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

 

Excerpts from my book “If You be Son of God…”  are included in this article, so if you like the article, you might enjoy also the book, you can get it here.   Also, I would like to remind you, dear friendsthat we offer wonderful courses and invite you to study together the Hebrew Scriptures or the  Jewish Background of the New Testament.  As always, you are welcome to contact me for more information.  

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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Difficult Questions (1)

By Julia Blum

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  1. Patricia Schekahn

    Dear Julia,
    Thank you very much for your clearly words on this misunderstanding and distortion in the relationship between the church/community of Jesus and the people of Israel, which has been going on for almost 2000 years.
    There is an old Hasidic story between a student and his old rabbi, to whom the student affirms how much he loves him as his master. The rabbi responds this with a question, “Do you know what hurts me?”[1] The student is shocked by this unexpected question from his rabbi, “Why do you ask me such a confusing question when I have just told you I love you?”[2] The rabbi replies, “Because my friend, if you do not know what really hurts me, how can you truly love me?”[3] ”
    “Who would think that people who follow the Messiah of Israel and the God of the Jewish Scripture could hate Jews?”[4]
    In this context we clearly see, we believers and the Church went wrong and used the cross as a SWORD against His beloved people. How can we recognise and claim the nature of God and His Messiah if we do not understand His love and faithfulness to His people and land of Israel, to whom He is and will remain faithful for ETERNITY? What answer do we give HIM when he asks us?
    We all have a justified hope:
    In Ex 34:44-10, according to Jewish tradition, the commentary on the 13 attributes of God says: “1.and 2. יהוה יהוה “Eternal, Eternal”. According to the traditional interpretation of the divine name, it expresses God’s attribute of mercy. The repetition was understood to mean that God is merciful both before and after man’s sin and repentance. It is man who changes, not God.”[5]
    He wants the turnaround of our hearts. There have always been people who understood this. May there be much more, yes millions of Christians as you, Julia, wrote!

    Thank you, Julia. You show the way back – back to the Jewish roots. That is wonderful.
    God bless you for your dedication.

    Quotations
    [1]-[4] the Distortion, Dr. John Fischer and Dr. Patrice Fischer, Chapter 3, p.37
    [5] The Torah, in Jewish Interpretation, Volume II, W. Gunther Plaut, p.347

  2. Alalith Suchomel

    Hi Julia,
    By the power of God that brings salvation through everyone who believes, first the Jew, then to the Gentile (me), is how I could turn to God the Father in repentance from my sins and have faith in Christ the Messiah, YESHUA, seventeen years ago. And the same concern about why most Christians thinks that way, it has been in my mind for almost 12 years, when the whole Torah or Bible shows us our own human condition, that we Gentiles are rebellious and hard neck as the Jews. Only a prideful heart can make a Christian to think that Jews are not God’s chosen people or less or rejected. When Romans 1:16 says it very clear that they are first. Two weeks ago, I was asking four questions to a leader of a church: 1) Why Christian leaders focus in preaching the NT more than the OT? 2) Why Christians compare themselves with Muslims, Jehovah Witness and Mormons but never with Messianic Jews? 3) How much Christians know about Messianic Jews? and 4) Are Christians concern about the thousand’s denominations in comparison with the Messianic Jewish? Because at least Catholics have just one leader the Pope and in every church in the world their priests read the same verse on that very Sunday. The leader’s answer was a nodding but kind thinking.

  3. Gladys Fox

    Thank you Dear Julia ,
    I totally agree with you on all you wrote .It all boils down to power and control .
    Job is one of my favorite books of the Tanakh , but I see it somewhat differently than most Christians . I believe that God isn’t testing Job because He knows Job’s heart very well because Job walked with God . I believe that God was testing Job’s so called “friends” . They not only misjudged Job they judged God as well and to judge God is a grave sin in my belief . They did nothing to help Job . They could have given him animals and balm for his skin, but they didn’t
    Jesus teaches us to take care of others and not judge .
    May God help us to see the truth that the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people and all those people that love them as well . It’s all about love !

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Gladys. Yes, God was tesing Job’s friends – even though undoubtedly He has done a great work in Job’s heart as well. God wants us to help and to take care of the others, and not to judge. I think this is the main lesson of this book – and this lesson should have been applied to the history of Israel.

  4. Marcus Willis

    Paul warned the Gentiles of this very thing. Not to become conceited about them being grafted into the natural olive tree and them being wild Olive branches. And if some of the natural branches were cut off don’t think that you being a wild branch can’t be cut off as well.

    1. Julia Blum

      I agree, Marcus. Unfortunately, not many Gentiles heeded his warning. When somebody is suffering, it’s a great temptation to see his suffering as a punishment. The book of Job shows it very clearly.

  5. Dorothy Webb Davies

    It seems to me that Justice is written into Creation in a way that means it is inevitable that when we go away from God bad things follow. I do not see it as a punishment that God inflicts in a deliberate or cruel way. In school I was taught that the Jews had been afflicted with losing their land as a result of turning down their Messiah, as prophesied by Moses. Much later I learned that, having rejected the Prince of Peace they had accepted a man of War and the Romans had come down on them with all their fury. But the Roman Empire too was falling to pieces, so judgement was also upon them. I was never taught any theology of replacement and have always known that the Jews were God’s chosen people. Looking at history now, all these centuries later I see that out of evil God brought Good, for the Jews have ended up with great advantages as a result of their wanderings among the nations. You have only to compare them with the Arab Muslim nations to see the difference.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Dorothy. However, I personally do think that if one makes a connection between all the suffering of the Jews (losing their land in particular) and Jesus’ death, it becomes inevitably the theology of replacement: “the Jews “killed Jesus”, therefore, God abandoned them and replaced them with the Church, and their endless sufferings just prove it”. And even though you say that you were never taught any theology of replacement, don’t you think this is exactly the logic behind this connection?

  6. Nick

    Thank you Julia for addressing this question. I respect you as an “informed responder”. I am reminded of the jealousy between brothers in Genesis, and what is called “binary” thinking today: Us versus Them! Like Job’s friends, we crave certainty, but may not be correct.
    Much Thanks,
    Nick

    1. Troy

      God will judge Edom because they scorned their brother, Israel, when they were attacked and carried away from their land. Since Christians are “grafted in” the Vine, we are now “brothers” of Israel. How can God not judge us if we scorn our brother, just as He has said He will do for Edom?