Israel Still Matters to God!
Why do you support Israel? Maybe you support its democratic policies that make it stand out from the rest of the Middle East. If you know your Bible, you might point to a passage like Genesis 12:1–3 as your reason, wanting to honor God’s command to bless the nation. But this week we’ll consider Romans 11:28–29, a short passage Paul wrote to express God’s faithfulness to Israel today. Over the next few weeks, Chris will offer three important reasons why every believer should support Israel today. The first reason: Israel still matters to God!
Contrary to what many teach about Israel being replaced by the church and its covenant with the Lord being done away with, Israel remains the apple of God’s eye. When God promised Abraham land, descendants, and blessing, He did so in a covenant that will last forever. When this passage from Romans explains that Israel is “beloved for the sake of the fathers,” it reminds us of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and his line for all of history. In this study, we hope you’ll remember: He is faithful to you, too!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I'm excited about our program today. We're starting a new series. I want to be able to equip our listeners with three reasons over the next two weeks on why and how they can support Israel and the Jewish people biblically. I think it's so important to know why we support Israel and the Jewish people from a biblical perspective. And so, we're actually going to be looking at Romans chapter 11 today. I'm very excited about looking at these two particular verses, Romans 11 verse 28 and 29.
Steve Conover: We're looking forward to it, but first in the news. Many Jewish people are forced yet again to abandon Odessa, the Ukrainian port city on the Black Sea. A once vibrant cultural center for the Jewish people now sees many in exile heading to Moldova, Romania, Germany, the United States, and Israel. Many of those fleeing Odessa are of an age that they may never return to see their home again.
Chris Katulka: Steve, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his desire through this war is to "de-nazify Ukraine." Well, he should tell that to Gallina Dimievitch, an 87 year old Holocaust survivor from Odessa who fled the Nazis with her parents in 1942. And now she's fleeing to Israel 80 years later. I think that we need to "de-nazify" the Kremlin.
Chris Katulka: For my freshman year of college, I took a year to study the Bible from a Jewish perspective through the Institute of Jewish Studies. I know looking over at Steve right now, he's a graduate of the Institute of Jewish Studies. Tom, on the other side of the glass, who's managing all the technical stuff right now, he's a graduate of the Institute of Jewish Studies. It was a program that was an in-person program that was once hosted by the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. It was our very own Steve Herzig who actually encouraged me when I was still in high school, many moons ago, to dedicate a year to studying the scriptures. Plus, I'll have to admit my best friends were going to go through the Institute of Jewish Studies too, so I was in. Now while I was there, I learned a valuable lesson on the very first day of class.
The late Dr. Herb Hirt, the former director of the Institute of Jewish Studies, instructed us on this one thing that has stuck in my mind for a very long time. He said, "Never read the New Testament back into the Old Testament." That was one of the very first lessons that we had. Never read the New Testament back into the Old Testament. Instead, read God's progressive revelation from Genesis to Revelation. And for the past 21 years, I have followed Herb's instructions diligently. And for the rest of my life, I will continue to do so because you can't read the New Testament into the Old Testament, just like you don't read a book backwards. But only for this series, I'm going to abandon Herb's rule. I'm sorry, Herb. I know my dear brother in heaven is shaking his head at me right now, but I am confident that he's going to admire the reason why I'm disobeying him.
For the next few weeks, I want to show you biblically why I, as a Gentile believer, support Israel and the Jewish people from a very small but powerful text in Romans, specifically Romans 11, 28 and 29. Listen, the Old Testament is full of verses that I could use to defend my argument that Israel matters to God. But I want to focus on this passage from the New Testament, because it was penned for the church, which means it applies to the church today. Since it applies to the church, nobody can say, "Well, that was then, and this is now." Actually, Romans 11: 28 and 29 was written for us today so that we can fully know God's feelings, and concerns, and heart for his people, the chosen people and his land, the land of Israel. Also, it's important to note that when you're reading this passage, that Paul was alluding to God's view of Israel presently.
Paul wasn't talking about Israel from the past in the Old Testament, he was talking about the Israel of today when we're looking at Roman's chapter 11. The passage that we're going to look at highlights their current spiritual disobedience and their partial hardening, which you can read about in Romans chapter 11 verse 25. And this is the reason why I want to start in the New Testament. Again, sorry, Dr. Hirt. We are starting in the New Testament because some theologians have the tendency to change gears with God's covenant relationship to Israel after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Great theologians, who I respect, have no qualms teaching about Israel's covenant relationship to God in the Old Testament. But when they arrive in the New Testament, all of a sudden God's special relationship with Israel has been sacrificed on the altar of their theological agenda.
