Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is the Modern State of Israel A Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy?

Tell Aviv
If Jeremiah the prophet took a drive through the modern state of Israel, what would be his reaction?  Would he be happy with the modern state of Israel?  According to Rev. Dr. Gary Burge, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and New Testament scholar at Wheaton College and Graduate school, the "modern injustices that occur in the state of Israel" prohibits him from seeing the nation as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

From reading the Book of Jeremiah, we learn the prophet was used by God to chastise the nation for their injustices - seeking after other gods (Jeremiah 2:28); lying (Jeremiah 5:1); lack of fear of God (5:22); neglect the poor and orphans (5:28); filled with false prophets (5:31) and so forth. To punish His faithless nation, God promises to bring a foreign nation (Babylon) against Israel to judge them.  In Jeremiah 5:15 we read:
"People of Israel,” declares the LORD,
“I am bringing a distant nation against you—
an ancient and enduring nation,
a people whose language you do not know,
whose speech you do not understand.
To Burge modern Israel is a merely secular state not founded on biblical principles not much different from the Israel of Jeremiah's day.  He warns in a 2010 radio conversation on Moody Bible Radio that Christians should be careful about claiming the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy.  Giving divine validation to modern Israel, says Burge,  flies in the face of the prophecies Jeremiah made to Israel in the pre-exilic period.

In response we only need to consult the entire context of the prophetic message concerning Israel in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel like his contemporary Jeremiah was well aware of the national sins of Israel. Ezekiel 36:17-19 records:
“Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions.
Ezekiel also speaks of the Lord scattering the Jewish people among the nations for a period of time due to their uncleanness before the Lord.  But in vv. 22-24 the Lord tells the prophet He will regather His people from the four corners of the earth not because Israel earned God's blessing but in order to honor His name:
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.
In a similar pattern in Ezekiel 37:11-13 the Lord  describes the scattered people of Israel as dry bones in need of spiritual regeneration.  However, previous to their spiritual revival the God of Israel brings the Jewish people in their unbelief back to the land regardless of their spiritual condition:
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 
At that time the Lord will then cause a spiritual reawakening to happen to Israel as described in Ezekiel 37:14, "I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

God's blessing of Israel by bringing them back into the land is unconditional and not dependent on how deserving they are.  Once the people of Israel are back in the land as they are now, they will come to know the Lord.

Gary Burge is adamant concerning modern Israel being compared to ancient Israel, deserving of God removing them from the land once again and dispersing Israel among the nations.

As we look deeper into the beliefs of the Wheaton professor, we learn Burge has more than theological problems with modern day Israel.

In Burge's book Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and Palestinians (2003 Pilgrim Press), we learn from  Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), that "this book is a combustible mixture of misinformation and theologically justified hostility towards modern Israel."

If anything comes forth from Burge's writings and lectures about Israel, it is the fact that he betrays his own hostility towards the Jewish nation based on his Replacement Theology.

What's most disturbing is that Burge's book has been endorsed by mainline and evangelical church leaders and publications.  He understandably received a sympathetic review from the liberal Protestant new source Christian Century. 

Surprisingly,  Christianity Today, the major magazine publication for evangelical Christianity,
Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and Palestinians, gave Burge's book the "award of merit" in its 2004 Book Awards.  David Neff, longtime editor of CT, praised Burge's book and wrote a glowing account that appears on the book's back cover.

In May 2007 Hank Hanegraff, host of Bible Answer Man, conservative Christian talk show promoted and sold Burge's book on his website informing his listeners that it was "an incredible book that you need."

As a result of his book, Burge has earned credibility in the evangelical world and is a sought after commentator about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Can you imagine Burge, with his theological hostility towards Israel as a reliable source of information about the Middle East conflict?

The Wheaton scholar is president of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU), under whose guidance has been responsible for "immersion" trips for American Christians to learn more about Israel through the eyes of Palestinian Christians. In other words, EMEU is an organization whose goal is to indoctrinate Christians to become anti-Israel.

At a Presbyterian Church (USA)  conference in 2005 to explain the 2004 General Assembly's decision to pass a divestment resolution against Israel, Burge was one of the featured speakers.

Burge also lectured at "Challenging Christian Zionism: Theology, Politics, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict," sponsored by Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Van Zile says of Sabeel that it has "been a persistent source of anti-Zionist agitation in mainline Protestant churches in the United States since its founding in 1994. The organization subjects Israel, Jews, and Judaism to intense scrutiny while remaining nearly silent about Arab and Muslim extremism in the Middle East.

In a CAMERA article, "Mainline Churches Embrace Burge's False Narrative," Dexter Van Zile lists some of the falsehoods found in Burge's book:
  • Rev. Dr. Burge attributed a quote to David Ben-Gurion that had been exposed as false and fabricated several years before publication of Whose Land? Whose Promise? 
  • Rev. Dr. Burge falsely stated that Israeli-Arabs are denied membership in Israel’s labor movement, when in fact, one of the books he cites reports that Israeli-Arabs had been allowed full membership in Israel’s largest union – the Histadrut – since 1959.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge falsely reported that Israeli-Arabs are barred from the service in Israel’s military.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge falsely reported that Israeli-Arabs are prohibited from joining Israel’s major political parties.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge mis-characterized UN Resolution 242 as requiring Israeli withdrawal to its “pre-1967 borders” when in fact it does not.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge portrays Hezbollah as a “resistance organization” when in fact its political agenda and leaders clearly state the organization is dedicated to the destruction of Israel – a fact he omits in his description.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge portrays the founding of the PLO as an attempt to resolve the problem of Palestinian refugees created by the 1948 war when in fact its founding was motivated by a desire for the destruction of Israel.
From Burge's book and his readiness to condemn the modern state of Israel, it becomes clear the professor is not providing an analysis of Israel but an grossly erroneous indictment of the nation. 



Rahman Dauharry said...

Regardless of Burge's opinion and the Palestinians, I wonder whether I must love Israel more than Jesus. This is because the overwhelming majority of people presently living in Israel reject him as the Messiah and express their hatred for him publicly on TV shows. My problem is incompatibility. I love you and all my life I have been following your teachings you come to your haters who by some extraordinary miracle will all change and start loving you. Is this justice? If that happens and Jesus comes for the rich of Israel, I'd rather be among the destituted orphans and widows of Palestine, gentiles or not, for he would be acting against his own principles.

Louis Lapides said...

Rahman Dauharry: No one said you must "love Israel more than Jesus." Loving Yeshua is always our chief love as a Christian. The love for Israel I speak of is the love of God for Israel. The Lord God of Israel says of His people in Isaiah 49:14-17
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
17 Your children hasten back,
and those who laid you waste depart from you.
Israel is engraven on the palms of God's hands. Israel is the apple of God's eyes regardless of their behavior? Will you love whom God loves? I have no idea about Jesus coming to the rich of Israel? Jesus comes to people rich and poor. The gospel is not based on economic class but spiritual need. Jesus had wealthy and poor people among the Twelve Disciples. Jesus came to preach the gospel to all people. Who are the haters? The most hate I see comes from Palestinians and Arabs towards Israel, yet I will pray for their salvation. That is how I show love for those who are enemies of God's elect nation of Israel. Your comments lack clarity on many levels. I don't always know who you are speaking of. Please be specific. Thanks for writing.