Israel must live! The cry that was rung out by young Jews everywhere after the Six Day War: Israel must live! Israel has a character of its own, a permanence that has endured persecutions of the worst sort and nineteen hundred years of displacement to be gathered again into the promised land of Palestine.
It is an amazing fact that the Jews have neither been destroyed by persecution nor assimilated by other societies. Time after time men have arisen determined to extinguish the Jewish race. Yet still the Jews survived, and the remnant was even more tightly bound in unity by that persecution.
On the other hand, centuries of separation from Israel have not severed the bond between the Jews and Israel.
There is great significance in Israel: it is the center of God’s plan. Jerusalem is once again occupied by the Jews and is a focal point of spiritual significance. God is gathering His chosen people to Israel as a preliminary step to the coming of the Messiah to reign from Jerusalem.
The prophets of the Old Testament spoke about two different aspects of the Messiah. On the one hand He was to be the Suffering Servant of Israel, and on the other, He is to reign from Jerusalem as King.
Isaiah spoke of the Suffering Servant who would bear the iniquities of mankind when he foretold that “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.… By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many…. Because he hath poured out his soul unto death.” (Isaiah 53)
In the twenty-second psalm David prophesied the Messiah’s sufferings. “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax.… They pierced my hands and my feet. They look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” (Psalm 22)
However, “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely.” (Jeremiah 23)
The two portrayals seem to be contradictory. But that is not so. The prophets speak of the same Messiah, but of different events, separated in time. The first was fulfilled nearly two thousand years ago; the second is imminent.
Nearly two thousand years ago John the Baptist announced the coming of the Messiah: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1) Yet the Jewish Nation, long awaiting the Messiah, did not recognize Jesus Christ as their redeemer. “For He came to His own, and His own received Him not.” (John 1)
The Jews at that time were expecting the Messiah to deliver Israel from the yoke of Roman bondage and set up an early kingdom. They did not realize that the Messiah had to first come as the Suffering Servant bringing salvation to Israel before He would return to judge the earth and reign as King. There could be no judgment without first having the means of salvation.
“Every soul that sins shall die,” the Tenach tells us. Every man is under the bondage of his own sin, the price of which is death. Jesus gave his life as an atonement for sin that men might be set free from the laws of sin and death.
When Israel did not recognize her Messiah, the Lord turned to “those which were not a people… a foolish nation.” (Deuteronomy 32)
And for nearly two thousand years Gentiles have been drawn towards Christ and received the Lord’s blessings while the Jews have drunk the bitter cup of suffering.
But God has not cast off His people Israel. It is His purpose to bring them back to their rightful places as the children of God. Israel must live because it is soon to be the scene of the Messiah’s return, and God will have a remnant of his people prepared for that great day of His coming.
Although it is true that the Messiah is returning to reign victoriously from Jerusalem, the great danger facing the Jews is that many are going to be deceived by a false messiah. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (of the Messiah’s coming) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2) “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never there was since there was a nation even to that same time.” (Daniel 12)
This false messiah will bring a time of persecution to Jerusalem, the likes of which have never before been seen. Many will be deceived and fall into destruction for “by peace he shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes….” (Daniel 8 )
The true Messiah, the Prince of princes, shall descend in glory and overthrow this false messiah, reigning eternally from Jerusalem as the true Prince of Peace. The Jews will recognize Him according to the words of the prophet Zechariah.
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son…. And one shall say unto Him, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then shall He answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’” (Zechariah 12, 13)
“Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant; O Israel thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins. Return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” (Isaiah 44)
The Lord has redeemed Jacob and glorified Himself in Israel. What a wonderful day it will be when Israel sees what the Lord has done, and recognizes that the Redeemer of Jacob has come and taken away her sins.
Then will the heavens and earth sing a new song; even the mountains will break forth into singing. For the Lord shall have His people once again, and Israel shall know her God.
© 1972 The Yale Standard Committee