One of the best ways we can begin to repay that debt of love is by prayer and intercession. As our awareness of Israel’s place in God’s plans grows, let’s open the Scriptures to gain a clearer understanding of the significance of the land and the people of Israel.
To pray effectively for Israel and the Jews, we need to be informed about them. The information we need does not come from the world’s perspective or from the media. It comes from God’s viewpoint, which we find in the Bible.
The name Israel describes the nation descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Remember that Jacob was renamed Israel, and from his twelve sons are derived the twelve tribes of Israel. Later on, the people of Israel were called Jews. So really, Jews and Israel today are synonymous.
In the New Testament, the name Israel occurs seventy-seven times, and these references are never, never applied to the Church. Please hear that again very clearly—the name Israel occurs seventy-seven times in the New Testament and never once is it a description of the Church. The word “Jew” occurs seventy-five times in the Old Testament and one hundred eighty-eight times in the New Testament. On the other hand, the term “Christian” occurs only three times in the New Testament. These numbers indicate the significance the Lord has placed on the people and nation of Israel.
A Unique People
I want to emphasize in this first chapter that Israel is a unique people. There is no one else like Israel. As we consider the uniqueness of Israel, let’s begin by examining what is stated by David in 1 Chronicles 17:21. Praying to the Lord, David says:
- Who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people—to make for Yourself a name by great and awesome deeds, by driving out nations from before Your people whom You redeemed from Egypt?
In this prayer, David is saying there is no other nation whom God set out to redeem. He portrays Israel as a nation set apart from other nations. One unchallengeable fact emerges from this text: Israel is unique. The remarkable fact is that Israel did not choose this uniqueness; God chose it. This means if we pray for them just like we pray for any other nation, we are not praying with insight or understanding. In other words, we would not be praying in line with Scripture.
Let us look at the previous verse, verse 20, which states the uniqueness of Israel. I realized for the first time in a recent study how directly verse 21 relates to the previous verse. It is important to recognize that the uniqueness of Israel springs out of the uniqueness of God.
Verse 20 says,
- “O LORD, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people.”
We cannot pray effectively for Israel if we classify them with other nations. They are a unique people with a unique destiny expressing the uniqueness of their God. We cannot pray effectively if we pray a general prayer for all nations, including Israel. The facts of Scripture bear out their uniqueness.