Unconditional Acceptance or Unconditional Support.

Over the course of  the many discussions that I have had with Christian Zionists about the Zionist state of Israel, I have come to believe that one of the major confusions  they have is the difference between unconditional acceptance and unconditional support. Without doubt the scriptures teach that God unconditionally accepted the Jewish people in Old Testament times. Both in the wanderings of Moses generation in the wilderness and during the exile in 586 BC, God was faithful to His covenant promise with the Children of Israel. Yet the very  wanderings in Moses day and the exile in 586 BC point to the undeniable fact that God did not unconditionally support the Hebrews. Both those episodes were instances of God chastising the Jewish people for not living up to their responsibilities in the Mosaic covenant. God did not unconditionally support the Jewish people in the land of Israel anymore than  loving parents as we know them today would support their child regardless of the ethics of that child’s behaviour.

Would any of us, while proclaiming to love our children, support them in their plans to rob or murder? Would we be loving parents if we did? This point may seem trivially obvious but, has somehow become a major stumbling block to the Christian cheer squad of Zionism. If we are convinced that God did not unconditionally support  Israel, how is it that we think that God expects us to condone every action of the Zionist state today? Does God command us to support things that He does not? I think not!

Christian Zionist discussions of the return of the Jewish people to Palestine rarely, if ever, mention the concept of exile in a Biblical manner. Exile occurs due to the sins of the Jewish people and is a spiritual problem. To return from exile can only occur if God has declared that the purpose of the exile is over. A famous Jewish Rabbi, Joseph Haim Sonnenfeld (1848 – 1932) said:

“God has exiled us on account of our sins, and exile is a hospital for the Jewish people. It is inconceivable that we take control of our land before we are completely cured. We are certain that when we are healed of our sins, God will not hesitate for a moment, and will deliver us Himself. How could we be in such haste to leave hospital in the face of mortal danger, a world wide danger that hangs over our heads, God forbid?”

Christian Zionists pay no heed to the warnings of scripture and Jewish tradition that tell Jews not to try and end the exile themselves. The creation of the Zionist state in 1948 or General Allenby’s entrance to Jerusalem in December of 1917 in no way declare the exile to be over according to the Bible or Orthodox Jewish theological tradition. In Old Testament times, entrance to Israel by the Jewish people was always accompanied by prophets of the caliber of Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah. Only the word of God, spoken with authority by His prophets was good enough to give the Jewish people confidence to come out of exile and re-enter the Promised Land. The question could rightly be asked, “By whose authority can we say that the exile is over?’ The very existence of the Oaths of the Talmud imply t that the Jewish people themselves have the responsibility not to try and re-enter the land without God’s blessing. The partial success of the Zionists in retaking the land of Israel is no more an automatic sign of God’s endorsement of Zionism than the existence of mega churches is a sign of God’s endorsement of the theology of the Pastors of those congregations.

Over half the Jewish population choose not to live in Israel despite the financial incentives that the Zionists offer. Hundreds of thousands of strictly observant (haredi) Jews do not believe that the exile is over either. The more land the state of Israel takes from the Palestinians, the more tenuous the hold the Israelis have on their own territory. The occupation of the West Bank is a sickness of the state of Israel. It sucks the spiritual life out of the Jews of Israel, brutalizing everyone touched by it.

Unconditional support is the last thing that Israel needs. Like any rebellious child, the state of Israel needs rigorously enforced boundaries to live in spiritual health and well being.

Craig Nielsen