How to think biblically about Israel

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How to think biblically about Israel

April 18, 2022 -

Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison discuss how to understand modern Israel through a theological lens, the current political climate, the history of the Jewish people, how to pray for Israel, and how Christian and Jewish beliefs differ.

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Show notes:

Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison begin by giving a brief description of Israel’s geography and its demographics as of today (5:37). Then, Dr. Denison provides a summation of the history of Israel and of the Old Testament (12:05). They discuss how going to Israel makes the Bible 3D and tangible (15:42). He then goes on to fit the story of Jesus into the context in a vivid description in the historical context and discusses why most modern Jews today reject Jesus as the “suffering servant” Messiah (21:43). Dr. Denison then explains differing views on the fulfillment of God’s purpose for Israel and Judaism, including Dispensationalism and “replacement theology.” (27:49) Dr. Denison relates his own view that, while the Jewish people are not chosen by God in fulfillment of prophecy, they have a special quality about their culture that is blessed by God. While God loves all people, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and Jews, he seems to particularly bless the Jewish culture, even in the modern day (31:04). Dr. Turman presses in, asking more about how we can uniquely evangelize to Jews, recognizing that Jesus, his disciples, and the earliest churches were all Jewish (34:41). Within that, they discuss the evident spiritual warfare going on in the hearts of the Jewish people and in Israel right now, which is manifesting as violence. They discuss the current political climate of Israel and how to pray urgently for them (45:45).

P.S. Jim’s most pivotal book to date, The Coming Tsunami, is now available on Kindle, hardcover, and Audible.

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.


Transcribed by


Mark Turman  00:07

Hello again, I’m Dr. Mark Terman, the executive director of Denison Forum. Thank you for joining us for the Denison Forum Podcast. We’re glad to have you back with us and I’m sitting down again with Dr. Jim Denison, the CEO and founding visionary of Denison forum and Denison ministries. Jim, how are you?


Jim Denison  00:24

I’m doing well. Mark, good to be with you today. Thanks for the privilege. Great


Mark Turman  00:26

to have you back in the office after a couple of weeks in Israel. You’re just now returning after a recent trip. And first of all, how’s the jetlag, and any other lingering recovery that comes with that kind of travel?


Jim Denison  00:41

Well, that’s good question. You heard about the guy that dreamed he was preaching and woke up and he was right. Well, that could have been me. We got back on a Saturday preached on Sunday, and went home and watch the masters and slept through the Masters mind. So


Mark Turman  00:54

that’s a sin. unto itself. That’s tragic on air. We will not tell Scottie Scheffler or any of these Dallas friends or anybody else. Right?


Jim Denison  01:03

That’s right. That’s going to be our little secret. That’s precisely so so I’m coming back to Santa takes a day per hour. And that’s eight hours different over there. So you know, basically, we get you acclimated Israel and we send you home is how this works. And so I’m acclimating let’s just say I’m okay, now about this afternoon. Who knows?


Mark Turman  01:20

Yeah. Okay. So we don’t need you to be driving or doing any operating heavy machinery or anything wise decision. Exactly. Yeah. Okay, so still recovering? Well, first time for you to be able to travel to Israel. And more than two years, I know, you’ve gone more than 30 times taking groups on the very unique pilgrimage. And this is not a promotion for Israel or anything like that necessarily, although we would highly, highly recommend it. I I wish every believer especially every leader, Pastor could visit Israel very early in life. And I, I know the impact of that having gone a couple of times myself, but what is it like to travel internationally these days, especially in particularly to Israel after all that we’ve been through with COVID?


Jim Denison  02:07

It is a challenge. It really is. You’re right, I’ve been doing this four or five times a year for a number of years, went over to Israel the first time in 1995. And completely agree that every believer ought to be an Israel, it turns black and white into color, it turns 2d into 3d As people say, it’s been my experience. Even all these times there, I still meet God in a unique way, every time I’m there, He speaks to me, I’m I don’t know what it is about this tiny piece of land, this little slice of land about the size of New Jersey that God even today continues to use in such relevant story and transforming waste. But to answer your question, specifically, with COVID, being what it is, the way one goes to Israel now, at least in this current context is you must get a specific test a very specific kind of test within three days of when you leave, within 72 hours, you have to test negative obviously for that. And then you have to upload all of that to an Israeli website that certifies you to be able to come over and also certifies you to the airlines. So the airline will allow you to board, then you show your negative test at the gate to be able to get on the airplane, as soon as you land in Tel Aviv, before you leave the airport, you go to another testing site, oh my goodness, they test you in Israel,


Mark Turman  03:14

in the event that you got sick on the way on the way up


Jim Denison  03:17

on the plane, I suppose. And so then you’re supposed to go to your hotel in quarantine, until you get the results of that test, which takes just a few hours, usually there in the morning, by the afternoon you have your test. If you were to test positive, you would not be allowed to go out on the tour, you would be asked to quarantine in the hotel for a minimum of four to five days and probably seven days. We all tested negative when we came in. So we were able to do the group we actually had two groups back to back. And then when you come back, the United States requires an antigen test within 24 hours of boarding the airplane to come home. If you test positive with that Israel quarantined you in Israel for four to five to probably seven days until you’re allowed to fly back home. And so all of that is unprecedented for those of us that have been going to Israel a long time, but not in the age of COVID.


