Why should we talk to our children about Israel?
Israel is a country so far removed from everyday life for those of us in the West that it would be easier to consider this a meaty topic to be saved for when our children are older. Indeed in some circles, theology surrounding the role of modern day Israel is controversial and hence easily placed into the let’s wait until you’re older before addressing.
After all there are weighty topics in Scripture to convey like sin and the message of the cross. And there are more urgent topics in our culture to address, such as family and being made in the image of God.
So here are a few reasons why I believe we should be teaching our children about Israel as they grow.
1. It’s in the Bible
Israel is mentioned many times in the Bible. Starting with God’s covenant promise to Abraham, through to the renaming of Jacob and on to God’s covenant with the nation of Israel under Moses. Without an understanding of the history of Israel we cannot understand the character of the God who chose this nation. If we do not understand the role of Israel in the covenants of God, we cannot understand the work of God in our time.
The simple existence of Israel in the heart of the Biblical account should stir us to love the nation that God has chosen. America is not featured in the Bible in this way. Nor is Britain, Spain, Brazil or China. Only one nation is core to the story of God at work among humans – Israel.
2. We have actions to take concerning Israel
God instructs us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in Psalm 122:6-9. Numbers 24:9 brings an incredible promise concerning the nation of Israel, ‘Blessed are those who bless you, cursed are those who curse you.’So our attitude to Israel matters to God. Some would argue that the nation of Israel is no longer the nation of Israel, rather it is representative of the church. We will look at this more below.
3. Modern day Israel is a miracle
When we recognise the miracle of the establishment of Israel on 14th May 1948 we recognise the hand of God at work. On that day both America and Russia – the two world superpowers of the time, recognised the nationhood of the new state of Israel. The prophet Isaiah asks, in Isaiah 66:8, ‘Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children.’
In the 6 day war of 1967 there are many stories of miracles that would not be out of place in the Biblical narrative of God delivering Israel from Egypt or saving Israel from Sennacherib in the time of King Hezekiah.
One time some of the Israel army had escaped a tank before it was blown up only to find themselves in a field of landmines. They lay down and one man cried out to the God of Israel to save them. A strong wind blew, so strong that they could do nothing but lie low and wait. When the wind stopped all the sand had been blown away to reveal the landmines. The soldiers were able to walk through without danger.
These stories, and indeed the very existence of modern-day Israel, demonstrates the grace of God to that nation and his commitment to fulfil His word. By sharing these stories with our children we are building their faith in the God of Israel, the one who created the universe.
4. We are told to watch – Israel is one place we much watch
Many times we are instructed to watch as the end draws near. Before Jesus returns there are prophecies that must be fulfilled and trends that will take place in our world. Some of these prophecies are economic (such as the mark of the Beast) or political (one world governance) and others are cultural (apostasy and rejection of God being rampant), spiritual (Gospel being preached to all nations) or environmental (changes in the trees, oceans and planets). But there are also key significant prophecies that have to be fulfilled in the land of Israel.
So anyone eager for the return of Christ, will want observe the state of Israel.
Seeing God move in Israel in recent history stirs an expectancy for God to fulfil what he has promised in our time and in our lives. It also allows children to gain God’s heart for Israel.
5. Prophecies are being fulfilled today
God has made a covenant with the land of Israel that it is given over to the Israelites. Yes, they will be sent into exile in all the nations of the world if they reject God – prophecies that have been fulfilled, but they will also be gathered back from those nations and restored to Israel.
For example, Ezekiel 36:28 says, ‘You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.’
Some would wish to equate the nation of Israel with the modern church, yet this is inconsistent with both the Old and the New Testament.
In the Old Testament God promises to be the God of the nation of Israel for ever. That even if they have to be exiled for their apostasy he will bring them back. God is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should change his mind. If we are to believe the promises
He even promises the land to them, Ezekiel 36:30, 34-36, ‘I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 34 And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by.35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.’
These are specific prophecies spoken over the land. Interestingly many of these prophecies are being fulfilled in the past few decades as the land has become more fruitful again and desolate cities have become inhabited.
But there are also specific prophecies over the Jewish people for this time. In the same chapter of Ezekiel God says specifically to the house of Israel,
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.
He goes on to say in verses 25-27 ‘25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.’
In other words, God’s Spirit will not just come on the house of Israel as in times past but now they will have a new heart (new creation) and the Holy Spirit will live in them. The Jews will turn to Jesus the Messiah for their salvation.
For God to change his mind and switch to the church would be strange. If a man tells one girl friend that he loves her and one day will take her to Paris and then later in life has another girlfriend, it would make no sense for him to take Girlfriend number 1 to Paris in order to fulfil the promise he made to the first girlfriend.
In the New Testament we see that while Jewish and Gentile believers are equal before God in the church, they are still separated in other ways – for example the Gentile believers were not expected to work out their faith in the same way as the Jews (Acts 15).
Jesus speaks of the time of the nations (or the gentiles) being fulfilled in Jerusalem before the end comes.
God’s plan for Israel will culminate in a new (renewed) Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth. The land and the people of Israel are right at the heart of God’s plan from the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament.
6. Modern Israel compared to these prophecies
This is not to say that every action of modern day Israel is approved by God or that every leader of Israel represents God (to be fair that wasn’t even the case with the Biblical kings of Israel!). But it does mean that God is working his purpose out in Israel, either in spite of or because of the choices the leaders of modern Israel and the nations make.
And right now, we are in the Days of Awe - the days between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). In these days the Jews take time to reflect on their lives, they year and their God. It is a key time to pray for them to understand that Jesus is their Messiah!
So let’s introduce our children to the story of Israel, past, present and future and allow them to marvel at the greatness of God who chose a small nation, sustained it through centuries without a land, restored it to the people and is fulfilling his plans for the land, the people of Israel and for His church.