For instance, renowned theologian, N.T. Wright argues that Israel's covenant with God was fulfilled in Christ. Jesus was Israel's representative. Jesus lived the life Israel should have lived in the Old Testament and in his death and resurrection, ultimately Jesus concluded Israel's divine purpose. Essentially for N.T. Wright, Jesus embodies Israel. And if this is true, then there's no biblical reason to support Israel today or to support Israel's rebirth as a nation in their ancient homeland. But I want to argue that this was never the thought of the apostle Paul. Not only does Israel still matter to God today, but that they also have a bright, prophetic future. Romans nine through 11, three chapters dedicated to God's faithfulness to Israel, can be reduced down to these two verses that I want to show you in Romans chapter 11, verse 28 and 29.
Listen to what Paul writes. He says, "Concerning the gospel, they," Israel, "Are enemies for your sake. But concerning the election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." The passage doesn't mince words. The reality is, is that the Jewish people are identified as enemies of the gospel. They rejected the Messiah and they turned down the kingdom offered to them. But simultaneously, in the same verse, the enemies are also beloved by God. And tucked into these two verses are really three easy reasons to support Israel biblically. So again, like I said, over the next two weeks, I want to share three biblical reasons why you should support Israel from Romans chapter 11 verses 28 and 29.
So, for today, let's look at reason number one. And the first reason is this, is that Israel still matters to God today, even in the church age. Do you remember what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 11, verse 28 and 29? He says, "But concerning the election, they," Israel, "Are beloved for the sake of the fathers." Paul explains to the church in Rome and believers today for that matter, that Israel's election remains valid and grounded in an oath that God swore to the fathers. The fathers, if you're wondering, "Who are these fathers?" Well, the fathers are Israel's patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In just a few words, Paul took the promise God made to Abraham in the Old Testament and explained it to us in a way that still matters today.
Remember, it's all about the timing of when this verse was written. It wasn't written in the Old Testament, so that scholars could say that that was then and this is now. It wasn't written during the ministry of Jesus so that scholars could say, "Yeah, but Jesus said his death and resurrection fulfilled Israel's mission." No, this was written during the church age. This is a church age verse written for us today with the language, actually that goes back to the Torah, to the first five books of Moses. Verse 28 resembles Romans chapter 11. It resembles Moses speaking to the Israelites about their divine election.
In Deuteronomy, listen to what Deuteronomy chapter seven says. It says this, "The Lord," in verse seven of chapter seven, "The Lord did not set his love on you nor choose you Israel, because you were more in number than any other people. For you were the least of all peoples, but because the Lord loves you and because he would keep the oath, which he swore to your fathers." That sounds exactly like Romans chapter 11 verses 28 and 29, that God swore an oath to the fathers, to the patriarchs of Israel. In Deuteronomy 9:5, Moses reminds Israel again that the promised land is not theirs. Israel is not theirs. The land because of how wonderful they are, how great they are as people, how righteous they are, but that Israel would inhabit the promised land because of God's faithfulness to the fathers.
Listen to what Moses says, "It's not because of your righteousness, Israel, or even your inner uprightness that you have come here to possess their land. Instead, because of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God is driving them out ahead of you in order to confirm the promise he made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, therefore," this is God speaking to Israel, "That it's not because of your righteousness that the Lord, your God is about to give you this good land as a possession. For you are a stubborn people." In both Moses and Paul's minds, the two of them, Israel wasn't elected because of their size, because of their status, because of their position or even their righteousness. Israel was elected solely on the basis of God's grace.
When Paul uttered the words, "Beloved for the sake of the fathers," from Romans chapter 11, verse 28, he was reaching back to the book of Genesis when God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1 and three, and pulled it forward into the church age to gain a deeper appreciation and love for Israel and the Jewish people. Now, we're going to continue our conversations in Romans, but I want to take a moment to talk to you about the Jewish community that's suffering in Ukraine right now. We have Eastern European workers at Friends of Israel who are ministering to the Jewish people who are in desperate need, providing relief and also transportation to safety as these refugees are making their way to the borders of Romania, Poland, and even trying to find opportunities to get into Israel, to make aliyah to Israel.
