Text Size: Zoom In

The Promise

In our ongoing conversation about the Jewish-Palestinian conflict, I’ve noticed that God’s promise– to bless those who bless Abram, and to curse those who curse Abram– is a defining factor in how many of us relate to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The promise is so important that I want to make sure that we don’t run by it too quickly. The issue isn’t just about whether we can win God’s favor by supporting one side of the conflict. There are implications here for both Jewish and Palestinian families who are directly impacted by how followers of Christ relate to them.

I’ve talked, for instance, to Arab people who feel hurt by Christians who support Israel, just as I’ve talked to Jewish people who feel harmed by those parts of the church that are more inclined to sympathize with the Palestinian struggle. How the church relates to both sides may very likely have an effect on how much consideration people on either side give to Christ. So let’s think carefully about whether we are too quick to accept or dismiss God’s promise to bless those who bless “Abraham.”

Although the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 11 show that God has a plan for Israel in the future (the foreshadowing of which we might be seeing in the present return to the land), he also makes it clear that the promise to bless the world through Abraham and his seed (Gen 12:1-3) was not meant to refer to all of the physical descendants of Israel.

In Romans 9:6 Paul writes, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, in Isaac your seed shall be called.” Then, Paul goes on to explain, “That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise and are counted as the seed” Rom 9:6-8).

Now because the distinction Paul made has strong implications as to how we view and treat the families on both sides of this conflict, please stay with me to test the point for yourself. In another letter to the Galatians Paul gives us more insight about what he means when he says, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”

In his letter to the Galatians Paul explains that the original blessing to bless the world through Abraham was meant to be through those who are both physical and spiritual descendants of Abraham. Even more importantly, Paul explains that the promise of blessing is fulfilled in Israel’s Messiah (the Christ) and in all who are in Christ. You can read this for yourself in the third and 4th chapters of Galatians. 3:16 specifically says, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.” (3:16).

Then Paul adds in chapter 4 that Jerusalem in her present spiritual condition does not correspond to the child of Promise (4:25). Paul’s point is that those who are in the Messiah (Christ) can now be identified with Abraham and Abraham’s God. Those in Christ rather Jewish, Arab, or any other nation are the children of promise– who are now meant to be a blessing to the whole world.

For these reasons, I’m convinced God never meant for his promise to “bless those who bless” with the intent that we would forget the needs of Palestinian families– while supporting the national, political, or religious policies of Israel. In fact, if we take our cues from the God and prophets of Israel, we cannot bless the merely physical descendants of Abraham by blindly supporting their side of the conflict. Neither to we bless them by supporting their attempt to protect themselves through the use of superior military strength. We bless them by wishing and hoping and praying for the real peace of Jerusalem. We bless them by longing for them (and their enemies) to be reconciled to the God who alone is their security and source of peace. We honor them by remembering that in their Messiah and in their spiritual restoration they will bring peace rather than conflict to the world. We bless them by praying that they would realize that their present security issues are meant to show the whole world what happens when we try to live by our own strength and ingenuity rather than by our trust and confidence in God.

This kind of distinction is what the God of Israel has always made. Listen to what he said to Israel prior to their exile to Babylon. Through the Jewish prophet Ezekiel, God said to Jerusalem, “Your older sister was Samaria, who lived with her daughters in the north. Your younger sister was Sodom, who lived with her daughters in the south. But you have not merely sinned as they did. You quickly surpassed them in corruption. As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters. Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen. “Even Samaria did not commit half your sins. You have done far more detestable things than your sisters ever did. They seem righteous compared to you. Shame on you! Your sins are so terrible that you make your sisters seem righteous, even virtuous.” (Ezekiel 16:46-52 NLT)

Acknowledging God’s own view of his people, however, does not mean that we have reason to sympathize or collaborate with the enemies of Israel in their attempt to terrorize Jewish citizens and push them into the Sea. Instead, what I think we need to see is that God’s promise to Abram: “to bless those who bless you, and to curse those who curse you” was never intended to cause us to love one ethnic group at the expense of another. Today we know that it was for both, and for all of us that Christ died.

Yes, the problems in the Middle East are inexpressibly complex. They also, however, have on them the fingerprints of a God who is using his chosen people– not to ignore their wrongs– but to ultimately and eventually bring the whole world to its knees.

As followers of Christ I’m convinced that we cannot afford to do any less than to pray for and seek the peace of both Jewish and Palestinian families. Judgment, and condemnation, belong to God– not to us.

But if you think I’m missing something– please take this opportunity to respond.

Vote on whether you think this post is something you'll be thinking about:
Vote This Post DownVote This Post Up (+3 rating, 3 votes)

8 Responses to “The Promise”

  1. poohpity says:

    I am so there with you and I believe that any Christian who has a one on one with God will our spirits testify together to the truth (as one).

