With the Israeli/Palestinian war in the news every day I thought I should revisit this question; Do Christians have any biblical obligation to support the State of Israel?
It depends on whether or not the present nation/state of Israel is the same entity God considers representatives of His Chosen People and therefore heirs of the promise he made to Abraham. Lets start by looking at "The Promise".
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land the I will show you."
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." -Genesis 12:1-3
"There you have it!" say those Christians who believe we should support the nation of Israel. And God promises that he will "bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you." So if we want God's blessing, we need to support Israel. But is it that simple?
There are a number of theologians who believe that God fufilled his promise to Abraham after the Israelites came out of Egypt and finally entered the Promised Land roughly 40 years later. They now had their land. The promise was fulfilled they say.
I'm not in this camp for this reason; God also said this, "All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever." Genesis 13:15 FOREVER! Obviously these theologians have some good arguments for their positions. One of them is this passage from Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:17, "As the time grew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham ..." Stephen apparently believed the land part of the promise had already been fulfilled.
Other theologians believe the promise wasn't fulfilled when the Israelites entered the land. That God's promise included his desire for them not only to live in the land but to thrive in it. So after crossing the Jordan God expanded Israel's borders over the next 400 years and under King David it reached it's zenith in terms of territory. However, from the end of the reign of Solomon on, Israel descended into long periods of pagan idol worship, they'd repent, then a generation later, back to idols. The land was split between Judah and Israel with good kings and bad kings warring against each other.
Finally God couldn't take it anymore and he sent Nebuchaezer to carry away most of the Jews into capitity for the next 70 years. All the while he promised them he'd eventually bring a remnant back to the land and give them yet another chance to live as he had commanded. But they did not and in the view of these theologins they repeatedly violated this covenant he made with Abraham and have never lived up to it, even to this very day. Here's why that's important. God also made it clear to Israel that his promise to them was conditional.
"The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him." -Deuteronomy 28:9
"However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:"
"The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth."
Then we read in I and II kings and elsewhere that God did exactly what he said he would do. When Israel obeyed him they prospered and had peace. But when they disobeyed God he causes other nations to defeat and control them. God literally took the land away from them. Fast forward to Jesus' time. When the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah in roughly 32AD, 38 years later the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and banished all Jews. Yet again their disobedience cost them the land.
So what lessons can we draw from Israel's history to inform us of Gods attitude toward the modern state of Israel? The major requirement God had for Israel to claim his promise of the land and his blessing was that they be a Jehovah loving nation, obedient to his commands. In other words God demanded what theologians describe as "covenant fidelity". Jews had to be faithful to him. Does modern Israel meet that definition? Is it faithful to God? In my opinion and that of many respected theologians, no.
The modern nation of Israel was founded by and is still led by Zionists. Zionism is not a religion. It is an ideology, closer to Nationalism. Zionists believe Jews will never be safe in a country where they don't have control of their own destiny. And while they aren't religious, they do believe God promised Abraham the land would be theirs so they have the God given right to possess it. To be sure there have always been and still are devout Jews living in Israel. But most researchers estimate less than 20% of Israelis today are God fearing/God obeying Jews. That does not apear to meet the "convenental fidelity" test.
Paul himself points this fact out when he wrote this:
"It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” -Romans 9:6-7
In other words, not every blood descendant of Abraham is considered by God to be, "true Israel, or Israelites", only the faithful will inherit the promises God made. Paul goes on in that chapter to make the point that both Esau and Jacob were blood grandchildren of Abraham yet God said, "Jacob I have loved but Esau I have hated." Clearly the Promise does not apply to all Jews by birth but a smaller subset- those God has chosen. Paul goes on in Galatians 6:16 to sign off his letter to the Jewish converts this way, "Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God." Paul is making the point that all Jewish followers of Jesus are considered by God to be "true Israel."
So, what would have to happen for Christians to fully support "Israel"? Some theologians believe there would need to be a major revival of Jews living in Israel who come to faith in Jesus which would obligate Christians to support them. Others believe Romans 11 teaches that Jews who truly love Jehovah and keep the Law are still children of the Promise, even if they never accept Christ. Therefore if there is a mass turning to God among Jews living in Israel that would be enough to require Christians support Israel. The trouble with both of these ideas is how many? What percentage? 50%, 51%? I think that's not the way to think about it.
If you're in the camp looking for a revival of Jesus following Jews, then you should support them, not the State of Israel. However if you're in the second camp of devout Jehovah following Jews, then you should throw your support to them, and again, not the State of Israel. Whoever blesses the Jews who love God cannot go wrong.
So, having said all that, for now I do support the modern State of Israel for these reasons: Because it's the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. And I support the idea that Jews have the right to live without fear of another Holocaust. And I support Israel on behalf of the faithful remnant living in the land. However, I do not have a moral obligation because I'm a Christian to support the State of Israel and Zionism.
One final word. Just because I support the State of Israel's right to exist, I do not support how it has always treated the Arab people living in Gaza and the West Bank. Yes the horrendous Hamas attacks on October 7 gives Israel the right to enter into Gaza and root out, capture, or kill its enemies. Yet as followers of Jesus our hearts should break for innocent women and children caught up in conflict they did not cause. And let's not forget Christian Palestinians living in Gaza. My hearts breaks for them as well.
There is an unfortunate parallel in World War II. Not every German supported Hitler. But there was no way to stop him without killing many innocent Germans in the process. Some justified this "collateral damage" because German voted Hitler into office. ( As the majority of Palestinians did voting for Hamas.) But even as American troops advanced into Germany, they provided food and medical care for their "enemies." And the Marshal Plan following the war provided billions to help the Germans rebuild their nation. The "Greatest Generation," made up largely of Christian understood Christians are required to love everyone, even our enemies. I pray that Israel remembers to do the same.
Next week my blog will examine what Saint Augustine taught about how Christians should wage war to protect the innocent. This is a great opportunity to teach your older children, or grandchildren a framework for biblical worldview that will help them understand how children of the Kingdom of God are to think about war, even as we are only weeks away from celebrating the birth of the "Prince of Peace."