Israel

Why the state of Israel is an Ishmael

   To say or write anything about Israel is a very sensitive issue for any commentator, especially if he happens to be German, like the author of these lines. Thus, I write with great caution, always striving to have the same attitude as the apostle Paul, who was a Jew himself:

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

Romans 10:1

A brief summary of Israel’s history

   367 years after the flood, when Abram was 75 years old, God called him to leave Haran[1] and led him to Canaan. God promised to give this land to his descendants. God blessed Abram, so that he prospered greatly. But, moving through the land with his flocks, he remained a stranger in the land, living in tents, and had no permanent home. When Abram was 99 years old, God changed his name to Abraham, and one year later Isaac was born. Isaac became the father of Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons and continued to live in Canaan, accumulating great wealth. However, because of a famine, Jacob and his entire family moved to Egypt, where Joseph, one of his twelve sons, had come to power and prestige through God’s guidance. Thirty years of peace and prosperity in Egypt were followed by 400 years of slavery, then the exodus and 40 years in the Sinai desert. Finally, 685 years after the promise to Abraham, the walls of Jericho fell and Israel began to take possession of the Promised Land, the land in which milk and honey flow – 3,427 years ago![2] 

   God continued to lead his people through judges, kings and prophets until the exile in Babylon (586 BC). Many Israelites returned after 70 years of exile and rebuilt the destroyed temple and the city wall of Jerusalem. But the entire territory of the former kingdom, which had reached its greatest extent under King David, was henceforth occupied by other powers: first by Media-Persia, then by the Greeks, followed by the Roman Empire. In this time came Jesus.

   Many had hoped and expected that the promised Messiah would free the people of Israel from the rule of foreign powers and lead them back to old greatness. One can easily picture the Israelites wearing T-shirts and caps with the slogan "Make Israel great again!" :)

   Jesus, however, had something very different, much better, in mind: to honor God the Father, to represent him, and to do his works, so that by believing in his substituting death on the cross, people from all nations could come to God and live freely as children under his rule forever in the kingdom of God. To enter this kingdom, there was no need - and there is still no need – of an armed revolution, but merely the admission of one’s own imperfection, coupled with the childlike belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was not Jesus’ mission to free Israel from the dominion of Rome, but from the dominion of sin!

   After learning carpentry from his father Joseph and working quietly and faithfully in this profession for many years, he wandered through the land of Israel for about three years, preaching, healing, and casting out demons. He loved, laughed and played. He taught, comforted, and cried. He prayed, was enthusiastic about creation (“See the lilies...”). He suffered. He died. And he rose again! No sign of politics. Rebellion against the occupying Roman power? Misreporting. No reference to a plan to change his strategy 1900 years later and then call for a fight for an independent Israel. So why the euphoria of many Christians about the state of Israel proclaimed in 1948?

   It is often argued that Matthew 24:32-34 referred to the return of Israel to the Promised Land and that therefore the founding of Israel in 1948 would have triggered the unfolding of God´s agenda for the end-times: “The Jews had to return to their homeland before the end could come”, say some. Let us take a look at the passage in Matthew 24 and see, whether it can be interpreted in this way. 

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”   Matthew 24:32-33

   Matthew 24 is one of the main chapters in the entire Bible that talks about the end-times. Here, Jesus himself speaks of wars, famines, earthquakes and other calamities that will take place before the end comes. In verses 32-33, Jesus compares the unfolding of the events with another process, a process which his disciples were very familiar with: when they see fig trees bringing forth leaves in the spring, they know that summer is not far away. He then says that likewise (“even so”), when they saw all these things, they could know that the end of time was about to come. “All these things” clearly refers to the things he had  just said before he mentioned the fig tree. The fig tree is used as an illustration of a process, not as a symbol for Israel. If it were so, Jesus should have said: “When you see the fig tree bringing forth leaves, the end will come.” But that is not his point. 

   The point is that, just as it is certain to become summer soon after the leaves of fig trees (and all other trees, for that matter) spring up, the end is certain to come soon after the beforementioned signs appear. The founding of the state of Israel is not mentioned as one of these signs and is therefore not an indicator for a soon coming end. In fact, it is, from a prophetic perspective, completely irrelevant! That the Lord nevertheless protects and blesses the political entity of the state of Israel is obvious, but this blessing and protection come in spite of God`s covenant with the Jewish people, not because of it: 

“I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me.”  Isaiah 45:4-5

   About 3,400 years before the current state of Israel was established, God gave the Israelites the choice between blessing and curse (see Deuteronomy 28). Ever since, disregard for the commandments of God would lead to the scattering of the Jews throughout the world, where they would suffer horrendously. The history of the last two thousand years bears witness to this in a very sobering way. 

God’s promise to bring Israel back

   God promised that he would bring his people back to the Promised Land, but what has happened so far cannot be the fulfillment of this promise, for it refers to a time when Israel would turn to God again with all his heart:

“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.”

