In the past few weeks an increasing number of people have approached me as an Evangelical religious leader with the following question: “Why do Evangelicals support Israel in such an uncompromising and enthusiastic fashion?”
The answers to that question are found in Evangelicals’ understanding of sacred Scripture. A significant majority of Evangelicals believe that God made certain promises to the Jews in the twelfth chapter of Genesis in what has become known as the Abrahamic Covenant. In that covenant God promised, among other things, to bless Abraham and his seed and that He would give Abraham and his seed the land of Canaan forever (Gen. 12:1-9).
This covenant between God and Abraham is unconditional, which means that it remains in force in times when Israel is disobedient and unfaithful as well as when she was obedient and faithful.
This does not mean that God is anti-Arab.
Abraham and his wife grew restless waiting for God to give them a son. Consequently, Sarah suggests to her husband that he have sexual relations with Hagar, her Egyptian handmaiden. He consents to this request and Hagar bears him a son, Ishmael (Gen. 16:1-16).
As Abraham approaches his 100th year of age, God renews His promise of giving him a son with Sarah to fulfill His covenant promise. Abraham’s faith faltered, and he said, “O that Ishmael might live before thee.” (Gen 17:18).
God replied, “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed: and thou shalt call his name Isaac and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (Gen 17:18). God, however, immediately follows this promise with another promise concerning Ishmael. God says, “As for Ishmael, I have heard thee. Behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly, … and I will make him a great nation.” (Gen 17:18).
The Jews come from Isaac and the Arabs come from Ishmael. The land of Canaan was promised to the Jews forever. God, however, would bless Ishmael and his descendants. There are several hundred million Arabs and they did not put all that oil under their lands – God did.
God gave the land of Canaan to Abraham’s seed through Isaac – the Jews. However, the same God promised to bless the Arabs profusely and has done so through great numbers of people and oil wealth.
A minority of Evangelicals reject this interpretation of biblical history and believe that God has abrogated his covenant with the Jews because of their rebellious unbelief and that the church is heir to the promises of God, not Israel.
As noted earlier, however, a significant majority of Evangelicals believe that the Abrahamic covenant is unconditional, regardless of Israel’s behavior. Now, it is true that God’s blessing of Israel is dependent on their pious behavior. Perhaps the closest example of such a conditional promise is II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Consequently, God has not promised to bless the Jews when they deal unjustly with others. However, He never rescinds His promise of the promised land of Canaan. They remain His chosen people.
It is very important to note, however, that God does promise to bless those who bless the Jews and to curse those who curse the Jews (Gen 12:13). Evangelicals see no place in Scripture where this promise is rescinded. In fact, they see historical validation of its truths in 20th century history. The three most aggressively anti-Semitic nations of the 20th century, Germany, Poland, and Russia have experienced a truly harrowing 20th century of heartache and bloodshed. The two least anti–Semitic countries in the West, Great Britain and the United States have had a far happier 20th century than the first three countries mentioned. A majority of Evangelicals believe that America’s good fortune and blessing in the tumultuous 20th century in large part can be explained by her unwavering support for Israel, highlighted by U.S. recognition of the Jewish State of Israel in May 1948 by President Truman.
There always has been, and continues to be, a great deal of enlightened self- interest in Evangelicals’ support of Israel. If American Evangelicals want God to bless America, then they believe America must bless the Jews, including Israel.
That does not mean that they are deaf, dumb and blind to Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians that is less than just. They do, however, understand that there is no more moral equivalence between Israelis and the Palestinians than there was between the U.S and the Soviets. Are the Israelis perfect – no. However, if the Palestinians wanted peace as badly as the Israelis do, there would be peace with Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace.