Sunday, January 1, 2012

Is Israel Prophetically Insignificant?

I believe that Replacement Theology is at the core of most criticisms against dispensationalism even when the stated motive is to correct the “unbiblical” teaching of dispensations or the rapture. I don’t think I’ve ever read a polemic (and I’ve read a few) that didn’t ultimately focus on Israel. Some proponents of RT appear to be offended by Israel’s existence as if it threatens their theology. It does.

These critics insist that modern Israel is prophetically insignificant; that it has forfeited its rights to the land because it rejected the Messiah and because of its national sins. Some even question the genetic lineage of modern Jews (Sizer, Donaldson etc). Thomas Williamson is another example of a Christian minister who makes broad generalizations that Christian Zionists (CZs) sanction anything Israel does, thus making Palestinians victims of this errant relationship:

“Christian Zionists claim to have 70,000,000 followers in America, who insists (sic) that our politicians render unquestioning obedience to the military and political agenda of the Israeli Government...Does God really demand that we support all actions and activities of the Israeli Government, even if those actions violate God’s moral standards of righteousness?”

Williamson asserts much but provides no evidence. One might also ask why he spends no time acknowledging the violations of “God’s moral standards of righteousness” by Israel’s neighbors who have wanted to destroy it since its inception. Why does he single Israel out?

Typically, he raises Gen 12:3 as the standard text that Zionists use to influence American foreign policy. He contends that it doesn’t relate to modern Israel. Like others, he ignores Gen 27:26-29 which zeroes in on the identity of the recipient of the blessing (Jacob).

He asserts that CZs mistakenly interpret Zech 13:8 although he doesn’t exegete the passage. He claims that it is commonly understood that CZs do not really care about what is best for the Jews. This is pure propaganda and ironic given Williamson’s statements against Israeli support. Dispensationalists take a literal view of Zech 13 & 14 (see David Baron’s Zechariah). It has nothing to do with being anti-Jewish.

In a seeming about face, Williamson states: “There is no scriptural justification for putting Jewish people on a pedestal as some kind of superior race. Jewish people today do not want to be put on that pedestal. Nor do they want to be blamed for all the problems of the world, as some would do with their accusations of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.”

And this: “God’s program is that we should love the Jews, seek their conversion (Romans 9: 3), and then be united with them in the fellowship of the Lord’s Church, where there is no longer any Jew nor Greek...God has made every nation on earth of one blood, Acts 17.26. Therefore we cannot elevate the Jews as a superior race, nor look down on them as an inferior race. The Jews are people just like you and I. (sic) and many of them are our brothers and sisters in Christ. As one of the greatest Jews of all, the Apostle Paul, said, "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek."”

Paul taught that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek insofar as salvation is concerned. However, that doesn’t mean Israel doesn’t have a distinct future role as a nation in God’s plan and it does not make the church spiritual Israel. Furthermore, no decent dispie puts Israel or the Jewish race “on a pedestal”. Acknowledging God’s program for them is simply that and nothing more. By disavowing the conspiratorial accusations that others make against Jews, Williamson admits they are victims of propaganda. Sadly, he has already truly poisoned the well with his inference that Israel violates “God’s moral standards of righteousness”.

Elsewhere he argues that God didn’t make an unconditional land covenant with Israel. He points to several instances of the OT use of the word “forever” where he thinks dispies wouldn’t be inclined to take that word as literal. That being the case, his argument is that the word “forever” - insofar as the land covenant with Abraham is concerned (Gen 13:15) – doesn’t actually mean forever. But, as Michael Rydelnik informs us in “Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict” (p 156):

Min olam v’ad olam is the strongest expression in Hebrew to describe perpetuity and eternality. And, for the most part, it refers to God and His eternal nature.” (See 1Chron 16:36; Psalm 90:2; Psalm 103:17; Dan 17:18 etc).

Dr Rydlenik points out that there are two exceptions where the usage of the phrase does not refer to God. It is in Jer 7:7 and Jer 25:5 where it refers to Israel’s possession of the land forever and ever. Stuart Dauermann concurs.

Williamson: “Since the land promise to the Jews was conditional upon their obedience, and they completely failed to obey God or keep the covenant with God, therefore there is no duty upon Christians to help modern-day Jews to take Palestine away from the Arabs, nor to prevent them from giving back to the Arabs land that they have already occupied (such as the Gaza Strip).”

Notice the sleight of hand? He makes simplistic statements about a complex situation that one might presume true. We might ask - how are the Palestinians (who are mostly Muslim) “keeping the covenant with God”?

He supplies a series of OT verses that appear to show conditionality. And they do. See Gen 17:8, 14; Ex 19:5; Num 14:30; Deut 4:25-16, 7:12-13, 11:16-17; Josh 23:15-16; Jer 7:3-6, 9:13-16; Ezek 33:24-26; Matt 21:43 etc.

Dr Rydelnik points out that enjoyment of the land is conditional to Israel’s obedience, yet its exile is never final. Every time God exiled Israel He also, eventually, returned them back to the land. Moses was barred from entering the Promised Land but the rest of Israel entered. One generation may be exiled for disobedience but that does not prevent a future generation from occupying it.

Why? - Because God made an everlasting land covenant with Abraham.

In his article “Let God Be True…And Say What He Means” Paul Henebury compellingly outlines the problems confronting those who teach Israel has forfeited the land promises. I highly recommend reading it. Ezekiel 36 clearly states that God will give Israel a heart of flesh and write His law on their hearts, for His own name’s sake. God said He would change and restore Israel despite their sins, and that they would eventually be in their land forever!

"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.” Ezek 36:24-26

Has all that happened yet? Did God change His mind? Should we take Him at His word? It is the proponent of RT who must deal with Scripture and rightly divide the word of God - not the dispensationalist.

"Thus says the LORD, 'If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them." Jer 33:25-26

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine And all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, And they will not again be rooted out from their land Which I have given them," Says the LORD your God. Amos 9:13-15

Further reading:

Paul Henebury: The Church and the Promised Land


Larry Helyer: Luke and the Restoration of Israel

Barry Horner: Zechariah

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