The Jews Return From Exile
by J. R. Church
It was on November 2, 1917, that the British government issued the Balfour Declaration promising a homeland for the Jews. Thirty years later, on November 29, 1947, the British government placed the matter of Israel’s future before the United Nations, resulting in another declaration — that being the establishment of the state of Israel. After all of that, the British government attempted to undermine the decision of the UN by resisting the establishment of Israel.
It was inconsistency and hypocrisy of the highest order. Such a conduct tarnished the reputation of Britain and proved to be the first stage of a prolonged national decline. The shift in British policy came at a crucial moment in the history of the Middle East without any official decision of the British Parliament and without the majority of the British people being aware of what was taking place.
Why did the British politicians change horses in the middle of the stream? Why did they turn against the Jews in favor of the Arabs? Well, it is said that there were two reasons. First of all, as early as 1939, it had become clear that the world would someday face an ever-increasing dependence on oil. Even then, a major supply of the world’s oil was controlled by Arab nations in the Middle East. Then secondly, on the part of many, there was that underlying anti-Semitism, which colored British thinking. But those in Britain who opposed the Jews overlooked one important fact — there is a moral and spiritual force at work in the destinies of nations. The responsibility of government goes beyond mere calculations of economic or military expediency. To sacrifice moral and spiritual principles on such an altar will never serve the best interests of any nation. It was said that before 1948, the sun “never set” upon the British Empire. That great nation was in control of colonies on every continent from Africa to the Far East. Since that time, however, the once great British Empire has lost almost every colony and has faced the decline of her economy. Worse than that, the moral fiber of that once great nation has been on the slide ever since. And, may I add, what happened to the British is also happening to the United States.
Israel’s only ally has been wavering in recent years. Our politicians in Washington have attempted to placate the Arabs while restraining the Israeli government. Arab oil has been used to blackmail the United States. Oh, will we never learn? Someone has said that if there is anything we have learned from history, it is that we do not learn from history.
The Growth of Israel
The rebirth of the nation of Israel was a miracle. But that’s not all. The growth of that tiny, new nation has also been a miracle. In 1948, there were only 640,000 Jews living in the land. Over the following ten years, however, they tripled their population with new immigrants — most of them refugees. They housed them, clothed them, and fed them. They taught them the Hebrew language, trained them, and placed them in jobs. At the same time, Israel built up its military to defend itself against the Arabs.
The pressures to which Israel has continuously been subjected are possibly without parallel in history: hostile neighbors, six wars, terrorism, inflation, media misrepresentation, and economic boycott. The tiny nation with a population of less than four million occupies an area of less than 8,000 square miles. In contrast, its hostile Arab neighbors number more than 150 million people living on five million square miles. The armies of the Arab League number nearly one million men, while Israel’s army consists of 164,000. Nevertheless, the nation of Israel has continued to grow and flourish. In the face of all their pressure, the Israelis plant and harvest — they build and manufacture. Behind this lies one inescapable truth — Israel’s survival is at stake.
The very fact that Israel still lives today after all these years is a miracle without equal. Of course, the key to understanding this miracle can be found in the prophecies of the Bible. The regathering of Israel is the central theme of biblical prophecy. Those 2,500 year-old prophecies are coming to pass before our very eyes. Isaiah was right!
“Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
The Great Controversy
The restoration of Israel is one of the most controversial political issues of the century. Palestinians have claimed that the land is theirs, that the Jews have no right to even one square foot of it, though the area had been under the control of the Turkish government for some 400 years — not Palestinian control. Just who deserves the land? Do the Jews? Do the Palestinians? Do Jews have a right to control the land in the so-called “occupied West Bank” areas?
Though the United Nations established Israel in 1948, most of the world no longer supports the concept of Jewish sovereignty. They regret ever giving them any territory in the Middle East. The controversy rages today as much as it ever did. The children of Abraham are still fighting it out! If the fate of the Israeli government were placed in the hands of any human court, the verdict would probably be disastrous. Time and time again the United Nations has taken the side of the Arabs against Israel.
While dedicated Christians around the world are in favor of Israel’s existence, their governments are not. The only political ally on the side of Israel is the United States — and many in Washington are wavering. In light of these developments let us appeal to the court of heaven for the final verdict in the case.
God Owns the Land
There is one verse of Scripture, which declares the absolute ownership of, not only the Middle East, but of the entire world:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).
