A Dangerous Ignorance
Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is just fine. But a recent World Council of Churches initiative could have disasterous consequences.
first published 24/06/08
A recent initiative by the World Council of Churches calling for greater political involvement by the churches in the tangled web of internatonal politics surrounding the Israeli/Palestian 'peace process' invites disaster.
It is also suggestive of an ignorance of the plans and purposes of God and of the consequences for meddling in what He calls 'My land'.
The battle for hearts and minds
On the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus met with two despondent travellers. They were down-at-mouth because of the reports of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth - a man in whom they had pinned their hopes; and they didn't recognise their fellow-traveller as being the Son of God and the subject of their discussion. Indeed they appeared incredulous that their new companion was so hopelessly out of touch.
One of them, Cleopas, asked him: "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" (Luke 24:18)
But Jesus cut right to the heart of their problem with the rebuke: "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25)
They didn't know their scriptures. And not knowing of what the ancient prophets had foretold they were totally ill-equipped to discern what was going on around them.
However, it was not only lack of head knowledge that lay behind their problem. 'Heart attitude' often has more to do with how we think, and how we perceive and analyse events, people and the world around us. The wry response sums it up: "I've made my mind up, so don't trouble me with the facts." As is so often the case a stubborn unteachable spirit will not listen to (be influenced by) careful reasoned argument. The Emmaus travellers did not know but they were also 'slow of heart': they were not inclined to know.
Nothing has changed
It is the same today. But the tragedy, shame and danger is that those who seem to be walking in the same condition as the Emmaus travellers are those who are also purporting to lead the church(es).
A recent Christianity Today report states:
The leaders of the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland are urging congregations to make this Sunday a day of prayer and action for troubled Israel and Palestine.
Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien and the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Rev David Lunan, are asking churches to use ‘The Jerusalem Prayer’, a special prayer written by church leaders in Jerusalem that describes the Holy Land as a region in “much in need of peace”.
The call marks a worldwide week of prayer and action for Israel and Palestine, launched at an ecumenical service in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Rev Lunan, who is set to visit the Holy Land as part of an ecumenical delegation, said: “The continuing strife In the Holy Land is a matter of tremendous concern to all Christians and, indeed, to people of all faiths.
“I hope that Church of Scotland congregations across the country will unite in using ‘The Jerusalem Prayer’ this coming Sunday, that fear and the anxiety of conflict may be replaced with the joy and happiness of peace.”
The week, convened by the World Council of Churches, focuses on raising awareness of the Israel-Palestine conflict among churches and the public, and churches are pressing their national leaders to play a more active role in securing a just resolution to the conflict.
Additionally Action for Churches Together in Scotland are promoting the Scottish Peace Covenant (which includes representation from a list of denominations and secular agencies).
How soon will it be before this grouping also starts interfering in the Middle East? (Jews tell us that Scotland is one of the few nations that has no history of anti-Semitism.)
And Rev. David Lacey, when visiting the country in 2005 during his tenure as Moderator of the Church of Scotland was scathingly critical of Israel and regarding the defensive wall which has been erected: “It’s theft of land and I don’t know how you can justify it on the grounds of anti-terrorism.”
The true nature of the problem
Before tendons contract and knees jerk, let it be quickly stated that there is absolutely nothing wrong and everything right in 'praying for the peace of Jerusalem'. Where the great fault lies is in believing that there will be any lasting peace created by a political or diplomatic settlement. And any interference in the process can result in grave injury (Zech. 12:2-3).
The conflict in Israel is spiritual. It has been going on since the time that Joshua and the people entered the land; and it will only cease when Jesus' feet stand on the Mount of Olives - which for those who either do not know the spot or, alternatively, choose to allegorise the verse away, is "before Jerusalem on the east." It is a precise location and doesn't require sat-nav to find it. Prior to his ascension Jesus said that he would one day return in the same manner as he left, and we'd better believe it.
But to get back to the church and those who lead it, the problem is not just that they do not seem to know the place of Jesus' return, but also they seem to be in ignorance of what has yet to happen between now and then. (And the term Replacement Theology has evolved to describe the folly.)
