Scripture continually calls ‘God’s people’ Israel. Were the Israelites of the Old Testament made up of the natural descendants of Abraham and Isaac, or were they believers? Since God made promises to ‘Israel,’ we obviously want to understand who receives them today.
Early in life I was taught the Jews of today are the natural descendants of ancient Israel and recipients of the promises; perhaps you were too. I eventually wondered, “Are believers today just Israelites ‘in spirit’ as though the natural part of the equation does not apply?” This led me to further ask, “Did God ever consider a natural lineage as His favored people?” And, “Isn’t the call to follow Jesus, as God’s people, intended to have a transforming effect on our natural life as well?”
My study of Scripture led me to understand the issue more correctly. I found God has always considered Israel to be a gathered people that have faith in Him. Actually, the idea of a natural kingdom of Israel carries little weight with God’s true definition of Israel. Allow me to explain why.
God has always considered Israel to be people that have faith in Him.
All Who Believe
Scripture tells us Abraham interacted with God and was faithful to His guidance. The apostle Paul proclaimed; Abraham believed God and it was reckoned as righteousness (a), and Abraham is the father of all who believe. (b) [see end notes for all Scriptures]
Paul was very precise; God considers all who walk in faith to be ‘Israelites,’ not the natural descendants of Abraham and Isaac (c). Paul even said he counted his Jewish heritage and his natural connection to Abraham as worthless (d). Additionally, Paul emphasized no physical lineage is to be considered as chosen (e).
Why should we trust Paul’s understanding? Remember, Jesus walked with the Disciples for three years, then said He had more to share but they were not ready to hear (f). Following his ascension, Jesus returned as a presence of Spirit to further lead and guide believers.
Jesus later appeared to the religious and highly educated Paul, who then spent three years in the desert receiving fresh insight from God (g). One of the 12 disciples, Peter, said Paul’s revelation so exceeded his that it was hard to take (h). Revelation can be tough on our natural perceptions!
God has never looked at Israel through spiritual ‘or’ natural lenses.
Gathered to God
Actually, God did not place a value on a specific natural heritage, switch to a faith factor 2000 years ago, and then revise His promises so today some are to spiritual and some to natural people. He has never looked at Israel through spiritual ‘or’ natural lenses but considers Israel to be a people of faith living natural lives. Consider:
- The people God delivered out of Egyptian slavery were “a mixed multitude” of over 2 million people (consider 600,000 men of war w/a wife and at least one child) (i).
- All the enslaved people who believed in the promise of a better life joined in.
- The Exodus from Egypt was some 400 years after Abraham first entered Canaan (j) and just four generations from Jacob’s 12 sons (k).
- Israelites were much more than the natural descendants of the 70 that entered Egypt (l).
God values all flesh, especially when our natural lives are expressions of the values of His heart.
All who believe and seek to follow God’s guidance are members of His family.
People of Faith
Ever since Adam and Eve walked away from their intimate fellowship with God; He has invited people to return to the fellowship of His presence. Since the first two, many have responded and allowed God to interact and teach them how to best live in this natural world.
The Old and New Testaments agree; ‘God’s people Israel’ are a people of faith. Yes, ever since Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Hebrew – rules with God) all who believe in God and seek to follow His guidance are considered members of God’s family.
There were times when Israel’s faith in God was strong and times when it was weak, just as it is today. Nonetheless, God’s blessings fall on the faithful and faithless alike, just as the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous (m).
Fellowship of God’s Presence
God never promised to value the natural seed of Abraham in Isaac; He blesses the seed of promise. Everyone agrees the actual “seed is Christ.” God’s preference has always been on those who respond to Christ – God’s anointing and insightful presence with us. Scripture only appears to support the notion of a natural race when we assume it.
The Biblical blessings concerning Israel are for all people of faith whose belief in God impacts their natural lives. Spiritual people are intended to live in this natural world, just without being controlled by its limited perspectives. Oh yes, the land of Israel is not limited to a small portion of the earth, it is where you live!
Israel is made up of all people of faith whose belief in God impacts their natural lives.
Every time you read or hear of God’s promises to Israel, remember, the blessings are for us as people who are gathered to the faith of God-in-Christ! God has very good things available for all who believe!
a) Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6; b) Romans 4:11-13; Galatians 3:26-29; c) Romans 9:6-8; d) Philippians 3:3-8; e) 2 Corinthians 5:15-19; f) John 16:12; g) Acts 9:1-5; Galatians 1:12-18; h) 2 Peter 3:16; i) Exodus 12:36-38; j) Galatians 3:16-17; Exodus 12:41; k) Exodus 6:16-20; Genesis 15:13-16; l) Exodus 1:5; m) Matthew 5:45
Keith Carroll, “The Relationship Guy”
Relational Gospel Founder