Allen Jackson - Israel and the Purposes of God - Part 1
I wanna talk a little bit about Israel and what's happening, and some of it is not great news. But I wanted to start on a little lighter note with an email I got this morning from a friend in Israel. He's a businessman but he also pastors a church, a man of significant influence but, for several years, we have shared a bit with them and they have done youth camps in Israel for the Christian young people. And that's a limited number of people and they're very... it's the only opportunity I know like it in Israel. And very unexpectedly, this morning, this email was in my inbox and I'll share a bit of it with you. It says:
Dear Pastor Allen and the brothers and sisters of World Outreach, shalom from Jerusalem. Last week, I prepared this thank you letter to send to you. That was before the state of Israel was attacked by Hamas terrorists close to the Gaza border. I'm sure you've received updates about our present situation from reliable news sources and Christian websites. As you can imagine, we're in constant prayer for our country and the safety of our soldiers, and I'm sure you are as well. May the God of heaven and earth watch over Israel during these days of uncertainty. Although we find ourselves in this present conflict in Israel, we don't want to delay expressing our thanks to you for your support and prayers for our summer camps and youth conferences. Therefore, on behalf of the Messianic Assembly of Jerusalem, we'd like to take this opportunity to express our gratefulness to you and your church for supporting our summer camp and team conference programs.
And I woke up with a heavy heart for Israel and my friends there, and I open my emails and here's one of our friends going, "We had a wonderful summer". "As Paul says in Philippians, 'I thank my God every time I remember you.' In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. We don't take your partnership for granted and would like to share with you how your prayers and contributions made this past summer so special for so many children and teens. God blessed us with a successful summer program and we owe him all the glory. May the Lord continue to bless you and us together as we reach out to the next generation of believers in Israel. Blessings and love in the Messiah".
And he attached a bit of a formal report. I won't read all of that to you but I'll show you just a snippet of it. "We praise God for a record number of 160 teenagers this year at our Sukkot Conference," which they've just finished the Sukkot holiday. "These conferences were supported by prayer warriors from all over Israel and by you. The Lord continues to move in the hearts of the people of Israel. The body of Messiah in the land is still relatively small, compared to the rest of the population. The number of believers is approximately 20,000, out of more than 9 million Israeli citizens. This means that many of our children and teens attend schools where they are the only ones from a believing home. And that the only time they're able to fellowship with their peers is at a congregational service once a week. Our summer sleepaway camp gives the children a chance to spend an entire week away from home, along with other kids who share the same belief in Jesus. They get to have a bit of fun while learning about the Lord".
He goes on to share about that. And then he says: "Throughout this last summer, the camp served approximately 500 kids from grades 1 through 8. Every Sunday, new children arrived with their bags packed and were ready to spend a week away from home. They were greeted by counselors along with camp aides and staff who helped them to their cabins and introduced them to their bunkmates. Nearly all the counselors and camper aides were once campers themselves and can tell stories of how much these weeks away impacted their lives and were instrumental in their own coming-to-faith experiences".
Now that seems simple to us. We do camps all the time. But to have camps of young people in Israel who were believers in Jesus is the fulfillment of scripture. I assure you that is better news than all the bad news that's come out since Hamas broke through out of Gaza. The Lord is moving in the Earth, and you have to pay attention and you have to fight this to maintain your awareness of that. He's not moving absent expressions of evil or violence or hate, but in the midst of all of that, God is moving, I smile. That is... that's not a... that sets... Easy for me to say. That set of statements, I don't believe I could have made at any other time in my life. That young people and families would gather in a public way, for a non-Jew to share their faith with an Israeli child, would get you tossed out of the country. But for the believers in Israel to be organizing camps for the kids and they could invite their friends, and we can simply say, you know, "How can we stand with you in that"? is a tremendous honor.
So thank you for your prayers. I know many of you have been praying for Israel. We've been doing this little series on "Stepping Out of the Crowd," and what does that mean. I think for too long we've been coached to be a part of the crowd. Find a church and join in. Find a denomination and be a part of it. And we've imagined that if you joined the right congregation or you stepped into the right denomination, you were golden. And I've been doing my best to disavow you of that notion. I'm quite confident there are people who attend church here who will not be prepared for the kingdom of God. And I don't say that with any joy. I say that with tremendous grief and significant anxiety. But sitting in this building or surviving one of my sermons does not mean you get a more ready acceptance.
You may get a bigger crown if you're born again, but it won't give you any more, won't give you any status. And I think for too long we've believed that. That if we could just join the right group, and you can fill in the blanks on that, whether it was Protestant or Catholic or Reformed or Arminian or... I mean, we subdivide in so many, many ways. And it seems to me that the invitation to be a Christ follower was an invitation to step out from the crowd. Jesus made it really clear when he talked about broad roads and big gates and lots of people, and narrow paths and small gates and only a few people. The language is very clear. It's just uncomfortable for us so we kind of gloss over it and move along. And we've been trying to imagine some ways, what that would look like, and since current events are what they are, I'm gonna do this session around the people of Israel, the Jewish people, and what it means to step out of the crowd and be their advocates.
I promise you, if you decide to be a public advocate for the Jewish people, you are stepping out of the crowd. It has been far more popular for many, many years, to be an antagonist or an opponent of the Jewish people, and particularly the state of Israel. If you don't believe that, begin to use your voice as an advocate for them and watch the responses. But biblically, I believe there's a reason for that. And I think we need a biblical perspective and understanding of what's happening right now. There's a war in Israel and it's going to escalate before it is diminished. And we're gonna need a bit of perspective. There's an opportunity in this to talk to our friends about our faith and why it matters, and why our biblical worldview, our Judeo-Christian worldview, matters. And to help us interpret what's happening, because if the only sources you have are the typical media outlets, you'll be at best confused, and at worst intentionally misled.
So we'll take a few minutes. We can't unpack it completely but we can at least begin the discussion. As of today, and the numbers are changing, day to day, and depending on the sources you have, but there's more than 1000 Israelis who are dead. Hamas, which is a terror organization recognized internationally by the UN, the United States, internationally as a terrorist organization, they are the leading, they are the primary political influence in the Gaza Strip. There are citizens there who don't belong to Hamas but they have very little authority and power. The Israelis have been saying for days, through text message, every form of messaging that they can access, into the Gaza Strip, they've been telling the local citizens to evacuate because there's a response coming and they don't want any citizens to be there.
Hamas, on the other hand, who have the power and authority in the Gaza Strip, don't want anyone leaving because they wanna be able to take video of the citizens that are gonna be caught in the crossfire when the Israeli response begins. And so they're doing everything in their power to limit the opportunity for the people to flee. It's hard to imagine, but that is reality. Hamas broke, they cut through the border fences with Gaza and with trucks and motorcycles and every variety of equipment, they came to the settlements that were nearest them and slaughtered the people in those villages: men, women, and children. More than 1000 dead. There have been dozens taken hostage in very threatening ways. It's one of the most barbaric things we have seen in recent days. And there's been ample news coverage if you're just paying a little bit of attention.
And there are protests in major American cities against Israel and on behalf of the people of Gaza. Our own secretary of state, within hours of that event, posted publicly, asking for a ceasefire. At that point, there was really only fire on one side of the... he took it down, but if you wanted the opinion of the State Department, it was expressed in public. It is not just troubling. There are, at this point, the last report I had, there were 22 Americans dead and many more held hostage. If nothing else had happened, I would be expecting the leaders of our nation to be saying something along the lines, "If those 22 people aren't delivered safely into the hands of someone neutral within hours, there will be repercussions that you cannot escape". But we haven't said that.
Women were murdered in their homes. This took place on a Jewish holiday. It was the conclusion of their high holy days. It began with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the last of that holiday season is a celebration when they finish the reading of the Torah cycle. And so it was a holiday. The families were in their homes. They were less vigilant that you would be in a normal time. It's not an exact comparison but it would be more like our attitude on a New Year's Day at the end of all of the Christmas and, you know, kind of an extended holiday season, and it's that last gathering before you re-engage with routine. And they chose that day, knowing that the vigilance would be lower and that the families would be gathered. And they destroyed whole communities. They have murdered children, there's multiple instances where they have beheaded babies. It's beyond barbaric. It's a physical expression of evil.
