The Benefit To Israel — By Nancy Dobson, PO Box 71132, Bethesda, Md 20813
In “The Latest Threat To Evangelical Support for Israel,” (Faith and Freedom, fall 2014) Luke Moon threw down the gauntlet for someone to show, “how a future Palestinian State would be a blessing to Palestinian Christians, Israel and the surrounding nations.”
- That can be done. But first we should consider some background.
As we read in the Bible, there has always been tension between Jews (so called because they are descended from the tribe of Judah) and their kinsmen who were descended from the other eleven sons of Jacob. For instance, David, a Jew, was not immediately accepted as king over all the tribes. He claimed he had been anointed in secret by a religious leader who had since died. Seven years after Saul died, David gained the kingship by political intrigue. (2 Samuel 2, 3, 4, 5:1-5) Following his son Solomon’s death ten tribes broke away from the Jews. (The 11th tribe, the Levites, were the priests, who were scattered among all the tribes.) All this occurred 3,000 years ago. About 500 years later, after the Jews returned to Jerusalem from their deportation to Babylon, Ezra, a high priest, insisted they put away their non-Jewish wives and keep their race pure. (He overlooked the fact that King David had been a descendant of Tamar, Rahab and Ruth — all aliens.) Over the centuries Jews have continued to distance themselves from their Hebrew kinsmen as well as from those of other monotheistic religions.
Jesus said he came to save the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Those were the Samaritans, the descendants of Hebrews from tribes other than Judah. Jesus taught in a Samaritan village for two days, made an example of the Good Samaritan and praised a pious Samaritan leper. Just before his ascension, Jesus told his disciples to teach all the commands he had given them to those in Judea, Samaria and all the world. Jesus desired for the House of Judah and the House of Israel to reunite. But the rift between them was great. Then the Samaritans were all but destroyed during Justinian’s reign in the 6th century A.D.
Jesus also said the world would know his disciples by their love. That was because he had elevated the Golden Rule — to treat others as we want them to treat us; to love others with the same love we would want for ourselves — to be as important as the first law — to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. (Matthew 7:12; Mark 12:29-31)
Jews do not teach the Golden Rule. Instead, they teach that Jews are God’s chosen people. This leads them to be prejudiced against non-Jews. They believe they have a special status with God because they are born Jews. But what does the Bible say about that? You might recall that included in the covenant with Abraham were Ishmael and all their slaves. Included in the laws given to Moses were all those who drew their water and hauled their wood — the Gentiles who had been awed by the Hebrew’s God and had left Egypt with them. (Deuteronomy 29:9-15) Isaiah (66:18-24) and other prophets (Micah 4:2; Zechariah 2:15 ; the psalmist 22:27-31) acknowledged that God loves all people. Furthermore, when the Jews rejected Jesus, he said God would take His kingdom away from them and give it to a people who would produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:33-46) And Paul made inclusion of Gentiles a cornerstone of his ministry. That God chooses all who choose God is the message from those through whom God has spoken.
“Is it good for Israel,” is a popular Jewish motto. This is such a frequent Jewish phrase that it might appear to some that a country called Israel is the Jews’ chief joy, instead of God.. (And see Psalm 137:5-6) The Bible says Israel is a name that was given to Abraham’s grandson Jacob by an angel with whom he wrestled spiritually. Though he feared for his life and his family’s safety, Jacob chose to face the brother who had sworn to kill him because God told him to. Jacob became an example that we are meant to submit to God’s will. It can be argued therefore that each of us becomes “Israel” when we successfully overcome the world in ourselves to be submissive to God. Israel refers more accurately to a spiritual condition than to a place.
The land Luke Moon was referring to was originally given to Abraham, his son Ishmael and their slaves. (Genesis 17:7-14) The single sentence that suggests that Isaac is the sole inheritor of the covenant may have been added by Ezra, who is credited with harmonizing the Old Testament. (Genesis 17:15-21) Land east of the Jordan River was given by God to Moabites — descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot — and to Edomites — descendants of Isaac’s son Esau. (Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 2:1-19) By this it is clear that God desired to protect the rights of other descendants of Abraham, not just Jacob’s line. Muslims in the Middle East consider themselves to be descendants of Ishmael. In Exodus 12:47-48 it says that any alien who with all the males of his household is circumcised becomes a citizen of the country.