Mark Turman  04:02

So you could end up having an unexpected two week experience in Israel as opposed to one


Jim Denison  04:09

actually we had three people on our group as we were coming back the tested positive or last day there. So the way Israel has this set up, there’s a hotel in Jerusalem specifically for people that are tested positive, you stay in this hotel, you’re not allowed to leave your room, they bring you food, they leave it at your door, you’re there for four days and you test if you’re negative, you have to stay another day. If you’re still negative, you can leave if you’re positive after seven days, they let you leave whether you’re positive or not, because they assume you’re long, you’re no longer contagious. So three members of our group as you and I are having this conversation are in Israel, they’re at this one hotel and they will be there probably another two to three days before they’re allowed to come home


Mark Turman  04:45

with a great opportunity to catch up on possible. Well prayer life Bible reading movies. personal retreat is the way to look at that if I remember from my time in Israel, I actually had a little bit of illness the last time I went to Israel and Television was not what I had hoped it would be not quite the same as it is at home. And so


Jim Denison  05:06

no, that’s true. Unless you like subtitles, right? Oh, do you get tired of this in a hurry? You can watch CNN, you can watch Fox. And that’s pretty much it in English. After the rest of that it can be Turkish, it can be Arabic, it can be obviously, Hebrew, all these different languages and you’re the minority, not the majority over


Mark Turman  05:23

there. Right. I wonder, you know, how reflective that is of traveling and other places in the world right now. But just an indication of what it’s like for us and may be this way for a while.


Jim Denison  05:34

Yeah, there’s no indication this will change anytime soon. Right?


Mark Turman  05:37

So but the the topic of going to Israel of your love for Israel, our conversations about Israel, have kind of brought up my thinking and for the purpose of this podcast just to talk about how should Christians think and understand Israel biblically, and want to just kind of explore this with you a little bit, and maybe help believers understand. And this comes in a couple of ways for me, love the book of Romans, many Christians would probably say that the book of Romans is their favorite book of the Bible, often referred to as the fifth gospel, Paul’s most important letter in the minds of many people. And yet, I can remember over the years, many times people talking about well, I just, I kind of skipped over chapters 910 and 11, where Paul was led to deal directly with the nation of Israel says at the beginning of that conversation, I would if I could give up my own salvation for my fellow Israelites, and so there’s a lot there. We have a couple of verses that we like to pull out of chapter 10. But some believers would say, Well, I just you know, I don’t understand that whole conversation, and maybe we’ll, we’ll get to that. But I was wondering if we just talked about this historically, if we talked about it, even from an ethnic standpoint, perhaps a geopolitical standpoint and evangelistic standpoint, wanted to see if we might go down some of those trails and, and bring some clarity to believers about just how we are to think about Israel, both past and present. And so where do you want to go with that? Where do you want to start with that?


Jim Denison  07:19

No, that’s a great question. And a fantastic conversation. Obviously, we could spend the next 10 podcasts, just doing that, because there’s so much depth and rich, rich there. So let me first of all, start by trying to confuse our listeners as much as I possibly can, and then showing them that you can help them out there. And hopefully, what helps what helps that make sure you have a problem? And that’s right, let me first of all cause your problem, then maybe I can help you with your solution a little bit. So in Israel, and we try to explain this to people when we take them there. You have race, religion and religion. All right. So in terms of race, you’re talking about around 9 million people in Israel itself, about one and a half million in Gaza, and about two and a half million in what’s called the West Bank. So to do some geography here, very quickly, you’ve got the Sea of Galilee empties into the Jordan River, the empties into the Dead Sea, the west bank of the Jordan River in the Dead Sea, about halfway down the Jordan River, about halfway down the Dead Sea is called therefore the West Bank, as you hear about it quite often. That was the country of Jordan, until 1967, when Israel was able to take that as part of Israel. Gaza Strip is a very small kind of strip of land that’s on the Mediterranean coast that if you were looking at a map of Israel, is over on the north or south west corner. So you’ve got the West Bank over here in the biblical region of some area, you’ve got got Galilee to the north, somewhere in the middle Judea to the south, you’ve got the West Bank, you’ve got Gaza. That’s the area think of this Palestine. Alright. So if you’re in Israel today, and you’re living in the West Bank, or Gaza, you’re living in the region of Palestine, if you’re living in Israel, that’s between those who are living in the land of Israel. So that’s the region part. By virtue of race, you’re likely to be the Jewish or Arab, there are others. But those are the two predominant in Israel itself. It’s about 80%, Jewish about 20%. Arab, by virtue of race, then by virtue of religion, you primarily are thinking about Islam and Judaism. There are some Christians there, certainly, especially in the Arab population and a growing number in the Jewish population, but primarily Muslim, and Arab. So as a result, you can be an Israeli Arab Muslim, you can be an Israeli Arab Christian. One of my best friends in Israel is a shopkeeper in Bethlehem, who was an Israeli Palestinian Christian. You can be excuse me, a Palestinian Arab Christian, you can be a Palestinian Arab Muslim, which is very common. You can be an Israeli Jewish Jew. You can be an Israeli Jewish Christian, as some of my friends there are. So it’s race, religion, and religion. And if that doesn’t confuse you, then I haven’t done my job.


Mark Turman  09:41

I’m totally confused already. And hope this doesn’t come out on a test at some point. All right. But also geographically, Israel is about the size of New Jersey right? And correct me if I’m wrong, but if you’re in the north, which is has mountains and is it very lush has a lot of rainfall you can even if you’re there certain time of year there’ll be snow fall on the top of this mountain Mount Hermon, from Mount Hermon, but from there, at least where the tour group would go all the way down to the Dead Sea, you can actually drive that in about three hours, the entire length


Jim Denison  10:17

non-country, essentially, yeah, Jerusalem to Nazareth is about 90 miles whole thing’s about 100 miles. Now you can get out into the Negev. And it’s further than that down there. But really the part of Israel that you think of as occupied is really the way we do it. The day that we do this, we get up that morning, we go to Mount precipice where the people of Nazareth tried to execute Jesus, as you recall from the Gospel of Luke, make her way over to mosquito and from that down to spring, a furrowed and then we’re down in the Jordan Valley. And we wind up sleeping that night in Jerusalem. It takes us most of the day. But that’s because we make all the stops on the way, right. If you just wanted to drive it, then you’re exactly right to three hours. And you’ve driven north to south, there’s a place where on our first day, we were in Ben Gurion Airport, the first night stay in Tel Aviv, the next full day, our first full day, we make our way obsessor Ria, by the seat Cezary maritime. So you’re making your way up north on the old via Maurice, the old highway number one of the ancient world, you look to the west, and that’s the Mediterranean, you look to the right, and that’s the West Bank, six miles. Israel itself at that point is six miles wide. So it is tiny, on a level that really staggers the imagination for those of us in the United States. And


