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Where is the Promised Land?

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. Romans 11.1

Jesus was rejected by the majority of his own people, though he fulfilled the promise made through them by God, for the salvation of the world. Does that disqualify the Jews from playing any further part in God's ministry of reconciliation? Has the Church replaced the Jews as the New Israel? Not according to the apostle Paul, who insists that there is room in the tent for both Jews and Gentiles, that what Jesus did, when he paid the price for sin and reconciled humanity to God, was that he broke the wall of separation, so all may be included. That does not stop Paul from being proud of his roots, or concerned for his people.

So does God want the Jews to re-establish themselves in their Middle Eastern homeland - to make Israel great again? We all need somewhere to live and justice demands that those who have been forcibly displaced have the opportunity to return. But at the cost of others - in this case the Palestinians - who call the same territory "home"? Untangling the historical knot which has produced this conflict would demand the wisdom of Solomon, for which we must pray - upon those who are appointed to negotiate. Yet, if Jews and Gentiles are reconciled in Jesus spiritually, why should Jews and Palestinians not share the homeland of Israel?

At this point it is necessary to distinguish between what is a spiritual fact and what is a political controversy. For Christians of whatever ethnicity, our ultimate home is in the New Creation and our ultimate loyalty is to Jesus. But everyone needs somewhere to live and life is enriched by the traditions and habits of distinctive people groups. Living faithfully, in the expectation of Jesus' return in glory to judge the world, includes caring for creation and all of its inhabitants. What used to be local issues are now global concerns. None of this is new. The Old Testament insists that the whole universe belongs to God, who created it and who loves it. When humanity sinned by heeding Satan and rejecting God, God called Israel to be the means by which the rift would be healed. Israel and God fulfilled that vocation in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The rest is history - in the making as well as in the past!



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