In some respects one might say we are still the waiting remnant of Israel. Waiting to take the fullness of our humanity as sacred and meant into the fullness of our faith-life. Waiting yet to bring to fullness the realization and embrace of our identity as Christians as it is rooted in the journey of Israel. Israel gave us Jesus. Jesus said he came to Israel. He came to gather together the twelve tribes. To restore Israel to its rightful place and in some respects get her back on track. The liberator will come from Zion.
Like Paul Jesus would address the tension between law and the spirit of the law. Law and love. For both love wins out. For both, Israel, Paul and Jesus faith was in a person, not in the law. You could say the law held us in the embrace of God until Jesus came to extend his arms in love to everyone on the cross. No one was every meant to be excluded. Exclusion’s purpose, setting oneself apart, as Israel needed to do at the outset, was to enable their novice faith to grow strong, to solidify as a people, in their forming faith. By 1st century Palestine, Jesus welcomed everyone to his table; his message to all who could hear and to those who would follow. Paul is the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles and the world. So that one can still say that faith came through Israel. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
In giving the promise the Lord God of Israel had a plan. Israel was the plan. God chose Israel first and loves them still Paul reminds us; they remain the people of the one god, first to work through an understanding of what monotheism meant and then to shape their identity from the fullness of that meaning and their relationship with the god who was shaping them and forming them as his own. As his own so he could proselytize the world to him.
They have not fallen out of the embrace of God’s design for them in the world. All that has occurred, even their tenure in Egypt under Pharaoh became part of God’s cause in the world for all humanity. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. In Egypt they were preserved from the famine, grew into a nation large in numbers and then made their trek across the wilderness of Sinai to the land of the promise. It is through Israel, in whom the seed would grow, that the other nations of the world would come to know I Am Who Am. The living God. The very presence of the Lord of Life in their midst. We know this God through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is now Lord of all. We know Jesus the Christ only to the extent we know the story of Israel.
We too need to honor Israel and rather than consider the story of her journey as an ‘old testament’, regard the Hebrew Scriptures as a paradigm for all those who would follow, even Jesus, especially Jesus. Israel gave us Jesus. Both Paul and Jesus were formed in the faith of Israel. Their message and mission came out of the wilderness and the lion heart of Judea.
Israel’s story is much like our own. I feel we have a long way to go in understanding and valuing the place of the Jewish people in the grand and greater schema of what we call salvation. I did not lose one of those you gave to me. Our saving is in the heart and soul of the footsteps of God’s sacred people, the people who are our spiritual ancestors and in whose footsteps Jesus and we follow to the fullness of life; realizing our humanity as both sacred and meant. We too are ever on a journey like the Hebrew people. As we follow Jesus we follow the story of Israel as it continues to teach us today about what it means to be human. What it means to be God’s.