Israel, it seems, is in deep trouble. Forty years after the stunning victory of June 1967, we find her groping around for a rational policy, for meaningful and trustworthy leadership, and for a pathway to peace. What Israel needs to do is to turn to the Bible; her troubles exist today because she has forgotten her God. The front cover of THE ECONOMIST this week declares more than its editors realize when it says: "Israel's Wasted Victory..."
This is Paul Billington with another edition of the Bible in the News, and it is our task to comment on this state of affairs from a Bible point of view.
The journalist, Michael Freund, writing in THE JERUSALEM POST (May 29) says it like this:
"It was 40 years ago next week that tiny little Israel, facing destruction at the hands of its enemies, miraculously emerged triumphant from the 1967 Six Day War. Existential fear quickly dissolved into breathtaking joy as the Jewish state decisively vanquished its foes, reuniting Jerusalem and reclaiming large swathes of our ancient homeland.
"Our adversaries, who had gleefully pledged to feed us to the fish in the Mediterranean Sea, were forced to look on as their troops beat a hasty and humiliating retreat.
"The stunning victory of 1967 had all the markings of Divine intervention. It was a gift from Heaven to a besieged and beleaguered people..."
For the most part however, Israelis seem to be blind to that Divine intervention that saved them from another holocaust. This is a state of unbelief which was predicted in the Scriptures, and which was foreseen 150 years ago when, in 1849, John Thomas wrote:
"The pre-adventual colonisation of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him. They will emigrate thither as agriculturists and traders, in the hope of ultimately establishing their commonwealth..."
The reason for Israel's current difficulty is her secular and irreligious basis. Yes, there is some so-called religion there, but for the most part it is far astray from Bible teaching. It is based upon a tradition and mythology accumulated during the many centuries of apostasy and dispersion. It is an outward form of religion completely disconnected from the God of Israel and His word. It is true, as we have pointed out on this programme before that there is a movement among religious Zionist settlers towards the Old Testament Scripture. We suspect that this is "the nucleus, or basis" being prepared for future work when Messiah comes, but the nation as a whole is unmindful of God and is trying to build up the country as a secular state by its own strength and wisdom. This must fail.
In Isaiah 17 verse 10 and onwards (and following the desolation of verse 9) we have a description of the present situation where it says:
"Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow."
Following centuries during which her cities have been forsaken and there has been desolation (see verse 9), there has now been a return to the Land. But it is a return in unbelief. The leaders and governing body of the nation of Israel are essentially atheistic. They "plant pleasant plants" trying to establish that which they desire or lust after. They "set it with strange slips"--that is, foreign vine-slips. It is a Zionism that is not TRUE Zionism, and therefore, though they make it to grow and flourish says the prophet, "the harvest shall be a heap in a day of grief and desperate sorrow." The labours of a century all brought to nought "BECAUSE THOU HAST FORGOTTEN THE GOD OF THY SALVATION."
So it is because the land is not possessed in faith that Israel must face the hostility of the nations. As we read in verse 12,
"Woe (or, Ho!) to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!"
This is the gathering of the nations that we read about in Joel chapter 3. It is the time when God brings again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem as He did in 1967 (see verse 1). Most people in Israel are unconscious of God's Hand at work amongst them, and that is why their plans come to nought. "The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters" says Isaiah 17:13. The secular and irreligious plantation that seeks the approval of world opinion tries to give away the Land that was so miraculously won in 1967. Former Prime Minister Barak tried to give away the area of Judea and Samaria (including the old city). Sharon gave away Gaza--and THAT move has turned into a disaster! And if it was not for the Lebanon war last summer and the civil war among Palestinians now, the West Bank would have been abandoned and the Jewish religious settlers kicked out.
The present government of Israel under Ehud Olmert is floundering in its own corruption and if many commentators are correct, it faces the strong possibility of further war. They do no know what to do about Gaza, and they do not know how to handle the West Bank. And in the meantime the hostility of the world increases, fanned by a prejudiced, if not anti-Semitic media.
So it is that the nations will rush, says Isaiah. "But God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off" (verse 13). Joel 3:2 says that God "will plead with them for his people and heritage Israel."
Why would He do this? Not for the secular unbelieving section of the nation, but for those who are turning from transgression in Jacob, as Isaiah 59:20 tells us. This is that minority that are settling on the mountains of Israel today, and who are looking to their Scriptures and trying to understand them, as indicated in Malachi 4:4.
As we see these events taking place and see the Hand of God at work in Israel, we must look to ourselves also, lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief, as we read in Hebrews 3:12. There can be no participation in the promises of God where there is unbelief. This is true for both Jew and Gentile.
So it is that we continue to watch the events that are taking place, seeing the Hand of God at work as He brings about His great purpose. God willing we will look at more Bible related news next week at www.bibleinthenews.com or www.biblemagazine.com.