Should Christians Support Israel?

is-lgflagThis question comes on the heels of some very recent and disturbing news – that Iran could attack Israel in the very near future.  It is no secret that the Arab nations surrounding Israel would love nothing more than to see Israel fall.  Israel has very little support in the Middle East – but has a great supporter in the West: the United States.  And within the United States there is a particular strong core of support coming from Evangelical Christians. Many Christians see the nation of Israel as not only the “fathers” of our faith, but as a central figure in God’s current activity and of imminent prophecy.

Before I go any further, let me interrupt myself and make it clear that I am looking at the Christian’s response to Israel on a Biblical basis only.  Whatever answer we may find, there still might be a different, political answer as to how we as a nation should respond to those who are under attack by an evil aggressor.  I believe that Americans have a call to do what is right, and to defend against evil – regardless who we are defending. With that being said, what are we-as Christians-to say of modern Israel from a Biblical point of view?  What should our response be?

To answer this question we have to first understand something about covenants.  A covenant is a binding agreement between parties.  It generally comes with terms that define its parameters.  Marriage, for example, is a type of covenant.  In marriage two people pledge to love, honor, and cherish each other until one of them dies.  It is to be a solemn covenant that is entered into with great care and reverence. Simply put, the terms of the marriage covenant is that each party is to love the other until separated from death – at which time the covenant is no longer binding.

The Bible makes it clear that God interacts with people through covenants.  Various commandments and promises were given to different people within the early chapters of Genesis.  For example, God made a covenant with Noah.  In this covenant, God promised to save Noah and his family from a coming flood, and Noah was to build an ark according to God’s specs.

It is generally held among many modern Christians that the nation of Israel is God’s chosen people, and that the land was given to them forever.  It is argued that those who oppose Israel being in the land are actually opposing God. So, is Israel the people of God?  Do they have an unconditional claim to the land?  To answer these questions we need to find the covenant that makes this promise, and then determine the conditions of said promise.

There are four very significant covenants in the Old Testament that seem to deal with the nation of Israel.  Two of them are often cited as promises currently belonging to Israel.  They are the Abrahamic Covenant, and the Mosaic Covenant.

First is the Abrahamic covenant.  As the name of the covenant indicates, this is a covenant that God made with Abraham.  It is first found in Gen 12:1-3, but is reiterated elsewhere.  In this covenant God commands Abraham to leave his father’s country and go to a land that God will show him.  God promises to make Abraham great and promises to greatly bless his “seed.” At first blush it would seem this covenant concerns the nation of Israel, as they would seem to be the seed of Abraham.  However, the Christian needs to be familiar with the New Testament, and what light it sheds on the passage.  In Galatians 3:16 Paul gives us additional information. He writes: Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ (NKJV). Paul shows us that when God made the promise to Abraham that the word “seed” did not mean many people (Israel) – but only one: Christ.  This promise was made to Abraham, and his seed, Jesus Christ – not a nation of people.  Therefore, this covenant cannot be seen as a promise to Israel.

Next to consider is the Mosaic covenant – or the one made through Moses.  The covenant is pronounced in Exodus 19:5: Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. It is clear from the context that this covenant is made for the nation of Israel.  The terms of the covenant are clearly stated in several passages, but no clearer than in Deut. 28.  In that chapter God lays out His promise to give Israel the land, and to bless them richly.  However, not even the casual reader of the passage will fail to notice that God’s promises are conditional.  Even in the passage cited above from Exodus we can see the typical if/then language: IF Israel obeys God, THEN they get to be His people and live in the land. No one would question God’s faithfulness.  And so the obvious question becomes: has Israel kept their end of the bargain?

One does not need to turn many pages from Exodus 19 to get the answer.  Time and time again Israel shows that they did not keep God’s commandments.  This became the recurring theme of the prophets – that Israel should turn from their wicked ways and be obedient to God.  Though they may have experienced brief periods of revival, it never lasted.  Israel simply did not keep their contract with God – even though He remained faithful to them.

Jesus told a chilling parable in Matthew 21.  It is often called the Parable of the Landowner.  Borrowing from the language of Isaiah, Jesus describes how a Landowner provided for a vineyard and leased it out to workers.  At harvest time the Landowner sent his servants for what belonged to him.  The workers beat one, and killed another.  Finally, the Landowner sent his son.  The workers responded by killing the son. It is quite obvious that this story has to do with Israel.  God – the Landowner – sent His prophets (the servants) to Israel over the years.  But, Israel rejected them.  Finally, God sent His only Son Jesus.  Their response was to reject and kill Him.  What is most interesting is the pronouncement Jesus made in verse 43: Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. Jesus indicated that because of their continued hardness of heart, God was stripping Israel of its right to be God’s, and giving that right to others. Does this mean that Israel has been rejected of God?  Absolutely not (Rom 11:1).  Instead, they have been invited back to the table of God vis-à-vis a New Covenant, instituted by Jesus.

The Old Covenant is no longer an active covenant.  The writer of Hebrews calls it “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13).  In its place God has given a New Covenant through Jesus Christ.  Any who wish to commune with God must do it through the confines of the New Covenant. The “people of God” are not a race of people who have a common ancestor.  Instead, they are those who have been “adopted” as sons and daughters into Christ.  To claim that the descendants of Abraham through Jacob have some special claim as God’s people is to ignore the terms of the New Covenant that God Himself instituted. Although there may be Jews living in modern Israel who are trying to remain faithful to God, the nation proclaims itself to be a secular democracy (ruled by the people – not God).  Even if it would attempt to return to the Law of Moses, it would be following a system that God Himself has abandoned.  Jesus has pronounced Himself as “the Way” to the Father – the old “way” is gone.

I understand that what I’ve written here may be objectionable to some who’ve never considered it before.  I also understand that there are a lot more scripture passages that might be considered.  I would be more than happy to deal with those scriptures if suggested.  However, my study of this theme has led me to the conclusion that support for Israel’s claim to their land based on the Old Covenant is not one that can be Biblically defended.  We should pray for Israel to receive their Messiah, just as we should pray for their Arab neighbors who also reject God’s will for themselves as well.

Peace, dane



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