Israel is almost always in the news and it is usually negative. It has been like that for many years. How is it possible that such a tiny nation can cause so much ‘trouble?’
- The United Nations passes most of their resolutions against Israel.
- When Mr Trump announced that the United States will move their embassy to Jerusalem, it was as if he triggered the Third World War. We waited with bated breath for the end of the world to come, so vicious were the reactions.
- The Palestinian question remains contentious.
To answer it, we have to go back to God and where Israel fits into God’s plan.
- God called a man, named Abram, who lived with his family in Haran. We read, “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”’ 1
- Abram obeyed, ‘So Abram left, as the Lord had told him;….’ 2 God promised him, ‘The whole land Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’ 3
# Eternal possession and exile
Note that God promised the land Canaan to Abram and his descendants for ever. Yet the Israelites (Jews) were exiled twice.
- The first exile happened because they broke the covenant they had with God. The Northern Kingdom was exiled by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Many, but not all, returned from Babylon after 70 years.
- The second exile happened when the Jews rejected Jesus. They were exiled by the Romans in 70 AD, and in the Bar Kochba war (141AD). Many, but not all, returned after about 1,800 years.
# Two decrees and the hostilities they caused
- The first return was by a decree of King Cyrus. They went back to rebuild the temple under much hostility. 4 During the time of Nehemiah, the Arabs were among those who opposed them when they restored the wall of Jerusalem. 5 It was obvious to the enemies that the Jews would establish their fatherland again.
- The second return was by a decree of the United Nations. On November 29,1947 they passed a resolution to end the British mandate. On May 14, 1948 David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence of the new State of Israel. The response of the Arabs? War! On May 14, 1948, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon invaded Israel. The Arabs responded with hostilities against the Jews just like with the first return. It was very clear that the Jews established their God-given fatherland again. 6
Since that time, the hatred against the Jews never ceased. As they were persecuted since the time of the first exile, so it happened through the ages. The question is, why? Israel is not the biggest, wealthiest country in the world, endowed with limitless resources. Far from it. To answer it, we have to consult God’s Word. The Bible mentions Israel and their role in history many times, but that is for next time.
- Genesis 12:1
- Genesis 12:4
- Genesis 17:8
- Ezra 4:1-5; 5:3-6:18
- Nehemiah 4:1-23
- Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, Tyndale House Publishers, 1984, p 975-978
There are people who want to convince us to unhook the Old Testament from the Christian faith. We understand that they want to protect believers from the controversies, the restrictive laws and the so-called ‘cruel’ acts of God and His people in the Old Testament. Yet the Old Testament is vitally important to understand God’s fantastic future for us. For example,
# Four wonderful promises in the Old Testament
- To the serpent, the devil in the Garden of Eden, God promised, ’I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he [He] will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.’ 1 That refers to Jesus.
- To Abram, God promised, ‘…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ 2 That refers to Jesus.
- To David God promised, ‘Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne will be established for ever.’ 3 That refers to Jesus.
- To the Jews, God promised, ‘The time is coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah….’ 4 That refers to Jesus.
All four these defining promises that a Saviour would come, are in the Old Testament. It should tell us something about how important the Old Testament is for us to grasp the significance our Lord Jesus.
# Matthew, Mark, Luke and John narrate how God fulfilled those 4 promises.
The words, ‘…to fulfil what was written’ occurs quite a few times in these books.
- The King on the Cross is the offspring of the woman, struck in His heel by Satan. The head of the devil was crushed because the sacrifice of Jesus destroyed the works of the devil. 5
- All people on earth who accept the suffering and death of Jesus, His resurrection and ascension on our behalf, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, will inherit the promised eternal life with God. What a blessing!
- The King on the throne of David sits at the right hand of His Father, the Lord God Almighty, and rules for all eternity in the New Jerusalem.
- Through the New Covenant in the Blood of Jesus on the Cross, we become the children of the Father and the Bride of Christ eternally.
# What happens if we unhook the Old Testament from the Holy Spirit inspired Book of Truth?
- We are left with a New Testament with no foundation; with no reason to believe that Jesus is that specially chosen Lamb of God; with no reason to believe the most wonderful miracle of all: God promised and everything happened.
- To unhook the Old Testament from the New, is an effort to rob us of the trust we have in God’s faithfulness and power. He promises us a glorious future with Him eternally. To unhook eventually means to unhook people from God’s plan for their lives.
We can have full confidence in God’s many promises scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. He will take care of us, help, encourage and comfort us in this life. And in eternity we will be in His presence always.
- Genesis 3:15
- Genesis 12:3
- 2 Samuel 6:16
- Jeremiah 31:31
- 1 John 3:8
There are people who question why Jesus had to die? Could God who is Almighty not just forgive everybody’s sins, set up His perfect eternal Kingdom and get finished with it? Well, God illustrates throughout the Word that the Cross is the Key to the Kingdom. Revelation 20 shows the last part of God’s brilliance in the Millennium. It is much more important than it seems.
Why is it necessary for Christ to reign a thousand years?
- By that time many of us will be in heaven with father Abraham and will look forward to the second resurrection and the new heavens and earth. So why do we have to wait another thousand years for God’s eternal reign of peace, happiness, safety and prosperity?
- It is God’s way to illustrate that a perfect environment and even a perfect Ruler will not guarantee a perfect society. You also need citizens with one special characteristic – loyalty.
- So let’s take a bird’s eye view of three of the stages of God’s plan:
1. A perfect environment in the Garden of Eden – failed.
- Genesis 2 is a picture of a perfect environment with full provision for Adam and Eve with a daily visit from God.
- Yet the minute the serpent arrived on the scene, they defected from God and chose to follow and obey Satan. So the devil became the ruler of the world. 1
2. A perfect set of instructions for the Israelites – failed.
- God called Abram, and promised him a country and descendants. They became the nation of Israel with extensive laws to show them how to live to please God.
- In spite of all God’s instructions, they defected from Him and served the gods of the people left in Canaan.
- Even circumcision of the body was not sufficient to help them remain loyal to God.
3. A perfect Ruler in Christ’s thousand year reign – failed.
- Who could be a better ruler than Jesus Himself who is sinless? Would His subjects remain loyal if they could see His face? Revelation 20:1-6 explains Christ’s thousand year reign.
- It will happen after the approximate 4,000 years of the Old Testament time and the approximate 2,000 years of the New Testament time (6,000 years of world history recorded in the Bible). Then there is that seventh period of a thousand years.
- When it begins an angel binds the devil with a big chain and locks him in the Abyss for the full thousand years. 2
- Isaiah 11:6 tells us what it will be like: ‘The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat….’
- After the thousand years Satan will be released and immediately he, ‘…will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth.’ 3
- Will the people stay loyal to their perfect King, Jesus? No! Revelation 20:8 reveals the magnitude of discontent with Jesus. Those who join the devil: ‘In number they are like the sand on the seashore.’
- What happened to those who did not like Jesus’ rulership? ‘…fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur.’ 4
- The Millennium proves that the Cross of Jesus is the necessary ‘ingredient’ for the eternal Kingdom of God. The only way that people will be able to remain loyal to God eternally is if their hearts are changed.
- On the Cross Jesus died for our sins and so cut away our old sinful nature (He circumcised our hearts). The King on the Cross regenerated the hearts of those who embrace Him, to remain loyal to God.
- The Cross is the Key to the Kingdom.
- Revelation 9:12
- Revelation 20:1-2
- Revelation 20:7
- Revelation 20:9b-10