Israel, the suffering servant

Christians are motivated by gratitude to support Israel

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9 ינ' 2012 (כל היום)
Israel, the suffering servant

From our vantage point in Jerusalem, it seems the Christian Zionist movement is constantly gaining new recruits from all over the world. Pro-Israel Christians can now be found in the millions on all continents, and even amid the current turmoil of the Middle East more and more Arab Christians are boldly declaring their acceptance of the promised biblical restoration of Israel.

Yet the ranks of evangelical Christians now siding with the Palestinians also seem to be expanding. Members of this counter-movement often express great sympathy for Palestinian suffering, while questioning the views and motives of fellow Christians who have chosen to stand alongside Israel. They join with other detractors in denouncing Christian Zionists for “blindly” supporting Israel, for blocking peace, for wanting to hasten the Apocalypse, or for acting out of some sort of guilt complex over the Holocaust and other past manifestations of anti-Semitism.

Each of these spurious charges can be easily answered, but perhaps it is best to simply spell out what truly motivates us into caring deeply about Israel and befriending the Jewish people. For if our heart motives are indeed the fruit of the Spirit of God, then no fellow Christian should question them, just as the Apostle Paul counseled that “against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:23).

Now I can understand someone having sympathy for the Palestinians. They have no doubt suffered much loss. Yet I cannot concede that this suffering has come mainly at the hands of Israel. The truth is that the greater part of Palestinian dispossession and loss has been both caused and compounded by callous and corrupt Arab leaders who have used ordinary Palestinians as political pawns in their racist struggle to snuff out the Jewish state.

Further, there are many peoples that have suffered in this life at the cruel hands of other humans, and they too deserve our sympathy. So why should the Palestinians warrant our pity more than the Jews, who have suffered far more down through history than any other people on earth? By any humane measuring stick, the Jewish people ought to be the foremost object of our commiseration.

Yet according to the Bible, it is not just the depth of Jewish suffering that should move our hearts. Rather, it is the redemptive purpose behind that affliction which distinguishes the Jewish people’s painful lot from all others. What truly sets Jewish suffering apart is that it was largely inflicted by God for the sake of all other peoples. That, dear saints, is a huge distinction!

The Bible teaches that Israel was called to be a suffering servant for the sake of the nations. In their difficult journey down through time, God used the Jews to deliver to us through much tribulation all the means necessary for our salvation, whether it was the Word of God, the law of God, the service and the worship of God, and finally the Messiah of God (Romans 9:4-5).

But because they were not always faithful, God also corrected them through painful uprootings and exiles. The Hebrew prophets even decree that Israel would receive from the Lord’s hand “double” for all her sins (Isaiah 40:1-3; Jeremiah 16:18).

Paul further teaches in Romans 9-11 that God Himself hardened Jewish hearts to their own promised Messiah and committed them to disobedience, so that the mercies of God might flow to the Gentiles. Their “stumbling” meant “riches” for us. Their “casting off” was “the reconciling of the world” to our Maker. Indeed, they were “made enemies of the Gospel” for the sake of the Gentiles.

This all resulted in a wound in the Jewish people that Jeremiah describes as “incurable” (Jeremiah 30:12-17). That is, no human hand can truly heal it, only God can. But He indeed promises to heal it, including through the “mercy” shown to Israel by Gentiles working within His purposes (Romans 11:31).

In the end, God promises to restore to Israel “double” for all their loss and dispossession, and to bring upon them “double honor… Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.” (Isaiah 61:7; see also Zechariah 9:12)

I, for one, long to see this people who suffered so much for my sake, to see them healed of their wounds, restored fully to their God-given inheritance, and reaching their promised national destiny in Him.

That is the very powerful motivating factor behind my biblical Zionism. And no Christian worth his salt should ever have room to question it!


The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
This commentary was published in the January 2012 issue of
The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce

 

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