I had a recent email exchange with a friend about the different views of the modern day Israel nation vs. the one in the Old Testament of the Bible, and fulfillment of scriptural prophecy. Here’s a quick overview of my thoughts – not in the spirit of an exhaustive treatise, but just in the vein of sharing general thoughts:
The way I see it, Jesus put the focus on faith in him, not blood connection to Abraham. In fact, understanding that God’s intention was to use Abraham’s descendants to bring about faith on earth puts an even sharper point on the fact that his focus was always on seeing faith raised up in Adam & Eve and their descendants.
Galatians 3:6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
(the above quote “all nations will be blessed through you” occurs in Genesis 12, showing that the plan was about faith since then).
Matt 3:9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
To further emphasize the point that it’s all about faith in him, not blood connection to Abraham, Jesus points out to some Jewish leaders of his day that they missed the boat and were actually following the devil, not God:
John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.47 “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”
For me, the value in Jewish customs is in the ways that they illustrate more of who God is. Reading/hearing about them and understanding those points is interesting, though I don’t see it as absolutely essential to the faith. As in Romans 1, God can use creation alone to stir one to faith. Paul emphasizing this is further evidence that faith is, and always has been, the priority. Some may choose to do some sorts of re-enactments of Jewish customs to gain an even greater understanding of God’s heart revealed in them, and I have done some of this in the past, but for whatever reasons, I do not feel compelled to do this at this time.
Regarding the raising up of an earthly country/nation called Israel, I don’t see this as a focus by Jesus, the apostles, or the NT church, which makes me wonder why some put a high focus on this. I went along with all the interest in this for the first decade or so of my own pursuit of following God, being focused on end times, seeing great significance in 1948, etc. But I’ve come to question whether there is clear understanding of prophesy in this area, especially with discerning the spiritual nation of Israel vs. an earthly/physical nation.
The general trend I see in Jesus, Paul, NT, is to honor how God used the descendants of Abraham to bring the roots/foundations of faith in Christ to the earth, but then to clearly make the focus on faith, including explanations of how the Jew/Gentile barrier has been removed.
If I were Jewish, I would hope to appreciate how special it is, on a human level, to be connected to Abraham, the man God chose to use to illustrate faith to the world. But I would also hope to remember that this has nothing to do with being part of those who will make up the Bride of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
So the creation of the “one new man” – which is neither Jew nor Gentile – is the focus of Christ. This is the direction I see in all of scripture, and how I sense the Lord moving to this day. My heart’s desire going forward is simply on hearing God’s voice to accomplish the part he has for me, as he continues to raise up on earth the “one new man” as he has already done in heaven, in other words, the point Jesus made with, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”