Why should we bless the Jewish people?
Have you ever wondered why God chose Israel? Out of all the nations of the world, why would he choose one particular race to be his People? Is God biased? Does he show favouritism? It’s not because there was something special about them as Moses said about Israel in Deut 7:7 “The Lord did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of the peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers…” God in his sovereignty, chose Israel simply because he chose Israel.
The whole purpose for the Lord choosing the Jews was for them to be a blessing to the world. This is God’s heart: he wants to bless people. In Genesis 12:1-3 Moses records the moment when God called Abram to leave his home and relatives and made him some incredible promises:
Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
This agreement, or covenant, God made with Abram is perhaps the most important found in all Scripture as foundational to other covenants made with the Jewish people. In it, the Lord assures Abram a land, to make him a great nation and to bless him so that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. What amazing promises! Not only that but they could never fail since there were no conditions attached: it is an unconditional and eternal covenant that God swore to fulfil to Abram and his descendents.
In these verses we discover God’s foreign policy to Gentiles (non-Jews) in their relationship to the Jewish people: “I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse”. This policy extended not just to Abram but to his descendents as the promise was repeated to his children Isaac and Jacob and later in reference to the entire nation.
The promise of blessing and cursing in kind in response to the Jewish people can be seen being worked out throughout the Bible.
Examples of the curse for curse in kind include Exodus 1 when the Egyptians cursed Israel by killing every firstborn male Jewish child in the Nile. The curse was repaid years later when all of the Egyptian firstborn sons were killed by the Lord in the tenth plague. In Exodus 17 the Amalekites cursed the Jews by seeking to destroy them through war; the Lord’s response was to war against the Amalekites until they were utterly destroyed. In the book of Esther, the wicked Haman sought to curse the Jewish people by having them destroyed by royal decree in retaliation to the defiance of Mordecai the Jew by not bowing to him. But his scheme backfires and he ends up being hung on his own gallows built for Mordecai and the Jews are saved by another decree from the king which turned the table on their enemies.
So we see the Lord protecting and preserving the Jewish people by cursing those who tried to curse them. Let us now concentrate on the blessing aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant by looking at three things:
1. How God has indeed blessed those who bless the Jews;
2. How the Lord has fulfilled his promise to Abram to make him a blessing to the whole earth; and
3. How we as the Church can respond to these blessings.
1. How God has blessed those who bless the Jews
Firstly let’s look at a few examples of how God was faithful to his promise that he would bless those who bless his people:
a)Story of Jacob and his uncle Laban in Genesis 30:27-30
Jacob had worked many years for Laban (7 more years than he expected for Rachel!) and finally requested his leave from him to return home with his wives and children. But his Uncle was reluctant to let him go as he realised that everything he owned had prospered since Jacob had been living with him acknowledging in v27 “the Lord has blessed me on your account”.
What is interesting about this story is that Laban was no worshipper of the true God. He had many gods and idols. When his nephew Jacob came bringing the God Yahweh, Laban was happy to include this new deity among his many other gods. Even so, this pagan recognized that the God of Jacob, whoever He was, was blessing him because of his relationship with Jacob.
Why would God bless a pagan who worships other gods? The Lord was proving himself faithful to his promise to Abraham that those who bless the Jewish people will be blessed. So Laban the pagan was blessed because he had a right relationship with Jacob the Jew, even if he was a man of dubious character.
b) A very similar thing happens later on in Genesis 39
Joseph had been taken to Egypt as a slave and bought by the Egyptian officer Potiphar. Potiphar recognised that God was with Joseph and put him in charge over his household and all he owned. The result in 39:5 was “the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.”
Here again God blesses a pagan, an Egyptian this time. Because he worshipped the Lord? No: as an Egyptian, Potiphar would have had many deities. God blessed everything he owned simply because he had a right relationship with Joseph the Jew.
We can also look to the New Testament to see the outworking of the Abrahamic covenant:
c) In Acts 10, God chooses to bless the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.
Now the Romans were no friends of the Jews and yet this man had the great honour of being the first Gentile to be received into the Church as a Gentile rather than a convert to Judaism. Why this particular Gentile? Acts 10:2 gives the answer that Cornelius was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.” Of all the Gentiles God could have chosen as the first to come into the Body of Christ, a great honour, He picked one who was not only righteous but who blessed the Jewish people and according to verse 22 was well spoken off by the entire nation. Coincidence?
Conclusion: so we see that throughout the Bible, God has been faithful to his covenant made with Abraham: those who bless the Jews will be blessed and those who curse them will be cursed. Because of God’s love for Israel, he loves and blesses those who show love to them. We haven’t got time to look at this now, but there are also examples of how the fortunes of entire nations seem to be linked to how they have treated the Jewish people throughout history. This may be difficult to prove, but what is undeniable, is that all that’s left of the empires that conquered and mistreated the Jewish nation are some dusty remnants in a museum whereas the Jews continue to thrive.