The Biblical Case for Defending Israel – Part IDownload Study
Can you immediately and cogently reason from Scripture why America should be committed to Israel? By way of introduction, I believe that in a reaping-and-sowing sense America has wonderfully prospered because our cultural foundation stems from all that Israel has historically provided us relative to pertinent scriptural truth. No doubt the biblical truths borrowed from historic Israel have provided the cultural moorings for historic America. One might summarily call this our philosophical union with Israel. If for no other reason, we owe Israel our loyalty relative to our debt of gratitude. But there are many more biblically based reasons that I will proffer in this Bible study.
Read on, my friend.
God’s Word contains a clear and absolute, timeless guarantee relative to the Abrahamic Promise of Genesis 12:3,1 “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” History vividly punctuates this truth. America is among nations that has shown longstanding support for Israel. President Harry Truman acknowledged the sovereign state of Israel within 11 minutes of the signing of the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. Whether you are blessed for supporting Israel as has been our nation or cursed for attempting to demolish her like ancient Babylon, Hitler’s Germany, or the present-day Arab nations, one thing is certain: This people and country are extra special—set apart by God from all others. No other countries compare because in the Old Covenant God chose Israel to be His people as a light unto all the other Gentile nations of the world (cf. Isaiah 60 and 62); they were a people set apart for His own possession (Exodus 19:5–6). Accordingly, the Jewish people hold a very special place in the heart of God.
Given the recent attention on Israel and all that is happening with Gaza, I thought this would be a good time to provide a biblical primer as to why you and our nation should remain staunch allies of Israel. Again, can you immediately and cogently reason from Scripture why this should be?
At least three pragmatic reasons outline why our nation should support Israel.
II. PRAGMATIC REASONS FOR SUPPORTING ISRAEL A. ISRAEL IS LEGITIMATE
In 1948 when Israel became a nation, 160 other countries acknowledged her as a non-racist democracy. In fact Arabs hold public office in the Knesset and high positions in its military. This nation believes people are made in the image of God and endowed with inalienable rights.
B. ISRAEL IS RELIABLE
In an increasingly tumultuous Middle East, we need an ally to protect ourselves. America needs a reliable ally in this area of the world due to the nearly enriched nuclear threat of Iran, which has repeatedly declared its hatred for America.
C. ISRAEL IS SMART
Much scientific and technological advancement has been achieved by Israel. Financial management2 and information processing have made her a world leader. Now void of earlier socialistic economic tendencies, her free-market, roaring entrepreneurial spirit make her a powerhouse in the international marketplace and an awesome trade partner. George Gilder’s book, The Israel Test, documents the historically disproportionate contributions of the Jewish race to the betterment of mankind.3 (This must-read book helps explain why other nations are so jealous of her.)
More importantly, however, than these excellent pragmatic reasons as to why America should support Israel is the biblical one. What follows is the exegetical case; the three major biblical chapters when studied together exclaim why every legislator, governmental leader, citizen, and human being should befriend Israel.4 All believers need to have Genesis 12, Romans 11, and Revelation 7 at their fingertips as well as intellectual dexterity when it comes to this pertinent issue.
III. GENESIS 12
In Genesis 12:1–2 God makes a promise with Abram who is the patriarchal father of the nation Israel. But before examining that promise in some detail it is important to understand the whole of Genesis. There are two main divisions in the book, each possessing four sub-points. The first portion (1–11) relates to beginnings: The Creation, The Fall, The Flood, and The Dispersion. The second portion (12–50) pertains to the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. This study begins at the start of the second portion where God chooses a man from whom He will generate a family, a tribe, a whole nation—the nation of Israel, a distinctive nation as described by God Himself in Exodus 19:5–6, Deuteronomy 7:6–8, and Exodus 19:6, respectively:
“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
“and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation….”
God made three unilateral promises with Abram: a land, a seed, and a blessing as evidenced from this passage (Genesis 12:1–2).
“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing….’”
