I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse… (Genesis 12:3a TNIV)
Subversively, another blogger responded to my previous post about Israel and brought up the above passage of Scripture to make the case that I was wrong in my comments. Someone had told him about my post and he made a response to the effect that to criticize Israel in this manner is to risk bringing the judgment of God on myself. So I want to take a moment and clarify my stance and explain a bit as to why I feel the way I do about this topic.
To reiterate the point I was trying to make in my last post, I believe that what Israeli rabbis have recently done is publicly state that it is okay, according to Jewish law, for Israel to commit acts of terrorism in response to an attack on their borders. To quote the rabbis,
When a population living near a Jewish town sends bombs at the Jewish town with the purpose of killing and destroying Jewish lives there, it is permitted, according to Jewish Law, to fire shells and bombs at the firing sites, even if they are populated by civilians.
My post also stated that this is similar to the argument used by leading Al Qaeda operatives.
The Muslim’s blood cannot be spilled whatever his work or place, while spilling the blood of the infidel, whatever his work or place, is authorized if he is not trustworthy.
This being the case, I asserted that we should be openly critical of what these rabbis have said and that we should even rethink how we interact with the Israeli government. They are advancing their cause via the way of the terrorist and we should stand in opposition to that.
Now I want to take a moment and clarify my stance some more.
For starters, according to the United States Federal Criminal Code, Chapter 113B: Section 2331, terrorism is defined as follows:
Activities that involve violent or life-threatening acts that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping…
For Jewish rabbis to state that it is okay to deliberately bomb, in this case Palestinian, civilians to get the Palestinian government to stop bombing them amounts to a sanctioning of terrorism according to our own criminal codes. And I reiterate a statement made in my last post that if an Al Qaeda operative were to claim the same thing, there would be no end to the criticism heaped. It truly seems that terrorism is terrorism only when practiced by our enemies.
But my willingness to criticize the Israeli government goes beyond that and into the realm of theology.
According to Paul, the favorite Biblical author of the majority of Christendom,
For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. (Romans 9:6b-7a TNIV)
Abraham’s children are, obviously, the true descendants of Abraham. These are the “children of promise” mentioned later in this passage of Romans 9. And the “children of promise” are the children of the promised Messiah, who would be Jesus Christ. But, since much of the blood descendant Israel rejected Jesus, God blinded them and turned to the true Israel.
What the people of Israel sought so earnestly [the Messiah and therefore redemption] they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day…”Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (Romans 11:7b-8, 11 TNIV)
But what does this have to do with what is happening in Israel today?
According to common interpretation, 1948 marked the fulfillment of a prophecy proclaimed by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. Moses is speaking, and he lists off a series of blessings and curses that will come upon Israel during their history. They will be dispersed and then,
When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. (Deuteronomy 30:1-5a TNIV)
In 1948, Israel was established as its own independent nation in the very lands where they began. As I stated above, this fulfills this prophecy from Deuteronomy. I take issue with this interpretation though because of what I stated above. “Israel” is no longer defined by bloodline or nation-state boundaries and places of residence. True Israel are those who are faithful followers of Jesus whatever their national heritage. But I have another issue with the common interpretation.
According to the prophecy, Israel will not be brought back to its land until they return to God with every bit of their being and obey Him. To do this requires that they accept His Son as their prophesied Messiah. But, this will not happen for a couple of reasons. God has blinded them for a time. And they will not be un-blinded until something else happens:
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25 ESV)
I have yet to hear anybody make the case that there are no more non-Jews on the planet in need of salvation. As far as I can tell, there are a lot of Gentile unbelievers in the world, and a lot of people who still need to hear the Gospel.
Therefore, since the “fullness of the Gentiles” has yet to come in, Israel is still blinded and therefore they are not practicing the full obedience to God required by the Deuteronomy prophecy. That being the case, the 1948 acknowledgment of “Israel” as an independent nation is not the realization of the Deuteronomy prophecy. Therefore, Israel as recognized today is not the re-established chosen people of God.
But let’s go with the common interpretation for a moment. Let’s assume that my interpretation is wrong, and that the nation-state of Israel is the embodiment of the chosen people of God. Am I bringing God’s judgment on myself for criticizing them?
I argue no for one simple reason: the Old Testament Prophets. There is a whole section of the Hebrew Scriptures that centers around the criticism of the people of God and their actions. The statement is made over and over again that what the Jewish people are doing is not pleasing to God. Did Isaiah bring God’s condemnation on himself for criticizing Israel? Did Jeremiah? Did Ezekiel? Did Daniel? No. They were compelled by God’s calling and their understanding of the Law to stand up and oppose their actions.
This is not the same thing as “cursing” God’s people.
The Hebrew word used in Genesis 12:3, rendered cursing in most English translations, is the word קלל (qâlal). This means, basically, “to make light of.” Cursing involves, at least in this case, making fun of them with the intention of bringing them into contempt. The cursing referred to in Genesis 12 would be the equivalent of telling a joke along the lines of “A Jew, a priest, and a Chinese man walk into a bar…” This is what God condemns. Mocking His people to belittle them and contribute to their demise.
Criticizing the actions of these people is not the same thing. Just because someone is God’s chosen race does not mean that their every word and action is given the full blessing of God. It is quite possible for God’s people to be influenced by the Devil, as in this little scenario involving David:
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” But Joab replied, “May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah. But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1-7 TNIV)
We know from reading earlier passages of Scripture, that God told David at one time to take a census. Satan took this previous event and used it against God’s people. Satan knows the Scriptures and can and does use them against the people of God. This is why the prophets were so vital. They were present to keep God’s people in check; to keep them from being led astray by the deception of the Devil, which would ultimately lead to suffering and destruction.
This kind of voice is still needed, even in Christianity, to keep God’s people from falling into similar traps to the one David fell into.
All that being said, and to summarize, my point, it is okay to criticize Israeli actions because, if modern day Israel is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, that does not mean that everything they do is right and justified. If they’re not that fulfillment, then we have the responsibility to condemn their actions for the terrorism that they are; this is doubly true if they are that fulfillment. Prophets are needed in all generations to keep God’s people in check. The prophetic word is not the same as “cursing” God’s people, it is God’s will.