Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
You can view part one (History of the Land to 1917) here; and part two (History of the Land Since 1917) here.
How Christians approach the land/modern state of Israel today depends on their answer to an number of theological questions: the way they understand the Bible, their view of salvation history, who the people of God are and their understanding of the future.
Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars and God the things that are God’s.” This is useful to understanding the question of the State of Israel.
I sympathize most with the ancient Jewish land claims of the State of Israel, which far outweigh that of the Arab Palestinians; add to this Israel’s international recognition, defensive victories and productive sovereign presence and they have every right to exist, even if imperfectly. It certainly has a right to defend itself, remembering compassionate justice.
Yet the Arabs of Palestine have been there many centuries and likewise have a right to co-exist, either in Israel or over their own state (something that Zionism challenges). They have certainly been impacted by the arrival of Jewish settlers and refugees. However, the Arabs lost the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. The Arabs have clearly leveraged refugees against Israel when in all other international examples displaced people are reintegrated. Most Arab Palestinians simply want to live peaceably (and many do so as citizens of Israel). However, 5 times the PLO has turned down peace deals that would have seen them sovereign over Gaza and the West Bank, why? If Israel laid down their arms there are enough people who hate her that she would cease to exist. If the Palestinians laid down their arms (in the sense of terrorism and not police and military forces) then there would be peace. The adage that the conflict is “easy to explain, difficult to solve,” seems very true. One reason why the Jews are hated is theological, they are God’s “chosen” people; but this must be defined.
Religiously I do not sympathize with Israel with the exceptions of my Judeo-Christian heritage (Ro 9:5, chs. 9–11) and also my desire that all ethnic Israel may be saved (Ro 11:26). My sympathy stops here because I am a covenantalist (I see continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant people of God, the elect, c.f. Ro 9–11—the Church is Israel) and an a-millennialist (the millennial Kingdom is today, Christ reigning over His Church on earth by His Spirit—the promises of land have been fulfilled).
Indeed, God choose to save a people to himself (the elect). He sought to bring salvations by choosing, under the OC, to work through one nation (Israel). Even in the OT Israel was made up of visible and believing Israel, or those elect to service and those elect to salvation. Under the New Covenant, unbelieving Jews remain “elect to service,” but in a much diminished sense, to bring about the salvation of the Gentiles. The New Covenant community are God’s people, believing Jew and Gentile, in salvation and in predominant service. However, because unbelieving ethnic Jews are still elect to service they are a hated people (anti-semitism). It seems clear that God, in His providence, has been kind to the Jews by allowing them back to their historic lands; a kindness no doubt intended to lead to repentance (Ro 2:4).
We must remember to read the whole Bible through the lens of Christ (Christologically, e.g. the road to Emmaus). The promises of the Promised Land were surely realized in a literal sense under Solomon. Because the promises were contingent on covenant faithfulness the Jews were expelled from the land for their unfaithfulness. It was according to God’s mercy they were even able to return to the land in part under the Persians. The destruction of the Jewish Temple and the expulsion of the Jews from the land was a judgement for not accepting the New Covenant of the Messiah. (During the first millennia Christians were disinterested in the land, except for its connection to Christ and the saints, for this reason). When secular Zionism emerged, Rabbis were quick to point out that the dispersion was God’s judgement and that the Jews would not return to the land, in their view, until the Messiah came. Today Israel is largely a spiritually godless Western nation of atheists and legalists. Even if the Old Covenant had not been fulfilled in Christ, ethnic Jews would have no claim to the land because of their covenant unfaithfulness. How much more so today because they reject the New Covenant.
While Zionism is a powerful and tantalizing drug that even the disciples dappled with (Acts 1:6). Jesus in the Kingdom of God, however, had far more in mind. At the Fall God’s presence in His place (Eden/earth) was lost. Since that point His presence on His place has been expanding. The Promised Land was a type of Eden. Today the Kingdom’s reign through the New Covenant People of God (the Church) is typologically expanding His rule all over the earth, not simply in one place (Israel). In the words of the Reformers Luther and Calvin, the restoration of Israel is a mere “Jewish myth.” When Christ returns His rule over earth will be completed in the New Heavens and New Earth. Perhaps the most we might say of Israel in this is that it is likely Christ will return to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11), and so in that sense Israel might feature in future events.
But what of God’s promises to Abraham of the land? It was fulfilled in Christ just like all Old Covenant promises. We must covenantally understand the expansive nature of this promise. Imagine a father promised his son a carriage as a gift for his marriage in 1900. However, when he was married in 1910 he gave him a new automobile. Did the father not give what he had promised? Abraham never lived to see an inheritance in the Promised Land. This was because he was hoping in what the Promised Land signified, the New Heavens and New Earth, God’s reign over all (Heb 11:10).
Civilly I sympathize with Israel; religiously I also sympathize with Israel, but not in a way many ministries and Christians have paraded on social media since the recent conflict began. It is a modest sympathy. My sincere sympathies lie here:
Existing in both Israel and Palestine are believing Jews and Arabs, members of the New Covenant, Christians. These are our brothers and sisters. These are the ones caught between a worldly power struggle (unbelieving Palestinians and Israelis) that we ought to sympathize the most with, whether it is an Israeli Christian being killed by Hamas rockets or a Palestinian Christian being killed by Israeli missiles. Our great desire for Israelis and Palestinians is that they might join Christ’s kingdom through repentance and faith and thus be assured of a place in the New Heavens and New Earth.
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Markdale Baptist Church
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