In view of the recent cooling of Christian support for the nation of Israel, I am writing to the African-American community to share my views on why we must support Israel. In Hebrew, there is no word for history. God simply says, “Remember.” We need to remember that African-Americans and the Jewish people have much in common that unites us.
Historically, the relationship of those of African descent and Jewish heritage both date back to the biblical beginnings of our common father. We know that God formed Adam from the clay of the ground. Acts 17:26 declares: “By the blood of one man, God made all the nations upon the face of the earth.”
Because the nations of the world fell into spiritual darkness, God chose Abraham and his descendents, the Jewish people, to help us return to God and experience salvation. This of course culminated with the coming of the Lord Jesus, our Savior and the Jewish Messiah. This is what God meant by: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12:3).”
When Jacob was reunited with his favorite son, Joseph, he embraced and blessed his long-lost grandsons and included them as his heirs among his sons (Genesis 48:1-22). Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were from his wife, Asenath, who was an Egyptian – perhaps a Black Egyptian. The Bible mentions a mixed multitude who accompanied the Jewish people out of Egypt. This mixed multitude probably included those of African heritage and some who may have intermarried with the Jewish people. We know, for example, that Moses married a Cushite (Ethiopian) woman (Numbers 12:1). We know that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and one of his most important wives was an Egyptian princess (1 Kings 3:1).
Did you know that there is today a group of Ethiopian Black Jews who trace their lineage to ancient times? In the 1980s, they made international news when many began to return to Israel. Jewish groups raised millions of dollars and risked their lives to help their Black Ethiopian brothers return to Israel. I see in this part of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 11:11: “The Lord will bring back a remnant of his people for the second time, returning them to the land of Israel from Assyria, Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt, Ethiopia, Elam, Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.”
More international headlines recently reported that DNA research has established the Jewish ancestry of the Lemba, a South African tribe. DNA studies of the Lemba even show genetic traits of the Jewish priesthood (Cohanim)! It seems that a group of Jewish people left the Middle East, migrated to Africa, mixed with the people and became Black Jews.
In American history, the Black and Jewish communities enjoyed a mutually supportive relationship well before the Civil Rights Era. In 1909, W.E.B. Dubois, Julius Rosenthal, Lillian Wald, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Stephen Wise and Henry Malkewitz formed the NAACP. One year later other prominent African Americans and Jewish leaders formed the Urban League. Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald (of Sears Roebuck fame) worked together in 1912 to improve the educational system of Blacks in the South. In 1945, African-American battalions were among those who liberated the concentration camps of Nazi Germany in World War II.
The Civil Rights Movement was the highlight of the coalition between African-Americans and our Jewish friends in the U.S. One third of the supporters of the Civil Rights Movement were Jewish. Most were from the North and traveled to the South to support African-Americans in the Civil Rights Movement.
Even though the majority of the Jewish people don’t believe in Messiah Jesus, God is not through with them or the nation of Israel. All of God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled – promises that the Jewish people will be fully restored to their ancient homeland, come to know the Messiah, and be the source of salvation and blessing to the other nations of the world.
Right now only a minority of Jewish people believe in the Messiah. As Christians we must preach the Gospel “to the Jew first.” When Black Christians comprehend the Jewish roots of the Faith, the vital links between Judaism and Christianity, and the strong connections between Blacks and Jews, they will be more effective in reaching both Jews and Gentiles with the Gospel, and we will be blessed as well!
Here are some ways you can share God’s love with His Covenant people:
- Pray for peace in Jerusalem, and for God to bless the future of the Jewish people.
- Love and embrace our Jewish friends and oppose anti-Semitism.
- Encourage your church to be engaged in Jewish Evangelism.
- Support the work of evangelistic ministries to the Jewish people.
Until the nets are full,
Pastor John Denson
Director, Shalom Ministry