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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What to Think about Israel? An Email from My Friend

I received the following Email from my friend:

Really need some insight and perspective ....
Concerning the modern day Israel and it's place in Biblical prophecy. I unfortunately have two very strict evangelical in-laws who believe ( I think falsely) in strict belief of the divine nature of the modern day Israel and modern Jews. My studies are conflict with their views. I am told I am in violation God's will because I do not agree with this and that anything said in a critical nature towards the actions and or concern for the state of Israel's "goodness" are met with rebukes and prayers to "turn from evil" from these "false beliefs".

The specific passage is Genesis 12:3: I will bless those that bless (Israel) and I will curse those that curse (Israel). (paraphrase) is routinely thrown in my face. What is your take on how so many Christian's interpret this to mean complete blind devotion to Israel, regardless of her actions, influence on and unfettered support by the US government to the modern state of Israel.

I understand what the old testament stories say about Israel, but it is my understanding that the new covenant makes all born again Christian's God's "chosen" people...that today, the Church is the new Israel. I seem to think that most of the truths in the Gospel should supercede anything in the OT...shouldn't they?

I have tried to cross reference in studies and found that in what I have read it is closest to what is said in Galatians 3:8.

But I also understand and have conflict with what my in-laws say as well, because it is taught so heavily in most modern churches and I have only recently changed my mind from this perspective. If you watch a lot of TV as they do, it is the dominant belief in that mainstream Christianity world. Even so, this later belief now causes an uncomfortable visceral reaction in me for some reason because I am more aware that the modern Israel Government does not practice anything resembling true Judaism that honors God. I cannot see how anyone who is not in God's will can be "blessed". IMO, modern Israel, like many nations, is a heathen nation. Totally secular and devoid of God. Not the Israel of the Bible who held strict adherence to Torah.

So anyway..I'm asking if you can give your perspective on what our role is to modern Israel. Let me be clear that I certainly believe we are to bless all men and Jews by loving them, and giving to one another, and anyone else who wishes to "Voluntarily" support Israel in a way they see fit. Key word.."Voluntarily". But I do not wish to be lumped in with "anti christ" to suggest that those that do not wish to have "force" used to do so are out of God's will.

Your thoughts?


And, my response:
I agree with you that modern Israel is not carrying on the responsibilities laid on Israel by God in Exodus and throughtout the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy). There are many passages in the prophets that talk about God withdrawing blessing if Israel fails to keep covenant, and I think Israel as a whole has failed to keep up its end of the covenant. I think the Apostle Paul calls Jews who reject Jesus as Messiah the "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9). In 2nd Peter, you see a pretty harsh invective against false teachers (2 Peter chapter 2), and those false teachers were possible Jews who insisted torah-observance was more important in salvation than Christ. So, the Old Testament warns against Israel failing to keep covenant and the New Testament warns strongly against Jews or anyone else rejecting Jesus.

Romans chapter 9-11 for many people are the definitive chapters on how Christians should view Israel. Unfortunately, there are countless opinions on how to read and apply Romans 9-11.

My take is Jesus is the Messiah and the Savior and salvation comes through him. In studying the gospel, I am not called, either by scripture or by the Holy Spirit to form an opinion on Israel. Israel's eternal fate and the eternal destiny of individual Jews is God's business. I would say the same thing about faithful people who are humble and earnestly, honestly seeking God but have either never heard of Jesus, have only been taught that Christians are enemies from America, or have been taught Christianity by abusive people. In those three scenarios, I think God has mercy for the humble who earnestly, honestly seek Him. I think the only way to Heaven is through Jesus. But I refuse to make definitive statements about the eternal destiny of people. I don't think it's my job to identify who goes to Hell. I think Hell is real, but God gets to say who goes there, not me.

My job is to love with the compassion that Jesus showed. Christians get caught up in talk of Israel or talk of AntiChrist (or abortion or other issues) because that's easier than dealing with the reality of their own sin and their own selfish attitudes.

Read Luke 13:1-5. People wanted Jesus to engage in theological speculation, but he wouldn't play that game. He told those who wanted to sit around and make definitive judgments that they needed to spend more time repenting of their own sins. I doubt that any scriptural proof I could offer will make much headway with your in-laws because their agenda is not faith. It is being right. They are sure they're on the side of those who go to Heaven. They're in the right. So they don't need to repent and they do not need to check their views, regardless of facts that might be presented. It's very much like politics which you follow a lot more closely than me.

The way for the humble, the legitimate truth seekers is faith. And faith requires equal attention paid to Scriptures and to the present, continuous voice of the Holy Spirit. To hear the Holy Spirit, we need to shut out the noise (especially of most TV preachers and much of what is in the media). We need to prayerfully quiet our minds and let God speak. I think in doing this, we hear the scriptures and what they have to say in our circumstances. But if what I think I am hearing doesn't jive with compassion, then it is most likely not from God.

Long answer, maybe not helpful. But, I am not overly concerned with Israel from an eschatological (= end times) standpoint. A bigger sadness is how many in Israel do not recognize the love of God revealed in Jesus. And much of that failure to recognize is due to the hatred express by people in Jesus' name (think Crusads, Pogroms, Holocaust). The biggest enemy of evangelism, from about 300AD to present, has been hatred expressed by people who claim to follow Jesus.

Pray for your in-laws. You never know when the Holy Spirit will grip a heart and make a person see as Jesus says. I am praying the Holy Spirit will do that to me today.

- Rob

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