There are many wrong attitudes throughout the world towards Israel:
- Anti-Semitism (anti-Jewish prejudice) – the only explanation for this huge phenomena is that it is demonic.
- Lack of compassion for the Jewish people (not understanding the effect of centuries of persecution, much of it from the church).
- Uncritical support (the idea that Israel is always wonderful and can do nothing wrong).
- False eschatological views (the idea that God will deal with Jewish people totally separately from Gentiles, and on the basis of the Law, not faith in Jesus).
I have given the subject much thought and prayer over many years
- I was General Director of the Churches Ministry among Jewish People for 7 years and on its Council for 20 years.).
- Over the years I have met and discussed with many Jewish people, sharing in their needs, pains and fears.
- I have also met and discussed with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, sharing in their needs, pains and fears.
- I have met and discussed with many Christian Zionists, some of whom had extreme views.
God has not simply replaced the Jewish people with the church, his calling of them is irrevocable.
- See Romans 11:1-2, 28-29 “I ask then: did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew … As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.“
God still has a purpose for the Jewish people in Jesus.
- “All Israel will be saved” (through Jesus) when “the full number of Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25-27).
The return of the Jewish people to Israel is prophetically significant.
- However controversial it is and however much Israel fails the Lord, the Old Testament foretells a worldwide return in the Last Days (see Isa 11:11-12; 60:4, 9, 21-22; 61:4-5; Jer. 3:12-18; 23:7-8; Ezek. 38:8, 16; 39:25-29; Joel 3:1-2, 17-20; Amos 9:14-15; Zech 12:2-3, 10-11; 14).
The regaining of Jerusalem is an End Times sign
- The NT assumes knowledge of the OT which does speak of a worldwide return of the Jewish people to the land so there are not many references to it in the NT, but here are two.
- Jesus says the end of Gentile rule over Jerusalem is a sign in Luke 21:24 “They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
- Jesus does not disagree with the disciples when they speak of the kingdom being restored to Israel (Acts 1:6-7) “Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
We must oppose anti-Semitism and be compassionate towards the need, pain and fears of Jewish people.
- Memories of persecution and especially of the Holocaust are very strong. Israelis fear the loss of the land because of all that, whatever their military strength.
However, God loves the Palestinian people as much as anyone.
- He wants the best for them
- He wants them to be treated with dignity and justice, which is all too often not the way they are treated by the Israeli government.
The Torah (Law) commands Israel to love the Palestinians.
- This teaching is about foreigners (non-Jews) in the land and applies to the territories under Israel’s control. It is particularly relevant to Zionists who believe the Palestinian areas should be and remain Israel proper.
- The Lord loves and defends the foreigner (Deut 10:18-19; Psa 146:9).
- The Lord forbids Israel to ill treat, oppress or deprive the foreigner (Ex 22:21; 23:9; Deut 24:14, 17; Jer 7:6-7; 22:3; Ezk 22:7, 29; Zech 7:10).
- Anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner is strongly condemned (Deut 27:19; Mal 3:5).
- The people of Israel must love foreigners as they love themselves (Lev 19:33-34).
- Israel must provide for needy foreigners (Lev 23:22; Deut 24:19-21; 26:12; Ezk 47:21-23).
The Palestinians are responsible to act justly with respect to Israel, which is all too often not the case.
There are two attitudes we need to avoid:
- An excessive appreciation of Israel:
- I know what it is to have a deep love and a profound concern for Israel. It first happened to me in 1983 and I believe it is God-given. But the danger is that it leads to an uncritical and very biased support for Israel – ‘Israel can do no wrong.’
- A unconsciously anti-Semitic carping criticism of Israel:
- This can be deemed to be a proper concern for justice for the Palestinians. There is such a thing as righteous anger over injustice but this isn’t it. Katrina Lantos Swett wrote recently: “While no country is beyond reproach, when criticism includes language intended to delegitimize Israel, demonize its people, and apply to it standards to which no other state is held, we must call it antisemitism” (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/31/disturbing-persistence-antisemitism-europe).
There are two attitudes we need to have:
- A true friend will be a critical friend and will share constructive criticism
- I want to be a true friend of Israel (and also of the Palestinian people).
- We must always listen to both sides of the story
- Anyone with any experience knows one must listen to both sides of a story, however convincing one side is. This is true in the realm of personal relationships. It is true in the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides use propaganda. Both sides can make overwhelmingly convincing cases.
Why have I stressed attitudes to Israel and the Palestinians?
- Because, although the re-establishment of Israel is an End Times sign, I cannot talk about it without compassion for both people groups, not only for reconciliation, justice and security but also for them to come to know Jesus. It may surprise you to know that many Jewish people think Christian Zionists are only interested in them eschatologically because they will be killed in the Battle of Armageddon. We need to show that is not our position