In the reaction to Kerry, Trump and May, and following the UN resolution concerning Israel, Christians have once again been urged to ‘Bless Israel’. For ‘evangelical’ Christians this is a command – based on Genesis 12 verse 3 – and the consequence if we don’t is, we are cursed, “the one who curses you I will curse”. This verse, spoken to Abram alone and not repeated to any other patriarch, is often partnered with Numbers 24 where verse 9 reads, “Blessed is everyone who blesses you and cursed is everyone who curses you”So that’s it then, isn’t it? Well, No it isn’t.
First to say, just supposing that the modern state of Israel has any relationship to historical/biblical Israel, is that we don’t ‘bless’ either people or institutions by urging them to wrongdoing. How does it bless Israel, the modern state (SoI), for them to persist in racist stereotyping of Arabs? If I were to do that of Jews I’d (rightly) be in serious trouble. How does it bless the SoI for it to be in a perpetual state of fear regarding their neighbours?
But if common sense isn’t persuasive let’s return to God’s Word, for theses aren’t the only or last words on the matter. For literalists there can be no justification for extending words spoken to Abram as if they were spoken also regarding Jacob, for, if so, why not Ishmael, why not Esau, whom God also blessed as descendents of Abraham? Then the Numbers verse becomes crucial, but even in our translations the referent is, at least, ambiguous. Clearly it seems intended to refer back to Genesis 12:3, but read simply, where Israel/Jacob is clearly the referent in verses 5 to 7, in verse 8 it is God, and there seems no good reason for assuming that changes at verse 9.
But we are not left with ambiguity because, if Numbers 24 is part of Israel’s story that story continues and, if we are prepared to read our Bibles carefully, we see that both blessings and curses are set before Israel (Deuteronomy- do your own research!). Get to the prophets and we see the consequences of wrong choice. Of course we don’t even have to get as far as the prophets to find morethan a hint of what is to come. At the dedication of the temple Solomon claims, “you … have kept for your servant, my father David, what you promised him. Indeed you promised with your mouth and this day have fulfilled with your hand” qualified with the caveat “if only your children keep to their way, to walk in my law …”. As we know,they didn’t, except for the remant chosen by grace. (1 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Romans).
The final blessing for Israel was the Israelite from Nazareth, the builder and teacher, Jesus. If we who call ourselves ‘evangelical Christian’ wish to bless Jews we do it better by loving them as did Jesus and trying to make them jealous rather than angry and contemptuous. If we wish to bless Zionists, and we should, we do that better by pointing out that they are far astray from their (supposedly) Judaic inheritance, and showing them the inconsistencies within their arguments and claims. And, if we want to bless the SoI, and we should because those who live there and in the region are also made in the image of ‘the One’, we do that best by helping them see that they are heading for a dreadful disaster.
And, if there are still evangelicals who want to ‘bring it on’ thinking they are helping on God’s plan, two things. First, God doesn’t need or want that kind of help. He’s given us a commission and it doesn’t involve destruction (Rev 11:18). And second, yes we are in the ‘end days’, have been for nearly 2000 years, so let’s work for the kingdom. The ‘tribulation’ will not come, it has already been, 1900 years ago, and continues a truth for many Christians in the world today, persecuted by nations who are our political allies(!). And, there will be no ‘rapture’ – a complete misreading of a text about a different subject. When Jesus returns, he will do so just once, and then the judgement. Christians excused suffering? Since when, since Matthew chapter 5?
I shall continue to bless the SoI by doing my little best to hold her accountable for her sins, and I’ll continue to do the same for my own land and for others as far as I am able. And I shall continue try my best to bless Israel of the new covenant and to be a blessing in God’s good creation.