Israel is one of the smallest nations on earth, but it is also one of the most important. With deep ties to three of the world’s major religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—this small area of land has been the center of seemingly endless conflicts and controversies.
People often ask me, “Pastor, why do Christians care so much about Israel?” What is it about this tiny Middle Eastern country about the size of New Jersey that makes it so significant to our Christian faith?
There are three primary reasons that Christians care about Israel.
First, there are spiritual reasons that we support Israel. The land of Israel is the birthplace of our Christian faith. It is the place where Jesus Christ lived and died and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. It is the place where we believe Jesus, the Messiah, will one day return and establish His future earthly kingdom.
This is why so many Christians take pilgrimages to Israel, to see the places where Jesus ministered and to walk where He walked. Two weeks ago, I took a trip of 400 people to the Holy Land and watched them connect their faith with many of the geographical locations and events they have read about in the Bible.
Second, there are historical reasons that Christians support Israel. God promised Abraham, the father of the Jews, that He would give to him and his descendants the land that currently makes up modern-day Israel (Genesis 15:18–21). God confirmed that promise to Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob, who was called “Israel” (Genesis 26:3; 28:13; 32:28).
This clear promise from God—repeated three times in Scripture—is the reason that Christian Americans of both political parties supported President Harry S. Truman in 1948 when he officially recognized the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jews. And it is why Christians continue to support our nation’s continued, steadfast friendship with Israel.
Third, there are geopolitical reasons that Christians care about Israel. In the past, American support of Israel has been bipartisan. (Remember, President Truman was a Democrat!) Only recently has congressional support for Israel become a partisan issue. We are seeing that partisanship on full display this week as many Democrat contenders for president are skipping the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington. Since 1948, the nation of Israel has been America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East. Virtually every sitting president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has visited Israel. And Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump met in ademonstration of solidarity between our two countries.
Unlike most other Middle Eastern countries, Israel shares many of the same political goals outlined in America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Israel supports the God-given right to life and liberty. They believe in the rule of law, not in the rule of man, which can lead to tyranny. They believe in free and fair elections. They believe in the freedom of conscience, to worship as you please.
Israeli citizens are made up of practicing Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as other beliefs and non-belief. They support the freedom of the press and the freedom to speak your mind without threat of governmental reprisal. And they believe nations ought to have sovereign control over their own borders.
Recently, President Trump declared his support for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. I, along with other Christian leaders, cheered the president for doing so. During my recent trip to Israel, I had the opportunity to meet with Major General Yair Golan of the Israeli Defense Force, who talked about the existential threats to Israel—from the Iranian threat from without and the Palestinian threat from within.
I’ve come to understand the strategic significance of the Golan Heights as a barrier against the chaos taking place in Syria and as a first line of defense against Iranian and Hezbollah encroachment into that country. Both the Iranian government and the terror organization Hezbollah have called for the destruction of Israel and could use Syria as a staging ground to strike Israel.
As I said during my prayer at the dedication of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem last year, God has called Israel “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). God promised Abraham that through him and his descendants “all the families of the earth [would[ be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Through its many innovations in medicine, technology, and energy, Israel has truly been a blessing to the entire world. Most importantly, it is through Israel that we have received the knowledge of the one true God. God has used Israel to bring us the message of the prophets, the Scriptures, and, ultimately, the Messiah.
That is why Christians care so much about Israel. At this crucial time in world history, I strongly believe it is imperative that America remains on the right side of history—and the right side of God—by continuing our support of Israel.