Living in Israel is sort of what I imagine the American Frontier was like. The rule of law exists but there is a lot of lawless behavior… gunfights, murders, and a potential for violence that sort of hangs in the air like dust kicked up by a buffalo stampede.
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 warmup. In 2021, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, some hitting deeper inside Israeli territory and with greater accuracy than ever before.
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 recent barrages were unprecedented and reached as far north as Tel Aviv closing down Ben Gurion Airport. These attacks, coupled with drone launches and even an attempted submarine attack, have put the capabilities of Israel’s closest enemies on vivid display.
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. 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 punished or, as many Christian theologians say, be 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 Israels 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.
So, 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 is, does it fall into the lap of human beings or nation states to make that determination much less to enforce or even to suggest a remedy?
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 in order to escape from 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 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 Gods servant, Israel‘s relationship to the nations is therefore different from the relations that the nations have between themselves.
Israels relationship with the nations can never be just political, it is also spiritual, and therein lies the rub, Israel just wants to a normal nation. They have always resisted their spiritual role.
In a mysterious way, when the nations relate to Israel they are relating to God in proxy (See Matthew 21:33-46). What the nations do in response to the actions of Israel is sort of their response to God… like respecting the elected office… or saluting the rank of an individual not necessarily the person.
None of this means that Israel is like God or that their actions correlate to who God is, only that Israel is Gods servant… 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 a number of explanations, but there is one answer that sort of 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 clearly defies a natural explanation.
Although you probably won’t get an amen from secular or religious Jews on this point, 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 like He did with Moses and the burning bush. He has drawn 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 own way, their own false gods and idols. The rancor expressed towards Israel is actually directed at the God who Israel represents.
To us, Israel clearly witnesses to God but 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 is 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 own national identity in freedom and autonomy. It is a desire that burns in the heart of Israel to this day. But 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 and no matter what Israel does in her current state of unbelief, Israel is like the prophet Jonah…
Israel cannot escape her calling.