Two years ago Israel’s High Court ruled that the residents of the unauthorised Israeli Settlement of Mitzpeh Kramim had to be forcibly removed from the hill top and the settlement demolished following a land dispute. However, this week the High Court reversed this ruling on appeal, saying that the settlement had been built in “good faith” and could remain. Some suggest this ruling could end up leaving a precedent for a multitude of similar cases throughout the West Bank, where there are ongoing legal disputes over the land on which settlements are built.
As Christadelphian’s we are not lawyers, nor is it for us to argue the case for either side of a law of man. However, we believe in the Word of God, and we look to see the prophecies contained in it come to pass.
The area today known as the West Bank was taken by the Jordanians in 1948. Israel recaptured it 19 years later in 1967. The borders of the territory encompass the main spine of mountains that go north-south through the State of Israel today.
Throughout the Bible the “Mountains of Israel” are rarely set apart from the rest of Israel, except when we come to the latter-day prophecies of Israel that are being fulfilled in our day.
For the first 19 years of Israel’s existence the “Mountains of Israel” were not under Jewish control, but were controlled by the Jordanians – and since they were conquered in 1967 they have had a different political status to the rest of Israel, even up until this day.
How interesting is it, that these prophecies, talking about our time, make this distinction between the mountains of Israel and the rest of Israel – when we today live in a time where there whole world and even Israel themselves see these two areas as having different status.
Come with me to Ezekiel 34.
13 And I will bring them [Israel] out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.
Turn over to Ezekiel 36
Verse 1 we see this is talking solely to the Mountains of Israel:
1 Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord:
33 Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
34 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
And so the prophecy we see about this place, about the West Bank, about the Mountains of Israel, is that Israel will return to these places, they will till the ground in these mountains, and this is something that God, the almighty will cause to happen.
But what we also find from Ezekiel 36 is that these events will be controversial, nations will oppose these developments. Verse 2:
2 Thus saith the Lord God; Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession:
3 Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people:
4 Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God; Thus saith the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about;
5 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.
6 Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen:
And so God declares through the prophet Ezekiel, that Israel’s enemies would say that this area in particular was their own, there would be a time when the ancient high places would be in their possession – and who is this enemy? Well in verse 5 we read that this enemy “Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession”. And is it a coincidence that Idumea or Edom, is an area of the Kingdom of Jordan today, which annexed the West Bank, claimed it to be part of their own territory in 1950, these high places that were in their possession, and were then recognised by the USA and UK as belonging to Jordan at the time.
But what does God say? Well the nations who said these things would bear their shame for them.
7 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.
8 But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.
Israel were not on the mountains of Israel at the time, but they would be at hand to come.
9 For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown:
10 And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded:
11 And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
And we see there a very interesting word used the by King James translators, God says “I will settle you”, God would settle Israel upon the mountains of Israel, God would cause them to build in the waste places, he would cause them to inhabit the cities once more – and today we see these things coming to pass. God said he would settle Israel, and so today we see Israeli Settlements in this very bit of land.
12 Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.
But the Israel we see today do not understand the truth, they do no see Jesus as their Messiah – and this is the situation described by the prophet in this chapter.
22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And so we see that Israel would return to their land in unbelief of the messiahship of Jesus, but once they were brought into the land God would cleanse them with water, or as Ezekiel 34:13 puts it “feed them upon the mountains of Israel”.
We know from Ezekiel 38 that it is Israel upon the mountains of Israel that motivates Gog to come against Israel
8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
When we see the nations around us in a constant state of outrage against Israel continuing to possess the mountains of Israel, we see the fury of some who criticize Israel for settling in that place in particular, we marvel at the accuracy of scripture, which knew 1000s of years before us that the area of the Mountains of Israel would be centre of the controversy against Israel.
And so today we see Israel continuing to be “settled” in the West Bank, we know from scripture that this is the hand of God, and the stage that follows this is the cleansing of Israel, or the “bringing in of them again” as it described in Romans 11. We see today a religious revival that is focused in these settlements, but still not after the truth, but I believe the true cleansing of Israel will begin with the work of Elijah the Prophet of whom we read in Malachi 4
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Now this sending of Elijah will likely be after we have been called, for it is surely after the dead have been risen, and so as we see these settlements growing upon the mountains of Israel, how long can be before this next stage does begin, and we are all called?
This has been Paul Barnes joining you for this weeks Bible in the News.