The holiness of Israel

Written by Stan Goodenough

Posted on Thursday 6 January 2011

Some Christians are so bugged by Israel that they suffer in their health.

They are bugged at the Jews being “God’s Chosen People.” It irks them no end that their God calls Israel His “special treasure.” And as for Him referring to them as “a holy nation!” Well!

Also hard to stomach is the Almighty’s affixing of the name of their founding fathers to His own great and holy Name: He is forever “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” He is “The God of Israel” and “The LORD God of the armies of Israel.”

He is not “The God of George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.” He is not known as “The God of England or the God of France.” And He most certainly does not go by the title “The God of the armies of NATO.”

Man! That really gets under some people’s skin – under some CHRISTIANS’ skin!

Apparently such Christians struggle with a sense of inferiority, lacking an understanding of what it means to have received “the spirit of adoption.” Israel being “the chosen” means they – these gentiles – must somehow be second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God.

Instead of recognizing and confronting their own fears, these Christians – who sadly are not few in number – look for reasons to discredit Israel: Today’s Jews surely cannot be the true physical descendants of those who were driven from the land 2000 years ago. They are fakes; their claim to having an ancient history in the Land of Israel is fraudulent.

Proof is to be found in the spiritual state of the nation today. Somehow forgetting the often-depraved state of their own countrymen – many of who likewise claim to be “Christian” – they point with shaking fingers at the immorality and corruption in Israel and declare with conviction:

“There’s nothing holy about them!”

Wrong, dear gentile onlooker and critic: Israel is holy. She is a holy nation. She is holy because God designated her as holy.

Because, simply put, there are two ways to be holy: The first is being holy by divine designation. That is, a vessel, object, person or nation is holy if it has been set-apart, or sanctified by God; has been given a God-ordained special and specific purpose.

The second meaning of being holy is as a verb. This way can exclusively be acted out by human beings: A person is holy if he behaves in a way that reflects the holiness of the Lord. “Be holy as I am holy.”

Israel is a holy nation first in the first sense of the word. From the calling out of Abraham Israel has been set apart by God; sanctified by His act and will, for His purposes. It’s entirely a God thing.

Israel’s holiness in this sense has to do with her calling, not her behavior. She is holy by dint of her designation.

Her behavior – the behavior of Jewish individuals and the behavior of the nation – where unholy, has never affected the nation’s set-apartness. It cannot. Her set-apartness is set in stone. God made it everlasting.

What her unholy behavior has and does affect is: a) how Israel reflects God to the world and, b) how God treats her and deals with her: Will she enjoy His blessing and dwell peaceably in the land He gave her forever, or will she labor under His curse far away in exile from it?

I am not, and never have been, blinded on the issue of national Israel’s spiritual state. Yes, the people who comprise this nation are sinners, just like the people who make up the South African nation and the American nation and every other nation on earth are sinners.

As in every other country, we have organized crime, murders, prostitution, burglary, drug peddling and abuse, cases of violent assault. The prisons are full. There is an aggressive homosexual movement here; abortion is widespread. And successive governments in Israel have been plagued (it seems increasingly) like “normal” democratic governments elsewhere. In all layers of the political echelon there has been corruption, abuse of office, immoral activity and cronyism.

However, there is also the other side. Millions of Israel’s Jews are truly God-fearing men, women and children. Their lives exhibit high standards of holy behavior often far exceeding those of great numbers of professing Christians ‘out there.’

Take the settlers. Yes, you heard me right. The settlers: those universally despised and hated Israelis who are portrayed as the worst villains of the piece; those “obstacles to peace” with the effrontery to build their homes and communities on “occupied Arab lands.”

Please note – I do not put this behavior in with Israel’s “sins.” And do you know why? Because the settlements are not an expression of sinfulness; they’re an expression of holiness, of faith.

Why? What do I mean?

It’s pretty straightforward: The Jews whose homes dot the Judean and Samarian hills are there (by and large) in obedience to the biblical command that they settle those lands. They take God at His word when He promises the territory to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s descendants forever – which they are. (How many Christians take God at His written word these days?) And they refuse to be intimidated off the land by a hysterical world accusing them of being occupiers because they know the charge to be untrue. They suffer no guilty conscience about being there because they are not guilty of anything. The accusation that they have stolen Arab land is, plainly and simply, false.

Let me tell you something: If the United States had proportionally as many truly God-fearing Christian citizens as Israel has truly God-fearing Jews that country would be unrecognizable from what it is today. America would truly be a city set on a hill.

Be that all as it may – let me make a profound statement that may shock some readers: Even if Israel, through the settlements, WAS guilty of building on Arab lands; even if Jews were stealing Arab lands, that behavior would not affect the holiness of Israel insofar as her separation for the purposes of God goes.

Get this. Israel is holy because she has a national calling. This never changed in the past when she became corrupt and even downright wicked and God drove her into exile. There were terribly painful consequences for her behavior, but that behavior did not negate her calling.

This, then, is another bedrock principle we need to keep in mind as we try and assess, understand, and seek to flow with God’s purposes for the Jewish people: Just as the Jews cannot forfeit ownership of the land of Israel by their behavior, so too can the Jews not forfeit their holy designation by their behavior.

I am thankful that the Jews in Samaria and Judea are NOT guilty of land theft; that the blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be laid at their doors. I am glad that I know the truth, that those lands have never been Arab lands; that they were illegally occupied by the Jordanians and before that they were under the British Mandate and before that they were part of the Ottoman Empire and before that they were part of different Muslim empires and Crusader kingdoms but they were NEVER Arab lands and they were never part of an Arab country called Palestine.

And way back, from time immemorial, long before the Islam-inspired Arabs came pouring out of Arabia to occupy the Middle East, these lands were Jewish.

By settling those lands today the Jews – members of that always holy nation – are living in obedience to God – are living holy lives.

This we should get straight.