A Night to Honor Israel – And to Dishonor Jesus and His Church
by Adam Maarschalk (May 23, 2010)
Last Tuesday night (May 18th) a friend and I headed out for what I thought was one of CUFI’s “A Night to Honor Israel” events. On the way there we imagined ourselves in the midst of several thousand fans waving Israeli and American flags. The crowd would be bleeding with unquestioning support for the nation of Israel and all her political policies. It turns out that the flags weren’t there, and neither were the thousands, but the unquestioning support certainly was. And the political nation of Israel was most definitely honored above all else, including Jesus, who didn’t receive one single mention the entire evening. What my friend and I ended up attending was more like a regional information meeting led by John T. Somerville, the Central Regional Coordinator for CUFI (Christians United for Israel). CUFI is a large organization which was founded in 2006 by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee.
The event was held at Living Word Christian Center, the premier “health and wealth” (prosperity gospel) church in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. LWCC is pastored by Mac Hammond, who is also on the Executive Board of CUFI and is their Region 8 Director (for Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin). The church draws speakers like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar (yes, that’s his real last name), and Jesse Duplantis, as evidenced by this poster near the entrance to the massive lobby:
The Ahmadinejad bashing began almost right away, my first clue that this evening’s focus would be as much political as anything else. The speaker, John Somerville, listed off the evils of Iran, giving special attention to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s various meetings with foreign diplomats. We were told that each and every time he meets with national leaders he tries to sell them his “let’s wipe Israel off the map” agenda (I certainly acknowledge this agenda as evil). Somerville then predictably invoked Zechariah 2:8, which reads: “…for he who touches you [Jerusalem] touches the apple of His [God’s] eye.” Somerville declared, his voice rising, that the nation of Israel always has been and always will be the apple of God’s eye, His most precious possession. Those who would oppose Israel in any way will incur God’s wrath. As proof of this transgression on the part of national leaders, Somerville put up this ingenious slide picture of different leaders putting a finger up in the air:
Never mind how easy it was to locate a picture of John Hagee with his own finger extended upward…
If Somerville is correct in his interpretation of Zech. 2:8 (and Hagee as well, for he teaches the same thing), who was the apple of God’s eye from 70 AD until 1948 when there was no nation of Israel? Did nearly 19 centuries pass without God having a special possession to call His own? This time period covers much of the present church age, so what is the Church in God’s eyes? Chopped liver? On the other hand, this is the testimony of the New Testament regarding the Church, which is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles alike: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).
Somerville, on Tuesday night, voiced his disagreement with the apostle Peter, by announcing numerous times that the Jews are God’s chosen people. He never did clarify what they are presently chosen for, but one curious thing to note was that whenever this phrase appeared in one of his slides it was always capitalized (“Chosen People”). This made me wonder something. If he were to acknowledge that the body of Christ is God’s chosen people (he did not), would capital letters again be used? Somehow I doubt it. His main proof text for his assertion that the Jews are God’s chosen people was Isaiah 65:9. This verse reads, “I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of My mountains; My chosen shall possess it, and My servants shall dwell there.”
Ah, this verse appears to speak of the land. So is this a clue as to why Somerville believes the Jewish people are presently chosen? “Israel is the only piece of real estate that God calls His own,” Somerville thundered next. And God has given the land of modern Israel (and more) to the Jewish people forever, we were repeatedly told, so woe to anyone who would get in the way of them possessing it. This apparently includes the Palestinian people who happened to be born there, and whose ancestors had lived there and cultivated the land for a long time. Apparently we can chalk it up to mere collateral damage that around 70,000 Palestinian men, women, and children were slaughtered in 1948; around 700,000 made homeless that same year; and 4 million or so have been dispossessed of their land ever since. The land in red on the map below, we were told, rightfully belongs to the Jewish people. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was “the high-water mark of the British Empire,” Somerville added. Transjordan made up 77% of the (partially) resulting British Mandate, but the British “gave it away in violation of Genesis 12:3 [see below] and Joel 3:2.” The British soon lost their vast empire, according to Somerville, as a direct result of leaving most of “the Promised Land” in the hands of the Arabs:
Somerville emphasized that when God said the land belonged to Israel forever, He meant it. We will address this question in depth in future posts. For now, let us take note that the covenant of fleshly circumcision was also said to be forever/eternal/perpetual [see, for example, Genesis 17:9-14, and note the language used]. The same was said regarding numerous temple-based rituals [Exodus 28:43, 29:28, 31:16-17, 40:15; Leviticus 3:17, 6:18, 22, 7:34, 36]. How does the New Testament deal with the non-land covenants/statutes which were said to be eternal? Should the “eternal” land promises be dealt with in a different manner? If so, why? Were they ever said to be conditional? Are we not heirs of a better “land” under the New Covenant? The land promise was first articulated to Abraham, but what city did he look forward to possessing (hint –> Hebrews 11:10-16)? All of this and more we will deal with later, Lord willing.
Somerville made it very clear that two big “no nos” are  attempting to divide the land of Israel and/or Jerusalem, and  preventing the Jewish people from coming back to the land God promised them (for which Britain was especially guilty, he said). We were taken to Joel 3:1-2, “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of My people and My heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up My land.” This text, we were told, is proof positive that America is in deep danger because of President Obama’s lack of pro-Israel policies and his non-red carpet treatment of Benjamin Netanyahu in recent months.
