Saturday, January 14, 2017

Peace where there is no peace...

"Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel's name is remembered no more."
With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you. Psalm 83:4-5

Tomorrow, representatives of seventy nations will gather in Paris ostensibly to suss out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This conference falls about two weeks after the passage of UN resolution 2334 condemning Israel (again) and two days before another meeting at the UN, at which it is expected another resolution against Israel will be passed. There is evidence that there have been secret negotiations between the Palestinians and diplomats of Western nations. The scuttlebutt is that this is a coordinated plan to force Israel to accept a two state solution with conditions and borders which not only disfavor Israel, but will endanger its existence.

It is interesting that seventy have been invited, as Jewish tradition holds that seventy nations represent all the nations of the earth. Could this be the beginning of 'all the nations of the earth' setting themselves against Israel mentioned in Zechariah 12? Add the blood moon tetrad pointing to times of change for Israel and I find myself observing these impending events both with dread and anticipation. Are we at the tipping point, or will the more favorable policies promised by the incoming administration bring this situation back into a tense status quo? It feels like an ocean wave lifting toward a flood wall—a wall behind which sits all of history. Will the wave build and overwhelm us or will it subside, rolling back with a sigh and disappear? I am praying for God's mercy and forbearance but also for His will to be done, for there is a time certain at which God will press play and the final chapters of human history will begin. Is this that? We just don't know. 

And why should we care? Why should Gentile Christians care about a small people in a small country on the other side of the world? Isn't God done with the Jews? Didn't they have their chance and blow it? Didn't their rejection of Jesus disqualify them forever? May it never be! Scripture is full of statements in which God promises never to abandon the Jewish people. Second, a God who binds Himself to a people and then abandons them in frustration when they prove problematic is a problem for us. If God does not have to keep His promises to the Jewish people, what makes us think He will keep His promises to us? And we are fooling ourselves if we think Gentiles are somehow better or more deserving than Jews. Or that the New Testament somehow is a do-over of the Old. No, the welfare of the Jewish people should matter very much to those of us who call on the name of Jesus. God's faithfulness, veracity and ability—His very reputation—are at stake.

The question of Israel and the future of the Jewish people in God's plan is contentious. Whole streams of theology have been created in order to explain it or explain it away. But it remains the quintessential, defining issue, because it asks the ultimate question, Is God really in charge? Does He have the right to do whatever He wants? The question of this very small people group remains a stubborn pebble in the world's shoe precisely because it so accurately pinpoints our heart problem--we don't want God telling us what to do. The very idea that He would choose a people group simply because He chose them, seems unfair. We don't like it, secretly believing that if anyone was going to be chosen, it should have been us.* It chafes that He feels no particular need to explain it to us or justify His decision. So Israel is a litmus test, illustrating whether we are willing to trust what God is doing. Our opinion, our words and our actions toward Israel expose our hearts. Are we willing to submit to God even when His choices don't make sense to us, even if we feel we know better?

Israel is the apple of God's eye...not because they are better or smarter or more moral. He loves them because he loves them (just like us). He has chosen them and promises to keep them. He has loved them, disciplined them, judged them and, with regard to Jesus, temporarily blinded them. Yet even during this long, spiritual time-out, He is tirelessly working to bring His wayward people back to Himself. He is preparing them for that day when they recognize Jesus as their Messiah, and repent with tears as they embrace Him. God's actions for and against Israel have never been an invitation to destroy them, though many have tried. God's discipline is always redemptive and His ultimate plan is to save them, which is why satan has always been so intent on annihilation. He has asked His church to stand with them, though we haven't always proved faithful to that call. He is asking now that we identify with them, stand with them and help them. Not because they deserve it, not because we will gain anything by it, but because God asks us to. It has never been widely popular to be friends with Israel. Eventually, it will be dangerous. This issue, at bottom, is whether or not we will submit to and obey God. Will we choose what God chooses?

The world can swell with self-important posturing. It can hold all the conferences and pass all the resolutions it wants. Genuine, lasting peace will never come to the Middle East until the Prince of Peace Himself returns. At that time, Jew and Arab will be truly and forever reconciled. The world will know peace. God has placed this people at the center of world conflict because the question of the Jewish people is not about nations or political agendas. It is about so much more than the land and who it belongs to. It is about the all too human refusal to submit to God's rule. We love the teachings of Jesus until they run counter to our personal inclinations, our pet sins. It is the problem human beings run into whenever they encounter God's reign. Then we have a decision to make—will we massage His message until we are comfortable, or bring our thinking in line with His? 

Israel the secular nation may fall, but Israel the people are ours to love because God loves them. So the wave approaches and as we watch and pray and trust in God's goodness, the question remains, "Does God have the right to do as He chooses and to tell us what to do?" Will we love and protect and serve the Jewish people simply because God asks us to?


*And of course we are chosen. We are grafted into the olive tree of Israel. All the promises and blessings are ours, not because Israel forfeited them but because we are now included with them through accepting their Messiah, Jesus. And of course Jewish people must come through that same gate...there is no separate, different salvation for Jews than for Gentiles.

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