Israel In The Spotlight of Prophecy

Israel has a distinctive characteristic which sets it apart from other nations. This is because its future has been recorded in advance, and its pre-written history is called prophecy.

Unfortunately the study of the prophetic Scriptures has often fallen into disrepute due to unwise interpretations made by some Bible students. However, this does not alter the fact that Israel's prophets made short and long term prophecies of the Land and its people that cover the entire range of Israel's history.

The fulfilment of these prophecies covering a span of three thousand five hundred years, embracing the destruction of Jerusalem on two separate occasions, two dispersions and two regatherings, is a reliable basis upon which to approach prophecy relating to the future.

On some occasions the prophecies included a time element. For example, Jeremiah prophesied that the Babylonian captivity would span seventy years: "And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (25:11). The land DID become a desolation and its inhabitants DID go into captivity in Babylon for seventy years.

Similarly, Israel's sojourn in Egypt and other countries was prophesied to span four hundred years, and that the Egyptians would persecute the Hebrews, and that the Egyptians would be judged accordingly: "Then he said to Abram: 'Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them and be afflicted by them four hundred years.

'And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterwards they shall come out with great possessions" (Genesis 15:13,14). The Hebrews DID sojourn in foreign countries for four hundred and thirty years (Exodus 12:40), two hundred and fifteen of them in Egypt. The Egyptians DID afflict them, and God DID judge Egypt when He brought out His people, to this day commemorated every year with the observance of the Passover.

However, other prophets made long-term prophecies spanning thousands of years with no time element stated. Some of these still await their fulfilment. An example is the prophecy of Hosea, which has been progressively fulfilled over two thousand five hundred years, and includes a time in the future.

"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterwards the children of Israel shall return, seek the LORD their God and David their king, and fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days" (3:4,5).

This prophecy is very specific. It does not speak in vague terms. Israel has been without a king or prince since Zedekiah was taken captive to Babylon in 586 BC. Following the Babylonian captivity the worship of images and teraphim was abandoned. Sacrifice, together with the use of the ephod, ceased with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

The second part of this prophecy awaits a future time. Israel as a nation shall "return and seek the LORD their God" and "fear the LORD and his goodness." Hosea makes an interesting reference to the fact that at that time Israel will seek "David their king" and both Jeremiah and Ezekiel refer to the same thing, in spite of the fact that David had been dead for centuries before these prophecies were made.

However, this presents no problem when it is remembered that David will be among those resurrected at that future time when Israel is restored under the reign of King Messiah. Indeed, this is exactly what Jeremiah states in his prophecy concerning the latter days: "But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them" (30:9).

The Divine spotlight of prophecy also highlights the judgement which will fall on all those who now occupy the territory originally given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, because of their continual enmity towards Israel: "I will make you perpetually desolate, and your cities shall be uninhabited; then you shall know that I am the LORD.

"Because you have said, 'These two nations (Israel and Judah) and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess them,' although the LORD was there . . . thus with your mouth you have boasted against me and multiplied your words against me; I have heard them.

"Thus says the LORD God: 'This whole earth shall rejoice when I make you desolate. As you have rejoiced because the inheritance of the house of Israel was desolate, so will I do to you; you shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, as well as all of Edom – all of it! Then they shall know that I am the LORD'" (Ezekiel 35:9-10; 13-15).

Prophecy Concerning 'All of Edom'

"Therefore thus says the LORD God: 'Surely I have spoken in my burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave my land to themselves as a possession'" (Ezekiel 36:5). In Ezekiel's time "all Edom" included the area now known as Jordan, which annexed East Jerusalem and the surrounding regions in 1948.

It is well to remember that God refers to the strip of land on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea as MY LAND: "The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me" (Leviticus 25:23), and the title deed is in the name of Abraham and his descendants through Isaac (Genesis 13:15), then Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15) for ever.

Prophecy Concerning Israel's Regathering

"Thus says the LORD God: 'Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land . . . '" (Ezekiel 37:21-22).

During the Mandate period the Jewish people were permitted to return to their ancient homeland strictly on a quota system, but as opposition from the surrounding nations mounted, so the quota decreased, until 1939 when all immigration to the land stopped.

When the State of Israel was reborn in May 1948 the doors were flung wide open, and Jewish people from over one hundred countries returned to the land, thus fulfilling Ezekiel's prophecy that "the cities shall be inhabited and the wastes rebuilt" (36:10).

Jews whose forefathers had been resident in Yemen since the days of the Babylonian captivity returned to Zion and rubbed shoulders with Jews from Europe, Asia, America, Australia. A Jewish colony that had been in India for more than two thousand years returned en masse and found their niche in their old-new homeland alongside their brethren, drawn with irresistible longings from the uttermost parts of the earth.

The rebirth of the nation was closely linked with the rebirth of the Hebrew language as a bond to reunite the people, who had been scattered as chaff, as no other nation had ever experienced. Mothers, fathers, doctors, professors – all went back to school with their children to learn their aleph-beth (first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet).

The revival of the ancient Hebrew language in a now modern highly sophisticated society, which is just as at home with the complexities of nuclear reactors as deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls, is in itself a miracle.

The present return of the Jewish people does not represent the total fulfilment of the prophecy, but rather is an important phase of the pre-written history of Israel that will terminate with the return of the Messiah.

Israel will always be in the spotlight of prophecy. It is the one nation that will "look unto him whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10) and will come to bow the knee to Him in repentance and faith "in the latter days."