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  • Reflection on Psalm 41:9 - Shifting Sentiments towards Israel | Photo: Israeli Cities from Wikimedia Commons by Laliv Gal
Teachings

Reflection on Psalm 41:9 – Shifting Sentiments towards Israel

Rev Cornelis Kant - 6 December 2023

‘Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me’ (Psalm 41: 9).

When ISIS (also: Daesh) committed their atrocities against Yazidis and other population groups in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the world was unanimously shocked. Both in the Arab world and in the West. Several countries sent their F16 fighter jets to bomb targets in Iraq for weeks. For the world was united in its belief that this ruthless Islamic terror organisation had to be destroyed.

On October 7, that other Islamist terror organisation, Hamas, horribly raped, mutilated, burned, beheaded over 1,200 innocent inhabitants of Israeli villages, and abducted over 200 Israeli civilians to Gaza. Once again, the world reacted with shock. But not the whole world this time. And this being shocked lasted only a few days. People realised that compassion with the victims implies compassion with Israel and Jews. Soon the sentiment shifted and massive anti-Israel demonstrations broke out worldwide. Israel was allegedly guilty of genocide and human rights violations. Israel was also said to have brought the atrocities upon itself because of its alleged ‘occupation’. While there was still no ground war at all.

“Israel was said to have brought the atrocities upon itself because of its alleged ‘occupation'”

What particularly struck me is the fact that Israel is also fiercely accused by some individual well-known Christians and Church leaders, and that falsehoods or one-sidedness are not shunned. The compassion shown towards Israeli victims is then immediately followed by a ‘but’, which immediately minimizes the displayed compassion. That ‘but’ is then often followed by the same cliché accusations against Israel, taken from Palestinian and secular sources. The way leading clergy and theologians blindly adopt anti-Israel rhetoric is sometimes shocking and shows little understanding of the biblical promises made to Israel and the Jewish people. It also shows little awareness of the seriousness of the age-old antisemitism that is firmly on the rise again today.

With all the criticism of Israel voiced by Christians, I am reminded of Psalm 41: ‘‘Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me’.  
Who is this man who eats the bread of Israel? That are us as Christians. The people of Israel ate the manna that came down as bread from heaven in the Sinai desert. Jesus later says: ‘I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever’ (John 6: 51). Jesus connects Himself to the manna that came down from heaven in the desert, and to the Lord’s Supper we celebrate in our churches and congregations. ‘In you all the families of the earth will be blessed’ (Genesis 12: 3), God promised to Abraham. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the King of Israel, whose bread we as Christians may eat. How sad it is then when, just when Israel and the Jewish people are going through a period of distress and terror, we lift up our heels against Israel yet again.

“Especially now, we as Christians, Christian broadcasters and newspapers, and Churches should stand firmly with Israel”

The psalm poet also says: ‘My enemies speak evil against me (…) when he comes to see me, he speaks falsehood; his heart gathers wickedness in itself. when he goes outside, he tells it’. This is exactly what is happening now, and unfortunately also by Christians. Especially at a time like this, we as Christians, Christian broadcasters and newspapers, and Churches should stand firmly with Israel. With the terror of Hamas and the threat of the even bigger Hezbollah in the north, Israel’s survival is once again at stake. With phrases like ‘Palestine free from the river to the sea’ and ‘occupation’, it is no longer about criticizing Israel, but about Israel’s right to exist.

Thankfully, the Psalm ends with the words: ‘By this I know that You are pleased with me, Because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.  As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And You set me in Your presence forever.’

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