Israel: God’s People, God’s Land
This week’s Sunday evening bible talk took a look at the age old point of contension: Who’s land is it.
Israel was the name given by God to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Christians, Muslims and Jews all revere this man, because God made promises to him and his chosen descendant.
God Promised Abraham and his “seed” or descendant an inheritance and called him to leave Ur and go to what would later become the land of Israel (Genesis 12). The inheritance was to be an eternal inheritance, with God restating that he and his descendants would receive it “forever” (Genesis 13; 17:8), even though Abraham never received it in his lifetime (Hebrews 11).
The actual land promised to Abraham was much larger than it is now. It was to be the land from the Euphrates to the Nile and everywhere in between (Genesis 15:18), passing through what is now Saudi Arabia.
The Bible declares that once the land was given to the descendants of Israel, it was not to be sold forever (Leviticus 25:23). It is a land that God cares for (Deuteronomy 11:12).
Whose land is it?
Well, primarily it’s God’s, like all the earth(Exodus 19:5), but as far as the descendants of Abraham are concerned, the bible says the inheritance went through Isaac (Genesis 21:10).
Yes, Ishmael would be blessed with great possessions and told he would be a great nation, but he wasn’t to share the inheritance of the “Promised Land” of Israel.
A Promise with Conditions
Although we are saved by grace, God still has expectations of us. To share the inheritance promised to Abraham, the individual Israelite was asked to obey God and keep his covenant (Exodus 19:5,6; Deut 28:1). Those individuals who disobeyed would be cut off from the land (1 Kings 9:7).
Sadly, just as with our lives, the history of the nation of Israel was fraught with failure (Jeremiah 2:7). Their disobedience led to several tragedies:
- Assyrian Captivity – 720 BC
- Babylonian Captivity – 604 BC
- Persian Dominance – 535 BC
- Greek Dominance – 335 BC
- Romans – 65 BC
It was in AD 70 that the Jews were dispersed throughout the nations. This follows the words of God in Deuteronomy 29:24-28.
This lasted until 1948 when they returned to the land that they had be promised, albeit in unbelief.
Is God finished with the Jews?
Many today would write off the Jews as Christ-killers, claiming their inheritance for themselves. The bible presents a different picture.
Even in their unfaithfulness, God declared, “I am with thee” (Jeremiah 30:11) promising a measured correction, but not an abandonment.
This message extends into the New Testament. The Apostle Paul shows that the disobedience of the Jewish people is temporary and that they will be restored when they repent (Romans 11:25, 26). When will it happen? When Jesus returns (Romans 11:26-28).
Why does God work with the Jews?
Because God keeps his promises. Plainly put, God will keep his word to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by keeping his promise to their children. (Ezekiel 36:22-28). He promised in Ezekiel’s day to re-establish Israel as a Godly nation in their land when Jesus comes back to establish the kingdom of God on the earth (Ezekiel 36,37,38; Zecharaiah 14; Jeremiah 30:3; Jeremiah 31:33; Amos 9:15).
Jerusalem will be a centre of world worship, with the people if Israel as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.
What about us?
Although the promises were made to Abraham’s descendants, we have hope: adoption. Through faith in Jesus and through baptism, we can share that hope. God will adopt us to be a part of the hope that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
Next week, Sunday, at 7:00 pm we’ll be taking a bigger look at Abraham and the promises that God made to him.