The story of the Lord and Israel is a love story. It is often marked by sin and tragedy, broken covenant and judgment – but it is still a love story. As told by Ezekiel, the narrative begins when a great King finds a poor, orphaned girl. He rescues her, cares for her, and clothes her in royal garments. Adorned with glory, her true beauty shines, and the King falls in love with her. He marries her and makes her His queen.
But when the orphan-turned-monarch gains worldwide fame, she prostitutes herself to the nations. The defiled queen suffers immeasurably for her adulteries. But the King declares that His covenant with her is eternal, and His love will one day eclipse His anger. On that day, their marriage will be restored.
Unfortunately, many are not looking toward that day of restoration, but rather are saying that God’s promises are no longer for Israel because of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. They say God is looking for a people who will carry His heart for Israel.
God Calls Israel “My People”
Throughout Scripture, God affectionately refers to Israel as His people, emphasizing to all that He possesses His people – they are His. Here are just a few examples:
“And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed” (2 Samuel 7:10 NIV).
“And I will bring my people Israel back from exile” (Amos 9:14 NIV).
“Since the day I brought my people out of Egypt … nor have I chosen anyone to be ruler over my people Israel … I have chosen David to rule my people Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:5–6 NIV).
God possesses Israel as His own, and He is looking for men and women who will carry His heart for His people. In my role as a father, nothing brings me more joy than to see my children loved and accepted by others. If I, as an earthly father, can receive such pleasure in seeing my children loved and accepted, how much more does it bless our Heavenly Father’s heart to see His children loved and embraced?
On the flip side, I can’t imagine the ache in the Father’s heart as He’s watched His firstborn son, Israel, being bullied through the centuries. Unfortunately, history has been replete with story after story of those who have wanted to see Israel annihilated. Whether it was Haman, Herod, Hitler or Hamas, there’s been a continuing diabolical plot to wipe the people of Israel off the face of the earth.
The Prophets Shared God’s Heart for Israel “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41 ESV).
“I will take you for my wife forever. I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20 NRSV).
The prophets, including those quoted above, knew this love story well. As the Lord’s close friends, they shared His Spirit and therefore understood His emotions. Even as they heard God’s words of judgment, they also felt His broken heart for His wayward people. Israel’s prophets grasped God’s faithful love to restore His nation again. That is why their prophecies always came back to Israel’s promised, glorious future. Thus the prophets did more than share God’s messages with Israel – they also shared God’s heart for Israel.
In a day and age when Israel is being increasingly more delegitimized in the press, in politics, and even behind some pulpits, God is looking for people who will carry His heart for His people.
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Our Messiah Shared God’s Heart for Israel
Throughout my years of pastoring, I don’t think that anything has been more excruciating for me than to see the agony on a mother’s face as she painstakingly explains how she and her child are alienated from each other. The pain and agony is almost palpable, and I can’t help but feel compassion for her in her time of deep sorrow. Amazingly, the one place in Scripture where Yeshua likens Himself to a mother is when He addresses Jerusalem, the city over which He wept. He says:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37 NIV).
Our Messiah King was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3), and I believe much of that grief was because the very ones He came to gather and save rejected Him, therefore rejecting His Father. And though there must have been great joy and satisfaction in seeing the sick healed and the dead raised, there remained in His heart a constant ache that could never be fully healed until Israel welcomes Him as their King. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what He meant when He said:
“For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘“Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:39 NASB).
The Apostle Paul Shared God’s Heart for Israel
It’s remarkable to me that Romans 8 ends in what seems like an incredible crescendo of joy (“… nothing can separate us from the love of the Messiah …”) only to be immediately followed by Romans 9 which starts in what seems like utter agony and despair. Paul, who is expressing a truly apostolic heart, talks about his unceasing sorrow because of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah.
“… I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites…” (Romans 9:2–4 NASB).
Paul’s ache and grief were so strong that he was willing to give up his own salvation and suffer eternal separation from God simply to see the eyes of the Jewish people opened to their Messiah. That’s ultimate intercession, friends, and I wonder how much more effective we would be as the Church if we carried this type of apostolic heart for Israel.
Will You Share God’s Heart for Israel?
The love story of the King and his wayward queen that this article began with will come to a glorious conclusion when Israel welcomes back their Messiah and King. God’s heart for Israel is something that was essential to the prophets, to Jesus, and to the apostles and ought to be ultimate to us. Messiah can’t return until Israel welcomes Him back, and the Lord desires to entrust His burden and heart for Israel to anyone who will receive it. Will you?