Recently, from 1991 to the present, the United States and Israeli governments have been accused of ungodly decision making from those who espouse fervent Religious Zionist theology. These two governments are criticized for the philosophy of giving up land for peace. The accusations stem from natural disasters that occur during the same time frame as peace process events occur. It is claimed that the USA is being punished because of its relationship to Israel and the peace process. For example, the Jerusalem Report magazine, in the October 3, 2005 issue, pg. 44, quoted statements by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, linking Hurricane Katrina and President Bush’s support of the Gaza disengagement. Rabbi Ovadiah stated, “It is God’s retribution… This is the punishment of what he did in Gush Katif.” However, these accusations are unwarranted because they ignore pertinent biblical and historical facts.
Possession of the Land is contingent on obedience to the Mosaic Covenant (Lev. 26:13ff; Deut. 28:15ff) and the Land Covenant (Deut. 29-30). The Mosaic Covenant continues to be God’s administrating covenant for those Jewish people who have not entered into the New Covenant. The Land Covenant, a subset of the unconditional and eternal Abrahamic Covenant, will not be fully realized until the institution of the Messianic Kingdom.
We, the Jewish people, are currently disobedient to the Mosaic Covenant and the Land Covenant. Ninety percent of the Jewish people today are atheistic or agnostic. Those 10% who are religious follow the traditions of the rabbis rather than the written Word of God. Only one percent or less of the Jewish community today trusts in Jesus as Messiah and Savior.
The Jewish people are promised the entire western arm of the Fertile Crescent, from the Euphrates River to the River of Egypt and from the eastern wilderness to the Mediterranean Sea (Gen. 15:19-21; Isa. 11:14, 27:12-13; Obad. 19; Mic. 7:14; Zech. 9:10; Ps. 72:8; Josh. 1:1-4; Deut. 1:7, 11:24). See map. Note: neither the wilderness of Sinai nor the wilderness of Arabia are part of the Land of Israel.
We, the Jewish people, have never possessed all of the Promised Land and we do not do so today. Please note that the modern State of Israel only comprises a small portion of the entire Promised Land. A graph diagramming Jewish possession of the Land clearly shows a constant expansion and contraction of territory depending on obedience over time. We will not possess 100% of the Promised Land until the Messianic Kingdom. Please see the following graph entitled “Possession of the Land.” Note that percentages are approximate. Today, possession of the Land will continue to expand and contract as has been experienced during the past history of the nation.
While both the Mosaic Covenant and the Land Covenant promise restoration after a world-wide dispersion, the restoration of Israel comes in two stages. A study of the prophets indicates that there will be two world-wide regatherings. The first will be a regathering in unbelief in preparation for the judgment of the Tribulation period, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Ezk. 20:33-38; Zeph. 2:1-2).
The second world-wide regathering will be in faith in preparation for the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom (Isa. 11:11). This regathering occurs after the Tribulation has been brought to its conclusion.
The modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of the first of these two world-wide regatherings. The Tribulation and the Tribulation Diaspora (Zech. 13:8; Matt. 24:15-21; Rev. 12:6, 14) will follow. The major mistake fervent Religious Zionism makes is to misunderstand the time frame of the modern State of Israel. Today is not the day of the Final Regathering. The Messianic Kingdom is not on the horizon, the Tribulation is, the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30:7). The Jewish people will not occupy all of the Promised Land until the institution of the Messianic Kingdom.
For example, a prominent source of criticism and accusation was the Gaza disengagement of 2005. The Gaza Strip is known in the Bible as the Land of the Philistines and the Philistine Plain. Isaiah 11:14 and Obadiah 19 tells us that we will not occupy the Gaza Strip permanently, if at all, until the Messianic Kingdom. Both of these verses are found in the context of the Kingdom. Note: if we already possess and occupy the Gaza Strip prior to the Messianic Kingdom, there will be no need to “swoop down” upon it and possess it.
A major prophecy supposedly supporting the fervent Religious Zionist viewpoint is Joel 3:2, “I will gather all the nations And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; And they have divided up My land.” However, the context of Joel 3:2 is the judgment of all the nations at the end of the tribulation period in the Valley of Jehoshaphat to the east of Jerusalem. Joel 3:2 cannot be used to justify natural disasters that come upon the United States during the current age.
In regard to the curses of the Mosaic Covenant, we must remember the principle taught by the book of Habakkuk: God will use nations that are more ungodly than Israel to discipline Israel. Could God be using the Palestinian Authority and/or the surrounding nations to discipline His people? It appears that this could very well be the case. However, let us not forget the second half of that principle. The second half is this; when God has completed disciplining His people He will judge the nations for their sin as well. The ungodly are not absolved of their personal responsibility and involvement in moral evil and anti-Semitism.
On that note, let us not forget the Jonah principle either. Jonah learned that God even loves Israel’s most vicious enemies and desires their physical and spiritual salvation. The Book of Jonah closes with these words from God, “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” Our response to the Book of Jonah should be to pray for Muslim missions and the salvation of the Palestinian people.
