top of page

Why On Earth Israel?


As I write, we are five days away from beginning a 21-day Isaiah 62 fast, where together with millions of believers around the world we will fast and pray for the nation of Israel. While it is very exciting to see so many believers come together for these next three weeks in such unity and faith, it is also quite jarring to think that many more will keep their distance, with emotions ranging from apathy to bewilderment to utter indignation as they look on.


If you were at this point hoping for a compelling essay entitled ‘The Biblical Case For Israel’ that you can either enthusiastically agree with or energetically disagree with then I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. If you are genuinely curious to learn more about what the bible says about Israel I would point you towards https://isaiah62fast.com/ and https://www.youtube.com/@IHOPkc, where you will find a wealth of resources to chew over. It is a very good thing to study scripture and you will never hear me say otherwise! However, I also believe that personal testimonies formed in the heart, rather than rigid theologies formed in the mind, can sometimes be the best way to convey an idea. Once we are accepting of another person's heart and character, we often find it a lot easier to be accepting of their beliefs. So rather than present a series of verses and scriptures to try to prove to you why I’m right, I wanted to instead offer an honest account of my own journey regarding Israel, in the hope that through this blog you will take hold of something that will lead you closer to our beloved Jesus.


My personal background concerning Israel is, I’m afraid, about as mundane as they come. I confess that I grew up with absolutely zero understanding or interest in Israel. I would read scriptures containing the word Israel and barely even register that they had contained the I-word, often glossing over swathes of Israel-centric scripture that I couldn't make sense of, muttering a timid 'thank you God' as I hurriedly turned over the pages. The Old Testament was not real to me in any way.


Furthermore - my second confession - I have never had much of an interest in politics, and so even when going out to Israel for the first time at the age of 28, the whole political background and the Israel-Palestine conflict meant very little to me. I remember walking past outdoor displays in Brighton demanding justice for the Palestinians and not having a clue whether I should be in agreement or disagreement. I say these things to make plain to you the utter blankness of the metaphorical canvas I took with me to Israel, upon which God began to write.


As I’ve written about in my first blog, as Melissa and I prepared to get married we felt God impress on us that we were to spend six months away. As we prayed and sought God, He made it clear that we were to spend our first three months in Israel, based at Succat Hallel, a House of Prayer in Jerusalem. We arrived mid-September 2019, after an overnight flight that stopped at Turkey on the way. We were exhausted before we even began, and yet even in our first week we were put to work leading 'watches' in the Prayer Room, including two hours a week praying for Israel.


I'll be honest - I did not have a clue what I was doing. I had never prayed for Israel before and didn't know where to begin. Yet amazingly we did it. It wasn’t always easy, but it wasn’t as hard as we had feared. We started praying for Israel the only way we know how – how we would for any other nation. We prayed for God’s Spirit to move among the people, for God’s church in the land to be strengthened and emboldened in their witness. We prayed for the government, the leaders, the military, that God would give them wisdom and the fear of the Lord, and as we did I began to feel God’s deep love for the land. It’s very true that the best way to grow in love for someone - or in our case a nation - is to serve them and pray for them.


I always encourage anyone who wants to understand more about Israel to go there for themselves. There's something about seeing the land and the people that is so impactful, and this was exactly my experience. Over the years preceding my trip I had read and studied many Old Testament scriptures that speak of Israel, but I had very little understanding to show for it. Yet somehow, being in the land, looking out over the city of Jerusalem and remembering the sight of hundreds of Jews at the Western Wall, these passages came to life in a way I had never known before. One of the most insightful revelations I received when I was out there was that I was not just praying for a land and a people of the past - I was praying for a land and a people of the present.


