Monday, 7 June 2010

Israel is more than just land!

Having been challenged regarding the 'fact' that I, as a Christian, 'must' support the nation state of Israel has led me to do much pondering and thinking. Thus far, my limited grey matter has stumbled across a few thoughts which I have decided to share in a spirit of glasnost (and also to make everyone else feel decidedly cleverer) which I include here for your consideration (or mirth).

The people of Israel were a people who were brought together to witness to the power and reality of their God (YHWH) by being wonderfully counter-cultural. In the nation of Israel we see more than just the possession of territory, we find, in Genesis 12, God telling Abram to go from his land to a land that He (God) would show him. This is place where we find the coming together of two of the three components of the Jewish faith, GOD (YHWH, who speaks to Abram) and LAND (the focus of the conversation). All that we have missing is of course, Torah.

The majority of people supporting Israel (regardless) focus of the land, and Jerusalem in particular. There was indeed an important emphasis on the place of the land, and it was a place the Jews found themselves inhabiting until the naughty Romans (what have they ever done for us?) knocked the Temple down and wrecked the place. The establishment of Israel (by force) and the plans to rebuild the temple all seem to me to be some sort of pushing through prophecy rather than seeing how God will achieve the desired results. If the land is so important and if Jerusalem is so key to God's plans, surely He might be able to set the conditions himself rather than leave us to do what He is obviously impotent to do?

I am aware of the many conspiracy theories that abound, each claiming sinister plots to remove Christian support from Israel, yet ironically I only see Israeli politics working to remove the support of the Western world's Christians (and others). Against this I see various Zionist groups issuing stuff like this (from an email):

"The Lord in His zealous love for Israel and the Jewish People blesses and curses peoples and judges nations based upon their treatment of the Chosen People of Israel."

These words of warning, which come from the ICEJ (International Christian Embassy) sit interestingly with:

"As a faith bound to love and forgiveness we are appreciative of the attempts by the Government of Israel to work tirelessly for peace. However, the truths of God are sovereign and it is written that the Land which He promised to His People is not to be partitioned...."

Mmmmmm! Don't see much tireless working for peace from where I sit!

There is so much blood guilt (see the 1947 League of Nations partition plan) involved with the establishment of a modern state of Israel and so many disposed people (Palestinians) and such amazingly awful acts committed by a people who one would have thought might have known better since so many play the God's people card (actually - reading and listening it seems that the Christians are into this more than 'God's people).

So first thought - Israel is about something more, and other, than land.


Revsimmy said...

Vic, I agree with the statement, "Israel is more than just land." I have problems with "and other than," since the Hebrew scriptures seem pretty explicit on this point. It raises all sorts of hermeneutical questions, and I remain unconvinced by e.g. Colin Chapman's arguments that the NT completely recasts OT prophacy and promises in a more or less exclusively "spiritual" way.

This is NOT to say that the modern state of Israel should be supported regardless, nor that much of its policy is not driven by secular considerations. However, I think it is naive to suppose that all Israel has to do to achieve peace is to lay down its arms. Many of its neighbours would be only too glad to see it cease to exist entirely, even if this is downplayed for Western consumption.

Two further points for theological consideration:
1. How can Christians genuinely exercise a "ministry of reconciliation" in these (and similar) circumstances? How do we work to bridge the gap, rather than simply declaring ourselves to be for one side or the other?
2. What is our (Christian) theology of ownership? This is something I don't feel is given much consideration. "All things come from you, and of your own do we give you." How, if at all, does this apply to this much disputed territory? To other conflicts and injustices?

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

When I say, "Israel is about something more, and other, than land," I think I am on safe ground.

I am encountering so many people who see Israel as nothing more than land which, if called Israel mysteriously brings Christ back. the 'other than' is about God, relationship with, obedience to and worship of.

I hope that clarifies my thinking (thus far set out) - I will take your two points away and return.


Chuck Hicks said...

Many of my fellow evangelicals point to Genesis 12:3 and caution against "turning our back on Israel." A couple of problems with that line of reasoning: 1) it assumes that the State (in our case, the U.S.) = the American people; and 2) that the State of Israel = the Jewish people.

I think we can take Genesis 12:3 and NT passages like Romans 11:18-21 quite seriously as regards what ought to be our attitude and conduct toward Jews in the broad sense. But to lend unqualified support to the Israeli State, particularly when its policies are manifestly unjust, is simply unwarranted.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

As I see it the State of Israel ≠ the Jewish people (i.e. the people of God). It might contain some of them but they are not the whole and therefore cannot represent or act fo God.

Totally agree - thanks Chuck

Revsimmy said...

Of course Israel "is about God, relationship with, obedience to and worship of" but the Hebrew scriptures make the land an integral part of both the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants.

I hope I made it clear in my earlier post that I am no advocate for unqualified, uncritical support of the Israeli state. However, it makes little sense to speak of "the American people" or "the British" without a sense of connection to a geographical locale, however tenuous that connection may be in relation to some American or British individuals. Similarly, though it may be true that the State of Israel does not equal the Jewish people, the latter are connected to a geographical location, however tenuously.

I have as much problem with those who have an entirely negative view of Israel as with those who are uncritically positive. And I still wrestle with the two issues I raised in my previous post.