Dec 31, 2016 – Secretary of State, John Kerry recently made a statement that has caught the attention of many. Though not at all in the context of his intention, it stood out to me as ironically and profoundly correct. “Israel can either be democratic or it can be Jewish; it cannot be both.”
That’s really a true statement! Democracy is no better than its fast deteriorating ability to build on ideals and values borrowed from a Judaeo Christian heritage. But the kingdom of God is not a democracy! And, unbeknownst to the world, the crisis of Israel is divinely set to be the issue of the coming of that kingdom to earth.
The biblical story is built around the prophetic history and fortunes of an elect people, and the irrevocable divine gift of a specific land as ‘their’ everlasting possession. As go the people, so go the Land, but the gift is irrevocable and its ultimate destiny secure through the pre-determination of ‘the God who raises the dead’. This disturbing conviction, held by a few Christian and Jewish ‘fundamentalists’ is naturally looked upon, not merely as an antiquated world-view that is out of step with modernity, but a very dangerous threat to the progress of a peace that is based on the ‘democratic’ ethic of what ‘seems’ most humane and fair to the largest possible number.
Those claiming divine authority for their views concerning Israel’s existence and future will be seen as the enemy of progress and even hope from the standpoint of an humanistic ethic that presumes to be based on the best that is in man to unify and pacify the greatest number. Therein lies the collision. It is the age old question, originally put by the serpent, “Hath God really said?”
But since the nation’s beginning, it was the uniform understanding of the Hebrew prophets that this age would end around an international controversy over ‘the Jerusalem question’, which is really the age concluding resolution of the much older ‘Jewish question’, or, as some have called it, ‘the Jewish problem’. But what does it all mean?
It is interesting that the age would end here just where it does, in the way it does. Think about it. Why should it not be sufficient that the age end around only the question of Jesus and the gospel and perhaps a final persecution that proves the faithfulness of believers under pressure? Why should it so necessarily include the Jewish question? Yet, according to the uniform witness of all the Hebrew prophets, the resolution of this question is where all roads have been leading since God first gave the Land to Abraham’s descendants.
The question of Jerusalem is ultimately the question of ‘whose land?’, and the further question of the basis of ‘divine right’ to the Land. But here’s what I want to say: The question of divine right to the Land, for all its significance to underscore God’s prerogative to choose as He will choose, is really just the shell of a much more ultimate and decisive question.
It is not enough to know that the age ends in just the way prophecy shows. It is crucial that we understand why it ends in just this way. In other words, we need more than the ‘what’ of prophecy; we need to understand the ‘why’. What is God saying through these particular foretold events? What’s His point in it all? This is where we so often ‘lose the forest for the trees’.
We must see that the Mideast crisis, as climax and finale of an ancient family feud, designs the much deeper question of God’s right choose on a basis that has no point of intersection with anything in man or of man. In that sense only, the Land question becomes the question of righteousness, which leads to the Jesus question. Thus, the purpose and meaning of the Mideast crisis is completely missed unless it has sent us to this much more core question, specifically, the nature and basis of an “everlasting righteousness” that is nothing other than the righteousness of God Himself, His own divine nature, as perfectly incarnated in the Son, and only because of the Son, partially incarnated in the believer through the Holy Spirit.
The Mideast crises exists to evoke this much deeper and decisive question: how can a chosen nation (that remains no less chosen despite its historical track record), come at last to rest in abiding security from all their enemies round about? Answer that question and we will have moved much nearer to understanding the meaning of developments in the region where it all began and is destined very shortly to end.
Through the Jewish people, God is demonstrating before men and angels a magnificent drama intended to reveal and define the meaning of grace, as the sole basis of a righteousness that lasts forever. Because only a righteousness that is forever can secure a chronically disobedient people in the Land forever, which is what the everlasting covenant promised from the beginning.
This is how the Jerusalem question is inseparably connected to the Jesus question. Through the victory of the curse reversing seed of the woman, the ‘blood of the everlasting covenant’ is revealed to be the eternal ground and basis of the only kind of righteousness that can give Israel secure and enduring rest in the land. In this, the Word of God is finally and publicly vindicated, and sovereign, electing grace defined, as utterly apart from human merit. That is at once the glory but also the ‘rub’ of Israel that occasions either offense or humble prostration before the God who elects.