The Middle East has always been a hot spot. But I’ve been deeply concerned about what has been happening in Israel recently, as the ongoing conflict with the terrorist group Hamas has reached new levels of intensity. It's been nothing short of heartbreaking to hear about the innocent men, women, and children being caught and killed in the crossfire. Many Christians wonder what they should—or even can—do in the wake of a situation like this unfolding on the other side of the world.
As a pastor, the first thing I would tell believers to do is pray for peace. We are instructed to pray specifically for the peace of Jerusalem (see Psalm 122:6). Pray for wisdom for the national leaders in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Pray for the governments of the world to weigh in carefully and with long-term strategies. Pray that there would be no more unnecessary loss of life.
Next, be informed. Western Christians need to know why Israel is important. No one can take the Bible seriously without coming to the conclusion that Israel is important. The name Jerusalem shows up 142 times in Scripture, while Israel is mentioned by name over 2,400 times. It was the nation God chose to be not just the backdrop but the receptacle for redemptive history. And God’s plan was not restricted to the past; it was not limited to the coming of Christ to die on the cross outside Jerusalem.
As Paul wrote, "I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew" (Romans 11:1-2). God loves all people, the Jewish people as well as the Palestinian people. Americans, Armenians, and Arabs; Israelis, Saudis, and Emiratis; Canadians, Africans, and Asians; Scots, Finns, and Danes—God desires all people of all times in all cultures to be saved (see 2 Peter 3:9). But Israel as a nation plays a key and central role in God’s plan. Christians should know that and love Israel’s God enough to support that.
Paul gave his Roman readers some fundamental truths about Israel in general:
1. Blindness is on Israel presently. "I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel" (Romans 11:25; see also vv. 7-10). A spiritual stupor has fallen on God's covenant people (see Luke 19:41-44; 2 Corinthians 3:14-15). To this day, only a fraction of a percent of Jewish people who live in Israel believe in Jesus. Though that number is steadily increasing, the point is that the Jewish nation largely has rejected Jesus as Messiah. Even so, God has preserved Israel throughout its history. And it's all for a reason. God made promises to the Jews in Scripture that He would establish a kingdom centered in Israel with a worldwide reach.
2. Benefits are given simultaneously. In other words, yes, Israel has nationally rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but that tragedy has opened a door to Gentiles. "Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Romans 11:25). Because Israel rejected Jesus, He is now offered to the whole world, until the present age runs its course. The church age has seen millions of people worldwide flock to worship the Jewish Jesus and reap the eternal benefits of that relationship.
Because of Jesus, we've been brought into the family of God (see Romans 11:17-18). We've been grafted into the blessings of God to the Jewish people (see Matthew 21:42-43; John 10:16). This is why no Christian should ever be anti-Semitic. We owe them way too much. They gave us our heritage. They gave us our Bible. And they gave us our Christ.
3. A blessing will happen ultimately. "And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'" (Romans 11:26-27). Israel will ultimately be restored—not every Jew who ever lived, but those who at the time of Christ's return see Him and receive Him (see Revelation 7:4-8). The blindness that has been on Israel will be lifted (see Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1).
The future has a very Jewish ring to it. The Messiah will rule from Zion over a peace-filled world (see Isaiah 2:1-4), the City-of-the-Future will be called New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21:1-3), and the ancient tribal names of the Israelite people will even be on the gates of this futuristic metropolis (see Revelation 21:9-12).
In summary, Israel is God's yardstick. By Israel, He measures time (see Daniel 9:24-27). By Israel, He measures other nations (see Matthew 25:31-46). And one day, these God-elected, God-selected, God-protected people will collectively receive Him as Messiah.
In the meantime, we pray for the peace of Israel and its neighbors. God's not done with them yet—and neither should we be.
Skip Heitzig is the senior pastor of Calvary Church in New Mexico and is the author of numerous books and publications. His radio and television broadcast, Connect with Skip Heitzig, is available throughout the United States and around the world.