Mark Turman  11:22

for a part of the world that gets an enormous amount of attention, at least for us, as Christians, and in this part of the world, America’s relationship to Israel, something maybe we’ll explore in a minute. But for this small, small place, to have so much going on, and to be so significant in the lives of Christians, and let’s talk about that from a standpoint of biblical history. As we see in the early pages of Scripture, when God forms Israel into a group, and gives them an identity, take us through that just briefly, to kind of set the stage for the rest of our Congress. Sure.


Jim Denison  12:05

So you start in Genesis 12. And Abraham Abram, who later is named Abraham, who has told he’ll be the father of many nations, and as promised this land of Canaan, we will call it Canaan, in roughly the area of where we think of as Israel today. Well, then his descendants, obviously are enslaved for 400 years in Egypt. And then under Moses, they’re led out through the exodus to the edge of what we think of as the promised land. And then Joshua leads them across the flooded Jordan River into the land now of Israel, the 12 tribes settle in this land. Right now we’re thinking around 1500 BCE, some would say 1200 BC, they’re two different ways of dating all this. And now you move into the era of the judges, the book of Judges, you don’t have a king yet, you’ve got these 12 tribes that are governing themselves. And on occasion, God would raise up a judge over the nation Samson was a judge, Deborah was a judge who would be military and spiritual leaders. You would think of Samuel this last of these judges. And then because the people are pleading for a king, God gives them a King Saul and then David, and then Solomon. So now you’re around 1000 BC or so the so called United monarchy for these 12 tribes, the 10 northern tribes to southern tribes are the United Nation of Israel. Under Solomon, that nation is four times the size of Israel today. It takes in the Sinai Peninsula to the south, it takes in most of Lebanon, a lot of Syria, and a good deal of what we think of as even Jordan, all of that would be the kingdom of Solomon. Well, Solomon son Rehoboam, was such a cruel despot that the nation split into, had a civil war, as it were, the 10 northern tribes are the nation of Israel, the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin are the nation of Judah. That’s a 922 BCE. So for 200 years, you’ve got the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. And in the book of Judges, or excuse me, first and second Kings, you’re hearing a lot about that and wars between these two and bad kings and good kings, that sort of thing. Seven very, very do this as briefly as I can. And 722 BCE, the Empire of Assyria, roughly Syria today, destroys annihilates assimilates, the 10 northern tribes, we call them the 10 lost tribes of Israel and replaces them that’s the area of the Galilee and part of Samaria, primarily with a Gentile presence, although there were some Jews there, were still left there. So now you’re moving forward with the southern kingdom of Judah 586. The Babylonians roughly Iraq have overthrown the Assyrians, they destroy the temple built by Solomon and they take the Jews captive for 70 years the Babylonian captivity, then the Persians roughly Iran overthrow the Babylonians roughly Iraq and around 530 To the Jews were allowed to come back. So they start rebuilding their temple, although Herod king here at the great really is the one that greatly expanded the kingdom, or the temple and by the way, the Old Testament ends, you’ve got the southern kingdom of Judah under Persian dominance. Between Old and New Testament, the Greeks under Alexander overthrow the Persians, then the Romans overthrow the Greeks open the New Testament, and the Jews are an enslaved people under the Roman Empire. So that’s 20 century reused in 10 minutes, I suppose. But it would add this very quickly in terms of the perennial nature of this tiny place. When we take people to Israel on occasion, we’ll go up to where the tribe Dan was, which is as far north as you can go in Israel. And up there, there’s a gate that’s been reconstructed from bricks found on the site. That is the gate, Abraham walked through in that region 20 centuries before Christ, the actual gate of Abraham. So the archaeology every place you look, it’s just one big archaeological site. And the archaeology goes back to way before Abraham, someone’s it goes back to 200,000 BCE, depending on how you want to do you’re dating and all that. But yeah, that would be Abraham to Christ roughly, would be a sense of how the history of the land works.


Mark Turman  15:42

Am I a beautiful summation, by the way, I wonder what our seminary professors and friends are thinking we’re leaving a lot. A lot out. But that’s a that’s a good summary overview. But it reminded me when I was in Israel a couple of times that it almost like if you turned over any rock, you were turning over some piece of significant ancient history that you could find something out that would would be instructive and inspiring to you. In many ways.


Jim Denison  16:09

1986 Two brothers are walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The water was down, they found something sticking out turns out to be a first century boat. Yeah, they call it the Jesus Jesus boat. Yeah, we can see it’s in a museum that you can see it. Yeah. And it’s been dated, if he’s carbon dating to 140 BC, let’s say to about 4080. So it fits the period of Jesus.


Mark Turman  16:29

So two brothers, you’ve ever wondered how, you know 13 men could get in a boat and row themselves in again, that’s where sometimes our terminology leads us astray. You hear the term Sea of Galilee, Sea of Galilee, when in reality it’s a synth, essentially a relatively small lake seven miles across 14 miles long, right? And and you learn certain things, as you said, going there makes Israel 3d. But once you see this, this the remnants of this Jesus boat, okay, now you can start to visualize, okay, there could be 13 men in this boat. Absolutely. And they could be rowing themselves, if you have to stretch your imagination will be okay, well, how if Jesus was asleep in this boat at some point, how would that have worked and of course, there could have been a bigger boat, I suppose. bigger and smaller boats. But then I had the personal experience of going out on the Sea of Galilee, which is typically done in these tours, and experiencing how the lake can go from utter peace and calm nearly a glass like surface to something that has waves with that are three to five feet high in a matter of minutes, because that happened on the first tour that I was there has to be as well. It’s a little exciting when it happens. And and there’s a certain way in which the wind currents come down through the valley, actually from Nazareth, that’s,


Jim Denison  17:51

there’s a valley right there. It’s a wind tunnel, natural wind tunnel right next to the barbell. Yeah.