Since God created the earth, the right to ownership is His. Whether man recognizes the existence of God or not is irrelevant, for in the final analysis God will lay claim to His earth. He not only owns the world, but also everybody in it. Among the continents, however, there is one special area to which God lays a unique claim. It is the land of Israel. There are several places in the Bible where God calls the land, “My land.” For instance, in Ezekiel 38:16 God condemns the mighty Gog and Magog for the invasion of His land:
“And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land” (Ezekiel 38:16).
Here, God emphatically calls the land of Israel His land. That claim is repeated in Joel 3:2:
“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land” (Joel 3:2).
Both of these verses pronounce a judgment upon Gentile nations for their part in denying the Jews a right to live in HIS land. Notice that God calls Israel, “My people,” and He calls their land, “My land.” When Gentile nations challenge the integrity of the land and its people, God steps forward to proclaim His judgment upon them.
A Covenant With Abraham
God is the absolute Owner of the land, and as such, had every right to evict the Jewish people 20 centuries ago. But He also has a right to bring them back in this century. God is Sovereign over the land. Let us review Genesis 17 — the days of Abraham — and determine God’s sovereign disposition over HIS land.
“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
“And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8).
There can be no doubt that such a covenant was declared and recorded 4,000 years ago. Ah, but the Arabs also claim to be descendants of Abraham. They are children of Ishmael. Does not the land then also belong to them? You may recall the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael, while the Jews are descendants of Abraham’s other son, Isaac.
This controversy was settled in Genesis 26:3-4. It is there that God narrows down the covenant to exclude the children of Ishmael. It was to Isaac that God said:
“Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
“And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 26:3-4).
God not only promised to Isaac the land called Israel, but He gave what the Scripture declares to be “all these countries.” In fact, He used the term twice in His promise to Isaac.
But wait a minute. Isaac had two sons — both Jacob and Esau — and there is a good deal of evidence that the Palestinian people who live in the land today could be descendants of Esau. Do they not also have a claim to the land? God said no. He narrowed the inheritance of the land to Jacob and his descendants:
“And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
“And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land” (Gen. 35:11-12).
The proclamation is clear. God has promised the land to Jacob and his descendants — namely the 12 tribes of Israel.
When we consider these three covenants together, the line of descent through which the land is promised is evident. In each case, God narrowed His promise of the land — from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and then to his descendants after him.
In view of these covenants made by the God of heaven with the people of Israel, we must declare a verdict in favor of the Israeli nation. As a people of the book, who claim to believe the Bible, we have no choice. We stand without reservation on the side of Israel. The psalmist wrote:
“He is the Lord our God: his judgments are in all the earth” (Psalm 105:7).
Do you believe this? Then read what the psalmist wrote in the following verses:
“He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.
“Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac;
“And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:
“Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance” (Psalm 105:8-11).
The writer of this psalm emphasized two important points. First, he left no doubt as to the line of descent through which the promise of the land is given. It is from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Israel. Secondly, he sought to establish the sacred and unchanging nature of God’s commitment to Abraham and his descendants. He first spoke of the covenant as being God’s “Own covenant.” He then called it “the word which He commanded.” He called it “His oath unto Isaac.” He called it “a law,” and finally “an everlasting covenant.” That’s a pretty powerful set of words! How can one be more emphatic than that? Furthermore, He declared the covenant “unto a thousand generations.” That would take at least 20,000 years. Yes, we must conclude the land of Israel has been given by God to the people of Israel — to the descendants of Jacob. Psalm 105 declares the land to be forever Israel. However, we know that the people were evicted from their land by their Landlord, God, almost 2,000 years ago.
The Prophets Are Consistent
It is the prophetic Scripture to which we must look for the final disposition of the land — and the prophecies do not differ from the original covenant.
For example, Jeremiah wrote:
“For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” (Jeremiah 30:3).
There is only one area of land in all the earth that fits that description. It is the land of Israel. Notice, please, God spoke of the captivity of “My people Israel and Judah,” and, further, He said they would return to the land “that I gave to their fathers.” In fact, He said they would possess their land.
Then there was Ezekiel, who wrote:
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24).
This is clearly a prophecy concerning the last days of world history when the Jew will return to his land and the Messiah will come to establish a world kingdom.
When God promised to bring Israel back to the land at the close of the age, He still called it “your own land.” In God’s sight, the ownership of the land has never changed and never will. He gave it to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to his descendants — the people of Israel.
Even the prophet Amos concluded his book with a similar emphatic prediction:
“And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God” (Amos 9:15).
