An edited version of a transcribed message by Art Katz, given to a Messianic congregation in Tel Aviv, Israel in March 2002.
The church in every nation has an obligation to represent something of God to the nation itself, to bring a particular perspective to the nation’s consciousness, which for the lack of a better word, I call prophetic. It is a particular way of seeing, and of assessing a nation’s circumstances, history and future, in the light of the scriptures and the prophetic testimony of God. I cannot think of a church in a nation where this task and obligation is more critical than in Israel. The church that is not prophetic, or conscious of its role in the nation, cannot, by that fact, be the church. It may be a congregation for services and blessing, but it voids its essential distinctive, which is its moral character. The failure to perform this task will, therefore, adversely affect the nation where the church is. This is more than individual men called to be prophets, as critical as that is; it is the calling of the church itself to come to a certain mindset of understanding.
The first challenge of being a prophetic Church is whether to affirm the nation as it is, or to challenge it by raising certain questions for the nation that it would not itself have considered, as for example, the crisis in which Israel presently finds itself. How is the crisis to be prophetically understood and interpreted? There are two basic views, one in opposition to the other: the general, common-sense view, shared by Israel and the church in Israel, is that the Palestinian, Islamic and Arabic opposition is something to be prayed against; that they are the enemies of the nation, and that they need to be subdued or even removed by God, because they are supposedly attacking what is essentially from God; that the enemy is always opposed to God, and our function, as the church, is therefore to pray against their presence in the Land, so that we may go on in peace to establish the purposes of God for the nation.
That is essentially the conventional perspective held by most, but what then would be an alternative prophetic interpretation? One that suggests that God is utterly sovereign in all things, and that Satan himself does not have an existence independent of Him, and that indeed, the activity of Satan comes under the purposes of God, and that certain purposes are being served in this present opposition to the nation. The historic explanation for all of Israel’s calamities from the perspective of scripture is that Israel’s calamities are in proportion to her sins, and that there is no reason now to alter that view. In that sense, Islam itself is surely a judgment, perhaps even for Israel’s prideful persistence in a monotheistic view of God. Islam is a monotheistic heresy, inspired, after all, by the example of Israel itself, in its failure to acknowledge the triune God after the advent of Jesus, and to continue to hold a narrow and monotheistic view of God after the revelation of the breadth of God in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As sin always brings its own judgment, then that judgment may well be Islam, inspired itself by Israel’s insistent monotheism. Islam is an even more perverse expression of monotheism, hostile to Israel, and indeed, ironically Israel’s present and greatest threat, but what if Islam is coming from the hand of God in judgment for Israel’s very same sin?
If so, then how is the threat of Islam to be alleviated? Through more force, more violence, more retaliation? Or the repentant acknowledgment of the error and sin by which the threatening Islamic heresy was born? This is prophetic thinking, which does not react at the immediate and external level. It sees, in view of the present circumstance, the underlying historic and spiritual reasons; it sees everything in terms of divine causation, rather than ungovernable circumstances. God waits for this awareness and acknowledgment, and for a repentance from the nation in order to dislodge or nullify the thing that our own sin has caused. This is a thoroughly biblical interpretation of calamity.
Our first obligation as a prophetic people, therefore, is not to automatically agree in joining the nation in its own assessment, which is necessarily secular and self-justifying. We ourselves need to see that the ultimate issue is a spiritual one, and that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, and need, therefore, to influence the nation differently, especially Israel. The descendants of Abraham are under an especial obligation to God, and though they do not acknowledge their God, they are not absolved of the obligation and consequences of the covenant relationship with Him. Israel, therefore, pays double for her sins, because of her more distinguished and honored, historic relationship with God. Israel has a greater privilege than any nation has known which carries with it a greater obligation.
So, are Israel’s enemies something that can be removed by encouraging the nation to a more militant posture, or even ultimately eliminate them through its nuclear power? Following the logic of that perspective will bring you to one extreme position or the other: you will either find yourself in increasing opposition to the consensus of the nation, or looking to be legitimated as a valid religious entity, you will do the more “prudent” thing, and not involve yourselves in the affairs of the nation, let alone be in disagreement with it, so as to conduct your messianic services, enjoy your fellowship and leave the nation undisturbed! If you choose this latter direction, in my opinion, you nullify yourself as the church. On the other hand, if we choose the prophetic obligation, it will invariably bring upon our heads reproach and opposition.
Consider, then, how the church can be silent when the nation per se is in complete indifference to its God and Creator? That in itself is a fundamental immorality that contradicts reality itself. To be living in the Land, and not acknowledge the God of Israel as God, is the profoundest contradiction of terms. Is God to tolerate that kind of rejection of Himself? Is He indifferent to this question, and is He happy that Israel is continuing as a nation whilst in its intrinsically immoral condition? Will God allow them to go on like any other nation, and obtain a measure of success? In Jeremiah 15:6, we read, “You have forsaken Me,” says the Lord, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary of relenting.” In other words, Israel’s rejection of God causes Him to reject them, and there is a severe consequence for that rejection.
