April 30th, 1998 (corresponding to Iyar 4, 5758) marked the fiftieth anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence. Yom Ha-Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence day) comes just one week after Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial day. It has been fifty years since Israel emerged from the near-death experience of the Shoah and was miraculously reborn as an independent nation. It hasn’t been an easy fifty years. It has been a struggle for existence. Israel has survived six or seven wars. The nation still faces many difficulties, but there is no question that the State of Israel is established. We have much to be grateful for. There has been death, but there has also been rebirth. Yet, in spite of our amazing restoration to the Land of our fathers, in spite of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) flourishing, and having withstood the unrelenting hostility of 200 millions Arabs who surround us, there are still many Christians who question whether the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment of prophecy. They wonder if the reborn state of Israel is simply a matter of historical circumstance, or a central part in the plan of God. They reason that since the majority of the Jewish people are in a state of unbelief, the modern state of Israel may be invalid, and so they question whether Christians have an obligation to stand by Israel. However, the Word of God foretold long ago that the Jewish people would initially return to our ancient homeland in just such a spiritual condition. The events of the past fifty years are not a coincidence of history, but the outworking of the ancient counsel of God. We are back in the Land, after 2000 years of difficult and painful exile and wandering. No, God is not finished with the nation of Israel; but there is an even greater restoration that is to come, namely the restoration of the Jewish people to their God. I hope to make clear that these two phases – first a restoration to the Land of Israel, followed by a restoration to the God of Israel, is what God in His prophetic Word told us to expect. Christians and Messianic Jews need to understand this, since they have an obligation to stand with the prophetically reborn nation of Israel. Let’s consider three prophetic passages: Ezekiel 36 and 37, and Zechariah 12. These prophecies specifically deal with Acharit Ha-Yamim – the Last Days. Let’s first consider Ezekiel 36:16-27 and see what God revealed to the prophet in the sixth century BC:
Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds; their way before Me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity”. (36:16-17)
Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols. Also I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them.
The Holy One’s response to our sins was to exile us from the good land of Israel, in which He had graciously allowed us to live, and scatter us among the nations. Hopefully we would learn the lesson that it is not good to ignore or rebel against the Most High God. Did we learn this lesson in the Diaspora? The answer is found in verses 20-21:
When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, “These are the people of the Lord; yet they have come out of His land.” But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went.
Sadly, most of Am Yisrael (the People of Israel) did not learn the lesson God intended us to learn in the Diaspora. The Word of God, through the prophet Ezekiel, makes it quite clear that the majority of the Jewish people would remain in the same state of unbelief while in exile that caused us to be sent away in the first place. So what will God do? Leave us in the Diaspora, in unbelief, in a state of spiritual death? No, He will graciously act: He will take us out of the Diaspora, and out of our state of spiritual death. Look at verses 22-24:
Therefore say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land'”.
(notice that this land is specifically designated for the Jewish people) In spite of being an embarrassment to God during our exile among the nations by profaning His name and bringing Him disrepute, the Gracious One will nevertheless demonstrate to the nations that He is holy, reliable, and trustworthy. He promised to take us out of the Exile and return us to our own land. He can always be counted on, even if the same cannot be said for His people. Let’s call this Phase One: Israel’s physical restoration to the Land. Next comes Phase Two: Israel’s spiritual restoration to God, as seen in verse 25:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
Next, God promises to sprinkle the Jewish people, as it were, with clean water, symbolic of spiritual cleansing. Whereas we were spiritually unclean, this sprinkling will bring cleansing from all our filthiness and from all our idols. There will be a turning away from the idols of false religion that we have adopted, which includes the non-Messianic, non-biblical Judaism of the rabbis, as well as other non-biblical influences we have followed: eastern philosophies, the new age movement, as well as the philosophical ideas of evolutionism and secularism that are so destructive; the philosophical ideas of utilitarianism and hedonism – the ideas that if something works, it must be okay; and that personal pleasure should be pursued as the highest good. This spiritual restoration to God includes a national spiritual rebirth, as chronicled in verse 26:
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
This is the promise of the New Birth: spiritual regeneration, new life from above, a new desire to love, follow and serve God that comes from the heart. Whereas the Jewish people have had a heart of stone, tough, hard-hearted toward God, the hearts of our people will finally and truly be soft, malleable, tender towards the Lord our God, as verse 37 declares:
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
We are promised the indwelling presence of Ruach Elohim – the Spirit of God. God will place His Spirit within us, and we will suddenly find ourselves with a new desire to please God, a new awareness that we need to carefully observe God’s ordinances, not the man-made traditions and laws that the Yeshua-denying rabbis have imposed. Then we will really do God’s statutes, and His ordinances, and not adhere to the pagan ideologies and philosophies of the nations. Then the Spirit of God will be our Rabbi, and He will guide us into all truth. That brings us to Ezekiel 37. Ezekiel had a vision of a valley full of dry bones which further explains the previous chapter. Verses 1 and 2 read:
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.
