One of the greatest challenges to the future of Christian Zionism is passing on the truth about Israel to the next generation.
In a world where Judeo-Christian values are being increasingly undermined, how do we ensure our young people cherish the importance of Israel? We were presented with this question recently, when CUFI was asked how Christians can make sure the next generation stands with Israel.
There are perhaps a few ways to answer, depending on the situation and age group in mind. But whether you are a parent, grandparent, church leader, teacher or have some other role in investing in a child’s life, you have a unique opportunity to sow seeds that can have a lasting impact. Believing that there is no minimum age to begin sharing Israel with children, this article will focus on leading little ones to love Israel.
It begins with us
Psalm 48 says, “Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; mark her bulwarks; consider her palaces; That you may tell it to the generation following. For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.”
The Bible clearly teaches that we are to pass on our faith to the next generation, but notice how this verse also includes an appreciation for Jerusalem. Historically, the Church has had a tendency to separate teaching about Israel from teaching about other aspects of our faith, but as Psalm 48 shows, the two are intertwined. As the Psalmist illustrates, we must make deliberate mention that Zion is the “joy of the whole earth” and “the city of the great King” (v.2), the “city of the Lord of hosts” and “the city of our God” (v.8). Let this be the sentiment of our vocabulary when speaking of Jerusalem, trusting that our love for Zion will be a testimony to those children whom God has placed into our care.
It begins with obedience
If you visit the home of an observant Jew, as you approach the entrance you will find a very small parchment scroll called a klaf that is rolled up and placed inside a small container called a Mezuzah. This is fixed onto the doorway of the house. Jewish families do this in accordance with the instruction to inscribe God’s commands onto the “the doorposts of your house and on your gates”. The Scripture inside is Deuteronomy 6:4-9, from which this instruction is commanded, along with the similar repeat in Deuteronomy chapter 11.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9
The Mezuzah serves as a visible reminder of the symbolic way in which this Scripture is being fulfilled – that the home has been sanctified, or set apart, by God. And part of this sanctified mission is for the family to obey the command to love God with all your heart, soul and strength. The scroll is also a reminder to parents that this ‘greatest commandment’, as Jesus subsequently described, was to be shared openly and constantly with children. The command was to be in their own hearts and to be communicated with their children “when you walk by the way”, when you rest and when you rise. In other words, God’s commands were to be shared all the time. And it was to be done so “diligently” as if further emphasising its importance and urgency. We get a glimpse here of how serious God considers the passing on of His commands. It also reveals the extent to which without such dedication the sharing of truth could decline.
The faithfulness of the Jewish people’s obedience to this command has been witnessed over millennia and as Christians we should be very grateful for this testimony. Whether you are a parent, or are blessed to have children in your care, your greatest call is to share God’s commands in obedience to Him.
It begins with the Bible
Bible stories are a great way of engaging children in what God says about Israel and the Jewish people. It might sound obvious, but Bible story-telling is really important in setting a good foundation for little ones.
Yet, just as with adult teachings, it is possible to retell stories from the Bible and completely omit God’s plan and purpose for Israel. If church pulpits aren’t teaching it, there’s no guarantee children will be taught it either. So, a responsibility lies with churches as well as with Christian parents.
Whilst the stories teach good morals and courageous heroes, which is all helpful to children, we should also desire to lead children to see God’s incredible plan of redemption throughout the Bible. In a similar way, we can help children “join-the-dots” in understanding God’s love for Israel throughout the Bible. From Abraham to Moses to Jesus; from promises to plagues to prophecies; the story of Israel and the Jewish people is there to be explored.
Here are some tips for sharing God’s heart for Israel with children.
1. Make your faith part of regular conversation
Aim to make faith a constant part of your routine interactions, as encouraged in Deuteronomy 6. As Israel is an important part of your personal Christian faith, this will be communicated as you engage.
2. Read Bible stories with your children
A good children’s Story Bible is a valuable tool to make God’s Word exciting to children. But remember these are only an introduction to the Bible. Don’t rely on children’s Story Bibles alone. They have their place, but also find a suitable full Bible translation that can be read alongside, especially as the child grows. Supplement these stories with your own thoughts, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you, and ask them questions about what you’ve read together. Let them ask questions also. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the answers. Finding out together can be fun. And remember you’re sowing seeds, not giving them a crash-course in Israel apologetics. It’s your love of His Word and your love for Israel that will make the biggest impression.
3. Include Israel and Jerusalem in your prayers
Praying for Israel helps to show your love for Zion. One tip is to add a line such as, “And we pray for the peace of Jerusalem” or “And we pray for protection over Israel,” at the end of your prayers. It doesn’t have to be specific or topical and always try to keep it positive. They will soon realise Israel and Jerusalem are important to pray about.
God’s Word will not return void
There is no doubt that the next generation will have to stand strong in the days ahead. It is so important that Christians make praying for our young people a priority if the Church is to boldly stand firm on many fronts, including against the lies directed towards Israel. But we must not become discouraged. It is of great assurance to all those praying for young ones that God is faithful in His Word.
It says in Isaiah 55:
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
It is therefore based on this promise and the Promiser that we place our confidence. The Word imparted to young people will certainly not be in vain. Let us continue to pray for the next generation, whilst remaining obedient in telling of Zion to the generation that follows.