Nevertheless, since Jews say, “God gave us this land,” they should follow God’s rules concerning it. The land given by lot to the tribe of Judah is a portion of land below Jerusalem and next to the Dead Sea. The tribes of Dan and Benjamin were north of Judah’s land, the Philistines were west of it and Simeon’s land was south of it. Since the Bible says land cannot be transferred from tribe to tribe, this is all the land that God gave to the Jews. (Numbers 36:1-9) Jerusalem was not given by God to the tribe of Judah. Though it was portioned to the tribe of Benjamin by lot, God did not allow them to conquer and live in it. Since the Jews still do not accept the descendants of the other Hebrew tribes as being equal with themselves, they cannot claim that God is currently giving all the land currently called Israel to them.
But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the reason God gave the physical and spiritual descendants of Abraham a certain place to live was so that they would be a nation of priests on mission to the world, a people to spread God’s fame to all nations, to teach praise for God to all the world and to extol God’s splendor — God’s faithful love and forgiveness for all who return to love, obedience and submission to our Creator. (See Jeremiah 13:11; Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 2:1-4; Joshua 8:32-35; 1 Kings 8:41-43, 54-61; and Psalm 67)
Jesus reminded them that they were meant to be the salt of the earth. Like salt cleans and preserves the body, the religion of the Hebrews was intended to clean and preserve the souls of all on earth. He said they were to be like leaven, gentling and changing the nations around them. (Matthew 5:13-16, 13:33) A better motto for the Jews would be, “Does it help fulfill the desire God expressed at Mt. Sinai that the Hebrews be a nation of priests on mission to spread the truths of the One Almighty God to the world?”
Now we come to the question at hand. How can a Palestinian state in Israel benefit Israel? By this Luke Moon apparently means how can a Palestinian state provide material benefit for the Jews. Since a Palestinian state would set limits to land acquisition by the Jews, it would help establish peace in the region and that would provide time and opportunity for material progress that would benefit Jews as well as all others in Israel.
But to consider only material benefit is too limiting. During his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus said that God alone should be worshipped, and money and power should not be worshipped. He later said, “What would it profit you to gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” So if someone looks back over the past five years of their life and cannot see anything they have learned that is of spiritual value, they are indeed living in poverty no matter how much money — or land — they have. To focus only on the financial benefits that could accrue from having a Palestinian state is too limiting.
Jews, Christians and Muslims need one another spiritually. When they live in the same area it creates a style of tension for them that encourages spiritual seeking and leads them to consult God for understanding and daily guidance. Like an oyster rubs grit to create a pearl, Jews, Christians and Muslims need to use the tensions between them to create a beautiful and priceless example to share with the world of love for one another and of love, obedience and submission to the Cherisher of human souls.
God said all on earth will be blessed because Abraham kept God’s Law and obeyed God’s voice. (Genesis 26:4-5) One of the sins God identified for which He destroyed Israel was that they had ceased to listen to Him. (Isaiah 66:3-4) Through Jeremiah (7:22-28) God said, “Obey My voice and I will be your God and ye shall be My people.” Through Zephaniah (1:3-6) God said He would destroy the earth because its people do not seek or consult God.
Muhammad said God gave him the mission to reinstate what had been suppressed in Jewish and Christian teachings — namely, the teaching that submission to God is imperative and that no one returns to eternal life in God’s house without it. This teaching still exists in Old and New Testament scriptures but it is not an active part of either Judaism or Christianity as they are taught today.
In Matthew 7:21-27 Jesus told us that only those who submit to God’s will shall enter heaven. In John 14:30-31 he said his reason for facing the cross was to show the world his complete submission to God. As branches from his vine we are expected to copy Jesus’ example. (John 15:1-5) Teaching us how to, and that it is imperative to, submit to God’s daily guidance is the reason Jesus came into the world. Yet this lesson has been brushed aside in Christian teachings ever since the reign of Constantine in the 4th century.
In the Torah, all the laws teach obedience to God. Yet these are general rules. Moses also insisted that we must submit to God’s daily guidance. God will be your God only if you follow His way, keep His laws and listen to His voice, Moses taught. (Deuteronomy 26:17)
Jews and Christians need to reclaim and practice the essential teaching, the cornerstone of Islam: submission to God. The spiritual skills they learn as they work to understand and show respect and love for Palestinians will help them open up to God’s loving nature and better perceive and submit to God’s daily guidance.
