Have you played the popular party game “Two Truths and a Lie?” In view of Israel’s seventieth birthday today, I thought we might try a round. I’ll put three statements out there and we’ll work out which one’s a lie.
Israel is a nation the size of New Jersey. Why place so much emphasis on what happens there?
Because Jesus made it central to the end-times picture. In fact, He made it what we call in fiction “the ticking time-bomb.”
I looked at this in detail in the previous post in this series, so I’ll give it a quicker treatment now. In Matthew 21, Jesus caused a fig tree to wither. This was a dramatic illustration of the destruction that would soon befall Israel. The destruction He foretold was unleashed within the lifespan of his hearers–the Temple was leveled in 70 A.D.
Jesus’ famous Matt 24 discourse on end-times events occurred later that same day. He told His disciples:
Now learn the parable from the fig tree. When its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matt 24:32-34)
When Jesus caused the fruitless fig tree to wither in Matt 21, it illustrated the impending national destruction. And when He spoke of the fig tree blooming a few hours later, many Bible scholars believe it represented the nation’s rebirth.
The generation that heard Jesus’ Matt 21 prophecy saw it take effect. Even so, when the Jewish nation is brought back to life in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, the generation that witnesses this rebirth “will not pass away until all these things” described in Jesus’ end-times discourse in Matthew 24-25 take place.
How long is a generation? Eighty years? Ninety? And are we counting from 1948, when Israel was established by the U.N., or 1967, when the Israelis won back Jerusalem? The answers to these questions aren’t clear, but any way you do the math…
If the widely-held interpretation that the budding fig tree in Matt 24 represents Israel’s rebirth is correct,
The clock is ticking. Time is short.
Israel celebrates its birthday while facing existential threats (still and again). Bluntly, should we care?
Yes. Because God does.
God’s character revolves around His covenants. With Adam. With Noah. With Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. With Moses. And with those of us today who’ve believed in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. God’s covenant-keeping faithfulness and miracle-working power are on display right now in Israel.
During a dark period in Israel’s history, when the nation was under judgment, the Lord said this to Israel:
Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The Lord of hosts is His name:
“If this fixed order departs
From before Me,” declares the Lord,
“Then the offspring of Israel also will cease
From being a nation before Me forever.” (Jer 31:35-36)
So only if the sun and moon and stars disappear will the Lord forget His covenant with Israel. True? Or not true?
Further, God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Israel gives us confidence that when He says He will never leave us or forsake us, He means it!
Many people look at the modern nation of Israel and conclude it’s some kind of fluke of history. An arbitrary decision made by the U.N. in response to Zionist pressure after the Holocaust. Or worse—perhaps it’s an actual counterfeit. Some seem to believe that modern Jews descended from European Khazars, not from Abraham. (This has been debunked by D.N.A testing, just so you know.)
If something like that reflects your view, consider this.
“I am God, and there is none like me.
At the beginning I announce the end,
proclaim in advance things not yet done;
and I say that my plan will hold….” Is 46:10
How do we know God is in charge? By His mighty hand in fulfilling prophecy. No other faith can boast of hundreds of prophecies literally and specifically fulfilled through the course of history as is the case with the Bible.
How do we know that Jesus was the Messiah? Because of the long list of prophecies He fulfilled.
How do we know the modern state of Israel represents God’s hand at work? Because…
Modern Israel Is a Dramatic Fulfillment of Scores of Prophecies
I’m not saying Israel is perfect! Any more than my own nation, the U.S, is. In fact Ezekiel prophesied that the nation would initially return in unbelief. (Ezekiel 37:7-8,11) But that’s exactly why God’s work on their behalf is so stunning. It’s called grace, and it’s a key attribute of His character for which I’m personally very grateful!
For a longer list and a more expansive explanation, go here, but I’ll cherry-pick a few fulfilled prophecies that impress me.
“And the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.” Ezek 37:7-8
According to Dr. Ken Johnson:
This one deserves a special mention.
From the books of Daniel and Ezekiel, you can work out May 14, 1948 to the day. The ancient prophets predicted the exact date the nation of Israel was restored. (Daniel 4; Ezekiel 4:4-6; Go here for the full math.)
Zechariah Rips a Page from the Headlines
I’m also impressed by this passage from Zechariah. The language is timeless, yet the word-picture seems ripped from current headlines:
1 Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, 2 “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. 3 It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. 4 In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5 Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the Lord of hosts, their God.’
6 “In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. 7 The Lord also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. (Zech 12:1-7)
“In that day” is Bible-code for the last days. So in the last days, Jerusalem will become the flashpoint of world events (v 2-3). “All the nations of the earth”* will gather against it, but God will give Judah strength and Judah will prevail (v 3,6). Judah will be impressed with their own might, and will give some credit—but perhaps not full credit—to God (v 5). (*NOTE: In Bible language, “all” doesn’t necessarily literally mean “all.” This prophecy may be limited to the surrounding nations.)
During Obama’s administration, U.N. resolutions demanded that Israel give up all claim to historic portions of Jerusalem. The ancient City of David where Israel’s great king reigned. Sites where Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, taught and healed.
