The Restoration of Israeli Missions
I am an Asian American Israeli. I have an Asian face, an American voice and an Israeli passport. My wife is a Messianic Jew and we came as immigrants to Israel in 1987 from Japan where I had been serving as a pastor and working in the computer industry. We moved to the city of Haifa and settled on Mt. Carmel, the mountain of Elijah the prophet. In 1991, after the Gulf War we were part of small group that founded a new congregation on Mt. Carmel and I became one of the pastors. In 1996 a ministry called Asia Center was launched to build a spiritual highway of intercession and evangelism between Israel and the growing churches in East Asia.
What is the significance of Israel to the unfinished task of world evangelization? Israel is a "resurrected" nation with an "irrevocable" gifting and call (Romans 11:28-29). God's purpose for Israel was clearly expressed when Abraham was first called by God and chosen for a special life of faith.
Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)
From the start, Abraham's call involved giving a blessing to all the nations of the world. God repeated His promise after Abraham's faithfulness was tested on the mountain of sacrifice with his son, Isaac. The Lord repeated this same promise to Abraham's son Isaac and also to his grandson, Jacob who was renamed Israel. Four times over three generations God declares in the Book of Genesis that the destiny of the Jewish people is to be a blessing to all the peoples of the world.
God has maintained His faithfulness to Israel throughout the centuries. Israel is still God's chosen nation. However Jesus said, ".From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." (Luke 12:48) The correct response to being chosen by God is a deep sense of obligation. Choseness without obligation is exclusivity. This exclusivity was the root sin of the Pharisees, the leading Jewish sect in Jesus' day.
In the Bible, an individual man often serves as God's picture of a nation. In the Book of Jonah the prophet we can see God's choosing of a man and God's choosing of a nation. In Jonah chapter one God said, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." (Jonah 1:2) This is a picture of God's purpose in His original covenant with Israel. God chose Israel to be a light to all the nations, but Israel chose not to be chosen and rejected God's call.
Jonah disobeyed and fled by ship. But God caused a violent storm, and each Gentile sailor in desperation called upon his own god. Lots were chosen and it was found that Jonah, a Jew, was aboard fleeing in disobedience to God. Jonah accepted the blame for the ship's misfortune and was thrown into the sea. In this we can see the nations raging in fearful frustration and a shadow of future anti-Semitism as the Jew in their midst is identified and cast out to his death. God appointed a fish to swallow Jonah. It was a sea monster of judgment and near-extinction, but also the vessel of his ultimate preservation. This mysterious event was interpreted by Jesus when He said,
An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:39-40)
Jesus compared Jonah's sojourn in the depths of the sea with His own journey through death and into hell itself. For Israel's Messiah to be cut off meant death and separation from God not just for Him, but for the entire nation. Jesus' death was a sign of judgment upon God's chosen nation. After 70 A.D., when most of the people of Israel were expelled from the land of their inheritance, Israel ceased to function as a nation.
What followed was almost two thousand years of wandering, persecutions, expulsions and murders, culminating in the Holocaust where millions of Jews were systematically hunted down and exterminated. Has God required any other nation to die as excruciating a death as this over such a long period of time? However, God's mercy triumphs over His judgment. In 1948 a new nation, modern Israel was born. Even as Jesus died and was resurrected to new life, the nation of Israel disappeared from the earth to be reborn in our time. The appearance of modern Messianic Jewish believers in Israel today is a "resurrection" of the faith held by the first Israeli disciples of Jesus.
In Jonah chapter three is says, "the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time." The Lord is the "God of the second chance" and His second call to Jonah was the same as His first: Go, preach to another nation. This time Jonah obeyed the word of God and became Israel's best-known, cross-cultural prophet--a Jewish missionary! Today, after Israel's long years of dispersion, God is giving the Jewish remnant a second chance to be a "light to the nations." Israel is the only nation to which God will give two historic opportunities--separated by two thousand years! It was Jesus who prophesied, "the last shall be first, and the first last." (Matthew 20:16)
In our day we are witnessing not only the historic return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel but the rise of indigenous Israeli congregations worshipping Jesus in the very land where He once walked. God is sending His Word a second time to the restored remnant of Israel to fulfill the Chosen Nation's call. Jonah was a Jewish prophet sent cross-culturally to preach the Word of God even to the traditional enemies of his own people. Modern Israel's redemption is joined with her actions as a light bringing Jesus' message of salvation to the nations of the world. Paul the apostle wrote,
"a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved." (Romans 11:25b-26a)
There is a majestic sequence to God's actions in history and a unique season given for each nation. God's original covenant purpose and call for Israel and the Jewish people to be a spiritual light to all nations has not changed. Today, in the modern state, a remnant of Israeli believers are worshipping Yeshua (Jesus) and bringing the power of His Spirit back home to Israel after almost two thousand years. Among the steadily growing numbers of Jewish believers are individuals and families who are called to go...to the Muslims, to the Hindus, to all the nations. These Israeli missionaries have received the mandate and mantle of Abraham and they are humbly joining their Gentile Christian brothers and sisters who have thus far carried the work of world evangelization. Modern Israeli ministers are arriving "late in the day" like the laborers called to work in the vineyard that Jesus described in Matthew chapter twenty. But it is for Zion's sake--for the salvation of Israel, as well as for the world that we obey and preach trans-culturally.
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning. And the nations will see your righteousness. (Isaiah 62:1-2a)
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