You can be a part of helping the Friends of Israel right now minister to our Jewish friends in Ukraine by providing aid to the most vulnerable people right now in the surrounding areas of Ukraine. Your support today will go directly to helping those impacted by the Russian invasion. You can go to FOI.org/easterneurope. Again, that's FOI.org/easterneurope.
Chris Katulka: So, we're looking at Romans 11:28 and 29, two verses that I believe show us why Christians should support Israel. And let me just read them to you again. It says this, "In regards to the gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election, they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers. For the gift and the call of God are irrevocable." When Paul writes that Israel is, "beloved for the sake of the fathers," he's thinking about everything wrapped up in the promise that God made to Abraham. Not just some parts. "Beloved for the sake of the fathers," doesn't mean I'll take a little bit of this and leave the rest of that. No, it includes everything that God promised to Abraham. Here's what Paul was thinking when he wrote these words, "For the sake of the fathers," he was thinking about the land of Israel, the territorial land of Israel, the defined boundaries for a nation, for the Jewish people to live and thrive.
This was the land of Israel. And yes, the land of Israel was on Paul's mind as he was ministering in Europe and in Asia Minor. The land remained a crucial part of the gospel that he was sharing. Why? Because the Messiah, the king of Israel, the savior of the world, Jesus Christ is not returning to Rome, everybody. No, the deliverer will come out of Zion. That's what Paul says, just a few verses earlier in Romans chapter 11. The land does matter. Why did Paul want to go to Rome so desperately? Because he wanted the king of the Gentile world, who is Caesar, to know that the king of kings has risen and he is returning to Jerusalem. Our focus shouldn't be on Rome. No, our focus is on what's going on in Jerusalem, in the land of Israel. So yes, the territorial land of Israel does matter to Paul and to God.
And it should matter to you as a believer in the Lord, Jesus. The next part of the promise to the fathers that Paul is referring to or referencing is the descendants component of the promise. It's the Jewish people. God told Abraham in Genesis chapter 12, and Genesis chapter 15, that his descendants would be innumerable. They would comprise and make up the citizens of the nation that God was building in the land that he promised them. The Jewish people play a major role in biblical history, in the present era, and in the future. In the beginning of Romans chapter 11, Paul actually asks the question, "Is God through with Israel?" Talking about the people. And his response is, "May it never be." God is not through with the people of Israel because they play a major role in God's prophetic plan. And finally, if you look at the Roman ... Read Genesis chapter 12, you'll see not only the land and the descendants, but also the blessing component of the promise.
It's a multifaceted blessing of God's protection over Israel and their divine purpose that God would use Abraham. If you read Genesis chapter 12, verse three, God says, "Abraham, I'm going to use you to bless all the families of the earth." And God certainly did that by sending his one and only son Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, to bless the whole world. Land, descendants and blessing. Paul is writing about all of that in Romans chapter 11 verses 28 and 29. And the reason Paul could confidently say to the church in Rome that Israel is dearly loved because of God's love for the fathers, is due to the oath, the promise, the covenant that God swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. God took that promise in Genesis chapter 12 and cut a covenant with Abraham. And he made it an eternal pledge, an oath that ... He didn't swear to Abraham.
He actually swore it to his own name. It's the reason that the writer of Hebrew says, "For when God made a promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no one greater, he swore by himself." It's the reason Paul is unwilling to surrender, that God could ever abandon Israel or the covenant relationship he first established with Abraham, which puts the onus ... Think about this. It puts the onus on every Christian to value every aspect of that promise, the land. Yes, the land of Israel. The descendants, the Jewish people, and the blessing that not only would blessing come to all the families of the earth through Abraham, but that anybody who blesses Israel will be blessed. And anyone who curses Israel will be cursed. It's not just the parts that pertain to us, but the whole promise ... That's what's going on in Paul's mind as he's writing out Romans 11 verses 28 and 29.
Yes, it's true, everyone. Israel does still matter to God today. God's not through with them because of the oath and promise he swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And can I tell you something that should give you a peace right now, a peace to know that just as God cannot undo, or unravel, or unhitch his relationship with his chosen people because of a promise that he made to Abraham, can I tell you something? He cannot undo, unravel, unhitch his relationship with you. Your salvation in Christ is secure. It's sealed because just as Paul said, remember, Romans chapter one, verse 16, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes. To the Jew first and also to the Greek."
