This week I want to add a bit to what I wrote last week about how the Church through the ages has looked on the Jews.
I’m sad when I see disrespect for the people God has chosen even though I know there are, to be sure, Jews who are corrupt and even though I know that this people has, as a whole, not accepted their Messiah.
Yet, they still are God’s Chosen Ones. See how the Apostle Paul loved his people, the Jews, even though they persecuted him in every city he entered. He insisted that the covenant and the gifts from that covenant are still intact and still theirs!
Replacement theology argues that the Church—believers in Christ—have replaced Israel in the scheme of things pertaining to the Covenant—that is, in God’s plan. The church is “the new Israel” as St. Paul put it. And the people who are believers in Christ are also children of Abraham. And, as a result, the promises of land in the Old Testament and the promises of the return to the land by the Israelites is no longer in force, say the “replacement theology” people.
But other quotes from St. Paul very firmly state the continuing status of Israel and the validity of the Abrahamic Covenant. Listen…here is Paul saying this:
“They are the Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)
What we are saying is this: “God has enlarged the covenant in Jesus Christ at the same time as He is still working with Israel. And He will work with them in NEW ways in the future.
So…. would that the churches of today, in spite of the stubborn rejection that the Jews show towards Yeshua—would that the Church of Jesus Christ affirm this people….and rejoice as so many of them return to the Promised Land where there they are absorbing their traditions and recalling the mighty acts of their God.
Should not the Church everywhere awake to the miracle that is the modern State of Israel? How likely was it that the Jews would come from the ends of the earth—picking up all their possessions, saying good-bye to all their countrymen and neighbors and established institutions…. and immigrate to Israel? From nearly 100 countries? And should we not--the Church world-wide—every branch of it—perceive and understand the source of this miracle? It is of God. For He says:
“See, I am going to bring them…”
“See, I am doing a new thing.”
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Just a little bit from history here.
Think 16th century now. There was a big difference between the churches of the East—the Orthodox and others and….the Roman Catholics represented by the Franciscan monks—the difference between East and West. Get this now:
1. The churches of the East: Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, the Jacobite Syrians and others. These churches had influence in the Middle East, and most if not all of them had an altar in the esteemed Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. They also exercised authority over other so-called “Holy Sites” in Palestine where it was supposed that Jesus ministered. These Eastern churches gave to these places radical devotion with weird physical gyrations and contortions.
These Eastern Orthodox Churches were extremely jealous of their positions in Palestine and paid rich sums to the Muslim leaders to retain these positions.
2. The churches of the West: The Roman Catholics and their Franciscan monks had no part of this fanatic behavior. After the Reformation, the Franciscans retained what power they had in the Holy Land and took responsibility for the Lutherans, Calvinists and other Protestants who visited the Holy Land.
Think 20th century.
The World Council of Churches was formed in 1948 out of churches united to further the missionary movement. But in the 1960’s it turned its attention to “full Christian unity” and took in all the Orthodox churches of the East (Middle East really). These included the churches of Palestine (Jerusalem).
In 1974 the Middle East Council of Churches was formed and joined the World Council.
By the 1980’s the WCC became influenced by radical liberal theology and anti-Zionist thought.
Merkley says: “In the 1980’s as the World Council of Churches became more attached to the Palestinian cause and increasingly anti-Zionist, its official statements on the history of the conflict and its proposals for resolving it increasingly reflected the effects of the introduction into the World Council of Churches of the East. The outcome is that the churches of the West and the churches of the East are now virtually at one in their attitude toward the State of Israel—an attitude of resentment shading over into active hostility.” All these churches “now agree that Israel is an oppressor of Christianity—and that this is so because it is a Jewish state.” (Paul Charles Merkley: Christian Attitudes towards the State of Israel, pp. 73-74)
And so, the mainline churches of our own nation, while they have been losing their moorings in the scriptures have also been infected with anti-Zionism. To them, the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled and/or they are simply allegorical-- written and passed down merely to inspire.
