Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that from a biblical perspective the modern state of Israel and the Old Testament nation are one and the same. Let’s say the old covenant is still in force, that the founding of modern-day Israel in 1948 fulfilled biblical prophecy.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Paul’s assertion that “all Israel will be saved” was a political statement rather than an expression of his belief that Jesus would rescue his own people from sin and death, along with Gentiles.
Many evangelicals take some or all of these assumptions to be indisputable fact (though evangelical support for Israel may not be as unanimous or unilateral as commonly thought). A plurality of evangelical leaders believe the founding of modern Israel fulfilled biblical prophecy. White evangelicals overwhelmingly sympathize with Israel in their conflict with the Palestinians. Half of evangelicals reject any possibility of peace between Israel and Palestine. Only 12% of white evangelicals believe the US should scale back its support for Israel.
The belief that the modern state of Israel is entitled to the blessings and benefits of what Christians regard as the “old covenant” gives way to yet another evangelical sentiment: namely, that it’s never OK to criticize the Israeli government. That “standing with Israel” means supporting them no matter what they do.
No matter how many Palestinian children are killed in the crossfire.
No matter how many homes and farms they bulldoze.
No matter how many walls they build.
No matter how many settlements they establish on Palestinian land, knowing full well that each one makes a viable Palestinian state more unlikely.
This sentiment was on full display in the aftermath of the reprehensible kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the subsequent retaliation by Israeli extremists. As Benjamin Corey wrote:
What bothers me most is that when news broke of the death of the Israeli teenagers, the internet lit up with your standard “stand with Israel” cheers, yet whenever Israel is the agent of aggression or retaliation, things go silent. The only voices who speak up are a few brave souls who are willing to be castigated by other Christians for having the courage to stand up against the violence and oppression of the nation state of Israel.
Why do we do this? Why does Israel get a free pass in doing whatever they want? They bulldoze communities so they can build illegal settlements, and we say and do nothing. They systematically use violence and oppression over their neighbors, and yet we say and do nothing. When things over heat, they retaliate—burning children alive, and we say and do nothing.
Why? Why would we be so foolish as to completely ignore behavior on the part of Israel that would in any other circumstance result in international sanctions or worse?
Let’s say modern Israel IS a continuation of the Old Testament kingdom (with the noticeable absence of a king or a temple). Let’s say the new covenant promised by Jeremiah and inaugurated by Jesus didn’t bring the old covenant to completion. Let’s say God didn’t expand the definition of Israel (in a spiritual sense—that is, his chosen people) to include Gentiles alongside Jews. Let’s say the dispensationalists are right.
Or, to put it as Benjamin Corey did, let’s say the “stand with Israel” folks are right.
How do we conclude from any of this that it’s not OK to criticize the Israeli state—especially when so much of the Hebrew Scriptures are themselves a prophetic critique of Israel?
If “standing with Israel” means never saying anything negative about the Israeli government and berating anyone who does, then we should have nothing but contempt for the biblical prophets. We should cut them out of our Bibles. They should be condemned for treason against Israel.
In fact, they were. Amos was accused of conspiring against the government and was driven out of town. Jeremiah was thrown in prison by the king of Judah for predicting Jerusalem’s downfall.
The prophets routinely condemned Israel and its leaders for wishing destruction rather than mercy on their enemies (Jonah); for wrongly assuming that their military advances and territorial expansion were signs of God’s favor (Amos); for murder, theft, and adultery (Hosea); for coveting and seizing other people’s fields and houses (Micah); and for relying on military power instead of trusting God to protect them (Isaiah).
The prophets did not hold back. For them, “standing with Israel” meant speaking out whenever the nation fell into idolatry and injustice. Being God’s chosen people didn’t mean they got a free pass. If anything, they answered to an even higher expectation of integrity.
The prophets understood what Benjamin Corey states so well:
The best way to bless someone who is caught up in destructive behavior is not to condone or to support the behavior, but to lovingly confront the behavior and show them a better way.
Believing that the Israeli state is synonymous with the Old Testament kingdom shouldn’t change how we respond when it acts unjustly toward its Palestinian neighbors. Nor should our response be different when Palestinians perpetuate the cycle of violence in their own ways—though, as Benjamin Corey argues, those with greater power should be held to a higher standard.
It would be disingenuous to read the prophets as divinely inspired Scripture yet condemn others for doing and saying what they did. The best way to truly stand with Israel is to follow the prophets’ example, to lovingly but firmly confront evil and injustice, whoever the perpetrators might be.
Image credit: Zach Evener on Flickr / CC BY 2.0
23 thoughts on “If you think “standing with Israel” means never criticizing them, you’re going to have to get a new Bible”
Excellent piece! At one time they were God’s chosen people, but, as you so eloquently stated, they fell out of grace many times. They were chastised and warned by the prophets to return to God. He gave them so many chances to repent. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Luke 13:34
None of what you said validates the idea that they are not the chosen people of God anymore. Look at all the prophecies in the Old Testament and in Revelation that affirm Israel will be prosperous in the Last Days, that their enemies will be subdued, and that they will come to recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah- Joel 3:2, Zechariah 12, Joel 3, Revelation 7:4…sorry brother, but this notion that God has taken His hand off of Israel infuriates God and it infuriates me. Be blessed. 🙂 🙂
Paul SP you are cherry picking – either the Bible is right or wrong – surely! If your god is one who only looks after the favored few – then I pity you, because you may not be one of them.
