The Bible explains the divine purpose for Israel’s existence in the ancient world and as a modern nation today.
[Darris McNeely] Here today, we are going to look at a nation and a people whose very existence tells us God and the Bible can be trusted. God does care about this world. Who is this nation? We are going to look at the story of the State of Israel. For more than 70 years the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East is a sign that God cares and is involved. To understand the State of Israel is to understand the grace of God.
Join us on Beyond Today as we discuss “God’s Enduring Love for Israel.”
Christ said to the people listening to one of His sermons they needed to "discern this time" (Luke 12:54-56). He said they were able to look up at the sky and to see a cloud rise out of the west and they would say "a shower is coming.” And if the south wind would blow “it's going to be hot." But this same people had trouble discerning exactly who He, Jesus, was as He taught them and they could not act upon the message of the gospel that He taught.
How about you?
Can you discern your time, our time, our time in prophecy? Can you discern today’s world with all the many events that are shaping our lives? Let me show you how by looking at a part of the world that we regularly hear about.
Let’s look at the State of Israel. This tiny nation in the Middle East plays a significant role in world affairs. The State of Israel is 70 years old, having been created in May of 1948 and recognized by the United Nations. Israel lives in a tough Middle Eastern neighborhood. They are continually forced to defend their existence to survive.
However, in spite of 70 years of hostility Israel has developed a vibrant and prosperous society. Its people make positive life-enhancing contributions to the world in many critical areas such as technology, medicine, education and humanitarian efforts. So, why does Israel struggle against continual danger? Why must it defend itself before the court of world nations? Why all the antagonism and the hatred?
If we are to understand this paradox of hostility and blessing surrounding the State of Israel we must look to the Bible for the story. It is in Scripture where we see the backstory of Israel’s origin. Only in the Bible do we find the divine purpose for Israel’s existence, both in the ancient world and as a modern nation today. God had a purpose for Israel then and God has a purpose for Israel today. To understand Israel is to understand the grace of God. Let me repeat that. To understand Israel is to understand the grace of God.
Let’s understand how this story of Israel began. It is found in the Bible.
The ancient nation of Israel was a nation composed of descendants of the twelve sons of the man that we know as Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac and Isaac was the son of Abraham, and Abraham of course he is the father of the faithful people, all faithful people for that matter, who seek after the God of creation. Looking at Jacob it’s an interesting story. Any man who had twelve sons makes for an interesting story and Jacob was no exception. The book of Genesis tells Jacob's story. His life involves every element of a good story. It has betrayal, revenge, children by multiple wives and concubines. It’s all there, the good and the bad.
For purposes here the story told about Jacob, the one where he wrestled all night with a being who can only be God, is perhaps the most important. At the break of day in that struggle, God gives Jacob a new name, Israel. Israel means “prince of God.” It is this name, Israel, which is put upon the nation that rises from the twelve sons of this man. Israel, or Jacob, concludes his life in Egypt with his sons as they escape a severe famine. Years pass and the descendants of Abraham come out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses.
You know this story, this Exodus story. It is well known by Bible students. God remembers the promise that He made to Abraham, a promise that Abraham’s descendants would be strangers and servants in a land not theirs. Egyptian captivity lasted many generations until God delivered them from slavery and brought them back to the land that He promised to their fathers, the land known today as Israel.
As God had made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Israel regarding the land so He also made a covenant with those people called the children of Israel who became the nation of Israel. This covenant, an agreement between God and the people, is at the heart of the story of the State of Israel today at the age of 70. 70 years of existence. Israel the nation was to become a model citizenry for all others. See, it was God’s intent for Israel to become a nation proving His way of life. His laws and judgments, God knew, could produce a culture of peace and prosperity. Let’s go to Scripture and notice how God said this.
He said to them at one point, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” Israel, we find, had a once-in-eternity opportunity with God. They were given a special land to be a special people.
