The Rebirth and Regathering of Israel “Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labour than she gives birth to her children.” Isa. 66:8. This event, prophesied thousands of years earlier, came to pass almost sixty years ago. On one day – May 14 1948 – Israel was born as a complete nation, with its own government, armed forces and all necessary administrative functions. After many centuries Israel was again a sovereign nation within its own borders; such an event was without parallel in human history. Undoubtedly further conflicts and huge sacrifices lay ahead, but one fact of tremendous importance overshadowed all else: the state of Israel had been born and had survived against all the odds. Of course, Jews had been returning to Palestine, as it then was, since the beginning of the twentieth century when the population contained under 40,000 thousand Jews. By 1915 this had risen to just under 80,000.00 – still only 12% of the total population. Today there are 5.3 million (76%) Jews living in Israel. Despite the dangers of living in a country constantly under threat both externally and internally by foes committed to its destruction, the descendants of the former inhabitants ( in some cases exiled since the days of Solomon) have been drawn back to this ancient land. So many Scriptures speak of this historic happening; here are just a few:“And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Isa.11:12. “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring my seed from the east, and from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” Isa 43:5/6. “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:…Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.” Jer.7:1,7. “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess, says the Lord.” Jer.30:3. “I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” Amos 9:14-15. “Thus says the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness.” Zech. 8:7/8. Like the birth of Israel, its growth was equally miraculous. In its first ten years, this small infant nation of less than 640,000 absorbed more than twice that number of new immigrants, many of them refugees. They housed them, clothed them, trained them, and got them jobs. At the same time Israel was building up its defence forces and holding at bay hostile Arab nations (who numbered 150 million people) on all sides. The fact that the nation continued to flourish and grow despite all the pressures is a miracle. Concerning this, the late Derek Prince wrote, “The key to understanding this miracle – as well as the whole critical situation in the Middle East – can be found in the prophetic revelation of the Bible. It is in the Middle East that history and the Bible intersect. This has been true for four thousand years, but never more so than today. The central theme of Bible prophecy, as it is being unfolded in our time, revolves around the land and people of Israel. God is carrying out His predetermined plan to regather the Jewish people from their worldwide dispersion and restore them to their ancient homeland.” It is doubtful whether any human being can put in place all the pieces of the vast jigsaw of what is going to happen in the future, however we can look at what has already happened regarding the rebirth of Israel and the regathering of the Jews back to the land and say, like Peter on the day of Pentecost, “This is what was spoken by the prophet.” Acts.2:16. Spiritual Restoration There are numerous promises in Scripture of Israel’s spiritual restoration:“But Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation: You shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever.” Isa.45:17. “In the land all the descendants of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.” Isa.45:25. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean… I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you… I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes…”Ezekiel 36:25/26. “And the Lord their God shall save them in the day as the flock of his people; for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land.” Zech.9:16. The thirty seventh chapter of the book of Ezekiel describes a remarkable vision of a valley of dry bones which the Lord gave to the prophet. Ezekiel was told to prophesy to the bones and there was a noise, a shaking, and the bones took on flesh, began to breath and stood up, an exceedingly great army. The Lord then gave to Ezekiel the interpretation of this vision:“…Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O My people, I will open up your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people and brought you up out of your graves. And shall put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.” Speaking on this chapter in a sermon in 1864 (many years before the Regathering of the Jews or the creation of the state of Israel) Charles Spurgeon said this:“All these promises certainly imply that the people of Israel are to be converted to God, and that this conversion is to be permanent, for the tabernacle of God is to be with them, the most High is, in an especial manner, to have His sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore; so that whatever nations may apostatise and turn from the Lord in these latter days, the nation of Israel never can, for she shall be effectually and permanently converted, the hearts of the fathers shall be turned with the hearts of the children unto the Lord their God, and they shall be the people of God, world without end.” Jesus tells us, in Luke 15:7 and 15:10, that there is joy in heaven and in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repents; how much joy will there be in heaven on that day when the veil is taken off the remnant of Israel and they recognise and turn to their own Messiah, whom they rejected all those centuries ago? In glorious language Isaiah looks forward to this time when “the Redeemer will return to Zion.” (Isa.59:20). “Arise; shine for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you, For behold darkness shall cover the earth, And thick darkness the peoples; But the Lord will arise upon you, And nations will come to your light, And Kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isa.60:1-3. In Israel today, and indeed throughout the world, we have a foretaste of this great national salvation with increasing numbers of Jews accepting Christ as their saviour – it is estimated that there are now approximately fourteen thousand Jewish believers in Israel, not forgetting at least as many born again Arab Christians. While this is a very small percentage of the total populations it is nevertheless a dramatic increase from 20/30 years ago. The leaders of the small and fledgling assemblies across Israel face enormous pressures and persecution and really do need the prayers and support of fellow believers like ourselves. Our Duty to Israel “Has God cast away His