Nice to know that you and God are so in sinc. (and that you have such a good direct line to the almighty, that you get info that nobody else gets)
So, please tell me, does God no longer care about injustice, or any of that Mathew25 stuff anymore?
Richard, it’s odd that you would say I’m cherry picking, yet you yourself provided no refutation to my points with Scripture. I showed you in Scripture where God said that He never broke His covenant with Israel, despite Israel leaving him for other gods. “If your god is one who only looks after the favored few – then I pity you, because you may not be one of them.” Well actually there are only few who find the narrow way according to the words of Jesus Christ. I myself got saved in 2010, and have been a follower of Christ ever since. But when Christ came and died and rose again, the new covenant was established and made a way of salvation through Jesus for the Gentiles and not just the Jews.
@David- Lol….this information is all in the Bible. You would get that information if you just took the time to go through it. Israel has been judged many times by God, yes, they’e definitely not exempt from it. The issue though is whether or not God has disowned them or broken his covenant with them that He made at the beginning with Abraham in Genesis, which He has not.
“The best way to truly stand with Israel is to follow the prophets’ example, to lovingly but firmly confront evil and injustice, whoever the perpetrators might be.” Yes! Thank you, Ben, for speaking out about this. It has made me sick to see how the press has flared up about one particular side – and yet has said very little about the injustice and violence that is being inflicted on our Palestinian brothers and sisters, who are also beloved children of God. I was in Israel/Palestine a few years ago and was shocked to see first-hand how horrible the situation is for Palestinians both in the West Bank and in the state of Israel (and how much our own media and religious groups somehow distort the facts.) I know speaking out on this front can be difficult, as it often leads to a lot of backlash. So thank you for following the prophets and in raising your voice against injustice.
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All those people who criticized Israel were Israelites. See I don’t think We have any business telling any other nations how to run their County, Israel or Muslim. That’s why I don’t support Neo-Con foreign Policy.
Reply to Jared…however, we don’t have any business (particularly as Christians) watching a people suffer oppression, brutality and injustice without doing something about it. Brings us back to ‘who is my neighbour?’
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Especially when our money is helping them do it!!
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Or providing them with weapons & $ to make/buy more
Jared, I don’t suppose you will read this because I have replied so long after your post but here goes … if what you are saying has any credence then the USA cannot criticize any other country, Israel certainly cannot criticize Iran and should mind it’s own business when it comes to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt etc. In fact we should have ignored what Hitler was doing in Europe in 1945 and definitely should not have interfered in Palestine by creating the State of Israel … which is why we are arguing now I guess.
There is a difference between not ‘telling other nations how to run their country’ and blindly accepting genocide because it might upset the balance of trade figures or, worse still, the chances of being funded when standing for congress …
The problem is that while global communications in biblical times was non-existent it now informs our every move – much of the world’s problems can be traced to the Middle East where the long-standing oppression by Israel of the Palestinian people and our failure to prevent it or stop it has undermined trust of the West … and rightly so.
So you live in your bubble if you want to … most of us cannot!
Reblogged this on ingerstyrbjörns sida and commented:
Ovanligt klara tankar!
Reblogged this on Foodforthethinkers's Blog.
Reblogged this on Musings Of A Beckles and commented:
An excellent read and right on point!
Great article. Reblogged. Could you please let me know the specific Scriptures from the Prophets to which you refer here. Thanks.
God bless all people of Good Conscience.
So, Christian Conservatives, who are suppose espouse the Christian virtues of justice and righteousness sides with the strong and powerful military, the well connected Public Relations machine of Israel against the weak, the dispossessed who is beaten down every time for daring to raise their hand in protest of their theft and destruction of their homes, land and resources. Whatever happened to the biblical text that rings so true, “the thief only comes to steal, kill and destroy?” It is fascinating to witness the extent to which strong support for Israel is the litmus test for conservative Christian voters. I charge these Conservative Christians standing guilty of idolatry of the worst kind, [one that had demanded spilling of blood of both guilty and innocent] It is akin to have chosen Barrabas over meek and humble Jesus, – it is akin to have chosen Barrabas over the ‘Good Samaritan’. Evangelical support of Israel stems from the eschatalogical-religious idea that as a prelude to the second coming of Jesus, at which time Jews will be judged (massacred) is an oxymoron. Think of it, “they just want to help Israel because they think it will hasten the coming of Jesus, Battle of Armaggedon,the Rapture, and the conversion of a remnant of Jews and death of two third of the Jews in Israel,” get over it. Yes my friends, the current political and highly secular State of Israel is a real estate deal made with the Devil.
GREAT ARTICLE! I hope and pray that there will be peace in the Middle East for all. What is happening over there is a cover up for greed and crimes against humanity and it must be exposed for what it is. TY