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Reflections from Israel — and how it has changed in the past 30 years

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

A VISIT TO THE HOLY LAND AFTER THE U.S. EMBASSY DECISION

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I’d like to review with you something that you’ve been involved with personally — you do this every other year — that is your latest trip to Israel. You’ve been over there for the last couple of weeks. Give us an update on what is happening politically and what is happening spiritually.  

DR. REEDER: Tom, I did ride by the proposed site of the U.S. Embassy. I also stayed in Jerusalem at a hotel that’s next to the old U.S. Consulate. I did talk to many people and, as you would suspect, the Palestinians I talked to, both Muslim and professing Christian, were not happy about it. The Jewish people I talked to pretty much across the board were grateful for it and they felt like, “This is our capital.”

I still am of the opinion it was the right thing to do in terms of normative geopolitics to put the embassy at the capital. It’s the right thing to do, it was done and I think, actually, it may move the discussions for peace further down the road. It’s a complicated situation and you have to understand the War of Independence in 1948.

GETTING TO KNOW ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS 

It’s also interesting that I ended up with an Arab bus driver and a Jewish licensed guide. I had conversations with Jewish leaders, I had conversations with the everyday people who are Jewish and shared the Gospel — our perspective, what does it mean to have a personal relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior. By the way, it has moved from 80 percent professing Christians in Bethlehem now to about 18 percent.

Tomorrow, you and I are looking at doing a program in terms of the denial of security and privacy in terms of public accommodations for the necessities of life, if we can be appropriate in our language, and I actually had the opportunity in one of the ruins site and what did the Romans do, and what did they do from a pagan world and life view and what is it that you can learn from that?

It’s really interesting how you’re able to take a look at our present popular culture and the unraveling of our culture because of the loss of a doctrine of creation and what does it mean that men and women are made in the image of God and what are the sanctities of life and compare that with pagans.

THE APOSTLES INSPIRE US TO EVANGELIZE

And, when I was in Bashan, I also had the opportunity to stand at kind of the epicenter of New Testament Christianity which is a place called “The Upper Room.” The building actually is a reflection of the crusader building, a church at that site, but there were other churches built on that site all the way back to the third century.

And I just said to people, “I want you to stop and think of what happened here. First, the last Passover was here and the fulfillment in Christ as the Lamb of God. Second, the first Lord’s Supper was here. Third, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2 happened here as the Spirit of God came upon the 120 people in prayer after the ascension of Jesus. Fourth, it is here that they were praying when James had already been killed — that is, the brother of John — and Peter was threatened and, in their intercessory prayer, Peter was free while they prayed here. It was an upper room of a house that was owned by the parents of John Mark. It’s also the place where they selected the disciple to replace Judas and that was Matthias,” which, of course, is the name of my grandson, so that makes it a special place for me.

I just shared with people, “Don’t despise small places and small things. It is amazing what God does there. What God did with these frightened disciples, giving them courage after the resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit, the lifting up of the name of Christ, 120 including the family of Jesus that got converted after the resurrection and, out of that place was a tsunami wave of a gospel earthquake that has moved throughout the world.”

We also had the opportunity to go to a number of places, not the least of which was the new synagogue in Magdala. It would have been one of the places where Jesus taught. The Bible says that he went to the synagogues around the Galilee — there are seven of them — to stand there and sense what it was on those floors, those mosaic floors, that Jesus stood.

VISITING THE HOLY LAND BRINGS FAITH TO LIFE

It reminds you that Christianity is not an ethereal abstract philosophical concept, but it is something that has happened in space, and time and history. The God Who created men and women, who sinned against Him, so loved us that in no coercion, the Father so gives His Son Who redeems us. The Son comes into the world and he actually has a true body, lives in true places and there is a historical reality to His atoning death — it wasn’t just a concept, His resurrection, His ascension as well as there is a prewritten historic reality that He is coming again.

To be able to share that with people and to see that enhance their life and their Bible go from black and white to color, from 2-D, to 3-D to 4-D in its dimensions, is very exciting, as well as the bridges it opens up to share the Gospel with others.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, you’ve been doing this for a number of years now — I would guess 20 years you’ve been going over to Israel?

DR. REEDER: No, it’s been longer than that. I started in my very first year in ministry, 1982, and now it’s every other year so I’ve been there 15 times now.

HOW HAS ISRAEL CHANGED OVER THE DECADES?

TOM LAMPRECHT: How has Israel changed 1982 to now?

DR. REEDER: This doesn’t sound like much to people, but from a miniscule number of Christians that you could almost count on your fingers and toes, now there are 2 percent of the population that are Christian. There is a movement of Christianity within the Israeli army. There has been the securing of the freedom of Christians to build churches legally that used to not be there. There is the constant development of archaeology that keeps affirming the reality of Christianity and the claims in the Bible that liberal seminaries used to dismiss and now have to acknowledge — “Oh, yeah, there was a King David. There was a Pontius Pilate. There was an Elijah that ministered in the times of Ahaziah, etc.”

Those things have come about throughout the years and all the excavations that are taking place. You also begin to see the dynamic of politics and how they play out in the world: that, on the one hand, the world’s shame at what they allowed to be done to the Jewish people under the regime of Nazi Germany and wanting to “do penance” for that, yet in the Balfour Declaration and in the 1948 Mandate, how the nations — under the leadership of Great Britain, by the way — fell short because they did not carry out the mandate rightly.

Now we have this issue of Palestinian displacement and Jewish development of their home state but, because of how it was not dealt with in the creation of a previously unheard-of nation, Jordan, that was done for political reasons by the nation of the world, in general, and Great Britain, in particular, the very provisions that were made in the original declaration, because they weren’t carried out, they continued to have this issue. I believe there’s got to be a two-state solution and somehow, that’s got to be accomplished.

THE JEWISH STATE SEEMS TO BE PROVIDENTIAL

And then, finally, while I am not one of those that believe that God is going to go back and resurrect the Temple and the sacrificial system as is affirmed in dispensational theology, I do believe that the Lord has promised a gospel movement among the Jewish people and now there are over 8 million Jewish people that occupy this land and it continues to grow as many more begin to come. And I see God providentially gathering the Jewish people for the opportunity that is given to us to take the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.

And so, I stand with the reformers such as Calvin and Knox, who believed that is a mandate to Christians. The Gospel came to us through the Jewish people and, while I do not believe that Zionism is a requirement of Biblical Christianity, I do believe the gathering of the Jewish people into this nation is a providential act of God to enhance our evangelistic opportunities and relationships with the Jewish people.

COMING UP TOMORROW: BIRTH CERTIFICATE MADNESS IN NEW YORK

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, on Thursday’s edition of Today in Perspective, I want to take you to a couple of news stories. One is out of Fox News that is reporting that, in the city of New York, they are considering a new law that would allow adults to change their birth certificates — go back in time and change their birth certificates from male or female to X.

DR. REEDER: Having already declared parents have the opportunity to declare the sex of their children as “undetermined” or “unknown.” Now, what does this lead to, and why is that here and what is the end game of such regulations of such laws? What does it reveal concerning our world and life view and what will it ultimately lead to?

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.