On May 14th Israel celebrated the 64th Birthday of its Independence, following almost 2000 years of Jewish dispersal and persecution throughout the world. Since 1948, when there were only 806,000 residents Israel’s population has grown by leaps and bounds. It now stands at 7,797,400.( 5,874,300 Jews,  1,600,100 Arabs; with the remainder being unclassified.

Yet, the story of the nation of Israel starts long before 1948. In the late 1800s many Russian Jews set their hopes on returning to Zion. Conditions at that time in Russia and Europe were difficult for the Jews and Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jew did much to promote the concept of a Jewish State. He initiated a world conference of Jews named The First Zionist Congress, there a historic decision was made, ‘to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.’ Later at the 7th Zionist Congress,  in response mainly to the efforts of Russian Jews to escape the pogroms and to return to the Land promised to Abraham their forefather (eg Gen 12;13 &17), the tract of land which the British Government had offered in Uganda for their new homeland, was ultimately rejected and all hearts were set on Palestine. And yet what did Palestine offer that Uganda could not. It could only be because of the Lord God’s initiating His promise to save them (Ezek 37 23-26 23).

23 I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. 24  And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. 25  And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. 26  Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27  My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28  And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

A land forsaken

Doubtless their choice was due to the work of God, certainly not to the attractiveness of the land! Palestine was in those days a wilderness of scrub, swamps and barren land. Mark Twain wrote of it when he passed through in 1867

 “A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse....A desolation is here....We never saw a human being on the whole route....There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” *

It would appear that God had made sure that the land stayed unattractive to colonisation until the rightful owners returned. Palestine had been a very fertile land in Jesus’ time but under Roman rule it slowly degenerated finally reaching its lowest point under Turkish rule. They put a tax on all trees, so there was wide scale felling, and forbad Jews to acquire land. Tracts of seemingly useless land were bought but only by offering the Turkish officials large bribes. Gradually, however, they made the land of Israel to ‘blossom as a rose’ as we see it today.

Yet, the original pioneers’ hopes to become a Nation in God’s Land have not come to fruition. Today’s nation is strongly secular and they believe that they have achieved everything by their own efforts. Like much of the world they are a democracy whereas the land God gave them was intended to be and will be again a Theocracy.   Not only this but in Israel, no one party has ever won an outright parliamentary majority resulting in coalition governments. An early general election was proposed recently but in a surprise about face on 8th May Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, abandoned this and instead brought the rival Kadima party into his troubled coalition. Doubtless, time which ought to be spent in governing the country will have to be allotted to keeping the new partner sweet by concessions. How long Mr Netanyahu himself will keep his job is not easy to say because apparently even though the proposed changes will make it more possible for the elected prime minister to complete his term in office, no prime minister in Israel has served a full term for decades!

President for life?

At the same time the inauguration of Vladimir Putin as President of Russia in a lavish ceremony in the capital, Moscow has occurred. Returning after an absence of four years and entering more like a King than a servant of the people, he took the Presidential oath at the Grand Kremlin Palace, in a hall that was once the throne room of the Russian Tsars. In a short speech he said Russia was "entering a new phase of national development". The coming years will be decisive for Russia's fate for decades to come."

Clearly he has big plans for Russia but, though he may be in power for 12 years or more, even he cannot rely on things going exactly as he intends. To demonstrate this, public opinion and opposition reared its head during this ceremony, as thousands of protesters opposing the inauguration clashed with police in Moscow.

It seems that neither democracy nor authoritarian rule can completely control a country and keep all its subjects happy. What is needed is a benign Ruler, a King whose word is law and yet who cares and empathises with every one of his subjects.  It is many centuries since Israel had kings. They were eventually removed because of their disobedience and wickedness. The last king to reign over Judah was told by God through the prophet Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 21:25-27) "And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him".

The ‘he... whose right it is ‘, mentioned here, is the Lord Jesus Christ. When he returns to set up his Kingdom, the Promises made to Abraham and his seed will be fulfilled, and he, the son of David (Acts 13:3), will sit on the throne and reign for ever over the whole world not just Israel. This ruler will be everything that an electorate would vote for. This Psalm that King David wrote for both his son King Solomon and the Lord Jesus Christ shows what he will be like......

Psalm 72:1  "Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. 2   He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment...4  He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. 5  They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.6  He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. 7  In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth........17  His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. 18   Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. 19  And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen."

Israel’s Future Ruler

This wonderful time is coming soon and, as Mr Putin seems to be settling in for a long stay, he just may be the ruler known as Gog who will descend on Israel and trigger off the Lord Jesus’ return. Ezekiel and Zechariah tell of the attack upon an Israel at peace by a rapacious enemy named Gog and how God sends Jesus to rescue them. (Ezek 38; Zech 14).

The 64 year old state of Israel is merely a stepping stone to the restoration of the Kingdom of God (Luke 1:30-33; Acts 1:3,6,11; 3:21), when Israel will blossom and bud and fill the face of the world with fruit (Isaiah 27:6). This is God's practical scheme for filling the earth with his glory (Numbers 14:21) and accomplishing His purpose. Their dispersion, scattered throughout the earth, yet remaining a distinct race; their regathering and the growth of Israel since its rebirth 64 years ago prove beyond a doubt that there is indeed a Divine hand guiding the course of this nation - for they are God's witnesses.

The Scriptures show that whoever governs Israel at present, there power is only temporary. Governments come and go, and the Lord installs the rulers He knows are best for the job in hand. The Prophet Daniel tells us that God (Dan 2:21) ‘removes kings and sets up kings;’ and sometimes chooses people most would never vote for, (Dan 4:17) ‘ the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men’.

So that when the time comes for the return of Jesus to restore the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6), God will bring to power those men who will unconsciously create the great crisis foretold in Ezekiel 38 and Zechariah 14. A crisis which will reveal His son the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of David and Saviour of Israel (Acts 13:23).

Prime Ministers, such as Mr Netanyahu are elected by the people and their hold on power can be shaky and short lived. Such men and governments are necessary now as God rebuilds the Nation. However, the day will come when all will be in place and His King will appear in great power to take the Kingdom which is rightfully his. At that time his reign will be what Israel and the whole world needs,  Isaiah 32:1. "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment."

This is the era which is coming very soon, it is the time the Lord Jesus taught us to pray for in Matt 6:10 "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth."

May Israel’s next birthday celebration be the first year of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Acknowledgements: Photo: Yaron Brener