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The Miraculous Restoration of Israel

And its significance to us all

Flag of Israel

 

by Dennis Pollock

The nation of Israel is a profound mystery. By all that we know of history and logic Israel simply should not exist. There should be no individuals who could definitely declare themselves to be Jews. None of the other tribal nations from the land of Canaan have survived as a distinct people, let alone been restored to their ancient homeland.

It is impossible to understand the enigma of Israel without a God-reference. Though many of the Jews themselves are not particularly comfortable with the term, the ancient Scriptures plainly declare that they are a “chosen people.” Moses tells the Israelites,  “the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). And despite many arguments and declarations to the contrary, God has never “unchosen” the Jews. His purposes for them include not only the writing of the Scriptures and the bringing forth of the Savior of the world; He has yet more for them in that mysterious window of time the Scriptures refer to as “the Last Days.”

Blessings and Curses

The Jewish people had their beginnings with one man – Abraham. God promised Abraham that through His seed all the world would be blessed. But it was through the giving of the law by Moses that the Jews came to take on a distinction that separated them from all the peoples of the earth. They were given laws governing all aspects of their behavior, including their diet, sanitation, agriculture, and rules for war. Unlike virtually every other contemporary people and tribe, they were called to worship one God, the invisible Creator of all things who would be known as Yahweh.

Through His servant Moses God gave Israel some amazing promises of blessings which would be their reward for obedience to His laws and statutes. If they carefully observed all His commandments, they would be blessed in the city and blessed in the country, blessed coming in and blessed going out. Their land would be refreshed with rain, their crops and livestock would flourish, and they would always overcome their enemies in battle.

After making these promises, God then reveals the terrible curses that would follow them if they should turn away from His commands. They are essentially a reversing of the blessings, but God goes into far more graphic detail. Sickness, defeat, and destruction will be their constant companions. Their enemies would defeat them in battle, and they would become scattered across the face of the earth. God warns them, “among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul” (Deuteronomy 28:65).

It would be nice if when we read the Old Testament record of Israel’s history we discovered that they dutifully obeyed God’s commands and lived in unparalleled blessing and prosperity. Sadly such is not the case. As we read the history of Israel we read a history of failure and judgment. From time to time a good king would encourage the Jews to make new vows of recommitment to the Lord, but it was always a temporary fix. Within a generation or less Israel would sink back into disobedience and imitate the idolatrous and immoral ways of her neighbors.

God was faithful to His word. Again and again he allowed pagan nations to overcome His chosen people. Finally they committed the ultimate offense – they rejected their Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. Jesus’ prophetic words gave a hint of the terrible judgment to come, when he addressed Jewish women weeping as He was being led away to His death on Golgotha:

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, “Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts which never nursed!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, "Fall on us!'' and to the hills, "Cover us!'' For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?

The Diaspora

In AD 70 the Romans, in responding to a Jewish revolt, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple. The Jews were driven out of Jerusalem and eventually from Israel. True to God’s warnings they were scattered across the earth. Over the next 1800 years they would experience varying degrees of persecution. Two terms reflected the alienation of their host countries and peoples. The first was the word pogrom, which is defined as “an organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group, especially one conducted against Jews.” City officials would often encourage or ignore scheduled and planned efforts to plunder their Jewish populations. Men who resisted would be beaten or killed, women would often be raped. Because the Jews were always a minority of the population, there was little they could do to defend themselves.

Another word that came to be associated with the Diaspora (the exile / scattering of the Jews) was the word ghetto. Americans normally associate this word with older, inner city neighborhoods, but the original use of the term had reference to the Jews. Often, especially throughout Europe and in Russia, Jews were forced to live in the poorest sections of the city. Non-Jews wanted to keep their Jews in one place where they could be kept under control. At times Jews were forced to wear identifying badges. Many cities passed local laws making it illegal for Jews to own land or to ride in public carriages. The hatred and contempt for the Jews became so pronounced that a further term came into being – anti-Semitism.

Amazingly the Jews refused to disappear from the earth. Despite the persecutions and sometimes outright slaughter of the Jews, still they continued from century to century. They were a people set apart from all others by their customs, their dress, and especially their religious laws and practices.

Restoration

Surely God had kept His promise to punish and scatter His errant children, but there were other promises that must also be fulfilled. Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures we find promises of a re-gathering of the Jews and a restoration of their nation. In Amos we read: “I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; …I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,'' says the Lord your God (Amos 9:14,15).

In the late 1800’s Jews began to migrate back to the land of Israel, at that time known as Palestine. Coming in spurts tied to the level of persecutions and pogroms in their host countries, Jews eventually began to make up a sizeable percentage of the population. An incredible miracle of restoration had begun. Over the next hundred years the Jews would fight for and win their war of independence (1948), regain the old city of Jerusalem (1967), and turn the sandy dry lands of Palestine into the beautiful modern nation of Israel.

The Ultimate Restoration

new heartWhile God has restored Israel in so many ways, the greatest restoration is yet to come. There are some tremendous promises for Israel, promises which we Gentiles have often assumed applied only to us, when in truth they apply first and foremost to the Jews. Ezekiel writes:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them (Ezekiel 36:26,27).

We usually assume this refers only to the salvation of individual sinners, but when you look at the verse in its original context, you can easily see that God was talking to Israel here. He was promising the Jews that the time would come when He would make a new covenant with them, and they would cease being the stubborn, stiff-necked people that they had always been. God is promising that His chosen people would be saved, given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and would become His obedient children.

Notice the difference between the Jews of the Old Covenant and the Jews who will partake of this New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant the Jews were motivated from without. If ever a people had a reason to keep the rules, it was Israel, with all God's amazing promises of blessings for obedience and severe threats of cursing for disobedience. And yet their history was a history of failure. With all their vows and good intentions, with all God’s threats and promises, they had no strength to keep His holy laws. But under the New Covenant promised by Ezekiel, the motivation would come from within the heart.

A "Tail" of Two Dogs

Allow me to share a dog story to illustrate this. Some years ago I purchased a Doberman as a family pet and watchdog. Dobermans are known as one of the fiercest dogs in all of dogdom. Of course they have the look for it, but over the years much of the original fierceness has been bred out. What could be a better choice? I’d get a dog that looks like it could tear your head off, but would really be a big baby.

So I came home one night with a prize Doberman puppy in the back seat, which we named Peaches. Having classic Doberman lines, Peaches certainly did not disappoint us in the looks department. She looked every inch a guard dog. And in fact she became just that. Any stranger that approached the house was greeted with such fierce snarling, growling, and barking as would make your hair stand on end.

The problem was, Peaches became too good at her job. As she matured, she disliked almost everybody. Children she didn’t know were greeted with a menacing growl that caused us to quickly separate the two. As she got older Peaches got worse and worse with strangers, and even began to refuse to allow our own children to touch her. I reluctantly made the decision that Peaches would have to go.

After Peaches, I could not remain dogless for long. Realizing the need for a change, I came home with a small, scared Jack Russell Terrier, which we named Trixie. Our new little companion did not stay scared very long. She soon had control of the house, running, jumping, and yapping happily as she quickly integrated herself into the life of the family. She never knew a stranger, loved children, and thought all of life was a game. (One of her favorite games was to escape from the house into the wide open spaces of the neighborhood, and play “chase the cute little dog.”)

So what does this have to do with the new heart God has promised the Jews? I did nothing to teach Peaches to dislike strangers. I gave her no lessons in “guard-dogging” or growling or anything of the like. What she became was due to being born with a predisposition toward aggression. It was her nature. Nor did I give Trixie any lessons in friendliness. All her enthusiasm with people, her love for children, and the good natured, playful temperament she possessed was a genetic package she was born with. It was her nature.

God’s Object Lesson

Here’s a little secret – God was not surprised at Israel’s failure to keep His holy laws. He knew they would fail all along. He chose Israel as an object lesson to the whole world that “by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” The constant sin and rebellion that marks Israel’s history throughout the Old Testament was not a “Jewish problem” – it was a human problem. Sin and selfishness make up our nature. Representing all humanity, God’s dealings with the Jews make it plain that only by a new heart and a new nature can man be acceptable before God.

It is for the sake of that new nature that Christ came. The forgiveness of our sins clears the way for God to give us His Holy Spirit, who manifests in us the very nature of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews we read the essence of this new nature: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.” No longer is the law written on stones, and the motivation supplied with dire threats. The believer in Christ has the law written in his heart and the motivation is given through the love of God poured out by the Holy Spirit.

And while the majority of believers have been Gentiles, we can expect to see more and more Jews coming to their Messiah as we approach the end of the age. For our God is a covenant-keeping God!

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