I originally published this article in 2018 and updated it in 2021. I’m republishing it ten days into what some call the YK2 war (Yom Kippur 2) as it began October 6, 2023, 50 years to the day after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Living in Israel is what I imagine the American Frontier or Wild West was like. It’s a very small country, and although the rule of law exists, there is a lot of lawless behavior. Gunfights, terrorism, murders, and the potential for violence hang in the air like the dust kicked up by a stampede or how the smell of cigarettes linger in the atmosphere and clings to just about everything.
Becky and I were living in Jerusalem in November 2018 when more than 400 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Some of those missiles reached as far as the outskirts of Jerusalem, and if the air raid sirens went off, you had 90 seconds to get into a bomb shelter. It turns out that was just a warm-up. In 2021, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, some hitting deeper inside Israeli territory and more accurately than ever.
It reminded me of the movie “The Untouchables,” when Al Capone’s henchmen murdered one of Eliot Ness’s men and then scrawled “Touchable” in the man’s blood to send a message to Ness. The missile barrages in 2021 were unprecedented at that time and reached as far north as Tel Aviv, closing down Ben Gurion Airport. These attacks, drone launches, and even an attempted submarine attack vividly displayed the capabilities of Israel’s closest enemies.
And so it continues, once again in human history, God is actively dealing with his servant Israel by using the Nations as He has done throughout their history. Not surprisingly, the cry from the Nations has been consistent. Israel is either illegitimate and needs to be eliminated, or they have so violated their covenantal obligations and/or international law that they need to be punished or, as many Christian theologians say, vomited out of the land.
It’s interesting to me that of all the countries that have come into existence in the last century, no country’s birth certificate is more legitimate than that of Israel. One reason is that many of Israel’s founding fathers, Herzl, Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion, Begin, and Shamir, were either lawyers or had legal training. They were obsessed with making it legal. Unlike almost every other country, it was Lawyers, not Generals, who were the midwives of Israel’s birth or, more accurately, her rebirth.
But, for the sake of argument (arguendo)… let’s say Israel has violated the terms of justice according to her covenant with God and before international law. The question then is, does it fall into the lap of human beings or nation-states to make that determination, much less to enforce or suggest a remedy? I think not.
It was God who initiated and made the covenant with the Jews. It’s His covenant, and He will decide if the Jews are fulfilling their covenantal obligations as he has done throughout their long history.
The modern State of Israel finds itself in a plot twist of epic proportions.
The Jews in Israel, after nearly 2,000 years in exile, scattered among the nations, have returned to create a Jewish State to escape oppression elsewhere, only to find themselves in the unusual position of having to take harsh measures against aliens in their midst who are not just strangers but enemies who wish to destroy it. Like no other country, Israel is constantly defending itself while concurrently trying its best to enforce some measure of justice and the rule of law.
In 1948, Israel was resurrected as a secular State, but even in their unbelief and rebellion, they remain God’s servant, called to be his witness to the nations. As God’s servant, Israel’s relationship with the nations is, therefore, different from the relations that the nations have between themselves.
Israel’s relationship with the nations can never be just political; it is also spiritual, and therein lies the rub. Israel wants to be a normal nation and has always resisted their spiritual role.
Israel is called God’s firstborn son. So, mysteriously, when the nations relate to Israel, they relate to God by proxy (See Matthew 21:33-46). What the nations do in response to the actions of Israel is, in some sense, their response to God.
None of this means that Israel is like God or that their actions correlate to who God is, only that Israel is God’s servant… his representative, a nation set apart. And whether or not Israel behaves righteously or unrighteously, the nations are not her judge or jury.
Why is it that Israel, not only now but throughout their 4,000-year history, both in the land and in exile, has been constantly beleaguered and beset by their enemies?
The scriptures give several explanations, but, to me, one answer goes to the heart of the matter.
Yeshua/Jesus gives us a clue as to what it is.
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Yeshua answered, neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)
“… when Yeshua heard that, he said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God… that the Son of God might be glorified.”(John 11:9)
That the modern State of Israel exists today is no accident or freak of history, and it defies a natural explanation.
Although you probably won’t get an amen from secular or religious Jews on this point, I believe Israel exists for one principal purpose, even in their current state of unbelief and spiritual slumber. Their existence serves the greater glory of “The God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
We believe God carefully placed Israel in the middle of the nations, beguiling them as He did with Moses and the burning bush, drawing the attention of the nations to Israel, and they cannot take their eyes off of her.
God knew and intended that Israel’s existence would provoke and pull a rancorous response from the nations who prefer their way, their false gods and idols. The hatred expressed towards Israel is really directed at the God whom Israel represents.
To us, while Israel testifies to God’s dealings, that doesn’t mean Israel is Godly. When we look at Israel, we see the redeeming genius of God at work. Beginning with Israel’s astonishing resurrection in 1948, God informed the world that He was doing something amazing in history.
In the days of the prophet Samuel, Israel longed to be a nation like the other nations… to pursue their national identity in freedom and autonomy. It’s a desire that burns in the heart of Israel to this day, and it’s a desire that has consequences. The overriding principle is this: Israel will never be a nation like the other nations.
God said, “…Behold, a people dwelling alone, not counting itself among the nations”. (Numbers 23:9)
No matter what their enemies do, what Israel does in her current state of unbelief, or what the Nations do in response, Israel is like the prophet Jonah…
Israel cannot escape her calling.