70 Years: Time to Reflect

editor - 24 April 2018

“Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord when I show myself holy through you before their eyes”. (Ezekiel 36:23)

The 70th birthday of the State of Israel is cause for celebration. But it is also cause to stop and reflect on what God is doing in our generation and to consider how we should respond.

Through the prophet Isaiah – writing in the 7th century BCE when the Kingdom of Judah was in the Babylonian captivity – God gives a majestic vision of His future glory. The prophet sees the eternal purposes of God. He looks, as it were, beyond the Babylonian captivity, beyond the partial return under Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel, beyond the rebuilding of the Temple and beyond the time of the servant Messiah (Isaiah 53), to that age when Messiah will reign, and Israel will be restored to its rightful position as head of the nations.

God tells us through the prophets that restored Israel will be a banner to the nations in the last days. It will be God’s warning – his proclamation, his signpost showing us that God is preparing all things for his ultimate goal: the coming of Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom on earth.

Throughout the Old Testament, and confirmed by the Lord Jesus Himself, the Lord tells us that the Jews will be dispersed among the nations, but He promises He will turn with compassion again to the Jewish people. He does not say He will do this because of Israel, or because of the church or the nations. No, He is doing it despite the imperfection and failures of Israel, and despite the imperfections and failures of the Church. He does it because He promised to do so:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there, but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it”. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

In other words, God is restoring Israel in our generation because He said He would do so. Period. And God tells us even more. He tells us why He said He wants to do it: so that His Name will be glorified when all knees will bow to His Son Jesus Christ – the Son of God who has become the glorified Son of Man. The restoration of Israel is all about the holiness and glory of the Lord.

The passage quoted above from the prophet Ezekiel tells us that the Lord’s holiness will be established ‘through’ Israel. Has God’s holiness been established through Israel? No, not yet. The modern nation of Israel is weak and imperfect. Nevertheless, there is no doubt the physical restoration of Israel is part of this process of establishing God’s holiness. Because it is so clearly a miraculous work, a work that no man could plan or achieve.

The establishment of the King of kings as ruler of the nations in the midst of Jacob (Israel) on the throne of His father David – this was the great promise to Mary when the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Saviour (see Luke 1).

What is it that we see? We see a nation being restored; we see God at work. Israel is a work in progress

The restored kingdom of Israel is God’s vehicle for testing the Church and the nations. Like all of God’s truths, it is so divisive, because it mystifies all those who seek to build their own kingdom and rely on their own reason or understanding. It is the great stone that is ‘cut out by no human hand’ that crushes the fourth (Roman) empire in the vision of Daniel 2. It is the ‘heavy stone’ that hurts the nations that try to lift it in the end days (Zechariah 12). And it is the stumbling block that causes the fallen church (Babylon) to seek an alliance with the Anti-Christ, in Revelation 17.

It is strange that we Christians are so blind to this. We should know better. We have been given the mind of Christ, through whom we may understand the thoughts of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11-13). We have been called and equipped to ‘make the manifold wisdom of God known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places’ (Eph 3:10). We have been given ‘eye salve’ (Revelation 3) to see the world through God’s eyes.

What is it that we see? We see a nation being restored; we see God at work. Israel is a work in progress. But it is HIS work – not ours – and we have no right to interfere in what He is doing.

How should the Church respond? I believe the Bible commands us to:

1. be watchmen, seeing and understanding the times in which we live;

2. pray to the Lord to fulfil what He has promised;

3. comfort the Jewish people in their hour of need;

4. support the restoration of Israel in practical ways (this includes helping non- Jews in the land, and promoting Jewish/Arab reconciliation – see the article about First Baptist Church Bethlehem on page 11); and

5. proclaim God’s purposes to the nations and all rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The future is glorious, but the road thereto is difficult. The church, the nations and Israel are about to go through a great time of trial. The Spirit of lawlessness is gaining power in the world. For those with eyes to see, we can hardly doubt that we are entering into the greatest conflict in world history, the time of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ of which all Scripture speaks, between the Prince of darkness and the God of Israel.

We wish the State of Israel every blessing on its 70th birthday. More importantly, we wish the Jewish people, and all the inhabitants of Israel, the peace and shalom of the Lord, and the glorious future that God has promised.

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a shining torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name, that the mouth of the Lord will give” (Isaiah 62:1-2).

About the Author