Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, March 2, 2017
During his address to the nation on February 28th, President Trump spoke of middle east affairs, specifically the problem of Islamic terrorism, and declared his intention to “demolish and destroy ISIS.” He then briefly added that he had “reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.” Although it was only one phrase, it represents one of the most abrupt changes of direction from the previous administration. For the last eight years, President Obama has given lukewarm support for Israel, at best. His tacit endorsement of Israel’s foes culminated in his approval of a UN resolution condemning Israel in the last days of his presidency.
This raises a question which continues to divide American Christians: Should we, as believers in Jesus Christ, support Israel – and encourage our nation to support Israel?
On a purely ‘common sense’ level, I believe as a nation we should support Israel. We should stand with Israel because Israel stands with us. Israel reflects much of our western culture and values, unlike many middle east nations. Despite claims to the reverse, Israel has always supported peace in the middle east (Israel recognizes the right of Palestinians to have their own state despite repeated attempts by Palestinians and other Arab nations to destroy Israel completely). Despite having the strongest military in the region, Israel has never sought to conquer other nations (despite repeated provocations). Israel has a strong human rights record – despite some isolated cases of violence against Christians. Israel is a democracy, giving its citizens the right to have their say in the nation’s affairs.
But leaving all this aside, the more important question for me is this: Should I, as a Christian, support Israel? For me, this question is not decided by comparing Israel with other countries around the world, and deciding whether to support her based on subjective qualities. My support of Israel is directly related to God’s Word.
Although many theologians today have mangled the biblical teaching concerning God and Israel, any literal reading of Scripture is unambiguous. In my study in the early chapters of Genesis, the narrative of creation, the flood, and the Tower of Babel all lead inexorably to one event: God’s choice of Abram. The nation of Israel was created and grew with the mighty hand of God guiding and guarding them. God’s promise to Abram was unconditional – that is, it was not dependent on anything Abram or his descendants might do. God promised, and that was that. Listen to the words of Deuteronomy 7:6-8:
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
For Christians in particular, we rejoice because God chose to bless us through Israel. Our Bible is a Jewish book, and our Savior is a Jewish Savior. Our spiritual heritage is interwoven with the history, prophecy, and passion of the Jews. It is true that Israel, today, does not recognize her Messiah; the nation is a secular, unbelieving (as to the claims of Jesus Christ) nation; but even this present reality is not a cause for believers to reject Israel. In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul notes that although ‘some of the branches were broken off’ (i.e., some Jews were severed from the tree of blessing) and ‘wild olive’ branches (Gentile Christians) were ‘grafted in’ and shared in God’s blessings, we should never forget ‘our roots’:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, the root supports you. (Rom. 11.17-18)
Finally, I take God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 12:2-3 literally: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
America is not, as a nation, following God. Our sins are many, both of commission and omission. We do not have any claim on God’s blessing – and should He extend it to us for many years into the future, it will be a sign of His great grace and mercy. But if He does, it may be in large part because we have been a blessing, and not a curse, to His people Israel.