Who are God’s People? Who is Israel?

BFAE0D4E-1A08-4AB6-A7B4-0FCBAFBB4116_1_201_aStill in lockdown, yet another Sunday. So, we sampled several church services on television for a change. Instead of being encouraged, I was dismayed.

The thing that bothered me, at least twice, was hearing a statement I’ve heard so many times in my history of church attendance. A seemingly small thing on the surface, but with deep ramifications. It is this:

“God blesses those who bless Israel. He never forgets the Jewish people, His people.” By the context of their teaching, the speakers meant the nation of Israel or the Jewish people.

Dear friends, we should LOVE the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. I pray for their salvation as should we all, and find my heart aching, weeping. I believe this is a reflection of His aching, yearning heart for them to come back home to Him, to our family. And yes, God will never forget the Jewish people, His calling to them remains.

However, the New Testament tells us no race or religion are “God’s people”, save those who follow His Son, Jesus Christ. To identify ANY people who’ve rejected Christ as “His people”, is simply and tragically false teaching.

It is subtle and a little confusing, though, isn’t it? We can point to Scripture in Genesis 12 where God told Abraham, I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.

This passage IS still true today, but some misidentify the recipients of that blessing, thinking it had to do with the blood of men. Many teachers continue to apply that Old Testament passage in broadbrush style to the modern biological descendants of Abraham, regardless whether or not they’ve trusted Christ. As if the Gospels don’t exist. As if they’ve forgotten the identity of the Seed for whom that promise was made.

Paul confirmed the identity of the Seed in the New Testament:

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. Galatians 3:16

The true Seed of Abraham is Christ! The promise to Abraham WAS about blood, but not about the blood of men. It was about the blood of Messiah. He – and His followers, through His blood sacrifice – are the final recipients of the promise.

Christ was the goal, the whole point of the promise to Abraham. He was the point of the ancient nation of Israel, to usher God Himself into flesh through which God’s love would reach around the entire world.

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

God’s Son became that road, that spring of life in a desert for all the world. As a result, God’s people are no longer one race, but are from every color, creed, tribe and tongue that trust His Son. Period.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

How have so many smart and well-meaning teachers, who I believe do love Jesus, lost sight of the Bible’s majestic centerpiece: Christ, and Christ alone? Perhaps they are the ones Christ was speaking of in Revelation 2:4, I have this against you, you’ve left your first love. It breaks my heart.

I honestly never want to hurt someone’s ministry. I hope and believe the best even for those whose teaching has become diluted. God can still restore them and we should pray for them. But I am going to tell you about a dream I had a few years ago about a well known pastor whose name I will withhold. Here is how it went:

January/2017 There was a storm coming in the distance, and I saw a giant drill hovering over the earth. I noticed the building of a large church with an even larger tree growing from inside it and above/beyond its roof. The pastor of the church was outside the building, clinging to thin branches above the roof, watching monkeys play around in other fringe branches. Suddenly, the pastor fell from the tree and disappeared, unable to be found.

Though I did not yet have the skill of interpretation or even know to pay attention to my dreams, this one stayed with me and seemed a warning or revelation. Only days later, I would see this same pastor on television participating in an event with a multi-faith group, a few of whose members included men I knew beyond a doubt were false teachers. They were on record having said things contrary to Scripture.

Does it sound as if the dream may have been an accurate view from God’s perspective? Most of us recognize storms and end times are knocking at the door, and there are so many of His shepherds who’ve simply left the building! They are outside of His safe structure and will end up fallen, nowhere to be seen after misleading many.

Yeshua, Jesus, deserves to be our Everything, the One on the pedestal. He lived for us, died for us, conquered death and hell for us, and has EARNED the throne of our minds and hearts. God calls no one but those in Christ by His name, and never will again.

Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but you (the ancient people who would forsake Him) shall cry for sorrow of heart, and wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord God will slay you, and call His servants by another name; so that he who blesses himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth… Isaiah 65:14-16

Friends, to be honored as His people, those called by His name, we must do it His way. Some of the disciples made the same mistake so many teachers make now.

