The Religious Implications of the Deal of the Century on Christians
Jared Kushner’s long awaited “Deal of the Century” aspires to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians through $28 billion of investment in the Palestinian economy. Previous international initiatives have proposed exchanging land for peace. This US initiative, appropriately called “Peace to Prosperity”, unashamedly proposes trading land for money. In this regard, Kushner’s “deal” actually has strong biblical precedent. In Genesis 25 we read of how Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright for a bowl of stew.
“Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright. “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.” (Genesis 25:29-33)
Despite Kushner’s tempting bribe, Palestinians are not going to sell their birthright: the right to self-determination; to an independent, sovereign contiguous Palestine; or the right of return for refugees; not forgetting the right to compensation for land stolen, homes demolished and businesses destroyed. These inalienable rights are enshrined in international law and they will not be traded for Kushner’s “Deal of the Century”.
This has not, however, inhibited Christian Zionists from endorsing unilateral decisions taken by the US Administration to facilitate the creeping annexation and colonisation of Palestine by Israel. Robert Jeffries, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), for example, spoke at the opening ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Evangelical Christians had for decades lobbied successive US Presidents to move the US embassy to Jerusalem to assert exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the city. President Trump has also reversed decades of U.S. policy, and recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. With over 40 million adherents, pressure is now being exerted by Christian Zionists for the US President to endorse the annexation of the West Bank, or “biblical heartland” as they like to call it.
Zionist Christians believe a promise God made to Abraham 4,000 years ago justifies the present Judaization of Palestine. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates…” (Genesis 15:18-21)
Here are three observations from scripture which show how Christian Zionists have misunderstood the true nature of Abraham’s inheritance.
Abraham’s Inheritance was Conditional
There should not be any ambiguity over title to the land because the Lord is crystal clear in Leviticus: “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23). God’s people were only permitted to reside in God’s land as foreigners and strangers. The land was never their personal possession. They enjoyed leasehold not freehold.
Abraham’s Inheritance was to be Shared
When the exiles returned from captivity, as a sign of their repentance, God insisted they share the land with those of other nations residing among them.
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe foreigners reside, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 47:21-23)
The prophet Isaiah insists: “Let no foreigners who have bound themselves to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” (Isaiah 56:3). God people were always defined by faith not race.
Abraham’s Inheritance is ours through Jesus Christ
The Apostle Paul explains: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)
The scriptures insist that the inheritance of Abraham was never intended to be the ‘everlasting’ possession of Palestine but instead, through faith in Jesus, our eternal home in heaven. The writer to the Hebrews insists: “none of them received what had been promised since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Christian Zionists who justify Israel’s apartheid colonialism have much in common with those who defended King Ahab’s murder of Naboth to steal his inheritance. As we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace, our gospel witness must embrace a total commitment to justice as the prerequisite for lasting peace and, God willing, ultimately, reconciliation. Inshallah.
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