What to Say to Your Christian Zionist Pastor

 Feb 16 at 8:43 PM
       

2 comments

Ton Nuiten
February 19th, 2016

A very moved and truthful letter; let’s hope that this Christian Zionist brother will convince himself of the biblical truth regarding Israel by carefully reading this letter!

John Berg
February 20th, 2016

Here are two excellent articles by another Evangelical advocate of justice and peace for both Palestinians and Israelis:
Article One:
CAN JEWS AND ARABS SHARE THE LAND OF PROMISE?
By Rev. David Teeter
Some call it the “Land of Israel.” Others call it “Palestine.” In the Bible, it is most often called the “Land of Canaan.” Today, it is home to both Jews and Arabs, both having deep spiritual, historical and emotional ties to the land.

The problem of two peoples sharing one homeland is creating a historic tragedy that defies any simple solution. As Christians, do we have any message of home for both Jews and Arabs caught up in this tragedy?

Some “Christian Zionists” offer hope only to the Israeli side. They say, “God gave the land to the Jewish people. Period. The indigenous Arab population is dismissed as trespassers who should either leave, or submit to some kind of apartheid status backed up by the military force.”

Many thoughtful Israelis reject this false hope. They know the Palestinians have no other homeland. And they do not relish the role of occupier and oppressor by force. They yearn for something better.

God did indeed promise the land to Abraham and his descendants. And God established a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the tribes of Israel. But this covenant was not the exclusive benefit of the Jewish people or the modern State of Israel. Through the covenant Abraham would become “the father of many nations” and through him, “all the families of the earth would be blessed.

Got set forth in the Torah of Moses a set of conditions for those who would claim the promise. He told the tribes of Israel:

“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in
Egypt….. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord.” (Exo. 22:21; 19:33, 34)

He reminded this Israelites, “The land is mine, and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Lev. 25:23) And God warned Israelites that if they failed to keep these commandments, they would eventually be expelled from the land.

In later years, false prophets would claim that God’s promises to Israel were unconditional. The biblical prophets strongly refuted this false message. They condemned the unjust treatment of the poor, and especially the resident aliens in the land.

“They covet fields, and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance.”
(Mic. 2:2). “Wth woe to you who join house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” (Isa. 5:8)

Look at the current map of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and you’ll see exactly what Micah and Isaiah were talking about.

Jeremiah warned the people of Jerusalem that God was about to revoke their tenancy and expel them from the land. He told them:
“If you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless, or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land that I gave to your forefathers forever and ever.” (Jer. 7: 6,7)

Judah rejected the warning. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed; the Jewish people were carried into exile in Babylon. Some seventy years later, Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

Upon their return, they found many non-Jewish people living in the land,
including Samaritans of mixed Israelite and foreign descent. Ezekiel had given instruction concerning these non-Jewish residents of the land.

“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for you and for the aliens who have settled among you and have children. You are to consider them as native born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.” (Eze. 47:21)

The Jews of the 6th and 5th century B.C. ignored these instructions, as we can read in Ezra-Nehemiah. The Samaritan offer to help build the temple was rudely rebuffed. Ezra even forced Jewish men to divorce their non-Jewish wives. (This in spite of Malachi’s protest that “God hates divorce.”) What resulted was centures of bitterness and strife between Jews and Samaritans, still going on in Jesus’ time.

Now, some 25 centuries later, Jews and Arabs have one more chance to “get it right.” If so, some wonderful blessings from God are in store for these two peoples.

Isaiah had a vision of a highway connecting Israel, Egypt and Assyria (Syria and Iraq), with free trade and travel bringing prosperity to all three countries. Isaiah proclaims:
“The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying. ‘Blessed by Egypt
my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance’.” (Isa. 19:25)

Again in Paul’s words: “Glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, and then for the Gentil. For God does not show favoritism.”

This is the reason for my hope: God’s promise, and Christ’s redemptive work which makes all things possible, can enable Jews and Arabs to share the land, and find the path of peace together.

(Rev. David Teeter, who died in 2012, was a retired evangelical pastor, Bible teacher, and mediator. He lived and worked in Jerusalem and Bethlehem from 1978-1989, where he served as dean of Bethlehem Bible College. David also did doctoral research in Jerusalem on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relationships. David was pastor of several churches, most recently Hillside Community Church in Tacoma, Washington.) © David & Willow Teeter 1989 Published by: Project Redemption

Article Two:
PROMISE, PROPHECY, AND POLITICS
By DAVID TEETER
The Land of Promise
Some call it Israel. Others call it Palestine. In the Bible, it is called “the Land of Canaan.” Today, it is home to some 5 million Jews and 4 million Arabs. Millions more of Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, have deep spiritual, historical and emotional ties to the land.

The problem of two peoples in one homeland is creating a historic tragedy that defies any simple solution. As Christians, do we have a message of hope for the Jews and Arabs who are caught up in this tragedy?

Some Christians see only one side of the problem. To them, “God gave the land to the Jewish people. Period; end of discussion.” The Palestinian people are viewed merely as “Arabs,” trespassers who should go somewhere else and leave the land to the Jewish people.

Those who promote this harsh idea cite the Bible as justification. But does this really do justice to the Bible? Is God really so unconcerned about the Palestinian people of the land? That is not my understanding of God’s Word.

In this article, we will discuss four key questions:
1. To whom was the land promised?
2. What are the obligations that go with possession of the land?
3. What are the biblical rights of the native non-Jewish population?
4. How might God’s promise concerning the land be fulfilled?

Promised to Whom?
The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ (Gen. 12:7)
…Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. (Gen. 13:14)

… To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates… (Gen. 15:18)

…The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you, and I will be your God. (Gen. 17:8).

This promise was part of a a more comprehensive promise which included:

∙ A particular promise. God would bless Abraham and make of him a great nation. He would have innumerable descendants.

. A universal promise. Abraham would be the father of many nations. Through Abraham, all families of the earth would be blessed.

∙ A promise of a land. Abraham’s descendants would receive the land as an eternal inheritance.

We must not lose sight of the larger, universal purpose in God’s blessing of Abraham. God’s larger purpose was always to bring forth a redeemed humanity. The promise of the land must be seen in that context.

To whom did God give the land?

The popular saying is, “God gave the land to the Jewish people.” or “God gave the land to Israel.” –and by ‘Israel,’ they mean the modern State of Israel.”

What the Bible actually says is that God gave the land to “Abraham’s descendants.” So we must address the issue, “Who are Abraham’s decedents in respect to the Land?”

Both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament affirm that Abraham’s promise is based on faith and obedience, not merely on fleshly descent.

For I have chosen him (Abraham) so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. (Gen. 18:19).

So who are Abraham’s children? Those who “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just!”

There are many stories in the Hebrew scriptures of non-Jews who were “grafted into Israel” and “children of promise.” There is Caleb, a descendant of Esau, who became a leader in the tribe of Judah. His brother (or nephew) Othniel became Israel’s first judge. Rahab the Harlot of Jericho married Ephrata’s son Salmon, who gave birth to Boaz, who married the Moabite woman Ruth, from whom both King David and Jesus are descended.

These stories are in the Bible to remind us that faith overrides fleshly descent in the greater family of Abraham.

In the New Testament, some Pharisees boasted, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus replied, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the things that Abraham did.” (John 8:39).

Promise and covenant.

The promise was God’s statement of intent. The promise was made to Abraham and reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob.

The covenant, however, is a binding agreement between God and Abraham, and later, the tribes of Israel, at Mt. Sinai. It is through this covenant that the promise would be realized.

This covenant set Israel apart as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” It gave Israel a particular role in God’s redemptive purpose. By obeying God’s commandments, Israel would become a “light to the nations.”

I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles. (Isa. 42:6)
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isa. 60:3)
Many nations will be joined to the Lord in that day and will become my people. (Zech. 2:11).

Covenant promises. The covenant contained a set of benefits, or blessings, that would be Israel’s reward for obedience. These included abundant harvests, peace and security in the land, and a growing population. But the most important benefit was to be:

I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. (Lev. 26:11,12).
Covenant Obligations
But these blessings were not automatic. Nor were they ‘inalienable rights.’ They were conditioned upon obedience to God’s commandments. “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands.” (Lev. 26:3).

The covenant carried heavy penalties for disobedience:

But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you…. (Lev. 26:14)

The message of the prophets was: “You cannot claim covenant promises while ignoring covenant commandments. This leads to covenant judgment.”

Ownership of the land. In giving Abraham’s children the “Land of Canaan,” God did not relinquish his own supreme claim of ownership. The Lord told Israel: “The land is mine, and you are but Aliens and my tenants.” (Lev. 25:23).
In fact, not only the Land of Canaan, but the whole “earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world, and all who live it.” (Ps. 24:1).

No single ethnic group, no one political state, including Israel, can claim absolute, unconditional ownership of the land. The land belongs to the Lord. He doesn’t issue “fee simple deeds”; he issues contracts. And these contracts have an eviction clause!

Justice in the land. God was calling Israel to be a “light to the nations.” Israel must therefore demonstrate true justice in its dealing with other peoples. The Torah calls for equal justice for the non-Israelite residents of the land.
You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord: The same laws and regulations will apply to you and to the alien living among you . (Num. 15:16). Do not mistreat the alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. (Exo. 22:21).

When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt, I am the Lord. (Lev. 19:33.34).
Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess. (Deut. 19:14). “Cursed is the man who moves his neighbor’s boundary stone. (Deut. 19:14)
In the time of the Kings of Israel, false prophets would claim that God’s promises to Israel were unconditional. This claim was strongly refuted by the biblical prophets, who condemned unjust treatment of the resident aliens of the land.

They covet fields, and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellow man of his inheritance. (Mic. 2:2).

Woe to you who join house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. (Isa. 5:8)

The people listened to the false prophets and ignored the warnings of the biblical prophets. And they reaped the bitter consequences of eviction and exile.

Joshua and the Canaanites. Some Christians see Joshua’s commission to drive out the Canaanites as a model for Israel’s treatment of the resident Arab population of the land. In reply, I must point out several facts.

The sins of the Amorites. God destroyed the Canaanites (Amorites and others) because of idolatry and gross immorality. But he did not immediately allow Israel to possess the land. Israel had to remain in Egypt for 400 years, as the Lord told Abraham, “For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached full measure.” (Gen. 15:16).

God gave the Amorites 400 years of grace before releasing the Israelites upon them in judgment.

But the kings of Israel and Judah followed in the same path of the Amorites into idolatry and immorality. God sent the prophets to warn them. He gave them the same 400 years of grace that he had given the Amorites. And when they didn’t repent, God brought upon them the same judgment as was rendered on the Amorites. (See 1 Kings 21:26; 2 Kings 21:11).

“For God does not show favoritism.” (Acts. 10:34; Rom. 2:11).

Rights of Native non-Jewish Residents
Palestinian Christians and Muslims. The Palestinian people of today are not the Canaanites of Joshua’s day. They are not idolaters. Like their Jewish cousins, they worship one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Nor do they practice the abominations of the Amorites. In general, the moral standards of the Christian and Muslim population is at least as high as their Jewish neighbors, and no less than most Christians in America.

Joshua’s commission applied only to the original conquest of the Land of Canaan. It was not to be the model for Jews returning to the land from the Babylonian exile. New instructions were given in the prophecy of Ezekiel:

You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for you and for the aliens who have settled among you and have children.

You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezek 47:21-23)

In other words, the returning Jews were to observe the “equal justice” provisions of the Torah; not try to exterminate or oppress them as Joshua did.
However, as we read in Ezra-Nehemiah, the Jews returning from Babylon ignored these instructions. They rudely rejected the Samaritan’s offer of help in rebuilding the temple. They also demanded that all Jewish men divorce their non-Jewish wives. This in spite of Malachi’s protest that “God hates divorce.”

Thus, fellow worshiper and potential allies were converted into bitter enemies.

Christ the Fulfillment
The “Land of Canaan” was not the ultimate goal or final destination for Abraham and Abraham’s descendants. As we read in Hebrews: “Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.” He and his children were “longing for a better country – a heavenly one.” (Heb. 11:9, 16).

For God himself is the destiny for all of “Abraham’s children,” those who “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right.”

For Christians, our access to the God is through faith in Jesus Christ. And “in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ , then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3: 28,29)

The conclusion of the matter.
The Jewish people, as children of Abraham, do have a claim to the Land of Promise. But that claim is neither absolute, nor exclusive. For the promise is to those “who keep the way of the Lord and do what is just and right.” And that includes the commandment, “Love the foreigner as yourself.”

Today, the fate of two peoples – Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs – are intertwined. God has a redemptive purpose for both peoples. Neither will enjoy the peace and prosperity of the land by excluding the other. The Bible did not end with the book of Joshua.

(Rev. David Teeter, who died in 2012, was a retired evangelical pastor, Bible teacher, and mediator. He lived and worked in Jerusalem and Bethlehem from 1978-1989, where he served as dean of Bethlehem Bible College. David also did doctoral research in Jerusalem on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relationships. David was pastor of several churches, most recently Hillside Community Church in Tacoma, Washington.)
© David & Willow Teeter 1989 Published by: Project Redemption