This past Thursday, May 14th, marked the 67th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independent statehood. For those who know and love God and believe His Word, it is a modern-day miracle and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy – an historical event to be celebrated. Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, which takes place on the 28th of Iyyar on the Hebrew calendar, commemorates Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967, when just one day into the Six-Day War Israeli forces captured the old city. This year it takes place tomorrow – May 17, 2015.
In Israel the day is celebrated with the recitation of the Hallel Psalms, special parades and parties, lectures on the modern-day founding of Israel, memorial services for those who died in the ’67 war, and many Israelis even mark the occasion with a hike to Jerusalem from wherever they live. We will be celebrating it here in Metro Detroit by participating in the Walk For Israel.
But the years between 1948 and today have seen very little shalom for the land. Not everyone celebrates Israel’s existence. What for us is a celebration is to the Muslim world and in the Palestinian territories a day of grieving. They actually refer to it as Nakba – ‘the catastrophe’. By my count Israel has had to endure seven wars and three intifadas.
And it seems to me that, just as you and I long for Yeshua’s return and His exaltation, and just as we mourn the evil and the darkness of this present Age, so Jerusalem awaits His return, and until that Day, even the city itself must endure the evil and the darkness – its name, The City of Peace, has not yet been fulfilled.
This morning I’d like us to consider the words of Isaiah 66:8-14, and I invite you to open you Bibles and together let’s consider the word concerning the future of Israel and Jerusalem from the Divinely-inspired prophet.
Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. “Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.
Let me pause here for a moment. This gives additional meaning to Yeshua’s statement: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” That includes those who mourn deeply over the condition of the world, the lostness of humanity, and the fact that the ‘City of Peace’ has known precious little peace.
For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.” For this is what the Lord says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and fondled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the Lord will be made known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to His foes.”
Do you see the great dichotomy here? There will be rejoicing for those who mourn over Jerusalem. God’s blessing on His servants, and His fury on His foes. But what a magnificent promise to the land and to the people of Israel! But before I comment on this passage, let’s take a few minutes and consider some of the history of the city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem first called ‘Salem’ (Genesis 14:18)
In the time of Abraham we first learn of the existence of a special city called Shalem – peace! And the king of that city also has a rather intriguing name, Malki-tzedek – ‘King of Righteousness’! But we’re not told very much about either. It’s as though Adonai at that time allowed both this man and this city to be shrouded in a certain amount of mystery – things later to be revealed.
Jerusalem as the future place of God’s choosing (Deut. 12:5-18)
In the days following Israel’s amazing Exodus and deliverance from Egypt, God revealed to Moses that in the course of time He would choose a specific location where He would allow His presence to dwell in a more permanent way. We know, in retrospect, that God was speaking ofJerusalem, but here it is as yet unnamed.
Jerusalem later called Jebus (1 Chronicles 11:4-5)
In the days of King David, Jerusalem was still inhabited by Amorite people and was called Jebus (hence: Jebusites). They defied King David and said he would never get through their walls. That was about five minutes before he captured the city and later made it the capital of Israel.
Jerusalem’s (short-lived) Golden Age (2 Chronicles 1)
In the days of wise King Solomon, Jerusalem flourished unlike at any other time in her history. During his reign the Temple was built and dedicated, and by the description given us in Scripture, it was magnificent! We are told in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9 that the city was so prosperous in the days of Solomon that silver was as common as stones, and because there was so much gold, silver was not even considered valuable.
Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness and eventual overthrow (2 Chron. 36:15-21)
God repeatedly warned our people in the Torah that unfaithfulness would lead to our being exiled from the Land. Despite the warnings, especially in Deuteronomy 28, we repeatedly broke covenant with God, and suffered repeated attacks from enemy nations. Furthermore, we stubbornly refused to heed the warnings of the prophets Adonai sent to call us to repentance. He was patient with us, but eventually our collective sin caught up with us. As Moses predicted, Israel and Judah were eventually invaded and our people taken away captive into foreign lands; first into Assyria in the 8th century BC, and then into Babylon in 587 BC. Listen to how it’s described in 2 Chronicles 36:
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand. All the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles. Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept Sabbath until seventy years were complete (2 Chronicles 36:15-21).
Faithful to His word, Adonai brought our people back from captivity after 70 years in Babylon and Persia, under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah, Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel. The next four centuries proved to be quite tumultuous. Eventually the Roman Empire came to rule most of the known world, and it was in the midst of this distress, under Roman occupation of Israel, that Messiah Yeshua was born. He came into this world, as Daniel prophesied, during a time of distress. Yeshua came and He ministered the words and works of God; He was the fullest revelation of God, and yet we refused to receive Him.
Her rejection of Yeshua and subsequent judgment (Luke 19:41-44)
Though Yeshua seems to have spent much of His ministry in the Galilee, clearly He loved Jerusalem, and was there frequently. He celebrated the annual festivals there and often taught in the various courts of the Temple. How fitting for the Son of David to walk along the streets of the City of David! But He had words of lament and forewarning for the people and the city of Jerusalem. In Luke 19 we read:
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).
Yeshua’s prophecy, echoing the word given 550 years earlier by the prophet Daniel, came to pass. It was fulfilled just 40 years after Messiah’s death. Jerusalem’s destruction culminated a failed four-year Jewish revolt against Rome, from 66-70 AD. In fact, Yeshua’s prophecy was fulfilledto the letter. At the directive of Nero, General Vespasian launched a campaign against Judea, and laid siege to the city. But when Nero died, Vespasian was recalled to Rome to become its next emperor, leaving his son, Titus (who was now a prince), to finish the job. In fact, this fulfilledto the letter the words of Daniel 9:26: “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off… and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary”. And in AD 70 Titus captured the city, burning it to the ground, and leveling the Temple. And because Herod the Great, having such an affinity for architecture, had beautified the Temple with so much gold, the Roman soldiers who destroyed it literally dismantled it stone by stone, in order to retrieve as much of the gold for themselves as possible.
