Why Churches Need to Get Involved with IsraelPublished on: 3.3.2022
By: Ingolf Ellßel, ICEJ Chairman
This teaching is excerpted from a seminar message delivered during the Envision 2022 pastors and leaders conference by Rev. Ingolf Ellßel, Chairman of the ICEJ’s international Board of Trustees.
I am coming from the perspective of a denominational leader. I have been overseer of the German Pentecostal movement and would like to share on why I encourage pastors to stand on the side of Israel.
First, for me personally, when you are a leader of pastors, you have a responsibility to lead the Church into the whole Gospel and all the promises the Bible gives us. Every promise is important. We can read this in 2 Corinthians 1:20, how every promise of God is made “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ. So, we can also look at promises from the Old Testament… they are “Amen” through Jesus.
Israel is a Revelation
The second point of why we stand on the side of Israel is because it is a revelation. When you have the grace of revelation that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, then you are obliged to preach it. And when you have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and you know this is the way to build up faith in your heart, you have to share this. So, revelation about the promises of God is a grace, but you are obliged to preach it and teach it. And the same is true when we have a revelation to stand on the side of Israel. You will find out that pure theology does not give this revelation to others who listen to you, but we need the help of the Holy Spirit whenever we preach from the Word.
I will share a personal testimony… I studied theology and I knew a lot of about Israel through this study, but I realised that it was a dead letter in my life. It was just knowing it, but it was not in my heart. You know what you should do, but there was no power inside to live this.
My personal experience came when I preached the Gospel in a tent meeting in a neighbouring village. During the meeting, a business lady found Christ. One year later, she wanted to say ‘thank you’ and gave my wife and I tickets to visit Israel. We were just beginning to pastor a small church in 1983 and did not have much money. So, we were very excited.
We visited Israel for eight days. Israel is a wonderful country, with all the places to see. But there was a special moment when we were in Jerusalem, standing in front of the Western Wall. I realised the power of the Holy Spirit. It was like a Pentecost experience. After that, I felt a love for Israel deep down in my heart. From this grace I received, it obligated me to preach and teach and do something for Israel.
If you have not been inspired yourself, how can you inspire others? If you need such a revelation on Israel, pray! God can put this love for Israel in your heart, too.
Israel is Loved
The third point I want to share is I find in the Bible that Israel is loved by God. In Jeremiah 31:3-4, it says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. Only God can do love everlasting and He spoke this through His prophet Jeremiah. And in verse 4, “I will build you up again. And you virgin Israel will be rebuilt.” So, the love of God in His heart for Israel gives Him the power to do something great for them.
Isaiah 43:4 adds: “Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honoured, and I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life.” God is willing to do the best for Israel, and this is the same goal we want and the same God who gave us salvation through Jesus.
Even in the New Testament, in Romans 11:28, we find this statement from the Apostle Paul: “But concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” So, we know about Abraham, who believed God… and walked with God in the new country the Lord wanted to give Abraham, and because he was obedient, even to offer his own son – this is awesome – God starts to love this man, and even all generations coming out from him.
I understood then, should not we also love what God loves? This is a strong argument. I understood that churches need help to find this secret. And I understood no pastor can oppose this argument. So as a leader of a denomination, I started to teach pastors about the love of God for Israel. And I asked them this question: Should we also love what God loves? The answer must be very clear. Yes!
God Motivates Us
Point four of why we stand on the side of Israel is because God motivates us to do this. There are many promises in the Bible on how to be blessed by God in different ways. Why should we omit even one of these wonderful promises? We have so many promises we received in the New Testament, because Jesus Christ is the foundation of all that God promised those who believe in Him. And we find a scripture in the Old Testament, in Genesis 12:3, where God spoke to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God allows us to bless ourselves if we start to get involved with Israel. So, I am motivated by knowing when I stand with Israel and speak for Israel, God will bless me… I am sure every person who starts to come into this secret would normally get involved with Israel.
Because God Tests Us
Point five is that relating to Israel is a test. It is not easy. I find a story in the Old Testament about Naomi and Ruth which is very simple. Naomi is an old lady who went out from the Land of Israel with her husband and two sons because it was dry over the years and there was nothing to eat. They went to the country of Moab, where both sons married Moabite women. Death came to this family. Naomi’s husband died. One of her sons died, and then the other one died, and Noami was left standing with her two daughters-in-law.
Naomi felt in her spirit that she should return to her home country. There was a ceremony to say goodbye, and one of the daughters-in-law, Orpah, kissed Naomi goodbye. But Ruth clung to her. What we find here in Ruth 1:14 is a prophetic dimension. Naomi represents here the people of Israel. And we know there was a cloud over Israel for centuries; so many Jewish people died through different circumstances. They were hated by so many nations, and Israel was poor with no home country, like Naomi. And then there came a point where they came out of their homelessness to return to their own country, but they need help with this.
So, Naomi received help from Ruth. In this story, Orpah and Ruth stand in a prophetic way for two types of Christians – the ‘Orpah Christians’ and the ‘Ruth Christians’. We see that Orpah Christians say “thank you” to Israel because their salvation came from the Jewish people… and that is all. “Thank you, Israel, for Jesus Christ, now go your way.” The other one, the Ruth Christian, clung to Israel and stood by her side. So, it is a test, especially when it is difficult to stand on the side of Israel. And up to now many Christians say, “it is too complicated. It is not good for me.” But Christians who love Israel like Ruth, they will cling to Israel. So, God is testing us, even as pastors and denominational leaders, and asking us: “Do you love what I love”?
