CP Opinion

Friday, Nov 28, 2014

My Journey to the Promised Land

May 21, 2008|10:49 am

As I write this, I am on a plane flying to Israel to attend official observances celebrating the nation of Israel’s 60th birthday.

I was asked, along with others, by President Bush to be an “honorary” member of the official delegation representing America at events marking Israel’s 60th anniversary as a state.

I was both humbled and honored to be asked, and I was delighted that I could rearrange my schedule in order to attend. Why?

It certainly wasn’t because of my love of travel. I must confess I travel more than any person I know who increasingly doesn’t enjoy traveling. The last thing that I would ordinarily look forward to is another trip across the Atlantic.

A couple of months ago I was going over my travel schedule by phone with an assistant while in a taxi traveling to an airport. When I arrived at my destination, the taxi driver said, “Good grief, where do you go when you go on vacation?”

I answered, “Nowhere. The best vacation for me is to stay home and reside in my recliner, and if I’m lucky, go for three or four days without having to shave or put on a tie.”

She responded, “Hearing your schedule, I can understand why.”

So why am I going to Israel for just a 3 day visit? From my earliest memories of the news, I can remember being captivated by the story of Israel’s rebirth in the aftermath of the Holocaust. I can clearly remember the Suez crisis of 1956 when I was 9 years old. As our family watched the evening news, I remember my mother telling me, “Richard, the Jews being back in the Promised Land is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.”

Then, when I went to junior high school (1959-1962), I found that a large minority of my fellow students were Jewish and a significant number of them spent time in Israel during summer vacations. I recall being more than a little jealous of their adventures in the land of biblical promise where Jesus had walked and taught.

I confess that I read Leon Uris’ Exodus twice and saw the movie staring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint five times.

Then, while I was in college, the Six-Day War erupted in 1967. Once again, Israel had triumphed over its far numerically superior enemies. Then in 1973, Israel triumphed again against even greater odds in the Yom Kippur War.

Whenever I go to Israel, I am amazed at the resilience and bravery of the people and what they collectively represent, both as a nation that has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Holocaust, and as the embodiment of what I believe is God’s chosen people—the Jews. To believe that the Jews are still uniquely God’s chosen people does not mean that God does not love all people—He does. But He did make certain promises to the Jews He did not make to me or any other non-Jew. Among those promises was the Promised Land as theirs forever. And God is a keeper of His promises.

For me, that does not preclude a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I believe that in the end, the Jews will inhabit all the land God promised them—but God will bring that about at the end of the age upon the return of Jesus to the earth. It will not be accomplished by Israelis, Americans, or any combination of earthly forces.

In the meantime, if the Jews decide the best pathway to peace is a two-state solution, that is their decision to make. God promises that He will bless those who bless the Jews (Genesis 12:3), and you do not bless the Jews by demanding more for them than they demand for themselves.

As one rabbi said to his Palestinian neighbor in my presence: “I believe God gave this land to me and to my people forever. However, if I can bring peace to our two peoples by voluntarily giving part of that land to you, then I am happy to do so.”

This column originally published at Casting Stones, a blog hosted by Beliefnet.com.

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Dr. Richard Land is president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith.

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