This week Sharon’s disengagement plan was voted down within the Likud party registered members. To my view, great damage was done to the kingdom of God. Here are a few figures:
There are over 5,000,000 citizens in Israel. There are 193,000 registered members of the Likud party and only about 40% turned up for the vote. That means that approximately 50,000 people voted against the plan. There are approximately 7,500 Jewish settlers in Gaza. The Arab population in Gaza is 1,300,000.
Several years ago, an extreme right wing leader, named Moshe Feiglin, started a campaign to infiltrate the ranks of the Likud party by registering traditionally “non-Likud” people into the party. It was kind of a “hostile takeover” from within. Their numbers are still relatively small, but enough to tip this kind of vote.
The large majority of Israelis are for the disengagement plan, and should it go to a normal vote in the general population, it would pass easily. (Although Likud is the largest party, it is one of ten political parties in Israel.)
As a result of this vote, the current government has been shaken; Israel’s position in the world has been weakened; Prime Minister Sharon has been weakened; President Bush has been weakened. Those who understand spiritual warfare will see that the real attack here is not over losing ground in Gaza, but in discrediting and undermining the authority of both Bush and Sharon as they stand against terrorism.
The terrorist groups of Hamas, Jihad and El Fatah are delighted with the vote, since they are also opposed to the plan. (They are opposed to anything that might bring even a temporary partial calming to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.)
Therefore, to my dear friends who are staunch Christian Zionists and looking for discernment in praying for Sharon and his plan, I am writing an open letter to suggest what I believe is an essential emphasis for your prayer direction.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me repeat what I have said many times before:
All of the land in Israel belongs by divine covenant to the Jewish people. Claims of the Islamic world of ownership of the land of Israel are a direct rebellion and challenge to the Word of God. All Christians are called to stand with Israel in these end times. Islamic terrorism is a horrible evil whose intent is to destroy human society. It is immoral for the nations of the world to ask Israel to give up any of its territory. The Bible portrays all human conflict as culminating in a great war where the forces of evil join together in an attack against Jerusalem, which God considers to be an attack against Himself. Yeshua is portrayed as returning at that point at the head of a heavenly army to destroy the nations that attack Israel.
In addition, there is a terrible double standard in which Israel is being asked to treat all Arabs within Israel with “western” style human rights, and allow all of them within Israel to maintain their property and citizenship; whereas anywhere there is Muslim rule, all Jews must surrender all property and flee for their lives, or be brutally murdered.
I am a fervent Zionist; my wife and I and our four children are Israeli citizens; and my two older boys currently serve as commanders in battle units in the Israeli army.
As far as the Disengagement Plan goes, I think it is a terrible plan. But at this point, it is the best one available. Actually, whether it is a good plan or not, is not my issue here. I am not for the Disengagement Plan, per se, but rather “for” supporting the state of Israel and its people and its elected leaders. Sharon is one of the most experienced soldiers and leaders to ever take the reigns of Israel’s government. If a man so strongly Zionist, and so experienced, feels he has no choice but to pull back, we should consider that he has very well thought out reasons for doing so.
I am NOT saying that we should blindly support the Israeli prime minister whether right or wrong. I am saying that with the complexities of the issues on both sides concerning disengagement, there is not an overriding mandate in this case to stand publicly and prayerfully in bold opposition to his experienced leadership. There does come a time when a soldier must oppose his commanding officer because of overriding moral violation. Disengagement from Gaza is not even close to that kind of issue.
The current terrorist war against Israel is complex and multifaceted. There are more issues than just the land. There are military strategy issues. There are financial and social and educational and moral issues as well. If Sharon, as the commander in chief of the nation of Israel, and Shaul Mofaz as the defense minister, and Moshe Alon as the head of the Israeli army, all say that it is better for us to pull back from positions where there are a relatively small number of Jewish settlers in the midst of major Arab populations, toward positions where we can have more effectively defensible borders, then I believe I should be supporting them with my prayers, asking God to give them wisdom in directing this nation.
