• A different look at the Israeli-Gaza fighting…(warning: meant to start discussion, not endorse either side!)


Right off the bat I want to make clear that there are no pure “good guys” and “bad guys” in any conflict in the Middle East. Regardless of what any Iranian Prime Minister or Texas Dispensational TV Preacher may claim, neither side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes “God’s People.”

That being said, I was curious as to how the recent bombardment of Gaza by Israel in retaliation for Hamas’ ongoing rocket attacks into Israel might sound to those in the world who are not devoted to one side over the other. So with the magic of Microsoft Word’s “Find/Replace” editing function, I’ve taken an article from Yahoo and substituted different names for the groups and individuals mentioned in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I wanted to find another country in history that had been involved in conflicts within its borders over disputed land and colonization. In order to truly turn the mirror on myself, I chose the following.

Taken from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20090119/wl_time/08599187245900

[The names of the groups involved has been changed in order to give a different perspective on “internal” conflicts]

America and Native Americans Agree to Cherokee Cease-Fire. Will It Last?

“The American Congress decided on Saturday night to unilaterally end its 21-day war against Native American militants on the Cherokee Reservation in Cherokee, N.C. as of 2 a.m. Sunday, bringing an end to a conflict that has left more than 1,200 Native Americans and 13 Americans dead.

On Sunday, just hours after the American statement, The Cherokee Nation announced that it too was declaring a weeklong cease-fire, while also demanding that American troops withdraw from Cherokee within the week.

After holding talks with European leaders in Washington on Sunday, American President BushBama said: “We don’t want to stay in Cherokee, and we intend to leave as soon as possible.”

Both sides traded shots after their separate announcements, but Cherokee residents say that the cease-fire seems to be gaining strength, and Native Americans have emerged from their refuges to assess the damage of America’s three-week long air and land assault against The Cherokee Nation in Cherokee.

President BushBama told newsmen after the Saturday night Congress meeting, “All of our goals have been achieved successfully. The Cherokee Nation was beaten.” He added, “If The Cherokee Nation decides to keep shooting, we’re ready to strike back forcefully.” (See TIME’s photos of the violence in the American Southeast)

America was facing rising international outrage over its Cherokee Reservation offensive, in which nearly one-third of those killed were women and children, according to Native American health workers. In trying to root out The Cherokee Nation fighters, America subjected the Cherokee Reservation, which teems with over 1.5 million Native Americans, to scorching fire from aircraft, naval gunships, artillery, tanks and troops backed by helicopter gunships.

The cabinet sources told TIME that there will be an interim period “to allow the dust to settle and see how The Cherokee Nation reacts” before America decides to pull out its troops.

Ending the fighting now allows America to boast that it has hammered The Cherokee Nation and restored the Secular nation’s military might in the Americas, which was tarnished by its inconclusive war in 2006 against Lakota fighters in South Dakota. America is also satisfied by promises made by Australia and the Europeans to provide technical assistance that will supposedly help the Mexican government stop the flow of weapons to The Cherokee Nation in Cherokee through smugglers’ tunnels. The U.K. pledged on Friday to help stem the international traffic of arms from Guatamala and other suppliers to Cherokee.

But a cease-fire without The Cherokee Nation and America’s mutual consent may be the most temporary of band-aids. Inevitably, The Cherokee Nation claimed that despite the devastation its fight with America has wreaked on Cherokee, the best the Americans could do was slow – but not stop – the barrage of rockets arcing out of Cherokee. The Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Reservation leader Chief Tomochichi claimed “a Popular victory” over America. Up until the last minute before America declared its cease-fire, The Cherokee Nation was firing rockets. Five hit the ports of Savannah and Charleston as well as the inland towns of Charlotte and Atlanta. And unless The Cherokee Nation is obliged by Mexico and other Native American states to sign a truce with America, rather than following America’s example of declaring its own, it may be only days or weeks before the Native Americans or one of the myriad militant groups in Cherokee decides to take revenge for the American assault and again start firing rockets into southeastern America. And that, judging from BushBama’s warning, would result in America again pummeling Cherokee Reservation.

By declaring a unilateral cease-fire, America can argue that it is not legitimizing The Cherokee Nation, which it considers to be a gang of terrorists. But even though a few of The Cherokee Nation’ leaders have been killed, along with hundreds of its fighters, America cannot pretend that The Cherokee Nation no longer exists. Even beaten and bloodied, The Cherokee Nation are still a force to contend with among Native Americans.

