Israel: What is Your Name?

When I think about the history of Israel, I think of an ocean flowing with waves of victory in between dips of defeat. Israel has suffered and overcome, been exiled and returned, been weak and strong, dishearted and passionate. Nations have called them abandoned, and nations have called them blessed. In the history of Israel, I see a nation in identity crisis – they know they are God’s chosen and beloved people, yet at times, they question whether God has changed His mind. They know God’s faithfulness to them, yet at times they doubt His love for them. Israel – what is your name? How will you be called?

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The Persecution of Israel

Earlier this year, I wrote a bit about God’s vision for Israel, about what it was like to understand God’s heart for these people and fall in love with them, just as He has. https://lostnowfoundk.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/falling-in-love-with-israel/

Now, I want to continue exploring this. The nation of Israel has had so many enemies through history and even, today. Yet, the promise of God to Israel is that they would be a blessing to all the families of the earth [Genesis 12:2-3]. Is Israel a blessing to the nations? Before this can happen in its fullness, Israel needs to know who they are. With the cacophony of war, peace, captivity and freedom, it is not hard to see why Israel may harbour doubt in their promise. Even for myself, in the more mundane struggles of life, I find my mind and soul in battle – it is my spirit vs. my flesh as I declare my continuing belief in Christ and battle to become more like Him. For I’ve died and my life is hidden with Christ [Colossians 3:3] – this is the struggle we all face living in this world, while eagerly awaiting Christ’s return. Israel has, possibly, one of the most violent, horrific and yet, hopeful histories of all nations. Some of the persecutions and encouragements experienced by the Jewish people include:

  • July AD 70 – Titus, the son of Roman Emperor Vespasian, and his soldiers massacre the Jews of Jerusalem; crucifying, gutting and torturing them. This was part of the first Roman-Jewish War, started by the Emperor Nero who was known for his cruelty and brutality.
  • Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet entitled, “Of Jews and Their Lies” and recommended Jewish house to be “razed and destroyed”.
  • After his conquest Jerusalem, Saladin invited the Jews to return to the city and reside there.
  • Albert Einstein, in his own German-Jewish journey of heritage made this statement during a visit to Palestine – “I consider this the greatest day of my life. Before, I have always found something to regret in the Jewish soul, and that is the forgetfulness of its own people. Today, I have been made happy by the sight of the Jewish people learning to recognize themselves and to make themselves recognized as a force in the world.”

A good summary of Israel’s persecution through the centuries can be found here: http://www.jewishvoice.org/assets/pdfs/jewish-persecution-in-history.pdf

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Promises of Israel’s Restoration

Israel will be glorious. She will be a blessing to the nations as God has promised. Reading through the book of Isaiah, I notice how God sees Israel’s perception of herself, and faithfully continues to remind her of how He sees her – God reminds Israel of who she is in Him.

Here are just a few comparisons taken from the book of Isaiah. It contrasts proclamation of Israel’s, with the proclamation of God’s grace over them. This occurs not only in the book or Isaiah, but all throughout the Bible. It seems that every time Israel is rebuked, they are also given a promise of redemption and blessing if they would repent and return to the Lord.

ISRAEL’S SIN

GOD’S GRACE

[Isaiah 1:4] – Israel, a sinful nation

“Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,

A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked to anger

The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.”

[Isaiah 1:18] – Israel’s sins completely forgiven

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”

[Isaiah 5:4-7] – Israel a vineyard of disobedience who despises the affections of her God, and reaps destruction

“’What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
Did it bring forth wild grapes?
And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to my vineyard;
I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;
And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
I will lay it waste;
It shall not be pruned or dug,
But there shall come up briars and thorns.
I will also command the clouds
That they rain no rain on it.’
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts of the house of Israel,
And the men of Judah are his pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.”

[Isaiah 27:2-2-6] – Israel, God’s beloved vineyard, which He makes to proper in His strength

“In that day sing to her,
‘A vineyard of red wine!
I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.
Fury is not in Me.
Who would set briars and thorns
Against Me in battle?
I would go through them,
I would burn them together.
Or let him take hold of My strength,
That he may make peace with Me;
And he shall make peace with Me.
Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob;
Israel shall blossom and bud,
And fill the face of the world with fruit.”

[Isaiah 5:24-26] – Israel’s disobedience results in their persecution at the hand of the nations

“Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble,
And the flame consumes the chaff,
So their root will be as rottenness,
And their bosom will ascend like dust;
Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people;
He has stretched out His hand against them
And stricken them,
And the hills trembled.
Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets.
For all this His anger is not turned away,
But His hand is stretched out still.
He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar,
And will whistle to them from the end of the earth;
Surely they shall come with speed, swiftly.”

[Isaiah 49:22-23] – God will uphold the standard of Israel, and she will be revered amongst the nations

 “Thus says the Lord God”
‘Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations,
And set up your standard for the peoples;
They shall bring your sons in their arms,
And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders;
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick up the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.’”

[Isaiah 59:1-2] – Israel’s sins separate them from God

 “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that His will not hear.”

 

[Isaiah 62:1] – God will not rest until Israel’s righteousness shines

 “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace,
And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
And her salvation as a lamp that burns.”

Named, Forgotten, and Renamed

One passage I always remember is Isaiah 62:1-5. What a promise Israel has in a Saviour who fights for them, and rejoices in them. He gives them a new name that speaks promise, when they are overwhelmed, their identify forgotten. Hephzibah (“My Delight Is In Her”) instead of “Forsaken; and Beulah (“Married”) instead of Desolate.

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Hosea 11:1-4 is another passage which highlights the faithfulness and tenderness of God towards Israel.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
As they called them,
So they went from them;
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images.

I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
I drew them with gentle cords,

With bands of love,
And I was to them as those who take the
yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them.”

 

Israel has a Father in the Lord, and a Husband whose love for them never ends. His strength is their strength, and He multiples them to be a great nation.

[Zechariah 12:8] – “In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the Lord before them.”

[Isaiah 60:22] – “A little one shall become a thousand,
And a small one a strong nation.
I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.”

His light is their glory.

[Isaiah 60:19] – “The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you and everlasting light,
And your God your glory.”

Despite their sin, despite their backsliding, the God of Israel will never forget His promise to them. They are His chosen people, and the New Jerusalem will come.

[Revelation 21:2-3] – “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God himself will be with them and be their God.”


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