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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Are the Jews still God's chosen people?

Refugee ship the Exodus
copyright-free photo from Israeli archive


President Obama got in trouble for discussing the possibility of altering the borders of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu replied that Israel would consider giving up some ground when the Palestinians stopped trying to exterminate the Jews.

Here’s what I find puzzling about all this. During the 1700s and 1800s, white European settlers were actively pushing natives off their land in America, India, China, and Africa under a doctrine referred to, in America at least, as “Manifest Destiny.” In a nutshell, that doctrine was the belief that God approved – or at least that if God objected, He certainly had the ability to stop them - so they might as well push as far as they could.
When Russia formed the Soviet Union and began expanding to encompass Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, etc., most of the rest of the world was appalled at the naked aggression. Apparently, attitudes toward dispossessing people had changed. 
The Soviets, however never claimed that God approved of their aggression. Quite the opposite, in fact. They denied the existence of God, and took all the credit (blame?) on themselves. 
 
Was God, or belief in God, involved in the decision to create the modern day nation of Israel?
 
For over 1800 years, from the year 70 of our current calendar down to the twentieth century, there was no nation of Israel. During WWI came the “Balfour Declaration,” a British document approved by the League of Nations, favoring making room for Jews in the middle east without actions “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." You can see how well that worked out. 
Jews began migrating, legally and illegally, to Palestine. When the mistreatment of Jews, particularly in Europe, ramped up in the 1930s migration of Jews to Palestine became a flood.
 
In 1947 the UN Special Committee on Palestine was working on a decision regarding whether there should be a specific state called ‘Israel.’ The decision wasn't simply about whether there needed to be some place to put homeless Jewish refugees. There was (and still is) plenty of room in, say, Nevada. No, the decision revolved around whether there should be a special place for the Jews in Palestine. The committee comprised 11 member countries, all but two of which, India and Iran, were ‘Christian’ nations. They were leaning toward denying creation of an independent Israel in the middle east, until they were swayed by the testimony of one John Stanley Grauel.
Grauel was a member of the American Palestine Committee, an organization dedicated to the establishment of an independent Israel. They managed to get Grauel a job as a crewman on a ship you may have seen the movie about, an aging American freighter renamed “Exodus.” He watched as its load of 4,500 illegal European Jewish refugees was violently turned away from Haifa by a British warship at the cost of some lives. His emotional testimony before UNSCOP changed their minds, and the nation of Israel was created.

While any Christian would have been and should rightly be incensed at the violent treatment of any refugees, Grauel’s motivation is worth considering. In his memoirs, he described his mother as a deeply religious woman, and added, “She also had a very mystical feeling about the Jewish community. As I was growing up, she frequently observed that anyone on the side of the Jews would survive any of life's vicissitudes because the Jews were God's Chosen People. She was convinced Judaism must survive because it was the root of her own faith.” He also admitted that “It is my own deep conviction that the death of Israel would be the death knell of Western Civilization."
Whether Western Civilization perhaps needs to hear its ‘death knell’ is a debate for another time. But a serious Christian needs to question whether the beliefs that motivated Grauel were Bible-based.
 
Centuries before Jesus walked the earth there was a nation of Israel with its capitol in Jerusalem. In Leviticus 20:26, God said to Israel, “You must be holy because I, Jehovah, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.” Thus, God’s chosen people. But how did they do at the ‘You must be holy’ part? Not so good.
 
Due to their idolatry, God allowed them to be overthrown by their enemies about 600 years before Christ. It was a temporary discipline; they were miraculously restored to that piece of land surrounding Jerusalem 70 years later, and idolatry was never a problem for them again. The very first task they accomplished upon their return was to rebuild Jehovah's temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
 
By Jesus’ day, they had once again gone far astray from the conduct God approved of, so that Jesus said of them: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were unwilling. Look! Your house will be abandoned.” (Matthew 23:37,38)
Interestingly, the “house,” the temple at which Jehovah was worshiped by the Jews for nearly 1000 years, was destroyed by Roman soldiers about 37 years after Jesus uttered that prophecy. In the nearly two millennia since, the Jews have never managed to rebuild the temple. Today an Islamic mosque called the Dome of the Rock sits on the site of the former Jewish temple.
 
If the Jewish nation today comprises God’s chosen people, wouldn’t He have seen to it by now that the temple dedicated to His worship was rebuilt on Mount Zion in Jerusalem?
 
Even the modern Jewish nation of Israel doesn't claim to exist by any divine right. When the official declaration of the existence of the State of Israel was read in 1948, it acknowledged the United Nations, not God. Jewish writer Emanuel Gutman said of the modern Jewish nation: "The organs of government and state power neither derive their legal authority from religion or church nor their legitimization from any divine source."
Jesus foretold that God’s special favor would be removed from the Jews. “The Kingdom of God will be taken from you, and given to a nation that does produce the fruit of the Kingdom.” (Matthew 21:43) What "nation" is that? Peter explained to a group of Christians in his day, a group comprised of both Jewish and non-Jewish individuals: “You are a chosen people. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's very own possession…Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God's people.” (1 Peter 2:9,10)
Grauel was wrong. The modern day nation of Israel is no more 'God's Chosen People' than the modern day nation of Palestine, Lebanon, or Iraq.
 
Your polite comments are welcome. 
 
 Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at Amazon.com.

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