Mark Turman  17:55

And so it can happen without there gonna be no clouds in the sky, it’s right. And the wind can just pick up in this certain way. And I remember, we had that experience and just about a 40 minute little tour across the water. And by the time we were trying to get off, we’re we’re jumping to get back on the dock because of the road. So it starts to bring these biblical stories into real definition and clarity. But it kind of goes back to this idea. I think it is through Peter that that God makes us announcements you who were not a people are now the people of God, he uses that, certainly in a New Testament sense. But this is what God is doing to create a covenant with these people who had no identity. And identity is a very big topic in our culture these days. People are really struggling and making some interesting decisions based on a confused identity. But But talk a little bit theologically about how God even all those years ago with the nation of Israel, is is bringing together through Abraham, this group of people and claiming them for himself. And in a sense, all of us are in this same boat, if you will. We don’t have a real identity or we don’t understand identity until we start to connect our identity to who our God is.


Jim Denison  19:22

Now. That’s exactly right. We really have two choices here. I think I heard him counselor once say, I’m not who I think I am. I’m not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am. Which is not the road to peace. That is not the right mental health. But that’s where our culture is these days is we define ourselves by what other people think of us as we understand what they think of us. And so you’re always chasing it’s it’s possessions, its popularity, its performance, its appearance, its whatever it is, is how the culture defines our identity wrapped, and you’re never done. never have enough. Someone asked one of the Rockefellers how much money is enough? And he said just a little more. So that’s one choice. The other choice is to do what my youth minister told me in high school. Oh, never the We put it with specifically this, always remember the source of your personal worth. Your identity is who God says you are. And we learned that from the Jews, as you say, here’s this enslaved people for centuries, enslaved in Egypt and out of them, God creates this people through whom he brings the Messiah, makes him his chosen people not to be a container of blessing, but a conduit of blessing. Not to be an end. But a means to an end of bringing ultimately the mushiya the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Promised One who would come and save us from our sins. And so God creates out of a people that were not a people, a people, a nation, and through Moses and Joshua and the judges and the kings and enslavement and all of that God in His own miraculous providential way preserve this nation, so that during Holy Week, we’re having this conversation during Holy Week, on Holy Week, a Jewish rabbi, could take a ride down the Mount Apollo’s, and come in the Eastern Gate. And then five days later, be crucified. And on Easter Sunday, rise from the dead for us, all of that for us.


Mark Turman  21:02

It just, it just is a story that really defies our understanding and imagination, in some ways, and, and in God forming this people and then bringing Jesus through the people of, of Israel is an expression of what the Bible says several times about how, how the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of man that if we were doing this, we would have, we would have talked about the most massive, strong, impressive nation that there could have ever been. That’s where we would have thought God was doing his greatest work, right?


Jim Denison  21:43

That’s exactly right. It’s the opposite of that. We take people to Bethlehem and we go in the cave. Now, we don’t know that Jesus was specifically born in this part of the cave. It’s a rather large cave structure, but there’s a place that commemorates his birth right there. This is a feed trough. A manger is a feed trough. He’s born in a cow stall and laid in a feed trough in Bethlehem, a town so tiny, in an area so tiny that no one would have given a consideration the Romans certainly didn’t. His mother is a peasant teenager. His adoptive father is a Tecton. We will call him a carpenter, a craftsman, a blue collar worker, we would say he grows up in Nazareth, a town so small is not mentioned once in the Old Testament, or once by Josephus. So when we were in this cave, celebrating Christmas, back a couple of weeks ago, I pointed out if I was in charge, to your point, Jesus would have been born in a cow stall and laden, a feed trough he had been born in Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, he would have been born in Caesar’s Palace in Rome, he wouldn’t have been born to peasants, he would have been born to royalty, he would have been a son of the Sanhedrin to the high priest, he would have been raised in pomp and splendor and glorious, how we would have done it. They do it exactly the opposite in the way God measures economy. And it really is the incarnational genius of Christianity. Religion is our attempt to climb up to God in Christianity, God climbs down to us. And we see that proven in His incarnation. He’s the only baby that chose his parents, and he chose them, the only baby that chose the place of his birth, and he chose that the only baby that chose his first attendance and he chose shepherds. We think of shepherds as these idyllic creatures. In the first century, shepherds were the lowest rung on the social ladder, they couldn’t testify in a court of law, because they were sick, considered to be thieves and liars, they were unclean, couldn’t go in the synagogue certainly couldn’t go in the temple, Jesus picks the most Outcast members of this society. And they are the ones that worship and all of that to say, if he would be born there, he’ll be born in your heart. If he would welcome to shepherds, he will welcome you. He, as Augustine said, He loves each of us as if there were only one of us. And he proved that at Christmas,


Mark Turman  23:44

and such an illustration of this incredible quality of God in terms of his humility. I remember having a conversation actually listening in on a conversation between some of the people on my first tour group, talking with our Israeli guide, who was essentially a non practicing Jew, by his own, it’s about 40% of Israel, by his own or secular Jews, testimony, and they, they were doing what the what I suspect many tour groups do, they were trying to share their faith with him wanted to do what they could to try to convince him about Jesus’s identity and, and he was very, very kind and compassionate and gentle in his response. He was respectful in every way, he said, but I just can’t believe that God would ever become one of us. I just can’t believe that God would ever stoop to our level and as you said, to the picking of his parents to the place of his birth, and you see the kind of the ridiculousness of it and in the Christmas story. When even King Herod when the Wiseman come looking for information about where this king might have been born. He’s so unconcerned. He doesn’t even send anybody with them. He doesn’t send him Military detachment, to go look for this potential king. He just kind of dismisses it. Well, if you find him, let me know. So I, you know, in a ruse I’ve come and worship him too. But he he sees the foolishness of this idea. When the when the consultants come and tell him, Oh, well, the Scripture say he will be born in Bethlehem. He still thinks the whole idea is just silly.