Amos predicted that God will plant them upon “their land.” It is obvious to all who believe the Bible that the hand of God can be seen in what must be considered as the incredible miracle of this century — the return of the Jew to his land.
These prophecies were given from 2,500 to 4,000 years ago and cannot be modified today by the United Nations, the PLO, the Arab nations, or even Russia. God has decreed that Israel is the land of the Jew. These Scriptures are extremely emphatic. They don’t simply imply the restoration of Israel, they declare it. Perhaps God, through His foresight, knew that such a move would be vigorously opposed by the Arab world. Therefore, He emphasized Israel’s unalienable right to the land.
Why should He be concerned with such a small land — 40 miles wide and 220 miles long? First of all, He is a covenant-keeping God. When God promises something, He follows through with it. If God did not keep His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, how could we expect Him to keep any promises to us? Secondly, that little spot on the globe happens to be the land-bridge spanning three continents — Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is a strategic location for political, as well as spiritual, control of the planet. But there is yet another reason. It was given by Moses:
“When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:8).
The Lord not only established the land of Israel for the Jew, but He has established the borders of every nation under the sun. He chose the amount of land for each nation according to the population that nation will eventually attain. It is also true of Israel. God has given His Chosen People just enough land to take care of Israel’s intended ultimate population.
The apostle Paul said basically the same thing when he spoke to the men of Athens:
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
God has not only determined where the nations shall dwell, but also when they shall dwell there. It all revolves around God’s dealings with Israel.
God Has a Plan
God has a plan. It not only involves the restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel, it involves every nation in the world. When Christ returns, His kingdom will be a world kingdom. In fact, when Messiah comes, He will judge the nations upon one basic criteria — how they treated God’s Chosen People, the Jews.
This is the basic teaching throughout the Bible. It is the central theme of the prophetic Scriptures and, therefore, has a very practical application for the citizens of every nation in the world.
We cannot afford to stand aside and say that Israel’s fate does not concern us. We cannot take a neutral stand on the issue, because the well-being of every nation is at stake. Until Israel enters into its full inheritance, the other nations of the world can never enjoy the blessings that God has in store for them.
One day God will bring an eternal peace to the nations of the world. He will solve the problems of famine, hunger, and poverty. He will eradicate all disease and death. He will create utopia. There will be no more war and bloodshed.
But that world cannot come and Messiah cannot make His appearance until the Jew is back in his land.
To be sure, the restoration of Israel has been — and will continue to be — accompanied by great turmoil and strife. Many peoples and nations will suffer. But that too, is in the plan of God. Sin must be judged and the sinner must be weeded out before God can restore paradise.
Had It Not Been For Israel
Humanly speaking, we owe all that we have and all that we are to Israel. If there had been no Israel, there would have been no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible, and no Savior.
In John 4:22 Jesus, Himself, summed up all of this in one simple statement. He said, “… for salvation is of the Jews.” Regardless of our nationality or background, we owe a spiritual debt to the Jewish people that can never be calculated. Unfortunately, historic Christianity has never recognized its debt to Israel.
From at least the fourth century forward, the Christian church consistently treated the Jewish people with prejudice, contempt, injustice, and cruelty.
Most Christians today are almost totally ignorant of these historical facts. But it is true that Christian anti-Semitism was a warped form of theology held widely in the church for many centuries.
Historic Christianity has believed that the Jewish people were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ and were thus guilty of the most terrible crime of all — the murder of God, Himself.
On the basis of this theology, many Christians felt that the way to show their loyalty to Christ was to express their hatred toward His murderers — that is, the Jewish people.
For instance, the fourth century theologian, John Chrysostom, described the Jewish people in his sermons as “lustful, rapacious, greedy, perfidious bandits … inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil … debauchery and drunkenness have given them the manners of the pig and the lusty goat. They know only one thing — to satisfy their gullets, get drunk, to kill and maim one another.”
On another occasion, Chrysostom said, “I hate the synagogue precisely because it has the Law and the Prophets … I hate the Jews also because they outrage the Law …”
The most tragic thing about this is not that a renowned Christian theologian could espouse such sentiments toward the Jewish people, but that he had a profound effect upon the attitude and theology of Christianity for many centuries to come.
During the Crusades of the 11th century, the soldiers massacred entire Jewish communities — sparing no one. When they reached Jerusalem, they found an entire Jewish congregation gathered in a synagogue and proceeded to burn down the synagogue killing the people. All this was done in the name of Christ and in the sign of the cross.
