Aug 24, 2009

Erasing Israel

Jim FletcherBy Jim Fletcher

Supporting Israel is a complex proposition. Which probably explains why most people would rather watch television and crunch Crunch ‘N Munch.

I visited a church with friends this past Sunday. The people were nice, sincere, and energetic. The church is evangelical and emphasizes praise and worship music and Holy Spirit living.

I’m pretty sure the pastor and members would enthusiastically say that they are pro Israel.

Yet the pastor based his message on the passages in 1 Samuel that detail David’s ascendancy to the throne, over Saul. You know the story.

The sermon was something about Christians today walking the earth as kings. Then there was some information given from the “Kansas City Prophets.”

The point I’d like to make is that the vast majority of sermons I hear today that are preached from the Old Testament tend to spiritualize Scripture, or twist the context of a passage to fit a certain theology. Even in pro Israel churches. I sat there and wondered, “Why can’t he just preach the passage as an historical event and strengthen modern Israel’s connection to their ancestors?”

For example, scores of college students today (even in seminaries!) hear that biblical characters were not real people.

Instead, there is usually some weird twist and turn with the text. To pull just one example from the fairly recent past: I was reading an issue of Charisma magazine some years ago and noticed an ad for a Rodney Howard-Browne speaking event. The Australian evangelist is known for his metaphysical slant on preaching. He is, as some would say, “over the top.”

The ad touted his new sermon series on Ezekiel 37. This of course is the famous “Dry Bones” chapter, in which God tells the prophet what is going to happen to Israel.

Browne, who I believe would identify himself as pro Israel without question, was using the Dry Bones theme to state that dead, dry churches could be resurrected. This stance on Ezekiel 37 is very, very popular in American churches today, and has been for some time. And that is across-the-board: evangelical, mainline, etc. Preachers love to use the chapter in a spiritual context, rather than as an historical one; people love to sit in the pew and think about how their church is going to transition from “dry, dead bones” to renewed life.

Then they all go to lunch and forget about it until the next revival.

I would argue that Ezekiel 37 has nothing at all to do with the Church, and the thought is not original with me. Spurgeon and others in the past preached that the passage is meant for the “House of Israel.” Quite ironically, God Himself says in the chapter that it refers to the House of Israel.

But that’s not good enough for today’s shepherds, who are harming their flocks with horrid teaching.

It’s like reading The Call of the Wild and declaring that it’s the best novel about 21st century American suburban life that you’ve ever read.

Spiritualizing Ezekiel 37 (and hundreds of others that address Israel specifically) is a subtle, yet dangerous threat. First, it disconnects modern Israel from her ancestors. Second, it grows the number of Christians who are totally ignorant about Israel and the Jews, particularly as they relate to the end-times.

Would that there were more pastors like Jon Courson. The Oregon-based Courson related an interesting story the other day on the radio.

It seems he encountered a stranger at his church. The man asked if Jon Courson was in. Courson answered that he might be.

The fellow then pulled out a chart that detailed the heresy of “British Israelism.” This teaching alleges that the real Jews today are the Europeans, including Americans. It’s a convoluted teaching that sounds insane (because it is). But it’s one cog in a machine designed to marginalize Israel and the Jews of today.

Courson denounced British Israelism. I’ll bet he doesn’t spiritualize Ezekiel 37.

Of course, there are myriad issues involving Barack Obama’s views on the Middle East, one surely is that he was never taught that the Old Testament is history, especially in its predictive prophecy. This erases any discernment he might have developed.

For instance, Obama can’t hug Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak enough. The White House staff should place a cot in the Oval Office for Mubarak. Obama believes Egypt is a non-partisan power-broker between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama’s chaotic worldview is blind to the reality of Israel. That’s why he does things like cozy up to Arab dictators. Mubarak’s Egypt is home to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is like Al Qaida’s uncle. Uncle Muslim Brotherhood came from another demented uncle, wahhabism, the forerunner of all radical Islamist groups.

Mubarak of course is more reasonable. For self-serving reasons. He has no interest in direct involvement in terrorism. Why should he? He wears tailored suits and lives in luxury. He’s a jet-setting “statesman.”

But his world view, like Obama’s world view, was born in falsehoods. It is simply a tragedy that in this area, brutal Arab dictators share something in common with gullible (or duplicitous) Americans who have also ingested bad teaching about Israel and the Jews.

It’s why, when you scratch just under the surface, you find that those who openly plot Israel’s destruction (remember Psalm 83?) share much in common ideologically with Jimmy Carter, the editorial staff at Christianity Today, Jim Wallis, and the United Methodist Church.

Sad, sad, sad to say that many evangelical churches — with their spiritualizing/butchering of Scripture — add to the ignorance.

Related Links

Netanyahu to Meet U.S. Envoy in Europe on Settlements - Bloomberg
Peres: Hezbollah 'has 80,000 rockets' - UPI
'Israel won't give up Jerusalem sovereignty' - Jerusalem Post
It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine) - Jim Fletcher (Book)