This one is one that stumped me for a while.
Here are my thoughts :)
Before I expand on it, here's how I see the simplified version:
There is one God.
God has always been in relationship with people.
God has one name for His one people.
That name is Israel.
Anyone who wanted to join themselves to Israel could. God has always offered that to those not naturally born of Israel. That made them grafted into Israel.
Anyone wanting to do so had to accept God as their God and follow Him wholeheartedly.
This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 11 in the New Testament.
There is no difference between a native-born Israelite or a grafted in child. In other words, there is no faviouritism regardless of whether you are a naturally born son or you've been adopted in.
There is one Father and one set of house rules (torah).
This has never changed.
Ok now for a bit more depth... :)
I was always under the impression that the Old Testament = God of wrath, judgement and condemnation and the God of the New Testament (Jesus) = a God of kindness and mercy and love.
But, of course, there is only ONE God, not two.
We read this in SO many places in the Bible. Here are some examples: 'there is ONE Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all' (Ephesians 4:5), "God is one" (Galatians 3:20) and "Hear O Israel, Yehovah (the LORD) our Elohim (God) is one" (Mark 12:29) and in that last one, Jesus is quoting the Torah (see Deut 6:4). He is the same "yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8) and he says of himself, "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6). These are just a couple of examples.
So, the Scriptures establish that there is one God who has always been and always will be.
This ONE God has always been in relationship with people. He walked in the garden with Adam (Genesis 3:8). He talked and shared his plans with Noah (Genesis 8:15). He was in a covenental relationship with Abraham (Genesis 12) and Isaac (Genesis 25:11) and transformed Jacob's life physically and spiritually (Genesis 32:22-31). He revealed His instructions, statutes and decress before they were written down at Mt Sinai and Abraham had obeyed all He had said (Genesis 26:5).
This pattern of God being in relationship with man continues all throughout the Bible and not just man to God, but also with a nation that He calls to Himself because of the promise that He made to Abraham.
In His promise to Abraham God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:3-8)
This everlasting covenant in which Yehovah (God) swears to make a covenant to make Abraham into a 'father of many nations' is continued when Abraham's grandson, Jacob, wrestles with God and has his name changed from Jacob to Israel (Genesis 32) and fathers the nation of Israel.
Israel, God's chosen people, are persecuted and enslaved in the land of Egypt. They serve Pharoah in slavery for 430 years and yet, God did not forget His people. He heard their cries and sent Moses to deliver them out of Egypt and into the promised land as He had sworn to the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Who came up out of Egypt?
Was it just the Israelites?
No! Scripture tells us there was a 'mixed multitude' that came up out of Egypt!
In the NIV (New International Version of the Bible) it says this,
"The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went with them as well as large droves or livestock both flocks and herds'. (Exodus 12:37-39)
So, they are taken from Egypt across the Red Sea and to Mt Sinai where the laws, statutes and decrees (God's Torah or God's instructions for living) are given to all the people gathered there.
Did God just say that these laws were just for the native-born Israelite and that the mixed multitude were to have a different set of laws?
I always thought that He must have!
But check this out...
"The community is to have the SAME RULES for you and for the alien (which refers to a non-native born Israelite) among you; this is a LASTING ORDINANCE FOR THE GENERATIONS TO COME. You and the alien shall be THE SAME before the LORD. The SAME TORAH (laws) and regulations will apply to BOTH YOU and to the ALIEN LIVING AMONG YOU."
See, from God's persepective, there is no difference if you are native born or if you are 'grafted into' Israel and that is NOT a new testament teaching - that was there from the beginning!!!
So He has one people named Israel. If you are native-born you are called Israel and if you are grafted in, you are also called Israel. I am a part of Israel!
What about going back before Moses' time? What about travelling back a bit to Caleb. Caleb was not from the natural Hebrew line! You know Caleb? As in Joshua and Caleb, the two brave men who spied out the land and gave a favourable report? Well check out Caleb's family background...
Joshua 14:6 says, "Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite"... His dad was a Kenizzite. Who were they? Check out Genesis 15 for some context...they are among all the 'ites' mentioned to Abram by God.
"On that day Yehovah (the LORD) made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river Euphrates - the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites". (Genesis 15:19)
So how did Caleb become apart of Israel? His dad (and perhaps even his grandad) joined himself to the people of Israel, choosing to wholeheartedly follow after God and choosing to trust and obey His commandments. What is significant here is that Caleb was NOT from the bloodline of Israel but yet in Joshua 14:9 we hear Caleb saying that He chose to follow "Yehovah my Elohim (God) fully".
Numbers 32 tells us that only Caleb, son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua, son of Nun were the only two people to enter into the Promised Land because all of the other people did not serve Yah (God) wholeheartedly.
I tell you, I think that is incredible; that the only two people to enter into the promised land because they served Yah (God) wholeheartedly was a native-born and a foreginer who had been grafted into and accepted by God because of His determination to obey and keep covenant with Him and mix that with faith!
What about Rahab? She too was not a native-born but joined herself to the people of God when she chose to serve Him over her towns' gods. She mixed obedience to Him with faith.
Same goes for Ruth. What a girl! She says to her mother-in-law, the Israelite Naomi,
"Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God" (Ruth 1:16)
She swears to follow after the God of the Hebrews even though she, herself was from Moab where they served other gods.
I lOVE this passage in Isaiah too that is referring to the 'foreigners' who choose to follow after God. It says,
"And foreigners who bind themselves to Yehovah (the LORD) to serve him, and to love the name of Yehovah (the LORD) and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant - these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer". (Isaiah 56:6-7)
These verses are not talking about the native-born Israelite who chooses to put their faith in God and enter into covenant with Him. This is talking about those who are not naturally from Israel and yet STILL choose to delight in Him - that's me! I love Him! How great is He?!
If you think like how I did not all that long ago, then I'm tipping that if you've gotten this far you might be thinking one of two things:
1. That's all good and well Lusi but you are only using examples from the old testament and the old testament is no longer or
2. You might be thinking that now we are in a 'new' type of covenant that has replaced the 'old' one.
I'll be going into more depth with these two things sometime in another post but briefly for now I want to say that:
1. Jesus said that His words remain forever. He is the Word and was there from the beginning of the world (John 1) so His Words are everlasting, trustworthy and true. His Word remains. Here are three new testament passages though to think on - Revelation12: 17 and Revelation14: 12 which talk about those who "keep the commandments AND hold to the testimony of Yeshua (Jesus) and Romans 11 which talks about both the natural and the wild olive branches (the non native born Israelite) being both grafted into the root (which is Messiah Jesus)
2. the 'new' covenant is a 'renewed' covenant just as there is a 'new moon' it is not a brand spanking new moon but rather a 'renewed' one. The 'new covenant' that is often mentioned in church is, I believe, misquoted. If you read it in full (Jeremiah 31 and requoted in Hebrews 8 and 10) you will see it is NOT between God and the Gentiles (or non-native Isralites). It is between God and the House of Israel and the House of Judah (which are together the 12 tribes of the house of Israel). The only way we are able to be apart of that 'new covenant' anyway is if we have been grafted into the house of Israel! And if we choose Messiah (Yeshua) as our Saviour, we enter into the 'eternal covenant' between God and man. His Torah then are the healthy family boundaries which God has set out for ALL of His children.
Well, that was a lot for the first in this series but I didn't feel I could really omit any of that - sorry it was so big. I hope that helps someone. I must say a HUGE thankyou though to our dear friends Jono and Christine, Donna and Keiran and others too who have lovingly (and patiently!) walked with us and helped us understand more of God's Truth through His Word. God faithfully, by His Spirit, is continuing to show me (us) His ways and it is the most exciting and wonderful time of our faith and really of our lives!
I would love to hear your thoughts!
I pray that there will be a stirring inside of you to search deeper into God's heart and find what He is really saying. May His Spirit lead and guide you into the knowledge of all Truth as you grow in grace, love and wisdom in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).
More to come another time :)
Loads of love,