Nor were the leaders of the Protestant Reformation free from the guilt of anti-Jewish prejudice. When Martin Luther first published his teachings, he anticipated that the Jewish people would be convinced by them and would convert to Christianity. When this did not happen, Luther was disappointed and embittered.
On one occasion he wrote, “The Jews deserve the most severe penalties. Their synagogues should be leveled, their homes destroyed, they should be exiled into tents like the Gypsies. Their religious writings should be taken from them. Their rabbis should be forbidden to continue teaching the Law. All professions should be closed to them. Only the hardest, coarsest work should be permitted them. Rich Jews should have their fortunes confiscated, and the money used to support Jews who are willing to be converted. If all these measures are unsuccessful, the Christian princes should have the duty of driving the Jews from their lands as they would rabid dogs.”
During the 1930s, the Nazis of Hitler’s Germany used such statements by Martin Luther to advocate their anti-Semitic policies. I guess we could say that the Nazis merely reaped the harvest that the Church had sown. No wonder the Jews have ill feelings toward historic Christianity.
It is time for us to denounce such anti-Semitism and to take our stand on the side of Israel in fulfillment of the central theme of biblical prophecy — the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.
Israel: The Central Theme
Geographically, the Bible is set in the land of Israel, and historically, its theme is the people of Israel. It is a Jewish Bible penned by Jewish men giving both the history and the future of those children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For centuries Gentile Christianity has laid claim to the book declaring that Israel has been dispossessed by God. Historic Christianity claims that the Chosen People are no longer chosen, that God has instead turned His back forever on the children of Israel.
Though it is true that God has punished the Jewish people over the past 3,000 years for their unbelief, it is not true that God has cast away His people forever. The central theme of Bible prophecy is the restoration of the Israeli people — both to their land and to their God.
The first 11 chapters of Genesis serve as an introduction. They fill in the background and set the stage for all that is to follow. From that point forward, the Bible is essentially the history of Abraham and the nation that descended from him through Isaac and Jacob. The Bible is basically the story of Israel embracing both the past and future.
What About the New Testament?
But what about the New Testament? Isn’t it distinctly Christian? It’s a little difficult for Gentile Christianity to admit that even the New Testament is a Jewish book, yet it is true.
First of all, Jesus Christ, the most important Person in the New Testament, was of Jewish descent, and He did not lose His Jewish identity after His death and resurrection. Fifty years after Calvary, Revelation 5:5 still referred to Jesus Christ, in heaven, as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David.” He is still identified with the family of David, the tribe of Judah, and the people of Israel. He is forever an Israelite.
Furthermore, well over 90% of the people portrayed in the New Testament are Israelites. The only exceptions would be a few Gentiles, such as the Magi from the East, or the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, along with a sprinkling of Roman officials and military personnel. Essentially, the New Testament represents a record of Israelites and their faith in the Messiah.
The New Testament books were penned by Jews — with the one possible exception being Luke. The 12 apostles were Jewish. Paul, who became the apostle to the Gentiles, was likewise a Jew. Most of the co-workers of these great men were also Jewish.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that the ultimate goal of all true believers is the “city which hath foundations whose Builder and Maker is God.” In Revelation 21, the holy city, New Jerusalem, is described for us. On its gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. On its foundations are the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Every name inscribed in the New Jerusalem is a Jewish name. I must say that no one with anti-Semitic prejudice could ever feel comfortable in the New Jerusalem.
Why, then, does it seem strange — in fact, almost unthinkable — to associate the Jewish people with the New Testament? The answer lies in what Christians perceive to be the judgment of God. Because the leadership of the nation had rejected Jesus Christ as Messiah, the people of Israel were separated from their land. At the same time, the early Jewish Christians were separated from their role as leaders in proclaiming the Gospel and building the church.
This double break determined their role in history for the next 18 centuries. They became a nation of exiles. Not only were they exiled from their land, but they were also exiled from the very religion of which they themselves were the founders. It seems as if God sacrificed the Chosen People in order to bring the message of salvation to the great masses of Gentile nations around the world.
God Has Not Forsaken Israel
We are the benefactors of that break in the continuum of history. Let us not forget, however, that God has not forever forsaken His people. Just as Jesus rose again on the third day, in like manner, the resurrection of Israel has been promised in the prophecies of the Bible. Hosea wrote:
“After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (Hosea 6:2).
