Is God Finished with the Jewish People? (Part 4)
After almost 2,000 years the Diaspora began to come to an end in 1948 with the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Is Israel back in the land by God’s design? Or, is its creation a mere coincidence? Does the Church have a responsibility, or even a calling, to bless the Jewish people, and even Israel herself? To answer these questions, we must look to Old Testament prophecies concerning God’s promised restoration of Israel.
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.”
Significantly, this passage pictures the Jewish people returning to the land from all directions. Some believers say that such prophecies for Israel’s restoration refer only to that which took place after the Babylonian captivity. But if that is the case, why are they coming from all directions? North, south, east and west. I find most intriguing the Lord’s statement, “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’” The Lord is commanding them to be given up.
I would like to suggest that there is a very interesting parallel between that prophecy and what we have seen over the last 15 years in the former Soviet Union. Prior to the collapse of communism, most Jewish people were forbidden to leave the USSR, the “land of the far north.” Then suddenly, communism miraculously fell; no one predicted it. Historians and politicians were caught off guard. The walls came down, and since that time approximately one million Jewish people have returned to the state of Israel. Is this a coincidence? Or the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy?
“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when men will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers.” [Emphasis added]
“So then, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.” [Emphasis added]
What is profound about these Scriptures is that they prophesy a return that will become so great in the eyes of the Jewish people, that it will supplant the Exodus from Egypt as the pivotal event of their history. For 3,500 years the centerpiece of history for the Jewish people has been the Passover. Even for the most secular of Jews, the Passover is deeply embedded in their spiritual consciousness. I believe we have yet to see this greatest “Exodus,” as these Scriptures prophesy. “From the land of the north, the far north, and from all of the nations.” Did you know that there are approximately 12,000,000 Jewish people who currently live outside the state of Israel? Only 5,000,000 Jewish people live in Israel. Twelve million-plus live “among the nations,” still scattered to the four corners of the earth.
“I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” [Emphasis added]
God says unequivocally, “I will plant Israel in her own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given her.” Have we seen such a final return of the Jewish people? No! I believe Scripture clearly teaches that we have not.
I would like to emphasize two key points that emerge from all these Scriptures. First of all, the scope of these prophecies could not have been completely fulfilled with the very limited return from captivity in Babylon. A small remnant came with Zerubbabel, and later a small remnant came with Ezra. Could we look at these historical returns as “a” fulfillment? A partial fulfillment of these prophecies? Yes, most definitely! But a complete fulfillment? I do not believe so. The prophet Ezekiel speaks of a day when Israel will be regathered to the land to such an extent that not one will be left behind (39:28). We have never seen that! But I believe that God, faithful to His word, will do it!
Secondly, Israel’s restoration – both physically and spiritually – is a process. Not just one event, but many events, as God works out His purposes through history.
Ezekiel 36:22-28, 32:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God….I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Sovereign LORD. “Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, O house of Israel!” [Emphasis added]
What we see in this passage, particularly in verses 24 and 25, is a process. The Lord is basically saying, “I will regather you physically, and then I will pour out my Spirit on you.” A physical restoration will precede a spiritual restoration. Note that the Lord will not do this because Israel deserves it. Currently, Israel – as a nation – is still in unbelief, rejecting her Messiah. But the Lord will accomplish His purpose for His name’s sake. The Lord is faithful to His word, and He does what He promises.
Ezekiel 37:1-2, 11, 21-22, 25:
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry….Then he said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off”….‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms….They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.’” [Emphasis added]
Once again history has borne out the words of the prophet Ezekiel. For her disobedience, Israel – both in Biblical history and from the New Testament era forward – has been dispersed, as was prophesied in Deuteronomy 28. Yet, in spite of it all, the Jewish people have been miraculously preserved. What other ethnic group, without any continual attachment to some piece of land – whether its own nation or a geographic area in a particular nation – has ever been able to maintain its own national identity, culture, religion, and language?