The establishing of the State of Israel I have and do support. Finding a place for Jews in the 20th Century was the right thing to do. As well, God's covenant with the Jews stands and their place in the eschaton (the days of Christ's return) is assured. There is no equivocation in my mind of their critical place in the economy and agenda of the Lord.
However there are conflicting messages I no longer can ignore. While eating dinner overlooking the Shepherd's Field in Bethlehem, I noticed that on the crown of the hill sits a recently built Jewish settlement.
This is in the area where Boaz bought a field so he could marry Ruth, a Moabite, daughter in law to Naomi who had been recently widowed. Boaz -- whose name means kinsman redeemer -- is an Old Testament precursor to Jesus, our Redeemer.
Bethlehem is also hometown of David, king of Israel, in the paternal lineage of Jesus. Sitting just meters from where Jesus was born we could see the pasture where shepherds in hearing the announcement would have scrambled up the hill to celebrate the newly arrived king. And it was to be in this same Jesus that all who come to him are reconciled with God: no distinction -- Jews or Greeks, male or female, slave or free.
His kingdom was defined in these ways: we were to live in service not domination; forgiveness not revenge was to outline our behavior; giving not getting would pave the way to blessing.
2000 years later, many of my fellow Christians uncritically approve the ways of this nation state based on a particular biblical formula: for Jesus to return the Jews need to be living in the homeland secured by Joshua and the kings inducted following Saul.
But the intended effect in establishing the state was clearly outlined in the earlier Balfour Declaration: that "... the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people [with the understanding that] nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine ..." Land was to be divided for the incoming and resident Jews and for Palestinians, most of whom had lived there for generations.
Now today. The state I support -- including reasons supplied by certain biblical interpretations of prophecy of the return of Christ -- it turns out, are taking land from residents, many being Christian who can trace ownership of land back for years.
I asked my host how they got this land to build these many settlements. "Was it bought," I asked? "No." "Was there negotiation?" "No." "Who owned it?" "Christians and Muslims." "Can you do anything about it?" "No. They are the army."
Feel with me the intellectual and moral whiplash as I tried to reconcile these factors: Jesus was born in this very town as Savior founding a kingdom to be ruled by love and grace. Have I his follower, 2000 years later, ignored this land grab based on a belief it is essential to the Lord's return? Why have I turned away? Because I have been willing to ignore the moral and ethical violations embedded in this action, believing that their hold on this land, as preparation for Jesus' return, trumps the heart of what Jesus said comprised his kingdom.
Brian C Stiller
World Evangelical Alliance