Israel, God's Servant
A Review of God’s Key to the Redemption of the World

by David W. Torrance & George Taylor

Two years ago a respected evangelical magazine invited me to contribute an article with the title “The Trouble with Israel”. The title was deliberately vague and a tad provocative but what I submitted was, I thought, a balanced piece. However, the article never saw the light of day because it was deemed too “controversial” for the magazine’s readership. Therefore, I welcome the fact that a mainstream Christian publisher has seen fit to publish Israel, God’s Servant, a timely, sane, straightforward and biblically faithful contribution to the controversy that has been raging within evangelicalism for the last 25 years. David Torrance and George Taylor set forth in this book a clear biblical and theological case for the ongoing place of the Jewish people and the land of Israel in God’s ultimate purpose for the world, and they attempt to explain simply the complex situation that exists in the Middle East.
The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 presents a brief but accurate history of the Middle East conflict, in which the authors argue persuasively that the root of the enmity between Israel and its Arab neighbours is theological rather than political and therefore requires a spiritual solution. Chapter three is of particular value in that it challenges two widely held assumptions: first, that the New Testament is silent about Israel’s claim to the land and, secondly, that the earthly Jewish nation has been replaced by Christ’s universal spiritual kingdom. The authors stress that the basis of God’s relationship with Israel has always been one of unconditional grace: “If this were not so there would be no hope for any of us… It is true that the enjoyment of the full blessings of the covenant were [sic] dependent on Israel’s behaviour, but the fulfilment of his purposes through them and their land was not.” (p49)

The authors point to the inextricable link that exists between people and land, underlining that as it goes with the people, so it goes with the land. Whenever the Jews have been absent from the land in their periods of exile the land has languished. Therefore, in 1867, prior to the first Zionist aliyah, Mark Twain described Palestine as “a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land… [sitting] in sackcloth and ashes”. It was a land of deserts and malarial swamps but, with the arrival of Zionist settlers, the land began to blossom and become fertile once again.

Part 2 of the book focuses on anti-Semitism and its causes, examining both Christian and Islamic anti-Semitism, and countering the claim made by Jewish and liberal Christian scholars that the New Testament is inherently anti-Semitic.

The third part of the book challenges views about Israel that are now regarded as virtually self-evident in certain sectors of the Church: that the Church has replaced Israel in the purposes of God and that the Jews as a people have no national future or hope. It is in this section that the authors address some of the most important issues. Torrance and Taylor make their case well but they could have made it even stronger as, for example, in “The Church is Not the New Israel”. In this chapter they make no attempt to exegete Galatians 6:16, the cornerstone proof text of Replacement Theology, nor do they make reference to the unconditional nature of the Abramic covenant of Genesis 15. The authors also weaken their case somewhat by assuming that 1 Peter was addressed to a Gentile readership and thus having to concede, from the ninth verse of chapter 2, that “the Church” has inherited Israel’s titles and privileges.

In their chapter on the priority of Jewish mission, Torrance and Taylor attribute the decline of interest in world mission to a decline of interest in Jewish mission, a claim that demands to be taken seriously by evangelicals. However, their plea for putting Jewish mission at the head of the Church’s missionary agenda could have been strengthened considerably by an examination of Romans 1:16 in the light of the Apostle Paul’s missionary strategy in the book of Acts.

Part 4 consists of seven superb appendices, dealing with issues such as “The Refugee Problem”, “The Intifada, the PLO and Hamas”, “A Jewish View of the Land” and “Jihad and Suicide Bombers”.

Apart from the minor blemishes referred to, Israel, God’s Servant is an erudite but readable case for Israel as the people of God and for Israel the Land. Buy it, read it, study it, learn from it and pass it on to others.

Israel God's Servant: God's Key to the Redemption of the World
David W Torrance & George Taylor
ISBN 9781842275542
Available from Shalom Ministries

Article written in 2008

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