Operation Iraqi Freedom came and went almost in the twinkling of an eye. Our President has since had time to briefly address the severe problems with the current economy. Now it's back to the unending crisis in the Middle East and U.S. involvement in and around Israel. In this particular arena of world affairs, the U.S. has had a very poor track record in recent years.
A great many American Christians fervently support Israel, especially those of us who have visited Israel and had our knowledge and understanding of the Bible greatly enhanced by going to the very places one reads about in Scripture. A smaller number of Christians (I am one of them) believes that Israel has a certain future in the plan of God, and that world peace depends on the nation Israel--and the God of Israel.
The current "Road-Map" peace plan is destined to fail. But it probably foreshadows a final, disastrous Middle East peace treaty between Israel and the surrounding nations. This coming "covenant with death" will involve a division of the land of Israel as part of the peace treaty according to Daniel 11:39. That treaty will appear to be working for several years, but then it will suddenly fail, bringing upon the whole world a last great, terrible World War.
It is easy for us Christians in this country to be perplexed at the constant, unending terrorism in Israel. We are bewildered by the bitter, irrational hatred many Arabs have for the Jews, and Muslim determination to exterminate Israel. In light of such powerful currents of evil at work in the world and the increasing pressure against Israel from all sides, we sometimes forget that God is totally in control of all world events. Nothing escapes His notice and He overlooks no details. The movement of world-history towards the culmination of this age--the "setting of the stage" is right on track. Animosity towards Israel at the end of this age, from all the nations of the world, is predicted in the Bible too.
The exact future boundaries of the Holy Land--which God gave to Abraham--have been carefully delineated by more than one prophet in the Bible. There is no need to worry about Israel being pushed into the Sea. Their tiny plot of land will never be absorbed into the greater Arab world. The Holy Land, eretz Israel, belongs to Abraham and to the God of Abraham in perpetuity. That inheritance was given to Abraham, in response to Abraham's faith 4000 years ago. The inheritance--and those many promises--did not pass on down to Ishmael as many Muslims suppose. Abraham and his son Isaac, and Isaac's son Jacob (i.e. the man Israel)--are the heirs. So also is King David's inheritance guaranteed, by a irrevocable, separate covenant. (See 2 Samuel 7, Jeremiah 33:1-26)
Prior to their entry into the "promised land--after their exile in Egypt--God, through Moses, added a series of exhortations concerning the right of the Jews to live in their land. (This unique message is usually known as the Palestinian covenant, or the Covenant of the Land, and it appears in Deuteronomy 27-29). The Jews would forfeit the right to live in the land, at least temporarily, if they failed to pay attention to Yahweh, the God of the Land. In other words there is a very special landlord-tenant agreement in effect for living in the land of Israel. It applies to the land itself as well as the people. The Holy Land is "holy." That is, it is marked out for God's special purposes. One must not mess with God's property whether it is land or people! (Jesus Christ of course holds the title deed to the entire planet as one sees in Revelation 4ff). An illustration of the special nature of the land of Israel, can be seen in 2 Kings 17. Following the forceful deportation of the Ten Northern tribes by the Assyrians in 722 BC, the land was resettled by foreigners from the east who brought their own gods with them. These "foreigners" soon found out that Israel was no ordinary plot of land and they had to quickly adjust!
History has recorded for all to see that God did enforce the Land Covenant twice--evicting the Jews from "their" land twice. The first time was the Babylonian captivity. That exile began in 586 BC and lasted 70 years. The second exclusion from the land happened in 70 AD and has lasted almost two-thousand years. This second eviction of the tenants by the Landlord was a result of Israel's rejection of her rightful King and Messiah, Yeshua. Messiah came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on a donkey. Jesus wept on that occasion when He realized that terrible suffering lay ahead for His own people as a consequence,
"Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Jesus in Matthew 23:32-33)
Israel today is a secular people. Many of the Jews in Israel today are outspoken atheists. Their values are mostly the same as those of the gentile (modern pagan) nations around them. Their confidence is in their wits, and intelligence, and their determination to survive. But, one does not find the leaders of Israel calling out to the God of Israel these days. They are supposed to call on God for everything and never rely on entangling foreign alliances with the surrounding nations of the world! Yahweh helped their forefathers faithfully and fought for them again and again. Modern Israel seems to have forgotten the reason for their past greatness and the high responsibility the have been given to represent the one, true God to all the world.
They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)
A small fraction of the Jews in Israel today are religious, some of these wonderful people do know Yeshua in the same personal way that we gentile Christians do. In Biblical language, there is at this moment a small believing "remnant" in Israel. In fact, there always has been a faithful remnant in Israel--to this day (note Romans 11:5). In the days of Ahab, the bad king up North, Elijah felt quite certain he was the only believer left when Jezebel chased him. But God said, "I have more than 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal, nor kissed his lips." (1 Kings 19:18)
For the Jews to have returned to the holy land in a state of unbelief during the last hundred years is in exact accord with the predictions by the prophets. Ezekiel's vision of the "valley of dry bones" (Ezekiel 37) is one example of prophecy being fulfilled in our day. God's program is to bring the Jews back to their land first, and then bring them back to life. As it were, He is working on them from the outside inward. First dry bones, then skin and flesh, then the spirit, then a great resurrection "of the whole house of Israel." What God starts He will finish. His great final work with the nation Israel has started in our time.
