After being established in 1948, the state of Israel is now reaching another milestone: 75 years! A whole generation! Those 75 years have been packed with danger, adventure and great blessing as well. The nation has thrived and developed beyond all recognition, but has had to fight for survival every step of the way. We just want to take a moment to thank God for 75 years of His goodness to us, adding to millennia of His faithfulness before that. He keeps His word and does not renege on His promises.
Grateful to be here
We do not take Israel’s existence for granted. Each year, the day before the Independence Day celebrations begin, Israel holds a Memorial Day to honor all those who have died in Israel’s struggle for survival. The number of soldiers who are killed in active service1 together with civilians murdered in terror attacks2 increases year by year, and has reached almost 30,000 in total. Everyone is affected in this small nation—almost everybody knows somebody who has been killed. Those plotting for Israel’s destruction will not cease, but the God of Israel does not slumber or sleep. Miracles of His protection and rescue are not just found all over the Bible, but all throughout our times as well.
So on Monday evening (because Jewish days start on the sunset of the day before) a siren will sound. Israel will stand in silence to honor the memories of all those who have been killed in war or terror. Tuesday is a somber day dedicated to the fallen, and a reminder of how precious life is, and how important the state of Israel is as a refuge for Jewish people. However it is not only Jewish people who are among those killed, many Druze, Christian, and Muslim Arabic speakers have also been killed in service in the army, or in indiscriminate terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Some died heroically saving others. It’s important to take the time to recognize the sacrifices made, the lives needlessly lost, and the pain that remains among the bereaved among both Jewish and Arab families.
Mourning to dancing
But then at sunset on Tuesday there is a sudden, and almost surreal, about-turn. The nation goes from mourning to dancing as Independence Day kicks in. Fireworks go off all round the country and there are celebrations in the streets. Flags, parties, music and fun are characteristic of the following day, along with the tradition of barbecues! The smell of grilled meat always fills the air for Independence Day, which is a national holiday. Recently polled to be the fourth happiest nation on earth—Israelis are very glad to be alive.
The simple existence of Israel is due to a series of miracles: The end of the Ottoman Empire‘s Islamic rule, the 1917 Balfour Declaration determining that there should be a national home for the Jewish people, the UN resolution in 1947, and the sudden creation of the Jewish State, born in a day in May 1948. There’s been war after war attempting to wipe Israel off the map as Arab nations united against the Jewish state in 1948, 1967, 1973, and there has been constant aggression on every side… but by God’s grace and protection, Israel has made it to the grand old age of 75. Having said that, Abraham was only just getting started at the age of 75 when God called Him, saying,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
It’s amazing to think that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are here today, in this land of promise, after all those years. Through Israel came the oracles of God (the Bible) and the Messiah, Jesus. Israel has been used as God’s vessel to bring blessing to the world, but there is much more yet to come.
What next for Israel?
Much has been made of the “fig tree generation” taken from the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:32-34)
The word in Hebrew for summer (קַיִץ) is from the same root word as the end (קֵץ) because the summer is the end of the agricultural season. The fig tree often represents Israel in the Bible, and so many believers interpret this to mean that 1948 set off a countdown to the end of days—that the generation to see Israel’s rebirth would see the end times events take place in their lifetimes. Quite what a “generation” means and whether or not this interpretation is correct remains to be seen. But 75 is a great age to reach regardless. Jesus gives us signs to look out for, and many of them are stacking up to create the picture He described, but the Great Commission is not yet complete! We see the day approaching, and long to see Jesus return, but if He tarries it’s so more can be saved.
As we continue into the future, even with all the troubles within Israel and the threats all around us, we can walk with confidence and joy knowing that we go with the God of Jacob. He has kept us so far, and it’s good to know He is on the throne. He is the one in charge of the times and seasons, and He will judge all things with righteousness. Israel is no stranger to unrighteousness, just like all other nations, but we long for God to pour out His Spirit so all Israel would recognize the Messiah. Our times are in His hands.
Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash