Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Are the Jews still God's chosen people?

Refugee ship the Exodus
copyright-free photo from Israeli archive

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people has exploded, again, with huge losses of life and property on both sides. As I write this, the news is saying that the Israeli government directed civilians in the Gaza Strip to seek refuge in southern Gaza; and then that same government, either intentionally or accidentally, dropped bombs on that area. I haven't read any condemnation of them by the United States or any other western government so far, perhaps because of the belief that they are 'God's Chosen People'. Or perhaps the politicians are afraid of being called antisemitic.

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 they had God's backing – 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 in the 1900s and began expanding to encompass Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, 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, which favored making room for Jews in the middle east, but 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, then a British colony. When the mistreatment of Jews, particularly in Europe, ramped up in the 1930s the migration of Jews to Palestine became a flood.

In 1947 the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) 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 an aging American freighter renamed “Exodus.” He watched as its load of 4,500 illegal European Jewish refugees was violently turned away from Haifa, Palestine, by a British warship at the cost of some lives. (You may have seen the Paul Newman movie about it.) Grauel's 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, 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 well.
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 some of them, at least, did their best to 'be holy.' 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 temple of Jehovah.
If the nation of Israel today comprises God’s chosen people, wouldn’t He have arranged by now for the temple dedicated to His worship to be 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. Not 'might be'; would be.
“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 Christians in his day, a group comprised of individuals of many nationalities: “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) 

But wait: What about all those prophecies about Israel? 
  • “I myself have installed my king On Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6) Revelation makes it clear that has a heavenly fulfillment; it doesn't apply to the State of Israel. (Revelation 14:1)
  • “Jehovah will comfort Zion. He will bring comfort to all her ruins, And he will make her wilderness like Eden...” (Isaiah 51:3) That was fulfilled when the Israelites were released from Babylon. Its greater fulfillment is to be seen as all God's people -Jew and non-Jew alike - get out of Babylon the great. (Revelation 18:1-4)
  • “"Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day I took hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke... I will put my law within them, and in their heart I will write it. And I will become their God, and they will become my people.”” (Jeremiah 31:31-33) Both Jesus and Paul talked about that 'new covenant' and applied it to anointed Christians. (Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6)
Grauel was wrong. The modern day nation of Israel is no more 'God's Chosen People' than the modern day nation of Palestine, or Lebanon, or Iraq, or Russia, or Ukraine, or America...
 Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at Amazon.com. You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your article and eloquently pointing out the hypocrisy of the all nations.