Editor’s Note: No book we’ve seen tells the biblical story about Israel from conception to consummation like It Is No Dream. This emotionally moving work by Elwood McQuaid stands in a class by itself. This issue of Israel My Glory would not be complete without a taste of It Is No Dream. Here is an excerpt from the chapter “Setting the Stage.”
For millennia, the Jewish people have held a hope in their hearts, a dream embodied in the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah.” That dream is “to be a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
The unshakable belief that one day the Jewish people will “possess their possessions” (Obad. 17) in the ancient land of their fathers is perfectly consistent with what the Scriptures have taught for thousands of years.
During the years of dispersion and wandering in inhospitable Gentile environments, the vision never waned. It was never far from the Jewish mind and heart. Equally true is the fact that buffeted and beleaguered Jewry has never been out of the heart of God.
The great wonder we have witnessed in this modern age is the merging of Jewish desire with divine design. The Jewish people are returning to their land. History is playing out before us; and prophecy, splashed across the pages of the biblical record—Old Testament and New—provides details yet to unfold. But what has unfolded sent shockwaves through the nations, as they witnessed an event the vast majority thought impossible.
History’s Greatest Story
When Theodor Herzl coined the phrase If you will it, it is no dream, he actually spoke of two worlds: the “will” God infused into Jewry, a quality that has persisted throughout the ages, and the “dream,” which the Jewish people have tenaciously held on to and struggled to make a reality. Thus we have before us a story told in the Holy Book and acknowledged by history; and it is history’s greatest story.
It could be said that the telling in itself—without theology or related disciplines—captivatingly reveals all to be cherished or loathed in humanity’s march through the ages. Above all, this narrative anticipates a spectacular consummation, the much-sought-after “happy ending” to the greatest drama on this planet.
The drama revolves around the record of a people deemed insignificant, written off as dispensable by the secularist powers that be. The truth is that the Jewish people and their Holy Land are unparalleled gifts from God to humanity. And yes, Jerusalem is the center of the earth and focus of the future. And lest we forget, Jesus the Christ—God’s supreme gift—came to us in Bethlehem of Judea, born of a Jewish woman. What can we then take away from history’s greatest story?
Foremost, we can accept it for what it is: life on the ground, not the stuff of myth or fable. It shows us real life, with all its bumps, bruises, tests, and triumphs. It shows us the hand of God, preserving what He promised.
It has been well said that if the Lord breaks one promise He has made to Abraham’s posterity, we have no shred of assurance He’ll be faithful to us. But He has not breached or broken those promises, and He never will.
That’s good news. So it follows that we have much to learn and appreciate when we look at Israel’s history and the Jewish people. Of utmost importance is the transformative heart-and-soul desire for peace and commitment that we see within this nation chosen to provide a light in the storm that is darkening the world around us.
The State of Israel Has Risen
After more than 2,500 years of Gentile domination, the nation of Israel was about to rise from the ashes. The event was planned in secrecy, but half the city of Tel Aviv waited in the streets as David Ben-Gurion’s car pulled up to 16 Rothschild Boulevard at 4 p.m. Wearing a dark suit and dark tie and carrying a portfolio under his arm, Ben-Gurion exited the back seat and ascended the steps of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art where a different crowd waited inside.
Seated at a long, skirted table with 12 other Jewish ministers of the National Council—a portrait of Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl, hanging directly above his head—Ben-Gurion rose to his feet. “On the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly,” he told the crowd in Hebrew, “we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”
The room exploded into clapping, cheering, and crying. The man who would soon become Israel’s first prime minister read the country’s freshly minted Declaration of Independence. “Placing our trust in the Almighty, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the Provisional Council of State, on the soil of the homeland, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the 5th day of Iyar, 5708 (14th May, 1948).”
It was appropriate that Herzl’s portrait seemed to survey the historic scene, for it was Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl who assessed the ominous clouds gathering over European Jewry in the late 1800s and concluded it was time to go home. To dissenters who thought a modern Jewish state in Ottoman-Turkish Palestine impossible, he uttered the now immortal words, If you will it, it is no dream.
Few people thought that dream would come true. After 2,000 years of surviving among nations often hostile to their presence, the Jewish people could return home. What occurred on the evening of May 14, 1948, was astonishing, a unique event in the annals of history. A nation long dead was being resurrected and restored to its original land. Surely nothing of that magnitude could transpire without God. He had promised in His Word, “I will bring you back” (Jer. 15:19; 29:14; Zeph. 3:20). And He was doing just that.
In a sense, the event was an awakening to a new reality. The Jewish people were returning as a nation—a resounding affirmation to some, a bewildering prospect to others. Sorely disquieted by the phenomenon were theologians who held to Replacement Theology (RT), which sees no biblical future for Israel. RT scoffs at the idea that God will fulfill all of His promises to Israel literally. Theological revisionists postulate that somehow Old Testament Israel has morphed into the church, and the church has become the “New Israel,” replacing Jacob’s physical children.
However, the State of Israel’s existence today should send a stark warning that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not make promises He doesn’t keep. Jehovah is not a “force.” He is God Almighty. “Has he said, and will He not do? . . . Has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).
God is no one to trifle with, and replacement is not a word encoded in any aspect of the divine program. In fact, the concept in any form flies in the face of biblically charted history and its culmination, as assured by our Maker.
When Does Forever Not Mean Forever?
If asked to define the word forever, we Christians have a ready answer—no quibbling or equivocation. Forever means “forever.” End of story. If asked about eternal life, we quote John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
How long is “everlasting”? The dictionary says everlasting means “enduring through all time: eternal.” In other words, it means “forever,” for a time without limit. Scripture says God is an “everlasting God” (Isa. 40:28) whose righteousness is “everlasting” (Ps. 119:142) and whose Kingdom is “an everlasting kingdom” (145:13). God, His righteousness, and His Kingdom will endure forever, for all time. They will never cease to exist.
Ironically, some people fail to apply the same standard of certainty to forever when the promises are given to Israel. God told Abraham,
And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Gen. 17:7–8).
Replacement theologians contend this promise does not mean what it says and is not to be taken literally. This new interpretation sprung up when some of the early church fathers opted to plot a theological course not formerly traveled in order to make the church supreme. Yet in doing so, they deprived it of the whole story of Israel and the Hebrew people.
My intent here is not to parse semantics or grapple with divergent theological positions. Rather, I hope to tell the story of Israel and show why understanding the entire biblical portrait can enrich our lives and instill in us a clear vision of Israel’s future, as well as that of the church.
It is overwhelmingly important to come to grips with the knowledge that we do not worship a God who deals in half measures. What He promises He will deliver in full—always, and in His time. Nowhere is this biblical truth more compellingly executed than in His program for Israel. To cut off the story half told and unfulfilled is like teaching about Christ’s death without ever mentioning His resurrection. What a huge mistake that would be. We need the entire story of Israel to understand God and His wondrous program for humankind.
The saga of Israel’s journey to its ultimate destiny far surpasses any novel that could ever be written or any historical documentary that could ever be produced. It depicts the birth of a nation and contains romance, unrequited love, struggle, indescribable suffering, survival against all odds, national resurrection, fiery trials, a coming King, reconciliation, fulfillment, restoration of relationships, and delivery in full of every promise made by the God who never fails to keep His word.
Contrary to the often-dreary depictions of life in our time, usually accompanied by sullenly depressing endings, Israel’s epochal journey has a glorious consummation—a happy ending. One reflecting rich personal incentives for 21st-century believers—and one that assures us God will never stop loving us.