For several years now I’ve been receiving email updates from CUFI (Christians United for Israel), not because I’m a fan but simply to remain aware of what is coming out of this organization. Yesterday’s email was a head-scratcher.
CUFI was founded in 2006 by John Hagee, the well-known mega-church pastor in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee and his Executive Director, David Brog, are fond of attaching the “replacement theology” label to those who fail to give unconditional support to the nation of Israel. Hagee defines “replacement theology” as believing that “the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.” Accurate or not, he adds that adherents believe “God has replaced Israel with the church” (Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, 2006, pp. 72, 165).
Check out the email/infomercial CUFI sent out yesterday and see if you don’t observe a different “replacement theology,” one that assigns the role of “light unto the nations” solely to the nation of Israel and not rightfully to Jesus:
CUFI’s letter references Isaiah 49:6 as Biblical evidence that “the Jewish people” and Israel are “a light unto the nations.” (In CUFI’s language, “the Jewish people” and Israel seem to be used interchangeably, as if there are no non-Jews living in Israel.) Seven times in this letter, CUFI’s followers are told that Israel is the world’s light:
“Isaiah 49:6 tells us that the Jewish people will be a light unto the nations and a brief look at Israel’s humanitarian actions around the world prove the truth of this prophecy!” (1x); “Israel is a light unto the nations” (3x); “In order to constantly remind us that Israel is a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The new CUFI mezuzah is not only a daily reminder that Israel is still a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The torch illustrates that Israel is a light unto the nations” (1x).
I won’t deny that Israel has done some humanitarian deeds in its history. However, the role of “light to the nations” belongs to Jesus, and there was zero acknowledgement of this in CUFI’s letter. Jesus spoke this very thing concerning Himself and His disciples:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12; see also John 9:5).
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14).
Isaiah 49:6 was likewise a prophecy about Jesus, His role in bringing Jacob back to His Father, and the light of His salvation for the whole world:
“And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God.’ And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Isaiah 49:3-6).
If this was about national Israel, how could Israel bring Jacob (itself) back to God? How could Israel “raise up the tribes of Jacob” and “restore the preserved ones of Israel” (itself)? This would be God’s doing, not Israel’s own doing. As I wrote in a March 2014 post (“Why I Stand With Israel“),
Albert Barnes (1834), Adam Clarke (1831), John Gill (1746), The Geneva Study Bible (1599), Jamieson/Faussett/Brown (1882), Matthew Henry (1708), The Pulpit Commentary (1880′s), and John Wesley (1754) all stand in agreement that Isaiah was speaking here of Jesus, and that Isaiah referred to Jesus as “Israel.” See their commentaries on verse 3, verse 4, verse 5, and verse 6.
CUFI’s exaltation of modern, political Israel amounts to blatant idolatry and pushing Jesus to the side, even replacing Him. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament bear witness that Jesus is the light that the world needs.
Related post: “Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology“