Friday, July 22, 2011

Did God Lie to Israel About Giving Them A Jewish Homeland? Part 1

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them," said Jesus in Matthew 5:17.  Despite Jesus' commitment to not abolish the prophetic message, Reformed theologians believe the modern state of Israel has not been divinely given to the Jewish people as promised by the prophets.

 One such theologian is Wheaton College New Testament professor Gary Burge.  More than a theologian Burge often serves on panels where politically charged anti-Israel messages are delivered by himself and other speakers.

In a radio conversation on a 2010 Moody Radio broadcast between himself and Moody Bible College Jewish studies professor Michael Rydelnik, Burge explains his position on Israell:  Since Israel is not faithful to the covenant God made with Israel as found in the Mosaic Law, then the land does not belong to the Jewish people.

Professor Burge noted the modern state of Israel bears no likeness to a country living in obedience to the Torah.  In fact,  the state of Israel was founded by secular Jews not religious ones. The modern state of Israel, according to Burge, is disqualified from having divine ownership of the land.

So the question remains, "Did God make a promise to Israel that still holds true or is it no longer relevant due to Israel's disobedience?"

Burge argues the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob concerning the land of Israel were conditional upon Israel's obedience.  To prove his point he points to the times when God took the Jewish people from the land and  delivered them into the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities due to their refusal to heed the statutes of the Torah.

The professor is correct on the fact God removed Israel from the land because of their disobedience.  Leviticus 20:22 warns, "Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out."

Though God sent His people out of the land, it is essential to note that He never took away their title deed to the land.

The interplay between Israel's disobedience caused them to be removed from the land and later returning to the land is explained in Leviticus 26:3-6.

Initially, God focuses on Israel's enjoyment of the land in Leviticus 26:3-6 when He cautions:
If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. 
Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.
I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country.
Then He warns Abraham's descendants they will be removed from the land if they refuse Him as witnessed in Leviticus 26:32-35
I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled.  I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 
Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.
Finally, God says He will bring His people back to the land upon their repentance and humbling themselves before Him as described in Leviticus 26:40-42
But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin,  I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.
Notice, God says He "will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember my land." The covenant He refers to is the Abrahamic covenant as found in  Genesis 12, 13, 17 where God promises the land to Abraham's seed without any strings attached.  In fact, when God ratifies the covenant He alone passes through the pieces of the sacrifice needed to ratify His promise,  and then restates the covenant to Abraham and the geographical boundaries of the promised Holy Land in Genesis 15:17-20
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites,  Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
Yes, for Israel to enjoy, not own the land, they are to be obedient to the Lord. Most importantly, when we read the prophets, we witness the grace of the Lord is promising to bring the Jewish people back from their worldwide dispersion into the land of Israel despite their disobedience, but in order to protect the honor of God.  This prophetic promise is found in Ezekiel 36:22-24:
Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
For Burge to deny this passage and many more like it, is to make Jesus abolish rather than fulfill the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures

The weakness of the Reformed position is that most of their advocates like Burge are weak in their knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures. Their Reformed systematic theology forces them to ignore myriads of prophetic passages where God promises the land of Israel to the Jewish people.

Gary Burge maintains those who believe God promised the Israel to the Jewish people hold to a "land theology." He also states this "land theology" is not in the New Testament. Rather, the New Testament moves away from the territorial aspect of God's promises to Israel and focuses solely on the spiritual dimension.

Individuals who hold to God's promise of the land to Israel are guilty of holding to a "Jewish theology" not a "Christian theology."  I prefer to call what I believe a "biblical theology" - a theology that encompasses both testaments.

Burge, like many theologians who deny the land is promised to Israel, start with a presupposition they cannot prove - any of God's promises found in the Old Testament that are not repeated in the New Testament are no longer applicable. I find his position untenable simply because it is a man made theological belief not found in any biblical passages.

I wonder since Burge maintains that if a promise of God is not repeated in the New Testament, it has been superseded by New Testament theology, how he feels about God's promise in Genesis 9:11-16 to never destroy the earth with a flood? The sign of this covenant is the visible appearance of a rainbow;
 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 
Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.
This promise is not repeated in the New Testament, so according to the Wheaton New Testament professor, the promise doeS not hold true and God can destroy the earth with a flood again. We see how foolish Burge's presupposition is when we apply it to many Old Testament promises that are not repeated in the New Testament.

Burge grew strangely quiet during his interchange with Rydelnik when the Moody professor read Romans 11:28-29 regarding God's unchanging covenants with Israel:
but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Though Burge claims he is not a replacement theologian which teaches the Church has replaced Israel, Gary still tiptoes through the minefield of replacement theology and agrees with them on many points.

To his credit, Burge expressed his conviction that God has a special love for the Jewish people and that antisemitism is a sin against the God of Israel.  However, after Burge is finished stripping Israel of the promises the Lord laid down in the Jewish scriptures, he still ends up with the position that the church has replaced Israel. No longer are Israel's national promises of a land, a growing nation and the blessing of all the nations through Israel applicable. According to Burge, all the promises made to Israel are now fulfilled in Christ. That sounds like replacement theology to me. 



S Ratliff said...

Well said, Louis. Unfortunately, Burge is not the first on this "fool's errand," denying God's covenant with Israel. Does he just ignore the scriptures? It's hard to believe anyone that claims the blood of Christ could actually believe this garbage.

Louis Lapides said...

Burge is one of many signing on to the growing list of replacement theologians. The only way Burge and other theologians like him can hold to his theology is to ignore Romans 9-11 and play acrobatical exegesis with the text. Thanks for your comment