In the first two installments of this series we looked at some of the history of the Conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. We also considered the current condition of Palestinians who are in Gaza and the West Bank. Those and this post are aiming to consider not whether Israel is always right or wrong, not whether the Palestinian people are completely without fault. I accept there is fault on all sides.
The purpose in this exercise is to consider whether Bible believers must support any action taken by the government of Israel. To put it in the form of a question, must followers of Christ affirm every political or military action taken by national Israel? Or, can the actions of Israel be critiqued biblically just like every other geo-political entity on Earth, including the United States?
The uniqueness of Israel throughout biblical history can hardly be overstated. Birthed from the beyond-her-prime-wife of a former pagan, Abram (then, Abraham), the descendants of Jacob (then, Israel) were the apple of God’s eye. Chosen to be a light to the nations and form the cultural cradle for the Savior of the world, God’s people–His wife–were unique among all ancient people.
With that privilege was a responsibility they often shirked in favor of more attractive, available, temporal gods, even those “requiring” acts of adherence the true God expressly forbade. A cycle of obedience, sin, enslavement and deliverance became the title page, closing comments and every chapter of the chosen nation. This lasted for centuries.
The New Testament narrative opens with Israel enduring the occupation of a foreign army. That idea about carrying a cloak two miles after being asked to carry it only one? It was related to the occupying Roman army. That centurion at the foot of the cross? A member of the occupying Roman army. Even Jesus crucifixion needed the approval of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. Israel had a measure of freedom, but the Jews were not free people.
Enter the Messiah, meek and lowly and riding on a donkey. Instead of a chariot, a four legged beast of burden. Rather than a cannonade, followers waved palm branches. Replacing the shout of the conqueror, we hear, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord!” Substituted for a victory over Rome was a mysterious kingdom “not of this world.”
There was nothing humanly militaristic about the coming of Christ. It was completely upside down from the expectation of His day.
When His disciples tried to pin Him down on Israel’s return to power, He shrugged off their concerns insisting that God knew, it was in His control and that was all that mattered. Then He went back to heaven and we have been awaiting His return ever since.
Before Jesus left, however, He pulled off a pretty major celestial coup de tat. Eternal, you could say. He destroyed death, and him who had previously held the power of death–Satan–dishing him a mortal blow, from the cross no less. Jesus most significant point of defeat was only apparent defeat. Turns out it was actual victory over sin, death and hell. Immediate, progressive and ultimate.
By this victory Jesus instituted a different group, called the church. His words were that the church would be of His own construction, empowered by His Spirit, commissioned to carry the gospel to all nations. In other words, the church–which would be transnational, transcultural, transgenerational, and timeless–would assume the assignment that once belonged to national Israel. An assignment they finally and thoroughly rejected with the cry, “Let the blood of this man be on us and our children!”
All the descriptions bestowed upon Israel in the Old Testament–chosen, washed, righteous, holy–were bestowed upon Christ’s followers in the New Testament. Additionally, the book of Hebrews makes it clear the priesthood unique to Old Testament Israel (still functioning at the time of Christ) was inferior to the new priesthood Jesus Himself introduced and headed. This was and is a priesthood inclusive of all believers.
I do not plan to argue the Replacement view of Israel and the church. These thoughts are being introduced primarily to demonstrate our dominant, accepted view is not the only biblical way of viewing Israel’s role in modern times.
For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume pre-tribulation, pre-mill, dispensational theology is correct. Let’s assume the church will be raptured at some point and God’s gospel spreading work will return to national Israel.
Would this mean the current government of Israel is beyond criticism and critique? I submit it does not.
If Christ followers do not demand from Israel the same justice we demand for Israel, we are being hypocritical. This hypocrisy will not only be tragic it will be noticeable. We will appear double-minded and unstable because we will be double-minded and unstable. The church does not receive its instruction from the descendants of Abraham; she receives instruction from the God of Abraham.
The history of the Old Testament is a chronicle of the critique and rebuke of Israel’s sinful behavior. Why should we believe this to have changed in an era when Israel has rejected her Messiah? The church is to be the voice of God’s kingdom, the light of truth to the world! Shall we hush our mouths from witness to His truth and justice simply because Israel would be rebuked?
Such biblically warranted correction is not bruising the apple of God’s eye; if anything, it is polishing it.