Strangers

There is a heroic element to the Israelis. For nearly four thousand years they have retained their identity as the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They have passed through many sorrows, yet have contributed much to the world’s civilization through the advancement of science, medicine, the arts. . Is there a field of human advancement where they have not made their mark? Who can even begin to weigh the spiritual impact on the world which God gave through Moses, the prophets, and Jesus of Nazareth? All of these came out of Israel, though much of Israel has turned its back on God.

There was/is a core in Israel which every follower of Jesus should consider. An example of this core is found among the audience to whom Jesus gave warning;

  • When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
  • Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
  • Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
  • Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. (Matt.24:15-18)

Those who believed were Jesus’ disciples. Their lives hinged on following His commandments which surrounded the prophecy. The prophecy foretold of the Roman army lead by Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasian. He came in response to the Zealot rebellion. Ultimately, the city and temple were destroyed and most of its inhabitants slaughtered. The followers of Jesus were spared because they believed the prophecy, left the city, and went into hiding before the siege.

They are a model of what it is to be a Christian from the standpoint of land and statehood.

Those who obeyed Jesus’ commands were a people stripped of a national city, and a land. From the world’s standpoint, they were exiles. The substance of their identity rested upon obedience to the Messiah rather than any heritage of flesh. They were very much like Abraham, Sarah, and others of faith.

  • These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Heb.11:13)

This spirit can be further understood through the words of the apostle Paul;

  • For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
  • Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
  • Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock ofIsrael, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
  • Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
  • But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
  • Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
  • And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
  • That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
  • If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  (Phil.3:3-11)

If salvation is received by either Jews or Gentiles, there is a characteristic which transcends identification with any earthly land or city;

  • But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16)

This does not necessarily mean a disavowal of earthly status. Paul used his Roman citizenship to advantage, but it was never used to overthrow the power of Caesar. The faithful in Christ never fomented any notion of the heavenly kingdom supplanting the kingdoms of earth. For earthly kingdoms already were /are empowered by God. (cf.Rom.13:1-7) The faithful understood their status as strangers in this world, yet they acted as good citizens in whatever country they lived. So it is the same for those who follow the Lord in our time.

Is it possible for an Israeli to follow Jesus and retain his status as an Israeli? Why not, if he isn’t deported? Such an individual would come to know his deepest status in the land is that of a stranger, just as it would be for any believer in any land. Is it possible for an Israeli to promote the kingdom of heaven as a vehicle for rebuilding the temple, and directing the course of Israeli politics for ruling the world through the Messiah? Such a thing can only come from unbelief. It is and would be a Cain-like activity.

However, there is much promise for those natural branches which are grafted back into their heritage. As it is written;

  • For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (Rom.11:15)

What types of activity should be expected from such a transformation? While the particulars cannot be named, it can be said for certain they would know what it is to be strangers in this earth and act accordingly.