Friday, May 27, 2011

Standing with Israel

No other land in the world is more contested than Israel. Have you ever wondered why this is? I am convinced the tension concerning this land is more spiritual in nature than anything else. The church is not Israel, nor is God done with His chosen people. I believe that every Christian should stand with Israel for a number of reasons.

The apostles loved Israel and so should we. Listen to the pain and passion of the Apostle Paul as he penned these words, "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of by brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 9:1-5). Did you catch that? He basically says he would be willing to go to hell if his countrymen would trust in Christ for salvation. Could you say that? I don't think I could. If you are like I was, you are thinking, "So what, he was an Israeli and this doesn't mean I should feel the same way towards Israel." Okay, that's fair, let's look at some other passages in the Bible.

The nations will be judged in relation to their treatment of Israel. One major passage is Genesis 12:1-3. It is here that God promises Abram (later to be called Abraham) a great nation that would become Israel. A significant promise is made in the third verse when God tells Abram, "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse." This theme of blessing and cursing in relation to the treatment of Israel seems to unfold throughout the Old Testament. I noticed this sharply as I studied through Isaiah last year. It seems there are a bunch of sections in Isaiah that echo this truth, but Isaiah 41:8-16 stands out in a major way. Here God essentially comforts Israel with a promise of hope and promises destruction to those who oppose her. I believe God has blessed the United States partially because of our historical support of Israel and think we should be concerned if this support is withdrawn.

Christianity's Jewish Roots. Romans 9-11 speaks of Israel in rough terms of past, present, and future respectfully. I encourage you to study these chapters. Paul develops the picture of Israel and the church through an illustration of an olive tree that has branches grafted in. Here is a picture to of such a tree. Notice how thick the trunk is in relation to the top branches. Romans 11:17-18 states, " But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you." Christianity is not separate from Judaism, but rather the roots of Christianity are completely Jewish. If we divorce Christianity and Judaism, we fail to understand Christianity with clarity.

Pray for peace in Israel. The psalmist commands, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you" (Ps. 122:6). Last September I was blessed with a trip to Israel. It was amazing. I think every Christian should go to Israel to discover the land of the Bible. You will be changed. But when you go, go with the intention of meeting the people and experiencing the culture. Talk with Israeli's about their land and culture. This is what I did and I was tremendously blessed.

I gained so much from my trip, but two things struck my in a new way. The first was the longing for peace by the people of Israel. On evening, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, I had a memorable discussion with a former member of the IDF Special Forces. He was about my age with kids about the age of my kids. I felt as though I were hanging out with one of my SEAL buddies talking about life and taking in the beautiful sunset over the lake. This man shared with me how he longed for peace in a way that people who live in peace will never understand. He pointed out to me that Israel has never attacked without provocation--only in self defense. He hoped that his sons would see lasting peace, but realized that his sons would serve as he did and this gave his wife much anxiety.

On the last day of our trip, a local Israeli elementary school, just east of the Gaza Strip, wanted to thank us (the organization I was on tour with--the ICEJ) who had recently donated a significant gift. I was expecting to see a new playground, or school house, or freshly painted walls, or something along these lines. Boy was I surprised. What was the gift? A new bomb shelter pictured bellow. Crazy. This is life in Israel. We must pray for peace there. The only lasting solution is for God to intervene. I will close with the words of an Israeli Christian man who shared his thoughts about the political attempts for peace in Israel. He said, "They are trying to solve spiritual problems through political means. It will never work." Let us pray for peace in Israel.

No comments: