During a recent interview on TBN Israel, Michael Onifer was asked to make the case for Israel from a Christian’s point of view – why should Christians stand with Israel, and why should they learn about it?
“It’s not a case for Israel at all; it’s a case for Jesus,” replied Onifer, who directs the Bethlehem Project and works to develop Jewish-Christian relations in Israel and the West Bank. “If we want to know and serve and love Jesus, we have to understand Israel.”
He picked up a Bible and opened it to the end of the Old Testament, demonstrating that the Old Testament is much longer than the New Testament. He said Christians would be wise not to discard two-thirds of the Bible when trying to learn about their Savior.
“If we’re going to understand Jesus and we’re only going to look at one-third of the Bible, well guess what? We’re only looking at one-third of Jesus,” Onifer reasoned.
Onifer, the author of “God, Israel, and You: The Scandalous Story of a Faithful God,” pointed out the Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy that places Jesus in the context of his Jewish ancestors. Furthermore, Jesus’ disciples understood his teachings because he routinely cited the Torah. And when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to ask that God’s will be done on Earth as in Heaven.
“He wasn’t talking about the Earth in some arbitrary, metaphorical sense,” Onifer insisted. “He was talking about this city [Jerusalem] and this place [Israel], and if you and I are joined to the very agent of creation, if we are co-laborers with Jesus and we are to join with him in the process of redemption, we need to understand that we have an obligation to the physical world. We’re not just sitting back waiting for everything to get wrapped up so we can be a pile of neatly folded clothes on the floor. No – God wants us to partner with Him in redemption.”
Humans must labor for redemption wherever they happen to live, Onifer said, but they must give priority to God’s chosen land and people.
“If we don’t prioritize the city that God prioritized, how can we expect God to prioritize what we bring before him?” Onifer asked.
Michael Onifer’s latest book takes a fresh, biblically based look at how God has and continues to use both Israelis and Arabs to further his purposes. “God, Israel, and You: The Scandalous Story of a Faithful God” is available now in the WND Superstore.
Onifer acknowledged it can be scary for Christians to embrace Israel because the issue has become so politically complicated. However, it is essential to the believer’s life of faith.
“It’s easy to be discouraged by the veneer of the complexity and the politics, but when you stop and you look at it, you realize that there is this thread throughout the Bible and it’s connected to this piece of land [Israel],” he said.
Onifer emphasized the importance of understanding Jesus the same way his disciples understood him – through the Old Testament. If Christians try to look for Jesus exclusively through their New Testament and church-centric worldview, they might miss him.
“For the people during Jesus’ time that misunderstood Jesus or missed Jesus, let him walk right by and not embrace their Savior because they were operating in a religious-cultural paradigm – listen, we have that same choice,” Onifer advised. “So me, having 2,000 years of church history, versus 2,000 years from Sinai to Gospel times, I can miss Jesus. I can miss what God is doing in the world if I’m just looking at Him through my religious context, through my cultural Christian context and not through the lens of Scripture.”
Onifer said it’s a common misconception that to be pro-Israel is to be anti-Arab. He insisted God does not choose sides, but is only for His own purposes.
“We need to understand that there is a redemptive purpose within the Arab world and specifically within the Palestinian people, and we need to do the hard work of thinking about that historically and biblically so that we can be a part of justice for the Palestinians, and justice in the sense that Palestinians are released into their redemptive purpose, which is to follow the Lord and to accept their biblical identity in Christ over a political identity or an ethnic identity,” Onifer explained.
Onifer pointed out he is a “white guy from New Jersey” and therefore doesn’t possess the moral authority to tell Palestinians not to think of themselves as Palestinians. But he said it is Jesus’ authority, not Onifer’s, that matters.
“Jesus says to all of us, ‘You have to pick up your cross and follow me,'” Onifer noted. “He says to all of us, ‘You need to deny yourself and follow me.’ He says to all of us, ‘Unless you hate your father, your mother, your brother, you cannot belong to me.’
“So I believe the prophetic destiny and the redemptive purpose of the Arab world is to come alongside and align with God’s redemptive purposes for the nations and God’s redemptive purposes for the nations are inseparably connected to Israel and the Jewish people.”
Michael Onifer’s latest book takes a fresh, biblically based look at how God has and continues to use both Israelis and Arabs to further his purposes: “God, Israel, and You: The Scandalous Story of a Faithful God” is available now in the WND Superstore.