Behold, the Keeper of Israel
neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Does God really look after Israel in supernatural ways? Or is it Israel’s strong military and razor sharp intelligence service that keep the country from peril? Or a bit of both? And what about those who perish? Israel is no stranger to tragedy but there are some stories of remarkable rescue by brave soldiers and masterful plans, and others that can only be explained by divine providence.
Close shaves, winning strategies, and pure providence
Israel recently had a very close call with Hezbollah, but came out of it unscathed and jubilant. This sort of thing happens from time to time in Israel, often thanks to a lot of planning, care and intelligence, but as many expressed, a lot of what is described as “luck” is involved.
Tensions between Iran and Israel have been increasing over the summer, and Iranian proxies had been successfully identified and taken out in several locations around the Middle East, such as Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Plans to transport lethal weaponry to strategic positions against Israel, in particular with Hezbollah in Lebanon, were foiled. Of course, Israel’s enemies were intent on revenge. This prayer request was sent out by Israel Alliance International:
“Apart from sovereign intervention, this present course of escalation seems certain. From our base of operations inside Israel, we would ask our partners around the world to intercede with us for
1) The hidden plans of the enemy to come to light and be thwarted
2) The Lord to restrain the hostility of those who plot violence and
3) A divine hedge of protection around the nation of Israel and all those across the Middle East who live under the threat of the Iranian regime, including the Iranian people themselves.”
Does God really answer prayers like this?
Here’s what happened shortly after the request went out.
Israel’s operations were going well, but for reasons still unknown, an ambulance was ill-advisedly driving along an exposed road, vulnerable to Hezbollah attack. They should have gone a safer route, but they didn’t. Hezbollah missiles were shot, but this is what happened, according to Israeli media,1
“One missile missed the ambulance, which continued driving fast. The second missile hit the ambulance, but the five soldiers inside managed to escape and no one was hurt. This escalation almost happened due to a serious mistake by the IDF that by pure chance (“a lot of luck,” as several officers admitted on Sunday), ended with no casualties.”
It was not only loss of life that was avoided, but a full-scale escalation with Lebanon.2
“Had the ambulance suffered a direct, lethal hit with all the soldiers inside, Israel would have woken up on Monday to a very different kind of day, with none of the victory celebrations or the boasting.”
Israel tricked the terrorist group into believing they had done serious damage by sending helicopters to rescue the “wounded” and remove bodies. These were taken to hospital but ten minutes later, the soldiers snuck out the back door fighting fit. Convinced by the charade, Hezbollah reported their “strike” as a victory, and Israel then reported what had really happened with glee. Sure, there was some outsmarting done there and a full scale war was deftly avoided, but the failure of the missile to hit was pure providence.
Amos Harel reminds us, “A similar incident occurred on the border of the Gaza Strip… Hamas fired a Kornet missile at Israeli troops deployed near the Black Arrow Memorial on Gaza’s northern border. The missile hit a bus, which by pure luck was empty, but a soldier standing nearby was seriously wounded. It later turned out that a nearby checkpoint had failed to enforce divisional and brigade-level orders to prevent unarmored vehicles from entering areas vulnerable to Hamas fire.”
“Pure luck”, hey? Pure providence more like. And answered prayer! This kind of “luck” happens a lot to Israel… Similar to the school that “just happened” to be on a random day off when Hamas rockets hit,3 or the farmer who “just happened” to decide to harvest his wheat field early, ruining the expected cover for terrorists trying to infiltrate the country.4 And all the while, many people around the world are praying for Israel.
The thief who accidentally saved the day
An absolutely remarkable story happened when Motti Ashkenazi, who was supposed to be under house arrest in Tel Aviv, went out to steal in order to support his drug habit. He saw a whole bunch of backpacks on the beach belonging to a group of boys who were swimming in the sea, and picked one at random. He took it off to a building where he could inspect his booty, and found, to his horror, something quite unexpected. He saw wires, a clock, a cookie tin… He realised he had inadvertently picked up a bomb!