Contemporary Example: Mitri Raheb, Palestinian Lutheran pastor and lecturer at St. Olaf College: “The ancient Israelites are not linked in any substantive or material way to the contemporary, modern state of Israel.” Modern Israel “manipulates sacred texts to justify a political project.” (First Things Magazine, March, 2018) When he said this, his American audience cheered.
There you have it—the contention that present-day Israel is not even connected with ancient Israel and that modern Jews have no historic reason to claim the land to which they have moved!
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NOTE: Credit the evangelicals and fundamentalists of America for hearing of and considering the horrors of the Holocaust. At the time, Britain was turning away from her commitment to protect the Jews in Palestine. But these American conservative Christians recognized that European Jews were being wiped out—this, at a time when most liberal Christians were denouncing “Jewish atrocity propaganda.” [David Rausch]
The skeptical world cannot see the new thing with any amount of appreciation at all. They see only threats and conflict. The world fixates on the “unfairness” of the glorious things.
But God the Lord bids us rejoice in His gracious kindness to the "Children of Abraham: “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth…with weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back.” (Jeremiah 31:9)
“Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will bring them back in safety.” – Jeremiah 32:37
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Question #1 for the clergy of the world: Does the return to Zion produce joy in your soul…or not?
Question #2: And…do you, the clergy of the world, feel delighted that the ancient language of Hebrew is now used in the ancient land among the Jewish people?
First, let’s take the Christians who live in Israel, Judea and Samaria. Most of these are members of the Eastern Orthodox churches. Here is a revealing statement about them:
“Most Christians who live in the State of Israel prefer to pretend that they live somewhere else. In their imaginations they live in “Palestine,” or (as is preferred in some circles) “The Holy Land”. In conversation as well as in their writings they sedulously avoid reference to the name of the state in which…they live; and they remain vigilant, day in and day out, not to take into their eyes the life and not to hear with their ears the language of the Jews. (Christian Attitudes towards the State of Israel, by Paul Charles Merkley, McGill-Queens: Montreal and Kingston, p. 52)
This is a similar practice to that of the Muslims who will not say “Israel.” That is a word used for cursing. It is anathema-- forbidden for both Muslim and the Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The church of Eastern Orthodoxy in Israel do their best to ignore the Israeli state in which they are living.
Secondly, let’s note the churches in the world that are called “liberal” and whose leadership is oriented towards the higher criticism of the scriptures, thereby denying the authenticity of biblical history: these churches do not take the prophetic word objectively. Therefore, the prophecies about the Jews returning to the and is not meaningful. Therefore, no joy is expressed in these churches at the restoration of Israel. Only briefly did they affirm Israel in the 1940’s.
Typically, the people in these churches have not studied the scriptures. Typically, they give Israel poor grades for its treatment of the Palestinians; and again typically, they do not judge the Palestinians even though the Palestinian leadership has from the very beginning of their existence vowed to kill the Jews and destroy the Jewish state for the sake of Allah.
They hold Israel to a standard to which others are not held. They have veiled a sort of anti-Semitism in the name of social justice. They are quick to judge Israel severely and the Palestinians very little or not at all.
They also fail to acknowledge the fact that much of the West Bank is now under civilian control of the Palestinian Authority….that a large segment of the Palestinian population now is making good money in companies owned by both Arabs and Israelis.
At even other times, they have, during the Peace Process, not given the Israelis enough credit for taking the initiative in the peacemaking process which involved giving back 97 per cent of “The West Bank.”
Thirdly, let’s look at some of the leaders of the Evangelical World.
One evangelical leader said with a critical tone: Israel should “…administer justice over the land God promised to it, rather than simply taking those as literal borders in which it can do anything it wants.” (Richard Mouw in Center Conversations)
What was that again? “….in which Israel can do anything it wants?” That’s not all. He also says: “We [ahem] need to hold Israel responsible for the conditions of the covenant, for the proper use of the land.”
Who is “we”? The National Association of Evangelicals? And how often will these reports be issued that evaluate Israel’s “proper use of the land?”
NOTE: That statement was made in a 17-year-old journal. Perhaps now such writers as this have shaved off some of their self-righteousness.
The Jews have for some time now proclaimed that their mission is to make the world a better place. The Hebrew term for this is “Tikkun Olam”—“repairing and improving the world” is what that now means. It’s an important part of the Israeli raison d'etre—reason for being—purpose in living. It’s expressed in Israelis being first on hand to help the Haitians following the earthquake and other commendable acts of charity. Their advances in medicine are amazing. And note that the Syrians needing medical help who can make it to Israel are treated with kindness regardless of their nation being the arch-enemy of Israel.
Some evangelicals are poor at giving grades out.
The Palestinians are their “victim group"--victims of the Jews, of course.
Now, in the last few years, Middle East Christians are escaping the persecution they have suffered in Muslim countries to make it into Israel. Think of that! They appreciate Israel and the freedoms there. The minds of some Middle East Christians are being changed.
Fourth and lastly, the Christians who do express great joy at the re-birth of the nation of Israel see it as a GIFT from the Lord of nations-- from the one who established His covenant with Abraham and the Children of Israel.
In the rebirth of the Israelite nation, most Christians of conservative theology see a sign of the last days and a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Yes, there was disappointment, over the irreligious life of Israel’s leaders.
But it is a God of grace who is in charge, and He is and will continue to work in the hearts and minds of the Israelis. It’s happening.
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In past centuries, some segments of the Church saw the restoration of Israel coming. Some were ridiculed for this belief. The scoffers ignored the prophecies, having a low view of the scripture’s veracity. What did they ignore? Here is an example--one that shows the Lord’s compassionate ingathering:
“For thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel….I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed…” (Ezekiel 34:11-16a – ESV)
The Jewish holiday, Purim, was Monday and Tuesday of this week (March 9th & 10th)
The Jews were exiled in Persian lands. Persian politics is totalitarian. The whims of the King become law.
The Persians were going to destroy the Jews—all of them in the empire, because they were a people who refused to bow down to their god-king, Ahasuerus. His right-hand man was Haman, and he saw a way to self-advancement: have these people annihilated.
It was written that all the Jews in the empire were to be slain—“young and old, women and children, the 13th day of the 12th month…and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 3:13, NRSV)
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History is now. The enmity against the Jews endures. And it is encouraged by Arab despots, kings and ayatollahs—again, totalitarian rulers, as in ancient times.
IRAN: A tweet from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "Israel has no cure but to be annihilated.” He speaks for other Middle East despots.
PALESTINIANS: Palestinian television shows 3-year-olds how to stab an Israeli in the neck. Palestinian school curricula are not subject to Israeli editing; so, their textbooks describe Jews as descendants of monkeys and pigs and teach students to be martyrs. In math textbooks, the teaching of arithmetic is illustrated by numbers of Jews: if you kill so many, how many would be left. And so on.
One of the best jobs a Palestinian can get is to be imprisoned for a terrorist act on a Jew. Monthly stipends are paid both to him and his family by the Palestine Authority
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS: The Jordanian King, Abdullah II, will deal with Israeli leaders to make deals on water supply, but Jews are hated throughout Jordan. Just saying the word “Jew” is forbidden. Maps made in Jordan have no Israel. (Confirmed by a missionary friend). In Egypt, the same. President Mubarak wanted peace with Israel only to lift Egypt's heavy military burden of keeping up with Israel.
The Fatah party (of Mahmoud Abbas), Hamas and Islamic Jihad all praise the attacks made on Israelis. On Hamas and Palestinian Authority TV, children are taught to conduct a “heroic operation”—“be a man and kill a Jew today.”
The Palestinians, if given a land with their own governance, would not allow one single Jew to live in it. Actually, it happened: when Gaza was put into the hands of the Palestinians, it became Judenrein—Jew free and one big arsenal for military hardware.
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In Europe, there is a resurgence of anti-Semitism and a failure to deal adequately with its terrorism. And it has spread to America. On university campuses with Middle Eastern studies, all of them (almost without exception) are unsympathetic to the State of Israel. And what about the United Nations? All of their resolutions regarding Israel are negative.
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In the story of Esther, if Haman had succeeded, the Jewish people as a nation would have been decimated.