people whom He foreknew? God forbid!” Rom.11:1. We have already seen how God has restored the nation of Israel and how He is regathering the Jews from many countries back to that land. Equally we believe by faith from scripture that He will also bring their spiritual conversion. However many Christians say, “Yes, I accept that, but really it’s got nothing to do with me.” Is this a legitimate response? Surely our greatest joy in this world is to be like God. Of course we rejoice that our sins are forgiven, and we eagerly look forward to the day when Christ appears and we shall be fully like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). But should we not diligently seek to be like Him now in understanding, in doing His will, in holiness and in His exceptional love. The whole of scripture shows that God has an exceptional love for Israel. In Deut.7:7-8 Moses said, “The Lord did not set His love on you or choose you because you were more in number than any other people, but because the Lord loves you.” God loved them then and He loves them now (Rom.11:1-5) and has a purpose and plan for them as the end of this age approaches. In fact the whole scripture contradicts the idea that God has rejected His people Israel:“Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy on him, saith the Lord.” Jer.31:20. “Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in the land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.” Jer. 32:41. “But Zion said, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Isa.49:14-15. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Rom.11:26. Should we not give the Jewish people the same place in our hearts as God gives them in His? The renown Scottish preacher of the nineteenth century Robert Murray McCheyne put it like this:- “Now the simple question for each of us (and our beloved Church) is: “Shouldn’t we participate with God in His exceptional affection for Israel? If we are filled with the Spirit of God, shouldn’t we love as He loves? Shouldn’t we engrave Israel upon the palms of our hands, and resolve that through our mercy they also may obtain mercy?” (Isa.49:16, Rom.11:31). God, of course, will not condone sin nor should we, and Israel today is very much a secular state with in particular a high degree of immorality (the abortion rate per head is among the highest in the world). Nevertheless this should this should spur us on to plead on their behalf for God’s mercy. How Shall we Respond? So far we have looked at just a small number of the many prophetic scriptures that unfold God’s predetermined prophetic purpose for the Jewish people and for the state of Israel. As Christians who accept the Bile’s authority, we cannot ignore the clear revelation of God’s purpose being worked out in our day through the regathering of His scattered people Israel and the rebirth of the state of Israel, both of which are a prelude to the salvation of the Jewish people. This then confronts us with a crucial question: How shall we respond? God’s Command Praying for Israel is not really an optional extra for Christians. Although some will obviously have prior calls to other regions, none can escape the twice repeated and emphasised command to pray for the very heart of Israel, which is, of course, Jerusalem. “Praying for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee”. Ps. 122:6. While lasting peace can only come to Jerusalem when Messiah returns God commands us to pray now for its peace. In a city which has to contend with suicide bombings, Muslim claims for governmental ownership, and clashes of every kind of false and superficial Christianity, not to mention international pressure from outside – how badly does Jerusalem need our prayers! “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest until her vindication goes forth as brightness…” Isa.62:1. Though spoken by the prophet Isaiah, the above words are of the Lord speaking and show that God has not been resting or sleeping down through the centuries regarding Israel. His second command to us is to pray along the same lines – to be unresting – and is addressed to every Christian. “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth”. Isa.62:7. Nowhere else in Scripture is there such an underlined call to relentless, specific prayer. Although the Lord tells us He will take no rest, paradoxically He puts the ball in our court in bidding us to give Him no rest, and not to take any for ourselves! God has some vital purposes in His heart in and through Jerusalem to bless the whole earth. There are no other people on earth, other than Christians, who can possibly know the way that Israel should go at the time. We are the only ones who have both the map of God’s word, and the experience and equipment by which to combat the spiritual forces of evil that are bent on the destruction of the nation. Only born again Christians can fully realise that we are not dealing with just any nation – but with God’s elect nation, those He has chosen through whom to yet manifest more fully to this world just whom He is… the King of Glory! We can choose to leave Israel to the forces of destruction, or we can choose to remember that she needs the “eyes” of the enlightened Christian. What will our response be? Witnessing “… how shall they hear without a preacher?” Rom.10:14. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Rom.1:16. A prominent Messianic pastor recently said, “The greatest form of anti-Semitism is not to tell a Jew about Jesus.” We may have no contact with Jews ourselves however we can and should support those who are called to this particular ministry. Organisations such as Christian Witness to Israel and Society for the Distribution of Hebrew Scriptures are well worth supporting. Material Needs “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Isa.40:1. There is no segment of humanity whose need of comfort can even en be compared with that of the Jewish people. Through the course of history, many other racial and religious groups have been the victims of prejudice and persecution. But the sufferings of the Jewish people far exceeded all others in their scope, intensity and duration. In the wisdom and mercy of God, He promises them not only regathering but also comfort:“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:2-3. It is a little known fact that a large percentage of the population of Israel, both Jew and Arab, live below the poverty line. The huge cost of coping with large scale immigration plus having to maintain an effective defence force have taken their toll and finances are limited. Children in particular suffer greatly. This of course affects believers and several Christian organisations operate a “Needy Believers” fund while The Joseph Storehouse Humanitarian Aid Centre provides clothing, household items and medical supplies for those in greatest need.
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