The aforementioned passages of Scripture are where the case for being pro-Israel begins. Noteworthy here is that God’s promise in Genesis 12 includes a land which is elsewhere referred to as the land of Canaan (cf. Genesis 17:8).5 Again, the promise of the land is critical to the study that follows because in Genesis 12:3, previously cited in the prologue, God states the consequences of not being an ally of His people Israel in their land:
“‘And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’”
At first glance, the passage above seems quite straightforward except for this: Do the promises God made to Israel evaporate forever due to her later rejection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ? Many Evangelicals today would answer in the affirmative. They reason that due to Israel’s rejection of Jesus God has replaced her with the Church. This doctrine called Replacement Theology (RT) comes in many versions. RT reasons that the covenants herein made to Abraham (cf. Genesis 15:18) and ensuing to Old Testament (OT) Israel are null and void and spiritually accrue to the Church in the New Covenant of the New Testament (NT) and are now fulfilled more so in a spiritual sense of understanding than a physical one.
The problem with this view, as we shall see in this study and the one that follows next week, is that many passages throughout the Bible indicate that God is not forever finished with Israel. Notice for starters the following passages in Genesis that use words having an unlimited sense: Words like descendants, forever, and everlasting in describing the nature of the land promise. Note more carefully Genesis 12:7 in this regard:
“The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.”
There is no qualifier or limitation relative to the understanding of God’s meaning of descendants in the above passage. The same holds true in 13:15. Notice the word forever:
“For all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.”
In 17:7 direct your eyes to everlasting covenant:
“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.”
Israel’s right to hold onto the land due to God’s everlasting covenant with her is called an everlasting possession in 17:8:
“I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
Summarily, the first point of the outline affirms there is no limitation or qualification to God’s unending promises relative to the land God will give His people, Israel. No passage of Scripture anywhere in the Bible states something to the effect of, “All bets are off forever if My people reject My coming Messiah … because if you do I will ‘spiritualize’ these promises thereinafter and give them to the Church.”6 What I am hinting at is this:
The case for supporting Israel today turns on the immutability of the Abrahamic Promise.
Said inversely, if the Abrahamic promises are now nullified, then one is correct to reason that there is no biblical basis for America to support Israel. If Israel’s rejection of Jesus voids the Abrahamic Promise of Genesis 12, then it stands to reason that Israel has no future in God’s economy. If God is done with Israel, then why shouldn’t others be also? The truth is God has not replaced Israel forever with the Church, and He has a huge future plan ahead for the Jews, even if for now they are on the “sidetrack” as God grafts in the Gentiles during the Church Age of biblical history in which we live. His promises to Israel are not nullified as will be seen in the following redundantly plentiful NT passages.7
IV. ROMANS 11
This passage is tremendously informative in light of the subject matter. In the context of Paul’s epistle to the Gentile Church at Rome, he inserts what is commonly referred to as the parenthetical chapters of 9 through 11 in his long letter.8 These three chapters reveal God’s big plan for Israel—a plan that validates the veracity of specific words God chose to use through His mouthpiece, Moses, as He penned the book of Genesis: specifically the words forever and everlasting. All of Romans 9–11 needs to be read as a whole to capture the total impact but, having stated that, I have copied some of the pertinent portions to underscore this portion of our Bible study: God has a bright future for Israel! Note Romans 11:1, 2, and 11:
“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew … I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be!”
In God’s big plan, He has temporarily sidetracked His chosen people. He did this right after they did not recognize (to say it politely) their Messiah (cf. Matthew 27:51). This passage makes it clear that being sidetracked or having badly stumbled is to be distinguished from having been rejected or fallen in the sense of finality.
During this period God is grafting in the Gentiles (cf. Ephesians 2:12–13). Notice this same idea as it is expressed in Romans 11:11–12:
“But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!”
God will greatly bless Israel in the future—when He fulfills His Abrahamic Covenant promises to her! That is the plain meaning of these texts! The plain meaning of what Paul is writing in Romans 11:9–11 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit must be ignored or cavalierly change hermeneutical principles. An allegorical, figurative, or symbolic hermeneutical understanding of this text must replace the grammatical-historical-normative exegetical approach to the text to rationalize what God is saying.