NOTE: God is not even mentioned in this story. But still, the twists and turns of the narrative show that even when God is not in the forefront, He is still working behind the scenes. How?
WELL, NOTE: Strange things happen to move Esther and her uncle Mordecai into positions of power. Esther won a beauty contest and thus became queen. Mordecai, her uncle, discovered a plot to overthrow King Ahasuerus. Mordecai told Esther, and Esther told King Ahasuerus in the name of Mordecai, and he, Mordecai was rewarded by a high promotion.
So....two Jews move into positions of power. Only then does the trouble begin. And these two become the saviors of the Jews. They were doing the work of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--He who chosen this people.
Aha! Isn’t that what we see in the modern history of the State of Israel? We could point to many incidents where God has been at work behind the scenes.
For instance, who in Britain thought that Lloyd-George would become prime minister during World War I? But he did. Prime Minister Asquith was forced to resign in 1916 in the middle of the war, and Lloyd-George was ready to take the helm. Lloyd-George happened to be very familiar with the Holy Land and knew that it was of great interest among the conservative and evangelical branches of the Christian Church. If Asquith would have remained in power, he would have thwarted it. Then, Sir Arthur John Balfour became foreign minister, and he too was inclined to respond to the Jewish desire for the restoration of the land. The proposal for giving the land back to the Jewish people was “The Balfour Declaration.” Two men, sympathetic to the Jews, moved into power BEFORE the decision had to be made. Glory be!
And today, in the current crisis of Israel and the Palestinians, there is no doubt in this writer’s mind, that God is secretly engineering the events to bring about the deliverance of His Chosen People and the restoration of all their land.
So even, when God is not evident, we can, if we consider the whole story, see that He is doing His good work, sometimes in the shadows and in unexpected ways. Glory be!
“Help me, O Lord, my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
Let them know that this is your hand;
You, O Lord, have done it….
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord.;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
To save them from those who would condemn them to death.”
-- Psalms 109:26-27, 30-31 (NRSV)
Israel is preparing for war. Out of necessity, the IDF (Israel Defense Force) is gearing up for a high-tech confrontation. How are they doing this?
ITEM #1: Let’s take their naval department. Iran is equipping itself with advanced anti-ship cruise missiles which are being moved into position throughout the Middle East. The Israel Navy’s Weapons Systems Department is responsible for developing counter measures that can be installed on Israeli ships.
The possible future war, if it comes, will look like no other as technology is changing the face of the “battlefield.”
The faces of the IDF’s soldiers and technological personnel have also changed. They are younger—youth in their early 20’s who have completed their degrees in electrical engineering, mathematics and physics as part of their requirements. Their counterparts from Western nations—in their 50’s and 60’s-- are taken aback when they intermingle with these Israeli youth.
The task of these Israeli youth: to develop sensors and command systems that hermetically seal Israel’s sea borders, both on the surface and underwater! Hermetically sealed sea border. Hm-m.
QUESTION: How have they done this? ANSWER: They have had to develop complex algorithms so that operators can quickly differentiate between say an enemy scuba diver and a sea turtle. (from “Israel News Digest” and “JNS-Israel Hayom”)
ITEM 2: Israel’s Yaman elite counter-terrorism warfare unit has thwarted multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings, kidnappings, bomb threats and has rescued hostages. Their unit has won the International SWAT competition multiple times, competing against 27 top-rated police and federal SWAT teams from around the world. (Neil Farber and Itay Gil in “Daily Alert”, 2/28/20)
ITEM 3: Back on July 28, 2019, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that the test of Israel’s Arrow 3 anti-missile defense system, conducted in Alaska, was successful. “The Arrow 3 is an advanced design for intercepting long-range missiles in space at an altitude that would safely destroy any nuclear warheads,” reports the Jerusalem Post. The Arrow 3 intercepted ballistic missiles at unprecedented heights and speed.” Netanyahu stated that now “Israel has the ability to defend itself against ballistic missiles launched against it from anywhere in the world.” Whew! (Jerusalem Post, August 2-8, 2019).
