Why We Support Israel

Below is an article that expresses well and explains our beliefs and support for Israel.

November 25, 2001                                                                                                                                                                               by Bob Westbrook

Freedom Fighters_Peace of Jerusalem stone Why Should Christians Support Israel?  This is not a question that should need to be asked. It should be a natural predilection for any Bible-believing Christian. Support for Israel is an intrinsic synthesis between what God did for Israel in the past and what He is doing in the present and the future. Sadly, however, this kind of understanding is lacking for many, and even opposed by others. The absence of proper perspective and emphasis from the pulpits of most churches is a major contributing factor.

Support for Israel is not on the basis of abstract theological theory, or some nostalgic fondness for the characters we have heard about from the Bible. Neither should it be based on our own self-interest, hoping that we will be “out of here” soon if prophesied events progress quickly. Of course we do expect that the Day of the Lord and thus our ultimate redemption will hasten as Israel turns to God. But our support should not be for selfish reasons. No — we support Israel for the simple reason that God does.

Long ago, God set his affection on Abraham and his descendants, selecting them to be His special people. He expressed His love to them, and they in return were to be faithful to Him and bring the knowledge of the true God to the world. But it did not work out that way: “They broke my covenant” is God’s summary of what happened. Much of the Bible is an elaboration of the horrid consequences of Israel’s abrogation. “But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.” (Jeremiah 11:8 NIV)

Yet that is not the end of the story. God still has plans for Israel, plans of restoration. “I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them.” (Zechariah 10:6 NIV) Numerous times in the Bible, He reiterates His change of heart regarding Israel in the last days. “’For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:7-8 NIV) If Israel is still near His heart and is indeed “engraved on the palms of His hands”, then all who wish to know and appreciate the heart of God will love and support Israel. God’s new disposition towards Israel is described in numerous places in the Bible. To miss this is to miss what God is doing today towards the accomplishment of His campaign of deliverance.

Paul explained that there would come a time in the future when there would be a mass reconciliation of Israel back to God. This was not a new idea that he proposed; on the contrary, it was presented over and over in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here is one sample among many: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man– the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.” (Hosea 11:8-9 NIV)

The depth of emotion conveyed here show us that this is not some arcane theological notion, but a topic very near to the heart of God. Admah and Zeboiim were towns destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah by the anger of the Lord. But although God had been angry with Israel, now His great compassion and mercy is heating up. Though He will come to the world in wrath, He will not come to Israel in wrath. Jeremiah, Joel, Isaiah, and others explain to us that as the world is experiencing the “fierce anger of the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:24), Israel will be experiencing a reaffirmation of His love. “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I continue my grace to you.’” (Jeremiah 31:3)

The culmination of God’s redemptive plan will only occur in conjunction with the spiritual restoration and rejuvenation of Israel. This is one of the primary themes of the prophets, stated over and over in the Scriptures. In fact, without an appreciation for the significance of the role Israel will play in the future, one cannot properly begin to grasp God’s prophetic program.

Unfortunately, rampant Christian unfamiliarity with certain portions of the Bible leads to a stunted understanding of God’s plan. But it is very clear that the Jewish people, as the people chosen initially to bring the light of the knowledge of the true God to the world, will once again shine in this role. Isaiah described this renewal in these terms addressed to Israel: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV) At the same time when the rest of the world is blinded by unprecedented spiritual darkness and rebellion, Israel will once again shine brightly as the Lord rises upon her.

Unlike others, we Christians should have an understanding of the tremendous drama that has been unfolding in the last century. Israel been regathered back to the land in an unprecedented, incredible feat of Divine operation. The term used by some religious Jews to describe the state of Israel is reshit tzemihat ge’ulatenu — “the initial stage of our redemption.” During the next stages, stages to which we are witnesses and active participants, the eyes and hearts of the Jewish people will be increasingly turned heavenward. The final stage is when the Redeemer Himself will come to Zion.

