Purim, the Feast of Esther, memorializes the attempted genocide against the Jewish people in what is now called Iran (ancient Persia) by Haman and his supporters. The Bible tells us that Haman was motivated by hatred against the Jews, against their chosen status and because of their being different and distinct from all other people.
As modern Iran once again gears up for nuclear genocide against Jacob’s children, Israel has stepped into its prophetic role of warning the world, and is calling for international thwarting of this clear and present danger. For the most part, the world is in denial, more interested in short term peace and long term profits.
Jeremiah lamented that over 2,600 years ago the nations could not care less about threats to Israel’s survival:
“Therefore all who devour you will be devoured, and all your adversaries, every one of them, will go into captivity. And those who plunder you will be for plunder, and all who prey upon you I will give for prey. For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds, declares YHVH, because they have called you an outcast, saying, ‘It is Zion; no one cares for her’” (Jeremiah 30:16-17)
Today certain streams in the body of Messiah could not care less about the Jewish people either. Some are blind as to what God is doing in restoring Israel. Others are actively denying the hand of God as He restores the Jewish people. This newsletter digs into the stony ground out of which this denial springs.
Passive bystanders and ‘thumbs down’ critics
In May 1948 the survival of fledgling nation of Israel was threatened. Five Arab armies surrounded and invaded the Jewish state, while Secretary-General of the Arab League Azzam Pasha declared: “It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades (“Interview with Abd al-Rahman Azzam Pasha,” Akhbar al-Yom, October 11, 1947).
Yet for the most part, the nations of the world were stand-offish. They stood aloof and distant in Israel’s hour of need. Indeed, many Christians announced Israel’s imminent destruction. They based their convictions either on the belief that Jews could only play the historical role of victims (as had recently happened in the Holocaust) or that the Jewish people had punishment coming (because they had not believed in Jesus) or that the Hebrew prophets described in some detail a coming fiery purification of Israel, and the 1948 battles seemed to look a lot like those final wars. Certainly God would not stretch forth His scepter and save Israel in 1948!
The results of the May 1948 war were unexpected and radically different from what many Christians had thought. Israel defeated the combined armies of five Arab countries, and was established as a sovereign state for the first time in over 2,000 years. A radical paradigm shift had occurred in history regarding the Jewish people. They were now active players on the world stage, and people sat up and took notice.
Yet some Christians were a little slow to assimilate these facts. Dr. Yona Malachy, author of “American Fundamentalism and Israel: The Relation of Fundamentalist Churches to Zionism and the State of Israel” (Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1978) notes that certain strands of Christian theology (following the teaching of Saint Augustine) saw the Jews as a chosen people – but chosen specifically for judgment, for humiliation, exile, defeat and destruction!
Some Christians in 1948 had a strong knee-jerk reaction to the Jewish nation regaining its freedom and sovereignty. For centuries it had been a cardinal teaching of the Church that Israel’s sufferings were rightfully deserved, and their exile and suffering proved the truth of the Christian message. All these traditional teachings were being turned on their heads by a Jewish victory in 1948.
A similar scenario happened in June 1967, when potential annihilation of the Jewish state was miraculously transformed into victory, with Israel recovering its ancient spiritual capitol city Jerusalem, as well as the patriarchal and Davidic sites of Bethlehem, Hebron, etc. The Six Day War restored Judea and Samaria to the Jewish people, but in some Christian theologians’ minds and hearts, there was strong opposition to allowing their overwhelmingly negative narrative about Jewish destiny to be sweetened in any way.
- Many Jewish thinkers were quick to note that the Christian community at large was (and still is) divided into two camps – those who rejoiced about restored Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem and the biblical patrimony (one the one hand), and those who were cold-hearted about these developments, insisting that these events had no spiritual or biblical significance (on the other).
The face of the Christian world does not always reflect the face of Yeshua. This continues to be a matter of earnest prayer.
The Ice Age cometh
Scholars of anti-Semitism and sociologists are noting increased world trends toward virulent anti-Semitism. Islamic immigrants to Western Europe have blended with neo-Nazis in creating a critical mass of Jew-hatred. From Manchester to Milan and from Berlin to Brussels, Jews are afraid to walk the streets of Europe. The ghost of anti-Semitism has risen from its grave.