Source: hisgloryinourstory.com

When Jesus transfigured (transformed, revealing His heavenly, glorified form) before witnesses, Peter, James and John, appearing alongside Him were also Hebrew prophets, Moses and Elijah.

Peter, in his misguided enthusiasm suggested they build booths to honor all three of them, Jesus, Moses and Elijah. God’s voice thundered from Heaven in response:

This is my beloved Son, listen to Him! Matthew 3:17

You see, Moses and Elijah made an appearance with Jesus to make two points:

1) These beloved prophets of the Jewish people were with Jesus! But He was the one to be listened to and honored. Their role – their writings and testimony – served to point the way to Him. He is now preeminent!

2) The second point of Moses and Elijah’s appearance with Jesus is to provide a key to understanding the identity of the family of God. They were saying to the world: if you are with Jesus, YOU are the continuation of US, God’s people, Israel!

Jesus revealed the way to the Father, the way to be God’s people. Will we listen to Him now, as God desires?

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6

Now, let’s listen in to another strikingly profound conversation Jesus had with His disciples, in Matthew 12, where He confirms the identity of His true family another way:

While Jesus was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him,

“Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50

Remember Esau’s younger brother, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson who stole Esau’s birthright? Jacob would later be named Israel, and his descendants became the Jewish people. Through this line came Jesus, the true Seed and heir of the promise to Abraham, who would pass that promise on to all who follow Him.

This was always the divine plan. WE are His inheritance. And we are ONE with the ancient Israelites, one big family still called Israel (of God), God’s people.

How tragic is it for any of us, not the least of which are shepherds and teachers with well known ministries, to get off the mark and blur the identity of God’s family, those who are with Jesus! It is as if a spirit of Esau is actively at work in the world today, trying to steal back His long-sold birthright and to rob Christ of His inheritance.

There is an ominous passage in Matthew about those religious people who have sadly gotten so far off center:

In vain they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. Matthew 15:9

We need to pray for all such as these who have ceased hearing from the Spirit. Too many have gone their own way, following their feelings or group think to paths beyond the safe boundary of Biblical truth.

So, in answer to the question: Who are God’s people? WE are!! Those of us who have trusted Christ for salvation. Who is Israel? Just like Moses, Elijah and the rest of our ancient heroes of the faith, we are His people, Israel.

So, who are these people that, if a man blesses them, then he is also blessed, and if he curses them, he is also cursed?

It is US! Bless the people of God, i.e., followers of Christ, and you are blessed. Curse the followers of Christ, and receive the revenge of God Himself.

He will always long for the Jewish people whom He has loved and used so spectacularly in history to return to Him. But, WE are the ones God jealously protects, those in love with His beloved Son!

Prayer (not to mention, fasting) is the best medium to lasting change. So, let’s close with a renewal prayer for the shepherds, those who would lead God’s people, everywhere:

Heavenly Father,

Praise Your holy name. You are pure, perfect, and worthy of praise!

Holy Spirit, we surrender and invite You to fill us now, forgiving us and washing out the world and its ways.

God, please forgive us for every time we slide off center of Your heart. Your heart being Jesus, and His people! Please replace darkness with the light of truth.

Please revive Your people, especially Your shepherds who guide the sheep, and restore to them Your vision, Your heart. Lord, where shepherds have lost their way and are unable to be restored, please remove them from influence!

Please replace fallen shepherds with those surrendered and filled with the Holy Spirit, who walk in Spirit and in Truth. Please place Your protection around those speaking truth that they may not falter, and increase their reach. Promote them to places of greater leadership while false prophets fade from view and into insignificance.

Holy One, please speak peace and comfort to Your people. Whisper truth to the ones called by Your name, the apple of Your eye: the followers and lovers of Your Son! Let Your people know who they are and that they have Your whole heart today and for eternity.

Continue to use Your people to share the saving message of Christ around the world. Draw all who have ears to hear to repentance and faith in Christ, adding them to Your beloved family tree, Your glorious Israel of God!

We bless Your name again, Lord Jesus, author and finisher of our faith. May we bless Your name forever!