When the children of Israel left Egypt, a mixed multitude of people came with them (Exodus 12:38) and from the very outset of God’s covenant with Israel, which began at the time of the Exodus (Jeremiah 31:31-32; Hebrews 8:8-9), the descendants of Jacob were commanded to welcome into the covenant, those who chose to serve the God of Israel.
And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. ~ Exodus 12:48
Note: Circumcision was the seal of Israel’s covenant with God, and it was in the male’s flesh. Keep that in mind moving forward.
When the Covenant was ratified with the second generation of Israelites some forty years later, Gentiles were still living among them. They too were given covenant membership and are included as the people of Israel.
Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. ~ Deuteronomy 29:10-13
Notice that the stranger with them was included in the covenant.
Later, after Israel went in and conquered Jericho, Rahab, who formerly was a prostitute, became an Israelite along with her Gentile family (Joshua 6:25). Rahab became the wife of an Israelite, Salmon, and became an ancestress of King David and Jesus, the Messiah.
Ruth, a Gentile Moabitess also became an Israelite. After the death of her first husband who was an Israelite, she married Boaz, and like Rahab, she also became an ancestress of King David and Jesus.
During the time of Esther, many Gentiles were joined to Israel and became Jews. This is remarkable when we consider how far reaching this was. King Ahasuerus, who took Esther to be his wife, reigned over 127 provinces reaching from India to Ethiopia.
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)… And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them. ~Esther 1:1; 8:9
The nation of Israel which originated from of the descendants of Abraham, grew into a great nation, and over time, Gentiles were added to them. This, in many ways was a type of the New Testament church which began with Jews and extents to the Gentiles.
In Ephesians 3, Paul tells us that the mystery which was hidden in previous generations was the union of Jews and Gentiles into one body as the people of God.
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel… ~ Ephesians 3:2-6
Now consider the following from the prophet Isaiah:
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from His people.’ …For thus says the Lord, ‘…the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples. ~ Isaiah 56:3-7
In the New Testament Jesus quotes the latter portion of this verse saying: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” ~ Mark 11:17
God’s hidden plan in raising up the nation of Israel was never to Isolate himself exclusively to one collective group of people, but rather, through that nation, save the world!
I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know Me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. ~ Psalm 87:4-6
According to Psalm 87, Gentiles from other nations who know God are called God’s people and it is recorded that they were born in Zion!
Throughout the Old Testament, those who joined themselves to Israel to serve Israel’s God, became Israelites with full citizenship.
So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God. ~ Ezekiel 47:21-23
According to Ezekiel 47:21-23 (referenced above), the land of Israel belonged to the Gentiles who became Israelites, just as much as it belonged to the physical descendants of Jacob.
When we come to the New Testament, we find Jesus marveling at the faith of a Gentile centurion, and in response He says to His Jewish followers, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven…” ~ Matthew 8:10-11
When Jesus was approached by Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, Jesus puzzled Nicodemus with his statement “you must be born again to see the Kingdom of Heaven.” An often overlooked statement by Jesus within this dialog with Nicodemus is found in verse 10, where Jesus says, “Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?”
Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and a master in Israel, about a spiritual truth he should have understood from the scriptures: Israel must be born again! Not by the gathering of an ethnic body of people into the land, but by the gathering of a spiritual body people, as the people of God, into the Messiah. This is what is foreshadowed throughout the narrative of Israel’s history as the Gentiles were joined to Israel as the people of God. God’s people, in covenant relationship with Him, are from all nations.
Israel’s history throughout the Old Testament was leading to Christ, and is now fulfilled in Christ! Israel’s destiny as the people of God has been translated from a physical nation in the flesh into a spiritual nation in Christ. That is why the New Testament writers use language which applied to physical Israel in the Old Testament and apply it to the believers in the New Testament. Each has circumcision, a temple, a priesthood, etc.
For example, God told Moses to tell Israel, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” ~Exodus 19:5-6
Now consider the words of the apostle Peter in the New testament.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light… ~ 1 Peter 2:9
Peter applies to the words of God for the children of Israel to the New Testament believers: Jews and Gentiles, who are all the children of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ!
Note: According to the New Testament, “Jews” are the true children of Abraham through Jesus Christ, just as Gentiles are children of Abraham through Jesus Christ.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 3:26-29
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:13
Jews and Gentiles who trust in Jesus are baptized into the one body as the family of God, and those who reject Jesus are cut off from being God’s people.
For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’ ~ Acts 3:22-23
In Romans 11, Paul describes Israel as the olive tree and the Gentiles as the wild olive tree. Paul tells us some that of the branches of the olive tree have been broken off because of unbelief. This is consistent with Peter’s declaration in Acts 3:22-23 mentioned above.
The branches who are cut off from covenant membership are those of the Jewish nation who reject Jesus the Messiah. The branches that are not broken off is the remnant of believing Jews. Paul also tells us that some of the branches of the wild olive tree (the Gentiles) have been grafted into the olive tree with the remnant.
If the Jews who were cut off from the covenant turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted back into their tree, where believing Jews, and grafted in Gentiles, are united as one body who trust in the Messiah.
Christ’s death was the destination of the story of Israel in the flesh, and the resurrection is Israel’s new beginning! You must be born again to continue on in covenantal relationship with God!