Despite our differences with the Jewish people regarding the identity of Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, we do share an expectation of the good news of God’s redemption. We Christians should understand that the gospel, the good news of God, is not only about our own “personal salvation.” Certainly the good news of eternal life and forgiveness of sins through the Messiah is personally the most significant news any of us can hear. But the message of the Kingdom of God, the good news that John the Baptist and Jesus heralded, goes far beyond that. Their appeal to repent and believe the good news was an appeal based on all that the prophets of God had written beforehand.

The Messiah had appeared, and all that had been written about Him would certainly be fulfilled. The many depictions of God’s rule over all the world from Jerusalem, a rule of justice and goodness and peace, were at the forefront of Jewish thought when Jesus appeared. When the heralds of good news proclaimed that the Kingdom was at hand, that could only mean one thing: the King was here, and it was time for Israel to assume her role as the “chief of the nations” with the King of Israel ruling over her and the world.

As we know, all was not immediately fulfilled in His first appearance. But without question all of these prophecies will be fulfilled in His second appearance. Jesus’ close acquaintances understood this, asking Him just before He departed from them, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” These men clearly understood that the fulfillment of the Kingdom and the restoration of Israel to the place of world preeminence are intimately connected events. Therefore, for any Christian who wishes to fully support God’s redemptive plan, it is essential that he or she support Israel.

But support of Israel should not consist of some vague expressions of platitudes. Isaiah provides us some direction regarding our initiatives of support: “Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations. The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.'” They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” (Isaiah 62:10-12 NIV) In the context of a pronouncement of the impending coming of the Savior, Isaiah directs the listeners to “build up the highway” and “remove the stones”. In other words, the Christians who are now reading these prophetic words are to make the roadway smoother, flatter, and clearer for the Jews.

Unfortunately, it has been those who called themselves Christians who for centuries have strewn huge, painful boundaries on this highway. Any Jewish person has just cause for being suspicious of those label themselves as Christians due to the unthinkable amount of cruelty, brutality, and injustice inflicted by those who bore that name. We as true Christians, who cannot fathom this mentality, could rightly protest that Jesus himself did not command or suggest that his followers should act in such a way. Indeed, he commanded his followers to live a live of love, proclaiming good news but never inflicting harm on those who did not receive the message. Therefore those who have been guilty of such crimes against Jews did not act according to the genuine and valid principles of Christian behavior. But if we Christians are now to act as agents of reconciliation, smoothing the road and removing the boundaries, perhaps it is best that rather than trying to explain away the behavior of past “Christians” as inconsistent with Christian thought, that we instead demonstrate that we are truly different kinds of Christians by enacting consistent, unselfish support of Israel.

This idea of support for Israel is not something that Christian Zionists concocted. The instructions are provided by the Lord Himself. “This is what the LORD says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'” (Jeremiah 31:7 NIV) This is a direct instruction that we are to call out to the Lord to save His people Israel. Isaiah also implores us to “take no rest and give Him no rest” in our petitions and requests to “establish Jerusalem”. Persistent prayer for Israel is mandatory.

Not only is prayer mandatory, but proclamation is also. “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.” (Jeremiah 31:10-11 NIV) At a time when much of the world increasingly disputes the legitimacy of Israel, those who know God must be increasingly vocal. The world must know that God is going to continue to watch over Israel despite the strivings of “those stronger than they.”

When we consider the question of why should Christians support Israel, we must define what is meant by “support”. It does not mean that we necessarily agree with all policies and actions by the Israeli government. What it does mean is that we are friends of the Jewish people, perhaps the only true friends they have in the world. It is only a friend who can speak frankly and candidly yet still have the other party’s best interest in mind.