Deuteronomy 30:1-3

   God makes the return of the Jews to the Promised Land dependent on a return to him: When (not ‘if’!) Israel turns back to him with all its heart and soul, then will God bring them back into the Promised Land. Since this turn to the Lord has not yet taken place on a large scale, the State of Israel, founded in 1948, and the associated immigration of Jews from all over the world cannot be the fulfillment of this promise! 

   Theodor Herzl and other Zionists who advocated an independent Jewish state around 1900 A.D. did not invoke the promises of the Torah or the Prophets for their undertaking; they were not men who sought God with all their heart.[3] They were, quite understandably, looking for a home for their people, who had experienced pogroms, persecution and expulsion again and again in the 1900 years after they were scattered all over the world. In view of the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, the Zionist movement became more and more popular, so that the number of Jewish settlers in the area of Palestine, then under Ottoman and (from 1918) British sovereignty, increased from 50,000 to 650,000 between 1900 and 1948.[4]

   While the call of Abraham, the exodus from Egypt under Moses and the conquest of the land under Joshua were clearly initiated and led by God, such clear guidance in the history of the founding of today’s Israel is sought in vain. There was no burning bush, only a vote of the newly created United Nations.

   The present state of Israel is therefore, first of all, a nation like any other. Its population of 8.7 million is a mix of people of different races and religious backgrounds. In addition to the approximately 6 million Jews (75%), there are 1.6 million Arabs (20%). 5% of the population are of different ethnic origin. Among Arabs, there are both Muslims (in all 18%) as well as Christians (in all 2%). The majority of the Jewish population is not religious and does not want to know more about the God of the Bible than the average Western European. Of course, there is also a proportion of cultural-religious people who, for example, celebrate the main festivals of the Jewish calendar in a traditional way. Compared to these secular groups, the share of strict Orthodox Jews is relatively low, at around 10%.

   If the present nation of Israel is not the fulfillment of prophecies, then why did God allow so many Jews to live in the Promised Land again already? Sometimes, we do not know why God does things, we can only realize that he does them or at least permits them to happen. It would not be the first attempt trying to bring about an event promised by God through mere human strength. Abraham himself had gone down this path when he listened to his wife Sara and slept with her maid Hagar to father the son that was promised by God. Thus, Ishmael was born. The story is well known. God would not have needed Abraham’s help, and eventually Sara bore the promised son, Isaac. Ishmael went on and was blessed by God as well, but the covenant was established with Isaac and his descendants. 

I believe that today’s nation state of Israel resembles to the son of Hagar – it was realized with a lot of human effort, but without the Spirit of God. The fulfillment of the promises concerning the return of the Jews to the Promised Land is therefore still pending and will take place without great human intervention, so that all honor will be bestowed on the one to whom it is due. No organization, no politician, no businessman will be able to boast of having had any part in it!

If the present nation of Israel is in fact only an Ishmael and not an Isaac, how should the church relate to it?  The Jews are still God’s chosen people, and as such they deserve our greatest respect. We should pray for Jews, help them, love them:

“As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs.”  Romans 11:28

   The best thing we can do for them is to live in such a way that they themselves become hungry, turn to the God of their fathers, seek him, and worship him. Jesus is the only way to the Father for them, just as he is for us. We must therefore preach the gospel to them clearly:

“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”   Romans 10:12-13

   I do not think that Israel, as a political entity in itself, has a special position with God. God loves no country more than another. But he loves one people more than all others, and this people are the Jewish people:

“But now, this is what the LORD says - he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.”   Isaiah 43:1-4

   Well, if that is not a declaration of love! The Jews are still the ‘apple of God’s eye’ (Zechariah 2:8). This means, that the LORD takes care of them in a special way, and despite their rebellion, disobedience, and indifference to him, does not completely abandon them and still wants to bless them, just as a father has it on his heart to bless a young man rebelling against him. Disobedience does not result in God withdrawing his love; it does, however, entail discipline:

“The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Hebrews 12:6

   As the apple of God’s eye, however, all Jews are still the main target of attack today of the devil, who hates everything that belongs to God. He is still trying to destroy the chosen people of God. He has tried this through the Nazis in Germany, and through others before. He never succeeded and will never succeed – but he will continue to try.

   Satan’s hatred is directed not only against the Jews, but also against those who are ‘grafted into the olive tree’ by faith in Jesus, as Paul puts it in Romans 11, having previously explained in more than two chapters the question of the election of Israel and the salvation of people from all nations. Satan intends to destroy Israel and all the elect of God, but after a few thousand years of experience, he is smart enough to know that direct confrontation is less effective than deception. This is why there are millions of people who think that they are Christians because they belong to a church, were baptized as an infant or prayed a sinner’s prayer, but have not surrendered their lives to Jesus; they remain spiritually dead.

