Do Not Idolize Israel – the other replacement theology

“Everything is a poison if you eat too much of it.” Ever heard this expression? Anything we put in our bodies, no matter how good or healthy, is poisonous if we exaggerate. I believe the same to be true about what we put in our soul. Anything, no matter how good it is, can become an idol if we give it more focus than God. Even an amazing and good thing like love for Israel can turn into an idol.

If you have read anything of my blogs or articles in the past, you probably know that I love Israel a lot, and that I am strongly against replacement theology. Replacement theology is the false idea that God is done with Israel, and that the church has taken Israel’s place as the chosen people. There is no biblical evidence for this theology, and it has no basis in the Bible. Israel is and has always been God’s chosen people, and we Jews still have a significant role in his plan.

However, among the Israel-loving Christians, there is another replacement theology that goes too far in the other direction. The danger of idolizing Israel. Again – this danger is less serious than the rampant replacement theology in the church at large – but it is nevertheless an issue that should be addressed.

In order to provide an antidote against it, I thought I would give you a few pointers, what to look out for. Be careful if you ever hear any of these teachings:

  1. “Jews are better than us.” I have only heard this teaching by people who have never met Jews. I’m sorry, but this is not true, and can easily be disproven, both by the Bible and by… you know, just meeting one of us. People who believe this are always surprised when they visit Israel and get scammed by their cab driver. They somehow stay blissfully unaware that there are Israeli gang crimes, that there is an Israeli pornography industry, and that abortion is legal in Israel. (And if they do find out, that’s when they turn their backs on Israel). The Bible is very clear that God has chosen us not because of us being better than anyone else, but out of his grace. It’s quite typical of God really, he gave us salvation in the same way. We are the chosen people, yes, but we are NOT better people than others. Whenever I hear this teaching, as a Jew, I feel like running up like Paul and Barnabas and scream, “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you.” (Acts 14:15)
  2. “Israel can do no wrong.” Evangelicals who say this, and in the next breath oppose abortions and LGBT issues, are being a bit hypocrites. Are they not aware that there are abortions in Israel? Are they not aware that Tel-Aviv is known as the gay capital of the Middle East? Do they know of the many instances of discriminations against us believers? Of course we need to support Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, and of course Israel is in a war against terrorism and international unjust condemnations. But that doesn’t mean that the government of Israel can do no wrong. Israel is the Apple of God’s eye, and we need to love Israel just as God does. But love also needs to be tough sometimes. If you love Israel, you need to pray for a better future where Israel fulfills God’s plan to be a light unto the nations.
  3. “Israel always agrees with me.” No one actually says this out loud, but you might be able to identify the spirit of this saying. Some people, especially conservative Christians, seem to believe that Israel, a country with almost ten million people, has no disagreements and no inside debates, and that everyone in Israel agrees with all of this person’s political views. These people normally stop supporting Israel as soon as they find out about the Israeli gay parades, or the quick distribution of COVID-19 vaccine to the population, or when they hear that 80% of Israelis support Palestinian independence. These people never supported Israel in the first place. They just supported an imaginary idea they made up in their mind.
  4. Anything racist about Arabs or Palestinians. Seriously, stop it. The people that are most hurt by the harm of radical Islam are the Arabs and the Palestinians. It’s one thing to oppose a regime, idea, or religion. It’s a very different thing to dismiss people just for the race they belong to. You know we have saved brothers and sisters among them, right? I might have deep disagreements with many, or even most of my Arab brothers in Christ when it comes to replacement theology and Israel’s place in God’s heart, but we can still get along and love one another.

Why is this exaggerated love for Israel dangerous? One of them is that it easily relies on Israel’s expected behavior, which makes the support end abruptly as soon as the opposite is proven. This makes the support shaky at best and impossible at worst. Thank God he doesn’t judge us – or Israel – the same way. We are saved by grace, not work. In the same way, you need to support Israel based on grace, not works.

Another reason it’s dangerous is that it becomes idolatry and steals your focus from the cross. Peter focused on Jesus while walking on water. As soon as the focus went elsewhere, he started sinking. No matter how good the thing you focus on is, if it’s not Christ and him crucified, you are going to sink.

Don’t sink. Support Israel. Do it wholeheartedly and do it without conditions. And add some tough love here and there when needed. Jews are not better than you, and Israel can definitely do wrong decisions – but the land and the people are still the Apple of God’s eye, and he still expects you to love the people he loves – without conditions.

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