And They Shall Return

The prophet Hosea was speaking of a future generation when he said, "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days." (Hosea 3:4-5)

Looking back over the centuries the people of Israel have been "many days without king or prince" – a national leader who could assemble an army to defend them. And they have been "many days . . . without sacrifice or sacred pillar . . . " –a Temple, a place of national worship. And they have been "many days . . . without an ephod or teraphim . . . " – a national religious leader who could legislate and preside over issues.

Exiled from the Land of Promise, the children of Israel endured centuries of unrest. Without a national head, the people of Israel were fragmented wandering aimlessly from nation to nation. They became the object of ridicule and hatred, and suffered relentless persecution. Were they like any other people, Israel surely would have disappeared. Nevertheless, they returned as promised. As a consequence to the "many days " in Exile, the Jewish people returned home without a king or a prince, without a Temple or sacred pillar–a conglomerate of Jewish communities from different backgrounds.

To successfully coordinate bringing the exiles home with all its complexities and intricacies would stretch the best minds and resources available. But then, for it to succeed against obstacles which confronted the newly-formed State, is beyond human capacity. And if it did not happen in our time, who would have believed? Yet in 1948 without a king or a prince, without a Temple, the State of Israel was re-established. The real danger to the survival and success of the new State was the immediate declaration of war by the neighbouring Arab countries to annihilate the Zionist entity.

The power and might of the Arab regime bristled as they stood like the seasoned warrior Goliath against a young teenage shepherd boy, David, the State of Israel. Overwhelmed by their collective impotence, the rest of the nations looked on in shame–it was a hopeless situation–what could they or anyone do to prevent the onslaught, the nations thought. A newly-born nation could not possibly defend itself against the well-equipped Arabs; it would be all over in a few days.

Yet like their ancestor David before them, Israel stood victorious. Somehow, after the dust had settled, Israel had defeated the giant. It was the Arab nations who fled and whimpered home, defeated. But this was not how it was supposed to happen. The Arab nations had only to sneeze and the fledgling State should have been blown into the Sea–but God–how else could the young nation survive, much less win the war?

Consider too, in all the major wars since 1948, Israel has been victorious. Israel continues to be under constant threat because the Arab nations refuse to accept their existence in the region. What nation today has not seen this? What international leader today has not heard of Israel's miraculous survival?

Undoubtedly, Israel's survival, in the face of such hostility, is God fulfilling His Word. They have endured many days without a king or prince, without a Temple or a sacred pillar, and they have returned to the Land, exactly as Hosea prophesied.

The return was also heralded by the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel's account he portrays the nations gloating over Israel's exile and that the Land was now vacant and vulnerable for plunder.

"And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: Because the enemy has said to you, Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession, therefore prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Because they made you desolate and swallowed you up on every side, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you are taken up by the lips of talkers and slandered by the people–therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, and the cities that have been forsaken, which became plunder and mockery to the rest of the nations all around–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, with wholehearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country." (Ezekiel 36:1-5)

Ezekiel describes the Land of Israel as being barren without her people, who were in exile. The Land longed for their return, as a mother bereft of her child. When the nations attempted to settle and cultivate the Land, they failed. The Land would remain desolate, until her people returned.

"Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and my fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I have raised my hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame.

"But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown." (Ezekiel 36:6-9)

Only to the People of Israel would the Land respond. Only to the nation of Israel would the Land shoot forth its branches and produce fruit in abundance, " . . . for they are about to come." After centuries of barren unproductive wilderness, the Land would break forth like a well-watered garden.

Since 1948 the State of Israel has welcomed home hundreds of thousands of Jewish people. Incredibly the People and the Land have grown together producing a modern prosperous economy. Where other peoples have failed in developing the Land, the people of Israel have succeeded. Marshland and swamp has given way to farming and water control. Vegetable farms and fruit groves have replaced desert and waste lands. Today, the Israeli economy is a major contributor to the international markets. The ruined cities have been rebuilt and are inhabited. Ancient towns have been uncovered and restored. The Land has responded to her People, exactly as promised.

"I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.

"Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, my people Israel; they shall take possession of you and you shall be their inheritance; no more shall you bereave them of children. Thus says the Lord GOD: Because they say to you, you devour men and bereave your nation of children, therefore you shall devour men no more, nor bereave your nation anymore, says the Lord GOD.

