Last week saw a flurry of agitated activism by Gentile and Jewish believers in Jesus/Yeshua, both in Israel and in the nations.
At best, our behaviour has been cringeworthy. But what is more troubling than the surface noise we’ve made is the deep disconnect with Israel that lies beneath it.
Right now – when Israel’s God-placed government (Daniel 2:21; 4:17; Romans 13:1-2) is being assaulted from every side by God-opposing forces (consider the pile-on created by: the highly-organised, left-wing protest movement in Israel intent on destroying the coalition, which as a result of this anti-democratic uprising is struggling to introduce the reforms it was mandated by voters to bring about; the hostile, arrogant interference in Israel’s domestic policies by the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy; the gathering Iranian-Russian-Chinese storm clouds over Israel and the escalating terrorism targeting its Jews) – what do we find that Christians/Messianic Jews are so concerned about?
The answer: a toothless, repeatedly tabled, but never realised “anti-missionary bill,” which has had us raising our voices in anxious outrage and indignation, banging on the door of Israel’s prime minister and adding our noise to the uproar and pressure designed to bring this democratically-elected government to its knees.
We should be ashamed of ourselves. I am ashamed of us, although knowing the chasm that remains between us and the Jews, I am not surprised. By the way, I am talking about the PRO-Israel followers of Jesus here, not about the multitudes of our co-religionists entrapped in the heresy of replacement theology.
The disconnect could hardly be deeper.
It manifested in a different setting a few weeks ago, when a few “Israel-loving” groups in Australia – Christians who had previously invited me to share a perspective on Israel’s restoration, and had responded so positively – declared their unwillingness to host a representative of the Jewish communities in Samaria and Judea because “he doesn’t believe in Jesus.” Which, I’m sorry to say, means that the understanding I earlier sought to share with them did not take.
This disconnect has also exhibited repeatedly over the many years I have lived in Israel as, in my hearing, Messianic Jews and Christian Arabs have criticised Christian support for national Israel, for what they call “unbelieving Israel,” and insisted that we should only, or at least primarily, be concerned for the “Body of Yeshua” in the Land.
What Bible, I am left wondering, do these people read? Or how is it that so many completely miss what it says: about the centrality – to God’s redemption plan for mankind – of the physical and spiritual restoration of national Israel; about the shared future destiny of Jews and Christians; about the fact that we have one common Enemy; and this, most basic discipleship reality, the cost of following Jesus?
On the last point, there have been, and in many parts of the world still are, Christians willing to undergo criminalisation and imprisonment, and to die for their faith, or at least are being murdered without renouncing Jesus. (Consider Pakistan, Egypt, China, parts of the Middle East and in several nations that have been overrun by Islam.)
Persecution is part of the package. Have we forgotten that?
In Jesus’ own words:
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12, emphasis added)
Furthermore, historical record shows that “the Church” (true believers, not traditional or nominal Christians) has always shone brightest and been at its best, its most Christ-like, under persecution.
And on top of all this, shouldn’t we Christians be fully ready to comprehend the Jews’ hostility towards proselytising? After all, doesn’t the responsibility for their detestation of it lie squarely at our door?
Again, I find it sad, and rather strange, that we Christians/Messianics are so ready to react defensively to something that offends our sensibilities/confronts us, or makes living out our faith more challenging.
If we have any inkling of the painful price the Jews have paid for being God’s “Chosen People,” should we not be moved with compassion, like Jesus was, rather than indignation?
Maybe we, followers of Jesus would be less stuck in our traditional Christian ways if we truly comprehended God’s workings with the nation of Israel, and what Paul means when, in regard to this “mystery,” he explains:
“For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:30-32, emphasis added)
An impression made over three decades of living in and having my focus centred on Israel, is that most of the Israel-aligned Christian crowd – if I may describe us in this way – are watching this nation almost as if we were an audience. A supportive audience; an applauding, cheering-on audience, excited by what God is doing with the restoration of Israel; interceding for it; wanting to ‘fast and pray for the peace of Jerusalem,’ and so on, but all the time as observers – as if we’re sitting in a big theatre and looking at it.
Where we are not, is we are not yet where Ruth was when she took hold of Naomi, clinging to her and vowing that nothing but death would separate her from her thrice-bereaved mother-in-law – who felt, as the Jews do, that “the Almighty had dealt [her] bitter blows.”
And we are so far from that place where God describes how “ten men from all the gentiles will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:23)
There’s still an us-and-them approach. And this very much affects the outlook we have for Israel’s future and for ours – as if the two destinies are different which, Biblically, they clearly are not.
I think our expectation is that the Jew should take hold of us, accept Jesus, and ask if he can go with us and join our church. Indeed, our misconceptions are many.
A few weeks ago, I posted on a social media app the following hypothetical question to professing Bible-believers:
“If Israel was destroyed tomorrow – or next month or next year – what would happen to your faith?”
Most of my respondents indicated that such a catastrophe, while horrendous, tragic beyond words, etc., would not majorly impact their Christian faith. “Our faith is in Jesus, not in Israel,” some insisted, as if that was being questioned, which, of course, it was not.
There were, in fact, not many responses, and I by no means claim to have a following worth that name, but numerous such building blocks of disclosable moments over all my years of interacting with Western Evangelical Christians persuades me that this is a tragic truth:
For the vast, vast majority of pro-Israel believers, the promises God made to Israel are irrelevant to their faith. If Israel were destroyed in a nuclear war on a Saturday, most church-going people would be in the pews the following Sunday.
Not me – I would not be in church, and my Bible would be shredded.
And yet, and this is precisely my point: for so many of us, Jesus is disconnected from Israel. The fact that God purposed Him to be born into a specific nation and in a certain land fails to register significance.
Has the lie of replacement theology permeated even those of us who repudiate it? If, as it should be, the bedrock of our faith is in God Who keeps His Word, a God Who will never go back on His covenants, never break His promises – then why is the centrality of Israel off our radar?
Imagine, if you will, the impact on the lives and faith of multitudes of professing, pro-Israel believers if we turned that around/turned replacement theology on its head and truly understood that God’s promises to Israel all still stand; that the return of the Jews to their land, and the return of His land to His people, are in accordance with His will and with His plan – for Israel and, thereby, for us?
Imagine how impervious we would be to the lies of those who hate Israel – the UN, the media, our politicians, Islam, all the other manifestations of Satan’s hatred against all who love the Lord God of Israel, and His King. How ready we would be to stand with the Jews against the Israel-hating world!
Imagine how we would stand, in our nations, “on God’s side,” for His Israel.
After 2,000 years of a Christianity that has demonstrated so much Jew-hatred, imagine how Jews would see us if we aligned ourselves fully with their nation and proclaimed to them our complete faith in THEIR God!
Then we truly would be living out Zechariah 8:23 as the Lord intends.
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