Korea has a 5000 year long history of Shamanism and 2000 year long history of Buddhism. In contrast to the stories that my North American friends heard from their parents, the stories I heard as a Korean were of Shaman rituals offering food to spirits and of times when the entire family with the whole town participated in Shaman ceremonies for good luck and protection. But when my parent’s household became Christian in the 1970’s, we abandoned our deep tradition of Shamanism and believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Abandoning ancestor worship in Korean society is seen as being disloyal to your roots and is at times met with great conflict and controversy mostly by the older generation that holds a more conservative and traditional view.
However, despite the conflict and controversy, many are converting to believe that “the LORD is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King.” (Jeremiah 10:10). Many in Korea have accepted and implemented this transformation, as well al many people of different nationalities all over the world such as North and South America and Africa and if we look further back in history, even Europe in the Middle Ages.
Korea was a people and a nation that did things that God hated but God was merciful to Koreans, forgiving our sins and showing His love and kindness to a nation that did evil in His eyes. “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55:5).
Growing up in a Christian home, I was introduced to the people of Israel. First there was a sense of respect and gratitude because they were the Chosen people who received the Word of God. Because they faithfully recorded God’s Word, I was able to read the books of Moses, the Psalms of David and the Proverbs of Solomon and gain a clearer understanding and knowledge of God today. In addition, much of the heroes of faith that I related to, such as David, Esther and Joshua, were all Jewish.
But beyond gratitude towards the Israeli people, I was captivated by the expression of God of His deep feelings and strong love towards Israel. In my youth, I read it more like a love story more than with a strong Biblical understanding of its meaning. But I remember that the ardent and poignant words of God really struck me. Even before I had known much about Israel or even met an Israeli, I sympathized with the love that God expressed towards Israel in the Bible and felt a love towards Israel.
“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:14-15)
“Because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.” (Jeremiah 31:9)
““When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1
“Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him.” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:20)
I personally hold no negative feelings towards any nation or people, not even Japan, which is a nation that historically did many bad things to Korea, although it is forgiven and forgotten now. And my feeling towards Israel is not a radical fanaticism towards a culture nor a personal preference or prejudice. It is that I want to love God. I love God and fear Him, and place the Word of God above my own heart and mind. I love Israel because God loves Israel. This is how I recognize God as the authority and creator and myself as His creation.
Talking about this with friends or elders, I found that there were opinions that dismissed these expressions towards Israel and assumed that God replaced Israel or that God abandoned Israel. But what hinders me from making these kinds of assumptions are the things God says in the Bible. There are many promises that God made to Israel and the Bible clearly says that God doesn’t change His mind.
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)
“This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar- the LORD almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight’ declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.'” (Jeremiah 31:35-36)
“They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows, from Assyria, fluttering like doves. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the Lord. (Hosea 11:8-11)
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
God promised that Israel will never cease to be a nation and that He will bring them back and settle them. The sun and moon have not disappeared but rather Israel has became a nation, the Israelis are returning to the land and the land is being restored just as God’s promise in His Word.
If I am a believer of God and the Word of God, it is not a light assumption to make because it is about agreeing with God or disagreeing with God. If God has promised and he is the one who is doing it, I might possibly be standing against God. I do not want to be against God. “For thus says the LORD of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.” (Zechariah 2:8)
And finally, when I look at where I stand coming from a long history of idolatry, shamanism, and consulting diviners, I myself am in the mercy and forgiveness of God and I know only His loving kindness drew me to Him. On what basis do I have the right to say of Israel that God has forgotten or abandoned you. From my perspective the only right I have is to bless Israel and say may God’s love for you never end and may he never stop doing good to you.