By David De Bruyn
(excerpts from his sermon at New Covenant Baptist on Sunday, 15 October 2023)
The Middle East is always a tinder box, but what happened last week is unique in my lifetime. The murder of 1300 Jewish Israelis is the greatest slaughter of Jewish people since the Holocaust. The loss of Arab life also numbers 1400, and is surely set to rise as the War progresses. In our own history, we have nothing to compare with it. Sharpeville was a massacre of 63 people, the 76 Soweto riots 176, Boipatong was 45, Marikana was 47. This is an event of the magnitude of a 9/11.
And the casualness of the media, especially the South African media, towards this event is a story in itself. Silence speaks louder than words. In fact, the attitude of many Christians, that this is just some faraway political event shows how well certain kinds of propaganda have worked on the general population.
I think there are two important reasons why this is important enough to address from God’s Word today. The first is that Christians have a special relationship with the Jewish people, and derivatively, the homeland of the Jewish people, Israel. The Jewish people introduced us to the true and living God. The Jewish people gave us our Bible, both Old and New testament. …The Jewish people gave us our Messiah, Yeshua. We have a relationship, and a debt to the Jewish people that is unique among all the people-groups of the world. We should care very deeply about what happens to these people, how they are treated, and how they are portrayed.
The second reason has to do with an evil attitude that Christians should shun. There is a definite shift in the world’s attitude toward the Jewish people. The atrocities that were committed in the last week are unspeakable in their evil. And yet a spokesperson for the ruling party in our country said in a statement “that the actions of Hamas are unsurprising”. In other words, the Jews brought this on themselves. The Jews earned this. That’s exactly the kind of things that were said in the 1930s when the Jews began to be persecuted by the Germans. There is a wind blowing in the direction of a second Holocaust, condemning everything Israel does, and condoning anything done to Israel.
Christians need to be aware that this attitude is not simply a political opinion, like deciding where you stand on global warming or your position on immigration. This has deep spiritual roots. Revelation 12 shows the deep hatred Satan has for the woman who bore the Messiah, and that is not a reference to Mary, but to Israel. He has always despised the people of the Book and the people of the Christ.
Where we line up on the topic of the Jewish people and their homeland Israel has profound implications for our sanctification, for our loyalty to God. I believe God’s Word has passages that teach our relationship to Israel is a matter of obedience to the Father, not a mere political preference.
For our church, as a church planted in the Jewish areas, dedicated to spreading the hope of Israel to the people of Israel, this matters to us. It should matter to all Christians, but we would be remiss if we do not cement our position in a time like this. As a pastor, I would be remiss to fail to point out the dangers, and to call for obedience.
…During the coming Tribulation period, the kinds of things we are seeing now will intensify. Hatred and persecution of Israel and the Jews will increase tenfold. In that time, who will shelter them? What kinds of people will hide them in special rooms like the Ten Boom family? Who will shelter them like the Schindlers? What kinds of people will protect them from the new Gestapos, the AI-equipped Nazis.
The answer is, the people who feel a debt of love, who remember that these people, whether in belief or unbelief, gave us our Bible and our Messiah. People who remember their history, and know what happened in centuries before. People who know their Bibles and know that God promised to bless them that bless Abraham’s descendants, and will curse those that curse them (Gen. 12:3). Or to put it very simply: people who love those whom God loves. Romans 11:28 says of the Jewish people: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. (Romans 11:28)
They are “beloved”. What sort of person hates what God loves? Not the righteous. Not the sheep. To despise, destroy, hate and neglect the people chosen to bear the Messiah and carry God’s Word is to place yourself on the wrong side of coming judgement. …this is no side-issue. This is not merely a political position. Christians do not hate the Jews, or support the rhetoric of those who do. One of the outward signs of inward salvation is how you treat the ancestors of our faith, the physical brethren of our Saviour (Matt. 25).
Paul’s grief for his Jewish countrymen is expressed in his desire for their salvation. He knows that is their deepest need. That’s why he begins Romans 10 this way: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (v. 1) Our deepest desire for the Jewish people is that they may find their Messiah. He is the only hope for Israel, He is their ultimate rescuer, He is the only one who can ultimately solve the political situation
Loving Israel doesn’t mean we think of them as having a separate way of salvation. It doesn’t mean we think of them as a kind of parallel people of God, able to get to Heaven by works. No, we know, as Paul says “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:12–13) But this doesn’t mean we abandon or despise them if they don’t accept the gospel, like Martin Luther did. We keep seeking to provoke them to jealousy and live out Messiah before them (Rom. 11).
For some reason, some Christians get really bothered when we talk about praying for Israel, or recognising Israel has a special role to play. They think it is some kind of ethnocentrism, or racism, or partiality, or mere political Zionism, or taking away from Christ’s centrality. It’s quite striking. You say, “We should pray for Israel” and like a knee-jerk reaction, they respond “Well, we should also pray for the Palestinians!” And the response is, “Yes, we should. But why respond like that?” If I said, “We should pray for the children”, would you answer “We should pray for the adults, too!” No, I doubt it.
It is fine to recognise that different people have different callings, and we can accept that as God’s arrangement. Israel has a special calling among the nations of the world. They were the nation selected to bring God’s revelation to the world, and to bring the Messiah to the world. That special calling has brought them great pain and persecution. And that special calling is not over.Israel has a future role to play among the nations. There is no other nation named in God’s Word that is set apart for a future role to the nations (Zech. 14, etc.). It is not a symmetrical situation between Israel and every other nation. When we accept this special status, we are not being partial, or racist, or undermining the fact that the church is one people where ethnic status doesn’t matter. All of that remains true, and Israel still has a special role to play among the nations.
In fact, Christians, who have experienced God’s electing the church to salvation, should be the last people with a problem with God electing Israel to service. We should know God arranges His world as the Potter makes clay, calling and gifting as He chooses. Accepting another’s status or role or gifting is part of humility, submitting to God’s will and arrangement of His world (Paul’s whole point in Romans 9-11).
Proverbs 24 states: “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (vv. 11–12)
And to keep silent, to turn a blind eye, to look the other way while this kind of satanic hatred grows, is neither neighbourly nor Christlike. Christians defend people from evil malice. We have always done that. We defend the unborn. We defend the orphan. We defend the slave. We defend the abused. And so when we see this kind of satanic, mindless malice directed at the Jewish people, we would do well to defend them, to stand up for them.
The Hobbit was published in 1937 while the winds of Nazism were blowing strongly. A publisher in Berlin wrote to Tolkien, expressing interest in a German edition. In the few years before, that publisher, Rütten & Loening had been owned by German Jews, who were forced to sell in 1936 to “Aryan” Germans, according to the Nuremberg laws. The new owner, Albert Hachfeld, fired all the Jewish staff and dropped all Jewish writers. He then wrote to Tolkien, explaining that before they could begin work on a German version of “The Hobbit”, they needed to make sure of Tolkien’s Aryan descent, and to make sure he had no Jewish ancestry.
This is how Tolkien replied, “Thank you for your letter. I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”
Whether it is slander, false witness, lies in speech, there is a time for us to speak up. Whether it is actual violence or targeted persecution, we should do what we can.
1 Chronicles 12:32 says, “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”. The men of Issachar understood the times so they knew how to respond. Do you understand the times, what is occurring around us? The world is polarising. There is a drift of opinion that is side-lining Christians, conservatives and the nation Israel. You can follow the goat pack because right now it is considered fashionable, enlightened, tolerant. I want my family, and I would want everyone in my church to land up on Jesus’ right and not on His left at this judgement (Matt. 25). Let us love what Christ loves.