Despite the trouble he’d get into, called the police. Initially they disbelieved him, and were more focussed on the fact that he’d broken his house arrest, but eventually they sent a special unit to defuse the bomb. It was heavy – about six and a half pounds of explosives with many nails inside, and would have caused unthinkable tragedies.5 Motti became the hero of the hour.
Where was the building he had taken the bomb to? On Rehov Geulah, which literally means “Redemption Street”! Motti confessed to his crime, and not only were the police prepared to wipe his slate clean, but they offered him the chance to get clean from drugs. Today, Motti is drug-free, a married father of four, and a guard on that very beach from which he took the bag. He also now shares his story to encourage young people to stay away from drugs and crime.
What an extraordinary story of redemption and salvation! God used the most unlikely character to save many lives, and redeemed his life in the process. All while giving us a wink that maybe, just maybe, Providence had been at work on Redemption Street.
A Biblical perspective
While there is abundant evidence that God does indeed protect Israel in supernatural ways (type “Against all odds, Israel survives” into YouTube and you’ll see plenty), the fact remains that many thousands of Israelis have been killed and injured. This is true today in modern Israel, and can also be said of Israel throughout the millennia. However, as bad as things have got sometimes, God has always left a remnant. He has promised in His word that He will never allow the nation of Israel to be completely obliterated:
Thus says Adonai, who gives the sun as a light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars as a light by night, who stirs up the sea so its waves roar, Adonai-Tzva’ot is His Name:
“Only if this fixed order departs from before Me”—it is a declaration of Adonai— “then also might Israel’s offspring cease from being a nation before Me—for all time.”
Thus says Adonai:
“Only if heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then also I will cast off the offspring of Israel —for all they have done.” (Jeremiah 31:34-36)
Amir Tsarfati humorously advizes Israel’s enemies to shoot at the sun and the moon instead, if they really want to see an end to Israel! As long as they are in place, God promises that the nation of Israel will remain.
Israel may not be following God as a nation (yet!) but as God says here, He will not cast off the offspring of Israel off despite all the sin. That’s because God is a lot more gracious than you and I, and He keeps His covenants.
When thinking of how it can be true that God protects Israel yet many Israelis perish, I find it helpful to think about this parallel. There are repeated promises in the Bible that “All Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26, Zechariah 12:10 and Ezekiel 20:40, to give three examples). Does this mean every single Jewish person who ever lived will be eternally saved? No. But there will be a time at the end when the nation turns to God en masse and realizes the truth about Jesus. In a similar way, we can say that even though there are sadly fatalities and casualties along the way, God does indeed watch over Israel to protect her in supernatural ways. There would be many, many more tragedies if God were not involved. In fact, Israel would not be here today if it were not for God’s providence and miraculous protection.
God doesn’t love Israel more than her neighbors, but rather He is faithful to His promises to protect His people. Israel’s enemies would be well advized to spend their energy elsewhere. God has a heart for everyone, and a specific call and destiny for different nations, it’s just that, as Zechariah 12:2 notes, fighting against Israel will only lead to trouble. It’s always a good idea to work in line with God’s revealed heart and purposes, not against them.
Psalm 121 – A Song of Ascents.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains—from where does my help come?
My help comes from Adonai, Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip. Your Keeper will not slumber.
Behold, the Keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Adonai is your Keeper. Adonai is your shadow at your right hand.
The sun will not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
Adonai will protect you from all evil. He will guard your life.
Adonai will watch over your coming and your going from this time forth and forevermore.
- HaAretz, Israel Almost Dragged Into War With Hezbollah: Due to Operational Failure Israel celebrates success in tricking Hezbollah, but had the army ambulance taken a direct, lethal hit by a Hezbollah missile on the Lebanon border, there would have been five military funerals, Amos Harel, Sep 04, 2019
- Ynetnews.com, IDF tells Israel-Lebanon border communities alert over, Sep 01, 2019
- https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/rocket-fired-from-gaza-strikes-school-building-in-sderot, also:
- JewishPress.com, The Street To Redemption, Debbie Garfinkel Diament, S
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash