Recently the US under president Trump moved the its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in Israel sparking a lot of concern, consternation and violence by those opposed to the move mainly Arabs. Part of the problem as I see it is something called Zionism and the belief on the part of many that we have to back Israel 100% right or wrong as this is what God requires. This lead to a promise made in 1917 to the Jews of a promised home land. After World War II in 1948 without consulting the people then living there (Palestinians) the United Nations arbitrarily decided to create the nation of Israel. The Palestinians living in this land were moved into refugee camps with a promise they would also be given a home land of their own. That promise was never kept and the Palestinians remain in refugees camp leading too all the current problems there in the Gaza Strip and in the Occupied Territories. However is this what God wants? Is God solely on the side of Israel? Do Christians have to support Israel blindly because God allegedly does? Is Zionism of God?
For the record Zionism is a movement born in the late 19th and early 20th century where the Jewish people began to rise and put pressure on governments to give them back their "homeland" in Palestine. In 1917 the British government in the Balfour Declaration agreed in principle to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Then in 1948 after the horrors of the holocaust Israel once more became a nation. This was done by a arbitrary decision of the United Nations without the people who were living there at the time being consulted or having any say in the matter. Instead they were uprooted from their homes and placed in refugee camps with a promise of a future homeland for themselves. There they still are 70 years later still waiting for the fulfillment of that promise in its fullest extent. That is what much of the current dispute is about. Plus the fact that Americans particularly are seen as only interested in the oil the Arabs have to sell us and otherwise could care less about them doesn't help. Add on top of that a perceived bias towards Israel and the recipe is ripe for trouble. This attitude also I believe led to the 9/11 bombings here in the USA and the current wave of anti American feeling throughout the Arab world. This has gotten us into war I believe in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as Syria that we are still trying to find our way out of.
Many might argue we have to stand by Israel no matter what. Otherwise God will curse us if we don't. After all God promised to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who don't. However is that what the scriptures really say or are we reading our biases and prejudices into the Bible to try and make it say what we want it to say?
In Genesis 12:1-3 God speaking to Abraham says "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
Many would say that means we have to side with Israel as they are the descendants of Isaac Abraham's son. That is a half truth but a half truth is the same as a lie. Why? Because it is the exact opposite of what God did and what I believe we should be doing today.
In Genesis 17:18-21 we see that Abraham has two sons Ishmael (Father of the modern day Arabs) and Isaac and God blesses them both.
"And Abraham said to God, 'Oh, that Ishmael might live before you!" Then God said 'No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year."
Be careful how you read this text. God did not say He would not bless Ishmael just that he would not be part of the covenant. What is the covenant? Namely that the promised Savior and Messiah of the world Jesus Christ would come though Isaac not Ishmael. The covenant of grace which we are under today in Christ came through Isaac and praise God for it. That however does not mean that God didn't bless Ishmael because He did and I believe we should be doing the same today.
Some may say God said to cast out the bondwoman. True but again be careful how you read the text. In Galatians Paul is contrasting to different systems one of law which he likens to Hagar and Ishmael and one of faith which he likens to Sarah and Isaac and says we are of the latter. Paul also says the latter is far better than the covenant of Ishmael. However we need to read what Paul is saying very carefully.
Galatians 4:28-31 "Now we brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the scripture say? Cast outÂ the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman."
Here again we see that Ishmael would not inherit with Isaac. However that doesn't annul the blessing that God gave to Abraham concerning Ishmael. God confirms this as Hagar and Ishmael go into the desert. In Genesis 21 we see Abraham ending up sending away Hagar and Ishmael after Sarah had asked him to and God told him specifically to listen to his wife and do as she said. Hagar and Ishmael run out of water. So she places the lad under a shrub and prepares for the boy to die. Now it would seem if God was angry with Ishmael he would have left him to die. Let's see what God actually did.
Genesis 21:17-20 "And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar, and said to her, 'What ails you Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation'. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer."
Can we see the picture here? Yes God said to cast out Ishmael but he then turns right around and blesses him and says he will make him a great nation. The Arabs are the fulfillment of that promise made to Ishmael. Are we trying to curse what God has blessed?
Some may feel they attacked us and killed our people so we are justified to do the same to them. Oh really? Who says? Lets let Jesus have the final word on the subject.
Saint Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:43-45 quotes Jesus as teaching "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on he evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust."
I believe we should be like God and bless both the Arabs and the Jews equally. I believe we should do as Jesus told us to and love, bless and pray for the Arab even if they are our enemies. We should stand with the prophet and declare " God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man, that he should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed and I cannot reverse it." (Numbers 23:19-20)
Hope this is a blessing and has given you some food for thought. Would love to know your reaction and what you think of what I have shared.
God bless you
Brother Lawrence Damien CoS