I admit there has been times in my life when I’ve struggled with understanding God’s redemptive plan as it is worked out through the Jewish people and the gentile nations. I’ve wondered why YHWH, the living God of the Bible chose to work through Abraham and his descendants. And having been granted this special status why did they fail to live up to their destiny? Of did they?
After nearly 2000 years there still seems to be controversy and confusion surrounding the subject of the Jewish people and the church. With the reestablishment of the state of Israel the discussion has taken on new importance and even greater passions. As if a page had been ripped out of the Old Testament, this tiny nation and it’s exceptional people have once again become a flashpoint of division and anger for many nations of the world.
So how should we as believers approach the controversy of Zion?
This is a questions which Samuel Whitefield explores in his new book, ONE KING: A Jesus-Centered Answer to the Question of Zion and the People of God. Let me say right up front that I have not read a more thorough or accessible discussion of the subject. This book was written in six parts:
- Part 1: The Basis of the Gospel – Abraham’s Promise
- Part 2: The New Testament and the People of God
- Part 3: Understanding the Election of Israel
- Part 4: Israel’s Future in the New Testament
- Part 5: The Kingdom
- Part 6: The Church, the Jewish People, and the Modern State of Israel
Several highlights of this book for me included the author’s discussion of Abraham and the Covenant’s YHWH made with him and his descendants. This is a foundational aspect of the topic and Mr. Whitefield appropriately uses it as the basis upon which to build his case for the ongoing and distinctive place the Jewish people have in the plan of God.
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Another excellent aspect of the book was Mr. Whitefield’s discussion of Ephesian’s 2 and how Yeshua’s death and resurrection broke down that “middle wall of partition” which separated the Jewish people from the gentiles in the family of God. Mr. Whitefield goes on to show that while Gentiles after the cross have the same access to YHWH the living God of the Bible, he is quick to point out this does not blur the distinctiveness of the Jewish people, or for that matter the gentiles, and YHWH’s purpose for each of them in His redemptive plan.
One part of this subject not discussed by Mr. Whitefield but worth mentioning because it buttress his point concerning “middle wall of partition” is the intriguing fact that during the 2nd temple era when Yeshua walked those ancient stones Paul’s middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:13-14) was a real barrier which was built to separate the court of the gentiles from the temple proper. Any gentile caught passing through that wall was killed. Further that middle wall of partition was accessed by 14 steps and access to the temple was granted through one of 13 gates. This then sheds light upon Apostle Matthew’s unusual arrangement of Yeshua lineage in Matthew 1. There he showed that Yeshua (in the third 14 generational grouping) was both the 13th and 14th generation. This would have been especially significant to the Jewish audience to whom the gospel of Matthew was written because each year since the time of Moses the Torah required them to offered 13 or 14 sacrifice for each of the Bible’s ancient sacred festivals, festivals which were but shadows or types of the coming messiah and which were reckoned based upon a lunar/solar calendar which included cycles of 13 or 14 days of waxing and waning light each month. Middle wall of partition indeed!
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There were many more important topics Mr. Whitefield explored in this book but a final one worth mentioning was a discussion of Nationalism and a Biblical approach to the subject. Not only did Mr. Whitefield address a believer’s response to Jewish nationalism or Zionism but he also address nationalism in general as it applies to gentiles. This discussion seems especially relevant in today’s supercharged political environment where nationalism is being mixed with a form of secular Christianity. Where should a believers loyalties lie? Mr. Whitefield answers this question without hedging.
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There was one aspect of the subject of the Abrahamic covenant that I thought Mr. Whitefield overlooked. While he did a great job of explaining the covenant YHWH made with Abraham in Genesis 12, 15 and then the confirmation of that covenant made with Jacob in Genesis 28, he did not address the covenant of Genesis 22.
Genesis 22:16-18 16 And said, By myself have I sworn [shaba], saith the YHWH, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
This covenant of Gen. 22 was also a confirmation of the covenants of Genesis 12 & 15 but it was something more. You see after Abraham showed his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (in that great messianic foreshadowing), YHWH swore (shaba) an oath with Abraham there on the mountain. This was the first recorded oath YHWH swore (shaba) with any man in the Bible. In fact a close reading of Deuteronomy 7:9 shows that in fact the “covenant and mercy” Moses mentioned there was in fact a reference to Gen. 22 and the “oath” YHWH swore (shaba) with Abraham. Further this “covenant and mercy” is the very same covenant Daniel the prophet petitions YHWH to remember in Daniel 9:4 just before he receives the prophecy of 70 sevens (shabuwa).