Some say: “Yes, there was a time when Israel was poor, was homeless, but now they are returning back home. And of course, now the state of Israel is rich and the properties are very expensive.” And so, some think proper Christians do not need to help Israel. It is done! But I know the real poverty of Israel… They need people to visit them, and when they feel their love to them, they can open their heart, and we can serve them. And we need such Christians and such pastors. So, I teach superintendents from our movement to live this lifestyle, which will please God.
And another point here is that the persecution of Satan against the Jews still exists. Millions want Israel to perish. And I know personally, it is not easy to stand with a despised people, or stand on the side of the weak who have no honour in society. But this is what God does, to stand on the side of Israel, even in the difficult times. So, it is up to pastors to do the same.
The Scriptures also say that Jerusalem will become a test for the nations. In Zechariah 12, we find that Jerusalem becomes a ‘burdensome stone’ for the nations. Some will say “we support Israel” and some will say “no, we don’t”. Even Christians are in this test… Will I stand as a Christian on the side of Israel? Yes or No?
I will share an experience from the Pentecostal movement in Germany, which I have led for 12 years. I asked our Board: “Do we have a statement on Israel? Is there something on this in our movement?” And they all were quiet. I found there was no statement. Okay, so I said that we as Germans have a bad history, really a trauma, about the Holocaust and what our former generation had done to Israel. And still, they stepped away and said Israel is complicated, no statement.
But I taught them that you cannot be neutral in this. God was not neutral about Israel; He took a strong position on the side of Israel. He loved them, and He takes care of them. And when His Son, Jesus Christ, when he really lives in our heart, godly things will grow up in our mind, in our heart, and in our actions. So, it took three years to bring them out of the neutral position and the quiet position into a clear statement. And with this Board decision, we started to teach at our national conference about Israel. And we invited Dr. Jürgen Bühler, who spoke to our pastors and others, and it changed.
So, I help pastors and Christians to have a better understanding of Israel. All my trips to Israel were a study. An understanding for Israel grew in my heart and a relationship started. With this foundation I could now teach, because I had lived something…
The Church has Questions
Point six, the church has questions. Why I do I make this point? As a denominational leader, you must deal with why Christians are silent or neutral about the Israel issue. And I found out that we must help our fellow Christians find answers, because they have a lot of honest questions. Here are some examples:
- As a follower of Jesus, do I have to be a friend of Israel? This question exists in many hearts of Christians in our churches.
- To what extent do I have to affirm everything that the State of Israel and the Jewish people do, including their personal and political mistakes? I hear this question often.
- Why did God choose Israel? This is basics, but they do not know it. They think the Gentile Christian is chosen, but Israel is lost and God does not want to take care of them. But read the Bible! God will take care of them, but He looks for people like you and me to do it.
- What happens to the Arabs? Can we be their friend if we also want to be friends of Israel?
- How do we move from the New Testament position of faith and piety to Jewish custom and tradition? How do we counter the danger that with openness to Jewish tradition, customs and Judaism, an Old Testament-oriented “legalism” will reach us? They often fear coming back under the law.
- Which Jewish festivals are practically important for us and ones we should also celebrate? Please give me theological justification for this?
These are questions which are in the hearts of the people.
A Common Fate
Point seven, our common fate is a very strong position. By ‘common fate’, I mean that Israel and Christians have the same End-Time challenges. Let us read carefully from Revelation 12:13. When the dragon [Satan] saw that he had been hurled down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. I teach and make it clear that the woman is Israel, that salvation comes out from the Jews [John 4:22], and the child is Jesus. He is Yeshua. But God protected the woman, even Israel, and Satan was angry. Then the dragon (Revelation 12:17) was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring, those who obey God’s commandments and hold the testimony of Jesus. This is happening worldwide now.
I remember an experience from one of our Feast of Tabernacles, maybe it was 2016. Our leadership invited then-President Reuven Rivlin to deliver a word of greetings. And I remember from his speech a very important sentence. He said: “We have noticed very well that Christianity is the most persecuted religion. We know what persecution is, and we will speak out for you.” What an important statement from the President of Israel. They know about persecution from their own history, and now he stands up and sees Christianity is persecuted in so many countries. And we understand from Revelation 12, that the devil is behind this, he uses nations and peoples to oppress the Christian worldwide. And Israel is already stepping up to confront this. Where are the Christians taking this step for Israel? This is the question I share with all my pastors.
In the Will of God
Point eight, we stand with Israel to bring pastors and churches into the will of God. This is the last good reason which motivates me as superintendent of our movement. I see God cares for Israel. He has promised to do this. If we are pursuing His will, it gives us a sure knowledge of being used by God when we start to serve Israel. We are used in different ways, of course. In Aliyah, we see God wants to bring back all the people of Israel to their home country – the land He gave them. Just as Ruth took care of Naomi, we help Israel come back to the land of their fathers. I have encouraged our pastors to teach in their churches that every Christian should be able to say at the end of their life: I supported at least one Jewish person to fly home to Israel and live there.
Finally, we are encouraged to pray for the best for Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:10 says, “rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.” This is true. When you have love for Israel, you will rejoice with her in all successes she has, through the grace of God. So, pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). Be the guardians on her walls, praying day and night (Isaiah 62:1). This is all happening, but we need to do more. We need to support them more.
I’m very thankful for the International Christian Embassy… I know they have the best contacts even with the Israeli government, and they are worldwide in their influence. So, it is a privilege for me to serve with the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.