The Cherokee Reservation conflict has raised The Cherokee Nation’ stature in the Native American world and, more importantly, among Native Americans. In Native American eyes, The Cherokee Nation are plucky champions – David fighting the American Goliath with homemade rockets instead of a slingshot – while America sees them as killers who hide behind their civilians and who are willing to sacrifice them for propaganda triumphs. But if America insists on imposing the same punitive sanctions it kept on Cherokee Reservation’s 1.5 million people before this war, it will only strengthen The Cherokee Nation and fan the Native Americans’ hatred towards America.

A unilateral cease-fire practically guarantees that America and The Cherokee Nation are destined for another bloody brawl. And once again, the victims will be the Native American civilians whose streets and homes in Cherokee are turned into a battleground.

With so much blood spilled in Cherokee, it will be difficult for America to gauge the proper response to another provocation by The Cherokee Nation. What will happen once the cease-fire begins without The Cherokee Nation? If a rocket is fired from Cherokee and lands in a crowded American schoolyard, what then? How will America respond? There is not much left in Cherokee to destroy.”


Of course, any discussion of Middle East conflicts is going to be heated, controversial, and inevidably leaning toward one side or the other. My goal in writing this is to get everyone, particularly those in the body of Christ who refuse to see any side other than Israel’s (because of erroneous interpretations of Biblical passages concerning “Israel” that have been popular for the past 150 years, and rampant since the secular state of Israel was established after WWII) to try to see this whole situation through the lens of those not sympathetic to Western secularism…or perhaps through the lens of the many many Palestinian Christians who are caught up in this debacle and feel forgotten by their brothers and sisters in Christ here in America.

Thinking together…


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  1. JMH

    We’re definitely close, but I see more relevance of the Law for believers today. I think the whole law still applies, just not always in the same way since the coming of Christ.

    I don’t think the civil/ceremonial/moral distinction is forced; I think it’s pretty helpful, although no one says we can neatly divide things into 3 distinct piles. I think we read every command and ask how the coming of Christ and other redemptive-historical changes affect it.

    So we don’t offer animal sacrifices, but in a sense, we’re actually still obeying the sacrificial laws– because Christ fulfilled them perfectly on our behalf. We don’t stone people anymore, because God’s people aren’t organized as a nation-state anymore, but we actually keep that command when we excommunicate people (Paul shows this when he quotes a death-penalty verse referring to excommunication).

    A moral command, on the other hand, something like “Do not murder,” is not affected by the advent of the New Covenant. God still hates the shedding of innocent blood, so that command is exactly the same. So I’d have no problem telling a Christian, “you can’t kill, because Exodus 20 says ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”

    Now my level of exegetical certainty drops with the Sabbath. But my personal conviction is that we are to devote one day a week to rest and worship, and that, following the example of the early church, it should be the first day of the week– the “Lord’s Day,” as some [inspired apostles] have called it.


    Comment by JMH on April 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm

  2. JMH

    In other words, or to distill: 9 times out of 10 our application will be the same, but we’re getting there different ways.

    You’ll still read commandments in the OT and know that you need to obey them. And I’ll still know that I can eat pork without becoming “defiled.” But we’d explain our reasoning differently.


    Comment by JMH on April 6, 2009 at 7:08 pm

  3. JMS

    I agree. Where it gets tricky is:

    “So I’d have no problem telling a Christian, “you can’t kill, because Exodus 20 says ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”

    because when they say “Yes, but Exodus 23 says “Three times a year you shall keep a feast to me.” Then we’re forced to say that there’s a distinction between these that while helpful to mentally group them by, is not delineated in the Covenant itself.

    Rather, I would say it’s more consistent to simply say, we don’t murder because God always opposes it. Then beginning with the Noahic prohibition, show that God continued hating it under the Sinai Covenant with Israel, and then show its continued prohibition in the NT Sermon on the Mount and Apostolic Vice lists.

