A new headline in the Jerusalem Post reads: “Vatican synod calls for end to Israel’s ‘occupation’: At conference on Christians in the Middle East, US Melkite archbishop says: ‘There is no longer a chosen people.'”
The New York Times headline reads: “Bishops at Meeting Urge Israel to End Its Occupation of Palestinian Territories.” The Times reported: “In a final communiqué at the end of a two-week-long meeting at the Vatican on the plight of Christians in the Middle East, the bishops also urged Israel not to use the Bible ‘to wrongly justify injustices,’ apparently referring to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. But in a news conference Saturday, the archbishop in charge of the committee that drafted the communiqué, Cyrille Salim Bustros, appeared to go further, saying the Bible did not justify a Jewish presence in Israel. ‘The concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians,” he said. “Sacred scripture should not be used to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestine.’”
Here is a link to the official Vatican translation of the “Message to the People of God” that the synod fathers of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops approved on Friday, October 22, 2010.
The message in its entirety has several positive points, including this line: “The God who has given us the faith in our Eastern lands 2,000 years ago, calls us today to persevere with courage, strength and steadfastness in bearing the message of Christ and witnessing to his Gospel, the Gospel of love and peace.”
But with all due respect, the Vatican leaders who spoke out at the final press conference saying that the Jews are no longer the Chosen People and that the Bible cannot be used to justify Israel’s ownership of the Holy Land are wrong on this issue. The entire Bible — from Genesis to Revelation — makes crystal clear again and again the Lord’s love for the Jewish people, His decision to choose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants for His very own, and His eternal promise to give the Holy Land to the Jewish people.
As such, it is the duty of all true followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to bless Israel and reaffirm her fundamental legitimacy and right to the Land. Yes, we should bless and love the Palestinians, as well, because our Lord Jesus said as a Jew living in Israel, “Love your neighbor,” and, “Love your enemies.” But we should never accept the false teaching that God has rejected the Jewish people or rescinded His promises to the nation of Israel. That simply is not Biblical.
In Genesis chapter 12:1-3, the Lord makes it clear He has chosen Abram to “make a great nation” and the Lord says to him, “I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” In Genesis 13:14-18, the Lord specifically takes Abraham to the land we now call Israel and said, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are (the Jordan Valley), northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.”
Doesn’t “forever” mean forever?
This promise is reaffirmed to Isaac, and later to Jacob, whose name the Lord changes to “Israel.” For example, in Deuteronomy 7:6-8, the Lord says to the children of Israel, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Lord didn not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers.”
In Genesis 48:3-4, Jacob tells his son Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you an everlasting possession.”
Doesn’t everlasting mean everlasting?
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul prophetically anticipated that the Christians in Rome would one day think that God would reject the Jewish people and His promises to them because many Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. So Paul wrote this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 11, verse 1 and 2: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.”
The New Testament again and again affirms the Lord’s love for the Jewish people and for the nation of Israel. Indeed, in the Book of Revelation, we specifically see the nation of Israel regathered and playing a key role in the End Times. God defends Israel. God fights for Israel against her enemies. God blesses Israel and the Jewish people. And then the Lord Jesus Christ Himself comes with His saints to reign from Jerusalem. To deny such truths is to deeply and fundamentally misunderstand the Word of God.
May I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to share this message with others. Be kind towards the Catholic leaders. Let us show them the mistakes they are making, but do so in love. Let us also teach followers of Jesus Christ around the world the Lord’s deep love and compassion for the Jewish people, and His desire that they — and all people — come to faith in Messiah Jesus.
At the same time, please prayerfully consider becoming involved in The Joshua Fund to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus in real and practical ways. And please prayerfully consider coming to Israel and the Epicenter Conference in Israel next May. Thank you, and God bless you.
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