In all prophecies, one place stands out at the forefront of all events that will be taking place.
A country that is about the size of Rhode Island, has been the most disputed piece of real estate in the entire world. Why is this tiny little country in the news so much? Why is this tiny piece of land so hard fought over? Why is it that as the end times draw closer, this peace of land will be the focal point of all world governments and religions?
From the time when a man named Abram was called by God to leave his home in what is now modern Iraq, this land has been fought over. Abram- later called Abraham obeyed God's command to leave his country, and his idols and go to a new place that God promised him and his descendants forever. There are prophecies of Christ in the stories of Abraham, and the beginning of the Israeli people. Throughout many of the old time prophecies- those in the Old Testament, and the rest of the Books, Christ and Israel is the focal point.
Abraham was declared by God to be righteous- before the Law was even handed down. Abraham was declared As God's own by God Himself- as a promise to be a new people- called Israel. Why did God give so many promises to Abraham, and find him righteous among men? Because of Abraham's faith. He wasn't perfect- but he demonstrated his faith to God over and over again- and again by his son Isaac.
Now, you can read the whole account of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob here, but let's get back to what makes Israel so special. Simple- it was by faith and worship on the part of Abraham, promise through his son Isaac, and the nation through Jacob- that Israel was and still is God's chosen people- the "Apple of His eye".
Now, Abraham had 2 sons- Ishmael came first- but Ishmael was born out of natural/physical seed of Abraham through the Egyptian Hagar. Isaac was the son born spiritually- that is, he was conceived when it was physically impossible for Sarah- Abraham's wife to conceive children. It is through the spiritual son that God continued His promise. A large part of the problems we see in the middle east is conflict between the physical son Ishmael's descendants (Arab nations) and the spiritual Isaac's descendants (Israel).
Many, if not all Arab peoples believe that the covenant was between Ishmael-and Israel believes the covenant is between God and Isaac. The rest of the descendants however, from Isaac- beginning with Jacob, prove that the covenant of the promise- not only of the land, but also where the redeemer of the world would come, is through Isaac, as Jacob, his son, later began to be known as Israel.
Why is this all so important? Because of what God has blessed the world with through Israel. Consider: The nation of Israel was and is considered to be God's children- and it was through this nation, that Christ came, so that all people could be God's children also. Israel is the only nation who has seen the Shekina Glory- The Glorious Presence of God. He appeared to them as the pillar of fire and light as He led them out of Egypt, and in the Temple that was later built in Jerusalem. Someday, the world will also see the Glory of God in Jerusalem again, when Jesus comes back and rules from the Holy city during the millennium period.
God never breaks His covenants, and they are everlasting- therefore, the covenant between Israel and God is still very much the same now as it was when God made it between Himself and Abraham and his descendants. It was also through Israel that God blessed the world with the Law. He handed the law down to Israel, and many existing countries today have their basic legal systems based on that Law. Even those who don't- there is a basic moral code that transcends all people, nations, races- those as knowing that it is wrong to murder, wrong to lie, cheat and steal etc. The Holy Scriptures also have been a blessing to the world through Israel. The thousands of years of meticulously transcribing the scriptures from generation to generation, down to every detail has been carried out by Jewish scribes. The fact that the Dead Sea scrolls show that the earliest scriptures are the same as much later manuscripts has been undisputed by Biblical and archaeological scholars. The Promise of the world's redeemer also came from Israel- even at the time of Moses, Israel was promised this One would come some day, as he stated, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people."
Now, again, some Muslims believe that Moses was talking about Muhammad, or their Mahdi (their messiah)- but clearly, Moses was talking TO the Israelis, as someone from among Israel, the "brethren". It is impossible then to believe that Moses was talking about Mohammad since Mohammad is a descendant of Ishmael. The world has been blessed through Israel from the time of Abraham- continuing today, and will continue until Jesus comes back.
Now, we've touched a little on why Israel is important- as God's chosen people- and also a little on why there is conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Now then, the land- it was promised by God- who created the universe, and the earth, and everything in it- to belong to Israel. He didn't say, "Here, rest in this land until you are ready to continue on your journey". He said, "This land I give to you and your descendants forever."
There has been a long time though where the Jews were not in the land given to them. They have been in exile, scattered among the nations of the whole earth, as a judgment from God for their disobedience, and unrepentant ways when they worshiped other gods, followed ungodly practices and practiced immorality. God though- because He has always loved His people, promised that some day, He would gather them all back into His land, where they would be at peace and have security- that He again would reside in the Holy city (Jerusalem)- He would be their God, and they would be His people. This is very important, because Old and New Testament prophecies declare that the people would return to their land in the times near the end. "I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them," says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:14-15)
This is what is happening now, and has been happening ever since Israel became a nation again after nearly 2000 years of exile. People have been steadily migrating from every nation on earth- and in these days, even during the last war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and all the trouble from Palestinian uprisings- they are still coming. They are coming from relatively safe places like the United States and Canada- going to a tiny nation that is always under the threat of war. Why would they be so willing to leave only to go to a place that is on the brink of attacks? Some of the reason could be an upsurge of anti Semitism that is happening in places all over the world- but even this could be because God is calling them back as He promised.
Israel is by all thought and reason, a miracle in of itself. The fact that the Jewish people have been exiled over and over again from the land, only to be either taken into slavery, or persecuted and murdered by the thousands and millions throughout history- the fact that the Jewish race has survived to come back and reclaim their land can only be by an Act of God. Think about it- When the Jews were slaves in Egypt, many of them, including male babies were slaughtered, yet God called them out, and lead them eventually back to the land promised to them. After centuries, they were conquered by the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greek and Romans. During all of these times, God brought back a remnant of His chosen people to live in the land of Israel again. During these times, also, they suffered much through slavery and death. During the Roman times, they were persecuted- even after Roman Christendom, they were slaughtered by the Christians during the Crusades. They were on the verge of extinction- not only by the Nazi's of Hitler's Germany, but also in countries such as Russia. They have been driven from new homelands, such as Great Britain, and even now, they are still victims of hate crimes all over the world.
Yet- they still survived, to eventually reclaim the Nation of Israel in 1948- and recaptured their Holy City of Jerusalem in 1967. In the past 40 years, the Jewish State has come up against incredible odds, and re established their national homeland and has built a lasting sovereignty over it for the first time since the 6th century BC. They are still there. After all the plans by other nations to try and divide the land, they are still there. After all the diplomatic, military and media pressure, especially of the past 20 or so years, and especially in the past 10 years- they have still endured, and still are there. God Keeps His Word!
More on Israel next time.