Things are about to get very exciting, so jump off the boat and grab your metal detector! We’re about to find nuggets of gold!
We’ve learned this week that Israel was born through the covenant God made with Abraham. However, once settled in the Promised Land, the Israelites clamored for an earthly king, and they got one. Before long though, kings were harsh, the people were disgruntled and the kingdom split, leaving them in disunity and very vulnerable to conquest. The Divided Kingdom was taken captive.
It was during captivity that the Lord God spoke to his prophets, Ezekiel and Daniel, concerning what was to come for Israel and the Jewish people. God had promised Abraham an everlasting nation and He was about to outline what that looked like.
Last week we discovered how God’s plan for the Gentiles fits in the pause between the 69th and 70th weeks of God’s plan for the Jews. Today, we will see that God is about to press the play button that will allow that 70th week to occur! Though the Israelites returned from captivity and rebuilt the Temple, it was destroyed again in 70 AD by the Romans, and the Jews were dispersed all over the world. Today’s study will pick up Israel’s history with the re-birth of their nation.
Read Ezekiel 36:24. God’s promise of land to Abraham over 1100 years earlier was still remembered in Ezekiel’s day! Yet, the Israelites were scattered into Assyria and Babylon, and later, throughout the entire world. How would they ever again become a united people in their own land? God provided that answer to Ezekiel while in Babylonian captivity. Let’s find out what God’s answer was.
Most of us in America know what happened in 1492. Remember your history lessons? Yes, Columbus sailed to America in that year. What about 1776? Most would recognize that as the year the US Declaration of Independence was signed. In 1945, the atomic bomb dropped on Japan changed the world; and man walked on the moon in 1969. Of course, everyone remembers 911. But do you know what eternally significant event happened on May 14, 1948? One of the most amazing prophecies of all was fulfilled. The nation of Israel was re-born, just as the prophet Ezekiel predicted way back during Jewish captivity in Babylon!
The Jews are different than any other people group to ever step foot on planet earth. They are the only people group driven from their country (literally scattered all over the world), their language all but destroyed, their culture decimated, their people hated and killed by the millions, and their homeland turned to wasteland; only to retain their heritage and return to prominence. They were a people without a land for hundreds of years and in one single day, May 14, 1948, God re-birthed the nation of Israel! God is serious about His promises!
Beyond that, take a look at Amos 9:14-15. What promises did God make through the prophet, Amos? How long will Jews be in the land before they are uprooted again?
While the Jews were scattered, God seems to have cursed the land. Enemies came in and burned down forests, rich farmland became barren, and much of the land became either swampland or sand dunes. Soon, the land was infertile and not worth much. However, when the Jews returned, they began re-planting forests, draining swampland and cultivating sand dunes. Now, the nation of Israel produces some of the most fabulous fruits and vegetables in the world, exports wine and flowers world-wide, and has turned sand dunes into major cities such as Tel Aviv! In 1948, a prophecy was fulfilled and a worn-out, desolate land became alive again! So much so that everyone wants a piece of it now!
Not only that, but today there is theology floating around that, in essence, says that Israel has rejected God, therefore, God has rejected Israel and now the church has become the new Israel. Is that true? Let’s turn to Romans 11 to help us decide. The scope of this study does not allow us to dig fully into the entire theology of Romans 11, but we’ll attempt to focus in on answering the question at hand.
Verses 1-2 clearly tell us that God has not rejected His people! However, verse 6 makes it clear also that God chose them by His grace, not because they were (or are) perfect people. Likewise, God chooses us by grace, not because of what we do for Him.
The issue for Israel is that they cannot see the Messiah. Recall last week’s study when we discovered that the Jews totally missed the arrival of their Messiah as prophesied by Daniel.
Romans 11:11-12 tell us that the Jews’ blindness to their Messiah opened up doors for salvation to come to the Gentiles! Furthermore, verses 25-29 reassure us that, though a partial hardening has happened to Israel, they are still beloved and He will deliver them.
Jeremiah 31:35-37 tells us that, as long as the sun rises, the moon and stars shine and the waves roar, Israel will continue to be a nation! Only if the heavens can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out will God reject the descendants of Israel! Rest assured, God has not forgotten His chosen people; and the church has not replaced Israel in any way!
In fact, the Bible tells a lot about what God thinks of His people and Jerusalem. Scripture tells us that God put His name on Jerusalem forever!
In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, letters are actually word pictures with significant meaning. For example, the Hebrew letter “shin” (pronounced “sheen”) is the ‘sh’ sound characterized in the name “Shaddai”. One of the Hebrew names of God is El Shaddai, meaning God (El) Almighty (Shaddai). Thus, Jewish people would recognize the shin to be symbolic of Shaddai, a very sacred name.
To the right is a picture of mezuzahs. Notice the Hebrew letter shin at the top of each. As a sign of honor to Shaddai, and in obedience to the Hebrew law to post God’s Word on their door posts, Jews place a mezuzah on the entry ways of their homes. In essence, they place God’s name on their homes!
Yet, God goes a step further…
In 1 Kings 11:36 and 2 Chronicles 33:4-7, God said He put His name on the city of Jerusalem. To the left is a topographical map of Jerusalem. Do you see the “shin?” God’s name is, indeed, placed on Jerusalem! Three valleys form the letter itself and the Temple “dots” the shin, indicating the ‘sh’ sound as opposed to the ‘s’ sound. Amazing, isn’t it!
God’s name is all over His land, and His love is all over His people! It is clear that His promises are everlasting. If it were not so concerning Israel, how could we trust Him as Christians?
Wow! If today’s lesson didn’t fill your treasure box, you’ve got a hole in the bottom of it! Incredible truth from God’s Word! We’ll see even more tomorrow, so come back hungry!