The 1948 resurrection of the Israeli nation not only fulfills Hosea’s prophecy, but is the central theme of each prophet in the Old Testament. For instance, Isaiah wrote concerning the regathering of Israel:
“And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
“And 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, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
“And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
“The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.
“But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab: and the children of Ammon shall obey them” (Isaiah 11:10-14).
The Root of Jesse
These five verses contain some astounding prophecies, most of which have already been fulfilled and others which are yet to be fulfilled — perhaps in the near future. First of all, Isaiah wrote in verse 10 that the entire picture revolves around one person — the Root of Jesse.
He will stand as an “ensign,” or a banner, of the people, and to Him “shall the Gentiles seek.” Furthermore, Isaiah wrote, “His rest shall be glorious.” Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecy of the Root of Jesse. And when He was lifted up on Calvary’s cross, He became a banner for all the Gentile nations.
Since that day, Gentiles around the world have found, through Christ, the forgiveness of their sins. We have been drawn to the foot of Calvary, and there we have found salvation.
His Millennial Reign
Then, wrote Isaiah, “His rest shall be glorious.” Over the past 20 centuries Jesus Christ has been lifted up to the throne of God and has been seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is presently awaiting the establishment of His earthly kingdom, which shall last for a thousand years. It will come to pass in the seventh millennium — the great Sabbath rest. Yes, His rest shall be glorious.
The Second Redemption of Israel
In verse 11, Isaiah tells of the redemption of Israel:
“And 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 …” (Isaiah 11:11a).
Isaiah wrote of a specified time, “in that day.” How do we know we live in that day? Because of the following words: “… the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people …”
Isaiah wrote in the days before the Babylonian captivity, but he did not simply write that the Lord will set his hand to recover the remnant of His people. He went beyond that. He saw a second dispersion of the Jews from their land and wrote that “in that day the Lord shall set His hand AGAIN the SECOND time.”
I believe we live in that day. The return of the Jew to his land in this century does not represent the first return or the third return. The rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948 marked the second return of the Jews to their land. Isaiah, then, zeroes in on this generation in the giving of his prophecy.
A Worldwide Return
In verse 11, Isaiah continues by giving the locations from which the Jews shall return:
“… from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.” (Isa. 11:11b).
In the first dispersion, the people were led into Babylonian captivity, and when they returned, they returned from Babylon. But in that day designated for the far future, the Israeli people will return from many lands:
“And he shall set up an ensign for the [Gentile] nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12).
Isaiah indicated that the second dispersion of the Jews would be to all nations and that when they returned one day, they would return from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah wrote in a day when the Israeli nation was divided. There was a split between the north and the south. Ephraim was the leading nation of the north, and Judah of the south. There was a continuing feud between the two factions. However, Isaiah wrote that in that day when the Lord reaches out His hand the second time to regather the people, there would be no division among the tribes:
“The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isa. 11:13).
How indicative of the Israeli nation today! It is no longer a nation divided against itself. Israel is one.
Surely this is the generation which marks the fulfillment of Isaiah’s great prophecy. We have reached that point in history. The Jew is back in his land and all the tribes are united.
The next prophecy is fascinating:
“But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west…” (Isa. 11:14a).
This appears to be indicative of the 1956, 1967, and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars. What happens in the rest of the verse, however, is yet to be fulfilled. Isaiah wrote:
“… they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab: and the children of Ammon shall obey them” (Isaiah 11:14b).
According to Isaiah, Israel will obtain an understanding with the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. King Hussein once declared that he would not negotiate with Israel over the future of the confiscated West Bank. One Jordanian politician was upset. He was in favor of negotiations and said, “If we do not negotiate with Israel today over the West Bank, we may eventually have to negotiate with Israel over the East Bank.” According to Isaiah’s prophecy, such an agreement will come to pass.
The Potter’s Vessel
In Isaiah 43:1, the prophet again took up the theme of Israel’s restoration:
“But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
In the previous chapter, Isaiah wrote about the judgment of God upon Israel. But in this verse he turns from judgment to mercy and begins the verse by saying, “But now …” Oh, what a glorious promise! God has not forever forsaken His Chosen People! Please note two things Isaiah wrote in this verse.
First, the Lord “created” the nation and, secondly, He “formed” the nation. When He created the people of Israel, a flaw appeared. Like the potter who remade his broken vessel, the Lord is now in the process of restructuring the nation. First, He created them — today, it seems that He is in the process of forming them:
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2).
