Posted by: Randall Niles | May 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Israel

On May 14, 1948, against tremendous odds, the Jewish people returned to their homeland as a formal country for the first time since 70 AD. Following the horrific holocaust in Europe, the United Nations, by the slimmest of margins, reestablished the State of Israel. In 1967, Israel reclaimed Jerusalem. These events also displaced those who have occupied the land as “Palestine,” which is the foundation of the dispute between today’s Israelites and Palestinians.

As typical, we’re experiencing growing tension, controversy, and rhetoric in this part of the world again. 

So, what’s the historical foundation for what we’re seeing today?

About 4,000 years ago, God called a man named Abram out of the country where he was living and gave him these promises: 

“I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; so you shall be a blessing: And I will bless those that bless you and the one who curses you I will curse: and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). 

“And the LORD said to Abram … Now lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:14-15). 

In other words, God promised to Abram (1) a great nation; (2) a great name; (3) being a blessing to all nations; and (4) a land which shall forever belong to his descendants. 

Several hundred years after God made these promises to Abram (later named Abraham), the great nation had indeed appeared, numbering in the millions. The Jewish people were about to enter the land of promise when God, through their leader, Moses, gave them some warnings as recorded in Deuteronomy chapters 28-33. 

God warned them against disobedience and promised that he would use other nations to remove them from the land if they were unfaithful to him. He predicted that they would eventually be scattered across the whole earth as strangers in unfamiliar lands and that they would find no rest from their wanderings. However, God in his faithfulness declared through his prophets that the Jewish people would again return to their land. 

So, what’s the verdict of history? The children of Israel, even though they were warned, fell into idolatry and were removed from their homeland. In 606 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar took the people captive to Babylon and returned in 588-586 BC, at which time, after a long siege, he burned Jerusalem and the temple. However, as God promised, he allowed the Jews to return to their land in 536 BC after 70 years in exile. 

In 70 AD, the Jewish people were again removed from their homeland after the Roman Emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the new temple. Again, the Jewish people were strewn throughout the world. For nearly 1,900 years, the Jews remained scattered and persecuted in unfriendly lands. The contempt for these people culminated in the Nazi holocaust, when six million Jews were executed (approximately one-third of the Jewish population at the time). 

Then, in 1948, the Nation of Israel was officially reinstated by the governments of the world. The Jews started returning in large numbers to their ancient homeland. Since then, the Jewish people have survived major conflicts, culminating in the reclaiming of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967. Over nearly two millennia without a homeland, the Nation of Israel never lost its national, cultural, or religious identity. It seems the Jewish people have returned to the land promised by God through Abraham. 

Did the Jewish prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah really predict that the Jewish people would again return to their land?

”In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people… He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth” (Isaiah 11:11-12).

“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” (Ezekiel 37:21).

“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:3-4). 

Remarkably, May 14th was the 61st birthday of the modern State of Israel. In light of growing tensions with Iran, the Palestinian State question, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the U.S. next week, it’s time to examine the evidence of history for yourself. Where do you stand as we look ahead to the future…?

Randall Niles

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