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Thursday, October 2, 2014

"The People, The Land, and the Future of Israel" (Darrell L Bock and Mitch Glaser)

TITLE: The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God
AUTHOR: Various contributors (edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser)
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2014, (352 pages).

The Middle East continues to be a hotbed of violence, terrorism, and war. Central to the ongoing conflicts is the nation of Israel. In an increasingly unfriendly Arabic neighbourhood, coupled with direct declaration of war by various Islamic terrorist groups, Israel walks a fine balance between defending their people and their land, and inflicting damage on their neighbouring countries. At the same time, people wonder whether there is more to learn about the people of Israel, the land and the future of Israel. In the West, watching the news sometimes leaves one feeling a bias toward the Palestinian causes, and how Israel often appears to be the bully and instigator of violence. What if the present state of rising violence in the Middle East had all been predicted in the first place? What if Israel is more important than simply a nation that several radical organizations and countries are seeking to exterminate? What if God's plan for Israel remains vital for the Middle East situation? Is there a biblical perspective of the Palestinian issue? For the eighteen scholars, theologians, professors, pastors, and authors, the answer is a firm yes. With so many different perspectives, several top theologians and scholars, both in the USA and Canada have come together to offer the public what they deemed as the biblical perspective of Israel and how the biblical prophecy is being fulfilled. These scholars affirm several things:
  • God loves both Israel and people in Palestine; Arab countries
  • People often fail to examine what the Scriptures say about the ongoing Middle East crisis
  • The Iranian nuclear threat is real
  • Biblical prophecies (not only Ezekiel 37) do speak into the present climate of hostility and promise
  • Many Jews continue to differ in their perspectives of the Person of Jesus
  • There are many reasons for hope
  • The Church is called to embrace the whole house of Israel as well as their neighbours in love

Based on contributions given at a conference organized by Chosen People Ministries and Manhattan's Calvary Baptist Church, this book brings together the many heartfelt concerns and biblical expertise on the biblical view of the situation regarding Israel and the Middle East. The coverage is rather extensive. Four contributors see what the Hebrew Scriptures had to say about Israel. Another four look from the perspective of the New Testament. Five see via Hermeneutics, Theology, and Church History, while the final four connects Israel with some very interesting applications of Practical Theology. In Part One, Eugene H. Merrill demonstrates from the Torah that Israel as a nation would eventually be redeemed and will carry to completion the work God had called them to do when Jesus comes again. Dr Walter C. Kaiser Jr examines the Writings (Kethubim) from Ruth to Chronicles, the poetry, and others to emphasize Israel's need to repent so that the covenant blessings can be fully dispensed. Dr Robert B. Chisholm Jr studies the Prophets and looks at the future restoration of Israel according to the biblical prophets of old. He examines the various interpretations plus five major themes of the prophets' vision for Israel. Dr Michael L. Brown goes back to the Jewish Tradition with a particular emphasis on the significance of Land in the Middle East conflict and how critical it is to Israel.

Coming from the New Testament perspective, Dr Michael J. Wilkins concentrates on the gospel of Matthew to argue that the Church is not a replacement for Israel. They are only a part of God's bigger plan. Dr Darrell L. Bock sees from Luke-Acts and shows us how it forms a Christian view of Israel. He makes a distinction between the Church and the people of Israel and argues that Gentile's inclusion into God's story does not mean Israel's exclusion. Full reconciliation will happen for both Christians and Jews, albeit at different times. Dr Michael G. Vanlaningham brings the Romans perspective through nine blessings of the Church being a part of Israel. God will eventually judge Israel, and at the same time pronounce blessings for both the Church and Israel. Dr Craig A. Evans shows from Hebrews and the General Epistles that their authors have the highest concern for the people of Israel, the land, and the future of Israel. Even as the Jews continue to be scattered, the epistles try to gather them through a common promise and hope. The five contributors in Part Three (Hermeneutics, Theology, and Church History) examine the interpretive methods, the centrality of Israel in the seven major acts of the Bible, eschatology, as well as two thousand years of Church history. Dr Barry R. Leventhal gives a paper on Israel and the Holocaust, giving his take that Israel is in the third stage of the "Trespass-Exile-Return" biblical pattern with the establishment of Israel after the Holocaust.  Part Four (Practical Theology) is probably the most interesting and filled with contemporary applications. Dr Michael Rydelnik gives three reasons why Israel herself is testimony to the truth of Scripture, reminding us that it is not Israel who saves but God who chooses whoever He desires to save. Dr Mitch Glaser looks at Messianic evangelism and argues for the Church to put this as priority because Israel is very much the "final remnant." Pastor David Epstein tells his personal story of his family's survival from antisemitism and the need for love for the Jewish people. He sees loving Israel and the Jewish people as a "privilege and responsibility." The final paper by Dr Gregory Hagg begins brightly but the results are dull. Due to the lack of responses from most of the theological schools, Hagg only manages a few collections of personal and semi-institutional perspectives about the perspective of Israel from various theological schools. I was quite disappointed in this chapter.

So What?

I appreciate Dr Darrell L. Bock's summary of the five points from the biblical and historical survey. He helps bring together the conference findings and the general positive mood toward Israel and the Middle East hope. The contributors have shown from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Writings, the New Testament, and many other sectors of Christianity about the importance and centrality of Israel in God's overall plan. The largely homogeneous conclusions are due largely to the similar convictions the contributors have. Some people may deem the conference rather lopsided. I would see it as a necessary corrective to the general biased reporting on the mass media. With this book, perhaps readers will be able to strike a better balance when looking at Israel and the Jewish people. What is most important is not how man looks at Israel, the Middle East, or Palestinian people. It is how God looks at all. For me, the truth is clear. Jesus Christ died for all people, the Jews, the Arabs, the Palestinians, the Gentiles, and the whole world. There is no difference as far as God's love is concerned. When we see more from God's perspective and less from man's point of view, we will move to appreciate the bigger picture, God's plan. This book can help to elevate our understanding in that direction.

This book works as a corrective to the many anti-semitic propaganda by different parties. More importantly, it helps us see God's picture beyond man's many small ones.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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