Even the institution of a Palestinian state is in accord with biblical data. Remember, current Jewish occupation of the Promised Land is contingent on obedience to the Mosaic Covenant. Before the Six-Day war of 1967 the Gaza Strip belonged to Egypt and the West Bank was part of the nation of Jordan. Jewish possession of the Land expanded in 1967. However, both of these tracts of land, in the providence of God, could become part of a Palestinian State. Jewish possession of the Promised Land would thereby grow smaller. This contraction of the Land would be simply part of the expansion and contraction process that Israel has experienced during our entire history. Please review the following chart entitled “Possession of the Land.”
Make no mistake, if a Palestinian State is instituted, it will be temporary, and the land will eventually be occupied by the Jewish people in accord with the eternal and unconditional Abrahamic Covenant/Land Covenant. However, that awaits the institution of the Messianic Kingdom when all Jewish people are believers in Jesus (Rom. 11:25-27).
However they work out, the events in the Middle East, and world events, are preparing the stage for the next major prophetic event. There are four possibilities: the Russian coalition’s invasion of Israel (Ezek. 38-39), the pre-tribulation blackout of Joel 2:31, the return of Elijah the prophet (Mal. 4:5), or the construction of the Third Temple (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 11:1-2). We will have to wait and see how God brings these events to pass.
Natural disasters bear no relation to the events in the Middle East, as fervent Religious Zionists will claim. They hold up Genesis 12:3 (And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse) and say something like this, “because the USA pressured or supported Israel giving up territory, God is punishing the USA.” Ridiculous! The USA is Israel’s only friend in the world today (to the tune of, I believe, some $3 billion per year in foreign aide) and has been the most hospitable haven for the Jewish people in the history of the current world-wide Diaspora.
The fervent Religious Zionist position can best be described using a term I first heard from Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, “newspaper exegesis” (taking the headlines and force fitting them into scripture). By the way, I have yet to see fervent Religious Zionists catalog a list of blessings the USA received for support of Israel starting with President Harry Truman’s recognition of the State of Israel in 1948. Neither have I seen a lists of disasters that have come upon Israel’s true enemies, the Arab nations and their allies in Europe and around the world. Why doesn’t God punish the true enemies of Israel? What is (are) the disaster(s) that God brought upon Syria, Israel’s most implacable foe, or other Arab nations or Russia for their opposition to Israel? Why are fervent Religious Zionists so one-sided against the United States?
Natural disasters supposedly chronicled by fervent Religious Zionists are self-fulfilling prophecies. Anyone can say, “Expect something bad to happen.” and it will. Why? Because local wars, world wars and natural disasters are simply the characteristics of the age in which we live. Yeshua stated in Matthew 24:6-7
You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.” Natural disasters happen every year.
In addition, please consider, in regard to natural disasters, that God sends His rain on the just and unjust alike (Matt. 5:45). We should be prepared to accept good as well as adversity from God’s hand (Job 2:10) because God, indeed, does bring calamity according to His sovereign will (Amos 3:6; Isa. 45:6-7). Suffering is a form of testing that refines the faith of the believer (Isa. 48:10). Calamity comes upon us all because we are sinful human beings living in a sin broken world (Lk. 13:1-5). More could be said, but this is enough. There is more to natural disasters than support for Israel. If the USA supported Israel 100%, do you think that we would be spared all natural disasters?
In my opinion, this supposed “Biblical Exegesis” that blames disasters on “supposed” US pressure to deprive Israel of her rightful land is simply a pious sounding way to place the blame for the calamities of this world on Israel and the Jewish people. It comes in the back door and sounds good, but it boils down to blaming Israel. Israel becomes a curse to the USA. Subtlety, support for Israel is undermined.
Does the Land of Israel belong to the Jewish people? Yes, absolutely, based on the Abrahamic Covenant! Does the modern State of Israel have every right to exist? Yes, absolutely, based on the Abrahamic Covenant. Will the Jewish people possess all of the Promised Land during the Messianic Kingdom? Yes, absolutely, based on the Abrahamic Covenant. Is the Gaza Handover or the creation of a Palestinian State temporary? Of course it is, based on the Abrahamic Covenant. Is God sovereignly in charge of all that happens in the Middle East? Yes, absolutely. Is possession of the Promised Land guaranteed today? No, based on the Mosaic Covenant. We Jews are in the Diaspora today because of our disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant.
Probably the most graphic description of our Diaspora, because of disobedience and because of the curses of the Mosaic Covenant, is found in Deuteronomy 28:63-67:
It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see.
I would suggest that fervent Religious Zionists spend more time studying the scriptures, particularly the prophets, than in studying the newspaper. Falling into the blame game, like blaming the United States government, will not help the Jewish people or further God’s kingdom. What will help the Jewish people is fervent prayer for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6). What will help the Jewish people is fervent prayer in line with God’s will (Matt. 6:10). What will help the Jewish people is to take the Gospel to them as our highest evangelistic priority (Rom. 1:16). What will help the Jewish people are practical expressions of love and support that avoids the blame game and that challenges us to spiritual righteousness. As an Israeli pastor and friend once wrote, “Why don’t Christians speak about Jesus and morality to Israel?”
A highly recommended resource for further study is Footsteps of Messiah by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum. You can obtain this book through HaDavar Messianic Ministries or Ariel Ministries.