By the time you read this blog, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu will no longer be the Prime Minister of Israel. This will mean a lot of big changes in Israel, and some (perhaps many) people are not taking the prospects of these changes very well.
For example, Mike Evans, an Evangelical Christian with a large online following who has organized many tour groups of Christian pilgrims to Israel and supported many projects here wrote a scathing letter to incoming PM Naftali Bennet. If you’re reading this blog you’re probably already familiar with what Evans said in that letter.
Nearly all the leaders of other Christian Zionist ministries here in Jerusalem, as well as pastors and elders in Israel’s own Believer community, have denounced Evans for his inappropriate tone, his use of profanity, and for the ridiculous threats he made to withdraw Evangelical Christian support for Israel due to the incoming Prime Minister not being Bibi Netanyahu.
Well, you know what, I’m going to say something that no one else will say.
Mike Evans had a point.
Although his tone, rhetoric, language, attitude, and many other things about his open statement were as inappropriate as they were outrageous, one of the points he made in the midst of all the vitriolic nonsense he spewed was absolutely correct and it’s about time someone raised it.
The point I’m referring to is the way Israel’s leaders, including Bibi, have long taken the support and assistance Evangelical Christians generously give this country for granted while utterly disregarding the very real and legitimate interests Evangelicals have here.
I’ll give you a real simple example, which was previously mentioned in a recent blog by my KNI colleague Chava Stein.
Jewish Believers who try to immigrate (make Aliyah) to Israel face huge hurdles and bureaucratic roadblocks. Local congregations and ministries sometimes also face hassles and problems from municipal authorities and other private citizens and groups. But the authorities don’t offer them much assistance, which as tax-paying citizens they’re certainly entitled to.
In her blog, Chava asked why Evangelical leaders like Evans, who have access to Israeli leaders, don’t raise these issues and try and find ways to help their brothers and sisters in the local Body of Christ. That’s a question that certainly deserves to be asked, but sadly, I think I know the answer and the answer is that there probably wouldn’t be much point. It’s even possible that these issues have in fact been raised by Evangelical leaders during their meetings with Israeli officials, but those Israeli officials have no motivation whatsoever to do anything about it.
Israeli leaders know exactly what Evangelical Christians do for their country and they also know that Evangelicals will continue doing those things no matter what the Israeli government does or doesn’t do. On the other hand, if the Israeli government DOES start making it easier for Jewish Believers to make Aliyah or if they start cracking down on the illegal harassment of Jewish Believers by anti-missionary groups, they’ll have all kinds of problems with the Orthodox Jews in Israel and maybe also in the Diaspora.
In crude but easily understood terms, Evangelical Christians, even really well known and influential ones like Mike Evans, don’t vote in Israeli elections, while Orthodox Jewish Israeli citizens do vote here. That being the case, the political/electoral calculus an Israeli official needs to do in order to arrive at the course of action it would be most advantageous for them to take is literally a no-brainer.
If some positive change to this calculus were to come from Mike Evans outburst, then maybe it won’t have been for nothing. That’s probably a long shot, but it’s worth hoping and praying for.
All of that having been said, one other point Mike Evans made in his statement and in his subsequent press conference (in which, to his credit, he apologized for some of the more outrageous things he said in the statement) was that his friend Benjamin Netanyahu is a giant on the stage of history while Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid, slated to replace him in the incoming government, are not of the same stature. Evans lamented that Bennet simply isn’t up to the challenges facing Israel.
Once again, this is a fair point. As a citizen of Israel with two small children, I will freely admit that I am not terribly inspired by Naftali Bennet or encouraged by the idea that he will soon be representing my country on the world stage and leading efforts to confront its many challenges.
But here’s the thing.
This day, when we woke up in a country no longer led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was always going to come, sooner or later.
It reminds us of April 13, 1945, the day millions of Americans woke up for the first time in a very long time in a country where Franklin D. Roosevelt was not their President. This leader who had lifted America out of the worst economic depression in it’s history had also led them through the most difficult war they’d ever fought, which still wasn’t over. But he was no longer there, and he’d been replaced by a reletively unknown, untested and inexperienced leader named Harry S. Truman.
This scenario has occurred several other times in history. It happened here in Israel many times, including one day when people woke up in a country no longer led by a King named David, who had been their king for as long as most of them had been alive. In his place was a new guy named Solomon who few had ever heard of and who almost no one (except perhaps his mother) had much confidence in.
This is the way it’s always been as long as human beings have organized themselves into nations and those nations were led by a head of state. All heads of state, good, bad, great, terrible, and everything in between, had in common the fact that their term in office didn’t last forever. No matter how long they were there, how their rule bagan or how it ended, one day we all woke up and they weren’t there anymore.
Solomon, Harry S. Truman, and many other leaders who have come to power under difficult circumstances following the departure of a giant, had to grow into the job, and Naftali Bennet will have to do the same. We should all hope and pray for his success.
So in conclusion brothers and sisters, I would gently remind Mike Evans and anyone else who might be having a hard time with this new reality to remember two things.
The first and most important thing to remember is Who is REALLY in charge of Israel and to stop worrying.
The second thing to remember is what the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in 1 Timothy 2: 1-7;
First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.