He goes on, “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out... and redeemed you from bondage.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
What we find here is that God had a deep spiritual love for the nation of Israel. This love, I say again, is at the heart of this story. God promised Abraham his family would grow into a nation and inherit promises lasting for generations, far beyond his day into the modern world into today’s world. Let’s notice again what the Scripture tell us.
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
God is faithful. He keeps His agreements for a thousand generations, He tells us. Here is a key to understanding why the modern State of Israel sits in the same geographical spot as ancient Israel. The Jewish state is a continuation of the people with whom God made this covenant of love and grace.
This covenant, this agreement, is very much like a marriage agreement. God did enter a marriage covenant with one nation above all others. The nation of Israel that we read about in our Bibles. Now this is something you don’t read about in your history books. It is not understood by a modern political analyst who writes vast volumes of books about the modern politics and the history of the State of Israel and its role among the other Arab states. But this marriage contract is at the heart of understanding the importance of today’s State of Israel after 70 years of survival and the controversies over and within Jerusalem, its capital.
Let me take you into a passage of the Bible that is profound. It reveals the deep love and passion that God has for Israel. This love started thousands of years ago and it continues to this day. You cannot understand the critical importance of the state of Israel in today’s world without grasping this essential part of the story. It’s a love story, and not just for one people but for all peoples and for all nations. It’s also a sign that God is faithful to all of His promises for all mankind.
Let’s go to Ezekiel 16. This chapter gives the narrative. Through the prophet God speaks to Jerusalem which is the heartbeat of the nation. It says, “...on the day that you were born you were not washed in water nor wrapped in proper clothing.” God goes on to say, “no eye pitied you, to care for you, to have compassion on you. You were thrown out into the open field to die on the day you were born.” (Ezekiel 16:4-5)
We look at this verse and we can understand that through Abraham’s life. See Abraham had no permanent home. He wandered all over. When his wife Sarah died he had to go purchase a burial spot from his neighbors. Jacob took his family into Egypt to find food to survive and his descendants became slaves making mud bricks for Pharaoh. No one but God was watching over the fortunes of the children of Israel.
Going back to Ezekiel God says this, “I passed by you and saw you struggling in your misery. I said to you…Live. Grow up like a plant in the field and you did. You grew tall and matured as a beautiful woman with flowing hair. But you were vulnerable, fragile and exposed.” (Ezekiel 16:6-7)
God delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery and He brought them into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After many years as a small confederation of tribes the fledgling nation grew into a significant nation under its best kings, David and his son Solomon. Israel’s location acted as a stabilizing power among other nations such as Egypt, Assyria and Media, keeping those powers from dominating the region. While Israel remained as a strong nation it served God’s purpose in that day.
Going back to Ezekiel here is how God describes this time. He said, “I took care of you, dressed you and protected you. I promised you my love and entered a covenant of marriage with you. I dressed you...in a wonderful wardrobe of expensive clothing and jewelry...emerald rings, sapphire earrings and a diamond tiara. You were absolutely stunning, becoming world-famous.” (Ezekiel 16:8-10)
But this did not last. Israel did not live up to its part of the agreement. Israel did not keep the laws of God. They wound up adopting the pagan forms of worship from their neighboring nations and they abandoned God, the true and ultimate source of their wealth, security and their standing among the nations.
God describes that action, that betrayal, as adultery, which is the immoral and unfaithful relationship of one partner in the marriage covenant.
Here is how The Message Bible paraphrase puts it. It brings out the emotion, I think, quite well in this passage. God says, “Your beauty went to your head you became a common whore, grabbing anyone coming down the street and taking him into your bed.” (Ezekiel 16:15)
God said they took all the clothes and fine foods that He gave them, the wealth and the prosperity and status as a powerful nation and they “served them as delicacies in their whorehouses.” Israel’s unfaithful acts were so bad that God says that they even paid their lovers for sex. Every norm was turned inside out.
