Coming To Terms With The God of Israel

The God of Israel - what an interesting statement.

Israel's God.

Who stands up for Israel's God? For that matter, who is Israel's God? Is it Yahweh? Is it Jesus? Is it the Trinity?

A lot of Christians struggle, perhaps at a subconscious level, about the phrase "God of Israel". After all, Israel's God is the God of Judaism, is He not? And the God of Christianity is not the God of Judaism, right?

Christianity is interesting, perhaps unique or at least rare, in this aspect: its holy book contains the entire holy book of another religion. The whole of Judaism's Scriptures is contained within Christianity's holy book.

Contrast this to, say, Islam, where new writings completely replaced and deemed lies writings of the religion that inspired it. That is to say, Islam was inspired from Judaism and Christianity, but its own holy book denies the writings of both Judaism and Christianity.

(Some Muslims will claim this not true, but in all reality, Islam denies Y'shua (Jesus) is the son of God, thus denying Christian writings, and denies that Isaac (father of Israel) received God's blessings, thus denying Judaism, and that the prophets of Israel prophesied falsely.)

Many Christians are unsure of what they are saying when claiming they worship the God of Israel. Do they really worship Israel's God? If so, why are they so different than the religion of Israel?

This predicament raises other questions: if Christians are worshipers of the God of Israel, why aren't we living in Israel? Why aren't we part of Israel? Joined to Israel? Supporters of Israel?

Over the years, these questions have been answered in many different ways:

  1. Christian theologians theorized that the Christian Church itself is the new Israel. Replacement Theology invented, problem solved.

  2. The Christian Church is a new religion that strayed from the Hebrew faith. The "church" just means the "assembly" of folks who love the God of Israel. The religion of Christianity is done away with, problem solved.

  3. The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God first loved Israel, now he loves the Church. Israel is belittled, problem solved.

  4. The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God loves both Israel and the Church. Jews need not convert to Christianity, problem solved.

  5. The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God loves both Israel and the Church, but Jews still need to convert to Christianity. Israel plays second fiddle to the Church, problem solved.

  6. The Christian Church and Israel are two valid, distinct entities. God is using the Church to bless Israel. Jews need not convert to Christianity, problem solved.

  7. God dispensed -- like a candy dispenser -- different revelations to us over time. He first dispensed that Israel was his people, but we put another quarter in him and he dispensed that the Church was his people. Dispensation Theology invented, Israel done away with, problem solved.

  8. Gentiles are grafted into Israel by Messiah, becoming physical Israelites, not Christians. Christianity is done away with, problem solved.

  9. Gentiles are grafted into Israel by Messiah, becoming spiritual Israelites, not Christians. Christianity is done away with, problem solved.

  10. The Christian Church is the "spiritual" Israel and the Jews are "physical" Israel. God rejected Jews and embraced gentiles, problem solved.

  11. The Christian Church is the "spiritual" Israel and the Jews are "physical" Israel. Jews rejected God, gentiles embraced Him, problem solved.

  12. The Christian Church is the bride of Christ upon his return, Jews will receive the judgment coming to them for rejection of Messiah. Israel done away with, problem solved.

  13. The "Church" and "Israel" are just walled gardens that were invented by men and their religions. The two groups are equally God's children and we ought to all get along. There are multiple paths to God. Christianity and Israel are done away with, problem solved.

  14. The God of the Old Testament is an angry, judgment-loving false god of the Hebrews. The God of the New Testament is the grace-filled, mercy-loving real God who did away with all the Jewish stuff. Israel done away with, problem solved.

Those are just some of the possible answers I'm aware of. And some big names and big organizations adhere to these.

For example, US Presidential candidate John McCain's former pastor, John Hagee, adheres to #4.

Messianic Jews, by and large, adhere to #5.

Messianic Israelites (that is, the movement that says some gentiles are descendants of the northern tribes of Israel), by and large, adhere to #8.

For centuries, if not millenia, the gentile Christian Church, especially the Church at Rome, adhered to #1.

Even today, many gentile Christians adhere to #7.

At least one prominent early Christian father adhered to #14, and even went as far as to create a new Christian bible containing only the writings of Paul.

Many Universalist Unitarians, indeed most of the secular culture, would adhere to #13.

Why does this matter? Theology influences our actions. As Rabbi Derek Leman put it so elegantly, Replacement Theology and sibling doctrines of the early gentile Church resulted in evil actions such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, in turn resulting in the death of thousands of Jews.

Or more recently, during the rise of Hitler's power in Germany, some 70% of Protestant pastors, regardless of their stance on the Nazis, supported the removal of the Jew from der Faderland, after all, the Church replaced Israel!

Or on a yet more recent and somewhat positive note, modern Christian Protestant pastor John Hagee did just the opposite: giving his congregation's money and other aide to Orthodox Jewish organizations in Israel.

This is an important question, then; how greatly it affects our actions! Who is Israel, folks? Do believers in Messiah worship the God of Israel? The same one as the ancient prophets? The same one as the modern Judaism? What theology do you subscribe to, Dear Christian reader?

In the next post, we'll look at what Scripture in the Christian text has to say on this issue, on this mystery that has led to so many ugly actions of Christians over the centuries.



  1. A couple of thoughts.

    God did not, and will not change. Therefore I worship the God of Israel. Israel or the Jews are God's people. Jews and Gentiles alike will be judged in the end (including Christians).
    Regarding the Crusades, they were about money, strategic locales and power. Religion in that case was just a good rallying cry. For some reason people are less like to follow when you say "Help me over throw our neighbors so I can take their gold".

    Pat O

  2. Patrick,

    Heh, true, they were about money. And we must be fair and say that some of the Crusades were also defensive measures against the Islamic conquest of the previous center of the Christian world: Antioch.

