The ever-controversial matter of Israel

May 14, 2024 | Flashpoints, Israel, PRAY, Prayer Focus for the Nations

Recognising that it will be to the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem that Jesus returns – and that Israel is the only country in the world that the Lord specifically calls ‘His’ country (Deuteronomy 7:6, Amos 3:2 and in many other places) we can be sure that it will also be the epicentre of global spiritual warfare. Bravely or naively I have attempted to provide as balanced an overview of the situation as I can about the situation, albeit in full recognition that many who receive the Malvern Mashal hold strongly felt and often entirely opposing standpoints.

This article is my best attempt thus far to face head on some of the controversies involved. We begin with a lovely interview with Jennie Milne that was shown on Christian television recently. We got to know Jennie well in Shetland, before she became a lecturer in photography in Aberdeen. Her really articulate testimony includes details of how the Lord revealed her Jewish roots to her, and subsequently developed close ties with Israel.

Many believers have been deeply blessed by uncovering previously unknown Jewish ancestry. But while it is wonderful to find a new point of identification with God’s ancient people, the present situation is a highly complex one – not least because, as one friend commented, it is almost as though there are now two conflicting Israels: the Israel of Netanyahu and his far-right party, and the Israel epitomised by the very substantial number who take to the streets both in Israel and abroad are resisting and protesting against the hardline stance that the present government have long since embraced. It is God’s purposes for Israel that matter most; may the Lord help us to discover them more fully.

As someone who has spent much of the last forty-four years writing about current affairs from a spiritual viewpoint, I sympathise with Sir Walter Raleigh, who spent thirteen years imprisoned in the Tower of London writing his monumental History of the World. When asked why he did not write the history of his own times, he sensibly replied,

I know that it will be said by many, that I might have been more pleasing to the reader if I had written the story of my own times . . . To this I answer, that whosoever in writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth!

In other words, events have a habit of moving faster than our ability to interpret let alone predict them – not infrequently overturning many of our assumptions, predictions and even occasionally some of our firmly held beliefs as they do so.

In the midst of the pain and confusion, there are certain things we need to recognise. Firstly, no observer, least of all me, will have the whole picture of Israel’s role in the end times fully right, despite the very strong opinions that believers hold and lay claim to.

Secondly, grievous wrongs are being committed by both sides. Unfortunately, where they are being done by Israelis, these are being largely ignored and not shown on national television – and where others chant passionately for Palestine, they only too frequently show an alarming tendency to ignore the utterly violent nature of Hamas.

The Lord’s heart is for both Israelis and Palestinians to turn to Jesus. It is not by being Jewish but through the name of Jesus alone that salvation can be found (Acts 4:12) – and it is not by denouncing Israel that Palestinians will find Him either.

So as we explore and dig deeper into this volatile situation, let’s do so with as open a heart as possible, and make it our highest priority to pray that many on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah.

In early 2023, during a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks and Israeli settler violence in the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu’s Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, called for a Palestinian village to be ‘erased.’ The U.S. State Department shared in the widespread horror and called on Netanyahu to publicly disavow the comment. It was, however, typical of many such incendiary calls – which events have shown to be no idle threats.

What is happening on the West Bank has, of course, been multiplied a thousand times over in Gaza itself. Three serving Israeli officers have bravely shared some truly horrific stories about the way Israel is treating the thousands of Palestinians it has captured, and the punishment and humiliation they are suffering.

Israel had true cause to respond to the horrific attack by Hamas, but does the means justify the ends when it comes to inflicting such harm on the civilian population of Gaza? (cf Zech. 1:15 NLT See also verses 2-6, and 14-17.-6) The use of illegal white phosphorous chemical weapons, the forced evacuation into the barren desert beyond Rapha . . . these things smack of the entire elimination of a whole people group and many are naming what Israel is doing as genocide, Egypt and South Africa among them.

The desire for revenge is not of God

We know that what we sow, we also reap. The current Israeli leaders may succeed in removing a number of terrorists, but will that not simply fuel a fire that produces a new generation of hatred for Israel? Ben White’s book Apartheid Israel is a study that is being widely read by students seeking to understand the Palestine/Israel conflict.

Back in the 1950s, at a time when the Holocaust had ripped apart any possibility of a relationship between Germans and Jews, the Lord led Basilea Schlink, the leader of the Spirit-led Evangelical Sisters of Darmstadt, to reach out to Israel. Against considerable odds, the Sisters succeeded in winning many hearts by their deep love for the nation and its people, as Mother Basilea shares in her autobiography ‘I found the key to the heart of God.’

As a German woman contemplating what her nation had done to the Jewish people, she was overcome by a great sense of personal contrition. She writes, ‘The pain in my heart became an anguished cry, How can we ever heal the wounds we inflicted? How can we ever make amends?’

Her contrition before the Lord found its answer. One of their visits to Israel ’happened’ to coincide with the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the author of the ‘Final Solution.’ The Jewish author Shalom Ben-Chorin wrote to say,

‘If in the course of these days, we Jews are in danger of repaying hatred with hatred, you have helped us to overcome the temptation. There was only one weapon against hatred and that is love. Thank you for saving us from hatred, from collective hatred, in this hour of temptation.’

His words need to be heard again. When Jesus’ disciples sought revenge on a village that didn’t want anything to do with Him, He rebuked them roundly:

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:54-55)

The disciples were doubtless doing no more than reflecting the common feelings of people around them, but they knew that Jesus had the power to inflict punishment if He chose to do so. What they did not realise was what an ungodly spirit they had absorbed. They had no idea what they were proposing to let loose in the world – and which now HAS been let loose. They did not yet realise that it is the Lord’s will to save to the uttermost all who look to Him.

This rampant spirit of revenge is not of God.

Israel and the international community

In terms of future planning, if and when Hamas has been defeated, Netanyahu has suggested that, ‘We’ll probably have to have some kind of civilian government, civilian administration, by Gazans who are not committed to our destruction, possibly, I think, with the aid of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other countries that I think want to see stability and peace.’

The UAE responded immediately that it wants nothing to do with this plan, and claims that Netanyahu has no authority either to propose or to implement such a scheme. The outlook remains deeply unsettled. Do pray for the work of hard working and well-informed diplomats such as Anthony Blinken and David Cameron in this respect.

The fact is, however, that Israel has contrived to forfeit the international goodwill it had in the immediate aftermath of the October 7th attacks. The question remains, then, does it have a legitimate defence for the severity of its response to the October 7th attacks?

Some would say yes, on the basis that:

a) all authority is given by God to existing authorities
b) this is part of God’s plan and intention to enlarge Israel’s borders

These things may well be true, but does that mean Israel is setting about achieving God’s purposes in God’s way? Those of us who love Israel dearly must be careful not to endorse everything it does because it is Israel doing it. Israel is not automatically right, nor does it inevitably act in the right spirit. You may find it helpful to re-read Visions of the Future Glory of Jerusalem in this regard, in which Linda warns about ‘bad actors’ taking the lead, as opposed to the Lord Himself.

A vicar who receives the Malvern Mashal, and who used to work in the West Bank, thanked me for holding a balanced approach about these things. He has come to the conclusion that the actions of many of the settlers are not all within the will of God, as they oust Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank, often aided and abetted by the Israeli police and military forces. Their violence brings such grief and sadness, as well as arousing further hostility.

Personally I have always found David Pawson’s teaching on Israel helpful. (He was such a good teacher! Do a search for David Pawson, Israel.) It is clear from Scripture is that Israelis need to be in the land before the return of Christ, but that does not mean for one moment that everything that the present  government is doing reflects Christ’s will or intentions.

There are other views on the role of Israel. You may well disagree with him, but this is a thoughtful article by Phill Sacre, Should Christians support Israel?

Equally, those who support Palestinians en masse, on American campuses for instance, have nothing to say about Hamas extremism and brutality, and miss so much of what very strong demonic powers are actually doing, and the associations there are between them and with the powers at work in the Iranian leadership, through the Houthis in Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The ultimate truth is that there is only one way by which Israelis people may be saved, and that is through the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:12) And what is true for Israel, holds equally true for the Palestinian people too. Let’s make it our highest priority to pray that many on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah.

To help us in our prayers, Sally sang a powerful lament for the Middle East.

You may also like to google ‘reports of people turning to Jesus in Gaza.’ You will find some very encouraging testimonies!

Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash

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