A preposterous proposal has been floated since the war in Gaza. It was provoked by Hamas terrorists and slanted in their favor by the international press. Left-wing politicians, Arabs, and even elements in the UN are calling for war-crimes trials of Israeli soldiers because of collateral damage to civilians during the recent fighting.
It’s the old story of the victim being cast as the aggressor. Neglected is the well-documented fact that Hamas—a true war-crimes candidate—deliberately used Palestinian civilians as human shields while dumping thousands of rockets indiscriminately on Israeli citizens until Israel was fed up enough to respond.
Nevertheless, in Britain, for example, courts can arrest foreigners accused of war crimes and force them to stand trial. In fact, some retired and active-duty Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers have canceled trips to England because complaints have been filed against them. Alarmingly, parts of Europe are now so awash in malicious anti-Semitism that graffiti and placards declare, “Jews, return to the ovens!”
How, in the realm of reason, common sense, and rational thinking can such bizarre actions be explained? The answer is as old as Jewry itself: Hatred for Israel and the Jewish people is satanically inspired. The fantasy of the “final solution to the Jewish problem” did not originate with Hitler and the Nazis. It is the story of the ages. And you can be sure it will not abate with a new age of reason or promises of change and hope by feckless politicians.
Most grievous is the theological anti-Semitism that has discolored much of the church’s history. The Christ-killer stigma that Jewish people have endured for millennia has not gone out of fashion. Excising Israel from the huge segment of the Bible delineating God’s promises to the Chosen People—past, present, and future—is a popular trend today among Protestantism’s theological luminaries. The growing Replacement Theology mutation of God’s Word gives evidence that even some touted evangelical leaders have followed the pack of “God is through with Israel” ranters.
Another Side of the Story
Perhaps one of the greatest untold, or at least underemphasized, truths of the Bible is God’s abiding love for the people He has chosen to call His own. That story is wrapped in grace and provides a profound exhibition of divine exactitude. And though it is often asserted that the whole of Israel has been swept aside because of intermittent lapses into disobedience, such is not the case. Nor does the Lord love the Jewish people any less now than He did at first.
It is a fact needed to be heard that, despite times when the vast majority of Israelites fell into disobedience, the entire nation never did. There has always been a distinguishable remnant that lived in fidelity to Jehovah. For instance,
Then those who feared the Lᴏʀᴅ spoke to one another, and the Lᴏʀᴅ listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lᴏʀᴅ and who meditate on His name. “They shall be Mine,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” (Mal. 3:16–17).
It was a dark day in Israel’s history when those words were penned. Many within the nation had departed from the God who had made them. The distinguishing comment of those who chose that precarious road was, “It is useless to serve God” (v. 14).
However, Malachi 3 in its entirety tells the whole story, one that is not merely a consummate exhibition of rebellion and rejection. It speaks of the Redeemer’s provision and purposes; the nation’s final reconciliation and cleansing; and the precious and enduring remnant, reflecting the spirit of Job during his deepest time of testing: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
A favorite of mine, perhaps because of my years as a pastor, is the account in 1 Kings of the prophet Elijah hustling into the wilderness, fearing that the sword handlers of Queen Jezebel, the notorious wife of Israel’s King Ahab, were hot on his trail. Tucked up under a juniper tree, he lamented, “It is enough! Now, Lᴏʀᴅ, take my life….I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (19:4, 10). The pouting prophet was unaware that he was not alone. There was a healthy remnant at God’s disposal: “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (v. 18).
Every time I read the accounts of these godly people who, against all odds, clung to the hope of hopes contained in the promises of God, I am encouraged and inspired. I visualize aged Simeon, shuffling along in the Temple: “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Lk. 2:25). That longing was bound up in the promise that he would not pass from this world until he had seen the Lord’s Christ; and Simeon saw that promise realized in the face of Jesus.
Think of it. Rome held Israel and its people in a death grip. Corrupt leaders controlled the very Temple Simeon frequented. Yet Simeon remained faithful. And this saintly Jewish man was not alone. God was, in fact, very much on the premises, as were others of a remnant that refused to stop believing. Aged Anna, a daughter of the once-scattered tribe of Asher, “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (vv. 37–38).
All who looked for redemption in Jerusalem? Yes. We hear much about Jesus’ enemies in and around the Temple, but there also was a band of believers in the coming Consolation. Even within the elitist hierarchy of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus possessed a spiritual sensitivity that the majority of their colleagues lacked.
Have you ever wondered about the huge numbers of Jewish people from all parts of the known world who attended the celebration of Pentecost (Shavuot) when the apostle Peter delivered his sermon? Scripture says 3,000 immediately believed on the risen Messiah whom Peter proclaimed (Acts 2:41). A short time later, “the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (6:7).
The truth is that, contrary to what many assume, there was never a time when all of Israel was in rebellion against God. A believing remnant, though often small, was always there.
Two Remnants, One Fabric
Today’s church is a body of twin remnants of Jews and Gentiles. It is not a Gentile institution; and when a Jewish person becomes a believer in Jesus, he or she does not become a Gentile. Nor, for that matter, is it an extension of Judaism. Gentiles are not transformed into Jews, nor do they become a new branch or extension of Judaism. The church is unique.
The book of Ephesians explains the union:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation [“dividing wall of hostility,” NIV]. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (2:14, 19–20).
This union of grace explains a long-standing enigma: How would God bless the Gentiles through the Jewish people, as He promised in His Word?The answer is, “The Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (3:6).
This is the wonder of the entire process. A Jewish Messiah sovereignly decided to invade humanity to bring to fruition all that the patriarchs and prophets had been directed to proclaim concerning Him and His people. It all happened, as Holy Writ said it would.
What was not as clearly anticipated was that God would open the door of grace to undeserving Gentiles as well: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). It is to the great “whoever” that God offers the peace that binds us and that has rewritten the story of humanity.
It is interesting, if not unsettling, that true Christians should be reviled as enemies of the Jewish people. Yet we are accused of anxiously awaiting the day when Israel and the Jewish people will be crushed and forced to accept a religious/political agenda concocted by spiteful Gentile suppressionists. Admittedly, the Bible spells out the dismal issues of the last days. But you can be certain that people who for centuries have reached out in love and friendship to the Jewish community are not standing on the sidelines cheering for God to kill the Jews. You’ll never see a bona fide, Bible-believing Christian holding a sign that reads, “Jews to the ovens.”
“Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers [patriarchs]. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:28–29).
Those who castigate Bible-believing Gentiles for believing Israel is very much in the picture should take the time to read Romans 11. God has obligated the Gentiles to appreciate the Jewish people, express humble gratitude for being grafted into His family by grace, and remember that the current separation between Jews and Christians is only temporary.
For there is only one major disagreement: the identity of the Messiah. When that issue is settled, the breach will be sealed. As believers in Jesus, we accept Him as the promised Messiah as well as our Savior. He is the basis of our faith, and we make no apology for it. In fact, genuine love for Jesus has turned many a heart from hatred to love of Israel and the Jewish people.
We would do well to remember that, as Christians or Jews, we comprise a remnant of the global population that is increasingly at risk today. And as a part of that shrinking remnant, we will fare much better as friends than as enemies.