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
We are still busy with Satan’s war against God. God’s plan is to establish an eternal Kingdom of peace and happiness. The devil opposes God continuously. It began in the garden of Eden when the devil deceived Adam and Eve. There he usurped Adam’s delegated authority to rule and became the ruler of this world himself. 1 He can use his authority to resist God’s plans.
God gave the serpent, the devil, a promise in the garden of Eden that a person born of a woman, will crush his head. Satan does not particularly endorse or like the promise. For a world ruler, he thought God was overdoing things. So much that he resolved to make sure it would not happen. He reckoned that all he had to do was to keep his eyes on women, and see how he could thwart it.
The devil’s first strategy
- Satan assumed that his Conqueror (our Redeemer) would be a child born of a man/woman relationship because of the promise in Genesis 3:15, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [Jesus] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’ So his first strategy was to contaminate the pure human bloodline from Adam and Eve. He got some of his demons to intermarry with the beautiful daughters of men. The plan was to change the ‘womanhood’ of women by ‘introducing’ his rebellious angelic blood through unnatural marriages. Some people might wonder if it is possible for angels (or demons in this case) to marry women? Look at the description of angels who appear as men in the Bible. So it is not impossible, it happened. 2
- God countered Satan’s ploy when He destroyed all life in a universal flood. Only Noah and his family were saved. The devil lost that round decisively. Satan’s next big battle against God’s plan came when God called Abraham.
- Please note that God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 caused the devil to hate especially women, intensely. He detests mankind, created in the image of God, but now he had more reason to loathe women, since from one of them would come the promised Savior.
- As we discuss the different strategies of the devil against two very important ancestors of Jesus (Abraham and king David), we will also discuss the devil’s attempt to floor God’s promises through women. Yet at the same time, we will give attention to how highly God regards women, which explains the title, ‘Was God the first Feminist?’
The devil’s strategy against Abram and Sarai
- God called Abram and his wife Sarai to relocate to Canaan. God promised Abram, ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ 3
- Abram and his wife, Sarai, had no children. She was barren.
- How would all the people on earth be blessed by one childless man? It could only be because the Redeemer would come from him. He could not bless all people through some great scientific discovery because science was not that well developed. He could not bless them because he performed the exploits of a famous leader. From all accounts he was basically a farmer who looked after livestock.
- The blessing God spoke of had a connection to Genesis 3:15. The New Testament confirms it, “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith [through Jesus] and announced the Gospel in advance to Abraham, ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.'” 4
- God’s promise to Abram, the childless man, was a great nation. When Abram later complained to God about the problem that he had no children, God answered him, ‘…a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ 5 Repeated in Genesis 17:2, ‘I am the Lord Almighty. Walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’
- When we look behind the scenes, it is interesting to see how the devil attempted to floor God’s promise to Abram. Obviously the devil was very aware of God’s dealings with Abram. He heard God’s promises. What strategies could he devise to stop this plan of God to have Jesus be one of Abraham’s descendants?
He had to ‘mix’ Sarai’s possible offspring with a foreign unbeliever.
- So when Abram went to Egypt because of a drought, he told his beautiful wife to say she is his sister (she was his half sister) so that they won’t kill him and take her. Pharaoh’s advisers saw how beautiful Sarai was. They took her to Pharaoh’s palace to become part of his harem. 6 In those days such women were given an extended ‘beauty’ treatment (Esther’s was 12 months, Esther 2:12). So we are sure Pharaoh had no intimate relations with her.
- Sarai was also already 65 years old. Why would Pharaoh prefer a 65 year old woman above a beautiful 18 year old? We see the hand of the devil in it all. However, God intervened on behalf of Sarai and inflicted various diseases on Pharaoh’s court. So Pharaoh let Abram and Sarai go. The devil did not succeed.
- Abraham repeated the Egypt episode with Abimelech. He again expected Sarai to say she was his sister and she was taken into the harem. 7 There God also protected Sarai and they left Abimelech’s court.
Another opportunity for the devil was with Hagar.
