UPDATED: On Thursday, 138 nations voted in the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) to declare a “State of Palestine” and recognize it as a “non-member observer state” within the international community. Forty-one nations abstained from voting. Only nine nations voted against the resolution: the U.S., Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.
* In his speech to the UNGA, Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (aka, Abu Mazen) said, ““We did not come here to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel. Rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of a state that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine.” However, he also praised the Palestinian terrorists who died in the war against Israel last week in Gaza, calling them “beloved martyrs.”
* The Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman responded: “The world watched a defamatory and venomous speech that was full of mendacious propaganda against the IDF and the citizens of Israel. Someone who wants peace does not talk in such a manner.”
* In his excellent and must-read speech to the UNGA, Ron Prosor — Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. — quoted a passage from Scripture that is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. “Peace is a central value of Israeli society. The Bible calls on us: ‘Seek peace and pursue it.'” (see Psalm 34:14 and I Peter 3:11) Amb. Prosor noted the numerous times since 1947 that Jewish and Israeli leaders have offered their hand in peace to their Arab neighbors, only to be rejected and attacked time after time. He insisted that there is only one route to peace. “And that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
* “Speaking in Washington minutes after the vote, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the U.N. action ‘unfortunate and counterproductive,'” reported the Washington Post. “‘We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace they both deserve: Two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel,’ Clinton said.” It should be noted (admittedly to my surprise) that the Obama administration has had a stellar two weeks standing with Israel, first through the rocket war with Hamas, and now in voted against the Palestinian statehood resolution. Relations between President Obama and Israel have been rocky over the past four years, and may still grow rockier. But we need to acknowledge that the President and his team are doing well at the moment, and this should be commended.
* Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird responded: “This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations. Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No. On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.” I agree and I’m grateful to the government of Canada and specifically to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who remains the most consistently pro-Israel leader on the planet in recent years.
I’m wishing I could rejoice with my Palestinian friends about the U.N. vote. But the Bible is clear that the Lord God will judge all nations who divide Land of Israel. “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.” (Old Testament Book of Joel, chapter 3, verses 1 and 2)
At the 2011 Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem, I delivered a full message on Joel chapter 3 and God’s warning to the nations not to divide His Land — to read my sermon notes or watch the video online, please click here.
The Palestinians have suffered so much, from many sides. I wish a sovereign state was the answer. Nearly the whole world is convinced it is. But defying God’s Word won’t be bring blessing; it brings sadness and eventual judgment. Christians can — and must — love and bless and encourage the Palestinian people in general, and the followers of Jesus Christ in the West Bank and Gaza in particular. We can pray for them and visit them and invest in them and help them “do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) We can be advocates of justice, mercy and compassion by the Israeli government towards the Palestinian people, and advocates of the same by the Palestinian government towards their own people. There are many ways we can be a blessing to the Palestinian people. But it simply will not be a blessing to them — or to any nation or people group around the world — to support dividing the Land of Israel in disobediance to God’s Word.
You and I are passionate advocates of justice for Israel because of what the Bible teaches. We must also be passionate advocates of justice from Israel because of what the Bible teaches. This does not mean Israel should divide the Land. This does not mean Israel should ignore her real and serious security needs. But too often, Christians who love Israel are not aware of — or sufficiently concerned about and responsive to — the plight of the Palestinian people, and particularly the struggles of the Palestinian believers.
- Are some of the political, moral and historical charges of the Palestinians against Israel overblown? Yes.
- Is some of the rhetoric of the Palestinians against Israel, Jews and Christians who love Israel hyperbolic and unfair? Yes.
- But are the Palestinian people struggling in real and very painful ways? Yes – the truth is they are. And we should care because Jesus cared.
- Much of this struggle has been caused by the unwise and ungodly choices of their leaders….and their Arab and Islamic allies in the region….and by the terror groups in their midst.
- But is some of this pain sometime caused by – or exacerbated by — Israeli mistakes….excesses….and even sins? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Again, this does not mean the Land should be divided…That does not mean a sovereign Palestinian state should be created….It does mean that followers of Jesus Christ should care about justice and mercy for the Jews and for the Palestinians, and for all of Israel’s neighbors who are suffering in this fallen world….After all, while the Bible clearly explains that the Lord will bring the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel and allow them to reclaim their God-given ownership of the Land, nowhere in the Bible are Jews (or any group of people) given a license to commit injustice.
- To the contrary, the Bible teaches Israel to love her neighbors (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19).
- The Bible also teaches Israel to love her neighbors and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44).
The Jewish people do have rights to the ownership of the Land, but they also have responsibilities to govern justly and compassionately, in accordance with the Scriptures.
- In Leviticus 19:13, for example, the Lord says: “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.”
- Leviticus 19:15 — “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”
- Leviticus 19:33-34 — “When a stranger [non-Jew] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
- Exodus 22:21-24 – “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry and My anger will be kindled….”
Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ need to not just preach but also to practice sound Bible doctrine regarding Israel and the Palestinians….We need to love both….bless both….pray for both….We need to stand with and encourage our brothers and sisters in the Messiah whether they are Jewish or Arab….The Bible gives us no freedom to ignore, deny, or oppose our brothers and sisters on either side….Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
We need to be pro-actively building relationships with Israelis and Palestinians….we need to be faithful ambassadors of Christ….we need to be true agents of reconciliation whenever and wherever possible….We do not have to agree with everything that our brothers and sisters believe — especially if those beliefs are unscriptural — but we are commanded to love them unconditionally and sacrificially….We are commanded to see struggle and suffering and respond in love and compassion, whether it’s a Jewish person in pain or an Arab.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus loves the Jews….Jesus loves the Arabs….Jesus loves the Iranians….Jesus loves the Druze, the Bedouins, and all who live in the epicenter….Jesus died for all….Jesus rose again for all….Jesus is coming back again to this city for all…The Day of the Lord is coming….surely it is near….Joel teaches us that the Day of the Lord is a day of great sadness and judgment for those who reject the Lord and disobey His Word….But Joel also teaches us that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”
Please continue to be praying for the Palestinian people — that God may show them His grace and favor and mercy in a real and special way, and that the Church will show them God’s love, too. These are precious people loved by our Lord and need so much better than they have gotten over the years.
- Come to Israel in 2013 with The Joshua Fund to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, and to attend the next Epicenter Conference — click here for more details
- Please prayerfully consider helping The Joshua Fund care for the poor and needy in Israel, care for people affected by Operation Pillar of Defense, teach the Word of God in the epicenter, educate and mobilize Christians around the world to bless poor and needy Israelis, train pastors and ministry leaders in Egypt, strengthen the believers in Syria, and prepare for the next major war in the Middle East — would you make a generous, tax deductible financial contribution to The Joshua Fund?
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