Friday, 5 May 2017

Israel's Past and Future

Israel’s Past And Future
  By Derek Prince

    It takes no cleverness to point out the faults of Israel. Somebody showed me a copy of an article published in a Christian magazine pointing out some of the sins of Israel. I could not help reflecting that the prophets of Israel did a much more thorough job! How could anyone add to the recital of sins found in Isaiah? (e.g., 1:1-15; 59:2-8). Furthermore, similar indictments are found in most of Israel’s other prophets.

    This is all the more significant because the same prophets who described in clear detail the sins of Israel also predicted with equal clarity and detail the restoration of Israel. If the prophets of Israel had been blind, sentimental and nationalistic and had overlooked the sins of their people, then we could say that their promises of restoration were merely unrealistic, wishful thinking. But because the same prophets who promised restoration were the ones who uttered the indictments, I see no logic or consistency in endorsing the indictments and refusing the promises of restoration.

Headline for May 1948

Israel’s Restoration Predicted
    The prophets of Israel certainly do make clear, specific promises of a restoration of Israel which will take place in two phases: first to their land and then to their God. I always put it in that order because I see in Scripture that God purposes to bring most of the Jews back to the land unredeemed, not in faith, in order that He may deal with them there. This is stated in Hosea 1:10 – "In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’"

    The place where God said, "You are not My people," was the land of Israel. Consequently, the Jews restoration and acceptance by God has to take place in the land of Israel.
    There is a practical reason for this which is not readily appreciated in our contemporary, Western version of Christianity. Under the influence of secular values, we have made the Christian faith primarily a matter of a person’s individual relationship with his God. Our emphasis is mainly on the word my – my Saviour, my faith, my church, my ministry and so on. But this does not accurately represent the biblical perspective.

    Throughout the Scriptures God deals with individuals in the context of a larger group – a family, a community, a congregation, a nation. This is brought out in the account of the salvation of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30-31. The jailer asked the apostles, "What must I do to be saved?" In his inspired answer, however, Paul went beyond the jailer’s individual need: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." The salvation which the Lord offered extended beyond the jailer as an individual and embraced his whole household. That is the biblical norm. God regularly deals with the individual in the context of a larger entity.

    Historically, this has always been true of God’s dealings with Israel. He has consistently related to them not just as individuals, but as a single people, joined by a covenant both to God and to one another. This is how God intends to deal with them at the close of this age – as a single people. In order to do this, however, He must gather them once again in one place. The place indicated both by logic and by Scripture is their own land – the land of Israel.

Ethiopian Jews arriving in their homeland Israel after being exiled for hundreds of years

   A further promise of spiritual restoration is found in Isaiah 45:17, 25 – "But Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever. In the Lord all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory."

    That is so simple! The word justified means "acquitted, counted righteous before God." In other words, Israel’s righteousness will be imputed to them on the basis of faith, not of works. They will thus become true spiritual descendants of their forefather Abraham, who "believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).

    Another promise of Israel’s restoration is found in Jeremiah 32:36-37 – 

"Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city [Jerusalem] of which you say, ‘It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place [which was the land of Israel], and I will cause them to dwell safely.’"

    This prediction was certainly not fulfilled by the partial and temporary return from Babylon in the time of Zerubbabel. Nor can it be applied in any meaningful way to the church. Yet this passage in Jeremiah 32 is only one of many prophecies that contain the same promise of Israel’s ultimate and total restoration.

    We are therefore left with only two possible conclusions: Either these predictions are to be fulfilled in the destiny of Israel, or God has uttered prophecies that will never be fulfilled. In the last resort, it is not just the destiny of Israel which is at stake. There is an issue of even greater importance that concerns all believers. It is the reliability of Scripture itself.

Israel’s Restoration Described

    In Jeremiah 32:38-42 God continues: 

"‘They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them.’"

    God declares that He will bring upon Israel the good that He has promised to them in just the same way that He brought calamity upon them. The calamity that came upon them was a matter of objective historical fact. It was not merely "metaphorical" or "spiritual." Therefore the good that God will bring upon them will likewise be objective history. It will not be merely "metaphorical" or "spiritual."
    The land in which God says He "will assuredly plant" His people can be interpreted in no other way than the land of Israel. And if God does this with all His heart and soul, who can undo it? Surely not a Palestinian leader! Nor even the United Nations!

    In Jeremiah 50:19-20 God further unfolds His plan to restore Israel: 

"But I will bring back Israel to his home...‘In those days and in that time,’ says the Lord, ‘the iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; for I will pardon those whom I preserve.’"

    The last word, preserve, might well be rendered reserve. God is committed to pardon the remnant He is going to reserve by His grace.
    The closing words in verse 20 also agree with the promise already quoted from Isaiah 45:25 – "All the descendants of Israel shall be justified." For those who have been justified by faith in the Messiah, there remains no record of iniquity or sin.

    In Ezekiel 36:22-23 God reveals one main purpose of Israel’s restoration: His own glory. 

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord," says the Lord God, "when I am hallowed [or sanctified] in you before their eyes."’"

    God’s promise to restore Israel is not based on anything good they have done, but only that God may be glorified through it. If Israel deserved pardon and preservation, they would not need God’s grace. But it is only through receiving His grace that they can restore to Him the glory which their sins have robbed from Him.
    People have often said that unrepentant and unbelieving Jews will not be allowed to return to their own land. But God says that He will bring them back first and then begin to cleanse them from their sinfulness.

    "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 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" (Ezek. 36:24-26).

    I believe God has already begun the process of changing their stony hearts into hearts of flesh. It is happening right now! I have been privileged to witness firsthand some aspects of it.
    In the 1940s many Jews would express their contempt for Jesus by spitting at the mention of His name. They also refused to spell His name in its correct Hebrew form. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, however, a remarkable change in this attitude began to manifest itself. Many Jews are now ready to acknowledge that Jesus really was Jewish and seem eager to hear of the impact He has had in the lives of Gentile Christians.

Fellowship of Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ in Israel

    Since 1967 a whole new movement has grown up consisting of Jews who have personally acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah, while retaining their identity as Jews. The name by which they have become known is Messianic Jews. Worldwide, they now number in the hundreds of thousands.
    God reveals that this change of heart will prepare Israel to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: 

"I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God" (Ezek. 36:27-28).

    There is no doubt as to the land which God gave to the forefathers of Israel. Only one land answers to that description: the land which is now again known as Israel. I must emphasize that this promise describes a literal, historical return of the Jews to their land. There is no way to "explain away" this promise. The Bible is God’s Word, and this promise must be fulfilled!

    But physical restoration to the land is not the final goal. It is only a necessary prelude to the climax which is God’s ultimate purpose: restoration to God Himself. "You shall be My people, and I will be your God." All the events currently taking place in the Middle East are being divinely orchestrated to bring about this supremely important objective: the reconciliation of Israel to their God.

    A little further on in Ezekiel 36 God again reminds the Jewish people that they have done nothing to deserve their restoration: "‘Not for your sake do I do this,’ says the Lord God, ‘let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!’" (Ezek. 36:32).

    Ultimately, the whole human race has no hope of good apart from the mercy and grace of God. By definition, these can never be earned. This is equally true of Jews and Gentiles. God has chosen, however, to make His restoration of Israel a grand, historical demonstration of this truth to all nations.

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