Now I know I have a heart

It has been said that the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Certainly, it is vital that the church does some heart-searching to discover what the state of its “heart” is towards the Jewish people. In the film The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man is one of Dorothy’s companions, who diligently follows the Yellow Brick Road in the hope of meeting the great Wizard who will be able to solve his problem – the fact that he doesn’t have a heart. It would be encouraging if we found more Christians engaging in a similar quest – seeking a heart for the salvation of Israel. So my pressing question is this: Do you have such a heart
Nehemiah was a man used by God for rebuilding the walls and worship of Jerusalem. His gifts, skills, inspiration and vision were exemplary, and form a springboard for many a sermon on building up the church. But at the heart of the man was a man of heart and, specifically, a heart for his brothers, the Jewish people. As an important official in Persia, he was largely removed from, and ignorant of, the situation in Jerusalem, but when Hanani came to visit him, his heart prompted an inquiry: “How is it concerning the exiles who survived?” The news he received was not good. The people were defenceless, in danger, and in distress (Nehemiah 1:3-4). And so, when he heard these things, Nehemiah “sat down and wept”. Before any activity of building up, his heart expressed itself in tears and prayer.

If we inquire into the situation concerning God’s chosen people (those who have “survived”), we can rejoice that many have come and are coming to faith in Jesus; but many more are “defenceless and in danger”. The old walls are down, as the modern Jew is largely secular, and while some enjoy their new-found freedom, they are in danger of New Age wisdom, secular philosophy, godless immorality, and belief systems of all varieties and none.

When a millionaire’s son wastes his life and ends up in the gutter beside a wine bottle, we may say: “Waster!” But if we know the father and have some love for the son, our response will rather be: “What a tragedy!” We who know the Father God, must have some love for this prodigal son still in the far country and, rather than dismiss Israel as a “waster”, we must have our hearts moved at his tragedy!

So what is to be our “take” on Israel? While there may be a fascination with the politics of the Middle East, or an intense interest in fathoming obscure prophecies, it is my conviction that such obsessions can sometimes fail to have a real heart for the Jewish people. Remember that Paul had unceasing anguish. Where? In his heart (Romans 9:2). For politics? No, for the people! His prayer to God in Romans 10:1 was not that he might understand all prophecies. No, his heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel was that they might be saved. This “endangered” people ought also to have our heart!

The Wizard of Oz ends with Dorothy saying goodbye to a weeping group of friends. “Don’t cry Mr Tin-Man,” she says, “you’ll only rust”. He replies, dabbing his eyes: “Now I know I have a heart – because it’s breaking.”

Do you have a heart for Israel? And is it breaking?

Stephen Atkinson

This article first appeared in the Winter 2008 edition of the Herald

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