For a full understanding of all the prophecies of Israel’s rebirth and how they fit together, we need to consider one important passage from the book of Ezekiel. This set of verses shows us that God predicted Israel would be restored with fury poured out, and this reflects exactly what happened in the years before and during 1948.
Ezekiel chapter 20 may be the most important prophetic statement concerning Israel in the entire Bible. What is recorded in that chapter is a brief narrative by the Lord himself on the entire history of Israel. The curious thing about this particular discussion is that it includes the “history” of Israel past, present, and future. This is because it is written from the standpoint of one who knows the future so well that he can talk about it as though it had already occurred.
In Ezekiel 20:5, God begins by summarizing how he had chosen Israel from among all nations and helped them in the days of Jacob. He continues by reminding them how he had searched out a beautiful land especially for them, and then miraculously brought them forth out of Egypt to inhabit it. The Lord says that the only stipulation demanded of Israel before they reached that land was that they turn away from all the evil of the nations and instead follow his ways.
However, before they could even get out of the wilderness of Sinai, God says “the house of Israel rebelled against me” (Ezekiel 20:13). These same sad words are repeated again and again throughout this chapter. At every point in their history, it is almost as if these words became the proverb for Israel’s dealings with God. The Lord explains that he could not allow this rebellion to continue, because the entire world was watching. If his people were labeled as evil, then the nations might believe the Lord was evil, also. The Lord therefore says,
“I wrought for my namesake, that it should not be polluted before the nations”
Notice the similarity of this passage to Ezekiel 36:21. This is what God says he did as a result of their rebelliousness in the wilderness of Sinai:
“…I lifted up mine hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands.”
Instead of entering the promised land, that entire sinful generation perished in the desert, never being allowed to even so much as see the land. The Sinai Peninsula, which was a literal wilderness, then became a “wilderness” of sin that devoured the disobedient among the people. This same symbolism concerning the wilderness is carried on throughout the chapter in a very interesting way.
First the Lord instructs the surviving children to be careful to follow his ways and not let the evil of their parents influence them (Ezekiel 20:18-20). However, in the very next statement God reveals the behavior of these people and their descendants when they finally came to live in the Promised Land:
“Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.”
As we have seen previously, the nation of Israel continued in this rebellious state until the ultimate curse finally occurred of being scattered among the nations. That history is important to recall, because the terminology the Lord uses in this chapter, describing their scattering and eventual regathering, is developed in a fascinating way which just happens to reveal exactly what is happening to Israel today. This is how the Lord describes their scattering:
“I lifted up my hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the nations, and disperse them through the countries…”
Notice that the “wilderness” described here is no longer the wilderness of the Sinai desert. Now it is representative of the land of Israel itself! The Promised Land that was once a land flowing with milk and honey and blessed abundantly by God had become a spiritual wilderness of unbelief. The evil that had polluted the nation permeated every part of their society to such an extent that eventually the Lord had no choice but to expel them from the Promised Land. He scattered them among the nations, because they had made the land of Israel a wilderness.
Compare this description with what was quoted earlier from Ezekiel 36:17-24. You will find that the two passages are nearly identical with respect to the depiction of Israel’s spiritual decay and scattering. Not only that, but if we read on in chapter 20, we’ll discover that the description of their subsequent regathering lends enough detail to what was said previously that we can finally understand the Israel of our day.
This is what the Lord says concerning Israel’s rebirth in Ezekiel chapter 20:
“As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you;
“And I will bring you out from the peoples, and will gather you out of the countries in which ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out.
“And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face.
“As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I enter into judgment with you, saith the Lord God.”
Ezekiel 20: 33-36
Now it can be seen how three chapters in Ezekiel all fit together as one complete prophecy. In Ezekiel 36 we are told that Israel would be regathered as a direct result of profaning the Lord’s name among the nations. In Ezekiel 37 we see that God’s long dead and scattered people are described as being assembled in unbelief only to be subsequently revived by the breath of the Holy Spirit. Finally in Ezekiel 20, the Jews who had been scattered out of the “wilderness” of Israel are prophesied to be brought back to the land for a specific purpose—the purpose of judgment.
The Lord says that with fury he will regather them. This is an expression of anger and not of peace. If Moses’ prophecy of Israel’s regathering after their repentance is the only restoration that could be found in the Bible as some have contended, then surely the Lord would not speak in such a judgmental tone here. The fact remains that in these three chapters in Ezekiel, Israel is seen coming back to their land not as a result of a repentant heart, but solely due to the Lord’s displeasure in their continued sinfulness among the nations.