As well as serving in the Prayer Room and exploring the land, we began to study Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jewish people and the land of Israel. As we did, God's Word began to shine clearer and brighter to me than ever before. How could I have been so arrogant to think that every blessing and promise of the Old Testament were mine and mine alone, when I was now walking among the very people God had first given them to? How could I profess to believe in a God who is faithful to His promises, yet knowingly and callously disregard every promise He's made to Israel? How could I try to explain away God's eternal oath to give Abraham and his descendants the land of Israel, when, after thousands of years and two exiles, they somehow still remain in it? As I learned more, I began to realise there was only one logical explanation to explain what my eyes were seeing - that God is not yet done with the people and the land of Israel.


That does not mean, however, that I immediately understood everything or overnight became a learned Hebrew scholar. I did not. There were still many scriptures I couldn't make sense of, and many questions I needed to wrestle through. However, as we prepared to leave after three amazing months, I knew I had taken hold of something very precious, even if I did not yet fully comprehend it.


We left Israel and went to spend another three months away, this time at IHOPKC in America. I was grateful to have been to Israel first, because we spent many hours in the Prayer Room being led in prayer for Israel, and received even more in-depth teaching into Israel and Jesus’ return. I was also grateful to have time each day in the Prayer Room to study the scriptures, particularly the New Testament writings, to attempt to untangle the many-knotted ball of theological string I now found myself with.


As I studied, I started to realise just how much sense the bible makes when approached with a proper understanding of Israel’s place in God’s heart and His purposes for them. Even the New Testament, which as believers we tend to find much easier to understand, came to life in a way I’d never known. The Gospels and the book of Acts started to read exactly as they should - not as the account of Jesus the Gentile Messiah coming to do away with the Jews and establish the church, but rather the account of Jesus the Jewish Messiah coming to Israel as He had promised, only to be rejected as Isaiah had prophesied. Paul’s famous writings in Romans 9-11 now made perfect sense - an appeal to Gentile believers not to forget or disregard the people to whom the gospel was originally preached, nor to be ignorant of God’s plan to bring the Jewish people into salvation and of His commitment to every promise He made to them. Wherever I looked in the bible, seeing through the lens of Israel brought everything into greater clarity and focus.


The funny thing is, with this one piece in place, I now find it much easier to read the bible. I now no longer read a passage about Israel and wonder who God is talking about, nor do I feel the need to extravagantly philosophise Old Testament passages so they can be relevant to me. I read the Old Testament Psalms and Prophets as they were intended to read - not as a series of mystical, indecipherable metaphors, but as plain language spoken to and about Israel. My understanding of scripture and love for God has not been diminished, but rather has grown exponentially as the revelation of Israel’s identity has shone brighter in my heart.


It strikes me that before God can teach us, He often first needs to un-teach us. I wonder whether this is one of the reasons why Jesus chose fisherman and tax collectors to be His disciples rather than pharisees and teachers of the law - they came beautifully free of mindsets and ingrained beliefs that would have opposed, rather than welcomed, Jesus' teaching. I am grateful that I arrived in Israel with very little 'baggage'. That does not mean I swallowed every morsel of teaching without question - but it does mean my heart remained blissfully unoffended as we learnt about the land in which we were living. In this instance I was ready to receive, and all I can say is that I am without doubt more in love with God and His Word as a result.


As Christians, it is vital that we value and uphold God's Word above all things. It’s okay to come to God with a couple of suitcases, but we have to be willing to let Him search through them and throw out anything that He deems unhelpful or unnecessary. Too often we open the bible and endeavour to fit our rigid, fully formed political and societal opinions and beliefs into the passage we're reading. We search for verses to justify what we believe should be true, rather than allowing the verses to speak first and dictate to us what is true. We are quick to speak and very slow to listen, despite the apostle James' warnings.


As we prepare to embark on this fast, my prayer is not only that God would move powerfully in the land of Israel, but that He would move powerfully in our churches and communities and open up our eyes to His marvellous gospel plan that includes Jews and Gentiles alike. I have no desire to be proved ‘right’ - but I do desire to share the treasure that I have found with others. Wherever you’re at with the topic of Israel, and whether or not you engage with this fast in any way, I pray that as you surrender yourself to God He would speak to you more clearly and tenderly than ever before.

0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page