As Paul ministers to the Gentiles at Rome, he now continues his reasoning in obvious metaphoric language, which establishes the point of this study: Paul is calling the Gentiles a wild olive [branch] that is being grafted in to the root. Note Romans 11:17 in this regard:
“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….”
This verse offers a great word picture. Speaking further about the hardened hearts of Israel, a people having previously rejected Jesus, there remains much hope … . Note Romans 11:23–24:
“And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?”
To paraphrase the late Dr. Charles Ryrie, a leading professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (a theologian with a consistent hermeneutic, see end note 7), Israel has been sidetracked while God gathers in the Gentiles. In the end times, however, God will bring Israel back on track joining them with the now much larger heavenly-bound train. During this period of biblical history, however, the time in which we live, Israel’s heart is for the most part hardened toward their Messiah. States Paul in Romans 11:25– 29 in this regard:
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery … that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written … From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
Yes, presently Israel is a Gospel rejecter, but for the sake of the fathers (the great OT saints like Abraham) God will honor Israel at a future time when they, too, will come to Christ en masse (fr. “all together”). God is immutable in His attributes, one being His veracity; He is incapable of lying and is therefore ever mindful of His irrevocable promises! Immutable means He is incapable of change.9
The clear and powerful passage of Ezekiel 36:24–26 evidences that at a future time God will change Israel’s hearts toward Jesus. Notice that verse 24 has already begun to be fulfilled in this OT prophecy:
“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Stemming from this passage there should be no doubt: God is not finished with Israel! Prior to examining the fulfillment of these promises in the prophetic book of Revelation, it is important to emphasize that Replacement Theology cannot overcome the aforementioned theological construct without changing its hermeneutical approach to these many straightforward passages.10 RT is herein discounted by Romans 11 and Ezekiel 36; in these passages God Himself declares He will be faithful to His own unilateral promise of Genesis 12!
Therefore it stands to reason that His “if-then” Promise of Genesis 12:3 also remains immutable and intact today. That is to say this: The promise of blessing or else cursing those who bless or else curse Israel still applies today for individuals, terrorist groups and nations. This biblical fact more than insinuates and informs; it screams loudly as to why American foreign policy should be extremely positive toward Israel! Such policies bless America. It’s inconceivable that the executive branch or Congress would not understand this.
V. REVELATION 7
This passage of Scripture reveals that 144,000 Jewish evangelists will herald the Second Coming of Messiah throughout the world. I dare say these Jewish evangelists will make us Gentile evangelists of the past look pale in comparison! What a massively huge turnaround will occur in Israel between now and then! At this point in time the hardened hearts descriptive of Israel in Romans 11 and Ezekiel 36 are obviously absent. Revelation 7:4 states:
“And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.”
Numerous other passages speak of the rebirth of Israel and her inheritance of Jerusalem in conjunction with the Second Coming of the Messiah. These important passages include Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 132:13–14; 2 Chronicles 12:13b; 33:4 and 7b; 1 Chronicles 23:25; 1 Kings 11:36b and 2 Kings 21:7b. The plain meaning of these texts indicates that Israel not only will re-inherit the land again, a prophetic event that has already begun to be fulfilled, but that her heart will subsequently be changed. This coming Messiah will then bless the whole earth as He reigns in perfect majesty from Jerusalem as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
A flurry of people will put their faith in the Messiah during these end times (cf. Matthew 24:14).
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
Salvation is the main theme due to the effectiveness of the 144,000 worldwide Jewish evangelists during the Tribulation Period:
“And they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen’” (Revelation 7:10–12).
What a glorious scene! What follows is the thousand-year Jewish-cultured Millennial Kingdom where Jesus will reign over all the earth from Jerusalem— wherein in the Abrahamic Covenant will be literally and ultimately fulfilled!
Since God is not through with Israel and since God has a huge future plan for Israel, it stands to reason—based on the healthy fear all should possess relative to Genesis 12:3—that all individuals and all nations should be sure to stand on the side of Israel. Amen!