  2. misterb says:

    I have to admit my own ignorance about the truths on either side in the Middle East. I cannot possibly decide, at least in my own head, who should have the blame finger pointed at them. I have to admit that while I am concerned about what is happening “Over There”, especially with the involvement of our young military men and women who are fighting in the Middle East, my grandest concern is how these same young men and women are treated here in the United States. We still have to get matters right in our own country before we can point at who is to blame in the Middle East. Let the truths be told, our own Christian brothers and sisters here in America are struggling and feeling the pains from the cowardly and inappropriate sin caused by the ruthless hands of our fellow citizens. If we cannot enjoy peace in our own country, a slim chance exists that we will be able to help others in making peace with one another in their country. Seemingly, we are involved in one of those “Plank In Your Own Eye” stories in the bible.

  3. Your Love Inspires says:

    I am so happy to hear someone bring Christ centered wisdom to a long standing misunderstanding of Scripture. There is so much said in many prominent Television Ministry’s that at very least, is very misguided in it’s school of thought and at the very worst, a ploy of satan for division of God’s people as well as a rallying cry for monetary support.
    The Holy Spirit of Jesus is all about restoration, plain and simple, leaving NO ONE out of the chance to enter His sheep fold. Anything that says otherwise is contrary to the teachings in The New Testament. From the apparent approval of “waterboarding” recently by a well known member of the Christian community to the use of the war on terror as a vehicle for spreading the Gospel as I have heard over the last few years is a travesty for our faith that is based on The Prince of Peace. What does our God, who went to The Cross for our restoration say about loving our enemies? Let us all come together as Christian’s and love our neighbors as ourselves, being examples of God’s love in action, seeking the world wide restoration truly in His name.

  4. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Mart, Wow a lot of reading you put before us, and a lot of think about this very important time period we are in.
    As we have mentioned before there will not be real peace until the 1000 year reign, but i am fully convinced the Lord desires for me to pray for those in my family, friends, my Pastor, our President, the many leaders of our country, and others as i see their needs every day, but i must ask the Holy Spirit to make intercessions for me in this small group, because i do not know how to pray.
    Praying for every one i know i should is some thing i know i fail at, and i must admit praying for the Jews, or the Palistinians, Iranians, Mexicans, and many other people in other countries is some thing i just cannot get a handle on doing very much because i believe the majority of the news media talks about what ever they desire for me to believe, and it seems to continually get worse, i just do not have the desernment to know who is telling the truth.

  5. daisymarygoldr says:

    Conflicts should not beset a Christian during these times because Christ asked us not to be distressed. Even as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem we should not get caught up ‘unawares’ in this whole pseudo-peace movement involving the Middle East (Jeremiah 6:14). The Bible reveals that along with the rest of the world, Israel herself will be deceived into this temporary peace-like situation. It is inevitable for Israel to experience the birth pains (Matt 24:8) and the terrible days of ‘Jacob’s trouble’. God will eventually see through this whole ‘fiery trial’ process to bring forth the remnant who have faithfully waited for their Messiah (Zech 13:8-9). The promise for restoration does not apply to the entire present-day nation of sinning Israel but it also does not imply ruling out the literal Jewish people (Rom 11:28). Therefore, to the Jew or to the gentile the solution to ultimate peace is none other than Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace (Revelation 19:11-16). Likewise, the followers of Christ should seek to meet the needs of the afflicted on both sides of this conflict.

  6. Mart De Haan says:

    Hey, you guys are good sports today– working through and commenting on my too long post :-).

  7. zaner says:

    I am somewhat overwhelmed by the level of intellect displayed by the other respondents. But what it all boils down to for me is The Great Commission. We as followers of Christ are to minister and evangalize to all unbelievers alike. Do the Jewish people accept Christ as the risen savior? Do the Palestinians? Does Your neighbor next door?
    I honestly Believe in my heart that all parties involved accepted Christ as their risen savior the conflict would cease to exist. Am I wrong? Please correct me if I am.

    Your brother in Christ

  8. Mart De Haan says:

    zaner, I have met followers of Christ among those who are of Jewish and Palestinian origin. While they are very aware of injustices done to their own people, these individuals long for peace, care, and long for the salvation of people on both sides.

    My concern is that we can unintentionally add to the conflict by siding politically with one side or another. We can even be unintentionally helping them to trust “friends in the West” rather than God to be their source of peace and protection.

    Those on both sides need to see us representing– as you indicate– a great mission/commission to tell people on all sides of every conflict– how much Christ paid to end our wars with God and one another.

    I also believe that Gale is right that real peace and a final solution will only exist under the rule of Christ in the next age, but allowing Christ to rule in the kingdom of our heart now can make a huge difference in every kind of conflict wherever and whenever it exists.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.