A lot of us see “Israel” on the news. Christians pray for “Israel”. They visit “Israel”. This “Israel” is a cause for anger for some, and relief for others. But, is this the “Israel”, mentioned in the Word of God? Or is the Definition for “Israel” something else? Is it a place? Is it a country? What exactly is “Israel”?
The name of Jacob
Most of us are familiar with the story, where Jacob wrestled with God. In Gen 32:28, The “man” who wrestled with Jacob, blessed him saying “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
Let us study the word “Israel” before we proceed any further –
The Strong’s Hebrew Concordance – H3478 – ישׂראל – yiśrâ’êl – yis-raw-ale’
From H8280 and H410; he will rule as God; a symbolical name of Jacob
Let us also study the two words that form the word “Israel” which are “H8280” & “H410”
H8280 – שׂרה – śârâh – saw-raw’
to prevail: – have power (as a prince).
H410 – אל – ‘êl – ale
strength; as adjective mighty; especially the Almighty God, power, strong.
Looking at the above meanings, it is clear what the Blessing of the name “Israel” meant. Jacob and all who would be called Israel after him, would carry the meaning of “to have Power as a Prince, with Almighty God”.
God reaffirmed and repeated this name in Gen 35:10, and went on to say, ” I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”
The people which came from Jacob and his 12 Sons or 12 tribes were called “Israel” after Jacob’s death. The main thing we see throughout Scripture is that “Israel” is not a place, but a people. The Land which the Children of Israel lived in, was called the “Land of Israel”. Most Christians believe that the People of Israel were the “Chosen People” before, but that they are no more the “Chosen People”. That the Christian Church is the new “Chosen People”. Let us see what God says about Israel, and whether this claim is true.
Israel is called God’s Firstborn Son
God calls the people – Israel – His Son – His Firstborn (Exod 4:22).
God made His Covenant with Israel
God made His Covenant at Sinai with Israel (Exod 34:27) and promised to renew it with them in the future (Jer 31:33, Heb 8:10)
Israel is God’s People
God calls Israel, “My people” (Exo 3:10 ; 5:1, 7:4, 1Sam 9:16, 2Sam 3:18, 5:2, 7:7,8,10,11, 1Ki 6:13, 8:16, 14:7, 16:2, 1Chr 11:2, 17:6,7,9,10, 2Chr 6:5,6 Psa 50:7, Isa 1:3, Jer 7:12, 12:14, 23:2,13, 31:1,33, Eze 14:9,11, 21:12, 25:14, 34:30, 36:8,12, 38:14, 39:7, Joe 3:2, Amo 7:8,15, 8:2, 9:14, Mat 2:6, Luk 2:32, Heb 8:10, Rom 11:1)
Israel is called God’s People forever
2Sam 7:24, 1Chr 17:22, 2Chr 20:7, Psa 125:2)
If God said that Israel is His people forever, they “are” His people “forever”.
At this point, I want to stop and make something clear. I am not saying that the “Country which is called Israel” today, is of no importance. It is after all, part of the Promised Land. The country Israel, does not contain most of His people though, because the majority who are called “Israelites” today, are only Jews(from the Tribe of Judah, 1 of the 12 tribes of Israel). We will do an in depth study of what happened to the other 11 Tribes, in a future Study. A person shouldn’t confuse the Land with the People. And as per the Scriptures, most of “Israel” is scattered around the world, not knowing who they really are. These are the lost Sheep. More on that later.
Yeshua had a strong connection with Israel
Yeshua was the Savior of Israel as per God’s Promise (Acts 13:23)
Yeshua is called the King of Israel (Joh 1:49)
Yeshua said that He was sent only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Mat 15:24)
Yeshua is said to rule over the House of Jacob (also known as Israel) forever. (Luke 1:32,33)
What about all of us “Gentiles”?
We will define the word Gentile also in a separate study. But, it is of value to notice that Paul called “Israel” an Olive tree that ALL believers are grafted into (Rom 11:16-26). What this means is, when you believe in God and His Salvation, you become part of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12). And notice that not everyone who calls himself an Israelite, is an Israelite. It is not through flesh, but through spirit. (Rom 9:6-8)
By this time, if you are thinking what I am trying to say with all of this, this is it. Whoever believes in God, is “Israel”, a part of His Chosen People. According to John 10:16, Yeshua does not have two folds of sheep. He has only one. If Israel is God’s People Forever, we must be part of His People. I was a Gentile, as long as I did not know God and walked according to my own ways. When I believed in Him and started obeying Him, He became my God and I became a part of His People, Israel. Remember how Ruth, a “Moabite” woman, the great grand mother of David and from whom Yeshua, our Savior also proceed, became part of Israel. In Ruth 1:16, she says to Naomi, for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God, my God“.
Further proof that we can no more be Gentiles
The gate to Heavenly Jerusalem has 12 gates with names of the 12 Tribes of Israel.(Rev 21:12) If we are Gentiles, where do we Gentiles enter through? It does not talk about a 13th gate.
The New Covenant is made with the House of Judah and House of Israel. Together they form Israel. (Heb 8:8-10). Where is the Covenant for the Gentile?
Yeshua is said to rule over the House of Jacob (also known as Israel) forever. (Luke 1:32,33). Where are the Gentiles in this Kingdom?
The Good Shepherd has only one flock.(John 10:16) If God has said that Israel is His people/His flock forever, can Gentile Christians be another flock?
Does it matter whether we are “Gentiles” or “Israel”?
In my humble opinion, yes. Because God has not made any Covenants with any Gentiles. All His promises are for His people, Israel. All the prophecies revolve around Israel. And calling ourselves Gentiles is as if we are saying we are not His People. This separation from Israel has brought about much confusion in Christianity, as people think that there is one Law for Israel and another Law for the Gentile. One set of Commandments for Israel and another set for the Gentile. The Sabbath for Israel and Sunday for the Gentile. and the list goes on. We must get rid of the separation. and fully understand the God we serve. and in return, who we are, as well. We are called to reign with Him (Rev 20:6), which by the way, is the essence of the name “Israel” as we first discovered. (Israel = to have Power as a Prince, with Almighty God)
Remember Paul’s words in Gal 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Yeshua, The Anointed One(Jesus Christ)”. What has, is and will be, this ONE people? none other than Israel!