Earlier this month the state of Israel celebrated her 75th birthday. In 1948 the Jewish population in British-governed Palestine – swollen greatly in number by the immigration of Jewish survivors of the European Holocaust – declared their independence and the establishment of the state of Israel.
They were badly outnumbered and faced immediate attacks by the modern armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and other neighboring Arab countries.
Despite the overwhelming odds against them, the Israelis won their war of independence. They were able to maintain their freedom in spite of the intense and unrelenting hostility of the Arab populations that surrounded them.
In 1967, facing an imminent attack by Egypt from the South, Jordan from the East, and Syria from the North, Israel executed a lightning military strike and won an overwhelming victory in the aptly titled “Six-Day War.” They followed that up with yet another stunning victory over Egypt and Syria in 1973.
In spite of these displays of admirable military prowess, Israel still lives in a very dangerous neighborhood. The Israelis face the daily threat of terrorist attacks, coupled with the growing strength of an Iranian regime sworn to the destruction of Israel and hell-bent on acquiring their own nuclear weaponry.
The mullahs who run the Islamic State of Iran have openly speculated that they could do with one nuclear bomb exploded in Tel Aviv, what Hitler failed to do—eliminate the majority of the world’s Jews. It is difficult to imagine a more realistic or lethal “existential” threat to a nation’s continued existence.
At the same time, there has been open speculation both in Israel and in the United States about the future of America’s relationship with Israel. With the potential decline of the Middle East as a foreign policy priority of the United States, both Israelis and Americans are asking, “What then?” There will be pressure from isolationists on the American right and progressives on the American left, which will both have significant numbers of their ranks questioning whether American resources should continue to be used to buttress the defense capabilities of the state of Israel.
These potential developments caused Walter Russell Mead to write a column in The Wall Street Journal entitled, “Israel at 75 is Threatened but Strong”. Mead’s main point is that while many may question Israel’s future in such circumstances, in reality, “Israel today is orders of magnitude stronger, wealthier, and more influential than it was in 1948. History offers no guarantees and problems remain, but the citizens of this extraordinary state have every reason to look forward with hope!”
I always enjoy reading Mead’s columns, but I must confess my immediate reaction to this conclusion was that he hadn’t gotten it quite right.
Like tens of millions of other Evangelicals in North America and beyond, I believe that Israel’s future is certain and fixed.
While significant parts of American Protestantism have embraced so-called “Replacement Theology,” which means that God’s promises to His people Israel in the Old Testament have been replaced with God’s promises to the people of God in the New Testament (the church), there are tens of millions of Protestant Evangelicals who believe that God’s promises to the Jews were unconditional and were never abrogated.
We believe that God led the Jews back to the Holy Land that He had promised them forever as far back as the twelfth chapter of the biblical book of Genesis:
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee:
And I will make of thee a great nation and I will bless them and make thy name great: and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12: 1-3).
This passage of Holy Scripture introduces the Abrahamic Covenant, which includes these unconditional commitments by God: (1) Abraham will have unlimited, divine blessing (2) Abraham will be protected and his blessing is extended to his progeny, “seed” (3) God is giving them the land of Canaan forever.
So, for tens of millions of Evangelical Christians (including myself), God has never abrogated His promises to the Jews which include first, the land of Canaan forever, and second, He blesses those who bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews.
When I hear people ask, “What does the future of Israel look like?”, my answer is “It looks guaranteed by God!”
Several years ago, George Stephanopoulos asked me, “I understand you support Israel, but what happens when the national interests of the United States and Israel diverge/”
My answer was, “George, that is a trick question. If you believe what I believe, when we bless Israel, God blesses us, and when we don’t He doesn’t!”
Then I said, “George, look at the 20th-century history of the arguably most anti-Semitic countries, German, Poland, and Russia compared to the 20th-century history of the two least anti-Semitic countries in the West – Great Britain and the United States. Which 20th century would you like to have had? God blesses those who bless the Jews and God curses those who curse the Jews.”
So, when I am asked about Israel’s future I reply that Israel has an iron-clad promise from a far more powerful protector than the United States of America – He is called the Lion of Judah.
God’s promises to Israel are unconditional. God’s promises to America are conditional. God blesses us when we bless the Jews, if and when we don’t, His blessings are no longer guaranteed.
So, Israel’s future looks very bright and unconditionally guaranteed. America’s future is far more conditional and will to a significant degree, be determined by our support for Israel, or lack thereof.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.