I feel compelled to respond to last Saturday's column "I stand with Israel" by Gordon Smith. Basically, it is a good article, however it contains several inaccuracies. Because of space limitations, I will only focus on the religious aspects.
The "chosen people" concept is misunderstood. The purpose of being "chosen" is to serve God. With every privilege there is a binding responsibility.
First, there were many nations during biblical times – e.g. Greece, Rome, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonian with civilizations at the top in might, prominence, and technology – which would have been candidates to witness for God. Not really.
If God was looking for a better-equipped nation with the best qualifications, Israel would be the poorest choice. God makes something out of nothing and somebody out of nobody. Why? So that no flesh should glory in his presence ("he who glories, let him glory in the Lord" 1 Cor. 1:29, 31).
That is why the pharaoh of Egypt could not comprehend that God the creator of the whole universe would choose slaves to rescue the Israelites from their dire oppression and make them his "chosen people." In a nutshell, God's rule through history is best illustrated in Jer. 18:9-10: "And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to build and to plant it, if it do evil in my sight that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them."
In Numbers 14:21, God was about to destroy the Israelites because of disobedience and rebellion and to establish a line from Moses and still keep Abraham's promise – a situation of destruction of the Israelites that proves that God does not have a favorite nation. History tells us that the nation of Israel failed to rise to the dignity of its high calling.
I would like to remind the dispensational premillenialiast teachers that the New Testament uses the word "chosen" 30 times, not once referring to the nation of Israel. When God gives a gift, he can also withdraw it when his word is not honored.
Second, Mr. Smith presents a "strange god" who in the past was capable, omnipotent, guards his people. What has happened in the last 2,500 years? Has He stopped performing what they expect him to perform? The truth is people expect God to suit and satisfy their own needs. This is the equivalent of people in a cafeteria line picking the food they like, and leaving what they don't like to the people behind them.
Third, the actual reign of the Jewish kingdom was 560 years, which includes both the Davidic and the Mcabean reign. This land was inhabited continuously since the stone age by other Nomads, not by Jews.
Jews were one of many invaders who conquered this land. God allowed the defeat of seven wicked nations which occupied this land, and was given to the Israelites, and that was conditional ("the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants" Leviticus 25:23).
It comes with a grim and repeated warning: "And if you defile the land it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you" Lev. 18:28.
There is more "after you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land for a long time, if you become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the lord. The lord will scatter you among the peoples and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the lord will drive you" (Deut. 4:25-27).
The same warning was repeated at the grand dedication of Solomon's temple. "If you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and the decrees I have given you – then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my name" (1 kings 9:6,7).
God will never be mocked. This principal applies to both the old and new testaments.
Fourth, this land does not belong exclusively neither to the Jews, nor to the Muslims. Ironically, both Israeli and Arab claims are not exactly in order when viewed both theologically and historically.
Fifth, the current conflict between the Israelites and the Palestinians is more than a dispute concerning the ownership of a parcel of land. While Arabs and Jews both share the blood of Abraham, they claim that: a) each alone is exclusively the chosen people of God; b) each alone is exclusively the rightful owners of the land; c) that each alone is carrying out the will of God; and d) that God is on their side exclusively, and the others are foes of God.
If king Solomon was alive today I doubt he would be able to solve this puzzle. He might delegate it and send it to 'Dear Abby'!
I support Israel's right to exist. Israel has done wonders in the last 60 years, including raising a prosperous economy. Israel has more democracy than any Arab country, even to 1.5 million Arab-Israelis who carry Israeli citizenship, a situation that should put many Arab countries to shame. When the Israeli president broke the law, he was tried and indicted.
Israel has nuclear capability to destroy all the Arab countries 100 times over. However that will not bring peace to Israel.
Someone commented that peace is that brief glorious moment in history when every body stands around reloading. Herbert Hoover asserted that "peace is not made at the council tables or by treaties but in the hearts of men."
Peace cannot be achieved with a mere signature on papers. Matthew Henry, the great commentator, correctly stated "What peace can they have who are not at peace with God." King Solomon, inspired by God, said "when a man's ways pleases the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov. 16:7).
Concerning Iran having nuclear capabilities and threatening our allies, we stand assured that God is omnipotent (not impotent) and still "has the whole world in his hand."
Christians should be as peacemakers (but not a door mat) and not dragged into conflicts, especially when the information is less than accurate.
Dr. Amir Ghali
(Dr. Ghali, a Lehighton dentist, emigrated from Egypt to America 36 years ago, is a contributing writer on Middle East topics.)