Jim Denison  25:25

And that’s less than five miles from where he is. Right? It’s not going to be hard for him to would have been very easy to go Yeah, himself, check it out himself or do whatever he wanted to do with it. And that’s really the challenge today that the Jewish people face. We struggled with this. There are some of my dearest friends on Earth, are Jews in Israel? I’ve been working with him for 30 years who have not yet made Christ, their Messiah. And people ask me quite often, well, how can they not see Isaiah 53 in the cross? How can they not see all the Messianic promises that Jesus fulfilled? How do they not understand that? Well, as I’m sure those listening to us would understand, there are two messianic streams in the Old Testament, there’s the suffering servant, and there’s the conquering hero. We see the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, we see the conquering hero and let’s say as a nine Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Over the centuries, the Jews came to believe and still believe today that the suffering servant is ultimately fulfilled by the nation of Israel itself, that it’s the sufferings of Israel, that it’s the travails of Israel, that it’s all that they have been through that are the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 and the suffering servant. So even in Jesus period, the Messiah they’re waiting for is that conquering hero. Even the disciples remember, after Jesus resurrection and x one, they say, Lord, are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel, they’re still waiting for that military conqueror first century to today. So this man you’re speaking of, would not believe Jesus to be Messiah, because in their thinking, the suffering servant Messiah that he was, is Israel, not a human. The very fact that Jesus was crucified means he can’t be the Messiah, because they’re waiting for the conquering hero. They’re waiting for Who He will be when he returns. They’ve misinterpreted as first coming, and when he comes back, it’ll be too late. And so that’s why we must be praying everyday for the peace of Jerusalem, and join Paul and being grieved for the Jewish people. But that’s so much of their stumbling block is what that man said, they can’t believe that he could be Messiah, and be who he was. They’re waiting for Who He will be one day.


Mark Turman  27:17

That’s an interesting insight had not heard that, that the people of Israel interpret the suffering servant theme in that way as applying to them as a group as a nation. It’s a very helpful insight in into this direction, it’s not surprising, I would say that if if your two options from an Old Testament thematic standpoint, our suffering servant, our conquering king that we wouldn’t, we would gravitate toward the strong man towards especially


Jim Denison  27:46

under Roman enslavement. Yeah. And they’re under the healer room? Of course, they would,


Mark Turman  27:49

you’d understand how they would opt for that being well, that will be the one we really want to see is what we’re really hoping for, and how they would find another way to deal with the suffering servant motif of this. I want to take this a little bit to a current day geopolitical conversation for a minute, as Christians try to understand, Okay, well, how do I think about Israel now? And how? So two questions that come to mind, first of all, is, is there some sense in which we should believe that as American citizens that our country has some kind of favor or protection from God, because we have historically been on the side of Israel is, is that something we should actually trust in or claim?


Jim Denison  28:45

That’s a very common belief. In fact, Jerry Falwell was pretty famous for saying God judges nations as a judge Israel. And so you really got three choices here. Let me see if I can confuse our folk. Yeah. Okay. So the one choice is what’s called dispensationalism. And it believes that every promise made to the literal nation of Israel must be fulfilled by a literal nation of Israel. And so in this thinking, 1948, may 14, when David Ben Gurion read that edict that declared the modern state of Israel into existence, that would be a fulfillment of prophecy. And every prophetic statement made in the Old Testament, or even the New Testament to a literal state of Israel, must be fulfilled by the literal state of Israel now. So in this in this reading, the State of Israel as it is today is a fulfillment of prophecy. This is God’s chosen people still in a very unique way, such that God judges us as we judge them. And God has given favored to America in many ways, because America has given favor to Israel. You’ll hear that and you’ll see that sort of thinking that’s a very common belief today. A lot of the folks that go to Israel do so out of that belief that as they’re supporting Israel economically, as they’re praying for Israel, they’re actually helping America as well, because they have a belief in this kind of causal relationship between China to the opposite side of that a second approach is called replacement theology. And that would be me And we’re very much oversimplifying here. But this idea is that God created the Jewish people so that he could bring the Messiah. Now that Messiah has come, no unique purpose for Judaism exists today or for the State of Israel, that the church in essence replaces Israel. You’re looking at Galatians three that says there’s neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. We’re all Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the covenant. So now the church is the new Israel. Yeah, that


Mark Turman  30:27

was gonna be my other question is Is that is that the way we should think about it? Because I think in similar passages, Paul says, He who is a Jew is one inwardly not not simply one outward


Jim Denison  30:41

circumcision of the heart. Exactly in the heart. Yeah, that’s right. Physical circumcision doesn’t help you anymore. It’s got to be the inner circumcision. So I’d replacement theologian would interpret these passages that way? And they would say the answer is no, that Israel is a nation like every other nation,


Mark Turman  30:56

and there’s no and today, there will be no particular geopolitical benefit for us, either personally, or as a nation