The doomed 'peace process'
Whilst the Bible describes one significant, but false and transient peace (Ezek 38:8,11,14) designed to fool Israel into a ill-judged complacency, there will never be any true and lasting peace in Israel prior to Jesus' return because the great enemy of God knows the Bible and he knows his ultimate fate sealed. So he is doing all that he can to prevent the outworking of God's manifest purposes and using the agencies of the implacable terrorist organisations to "wipe Israel off the map." Sadly these agencies draw encourgement from church leaders who seem to be blind to these murderous schemes; and these religious heads do very little to suppress and even, in some cases, stoke up anti-Israel feelings in the same manner as that seen in the 1930s under Nazi Germany.)
There is a saying in Israel that the Jewish nation "only needs to lose one war." She has had to fight for her life since 1948 and (miraculously) thus far survived. But to lose once is to lose forever. Any interim 'peace' that Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria or Iran agree to is only tactical and temporary so that those who are intent on Israel's total destruction can re-group and re-arm.
Meanwhile the political 'land for peace' policy has the same goal of destroying Israel, but using a different tactic. The negotiations are designed to incrementally reduce the geographical size of Israel through peaceful means to an indefensible area with shrunken borders and a 'fifth-column' of terrorist nests within.
This is what has been happening and is continuing to happen since Israel's recent withdrawals from southern Lebanon and from Gaza. Gaza is now a heavily-armed centre for international terrorists (or "insurgents" as the mass media would call them).
But God will have his way.
There are 16 major prophesies regarding the Israelites (Israelis in modern parlance). And twelve of these have been fulfilled since the nation was first established. Two are presently outworking themselves before our eyes. All these things will come to pass and the final two will surely come to pass as the consummation of God's purposes in this present age.
Being fulfilled in modern times:
Enslavement in Egypt (Gen 15:14)
Deliverance from Egypt (Gen 15:14)
Possession of the land of Canaan (Gen 15:18-20)
Turning to idolatry there (Deut. 32:15-21)
Centre of worship in Jerusalem (Deut. 12:5-6, Psalm 132:13-14)
Assyrian captivity (Amos 5:27; 6:14; 7:17)
Babylonian captivity (Jer. 16:13; 21:10)
Destruction of the first temple (2 Chron. 7:19-22)
Return from Babylon (Is. 6:11-13; 48:20
Destruction of the second temple (Matt. 24:2; Luke 19:43-44)
Scattering among all nations (Lev. 26:33-34; Ezek. 12:15)
Persecution and oppression among all nation (Lev. 26:36-39)
13. Regathering from all nations (Is. 11:11-12; Ezek. 38:8; Zech. 10:9-10) and increasingly -
14. All nations gathered against Jerusalem (Zech. 12:2-3; 14:1-2)
Yet to be fulfilled:
15. Supernatural revelation of Jesus the Messiah (Yeshua Ha Mashiach) (Zech. 12:10-14)
16. Jesus Christ comes in glory (Zech. 14:3-5)
The true and only 'peace process'.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; we are commanded to do so. But beware of meddling in the quagmire of international diplomacy and politics which will never succeed and can only ever fail to bring the God-given peace to that troubled city and benighted land. Indeed well-meant but ill-judged interference with the things of God can have disasterous consequences. (cf Uzzah's fate - 1 Chron. 13:9-10)
'In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people [the diaspora] among the nations and divided up [partitioned] my land. (Joel 3:1-2)
Ezekiel 36:16-36 chronicles the history of Israel from the time of the first settlement in Canaan through to the present age.
The Jews are no better (or worse) than any other nation of peoples but they have been chosen by God as a means to reveal His glory:
"Therefore, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD," It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.
"And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.
Jesus said to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and particularly to the most religious Jews of that day:
Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Luke 13:35)
And God has said to the church and the nations:
But if [the Jew's] transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! (Rom 11:12)
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Gen 12:3)
The Palestinian people (the recent name for an 'invented' nation of Arabs living in the region) are indeed suffering greatly. But they are suffering because they are being held in cloistered poverty and isolation by the surrounding nations (of their own peoples) to be used as sacrificial pawns in an international game of ultimate stakes.