As Christians, how are we to relate to Israel? How to connect with her? In Romans 11:17-24, Paul likens this vital, organic connection to being grafted into the Olive Tree of God’s covenant family. For a complete understanding of this teaching, we have to first understand that the Biblical term “Israel” has three primary layers of meaning.
- The Jewish People:
“Israel” (Prince with God) first appears as the name bestowed by God to Jacob after his famous wrestling match with a divine messenger in Genesis 22. At this foundational stage “Israel” is simply the name given to the great patriarch of the 12 tribes of Israel and later to their offspring. By covenant, God thus forever identifies Himself as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…The God of Israel.” So, “Israel” is the physical descendants of these patriarchs, who later become known as the Jewish people.
- The Nation of Israel and the Land of Israel:
Some 400 years later, the population of the tribes of Israel has greatly multiplied, and together they are ready to become a nation. At Sinai, the people receive the Torah/Law containing the basic elements that will define their culture, laws, and society. After entering the Promised Land, there is another covenant which establishes the nation as an eternal, Messianic kingdom under David and his descendants. (2 Sam 7) This nation/kingdom has Jerusalem—the City of David– as its eternal capital.
“Israel” thus becomes a nation—with a specific land, capital, economy, etc—and with the promise of a future restoration as the center of the worldwide, Messianic Kingdom. – Acts 1:6
- Israel, the saved Remnant:
This is where things get a little tricky. In the NT, and especially in the theology of Paul, we learn that in every generation there is a spiritual subset of the w