By Whose Authority?

by Joseph Hunting

Fifty years ago, in May 1948 the State of Israel was reborn on the very soil that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to their descendants after them as an everlasting possession.

In spite of the majority resolution passed by the U.N. in 1947 which sanctioned the establishment of a Jewish homeland, five hostile surrounding states immediately launched an all-out war to crush this infant nation born out of the greatest travail civilization had ever undergone.

The revival of the nation and its ancient language, Hebrew, after nearly two thousand years of dispersion will surely compare with the great miracles of the Bible. Consider this against the backdrop of pogroms and persecutions for nineteen centuries, capped by the hideous Nazi program of extermination, and we get a glimpse of the magnitude of the God by whose authority Israel has returned to the land.

Only once in their nearly four thousand years of recorded history have the people of Israel voluntarily left the land God promised to them. At that time God had sent Joseph ahead into Egypt to succour the infant nation of seventy souls when a severe drought impoverished not only the land of Canaan but Egypt as well.

Near the end of the fourth generation of their voluntary exile in Egypt God raised up an Egyptian ruler "who did not know Joseph." This Pharaoh was satanically inspired to wipe out the Hebrews who "were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was full of them" (Exodus 1:7,8).

One can only wonder at the feelings Moses must have had when he considered his origin in the light of the court chatter concerning the accursed Hebrews, and how they were made to fulfil impossible quotas in the brink kilns.

Finally Moses made his move-he slew an Egyptian who was oppressing a fellow Hebrew, and when news of this reached Pharaoh he fled into the wilderness and remained there for forty years, until God's time for him to return and lead His people out of Egypt.

The great drama of Israel's deliverance from bondage in Egypt ranks as an epic in the history of mankind. But instead of an eleven-day journey from Sinai to their future inheritance a further forty years dragged on as the people wandered in the wilderness because of their rebellion and disobedience at Kadesh Barnea.

Possessing the Land

With Miriam, Aaron and Moses dead, and with Joshua as their Divinely-appointed leader, Israel finally began to "possess their possessions" in the land God had marked out for them. Some might question whether Israel had a right to possess the land of Canaan in those days; whether they should dispossess seven nations already occupying the land.

The question is a valid one, and so is the answer, for it is God who sets the boundaries of the nations. "When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel" (Deuteronomy 32:8).

And it was by Divine authority that Israel dispossessed the seven Canaanite kingdoms because of their total depravity. "Do not defile yourselves with any of these things (sexual perversions); for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you ... destroy all their moulded images ... their engraved stones ... their high places ..." (Leviticus 18:24, Numbers 32:52).

The Lord made it clear that "it is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that he may fulfil the word which the LORD your God swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Deuteronomy 9:5).

Israel possessed the land for nine hundred years. During this time Jerusalem became the nation's capital, and in the reign of Solomon was the spiritual and cultural center of his kingdom. Four hundred years later, because of idolatry, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed as the armies of Babylon ravaged the land, plundered the cities and took the survivors captive to Babylon.

The ten northern tribes known as Israel had already been taken captive by the Assyrians and entered a dispersion from which most of their descendants did not return.

Again a vital factor governing the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple is that it too was by Divine authority. Moses had clearly warned of the penalty for disobeying God's commandments; they are contained in Deuteronomy chapter 28 and are an awesome reminder of the shocking price Israel has paid over the centuries.

"And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other ..."

The First Regathering

It was by Divine authority that God raised up the Persian king Cyrus who commanded the captives to return after their seventy year captivity, saying, "All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God has given me. And he has commanded me to build him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah" (2 Chronicles 36:23 and Ezra 1:2).

Although the Temple was ultimately rebuilt and the worship of the Lord re-established, no king sat upon David's throne, nor has there been a descendant upon the throne of David for the past 2,500 years.

The regathered nation was then ruled over by the Persians, Greeks and Romans until 70 AD when the final dispersion commenced which spanned almost two thousand years. The nation was warned of this fate by the Messiah, but they failed to heed His words: "Now as he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

'For the days will come upon you when your enemies will ... surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation'" (Luke 19:41-44).

The Present Regathering

Ever since 1948 and the steady influx of Jewish people back to Israel from many countries of their dispersion, there has been great opposition to the new nation which has expressed itself in four wars of aggression against them.

But in spite of two dispersions, Israel's tenure of the land is by Divine authority, as also is the extent of the area and location of the borders. This of course includes not only the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, but much of Lebanon and Syria, even to the Euphrates river.

In the meantime politicians and the world's press oppose Israel's rights and needs, Palestinian claims are a fiction gaining more and more credence the longer they are trumpeted, and we can be sure there will be constant and escalating Satanic opposition to God's ways and purposes. Certainly no other people have had to endure such perpetual hatred and harassment for almost four thousand years as have the Jewish people.

A factor not generally recognized in this perpetual struggle against the God of Israel and His purposes is that Israel's return to the land after the Babylonian captivity was to prepare the nation for the coming of the Messiah.

Indeed the prophet Daniel pinpoints this momentous event in history from the going forth of the commandment to restore Jerusalem and the Temple as a period of four hundred and eighty three years (see THE VINEYARD December 1996). It was no coincidence that precisely at the end of this period, on the very day, the Messiah fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy that Israel's King would enter Jerusalem riding upon a donkey.

Similarly, several of Israel's other prophets have graphically described the events that have surrounded the present regathering of Israel as the prelude to the Messiah's return in glory.

Never before has there been such global opposition to Israel's right to occupy, and in safety, the land which has been theirs by Divine authority. When separated from its rightful owners, the land in the past has degenerated into a desolate wilderness.

But when the land and the people are united, this same soil fulfils Isaiah's prophecy: "You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her) and your land Beulah (married); for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.

'For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:4-6). This is the Word of the Lord and by His authority.