12 Keys To Understanding IsraelIn The Bible
by Clarence H. Wagner Jr.
As I travel the world speaking on behalf of Bridges for Peace,I often hear many of the same questions over and over again. Whetherit is in South Africa or Canada, Australia or Brazil, the UK orthe USA, one thing that Christians want to have is a summary ofthe key Scriptures about Israel and the Jewish people. God hasmuch to say about His Covenant people and His Land, Israel.
The Land of Israel is the only place onearth which God says He owns in terms of property ownership thatcan be transferred. (Of course, we know the whole world is His,yet this one parcel of land on the earth has a unique relationshipto Him.) About Israel, He says, 'The land, moreover, shallnot be sold permanently, for the land is Mine: for you are butaliens and sojourners with Me' (Leviticus 25:23).
Exactly what does the Bible say aboutGod's parcel of land, and who has a right to it?
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When we come to the modern-day Israel-Palestineissue, people often ask the question, 'Just what right doIsrael and the Jewish people have to this land?' Argumentsare continually brought forth concerning the rights of the Palestiniansand the rights of the Israelis that seem logical to the peoplewho present them. But a basic question still remains in my mindas I listen to the many conflicting viewpoints concerning thisparcel of land: 'Who has the ultimate authority to determinerights concerning this special piece of real estate?'
The biblical answer to that question isthat God alone determines the 'rights' that any of ushave. Something is right or wrong because of Divine decree, nothuman feeling or human reason. The existence of God previous tothe creation of the universe and mankind gives Him the right todetermine our 'rights.'
Morality exists because God exists. Authorityexists because God exists. And, Almighty God has already determinedthe rights of Israel and the Jewish people to the land God ownsand has deeded over to them.
Let's look together at what He has to sayabout the Land of Israel, the people He chose to possess it, andwhy:
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Key #1: The Land of Canaan, renamed Israelby the Lord, was given by God to Abraham and his descendants asan everlasting possession.
In Genesis 12:7a, we read: 'The Lordappeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give thisland.'
In Genesis 13:15, He repeated His promisewhen He said, 'for all the land which you see, I will giveit to you and to your descendants forever.' He said the samething in Genesis 15:18, 'To your descendants I have giventhis land.'
Key #2: The gift of this Land to Abrahamand his descendants was based on an unconditional covenant fromGod Himself.
Genesis 17:7-8 states: 'And I willestablish My covenant between Me and you and your descendantsafter you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant,to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I willgive to you and to your descendants after you, the land of yoursojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession;and I will be their God.'
The sign of that covenant for Abraham andhis descendants was circumcision. Twice in this passage, God mentionsthe everlasting nature of this covenant. There are some todaywho say that this covenant was conditional, that it was basedon Israel's faithfulness to God. The Bible teaches otherwise.
In Psalm 89:30-37, we read: 'If hissons forsake My law, and do not walk in My judgments, if theyviolate My statues, and do not keep My commandments, then I willvisit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity withstripes. But I will not break off My loving kindness from him,nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate,nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn byMy holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endureforever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful.'
Jeremiah 31:35-36 declares: 'This iswhat the Lord says, 'He who appoints the sun to shine by day,Who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, Who stirs upthe sea so that its waves roar -- the Lord Almighty is His Name;Only if these ordinances vanish from My sight,' declares the Lord,'will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation beforeMe.'
We agree that God promised to judge Hispeople if they disobeyed Him. That is true for all of us. However,we do not agree with those who say that Israel's disobediencewould forfeit their gift of the land and their national statusas a people. Deuteronomy 28 shows that God's pronouncement ofblessing and cursing only affected the quality of life of theIsraelites, which was conditional upon their faithfulness. However,the promise of the land was not based upon Israel's performance,but upon God's oath and character -- He will not lie.
Deuteronomy 30 shows that before they evenentered the Promised Land, He knew they would violate His statutesand be evicted in a future day. Yet it also declares that He wouldbring them back into the land He had given their forefathers (see#8).
Key #3: The Land was given to Abrahamand his descendants as part of God's redemptive blessing to theworld.
In Genesis 12:1-3, we read, 'The Lordhas said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father'shousehold and go to the land I will show you. I will make youinto a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your namegreat, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who blessyou and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples onearth will be blessed through you.'
Israel was located in the center of theancient world, and all transportation and communication betweenthe continents had to pass through this territory to reach theother. In doing so, the travelers, merchants and traders, andeven the armies encountered the Children of Israel.
They were chosen for three purposes: toworship God in this land and show the world the blessing of servingthe one true God of the Universe; to receive, record and transmitthe Word of God (through them we have our Bible); and finally,to be the human channel for the Messiah from whom we have oursalvation. In order for God to protect His purposes for the Childrenof Israel in the Land of Israel, He promised to bless those whoblessed Abraham and his descendants and curse him who cursed them.
Key #4: This land was not given to thedescendants of Ishmael (one ancestor of the Arab peoples), butrather to the descendants of Isaac.
I have no bitterness toward the descendantsof Ishmael, nor do I wish to be unkind to our Arab friends. However,I must be faithful to what I know the Bible teaches. Abraham himselfconsidered Ishmael as a possible descendant to whom God wouldgive this land. In Genesis 17:18, Abraham said to God, 'Ohthat Ishmael might live before Thee.' But God's answer was,and is, very clear. In Genesis 17:19, God answered Abraham, 'No,but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call hisname Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlastingcovenant for his descendants after him.'
God promised to bless Ishmael and to makehim a great nation: 'And as for Ishmael, I have heard you:I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatlyincrease his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers,and I will make him into a great nation' (Genesis 17:20).However, the bloodline of the covenant promise concerning theLand would go through Isaac, not Ishmael: '..In Isaac yourdescendants shall be called' (Hebrews 11:18).
Key #5: This Land was not given to theother sons of Abraham, but only to Isaac.
After Sarah died, Abraham had six more sonsby Keturah, as well as others by his concubines, who are ancestorsof many of the Arab peoples today. However, the covenant of theLand was not for them: 'Now Abraham gave all he had to Isaac;but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while hewas still living and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward,to the land of the east' (Genesis 25:5-6). Note that Abrahameven sent these sons away from the Land of Canaan.
Key #6: This Land and covenant were givenonly to Isaac's son, Jacob, and his descendants, not Esau andhis descendants.
Jacob received the birthright from his father,Isaac. In Genesis 28:4, Isaac said to Jacob: 'May He (God)also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendantswith you: that you may possess the land of your sojourning, whichGod gave to Abraham.'
But it wasn't simply the words of his fatherIsaac that guided the future of Jacob. It was a direct revelationfrom God Himself that convinced Jacob of his destiny. The LordGod revealed to Jacob His message about this land. In Genesis28:13-15, we read:
'I am the Lord, the God of your fatherAbraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I willgive it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shallalso be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out tothe west and to the east and to the north and to the south; andin you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earthbe blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you whereveryou go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leaveyou until I have done what I have promised you.'
According to Genesis 36:6-9, Esau took hisdescendants and all his possessions and went to another land awayfrom his brother Jacob. Esau lived in the hill country of Seir.The Bible tells us that Esau is Edom. It specifically tells usthat the descendants of Esau are the Edomites, and Israel wasnot their land. The book of Obadiah is a proclamation of doomupon the sons of Esau (Edom) for their constant persecution ofthe descendants of Jacob (Israel): 'Because of the violenceagainst your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; youwill be destroyed forever' (Obadiah 1:10).
Key #7: God told Israel to conquer theLand which He had given to them.
In Deuteronomy 1:8, we read: 'See,I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the landwhich the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac,and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them.'On the east side of the Jordan River as the Israelites were aboutto enter into the Promised land, the Lord said to Joshua: 'MosesMy servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get readyto cross the Jordan river into the land I am about to give tothem -- to the Israelites. I will give you every place where youset your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extendfrom the desert and from Lebanon to the great river, the Euphrates- all the Hittite country -- and to the Great Sea on the west.Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people toinherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them'(Joshua 1:2-4,6).
Joshua then told his people with these words:'This is how you will know that the living God is among you,and that He will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites,Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites'(Joshua3:10). He then told them how the Lord would part the flood watersof the Jordan River so they could cross over to the other side.This is what happened and then the people knew that God was withthem, and they conquered the land, region by region, startingwith Jericho.
The reality of conflict over the land ofIsrael is nothing new and in no way indicates that God is notwith the Jewish people concerning the land issue today. I haveheard Christians say that Israel today could not be part of God'splan, because there is so much war and strife that it can't beof God. However, since when has it been any different? All throughthe Older Testament, nations rose up to fight against the Jewishpeople, the descendants of Abraham, in the Land of Israel. Fromthe moment Joshua brought the Children of Israel into the PromisedLand, it was a fight to possess the Land. King David was seeminglyat constant war with his neighbors, the Philistines. Why shouldit be surprising that conflict is still happening today? The enemiesof God have always fought against His plans.
The prophet Zechariah makes it quite clearthat at the end of days, God Himself will make Jerusalem a stumblingblock for the nations and will judge them by whether or not theyunderstand and support God's plans for Jerusalem and Israel. Ifthey do, they will be blessed; if they don't, they will be destroyed:'I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surroundingpeoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem.On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered againsther, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations.All who try to move it will injure themselves. On that day, Iwill set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem'(Zechariah 12:1-2,9).
Key #8: Israel's sin and subsequent exilefrom the Land did not change their divine right to this Land givento them by the Lord in covenant.
Many people have said that God's promiseto give Israel this land was based upon Israel's faithfulnessto God's laws, and that when they were disobedient and sent intocaptivity, this nullified God's promise. The Bible teaches otherwise.In Leviticus 26:40-45, we read that God would punish Israel forits disobedience and send them into captivity. But, accordingto verses 44-45, God will bring them back:
'Yet in spite of this, when they arein the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor willI so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant withthem; for I am the Lord their God. But I will remember for themthe covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the landof Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God.I am the Lord.' In Deuteronomy 30:3-5, God promises: 'Thenthe Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassionon you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where theLord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the endsof the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, andfrom there He will bring you back. And the Lord; your God willbring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and youshall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you morethan your fathers.'
Amos 9:14-15 thunders forth these remarkablewords: 'Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. Theywill also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardensand eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, andthey will not again be rooted out from their land which I havegiven them,' says the Lord your God.'
Some opponents to Israel's right to theland say that these verses were fulfilled when the Jewish peoplereturned from the Babylonian captivity. However, we know thatthere were other exiles and in-gatherings, as well. Yet, Amos speaksof a return to their ancient homeland, Israel, once and for all,when he says, '. and they will not again be rooted out fromtheir land which I have given them,' says the Lord your God'(Amos 9:15). That has never happened in history and many believethat this return to Israel is that final return that will culminatein the coming of Messiah.
Key #9: The name of this Land is notPalestine, but Israel.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the prophetEzekiel spoke of the restoration of Israel to its land in thelast days. Ezekiel spoke of dry bones coming to life. Never beforein history has a nation been destroyed and scattered all overthe world, and then been brought back to life. It is a miracleand a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. We read in Ezekiel 37:11-12:
'Then He said to me, 'Son of man, thesebones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bonesare dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cutoff.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, 'thus says the LordGod, Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come upout of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the landof ISRAEL.'
Notice that the name of that land is ISRAEL,the land that so often is called the 'land of Canaan'in the Bible. God says that in the last days it will be calledISRAEL.
The name, Palestine, was a regional namethat was imposed on the area by the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, whosuppressed the Second Jewish Revolt in AD 135. He was so angrywith the Jews that he wanted to humiliate them and emphasize thatthe Jewish nation had lost its right to a homeland under Romanrule. The name Palaestina was originally an adjective derivedfrom Philistia, the arch-enemies of the Israelites 1000 yearsearlier. Hadrian also changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolinaafter his own family name, Aelia. He also forbade Jews from enteringthe city, except on the 9th of the Hebrew month, Av, to mournits destruction. Since he was considered a god in the Roman Empire,this was his attempt to break God's covenant between the Jewishpeople and their land. This effectively declared his pagan authorityover Jerusalem, which had been the place of the presence of theGod of Israel. To this day, the name Palestine flies in the faceof Israel and the entire issue can be boiled down to a religious(spiritual) battle over a land whose fate will be decided by theGod of the Bible, since it is His land (Leviticus 25:23).
Yeshua (Jesus), in describing the signsof the end of the age, said: 'Jerusalem will be trampledon by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled'(Luke 21:24b). From the time of Hadrian until 1967, Jerusalemwas controlled by Gentiles. It is now back in the hands of theJewish people, which is one sign that Messiah is soon to cometo Zion.
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Key #10: The stranger (those outsidethe Covenant) will live among you and be treated with respect.
'They (God's covenant people) willrebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated:they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated forgenerations. The stranger will shepherd your flock; foreignerswill work your fields and vineyards' (Isaiah 61:4,5). 'Ifyou (Israel) really change your ways and your actions and dealwith each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherlessor the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place andif you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I willlet you live in this place, in the land I gave to your forefathersfor ever and ever' (Jeremiah 7:5-7).
The 'alien' or 'foreigner'in these verses would include the Palestinian Arabs and othernon-Jewish people who live in the land. They would receive a blessingby living and working in the Land of Israel, not the Land of Palestine.On the one hand, Israel should treat them with respect. On theother hand, they have the responsibility to live at peace, abidingby the laws of the Land, recognizing under whose sovereignty itbelongs.
