The coming week ushers in the worldwide celebration of Purim (the Feast of Lots). A Persian plot to destroy the Jewish people, hatched in the prideful heart of Haman, nearly led to the genocide of the entire people of Israel. Its murderous machinations were foiled by the hand of an almost invisible God. This is laid out poetically in the Book of Esther.
A modern-day Persian plot (hatched in the same country, now called Iran) to destroy the Jewish people and their state with nuclear weapons is afoot, and media headlines trumpet a clash between America’s President Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu over this issue. The spat is over the latter’s acceptance of an invitation to address both Houses of Congress regarding the clear and present danger of a potential default deal allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons against Israel or other pro-Western allies (including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc).
Just before WWII, Western nations gruffly stated that the Jewish people were acting like a troublesome little boy; that the Jewish people didn’t know what is good for them; that they were only thinking about themselves; that their focus was skewed and overstated; and that the Jewish people’s cries of warning were unwarranted and would only offend other nations in the region.
Six million casualties later, the present leadership in Israel is willing to take the chance of similar international rebuke, if by any possible means Iran’s march toward nuclear holocaust can be stopped.
There are troubling parallels between Western secular anti-Israel attitudes then, and the present attitudes of some modern Evangelicals to the Jewish people and their state-in-the-process-of-restoration. This newsletter examines some of these dynamics.
The three N-words
As Western society’s social and spiritual fabric unwinds, it is not surprising that similar deconstruction is happening regarding Christian worldviews about Israel. Biblical warm-heartedness has given way to lukewarm toleration. The flavor of the decade is now Replacement Theology, Marxist Liberation Theology and the BDS movement (a Nazi-like political movement to boycott the Jewish state, to pressure companies to pull out their investments in Israel, and to bring economic sanctions against Israel until Jerusalem is divided and a Palestinian state is established in the biblical heartland).
Other Evangelicals increase the distance between themselves and the Jewish people and hide their sympathy for Jewish restoration, in a mistaken and misplaced desire to curry favor with anti-Jewish Muslim countries. In this they are coming into spiritual alignment with Israel’s enemies.
The three bullet points of a presently occurring Evangelical slide into anti-Jewish apostasy can be crystallized by three words, all beginning with the letter “N” –
- Negative paradigms
This simplistic anti-Semitic perspective sees anything “Christian” as good, and anything “Jewish” as bad. “Jewish” becomes a synonym for evil, for unbelief, for deniers of God’s truth, and for those who choose Satan over God.
The medieval, patristic and modern roots of this paradigm can be explored in:
- “The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism,” (Joshua Trachtenberg; JPS, 1933)
- “The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-three Centuries of Anti-Semitism” (Edward H. Flannery, MacMillan, 1965)
- “Jews and Money: The Myths and the Reality” (Gerald Krefetz, Ticknor & Fields, 1982)
This pathological identification of the Jews as a nation genetically opposed to both the prophets and the Gospel is also very much part and parcel of an Islamist worldview. It forgets that the prophets and Yeshua were also Jews, as were their original followers and writers of Scripture. This negative paradigm sees the Jewish people as the black sheep of the Bible.
- This perspective has room for the Jewish people in their eschatology only as “victim” (at the very least), and for the Jewish people as the personification of the anti-Christ (at the very most)
It is not unusual for anti-Semitic language and attitudes to hitch a ride on such beliefs. “Jews are good with money”; “Jews control the banks and Hollywood”; “Jews are clannish and only care about themselves” – I have heard such statements for decades by well-meaning Evangelicals who have no idea how deeply the venom of anti-Semitism has seeped into the aquifers of their own Evangelical thought processes.
- Sometimes these attitudes bear a toxic fruit which denies that God’s hand and favor is on the Jewish people in their present and prophetic restoration to the land of Israel.
Neither the wars of 1948 (which re-established the Jewish state after 2,00 years of exile), 1967 (which united Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty) or 1973 (when 21 Arab countries, as well as Russians, Cubans, North Vietnamese and Iraqis united to try to destroy the Jewish state) make an intellectual, moral or theological dent on these cool and crisp hearts. There seems to be eschatological room only for Israel’s decimation and destruction. There is certainly no rejoicing or hopeful expectation in these hearts regarding God’s present-day raising up of Israel to be His mighty army (see Ezekiel 37:9-10; Isaiah 41:14-16).
Regrettably, these above attitudes would typically fit the description of an abusive father who shows little affection for his firstborn son and whose favor can only be accessed after a severe beating. This less-than-biblical caricature of a biblical God has become a stronghold of the enemy within the body of Messiah. It severely impedes opening one’s heart to the Jewish people, and it dams up reservoirs of God’s living waters from reaching other believing hearts.
