A Return to the Land of Israel After 10 Years
Prophetic events are moving forward in the land and mountains of Israel.
Saturday, September 28, 2019
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Our family has just spent 2.5 weeks on a return trip to Israel and I can tell you that this is certainly the case there! There were some notable changes compared with 10 years ago. We visited over 30 places, mostly museums and Biblical sites, based out of Jerusalem and Haifa, extending out to Bethel, Shiloh, Caesarea, Mt Carmel, Nazareth, Galilee, Tel Dan, Mt Hermon, and south to Hevron, the Dead Sea, Engedi, Masada and so on… taking any opportunity we had to have a paddle or swim! We visited popular sites as well as sites in the middle of nowhere. There were a few times when we could have benefited from a 4x4!
If you are only informed by mainstream media, and have not visited yourself, you are probably asking if we were wise to take our children to such a seemingly violent place? The answer is yes, it was perfectly safe! Believe it or not, you are more likely to be murdered in Canada than in Israel! The murder rate in Israel in 2018, which includes politically motivated murders, was 1.14 people per 100,000 inhabitants (Wikipedia's citation here). In Canada it was 1.76 the same year according to Statistics Canada (retrieved Sep 27, 2019). So, if you are willing to go to Canada (including Ontario), France, the UK or US, you should be OK to go to Israel where, based on statistics from recent years, you will be safer. That said, last I checked nobody was firing rockets at Toronto, and it is normal to see soldiers on the street in Israel, but none-the-less, let’s at least see it for what it is!
When we were there we noticed that there was an obvious difference in the security presence versus our prior visit ten years ago with less security checks and often security gates left open with no security presence. This is consistent with the statistics. Since 2001 the trend in the number of people killed or injured from terror attacks has been steadily downwards (see chart).
Ezekiel 38:11 describes Israel in the last days as “the land of unwalled villages… without walls, and having neither bars nor gates.” So, we are looking for the walls, bars and gates to come down! Although this is far from the current reality, when we step back and look at the big picture, it’s exciting to see that this is the way the situation is trending! We will need to wait and see how the angels ultimately bring this about.
The other thing we noticed was a lot of new infrastructure and construction taking place everywhere. We rode the new high-speed train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well as the light rail in Jerusalem. This did not exist ten years ago! Again, if you look at the data it confirms this is what has been happening, and at the same time GDP from construction has increased (see chart below), personal debt has decreased. Of course, a general trend which brings industry and prosperity is what we expect to see leading up to the invasion described in Ezekiel 38. Ezekiel describes the people, following their regathering out of the nations, as having “gotten cattle and goods” such that their “silver and gold” is thought to be the target of their future invader, Gog (ch. 38:12-13). It should be noted that the future invasion of Israel described by the prophets will not be like previous catastrophes as the nation “shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7-9). Israel’s economy, buoyed more recently by natural gas finds in the Mediterranean, has performed well for several years. You can go and see the evidence of it for yourself!
One of the big highlights for us was the day we spent with Meir Eisenman our Israeli tour guide. We visited Hevron and saw the archaeological remains from the first and second temple period and even from the time of Abraham, the first recipient of “the promises made unto the fathers” (Rom. 15:8). Our visit with David Wilder, the retired spokesman for Hevron, was a good reminder that in places like this change is measured differently. Progress is step by step.
On the way to Hevron we stopped in to check up on Jeremy Gimpel, rabbi, Land of Israel Network host and musician. Jeremy is developing a spiritual retreat center on the mountains of Judea, in an area the Bible calls the mountains of Ziph, really in the middle of nowhere. As we experienced, he barely has any phone reception. His ambitious plan involves bringing both Jews and non-Jews to Judea and Samaria to learn about Biblical prayer.
Jeremy talked to us about how this mountainous area relates to his project and put it in the context of the Jewish calendar at the end of the year, a time of returning to God:
“As David was a young boy developing his relationship with God, developing his relationship with his sheep, which then would become the sheep of Israel. It happened all in these mountains. So, although this place that we're building here is dedicated towards prayer and meditation and music, encoded in the fabric of these mountains before we ever got here, it was already destined to be that.
Tshuva means to repent. It means to return to God. We're entering into the month of Elul now which is right before the new year. It's a month of returning and returning to God, returning to ourselves. When you return to who you are really, then you're really on the path of returning to God. The first time this word is mentioned in the Torah is in the book of Deuteronomy (4:30). It says ‘veshavta ad Hashem Elokecha’, ‘and you shall return to the LORD your God.’ In that context it's beautiful because it's also talking about our return to the land and our return to God. Like abandoning all our bad that we have been punished for in the exile, returning back to Israel, so that as we returned to the land we returned to God.”