- Sarai got impatient. She told Abram to take her slave, Hagar, as his wife to bear the promised son. The Bible does not explicitly mention it, but Satan is the father of disobedience. God made a promise to Abram and Abram believed it. But, as in the case of Eve, Sarai took matters in her own hands to ‘help’ God. Abraham was part of the plot to ‘help’ God along. They did not want God to be embarrassed because Sarai did not fall pregnant, despite God’s promises.
- Abram’s son from the Egyptian servant was born, but God was not impressed. His promise was that Abram would have a son by Sarai, not by Hagar. 8 For thirteen years God did not speak to Abram. Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born, and God spoke again to him when he was 99 years old.
- When God appeared to Abram at the age of 99, He told him very clearly, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you the father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.’ 9 God promised that Sarai would have her son within a year. Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah. It means laughter because both she and Abraham laughed at God’s promise. Yet that laughter came to full fruition of joy when their son Isaac was born. 10
- Abraham and Sarah had only one son together. Ishmael was jealous of him and Abraham sent him and his mother away. Isaac married at 40 after the death of Sara. His wife, Rebecca was barren for 20 years. Isaac followed in his father’s footsteps and also required his wife to save his skin and ‘marry’ the king of the land. 11 Rebecca eventually gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob. Sibling rivalry in the family caused Jacob to flee to his mother’s family in Haran. There he married two sisters and their maidservants. All in all he had twelve sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel.
God’s love and care of women
- Sarah must have been humiliated when they took her into both Pharaoh’s and Abimelech’s harems. She was also despised by Hagar when she became pregnant by Abram. Yet God protected her.
- God elevates her in 1 Peter 3:6b. He tells women who believe in Jesus, ‘You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” One can imagine that the message is, ‘Your husband gave way to fear and allowed you to be grabbed by another man, but you remained steadfast.’
- Sarah is also the advertisement for God’s beauty treatment, ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.’ 12
- Hebrews 11:11 includes Sarah in God’s hall of faith, ‘It was by faith that Sarah together with Abraham was able to have a child, even though they were too old and Sarah was barren.’ New Living Translation. The NIV is not that clear on Sarah’s faith, but other translations are. Holman’s, ‘By faith even Sarah herself, when she was barren, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.’ The Interlinear Greek English Bible also agrees with the above translation.
- It would have been the devil’s delight to mess Sarah up. He failed, as he did when he tried to subvert the Noah generation. God demonstrated in Sarah’s life how highly He values a woman. He made a wife specifically to complement her husband. They can become one in Christ as it is by faith we are saved, and there is no distinction. In God’s Kingdom there is neither male nor female. 13
- Through the ages there have been many efforts to accuse God that He favors men above women; that He regards women as inferior. Bible Bashing is ‘normal,’ ‘His letters [Paul’s] contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.’ 14 Distortion is the name of the game. Don’t be fooled by it.
- Jesus, the Messiah, illustrates God’s high regard for women. He is the ‘Bridegroom’ to be married to His Bride. God’s creation of male and female as a bridegroom and bride is a shadow of that. Jesus loves the Church, the Bride, and gave Himself up for her. He went through agonizing, excruciating pain to buy a Bride for Himself with His own life and blood. That gives one a very clear idea of how worthy women are in God’s sight.
- So feminists who supposedly fight on behalf of women are slightly late. God already did it thousands of years ago.
- There will probably be people who ask, what about the women who were killed in the flood? Noah took 70 years to build the ark while they heard him preach. God gave them 120 years to repent and they refused. 15
- Satan does not love women because of the promise of God. Through the ages he did his best to cause them to often be treated very badly. God is always the champion of women, as we see in the case of Abraham and Sarah.
- Furthermore, Satan might be clever and gifted, but it is no guarantee that he can outwit God. His attempt in the case of Abraham and Sarah failed. God’s promise to Abraham about a large offspring is already true, ‘Understand, then that those who believe are children of Abraham.’ 16 That must be countless billions.
- 1 John 5:19b
- Genesis 19:1-3
- Genesis 12:2-3
- Galatians 3:8-9
- Genesis 15:4
- Genesis 12:14-20
- Genesis 20
- Genesis 16
- Genesis 17:4-6
- Genesis 18
- Genesis 26:1-11
- 1 Peter 3:3-6a
- Galatians 3:28
- 2 Peter 3:16
- Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5
- Galatians 3:7