Jim Denison  31:04

from a from a regulatory standpoint, from a spiritual or providential standpoint. So that doesn’t mean that you would be anti semitic at all, that would certainly say that the Jews would deserve a homeland. Certainly the Holocaust taught us and you would say Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East, certainly the strongest military, military parents. So there are all sorts of geopolitical reasons America ought to be supporting Israel ought to be aligned with Israel, but among them would not be that Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy. And God judges nations as a judge Israel, because that would be the church today, that would be a replacement theology. Well, there’s a third approach that would actually be my approach. I do not, I’m not a dispensationalist. And I don’t believe that 1948 is a fulfillment of prophecy. I don’t myself, although I certainly respect this view. But I don’t myself believe the modern state of Israel ought to be seen in pathetic terms. I believe God created the nation primarily so he could bring the Messiah but I do believe that God has from then till now chosen in his own revelatory and providential purposes, to favor and use the Jewish people uniquely, I do believe that there is something God is still doing with the Jewish people. And I think even through the Jewish nation, not as a fulfillment of prophecy, per se, but just in his own providential love and His grace. Quick example, Judaism, Jewish populations never been more than two and a half percent of America’s population, but the 37% of our Nobel laureates, well, there is a remarkable genius to the Jewish culture. When I started going to Israel 30 years ago, it was to see the land obviously, it was to be in the land of the Bible, and I still go for that reason. But over the years, God has given me a love for the Jewish people, for the culture of the Jewish people, Mark, I can’t fully put into words, and I’ll get emotional saying this, the courage of these people to live where they live, surrounded by enemies, to put up with what they put up with every single day. I’m not saying their nation is perfect by any means that the government’s done it. All right, by any means. We could talk about one state two state three state solutions, we could talk about the Palestinians, whom God loves, as well, obviously loves us well. But there is an ethos there. There is something unique about the Jewish people. They believe that their first synagogue is the home, for instance, they believe that they are the first rabbi to their children. That’s why they’re so highly literate. There are people of the book, there’s a passion for literacy, there’s a passion for education, there’s a passion for community, the way even the 40% that are secular will think about Passover and Pentecost, and boost the way that they will treat even the SEC in their secular context, this Jewish kind of heritage, and this kind of this kind of ethnic sort of solidarity that they have, they have a day of memorial there, we would call it on Memorial Day, when they think about all those that have died, defending the nation, Israel, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, if I’m not mistaken, a siren sounds over the entire country. And for one minute, everything stops. I’ve been in Israel several times when this happens. We’ve been in the bus out touring, the bus pulls over to the side of the road, our tour guide and driver get off the bus. They stand next to the bus with their hand over their heart. The entire nation of Israel does this to remember those who have died for this nation. There’s an there’s an ethos there. There’s a beauty to the culture there’s there’s a commitment to family, and a commitment to the future that just really remarkable and very, very deep and very moving for me. So I would not be a replacement theologian who believes that God is no longer using the Jewish people uniquely, nor would I see the state of Israel as the geopolitical secular thing called Israel as a fulfillment prophecy. But I do believe God is still using the Jewish people in beautiful ways today.


Mark Turman  34:41

So bring that together and help us to kind of pull out evangelistically In some ways relationally we likely many people listening to this podcast likely have Jewish friends who are either Christ followers or not Christ followers And there’s a good bit of opportunity and invitation invitation in that. So when we get to passages like Romans 910, and 11, where Paul is trying to help us grasp how God is still at work among these people, and some of what he prays for what we can learn in terms of what God may be doing and what we may see him do, in our own time and through and with our own Jewish friends, help us understand what what Paul’s driving at in that passage. Sure, from a standpoint of looking at Israel as we would look at others evangelistically, but perhaps in a unique way, as


Jim Denison  35:43

well. And there are some uniqueness there, there absolutely isn’t, again, you have these options. So the one option would be the belief that Jews go to heaven, just like Gentiles are just like Christians do. And unfortunately, there are some that would say that they would believe that, that it’s not really necessary to try to evangelize the Jewish people because of God’s chosen people. Well, Paul disagreed with that. As you said earlier in this conversation, he said he will give up his own salvation for their sake. If Paul didn’t believe it, Peter, who was the apostle to the Jews? didn’t believe the Jews needed the gospel? Why would they risk and give their lives to give them the gospel? Why would that be necessary? So that’s the wrong approach is to say you don’t need to be sharing Christ with your Jewish friends, that another wrong approach on the other side would be to try to share Christ as though they weren’t Jewish, to ignore their ethnicity to ignore what they’ve been through and what they still go through and what anti semitism is like in their lives,


Mark Turman  36:28

I can’t remember how, how on my first door again, hell again, this very, very wonderful and when some tour guide said to us, look, Jesus is ours, he we claim him we love, you know, he, he was very pro Jesus. He didn’t accept him as short Messiah and his Savior at this point. But he was unapologetically Oh, we love Jesus, I love Jesus and what he said what he taught, like said, had not come to a place of faith. But was you like said, it’s just wrong to have a conversation with him or somebody like him? And not recognize that linkage? That’s right, this uniqueness here, is often there and is celebrated in most ways.


Jim Denison  37:13

That’s right. It truly is. Yeah, Jesus was Jewish is to pay his disciples were Jewish, the only church we’re all Jewish, we’ve been grafted in, as Paul said, we’re late comers to this party, as it works, you know, so we have to see it that way. But we also have to understand how the typical Jew looks at Christianity, they think of us through the context of the Holocaust. They think a Gentile, so the context of the Assyrians that destroyed the 10 northern tribes, and the Babylonians that destroyed their temple, and then the Romans that destroyed their temple, and all the anti semitism of 20 centuries, they’re thinking about Christians through this lens of the way that they’ve been persecuted by Christianity over all these millennia now. And so when we’re thinking about how to share our faith with the Jewish person, the first thing we’ve got to do is establish relational solidarity. We’ve got to come along and say, first of all, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for all the ways that you and your people continue to face the kind of persecution, the anti semitism that you deal with these days, we’ve got to start there at that point and understand that anti semitism is growing in this country. Again, it’s growing in Europe on such a level now that we’re seeing an exodus out of France, for instance, we have not seen in centuries, as Jews are trying to find a way to get out of the anti semitism. And we’re facing


Mark Turman  38:21

alien, just for a pause here, what would you attribute that to?


