What went wrong 2

A great deception

You have hidden their heart from understanding… You will not exalt them.

Job 17:4

Now also many nations have gathered against you, who say, “Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.” But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD, nor do they understand His counsel…

Mic. 4:11-12

Many years ago, I wrote my first book about the book of Job and Job’s comforters.  It was only after writing this book that I realized, to my horror, that the suffering of Israel during the first centuries after Jesus, had really helped the Church find a theological basis for her hatred and contempt. No, of course, the suffering was not the reason for this hatred: as we saw last time, already by the second century Christians had been deceived into thinking that they were to take Israel’s place. However, the sufferings of Israel were very “convenient”  for this new doctrine – in Israel’s troubles and misery, early Christianity found the evidence and confirmation that Israel was rejected by God, and now the Church, the “true Israel” would be in the place of the “chosen people”.

One of Satan’s great desires and great achievements from the very beginning of Christianity has been to plant in the minds of Christians a connection between Israel’s spiritual condition and the suffering she is going through—we are going through. This great lie has to be broken. Psalm 69 says, “O God, You know my foolishness; And my sins are not hidden from You” – but two verses later it says, “Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Shame has covered my face.[1] Nobody is saying, and least of all I, that Israel is a godly nation: “my sins are not hidden from You,” but the connection between Israel’s spiritual condition and all the suffering she has gone through, has to be broken down.

If you remember the book of Job you would probably realize that there we have the same scenario: Satan, who started with trying (unsuccessfully) to slander Job before God, ended up slandering him before his friends – and this time he was very successful. He convinced them of the connection between Job’s spiritual condition and the suffering he was going through.  As for Israel, Satan knows perfectly well he could not slander her before God because he simply would not succeed, so he set about working hard to slander Israel before the people. It is quite clear as we look through history, that he has been highly successful in that. Last time, we spoke about Justin Martyr and his famous treatise, “Dialogue with Trypho” (and I remind you that Justin lived in the second century, less than a century after Jesus). In this treatise, we already see very clearly, maybe for the first time, the beginning of Replacement Theology: “For the true spiritual Israel and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ” (Dial. 11). “Along with Abraham we shall receive inheritance for an endless eternity” (D.119). Everything – the Holy Land, eternity, God himself – is now ours, not yours. And the suffering of Israel in the first two centuries, the sufferings Christians were not responsible for, turned out to be very ‘handy’ for this doctrine: Justin declared that all the sufferings of the Jewish people were the righteous punishment of God for the death of Christ. When speaking of the expulsion of Jewish people from Jerusalem, the devastation of the Land, and the burned Jewish towns, he didn’t hesitate to call all these afflictions “the just punishments” of the murderers. There have been endless voices in the history of Christianity saying basically the same thing: “The events of divine justice pursue the Jews for the crimes which they committed against Christ.”[2]

The premise was very simple: if the people of Israel are suffering so horribly, it means that God Himself has punished and rejected them, and therefore they deserve nothing but contempt from those who have rightfully taken their place. Accordingly, the more terrible the troubles and trials that beset Israel were, the more justified the Church became in her own eyes. It is no coincidence that the break of the new religion with its Jewish roots became more distinct with each new distress: particularly in 70 C.E. with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, and the years of 132-135 C.E. with the Bar-Kochba revolt and the Roman repressions that followed. Every time things were going badly for Israel, the Church celebrated. In these new and ever-increasing troubles, again and again, Christianity saw confirmation that God had in fact rejected His people.    Moreover, at some point, the Church did not trust anyone else to be the instrument of “God’s punishment,” but always made sure herself that the right and just punishment for the Jews would be carried out: “they persecute him whom thou hast smitten.” [3]

The history of Christian/Jewish relations since then is well known: this is a history of hatred, of anti-Semitism, sometimes relatively quiet, sometimes extremely bloody— from touch all that he has[4] to touch his bone and his flesh[5]it has been a history of endless accusations. If God still loves you, why doesn’t He help you?   Where is your God? He doesn’t come to help you or save you, therefore, He has rejected you, and all your sufferings are His punishment for your grave sins. This is more or less the logic of these accusations—the logic of the Accuser.

Does it remind you of something? He trusts in God. Let Him deliver him. I wrote a book about this, and the title of the book is, If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross. Two thousand years ago, people were saying this to Jesus, but He did not come down from the Cross—precisely because He was the Son of God.  Ever since then, people have been saying this to Israel – not exactly in those words, but the message is the same. And for me, it is the great enigma and the great success of Satan – that Christians, who should know better than anyone else that “being forsaken by God in suffering” does not always mean rejection and punishment, could be so terribly deceived when it comes to Israel.  Nobody from those believing the Bible would argue with the basic statement that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and no mature believer would judge the measure of God’s love to somebody by the circumstances he is going through. But when it comes to Israel, most Christians sincerely believe that this is the case—that we can judge and make conclusions concerning the love of God on the grounds of the things which are seen—and that in this case, His thoughts are exactly like their thoughts. They make their conclusions based on the visible history and are convinced that this is exactly what God thinks and feels about Israel. However, His thoughts, indeed, are not our thoughts, and those who love God seek to know His thoughts. The title of these posts is, “What went wrong?” and I am extremely grateful for the millions of Christians who ask this question today and who sincerely seek to know God’s heart and God’s thoughts regarding Israel.

[1] Ps. 69:5,7

[2] Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, HE Book 2, ch.6.

[3] Ps. 69:26

[4] Job 1:11

[5] Job 2:5

Published by neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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