At the present time, there are hundreds of debates and ongoing discussions about the ongoing war in Israel. I grew up in a large Jewish community here in Columbus, Ohio. The mainline demolition that I was birthed in sat between two Orthodox Jewish synagogues. I attended countless Jewish holiday events, weddings, and numerous Bar Mitzvahs. My daily exposure to Jewish culture continued throughout my youth and into my college years At age 24, I had never before met Jewish people who believed in Jesus. I was invited by a friend to a messianic congregation led by a Jewish believer. For the first time, I heard the powerful and convicting message of salvation taught from the Book of Matthew. So here I was as a nominal Christian hearing the Gospel from a Jewish person who believed Jesus was the Messiah. I have also been in Jewish missions for a number of years. Since then I have done my best to educate myself as much as I can on the topic of Israel. Let’s start with a few issues:
#1: Christians Need to Know the History of the Conflict
Christians (and for that matter anyone else) are not supposed to be ignorant. You can watch Dennis Prager’s overview here.
#2: What About Christian Zionists?
As Michael Rydlenick points out, there are three serious misconceptions about Zionism. He says:
First, it is erroneously alleged that Zionism is a colonial movement and not a national one. Zionism was never about colonizing. Colonialism refers to the oppression and exploitation of an indigenous population. Zionism is primarily a national liberation movement that contends that Jewish people, like any other people of any other nation are entitled to a homeland. As second misconception is that Zionism is imperialistic and seeks to conquer Arab territory. If that were true, the people would have never returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for peace in 1979, or offered the return of the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for a full peace agreement. A third error about Zionism is that it is racist and hateful of Arabs. The United Nations, led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Arab states, passed a resolution in 1975 (repealed in 1991) claiming Zionism is “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Israel’s democracy society is evident in its one million Arab citizens who have more freedom than Arabs in any other Arab country. The Zionist state of Israel has been scrupulous in protecting the religious, civil, and political rights of all Christians and Muslims in the state. To identify Jewish self-determination exclusively as racist is in reality really anti-Semitic. American civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz rebuked those in the international community who have termed Zionism racist, arguing “A world that closed doors to Jews who sought escape from Hitler’s ovens lacks moral standing to complain about Israel’s giving preference to Jews.-Understanding the Israel- Arab Conflict: What The Headlines Haven’t Told You, pgs 62-63.
#3: John Piper
Recently, the Gospel Coalition had this article called on their site. In the article, it says:
Ten years ago John Piper, then pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, delivered a sermon from Romans 11:25–32 titled “Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.” In it, he offered seven principles concerning the ever-contentious issue of “the Land”:
I will go ahead and give my thoughts on each of these points. Piper says:
1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.
Response: I agree
2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.
Response: I agree
3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
Response: I agree but that still doesn’t nullify the covenant. Hence, if most of Israel is in unbelief right now, that doesn’t mean they no divine right to the land. I expand on this more as we read on.
4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.
Response: When Piper says his own people rejected him, this is quite vague.
He doesn’t really go into any detail about any of the covenants as he does in other points here. It is true that not all of Israel believed. Hence, there was a remnant who believed. One passage (even though Piper doesn’t mention it) that is misunderstood is the following:
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”-Matthew 21:43. Some have said that this teaches God divorced and judged unfaithful Israel (who had murdered the Messiah) and married a faithful bride: His Church. However, a more careful reading shows that the “you” of Matt 21:43 is identified in Matt 21:45 not as Israel or the Jewish people but as ‘the chief priests and the Pharisees,”—the temple authorities who confronted Jesus in Matt 21:23-27. The “people” referred to in Matt 21:43 is not the church in contrast to to the Jewish people, but the new leadership group that will replace the old.
Furthermore, Craig Keener notes that “nation” here probably recalls Ex 19:6 and strict Jewish groups that characterized themselves as “righteous remnants” within Israel (e.g.,Qumran) could also view themselves as heirs of the biblical covenant community. In this period “ethnos” applies to guilds, associations, social classes or other groups or even orders of priests: urban Greeks used the term for rural Greeks, the LXX for Gentiles, and Greeks for non Greeks. Matthew implies not rejection of Israel but of dependence on any specific group membership, be it synagogue or church (The Gospel f Matthew: A Social Rhetorical Commentary), pgs,515, 516.
Also, in Rom. 9:1-5: Paul wishes he was cut off or accursed from the Messiah so that his countrymen would know the Messiah. Paul explicitly affirms that the “covenants,” “temple service,” and “promises” still belong to Israel. This is in the present tense.
Also, despite Israel’s unbelief in Jesus, “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2). Israel remains God’s beloved chosen people “on account of the patriarchs” (Rom. 11:28). Paul also says God’s gifts and callings to Israel are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). Also, in Romans 11, the“riches” Gentiles are experiencing now during the state of Israel’s “stumbling” will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation (see Rom. 11:26). The 10 references to “Israel” in Romans 9-11 refer to ethnic/national Israel so the Israel who will be saved in Rom 11:26 must refer to ethnic/national Israel. Israel will experience a national restoration and salvation at some point in the future.There is no reason to think that “Israel” in Rom 9-11 is referring to “spiritual Israel” which is composed of Jews and Gentiles. The Church today is composed on believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Also, there is no use of “Israel” in the Gospels/Acts which does not refer to the Jewish people/nation, the Israel of the Jewish Scriptures. Israel will be grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles leads it to respond (Rom 11:11-12; 15, 30-32). Finally, as a Calvinist, does Piper think God can divorce Israel but not divorce his own children? It seems inconsistent.
4. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
Response: Whether Piper sees Israel as having divine right to the land will depend on his exegesis. Obviously, there are good Christians who disagree here. Exegetically speaking, I do think Israel has a divine right to the land. If you want, see this series of lectures with Craig Evans, Darrell Bock and others about the land and Israel. In the end, I am not opposed to a two state solution. But as long as Hamas is in the picture, that seems like an impossibility.
5. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.
Response: Once again, this is an exegetical issue. I don’t see any basis that within the Abrahamic Covenant, Gentiles receive the material blessings. Gentiles certainly receive spiritual blessings, and ultimately these were fulfilled though the one specific “seed” of Abraham—the Messiah.
7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ’s people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.
Response: Overall, I have no disagreement here.
#3: What is the solution to the conflict in Israel? Blessed are the Shalom Makers!
As a follower of Jesus, I would hope that no matter if you are a Zionist or a zealous pro Palestinian Christian (e.g., the Gary Burge crowd), you know the only hope for this situation is the Prince of Peace. I think this an excellent paper on the issue of biblical reconciliation. It is called PROCLAIMING THE PRINCE OF PEACE:MISSIOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF BIBLICAL RECONCILIATION by GALEN PETERSON. Here is an excerpt:
One of the names given to the Messiah prophetically in Isaiah 9:6 (MT 9:5) is “Prince of Peace.” The term affixes purpose regarding peace to the ministry of the Messiah and through His authority (John 4:34; 17:4; Rom 5:1). Jesus declared that the manner in which hebrings peace is distinct from that of humanity, saying in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; Mypeace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” It follows that all aspects related to peace will be shaped by this distinction. This paper seeks to establish the parameters associated with one peace-related dichotomy, namely that of reconciliation, and will show that reconciliation exists both as the world gives and as given by Jesus, and has relevance in the Holy Land.
Christians can go back and forth on this. But please remember we are called to Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6).