I am struck by this phrase today, Israel my beloved. It has such a tender feel to it, don’t you agree? There is something special about the word beloved.
My last two blog entries have been about the love God has for Israel and the Jewish people. First, we had a short allegory about Abba (our Dad) speaking to us about our elder brother. Last time we looked at God’s love described as the love of a father, a husband, a mother, and as a shepherd. Today I want to look more closely at this word beloved.
It is a derivative of the word love of course, so it often times is translated as loved and not beloved. In the New King James Version, the word beloved occurs 116 times in the bible. Throughout the OT, of course, God speaks of his love for Israel and sometimes the word beloved is used. The word beloved occurs the most in Song of Solomon, 38 times, as a passionate and endearing description of the romantic relationship between Solomon and the Shulamite. Most commentators believe that, at least on one level, the Song of Solomon speaks of the love between Israel and her husband (God).
Continuing in the OT, in Jeremiah chapters 11 and 12, God is speaking to Jeremiah about his impending judgment on Israel in light of their woeful and continual disobedience. In the midst of his fierce anger towards his people, he still describes them as his beloved:
“What has My beloved to do in My house,
Having done lewd deeds with many?
And the holy flesh has passed from you.
When you do evil, then you rejoice. Jeremiah 11:15
“I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage;
I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies. Jeremiah 12:7
When we discipline our own children and are angry with them, are they not still the dearly beloved of our souls? Of course they are.
Now let’s fast forward into the NT. Here is where the rub comes for those who hold to replacement theology — essentially meaning that the NT replaces the OT; that Jesus and the church are the fulfillment and the recipients of all the OT prophecies and blessings; and thus the church replaces Israel.
Today’s brief look at this little word beloved should dispel any questions one might have about replacement theology. A quick dip into Romans 11 will show clearly why this theology, which underpins a growing anti-Israelism in some parts of the church, is in error. Let’s focus on Romans 11:28-29, but please read for yourself the context, from verses 25-36 to get the full impact.
28 Concerning the gospel [new covenant of grace] they [Israel, the unsaved Jewish people as a whole who rejected Jesus as Messiah] are enemies for your sake [us Gentiles], but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God [to Israel] are irrevocable.
Please read that over a few times until you get the power and significance of what Paul is telling us. Could anything be clearer? In the church era the Jewish people as a whole, as a nation, are still the beloved of God. Why? Because God elected and chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the fathers referred to in verse 28) and made an everlasting covenant with them, and, catch this — it is irrevocable. They are still beloved of God today. Paul uses strong unequivocal language here. According to Merriam-Webster Online the definition of irrevocable is: not capable of being changed; impossible to revoke. God is still keeping his word, his oath, his covenant which he made all those years ago. Why? Because God chose to love Abraham and his lineage through his sons Isaac and Jacob. God is God — he is love and he is faithful to his promise, to his covenant he made with Abraham for his people.
Our little teaching today should settle the two main objections that some Christians have against God’s everlasting covenant with Israel. First, they would say, that Israel was so disobedient that God rejected them in favor of the church. In our two verses in Jeremiah quoted above we see God calling them his beloved even as he is about to judge them. Secondly, some would say that in the church era, the Jewish people as a nation have lost their position as God’s chosen, but here in Romans 11 we see they have been set aside for a time, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and they are still called God’s beloved. While God loves and is working through the church today, he also is working in and through Israel to fulfill his purposes for them.
They have been his beloved and they still are his beloved. Period.
Flickr photo courtesy of Cycling Man: http://bit.ly/WgMl9y