In today’s world, Israel is a controversial topic. It is sometimes hard to keep our conversations free of politics but filled with faith. We believe God when He said that He will never turn His back on His chosen people, but it is much harder to explain it to a fellow believer, not to mention a pastor or a leader!
So, how do we tell others about Israel? How do we explain that the Biblical promises for Israel remain intact until fulfilled?
You are probably here, because you have a love for Israel and the Jewish people. You are in good company – God has a heart for Israel, too! We see it emphasized in Deuteronomy, where we can read some beautiful words spoken over the Jewish people:
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you…” Deuteronomy 7:6-8
And the love doesn’t end there. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul explains his stance: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1) Paul reveals how Gentile followers of the Messiah have an obligation to the Jewish people, for “salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous.” (Romans 11:11)
There are pastors who believe God has cast away the Jews and replaced them with the Church — as the “new and true Israel.” This is heresy and nowhere to find in the Bible. But there are also pastors who have a genuine heart for Israel, but they are reluctant to support Israel for very natural reasons. Many didn’t hear much about Israel where they studied theology and feel ill-equipped to teach on the subject.
Other pastors worry that if they teach about Israel, they will stir up controversy in their congregation. And there are also the pastors who have had a bad experience with Israel-lovers, who may be well-meaning, but their tambourines and oversized shofars get others completely weirded out. And finally, many pastors have met people who love Israel, but their focus is almost entirely on political support, and have little concern for the spiritual state of Israel.
I want to offer you some tips on how speak to your pastor or leader or just a fellow believer about the calling of Israel and God’s heart for Israel.
- First and foremost, pray for them and show them respect.
You cannot have a conversation with someone on a divisive topic if your conversationist doesn’t feel you respect them and their thoughts. If you plan on talking to a pastor or a leader, honor their position and make it clear that you wish to share your heart and not argue.
- Know and study the Scriptures.
In the case of an important subject like this one, everyone will appreciate the fact that you are not wasting their time and have “done your homework”. Especially pastors will more readily listen to your theology on Israel. Recognize that leaders often need to protect their communities from strange teachings and divisive issues.
- Focus on just a few passages that relate directly to the subject.
I suggest that you ask your pastor about his view on Romans 11. There’s a chance he’s studied the chapter in-depth, but many pastors have never preached on the passage, let alone studied it thoroughly. You may want to look up some Bible commentaries as well.
- Be patient.
As individuals, we have different personalities, different study habits, and different ways of communicating. Don’t expect your friend or leader to instantly throw out what they know and applaud you. Take into account the person’s background, if they have learned “replacement theology” in college or at their church. Time your first conversation well.
- Consider time.
‘When’ and ‘how long’ are very important questions to ask yourself. It is likely that everyone you come across has a lot on their mind and even more on their plate. Don’t force the conversation. And once you get talking, don’t rush with a follow-up. Wait until you both had some time to process and pray through the exciting things.
- Rather than preach, engage in a friendly dialogue.
I doubt that you can out-preach your pastor anyway. So instead, be ready to listen and learn, as well as share your view. (See Romans 12:16: “Do not be wise in your own opinion.”)
- Suggest reliable resources.
These include books, articles, recordings, etc., that present biblically sound teaching on Israel. Your friend may have particular authors or pastors he likes. Ask them who they are and look up what they say about Israel. In addition to teachers they mention, you can also add respected leaders such as, Jack Hayford, Chuck Smith, Don Finto or Dan Juster, to name a few.
- Avoid political debate as much as possible.
Politics is a controversial subject in general, let alone the sensitive subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict. You may want to focus your perspective on the Bible and your walk of faith. If the issue of the conflict arises, I suggest that you leave it for a possible follow-up meeting. For now, I would humbly mention that God doesn’t save us based on our righteousness: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
- If possible, suggest that your friend or pastor visit Israel.
It would be great if they could join a tour led by a Christian leader who has a solid understanding of Israel.
- Suggest a follow-up meeting.
Perhaps waiting a week or two will give your conversationist enough time to pray and look at the materials you’ve provided or suggested.
Be supportive and do not share the conversation with your leader or pastor with others without their permission. If you are part of a home or prayer group, don’t talk negatively about your leaders. Affirm them when possible. And if they mention something enlightening about Israel publicly or in a sermon, tell them that you appreciate it.
Paul writes concerning the subject of Israel, “I do not what you to be ignorant of this mystery” (Romans 11:25). So, don’t pretend that you’ve got it all figured out. And knowing this, don’t expect your pastor or leader or friend to have complete clarity on Israel either. “For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God who reveals all truth. We are only His instruments. As you prepare for these conversations, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you supernatural insight.
“I’d say to every pastor out there, you have to come to Israel. If you want to represent God and speak on His behalf, I think we have to come here and get a snapshot of the context of what we are trying to communicate.” Pastor Chad Veach
Pastor Chad Veach knew it would be good, but he didn’t know it would change his life.