The Jews – God’s Witnesses
Whatever we may think of the nation of Israel and its actions among the nations of the world today, there is no denying the fact that Israel and the Jews have a primary role in the plan and purpose of God.
A Holy People
This is what was said about the children of Israel when they first became a nation following their remarkable and awe-inspiring deliverance from slavery in Egypt:
You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:6–8).
In Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28, God told the nation how bountifully He would bless them if they were faithful to Him and what terrible terrible curses He would bring upon them if they turned away from Him and served other gods. Here are a couple of passages from Deuteronomy 28 about what would happen to them if they turned away from their God:
You shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all
nations where the Lord will drive you (Deuteronomy 28:37).
…Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known – wood and stone. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see (Deuteronomy 28:64–67).
Because of their unfaithfulness, all the appalling things written about what would happen to them have come upon them throughout their long and gruelling history. In all this they bear witness to the veracity of the Word of God and to the One from whom they turned away.
Sadly, today many Jewish people do not even acknowledge God’s existence.
Yet the Scripture speaks for itself:
“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no saviour. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God” (Isaiah 43:10–12).
They are indeed God’s witnesses that He is God, reluctant and unknowing as they may be. All throughout the Old Testament the Jewish people are referred to by God as “My people” and that is still the case today. The apostle Paul in his letter to the believers in Rome says:
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1).
Centuries before Israel became a nation, God made wonderful promises to their forefather Abraham. This is part of what God promised him:
“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
This promise became just as true of the nation as it did of Abraham himself and it is still not totally fulfilled. All throughout history we have seen the fulfilment of this. Many nations have risen and fallen all because of the way they treated the people of God.
On many occasions, nations were used by God to bring His judgements on His people, but they were always excessive in delivering those judgements and as a result they too were punished. On other occasions, nations have suffered judgements from God because of their harsh treatment of His people.
In the 21st century, this ancient promise of blessing and cursing still applies, and we see it at work in the world today. Israel and the Jews, at the time of the end, are still a potent witness to the reliability and truthfulness of the Word of God, and to the fact that He is still active in the affairs of this world.
The Return of the Jews
In AD70 the Jewish nation came to an end when the Roman army conquered Jerusalem, killed many of its inhabitants and scattered the survivors throughout all the nations of the world.
This was a remarkable fulfilment of Bible prophecy, one which foretold their scattering being in Deuteronomy chapter 28, a prediction given by Moses over a thousand years earlier. And some forty years before it happened, ‘the prophet like Moses’ – the Lord Jesus – had foretold this event as part of the extensive prophecy he gave on the Mount of Olives:
They (the Jews) will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:24).
So it was that, following the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, the Jews began a long period of dispersion throughout all the nations of the world, having no homeland of their own, and often being moved on as anti-Semitism led to persecution and pillage. This period of dispersion lasted for more than 1800 years until near the end of the 19th century when a movement toward national recovery and resettlement in the land of their forefathers began.
Between 1918 and 1939 there was a steady trickle of Jews back to the land, mainly into the area around Tel Aviv. Many of these were fleeing from persecution in Russia. It was, however, the holocaust during the Second World War which turned the trickle into a flood. Since then, there has been a regular return of Jews to the land of their forefathers. It is a national recovery which is unique among the nations, for throughout the long period of dispersion, despite the many persecutions which they suffered, the Jews kept their distinct national identity.
In the return of the Jews to the land and the establishment of the State of Israel as a Jewish State, we see a modern day miracle which also fulfils Bible prophecy. For just as their dispersion was prophesied, so was their restoration. These prophecies also give compelling evidence to the veracity and reliability of God’s Word. Here are some of the prophecies of return and restoration, taken from the prophecy of Jeremiah.
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers. “Behold, I will send for many fishermen,” says the Lord, “and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity hidden from My eyes” (Jeremiah 16:14–17).
For behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says 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).
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, And gather them from the ends of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child And the one who labors with child, together; A great throng shall return there. They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn. “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, And declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’ (Jeremiah 31:8–10).
God’s Work – God’s World
Although all of the above quotations are from the prophecy of Jeremiah, he is not the only one who foretells these momentous events. The return is a work of God. It is He who is in control.
It is for His Holy Name’s sake, and as a vindication of His Word, that these events are taking place, not because of any righteousness displayed by the Jews. In fact they are returning in unbelief and generally are quite ignorant of the hand of God at work in their lives. This is what He declares through His prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36:22–24).
“Thus says the Lord: ‘If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.’ ” (Jeremiah 33:25–26).
The World in general may think that the Jews are acting on their own initiative and skill in returning to the land of their forefathers, and in their ability to remain established in the land. But this could not be further from the truth.
The Jewish people are back in the land of their forefathers in direct fulfilment of Bible prophecy, and in these prophecies of the return we have seen and are seeing the Word of God being fulfilled before our very eyes.