There is a profound mystery throughout the Scriptures in the relationship between Israel and the Nations. The covenant of God started with Noah for all the nations, and then was transferred to Israel through Shem and Abraham. Abraham himself lived in Ur of the Chaldeans (ancient Iraq) and immigrated to the land of Canaan. Abraham’s calling was to bless the nations of the earth, and they were to bless his family in return (Genesis 12:3).
Jacob was born in the land of Canaan but was “exiled” to his uncle Laban in Syria. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and spent his life as a leader of the Egyptians. Moses was born and raised in Egypt as an Egyptian prince. Then he led the Israelites (and a mixed multitude of Gentiles) out into the wilderness, where he established the Levitical priesthood, which distinguished Israel from the Nations.
Joshua conquered the land, and then David and Solomon established the kingdom. The nation was exiled to Assyria (722 BC) and Babylon (586 BC), and re-gathered afterwards to restore Jerusalem (516 BC). They were conquered by the Greeks (330 BC) and Romans (63 BC), and then exiled to the Nations again (70 AD) a generation after Yeshua’s resurrection. The modern re-gathering started in 1881 with national independence in 1948, after almost 2000 years of exile.
The theme of scattering and re-gathering (exile and redemption – in Hebrew “Galut” and “Geulah“), is as central to the Jewish view of the kingdom (Matthew 1:17) as the death and resurrection of Yeshua is central to the Christian view of salvation. The two ideas are over-lapped in the plan of God (e.g. 2 days equaling 2 thousand years). The prophets saw the resurrection of the dead and the re-gathering of Israel as a unified event (Ezekiel 37).
Rahab and Ruth, Gentile women, gave birth to the seed of the Jewish messiah (Matthew 1:5). Jonah, the nationalist prophet (II Kings 14) was sent against his will on a mission to Assyria. Paul (Shaul), an ultra-Orthodox rabbi became the founder of the Gentile Church. He wrote of this mystery (Ephesians 2:11-3:6), and called the Gentile believers to be grafted back in to Israel (Romans 11:17-25).
Jew and Gentile
The mystery of Jew and Gentile continues all the way into the book of Revelation, where there are the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:4) alongside the uncountable multitude of every nation (Revelation 7:9). Even heavenly Jerusalem contains the names of the tribes of Israel written on its gates (21:12).
The word “Goy” in Hebrew has two meanings: one positive (nation, people), and one negative (gentile, pagan). When a “Goy” receives the Jewish Messiah by the New Covenant, he remains a member of his own people group, but is no longer a pagan. [I prefer to describe the “Gentile” Church (ecclesia) as “international” instead of “Gentile” to avoid this misunderstanding.]
The mystery of Israel and the Nations is eternally profound (Romans 11:33). The dynamic relationship between the two is as foundational as that between man and woman, or between heaven and earth. There is a spiritual equilibrium between the two, like the positive-negative balance in electrical poles or a chemical equation.
Perhaps this mystery is connected to the very nature of Yeshua Himself, who is both the son of God and the son of David; both the king of Israel and head of the Church. His dual nature is reflected in the duality of the relationship between Israel and the Nations.