Who wouldn't be a missionary to the Jews?

Don’t answer that question until you’ve read right to the end of this article.

I would be the first to admit that telling Jewish people about Jesus is not easy. The pitch has been queered by centuries of repeated church-sponsored persecution of Jews; the inevitable outcome of a theology of contempt which began to develop in the second century among some of the Gentile Church Fathers who branded the Jews as Christ-killers and the offspring of Satan. In response, the rabbis portrayed Jesus as the wicked and illegitimate offspring of a Roman soldier and a Jewish hairdresser – a necromancer who led many in Israel astray. Today, accepted Jewish wisdom dictates that to believe in Jesus is to cease to be Jewish and, worse still, is to align oneself with the enemy. To make matters worse, this is an age in which no one believes in Truth anymore and, as Rabbi Lionel Blue is credited with saying, Jews are the same as everyone else, only more so. But don’t stop reading. In spite of all this, I’m optimistic about Jewish mission.

I’m involved in this ministry because God has a special love for the Jewish people. Deuteronomy 7 spells out God’s particular and unconditional love for Israel with unmistakeable clarity, as does the book of Hosea in which God portrays himself as the jealous husband of an unfaithful bride. Grief stricken, in Hosea 11:7 God cries out, ‘My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.’

What is the Lord to do? Annul his marriage to Israel? Destroy the Jewish people? ‘How can I give you up, Ephraim?’ he cries in the next verse, ‘How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.’

God loves unfaithful, unbelieving, Messiah-rejecting Israel. And so should we. The classic hymn ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God,’ calls on the Holy Spirit to fill us with ‘life anew’ that we may love what God loves and do what God would do. God loves the Jewish people and so should we. In John 11:49-52 the High Priest Caiaphas predicts, by the Spirit of God, that Jesus would die for the sins of the Jewish nation. Caiaphas’ prophecy and the fact that the gospel is ‘to the Jew first’ both stand as a permanent testimony to the particular love of God for Israel. That Paul, the only apostle to the Gentiles, always took the Good News of Jesus

to the synagogues of the ancient Mediterranean world first, shows the special love God has for the Jews. If God has a special love for the Jewish people, shouldn’t we have a special place for them in our hearts? And should that love for Israel not take concrete form through our sharing Jesus with them?

I’m also in Jewish mission because a blessing is promised to those who bless the Jewish people. In Genesis 12:3, God promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and in Psalm 122:6, prosperity and security are assured to those who love Jerusalem. The pagan soothsayer Balaam takes up his first oracle in Numbers 23:7-8 with the words: ‘Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, from the mountains of the east. “Come, curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!” How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?’

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was convinced that blessing the Jewish people and seeking the peace of Jerusalem through the preaching of the gospel to the Jews would result in blessing for the Church. In his 1839 sermon Our Duty to Israel (available to download from the CWI website) he declared ‘Our Church must not only be evangelical, but evangelistic also, if she would expect the blessing of God. She must not only have the light, but dispense it also, if she is to continue as a steward of God… we must not only be evangelistic, but evangelistic as God would have us be – not only dispense the light on every hand, but dispense it first to the Jewish people.’

Thirdly, I am in Jewish mission as this is the only evangelistic work in which success is guaranteed. Israel is the only nation God has ever promised to save. Three out of sixteen chapters of the epistle to the Romans – chapters 9-11 – deal with the place of Israel in the purposes of God and the nation’s future salvation. In Revelation 7, the apostle John sees representatives of ‘all nations, tribes, people, and tongues’ standing before the throne of God and the Lamb but among those nations, one alone – Israel – is called by name. Furthermore, the tribes within Israel are also singled out for salvation.

Last of all, if I understand the Bible correctly, the success of world mission depends on the success of Jewish mission. In Psalm 67 the Psalmist prays for God’s blessing on Israel precisely in order that the nations may be saved. The sources of his prayer are found in the High Priestly benediction of Numbers 6:24-26 and also in Genesis 12:1-3, where God promises to bless Abraham and make him a blessing to all the nations of the world. Is it conceivable that Israel should be the source of the blessing of salvation to the world without experiencing national salvation? If, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, salvation is from the Jews, should the Jews as a nation not also receive salvation?

There, I’m finished. I’ve answered my own question. If you are not called to Jewish mission, don’t see this article as a denigration of your own calling; it’s not. Follow your calling but don’t forget to pray for the salvation of Israel because that nation’s salvation will facilitate your own ministry. But if you believe God is calling you to take the message of Messiah to the people of promise then we want to know. Get in touch with me. The future is as bright as the promises of God!

Yours for the salvation of Israel,

This article first appeared in the Autumn Herald 2013

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