Shalom and greetings in our Messiah,
I hope this special newsletter, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will fuel your prayer life and help you fulfill the mandate in Psalm 122:6 to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
The recent announcement by the president of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—a signal to start the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—has caused us all to ponder the question of Jerusalem more carefully. The response of the United Nations further complicated the issue when 128 member nations voted against the decision and only nine voted in favor of it. Those against the decision claim that the unity of Jerusalem can only be settled once a peace agreement is decided upon and implemented. The countries that stood with the United States and Israel were Togo, Honduras, Nauru, Palau, Micronesia, Guatemala, and the Marshall Islands.
On a side note, it is amazing to see what a small country can do to impact the flow of history. In a visit to Israel in 2016, Guatemalan president, Jimmy Morales, was honored by the Knesset for the role Guatemala played in the formation of the State of Israel.
A news brief by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency describes the Knesset president’s statement:
Knesset President Yuli Edelstein said the ties between Israel and Guatemala “are deep and historic.”
“Before Israel’s establishment, on the eve of the U.N. decision on November 29 [in 1947], we still remember and appreciate the actions of Guatemala’s ambassador to the U.N., Dr. Jorge Garcia Granados, who enlisted Latin American states to vote in favor of the partition plan,” Edelstein said Tuesday.
“It could be that without Guatemala, the resolution on that fateful day would not have passed, and history would be very different.” 1
Granados also cast the first vote for the creation of the State of Israel.
The fate of Jerusalem is a controversial political issue, and Israel’s neighbors and their supporters around the globe vehemently disagree with the recent decision. Yet, as important and symbolic as it is, the Jerusalem decision is just one of the challenges we face in a complex and conflicted region.
The alignment of nations in the Middle East is a web of tensions that is difficult for Westerners to fully understand. Most disciples of Jesus are not experts on Middle Eastern politics! But this region is the focus of the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments and the nation of Israel, in particular, is the subject of many biblical promises. However, Israel’s neighbors also have a historical and even a prophetic role in the future of the region (Isaiah 19). Therefore, Christians are very concerned about the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict and hungry for more information about the situation.
I hope this newsletter will give you a more balanced perspective on the conflict as you are introduced to Palestinians and former Muslims who love the Lord Jesus and the Jewish people!
Don’t you agree that we need to see all of life’s issues through the lens of the Bible and our relationship with God through the Messiah Jesus? It is critical for us to make sure that we square our perspective on controversial issues such as the conflict in the Middle East with our understanding of Scripture.
The Apostle Paul writes,
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Believers will not agree on every issue, but we must make sure that Scripture informs our views on significant topics so that we, as brothers and sisters in Jesus, will be able to have peaceful and productive discussions about our differences.
The Bible must impact and help shape our views on contemporary issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So, perhaps a better way to ask the Jerusalem question might be, “Does the Bible teach that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?”
According to leading evangelical Christian archeologist and author, Dr. Randall Price, Jerusalem is mentioned 800 times in the Bible. Jerusalem, or a variation on its name, is in about two-thirds of the books of the Old Testament and one-half of the books of the New Testament. Researchers have found 660 verses in the Old Testament and 142 in the New Testament that speaks of Jerusalem. Price adds that there are 465 references to Jerusalem in the Old Testament and 24 references in the New Testament that are prophetic in context. 2
However, not every Christian believes that when the Bible speaks about Jerusalem that a literal Jerusalem is what the biblical author had in mind. Gary Burge, an outspoken evangelical on this issue, writes in a recent article in The Atlantic,
…We do not promote what we call the “territorialism” of the Bible. We anchor our thinking not in the Old Testament’s land-based promises, but in the Gospel, where the tribal or local theologies about Israel become global and universal, welcoming all people from every tribe and every land into a divine promise of blessing. 3
Dr. Burge views the Bible and its history through the lens of supersessionism or “replacement theology.” Burge is stating that the land promises to the Jewish people should not be taken literally and certainly do not apply to literal Israel—ever!
If a more literal view of Jerusalem is understood and the history of Jerusalem in the Bible is examined, however, it becomes clear that the City has been the capital of Israel since the time of King David. The majority of Jesus’ ministry took place in Jerusalem, which was recognized as a Jewish city, and the Savior wept over this city that He loved (Luke 19:41-44).
According to the recent LifeWay Research survey sponsored by Chosen People Ministries and author Joel C. Rosenberg, 80 percent of the Christians surveyed said that they believe the promises God made to Abraham in the book of Genesis endure until this very day. These promises, of course, include the land promises with the boundaries spelled out in Genesis 17.
Yet, the survey also showed that Christians have a heart for Palestinians as well. Scott McConnell and Bob Smietana of LifeWay Research reflect upon the findings of the survey in a recent commentary for Religion News Service:
While two-thirds of evangelicals want Israel to thrive, only 24 percent support that nation no matter what it does. Just under half (42 percent) support Israel’s existence, security, and prosperity but don’t feel obligated to support everything Israel does.
And they haven’t ruled out making peace with Palestinians. Only a third reject the idea of signing a treaty making room for a sovereign Palestinian state, while nearly half say they aren’t sure.
In fact, many evangelicals are concerned about the future of Palestinians. Fifty-nine percent say Christians should do more to care for Palestinians. 4
McConnell and Smietana’s conclusion is eloquent and
I could not agree more:
In a world where promises are easily cast aside by loved ones, employers, business associates, and politicians, evangelicals believe God has consistently kept his promises—including God’s promises to Israel.
In the end, evangelicals see Israel like family. Although they may disagree with some of its policies, they still want it to prosper.
But they don’t hate Palestinians or hope the world will end in fire.
Instead, they pray for peace in the Holy Land. And like most of the world, they are not sure how to get there. 5
I know you will enjoy the remainder of this newsletter that contains stories from our good friend Tom Doyle, a co-laborer among both Jews and Palestinians in Israel, as well as the testimony of a Muslim woman who became a believer and a friend of Israel. Thank you for your faithful prayers and financial support!
Blessings in Yeshua our Messiah,
2 Randall Price, Jerusalem in Prophecy: God’s Stage for the Final Drama (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), 78–79.
3 Gary M. Burge, “You can be an Evangelical and Reject Trump’s Jerusalem Decision.” The Atlantic,
Dec. 6, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/evangelical-trump-jerusalem-embassy/547643/
4 Scott McConnell and Bob Smietana, “Not all evangelicals are seeking Armageddon,” Religion News Service, Dec 18, 2017. http://religionnews.com/2017/12/18/not-all-evangelicals-are-seeking-armageddon/
5 IBID. Scott McConnell and Bob Smietana, “Not all evangelicals are seeking Armageddon,” Religion News Service.