93. The Mighty Hand of God

Christopher Barder

Ezekiel 20:34 – “I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered — with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.”

Isaiah 11:11-12 NIV – “In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”

These are but a few of the Biblical verses, which give rise to the view, that the modern state of Israel is derived from the Bible and the overseeing Hand of God. The Jewish people are like no other – they are brought back from exile and restored to their original homeland with their original language. About 600 BC as the people were led away to captivity, the prophet Jeremiah declared:

Jeremiah 32:44 NIV – “Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, because I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD.”

This has happened again. Why does it matter to the Evangelical Christian concerned with spreading a message of Good News concerning individual salvation? Why must it matter? The answers to these questions are simple and profound.

In the first place, is the Bible trustworthy and is what it says to be believed? Well, if the covenants and the promises are forsaken, then how can one trust all the rest of the Biblical message? If the return was not a part of Grace then how can anyone believe in the message delivered as of God, whatever it says? But also there is an issue of contemporary ‘spiritual politics’. If the Jewish people are returning to the Land because of God’s design and purpose, then they must be supported by Christians, because all who love their God must agree with Him about His plans and purposes.

This means any force attempting to negate this process of return is ranged, knowingly or unintentionally, against God and His choice of people. They are even implicitly questioning His sovereignty. So: many issues rest on this eventual return and on the clear sign it represents, considering its powerful witness, having begun in the 19th century as a movement, even among secular people, and been accelerated and been accompanied by statehood, a nation born in a day (Isaiah 66, 8).

Isaiah 43:5-6,21 – “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth…”

“… the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

This clearly speaks of a return from far away places and cannot refer to Babylon or the Near East. It represents something special about a people formed for God’s purpose, to praise Him and by their return, of course, to sanctify and proclaim His Name. Their return speaks of His power to withdraw the Jewish people from among the nations. They may face delegitimisation from the UN. They may face attack continually from their neighbours, but however much they may be vilified, their treatment is a reproach to man but not to God, whose ways are higher than man’s ways and who is not a man that He should lie.

The word of the Lord endures forever. He watches over it to perform it. Is this the case with the return of the Jews to the Land they once occupied? Even when there are trespasses and sins, God is at work to bring about His plans and it is He who raises up and brings down the nations. He has every sovereign right to ‘favour Zion’. Does the Church? Or has it a disagreement with God Himself?

In Ezekiel 36, 24 God assures the Jewish people: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.”

Out of all countries shows the level of completeness which God details. It also confirms that the modern return is the one intended. Paul in the Letter to the Romans makes clear that the Gentiles have a debt to the Jews and that they should not boast against the branches – themes to which we must return in forthcoming articles. But he understood something of the importance for their spiritual health of all believers grasping the importance of the Jews to God and to His plans. It is, then, for the spiritual health of the church as a whole, that seeing the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral land is an inheritance from the Lord and as such something with which believers must not simply agree, but must, as God Himself does, support.

(This article was first published in the third series of Tishrei Journals, Number 3, December 2008)



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