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On the eve of the decision  to be made on Palestinian statehood, it is appropriate for Christians of all denominations to remind themselves of the real nature of the biblical mandate of God for the Jewish people with regards to the Land of Israel-Palestine.Please watch my video on the Biblical perspective of ownership of the land of Palestine and read the recent article by Stephen Sizer that he published  on his blog.

God Bless Jews and Palestinians
Today the Palestinian Authority will submit a request to be recognised as a sovereign independent state with recognised borders. It has been a long time coming. Many will say, what matters is what God says not the UN and they will quote selective verses from the Hebrew Bible suggesting the promises God made to Abraham about the extent of the land is the exclusive inheritance of the Jewish people today. A simple reading of some key Hebrew passages shows this to be arrogant and presumptuous.

Contrary to popular assumption, the Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence is always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23). In Ezekiel, it seems the Lord anticipated the reasoning of those who arrogantly claimed rights to the land because of the covenant originally made with Abraham.

“Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.’ Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things… Should you then possess the land?’ … I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end.’ (Ezekiel 33:24-26,28-29)

The Hebrew scriptures insist, residence was open to all God’s people on the basis of faith not race.  When the people of God returned from exile in Babylon, they were given these instructions:

“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who 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 a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 47:21-23)

Indeed, the writer to Hebrews explains that the land was never their ultimate desire or inheritance any way. The land was only ever intended as a temporary residence until the coming of Jesus Christ. Our shared eternal inheritance is heavenly not earthly.  

“By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one… These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:9-10; 13-16; 39-40)

The New Testament insists the promises God made to Abraham are fulfilled not in the Jewish people but in Jesus and those who acknowledge him.

“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither 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.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29)

So may God bless Israelis and Palestinians committed to justice, peacemaking and reconciliation and may his curse be upon those who resort to racism and violence to satisfy their greed and achieve their political aims.

Posted by Stephen Sizer at 10:59

The following post is from Jesse Zaplatynskyj. Jesse is a registered nurse and has a Degree in Theology from Tabor College Adelaide, South Australia.

I’ve often heard Christian Zionists say that the promise in the Old Testament (OT) regarding the Land that was given to Israel is something that is still to be fulfilled (and apparently happening currently). I hear of all the passages they speak of – the Torah (esp Genesis 12) and the thousands of mentions throughout the prophets which speak of a ‘return’ to the land.

But I have to then ask them (and myself) why isn’t there such a big emphasis on this in the New Testament (new covenant)? If this was such a huge part of our belief system as Christians today and the New Testament church then, why didn’t Jesus speak of it with the passion I hear from Christian Zionists? And while Paul spoke about it a bit in Rom 9-11 there isn’t much else mentioned about it? Why is this? I hear a lot about the “kingdom of God” throughout the gospels, and the struggles Paul has with his Jewish friends regarding all sorts of problems regarding how to now understand Jesus as the Messiah everyone’s been expecting – but not a lot about the necessity of ethnic Jews returning to a specific land in order to usher in a new age. Why is this? Every Jew knew that the messiah was to come in and get rid of the Romans and establish an ever-lasting Israel. But for some reason Jesus seemed to predict the end of the Temple (and the end of Israel as a nation) with agreement (eg Matt 21:12-27). What’s up with that?

Let’s briefly look at Romans 9-11 as I’m sure some may not think I’m taking this seriously if I just pass over it so casually. Firstly, Paul is challenging the established idea of what it means to be an Israelite. In Romans 4 we here that Abraham was righteous not because of his nationality “according to the flesh” (v 1) but because he “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (v 2). This was not about circumcision (or the law) (v 9-11a) but “was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised” etc (v 11b). In chapter 9 again he is challenging what it means to be Jewish by looking at Jacob and Esau concluding that “it does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (v 16). The Gospel according to Paul is not about being God’s people through the traditions of Israel anymore but about believing in God. He is challenging the identity of Israel now that Jesus has come! He says “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (9: 6). Paul then goes on to discuss how Israel has misunderstood its call (9:30-10:21) but refuses to believe that they have been abandoned and speaks about the engrafted branches (11:1-24). He is one of them, and he speaks with great emotion – he wears his heart on his sleave here. And as such, “all [re-defined] Israel will be saved” (11:25-32).

The problem for Christian Zionists however, is that there is not one mention of the land throughout this section! Furthermore, this section is heavily filled with OT references and not one of them is about returning to the land. Why? Because it’s about righteousness, belief, and being God’s children: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (10:12).

But what about all those OT prophecies? How do we then interpret them? I believe the prophets were talking of an earth where God would be known to all and the land was a symbol for that message. Essentially, they were speaking in terms they understood about something they could not explain. The Land was always given so that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3). The land, along with the rest of the Old Covenant, only did a partial job of the restoration of our hardened hearts. It needed something more. It needed to be more directly connected with God. It needed Jesus (see book of Hebrews).

Jesus said “I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil them” (Matt 5:17). Jesus (Immanuel), as God, came to be with us (humanity) – for all. This is the way the first church understood it. In Acts 2, Peter uses OT passages such as Joel that already started to understand this where God “will pour out his spirit on all people” (Acts 2:14). Other OT prophesies such as Ezek 34 speaks of a true Shepard (compare John 10), Ezek 37 speaks of the dead bones of Israel being made alive by the spirit of God (compare John 3). Jesus has done this. This is the Gospel. This is the new covenant where we do not need a temple to have access to God, but all have direct access to the Father through the life and death of Jesus (see Hebrews again).

As such, why would anyone want to go back to the old way? If Christian Zionists want to be so strong about the Old Covenant calling about the land then what about the other laws of the Torah? Should we also be circumcising our boys, following food laws, and all the other hundreds of laws in the Torah? A quick reading of Galatians’ should clear that question up (answer is an emphatic ‘no’ in case you’re wondering).

As Christians we do have a hope that Jesus will return and bring heaven and earth together in a way that resembles God’s initial plan: the Garden of Eden. The groans of the world (Rom 8) will end and a new order will be established. God will bring a “new Jerusalem” from heaven and heaven and earth will be united (Rev 21). I don’t personally think that that is now happening in Israel at present. Do you?

Jesse Zaplatynskyj

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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July 2020