Yom HaAtzma’ut

Yom Ha'atzmaut 2007
Yom Ha'atzmaut

Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day, starts tonight at sundown.  Since I won’t be posting tomorrow, I thought I’d celebrate a bit early by discussing some of the prophecies in Scripture that were fulfilled on May 14, 1948.  (The reason Yom HaAtzma’ut is on the 9th-10th this year is because it is reckoned by the Hebrew calendar, not the Gregorian.)

Let’s start with the passage that David Ben Gurion himself cited as the Biblical mandate for Israel’s restoration:

Isa 66:7-11 –  “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she delivered a son.   Who has heard such a thing? who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.   Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth?” says the LORD: “shall I who cause to bring forth shut the womb?” says your God.  “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her: rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied at the comforting breasts; that you may drink deeply, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.”

Or how about this one, prophesying that Israel would be restored twice, and that the second time would take place when the Gentiles were rallying to the Messiah:

Isa 11:10-13 –  It will happen in that day that the nations will seek the Root of Jesse, who stands as a banner of the peoples; and his resting place will be glorious.  It will happen in that day that the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.   He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.   The envy also of Ephraim will depart, and those who persecute Judah will be cut off. Ephraim won’t envy Judah, and Judah won’t persecute Ephraim.

There are also the twin prophecies of Ezekiel 36-37.  Chapter 36 gives us the straightforward prediction of Israel’s restoration, while chapter 37 puts it forward in pictorial form, presenting it as a resurrection from the dead.  It would be too much to cover both prophecies in their entirety here, so I will restrict myself to pointing to a few points in particular:

Ezk. 36:18-27 – Therefore I poured out my wrath on them for the blood which they had poured out on the land, and because they had defiled it with their idols; and I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them.   When they came to the nations, where they went, they profaned my holy name; in that men said of them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.   But I had respect for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, where they went.

Therefore tell the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: I don’t do this for your sake, house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations, where you went.  I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.  For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them.

Note the parallelism:

Ezk. 37:7-13 – So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, an earthquake; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  I saw, and, behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and tell the wind, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.  Therefore prophesy, and tell them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, my people; and I will bring you into Eretz-Israel.  You shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, my people.

Declaration of the State of Israel

Note the sequence:  First, Israel is gathered from the nations and restored to the Land, but it is as if the dry bones were restored without flesh.  But then they are covered with flesh, the outward sign of healthiness, but have no breath, no Spirit.  Only then is the Holy Spirit poured out to truly make Israel live and walk in the ways of Hashem.

I believe that we are in the days when we see the flesh on the bones, but not yet the Spirit.  As I noted in January:

Rosenberg’s observation about the spiritual awakening after the Six-Day War is what caught my attention.  Possibly the most terrible thing about the Holocaust is how many of the survivors lost their faith in the Holy One of Israel, who didn’t, in their eyes, act to save the Jews from destruction as He did in the days of Esther or the Maccabees.  The spiritual revival came about in part because in the space of a single generation, we saw Hashem give victory to Israel in not just one, but two wars that she shouldn’t have survived.

But when will the Spirit be poured out?  Zechariah gives the answer:

Zec. 12:10-12, 14 – Zec 12:10  I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they will look to me[1] whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and will grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for his firstborn.  In that day there will be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.  The land will mourn, every family apart . . . all the families who remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.

And who is this Pierced One that Israel will mourn for?  The Midrash Rabbah gives us the answer:

“Come near,” means to come near to the Kingdom.  “Eat of the bread,” refers to the bread of Messiah’s royalty.  “Dip your bread in the vinegar,” refers to Messiah’s sufferings, as it is said, “But he was pierced for our transgressions.”  (Ruth Rabbah 5:6, quoting Ruth 2:14 and Isa. 52:5)

Who can this Messiah be, who was a banner to the Gentiles even before Israel was returned to the Land for the second time, who was pierced for our transgressions?  What other candidate fits the prophecies and the rabbinic commentary on the prophecies if not Yeshua of Nazareth?

On the way back from a pilgrimage to Israel three years ago, I found myself intently studying Zechariah 8 on the plane home, having had my attention drawn to it by Moshe Kempinsky when we visited his shop.  It is a prophecy that we can see being fulfilled before our very eyes:  There are old men and women in Jerusalem watching over the play of children (vv. 4-5), the Jews have returned (vv. 7-8), the once-barren Land is now a place of fruitful fields and vines (v. 12), and people from all over the world–Christians as well as Jews–go up to Jerusalem and Israel to seek the favor of Hashem and learn His ways (v. 21).

And yet, it is not a prophecy that is complete, because Jerusalem is not yet a city completely at peace (v. 10), nor has the Sh’khinah returned to the Temple (v. 3).  When will that day come?  According to chapter 12, only when all Israel mourns for the Pierced One together in the midst of a day of battle.  And we are coming to that day soon.

As Israel finds itself once again surrounded by enemies seeking to destroy her–even from places once considered reliable peace partners, like Egypt–and finds herself facing them alone due to a hostile American administration, we need to be in prayer.  Not that Israel won’t be destroyed, for the Holy One has already purposed that, but that the lives of all living there will be preserved in a miraculous way so that Israel will cease to look to Egypt and America for help, and will instead turn to the Holy One of Jacob alone.

Shalom, and Happy Independence Day, Israel.  May the Peace of the Sar Shalom be poured out on you.

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