Do the Jews have any Divine favour?
So, what is special about this folk? And where does it say that these people are special, chosen for some purpose? Where does it say "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." The Bible, of course. How could the writers of the Bible have known about Einstein, Freud and Marx (though it's hard to discern what sort of blessing we received here, considering the fruits of their endeavours - the atom bomb, overpaid psychiatrists and communism), to say nothing of the scores of other major influences? How could they know about 'this one solitary life', the Jew, Jesus, written about in a famous essay?
"Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never travelled more than two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself ... I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life."
Like it or not the above is true, though the effects felt on the Jewish nation as a result of this particular 'solitary life' has been one of the tragedies of history, a subject that we will explore in later articles.
But for now, to prepare us for the journey ahead of us, the best way to approach a subject as emotive as this is to put one's cards on the table right at the start, so that there can be no misunderstandings or suspicions. To be as frank as I can, this is an attempt at a response to such books that claim to represent 'different theological perspectives' but tend to lean towards just one particular perspective. In fact, of the twelve contributors to one such book, eleven of them are in basic agreement that the promises of God to Abraham concerning the 'Promised Land' have now been inherited by the Church and that the State of Israel is nothing more than a blip of modern history.
Do we, as Christians, go with the flow and 'play it safe'? Do we follow the majority view just because this is taught in many Bible Colleges and theological schools in the UK? The impression seems to be that a good dose of 'formal Biblical and theological study' provided at these establishments will put you right on this issue and clear your mind of such nonsense as the restoration of Israel!
Does this mean that the majority of us who have not had the benefit of a formal Christian education do not have the tools to read the Bible correctly? Does this mean that only theologians are properly equipped to deal with such thorny issues as the identity of Israel and the Church? Does that mean that there's no point consulting the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) on these matters, because we will probably get it wrong? Do we ordinary Christians not have a duty to examine the issues for ourselves? Also, how do these educational establishments arrive at their theological position, because in other countries, notably the USA, the majority of schools would take a totally different perspective? Are we not all studying the same Bible?
These are good questions to ask because there is a lot at stake. Although these issues are not as key as one's personal salvation, they are important for many reasons, not the least concerning the faithfulness of God in His dealings with His people. Therefore it is essential that every Christian, whatever their educational background, should prayerfully seek the truth on such a key issue. There is no sitting on the fence here; there can only be one truth.
In August 2002 a group of evangelical Christians in the USA sent a letter to President Bush, expressing their concern at what they saw as imbalance in American policy towards the Middle East conflict. One statement they made is worthy of note: 'Significant numbers of American evangelicals reject the way some have distorted Biblical passages as their rationale for uncritical support for every policy and action of the Israeli government instead of judging all actions - of both Israelis and Palestinians - on the basis of biblical standards of justice'.
When we get to the stage where Christians openly accuse others of 'distorting Biblical passages', then it is time for us to truly seek God's face and examine how there can be such a split in the Body of Christ.
The arena of conflict is the cauldron of confusion known as Hermeneutics, which, for you and me, is concerned with how we should read and apply the Bible. The two key skirmishes are, firstly, how much of the Bible should be taken literally and, secondly, to what extent do we read the Old Testament in the light of the coming of Jesus, in the New Testament. The trick is getting the balance right between these two factors and it is fair to say that the differences of opinion are caused by different emphases of each factor.
One barrier to the acceptance of a pro-Israel view in the UK is our natural conservatism, a fear of being sucked into what is viewed by some as the 'lunatic fringe'. Interpreting some key Scriptures in a certain way is not necessarily going to turn you into a fully-blown extreme dispensationalist or end-time fanatic, leafing through one of the hundreds of books on the subject for clues to the prophetic apocalyptic timetable. One must not be ruled by such fears and you should trust yourself with a certain degree of discernment. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Be real.
At the end of the day we are Christians first, members of one Body of Christ, and we should be secure enough in our views to be able to defend them without having to excuse the excesses of some others who may share some of your theological viewpoints.
It is my belief that we Christians must look beyond day-to-day politics and realise that the conflict is a spiritual conflict. The sooner we begin to look at it through spiritual eyes, the sooner we might wake up to the realities of the battles that are being fought in heavenly realms. These are exciting times, frightening times.
May 2013 (This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)