At the same time, anti-Semitic changes are afoot in the Evangelical world. Christians are being brought to Bethlehem to mock Israeli soldiers guarding against terrorist incursions. Anglican leaders meet with Iranian leaders to condemn the Jewish state. Christian conferences call for boycotts against Israel, while large Christian youth movements disseminate anti-Israel DVDs and literature while edging away from public identification with Jews and Israel. It has become cool to be cool towards Israel.
In times past there has always been a solid stream of Evangelical and Charismatic believers who have stood with Israel (see one excellent modern example – www.charismanews.com/us/48203-historic-israel-summit-launches-firm-ministry; http://firm.org.il/).
But today there is a growing counter-movement of Evangelicals and Charismatics actively opposing the Jewish people’s restoration and sovereignty.
- One matter for prayer concerns Christians who teach about Israel’s past and future while at the same time denying that the present return of the Jewish people to their homeland has any positive prophetic meaning.
These believers in Yeshua see the reconstitution of the Jewish state as simply being a blip on the radar before Israel gets totally destroyed. Any Jewish state (according to this view) must be totally decimated just prior to the return of Messiah. A recent advocate of this position was Art Katz, and the position was recently restated by Dalton Lifsey.
Obviously, if Israel is being gathered for the sole purpose of being destroyed, this would put quite a dent in Evangelical sympathy and support for the restoration of the Jewish people. These abovementioned teachings actually chill the hearts and freeze the passionate prayers of intercessors for Israel.
So what actually is the biblical restoration of Israel?
Biblical descriptions of the restoration of Israel take up a significant amount of space in the Bible. A fast-food summation of these realities include:
- the total return of all Jews to the Land of Israel, leaving none in the Exile (Ezekiel 39:27-29)
- the re-establishment of the Davidic throne and the Davidic dynasty (Amos 9:11; Jeremiah 33:23-26; Luke 22:30 etc.)
- the establishment of Jerusalem as the political and spiritual capitol of the world (Isaiah 2:1-4; 66:20; Zechariah 14:16-19, etc.)
- the priority of the Jewish people in God’s kingdom (Zechariah 8:21-23; Romans 1:16; 2:5-11; 3:1-2; 11:28-29, etc.)
- world revival, refreshing and restoration as a result (Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11:12, 15, etc.)
This restoration is a process (see 1 Corinthians 15:46; Ezekiel 37:1-14, 24-28, etc.) and we are in the middle of that process. Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones points out that the return of the Jewish people to the physical land of Israel happens mostly before the spiritual resuscitation. But it all merges into one flow; it all happens to one people, and it all takes place in one Promised Land. The end result, according in Ezekiel 37:10, is that the entire Jewish nation becomes a vast physical/spiritual army à la Psalm 110:3 and Isaiah 41:14-16.
It is true (according to the prophetic Scriptures) that the world will at some point rebel against God’s hand of Jewish restoration. It will reject His gracious work, invade Israel and attempt to destroy her. At that time and in that context, the existence of God’s Jewish army will have great significance.
A heart of unbelief
God describes His gracious goodness to Israel in Jeremiah 32:36-44, among many other places. Those who refuse to believe that God’s goodness is being demonstrated to Israel in our day, are forced to conclude that God’s returning the Jewish people to their own land is simply a sadistic set-up for Jewish destruction.
Yet no nation has ever been returned to its own homeland after exile in all of human history. No nation has lost its spoken language and then seen it restored to living use, as Israel has witnessed with Hebrew. No nation suffered the mass murder of one third of its people (as experienced in the Holocaust), and then stepped back onto the battlefields of the Middle East with guts and confidence.
When Christians teach against viewing the present restoration of the Jewish people as a gift of a gracious covenant-keeping God, they reveal a begrudging and barely tolerant attitude toward God’s manifest love for Israel. They unwittingly choose to preserve anti-Semitic stereotypes of the Jew as victim, or of the Jew as anti-Christ. And they sidestep standing firm with Israel, or lending a helping hand toward her restoration.
