Can Israel Become an Idol?

by Arthur Schwartzman

Even a good thing like loving the Jewish state can stand between us and God’s will

| Topics: MESSIANIC JEWS, Christian Zionists
Has Israel become an idol for Christians?
Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Idolatry is a problem. As believers, we should know this very well. And although in the Western world we don’t literally bow down to statues made of clay or iron, we all too often catch ourselves worshipping less blatant idols, like money, our political party or even family. Can a certain hobby or interest become so consuming that we abandon our spiritual discipline? Moreover, can ministry, something that we do unto the Lord, become an idol to us? I believe so.

Israel too can become an idol in the heart of the believer, and I wish to be very careful when I say this – our love for the Jewish state can be that object of false worship. What do I mean by that? A quick disclaimer: I love Israel; I pray for Israel; and I wish to see my brothers and sisters come to know the Messiah as I do. I am amazed to see the tremendous support from Christians all over the world for us, the Israeli people, and the Zionist endeavor. I find, however, certain points that I believe need to be addressed.

Like Replacement Theology, which casts national Israel to the sidelines of our prayerful concerns, over-idolizing Israel can cause problems too. Let’s start with something that may seem obvious, but might escape us when we’re actually thinking about it – Israel makes mistakes. While God’s watchful gaze remains over the people of Israel, the State of Israel is a human institution that falls in the wrong much of the time. We may read a controversial piece in the news and automatically side with Israel, but keep in mind that even our elected policymakers fall short. For example, we tend not to conflate the fact that Tel-Aviv, the symbol of Zionist financial success and achievement, is also the gay capital of the world, but we should. Abortions are also legal in Israel, government subsidized, easily accessible and not in the public arena of debate whatsoever.

Political alignment is another category we can err on. There is a consensus overseas that Israel’s right and left wings stand for identical values and policies as their counterparts in the UK, US and Canada. But that’s a gross oversimplification. There are many variables that go into the political equation of our Middle-Eastern oasis. Believers living in the Land have varying opinions on different matters regarding politics and voting. Not all vote Likud, what some incorrectly say is the GOP’s equivalent in Israel. Similarly, not all support Bibi, and not many vote with settlement-building in mind, not by a long shot. Many Messianic Jews here care for the legalization of civil marriages, loosening the Rabbinate’s monopoly, and asserting their religious freedoms as a minority in Israel… all of which are promises given by centrist and leftist parties. Many abstain from voting altogether.

Another issue that I see is that Palestinians have been neglected in our prayer life whenever we pray for Israel. We should take into account that amongst the Palestinians there are strong believers who love the Lord, and although we may differ greatly in our opinions and even theology, it doesn’t change the fact that we share the essentials of the faith. Forgetfulness is one thing, but I’ve unfortunately heard many racist remarks from Christians directed toward our Arab neighbors and fellow citizens. There is enough tension in Israeli society as it is; let us be the voices that diffuse that discourse. Christ has successfully shown that he can crush the hateful hearts of men, both Jew and Arab, and reconcile them to Himself. I would urge you to pray for the Palestinians. Be a bridge, not a wall.

Finally, there’s the issue of Jewish supremacy. I am saddened by the number of believers who hold to the notion that the Jews are spiritual giants among the Gentile spiritual grasshoppers. Likewise, there are Jews who enjoy the crown they have been given and see themselves as if they’re a step ahead of their brothers and sisters in the Lord. “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2). I wish more people would see this plain scriptural truth, as I am sure it may dispel some preconceived notions about Israel. At the same time, I would caution those who place the Jew upon a pedestal, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him…” (Romans 9:12). Pray for Israel, bless Israel, share the Gospel with Israel as equals, as co-heirs of the promises of God.

I thank the reader for your patience, and I hope you appreciate my candor. As a Jewish believer living in the Land, nothing warms my heart more than seeing the nations parading through the streets of Jerusalem, waving Israeli flags on Sukkot.

In the beginning of the article, I mentioned that a good thing may become an idol to us and stand between us and God’s will. To the question the disciples asked of Yeshua right before his departure:

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He answered:

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Lord shifts the focus of His disciples from the nation of Israel itself to God’s purposes and plans through Israel.


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