Years ago Rudyard Kipling (of later “Jungle Book” fame) talked about “the white man’s burden.” The word picture here is of a British explorer in a white pith helmet slashing his way through the African jungle as he makes the dark continent safe for colonial exploitation. The denigrating and condescending attitude evinced by Spanish, Portuguese, French and British conquistadores can also be reflected in the way some Evangelicals relate to Israel and the Jewish people.
Recent examples of such attitudes can be seen in some Christian conferences held in Israel or about Israel where Jewish spokesmen are either absent, only make a token appearance, or are told to tone down their message. The unspoken attitude is often, “We Gentile believers know that Messianic Jews are unbalanced in their approach. Jews need to learn from our deep Gentile insight into the Jewish people. We Gentile believers, however, have next to nothing to learn from them about the Jewish people, Jewish sensitivities, and the perspectives of the Jews who wrote the Scriptures. Besides, if we seem too chummy with Jews, we may lose our access to the Arab and Islamic world.” Sometuimes it seems as if some of these movements want to ‘plant their flag’ in ‘the Holy Land’ and want to ‘stake a claim” of spiritual territory in Israel for their own movement – kind of like how Columbus claimed the New World for Isabella the Queen of Spain.
A mutation of this can be seen in the association between some Evangelicals and Palestinian Christians of the pro-BDS and pro-Liberation theology streams. Smiling benignly down at Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians (who believe that God is the Prime Mover behind the restoration of the Jewish people to their land), these neo-colonialist Evangelicals seductively insinuate that belief in the restoration of Israel is simply one way of looking at events – it is only one ‘narrative’ and certainly not an exclusive biblical one. Those who support the Jewish people’s restoration are actually primitive and propagandistic, they claim.
Yet a study of Judges 11:12-18 shows that Jephthah the Judge rejected this position as an outright falsehood. His response was clear – no compromising of the truth; no prostituting one’s inheritance for short-term political favor; no sharing of YHVH’s glory with the Temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5).
God’s priority calling of the Jewish people and His gifts to them (which include the land, the chosen peoplehood, the international priority, the covenants, etc) are non-refundable and eternally irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29).
In the movie “Snow White” the Evil Queen asks the classic narcissistic question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” As long as the answer was, “You, Your Majesty” all was right in the world. But when the answer turned out to be Snow White, the Queen was filled with Haman-like jealousy and proceeded to arrange a targeted hit on the fair maiden.
Interestingly, in the Scroll of Esther, Haman’s undoing was connected to such a narcissistic condition. “So Haman came in and the king said to him, “’What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?’ And Haman said to himself, ‘Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?’” (Esther 6:6).
Sometimes the Bride of Christ spends too much time looking at herself in the mirror, and finds a green-tinged jealousy rising up within her breast when the subject of Israel is raised. “What? Am I not the fairest in the land?” she says in a voice trembling with outrage. God’s irrevocable calling of Israel and abiding love for her, to speak frankly, makes some Evangelicals insecure. As a result, though some Evangelicals may accept that the Bible teaches a Jewish priority (Romans 1:16; 2:5-11; 3:1-2; 9:1-5, etc.), there is an accompanying attitude among some that can only be described as begrudging. “That all may be true, but don’t ask me to get excited about it!”
Yet is not true love that which seeks the good of the beloved? Every healthy father wants his own children to surpass his own achievements. Is the Body of Messiah interested in Israel coming back into her place of favor and possibly even surpassing the Gentiles in their connection with the God of Israel (see Zechariah 8:22-23)? When we meet a Jewish person, do we recognize that we are standing in the presence of royalty – in the presence of a people made royal (Isaiah 60:16; 62:3; 60:11,16) by their connection to their Royal King (the One who has ‘INRI/King of the Jews’ written on His cross)?
Some Evangelicals do know how to behave in a seeker-sensitive way to Gentiles in the Western world, even to the point of expressing patriotic fervor or of soft-peddling the need for repentance from national sins. Yet when it comes to Israel, these same people feel no need to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (Isaiah 40:1-2). Instead, they preach of a gospel of destruction, exile, imprisonment and national collapse.
- The priority calling that God has graciously granted to the Jewish people demands a heart-response of obedience, and not a lifted eyebrow of unbelief and prideful arrogance. God still abhors a scornful and prideful heart (Proverbs 8:13; 21:24).
For such a time as this?
Mordecai challenged Esther regarding standing up for her own people in the courts of power. Yes, it could cost Esther her own life, but “who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14-15).
How shall we then pray?
In the same way, we who follow Israel’s Messiah and King Yeshua need to all ask ourselves:
- Why are we alive at this point in time
- What can we do in prayer and in action to stand with and for the Jewish people in their time of distress and need
- How can we pray for the Jewish people’s safety and salvation
- How we can pray for our own country’s leadership (governmentally and spiritually) for clear revelation, understanding and courage regarding the Jewish people, the apple of God’s eye
- Ask God to bring down the hand raised to destroy Israel (Esther 9; Jeremiah 30:16-17)
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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