From the perspective of Elsa Koppel, Jerusalem Encounter Participant:
Before we, as Gentile Christians, can step up to our role in the Jews’ restoration, we must understand our relationship with them.
In Romans 11, Paul the apostle explains the relationship of Jews and Gentiles as an olive tree. Israel stands as the enduring root and Gentile believers are ingrafted branches. For the Gentiles to be grafted into God’s family, the Jews had to be blinded for a time. Their blindness is not to their discredit, or something for Gentile Christians to mock, but an occurrence we are indebted to.
Paul put it this way, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
He gives a warning to any branches with a prideful spirit saying, “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast against those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you” (vv. 17-18).
Branches who think they can live without roots will die. The idea that we, as the Church, have replaced Israel is arrogant and dangerous for us.
The Church needs Israel and we must approach our relationship with a posture of humility and gratitude.
The Jews’ loss meant riches for us, their transgression meant riches for the world (Romans 11:12). In turn, verse 15 implores us to understand, “what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
In Romans 11:26 Paul declares “All Israel will be Saved” and quotes prophesy from the Old Testament: “The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (v. 27).
Paul continues saying, “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God and have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you” (vv. 30-31).
In essence, the Jews were struck with a blindness meant to be lifted. Their blindness was not a done deal or even a fully conscious decision on their part, but God’s mysterious way of setting a time for the rest of the world to see and receive Him.
The gospel of Jesus Christ went out from Jerusalem, circled the world, and is now coming back to Jerusalem as was always intended. This is the restoration God invites His followers to join Him in.
As branches we are called to soak up the light of the Messiah and bring Him back to our Jewish roots, the enduring foundation who supports and sustains us that they may see Jesus too.
What greatness will the full inclusion of God’s people mean for the whole world (Romans 11:12). To have a love for the things of God, is to have a love for Israel.