Worth mentioning is that Hebrew word shaba (sware) is the same root from which we get the Hebrew words sheba (seven), shabuwa (sevens), and shib’iym (70). So in other words the “covenant and mercy to them that love him and keep his commandments” mentioned by both Daniel and Moses was a reference to the oath YHWH swore (shaba) with Abraham, an oath of sevens if you will, which was a confirmation of the of the covenants of Genesis 12 & 15 a covenant which Paul further elucidates in Gal. 3 as a promise of the coming messiah Yeshua.
But Paul is not the only one to address this covenant. Notice in the following passage how Zacharias the father of John describes this covenant and its redemptive messianic message:
Luke 1:68-74 68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The **oath** which he **sware** to our father Abraham, 74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
This covenant of Genesis 22, which Moses, Daniel, Zachariah, and Paul all mention is important because it is the contextual basis for the Bible’s most important messianic prophecy given in Daniel 9:24-27 a prophecy which is used as the basis for much of today’s eschatological framework. A framework which has direct implications for how we see Israel, Zion and the gentiles.
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Finally in what I believe is one of Mr. Whitefield most eloquent and wellmade points of his book he challenges the church and gentile believers not to be arrogant towards the Jewish people. I quote:
“Paul’s message is clear: the present condition of the Jewish people is not permanent. It is tragic, but it is temporary. Their condition is not meant to drive gentile believers to arrogance but to intercession. We will know we have begun to understand the present condition of the Jewish people when we begin to respond to their condition as Paul did – in tears, intercession, and anguish – until they come into their calling. Their failure has opened the door to our riches. The only right response to their situation, therefore, is gratitude that leads to intercession. That combined with labor will bring them back into the inheritance that was originally theirs (Romans 3:1-4; 9:4-5).”
In thinking about our arrogance towards the Jewish people as so carefully explained by Mr. Whitefiled, I can’t help but think of Daniel 9:4 and Daniel’s passionate plea for YHWH to remember his covenant and mercy, which we know in retrospect was a promise of the coming redeemer. I am compelled to wonder if our arrogance as gentiles isn’t at the root of our incongruent rendering of the 70 sevens prophecy of Daniel 9.
Today we see the first 69 sevens of Daniel 9 as a promise of the coming redeemer which is followed by His death some time after the 69th seven. As far as the Messiah and His redemptive efforts on behalf of the Jewish people, well that takes place outside the 70 sevens prophecy. As far as the prophecy of 70 sevens is concerned, it doesn’t apply to them. Then the final 7 seven of the 70 sevens there is really no redemptive message there either, just more righteous indignation by an angry God.
Instead of seeing the covenant of Daniel 9:27 within the context of redemptive covenant of Daniel 9:4 we gentiles see the Jewish people in league with the anti-Christ. Instead of the Messiah confirming the covenant of Daniel 9:4 with the Jewish people we see the destroyer in Daniel 9:27. Instead of comforting the Jewish people with the promise of Yeshua’s redemptive sacrifice on their behalf, a promise Yeshua himself described a “new covenant, which is shed for **many** for the remission of sins”, we terrorize them with the promise of a future 7 year covenant made with the man of sin, a covenant and subsequent judgement we ourselves in our righteous arrogance believe we won’t be around to experience.
As a futurist who earnestly yearns for the return of Yeshua this view of the Bible’s greatest messianic prophecy doesn’t make any sense to me. In some future writings I would love to see Mr. Whitelfiled address this subject with the same scholarship he has in the balance of this book. I believe this is critically important because as Mr. Whitefield explains, Yeshua won’t return until the Jewish people call upon Him who comes in the name of YHWH. And that wonderful event cannot happen until they understand that Yeshua did indeed, finish the transgression, make an end to sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity.
Matthew 23:38-39 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
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In closing I must say you’ll be hard pressed to find a more eloquent or well-reasoned exploration of Zion, the Jewish people, the gentiles, the church, and how they relate to each other in our Creators redemptive plan for mankind. I was blessed and challenged by this book and I think you will be as well.
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Author: Samuel Whitefield
Book Title: -One King: A Jesus-Centered Answer to the Question of Zion and the People of God
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Book Reviewed by: William Struse