Protests rock Israel as legislature curbs Supreme Court

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Protests rock Israel as legislature curbs Supreme Court

July 25, 2023 -

Thousands of Israelis march to Jerusalem in protest of plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, in Jerusalem, Saturday, July 22, 2023. Thousands of demonstrators entered the last leg of a four-day and nearly 70-kilometer (roughly 45-mile) trek from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protest organizers planned to camp overnight outside Israel's parliament on Saturday. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Thousands of Israelis march to Jerusalem in protest of plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, in Jerusalem, Saturday, July 22, 2023. Thousands of demonstrators entered the last leg of a four-day and nearly 70-kilometer (roughly 45-mile) trek from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protest organizers planned to camp overnight outside Israel's parliament on Saturday. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Thousands of Israelis march to Jerusalem in protest of plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, in Jerusalem, Saturday, July 22, 2023. Thousands of demonstrators entered the last leg of a four-day and nearly 70-kilometer (roughly 45-mile) trek from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protest organizers planned to camp overnight outside Israel's parliament on Saturday. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Yesterday, Israel’s parliament ratified the first bill of a judicial overhaul sought by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, setting off demonstrations and protests across the country. The amendment is part of a broader set of judicial changes the government announced after it was sworn in last January.

When I was last in Israel, this controversy was a constant subject of conversation with my Jewish friends. Their country has been racked by months of unprecedented nationwide protests. Protest leaders now say that thousands of volunteer military reservists will not report for duty if the government continues with its plans, warning that Israel’s war-readiness could be at risk. Israel’s stock market tumbled as much as 2.5 percent after Monday’s vote was announced; some of the nation’s largest companies went on strike and two of its largest malls said stores in their shopping centers would remain closed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation Monday night, suggesting tabling the broader judicial overhaul plan until November and seeking to foster consensus amid one of the most turbulent moments in Israel’s contemporary history.

“A clash between the Israelis and the Jews”

The bill takes away the Israeli Supreme Court’s ability to nullify government decisions it finds “unreasonable in the extreme.” Supporters say this power was nebulous and enabled liberal judges to overturn the will of the electorate. They also claim that the bill will give elected lawmakers greater autonomy over unelected judges, allowing them to more easily carry out the policies they were elected to enact and thus improving democracy.

Critics say the overhaul would reduce judicial oversight over the cabinet and give the government greater powers without necessary accountability. Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid called passage of the legislation “the destruction of Israeli democracy.”

As the Wall Street Journal reports, this debate “has cast a light on Israel’s societal divide over what it means to be both a Jewish and a democratic state.” The article explains: “The state was founded and controlled in its early decades by secular socialists of largely Eastern European descent. They envisioned a culturally Jewish but socially liberal democratic state.”

However, “over recent decades, an alliance between various segments that have come to represent the Israeli right . . . has grown in both numbers and power” and has been empowered by Netanyahu’s government. A political scientist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem calls the conflict “a clash between the Israelis and the Jews,” with the Israelis representing the founders who envisioned a secular Zionist state and the Jews representing those who want to rebuild the Jewish kingdom that reigned over the land two thousand years ago.

“It’s a clash between a more civil identity and a more religious identity,” he adds.

Should this sound familiar to Americans?

“The great marvel of Jesus Christ’s salvation”

Yesterday we discussed the rise in America of “reconstructed political, religious, and social institutions” that have normalized and legalized unbiblical immorality across society while stigmatizing and even criminalizing dissent from biblical Christians. As this secularist vision continues to dominate culture, it becomes incumbent on believers to find the necessary means to follow Jesus despite mounting pressure to deny him.

To illustrate: physicists tell us that our bodies are subject to enormous pressure from the miles of air above us being pulled toward us by gravity. However, the internal body pressure created by fluids and ions in our cells counters the external force of air pressure.

We need a similar “internal soul pressure” to counter the external forces of evil we face in a broken world which “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Here’s the good news: the spiritual power we need already resides in us.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior and Lord, his Holy Spirit now lives in you as his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Spirit’s goal is to make you more like Jesus every day (Romans 8:29) through the process of sanctification. This process works through two factors: imitation and impartation.

On the imitation side: you and I are commanded to “walk in the same way in which [Jesus] walked” (1 John 2:6). Our question in every circumstance should be, “How can I act like Jesus?” We should seek to manifest the “fruit” of his Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). We should aspire to be the presence of Christ in every room we enter.

However, sinful humans do not possess the inherent capacity to imitate the sinless Son of God. Jesus’ solution is simple: he wants to impart to us his very nature. He does not want merely to help us try to imitate him—he seeks to transfuse us as his “body” (1 Corinthians 12:27) until we experience “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Oswald Chambers explains: “The purity which God demands is impossible unless I can be remade within, and this is what Jesus has undertaken to do by his redemption.” He adds: “No man can make himself pure by obeying laws. Jesus Christ does not give us rules and regulations; his teachings are truths that can only be interpreted by the disposition he puts in. The great marvel of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that he alters heredity. He does not alter human nature; he alters its mainspring.”

Jesus in two hundred million bodies

How does this work in practical terms? You and I should take these biblical steps every day:

  1. Decide that we want Jesus to impart his nature to us so that we imitate him in all we do (Romans 8:29).
  2. Ask his Spirit to take control of our mind and life (Ephesians 5:18).
  3. “Pray without ceasing” through our day (1 Thessalonians 5:17), constantly turning decisions, temptations, opportunities, and circumstances over to the Spirit.
  4. When we sense that we are not imitating Christ, ask the Spirit to impart Christlikeness in and through us (John 14:26; Galatians 2:20).
  5. Measure success by the degree to which we manifest Christ today (cf. Acts 4:13).

Jesus acting in one body changed the world. How would Jesus acting in the bodies of two hundred million Christians change America?

Can he start with you?

NOTE: Our deadline is quickly approaching. We’re seeking to raise $474,769 by July 31, which is just 6 days away. Such support will ensure that our ministry is on a firm financial footing as we head into yet another fall fraught with politics, hot-button issues that will affect us all, and surprising news (that never surprises God). If you stand with our mission at Denison Forum “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12), please give today.

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