Who stands up for Israel's God? For that matter, who is Israel's God? Is it Yahweh? Is it Jesus? Is it the Trinity?
A lot of Christians struggle, perhaps at a subconscious level, about the phrase "God of Israel". After all, Israel's God is the God of Judaism, is He not? And the God of Christianity is not the God of Judaism, right?
Christianity is interesting, perhaps unique or at least rare, in this aspect: its holy book contains the entire holy book of another religion. The whole of Judaism's Scriptures is contained within Christianity's holy book.
Contrast this to, say, Islam, where new writings completely replaced and deemed lies writings of the religion that inspired it. That is to say, Islam was inspired from Judaism and Christianity, but its own holy book denies the writings of both Judaism and Christianity.
(Some Muslims will claim this not true, but in all reality, Islam denies Y'shua (Jesus) is the son of God, thus denying Christian writings, and denies that Isaac (father of Israel) received God's blessings, thus denying Judaism, and that the prophets of Israel prophesied falsely.)
Many Christians are unsure of what they are saying when claiming they worship the God of Israel. Do they really worship Israel's God? If so, why are they so different than the religion of Israel?
This predicament raises other questions: if Christians are worshipers of the God of Israel, why aren't we living in Israel? Why aren't we part of Israel? Joined to Israel? Supporters of Israel?
Over the years, these questions have been answered in many different ways:
- Christian theologians theorized that the Christian Church itself is the new Israel. Replacement Theology invented, problem solved.
- The Christian Church is a new religion that strayed from the Hebrew faith. The "church" just means the "assembly" of folks who love the God of Israel. The religion of Christianity is done away with, problem solved.
- The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God first loved Israel, now he loves the Church. Israel is belittled, problem solved.
- The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God loves both Israel and the Church. Jews need not convert to Christianity, problem solved.
- The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God loves both Israel and the Church, but Jews still need to convert to Christianity. Israel plays second fiddle to the Church, problem solved.
- The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God is using the Church to bless Israel. Jews need not convert to Christianity, problem solved.
- God dispensed -- like a candy dispenser -- different revelations to us over time. He first dispensed that Israel was his people, but we put another quarter in him and he dispensed that the Church was his people. Dispensation Theology invented, Israel done away with, problem solved.
- Gentiles are grafted into Israel by Messiah, becoming physical Israelites, not Christians. Christianity is done away with, problem solved.
- Gentiles are grafted into Israel by Messiah, becoming spiritual Israelites, not Christians. Christianity is done away with, problem solved.
- The Christian Church is the "spiritual" Israel and the Jews are "physical" Israel. God rejected Jews and embraced gentiles, problem solved.
- The Christian Church is the "spiritual" Israel and the Jews are "physical" Israel. Jews rejected God, gentiles embraced Him, problem solved.
- The Christian Church is the bride of Christ upon his return, Jews will receive the judgment coming to them for rejection of Messiah. Israel done away with, problem solved.
- The "Church" and "Israel" are just walled gardens that were invented by men and their religions. The two groups are equally God's children and we ought to all get along. There are multiple paths to God. Christianity and Israel are done away with, problem solved.
- The God of the Old Testament is an angry, judgment-loving false god of the Hebrews. The God of the New Testament is the grace-filled, mercy-loving real God who did away with all the Jewish stuff. Israel done away with, problem solved.
Those are just some of the possible answers I'm aware of. And some big names and big organizations adhere to these.
For example, US Presidential candidate John McCain's former pastor, John Hagee, adheres to #4.
Messianic Jews, by and large, adhere to #5.
Messianic Israelites (that is, the movement that says some gentiles are descendants of the northern tribes of Israel), by and large, adhere to #8.
For centuries, if not millenia, the gentile Christian Church, especially the Church at Rome, adhered to #1.
Even today, many gentile Christians adhere to #7.
At least one prominent early Christian father adhered to #14, and even went as far as to create a new Christian bible containing only the writings of Paul.
Many Universalist Unitarians, indeed most of the secular culture, would adhere to #13.
Why does this matter? Theology influences our actions. As Rabbi Derek Leman put it so elegantly, Replacement Theology and sibling doctrines of the early gentile Church resulted in evil actions such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, in turn resulting in the death of thousands of Jews.
Or more recently, during the rise of Hitler's power in Germany, some 70% of Protestant pastors, regardless of their stance on the Nazis, supported the removal of the Jew from der Faderland, after all, the Church replaced Israel!
Or on a yet more recent and somewhat positive note, modern Christian Protestant pastor John Hagee did just the opposite: giving his congregation's money and other aide to Orthodox Jewish organizations in Israel.
This is an important question, then; how greatly it affects our actions! Who is Israel, folks? Do believers in Messiah worship the God of Israel? The same one as the ancient prophets? The same one as the modern Judaism? What theology do you subscribe to, Dear Christian reader?
In the next post, we'll look at what Scripture in the Christian text has to say on this issue, on this mystery that has led to so many ugly actions of Christians over the centuries.