War Causes Israelis to Seek the ‘Hope of Israel’

A Christian ministry that supplies Israelis with New Testaments for free has seen a remarkable rise in demand since Hamas’s October 7 terror attack that killed approximately 1,200 Israelis and kicked off both new hostilities with the surrounding nations and a global surge of anti-Semitism. “Israel has prided itself in its ability to defend itself, so October 7 was a real blow to that for people,” said Aaron Abramson, executive director of Jews for Jesus. “I think that’s why a lot of people were starting to sort of dig into those spiritual questions.”

Abramson described a “kind of hopelessness” afflicting Israelis, as they survey their bleak security and foreign policy outlook. “If you can’t put your trust in maybe, let’s say, a political solution, you can’t put your trust in like a military solution, or if you can’t put your trust in an economic solution, then where do you put your trust?” he asked.

At least some Israelis are now turning to the “hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble” (Jeremiah 14:8). That “hope of Israel” is Jesus Christ, as Paul preached (Acts 28:20). According to Jews for Jesus, they have received 1,230 Israeli orders for New Testaments in Hebrew since the October 7 attack, a little over nine months ago. That’s about 230% as many New Testament orders as they received in 2021, when Israelis ordered 700 New Testaments throughout the entire year.

It’s nothing new that devastating tragedies provoke people to consider their spiritual state. In the U.S., church attendance spiked after the terror attacks on 9/11. What is unusual is for Jewish Israelis to turn to the Christian Scriptures in their search for hope. As recently as 2012, a right-wing Israeli lawmaker made headlines for destroying a copy of the New Testament. Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah, and the New Testament scriptures preach Jesus as the Messiah.

There wasn’t always such a sharp delineation between Jews and Christians. Most of the early church was Jews, and for decades Christian missionaries often taught openly in synagogues (e.g. Acts 19:8). It was only “when some [Jews] became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation,” that evangelists like Paul “withdrew from them and took the disciples with him” (Acts 19:8-9).

In this, the first Christians imitated Jesus. Jesus was as Jewish as they come, a “son of Abraham, son of David” through both his mother and adoptive father (Matthew 1:1), and there are genealogies to demonstrate this. Jesus’s earthly ministry was first and foremost to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Jesus opened his ministry by claiming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17), particularly the expectation of a coming Messiah (Luke 4:17-21). And, after his death and resurrection, he explained exactly how he had fulfilled them (Luke 4:27).

In other words, when early Christian apologists set about “showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:28), they were using the books we now call the Old Testament. Their interpretation was informed by the new work God had done in Christ, but the proof was all there already. In fact, the books of the New Testament were only written later, to provide a written record of their argumentation for how the Old Testament expectations and promises of a Messiah were met and fulfilled in Jesus.

The benefit of reading the New Testament (for Israeli Jews, American Christians, or anyone else) is that it provides a clear interpretation of Old Testament passages about the Messiah that would be mysterious, unclear, vague, or completely hidden on their own. The New Testament presents Jesus as:

  • A new Adam who overcomes temptation and thereby defeats sin and death (Genesis 3:6),
  • The seed of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head and reverse the curse (Genesis 3:15),
  • Abraham’s offspring in whom all nations will be blessed (Genesis 12:3),
  • The beloved son who silently submits to become a sacrifice (Genesis 22:9-10),
  • The lion from Judah who will reign over the nations (Genesis 49:9-10),
  • The branch from Jesse who will rule with righteousness (Isaiah 11:1-3),
  • The kingly son of David whose throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13, Psalm 18:50),
  • The ultimate law-giving prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18),
  • The faithful, eternal priest (1 Samuel 2:35, Psalm 110:4),
  • And the servant of the Lord who will both reign and suffer (Isaiah 42, 44, 49, 53, etc.).

How can all these different people, whom God promised to send, be fulfilled in just one man? The New Testament holds the answers. If anything, Jesus is more amazing and fulfills more Old Testament prophecies and types than any summary list I could create. The New Testament untangles the riddles of the Old.

Perhaps most importantly, the New Testament provides clearer revelation of the triune nature of God. Jews will insist — and rightly so — “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:1). In the first century, they rejected Jesus precisely because he claimed to be God. Yet even in the Old Testament there are hints of a plurality in God (Genesis 1:26-27; 19:24; Psalm 110:1).

The New Testament presents Jesus both affirming the unity of God (Mark 12:29) and directly claiming to be God (e.g. John 8:58). Other New Testament authors affirm the oneness of God and also Jesus’s equal status (1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Revelation 1:8; 22:13). These texts have led Christians to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity: one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. Someone who was only reading the Old Testament would not postulate the Trinity because it is not presented clearly there. That does not mean it is inconsistent, only that God reveals himself to man progressively. As he told Moses, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord [Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them” (Exodus 6:3).

What this means is that reading the New Testament can cause Israeli Jews to know God in a way they have not known him before — through his Son, Jesus Christ. That is now the only way anyone can come to the Father (John 14:6). Any time that more people are able to read the Word of God for themselves, we should rejoice.

Granted, 1,230 Hebrew New Testaments is a tiny number to distribute among the nearly 10 million inhabitants of Israel — even if each one is read by five, 10, or even 50 people. This is too small to fulfill Paul’s declaration that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). Most of the nation “beloved for the sake of their forefathers” (Romans 11:28) remains under the “partial hardening” that will last “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

However, a Jewish rabbi once told this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32). The rabbi, the Son of God incarnate, continues to build his church, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

AUTHOR

Joshua Arnold

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

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