In watching the US president unfolding his peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians this week it soon became clear he was completely ignoring the ‘divisions between people’. He came down on one side and ignored the other.
As one commentator observed, he was conveniently accepting the ancient religious narrative about the patriarchs, prophets and kings who founded the Jewish people without paying any attention to the history, leave alone the theology, of the intervening period.
We cannot base modern political decisions on such sentiments as, ‘You have constituted your people Israel to be your own people for ever’ (2 Samuel 7:23). The name ‘Israel’ describes a people, a nation, formed by the experience of the desert and the covenant received through Moses.
This is the ‘national Israel’ which was the vehicle by which God would enter history in Jesus. This Israel would give birth to the ‘true Israel’ of which the New Testament speaks, for example, in Galatians 3:7 where Paul says, ‘Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the children of Abraham?’
This Israel has nothing to do with physical descent which, for example, enables one to obtain a particular passport. It has all to do with understanding that God wants to gather his people into one – not to scatter and divide them. The glee with which the prime minister of the nation, Israel, welcomed the words of the US president gouges a hole in one’s stomach. He seems unable to think beyond the narrow interests of the Israelis (a new word not found in the bible).
Simeon, on the other hand, who was a true Israelite, welcomed the Messiah with the words, ‘My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations’ (Luke 2:31). He understood that God was doing an inclusive thing in Jesus. No one would be left out. How far this ‘peace plan’ is from that vision!
2 February 2020 Presentation in the Temple
Malachi 3:1-4 Hebrews 2:14-8 Luke 2:22-40