    I like how Doug Stuart put it in his essay from “Preaching the Old Testament” (ed. by Gibson):

    “How can the employee please the boss if they employee does not take the trouble to learn what the boss wants done and what the boss has prohibited? In the new covenant, believers please God by following Christ with the help of God’s Spirit, who prompts and prods thinking and action that would otherwise be merely human with all its sinful limitations. Can the Holy Spirit use our knowledge of the Old Testament law to inform our perspectives and give us not only examples but a general framework for sensing what sort of thinking and behavior would please God under the new covenant? Of course he can – and indeed, that is just how he, the author of the old covenant law, expects us to view the material that he authored via his prophet Moses

    “That is, then, what the Old Testament law does for us as the Spirit uses it. Those who follow Christ must recognize that the Pentateuchal law is not our Covenant Law (that is, most of it has not been brought over into the new covenant from the old and therefore its commands that were direct commands to the Israelites are not direct commands to us). But this does not mean that the law somehow ceases to be the Word of God for us. On the analogy of the way that Old Testament narratives or Old Testament wisdom teachings guide us even though they don’t necessarily contain direct commands to us, the law continues to have direct relevance and usefulness even though we are under a newer covenant…

    “Especially important is the fact that the law is a place where we can find out the kinds of standards that the same God who currently expects us to know him and obey him originally placed before his chosen people so that they might know him and obey him. In other words, the principles of the law have not become irrelevant to the life of the believer just because of the passage of time. What the law continues to do for us is to give us principles about what God expects in human behavior, principles that are hugely helpful in guiding us as we listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading to follow Christ…”” [pp.87-99]


    Comment by JMS on April 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

  4. JMS

    Let me take your question series in smaller installments to avoid an uber-long comment post. (I love the word ‘uber’). I’ll put my answers in bold for ease of following:

    “The first is that when the “old law” as you implicitly put it was given to Moses, God said time and again that its precepts were an everlasting sign for all Israel’s generations.”

    Yes, but not literally forever. The primary meaning of ‘Olam is “for a long time” (see Holladay’s Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon as well as the fuller entry in Kohlenberger’s Heb. Aram. Lexicon of the OT). It comes from the root word for “to hide”, as in something that is so far in the past or so far in the future that its beginning or end seem hidden from view. There are numerous places where things that are not literally forever are described as “’olam”:
    The Levitical Priesthood is spoken of as being “forever”, but is not literally forever, because it was fulfilled and completed in Jesus–who was not a Levitical priest, but rather a Melchizedekian priest.
    God specifically declares that “forever” doesn’t always mean “forever” and can be altered based on Covenant relationship and obedience (1Sam 2:30). This happened when He brought an end to the Temple, the place where He was said to dwell “forever” (1Kgs 8:13, 9:3, etc.). Likewise, the Levites were said to carry the ark and minister before God “forever”, yet this did not continue after the destruction of the Temple either. Even the destruction of the land of Israel at the hands of Babylon was described as “a wasteland forever” (Isa. 32:2), yet that lasted 70 years.
    Other examples of “forever” being used in a different sense than literally forever would be Gen. 6:4,1Sam. 1:22, 1Sam 27:8
    “’Olam” has a flexible semantic range of meanings, varying from “a long time” to “utterly” to “forever”. As we see in the NT, the Sinai Covenant lasted “forever” in the sense of until the coming of the New Covenant, which completed–not annulled or abolished–the Sinai Covenant and ushered in the age of Israel’s Messiah.

    As you pointed out, this was a new Law, HOWEVER it did not NULLIFY the revelation or the promises given to Abraham, it FULFILLED them.

    It began to fulfill them. But the Abrahamic blessing would not be truly fulfilled until the arrival of the promised Seed, as Galatians makes clear.

    But I do not believe the New Covenant nullified the Sinai Covenant. Nullify, like Abolish, carries the connotation of conflict or overcoming opposition. The New Covenant FULFILLED the Sinai Covenant, by COMPLETING it; bringing it to it’s God-ordained goal. The New Covenant’s beginning was the Sinai Covenant’s finish line, not its overthrow or nullification.

    Abraham’s promises from God continued to exist in the exact form they were given. Fast forward 1500 years (or so) to Matthew 5. Sermon on the Mount. We like to quote Jesus here:

    “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

    But we usually forget the rest of his thought:

    “For truly I say to you that until heaven and Earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven but whoever keeps and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    This seems to me to explicitly refer to the WRITTEN LAW (the NIV even translates this as “letter or stroke OF A PEN”).

    Yes, He is definitely talking about the written law, using the Hebrew terms for the tiniest markings making up part of certain letter characters, the letter yod and the serifs on the ends of other letters. This passage seems on the surface to argue against everything I’ve said above…however, reading it closely, we see it’s saying exactly the opposite. It’s saying that until the New Coven


    Comment by JMS on April 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm

  5. Jeff A.


    I’m enjoying your comments. I promise I’m not just case building with my questions. I’m genuinly interested to hear your perspective. This is an issue I’ve been studying a lot over the past year or so.