But "who is a Jew?" The Apostle Paul makes clear in the New Testament that a "real Jew" is one who has a personal relationship with Yeshua. Similarly the gentile children of Abraham also are those who have surrendered their allegiance to Yeshua--Abraham is "the father of all who believe." Mere biological, genetic descent is not enough. In Galatians Paul assures us that the seed of Abraham was actually one man. Everyone must go through that One Man, Yeshua, to get to Yahweh:
"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many; but, referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' which is Christ [Messiah]." (Galatians 3:16)
"For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God." (Romans 2:28)
"What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.' The promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants-- not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, as it is written, 'I have made you the father of many nations" --in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.'" (from Romans 4)
What was the faith that Abraham had, the faith that we must have also, if we are to lay hold of his promises? What is the faith that the Jews must adhere to if they are to be legitimate residents (and heirs) of their own piece of land, eretz Israel?
John Chapter 8 records an insightful discussion with the Jews of His day. Yeshua made it clear that Abraham was certain in Whom he believed Abraham believed in Yeshua, just as we believers do today. Abraham and Jesus know one another personally and they are on common ground.
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, `You will be made free'?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father."
They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did. You do what your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."
The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Jesus answered, "I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it and he will be the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death." The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, `If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad." The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple. (John 8)
A similar situation exists between Moses and Jesus. Jesus told the Jews, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me." (John 5:46)
To return to the present-day state of Israel. Will God throw the Jews out of the land again for their unbelief and failure to obey Him and to know Him? Apparently not this time. Almost, but not quite! All the prophets of old point to a great day of future blessing for the nation of Israel, but it will only come after the greatest trial Israel has ever experienced.
"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:21-22)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land which I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it." These are the words which the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah: "Thus says the LORD: We have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace. Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? Alas! that day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. "And it shall come to pass in that day, says the LORD of hosts, that I will break the yoke from off their neck, and I will burst their bonds, and strangers shall no more make servants of them. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. "Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, says the LORD, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for lo, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with you to save you, says the LORD; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will chasten you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. "For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant. Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you."
"Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured, and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who despoil you shall become a spoil, and all who prey on you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: `It is Zion, for whom no one cares!' "Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob, and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt upon its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who make merry. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small. Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me; and I will punish all who oppress them. Their prince shall be one of themselves, their ruler shall come forth from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? says the LORD. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God." Behold the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his mind. In the latter days you will understand this." (Jeremiah 30)
Simply put, the Lord will continue to turn up the heat on Israel until they begin to cry out to God for help. As soon as they do this, Yahweh will step right in--in full force--on their behalf. Zechariah the prophet is clear about what lies ahead for Israel.
An Oracle The word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus says the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: "Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will come together against itOn that day the LORD will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, at their head. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born...
"On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. "And on that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spiritIn the whole land, says the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, `They are my people'; and they will say, `The LORD is my God.'"
Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the LORD), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft upon its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's wine presses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall be no more curse; Jerusalem shall dwell in security. (from Zechariah 12-14)
"Lest you [gentile believers] be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in [to the church], and then all Israel will be saved; as it is written, 'The Deliverer [Messiah] will come from Zion [Jerusalem], he will banish ungodliness from Jacob'; 'and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.' As regards the gospel they are [currently] enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God ca not be revoked. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" 'Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen." (Romans 11:25-36)
Does it matter if the U.S. supports Israel even in her state of current unbelief? Yes indeed it does. When Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives, and gathers all the nations of the world before Him to "separate the sheep from the goats," (Matthew 25) the criteria for that judgment will center around how other nations have treated His people, the Jews! The Jewish people and the nation Israel are God's models for us--He will vindicate them completely, and God will in the end prove Israel to be His standard for personal and national righteous behavior. (See Ezekiel 36 as one example of God's many promises showing that all this will happen in history).
"For behold, in those days and at that time [when Messiah returns], when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it. "What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will requite your deed upon your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border. But now I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will requite your deed upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far off; for the LORD has spoken." (Joel 3:1-8)
In a recent newsletter I commented on the rapidly shrinking Christian population in the Middle East, especially among the Arabs. This is very bad news for everyone on earth because it means that the knowledge of the true and living God is fast fading away, especially from the part of the world which needs it the most right now. In this day and age there is one central message which God wishes to be proclaimed everywhere, by all possible means, to all of mankind, and that is: hope, peace and salvation are to be found only in the God of Israel and only in Yeshua His Messiah.
"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man [Jesus] whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)
"...be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12)
God alone can (and will) save Israel. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He alone can bring peace on earth. All human attempts will fail. What is true for an individual's future and fulfillment is also true for nations. Israel is God's model state. When Israel comes back to the God of their fathers, Messiah will come back to Jerusalem for the second time and peace will at last come to Israel and to all the world.
"But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." (Isaiah 9:1-7)
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