I Stand With Israel (But Not Exactly the One You’re Thinking Of)

The relationship between the United States and Israel is well documented. The tiny middle-eastern nation is known as our closest ally in the region. Maybe in all the world.

There is no doubt about it — the political ties are significant. We (America) were instrumental as a country in Israel receiving statehood in 1948. It was then-President Harry Truman who said,”Today, not tomorrow, we must do all that is humanly possible to provide a haven for all those who can be grasped from the hands of Nazi butchers. Free lands must be opened to them.” 

(For the record, I agree with that sentiment entirely.)

The American decision to not significantly fund Israel during the Six Day War in 1967 was something of a mysterious aberration. To this day, Israel remains the beneficiary of a disproportionate amount of all the foreign military aid we give to other countries — over $3 billion annually and around $100 billion in the history of the relationship.

That’s about one-fifth of all aid we give to all other countries.

So basically, we’re really, really close as countries. It hasn’t always been that way, but it has been that way my entire lifetime, and likely is true for the lifetimes of most folks reading this. The intriguing question is — why?

There may be political reasons, strategic reasons, and economic reasons. I’m not trying to debate those. Nations ally themselves with other nations for a wide variety of reasons. I’m not smart enough to explain or critique those geopolitical factors. What I would maintain, and what I do feel qualified to talk about, is the fact that many Americans view this partnership of nations as essential because of two enormous theological misunderstandings: that the Jewish state is filled with God’s chosen people and that when Jesus returns he will rule in Jerusalem as King.

 

Israel-Flag

(Photo Credit)

They are God’s Chosen People

Let’s set aside for a moment that there are many non-Jewish Arabs living within Israel’s borders and assume everyone was, in fact, Jewish. The thinking goes that the Old Testament declares Israel as God’s chosen people. They are special. Even in the New Testament, it seems like the Jews hold a special place in God’s heart. Strong supporters of the state of Israel cite Romans 11 as proof of this. I’ll admit, Romans 11 is a complex chapter. I would also assert that you must read Romans 9 and 10 also, which clearly state that while Israel is special to God, that does not mean Israel is infallible as a country.

And the question persists: Who is Israel, anyway?

Remember the words to that old children’s song we sang in church growing up, Father Abraham? 

Father Abraham,

Had many sons…

And many sons had Father Abraham.

And I am one of them, and so are you.

So let’s just praise the Lord!

And then we would go about the business of waving around various extremities. It was like a Christian version of The Hokey Pokey, except contained therein was the truest, deepest, most robust theology we all seemed to have forgotten —

We, believers in Christ, are Israel. (Romans 4:16, Romans 9:8)

Christians. The Church. Grafted in not by the rite of circumcision or Jewish heritage, but by faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Does Paul want all of Israel (the Jewish people) to be saved? Of course! Those are his people! But it is faith in Christ alone that makes us God’s people. Let me be clear:

Living on a piece of land called Israel is not what makes you God’s chosen people. Surrendering your life to Jesus does.

Jesus Will Reign in Jerusalem for 1000 Years

A second reason many believe we should make nice with the nation of Israel is because they believe when Jesus comes back he’s going to set up shop as King in Jerusalem. If that’s going to happen, we (America) would do well to be on Israel’s good side when it does. This thought process originates in Revelation 20, but the biblical evidence for a literal one thousand year reign is (I would argue) scant and ignores other Scriptural assertions, including:

  • Jesus said repeatedly that his Kingdom was not of this world
  • When folks attempted to make him King, he resisted
  • The Jewish idea that the Messiah would reign on a physical throne is ancient, but nowhere in the Bible are we led to believe this is the point of Jesus coming — the first time or the second time

The fact that we revere Christ’s power and want to be allied with the nation where he will supposedly reign is wise if, in fact, Jesus is going to return and sit on a throne in Jerusalem somewhere. But we’re placing a huge political bet on a theological conviction that is heavily debated in theological circles.

The Zionist thought that has everyone linking arms with the state of Israel may well be good geopolitics. It might have motivations that are strategically sound. It may prove useful as the world continues to unravel. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand with the state of Israel. We may have good reasons as a nation to do so. If you want to stand with Israel (the state of), that’s all well and good. I’m not interested in that debate, really. I’m fine either way. All I’m suggesting is that we don’t let our opinion on Israel be driven by theology that isn’t exactly written in stone.

I would further encourage all disciples to stand unswervingly with the Israel to which we do most definitely belong. Its boundaries cannot be drawn, re-drawn, or undrawn. No regional conflict can usurp it’s throne. Its King reigns forever already. The resurrection of Jesus defeated all His foes once and for all, and as a citizen in His Kingdom I have no other Kingdom to fear. Father Abraham did have many sons. I am one of them.

So are you.

Let’s just praise the Lord.

One comment

  1. Michael DeFazio taught this last fall in the “What is the Church?” class at Christ’s Church of Oronogo. Good words.

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