A passage in the Midrash, the Jewish commentary on the Scriptures, declares, "The Land of Israel sits at the center of the world; Jerusalem is in the center of the Land of Israel; the Temple is in the center of Jerusalem." Christians understand this outlook. Some of Israel's staunchest supporters are Christians—especially evangelical believers in the West.
Why do Christians love Israel? Because we love Israel's God. We love Israel because it has been the conduit for our Scripture. We love Israel because it brought us our Savior. We love Israel because we believe God keeps every promise made to and through His people. Paul reminds us that "the people of Israel [were] chosen to be God's special children. God revealed His glory to them.
He made covenants with them and gave His law to them. They have the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises" (Romans 9:4-5 NLT). Through Israel we have received God's promises. And Israel shows us how He has fulfilled His promises.
KNOWING THAT GOD HAS BEEN FAITHFUL TO FULFILL SCRIPTURE IN THE PAST REMINDS US THAT HE WILL FULFILL ALL OF HIS PROPHECIES IN THE FUTURE.
Zerubbabel returned to rebuild Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah predicted a second return to the land: "It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left" (Isaiah 11:11) This occurred in 1948 when Israel re-established its statehood.
The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica proclaimed, "The possibility that we can ever again recover the correct pronunciation of ancient Hebrew is as remote as the possibility that a Jewish empire will ever again be established in the Middle East." A mere 37 years later the people of Israel revived the Hebrew language and re-established their ancient homeland, contrary to the pundits' predictions.
ISRAEL'S PHYSICAL RESTORATION
The Bible predicted that the people of Israel would be taken into captivity and then restored. Jeremiah wrote: "Thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place" (Jeremiah 29:10).
There were three successive deportations of Israelis from Jerusalem and Judea to Babylon. The first took place in 605 B.C. when the prophet Daniel was taken into captivity alongside his countrymen. The second occurred in 597 B.C. That second deportation included the prophet Ezekiel, who was probably only 25 years old when he was taken away to Babylon. In 586 B.C. the temple was burned and the city was destroyed with fire.
Ezekiel, a priest and prophet to Israel, wrote to explain to the captive Jews in Babylon how they would be restored to their land: "Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come" (Ezekiel 36:8). God promised fruitfulness to sustain the increased population returning from exile.
As Ezekiel predicted, the land is fruitful. Israel is the fourth largest grower of citrus in the world, and the third largest exporter of flowers. When I first visited Israel, I worked on a kibbutz, or farm. There I saw the devotion of the people to grow and to spread farms around the land. In 1948, 400,000 acres were cultivated in Israel. Today, over a million acres are cultivated.
Israel's physical restoration was to be followed with a bountiful population. The prophet predicted, "I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt" (Ezekiel 36:10). God guaranteed that many people would inhabit the land.
Following the Babylonian captivity, 50,000 Jews returned to the land. Millenia later, on May 14, 1948, a mere 80,000 people occupied the land—less than half of them Jewish. Today, Israel's population stands at 7,881,000 people, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics; 5,931,000 of the population (75.3%) are Jewish.
Astonishingly, these nearly eight million inhabitants are surrounded by 300 million unsympathetic neighbors. Doesn't it seem like the odds are again stacked against them? But the odds are in Israel's favor when you view the Middle East situation as seven million plus God against 300 million.
Ezekiel predicted that the nation of Israel would have world prominence. He put it like this: "I will not allow those foreign nations to sneer at you, and you will no longer be shamed by them or cause your nation to fall" (Ezekiel 36:15 NLT). In other words, "You won't be victims anymore, you will be victors." They have been victorious in war. And they have gained global prestige. One-tenth of one percent of world population (the Jews) have managed to secure one third of all of the Nobel Peace Prizes ever given. And one-third of the awards in music, science, and art have been bestowed upon the Jews. The world has watched God not only bring the people back to the land. They have seen the land become fruitful, and its inhabitants increase in prestige.
Israel's restoration at the time of the captivity seemed absolutely impossible. Ezekiel saw Israel as a valley of dry bones (see Ezekiel 37:1-2). They were as good as dead. Their nation was no longer alive—they weren't even in their own land. It would have taken a miracle for them to be restored, much less receive a blessing. Life was gone, death had come, the nation was like bleached bones out in a barren valley. Only a miracle could restore them.
God asked the prophet, "Can these bones live?" (Ezekiel 37:3). And Ezekiel gave the appropriate answer, "O Lord GOD, You know" (Ezekiel 37:3). The question, "Can these bones live?" could have been asked in 1947 before the Jewish nation was declared valid. That question could have been asked on May 15, 1948 when, one day after the nation was in the land, they were attacked by five surrounding nations. That question could have been asked in 1967, when the Israeli army was outnumbered fifty to one, as soldiers from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attacked the nation of Israel. "Can these bones live?" Every time God has let these bones live. He has blessed them as a people.
Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones' restoration to life was not instantaneous, it was a process. The bones gradually came together. Eventually sinews were attached. And then skin came on. So it is with Israel. In 70 A.D., the Romans attacked the land and the people of Israel were dispersed around the world for a long time. In 1898, Theodor Herzl called for the Jewish people around the world to return to the land and restore the desert to a fruitful paradise. Then, on May 14, 1948 at 4:32 in the afternoon, David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, declared the land to be the Jewish state. After two thousand years, the nation was reborn. The dry bones became a recognizable nation.
Yes, Christians, we love Israel. We love Israel for the promises made and for the promises kept. We love Israel for the sake of Israel's God. And despite unsettling news reports and unrest in the world, there's confidence in standing behind Israel.
A little boy was riding a train, seemingly all alone. The passengers watched him as they rode through a great storm. There was loud thundering, lightning, and wind. But the little boy was whistling, singing, and carefree. Finally, an anxious adult said, "Excuse me, how can you be so calm?" The boy replied, "My daddy is the engineer of this train!" He knew his father could handle whatever came.
God, our Father, is our engineer. He engineered the Bible, which contains promise after promise, and He engineered the history of Israel, His chosen people. Rest in the knowledge that all of His promises will be fulfilled in His time.