By: Jon Huntzinger, Ph.D.
Editor’s note: this article is in response to the October 2023 attacks from Hamas in Israel. To learn more about the situation and how you can support ministries and individuals in need, please visit Gateway’s Crisis Relief page.
How should followers of Jesus think about Israel at times when the people are under siege and responding to attacks from their enemies? Though different answers might be given to this, a recommended way is to follow the example of The King’s University’s founder, Dr. Jack Hayford, on why we should stand with Israel today, and think in a biblical and spiritual way, rather than a political one. We should look to the Bible (which we hold to be inspired by God’s Spirit) for what it reveals about Israel and God’s attitude toward the people, as well as what it reveals about His attitude toward all people.
One of the first things Scripture reveals about God’s attitude toward Israel is that they are His treasure. We read that upon delivering the Israelites from slavery, God declared they were His “treasured possession” and called to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). Even though they were small and few in number — they were not many, powerful, or rich — they were valuable and beloved by Him (Deuteronomy 7:6-8), and, like all treasures, they were to be cherished and protected.
Jesus’ Treasure Parables
Jesus shared this view of Israel — in Matthew’s Gospel we read two stories He told that recognize Israel as God’s treasured people. In the “Parable of the Hidden Treasure” (13:44), Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like a man who found a treasure and buried/planted it in a field. He then sold all he had (with joy) and bought the field. Keeping in mind that the expression “kingdom of heaven” signifies the will and work of God, with this story, Jesus recalled God’s will and action in placing the Israelites in a land of their own and His willingness to give what is most valuable to Him (His Son Jesus) so that they might remain as His own special treasure.
Matthew also records Jesus’ “Parable of the Pearl of Great Price” (13:45), in which a man searched for and found a pearl so valuable that He willingly sold all he had in order to purchase it. Like the parable of the treasure, the man in the story represents God who gives what is most precious to Him (His Son) in order that He might retain His people and the relationship with them He always intended.
The Things We Treasure
We all have things we treasure. We have things we cherish and protect. Some treasures are memories while others are mementoes. Some treasures don’t have much cash value but are priceless, nonetheless. And some treasures might not look like treasure to other people. And the things we cherish are often not in perfect condition. They’re not perfect in appearance or the finest example of whatever the object is, but though less-than-perfect, they are a treasure to the one who owns it. When we think of Israel, we should remember that God loves His small treasure even though the treasure was not and is not perfect, and, just as He was willing to give His Son to retain His treasure, followers of Jesus should have the same attitude. We should cherish, rejoice, and help preserve God’s treasure and we can start by praying for Israel and the “peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Other steps are outlined by Jack Hayford in his article, “Why Stand with Israel Today,” which you can read at jackhayford.org.
The Antiphony of God’s Love
The benefit of having this mind toward Israel is that it not only aligns us with God’s own view, but it helps us appreciate His love for us. In one of the most significant theological antiphonies of Scripture — the responsive alternation of two scriptural truths — such as “the already and the not-yet,” the antiphony of “the particular and the universal” reveals that God’s love for a small, treasured possession is proof of a love He has for an immense world of nations (John 3:16). When followers of Jesus recognize the particular love God has had and continues to have for Israel as detailed in Scripture, they can be assured that such love is evidence of His love for them and for all people.
Prayer for Israel
Lord, we pray over your treasure Israel and ask that you continue to cherish and protect it. And just as you love and value such a small nation and people, we thank you for your love and care for all nations and all peoples. We pray that your peace rest heavily upon Jerusalem and the people at this time to cover and comfort them. And we pray that your Spirit of Peace move in a strong way to resist and overthrow every work of darkness that is being fashioned at this time. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus/Yeshua, the Prince of All Peace.