This beautiful yet tragic passage of Scripture shows the depths of God’s feeling for the nation He created from nothing and made His own, His model nation to all the other nations. Israel’s story did not end well. God brought other powerful nations like the Assyrians and the Babylonians, he brought them against Israel, to destroy and eventually remove them from the land.
Yet through all the unfaithfulness, idolatry and the ultimate decline God always held out a lifeline of hope based on His enduring love for the people who once held such promise. God said to Israel, “I’ll remember the covenant I made with you when you were young and I’ll make a new covenant with you that will last forever...you’ll remember your past life and face the shame of it, it will leave you speechless” (Ezekiel 16:60-63 The Message and paraphrase).
This final phase “a new covenant that will last forever” has not happened yet. It won’t occur till Jesus Christ returns to this earth and set ups His kingdom which will last forever. At that time God will set His hand among the people of the earth to establish righteousness and justice. Another remnant of Israel will make a return to the same land but this time Jesus Christ will be King of kings and Lord of lords.
Let’s pause to consider a little understood piece of the historical puzzle of this story.
This modern Jewish state we’ve been talking about on the program today called the State of Israel bears an ancient name but only represents a small part of the entire people called Israel who once lived in the land and to whom so many of the Bible prophecies apply.
As we have seen in the Bible, the nation of Israel refers to the 12 tribes who marched out of Egypt under Moses in the story of the Exodus. These 12 tribes were descended from the 12 sons of the patriarch Jacob, remember, whose name was changed to Israel by God (Genesis 32:28).
Now here is what you should understand at this point. One of these sons was named Judah. His descendants were known as Jews. Jews today come from Judah. Judah was however was only one of the sons.
These 12 tribes formed the nation of Israel which we read about in the Bible books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. King David ruled over this nation from Jerusalem. His son Solomon built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. The tribe of Judah, or the Jewish people, were only one part of the larger nation of Israel. You don't have to be Jewish to be an Israelite.
But how did they become so prominent and why do we only remember this one tribe, the tribe of Judah, the Jews, today? It's really a very a good question and it’s an important one and the Bible gives us the answer.
The ancient nation of Israel existed for about 200 years before it fell captive to the Assyrian nation. Those people were removed from the land. They were scattered. They were lost in history and they’re known as the lost ten tribes of Israel.(Matthew 15:24) But they are not really lost because you see in the book of Revelation that we read about them in the time just prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. God deals with peoples from those nations and God knows their identity today. He knows where they reside among the world's nations today.
The nation of Judah however survived longer than Israel but eventually it too fell and they fell to the Babylonian empire. Most of the Jewish state was taken to Babylon. Seventy years later in fulfillment of a prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah, a group of Jews did return to Jerusalem, they rebuilt the city and the temple. A nation of Jews existed in Jerusalem with their distinctive culture until its collapse again in 70 A.D. at the hand of the Romans. Descendants of this Jewish state then founded today's State of Israel in modern time in 1948.
The modern State of Israel exists today to assure mankind of God’s enduring faithfulness and His promises to all nations and to all races of mankind. To really, all of us. The promise God made to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob involve both spiritual and physical promises. These promises, both spiritual and physical, will be poured out upon all the nations. To you and to me. To understand the State of Israel today is to understand God and His prophetic timeline. The nations that fight against Israel today are a tangible proof of mankind’s fundamental removal of God from their knowledge. But again, God’s grace and His enduring love transcends all of the story. Your Bible shows us that God’s spiritual promises will be given to all. The promises of peace, of restoration, and of eternal life which are the hope of all peoples and all nations.
We have to go to the book of Romans in the New Testament where the apostle Paul tells the story of ancient Israel's rise and fall and hope of restoration. Israel had a deep relationship with God. Their opportunity was to become a nation based on the law of God and His glory. We’ve already covered that. God made special promises to this people setting them apart from all other nations and promising protection and prosperity. All of the physical promises were a type of the spiritual promises found in Jesus Christ who was a direct descendant of King David.
But ancient Israel failed. As we saw earlier, they split apart and through a combination of idolatry and Sabbath-breaking they dishonored and disobeyed God, that covenant, resulting in their captivity and their exile. Most of Israel with the exception of the Jews forgot who they were.
But Paul's desire as he wrote the book of Israel and his prayer for Israel, his people, all of Israel, was that they would be saved. Even though ancient Israel did not obey the gospel, they didn’t in Paul’s day, their rejection is not total nor is it permanent. God has not cast Israel aside and through Apostle Paul in the book of Romans, God reveals there is a remnant of Israel among today's nations and by His grace they will be regathered.
But here is the amazing and little understood truth. Israel's rejection of God works to His glory and purpose. All other nations and peoples, what the Bible calls the gentiles, they’ve had an opportunity for this same relationship with God based on His eternal promises. In God's time, all will have opportunity to know Him.
The apostle Paul says that blindness has come upon Israel until the fullness of the gentiles has come in. In a magnificent piece of writing Paul is inspired to show that Israel, all the tribes and all the world, ultimately, will have an opportunity for salvation. All nations will have an opportunity to receive the full promises of God, both the physical and the spiritual.
Let’s notice this in Romans 11, Paul asks this question, “…has God has cast away His people?” Speaking about Israel, that was the big question in Paul’s mind, and he answers them, “Certainly not…God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2).
He goes on to explain that by Israel being cast away salvation is opened to the world, to all nations, to all peoples. By their being brought back into God’s grace all peoples for all time will have the opportunity to be saved. It says “the reconciling of the world.” All the tribes of Israel, not just the present Jewish state, will be united and Paul says “…all Israel will be saved” as “He [meaning God] will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).
When Israel is restored, the ruins of the House of David will be rebuilt. All mankind will seek the Lord. All nations who are called by His name will come to Jerusalem and learn of His ways (Zechariah 14:1). Jerusalem, the capital of the modern State of Israel will one day become the capital of the world.
So Israel matters. Not just the Jewish State in the Middle East today. All the tribes matter to God. And all the nations of the world matter to God.
In one last burst of inspired enthusiasm Paul exclaims, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).
The understanding of who is Israel is the key to understanding today's world and the march of history toward the Kingdom of God. The understanding of Israel shows us the enduring promises of God's salvation for all the nations. Because He is faithful with Israel, He will be faithful in His promise through Christ to all peoples including to you and to me. That’s the good news of the gospel.
I have said throughout the program that to understand Israel is to understand God and His prophetic timeline. The State of Israel’s existence, in spite of all the odds, is a sign that God controls the destiny of all nations. It is proof God watches over history and is guiding our world with all of its peoples today to His purpose. God watches over the nations. The State of Israel is living proof.
The nations of the world will plot and they’ll rage against Israel and the Jews. But Israel will survive and it will complete its God-ordained purpose. Remember this as you watch today’s headlines.
As I covered throughout today’s program, the tiny state of Israel from its very founding just 70 years ago has played a significant role in world affairs and it will continue doing so. In fact Bible prophecy warns us that Israel will be the very epicenter of future, dramatic, world-shaking affairs in the Middle East.
As you hear and read about events occurring in that critical region of the world, you really need to understand their biblical and historical background. You can do this by ordering our free, eye-opening Bible study aid: “The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.” This important publication will help you clearly comprehend prophesied events and how they will affect your life.
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Israel at 70 is a marker. The Jews returned from Babylon after 70 years of captivity. God’s enduring love for Israel shows us unending faithfulness of God for all nations. In a world of turmoil and uncertainty this is a crucial spiritual key. To understand Israel is to understand God and His prophetic timeline.
Only in the Bible do we find the divine purpose for Israel’s existence. God had a purpose for Israel then and God has a purpose for Israel today. To understand Israel is to understand the grace of God.
Thanks for watching today’s program and remember to join us in praying, thy kingdom come. For Beyond Today, I’m Darris McNeely.
[Narrator] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to beyondtoday.tv.