It was a hot day in Israel. We were in the southern city of Eilat, located on the Red Sea. Throughout the summer months the temperature regularly exceeds 100 degrees. On this particular day we found ourselves on the Eilat promenade, a long boardwalk filled with shops, restaurants, carnival rides, and people. We sang songs, distributed tracts, and conversed with people about the gospel.
After a couple of hours we decided to find refuge from the heat inside one of the air-conditioned restaurants strung along the promenade.
Shortly after we sat down, a young Israeli girl, Orna,* asked if she could sit at one of the open seats at our table.
“Absolutely,” we told her.
Orna sat down and explained, “You guys have the only seat left with a place to charge my cell phone.”
Orna made herself comfortable. After some small chat she asked us why we were in Israel. We explained, “We flew all the way from the US to Israel because we love the God of Israel. We want the people of Israel to know about their Messiah, Yeshua.”
Orna was surprised. She explained that another friend from Canada had also been sharing things about Jesus with her. After awhile, one of our team members quoted some Scripture to Orna about God and the Jewish people.
I will never forget what happened next. Orna’s eyes began to well up with tears. She looked at us with all seriousness and said, “I am embarrassed that you guys (Gentiles) know my Scriptures better than I do.”
What was going on inside Orna?
Paul describes it like this, “Salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke Israel unto jealousy.” (Romans 11:11). Orna saw that a group of Gentiles loved the people of Israel. She was surprised at how well we knew the Bible (which was written by her ancestors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit). She saw the fruit of the Spirit within us (Galatians 5:9). Orna wanted what we had. She was provoked to jealousy!
In Romans 11 Paul explains God’s wonderful plans for both the Gentiles and the Jewish people. One important point (among many) is God has granted salvation to the Gentiles in order to provoke Israel into a restored relationship with Himself.
Several times Paul warns Gentiles not to be “arrogant,” “conceited,” or “unaware” of God’s plans for Israel (11:18-25). I can’t help but think about the many times throughout history that the Jewish people have been provoked by Christians. Unfortunately, many of these provocations have not been the kind of loving provocations Paul described. Rather, they were hateful and hurtful to the Jewish community. It came from the arrogance and ignorance that Paul warned against.
God is actively moving among the Jewish people today. Young Israelis are searching for spiritual truth. More and more Evangelicals are learning about God’s heart for the Jewish people. Many Christians are understanding God’s plan for Israel and the nations through reading Romans 9-11. This is an incredible time for Jewish ministry.
We do not know how long this door to share the gospel will be open. Will you join us as we seek to “provoke” the Jewish people into a relationship with their Jewish Messiah?