Consternation by definition is “a state of paralyzing dismay.” Consternation is the word I would use to describe the reaction of Christians who once were solid supporters of Israel to the recent disengagement policies of the Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert governments. This reaction of consternation is, unfortunately, being accompanied by impatience, frustration, and the decision in some Christian circles to give up on Israel. This decision by Evangelicals, to abandon Israel, is a significant biblical error that will generate considerable confusion.
The puzzlement will be most apparent among those I would label as “sheep Christians.” Sheep Christians receive the majority of their biblical training from the plethora of popular Christian radio and television programs that abound today, rather than from a solid, bible teaching, conservative church. The drawback from this shopping mall of teaching lies in the fact that each show presents its own theology and point of view. A very confusing overabundance indeed. In reaction to this perplexing stew of ideas, sheep Christians simply play follow-the-leader. Not knowing what to believe, they simply follow whatever their favorite teacher espouses. If their favorite teacher abandons and criticizes Israel they will as well because they think it is the right thing to do. Consequently, support for God’s chosen people is undermined.
The Background of the Consternation
This dismay initially began when the Ariel Sharon government unilaterally withdrew Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip late in 2005. Then, the succeeding elected Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, continued the disengagement by announcing a plan to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank (occupied since 1967) and set the final boundaries for the State of Israel. Some Christians are dismayed because they understand the modern State of Israel to be the precursor to the return of Yeshua (Jesus) and the institution of the Messianic Kingdom. They are expecting, rather should I say demanding, that the Israeli people and Israeli government respond to the world as they would respond which is to thumb their nose at the world and declare that God has given them this Land. They would say that the Jewish people have a divine right to occupy every inch of the Land. Since the Israeli people and Israeli government have not responded in that manner, some Christians have reacted with criticism and scorn. They react with anger, dismayed because they feel that the Israelis are giving up their God-given Land.
The Cause of the Consternation
The cause of this consternation is out-of-context exegesis of scripture which leads to a premature expectation of fulfillment regarding specific biblical prophecies. The premature and incorrect expectation of fulfillment is, in turn, leading to disappointment with the responses of the nation of Israel and the Jewish community to the challenges that beset the nation. Because the Bible is incorrectly understood, the reactions of the Israeli government is being misunderstood.
The classic verse commonly misinterpreted is Isaiah 66:8. Isaiah 66:8 states that the nation will be “born in one day” and “brought forth at once.” Christians have narrowly focused their attention on the concept of "a nation born in a day." The common approach is to declare that these verses were completely fulfilled on May 14, 1948 when the British Mandate over the Holy Land came to an end and the State of Israel was declared. Therefore, Israel is back in the Land for good, and history is moving toward the Second Coming when Israel possesses all the Promised Land.
Unfortunately, a careful, in-context exegesis of Isaiah 66:8 places the idea of a nation born in one day not in the present but in the future at the end of the Tribulation Period. This section of scripture has not been fulfilled. In reality, the modern State of Israel was forged as a result of a long painful process beginning in approximately 1839 with the growth of the modern Zionist movement in Russia and Europe.
The fact that Israel is surrendering land to the Palestinians instead of possessing more and more territory becomes an insufferable contradiction to some Christians expectations. Israel is supposed to be gaining land not giving it up.
Instead of admitting faulty interpretation, certain Christians blame Israel for this blow to their prophetic expectations. They disparage Israel because their faulty exegesis which has been publicly promoted is now going down the drain. I have seen them turn to the “blame game” and belittle Israel for ungodliness with pious sounding pronouncements that Israel had better get right with God. They have joined the ranks of Israel’s detractors and undermined support for the country all because they cannot admit interpretive error. Israel's stubbornness, sin, and lack of faith now becomes the reason why their interpretation of prophecy is not turning out the way they publicly taught it should.
