A Messianic Jewish friend of mine suggested to me last weekend that the world’s relationship to Israel is rather like the way we treat apples.
We gladly feast on the nourishing flesh produced by the fruit, but throw away the core, along with its all-important seed.
We gorge ourselves on everything good that has come from the Judeo-Christian civilization emanating from the land of Israel – the knowledge and wisdom of biblical truth that has enabled nations to flourish and prosper, its high-tech knowhow and, yes, even its fruit – but we despise and reject the God who brought it all about.
We had just heard a stirring talk on Purim, the upcoming feast celebrating the rescue of Jews in ancient Persia by Queen Esther, which the speaker, Nick Thompson, referred to as the high point of Jewish spirituality, even though it took place outside their land.
They had been exiled and robbed of everything but, when push came to shove, they still chose to follow God. Their enemy’s chief gripe was that ‘they do things differently; they’re not like us’ (Esther 3:8). Sound familiar?
For those who stand for Israel, now more than ever, the saying is still so true that we are called “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
The battle is heating up, in Britain as much as anywhere, where a Palestinian campaign group has used social media to call for the ousting of ‘Zionists’ from workplaces, describing them as anyone who supports Israel.
And despite the ousting of former leader Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party for his views on Israel, worrying vibrations of a similar nature continue to come from among its left-wingers.
The battle for what is godly is clearly also being played out in Israel with government ministers wishing to restore the nation’s biblical values written off as hot-headed fascists.
Tragically, Gentile Christians are dividing into similar camps, with the Church of England seemingly about to split asunder after agreeing to bless same-sex couples. In fact, the worldwide Anglican communion has already broken up over the issue with its Global South body, claiming to represent 75% of Anglicans, severing its connection with the mother church ‘for taking the path of false teaching.’
At stake in all these battles – whether here in the UK or the Middle East – is the authority of the Word of God. In both regions, there is far too much spiritual adultery and prostitution as our cultures encourage worship of any god but the true One – the God of Israel who has manifested himself in the flesh through his Son Yeshua, still largely “despised and rejected” (see Isaiah 53:3).
He is also “the stone the builders rejected” (Luke 20:17, Psalm 118:22) which has become the cornerstone. Indeed, through faithful men of valour, great institutions have been built on this foundation, one example being Britain’s Houses of Parliament, its floor inscribed (in Latin) with the words of Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.”
The psalm is attributed to King Solomon, who knew how to build magnificent edifices. But we are now prostituting ourselves to false gods.
I note that my fellow Yorkshireman Myles Coverdale (1488-1565) had to run the gauntlet of opposition from a coalition of English bishops after becoming the first person to translate the entire Bible into English.
“The very thought of the common people having access to the word of God produced a deadly hostility among the political and ecclesiastical authorities,” according to the writer of an article on the great man in the magazine Heroes of Faith.
In more recent times, the legendary missionary to Kolkata in India, Mark Buntain, was building a hospital for the poor when water kept filling the foundations. So he and his team prayed over a little Bible before placing it into the cement. The water miraculously stopped, and that hospital has since treated over two million needy patients, free of charge to some 40% of them. Now more than 700 churches trace their origins to the work of Mark and his wife Huldah.
The apple should also be seen in another Israeli context – and this one is truly biblical! More than once, the Jewish people are described in the Bible as ‘the apple of God’s eye’ (Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8), presumably because the iris of the eye, resembling an apple, is the most sensitive part of the body, which is why you blink at the slightest sign of danger.
In the same way, the Lord is acutely sensitive to attacks on his beloved people and woe betide those who lay a finger on them!
God may well have called you to the kingdom for such a time as this. As my friend Nick put it: “God uses ordinary people for extraordinary circumstances.”
Esther was a refugee. Other biblical examples are Anna and Simeon, who waited all their lives for their vital ministry role to be fulfilled. And then there was Ananias, called to pray for the newly converted Apostle Paul, healing him of his blindness and baptising him in the Holy Spirit.
“People are watching us, to see if we are true to our calling,” Nick challenged.
And Simeon’s prophecy over the infant Messiah is as appropriate today as it ever was, that he would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
God has clearly called us – both Jew and Gentile – for such a time as this.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; To the Jew First, A Nation Reborn, and King of the Jews, all available from Christian Publications International.
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