(The dry bones are the Jewish people who are seemingly dead, lifeless)
He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many
(the vast majority of the Jewish people)
on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.
Ezekiel is a witness that the condition of these bones were not just dry, but very dry. That means that the Jewish people scattered among the nations were spiritually dead, without any life or hope. That brings us to Phase One: Israel’s physical restoration to the Land. God gives the word to His prophet to speak a prophetic word over these dry bones, a word which God will then bring to pass.
He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord”‘”. (37:3-6)
In verses 7-8 we are given the details how this prophecy will be fulfilled. Israel is brought back to a measure of life, but not the fullness of life that God intends.
So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.
That is precisely where we stand now. We have gone through 2,000 years of exile, wandering, suffering and persecution – more than any other nation. Then, less than sixty years ago most of the Jews of Europe were exterminated. Our bones were dried up, our hope had perished. We were almost cut off. But by God’s mercy we survived the Shoah. We are still alive. The dry bones have put on sinew, and some flesh has grown back. We are once again a living, functioning nation. The Jewish people are back in the Land of Israel after the death of the Holocaust – but we are incomplete. There is more life we need to receive. There is no breath in us… yet. Again, as with the previous prophecy, comes Phase Two: Israel’s spiritual restoration to God.
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army'”. (37:9-10)
It requires the breath, added to the bodies, to bring the mighty Jewish nation back to life. We are in that period when God’s breath is beginning to breathe on us a little bit – that’s the Messianic Jewish movement. But there is a much greater out-breathing that is to come, when all of Israel will recognize Messiah Yeshua and receive His Spirit. In verses 11-14 we are given the interpretation of the vision:
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people”‘”. (37:11-13)
I think the following words, reported by the Arutz Sheva News Service on Friday, April 24, 1998 illustrate what the prophet Ezekiel had in mind: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, enwrapped in a tallit (prayer shawl) Thursday, at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, read aloud the Sh’ma Yisrael prayer, and declared, “With a trembling heart, I stand here on this accursed ground… With a trembling heart, but with an upright back – because in front of me I see the flag of Israel waving, and around me are thousands of youth of the Jewish people, the nation that has arisen from the dust.” Education Minister Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, speaking in Poland on Thursday, said, “It appeared that the Jewish nation would not be able to recover from the blow of losing six million of its sons and daughters so brutally… It appeared that way – but it was not that way, because the spirit of Israel is eternal, and from it the nation of Israel drew the strength to arise from the dust and establish the State of Israel. From this valley of death,” said the Education Minister, “we will return with the help of God to Israel next week and celebrate the Jubilee anniversary of Israel’s independence.” Thank God for what He has done so far; giving us a measure of freedom and life within our ancient homeland. But there is even more to come. We are still awaiting Phase Two: Israel’s spiritual restoration to God.
“I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord. (37:14)
In our third prophetic passage, God, speaking through the prophet Zechariah, again describes Phase One: Israel’s physical restoration to the Land which precedes Phase Two: Israel’s spiritual restoration to God. In the sixth century BC the prophet predicted:
The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (12:1)
(note: the same Creator God who set the universe in place, knows and controls everything, from the vastness of the cosmos to your innermost being)
“Behold I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah.” (12:2)
The nations will react with irrational hatred to the regathering of the Jewish people to our God-given land.
“And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples;” (12:3a)
these nations will feel that Jerusalem is like a heavy stone, an unbearable burden that must be removed. Israel will continue to be an irritant to our neighbors in the Middle East. A Jewish state in the predominately Moslem Middle East is by its very existence considered an insult to “Allah” that must be destroyed.
“… all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.” (12:3b)
The nations of the world will unite to remove the Jewish presence from Israel and Jerusalem. However they will discover that removing the Jewish people from our Land will be like trying to move a very heavy stone. Any nation that tries to move us out from our God-given land will experience the equivalent of a massive national hernia!
“In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.” (12:4)
The Guardian of Israel will directly intervene on His people’s behalf, just as He did in the time of the Exodus. He will protect the Jewish people, but fight against Israel’s invading enemies.
Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, “A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the Lord of hosts, their God”. (12:5)
One way that God will fight for the Jewish people in those days is by empowering these citizens of Jerusalem. Not only will the citizens of the nation’s capital be empowered – so will the rest of the Jewish people, as is seen in verse 6:
In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem.
Again, the prophet declares that God will supernaturally empower all the people living in Israel to fight against this massive invasion of the armies of the united nations.
The Lord also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. (12:7)
God will fir