False piety and Jewish restoration
There is a fascinating historical encounter between the father of secular Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and Pope Pius X. Their conversation on January 26, 1904 was recorded in Herzl’s diaries (Raphael Patai, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl; New York/London: Herzl Press, Thomas Yoseloff, 1960; pp. 1601-1605). Herzl had come to ask for Vatican support for the creation of a homeland for his persecuted Jewish people. Here are some excerpts from the Pope’s statements during that dialogue:
- “We cannot give approval to this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem – but we could never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church I cannot tell you anything different. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people”
- “There are two possibilities. Either the Jews will cling to their faith and continue to await the Messiah who, for us, has already appeared. In that case they will be denying the divinity of Jesus and we cannot help them. Or else they will go there without any religion, and then we can be even less favorable to them… The Jewish religion was the foundation of our own; but it was superseded by the teachings of Christ, and we cannot concede it any further validity. The Jews, who ought to have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day”
- “And so, if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we shall have churches and priests ready to baptize all of you”
The sad fact revealed by these quotes is that no room has been left for the God of the Bible as the loving God who is restoring His people to their Promised Land. And the stark refusal to recognize God’s restorative love for Jacob’s sons and daughters finds cold refuge in the heart of some Christians today as well.
It is no wonder that Christians who cannot accept the regathering of the Jewish people as gracious and good, tend to give short thrift to the biblical subject of Ezekiel’s mighty Jewish army. From their point of view, the Jewish people can’t win. According to this viewpoint, Jewish people are suspended between heaven and earth, not allowed to have a homeland of their own. According to this viewpoint, the Jews may have a past and a future – but they certainly do not have a present. According to this viewpoint, all that the Jewish people can look forward to is to “this present darkness.”
Four parallels to consider
There are four parallels worth thinking about here.
The Deistic view of God sees God as the great watchmaker who has wound up the universe and, like Elvis, has abruptly left the building. No one know when He will be back. God is powerful but distant. He doesn’t come around much anymore, and one cannot really have a personal relationship with Him.
This perspective is quite popular in the world today, even among many Christians. Cessationist Christians (who do not believe that God shows up to accomplish healings or to manifest the spiritual gifts) have had their worldview philosophically compared to Deistic views in this area. Those who deny God’s present good hand of restoration for Israel seem to be doing something similar. This viewpoint believes that God has not shown up for Israel and is not intending to do so – at least until Israel screams for mercy.
The Corban principle refers back to Mark 7:9-13. There the cold-hearted and unthankful son who does not want to bless his parents, regretfully informs them that he would like to help them, but the material possessions in question have just recently been dedicated by the son’s holy vow unto the Lord, and cannot be given to help. In the same way, some believers say that they would like to help in Israel’s restoration, but unfortunately Scripture (at least their understanding of it) prevents them from doing so. Sounds religious, but it still doesn’t smell that good.
The Tobiah syndrome is found in Nehemiah 4:3. The man in question looks at Jewish efforts toward restoration and sneers that Jewish efforts are earnest but useless. Even a fox running along the rebuilt walls would cause the restoration work to collapse.
Some Christians who hold to these kind of views vis-à-vis Jewish restoration, condescendingly look upon Israelis who serve in the Israel Defense Forces as serious but misguided, since according to their viewpoint Israel will be totally destroyed. All effort invested in Jewish restoration is worthless, according to this viewpoint.
The Neturei Karta response hearkens back to a miniscule ultra-Orthodox strand of Judaism which refuses to recognize the modern state of Israel. The Neturei Karta (“Guardians of the city” in Aramaic) believe that only Messiah can establish the true Jewish kingdom, and that secular Jewish efforts are to be despised, shunned and rejected. The Neturei Karta regularly turn to Palestinian terror groups to ask for approval and permission for NK activities and have stood on stage in Iran, identifying with Ahmadinejad and praising him.
The result of invalidating God’s good hand in the present restoration of Zion has caused some to seek out very strange bedfellows.
It is not surprising to note that, for those who reject the present restoration work of God, the only eschatological room left for the Jewish people according to these world views is either the Jews as tragic victims, or one specific Jew as the anti-Christ.
How shall we then pray?
- Ask the Lord to grant a renewal of revelation and understanding to believers everywhere concerning the biblical restoration of Israel
- Ask for guidance in prayer for intercessors who call out for the restoration of the Jewish people
- Ask for guidance for those who want to be actively involved in the Jewish people’s safety and salvation
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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