In the same way, if they determine that a security fence will help keep back terrorists, I want to support those decisions. This is not a left or right wing issue, but one of strategy, support and submission. I am not for or against a fence; I am not for or against disengagement. I am for my people and its government.
It is difficult enough for us to be sending our children out in the forefront of the battle against terrorism. Should we also do that in areas where all the most experienced military commanders are saying that the positions are strategically unwise, if not untenable? The Israeli young people are courageous and willing to risk their lives to defend their country, but not to do so stupidly and wastefully.
Israel has been engaged in a terrorist war since the fall of 2003. It is not wise for us to be praying against our leaders. I have noticed over the past two decades that both right and left wing candidates tend to move reluctantly to the middle when they take office as prime minister, because they have to deal with the very difficult realities and responsibilities of that office. It strikes me as somewhat prideful to think that we are more “Zionist” than Ariel Sharon. (Actually as Bible believers we are more Zionist than the Zionists. However here I am talking about adherence to particular political policies and military strategies.)
It also strikes me as somewhat rebellious against the governing authorities. If we can’t support Sharon and Bush according to I Timothy 2 and Romans 13, whom could we support? Some of these prayers against Ariel Sharon are coming from dear Christian friends of Gentile background, living in Israel on visa status. This could even be conceived (in its most radical form) as a kind of “reverse” Replacement Theology; that replaces respect for God given authority in our nation with a sense of super “prophetic” knowledge that purports to know what is best for Israel at any given moment.
Another worrying aspect to some Christian and Messianic leaders living here in the land is that there are those who are not connected or submitted to the local community of faith in Israel. There is no recognition of local Messianic Jewish pastoral authenticity in the land. In other words, there is an element of rejecting governmental authority in Bush and in Sharon; and even rejecting the spiritual authority and significance of the local believers.
I agree with the most radical proponents of total land possession for Israel. However, land possession is not the ONLY issue involved. When you stress one issue to the lack of others, you can make a mistake, even when what you are saying is right. There is also the issue of evangelism. Many of the “land only” prophets are not involved in evangelism, discipleship or congregational development. When evangelism is avoided, then other issues get a bigger share of the emphasis than what is due.
There are other issues in Israel, such as the moral collapse in schools, drug use, sexual abuse, religious coercion, governmental corruption, unemployment, violence, mental and emotional traumas, and on and on, that we must consider. Caring for these issues must also be on the agenda. There is also the issue of requiring the Palestinians to take responsibility over their own social and political problems. We must have compassion for the horrible conditions that the Palestinians are living in, even while we are fighting terrorism with all our strength.
God’s will is ultimately for Israel to control all of the land. Yet that process goes little by little (Exodus 23:30; Deuteronomy 7:22). For most of Israel’s history we have not been in the land. And because of our sins, that was God’s will for a time. Now we are in the process of being restored, though not yet completely, again because of our sins. (While ownership of the land by the Jewish people is an unconditional covenant, our occupation of it is conditional on obeying His moral commandments.)
When we begin to put nationalism and land possession above all other issues of the kingdom of God, we enter into a spirit of Zealotry. There is a difference between zealousness and zealotry. Zealousness is commended to us, whereas zealotry is not. An exaggerated zealotry was punished by God at Hormah (Numbers 14:40); at King Saul’s stubbornness (II Samuel 21:2); at the destruction of the first temple in Jeremiah’s time, and at the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.
In the name of Yeshua, let us stand with a full heart of faith for all of the Biblical promises of the restoration of the land of Israel. Let us persevere to see all of the spiritual and moral aspects of the kingdom of God in this nation. Let us fight terrorism with both prayers and modern weaponry. Let us purge ourselves of zealotry, pride, rebellion, and religiosity. Let us pray to support the men and women that God has put in governing authority. May they receive wisdom and direction from the Lord. And may His will be done.
I have not written this letter to condemn my dear friends who are praying so zealously for our land. Quite the contrary. I am asking you to pray with wider discernment of all the issues involved, and to pray in a supportive way of those who are carrying the responsibility to deal with the situation. We appreciate you and we need your prayers.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.