5 Facts You Should Know About Israel
Editor’s Note: In light of the growing acceptance of Replacement Theology within the evangelical church, the dramatic rise in antisemitism, and the world’s increased efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel, we are running this newly edited and abridged version of Dr. Renald E. Showers’ important pamphlet by the same name. The original version, Five Facts You Should Know About Israel, can be purchased by clicking here.
Have you ever wondered why the Jewish people have been scattered throughout the world more than any other people? Why antisemitism persists? Why the Nazis specifically targeted the Jews for genocide during World War II? Why the Jewish people still exist despite all the attempts to exterminate them? Why they tenaciously hold on to that small slice of real estate in the Middle East? Why the modern State of Israel, despite its miniscule size, is repeatedly the focus of the world’s attention?
The answers to these questions are found in certain basic facts about the nation of Israel. Knowing these facts is essential if you want to understand not only the issues in the news today, but also God’s plan and purpose for history.
ISRAEL HAS A UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Early in Israel’s history, God placed the nation into a special relationship with Himself that no other nation has enjoyed:
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people. . . . He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken (Dt. 7:6; 26:18–19).
With this relationship came special privileges:
→ Israel was adopted as God’s firstborn son (Ex. 4:22–23; Rom. 9:4).
→ Israel was permitted to hear God’s voice at Mount Sinai (Dt. 4:10, 12, 32–33).
→ Israel saw and enjoyed a unique association with the She-kinah Glory (Ex. 24:16–17; 40:34–38; Dt. 4:36; 1 Ki. 8:10–11; Rom. 9:4).
→ Israel was given divine covenants never established with any other people (9:4).
→ Israel received the Mosaic Law (Dt. 4:5–6, 8, 13; Ps. 147:19–20; Rom. 9:4).
→ Israel was given the Tabernacle and Temple, where God dwelt in a unique sense, and a divinely ordained priesthood and sacrificial system (Ex. 25:8–9; 29:43–46; 1 Ki. 6:11–14, 17; Rom. 9:4; Heb. 9:1–10).
→ Israel received promises God made to no other nation (Dt. 1:11; 6:3; 12:20; 15:6; 19:8; 26:18; 28:1–68; Rom. 9:4).
→ Israel had intimate access to God (Dt. 4:7).
→ Israel saw God work in an unparalleled, supernatural way to deliver the nation from slavery in Egypt (4:32, 34).
→ Israel received permanent ownership of the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:7; 13:14–15; 15:18–21; 17:8).
In addition, God made Israel’s land and capital city (Jerusalem) holy, or unique, because He dwelt there in a unique sense (Neh. 11:1; Zech. 2:10–12).
It is critical to understand that this relationship is permanent. It will endure forever. King David declared,
And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name—and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land—before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God (2 Sam. 7:23–24).
A UNIQUE REASON EXISTS FOR THIS RELATIONSHIP
God did not choose Israel to be His special people because the Israelites were bigger and better than other people. They were not. Like everyone else, they descended from Adam and Eve and were born with the same corrupt human natures and tendencies to rebel against God as the Gentiles. Moses told them, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples” (Dt. 7:7).
Scripture says God chose them based on His own sovereign will. God chose to make Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel’s ancestors) special objects of His love (4:37; 10:15). Then He chose to establish a special covenant (Abrahamic Covenant) with them (7:7–9) because He had a purpose for the nation.
GOD HAS A UNIQUE PURPOSE FOR ISRAEL
God tells us He created Israel for His glory (Isa. 43:7). The word glory refers to what is impressive, demands recognition, or gives a person influence. God determined to use Israel to impress the world with Himself, obtain the world’s recognition, and influence the lives of His human creatures.
God also vowed that all the families of Earth would be blessed through that nation (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; 28:14). So how does God intend to accomplish His purposes?
Through His Historic Dealings With Israel. Moses promised the Israelites that if they heeded God’s Word and obeyed Him, He would elevate the nation “high above all nations of the earth. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you” (Dt. 28:1, 10).
But if they rejected God’s Word and disobeyed Him, they would be scattered throughout the world, serve their enemies, tremble for their lives, and “fear day and night, and have no assurance of life” (v. 66). They would become “an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword” among all the nations where the Lord drove them (v. 37).
God made Israel an object lesson to teach the world that He blesses those who obey His Word and judges those who reject it.
Through a Unique Book. The Bible is the only divinely inspired Book on Earth, and God gave the Bible to the world almost exclusively through the nation of Israel (4:5–6, 8; Ps. 147:19–20; Rom. 3:2). In the Bible, God reveals ultimate reality, the purposes of history and life, the origin and destiny of man, how sinful human beings can be made right with a holy and righteous God, and how people are to live.