Look at the history of twentieth-century Israel. How did they become a nation? Was it because of a national repentance and an acceptance of Jesus as savior? No, nothing could be farther from the truth. From the very beginnings of the Zionist movement, the drive to reestablish a Jewish nation in the land of Palestine has been a political ambition, not a religious goal—and certainly no stretch of the imagination could call it “Christian”. The original mainstream Zionists led by Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann envisioned a “secular, socialist, egalitarian state” (Economist, Jul. 20, 1985, Survey on Israel, p.4-5), and not a restoration of national religious Judaism. Today this basic premise has changed very little. The Jews of modern Israel rely upon the “fortress Israel” mentality to save them and not upon the Lord of Glory. Yes, there is a component of Judaism within Israel that is driving them to reclaim the territories of Judah and Samaria and even rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, but this is not the repentance the Lord seeks.
It is plain to see that the fury associated with Israel’s rebirth in 1948 is in direct fulfillment of these prophecies in Ezekiel. The Jews were the victims of many Pogroms (persecutions) in the decades leading up to their rebirth, especially in Europe and Russia, but also in countries throughout the Middle East. Then, coming out of the massive destruction and atrocities of World War II Europe, the Jews sought refuge away from the tremendous persecutions they suffered among the nations. Many who originally settled in Palestine did so because they no longer had a place they could call home. Indeed, as gruesome as it might sound, Israel probably never would have garnered the support of worldwide Jewry (and of the United Nations itself) if it had not been for the evils they went through at the hands of Hitler’s demons. Truly, the Lord literally ripped them out of the nations with “fury poured out” and brought them back into the spiritual “wilderness” of Palestine.
At no other time in history can we find the necessary conditions for these prophecies to be fulfilled like they are in the Israel of today. Israel is a recognized and accepted national entity that has been born from the migrations of millions of Jewish settlers who came from virtually every corner of the globe. Their continued existence is not the result of some divine mistake. God did not allow them to be reborn by a mere fluke of fate. Israel’s presence in the world indicates that the power of a living God is about to bring about the greatest period of prophetic fulfillment the world has ever seen. Our generation is on the verge of becoming one of the most exciting times in all the ages to be alive—that is, if you are a follower of Jesus!
And where do these prophecies say that the nation of Israel is headed now that they are reborn? The Lord says that when he leads them back with fury and wrath to the land of Palestine that he will not let them continue in unbelief as they have in the past, but will enter into judgment with them “face to face”.
The present state of Israel is headed toward a day of reckoning with the God of the universe the likes of which no other nation has ever experienced. However, this judgment is not meant to destroy them, but according to the Bible it will lead them to repentance and belief:
“And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me…”
Ezekiel 20: 37-38
The prophet Hosea also saw this coming day of repentance and his prophecy beautifully maintains the symbolism of the “wilderness” created by a backsliding Israel—and also the caring of the God who will bring them back:
“…behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly unto her. And I will give her her vineyards there, and the Valley of Achor for a door of hope…”
Hosea’s life as a prophet was unique. He was initially told by the Lord to marry a prostitute so that he could experience some of the same feelings that the Lord had felt concerning Israel’s adulterous life. Just as an active prostitute could never be expected to remain faithful to her husband, so Israel seemed to be almost guaranteed to play around with every idol and evil of the nations that surrounded her.
The Lord says in this passage in Hosea that he will not lose his wife forever, but will woo her back despite her unfaithfulness. And where does he say he will do his courting to win her again? In the wilderness! The Bible even keeps the same terminology between multiple prophets and prophecies to bring all of this into understanding. God says that he will bring his people back to the wilderness (i.e., the land of Israel) and give them the “Valley of Achor for a door of hope”. The word “Achor” means, “trouble”.
The Lord realizes that it will only be through the trouble that Israel experiences that they will have any hope at all of turning around to repentance. The judgment that God has planned for his people once they come back to their land actually represents the greatest day of hope Israel will ever encounter.
Those critics who have claimed that the modern-day state of Israel cannot be a fulfillment of the promised regathering also have mentioned, in addition to citing Israel’s return in unbelief, the fact that their return has not been total in scope. Contrary to this position, the Lord actually says in Ezekiel chapter 20 that some of the rebels will never again see the land (Ezekiel 20:38). He clearly says that many will remain stranded without hope among the nations. Thus, the Bible really does predict a partial return to the land of Israel in unbelief—a situation that once again completely correlates to what has happened in our time.
Nevertheless, those Jews who do find their way back in this critical generation will soon see the errors of their ways and “loathe” themselves for all the evils that they have committed (Ezekiel 20:43). It is at that time that Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy will finally find fulfillment. According to Moses, when Israel repents of their iniquity, the Lord himself shall return and gather them to an eternal blessing in the land of Israel. As the Apostle Paul has said concerning Israel:
“…if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”
Today, the nation of Israel has returned to their land in unbelief just as the prophets predicted, but when the Lord is finished with them and they finally repent, their future shall bring blessings beyond all imagination.
Next: Trembling and Fear