The need for repentance over our dealings with Israel

The great prophet is here lamenting over Israel’s sins, particularly that of idolatry, which leads to their punishment through exile. The nation is specially called of God to be a light to the Gentiles. But with privilege comes responsibility. Notice how five times, in describing their sin, God says they have “profaned my holy name” and that the reason for his wonderful plan to bring them back and give them a new heart is not because they deserve it; he is not rewarding their sin. ‘It is not for your sake,’ he says, ‘but my holy name’s sake, that the ruins will be rebuilt, the desert will bloom and the towns be re-settled.’ The Lord is seeking an intimate relationship with his bride; but is hampered by her “uncleanness” (v17 & 29), comparing their sin to a woman’s monthly cycle (See Leviticus 15.24). This is why he says: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…” (v25f) Some of these Scriptures have already been fulfilled while others have yet to happen. (Reading from Ezekiel 36.16-38)

But we have witnessed the stupendous event of the return to the land of many, and the opening of eyes to the beauty of God’s holy name has also begun. The very next passage (Ezekiel 37) speaks of the Valley of Dry Bones which, miraculously, comes to life. As the modern nation of Israel was born in a day, I believe they will also be ‘re-born’ in a moment, so to speak. It will happen very quickly – Romans 11.26, Zechariah 12.10. In fact, the prophet Zechariah, quoting the angel of the Lord, speaks of a time to come when “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day” (Zech 3.9). I believe it is significant that, on December 28 2017, thousands of Jews gathered at the Western Wall to pray for rain in response to a call from Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. An abundant outpouring followed. Has the drought ended? I am speaking of the famine of the word of the Lord. A recent Jews for Jesus survey found that 20% of Jewish millennials actually believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

We are living in astonishing times; we are witnessing some of the most glorious things prophesied in ancient days, and where does Britain stand in all this? For the most part, tragically, she is blissfully unaware, ignorant of the significance of these days – at best watching from the grandstand, but not involved. Even the church acts as if Israel, and her fortunes, have nothing whatsoever to do with the gospel. Oh, how far we have fallen!

A hundred years ago we were afforded the great honour and privilege of presiding over the restoration of Israel through the issuing of the Balfour Declaration when we were called to act as the midwife in the re-birth of the Jewish state. But with privilege comes responsibility, and we let them down badly, scarpering just as the patient was about to deliver! Having started well, we dropped out of the race. We were sidetracked by prejudice and self-interest; we were tripped up by constant appeasement of those who opposed Jewish aspirations.

By God’s grace, like Cyrus of old, we did much to pave the way for the resettling of Jews in the Holy Land. But we disqualified ourselves by jumping the gun, presuming things should be done in a different way and not following the rules or looking for guidance from the Chief Coach, the God of Israel whom we had set out to serve. So, in many and various ways, we broke our precious pledge and betrayed the apple of God’s eye.

Because the God of Israel is indeed God, our withdrawal did not delay the outcome our Lord had destined. It only hastened it. But God is merciful and is slow to write us off. I’m sure he is also eager to honour the sacrifices of the saints of old who helped to clear a path for Israel’s return home. We have had many ‘second chances’, and had another in recent days virtually handed to us on a plate – if we had only followed President Trump’s lead in recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But we blew it. Political correctness rather than godly diplomacy won the day. We are thus in grave danger of being numbered among the goats of Judgment Day for failing to serve the ancient people of God (Isaiah 60.12, Joel 3.2, Micah 5.15).

A little background: The Balfour Declaration was contained in a letter from Lord Arthur Balfour (Foreign Secretary at the time and a former Prime Minister) to Britain’s Jewish leaders, promising to do all in the government’s power to facilitate the re-settlement of Jewish people in ‘Palestine’. But the stage had been set by more than a century of faithful witness from leading evangelicals including John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Simeon and Bishop J C Ryle – men who were convinced of God’s great plan for Israel’s future clearly laid out in the Scriptures. They were actually more excited by the prospect of Israel’s spiritual restoration – that they would one day recognise the One they had pierced – but knew that that would not happen in full until they were back in the Promised Land.

And so they set out to work, pray and preach of the need for such an outcome. Preachers in those days had a lot more influence in high places than they do today, and so it was hardly surprising that politicians (many of whom were also Christians) took up the cause. One such preacher, William Hechler, just happened to befriend the Paris-based Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl, greatly encouraging his efforts to raise the profile of Jewish Zionism – a movement which arose in the 1880s, quite independently of the Christian cause, and was sparked off by rising anti-Semitism. And yet God was clearly orchestrating things.

And so in the midst of the horrors of World War I, Prime Minister David Lloyd George appointed a War Cabinet made up largely of evangelical Christians. It was this Magnificent Ten who agreed to the Balfour Declaration. On the very day it was issued – October 31st, 1917 – and with the help of the brave ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand) cavalry, the Allies won the crucial Battle of Beersheva, which paved the way for the capture of Jerusalem just weeks later, ending 400 years of rule by the Muslim-led Turkish Ottoman empire.