A second failed revolt under the leadership of Rabbi Akiva and Jewish general Shimon Kosiba (better known as Bar Kochba), ending in AD 135 led to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the death of over half a million Jews. The surviving Jews were expelled from the city and forbidden to return by Emperor Hadrian, who added insult to injury by renaming the land Syria Palestina after two of Israel’s ancient foes. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina. For the next 1,700 years, the Land had only a tiny smattering of Jewish inhabitants, and for the most part lay dormant. Even Mark Twain, reflecting on his visit there, remarked in his book The Innocents Abroad how lamentable were the conditions and that it was nearly bereft of humanity.
But in the 1800’s Jewish people began migrating back to what was still called Palestine. They found it a veritable wasteland; a fallow, swamp-infested ruin. But, determined to rebuild our ancient homeland, they came, and between the 1880’s and 1930’s paid absolute top dollar to the Turkish Muslims for parcels of land they themselves despised and for which they apparently had no use. And our people began to work the land. In fact, many of these halutzim (‘pioneers’) died from Malaria – the result of having to drain mosquito-infested swamps.
Meanwhile, the 20th century witnessed two world wars, and seemingly more death and upheaval than the world had ever known. World War II saw the attempted extermination of every Jew in Nazi-occupied Europe. What isn’t as well known is that the Grand Mufti in Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Germany and met personally with Adolf Hitler, hoping to coordinate the corresponding annihilation of every Jew in theMiddle East. By the end of World War II, Hitler’s megalomania had left Europe decimated, and the world was finally forced to see for itself the toll of the Holocaust.
And then something wonderful and (to many) unexpected happened…
Israel’s rebirth in a day (May 14, 1948) – according to the Prophets
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, recognizing the need and the right for Jewish people to once again have their ancient homeland, and under pressure to make good on the Balfour Declaration of 1917, passed resolution 181 – a plan to partition the land, ending the British Mandate over Palestine, and creating independent Arab and Jewish states with Jerusalem to be governed by an international body. The plan was immediately rejected by all the Muslim nations. They vowed to destroy any Jewish state that dared to declare its existence.
Yet on May 14, 1948 that is exactly what happened; Israel was declared an independent Jewish state. Isaiah’s words were realized! The nation was born (really, reborn) in a day! The Muslim nations made good on their threat, declaring war on the newborn nation. Abd Al-Rahman Azzam Pasha, the Secretary General of the Arab League said, “It will be a war of annihilation.” A coalition of the well-supplied armies of Egypt, Syria,Lebanon, Transjordan and Iraq attacked Israel. By all accounts, Israel, vastly outmanned and outgunned, appeared doomed. Yet in what many consider a modern-day miracle, Israel prevailed and the Arab armies were forced to retreat.
But as I stated earlier, in all these years, Israel has enjoyed very little shalom. The Islamic nations that surround her are still and always bent on her destruction. And that brings us to the promise made to our people 2,700 years ago through the prophet Isaiah. Jerusalem has a glorious future ahead.
Jerusalem’s glorious future (Millennium) – according to the Prophets
Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.
Who, indeed, has ever heard or seen such things? People are still trying to figure out how Israel could possibly survive that war, let alone the six wars and three intifadas that have ensued since. You and I know the answer: The God of Israel isn’t finished with the people or the Land of Israel. Not by a long shot. I know it irritates some theologians to hear us say that God has ongoing purposes for the Jewish people. But I can’t help it if they fail to understand the nature of God’s covenants and want to walk in the shoes of the Prodigal Son’s resentful older brother.
Adonai goes on to say through the prophet:
“Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God.
God’s faithfulness is something we can always be assured of. We have in our hands the record of a long history of God’s power and deliverance. He delivered Israel out of Egypt in a day; why would we doubt His power to bring the nation to birth once again in a day?
Adonai keeps His promises. And He has promised good things to come for Israel and Jerusalem. The only thing in question is how individuals and nations choose to respond. Zechariah and Ezekiel foretold that the nations of the world would react with hostility to the re-gathered Jewish people and the reborn nation Israel in the Last Days. But this word is given to those who love Israel and mourn the present darkness. Isaiah goes on to say:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
Jerusalem will one day soon be the praise of all the earth! The wealth of the nations will be brought into it. The people living there will enjoy true shalom – not merely the absence of conflict, but wholeness and God’s blessings and prosperity. The Lord also declared through Isaiah, “Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you” (60:5).
Let’s conclude with verses 12-14:
For this is what the Lord says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and fondled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.”
It should be obvious that there is at this very hour a spiritual war afoot. This passage speaks of God’s servants and His foes. What a dichotomy in the way people would respond – some will rejoice and some will revile. There are so many who hate Israel and the Jews (the same people also hate Yeshua and those who follow Him). What’s so weird is that many of them are religious! But since God has made abundantly clear how He feels about Jerusalem and the Jewish people, when they express hatred for Israel, they are expressing hatred for God. Does it strike you as almost inconceivable that those who claim to serve God are actually His foes? Yeshua warned us that the day would come when those who would kill us will believe they are giving service to God!
And so for now we mourn. Yeshua is still away and we long for His return. And so does the city. Rabbi Paul described it as our groaning, longing for the redemption of all things. May that Day come speedily and soon, when Yeshua, the Son of Man, the Messiah, takes His rightful place on the throne of David in Jerusalem, and rules over all the nations of the Earth. Then our hearts will rejoice; then we will flourish like the grass.
Rejoice With Jerusalem!