The pot and the kettle

Jews and Arabs at the bittersweet intersection of Israel and the Church

Have you ever heard the expression “the pot calling the kettle black?”

It means accusing each other of faults we ourselves have.

To our great sorrow both Israel (Yisra-El) and the Christian Church and have been a very “mixed bag,” reflecting El-ohim and Christ rather intermittently and dimly throughout the centuries.

Here in the “Holy” Land the shortcomings of both Israel and the church are keenly felt—both by Messianic Jews and by Arab Christians.

Puzzled at Israel

Many Arab Christians are puzzled at the modern state of Israel. On the one hand the Old Testament obviously says much about the people of Israel returning to their land. On the other hand, Arabs living in this land have suffered in real ways because of the Jewish state, the “holy people.” The paradoxical question arises: “How can the country of Israel be a fulfillment of Bible prophecy if it has many elements that are downright ungodly?” Many Arab Christians have negative associations with Israel. They feel like second class citizens here. Therefore some have concluded that all those promises to Israel in the Bible must not apply to the present day state!

Puzzled at the Church

In just the same way for almost two millennia, Jewish people have been puzzled at the church. On the one hand the church has adopted both the Jew from Nazareth and the Hebrew Scriptures as their own. On the other hand Jews have suffered at the hands of the European Church establishment from the very beginning. Century after century Jews asked: “How can Jesus be our Messiah if ‘His’ church hates us, discriminates against us, expels us, tortures us and kills us?” Instead of making the Jewish people jealous (Deuteronomy 32:21, Romans 10 & 11), the church has often made the Jewish people nauseous.

An Ancient Conundrum

How can Israel and the “church” be so sinful?

How can His people, called by His name, be so broken and imperfect?!

How can those who were called to be a light to the nations have been, so often, sputtering candles?

Just as modern Israel is a very mixed bag, so also ancient Israel was a very mixed bag. There were godly kings and there were ungodly kings (the majority). The Hebrew prophets conveyed scathing indictments and rebukes of the sins of both Israel and Judah.

Even in sin, Israel was referred to as the (emerging) “kingdom of the LORD” on earth (I Chronicles 28:5)! Even in idolatry, Israel was called (by faith prophetically) the “virgin” daughter of Zion—in the midst of her wayward, adulterous unfaithfulness toward God (Isaiah 37:22, Jeremiah 31:21).

A Bride Being Purified

In Ezekiel 16 and Hosea 1-3 we read parables of Israel as the adulterous woman whom the faithful bridegroom God woos back, purifies and betroths again to Himself.

The New Testament echoes this language in referring to the church as a betrothed woman—not yet purified—but now in a process of preparation, to be given clean garments before her marriage to the bridegroom Yeshua (II Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 19:7-8).

Mercy to All

Romans 11 describes both Israel and the Gentile believers, as being branches of the olive tree.

In the precise context of prophetically predicting and describing dynamics between the church and Israel which are valid to this very day, Paul says: “For God has enclosed them together in disobedience, in order that He might show mercy to all…” (Romans 11:32 mod. CJB).

So here we are, two communities living a bit awkwardly side by side at the intersection of Israel and the church— God’s peoples in this earth, flickering with an unsteady, wavering light. The Messianic Jews and the Christian Arabs in this land are inextricably connected to both. Indeed we are all very much “works in progress.” Thankfully, “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” (Philippians 1:6).


This article originally appeared in Oasis Newsletter by Tents of Mercy, November 2016, and reposted with permission.