That brings to mind the portrayal of “the arrow” in the Psalms where the arrow is indicative of warfare. Check this out: “There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.” (Psalms 76:3 (NRSV)
In the same article, Benny Gantz is quoted as saying: “This is “a clear signal to the Iranians and to the entire world that Israel is ready for any scenario against any aggression.
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So…Israeli officials are talking about their sea borders being “hermetically sealed” and their air being defended by ballistic missiles in the air—missiles flying at unprecedented heights and speed! Hard to believe.
ITEM 4: Another report from “Daily Alert” quotes U. S. Undersecretary of Homeland Security, David Glawe as making this statement at the most recent 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem: “Israel keeps America safe. That’s very true. It’s hard to really go into detail or to advertise it, but it’s true….We are without question better off when Israel is strong, secure, stable, and prosperous, so it is very much an American interest to support Israel.” (2/10/20)
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Much more could be said about Israel’s preparedness.
How has this happened, given three considerations: (1) Israel’s extremely small size; (2) Israel’s brief modern history as a nation; and (3) The huge expense in developing such a system and in maintaining an army? As we often say here: God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the Lord of the nations. Be watchful. Be prayerful.
Some of the original modern Zionists didn’t envision a nation that had to use armaments and shed blood to preserve itself. Some of these early-20th century rabbis and philosophers were pacifists. Judah Leon Magnes (1877-1948), first president of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, personified the desire for pacifism and the love of neighbor:
"The world—not in Palestine alone—may be bent upon violence and bloodshed. But will not my opponent [the Jew who accepts violence and war as a necessity] agree that there is a better chance of averting this tendency to bloodshed if we make every possible effort politically as well as in other ways to work hand in hand—as teachers, helpers, friends—with this awakening Arab world? The only way it can succeed, it seems to me, and that success is worth having, is if we overcome all obstacles through all the weapons of civilization except bayonets….Whereas it may have been in accord with Israelitic needs in the time of Joshua to conquer the land and maintain their position in it with the sword, that is not in accord with the desire of plain Jews or with the long ethical tradition of Judaism that has not ceased developing to this day." (Arthur Hertzberg: The Zionist Idea, pp. 448-449)
The reader must judge for himself: Have the Israelis done all in their power to live alongside their neighbors, the Arabs? For the most part, YES. Have they offered land? YES. Have their business people hired Arab/Palestinians? YES. Have they entered into peace talks with them and offered reasonable, or even ultra-reasonable terms? YES. So, is there any possibility that Israel could have existed in peace with the Iranians and their cohorts, Hezbollah, Hamas and others? OF COURSE NOT.
If you believe, like me, that actually too much has been offered and if you see, as I do, that the opposition to Israel has never brought any proposals to the peace talks, neither Abbas nor Arafat, then you see that prospects for peace by means of such negotiating work has been disappointing if not futile. Too much has been offered by Israel for her own security. Too much of Judea and Samaria has been offered. And too much suffering and death has resulted. And the PLO and the Palestinian Authority is deeply corrupt.
Who is Israel fighting? And what are the beliefs of Israel's opposition? They are fighting against totalitarianism—against a people who believe that the world must be conquered for Allah, the god they conceive of as the true god. Allah’s so-called prophet, Muhammed, desires of them their complete commitment to fight for land and people. Mohammed fought for Allah, and they now must fight for Allah. Their hopes are buoyed with the immigration of hordes of Islamic people to Europe and the growing influence of those immigrants. Now they want Palestine/Israel to be Allah’s.
The Arab Muslims are angered that in their very midst—in the Middle East where Islam ruled so long-- that Israel, their religious nemesis, the despised Jewish People, are now ruling smack in the middle of what they consider their own their Islamic turf.
But now, Israel has developed never-to-be imagined defensive capabilities.
God be thanked and praised. We see the Chosen People advancing to protect their nation—hastening toward the future. Israel—new and tiny and just amazing.
Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
Your renown, throughout all ages.
For the Lord will vindicate his people,
And have compassion on his servants.
-- Psalms 135:13-14 (NRSV)
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.