I don't think there's another way to understand it. The IDF, the Israeli Defense Force is comprised predominantly of reserves. They don't maintain a standing army large enough to defend the country, so when there's a great threat they have to mobilize their young people, their military, and there are about 800,000 Israelis that have been mobilized. They travel a great deal. It's a holiday time. They've had to bring them back from the nations of the world. Somebody gave me a report today of a man standing in a major European airport at a ticket counter and everybody that came up with an IDF identification, he bought their ticket home. They've been coming back from all over the world, young people. They're gonna take their place in defending the future of their nation.
I think one thing that's important for us to understand, is that Israel exists as a homeland for the Jewish people. In 70 AD, 70 CE, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem, and in 135, the Jews that were remaining rebelled again, only that time, Rome refused to allow the Jews to even live in Jerusalem. So from 70 until 1948, the Jewish people had no homeland, which means they had no defender. They had no advocate. In anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people has found many, many, many expressions. Just a casual glance at history, it becomes very apparent. We know the more egregious expressions, most of them we don't know or know little about. The Spanish Inquisition, it began in the 15th century, and ultimately resulted in all the Jews of Spain being expelled.
Now that was after many of them were forced to convert, under a threat of torture, to Christianity. Some refusing to convert, were murdered. But the bulk of the Jewish population was expelled from the nation, not because of any wrongdoing or any malicious intent. Simply because of their Jewish ethnicity. And they forfeited their property and their homes and their resources. They fled with what they could carry. But it wasn't limited to Spain. Across Europe, the Jews were treated poorly. Shakespeare, if those of you who would be Shakespearian scholars, I am not, Shylock, one of his villains, was Jewish. A miserly, greedy, dishonest character. Very clearly pointed at the Jewish people. In Russia, the pogroms. It was very common if there was a drought, if there was a crop failure, if there was a series of storms, if something beset the people, it wasn't unusual for the orthodox priest to blame it on the Jewish people, and the Cossacks would ride through the villages, murdering the Jews.
Some of you have seen expression of that, either in the movie or the play, "Fiddler on the Roof". The list goes on and on and on. The most celebrated of those events would have been the Holocaust in World War II when the Jewish population of Europe was rounded up, shipped to extermination camps, and 6 million Jews died. It wasn't just the Jews from Germany. It was the Jews from throughout Europe. It's unimaginable for us that they would come into a community and begin to round up an ethnic population and to put them in train cars and to transport them someplace where they're going to be destroyed. But there was no one to speak for them. There was no one to raise a hand. If you visit the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, they have trees planted around the perimeter and there's one for the right among the Gentiles, those men and women that they knew who stood up on behalf of the Jewish people.
And every time I've been there with an Israeli friend, they ask the same awkward question: Why are there so few trees? Some of you may have seen the movie, "Schindler's List". Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, spent his fortune during the war to rescue a group of Jewish people in the factories that he could control. So the hatred of the Jewish people, anti-Semitism, has existed and, at the end of World War II, when the horrors of the atrocity of the Holocaust became public knowledge, there was some international sentiment to provide a place for the Jewish people to gather, and the modern state of Israel was born.
And they will tell you, if you visit today, it's a secular state. They don't intend to make it a religious state. Tel Aviv is the gay capital of Europe. But they intend for it to be a homeland for the Jewish people so when there's persecution or there's a threat to the Jewish people or an attack against the Jewish people, there is a party who will respond. And if there's an attack on a group of Jewish people anywhere in the world, I assure you the nation of Israel takes note. And with more than 1000 of their people slaughtered, babies and children and women, and hostages taken and being abused in the most heinous ways, I promise you there's a response coming.
And there will be a hue and cry from the nations of the world that is disproportional. A thousand Israeli citizens being murdered would be something in excess of more than 25,000 American citizens being murdered, if we take population bases in comparison. We lost 2000 people in 9/11. I'm not minimizing that, it was a horrific, cowardly attack on our nation. But we leveled the nation of Iraq after that. So there is a response coming. It takes them a bit of time to mobilize and I'm sure there are plans being made. But that is next, and it will unfold and you should anticipate there being loud voices screaming that it's unfair, illegitimate, and it'll be difficult to maintain your bearings. It isn't clear yet whether Israel's enemies to the North in Syria and Lebanon, Hezbollah resides there.
Hezbollah is a Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization, armed with weapons from Russia and Iran. And if they engage, there'll be thousands more rockets rained down on Israel from the northern borders. That's not clear yet. It wouldn't surprise me at all, but it would be an escalation of great significance, if that were to happen. And once you light the fuse on a war, it's never clear what the outcome will be. We just gave as a nation, $6 billion to Iran who is recognized internationally as a global sponsor of terror. We haven't been enforcing the sanctions against them so where they were pumping a very minute amount of oil, they've been pumping millions of barrels of oil and gaining the revenue from that. There's no way to trace the dollars we gave them, to the armaments that have been used to slaughter innocent Israelis, but it's impossible to ignore the fact that that kind of an affirmation from our government provides them with the hubris to take the steps that we see.
You have to be willfully ignorant or refuse to see to not acknowledge that. So what happens in the North will make a huge different in the next few days. It's not clear. I think there is a lesson for the Christians that I wouldn't want us to miss. The Israelis will respond because of the heinous attack against their innocent civilians. The most persecuted religious group in the world today are the Christians. There's more than 300 million Christians suffering persecution. There are thousands of Christians being killed on an annual basis, multiple nations of the world... I did a series of interviews last week for a program that'll air in a couple of weeks, but from Nigeria to India to Pakistan, throughout the Middle East, many places in North Africa.
I talked to a man in Nigeria. It's the most populous country in Africa and he said, "Boko Haram comes and takes our daughters, kidnaps them, does the most heinous things to them, and there's no intervention". Our government took them off the list of nations where the Christians were persecuted. I asked nation after nation, I said, "Does our State Department make a difference," and they said, "They could, but they seem disinterested". And we should understand that when Christians suffer and when Christians were persecuted, we don't get the response that we're seeing mobilize right now in Israel. There are very few places where we'll raise our voice. We're indifferent. We're ambivalent. We're distracted. It's embarrassing, it's embarrassing.
They asked me to do the interviews last week because they said, "There's no major news programming that is willing to do more than a 30-second soundbite". And they said, "We'd like to be able to tell the story in a little bit broader way". So the question that comes immediately is, "Well, what can I do? I'm just one person". The best way I know to stand on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world is to honor your biblical worldview in your home. You see, at the end of the day, governments don't protect us. God does. And God will respond to the hearts of his people if we will walk uprightly before him. But you can't walk in ungodliness. You can't compromise. You can't willingly ignore the truth that you know and imagine that God's protection will watch over you.
And so, if we wanna make a choice that will bring freedom and liberty to our friends and brothers and sisters around the world, we'll have to choose to bring that biblical worldview to our kitchen table. We'll have to bring it to our house. If we'll do that, I trust God to clean up the White House. But if we focus someplace else and imagine we can live any way we want, we forfeit our liberties and our freedoms. What we're watching is a microcosm of what will be directed against all of us. Iran clearly tells us what their intents are. They are in full pursuit of a nuclear weapon. We're facilitating that at the moment.
And they publicly say as soon as they have access to that nuclear weapon, that they intend to destroy the great Satan, that would be us, and the little Satan, that's Israel. But Israel's their secondary target, we're the primary target. So we have a presentation of what they would sanction. When the attacks took place in those communities along Gaza, they celebrated in the streets in Iran. It's uncomfortable, it's awkward, it's the world we live in, and worldview matters. It truly does. The belief that every human being is an image-bearer of God and that every human being has an innate dignity, regardless of how they look or the accent with which they speak. The sanctity of human life.
And the church in America has been distracted. We do our polite Bible studies and we wanna continue with our lives as if our worldview is really not that significant a thing. We wanna go to heaven, we wanna get that straightened out, but then beyond that, we're pretty easily distracted. And I would submit to you we are at a pivot point in the direction of civilization, and the outcome's going to be determined by the responses of God's people far more than it is the UN. And if we forfeit our liberties and freedoms, it won't be because evil triumphed; it will be because the church stumbled. You're not powerless. You are of incredible significance. Now, let's pray before we do:
Heavenly Father, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Send your angels to stand guard and to watch over the inhabitants of the land. I pray for your church in the earth, that we will stand up for truth, for your worldview, to honor one another in the love of Christ, in Jesus's name, amen.