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John Piper: Why Jews Don’t Have a Divine Right to the Land Anymore

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Ten years ago, John Piper held a sermon on Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. It was a hot topic then and may be an even more hot topic now, and I really recommend you to read it. It may not be any convincing for Jews themselves, since they don’t believe in the New Testament, but Piper gives a good case why Christians should not think that Israel has to occupy Gaza and the West Bank in order for Jesus to come back, but instead support a solution that secures the safety and peace of both Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how the borders look like. Below, I qoute point 3-5 from Piper’s seven-point sermon:

3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.

This was the point of Romans 9. When Paul grieved over the lostness of so many Jews who were rejecting Jesus and were perishing, he said in verses 6-7, “It is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.” In other words, the promises cannot be demanded by anyone just because he is Jewish. Jewish ethnicity has a place in God’s plan, but it is not enough to secure anything. It does not in itself qualify a person to be an heir of the promise to Abraham and his offspring. Romans 9:8  says it clearly: “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Being born Jewish does not make one an heir of the promise—neither the promise of the Land nor any other promise.

This was plain in the Old Testament, and it was plain the teachings of Jesus (which we will see under truth #4). For example, in the terrible list of curses that God promised to bring on the people if they broke his covenant and forsook him was this: “ And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it” (Deuteronomy 28:63 ). Throughout the history of Israel, covenant breaking and disobedience and idolatry disqualified Israel from the present divine right to the Land. (See also Daniel 9:4-7 ; Psalm 78:54-61 .)

Be careful not to infer from this that Gentile nations (like Arabs) have the right to molest Israel. God’s judgments on Israel do not sanction human sin against Israel. Israel still has human rights among nations even when she forfeits her present divine right to the Land. Remember that nations which gloated over her divine discipline were punished by God (Isaiah 10:5-13 ; Joel 3:2 ).

So the promise to Abraham that his descendants will inherit the Land does not mean that all Jews inherit that promise. It will come finally to the true Israel, the Israel that keeps covenant and obeys her God.

4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.

When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ [that is, the Jewish Messiah], the Son of the living God.” And Jesus responded to him, “ Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17 ). And when the high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus answered, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61-62 ).

But even though Jesus was the Messiah and did many mighty works and taught with great authority and fulfilled Old Testament promises, nevertheless the people of Israel as a whole rejected him. This was the most serious covenant-breaking disobedience that Israel had ever committed in all her history.

This is why Jesus told the parable of the tenants who killed the Landlord’s son when he came for his harvest, and ended that parable with these words to Israel in Matthew 21:43 , “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” And it’s why he said inMatthew 8:11-12 , after seeing the faith of a Gentile centurion and the unbelief of Israel, “Many [Gentiles] will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Israel has broken covenant with her God and is living today in disobedience and unbelief in his Son and her Messiah. That is why Paul says in Romans 11:28 , “As regards the gospel [the good news of the Messiah] they are enemies of God.”

5. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.

This follows from all we have said so far, and the implication it has for those of us who believe the Bible and trust Christ as our Savior and as the Lord of history, is that we should not give blanket approval to Jewish or to Palestinian actions. We should approve or denounce according to Biblical standards of justice and mercy among peoples. We should encourage our representatives to seek a just settlement that takes the historical and social claims of both peoples into account. Neither should be allowed to sway the judgments of justice by a present divine claim to the land. If you believe this, it would be helpful for your representatives to know it.

We are not whitewashing terrorism and we are not whitewashing Jewish force. Nor is there any attempt on my part to assess measures of blame or moral equivalence. That’s not my aim. My aim is to put the debate on a balanced footing in this sense: neither side should preempt the claims of international justice by the claim of present divine rights. Working out what that justice will look like is still a huge and daunting task. I have not solved that problem. But I think we will make better progress if we do not yield to the claim of either side to be ethnically or nationally sanctioned by God in their present conflict.

In another article, Piper writes:

Israel as a whole today rejects her Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s Son. This is the ultimate act of covenant-breaking with God. God promised that to Israel “a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7). But with tears this Prince of Peace looked out over Jerusalem and said, “Would that you . . . had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. . . . You did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).

When the builders rejected the beautiful Cornerstone, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). He explained, “Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:11-12)

God has saving purposes for ethnic Israel (Romans 11:25-26). But for now the people are at enmity with God in rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, their Messiah (Romans 11:28). God has expanded his saving work to embrace all peoples (including Palestinians) who will trust his Son and depend on his death and resurrection for salvation. “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:29-30).

The Christian plea in the Middle East to Palestinians and Jews is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). And until that great day when both Jewish and Gentile followers of King Jesus inherit the earth (not just the land), without lifting sword or gun, the rights of nations should be decided by the principles of compassionate and public justice, not claims to national divine right or status.

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4 Comments

  1. Supersessionist theology is always bad theology – neither peace nor justice is possible with Piper’s satanic views.

  2. jeremiah says:

    Danny, what is satanic about his views? That is quite a charge.

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Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

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