As with so much that is spiritual, the mainstream media has largely missed the significance of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s call for Jews to come home.
His assurance of welcome for what could amount to a mass migration of some seven million, virtually doubling the nation’s population overnight, comes in the wake of the wave of terror attacks in European cities in which Jews have been key targets. If heeded, it would represent one of the most awesome events in history, fulfilling many Scriptures in the process.
But the call is not so much political, as Bibi’s detractors suggest, as prophetic. As I have previously stated, Evangelical Christians – those who believe in the absolute authority of the Bible and who have been consistent friends of Israel over the centuries – generally see the rebirth of Israel in 1948 as the fulfillment of ancient prophecies by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the like, which is why they have prayed and proclaimed these truths into existence.
They also know that the prophecies of return have a twofold application – first, the natural (a return to the Land), then the spiritual (a return to the Lord). Jeremiah writes of a ‘new covenant’ through which God’s people will all know the Lord (Jer 31) while Ezekiel writes of a ‘new heart’ and ‘new spirit’ and of a ‘heart of flesh’ replacing a heart of stone following the return to their ancient homeland of Jews from every corner of the globe (Ezek 36). Zechariah even talks of national repentance and mourning at the appearance in Jerusalem of Messiah.
So the end-time schedule goes something like this: Jews from every nation return to their homeland after nearly 2,000 years of dispersion and persecution. Then, when they are safely back in the Land, they are finally restored into a relationship with the One who chose them as His special, treasured possession and the ‘apple of His eye’.
The scene has been set by the Israeli government’s launch of a national Bible study, encouraging every citizen to search the Scriptures, to rediscover their roots and find hope instead of despair, faith instead of fear and peace instead of war. I believe such a study – among other factors – will open eyes to the nature and reality of Israel’s hope – the Messiah. Psalm 119.105 puts it like this: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
Denmark’s chief rabbi Jair Melchior says “terror is not a reason to move to Israel”. But this is to ignore the many historic precedents which saw those making aliyah doing so not simply out of love for Israel and Zionism, but because it represents a safe haven. After all, the modern state rose from the ashes of the Holocaust which, as Mr Netanyahu has stated, represents a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s dry bones prophecy (chapter 37). In fact, it was after being beaten up by anti-Semite thugs in the heart of Europe that Mr Netanyahu’s grandfather promised, if he survived, to take his family to the Jewish homeland.
What’s more, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, actually believed Jews weren’t fully Jewish until they made their home in Israel. In a letter penned some 50 years ago to Israel Today’s Victor Mordecai, who was growing up in the United States at the time, he wrote: “…If a Jew really wants to be a complete Jew, it is only possible in the Land of Israel…A Jew who wants to be Jewish in everything must come here.”
Victor himself writes in the February edition of Israel Today’s print magazine: “Soon we may see mass Jewish immigration to Israel. Islamic terrorism could be the giant spatula of God to scrape up the Jews and bring them home to Zion.”
All of which means that Bibi’s call could spark what many evangelical Christians believe to be the penultimate fulfillment of prophecy necessary before the end of the age – that is, the re-gathering in the Holy Land of Jews from throughout the diaspora – which will be followed by national recognition of Israel’s Messiah.
How appropriate that we should be discussing a rescue call aimed at ensuring the safety of a people once more in peril as we are about to celebrate the annual feast of Purim, marking the time when Queen Esther rose up to expose a plot to exterminate her people.
‘Je suis Charlie’ was seen on many a placard following the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris, but it was soon adapted to ‘Je suis Israel’ by those who could see that the ultimate targets were not journalists, but Jews.
I sense the possibility of a divine word puzzle here. ‘Je suis’ of course means ‘I am’ in French. Is God, the great ‘I AM’, assuring us of his presence and everlasting love by saying “I AM Israel”? And if you take the ‘I’ out of ‘Je suis’ you are left (in English at least) with the name of the One who is recorded as having said: “I am the light of the world…” (John 8.12 New Testament)