Even a brief overview of the history of the Jewish people reveals a disproportionate amount of suffering and misfortune. As God’s covenantal people, Abraham’s descendants experienced times of prosperity and blessing yet there were also long periods when they were expelled from the land, persecuted and seemingly abandoned by God. The question is why?
Redemption Through Faithfulness
One possible answer is that Jewish suffering is a product of faithfulness to the covenants of God with Israel. “… the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me” (Psalms 69:9). Practically speaking, their distinct way of life differentiated Jews from their surrounding communities and made them easy targets for attack. We can see the response of those communities in the appalling history of institutional, Christian anti-Semitism for the better part of 2000 years – including atrocities committed in the Inquisitions and the crusades and incitement by Catholic and Protestant leaders. (For more details, see Mike Brown’s book, Our Hands are Stained with Blood and other similar documentation.) This certainly makes coming to faith in Yeshua very challenging for Jews.
Loss of Divine Protection
Another premise is that Jewish suffering also stems from having lost God’s full protection because of rejecting Yeshua, even before there was Church anti-semitism.
This is a hard article to write. There is a great tendency in Jewish circles and in pro-Jewish Christian circles, to argue that Jewish suffering has no relationship to the Jewish rejection of Yeshua in the first century. This is the official view of the Roman Catholic Church today. A significant number of Messianic Jewish leaders also argue that Jewish suffering after the first century has no relationship to the rejection of Yeshua.
However, the New Covenant Scriptures are very clear that the testimony of Yeshua’s life, death and resurrection together with the apostolic witness was so widespread that the first century generation of Jewish leaders in Israel were without excuse. A corporate decision not to follow Yeshua was made by the rulers of Israel. Although multitudes of our people at that time did warmly embrace Him (Acts 21:20), yet still the community decision was determinative and opened the door to the zealot rebellion against Rome and the terrible destruction of Jerusalem.
“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-43). Yeshua wept over Jerusalem before giving this prophecy.
“Look your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord'” (Matthew 23:38-39). This text is looking to a corporate response of the leaders, for Jerusalem represents the leadership and it is addressed to them. I think it implies that we will need to have a representative leadership expressing faith in Yeshua in Jerusalem before He returns.
The Early Rabbinic Trajectory
The judgement of the Sanhedrin against Yeshua was confirmed by the newly formed Rabbinic community in Israel subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem. Their teaching set a trajectory away from belief in Yeshua. So though not always consciously, generations of Jewish people have walked in the pattern set by that leadership. Certainly the situation has been greatly compounded by Anti-Semitism that mitigates the initial Jewish responsibility over the centuries. Yet, that responsibility nevertheless remains because the trajectory began before Christian Anti-Semitism, so that only a generation of Jewish leadership that repudiates that stance can be completely delivered from its ongoing consequences.
So in my view, Jewish suffering is due to their covenant faithfulness and their position as bearing God’s redemptive purposes in the earth. However, Jewish suffering is also due to being such a covenant people while having lost the full protections promised in the Torah so that a door is now left open for terrible demonic attacks (though suffering persecution for the truth is the lot of all God’s people). The Institutional Church is also complicit since they should have loved, prayed for and protected the Jewish people. This is the difficult and paradoxical situation of our people and our deliverance will come when we turn to Yeshua. This is why we call on both the Church and the Jewish people to repent.
This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration newsletter, December 2017, and reposted with permission.