In Deuteronomy 32:8-9, in what is referred to as the Song of Moses, there is a mysterious and often overlooked passage:
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. (emphasis added)
God Set the Boundaries
This is creation language that comes from the Torah, the foundation of God’s Word. When God created the world — when He created the sons of men, setting the boundaries of the nations — He did so with Israel as the nexus. Israel was the center and will always be at the core of God’s redemptive plan.
In Genesis 12:7 God says, “To your descendants I will give this land.” This was a specific, actual geographical land that was promised to Abraham. After telling Abraham to look northward, southward, eastward, and westward, God further tells him, “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Gen. 13:17) This particular promise to Israel is impossible to discount.
A Biblical Theme
This is not just an initial promise that we are free to now ignore but a theme that runs through the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. To the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said:
“Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.” — Jeremiah 16:14-15, emphasis added.
All Have Become One in Jesus
Of course, the separate calling God had for the people of Israel, through whom the Messiah would come, was never supposed to make them superior for their own sake. Paul fiercely insists that in Yeshua the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down so that all have become one in Jesus. (Eph. 2:14)
When God created the world — when He created the sons of men, setting the boundaries of the nations — He did so with Israel as the nexus. Israel was the center and will always be at the core of God’s redemptive plan.
Paul himself was a devout Jewish follower of Yeshua, deeply trained in the Torah and the history and practices of the Hebrew people. He understood his own identity as an apostle for Christ in thoroughly Jewish terms, and he never minimized this. But Paul also was passionate that early Christ followers should not continue the kind of radical separation between Jews and Gentiles that was then common in the culture. In Galatians 3:28, Paul makes a truly revolutionary statement: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
A Revolutionary Idea
No one in the ancient world could have conceived of anything like this — a community in which all people would be on equal footing, regardless of their social class. Jews and Gentiles, those who were enslaved and those who were free, and men and women were now equal. The idea of Yeshua eliminating the divisions between classes, disrupting the world’s system, was revolutionary.
Distinctions, Not Discrimination
Yet critically, while Paul maintains that those who are in Christ are one, he does not by any means minimize their distinctions. There are obvious fundamental differences between men and women. Despite the fact that today our culture tries to minimize these differences as it pushes “gender fluidity,” the biological differences between male and female are obvious in the human anatomy. In the beginning, God created them male and female. (Gen. 1:27) Paul was not trying to say that in Christ there are no distinctions but that there is no discrimination!
A Unique Destiny
Whether it be in regard to gender differences or the differences between Jews and Gentiles, when people confuse discrimination with distinction instead of grasping the equality Paul had in mind, they neutralize the role Israel plays, thus minimizing the unique destiny God has for the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Some churches even teach that there is no longer anything unique about Israel or the Jewish people and that because the Israelites initially rejected Jesus, the promises the Lord made to them have been taken away from them and are now given instead to the Gentile churches.
A Blessing to Jews and Gentiles
The truth is when the Gospel of Yeshua is preached to Jewish people, it is ultimately a blessing to Jews and Gentiles alike. If Gentiles were blessed because the Gospel came to them as a result of and after the Jewish people rejected Yeshua, how much more will they be blessed when Jewish people receive Him?
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Paul says, “Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!… For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
He continues: “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.” (Rom. 11:12, 15, 17-18, emphasis added)
God’s Chosen People
Although many in the church have discounted the distinctiveness of the Jews and the unique role they still play, others have gone to the opposite extreme and have become so romanticized by the notion that the Jews are God’s chosen people that they don’t witness to them. Some think, “Who am I as a Gentile to talk to the Jews about Jesus?”
‘No Other Name’
Jewish people must receive Jesus to be saved just like everyone else. Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Either Jesus is who He said He is, or He is not. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
The Jewish Jesus
We must come into alignment with the Jewish Jesus because when we meet Him, we are going to meet the One who identified Himself as “the root and the descendant of David.” (Rev. 22:16) We are going to meet the One who in heaven is called “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah.” (Rev. 5:5) And we will meet Him in the heavenly city called New Jerusalem, whose gates are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Rev. 21:12) Whether we come to Him as a Jew or as a Gentile, we will all meet Him together.
Rabbi Kirt A. Schneider