Again, we can see the accuracy of biblical prophecy. The vivid phrases of this verse depict the history of the Jewish people through a period of almost 2,000 years. They have, indeed, passed through the rivers and walked through the fire. There is only one explanation for their continued survival as a people. God has been with them:
“For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
“Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life” (Isaiah 43:3-4).
The great message, in these verses, is that God loves Israel with a supreme love. This is a revelation of tremendous importance. God places a special value on His Chosen People and, though He permits them to pass through the fire, He has a purpose in it. And Isaiah gives us the reason why:
“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).
Because He loved them, He tested them — just as Job was tested. In these verses, God declares that His love for Israel has also influenced His dealings with other nations.
East, West, North and South
Finally, a distinction is given between those who return from the “east and west” and those who return from the “north and south”:
“Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
“I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 48:5-7).
Like the promises of chapter 11, Isaiah repeated that Israel will be regathered from the four corners of the earth. Note the precision with which he gave the prophecy. He said, “I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.”
The “east” primarily refers to Asia and the “west” could represent the great concentrations of Jewish people in Europe, Africa, the United States, and South America.
The verbs used here do not indicate any particular opposition to the Jewish people returning from either the “east” or the “west.” In fact — especially in regard to the “west” — there seems to be the suggestion of a reluctance on their part to leave.
However, when we come to the “north” and “south,” we get a different picture:
“I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” (verse 6).
How indicative of the “north!” The cry still goes out today, “Give up!” “Give up [My people]!” The “north” must represent not only the former Soviet block of eastern Europe, but Russia itself, as well. The former Soviet Union had a history of being extremely unwilling to permit Jewish emigration to Israel. This makes the message to the north especially appropriate: “Give [them] up! Give up [My people; let them come home].”
Let us not forget about the MIAMI HERALD (1983) newspaper story that pointed out the fact that there had been a strange disappearance of more than 100,000 Jews from the Soviet Union over a previous ten-year period from 1973 to 1983. Some 100,000 Jews were arrested when they applied for permission to emigrate to Israel. No wonder Isaiah wrote that the divine message to the “north” would be, “Give up [My people; let them come home].”
After hearing about an American school girl’s well-publicized letter to then Soviet Premier, Yuri Andropov, which received an answer, a 12-year-old girl in the Soviet Union wrote him a letter of her own. The content of the letter, however, was somewhat different. Irina Tar-no-pol’-sky, of Kharkov, in the Ukraine, appealed to Andropov on behalf of her father, a Jewish scientist who had been imprisoned on a charge of slandering the Soviet state. His crime? Applying for permission to leave for Israel.
Irina wrote, “Not long ago I came to know that an American school girl, Samantha Smith, appealed to you in a letter, and you answered her. So I decided to write you a letter, too. My father, Yuri Tar-no-pol’-sky, is in prison now. He is accused of slandering the Soviet system, and soon he will be tried. But my papa is an honest man. He has never lied. He is under arrest only because we are Jewish and want to leave for Israel.”
In October 1983, Irina’s father had begun a hunger strike to protest the plight of Jewish families who were denied permission to emigrate. They were referred to as refuseniks. He had been fired from his job shortly after his application was turned down. Later he wrote, “I am unable to forget that in modern history only the Nazi barbarians refused to allow Jews to emigrate, persecuting them at the same time.”
Slander, in the Soviet Union, was punishable by a sentence of three years in a labor camp or five years of internal exile. The Tar-no-pol’-sky family had had no contact with him since his arrest the previous March. And Irina received no reply from Andropov. Such was the plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union. Once again we see both the accuracy and the authority of the Scriptures.
Finally, Isaiah wrote of God’s message to the south:
“I will say to the … south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 48:6).
There are two southern areas to which this prophecy relates. The first could be the country of Yemen, where nearly 50,000 Jews lived in 1948. Yemen is a fanatically Moslem country, strongly opposed to the state of Israel. Who would have believed that a country like that would have released almost its entire Jewish population shortly after Israel became a state in 1948. In fact, 43,000 Jews were airlifted out of Yemen into Israel in what appears to be yet another fulfillment of Bible prophecy:
“Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare thee on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself” (Ex. 19:4).
The other southern country with a large Jewish population was Ethiopia. And since 1984, a continuing effort to rescue the Falashas paid off with the massive airlift in May 1991. All Ethiopian Jews are now safe in Israel!
“I will say to the … south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:6-7).
Indeed, the return of Israel is the prevailing theme of all the prophets. Without them, none of the historic events in the twentieth-century could have come to pass!