God thus confirmed the rightness of Britain’s pledge by almost immediately opening the door for its implementation. In the aftermath of the war, Britain was given the mandate by the League of Nations, specifically to prepare the way for Jewish statehood. This was confirmed by the San Remo Treaty of 1920 (which has never been abrogated). The clear understanding was that a designated region of what until then was known as Palestine was to be allocated for the Jewish nation, though on the understanding that they would be prepared to live side by side with the Arabs already there, as they had done for centuries in other parts of the world.

There was no such thing at the time as a Palestinian people – in fact the Jews of the area were sometimes referred to as Palestinians, but there was no such nation. It was only when Jews started coming back in significant numbers that Arabs of the region incited opposition to their return. Many Arabs moved into the area, attracted by the jobs made available by entrepreneurial Jews.

Tragically, the 1920s and 30s were punctuated by a series of riots and massacres triggered by this immigration, as a result of which Britain shamefully appeased the Arabs by restricting immigration (thus contradicting the Balfour plan) at a time when Jews were being persecuted in Germany and elsewhere. Many could have been saved from the Holocaust if we hadn’t pursued this policy. Yes, we have blood on our hands.

As early as 1922, Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, at the stroke of a pen, cut out 75% of the land designated for the Jews in creating the Hashemite kingdom of Transjordan (now Jordan) to keep the peace. Fortunately, he didn’t later pursue this kind of policy against Hitler. Yet, robbed of so much of their land, the Jews did not protest, glad only to recover whatever piece of Israel they could. This was surely the original ‘two-state solution’ (if there was ever such a solution); there were no ‘Palestinians’ at the time claiming further pieces of the territory for themselves. Yet the Arabs were still not satisfied, which basically boiled down to the fact that they didn’t want Jews there at all.

Finally, battered and bruised by their failure to keep the peace, Britain washed their hands of it all by withdrawing from their Mandate in 1947. And yet before the year was out, the United Nations had voted to recognise the new state (with Britain abstaining) under a Partition Plan in which Jerusalem was divided – though the plan was never accepted by the Arabs. The state was born on May 15 1948, and war broke out immediately as the surrounding Arab nations pounced on their prey like a ravenous wolf. But the ‘new-born babe’ survived against the odds (as with the Christ-child – see Rev 12.4), just as they did in succeeding conflicts.

Meanwhile Jews were returning from all corners of the globe in fulfilment of the ancient prophecies. Jordan had in the meantime illegally annexed Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, but the territory was rightfully recovered in 1967, which saw the reunification of Jerusalem, now in the hands of Jews for the first time in nearly 2,000 years. Was this the end of the ‘times of the Gentiles’ referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24? Yet the territory is still disputed because a propaganda war took up the baton unresolved by military means. The invention of the ‘Palestinian’ people by Yasser Arafat along with the so-called right of refugees and their descendants (who had been urged to leave their homes on the basis that they could safely return once the Jewish nation was destroyed) still takes up much of the UN agenda. And yet it’s complete fiction.

The ‘Palestinians’ are made up of various Arab peoples whose common agenda is to rid the region of Jews. Their children are officially taught to hate them and Palestinians have never been serious about the peace process. Since giving up Gaza in a so-called ‘land for peace’ exchange, Israel has been repeatedly pounded by rocket-fire.

We stand at the crossroads of a very dangerous time in world history – and yet hugely exciting too if you’re a believer because Jesus said that “when these things happen” (all this trouble) look up, for your redemption is near! Jesus is coming back. Soon. It will be the status of Jerusalem that will trigger Armageddon (Zech 12.2f) if my understanding of the situation is correct. And yet the Scriptures command us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122.6). That’s what we’re here for. The verse adds: “May those who love you be secure.” What does it mean for those who don’t love Jerusalem? So it seems that Britain’s security (from terror and much more) is wrapped up in our attitude to Israel.

So what should we be praying for?

  • Our politicians – Conservative and Labour MPs are friends of Israel; pray about anti-Semitism in Parliament.

  • Give thanks that teaching on the Holocaust remains part of the school curriculum, but this is under constant threat.

  • Bias in the media, and a general awakening in this realm.

  • For the church to recognise the importance of supporting Israel & exposing the falsehood of so-called Replacement Theology.

  • For the Jewish community in Britain – 290,000 – under constant threat.

  • For the peace of Jerusalem.

  • And for evangelism among the Jews through CMJ, Jews for Jesus etc.

  • Isaiah 60.12 – “For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.”

  • Psalm 83.4 – “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

  • Isaiah 62.6f – “I have post watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest, till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”

  • Genesis 12.3 – “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

  • Jeremiah 31.35-37 – Israel will never cease to be a nation before God

  • Jeremiah 23.7f – A greater miracle than the Red Sea crossing

  • Daniel 9.18f & Nehemiah 1.9 – Jerusalem, where God’s name is written

  • Zechariah 14.4, Acts 1.11 – The return of Jesus

  • Matthew 23.39 & Psalm 118.26 “…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

  • Romans 11.26 – All Israel will be saved

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