Held in Turkey on charges of espionage and terrorism, facing a life sentence for doing the work of the church, American Pastor Andrew Brunson’s dramatic release was the work of high-powered diplomacy and prevailing prayer
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins the evening of Sept. 9. This is the 70th year of Israel’s existence, which owes much to the support various camps of U.S. Christians have given it—for various reasons.
Some Christians are supersessionists who say Christians have replaced Israelites as God’s people. Most still cheer for Israel because it is a David amid Goliaths. Others, dispensationalists, say the spiritual sons of Abraham have not replaced the physical sons, so the land of Israel is still the Jewish inheritance.
I sympathize with both camps, but see Israel as important for one more reason. Sometimes when we buy a product from an artisan, we say its value is only what it fetches in the marketplace. But sometimes, if we know the hours or the sacrifice that went into making it, we willingly pay more.
That second way is how David in 2 Samuel 23 valued water from the Bethlehem well that his three mighty men risked their lives to obtain. David poured it out in tribute to God and their courage: “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should … drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives.” So what about 6 million Jews whose blood flowed from 1939 through 1945 in a manner so horrible that it made many United Nations members 70 years ago willing to upset the Arab world? Those governments echoed the thinking of the British Labour Party, which declared the call for a “Jewish National Home” in Israel “irresistible … after the unspeakable atrocities of the Nazi plan to kill all Jews in Europe.”
May we suspect that God permitted the horror of the Holocaust to further some other purpose?
The Holocaust made President Harry Truman sympathetic to the formation of Israel. The U.S. State Department sided with the Arabs, but Truman instructed the U.S. delegate to the UN to vote for Resolution 181, which partitioned the land west of the Jordan River and thus created Israel. Many Latin American countries did the same, wanting to stay in U.S. favor.
In short, the 6 million deaths—four of them were probably my great-grandparents—made the birth of Israel possible. To me that makes the survival of Israel even more important.
We don’t know the big picture. We do know God is sovereign but He also values man’s free will—and the free will of Nazis and millions of others caught up in targeted blood lust was genocidal. God could have miraculously overridden that murderous free will. We’ll never know, at least in this life, why He didn’t—but may we suspect that God permitted the horror to further some other purpose? How about the establishment and survival of Israel, and the way it could help to transform the Middle East?
Man’s free will, within God’s sovereignty, changed the outcome in 1948. Most Israeli Jews accepted UN Resolution 181, even though they wanted more land than it offered. Most Arabs did not accept it, confident that their armies could continue Hitler’s work. Israel won the war in 1948 and subsequent wars, and gained more land plus defensible borders.
Tragically, Palestinian leaders continue to invest in suicide bombings rather than productive work—but it doesn’t have to be that way. In The Times of Israel, Juliet Moses asks regarding the Palestinian leadership, “What if they inspired their young to become teachers and Nobel prize-winning scientists, rather than indoctrinated them with hate to become murderous martyrs? What if, instead of storing rockets under hospitals, they built state of the art facilities?”
Israelis and American Jews would love to help Palestinians progress. As Moses asks, “What if they had a thriving start-up economy that developed phenomenal technology? … What if they commemorated their own Independence Day every year, and not the ‘Nakba,’ the ‘catastrophe’ of Israel’s creation? … Palestinians only need to look at Israel to know what they could have had. The Jews chose redemption over [refugee status], triumph over tragedy, prosperity over paralysis, and self-determination over self-immolation.”
There’s still time for Palestinians to go and do likewise.
By the way, David’s refusal to drink the Bethlehem water—he would not “drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives”—is another of God’s foreshadowings. During the Lord’s Supper we drink living water, the wine that represents the blood of the Bethlehem-born descendant of David who not only risked His life but gave it, for us.