"Nor will I let you hear the taunts of the nations anymore, nor bear the reproach of the peoples anymore, nor shall you cause your nation to stumble anymore, says the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 36:6-15)

The Lord has brought the Jewish people home, and they have taken possession of the Land, which has blossomed under their control. Instead of bearing the reproach of separation, the children of Israel have now returned and are enjoying the fruits of reconciliation with the Land.

The prophet Ezekiel recounted the steps leading to their exile, and then how the Name of the Lord became defiled, namely, through the nations bringing reproach on the Land and the People.

"Moreover the word of the LORD came to me saying: Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity.

"Therefore I poured out my fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it. So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds.

"When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned my holy name–when they said of them, These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of his land.

"But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. 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 the countries, and bring you into your own land." (Ezekiel 36:16-24)

God's Name is sanctified when the Jewish people are gathered in the Land, and the Land has become fruitful, because " . . . I do not do this for your sake, O house Israel, but for my holy name's sake . . . " (Ezekiel 36:22) Therefore, when the State of Israel was established in 1948, it sanctified God's holy Name. Likewise, as the new State develops, as the children of Israel take possession of the Land, God's holy Name is sanctified. Therefore, the sanctification of God's holy Name is a work-in-progress.

According to the prophet, in those days, the children of Israel will "seek the LORD their God and David their king" . And so, after a long exile and subsequent return, the children of Israel will turn from the ways of the Gentile nations and "seek the LORD their God" . Determined to have a descendant of King David to lead them and with a strong child-like faith "they shall fear the LORD and His goodness . . . " And these things will take place " . . . in the latter days." A term that refers to the concluding years of Gentile rule, just prior to the coming Messianic Kingdom.

The new democratic State was forged out of a cauldron of cultures and philosophies. In its endeavour to gain international acceptance, the new State followed a policy of appeasement, concession, and even the acceptance of verbal abuse from other nations, which was a carry over from the centuries of living among the nations. Since 1948 Israel has taken extraordinary steps to save face in the eyes of the international community.

The Israeli people, however, are growing weary of their predicament. Regardless, of what they do they are condemned. Most irritating is when genuine efforts made by Israel to pursue peace are either ignored or misconstrued. The international bias against Israel is obvious.

One example was when in 1967 the Arab nations again threatened to annihilate Israel. Miraculously in six days the Arabs were soundly defeated. Most significant, was the return of the city of Jerusalem to the people of Israel. Inconceivable as it was before the war began, but somehow, and after six days, Jerusalem was returned to her adoring people. Nevertheless, at the time, it was decided that it would be better for Israel's image to return control of the Temple Mount to the Arabs. It wasn't. Israel's international image was no better for her generosity.

Frustration over this centuries-old attitude is a driving force that will compel Israel to " . . . seek the LORD their God and David their king . . . " . It is significant that King David is mentioned specifically. He was a remarkable man and an exemplary king. A man whom God described as " . . . a man after my own heart . . . " , David fought and killed the giant Philistine, Goliath. For forty days the seasoned Philistine warrior had challenged anyone from the Israeli army to fight him. None dared; all feared him, except the young teenager, David, who had only come to visit his brothers stationed with the Israeli army, in the Valley of Elah.

David heard the taunts of Goliath and responded. "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26)

Not exactly what international leaders today would expect from one who is chosen of God. Many leaders today would be sure to distance themselves from such behaviour. Modern opinions would insist that a national leader be a man of peace, well apt to negotiate, a well-educated and an intelligent man.

According to the prophet Hosea, a leader like King David is exactly to whom the children of Israel will look, in the latter days. David looked not to appease or negotiate with the giant, he was angry because of "the reproach" brought on Israel, and ultimately upon God. David was more concerned for the sanctification of God's holy Name. So too, in the latter days, the sanctification of God's holy Name will become more important to the children of Israel.

These are significant times for Israel. The children of Israel are returning to and taking possession of the Land. God is sanctifying His holy Name, and it is a work-in-progress. The time has come for Israel to experience the mercies of the LORD, to "seek the LORD their God and David their king . . . " . Now is the time for Israel to "fear the LORD and his goodness . . . " (Hosea 3:5)