Steve Conover: Chris, having the joy of getting to hear you teach each week for several years now, I notice and I'm sure listeners do that have listened to us regularly, that there's a theme in much of your teaching about the land, descendants and blessing. And it's so important to our ministry here at the Friends of Israel. One question I have is, how should we think about those three things, the land, descendants and blessing? And this probably is a question that could be a whole other sermon. So, in a succinct way, how should we think about the land, descendants and blessings in the future, in the millennium?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, this is a good question because I actually think it does matter about the Abrahamic promise. It ultimately meets its fulfillment in the millennium. That's the ... Israel and prophecy is an important component to the Bible because it's actually what's driving prophecy forward. Because all of the promises that God made to Abraham, not all of them have been fulfilled. For instance, the land, and the blessing component as well. That they're still living in disobedience. But the millennial kingdom is a time where those promises that God made will find their fulfillment, where God's presence will come down, where Jesus will rule and reign. So, those promises that were made even 4,000 years ago are still anxiously waiting for their fulfillment in the future. And now we get to be a part of that blessing as well.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Most of the world is against God's chosen people, Israel. This nation occupies a very small piece of land. Yet, it is the subject of more news reports than any other nation. Jealousy fuels this animosity. Throughout the Bible, God tells Israel, not to fear. As the Lord protected us from Pharaoh in Egypt, so he will protect us from our present day enemies. Now, we are in a situation similar to when Pharaoh chased the Israelites to the Red Sea. We're surrounded by Arab nations whose favorite slogan is, "Butcher the Jews, cast them into the sea." But we must never repay them with hatred. We must show them the love of Christ. Often I have the opportunity to speak with my Arab neighbors. Just as with the ultra Orthodox Jews, we sometimes speak for many hours before we get around to the most important subject of all, faith in Christ.
When I speak with Arabs, I must first draw them away from their blind hatred of Jewish people. And then we begin to speak about faith in Christ. They're usually interested in continuing our dialogue about Christ. Recently, my neighbors had with him a sheik, one who knows the Quran. I spoke with him and I began by asking, "Where does the Torah say this land belongs to the Jews?" Quickly I showed him Genesis 13 verses 14 through 17, Genesis 15:8 and Exodus 23:31, where the Lord promised the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants forever. This sheik immediately said, "Oh, that cannot be. The Quran says it is not so." I replied, "Ask your teachers when the Bible was written and when the Quran was written. They will have to tell you honestly, the Bible was written first. It is the authentic Word of God."
He asked, "How can you, a Jew, speak about Christ?" I replied, "I believe because Christ is written about in the Jewish scriptures, as a good Jew I must believe what is written there. I believe in the one who was pierced for our transgressions, as it is written in Isaiah 53:5." By this time more of my Arab neighbors had joined the group and they seemed interested in what I was saying. I told them, "Perhaps one day, all Arabs and Israelis will be able to come together and speak as we are doing now." As it is written in Isaiah 11:6, "One day the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb. The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together. And a little child shall lead them."
But this prophecy can only be fulfilled once we all believe in Christ, the only one who can enable people to put aside their differences and hatred and love and serve one another through him. Jesus commanded, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." I pray we will soon see a great harvest among the Arabs, as well as among the Jewish people here in his holy land.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us this week. Chris, tell our listeners where we're headed next time.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. So, we have two more reasons why Christians should support Israel from Romans chapter 11 verses 28 and 29. That's how we're going to wrap up our conversation and hopefully encourage believers to see Israel in a different light.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. And I'm Steve Conover, Executive Producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. And one last quick reminder, you can visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Eastern European Relief
If the Lord has laid it on your heart to help rescue people in Ukraine and Poland, please consider making a gift to FOI’s Eastern European Relief Fund. You will be actively helping them relocate and obtain shelter, food, clothes, toiletries, transportation, medicine, and spiritual guidance.
IN CANADA? GIVE HERE
Apples of Gold: Arab Neighbors
Arab nations proudly shouted the slogan, “Butcher the Jews! Cast them into the sea!” Despite this inborn animosity Arabs had for Jewish people and their right to the land of Israel, Zvi always tried to treat his Arab neighbors with love and kindness. Once he could break down their blind hatred of Jewish people, he then tried to share the love of the Messiah with them from the Scriptures. Listen and find out how he shared his faith with one very important man in the Arab neighborhood.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us reach people all around the globe with our message of truth to bless the Jewish people.