, came by way of the Jews.”
Paul’s point is that as a result, every Christian should have nothing but tender affection toward the nation of Israel. In fact, he states it plainly: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my countrymen, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Rom 9:1-4). This is mind-boggling. Paul is willing to endure eternal hell in exchange for some unsaved Jews to be saved. That is the highest form of supernatural, sacrificial, Christ-like love. As a Christian, Paul loved unsaved Jews. He loved wayward Israel.
Paul amplifies his love even more in the next chapter of Romans when he wrote about unsaved Israelites, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Rom 10:1). Paul knew the Old Testament promises of God toward Israel. He knew that Israel was the elect nation of God. God calls them, “Israel mine elect” (Isa 45:4; KJV). God’s very name is, “The God of Israel” (1 Kings 8:17). As long as the sun, moon and stars remain, God will remain committed to Israel (Jer 31:35-37). At the end of world history, God will fully restore Israel (Rom 11:26). When Jesus returns, He will land in Israel (Zech 14:1-4). When He reigns on the earth, it will be from Israel (Zech 14:9-10).
Keep Loving Israel
My pastor friend’s comment was profound. Christians should love Israel. As a believer, Paul had deep love and affection for Israel. Scripture clearly shows God loves Israel with an everlasting love. As such, all those who know Jesus Christ should love the Jews, be heart-broken over their unbelief, and should regularly be telling them the gospel and praying regularly for their salvation. God will bless such efforts. For Paul said to all Christians, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first…” (Rom 1:16).