This is what Moses taught: 'The community(of Israel) is to have the same rules for you and for the alienliving among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generationsto come. You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord;the same laws and regulations will apply to you and to the alienliving among you'(Numbers 15:15,16).
When this relationship is broken, as hashappened today, then crisis ensues. Scripture has much more tosay about the Land in prophecy, including the fact that Israelwill go through many more trials before Messiah comes to fullyrestore Israel as the head of all nations.
Key #11: The return of the Jewish peopleat the end of days will be initiated by God, and their returnwill signal the restoration of a barren and broken land.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of God's plan tobring His people back to Israel, saying: 'He will raise abanner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel, He willassemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quartersof the earth' (Isaiah 11:12).Download skull wallpaper free for android.
When the Jews began to return from the nationsof the world at the end of the last century, the land was barrenand sparsely inhabited. In the 1860s, the author, Mark Twain,traveled in what was then a backward region of the Ottoman TurkishEmpire, called Palestine and described the land, thusly: 'Nowherein all the waste around was there a foot of shade.' He calledthe land a 'blistering, naked, treeless land.' Of theGalilee, he said, 'There is no dew, nor flowers, nor birds,nor trees. There is a plain and an unshaded lake, and beyond themsome barren mountains.' His summary of Palestine: 'Ofall the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestinemust be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color,they are unpicturesque in shape. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbrokenland.'
This description matches the Ezekiel's prophecyof the 'barren mountains of Israel' in Ezekiel 36:1-7.However, Ezekiel goes on to say, 'But you, O mountains ofIsrael, will produce branches and fruit for My people Israel,for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and willlook on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I willmultiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house ofIsrael. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I willincrease the number of men and animals upon you, and they willbe fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you asin the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then,you will know that I am the Lord. I will cause people, My peopleIsrael, to walk upon you. They will possess you, and you willbe their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of theirchildren' (Ezekiel 36: 8-12).
Truly, the return of the Jews from over100 nations of the world is a modern-day miracle. Large wavesof immigrants began to come in the 1880s. Since those early days,the deserts have been reforested, the rocky fields made fertile,the swamps drained and planted, the ancient terraces rebuilt,and the ruined cities of old re-established. Israel is now a nationof over six million people that is a food exporting nation thatboasts high levels of literacy, health, education and welfare,high technology and agricultural development.
Key #12: The nations will be part ofthe return of the people and the restoration of the land.
The prophet Isaiah of Israel said: 'Arise,shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord risesupon you. Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the shipsof Tarshish, bringing your sons from afar, with their silver andgold, to the honor of the Lord your God. Foreigners will rebuildyour walls, and their kings will serve you. Your gates will alwaysstand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that menmay bring you the wealth of the nations. For the nation or kingdomthat will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined'(Isaiah 60:1,9-12).
In Romans 11:11-14, Paul teaches us Christiansthat we are grafted into the olive tree, which are the covenants,promises and hopes of Israel. We do not hold up the tree, butit holds us up, so we should not boast against His people, Israel.In verse 28, he tells us that they are beloved for the sake ofthe patriarchs. Without the faithfulness of the Jewish peoplein Israel, we would not have our example, our Bible, our Yeshuaor our salvation. Therefore, he concludes that 'by our mercy,they will receive [God's] mercy.' (Romans 11:31).
Paul teaches us Christians that we havea debt to pay to the Jewish people, by blessing them in tangibleways.
Romans 15:27 clearly states: 'For ifthe Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, theyowe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.'How much more direct can God be regarding our Christian relationshipto Israel and the Jewish people.
What Does This Mean To Us?
The day of Israel's full restoration isnear. Messiah will make it possible and we shall all live in peace.Until He comes, we, who believe the Bible to be God's Word andthat every promise of God will come to pass, must stand and supportIsrael's right to its land. It is a Divine right. We are patientwith those who do not believe the Bible, nor accept Israel's rightto the land. Yet, with love for all, we must strongly supportIsrael's right. We cannot do otherwise and have clear consciences.We cannot say on the one hand that we believe there is a God Whohas revealed His perfect will in His Holy Scriptures, and on theother hand, deny Israel its right to the land God promised toher.
Our commitment to Israel was penned by thePsalmist so long ago in Psalm 102:13: 'You will arise andhave compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her;the appointed time has come.' This is that day.
Again the Psalmist exhorts us: 'Prayfor the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper who love you. Maypeace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, 'Maypeace be within you.' For the sake of the house of the Lord ourGod, I will seek your good' (Psalm 122; 6-9).
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