Thursday, January 21, 2016

Israel in God's plan

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 37:15-28

" ' … and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.' " Ezekiel 37:22

Ezekiel has just witnessed the bones—those very many, very dry bones in a vast valley—come together. God has told him what it means: " ' I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land…" - Ezekiel 37:14.

Then God instructs him to take two sticks, symbolic of Israel and Judah, and join them together. It's a picture, God says, of how Israel will again be one nation instead of two - Ezekiel 37:16-20.

And they will be repatriated in their own land, established "forevermore" as the location of God's sanctuary - Ezekiel 37: 20, 25-28.

This must have seemed fantastical to Ezekiel, writing from this side of  the departure of God's presence from the temple with idolatry having taken over (Ezekiel 8:1-11:25) and the siege of Jerusalem (c. 587 B.C.). But parts of this prophecy alert us to a more long-range fulfillment than even the return of the exiles to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Ezekiel talks of "David My servant" being king over them, "one shepherd," an "everlasting covenant" and that God's sanctuary would be among them forever (Ezekiel 37:24-28). It sounds Messianic—a prophecy yet to be fulfilled.

My Bible commenter on Ezekiel explains two common views of interpreting Bible prophecy:
"Dispensational hermeneutics interprets them literally applying them to a physical end-times national Israel. Classical hermeneutics interprets them more symbolically with Israel here being primarily the church but also end-time national Israel to some degree" Howard M. Ervin & Roy E. Hayden, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1092.

Wherever we find ourselves on this interpretational continuum, we can't help being transfixed by events in the Middle East—especially Israel. That this tiny fought-over country still has a special place in God's plan is, I think obvious, by the very fact of her against-all-odds existence.

As we watch, let's keep in mind prophecies like Ezekiel's that underline the fact that history has never gotten away from God (no matter how beleaguered and unpopular Israel is these days). His plan will continue to unroll with, I believe, Israel playing a key role. Let's continue to be astute students of the Bible and its prophecies so we won't be surprised by or caught off-guard by her still-to-come bright future.

PRAYER: Dear God, please open my eyes to Your hand working through the nations, especially Israel, in history. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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