    Nonetheless, there were many abuses done in the name of Jesus thanks to bad theology.

    One question. (Not a loaded question, but a real one.) If Israel is God's people, what about Christians?

    The part I'm wondering about is, can God have both believing people (Christians) on equal status with unbelieving people, by and large, Jews? What do you think, Patrick?

  3. Patrick,

    I love your views on this! :)


  4. The Jews are God's Chosen People. Christians are a called out company with Gentiles being grafted in as children of God. Both sets of peoples have been set apart for God's purposes, not our own. God's plan is that of redeeming His entire Creation from sin and death and both peoples are a part of that plan. In the age to come, we will be made one people through Christ.

    Most Jews did not recognize Jesus as their Messiah so God turned to the Gentiles and through Jesus, the God of Israel was made known to the entire world. Of course, all of this was prophesied long before hand.

    It really is spelled out quite clearly in the scriptures but it seems most people would rather adopt a theology put together by someone they think is smarter than take the time to try to find out for themselves. I say, bag theology and read the Bible. Things might be a little less confusing but probably not.;-)

  5. God told Abraham that all people would be blessed through him (and his descendants: Israel). So I think that it was always God's plan to bring the nations (gentiles) to salvation through Israel. Messiah came as a Jew and atoned for sin so that "whosoever" could be saved.:)

  6. Wow! My religion is one of those with a replacement theology that I never thought made sense. Reading this blog has really led me back to studying my Bible and looking for answers.
    Loved this quote:
    "Christianity is interesting, perhaps unique or at least rare, in this aspect: its holy book contains the entire holy book of another religion. The whole of Judaism's Scriptures is contained within Christianity's holy book."
    Keep the posts coming. I want to learn more!

  7. @Joyindestructible,

    Very well said, I like that answer and the way you approached it.

    One question that wasn't immediately clear to me in your post was, is there a difference between God's Chosen People and children of God?


    You're right, God's plan was always to bring the gentiles to Him. That plan came to fruition in Messiah, who now brings about 1/3rd the entire world to know the God of Israel. That's cool, isn't it?

    Now that the gentiles, by and large, have come to the God of Israel, where does that leave unbelieving Israel? Still God's people?

  8. Judah,

    I am new to reading your blog, and it has been a wonderful experience thus far.

    Joy, I love your comment, you said exactly what I wanted to say!

    The question about unbelieving Israel puzzles and concerns me, as I do not wish destruction on anyone. I do believe that Israel's eyes will be opened...I also believe that many American Jews have not heard the Gospel, and have been subjected to Antisemitism from Christians, which immediately turns them away. I do believe that the Jews who accept the Messiah will witness to all Jews, including unbelieving Israel, and that their hearts will be changed...I am praying for this.

  9. Gosh, Judah. I don't really know what I think about unbelieving Jews. It seems that the gospels teach that unless someone believes in Jesus as Messiah, they will not inherent the kingdom of God. So, I don't know. What do you think?

  10. Hi R. Gabrielle, hope you enjoy the blog. Hope you hang around.

    @haley, I think back to the gospel where Messiah said, "I and the Father are one. No man comes to the Father but by me. If a man comes any other way, he is a thief and a robber."

    That suggests very strongly even Jews must believe in Messiah.

    Now, Paul says in Romans that God has not cancelled or rescinded any of the promises to his people, Israel. That leads me to believe that being God's people does not necessarily mean you're set right with God.

    An atheist Jew is still a member of God's people by birth, but he is not in right standing with God merely by his birth.

  11. >The part I'm wondering about is,
    >can God have both believing
    >people (Christians) on equal
    >status with unbelieving people,
    >by and large, Jews? What do you
    >think, Patrick?

    I think we need to look at Chosen. What does the Torah/Bible mean when it says that Israel is God's Chosen people. We (humans) like to believe that we are chosen for something special for us. This is a result of our thinking that things are all about us. In reality things are all about God. God chose Israel for a purpose. To bring redemption to the world through Messiah. So in my mind there is no issue. The Jews must remain chosen because it is through them (Abraham, Isaac, Israel, David) that we have Jesus our Messiah. The reason for the choosing is to bless the rest of the world (Gentiles). No mystery, no paradox.

    Pat O

  12. BTW, As you often point out the lack of Christian observances of God's Holy Days, can you offer a consice source for those observances? How do you celebrate shabbat? If you don't mind my asking.

    Pat O

  13. Patrick,

    A thought-provoking answer. Thanks for that.

    Some questions remain for me: Do Christians become part of God's Chosen? Are Christians to live as righteously as Israel was to live?

    Regarding shabbat, I celebrate it by resting on the sabbath. That's one of the earliest, simplest commandments, one that's older than the ones given to Moses at Sinai. Shabbat starts Friday at sundown (in just a few hours, as I write this), and ends Saturday at sundown.

    I also celebrate shabbat with some music and Bible study, I play guitar at a small home study on shabbat. Though the commandments prescribe only rest for the sabbath, I find celebrating the sabbath to be in-line with the spirit of the commandment.

    Regarding a source of the observances, you mean a Scriptural citation in favor of celebrating the festivals? If that's what you mean, I'd say Lev 23.

  14. Hi Judah,

    I would answer your question by saying that there is a difference between the chosen and the called out in function but we each play a role in bringing about the same end, the one desired by God. We who are called out were once vessels of God's Wrath but in Christ, we have become vessels of God's Mercy. There was nothing in us to merit this Mercy, it is all a work of God. For certain, I know that if God can have Mercy on me then He can have Mercy on anyone. He has chosen to have Mercy on me and others like me so that He can also have Mercy upon His Chosen People and save them all.(this is all spelled out in the book of Romans and is not my own idea or a theological stance that I've adopted from another)