By Charles Gardner —
That there has long been a Jewish blind-spot over their Messiah’s identity is no secret, but at the same time there is a widespread Gentile blind-spot over Israel’s true purpose under God.
So it was sadly predictable to hear that the UK’s religious leaders – (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and his Catholic counterpart Cardinal Vincent Nichols – have urged British Prime Minister Liz Truss to drop her plan for moving our Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.¹
The new leader has clearly indicated her intention of doing so, but the archbishops have warned that it will damage hopes of peace in the Middle East in view of the Palestinian claim on Jerusalem.
It’s highly significant, I believe, that this fresh controversy coincides with Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrating God living amongst his people as they are about to inherit the land he promised them.
With Justin Welby in mind, I feel it’s such a shame that the man who got it right at the Queen’s funeral (with her help, of course, since she had planned it) by giving a clear gospel message seems unable to translate that into an understanding of God’s overall plan for Israel and the nations.
Christians, of all people, should be able to grasp the divine strategy for the land God calls his own. It’s the place where he has chosen to dwell (Psalm 132:13f). And at the end of the age, at the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, he will still live there – ruling and reigning from the New Jerusalem.
Opposition to Israel’s existence is growing daily and will inevitably climax when an alliance of unfriendly nations attack her from the north. According to Zechariah, it will be a terrible time for Jerusalem’s inhabitants, but the Lord himself will then go out and fight against those nations.
Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, will then place his feet on the Mount of Olives, causing a massive earthquake, after which “the Lord will be King over the whole earth” (Zechariah 14:8).
But Jerusalem will be raised up high and never again destroyed. Israel’s enemies will be struck by a plague, and the survivors of the nations who attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).
It will be compulsory. There will be no rain without such pilgrimage. This is why many Christians still regard the feast as vitally important, and visit Jerusalem each year in the thousands with encouragement from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, founded (by South African compatriots of mine) as a clear statement of support for the Jewish capital otherwise lacking from the international community.
During the millennial reign of Christ, as I’ve indicated, the nations who fail to recognize the central place of God’s affections – Jerusalem, Israel and the people to whom he gave this land – will suffer famine.
Failing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is effectively to deny their ancient connection to the city and is a shameful compromise in the face of threats and intimidation.
Moving the embassy is seen as a potential obstacle to peace in view of the rage and fury it is predicted to provoke among Palestinians and their supporters. Yet the forecast explosion did not materialize after President Trump made his bold move.
Political compromise will not create a permanent solution. Almost three decades after the Oslo Peace Accords, we are no nearer an end to hostilities.
Amid international pressure for a ‘land for peace’ deal, Israel was persuaded to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. Did peace result? No, Jewish residents instead became the target of thousands of rockets, provoking Israel to take occasional retaliatory action.
Now, because Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital (and they don’t even have a recognized state yet), world leaders are succumbing to blackmail and, in the process, denying the obvious.
As Josh Reinstein, director of the Israel Allies Foundation, said: “It is Christians, not countries, that we can count on to always stand with Israel.”
And Pastor Larry Huch, of Dallas, Texas, said: “There is no country in the world like Israel. And no city like Jerusalem. It is the home of God. It is the people, the land and the spirit of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that dwells in this land.”²
Sadly, not all Christians get this. To them I say, keep seeking God for clarification and revelation. “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:13f)
If God has desired to live in Jerusalem, who are we to argue? And it is because of his choice that his ancient people revere the city like no other.
Yes, there will be a mighty spiritual (and physical) battle over it, and the New Testament reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). But believers must honor what God honors.
The God who lives in the hearts of all who follow his Son has not changed his mind about his earthly dwelling place. So let’s pray that Ms Truss will hold her nerve and do the right thing.
1 The Independent, 8th October 2022
2 Israel Today, 9th October 2022, quoting the Jewish News Service