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The Land and the People

God has in all ages searched for a partner for Himself to bless the whole humankind. God found a trustworthy friend, Abraham, through whom blessings could flow into our world. The covenant between God and His trustworthy friend and his descendants was restored.

A Friend of God
Abraham is called a friend of God. This friendship was put to hard test when God asked Abraham to offer Isaac. Abraham was faithful to God in spite of this incomprehensible request. He was willing to obey God and offer his son Isaac. This test which Abraham passed opened up the way for God´s son Jesus Christ to be born into our world through Abraham´s seed. Jesus is the seed that crushed the serpent’s head and set the captives free from their sins by His own death according to the promise in Gen 3:15.

Without this background it is difficult to understand the incidents in the Middle East. It is important to understand God´s plan. To reach all the nations He chose one nation. Israel´s wandering and history became God´s way to fulfill His plans regarding the whole creation.

A Different People
The descendants of Abraham would be priests, a holy nation. God wanted to have a people that was different from all other nations; a people that hears His word, accepts His commandments and statutes. A people that show Him respect, a holy people set aside for a holy service before Him. A people that accepts and keeps revelation and is a light to all the other nations. A people that teaches other peoples the ways of the Lord by instruction and example.

The calling God gave to Israel was to stand out and be different. They were not to live like all the pagan people around them. The pagans had their own customs, laws, religions and gods. God was not pleased by these. Everything they represented was an abomination to God. (Rm 1:18-32, Gen 6:5-6; 8:21). God wanted to have a people to have a relationship with, a people who respected Him, loved and served the only one true God, the living God, El Shaddai.

God had promised Abraham: “In you will all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 12:3.) God said the same to Isaac in Gen 26:4. Therefore it is interesting to see what Jesus says in John 4:22: “Salvation comes from the Jews.”

Israel Received the Law
On Sinai, on mount Horeb, God declared His law to the children of Israel. Psalms 147:19-20 says: “He showeth his word unto Jacob, His statutes and his ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; And as for his ordinances, they have not known them.”

As God revealed Himself to the people in Sinai and gave them the law, doctrine and revelation, they became God´s people. The eternal covenant God had made with them was in the law. There were promises as well as responsibilities listed. Blessings and curses were in the law. Everything was included in the contract made between God and His people. No other nation had gotten this privilege. Why? Because of election! Because of the faith of the fathers! Because God´s heart was bound with Israel. Because of God´s plans regarding the whole humankind!

Israel’s Calling
As God had revealed Himself on Sinai, the calling, goal and the entire history of Israel were marked out. God´s plan was and is blessing, growth, occupying the land, overflowing life in the land and holy service before God in the land. Thus would revelation increase and gradually the nation would be prepared for Messiah. This way God´s glory would cover the earth, Israel would become a light to the nations, law and righteousness would flow out from Zion and the Messianic kingdom would come.

This was God´s plan and it  progressively unfolded through the prophets. God said clearly how long this plan and this calling be in effect: “Thus said Jehovah, who is giving the sun for a light by day, The statutes of moon and stars for a light by night, quieting the sea when its billows roar, Jehovah of Hosts is His name: If these statutes depart from before Me, an affirmation of Jehovah, even the seed of Israel doth cease from being a nation before Me all the days.” (Je. 31:35-36).

God’s Plan
God has not planned to destroy his nation! “And I do gather the remnant of My flock out of all the lands whither I drove them…” (Jer 23:3) God had promised the same to Moses in Deut. 30:3. If the people turn back to Him, “then hath Jehovah thy God turned back to thy captivity, and pitied thee, yea, He hath turned back and gathered thee out of all the peoples whither Jehovah thy God hath scattered thee”.

“Lift up, I pray thee, thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art , northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward;  for the whole of the land which thou are seeing, to thee I give it, and to thy seed--to the age.”    (Gen. 13:14-15)

Understanding Current Events
It is impossible to understand Israel and the Jewish nation today, if we do not take their God given calling seriously. It is impossible to understand what is going on in the Middle East today, if we do not take the Bible seriously. Only by accepting God´s word, God´s calling and God´s plans can we understand the events in and around Israel.

God is a God of history. He has decided to act through history, geography and statistics, i.e. with people, places and facts. While many philosophers have abstract theories and ideologies, God has committed Himself to ages, places and individuals. To do what He wants to do i.e. to bless the humankind, He needs a land and a people. Without the land and the people one can not understand God´s plans and God´s will.

Who Owns the Land?

We need a historical perspective to be able to understand what happens in Israel and in the whole area of Middle East today. God spoke with the patriarchs. He gave the land to the children of Israel and said that it would truly be theirs forever. God is specific about everything He does. He is just and righteous in everything he does.

Today Israel is often accused of having stolen land from the Arabs. To understand the whole picture we have to see the historical background clearly. When God talked to Abraham, he was still a stranger in the land of Canaan. When his wife Sarah died, he wanted to bury her body. In Gen 23:12-18 he talked to the sons of Heth in Hebron about buying a cave in Machpelah on the field of Ephron the Hittite. At first they wanted to give it to him, but he bought it for four hundred shekels of silver. A piece of land in Hebron became legally Abraham’s possession.   “And established are the field of Ephron, which is in Machpelah, which is before Mamre, the field and the cave which is in it, and all the trees which are in the field, which are in all its border round about, to Abraham by purchase, before the eyes of the sons of Heth, among all entering the gate of his city.” (Gen 23:17-18.)

Much later, when Joshua had occupied the land, the people buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel had brought from Egypt. They buried them in Shechem in the portion of the field which Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor father of Shechem, with a hundred kesitah (Josh 24:32).

Later in 2. Sam. 24:15-25 King David bought the threshing-floor of Araunah for fifty shekels of silver. This was the same mount Moriah where Isaac was to be offered and also the place for the temple to come.

All these three places, Hebron, Shechem, and mount of Moriah, Abraham visited. Bethel had a central place in the history of Israel. Bethel was the first place where Abraham built an altar. (Gen 12:8) All these three places were incredibly important in God’s dealings with the children of Israel. Shechem was where the covenant was made (Deut 11:29-30,  Josh 8:30-35). Hebron was the capital of David before Jerusalem became the capital city. Mount of Moriah became the mount of temple.

Strange Opposition
It is strange how the Arabs today oppose the existence of Israel in the Middle East and demand back the so called West Bank (which actually belongs to the heartland of Israel and was called Judea and Samaria). The Arab opposition  against Israel the strongest in Nablus (Shechem), Hebron and temple mount in east Jerusalem. In addition to the fact that God´s word promises the whole country to the seed of Abraham, the children of Israel, these very towns were bought and payed for by Abraham, Jacob and David. These places if any should belong to Israel. The purchase contract was never cancelled and land that is legally bought does not become someone else´s property just because the owner travels away.  

Hezekiel’s Prophecy
It is remarkable how Ezekiel prophecies: “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha! and, The ancient high places are ours in possession;  therefore prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because, even because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the nations, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and the evil report of the people; 
therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord Jehovah:

Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the mountains and to the hills, to the watercourses and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes and to the cities that are forsaken, which are become a prey and derision to the residue of the nations that are round about;  therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the nations, and against all Edom, that have appointed my land unto themselves for a possession with the joy of all their heart, with despite of soul, to cast it out for a prey. 

Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains and to the hills, to the watercourses and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my wrath, because ye have borne the shame of the nations:  therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I have sworn, [saying], Surely the nations that are round about you, they shall bear their shame. 

But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn into you, and ye shall be tilled and sown;  and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded;  and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited after your former estate, and will do better [unto you] than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.  ” (Ez. 36:2-11)