May 15th is the anniversary of what the Palestinian people (Muslim, Christian, Other), call ‘Al Nakba’ meaning ‘The Catastrophe’. The day in 1948 when Israelis declared independence before systematically and brutally removing indigenous people from their ancestral land, beginning what we know as today, sixty-six years later, as ‘The Israeli-Palestine Conflict’.
By John Stott
Rector Emeritus, All Souls Church
Our topic has been announced as “The Place of Israel,” and the topic that has been set for us is an object lesson in biblical hermeneutics as it‟s usually called in the principles of interpreting the Bible. But I would like to remind you right at the beginning that there are at least four ways in which the word “Israel,” whose place we are to investigate, can be used.
One: Israel was that devious scoundrel, the second son of Isaac, whose first name was Jacob – meaning “he who deceived or he who struggles,” who amply lived up to his name – but whom God renames “Israel,” because having struggled with men all his life, he at last came to struggle with God for the blessing he needed (a blessing to which he was not entitled).
Two: Israel is the chosen people of the Old Testament days – the 12 tribes descended from the 12 sons of Jacob called the children of Israel, because Israel (or Jacob) was a common ancestor.
Three: Israel is the messianic community – the people of Jesus – the true descendents of Abraham because they share Abraham‟s faith. This includes Gentiles like most of us if we believe in Jesus, but excludes Jews who don‟t. When Paul ended his letter to the Galatians, “Peace and mercy upon the Israel of God,” he was referring to believers in Jesus, whatever their ethnic origin. So Israel is the messianic community.
Four: Israel today, for many people if you read the newspapers, is the Israeli nation, promised a national home by the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and given it in 1948.
So Israel has four meaning. It means Jacob. It means Jews. It means Christians. And it means Israelis. And that is just the problem when you are asked who you are talking about. Continue reading “The Place of Israel – by John Stott”