There are some subjects I'm always nervous blogging about. I don't want to unnecessarily undermine people's faith and beliefs when they differ from me on secondary issues. But here's one that warrants some thinking - and please, even if you don't agree with me, give it some thought.
So, this post is about preaching the true Israel - I could have entitled it "Why I do not believe in replacement theology". There, that got your attention.
Replacement theology (also called supersessionism) is the belief that the Church has replaced Israel in the purposes of God as God's chosen people. I want to tell you why I believe that to be wrong and unhelpful for every Bible preacher. Perhaps I should start by stating what I do believe.
Jesus is the new Israel.
Not the Church.
I'm not just being pedantic. The kind of preaching that reads Old Testament texts about Israel and assumes they must be about the church is seriously Christologically deficient. Likewise for the kind of preaching that reads Old Testament texts about Israel and assumes they must be about the modern day nation. Here are just two proofs:
Many studious Jews see the servant songs in Isaiah as being about the nation. That's no accident because, for example, "He said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.'" (Isaiah 49.3). We know from New Testament interpretation that the servant songs are ultimately describing the Suffering Servant, Christ Jesus. No Christian denies that! And yet these songs do seem to describe a nation. That 'nation' is the new Israel.
More clearly still, Matthew takes up the Hosea quote (Hosea 11.1) and applies it to Christ (Matt 2.15). Jesus is the true first born who is called out of Egypt.
Before you start sending me emails, please read the following sentence carefully - this does not necessarily rule out a place for a modern day Jewish nation. That's another moral, hermeneutical and political issue. And Christians who see Jesus as the true Israel will differ on this.
But the point of the post is more basic. As preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ we need to preach Jesus as the true Israel. Too often our preaching launches straight from Israel to the church and not only is this missing out the logic of the Bible, we are hardly preaching Christ in all his glory, goodness and fulfillment. Our task is, after all, to proclaim him (Col 1.28) and what it means to be in him. We're not preaching the church.