Clear the Air May 2003
Israel Indepence Day - May 7, 2003
Ezekiel 37 contains a wonderful and fascinating account of a valley of dry bones. God instructs the prophet to speak to a valley of dry bones. Sinew and flesh come upon the bones, and skin covers the bodies. Then the Lord has the prophet speak to the breath and spirit, and the bodies are filled with the breath and spirit and they come to life. Who are these bones? The whole house of Israel. And even though they felt that their bones were completely dry and their hope was gone, that they were completely cut off, God Himself releases them from their graves and brings them back to the land of Israel.
“Then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations to which they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one King shall be King over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, neither be divided into two kingdoms any more. They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things or with any of their transgressions, but I will save them out of all their dwelling places and from all their backslidings in which they have sinned, and I will cleanse them. So shall they be My people, and I will be their God.” - Ezekiel 37:21-23
Many people believe that this chapter of Ezekiel has been fulfilled through the Holocaust and subsequent re-establishment of the state of Israel. This text was even pivotal when deciding on the name of the Jewish state. Some were opting for Judah, while others were leaning toward Ephraim. It was finally decided to call the nation Israel. It is important to note, however, that if this chapter is taken as a whole and in context (which is vital in understanding Scripture), the re-gathering of Israel that is outlined in Ezekiel 37 is speaking of a yet future time when Israel will be brought in from among the nations as a believing body, not as unbelievers. We have yet to see one King - the King of Kings - rule over Israel, nor have we seen an end to transgressions in Israel (or any other nation for that matter). So, while the imagery certainly does lend itself to the devastation of the Holocaust, I don't believe that this passage is speaking of the re-gathering and reestablishment of the Israel we see today.
The reestablishment of the current state of Israel - a return in unbelief - is indeed prophesied in several passages of Scripture.
“As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out will I be King over you. And I will bring you out from the peoples and will gather you out of the countries in which you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there will I enter into judgment with you and contend with you face to face. As I entered into judgment and contended with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I enter into judgment and contend with you, says the Lord God. And I will cause you to pass under the rod [as the shepherd does his sheep when he counts them, and I will count you as Mine and I will constrain you] and bring you into the covenant to which you are permanently bound. And I will purge out and separate from among you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they temporarily dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you shall know, understand, and realize that I am the Lord.” - Ezekiel 20:33-38
Other passages speaking of a worldwide re-gathering in unbelief can be found in Ezekiel 22:17-22, Ezekiel 36:22-24. It is clear that this initial re-gathering is in preparation for God's judgment and wrath to be poured out on Israel.
In Zephaniah 2:1-2, we read, “Collect your thoughts, yes, unbend yourselves [in submission and see if there is no sense of shame and no consciousness of sin left in you], O shameless nation [not desirous or desired]! [The time for repentance is speeding by like chaff whirled before the wind!] Therefore consider, before God's decree brings forth [the curse upon you], before the time [to repent] is gone like the drifting chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you--yes, before the day of the wrath of the Lord comes upon you!”
The term “day of the wrath of the Lord,” as also found in Zephaniah 1:14-18, is always a term that is used to describe the Great Tribulation. So from these verses we see that the first international re-gathering of the Jews to the land and the subsequent reestablishment of the state of Israel as a sovereign nation is to take place in preparation for God's judgment against His people.
Regardless of whether you believe that the current state of Israel is a fulfillment of Ezekiel 37 or not, one fact remains - the reestablishment of the state of Israel was promised by God and was brought about by His hand. This should be comforting to us as believers in the Messiah if for no other reason than it proves that God does indeed keep His promises no matter how impossible they may seem to us.
There are a few curious things about modern day Israel - one being her borders. Historically, Israel has never taken possession of the full boundaries that God established for her. “On the same day the Lord made a covenant (promise, pledge) with Abram, saying, To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates--the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” - Genesis 15:18-21. If you look on a map of the region, you'll see that that's quite a large piece of real estate.
If you take a closer look at this chapter in Genesis you will find that the covenant God made was a unilateral covenant. God put Abram to sleep, and then proceeded to cut covenant with Himself. In a nutshell, what that means is that this covenant can never be broken because God made the covenant with Himself and He can't break His word. There is another promise that God made to Abram that is worth looking at. It is found in Genesis 12:2-3.
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others]. And I will bless those who bless you [who confer prosperity or happiness upon you] and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you; in you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed [and by you they will bless themselves].”
This is a very powerful promise - one that can bring either abundant blessing or devastating curses, and we can see the outworking of this promise even to this day. Whether it is on a personal or national level, if Israel and the Jews are blessed, God will pour out His blessings. If, on the other hand, there is anti-Semitism at work, God's curse is soon to follow. Keeping this in mind, what might lie ahead for our nation if we continue to force Israel into a position of concession? Who are we to mandate Israel's borders when the Lord God has established those borders Himself? What will come upon our nation as a result of our tampering in God's business?
I fear that our nation is facing a time of great trouble. Historically, the Lord has used other nations and people groups to bring about His judgment and I feel that we, even while we celebrate peace and prosperity, are on the verge of God's judgment. As a whole, we have become presumptuous and arrogant. Anarchy is running wild through our society. And we are setting ourselves up in the place of God Almighty to try to bring about a lasting peace that only the Prince of Peace can achieve. The Lord's words are neither simple platitudes nor empty threats. Our nation must stand by Israel and fight for her very right to exist - within the border set forth by God. If we force her to carve herself into bits in order to make peace with those who would destroy her we will be crushed.
Pray that our nation's leaders will not be coerced into forcing Israel into an alliance that would only mean destruction. Pray that the Lord God would intervene in the lives of our president and his cabinet and advisors. Pray that Israel would open her eyes and ears to see and hear the voice of their God. Pray that if this judgment could removed from us that it would indeed be taken, but even so not our will, but God's be done. Pray!
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