Is it the End of the World?

The Bible often refers to “watchmen” and “watchmen on the wall,” the latter specifically in place to protect Israel in a variety of ways. In our own day, that involves advocacy work.

In the American church, that role is less popular than it used to be. In fact, a watchman for Israel is seen too often as divisive and politically incorrect. Sadly and ironically, the Evangelical community in America is hyper-vigilant about being politically correct. One of those slices of PC is that we must temper our support of Israel. After all, goes the conventional “wisdom,” Israel is not and has not tended enough to the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Jon in Israel

What though are the aspirations of the Palestinian people? I well remember an interview with a journalist years ago. He was asked what the Syrian people want (in the context of Israel returning the Golan Heights). He said, “Who knows what the Syrian people want? We know what Assad wants.”

So true. I don’t quibble that the Palestinian people probably want their own state. The problem is, the leadership is corrupt and still an enemy of the Jewish people. But until practical leadership emerges among the Palestinians, I believe the two-state solution is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

But I digress.

There are several marvelous pro Israel groups that cater to an evangelical audience. I applaud the wonderful work they do. I do take exception in one area, however.

People “on the right” or “conservative” tend to be less confrontational than their left-wing counterparts. Put another way, one conservative icon once told me that conservatives don’t like to fight.

Correct. For the most part.

That mindset has caused us to shrink from aggressively advocating for Israel, while the so-called “Christian Palestinianists” viciously and relentlessly oppose Israel. They do this through publishing, conferences, and ministry focus.

Some will take issue with my claim that we aren’t advocating aggressively enough for Israel. Let me be more specific.

I am convinced that a huge key to advocating for Israel in the church is to name names of those who oppose God’s people. Most if not all of my compatriots disagree.

Two years ago, two large pro Israel groups asked me to write an article for them, outlining the problems with the erosion of support for Israel in the church. This necessarily involves naming ministry names, etc.

I was shocked (I could still be shocked then) that both groups passed on the articles I submitted. Keep in mind, they came to me. Both told me that in essence, the articles were too “hot.”

This mindset is why we are seeing an erosion of support for Israel. To shine a light on Lynne Hybels’ advocacy for the Palestinians (she masks it with her “pro, pro, pro” clap-trap) is to poke the eye of the monolithic Willow Creek Association. To point out Russell Moore’s social progressive agenda, and his silence about Israel is to incur the wrath of his friends in the Southern Baptist Convention. Citing the anti-Israel writings of Millennial leaders like Cameron Strang and Donald Miller invites criticism from their followers. Pointing out the anti-Israel stance of World Vision brings out those who accuse me of opposing relief efforts for the poor.

That last point, of course, is classic deflection. I don’t oppose helping the poor in other countries. I do oppose WV’s opposition of the Jewish state.

Until we are willing to expose the villains in this drama, things will continue as they are.

Within one more generation, support for Israel in America will look very different from its predecessors.

And we wonder whether certain prophetic passages in the Hebrew Scriptures are meant for our time?

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:2,3)

President Trump yesterday spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and one suspects his words have real meaning behind them and will be backed up with action; the President promised that anti-Semitism will be confronted. Among his remarks:

Sadly, this year marks the first Day of Remembrance since the passing of Elie Wiesel, a great person, a great man. His absence leaves an empty space in our hearts, but his spirit fills this room. It is the kind of gentle spirit of an angel who lived through hell, and whose courage still lights the path from darkness. Though Elie’s story is well known by so many people, it’s always worth repeating. He suffered the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust. His mother and sister perished in Auschwitz. He watched his father slowly dying before his own young eyes in Buchenwald. He lived through an endless nightmare of murder and death, and he inscribed on our collective conscience the duty we have to remember that long, dark night so as never to again repeat it.

The survivors in this hall, through their testimony, fulfill the righteous duty to never forget, and engrave into the world’s memory the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. You witnessed evil, and what you saw is beyond description, beyond any description. Many of you lost your entire family, everything and everyone you loved, gone. You saw mothers and children led to mass slaughter. You saw the starvation and the torture. You saw the organized attempt at the extermination of an entire people — and great people, I must add. You survived the ghettos, the concentration camps and the death camps. And you persevered to tell your stories. You tell of these living nightmares because, despite your great pain, you believe in Elie’s famous plea, that “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

Israeli jets over Auschwitz (Israel Air Force)

Israeli jets over Auschwitz (Israel Air Force)

In the Bible’s book of Daniel, a fascinating bit of information is conveyed. Daniel was a Hebrew prophet at the time of the Babylonian exile, in the sixth century B.C. His book is heavily prophetic, and for generations scholars and students have disagreed over key points, such as whom Daniel was writing for in the future.

Among the future events Daniel predicted: the rise of Alexander the Great, a few hundreds years in the future, and discussion of the antichrist at the time of the very end of human history.

In Chapter 12, we also read the following:

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Some point to the period beginning in the second century B.C., the time in which the famed Maccabees would overthrow foreign rule and establish Jewish sovereignty for a couple generations (before the Romans would once again put down Jewish “rebellions”). One intriguing piece of evidence is that God told Daniel to write all this down and “seal it” in a book, to be opened at a select time in the future.
clay envelope

Today, archaeology provides us with wonderful practical examples of what might have been meant by sealing the book. In ancient Mesopotamia, the “cradle of civilization” and the home today of countries like Iraq and Syria, nations used cuneiform writing—pressing symbols in soft clay and then baking it so that letters and other communications could be preserved.

Many such clay “envelopes” have been found, revealing messages inside.

However, there is a school of thought that places this “time of the end” to a far distant time. The idea is that technological and other innovations will greatly increase human knowledge and understanding.

If ever there was a time for that, we are living in it.

Whatever the correct interpretation, it is fascinating to note that the Bible’s writers wrote with precision, often reflecting elements of the day in which they were writing.

Such artifacts help bring the Bible alive!

Times change.

They sure do.

Recently a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was interested in visiting the Holy Land. Most of us know what that refers to: Israel. The land of the Bible.

My friend is a good man, but it’s not the only time he’s referred to Israel as “the Holy Land.” In fact, I’ve never heard him say “Israel,” except in the context of a Bible passage, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures.

The “Holy Land” is often a way for American Christians to avoid saying “Israel.” Israel, you see, is controversial. Israel oppresses the Palestinians, or takes too much annually in aid from the U.S. Or…well, there are so many excuses.

From Zechariah 2:12:

“And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.”

So there is a biblical precedent for using the term, and I don’t have a problem with it. I really don’t.

Billy Graham can still say it.

Billy Graham can still say it.

I do have a problem with Christians who can’t form the word Israel when talking about the modern incarnation.

It’s been my experience that mainline Christians primarily say Holy Land rather than Israel, but it is increasingly becoming the rage within Evangelicalism. It is jarring today to hear a Southern Baptist or even a Pentecostal stick a tongue to the roof of his mouth to avoid saying Israel.

On the one hand, it’s a political issue. A “politically correct” issue. But on the other, more important hand, it’s a spiritual issue. If Christians are loath to say “Israel,” then I loathe their distaste for the name.

Intolerance for modern Israel is a growing spiritual sickness in the American church.

It is an unholy thing.