Jeremy was very enthusiastic and it was exciting to listen to him! He went on to explain that he doesn’t want to mumble through the prayers as his Russian grandfather did, but he wants to sing the way the prophet sang. So, he is trying to follow in David’s footsteps, there on the mountains trying to put these words of King David to music in order to make prayer more meaningful for himself and others.This is just one example of what is happening in many places on the mountain tops in Judea and Samaria, a clear sign that we are very near the coming of Messiah. Speaking about Israel’s restoration, God says to Ezekiel:
“…I will bring them 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. 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. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 34:13-15.
Today this process is well under way. The people have returned to the mountains of Israel and they are returning to God’s word. The words of Ezekiel are continuing to be fulfilled before our eyes! I asked Jeremy what he thought about this?
“So 200 years ago, my grandfather... it's amazing he was 15... imagine half a year ago leaving your family and walking for a year and a half across Russia to somehow make it to Israel with the hopes of establishing... I mean it's such... a reality. Like my son is 16 now so Lavi over there... if I could just get him off his iPhone it'd be a big success! He's going to walk for a year and a half for a Zionist mission. That's insane! But, for them to have faith that Moshiach was coming? How did they do it two hundred years ago? Today if you don't think Moshiach is coming you're blind. We are like minutes away in my mind. We are just so close already. What else needs to happen? I mean imagine where we were a hundred years ago when my grandfather came here. There were sixty thousand Jews in Israel. That's it. Sixty thousand. Today, there's well over 6 million. There's never been a country in the world that's had a population explosion like Israel has seen in the last 100 years.
More infrastructure and roads have been built in Israel than any other country in the world. The Hebrew language was revived like the book of Zephaniah says it would be. And I asked my dad.
(Hey. this is my wife Tehila. Meet the Billingtons).
I asked my dad “how did that happen?” How did the Hebrew language that was lost, gone, dead, how did it happen in my dad's generation? How did that happen? And he's like “well, your grandfather had to speak to me in a language which he didn't know, in a language that didn't really exist and trust that everyone in the land, from all these different countries, would do the same irrational thing! Speak to their children in a language they don't know, and in a language that doesn't really exist, and everyone did the same irrational thing, and in one generation the Hebrew language was revived. And so, from Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab countries, we built the strongest military in the Middle East. We have the strongest economy almost in the world. Now the Shekel is one of the strongest currencies in the world. From what?
Her grandfather passed away maybe 100 days ago at ninety-two years old. That man lived to see the Holocaust, the rebirth of the State of Israel, the Independence Day War, the Six Day War, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, in the mountains of Judea. That happened in one life, and it says… “the Salvation of God will be like the blink of an eye” (Midrash, c/p 1Cor. 15:52). The blink of an eye? This has been really long! But then I realized my grandfather is gone now, like a blink of an eye. That happened in one generation, and now it's gone. But, that really happened in one lifetime. From the ashes of Auschwitz to great grandchildren in the mountains of Judea. So, it's like unbelievable. We are just living in the most miraculous times!
Every country in the world, the more prosperous they become the more they forget about God, the more secular they become. It's every country in the world, and that's the way Israel was also. We became fat and we became rich and we got exiled by Nebuchadnezzer, we got exiled in the northern tribes and read the books of Amos and Hosea. It's coming. You guys are getting fat and spoiled and you're forgetting about God and your idolatrous ways and your immoral ways. Good luck! But now, Israel started off very secular. Very secular. Ezekiel says that when we return to the Land of Israel, in the 36th chapter, we'll have hearts of stone. And God is going to have to replace the heart of stone for a heart of flesh. And make it so that we walk in his commandments and fulfill them. Some people think how could Israel be the beginning of the redemption process? It was founded by secular people. Ezekiel says specifically, the beginning of the return is going to be with a heart of stone. Now, unlike every other country in the world, it's an anomaly. Our economy is like going through the roof the unemployment rates in Israel are at an all time low. But we're becoming more and more faithful more and more religious…”
Wow! I can tell you, it was really amazing to hear Jeremy talk about this. Let’s turn to Ezekiel 36, a chapter which begins with a prophecy to “the mountains of Israel”. In verses 24-29 we read:
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 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. 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. 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 ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.”
This is the process that is under way today in Judea and Samaria. So, that was an amazing time with Jeremy talking about these things. We may not agree on everything, but we certainly do agree that the return and preparation of the Jewish people, including on “the mountains of Israel,” is a prophetic fulfillment and a sign that we ought to be preparing for the coming of Messiah. Once again, we are reminded that God’s hand is at work and will soon bring His redemptive work through his Son to its climax! This ought to provoke us to examine ourselves. As Paul says to the Thessalonians: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (ch. 5:4).
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This has been Daniel Billington with you this week, reporting the Bible in the News. Come back next week to check in on what’s been happening as we continue to watch Bible prophecy fulfilling in Israel and around the world.