Jews have kept God’s Law alive throughout all these centuries. Christians and Muslims need to learn the pure Torah Law – but to learn it the way Jesus taught it, by its intentions and without rabbinic changes. Jesus was a law keeper and taught others to keep God’s laws. Jesus complained that rabbis had added to and changed to make ineffective some of the laws Moses had written for the Hebrews. He said they worshipped God in vain because they taught as if they were laws rules made up by men. (Matthew 15:1-9)
Living by the pure Torah Law is a signal to God that we are ready to renounce rebellion and bend our egos to show love, humility, obedience and submission to our Creator. Keeping the Law Moses wrote the way Jesus taught helps us perceive the spiritual in ourselves and experience God’s presence. Not living by God’s Law shows contempt for God. (Numbers 15:30-31)
Many Jews do not believe in life after death and that God will judge them for what they do in this life. To maintain this unbelief they have to ignore a growing body of proof from those who have died and been resuscitated. This was a major break point between Jesus and the rich Sadducees of his day. Jesus’ whole teaching revolves around spending our time on earth preparing for the life to come. After his Resurrection, when Jesus appeared and disappeared several times in front of his followers, he proved the reality of the spiritual realm. Muhammad also taught that this life is preparation for what comes next — after physical death.
This is a critically important message for Jews to learn from Christians and Muslims. Understanding that they will be judged by God for their behavior and that that will determine where they spend their time in the spiritual realm should motivate Jews to work harder now to be fair, honest and just with all people because, as Jesus said, what is bound on earth is bound in heaven.
Many Jews are forbidden to read and study the scriptures of Christians and Muslims. This puts blinders on their ability to understand the other religions that have developed from Abraham’s teachings and hampers their ability to communicate optimally with adherents to those religions. It is also a way to carefully cultivate Jewish pride and prejudice, which has been a stumbling block for Jews for thousands of years. Jews, Christians and Muslims should study one another’s scriptures. God has spoken through them all. The first step toward peace is to understand and show respect for one another.
Both Jews and Christians can learn a monumentally important skill from Muslims. Because of the practice of usury (capitalism) Jews and Christians are destroying the environmental foundations of all life on earth. Muslims have created an interest free banking system that could be a saving grace for humankind. Jews and Christians should study that system and create a sustainable economic system to be used by the rest of the world. We are on the brink of environmental suicide because of our economic practices. The interest free system could be a part of a sustainable economy that saves us.
Moses, Jesus and Muhammad all taught humility. Moses told us to circumcise our hearts (our desires) (Deuteronomy 10:16) and to be God’s servants. (Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:12-13) Jesus said no one enters heaven until they become as humble as a little child. (Matthew 18:1-4) Muhammad said God’s servants are modest and when reviled respond, “Peace be on you.” (XXV 63) A Palestinian state in Israel will be an opportunity for those of all faiths to practice the humility their spiritual leaders have taught as they seek to understand, make room for and make peace with those of other faiths who worship the One God. The exercise of humility is essential for each person’s spiritual development. Here is a perfect opportunity to develop it. The time when prejudice was useful to protect a sect is past. To continue to grow spiritually we each need to give up prejudice and acknowledge the authentic spiritual teachings, and rights, of all who acknowledge the One God.
Material insecurity can be an indicator of spiritual insecurity. For some folks, no matter how rich they are it is never enough. They remain riddled with insecurity. This is because they are starving spiritually but they don’t recognize that their feeling of impending doom is caused by spiritual malnutrition. For those who practice a religion that came from Abraham’s life and teachings, no matter where in the world their religion is practiced, they should look within to identify how they can grow spiritually by showing love to one another and love, obedience and humble submission to God. While this tension and growth can occur anywhere that Muslims, Christians and Jews live together, it can also occur in Israel and aid peace and prosperity there.
A Palestinian state in Israel would pressure the three faiths to grow spiritually and then to take what they learn to the rest of the world, thereby finally fulfilling the mission God had in mind when He made a covenant with Abraham, Ishmael and their slaves so many years ago. The purpose for taking land from idol worshippers and giving it to those who worship the Living, Almighty God was to give them a place they could develop into a magnet to draw all on earth to hear God’s good news message of love, forgiveness and the way to restore the trust each of us has broken with our Creator and return to being one in purpose with God.
References are from The New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday&Co. 1987 Books by Nancy Dobson: The Torah Conscious Christian, Biblical Law by subject, paraphrased, with commentary; The Torah Conscious Christian’s GUIDE TO HOLY DAYS; The Gospel’s Message Within The Message; and Firming Up Your Flabby Spirit. All are in print from Amazon, and all except the Holy Days book are e-books on Kindle. SOUL Question, a fiction book, is also available from Amazon and Kindle. BLOG: firstname.lastname@example.org has some essays from the e-book If You Ask Me….