The Physical Restoration of Israel
|By: Dr. William Varner; ©2000|
|Ezekiel 36:24 says “I will take you from among the heathen,…gather you …bring you into your own land.” Dr. Varner explains what this means for the nation of Israel, and why this has been such a problem for many scholars, skeptics and politicians through the years.|
THE PHYSICAL RESTORATION OF ISRAEL
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36:24)
In the context of this chapter in Ezekiel, God is declaring how the exile of His people Israel has come about because of their own iniquity and idolatry (36:16-19). The punishment for this would be “exile” among the nations of the world. After a partial return from the Babylonian exile in 536 B.C., Israel later experienced a second stage of that exile in 70 A.D. with the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. During the last two millennia, Jews have been scattered literally to the ends of the earth. In those countries of exile, they would even give cause for the Gentiles to blaspheme God’s name because of their condition (36:20-33). In other words, when people see “the people of the LORD” in such a pitiable condition, there will be some scoffers who will mockingly declare that these people who had been chosen by the LORD are now profaning His name by their condition.
This raises an interesting problem that God Himself anticipates and soon offers the solution. How will the Master of the Universe restore the honor of His tarnished name? How will He prove to the nations that He exists and that He is not false to His word? He will do this by actually reversing the exile and removing the stain and shame of the Diaspora!
Nothing could be clearer than the three steps of this simple but profound promise in verse 24. The three verbs are active: “take you”; “gather you”; “bring you.” The scattered exiles will be taken and gathered from every one of those many nations to which they were previously exiled. They then will be brought back to that same land from which they were spewed out, i.e., “your own land,” – the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Heading God’s future program, therefore, will be the restored nation of Israel.
Just over a hundred years ago there was a tiny community of Jews living in the Turkish backwater called “Palestine.” They were poor, living mostly on donations from their fellow Jews abroad. Anything like a “return to Zion” was viewed by most theologians, Christian and Jewish, as an extremely unlikely possibility. But a century of intensive immigration, settlement, sacrifice, toil and wars for their lives has led to the founding of a nation with one of the world’s strongest armies and one of its most technologically advanced societies.
Secular historians like Arnold Toynbee, for example, cannot explain the reason for this amazing “restoration.” A people who were once exiled from their ancient homeland – losing both their ancient homeland and even their ancient language – have been restored to both! Skeptics, on the other hand, will point either to “luck” or “American support” or some other lame explanation for this unique phenomenon in the history of mankind. The most surprising explanation, however, comes from some “theologians” who have factored out the Divine promises to Israel and transferred them to the Church. When this is done, they refuse to see the real significance of this restoration. They point to the secular nature of Israel’s society as evidence that God has nothing to do with this nation. They forget that Ezekiel also prophesied that the bones would come together without breath first, before the Spirit then blows upon them (37:1-14). In other words, there will be a restoration to the Land (in unbelief) BEFORE there will be a restoration to the LORD!
It appears that the secular historians, unbelieving skeptics and the spiritualizing theologians all refuse to admit and accept the only unbiased explanation. This explanation is grounded in the promises to Israel channeled through dozens of Old and New Testament prophets. That explanation is that the God who was responsible for the exile and who suffered profanation of His reputation during that exile is the same God who will honor His name by beginning the process of returning these wandering sons of Jacob to their homeland. And this He does, not because they deserve it. He is doing it because He is gracious, merciful and faithful. He is doing it to sanctify and magnify His great name before the Gentiles. Let us not be blind to witnessing His great work that is being done before our eyes! Yes, Israel still stands in need of the Messiah. But it is hard to explain away the evident force of so many biblical promises. Even in their unbelief, the regathered sons of Israel are a testimony to God’s faithfulness to His promises.