The reality of the current situation lies in the fact that the modern State of Israel is predominantly a secular country. Eighty to ninety percent of the Israelis and the Jewish community world-wide are either atheists or agnostics. The remaining ten to twenty percent that do believe in God follow Rabbinic Judaism, a man-made religion that is more deeply rooted in the rabbinic writings than in Holy Scripture. In addition, ninety-nine percent of the Jewish community, in Israel and world-wide, reject the Messiahship of Jesus. My point: the reality of the situation is the fact that Israel is back in the Land from a world-wide dispersion in unbelief. As a result of this unbelief, Israel responds to the political situations affecting them from a secular perspective. These secular responses flabbergast and irritate certain Christians because they possess unrealistic and non-biblical expectations of the Israelis. They expect the Israelis to respond to world events from a foundation of trust in God. That trust is simply not there, nor will it be present, as the Bible teaches, until the very end of the Tribulation Period. Christians actually think that the Israeli government will listen to their pleas and point of view and gradually begin to follow decisions that are in accord with their theological reasoning. The Israelis, who on the whole are at peace with and supportive of disengagement, are viewed as turning their back on God's promise to give the Jewish people the Land of Israel. Since Christian frustration has reached the breaking point, they are giving up on Israel.
The Biblical Position
The correct Biblical position lies in the fact that the Bible predicts two world-wide regatherings for the Jewish people (Isa. 11:11-12). The first return will be in unbelief in preparation for the judgment of the Tribulation (Ezk. 20:33.38, 22:17-22, 36:22-24; Zeph. 2:1-2). The second world-wide regathering will be in faith in preparation for the blessing of the Messianic Kingdom (Isa. 11:12-16; Ezk. 37:24-28; etc.).
The modern State of Israel is the realization of the first world-wide regathering. The Jewish people are once again in their biblical homeland but in a state of unbelief in preparation for the judgment of the Great Tribulation. The fulfillment of Isaiah 66:8 awaits the future.
The Correct Response
Instead of consternation and its expression of criticism, disgust, warning, and abandonment, the correct response would be to continue to patiently support the modern State of Israel based on biblical principles. Here are a few to consider.
Principle One: Correct Understanding of the Two World-wide Regatherings
As explained above, since the modern State of Israel is back in the Land in unbelief, we should not expect the government of Israel to respond to current events from the same perspective of born.again believers. This is true, especially due to the fact that most Christians do not live in the Land of Israel. It is very convenient, arrogant, and hypocritical to tell the Israelis how to run their country from the safety of our churches 12,000 miles away. We really do not know what is going on because we are not on the front lines. Christians should let the Israelis run Israel rather than tell them what to do from a distance and then criticize them when they act differently. How would we react if the Israelis started telling us how to run the United States?
Principle Two: Our Calling
Controlling the politics of the modern State of Israel is not our calling. Our calling is laid out in Matthew 28:16-20 and Romans 1:16. Christians today are to concentrate on making disciples of all the nations, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. This principle has been ignored by many Christians formerly supportive of Israel. They boast of loving Israel, and supporting Israel, and loving the Jewish people, but they have ignored the priority of Jewish evangelism. Instead of criticizing the Israeli government, let us renew our efforts to proclaim the Messiahship of Jesus to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel.”
Principle Three: The Abrahamic Covenant
Genesis 12:1-3 is the summary of the Abrahamic Covenant. The key verse illuminating the decision to give up on Israel is found in verse 3, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” That statement is unconditional in nature. Therefore, Christian support of the Jewish people should be unconditional as well. We may not agree with all the decisions of the Israeli government, and we can tell them so. However, to go beyond disagreement and give up on Israel violates the blessing aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. Consequently, those who curse Israel by abandoning her and denigrating her will reap what they sow. They will be cursed in a manner consistent with their own behavior (Gal. 6:7).
Principle Four: Romans 11:29
Speaking of Israel, Paul declares that the “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” God has not given up on His people and neither should we. He has disciplined the Jewish people, but He has never given up on her. See also Psalm 94:14 and Romans 11:1-2, to cite just two of many examples.
If anyone had an reason to give up on Israel it was the Apostle Paul. In Acts 11:24 he states, “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.” In addition the Book of Acts, chapter 14, verse 19 records that he was stoned by the Jewish community in Lystra and left for dead. In spite of this intense persecution by his own people what is Paul’s heart cry in Romans 9:1-3, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” Paul follows up this statement of grief and longing in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Paul, who had every reason to give up on Israel never did. I only wish that the heart of every Christian would beat to the rhythm of God’s heart, like Paul’s did.