    As I said, I’d like to present a slightly different view (although probably not the one you anticipate) but for simplicity’s sake I’ll let you finish your response/thought before I add more logs to the fire, as it were.


    Comment by Jeff A. on April 6, 2009 at 9:07 pm

  6. JMS

    I think Acts 21 is a real problem for the position you’ve presented. Here James clearly says that thousands [of Jews] have believed in Jesus “and they are all zealous for the Law.” They go on to ask Paul to prove that he is not teaching Jews to turn away from following the Law. He gladly goes into the Temple and pays for the sacrifice of the Nazarites. This is tantamount to him signing a confession of faith that says he still observes the Law of Moses. If he didn’t really mean this and was just doing it to appease “the Jews” this raises some incredible ethical questions about Paul (which coincidentally, anti-missionaries do based on this verse).

    Not only do I not think this passage is a problem, I think it’s probably the single greatest illustration in all of Scripture of Paul’s ongoing teaching about doing stuff that you are not obligated to do in order not to cause those with a weaker conscience to stumble! Paul followed Torah, even after conversion, not because he believed the Sinai Covenant was still in effect for ethnic Israel or Jewish believers in Jesus. Rather, he lived in accordance with Levitical law because it was his cultural heritage and he wanted to continue to honor it—just as those coming to Jesus from other cultures continue to live, eat, dress and act in their respective manner in order to preserve the beauty of their culture. Paul was all about the Gospel being able to be contextualized—whether in Galatia, Rome or Jerusalem. However, we know that Paul did not think Sinai’s laws were still binding on God’s New Covenant Israel because he never hides the fact that Levitical Law is not the guiding principle for God’s People. Michael Brown makes this point in his excellent “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” series:

    In 1 Corinthians 7:17–18 he writes that “each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the [congregations]. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” In other words, let Jewish believers remain Jewish and let Gentile believers remain Gentile. In terms of being in right relationship with God, neither one is the determining factor, as stated in the next verse: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” (AJOJ, Vol.4, p.248)

    And the “commands” that Paul is referring to, are not the commands of the Sinai (Eph.2:15), but rather, the commandments given by Jesus—the New Covenant mediator to Israel—which were written in the heart through the Spirit He sent to God’s New Covenant Israel as promised by the Prophets (Ezek. 36, Jer.31, Joel 2, etc.).

    So given all this…AND taking into account what was going on in Jerusalem in the 50s-early 60s AD, Paul’s actions here in Acts 21 are extremely wise and in no way deceitful. The counter-missionary claim is simply not true. Nor is the claim that since Paul completed a vow as prescribed by Torah he must still believe the Levitical Covenant to be binding on Jewish Christians in addition to the New Covenant. Based on what we read about him in Acts, as well as from his own writings, it seems that Paul believed that all of God’s People were obligated to live according to the New Covenant Law of Christ/the Spirit/Love…and part of living that way involves the freedom to continue living by the culture you come from if you choose to, except for when doing so would violate the New Covenant’s commands.

    Paul honoring his Jewish identity by continuing to live according to its cultural components is not deceitful or unethical. So long as keeping Levitical commands did not violate keeping New Covenant commands, he and other Jewish believers like Timothy and the men with him in Acts 21 were free to do so. And since in the previous chapter Paul had touched a dead body and was therefore seen by T


    Comment by JMS on April 7, 2009 at 6:21 pm

  7. Lem

    JMS I’m with you on the Law. I’m not totally in line with NT Wright for Romans, from what I remember. I’m not totally dispensationalist, but still historical premillenialist. Look forward to your response on Romans.


    Comment by Lem on April 22, 2009 at 2:50 pm

  8. Sakina Al-Amin

    I thought it very clever to change the labels. Both "Israeli" and "Palestinian" labels have negative connotations depending on who you ask. It triggers a response straightaway.
    Thanks for sharing this with me. I may have more comments later but I just got off of work now and I need to do some other things before I continue my computer activities.


    Comment by Sakina Al-Amin on June 14, 2009 at 11:22 pm

  9. […] Dr. Brown’s article with a friend of mine he made the following analogy (similar to one I made during the events surrounding Operation Cast Lead a few years ago) to which we would all do well to give serious, prayerful consideration: “The paradigm Brown […]

    Pingback by Disciple Dojo – JMSmith.org » It’s not about “dead Jews” – a response to a friend on Israel and Gaza on November 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm

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