Jim Denison  38:25

Really, it’s two things, the one is what it’s always been, there’s always been a jealousy against the Jewish people. Because as I said, they are so committed to literacy, so committed to family, so committed to the things that make them prosperous as a culture, this easy idea if they’re rich, and I’m not as if they are somehow stealing my, my wealth, that it’s somehow their fault. That’s what Hitler told the German people is that what we’re in right now, after we lost the first world war in the Weimar Republic, is because of the Jews, we’ve been victimized by the Jews, some would say the Jews are part of this one world order, and there’s this conspiracy out there. So there’s an antagonism to Jews, because they typically have been so prosperous. Then another reason is, they’re the other. And we’re always suspicious of the other of that which has its own culture, its own way of being its own way of life. They’re a scapegoat and have been all the way back to Egypt, all the way back to their enslavement in the time that Moses and and prior to that, and so there just is this growing sort of sense of being persecuted that the Jewish people in your community face and feel. It’s just in many ways, it’s very similar mark to the experiences we have in the context of racial minorities. I don’t know what it’s like to be black, right. I don’t know what it’s like to go in my neighborhood pharmacy, and have the manager of follow me around, as is the experience of my African American friend who lives in my neighborhood, right? And knows when he goes into that pharmacy, can’t wear sunglasses can’t wear a hoodie, and he’s still going to be followed. I don’t know what that’s like. I don’t know what it’s like when his daughter was selling tickets to a Christian theater play in her Christian High School, knocked on one door in my neighborhood and the woman called the police. I don’t know what that’s like. In the same way, I don’t know what it’s like to be Jewish, and face the anti semitism that still exists. So we start there. We start by building relationship as with anybody but especially Jewish by earning the right to be heard. On a second level, we demonstrate the practical difference our faith makes in our lives. When the temple was destroyed, and has never been rebuilt, Judaism today sees good works as their sacrifices, they can no longer sacrifice a lamb on the altar in Jerusalem. So the sacrifices their good works. And if they’re living what they think of as a good life, they’re making the sacrifices God requires, and therefore don’t see the need for the salvation you and I have. Well, if I’m not matching the good works with mine, why would they consider my faith? If their faith drives them to live on a level of, of commitment to their family of commitment to what we would think of as biblical values, then, and I’m not doing that. And yet I come along and say you need my salvation in your life? Why would they hear that? So I’ve got to live in such a way that demonstrates the reality of my faith in a very practical way, because Judaism is a very practical religion, a very practical worldview. And then third, it’s praying. There is a pale as Paul said, over their hearts in their minds. When I was in Israel. Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow who runs a fitness center. In one of the hotels where we were staying, I got to develop a really good friendship with him, I was down there several times, got to know his story, got to know his background, really a fascinating person. And we got to the place where I was able to share with him the difference Jesus made in my life, and how Jesus had had given me a security of salvation, and an eternal life I would never have had otherwise, Mark, when I started doing that, I could see the veil over his face. It was almost a physical thing. It was spiritual. It was almost like the enemy came and dropped a veil over his heart. And everything changed. In that conversation. It was eerie, who he was 30 seconds before, to who he was, when I said Jesus, and started talking about the difference Christ made in my life. It was like a different person there. There’s a spiritual conflict here, relative to Jewish people. That’s what we’re describing. Because they typically are so committed to living good works. They see themselves as God’s chosen people anyway, as the people God uniquely chose out of all the people on earth, they’re living these lives of sacrifices to God, they are then fulfilling the suffering servant of the Bible, their sufferings, must have earned them special favor with God is just almost the psychology of the people. So why would they need the very religion that led to the Holocaust, that led to the destruction of the temple that led to the anti semitism they’re still facing today. So it’s praying for God to lift that veil, and for God to do his work in the hearts. But the good news is God’s answering that prayer, I’ll say this very briefly, a very dear friend of mine who spent his whole career in the Middle East says more Jews have come to Christ in the last 20 years in the previous 20 centuries. Now, many of them are not joining Baptist churches, we don’t get to count them in that way. They’re joining Messianic congregations, or it’s a little underground, that sort of thing. But God’s doing a thing. In Israel today. I experienced it when I’m there, there’s a thing that’s happening in the hearts and the minds and the lives of the people. They’re both on the Arab side. And on the Israeli side, God’s at work. And the enemy hates that. A lot of the reason you’re seeing the violence, a lot of the reason you’re seeing the opposition is because Satan so much hates what God is doing. That same friend, that’s been his whole career in the Middle East, said at the very time that God began awakening the Muslim world, more Muslims have come to Christ in the last 15 years and the previous 15 centuries, at that very time is when you see the rise of radical Islam. It’s when you see 911, so that Satan wants us to hate the very Muslim people we’re supposed to love and pray for. Same thing with Judaism, Satan’s working to veil their hearts. So pray. Bottom line, First, understand what they’ve been through second build relationship, earn the right to be heard, pray for God to remove that veil. And know He will use you if you’re willing to be used


Mark Turman  43:55

a great word just remind specially especially about our practice as it is with any person that we’re trying to relate to and share our faith with. That the motivation of our good works is is different from doing good works to earn favor. That’s right. But rather, our motivation is gratitude. We don’t we don’t serve we don’t make sacrifices. We don’t do good works to get God’s love, but because we have God’s so critical, and so great distinction between that and a works mentality transactional


Jim Denison  44:28

religion. Otherwise, do this, oh, God, I’ll do that and do it because God loves you not so he’ll love you. And that motivation actually should be more transformative, should be more empowering than doing this. So God will therefore give you what you don’t have, do it at a celebration of the love you already have,


Mark Turman  44:44

which is a big part big theme of what the book of Romans is all about. So we talked a few minutes ago before we recorded that there is some particular new kinds of violence going on in Israel, the These days. And your comment a moment ago made me think of this that we often think about, well, the devil goes off in schemes in some way. And then God’s playing defense and catching up to what the devil is doing. It’s likely the opposite, that God is stirring in the hearts of people who don’t yet know him and the in the devil gets outraged by that and tries to somehow hinder that or impede that in some ways. But there’s a real practical reality of violence that may have been somewhat missed in recent days, because so much of the attention is, is rightfully focused on what’s going on in the Ukrainian conflict with Russia. But what did you see and experience on that front? In this most recent travel?


