The hope of Israel

Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews.  When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.  They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death.  But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar – not that I had any charge to bring against my own people.  For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you.  It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.                                 (Acts 28 vs. 17-20)
What are our hopes? They may be work based, or school based or family based?
In many schools across the country there is a big drive for athletics success for the London 2012 Olympic Games. All of the athletes aiming for London 2012 will be hoping that they perform on the day and return home with a gold medal after many years of hard training.
But are any of these hopes worth going to prison for?  In the verses we read Paul was in prison for his hope – the hope of Israel.
So what is the hope of Israel?  What’s so special about this nation?  We are told in Deuteronomy 7 vs. 7 & 8 “the LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the promises he swore to your forefathers”.

We discover from these verses that God loved Israel and had made promises to their forefathers.  Who were the forefathers of this nation?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whose name was in fact later changed to Israel.  What were these promises?  “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever.”  (Gen 13 vs. 14 & 15)
“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”  (Gen 22 vs. 17 & 18)
These promises involved descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – they are the people of Israel, the Jews.  They also involved land – the land of Israel.  God’s people the Israelites lived in the land of Canaan, were taken off to Egypt and then 400 years later were led back to Canaan by Moses and Joshua.  Because of their disobedience to God’s rules they were taken as captives by the Assyrians and Babylonians.  Some Israelites returned to their land after 70 years of captivity in Babylon and these were the Jews who were in the land in the time of Jesus.  All this time God was in control of events concerning His people and the nations round about.
Because the Jews of Jesus’ day rejected him once again they were punished.  In AD70 the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the people were scattered throughout all nations.  We read about this in Luke 21 v 24 where it says “they will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.  Jerusalem will be trampled on by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles be fulfilled”.
At the end of the verse we read about the “times of the gentiles being fulfilled” with regard to Jerusalem.  Here we see a good example of God fulfilling his promises in the 6 Day War in 1967. The Six Day War was between an allied force of Egypt, Syria and Jordan against Israel.  The Israeli forces were outnumbered by a ratio of 1:3.  The allied force had far more military power but with all their worldly might they could not destroy Israel. God’s hand was protecting and guiding Israel.
The ultimate end to the hope of Israel is the kingdom of God on earth and a key passage that describes this is “Judah will be inhabited for ever and Jerusalem through all ages” (Joel 3 vs. 18, 20)
A topical subject at the moment is the planned Olympic Games for London 2012 and Paul uses an example of an athlete in 1 Corinthians 9 vs. 24 & 25 which says “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize.  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever.”  This has got to be our aim – to put in as much effort to get into God’s kingdom as the Olympians have put into winning a gold medal.

Daily Readings

Today: 23 January 2018