A few years ago, I was visiting one of my aunts, and something must have recently made the news about the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict because somehow we ended up talking about Zionism. This particular aunt is a devout member of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) church and like most women in my family, she's not afraid to voice her opinion. At one point in the in the conversation, she made an assertion that many Christians make—an assertion that despite claims of separation of church and state, is at the heart of why the United States often sides with Israel. An assertion that is wrong.
"But it's [Israel's] land. God gave them that land."
The belief in and support of a Jewish nation is often referred to Zionism and it runs deep in the Christian church. It's the only conclusion you'd make if your Christian experience is limited to the sermons you get from the pastor, and it's the easiest conclusion to make with a shallow dive into the Bible itself. I see exactly why people are led to that conclusion: Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and while they were in the wilderness, God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. God promised to make Israel a great nation, and a great nation has land, right?
The above train of thought leaves out crucial parts of the narrative and with the recent attacks on Palestine by Israel, it's time we straighten this story out.
Please understand that this post is discussing the actions of the Israeli government. When speaking about curses I am referencing the nation as a government entity and in a broad sense. While this post is criticizing Zionism it is not a statement against Jewish independence—it is a statement against using Zionism to justify the mistreatment of Palestinians. Also, I have tried to differentiate when I'm talking about Israel of the past versus present by referring to Israelites (past) and Israelis (present).
Is Israel *Still* the Promised Land?
During Israel's time in the wilderness, God promises Israel a lot of things but these promises are not absolute. While there are a few instances that repeat this concept, we're going to focus on Deuteronomy 27-28. In this passage, Moses lays out not one, but two paths for Israel. The first leads to blessings from God (Deuteronomy 28:1-14); if they chose that path they would be prosperous, healthy, and at peace. The second path, however, leads to curses (Deuteronomy 28:15-26). When choosing this path, the Israelites would reap hardship, illnesses, and defeat.
1 “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I am commanding you today, that the Lord your God will put you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings will come to you and reach you if you obey the Lord your God:
In Deuteronomy 28:1-2, we see plainly what the path to the blessings is: obedience. Notice that the blessings come to Israel if they obey the Lord. So, did Israel obey God and follow the path to the blessings? No! From before Moses could even return from the mountain, the Israelites struggled with obedience. It is due to Israel serving other gods that the Israelites go into captivity... The Northern Kingdom (Israel) went through a line of rulers who led the people astray from God, which ends with them being taken away by the Assyrians. In the Southern Kingdom (Judea), they ping pong between righteous and corrupt kings, but ultimately they, too, drift away from God. The prophet Jeremiah tells us this is why they were subjected to the Babylonian captivity.
And I will pronounce My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, since they have abandoned Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.
The Israelites in Babylon were eventually returned to the land, but continued to wax and wane in their relationship with God. There would be a Greek captivity followed by the Roman occupation of Israel. It is during the Roman occupation of Israel that we see the birth of the Messiah. The birth of the Messiah occurs during the 70 weeks prophecy given by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). It is during this time that the Israelites are supposed to be turning back to God. This is their final chance as a nation to turn back to their King.
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the wrongdoing, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
Did the Israelites bring about everlasting righteousness and anoint the Most Holy Place? No, they rejected the Messiah and had Him executed despite His innocence. The Israelites chose a known criminal over an innocent man. Roughly a generation later, Jerusalem was sieged by the Roman empire, the Temple was destroyed and Israel lost their Promised Land. God does not promise to restore the nation of Israel (as a bloodline) after the 70 weeks.
Pastor Ivor Myers has a wonderful sermon series that explains this exact issue. In the series, he discusses the Old Testament prophets and teaches us how to put each prophet in context. The essence of the series discusses "the day of Lord" which is not actually one day (often referred to as the end of the world) but a series of judgments by God with the final day of the Lord being the one to bring about eternal peace. He clearly shows how the prophecies to restore Israel end with the rejection of Christ. When Christ rose from the dead, He built the final Temple (often mistaken as a third physical temple) made without hands. This Temple is talked about extensively in the New Testament and it is us. Just as God's Spirit dwelled in the Most Holy place of the Temple in Jerusalem, His Spirit now dwells in us. We—those who have chosen Him—are the new heirs to the throne and the new promised children. Our promised land is not Israel, though, it is the Kingdom of God. We receive this land when the final day of the Lord happens. Unfortunately the sermons are no longer free (I hate when people charge for teachings on the word of God), I'm uploading my notes to Google Drive for those curious about the Bible verses and how these conclusions were drawn.
What If I'm Wrong?
Let's pretend for a second that God had promised to restore Israel after they rejected the Messiah. Deuteronomy 27:19 says "Cursed is one who distorts the justice due a stranger, an orphan, or a widow." Modern Israel has been distorting the justice due the Palestinians for years. Under the assumption the land belongs to Israel, the Palestinians would be strangers in the land, and the fact that Israel behaves unjustly toward them would trigger the curses outlined in Deuteronomy.
Another issue with the U.S. supporting Israel is that when God gives, it's obvious. An army did not free the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. The Israelites did not receive external support when they took the land after leaving Egypt. Although the Persian army conquered Babylon and subsequently allowed Jerusalem to be restored (drawing parallels to the defeat of Germany and allowance of the establishment of modern Israel by the west), the Persian army did not fight battles for Israel. If God was restoring Israel, His people would be able to take the land without the assistance of foreign troops and it would look like the land of the blessings in the beginning of Deuteronomy 28.
The most obvious sign God is not giving them the land is that this isn't the case. The first thing the Israelites did when Cyrus allowed them back in the Promised Land was to restore Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Modern Israel was established in the 1960s—is there a third Temple? No, because there's a mosque there. There's a mosque there because the Israeli government did not capture Jerusalem in the Six Days War. It's there because God did not give them the city of Jerusalem. Trust me, if God wants someone to have something, they'll have it without the U.S. funding it...
The Importance of All This
I do not speak as much about issues that affect other minorities on this blog mainly because I'm not always sure of the details and it's better to amplify than to steal the spotlight. However, I had to write something on this issue because as I type, Israel is committing countless atrocities against the people of Palestine and "Christians" are turning a blind eye because they don't understand their own Bible. You cannot support Zionism at the expense of Palestinians and adhere to the tenants God set for us at the same time. The same passion and zeal evangelical Christians put into being pro-life needs to be manifested into being pro-Palestinian-life. From here is where I point you to Palestinian voices. Go read their stories. Go feel their hurt. A friend of mine, who brought the recent atrocities to my attention, has created a letter in support of HR 2590, a bill that would promote and protect the rights of Palestinians. Please research what the Bible actually says, what is happening in Palestine, and what this bill could accomplish, then sign her letter to show your senators and representatives that you support justice.
- "Zionism". Merriam-Webster; visited May 2021
- Ivor Myers. "The 3 Heavens Principle". Power of the Lamb Ministries. February 1, 2021
- My notes on The 3 Heavens Principle
- Sign the Letter
- Bill Chappell. "Israel In Turmoil: Violence Spreads To Streets And Occupied West Bank". NPR. May 13, 2021