Prayers and curses

The origins of anti-Semitism in the early Church - Part 1.

moses image 521 (photo credit: United in the word-blogspot)
moses image 521
(photo credit: United in the word-blogspot)
"You will become an object of horror to every kingdom on earth... Adonai will send your enemy against you; and you will serve him when you are hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed and lacking everything; he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he destroys you” (Deuteronomy 28:25, 48).
For many Christians, these verses have an oddly soothing effect. Deuteronomy 28 describes the terrible suffering that awaits a rebellious and disobedient people. But after all, it is their own fault.
The Jews were idolatrous and did not serve Adonai with joy. They agreed to these terms and brought this curse upon themselves.
These verses speak of Israel becoming an object of horror, a laughing-stock among the peoples, and a nation under a yoke of iron. The seeds of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism are contained in these verses. And it is God who is bringing this about! So surely it’s a problem between God and the Jews, and certainly not the Church’s problem.
But is it that simple? Can we as Christians just brush off 2,000 years of suffering and persecution of the Jewish people by saying it is God’s doing, and anyway they deserve it? No we can’t, and we should have done better. We should have interceded; instead, we persecuted! In Exodus 32:12 God wanted to destroy the whole Jewish race because of their rebellion and start again with Moses. His program was even worse than Deuteronomy 28, for here God would destroy them outright. But he relented.
Why? Because Moses interceded! “Turn from Your fierce anger! Relent! Don’t bring such disaster on Your people!,” he pleaded. In fact, Moses even offered to exchange his own life for the deliverance of his people.
Then the Lord changed His mind – all because someone interceded. So intercessory prayer does really bring God to change His mind regarding the Jewish people.
In the New Testament, the Apostles gave themselves over to prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4). What did they pray about? We can be pretty sure their fellow Jewish people were on their minds.
The Apostolic Church prayed for the Jews. Paul interceded for the Jews, also even offering his own life for their salvation (Romans 9:3, 10:1). But after Paul, the attitudes of the Church changed and we are hard pressed to find prayers for Israel. We find plenty of curses but few, if any, prayers. There was no one to stand in the breach and pray for Israel (Ezekiel 22:30). There was no one to tell God to relent and not bring such a disaster on His people.
Now God punished many Jews in spite of Moses’ intercession, and yet his prayers had enormous effect. The Apostle’s prayed for Israel to great effect, even though the nation was eventually uprooted and scattered to the nations.
But after Paul, the increasingly Gentile Church did not pray. Instead, the Church actually became an instrument of persecution of the Jews.
Had the church followed the examples of the Patriarchs and the Apostles, of Moses and Paul, the Jews would probably still have been persecuted, but not by the Church. The Church would not have carried this stigma of shame. Their anti- Semitism was the fruit of a non-praying Church! Thank God that, today, there are many Christians standing in the gap for Israel.
Many more should join in. These prayers will be heard and God will bless and protect His people. But it is important for us to also understand where our forebears in the faith went wrong concerning Israel. This we will explore further in coming months.
Editor’s note: Rev. Anthony Rozinni pastors a group of Assemblies of God churches in Italy and teaches in Bible schools. While taking a course in Church history during studies for a master’s degree, he started reading the Church Fathers and how their theology influenced the Church for centuries, birthing a vicious anti-Semitism that lingers to this day. The Christian Edition has asked Rev. Rozinni to write a series of articles on the subject, to be published over coming months.