Principle Five: Correct Understanding of Prophetic Events
The upcoming prophetic events that can be put in chronological order according to Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum in his book The Footsteps of the Messiah are the Russian coalition’s invasion of Israel (Ezek. 38-39), followed by a one-world government (Dan. 7:23-24), the dissolution of that government into 10 kingdoms (Dan. 7:24a), the rise of anti-Christ (Dan. 7:24b), a period of peace and false security (1 Thess. 5:1-3), Israel’s signing of a seven year covenant with anti-Christ (Dan. 9:27), and then the Tribulation Period. These events have to transpire before the national regeneration of Israel and the institution of the Messianic Kingdom. We know from Ezekiel 38:13 that when the Russian coalition’s invasion of Israel occurs, the entire world will protest the invasion but do nothing. The United States will voice disapproval but will be either unable or unwilling to intervene on Israel’s behalf. Therefore, God will dispose of the invaders personally (Ezek. 38:18-23).
Christians who give up on Israel today are unwittingly contributing to the attitude of abandonment toward Israel that will mark the attitude of the nations. This current attitude of giving up on Israel is a precursor to Ezekiel 38:13.
In addition, there are a number of prophetic events that have to happen before the Tribulation that cannot be put in chronological sequence. The Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4:17), the pre.tribulation world-wide blackout (Joel 2:31), the return of Elijah (Mal. 4:5), the apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3; I Tim. 4:1) and the revelation of the identity of the anti-Christ (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
Finally, one more event may occur either before or after the Tribulation begins. That event is the construction of the Third Temple (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:3-4). All we can say about the Third Temple is that it must be up and functioning by the middle of the Tribulation.
Principle Six: The Antagonism of the Nations
Speaking of precursors, we know from Zechariah 14:2 that all the nations of the world will come against Israel during the Tribulation Period. Giving up on Israel today and expressing consternation, self-righteousness, and pious disapproval toward her is simply a precursor to hating her. Christians who are upset with the Israeli government today will be antagonistic tomorrow. Remember Martin Luther. He supported the Jewish community in his early days. However, when the Jewish community did not embrace Christianity, he turned ugly. He wrote the disgusting little tract “On the Jews and Their Lies” in his later years. Then the Nazis used quotations from this notorious anti-Semitic document to justify their Jewish genocide of World War II. Christians who express consternation toward the Jewish people today should heed where their venom might eventually lead.
Principle Seven: The National Regeneration of Israel
Christians need to remember that no matter what happens today, we know the end of the story. We should, therefore, orient our thinking to the promises of God rather than the latest newspaper headlines. One of those promises is found in Romans 11:25-31. Although Israel is disobedient today, we know that in the future “all Israel will be saved.” If we understand that someday every Jewish person will live their lives based on trust in Yeshua, then patience, perseverance and proclamation of the Gospel is the proper response to adopt today.
Principle Eight: The Temporary Nature of a Palestinian State
Dovetailing with Principle Seven is the fact that any Palestinian State instituted today will be temporary. In the Kingdom, Israel will occupy all of the Promised Land. Israel’s occupation of the Land is predicated on obedience. Our occupation of the Land has expanded and contracted throughout our history. We have never occupied all of the Promised Land and we do not do so today. Currently, Israel is experiencing a time of contraction. Times of contraction have occurred before. This is not a unique occurrence in Jewish history. The Land promised to Abraham encompasses an area at least five times greater than the current state (please review the map and the chart found in the first essay). When regenerated Israel returns during the second world-wide regathering and inherits the Kingdom, then we will possess all of the Promised Land.
Principle Nine: Prayer
Completely consistent with God’s patient love for His people is the command of Psalm 122:6, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This statement is a command. The word “pray” is plural imperative. Every Israelite, and by application every Christian, is ordered to pray for the welfare of Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. Ultimately, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem means to pray for the return of Jerusalem’s preeminent King—Jesus the Messiah. True peace will not come to Jerusalem until the Prince of Peace rules every heart.
However the command “pray” is even more intense than the English translation can convey. The word is not the normal word for pray. The word used in Psalm 122:6 carries with it the ideas to ask, to plead, to beg, to inquire and even to demand. In other words a proper response to current events is fervent prayer for the physical and spiritual welfare of Jerusalem and by extention all the Jewish people. Giving up on Israel is an attitude inconsistent with the command of Psalm 122:6.
Our view of the events in the Middle East should include all of this biblical information and more. If we view current events in the Middle East through this grid, then our consternation will evaporate, and we will be able to get on with our true calling. Our calling is not running the Israeli government; instead, it is making disciples of all the nations—to the Jew first. A recommended book for further study is Footsteps of the Messiah by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum. It is available through HaDavar Messianic Ministries or Ariel Ministries.