Under increased security that has closed West Bank border crossings, Jewish citizens are recognizing this week 60 years of national re-birth.
They are doing so, however, with an air of uncertainty. The celebration comes on the heels of the largest emergency drill ever held in Israel as the nation tested it’s readiness for ever lingering possibility of regional war.
The Jerusalem Post quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying, “Our entire national existence… depends on our willingness and ability to defend ourselves, to defend our just opinions and our vital interests and to give battle to those who attack us… Your sons and daughters gave their lives for a supreme cause,” he said . “Peace and not war is our ends and the thing we long for.”
Peace based on the military weaponry of Israel and her American ally, however, is not a foregone conclusion. Hundreds of Palestinians together with Arab League sympathizers believe Israel’s return has been at the expense of their own homes and peace.
In previous posts I have expressed concern that we not let what the Bible says about the future detract from an even handed concern for Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab people. I’ve also written about the danger of trying to figure out where we are on God’s calendar. Yet, with those cautions, there are facts we need to keep in mind.
According to the Apostle Paul, a spiritually and physically restored nation of Israel has a future in the plan of God. In the 11th chapter of his first century letter to the Romans he wrote, “Some of the Jews have hard hearts, but this will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to Christ” (Rom 11:25). This quote of Paul reminds me of Jesus’ words when he predicted the fall of Jerusalem (70AD), saying, “Jerusalem will be conquered and trampled down by the Gentiles until the age of the Gentiles comes to an end” (Luke 21:24).
Does Israel’s current control of Jerusalem mean that “the age of the Gentiles” has come to an end? Israel was re-established in 1948 by a United Nations Mandate and War of Independence. Almost 20 years later Israeli soldiers captured Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967.
All we need to do, though, is look at the Muslim al-Aqsa Mosque, and the more dominate Dome of the Rock shrine sitting on Israel’s “most holy site,” to see that Jerusalem is still being trampled on by the Gentiles. To avoid further conflict, the Israeli government gave a Muslim council management of what Jewish people call the “Temple Mount” area. The result is that most Jewish people have not set foot on what they regard as Jerusalem’s most holy site.
I think these present conditions seem to fit what the Bible says will eventually happen. I am intrigued with what has been called Ezekiel’s vision of “the valley of the bones” (Ezekiel chapter 37). There the prophet sees a valley of dry bones that slowly come together, muscle, flesh, and skin, before God breathes his breath of life into them.
According to Ezekiel, God’s own explanation is this: Then he [God] said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones — all hope is gone. ‘Now give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I am the LORD. You will see that I have done everything just as I promised. I, the LORD, have spoken!” (Ezekiel 37:11-15).
So when Prime Minister Olmert says at a national Remembrance Day event, “Our entire national existence… depends on our willingness and ability to defend ourselves.” he isn’t any more correct than if we were to say, Israel’s survival and existence depends on the United States’ commitment to defend Israel at all costs.
The greater truth is actually engraved on a large Israeli Menorah Memorial that stands at the entrance of the Israeli Knesset (government) building. On this menorah are engraved images of the biblical history of Israel and the accompanying words of the prophet Zechariah, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
After 60 years of physical return to their ancestral homeland, the people of Israel, together with the Palestinian people who have been displaced, need to hear what all of us need to hear: Our real existence, security, hope, happiness, and peace is “Not by might, nor by power,” but by the Spirit of the Lord.
The God of the Bible,who has already appeared in the person of his crucified and resurrected Son, will not let Israel, the United States, or any of us as individuals, continue forever to think that we live by our own strength, shrewdness, or security.
Israel’s history, whether from Abraham to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD, or from her rebirth in 1948 until now, is not just about Israel. It is about the God of all nations whose Son and Messiah is accepted at our eternal gain– or rejected at out everlasting loss.
But now let me ask you, if we don’t get caught up in prophetic details that are beyond our ability to be sure about, and if we don’t lose concern for the plight of either Jewish or Palestinian people in the process, can you see how keeping one eye on Israel, is a way of remembering the past and future of the greatest true story ever told?