Is Jewish Possession of the Land of Israel Conditional on Good Behavior?

Some Christians believe that the Modern State of Israel is not the work of God, but of man, because God says wrongdoers would be spit out of the Land of Israel…. and clearly, Israelis are not following God as a nation. They think that the Jewish people must clean up their act first, and only then can they inherit the land. But is that what the Bible says?

Why do some people think living in the land is conditional on behaviour?

There is a humdinger of a passage that God spoke to the people of Israel when he gave them the Mosaic Law:

“Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” (Leviticus 18:24-28)

That was the deal: stick to this covenant, and you can live in Israel. Break it, and you’re a gonner. Bad behaviour was what led to the judgement upon the Canaanites, and sure enough, God was true to His word with Israel too, who indeed were kicked out of the land in the exiles brought about by Assyria and Babylon respectively.

God is the true land owner – He calls the shots

In Leviticus 25:23 God says,

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.”

Israel were only ever tenants, there by invitation of the true owner: God. But because the Land clearly and decisively belongs to God, he can do what he likes with it.

The last century saw some very interesting developments in the Middle East – after 400 years of the huge Islamic Ottoman Empire, things suddenly changed. Under Muslim rule, Christians and Jews had been second class citizens, and subject to mistreatment and discrimination. Church bells were outlawed in the whole area, and in what was then Palestine, building synagogues and churches was forbidden. Extra taxes were imposed on non-Muslims, and violence and persecution was routinely overlooked. But shortly after the decision to eradicate all Christians from the Empire by extermination in 1915, the Ottoman Empire fell. The Armenian Genocide attacked not only the Christian Armenian population but other Christian groups too, such as Greek Orthodox and Catholics, along with the Assyrian people – an entirely Christian people group native to the Iraq area. Over 1.5 million Christians were slaughtered, and the details of the atrocities paved the way for the Holocaust. Which in turn led to the modern state of Israel in 1948. Two genocides slaughtering God’s people, first the Christians, and then the Jews… and Palestine is taken from Muslim hands, given to Christians after the Christian genocide, and then to the Jews after the Jewish genocide.

Back in 586 BC, God chose to expel Judah to Babylon, and he chose to bring them back again 70 years later – even though they still weren’t perfect even after the punishing exile. Then 586 years later, he chose to expel the Jews in 70 AD, and he chose to bring them back again 2000 years later, 70 years ago. The sins of idolatry, oppressing the poor and child sacrifice (abortion), by the way, are still ongoing problems. But God promised that He would regather Israel and that He would also purify them, and He is faithful to His word.

He has a plan.

And His plan involves all the nations of the world. But Israel is, and always has been, pretty pivotal in his plans. That’s just the way the Bible is.

God’s plan: First physical restoration, then spiritual restoration

God’s primary concern is for the glory of His name, and He is about to get a whole lot of glory as He sets up events in Israel to cause His precious people to turn back to him in repentance en masse – as a nation. When Pauls tells us in Romans 11:26  that “All of Israel will be saved”, he is not joking. We also see this mass repentance foretold in Zechariah 12:10-14, where it says;

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives,the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives.”

Yes, the whole nation of Israel will suddenly realise who Yeshua is, and repent in bitter grief. But notice the following points:

  • Clearly, this prophecy of Zechariah’s has not yet been fulfilled
  • It pertains to the people of Israel and all its various clans
  • They are living in the land of Israel when it happens

This shows us that God’s intention from long ago was to regather Israel and only then to reveal His son, Yeshua, to them.

Another passage that demonstrates the same thing is the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. This is a prophecy about the people of Israel, and is in the context of events of the latter days. It speaks of bringing back Judah AND Israel together (not just Judah, as was the case when they returned from Babylon). This is commonly understood to be a picture of the Jewish nation being restored after the Holocaust… the dry bones being regathered and becoming a people again. First they are physically resurrected (the bones, muscles and skin come back together), and then after that, the lifeless bodies need to receive the breath of life – the Spirit of God. Israel has been indeed been brought back from the dead and regathered together physically in the land, but it is interesting that the breath comes from the four corners of the earth to cause the people to come alive, and that it comes only after their physical restoration.

In Ezekiel 37 we see that the physical re-establishment of Israel must come first, and after that will come the promised spiritual revival.

God is gracious and keeps his promises

We are used to the idea that God is gracious to us and that we can count on him to keep his promises, so why do we think he would treat Israel any differently? His grace and faithfulness are part of his character, not earned by our good behaviour. So it is with Israel. God has promised to restore Israel to their land, and after that bring cleansing, and that is exactly what he will do. For the sake of his own name.
See what he promises in Ezekiel 36:24-26

“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Chapter 36 spells out clearly God’s grief about the sins of Israel, defiling His name and His Land, but yet in the very same chapter, God confirms that He would regather them to their own land, and after that, He will cleanse them and make them spiritually new!

Ezekiel 20:40-44 also paints the same picture of Israel already living back in the land when they finally are restored to their God.

“For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, declares the Lord God, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land. There I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred offerings.” (Ezekiel 20:40)

The Spiritual restoration is underway!

Yeshua Himself agrees with this picture of the people of Israel being back in the land of Israel, ready to recognise him and welcome him from the city of Jerusalem when he comes again. Look at what He says in Matthew 23:37-39:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Today in Israel we are seeing signs of a new outpouring of revival, with Jewish people coming to faith in numbers never seen before. We praise God, and encourage you to join with the mighty work that God is doing among us! Today you can go to any of the hundreds of Messianic congregation in the land, and sing along with the chosen people, “Baruch haba beShem Adonai”, or “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” But an even greater day is coming, as God promises in Ezekiel 20:40:

“The WHOLE house of Israel, ALL OF THEM, will serve me in the Land”.

Show the world you are One for Israel!

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