No nation the diminutive size of Israel has captured the attention of the world like Israel. As of 2014 there were 14.2 million Jews in the world. According to one estimate that is around 0.002% of the world. Yet this tiny nation has been the object of both scorn and admiration.
In order to help you understand this small but amazing nation, my blog post will provide: (1) a timeline of Israel. (2) A Biblical understanding of Israel. (3) The state of Israel today.
A Timeline of Israel
In 70 AD the Roman general Titus drove his army into Jerusalem and leveled the city. That was the end of Israel as a nation.
On May 14, 1948 Israel was given nationhood. Many Bible scholars before 1948 believed and taught that Israel was no longer important to God’s unfolding plan of redemption. After 1948 many Bible scholars changed their mind.
In 1962 Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the “Final Solution Plan,” was executed by hanging in Israel.
The Six-Day War took place in 1967. Against great odds, Israel won that war and annexed the Gaza Strip, Sinai, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Then in 1979 Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty. The foundations of this small nation were firmly established nearly 2,000 years after they were destroyed.
Israel and Biblical Teaching
In Genesis 12:1-3 God made a promise to Abraham. ESV Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3 ESV)
Notice what God promised Abraham and his kith and kin: (1) a land, (2) a name, (3) a great nation and (4) a blessing to all the nations.
In Exodus he rekindles that promised to Moses and the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. ESV Deuteronomy 4:1 “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. (Deu 4:1 ESV)
The promise of a land was reiterated by many of the great prophets. 15 “But as the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them. For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.” (Jer 16:15 ESV)
We find a similar theme in Isaiah. 21 Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified. 22 The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it. (Isa 60:21-22 ESV)
Romans 11:23-26 builds upon this Old Testament understanding. 23 “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.” (Rom 11:23-26 ESV)
Israel has a prophetic future. God is and will use Israel for His redemptive purposes.
The State of Israel Today
But there are new developments. Jews from around the world are returning to their ancient land. AP reporter, Aron Heller in his January 14, 2016 article describes an exodus of Jewish people from Europe. “Jewish immigration to Israel from western Europe has reached an all-time high as a result of a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.”
8,000 French Jews emigrated to Israel last year. France has been home to the third-largest Jewish population in the world. 800 Jews from Britain joined the exodus. According to Heller, “Italy and Belgium are next on the list.”
Jews are going home!
The prophet Zechariah predicted, 7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, 8 and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.” 9 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. (Zec 8:7-9 ESV)
The prophet Isaiah picks up a similar theme. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” 8 Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! 9 All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. (Isa 43:6-11 ESV)
The prophet Jeremiah also heralds this miraculous return to the ancient homeland. 3 “For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” (Jer 30:3 ESV)
Today we are witnessing God’s plan of redemption and the role Israel has and will play in that plan.
What a great day to be alive. Students of the Word look on the tumultuous affairs of the world with confidence—God is in charge of human history. He is in charge of your history. We have nothing to fear.
I encourage you to review the Scriptures in this blog post. Enjoy God’s promises. Then rejoice in the confidence you have in Christ. Jesus told his disciples these powerful words that are applicable to our day. “I will never leave you nor forsake you; I am with you always even until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)