Passion for Israel
The word “desire” is eudokia in the original Greek and can also be translated well-pleased, will, pleasure, and satisfaction (Matthew 11:26; 2 Thess. 1:11; Phil. 1:15; 2:13; Eph. 1:5, 9). When Paul speaks of his heart’s desire he is in fact talking about the will and purpose of his heart. Paul’s passion for Israel came from a heart surrendered to the will of God, not from any mere fleshly loyalty. The love of Messiah controlled his heart, and so Paul had Messiah’s concern for Israel upon his heart (2 Cor. 5:14). It was not merely an intellectual or "theological" regard for Israel, but rather Paul’s theology was the articulation of God’s unfailing passion and purpose for the Jewish people (Romans 11:1-5). If one has a theology without a passion for the very truth it represents, than theology may be simply an intellectual substitute for genuine life in Messiah.
Prayer for Israel
Immediately after acknowledging the national rejection of Messiah by his brethren according to the flesh in Romans 9:31-33, Paul passionately prays that the Jewish people “may be saved" (Romans 10:1). Paul knew that the spiritual situation was far from hopeless for them despite their present national unbelief, for he also shared their rejection of Messiah Yeshua before he was miraculously saved (Acts 9:3-6). Therefore, Paul had faith to believe God’s promises. God had promised that one day Israel will look unto Yeshua and be saved (Zechariah 12:10). Paul passion for Israel’s salvation resulted from faith in the unfailing promises of God; and his prayers reflected his passion. Please note in Romans 10: 1 that both his "desire" and "prayer" are expressed in the singular, not plural. Since his desire and prayer come together as a unity of one in his soul. For us as well our passion and prayers are not two different things, but are the root and fruit of the same tree or two sides of the same spiritual coin.
The word for “prayer” means to want or to beg. It is used for a plea or entreaty when addressed to God as a prayer, request, petition or supplication. In my mind’s eye I can almost see Paul during his morning and evening devotions beseeching God and pleading for Israel’s salvation. Each of us need to re-evaluate our prayers and see if our passion results from fervent faith in God’s promises? Do our prayers for Israel reflect our passion for God’s concerns and eternal love for His people?
Practice toward Israel
With this kind of passion and prayer that are based on God’s promises for Israel, we can easily understand Paul’s practice and ministry to the Jewish people. He wanted them to be saved, and the Lord glorified as the Faithful One to Israel (Romans 11:26-27). Even as the Apostle to the Gentiles, his ministry was “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16) because it is also first in the heart of God (Jeremiah 31:3). Paul accordingly prioritized it in his own soul and agenda. He made it a point to find Jewish people with whom to share Messiah (Acts 13:46; 14:1; 16:13). Paul's consistent practice may be easier to understand in light of his theology. However, what is harder to understand are those believers who say that the love of Messiah controls their hearts, and yet whose practice is not geared toward the salvation of Jewish people.
The message of the Good News is for all nations, yet it is still a Jewish message with a Jewish priority (Acts 17:17). Therefore, regardless if you are called to Nigeria, France, China, or Pakistan, you still have a message that is “to the Jew first.” What this means is you have a responsibility to love Jewish people, reach out to Jewish people wherever you may be, to teach and disciple believers of the Jewish essence of the Good News, and to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6).
We want to imitate Paul in his zeal for the salvation of Jewish people, and therefore we are setting a priority to pray and reach out to Jewish people everywhere including in Israel. We see that Messiah’s love will control our hearts and make it a priority to serve Israel because of His promises.
On a personal note, we want to thank you for praying for our recent ministry trip to Israel which included meeting with couples and individuals as well as teaching seminars in different areas and outreach in several different congregations located near Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem and in the Negev. We appreciate you standing with us for Israel.