How Should Christians Think About Israel?

Since Hamas launched a terrorist war on the nation of Israel we have seen a lot of Christians coming out in support of our ally in Middle East based on theological convictions, Pastor Matt asks if this is a correct interpretation of the Bible.

On October 7, 2023 Hamas attacked Israel causing hundreds of death on that day and the number is only climbing. It caused many Christians to take up the defense of Israel, not only as an ally of America, but also as God’s chosen people. The statement, “Israel is God’s chosen people” is theological, finding its supposed support in the Old Testament, and it is not correct according to the Bible.

Israel was always more about faith than blood. As you look through the Old Testament this truth bears itself out. Abraham was father to Ishmael first and then to Isaac, yet only Isaac was part of Israel (excuse the anachronism as Israel, i.e. Jacob, wasn’t born yet). What was the difference? Faith in the promises of God. And then Isaac had two sons, Esau first and Jacob second, but only Jacob was part of Israel. What was the difference? Faith in the promises of God. And then you have the instances of Old Testament gentile conversions: Ruth, Rahab, Naaman, and others that aren’t so prominent. How could they be considered Israel without being born an Israelite? Faith in the promises of God.

Supporting Israel in this war or any war shouldn’t be founded upon a theological reason that identifies Israel as the chosen people, because it just doesn’t hold weight. But we should support Israel during war for several political and practical reasons, along with a theological reason.

First, Israel is a sovereign nation defending herself from a terrorist organization. There should be no one who sides with Hamas over Israel, or any nation, based on this fact alone. Sovereign nations have a duty to protect their borders and citizens–those are the bare minimum standards of what it means to be a sovereign nation.

Second, Israel is America’s ally. We have many allies around the world and we should honor our commitments to be an ally when an ally is needed.

Third, Israel is ideologically western in thought, valuing individual freedom, human rights, and a basically western economic understanding that resists communism, totalitarianism, and fascism. The United states has a vested interest in promoting these ideals in the world, especially in a region where those ideals are not commonly held like the Middle East. (And I would add this western understanding of how the world works best is most in line with what scripture teaches.)

Fourth, and last, this is the theological, biblical reason for supporting Israel. We are told to be good citizens in the Bible, which means as citizens of the world we should be concerned with the general welfare of sovereign nations and the elimination of terrorist actions and terrorist nation. For support, I refer to Romans 13:1-5, for the authority to do its job over us we must submit to it as good citizens. Romans 13 expresses a relationship between the citizens and the state, one of submission by the citizen and protection by the state. Part of the state’s duty is to honor their commitments in the world, combat terrorism, and promote its political and national identity.

I realize that many of us (yes, me too!) grew up or attended a church that taught we should always support Israel, because they are “God’s chosen people” so I will return to this topic again soon. Blessings and Coram Deo!