All night long, the only verses referenced or quoted were from the Old Testament. This was no surprise to me, for the New Testament has much to say in direct response to the many false doctrines of Christian Zionism. Those who belong to Christ today are in the New Covenant, but one wouldn’t have known it from being present at this event. Somerville almost broke from this pattern, though, by going to Matthew 25:40. This verse flashed briefly on the screen in front of us before he decided to skip it, but I took note of what was highlighted in that verse. It’s from the famous Sheep and the Goats passage: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.” I’m all too familiar with how John Hagee treats this passage, so I will go ahead and assume that Somerville (as a key representative of his organization) would have treated it the same. In addition to seeing this as a future judgement, they see Christ’s brothers in this passage as the Jewish people, simply because Jesus was an ethnic Jew. Therefore, God will one day judge all people based on how they related to the Jewish people. What is John Hagee’s creepy application of this passage (Matthew 25:31-46)?
It is important to be right on the Israel question when you consider that being wrong brings you under the curse of God and headed for eternal, everlasting fire with the devil and his angels. Israel is not a “take it or leave it” subject. It is a life and death matter-eternal life!
However, Jesus didn’t consider His true brothers to be those who happened to share His same ethnicity, nor even those who happened to be born of His mother:
Then His mother and His brothers came to Him, but they could not reach Him because of the crowd. And He was told, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” But He answered them, “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).
Somerville apparently believes that all nations are in some sort of a covenant with God today, saying that they are all duty-bound to honor the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3– “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Somerville’s immediate application of this verse was to instruct us to all “go find a Jew tonight and bless him,” and God would then be obligated to bless us in return. I’m not sure if he expected us to go out knocking on doors, asking people if they were Jewish, but it was 9:30 pm by the time we got out of there and…well, I guess I failed to receive my guaranteed blessing that night. On a related note, CUFI’s purpose was expressed on another slide: “to fulfill God’s Biblical Mandate to bless Abraham’s descendants.” Clearly we were meant to understand that it’s Abraham’s physical descendants who we are to go out of our way to bless. How does this idea stand up, though, to the scrutiny of the New Testament?
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).
The apostle Paul actually cites Genesis 12:3 in Galatians 3:8. Let’s see what he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had to say on the matter. First, he said that by this promise “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham” (this also agrees with Peter’s interpretation in Acts 3:25-26). Then Paul goes on to state something which John Hagee and others in this movement very badly need to embrace as truth: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to One, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Going on a little bit further, we come to even more truth regarding those who are counted as Abraham’s offspring today: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:28-29).
In Christ, there are no benefits that God grants to males which He will not also grant to females, and there are no benefits or promises that He grants to ethnic Jews which He will not also grant to ethnic non-Jews who trust in Christ. All of God’s promises are accessible only through faith (Romans 4:13-18). “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12). “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15; see also Gal. 5:6 and John 8:39-47).
The saddest part of the evening occurred when Somerville turned the microphone over to a Jewish community leader (a Rabbi?) who was clearly not a follower of Christ. This man, who didn’t hear a trace of the gospel that evening, emphasized the common ground between Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists, much to the delight of the crowd. It only got worse when he proceeded to define what a “righteous Christian” is: one who  does what is right regarding the nation of Israel and the Jewish people  rejects “replacement theology,” and  believes that all the promises God gave to Abraham apply today to his physical descendants, the Jewish race. Unbelievably, this definition of a “righteous Christian” received applause from the crowd, even though it was implied that all Christians who fail to meet these three criteria are unrighteous. The Biblical definition of righteousness has everything to do with Jesus and His work on the cross. It’s impossible to be a genuine follower of Christ without being made righteous, and to be without righteousness is to be without Christ. The deceived supporters of CUFI fell for the lies spoken by a man who has no hope of ever being found righteous unless God draws him to Himself and he places his trust in Christ for salvation. Tragically, that hope was kept hidden from him that night.
We were pushed hard to join more than 175,000 other Christians in signing “The Israel Pledge.” In fact, the crowd was asked to repeat this pledge out loud together (my friend and I remained silent, although we could certainly agree with point #2):
The Israel Pledge We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right. We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.
We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.
A few days ago, Jews for Jesus’ founder Moishe Rosen passed away. He left behind a heartfelt letter in which he expressed his concerns regarding certain trends today:
As I go, one of the things that concerns me deeply is how much misunderstanding there is among believers. I never thought I would live to see the day when those who know the Lord and are born again were supporting the efforts of rabbis who, frankly, not only don’t know Christ, but don’t want to know Him.
To be an honest ministry, it can only come from the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit can only indwell those who have the new birth and are born again. Therefore, I would urge you to think very seriously before you support any “ministry” that involves Jewish people and doesn’t actually bring the gospel to the Jews… Within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism.
All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.
 In a future post I hope to interact with Joel 3:1-2, which is often used today by Christian Zionists to say that God will judge all nations in the future based on how much or how little favor they granted to the nation of Israel which was founded in 1948. Briefly, though, it may be of interest to note that both John Wesley and Matthew Henry saw in this passage a two-fold application:  to the time period following Judah’s defeat at the hand of the Babylonians in 586 BC, and  to the Church in this present age, in terms of God ultimately vindicating His people who experience persecution and martyrdom for their faith.