While meditating of late on the blessings of our Jewish roots, I noticed that the Labour Left have learnt nothing from the party’s antisemitism scandal which sent their fortunes plummeting.
Sir Keir Starmer still has his work cut out in trying to root out the cancer threatening their future. And he will not have been helped by a conference motion condemning Israel for the ‘crime of apartheid’ and their ‘militarised violence’ in policing a Palestinian riot.
The motion, which passed by a show of hands, coincided with the return to Labour of former MP Louise Ellman, who quit the party over antisemitism in 2019. Demonising the Jewish state will not win back the trust of the Jewish community, she said.
More than that, I suggest, the increasing influence of left-wing politics is driving yet another nail in the coffin of our great culture, for the nation that will not serve Israel will perish, according to God’s Word (Isa 60:12). In terms of both church and state, our overall attitude on this matter leaves much to be desired.
Reflecting back on hazy days in July, I remember gazing with delight at the stunning clematis climbing up against a corner wall of our little back garden. How amazing that its mauve blooms were proudly flourishing despite the sizzling hot weather. This was because it had forged deep roots.
In these days of increasing pressure on believers, we need to dig deep and put down strong roots if we are to ensure a fruitful Christian life. Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes (or cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1f)
If you want fruit in your life, you need to have root. There has been an explosion of interest in ancestry of late, and I have a great interest in my own – my Jewish ancestors survived the Spanish Inquisition and my Gentile forbears were blessed by the Jews, essentially through the (Jewish) gospel.
But we keep pulling up godly roots that have made us flourish as a nation. Among them is the Sabbath, bringing abundance of provision as well as national security (Lev 25:18f), which we have exchanged for a 24/7 culture that wears us out and befuddles our brains.
The Coronavirus pandemic has surely been unleashed upon us for disobeying God’s commandments, including the Sabbath. Have we been forced to rest for these past 70 weeks or so?
Roots are in fact vital for communicating the gospel. For both Matthew and Luke use genealogies to prove the Messiahship of Jesus. Sixties pop star Helen Shapiro was amazed when she discovered how the New Testament began in this very Jewish way.
For Jesus is Jewish. Christianity is Jewish. All but one of the Bible’s 40 authors were Jewish. But because of tensions within a mixed Jewish/Gentile congregation in Rome, the Apostle Paul had to correct the notion that the Jewish people were no longer on God’s agenda, explaining that their overall blindness in rejecting their Messiah was actually for the benefit of Gentiles.
He further explained that we Gentiles have been grafted in to the olive tree that represents Israel and “now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root” (Rom 11:17). And he added: “You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” (v18) This is absolutely crucial to our understanding of the Christian faith. It is essentially Hebraic; we owe it all to our Judaic ancestry.
Tragically, the root of anti-Semitism lies with the early Church Fathers who progressively cut the church off from her Hebraic roots which effectively meant that the nourishing sap of the olive root was no longer coursing through its branches.
Not surprisingly, therefore, much of what passed for Christianity subsequently withered and died on the vine, though thankfully for us, God has always kept a remnant alive.
Many retreated to anti-Semitic dogma that branded Jews as ‘Christ-killers’ which denies the fundamental gospel principle that it was God’s will for the Messiah to be crucified (Isa 53:10, Dan 9:26); without it, we would still be in our sins. Failure to bless the Jews (Gen 12:3) and remain connected to our roots has been key to the decline of Methodism. But if our roots are in Christ, the Jewish Messiah, we are thus totally connected with Israel, who gave us the patriarchs, the prophets, the Law, the Bible and our Saviour.
And one day, as a nation, Jesus’ brothers in the flesh will recognise him as Messiah (Rom 11:26, Zech 12:10, Rev 1:7). Until then, we must ensure that our roots are regularly watered by the word of God so that we too can flourish and be fruitful – even in the heat of the day in a world that has forsaken God and is rising up against his ancient people.
If you love Jesus, you will love the Jews. We are rooted to them and their destiny should also be our concern. The gospel too is for them – “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Rom 1:16). We are a wild olive shoot grafted in to the natural olive tree, and sharing its nourishing sap, without which we will wither and die.
So let’s become fruit-bearing soul-winners, prioritising the Jews while also reaching the nations for Jesus! For Jesus, the King of the Jews, is coming again – and soon – when every knee will bow before him.
Attested as King of the Jews by the Wise Men from the East at his birth, and by the Romans from the West at his death, he is both the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5).
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.