Recently, I have been disturbed by the growing number of Evangelicals who are lessening their support for the nation of Israel. It seems that the catalyst for this shift in support is a growing awareness of the plight of Palestinian Christians. As I have studied this movement, I have discovered that some of its leaders have strong connections with well-known institutions in the Evangelical community. These connections have provided a level of legitimacy that is surprising. While I don’t doubt their motives, I do question their wisdom. Let me say, as a Christian I am concerned about the ill treatment of my fellow believers around the world. However, it is my opinion that the plight of the Palestinian Christians is being manipulated in order to undermine American Evangelical support for the nation of Israel.
Much of the controversy surrounds the region of Israel know as the West Bank. This section of land contains the town of Bethlehem. Because of an increase in terror attacks originating from the West Bank, the Israeli government built a series of walls and set up checkpoints in order to curtail this terroristic activity. These security measures have drastically altered life for the Palestinians in the affected area.
However, these measures were deemed necessary because of the impact of the ill-fated Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. This 1993 agreement brokered by the Clinton Administration gave the Palestinian Authority a measure of self-rule in the West Bank. Since this time, the number of Arab Christians in places like Bethlehem have dramatically decreased.
By contrast, the number of Christian Arabs in the part of Israel governed by the state of Israel has steadily increased. So, it is evident that the dynamic created by the Palestinian Authority has created a security threat to Israel and a hardship for the Palestinian people. This development is part of the overall complicated religious and geopolitical situation in the Middle East.
As life in the West Bank has deteriorated, a group of American Evangelicals has stepped forward to advocate for the cause of the Palestinian Christians. In their eyes, the measures taken by the Israeli government have brought unnecessary hardship for the Palestinian people in general and the Palestinian Christians in particular. They seek a measure of social justice for the oppressed Palestinian people.
These Evangelicals do not believe that the Jews have a special claim from God regarding the land. For various theological reasons, some Christians believe that Israel is no longer special to God. That time of favor has passed. The church has replaced Israel and the Jews are to be treated as any other group or nation.
While I do believe that the Jews have missed out on God’s plan of salvation because of their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, I also believe that God is not finished with the them. In spite of their unbelief, God has positioned them as a key player in the end times.
Biblical history tells us that the Jews conquered the land of Canaan on the heels of four hundred years of Egyptian slavery. This conquest of the land involved such miracles as walking across the Jordan River on dry ground, the walls of Jericho crumbling due to the sound of trumpets and shouting, and the sun standing still so that the Jews would have time to defeat their enemy. Indeed, God gave the land to the Jews during the days of Joshua because of the promise He made to their forefather Abraham.
Centuries earlier, God said to Abraham, “Get out of your country, from your family and your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” (Genesis 12:1-3). Generations later, as the Jews were preparing to enter the Promised land, they were told by Moses that their longevity in the land was predicated upon their obedience to God. If they proved to be unfaithful to God then He would dispossess them of the land.
As time progressed, the Jews experienced defeat and exile at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. In spite of being dispossessed of the land, God allowed a pagan Persian king, Cyrus, to issue a decree to allow the Jews to return in 539 B.C. The road to rebuilding their nation was long and full of difficulties but with the courage and expertise of such men as Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, they were eventually able to reconstitute themselves as a nation. However, hard days were ahead of them. Their location as the land bridge between Africa, Europe and Asia made their land too valuable for world powers to ignore. Thus, the Jews were subsequently conquered by the Greeks and the Romans. However, the Jews were never content to go quietly into the night. They made life difficult for the victors.
In 70 A.D. the Romans were tired of dealing with the defiant Jewish nation and in an act of extreme brutality, the Roman general Titus completely destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including its Temple, along with hundreds of thousands of Jews. Thus, the Jewish people were once again expelled from the land. For the next 1,900 years they would live harrowing existences.
At times, they were expelled from such nations as England, France and Spain. They would also experience hardships in places such as the Russian empire. Some would even blame the Jews for the bubonic plague. It seemed that the Jews were the scapegoat for all that was wrong in the world. However, Scripture predicted this kind of treatment.
Deuteronomy 28:64-67 says, “Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.”
It would be hard for anyone to say that the Jews have not been a persecuted people. However, the Bible also says that God would bring the Jews back to the land promised to Abraham in the end times.
Here is what God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel: ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 11:17).
Furthermore, Jesus speaks of Israel being in the land in the last days when he speaks of the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15. Additionally, many Bible scholars interpret the words of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Daniel as referencing a covenant that Israel will make with the Anti-Christ during the time of the Great Tribulation (Isaiah 28:18 and Daniel 9:27). For these events to take place, Israel has to once again be a nation in the land that was given to Abraham.
The events that led to the return of the Jews to Palestine after almost 1,900 years of absence are truly remarkable. It took two world wars, a holocaust that killed six million Jews and a once in a lifetime vote by the United Nations for Israel to be given the international legitimacy to reconstitute as a nation. Once they declared themselves to be the state of Israel, they were immediately attacked by the surrounding nations, yet they somehow survived. They managed to overcome impossible odds again in 1967 and 1973. When you read the accounts of the wars Israel has fought since its’ founding in 1948, it is easy to see why many view their very existence as an act of God.
Just think about it. Jews comprise only 0.2% of the world’s population. That means that there are only 14 million Jews in the world and of that number only 6 million Jews live in Israel. Yet, Jews have won over twenty percent of Nobel Peace Prizes.
Their influence in business and media far surpasses their percentage of the population. The nation of Israel itself is a modern marvel of technology and learning. It is incredible that such a tiny sliver of people has such an inordinate amount of influence.
On the flip side, it is disturbing that such a small group of people could garner as much hatred directed toward them as the Jewish people have over the centuries. For instance, no other nation has been condemned more by the United Nations than Israel. It seems that the Jewish people are overly influential and overly hated. Why?
Scripture says that God would bless the world through the Jewish people. Of course, the zenith of this blessing is the salvation provided by Jesus on the cross. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Even though the Jewish people have rejected Jesus as the Messiah, they still have a purpose in God’s plan. Just like the gentiles they must be saved through faith in Jesus. He is their Messiah. Scripture actually speaks of Israel coming to faith before the end of time.
You see, God does have a timetable and He does move history along according to His purpose. If you look at the Jewish people, it appears that they are a part of that plan.
So, when some Evangelicals start to lessen their support for the nation of Israel, I get concerned. Israel has very few friends in this world. Of those friends, Evangelicals have been the most consistent and of those nations, America has stood the firmest.
When we approach the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians, we need to keep in mind the big picture. Scripture predicted that the Jews would return to the land given to Abraham during the last days. The very presence of a Jewish state occupying the land that God promised Abraham nearly 4,000 years ago is truly remarkable. Just because the Jews have been given the land by God does not mean they have carte blanche to act any way they desire. Remember, God did remove them twice from the land. First by the Babylonians and then by the Romans.
However, I believe the Jews have been divinely repositioned in the Promised Land. Their presence is part of the overarching plan of God.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian Christians are in a very precarious part of the world. Much of the Middle East has been taken over by radical Islam. It would seem that whatever issues there are with the Jews pales in comparison with how Christians are treated in the Muslim world.
As fellow believers, we should send humanitarian help to the Palestinian Christians, but we should not join the chorus of those who ignore the obvious and blame Israel.