God has not changed, and as He has judged Israel then for their rejection of Himself, He must equally judge Israel now. The Lord may for a long season defer His judgments; He is not under obligation to be instant in cause and effect. He may give us a long opportunity to reconsider and repent, but sin will bring its own inevitable consequence, or God is not God. He is a righteous God, and judgments must follow. And if they are long deferred and long ignored, they only accumulate and intensify, but are not ever dissolved. Israel is still under obligation for the sins of her fathers as well as her own, and God yet waits for that acknowledgment. But being modern Jews, we do not see things in the context of history, and of the unchanging character of God, and of the unbroken continuum with the sins of our fathers, which if we will not acknowledge their sins as our sin, we make them our own, and place ourselves therefore under judgment with them.
We must not be deceived by the appearances of the modern world, which has reduced God to a triviality, and rendered Him a non-God! You cannot deny God in an effectual, practical atheism and continue as a nation, particularly as the nation of Israel. There has got to be consequence, and the first installments of it are the intifada (the Palestinian uprising). If we continue in our practical denial of God, will He not intensify the threats, waiting for an acknowledgment that they will hopefully produce? But if we see the threat externally only as a trouble coming from the “enemy”, having nothing to do with our spiritual condition, then how will we pray aright, or even at all?
As I walk through the Land, I think, “How can we Jews not consider the Messiah who was crucified here? What was that, some minor note of history? Some confused man who ran afoul of the authorities, and suffered the unhappy consequence as a criminal? Is that all that the crucifixion of Jesus represents? Was this not the very Son of God? God Himself made flesh, taking upon Himself the judgment and sin of the nation? The Lamb of God? Can we dismiss this and continue with life as usual, and go on in indifference to that fact?” It is necessarily a formula for unreality, and will therefore bring disaster! The coming of the Messiah is the single epochal fact of all history; that God Himself visited the earth, “came to His own, and His own received Him not.” And His own are still rejecting Him. Can that be without consequence in the Land itself? After we have paid so bitterly for it in Diaspora, that it should not haunt us here? All the more here? And that we, the church, should be silent, as if this is a luxury that the nation can be allowed to enjoy! When we are so insistent that the world recognizes the Holocaust, are we recognizing the enormity of the Holocaust of Israel’s own Messiah and God?
It seems to me that the very earth cries out for the consideration of this great event. Yes, reject it if you will, but reject it out of a very careful, conscious consideration of the record! And then tell the Gentiles that they have made a mistake, and that they have given their allegiance to a political misfit, whom they consider to be the Messiah of Israel and their God! You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be indifferent to history, the greatest event of all time, and live like that without its consequence. It is a basic moral flaw. Once you have made a moral compromise of a kind that takes the very ground out from under you, how can you be moral about anything? And, the apparent fact is, you are not moral about anything! If your basic morality is itself compromised, will not every other moral question suffer proportionately?
Where is the church that is calling this to the nation’s attention? If the church fails in its prophetic obligation, how shall secular men consider and understand these things? Jesus wept over the consequences of His own rejection. He foresaw what they would be, even to and including the Nazi Holocaust! For that rejection to continue still, and for a nation to establish its foundations in complete disregard of that, has got to be a formula for inevitable disaster. That disaster is now at the door, and Israel is being increasingly troubled by these first and preliminary judgments. The removal of Hamas will not bring solution, if he himself is a provision of God, in as much as God has used any rod of chastisement in Israel’s history! Is the church willing to recognize Hamas as a possible hand of God’s chastisement, calling Israel to a repentant acknowledgment for an effectually atheistic indifference to God as God, by the nation created by God and for the purposes of God?
Where is our prophetic cry? Yet we cannot express it in indignation; we have to express it compassionately. “Lord, they err against themselves in their ignorance.” We are not pointing a finger of condemnation as if we are morally and spiritually superior. Like the Lord before us, we identify ourselves with their sins. Not only must we therefore see rightly, we must be rightly tempered, humbled, broken, sensitive and compassionate. We ourselves cannot condemn. We realize that their condition is essentially no different from our own, and would still be our condition except for the grace of God.
We are called to be a witness unto God to a nation that continues to reject Him. But if we are silent and hold ourselves back, we join that nation in its sin. Our silence will condemn us, and we will find ourselves, sooner or later, even sharing in their condition. Silence is not a luxury that the church can afford! Paul spoke to secular men of spiritual truth on Mars Hill in Acts 17. Spiritual truth is the only truth, and the fact that the Athenians were secular does not exempt them from judgment to come. We have to announce what the secular world does not want to consider; that there is a day of judgment; that God has appointed a day by which He will judge all men, especially Jewish men, by that One whom He has raised from the dead! These are foundational truths of life itself. Paul was not afraid to preach that message to secular Greeks. Shall we be ashamed to preach this message to Israel, or yet to our own nations?