   Similarly, there are orthodox Jews who believe that they are saved solely because of their ancestry, but without faith it is impossible to please God (cf. Hebrews 11:6)! Already in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans Paul left no doubt:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”  Romans 1:16

   Other things to consider:

  • Israel does not really trust in God, but in its military strength, which, according to Jeremiah 17:5, entails a curse!
  • In the Old Testament, Israel was repeatedly tempted to rely on the help of Egypt, the greatest military power of the time, which God did not like at all (see, for example, Isaiah 30). Today, the USA are the world’s leading superpower, and it is a great temptation for Israel to trust in it rather than in God.
  • The military and political support from western nations, which is welcomed by many evangelicals, could very well be one of the factors standing in the way of a wholehearted return of the people of Israel to their God!
  • The covenant of circumcision was made with Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac was not yet born. Ishmael was not the heir of the promise, but he was nevertheless richly blessed (see Genesis 17:20)! Similarly, God has blessed the Jewish people with incredible skills throughout history, not just since the founding of the state Israel.[5]
  • Ever since the crucifixion of Jesus, Jews have been under a curse that they have brought upon themselves when they (not just a few people, but all the people) shouted to Pilate, “Crucify him!” And: “His blood come upon us and upon our children” (cf. Matthew 27:23-25)! Accordingly, this curse is still on the people of Israel to this day; it can only be broken by faith in Jesus.
  • Blessings and curses were the result of choices for the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 28): Blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience. The latter unfortunately applies to the vast majority of the Jewish people, because only a minimal percentage of the Jews believe in Jesus.[6]
  • Many positive, but also some anti-Christian things have come from the Jewish people.[7] The founder of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt, was a German Jew and a Freemason. The links between Freemasonry and Judaism are manifold, both in terms of personnel and in terms of rituals and traditions. For example, the ‘Star of David’, is used in Freemasonry.
  • The Star of David is the best-known symbol of Israel. According to legend, King Solomon first introduced it to the royal court in Jerusalem, but in the Bible, we search for it in vain. The Star of David is nothing more than a hexagram, that has been used by many religions and cults for magical purposes even before King David’s time, including Hinduism, Buddhism and the worship of Baal. Probably only in the Middle Ages, the hexagram found its way into Judaism over the Kabbala, a mystical movement. Since the origin of the Star of David is occult rather than biblical, I advise against wearing it in the form of a piece of jewelry. With the Menorah, a seven-armed candlestick, a good alternative without a dubious history is available.[8]

Conclusions:

  1. Christians and politicians who are well-intentioned towards Israel, need wisdom from the Lord on how to best help Israel. My impression is that we must communicate much clearer that Jesus is the Messiah than we have done so far, and that we should not limit our assistance to political, economic and military aid.
  2. We should support the small but growing Messianic community in Israel and in all parts of the world in prayer, friendship and with practical help.
  3. Christians often seem intimidated  to witness to Jews: “They are God’s chosen people; who am I to tell them about their own God?” However, God has already announced in the Old Testament that one day he would speak to Israel through people of foreign language (cf. Isaiah 28:11). This should encourage us to use normal encounters  with Jews all over the world, whether as a tourist in a hotel, as a business partner, neighbor or colleague at work, to tell them about Jesus.
  4. Just as Jesus did not come 2,000 years ago to liberate Israel from the Roman occupation or to build a secular kingdom, we should give the political nation of Israel a lower priority than the kingdom of God, for one is not identical with the other!
  5. We should pray and wrestle for the Jews to turn to the crucified and risen Lord, not only for them to win the next military confrontation with the surrounding nations.

God’s ways are higher than ours – this is certainly true regarding Israel! He watches over his people, and he watches over the fulfillment of his word. We can trust him to lead the nations!
 

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[1] Abraham was born in Ur (now in Iraq); together with his father and other relatives, however, he lived for several years in Haran, about 1,000 km away, in the territory of present-day Turkey.

[2]  For the calculation of times, please compare Appendix 1.

[3] A good introduction to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 is offered by Michael Comay in his book Zionism, Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Keter Publishing House 1983.

[4] Statistical data in this section from Fischer Weltalmanach, various editions, www.joshuaproject.org and from the monthly magazine Israel Today - Anniversary Edition 1948-2018.

[5] The influence of Jewish businessmen and bankers on global level is legendary. The Rothschilds, a family with German roots (their original surname was Bauer, which means farmer) belong to the richest dynasties in the world. Many companies and media all over the world are run by Jews, including Facebook. Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg and many other famous scientists, artists, authors and politicians were/are of Jewish descent.

[6] It is estimated that the proportion of so-called Messianic Jews is between 0.05 and 0.65% of the approximately 14.7 million Jews worldwide. Data from www.israelheute.com (as of 02/12/2019).

[7]  In order to avoid any accusations, I would like to stress that this also applies to my hometown and to Germany as a nation.

[8] To study the history of the Star of David see for example: www.haaretz.com/jewish/holocaust-remembrance-day/the-star-of-david-isn-t-just-jewish-1.5323219 (last accessed 08/30/2020).

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