Through the Messiah–Savior. When Adam yielded to Satan’s temptation to rebel against the Almighty (Gen. 1:26–28; 3:1–6), Satan temporarily usurped the rule of the world system from God and has dominated it ever since (Jn. 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Jn. 5:19). That is why the world is filled with evil and confusion. In addition, mankind’s rebellion brought tragic consequences, such as spiritual death and eternal judgment (Jn. 3:18; Eph. 2:1–3).
But God had a plan. He would crush Satan and end his tyranny through a Redeemer, born of a woman (Gen. 3:15). The Old Testament prophets revealed the Redeemer would become the Savior of the world (Ps. 22:1–18; Isa. 52:13—53:12) who would crush Satan, reestablish God’s rule, and be God’s Messiah-King (Gen. 3:15; Ps. 2; Isa. 9:6–7; 11; Dan. 7:13–14; Zech. 14).
Through the Old Testament prophets, God also revealed that Israel was the nation through which the Messiah-Savior would come (Gen. 49:10; Isa. 9:6–7; 11; Mic. 5:2). Jesus did indeed come through Israel. He was born of Mary (Hebrew, Miriam), a young, righteous Jewess (Lk. 1:26–38; 2:1–7); and He became the final blood sacrifice (Lev. 17:11) for humanity’s sin, thereby providing salvation for all who place their faith in Him, rather than in themselves and their own good deeds (Mt. 1:18–21; Jn. 1:29).
At His Second Coming, Jesus will crush Satan (Rom. 16:20; 1 Jn. 3:8; Rev. 19:11—20:3); reestablish God’s rule over the world system; and rule as God’s Messiah-King over the earth (Mt. 19:28; Rev. 20:4–6), bringing great blessing to the entire world.
Through Repentance. Scripture indicates Jesus will not establish His Kingdom until Israel repents and reconciles with its Messiah (Dt. 30:1–10; Jer. 31:16–40; Ezek. 36:32–38; Zech. 12:10—13:1, 9; 14; Acts 3:12–21). That is why John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”) to Israel only (Mt. 3:2; 4:17).
ISRAEL HAS A UNIQUE FUTURE
God intends for Israel to play a unique role in fulfilling history. But first comes anguish. Then comes blessing.
In ancient times, Satan attacked Israel repeatedly, trying to destroy it to prevent the Redeemer from being born. Now he is trying to annihilate Israel before it can repent and “look on [Him] whom they pierced” and mourn for Him (Zech. 12:10).
Unfortunately, Israel’s worst days lie ahead. During the last three and one-half years before the Messiah returns, Satan will pull out all the stops. This period will be so bad for the Jewish people that Scripture calls it “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) and describes it as an unprecedented time of great tribulation (vv. 4–7; Dan. 12:1; Mt. 24:21). Two-thirds of the world Jewish population will perish (Zech. 13:8), along with much of the Gentile population.
But Israel’s future is secure. The nation will survive and will enjoy unequalled blessing. The survivors will recognize Jesus is their true Messiah when they see Him in His glorious Second Coming (12:10–14; 13:9; Rom. 11:25–26). God will forgive the nation’s sins (Zech. 13:1; Rom. 11:27), and Messiah will crush Satan (Rev. 19:1—20:3) and reestablish God’s rule for 1,000 years in what we call the Millennial, or Messianic, Kingdom (Dan. 7:13–14; Zech. 14:6–11, 16–21; Rev. 20:4–6).
Israel will be in a right relationship with God (Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:24–27) and will become the spiritual minister of the world, leading the Gentiles in worship (Isa. 61:6; Zech. 8:23).
A magnificent Temple will be built in Jerusalem (Ezek. 40—46); and all nations will come to Jerusalem to worship God, receive instruction, and have judicial matters settled (Isa. 2:1–4; 60:14; Zech. 8:20–23; 14:16–21). The Jewish people will be restored permanently to their homeland, and God will prosper them abundantly (Ezek. 34:11–14, 22–31; 36:24, 28–38; 37:21–28).
ISRAEL HAS BEEN GIVEN PERMANENT OWNERSHIP OF A UNIQUE LAND
In light of God’s unique purpose for the Jewish people, it was essential He place the nation in a location where it would have attention and influence vastly disproportionate to its size. So He gave them the land of Canaan, perhaps the most strategic location on Earth.
That tiny land in the Middle East is the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe; and for centuries the major trade and military routes of the ancient world passed through it. Because of its location, the major world powers have had to deal with Israel.
Moses clearly taught that God gave Israel the land. It belongs to the Jewish people. He gave it, not because the nation deserved it, but because of His own sovereign purposes (Dt. 9:4–6). Therefore, Israel’s ownership of the land does not depend on Israel’s merit.
The fulfillment of Israel’s unique, God-ordained future requires Israel to own the land forever, which is why the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel’s permanent ownership (Gen. 12:7; 13:14–15; 15:18–21; 17:8). Israel’s future involves Israel’s permanent restoration to its land, thus bringing glory to God.