Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Israel, The Apple Of God's Eye, In Crisis

Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem

Psalm 122:6, from which the title of this post is taken, is a scriptural command, not a suggestion, or request, from God.  Why, because Israel is the apple of God’s eye. (Zech.2:8) 

With Israel is in the midst of the latest aspect of an ongoing and escalating crisis that will ultimately impact the entire world, what should be our response?

First, and foremost, we are commanded to pray for Israel and the Jewish people. Beyond that, 2Tim2:15 admonishes us to “study to show [ourselves] approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” in every area of our Christian walk.

Sadly, many in the Body of Christ do not rightly divide the word of truth when it comes to Israel.  There are numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments that elucidate the importance of the Jewish people, and Israel, to God and why it is important for Believers to understand and come into agreement with God’s perspective. Perhaps the most succinct and clear explanation of the role and relationship of Believers to the Jewish people is found in Romans 9-11.  The Apostle Paul writes to gentile Believers in Rome, laying out God’s concept of how gentiles should view and behave toward their Jewish brethren.  Paul makes it clear that he desires their salvation (Rom. 10:1). That not all who claim to be a part of Israel, simply because they are descended from Abraham, are of Israel, but only those who are of the seed of Isaac, that is those who are not children of the flesh but of the promise (Rom.9:6-8). And that we gentiles must not assume God has turned His back on those whom He chose from before the foundation of the world to be the people through whom Messiah would come. (Rom. 11) Indeed, Paul goes so far as to warn gentiles that if they claim God has turned His back on those He foreknew would temporarily fall away, then what hope do any of us have? (Rom.11:21)  God makes an even more important point through the Apostle, telling the Church at Rome, and through them, us, that “if the casting away of [the Jewish people] becomes the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Italics mine.)

I don’t know how God could make His feelings toward true Israel any clearer than that. Yet, extreme and unscriptural doctrines abound in the Church regarding Israel and the Jewish people.  Some argue vehemently that God is finished with the Jewish people.  Others claim that Jews have their own path to salvation, without Jesus.  Still others demand that gentiles adopt Jewish behavior, mimic them, and come under the Law of Moses.  The list goes on and on.  Of course, false doctrines aren’t limited to attitudes about Israel and the Jews. There are enough of them in the Body of Christ to choke a horse. However, one of the important ways God judges us is by our attitude and behavior toward the Jewish people and Israel. (Gen.12:2-3, Rom.11:22-29) The prophet Zechariah tells us that in the last days, people from every nation will flock to Israel and seek the Lord in Jerusalem, because it will be clear that God is with the Jewish people in the midst of great turmoil and tribulation. (Zech.8:20-23)

The spirit of anti-Christ takes many forms, but one of the most pervasive, obvious, and heinous forms is that of anti-Semitism.  Many in the Church have a paternalistic attitude toward the Jewish people and Israel, are ignorant of the importance of God’s chosen people, or simply choose to believe the lie that God is finished with the Jews.  Another pervasive false doctrine is that the Church has “replaced” Israel.  Yet those who ardently embrace that lie ignore Scripture, or twist it for their own doctrinal purposes.  It’s clear that we gentile Believers are grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph.2:12), and that the temporary blindness of the Jewish people toward Jesus Christ as their true Messiah is ordained of God until “the fullness of the gentiles” is accomplished.  They are enemies of the gospel for our sake, but beloved of God for His sake. And we gentiles have obtained the mercy of God toward salvation because of their unbelief. (Rom.11:25-32)
We know that “He who watches over Israel “neither slumbers nor sleeps,” (Ps.121:4) and that He has promised and ordained that all of true Israel, those circumcised of the heart, shall be saved. (Rom.2:28-29, 11:26)  Our challenge is to stand firm in the midst of wickedness and offer collective voices of support to our Jewish brethren.  We are not commanded to proselytize them, but to love them as we love all those who have not yet come to the revelation of Jesus Christ as Messiah.

Since the early 1990’s I’ve made over a dozen trips to Israel. I’ve led both small and large groups on many of those occasions.  God has always been faithful to open wide doors of ministry to my Jewish brothers and sisters.  In almost every instance, conversations about Jesus have started, not because I purposed to “share the gospel with the lost,” or “convert” them, but rather because I displayed genuine respect and interest in Judaism.  Invariably, our conversations started out discussing the Old Testament and inevitably ended up with my sharing out of the New Testament.  Many times we agreed to disagree, but there were also many times when those discussions “provoked my Jewish friends to jealousy.” (Rom.11:11)

Beware anyone within the Faith, or without, who tells you God is finished with Israel and the Jewish people.  Be careful not to ignore God’s command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  Do not fall prey to the Father of Lies when he asserts through individuals that we must abandon the Jewish people, because they are not behaving as we think they should.  For over a hundred years there has been much political rhetoric regarding Israel’s right to exist as a nation, and a national people.  Know this: God has no interest in political rhetoric about Israel.  There will never be a political solution to the conflict between the Jewish people and those who have sought their extermination since the time of Abraham.  God cut covenant with the Jewish patriarch and promised this: I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice . . . (Gen.22:17-18)

There will be a resolution to the conflict, but it will not come from the hands of men.  There will also be a final accounting for all those who have sought the eradication of the Jewish people from off the face of the earth and those who have stood by them throughout history.  All of us must choose where we stand, who we believe, who we put our trust in, and how we are called to act toward Israel and the Jewish people.  Like everything else in our Christian walk, we are accountable to God for the choices we make about Israel and the Jewish people, and whether or not those choices glorify Him.

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