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Do Jews Have a Divine Right in the Promised Land? By John Piper

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Rob’s Note: This article gives us all something to consider.  I would appreciate any comments you may have on Bro’ Piper’s article.  Thanks!

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How should Bible-believing Christians align themselves in the Jewish-Palestinian conflict? There are Biblical reasons for treating both sides with compassionate public justice in the same way that disputes should be settled between nations generally. In other words, the Bible does not teach us to be partial to Israel or to the Palestinians because either has a special divine status.

I do not deny that Israel was chosen by God from all the peoples of the world to be the focus of special blessing in the history of redemption which climaxed in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. “The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

Nor do I deny that God promised to Israel the presently disputed land from the time of Abraham onward. God said to Moses, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring'” (Deuteronomy 34:4).

But neither of these Biblical facts leads necessarily to the endorsement of present-day Israel as the rightful possessor of all the disputed land. Israel may have such a right. And she may not. But that decision is not based on divine privilege. Why?

First, a non-covenant-keeping people does not have a divine right to hold the land of promise. Both the blessed status of the people and the privileged right to the land are conditional on Israel’s keeping the covenant God made with her. Thus God said to Israel, “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples” (Exodus 19:5). Israel has no warrant to a present experience of divine privilege when she is not keeping covenant with God.

More than once Israel was denied the experience of her divine right to the land when she broke covenant with God. For example, when Israel languished in captivity in Babylon, Daniel prayed, “O Lord . . .we have sinned and done wrong . . . To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame . . . to all Israel . . . in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you” (Daniel 9:4-7; see Psalm 78:54-61). Israel has no divine right to be in the land of promise when she is breaking the covenant of promise.

This does not mean that other nations have the right to molest her. She still has human rights among nations when she has no divine right. Nations that gloated over her divine discipline were punished by God (Isaiah 10:5-13).

Secondly, Israel as a whole today rejects her Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s Son. This is the ultimate act of covenant-breaking with God. God promised that to Israel “a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7). But with tears this Prince of Peace looked out over Jerusalem and said, “Would that you . . . had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. . . . You did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).

When the builders rejected the beautiful Cornerstone, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). He explained, “Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:11-12)

God has saving purposes for ethnic Israel (Romans 11:25-26). But for now the people are at enmity with God in rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, their Messiah (Romans 11:28). God has expanded his saving work to embrace all peoples (including Palestinians) who will trust his Son and depend on his death and resurrection for salvation. “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:29-30).

The Christian plea in the Middle East to Palestinians and Jews is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). And until that great day when both Jewish and Gentile followers of King Jesus inherit the earth (not just the land), without lifting sword or gun, the rights of nations should be decided by the principles of compassionate and public justice, not claims to national divine right or status.

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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

 


4 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Hi Pastor Barkman,

    This is an incredibly sensitive subject, isn’t it?

    I’m no theology expert, but I’m happy to share a few thoughts.

    Although I was raised to be pro-national Israel by default, I have had to prayerfully rethink my position over the past several years. Although I don’t have my position etched in stone, I now tend to agree strongly with Pastor Piper’s view, for many of the reasons he gave.

    I especially appreciate his emphasis that we all are in need of Christ, regardless of our national identity.

    I think Psalm 69:35-36 is an interesting thing to consider, in light of this topic.

    For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession.
    The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love His name shall dwell therein.

    and

    Galatians 3:16-19 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
    And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of no effect.
    For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no more by promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
    What purpose then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

    Thepassage from Galatians is a big reason I needed to re-evaluate my previous assumptions about covenantal land rights.

    It is my understanding that Jesus is the Seed who was always meant to inherit the land, and those who believe that He is the fulfilment of God’s Genesis 3 promise to provide a Deliverer will inherit with Him. Believing Jews will enjoy the fulfillment of whatever promises God specifically made to those who love Christ.

    While I don’t have a definitive answer yet, I’ve been seriously wondering whether it is a dangerous distraction for Christians to indiscriminately support the war efforts of national Israel at this time.

    Hopefully, this doesn’t create greater confusion for someone else :/

  2. RJ Dawson says:

    Thanks for posting this, Rob.

    There is much light being shed on this issue as of late. Christians are gaining in the truth of the matter, and the truth gained is revealed by the Word of God.

    We have very clear New Covenant writings teaching that whoever is in blood covenant with the Lord Jesus is a descendant of Abraham:

    “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” [Galatians 3: 26-29]

    According to the apostle Paul, this also means that any actual descendant of Abraham (and this must be proved), who is not in covenant with the Lord Jesus has forfeited any prior rights to any earlier covenant.

    Paul also instructed Timothy (in the KJV), “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…” The reason so many Christians believe the things they do is because they never actually read and study the Word of God, but believe whoever is teaching them, whether it be a preacher or the news media.

    There is an agenda associated with this subject. I strongly suggest that whoever may want the truth to do their own prayerful study in the Word of God regarding it, and also do their own research into the actual history leading up to the founding of the modern state of Israel.

    All glory to the Lord Jesus. Be blessed.

  3. SLIMJIM says:

    I’m surprised in a pleasant way that Piper wrote this piece without slighting Dispensationalism altogether. I think that one can Dispensational in one’s outlook towards Israel and yet also acknowledge that since they are largely unregenerate today, we shouldn’t be surprised when God disciplines them, etc. I’m for Israel’s right to exist as a State but I think we can call out their sins when it happens.

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