Israel: God’s Answer to Skeptics
The nation of Israel and the Jewish people are an enigma to this world. Their existence defies human logic; their preservation contradicts all historical trends. Their uniqueness as a people astounded even Mark Twain, who wrote this about them for Harper’s Magazine in 1897:
If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. . . . The Egyptian, the Babylonians, and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they were gone; …The Jews aw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was. . . . All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? 1
The answer to Mark Twain’s question is found in Isaiah 41.
The Chosen People
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, my friend; Thou, whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away (Isa. 41:8–9).
God’s plan for this world revolves around one people. God chose the Jewish people not because of their number, power, greatness, or anything of that nature. It is simply that God is sovereign and chose Israel to be the vehicle for His plan for the world.
The purpose of that plan is at least threefold. First, God desired someone to bring His Word to the world. According to Deuteronomy 4:1–2 and Romans 3:1–2, God used the Jews to produce the Bible. The Old and New Testaments were both written by Jewish men. Secondly, God intended the nation of Israel to be a witness to the world of the one true God. Isaiah 43:21 states, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” Lastly, God intended to use the nation of Israel as the vehicle to bring the Messiah into the world. Micah 5:2 clearly says that the King of Israel, the Messiah, would come from among the Jews and be born in Bethlehem. Thus redemption for the world would emanate from the womb of a Jewish mother.
The beginning of Israel’s unique history started with Abraham, so that God might work out His plan for this world. Apart from God, Israel and the Jewish people defy explanation.
The Preservation of the People
The preservation of the Jewish people is astounding, to say the least. Nations and peoples of far greater number, wealth, and geographical size have come and gone. The great empires of world history, such as the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans have all stepped off the scene of world history, yet the Jewish nation marches on. The explanation for this phenomenon is found, in part, in Isaiah 41:10, 13, and 14:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee. Be not dismayed; for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. . . . For I, the LORD thy God, will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm, Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
The omnipotent God of this universe is protecting and keeping His Chosen People from destruction. So sure is the Bible of the Jewish people’s continued presence on this earth that it states in Jeremiah 31:35–37 that one would have to destroy the entire universe before one could do away with them. God’s plan and purpose for mankind is centered around them, and they will exist forever because they stand in the center of God’s will for this world.
The Conflict of the People
The history of the Jewish people has been one of constant conflict. Nation after nation has tried to erase them from the pages of world history. From the Pharaohs to the pogroms, from the Hamans to the Hitlers, from Antiochus Epiphanes to the eventual Antichrist, all have sought (or will seek) to annihilate the Jews. The greatest part of Israel’s history, in fact, has been made up of conflicts with surrounding nations. Peace has never come to that nation whose capital is named the city of peace— Jerusalem. Yet the promised end of all who rise up against her—those who hate her, those who persecute her, those who make war with her— will be their destruction. They will become as they intended Israel to be. God will keep His promise in the covenant he made with Abraham: “I will . . . curse him that curseth thee [the Jew]” (Gen. 12:3).
The conflict and the preservation of the Jewish people were expressed well in an essay entitled “What is a Jew?” by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy:
This question is not at all so odd as it seems. Let us see what peculiar kind of creature the Jew is, which all the rulers and all the nations have together and separately abused and molested, oppressed and persecuted, trampled and butchered, burned and hanged, and, in spite of all this, is yet alive. . . . He whom neither slaughter nor to torture of himself for years could destroy; he whom neither fire nor sword, nor inquisition was able to wipe from off the face of the earth; . . . such a nation cannot be destroyed. The Jew is everlasting as eternity itself.2
The Consummation of the People
The end of this age, as we know it, will climax with all the nations of the world coming against Israel at the battle of Armageddon (Joel 1:15; 3:9–17; Zeph. 3:8–9; Zech. 12—14).
In that day, God will use the nation of Israel to help Him destroy the nations of the world. Zechariah 12:8 says that the Lord will defend Israel; and the feeblest among the Jewish people “shall be like David; and the house of David shall be like God.” All the nations of the world will be defeated (Zech. 14:3, 9), and all those who hate the Jews will be judged (Mt. 25:41–46).
After this great battle and deliverance by the Messiah, the long-awaited Messianic Kingdom will be set up. The great promises of Isaiah that the “wolf also shall dwell with the lamb” (Isa. 11:6) and that the “voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her [Jerusalem], nor the voice of crying” (Isa. 65:19) will finally be realized. True peace will finally come to Israel and the world.
The Purpose of Israel
That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it (Isa. 41:20).
According to this verse, the Jewish people exist for at least four reasons.
That people may see the Jewish people and their history and realize that they are unique to this world. When Frederick the Great of Prussia challenged a believer in his court to prove the truth of the Bible and his God, he astutely replied, “The Jew!”
That people may know the existence of the Jewish people can only be explained supernaturally. Her continued existence is not explained by luck, coincidence, or any other fluke of nature.
That people may consider that the God of the Bible has done this miraculous work and seek a relationship with the sovereign God of the universe. If the God of Israel is powerful enough to bring these things to pass and to judge not only individuals but also nations that contradict His will, He deserves our attention and our worship. What will happen to you in light of this Holy God?
That people may understand that the God of Israel is the true God of this universe. He is the One we need to listen to and obey.
Israel’s history is relevant to people the world over, Jew and Gentile alike, and prompts them to respond in faith to the Holy One of Israel. God issues the world a challenge in Isaiah 41:21–23:
Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen; let them show the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods; yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
The history of the Jewish people establishes the God of the Bible as the only One who has met this challenge to perfection. No other entity man has ever worshiped, including Allah, Buddha, or whomever, has ever been able to do these things. The God of Israel and the Bible is indisputably the one true God of this universe.
And the Bible is the Word of the one true God. He and He alone is the One to be sought and obeyed. It is He who promised He would bring a redeemer; it is He who told us in His Word how to recognize that redeemer; and it is He who has the power to do as He promised. Just as He said, He sent the Messiah of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, who fulfilled hundreds of prophecies written about Him. Jesus summed up the teaching of the Old Testament and the challenge it issues to people everywhere: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eterrnal life; and they are they which testify of me” (Jn. 5:39).