As a friend, we are the ones who should most strongly support their claim for the land that God promised. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the covenants between God and Israel should understand that the land grants that God unilaterally conveyed upon Israel are an integral part of those covenants. It is this same land that is being contended for by other parties who are in opposition to God’s declared intentions. We Christians of all people should understand this, and perhaps we even understand it better than Israel currently does. Many in Israel, worn out by decades of terrorism and international coercion, are ready to permanently relinquish portions of this land. It is our duty as friends to assure them that this should not be allowed, and that ultimately all attempts to wrest their land from them will be unsuccessful.

The question of why should Christians support Israel is a question fraught with diverse kinds of theological and historical snares. At first glance, it seems only natural that Christians would support Israel. After all, mention of historical Israel is made every week in church sermons. The Bible upon which Christians base their faith is set almost entirely in the land of Israel. Yet based on the scarcity of discussion in some churches about modern Israel, one would think that the stories in the Bible took place on a different planet, that somehow ancient Israel and modern Israel have nothing to do with each other.

Indeed, some with warped theology have propounded that very idea, denying any kind of legitimacy in God’s future program for Israel. Fueled by the intellectual manure that is shoveled out at many seminaries, many self-acclaimed “religious experts” have done much damage to the truth. Their fallacious arguments are easily refuted based on a literal reading of the Scriptures. However, even among those who might agree that the Israel of today is an Israel described in Bible prophecies, unfortunately very little pulpit time is expended on this topic.

Why is this so? My own observation and conclusion it is due to an over-spiritualization of the Bible. In an attempt to make the narratives and prophecies of the Bible personally relevant to the listeners, preachers have almost entirely neglected explaining the primary understanding and application of these Scriptures. I could provide many examples of this from my own experience of listening to Bible teachers, but one will suffice to illustrate.

A verse that gives many people comfort, and is very frequently cited is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) This has encouraged many persons with the assurance that God has not given up on them. Yet among the dozens of times I have heard this verse referred to, I have never once heard anyone explain the primary application as it applies to Israel. This is not an exceptional case, but unfortunately seems to be the rule among most Bible teachers. Tragically, this overemphasis on personal relevance has resulted in a generation of individuals who are severely underdeveloped in their understanding of how Israel fits into God’s master plan.

The sermon I heard in church this morning is typical. In an otherwise excellent message on spiritual renewal, the pastor cited verses in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to prove his point. Yet each of those citations was a promise to Israel. Though it is valid to apply them to the church as spiritual principles, the primary understanding of these is in the last days “the Spirit will be poured on Israel from on high.” Sadly, the church does not hear an explanation of this primary meaning. While focusing on a spiritual application may inspire the listeners in their personal lives, leaving them uneducated about God’s larger design is a disservice to them.

This almost universal practice may partially explain why the events, trends, and situations in present-day Israel are rarely mentioned in churches. Another reason may be the overall lack of interest in Bible prophecy, even though a great percentage of the Bible consists of prophecy. These factors have combined to contribute to Bible teaching that has theoretical content but no sizzle. In many churches, the sermons that we hear are devoid of any contemporary context, as if the current events in Israel are not happening or are not relevant. Yet any understanding of the world today, and the part we are to play in it, must start with a solid understanding of and appreciation for Israel.

Some have supposed that any support for Israel as expressed in a Zionist context leads to a dilutation of the essential Christian message. This is not true. The Word of God is not in contradiction with itself; it is our own faulty and incomplete understandings that are in contradiction. The Zionist ideal that God would restore Israel to the land and then restore her spiritually is not in any way in contradiction to the Christian gospel. But there is a certain tension between the two that Paul aptly expressed in his letter to the Romans.

“From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:28-29 NASB)

When Paul said “they are enemies” he did not mean to treat them harshly or fight against them. What he meant is that they did not receive the message of the good news that Yeshua is their Messiah, and thus opposed that message. But Paul also expressed reassurance that God’s selection and calling of the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are irrevocable. This means that Christians should gladly support all aspects of that calling for the Jews. “They are beloved,” said Paul. Let us make it so.