Ask Your Preacher
Where does Israel currently stand with the Lord? I ask this because many christians support Israel. Some of that support is for political reasons; Israel is an allied nation and a democracy, but most of the support comes from their belief that God still holds Israel as His chosen people. Some of this belief, I know, stems from Premillennialism and the belief that the Lord will raise up Israel in the end times. The popular Left Behind series pushed this concept. I do not subscribe to that view, so you don't need to respond to that belief. I can't help but to believe that God has had a role in the history of Israel. No other culture has withstood the destruction of their cultural center and identity (AD 70 siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple), been scattered, persecuted, almost wiped out, and managed to come back and re-establish their nation and culture.
So my question is: does God still hold Israel in His good graces? Or is He just protecting them out of His obligation to Abraham? Or is He protecting them at all?
Dear History Buff,
The nation of Israel lost God's protection when they rejected God's Son. Jesus says that christians are His royal priesthood and chosen race (1 Pet 2:9). Under the Old Testament, the Jewish people were God’s nation (Deut 7:6). The Jewish nation was warned that if they rejected God’s Son, they would be rejecting God, and God would make a new nation out of those who believed in Christ (Jesus explained this to the Jews in the parable of the vineyard – Lk 20:9-19). In that parable, Jesus also explained that the Jewish nation would be destroyed and abandoned by God (Lk. 20:15-16). The vast majority of Jews didn’t believe in Jesus, and therefore, they never became a part of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus’ chosen people are those who love Him and keep His commandments (Jhn 14:15). The Jewish people rejected God because they would rather have their traditions than God’s Son (Mk 7:9).
Now, it is true that there is a nation called Israel today, but just because they occupy the same territory doesn’t mean that the Jewish nation that was destroyed in 70 AD has been re-established. The current nation of Israel has none of the things that made it special – it has no high priest, no priesthood, no Levites, no temple, and no record of genealogies to properly rebuild tribal lineages. It would be impossible for Israel to even follow the commands given by God in the Old Testament. Modern Israel is kind of like tearing down Buckingham Palace and then putting a double-wide trailer on the same property – just because you call it ‘Buckingham’, doesn’t mean it is. The name ‘Israel’ doesn’t make it the same nation.
We know it was because of God that Aaron turned his staff into a snake and frogs coming out of the water, but what about the sorcerers that did the same thing (Exodus 7:11-12, Exodus 8:7)? By what power did they do this?
The Pharaoh’s magicians used good old-fashioned parlor tricks to turn their staves into snakes. They used their “enchantments” to make the serpents appear – no differently than the impressive, but explainable acts of today’s illusionists (Ex 7:11). The difference was that Moses’ serpent ate their serpents (Ex 7:12)! The evidence was clear; Moses’ “trick” was different. Eventually, even the magicians admitted that the one true God was behind Moses’ miracles (Ex 8:19).
Why did certain rules change when Jesus was around? Before Jesus, the evidence of God being present was the destruction and conquering of other religions, lands, and cities (along with some pretty amazing miracles). Some of the miracles were acts of God to actually destroy these other religions. When Jesus came around, He preached that people should love their enemies and focused His message toward their communities. This doesn't make sense. If Jesus was preaching the essence of God, and we are supposed to love our enemies, then why did God eradicate pagan religions using the Israelites? And why would He choose to use some of the people from these religions in His divine plan and lineage of Christ?
Dear Mixed Messages,
God did a lot of things in the Old Testament, and destroying pagan nations was only part of that picture. It is important to understand why God destroyed those nations. God was protecting the Israelites because they were His people, and when they faithfully served Him, He destroyed their enemies to protect them. It is important to understand that the Old Testament was a tutor to lead people to Christ (Gal 3:24-25). The Old Testament taught people about the gravity of sin, the justice of God, the sinfulness of man, and our need to place our faith in God. All of the Old Testament stands as an example of how God treats sin and how seriously we must take it. As we read the Old Testament, we get a clear picture of how much trouble we would all be in without forgiveness... but we also see that God tried time and time again to save people. In fact, the entire book of Jonah is about God sending a prophet to try and get the pagan city of Nineveh to turn away from their sin before it was too late. He also accepted the harlot Rahab when she turned from idolatry and joined the Israelites (Heb 11:31).
Jesus did teach that we should love our enemies, but He also preached railing judgments against wicked men (read Matt 23 for Jesus' feelings about the Pharisees). Jesus showed kindness to a penitent adulteress (Jhn 8:3-11), but He also made a whip and cast out all the moneychangers from the temple (Jhn 2:15). Jesus certainly taught love, but He also taught justice – the exact same things you see in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament and in the New, we see a consistency in God's character. The only difference is that Jesus brought forgiveness in a way that never could happen before He died on the cross.
Hello, I have a question about sacrifice. I have read where the Israelites had to make sacrifices on certain days to atone for their sins. I am also aware that the sacrifice of Jesus has made this unnecessary. But I do not understand how taking the best portion of your livelihood and burning it would atone for your sins. I also do not understand how Jesus' sacrifice atoned for all the sins of the world.
How does destroying the most precious things equal forgiveness from God? How does Jesus’ perfect sacrifice save us? What do these acts actually DO?
Dear Sacrificially Stymied,
The Jewish sacrifices of bulls and goats never did atone for sins (Heb 10:4); all they did was teach that forgiveness from sin came with a cost. God teaches us that when we sin, the wages of that sin are death (Rom 6:23). The Jews learned that lesson by making sin offerings. When the sinner laid their hand upon the head of the innocent animal, they symbolically transferred their sin to that beast (Lev 4:27-29). However, animal blood never was enough to truly pay for sin. It took the God’s Son’s blood to pay the price for our sin; only Deity’s blood was enough to cover the tremendous cost of sin (Heb 10:10).
Jesus had to sacrifice Himself to pay for our sins because God is both a merciful and a just God. By personally paying the price for our sins, God showed Himself to be both just and the justifier of the faithful (Rom 3:25-26). Like a father paying the price for his son’s mistakes, Jesus paid the price for our mistakes.
I don’t get it. So much of the Bible makes no sense to me. For example, the Flood… the Bible said God flooded the world but saved Noah and Noah's family only. The Bible says the reason this was done was because God saw too much wickedness in the world. But I just can’t imagine every child or baby living then in the world being wicked, but the Bible says God killed them all. But in another verse, I remember hearing it said children and babies are not accountable until, like, a certain age… maybe puberty? So all those kids and babies that were drowned in the flood were innocent, yet killed anyway. It makes no sense at all to me.
Too Tragic For Thought
Dear Too Tragic For Thought,
The Flood was a blessing to Noah and his family because they were saved from the sinful influences of that ever-violent generation (1 Pet 3:20)… but it was also a blessing to those innocent children. You are right; all children are born sinless, and they aren’t accountable for sin until they are old enough to be responsible for their own behavior. All children go to heaven. Read “What About The Children?” for further details on the fate of the young.
It is important to realize that when God ends a life, it is not the same as when another human snuffs a life out. God knows that when a child dies, it isn’t the end of their life but the beginning of a new one. When God ends a life, He also has a new life to offer them. All the innocent children that died in the Flood had no chance to grow up faithfully and turn to God because the generation was so wicked that there was no hope for their future. God redeemed those children from such a horrific fate, and He started the world anew with righteous Noah and his family.