Jim Denison  45:45

Yeah, I’ll be glad to do that. I know we’re going to be out of time shortly. And so I can actually make that a way of, of answering the commander scripture in Psalm 122, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Here’s a specific practical way we can do that. So I’d said before you have this real itself, then you’ve got Gaza on the southwest corner, and you’ve got West Bank over toward the eastern side of Israel. West Bank is controlled by the party called Fatah. Gaza is controlled by the party called Hamas. Violence that’s existed in Israel in recent decades is typically come from those two locations have come from terrorists coming out of the west Pangkor coming out of Gaza. That’s the reason for the security fence that’s been built around that. And when that violence can happen, Israel knows how to respond to that. If Gaza starts sending bombs across, they can bomb the places they know where the bombs are coming from. They know where the missiles are located. And they can deal with that they can strengthen the security barriers between the West Bank and Gaza and Israel if they need to do that. Well, as I said before, 80% of Israel itself is Jewish 20% is Arab. These are Arab Israeli citizens. They vote in the elections, they are engaged in every dimension of Israeli life, they don’t serve in the military. But other than that there is there their citizens just like a Jewish Israeli would be. Well, in recent years, there’s been an attempt to build a governing coalition that includes Arab parties, we have to understand very quickly, if I could, parenthetically, the way that the Jewish system works is built on the parliamentary system of the UK, you have a thing called a Knesset, which is their parliament. 120 seats, take 61 seats to have a governing coalition. So they have elections, you’re electing a party, not a person, no party has ever gotten 61 seats. So the party that gets the most seats is given a period of time to build coalitions with other parties to get to 61 seats. And if they get there, then the leader of the largest party becomes prime minister. And that’s what’s happened recently, for the first time, some of the Arab parties, I think there were 17 parties that ran in the most recent election and 12 are actually have seats in the Knesset. Now, I think that’s right from this has never happened before. Arab parties are now in the governing coalition. So now for the first time in modern Israeli history, you have Jews and Arabs working together in a political coalition to try to build a common future for Israel. That’s never happened before. So now, tragically to your question. What we’re starting to see is violence and street violence. It’s growing up from Arab Israelis, not from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, where they have security fences, where they have the ability to tighten down. But Arab Israelis that live in Israel, they live in Jerusalem, or they live in Nazareth, or they live in other Arab enclaves or an Arab communities, that’s much more difficult for the Israeli government and how to respond to that. They’re not behind fences. They’re not in areas that are easily identified. What we’re all and the reason for this back to your point is, these are people that don’t want there to be a coalition between Arabs and Jews. They don’t want a shared future. They want there to be a Palestinian future. They don’t want that to be the nation Israel,


Mark Turman  48:46

they would they would want to eliminate. That’s right, the nation of Israel, many of them,


Jim Denison  48:50

many of them would that that’s what Hamas wants, they impact their constitution requires the destruction of Israel. That’s what Hezbollah in Lebanon wants, right. So we’re starting to see a movement there that at the very least, is protesting the Arab leaders that are in this coalition, and some are so radical, they don’t want to even be in Israel. And it’s threatening the ability of this coalition of Jews and Arabs together to forge a better future. So as you’re praying for the peace of Jerusalem, pray specifically for God’s wisdom and God’s direction as regards a joint future of Arabs and Jews. As we’re having this conversation, a single member of that 61 member majority resigned while we were there from the coalition. And as we’re having this conversation, by the time people hear this, it’ll likely to be different. They’re in the midst of negotiations right now is how to keep that coalition together. That joint Arab Jewish Coalition that unprecedented coalition, can they even keep it together? Can they create a better future that doesn’t demonize the Arabs that doesn’t demonize the Palestinians, that creates a joint future for a better kind of have a trajectory? They’re in negotiations right now about that. So I’m praying every day for wisdom and direction I’m praying for a joint future. I’m praying for a world in which Palestinians and Jews or Israel At least I should say, and Arabs and Jews can live together in the kind of peace that would honor the Lord and would bless that region. These are dear people for whom Jesus died. And we ought to be praying urgently, every day for the peace of Jerusalem in light of these days,


Mark Turman  50:13

a good word and, and I would just personally highly recommend if you get the opportunity to travel to Israel, I had the the, the experience after being there for the first time four or five days that that little children’s song that we teach, at Vacation Bible School during the summer, he’s got the whole world in His hands started just ringing in my ears for some reason. And as I was looking out over Israel from all over Jerusalem, about the second or third day I was there, I just had this impression. He’s got the whole world in His hands, but it’s like his index finger is on this particular part of the world. That’s good, and that he has done so many things started so many things there. And obviously, the bringing of Jesus the story of Jesus unfolding there, in a real way that that that makes this a place like no other place, no place else in the world, no place else. And to go there is is not really it’s, I wouldn’t call it vacation. I wouldn’t call it work by any stretch of man. It really is, in every way a pilgrimage.


Jim Denison  51:20

And that’s how we go some goes tourism go and study tourists, we go as pilgrims, we go not only to learn about God, but to meet God. Right. And so I would absolutely agree whether you go with us or not that every Christian should experience Israel turns 2d into 3d turns black and white into color. You’re living in this land where God walked. And he still meet you there. Now when you go to this incredible small, sacred land, what a privilege


Mark Turman  51:44

right. Thank you for the conversation today. Dr. Jim, and we thank you for listening to the Denison Forum Podcast. If you’re looking for more information on Israel and other topics, we would encourage you to check out our website at Denison website and share this podcast with others and be sure to give us a rating. If you have a few minutes to do that. Thank you for being a part of our conversation today.

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