This season we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, marking the 56th birthday of the modern state. As persecuted Jews around the world flee to the homeland, Israel continues to grow. For the very first time in history, as many Jewish people live in the land of Israel as in the United States. If this trend continues, soon more Jewish people will be living in Israel than outside of Israel. Though many of us find this highly significant, a growing number of committed Christians fail to see the prophetic import of this movement. In fact, many see it as a mere demographic trend of minor political significance.
How can this be? For one thing, Biblebelieving Christians are increasingly sensitive to issues of God’s justice and our social responsibility. Violent images of terrorism and fighting between Arabs and Israelis are increasingly disturbing. Christians rightly feel a moral duty to care for those who are oppressed—and some wrongly polarize their opinion of who that might be. Many cite the intractable and bloody conflict that rages on in the Land as evidence that modern Israel has no place in God’s plan and purpose. As the newspapers and broadcast media scream against the political and social injustices and atrocities, somehow the finger of blame always seems pointed at Israel, even when she is striking back at terrorists as any other nation would do.
A few decades ago, Israel was seen unequivocally as the victim of a bullying majority in the region. When neighbors boasted that they would drive her into the sea, the world cheered to see Israel win the battle against all odds. Today, the battle is being fought in the media and public opinion. Not all Jews and Arabs are against one another. But those Arabs who are still very much committed to Israel’s destruction—though they far outnumber her—have done a masterful job of casting themselves in the role of underdogs. And what Christian could turn an unsympathetic eye away from the downtrodden?
That is not to say that there are not Arabs who have suffered unjustly in the Land. Clearly, there are, and we should never excuse or ignore their pain. Israel’s cause certainly is not helped by some Christians who feel she can do no wrong and who seek to justify aggressive behavior as though it were acceptable because of some divine prerogative. It would be a pretty poor bunch of cheerleaders who would shout for joy when their team committed a foul. No nation is above moral scrutiny and no government deserves uncritical fealty. You’ve heard Jews for Jesus say it before and I’ll say it again: Loving Israel does not mean hating Palestinians and vice versa.
On the other hand, Scripture does have some things to say about the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Those who view Scriptures through their own political and social sensitivities can unintentionally elevate those sensitivities and opinions above the sovereignty of God and His expressed plans.
We should long for justice and righteousness in this world and do what we can to promote what is good. We should also remember that these things will only become a final reality under the benevolent dictatorship of the Lord Jesus who is our Blessed Hope. In the meantime, God is working out His will in spite of and in the midst of a world that is unfair, unjust and unholy.
No government in history has ever been truly just and righteous. We should not hold the government of Israel to a higher standard than our own. We should not entertain the notion that God’s purpose might change because Israel is not following Him.
God’s promise of the Land was based on an eternal covenant He made with Abraham, a covenant He never revoked. The Scriptures make it clear that Israel’s ability to enjoy peace in the Land is based upon her obedience to and dependence upon the covenant God made. But who among us can conclude with certainty that the current disobedience and independence means Israel has forfeited the Land at this time?
For those who say that Israel has no claim to the Land until she turns to God and His Messiah, I say this is for God, not us, to determine. As you read through the Old Testament, how often do you see an Israel obedient to and dependent upon God? Would we conclude that her disobedient and independent ways mean that Israel never had a right to the Land, the whole time that she occupied it? Can we deny that even when God promised to remove her from the Land for disobedience, He also promised to restore her to the Land again? We need to be very careful about interpreting the results of Israel’s independence from God, because He alone determines the consequences of His chosen people’s disobedience.
The Jewish people are back in the Land and the majority are in a state of unbelief. That might not be according to our expectations, but is it any reason to ignore what God is apparently doing in our time? We should not suspend our confidence in God’s future promises in order to satisfy our own desire to see everything fall into place within our chosen time frame. The present reality of Israel and the increasing Jewish presence in that land cannot be ignored or its significance dismissed.
When we think about Israel, we need to ask ourselves if God has cast away His previously chosen people. We need to examine our opinions to see if they are faithful to the teachings of Scripture. We need to remember that God’s faithfulness to keep His promises to Israel is no more and no less than His faithfulness to keep His promises to the church. I realize that some people think that the church now is Israel, and that Israel is no more than an ethnic group like any other. I don’t believe that is what Scripture teaches, but that will have to be a separate article. For now I will just say that Israel’s survival and participation in God’s plans does not depend on public opinion or a majority vote of theologians, but only on the promises of God.
Nevertheless, the independence my people are celebrating is based upon independence from the God who called Israel into existence. My people are in unbelief and there is no salvation for them apart from faith in the Messiah Jesus. This should make Christians all the more eager to share the gospel with Jewish people.
In Romans 11, Paul writes concerning the Jewish nation, I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:11,12,15)
The promise of Jewish restoration to the Land is the earnest, a down payment of the second and more profound promise of spiritual restoration. The Apostle Paul was looking forward to that day when he wrote, “…blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25b-26a)
Some will point out that the Bible indicates that a spiritual restoration will take place prior to God’s restoring Israel to the Land. But events of future prophecy can, at best only be put in a tentative chronology. We continue to be unsure of the sequence of prophetic events.
Regardless of our differing views as to how these events will come about, we should all be as Paul was—looking forward to that great day. No longer will Israel stumble in the dark. She will know true and lasting peace because she will have put her faith and trust fully in the Lord. Maybe we should call that great day Israel’s Dependence Day. It will be quite a celebration. All that we do in Jews for Jesus is working toward that great day that God has promised. Regardless of your views on the end times, regardless of your political views, I invite you to fan the flame of devotion to God’s eternal purposes of salvation for my Jewish people and the rest of the world. I may be able to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with a mixture of joy and sadness, but my heart aches and my soul longs for the day when we can celebrate Israel’s Dependence Day with absolute joy. Even so, come Lord Jesus.