A battle over Israel is raging in South Africa – both in political and theological terms. And the only reason it’s not happening in the UK too is because we haven’t really engaged with the issues here.
I believe we should, because they amount to the question of who is on the Lord’s side. In South Africa we have the South African Council of Churches, Anglicans and Methodists kicking up a storm over Israel’s proposals for ‘annexing’ parts of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
Standing almost alone among his senior colleagues on the side of the Jewish state, meanwhile, is Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng (supported by many thousands of Christians who love Israel) who has infuriated the status quo by saying he prays for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122.6) in line with his Christian faith.
Contributing to a Jerusalem Post webinar, he lamented his government’s “lopsided attitude” towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As a believing Christian, he can surely do none other than back the right of the chosen people to the land long promised to them by God.
It boils down to this: if you believe in the absolute authority of God’s Word, the Jewish presence in the Holy Land is a given (e.g. Gen 15.18f, Gen 17.8). They also have an ‘earthly’ legal entitlement agreed by the international powers at San Remo, Italy, in 1920 – a treaty so far ignored by national leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who, in spite of his Zionist credentials, is opposed to the ‘annexation’ because it is a “violation of international law” and would set back Israel’s improving relations with the Arab world.
Boris should perhaps consider how his hero Winston Churchill might have handled this situation. The war-time leader warned his parliamentary colleagues of the dangers of German re-armament, but they took no notice. Short-term conflict at that stage might well have saved 50 million lives.
In the Middle East, long-term peace can only be achieved by following the Scriptural signposts leading to a kingdom ruled by the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ. The future there – and everywhere – is in his hands.
Yet Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab-majority Joint List faction of Israel’s Knesset (parliament), has participated in a press conference in which Hamas and Fatah leaders pledged to put their differences aside in order to fight Israel together over the sovereignty issue – effectively giving assent to a declaration of war against the very nation whose people he represents in parliament. This would surely amount to treason elsewhere, but super-tolerant Israel, accused of apartheid by its enemies, stoically puts up with it.
Chief Justice Mogoeng is in an unenviable position as a government appointee but, faced with the choice of following God or man, like the apostles of the early church, he is choosing the hard, narrow road directed by his conscience. Boris, by contrast, is taking the wide road that will not ruffle too many international feathers while ignoring the reality of Israel’s double entitlement (earthly and heavenly) to all the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
Meanwhile the church here is largely silent, leaving it to para-church organisations like Christian Friends of Israel to take on the role foreshadowed by the young David in the battle against the Philistines fought 3,000 years ago in the Valley of Elah, near Jerusalem.
The Philistines, who lived on the coastal plain of Gaza, were violently opposed to Israeli presence in the land, blocking up the wells dug by Abraham in a bid to deny life-giving water to God’s people. Modern Philistines adopt similar tactics as they attempt to squeeze the life out of the nation, with rockets regularly fired from terrorist-held Gaza backed up by verbal grenades from around the world.
So-called Christians have betrayed the God they purport to follow by joining the Philistine camp opposed to Israel’s presence in the land. And a key reason for such ‘Christian’ disengagement from Israel is Replacement Theology, the idea that the church has replaced Israel in God’s eternal purposes and affections, which amounts to accusing God of betraying his people by breaking his covenant with them.
Having sworn “everlasting love” for them (Jer 31.3), has he changed his mind? And what sort of security does that give Christians who have placed their hope in a God who never changes, who said that only if the sun stops shining “will the descendants of Israel ever ease to be a nation before me”? (Jer 31.35-37) Israel is still “the apple of his eye” (Zech 2.8).
As the Moabite Ruth accompanied her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel, many Gentile Christians have been helping Jewish people make Aliyah to their ancient homeland from every corner of the globe. And just as Orpah, Naomi’s other Gentile daughter-in-law, chose to return to her pagan gods, so it seems many Christians have deserted the God of Israel since the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948.
British Christians have so far largely refused to engage with the issue, choosing instead to sit on the fence. By so doing they are putting off the day of reckoning, which may well be closer than we think, when God judges the nations for how they have treated Israel – particularly by dividing their land (Joel 3.2).
In the aforementioned Valley of Elah, the Israelites suffered 40 days of intimidation by the Philistines, led by their formidable-looking giant Goliath, until a young man with total trust in the Lord brought him down with a single sling shot.
The United Nations, which repeatedly issues resolutions condemning Israel while ignoring atrocities in other parts of the world, is something of a modern equivalent to the cardboard cut-out figure of Goliath. It will not stand against the God of Israel – and neither will those who align themselves with it.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.