A year into President Trump’s term, Jerusalem was in the headlines again, after Trump “unilaterally declared” Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. (Ahem–I think God’s vote, and Israel’s own vote, plus millenia of history ought to count for something!)
After Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will move its embassy to Israel to Jerusalem, the U.N. took two lopsided votes condemning the move (Security Council—14:1; General Assembly—128:9).
So, “all” the nations of the world shaking their fists and declaring their opposition to a Jewish Jerusalem.
Brothers and sisters, we live in a day when prophecies are leaping off the Bible’s pages and into the headlines…
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed… (Psalm 2:1-2)
Conventional wisdom says it’s lonely at the top. I wouldn’t know :). But I have it on Jesus’ own authority that it’s lonely on the path of righteousness.
“…for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matt 7:13-14
How has the nation of Israel prevailed against three attacks by the surrounding nations, much larger, more numerous, and in the beginning much better armed? How, in 1967, in a war of Arab aggression Israel did not start, were they able to recapture their historic capital? Do you see a fulfillment of Zech 12:6 in that? Also, note that verse 7 says the land of Judah would be recovered before Jerusalem. This occurred. Israel became a nation in 1948 but Jerusalem was not under their control until 1967.
Why does any of this matter to today’s Christian? Again, because God’s covenants are for keeps. If God would break His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, what confidence can we have that He’ll keep His covenant with us?
On exactly one occasion since 1948, an international court has considered this question. In 2011, in a verdict that should have received a lot more coverage, the Court of Appeal of Versailles ruled that Israel is legally in the right. The argument’s a little technical–at least it was for me–but it’s summarized here.
The court’s conclusion? The Palestinian narrative is without legal basis.
So this was an easy one. Statement #3 is our lie.
But legalities aside, what about the moral question? Didn’t Israel strong-arm poor Palestinian farmers out of their land so they could occupy it?
This question must be considered in context. When the kid who’s been bullied for years finally asserts himself and decks the bully, his actions may look extreme–unless you consider the ongoing abuse that provoked them.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, Jews immigrated to Palestine legally and purchased land (mostly undesirable land) from Arabs who were happy to sell it. European shopkeepers learned to farm, persisting through years of toil to reclaim malarial swamps and irrigate sand.
As the Jewish population increased, they became targets of random violence by Arab neighbors. Episodes got more frequent, climaxing in the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. Several hundred Jews were murdered during the Revolt years alone.
In 1922, the League of Nations had granted the British a Mandate to govern an area the British (not the Arab residents) named Palestine. The Mandate’s purpose? To establish “a national home for the Jewish people.” During the following quarter century a number of attempts were made to define a “partition plan” to divide the land and give the Jews their promised homeland.
In 1947, in the shadow of the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors stood in urgent need of resettlement. (I talked more about this in a previous post.) It was a humanitarian crisis. Against this backdrop, a U.N. resolution on “Partition” finally passed. (Yes, Virginia, the “two-state solution” has been tried. The Arab state was named “Jordan.”)
Please note that non-Jewish residents of Palestine were not asked to give up their homes–they were guaranteed civil rights. They were not asked to give up their self-determination–they never had it to begin with. Palestinian Arabs were not a distinct political or ethnic entity. They’d been ruled for centuries by the Ottomans and then by the British.
But those who wished to remain in the new Jewish state would need to accept Jewish leadership. That the Arab world would not submit to. Instead, they plunged Palestine into a state of undeclared civil war. This began months before the partition officially took effect on May 15, 1948.
Violence escalated. Many Arabs fled Palestine voluntarily, understandably fearful to remain in a war zone. Some were, frankly, expelled at gunpoint. Once it became clear the Arabs would not support the Jewish state, the fledgling nation couldn’t afford to leave villages in place in strategic locations where they could easily harbor and support its enemies.
It didn’t have to go down that way. The Arabs in the region were given many opportunities to help craft a workable compromise. The Arab world chose to take up arms instead.
Were there atrocities? Yes, sadly. Many. Both directions. As Patton famously observed, “War is hell.”
But the narrative that makes the Jewish state out to be the bully in the neighborhood, picking fights with unarmed Arab villagers, turns the facts upside down.
Golda Meir is quoted as saying, “We will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder to forgive them for having forced us to kill theirs.”
Since Israel’s birth in 1948, there have been many anecdotes that reinforce the picture of God as the defender of modern Israel, even in its current imperfect state. I’m not an expert on military history but I can give a couple examples.
A number of interviews with Israeli veterans with equally miraculous stories are included in the video series Against All Odds.
Syrian tanks abandoned on the Golan Heights after the 1973 Valley of Tears Battle. Photo by ארכיון היסטורי “אגד”, CC BY 2.5.
When we see God’s zeal toward the Jewish people and toward Jerusalem, bringing them back into the land He gave them after two millennia of dispersion, watching over them like a Father, fulfilling His ancient promises…
…we begin to understand the eternal nature of His miracle-working, covenant-keeping zeal toward us who by faith have become “children of promise” (Rom 9:8), “grafted in among” the original branches of His olive tree. (Rom 11:17-24)
I’m so grateful for the Lord’s concern for Israel!
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now, in these last days.
A sincere thank you for the time and attention you’ve devoted to this post! Here are links to a couple other articles on Israel that might interest you.