Next week this fascinating study on Israel will be continued and will go a step further into an even deeper biblical understanding of this subject. Fasten your seatbelts!
1. Referred to here is the Abrahamic Promise as recorded in Genesis 12:3. The Abrahamic Covenant which includes the totality of the geographic land that God promises to Israel is recorded in Genesis 15:18 ff.
2. Romans 11:12a speaks specifically to this fact.
3. George Gilder, The Israel Test (Minneapolis: Richard Vigilante Books, 2009).
4. Obviously this statement should not be taken too far so as to mean a blanket endorsement of everything the nation might engage in or do that is ethically or morally unsubstantiated.
5. Later in Israel’s history, Joshua will lead Israel into the Promised Land. In Joshua 3:16 Scripture records that they crossed the Jordan River at a location east of Jericho, which means they crossed just north of the Dead Sea. I mention all that to make a simple point: If Israel were to now revert to her territory prior to the Six Day War she would in essence be forfeiting this area originally promised to them by God as an “everlasting possession” (cf. Genesis 17:8).
6. God does say in several places in the Old Testament that Israel could be evicted from the land for overall disobedience (cf. Deuteronomy 27–29). But the specific context of those passages that say “the Lord uprooted them from their land…” (cf. 29:28) relates specifically to individual Israelites—the “them” are individuals, not the whole nation—who were disobedient in their particular generation. Therefore these passages do not serve to nullify the respective promise of Genesis 12:3 and covenant of Genesis 15:18.
7. There will be two unique people of God relative to future things, both Israel and the Church. The latter does not eclipse the former, as many NT and OT passages evidence, nor will the former enter the Kingdom of God apart from salvation in Christ per John 14:6 and Acts 4:12. In a real sense the spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant accrue to the Church for a time (until God grafts Israel back in) due to the present apostasy of Israel, having executed the Messiah.
8. Paul’s first-century letter to the Gentile Church of Rome pertains to God’s sweeping program for Gentile followers of Christ. It is his summum bonum (lat. “supreme good”) his magnum opus (lat. “greatest work”) pertaining to God’s plan for salvation. He therefore begins his thesis by painting the world in sin (1:1–3:21); in chapters 3:21–5, he presents God’s plan of salvation from sin. In chapters 5–8 he progresses into how the believer ought to live in this world, a discussion he continues in chapters 12–16 after the herein-mentioned parenthetical discussion of God’s plan for Israel. In the contextual thesis of the whole, it makes perfect sense that Paul (himself a Jew) would include an overview of God’s summum bonum and magnum opus for the Jews too! This insight into the greater context of the passages under study adds much weight as to the authorial intent for their inclusion, lending much weight to a literal understanding of their meaning. One should therefore not take liberty to “spiritualize” the parenthetical chapters, as if Paul’s language were now suddenly and conversely symbolic, figurative, allegorical or poetic—and then suddenly change back to a literal understanding in chapters 12–16! To support such is to support a cavalier hermeneutic. Context does not permit such interpretive license.
9. It is important to underscore the truths of John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 as it relates to Israel. No one will enter the Kingdom of God apart from faith in Christ. In the End Times people will not go to heaven just because they are Jewish, it is not as if there is a second pathway to heaven that circumvents the way of the Cross (cf. Luke 3:8–9).
10. Replacement Theologians often change their hermeneutic when dealing with prophetic passages so as to avoid the plain meaning, the authorial intent, or literality of passages like these so as to fit a predetermined theological disposition. That is to say they do not consistently apply a grammatical-historical-normative interpretive approach to such passages (like they do the remainder of Scripture wherein they reason for instance, their convictions relative to their salvation). I believe that to change one’s interpretive rules relative to Bible passages is incongruent; such is to engage in cavalier or hopscotch hermeneutics. It stands to reason that if one maintains a consistent grammatical-historical-normative hermeneutic throughout his interpretation of the whole of the Bible, including prophetic passages, that they cannot substantiate a belief in Replacement Theology.