In November of 1947, Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, lobbied for a United Nations resolution that would divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Truman later expressed his faith in the reborn state of Israel saying, “I believe it has a glorious future before it—not just [as] another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”
Interestingly, one of Israel’s own spiritual leaders has since expressed less confidence in his own people. The late Rabbi Meir Kahane (1932–1990) indicated his fear that his own people are more inclined to lean on their allies than on the God who is the real source of their greatness.
Rabbi Kahane, who also founded the Jewish Defense League in the United States, wrote, “For so long as the Jew has even one ally, he will be convinced . . . that his salvation came from that ally. It is only when he is alone—against all of his own efforts and frantic attempts—that he will, through no choice, be compelled to turn to G-d.” (Note: Out of reverence for their Creator, observant Jewish people may hyphenate direct references to the name of God.)
If the rabbi’s comments are insightful, then what he said about Israel should also tell us something about ourselves. Who among us is not inclined to put our hope and trust in just about anything—other than the God who made us for Himself?
Seeing ourselves mirrored in the history of Israel is a sobering experience. But it also can be inspiring. If we follow the story of the chosen people far enough, we see how God chose that one nation for the sake of all.
For example, it’s important for all of us to know that God didn’t choose Israel because they embodied greatness (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). He chose a small and weak people who were no better than anyone else to show what He could do for those who put their trust in Him.
The other side of the coin is that God chose one nation to show all of us that no one embodies the great ideals of our Creator as long as we are depending on anyone or anything other than the God who made us for Himself.
Nowhere are both sides of this coin more important to see than in the events surrounding the birth and death of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah.
According to the gospel writer Matthew, in the days of King Herod wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV).
Matthew went on to say that Herod was not the only one to be troubled by this news. He wrote, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (2:3 NKJV).
By sharing the emotions of Herod, the people of Jerusalem showed that they were not ready for the appearance of the Messiah.
Thirty years later, a prophet by the name of John the Baptizer confirmed that Israel was not ready for her Messiah. He called on his countrymen to acknowledge the sins that were keeping them from embodying the great ideals of the kingdom of God.
This time, however, it was the religious leaders of Israel who felt threatened not only by John, but by the One John called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36 NKJV).
After three years of hearing about and even seeing the miracle-working Rabbi from Nazareth, envious religious leaders asked for the help of Rome to get rid of Jesus.
At this point the one for all strategy of God reached an unexpected fulfillment. At the lowest moment in Jewish history, God used the insults, whips, and nails of His enemies to embody the greatest moment of justice, mercy, and divine love that the world has ever known.
In the ultimate one for all rescue, the Son of God—embodied in a perfect Jewish man—voluntarily paid the price for the sins of all. Then after three days in a borrowed tomb, He rose bodily from the dead to offer forgiveness and immortality to anyone who will trust Him.
Such irony could only be from God. Who else could use our worst sins as His occasion to bring us to Himself? Who but God could use the death of One to offer life to all? Who but our Creator would choose one nation that mirrors our worst inclinations for the sake of all? Who but our God could give us a Son and Savior who really does embody the justice, mercy, and immortality for which we were created?
Father in heaven, thank You for using a “chosen people” to tell us our own story. Above all, thank You for using that nation to give us the birth of a King who was willing to suffer and die in such inexpressible ways in order to share the great ideals of His kingdom with us. —Mart De Haan