Israel: the Miraculous Imperfection

By Nic Lesmeister
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Posted in Zealous Magazine on April 29th, 2018

In September of 1897, a 37-year old man by the name of Theodor Herzl opened his personal diary and began to write. Just days before, he had successfully organized the world’s First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Over 200 delegates from around the world gathered for three days to carefully begin planning how they would advance their movement to create a Jewish homeland in what was then Palestine. It was the official launch of the Zionist movement.

Herzl, overwhelmed by his self-appraised success of the event, penned this in his diary:

“If I had to sum up the Basel Congress in one word—which I shall not do openly—it would be this: At Basel, I founded the Jewish state. If I were to say this today, I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years, perhaps, and certainly in 50, everyone will see it.

Theodor Herzl’s incredible prediction was only one year off. Fifty-one years later, on May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was officially born.

Studying the lives and work of the Zionist founders like Herzl, David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister), Chaim Weizmann, and Ze’ev Jabotinsky is an exercise in amazement. Each of these individuals lived very secular Jewish lives, scarcely practicing their Jewish faith at all. Yet, in retrospect, each of them was a tool in the hands of God to advance His ancient promises of restoring the Jewish people to their own nation in their ancestral homeland in the Middle East.

For those of us who are students of the Word of God, these kinds of stories should come as no surprise. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and many more of our Bible heroes were men of great imperfection. Yet they were all used by God to advance His causes on the earth.

Many Jewish people call the Hebrew Bible (what we would call the Old Testament) “the family diary of the Jewish people.” It is filled with ups and downs, rights and wrongs, successes and failures. It’s Israel’s story of being completely imperfect, but wedded covenantally to a miraculous and perfect Father.

The ancient people of Israel were a miraculously imperfect people, and the current people of Israel—and their national homeland—are no exception. To me, this is the great wisdom of God on display. He has chosen for himself a representative people from all people groups in the world to be an example of His great mercy on all mankind. Ancient and Modern Israel show that it is okay to be human, for God works through humans when we’re willing to cooperate with Him.

God clearly reminds the people of Israel about this in Deuteronomy:

“It is not because you are more numerous than all the peoples that Adonai set His love on you and chose you—for you are the least of all peoples. Rather, because of His love for you and His keeping the oath He swore to your fathers…” (Duet 7:7-8)

The Jewish people continue in this pattern of being “least of all peoples” today. Israel is only the 100th most populated nation on the earth, and the Jewish people are one of the smallest global minorities. Yet this tiny nation and small group of people can boast that they have more PhDs per capita, more libraries and museums per capita, more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country besides the USA and China, and 23% of the world’s nearly 900 Nobel Prize winners.

Even with all of these miraculous success stories, Israel remains imperfect. For as much as the current Israeli government does to bring good to the world—through fighting back Islamic extremism, to protecting innocent life from terrorists, to sending aid around the world when disaster strikes, it suffers from some key shortcomings. One of the biggest is in the way it handles the Messianic Jewish community living in the Land.

When Israel was founded in 1948, the State created the Law of Return, which guarantees that any Jewish person with a Jewish grandparent could immigrate to Israel and receive immediate citizenship. Over three million Jews have gone through this process in the past 70 years. However, when it comes to a Jew who professes faith in Yeshua, the process is not so smooth.

Many Messianic believers are outrightly denied citizenship, and many others go through long, expensive court cases to win their citizenship from the government. When Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected in 2015, he had to make a deal with the Ultra-Orthodox political party in order to officially form his government in the parliament. Netanyahu agreed to give their party greater control over the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the citizenship process. The Ultra-Orthodox are very much today’s version of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, and they do not accept Messianics as Jews, and often barely even as humans.

In 2016, some dear friends of Tabatha and mine were kicked out of the country with their three children when the Supreme Court would not recognize them as Jews because they believed in Yeshua. Frustratingly, they had been living in Israel for five years attempting to receive their citizenship and spending thousands of dollars on legal aid to fight for their cause. One set of their parents were even Israeli Messianic citizens, and so were some of their siblings. Yet due to the persecution from the Ultra-Orthodox nonprofits that advise the courts on cases dealing with Messianic Jews, they lost their appeal and had to leave the country.

It is in light of all of this that I call Israel the miraculous imperfection. Yes, the Israel Defense Force has mistreated Palestinians at times. Yes, the government mistreats Messianic Jews at times as well. Yes, the city of Tel Aviv hosts one of the biggest gay pride celebrations in the world each year. Yes, corporate Israel has not yet accepted Jesus as their Messiah.

None of this, friends, negates the fact that Israel exists today to celebrate her 70th birthday because a miracle working God has been faithful to keep his promises. What He began through the secular hands of A.D. Gordon, Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, and David Ben-Gurion over a century ago continues today as proof that Israel is not the hero of the story–-the God OF Israel is!

Israel will never be perfect, she will always make mistakes, and her people will continue to be a stiff-necked, loud, unruly bunch. But her perfection is not in her performance as a nation-state or as a collective Jewish people. It is, instead, in the fact that she is covenantally bound to a faithful God who chose her thousands of years ago because He loved her.

I find personal encouragement in knowing that it is God who faithfully keeps His promises, even through our tattered history of failures. The State and People of Israel are a sign to the nations of the earth that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Yeshua is the True God, and He is worthy of our trust and affection.

Happy 70th birthday to the miraculous imperfection—Israel!


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    Spring 2018