I think you ought to visit Israel. I was given the opportunity last year, and I must admit that I had little expectations. I have been in many different countries, known a number of different cultures, and speak several different languages. Israel, I thought, was just one more country. The experience was over-rated. People who went there weren’t used to traveling so the whole Israel euphoria was due more to the newness of international travel, I reasoned, than to the actual merits of the country. Or, perhaps there was an element of superstition — even in saved believers — that subconsciously revered the whole nation of Israel as a giant reliquary. I didn’t need to do a “pilgrimage” to enhance my faith. Nonetheless, a gift is a gift and I happily received it in order to add to my repertoire of experiences. I was struck by three things:
First, there still remains a glory about the land that is palpable. R.C. Sproul calls the land the “arena of the incarnation.” You can sense the thrill of being where Jonah, Peter, Samson, Samuel, Solomon, and Jesus once were.
Secondly, I was moved by the brilliance of the Jew. Our guide was a Ph.D. from Harvard. He, like many others, had committed his mind and body (literally) to their cause, Zionism. I was reading LaQueur’s A History of Zionism at the time and was convicted by my slovenly dedication to the Kingdom of God compared to the Jews dedication to Zion.
Thirdly, I was heartbroken by the lost condition of the Jew and the Arab. Beautiful people. But sheep without a shepherd. Following, are excerpts from my journal that I scrawled out while on the bus. They were thoughts of a pilgrim — not a pilgrim to Israel, but a pilgrim to the Heavenly City who believes that “salvation is of the Jews” and who yearns to be committed to their Messiah. Here follow some scattered thoughts:
In the ancient city of Joppa. “And Jonah fled from the Presence of the Lord.” The expression occurs two times in Jonah 1:3. I recall that Hugh Martin has an interesting comment on this expression in his commentary on Jonah that will be worth reviewing when I get back, but the essence of it is this: God, who is omnipresent, did have a geographical location that not only represented, but was the place of His dwelling. Thus, was this land of Israel.
I have not been here twelve hours and I realize a thrill like the pleasure a young lover enjoys when he has walked into a room where his beloved once was. The fragrance, the faintest scent, of her presence that still lingers in the atmosphere instantly becomes the central attraction of the whole room. The room does not have to be anything special. Its “glory” is that it once contained the presence of that dear person.
Our guide is a brilliant man who has given his mind and body (he has war scars) for the cause of Zionism. . . When God gave me the dumb, witless, and mentally-challenged composite that I am, He left just a sliver of knowledge lodged in my psyche like an irritating hang-nail to consistently deny me the bliss of ignorance. My perpetual battle is to accept my low-level knowledge, inadequate education, and marginally functional brain. It’s a spiritual battle because contentment is a spiritual fruit. The greatest challenge for someone of my ineptitude who sinks under the responsibility to learn is where to begin. Like these people, I do not need to know why. They learn for the glory of Zion. I learn for the glory of God. But where to begin: That is the question. I read.
Friends often flatter me on my reading, wondering how I do so much of it. Little do they know that my basic strategy is to stubbornly read the next word until I’ve completed a book or exhausted my cerebral energy. A kindergartner could adopt the same strategy.
Reading about the intelligentsia behind the Zionist movement in A History of Zionism by Walter LaQueur is utterly depressing. Not merely because of their brain power, but because of their seemingly unlimited powers of concentration, focus, and perception. All this for what? Their lives were useful for many, but ultimately useless for themselves when they died a Christ-less death. My life, by the unmerited grace of God, is useful to myself in that I have learned and still learn to trust the Messiah. But is it really useful for anything else?
I suppose their usefulness is tragic because they died damned even though they helped man. My uselessness is tragic because I’ll die saved, but with little more than parasitical value to humanity. The only redeeming quality of my uselessness is that I prove the magnificent condescension of God who has loved me, called me, saved me, and will one day glorify me. That, perhaps, is my use. O, Lord, be glorified in my life.
My heart aches for the people I see. The Jew is proud and condescending. The Arab seems much more hospitable. I can immediately sense why the poor Arab dislikes America so much. We befriend a proud people. To what extent we are to love the Jew in a practical way is up for question, because to love them, in their minds, is to hate their enemies. Yet, the wall of partition has been broken down, and we should love all men. Or should we?
Does the Bible command us to love all men? It is probably clearer who we should hate – when a person is violently evil and blasphemous. But to love all men means that we will find a way to break down the obstacles that seem to make love for one and love for the other mutually exclusive. The obstacle between the Jew and the Arab Gentile is an utterly impregnable wall — not merely a centuries-long animosity and exchange of brutality (as if that were not difficult enough). But it is the entrenched conviction backed by Divine decree that not only can they not mix, but the mere existence of the other is a threat that justifies their immediate execution or elimination. Thus, God is glorified when His Son becomes the only, the only, hope of lasting reconciliation. However, the Jew and the Arab are joined in a bloody, suicidal unity in their agreement that Jesus of Nazareth is NOT Lord. Much like the young men of Joab and Abner who, in macabre unity, “each one grasped his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together” (2 Samuel 2:16).
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