Israel, arise and shine – your light has come
As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so is Israel destined to once more and forever reflect the glorious light of Her God. That day is nearly here.
He did it, slowly at first, but deliberately. He withdrew the blessing. He did it with apparent devastating finality. Its effects must have felt so utterly irreversible they left no room for hope.
But it is important to understand, before the withdrawal is laid out for us to look at, that it was temporary. This Biblical truth stands today. From Moses all the way through, the prophets clearly tell us that this is how it was designed by God .
Israel needs to know this and large parts of the Church need to know this.
How and why did it happen? How and why was the blessing withdrawn?
Before things changed, the people of Israel were basking in the light and the glory of the Holy One.
He had brought them out of slavery, accompanied them through the wilderness, led them in the victorious conquest of Canaan, appointed judges to deliver them, given them a king as they demanded, then replaced him with one of His choosing.
David’s dynasty was secured by covenant, enjoying the blessing of heaven. David’s son took possession of a kingdom at peace, established it through wisdom and understanding, and expanded its borders to encompass all of the Promised Land.
Solomon reigned from Jerusalem – capital of the superpower called Israel. His people lived happily under fig tree and vine, fearing no-one. No war threatened the Middle East. There was no poverty, no unemployment, no corruption, no drought.
And high above the city, pulsating with the presence of the Lord, a temple unlike any other shone out its golden light.
The light in the Temple was the light from God’s face; His countenance lifted up over Jerusalem, His grace and favor streaming across the land.
Israel was savoring the fruit of its calling as God’s chosen, favored nation. She was where she is one day destined to be again – the head of the nations, not the tail.
But folly crept in to supplant wisdom. Faithfulness surrendered to faithlessness. When the king fell, the people fell. Instead of worshiping the God who named Himself after them, they turned to idols of stone and wood.
And God’s favor began to wane.
He was patient with them, oh so patient. It would take hundreds of years, and they would be given numerous chances, before the dimming light finally flickered, to die with the temple as the flames set by Nebuchadnezzar consumed it.
Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. (Deuteronomy 31:17)
“According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them.” (Ezekiel 39:24)
So He had. A comeback of sorts took place as the returnees from Babylon resettled the land and rebuilt the temple. But they never really came out of the long shadow of God’s judgment and disfavor. When He finally and fully turned away, relinquishing the people and their land to the ruthlessness of Rome, the Jews had entered a tunnel of tribulation they would not emerge from for nearly 2000 years.
“I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” (Hosea 5:15)
How urgently they would seek His face – untold multitudes of His persecuted people down the centuries – as they were dragged off by crusaders, inquisitors, ‘Christian’ mobs and Cossacks. How desperately millions sought Him in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka, in Bergen-Belsen and Belzec, in Sobibor and Dachau.
Most would have died believing they had searched in vain. Not so! Their blood cried out from the ground, their anguish rose up to heaven and turned the Father’s head.
God – thank God – had not cast away His people whom He foreknew. As in Egypt He had heard their cries after 400 years of slavery, so He would hear again when, after 1900 years of captivity, their supplications reached to the skies.
Even before they did, gently and gradually, He was turning once more towards them. Not blindingly, but like the first tendrils of light at the breaking dawn, the soft radiance of His face began to stroke and lighten theirs.
After 20 endless centuries, the time of trouble that had been foretold for Jacob was drawing to a close.
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name – after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 39:25-29)
It’s been more than a century since the Lord began to turn His face back towards the People and the Land of Israel. Signaling that “the set time to favor Zion has come,” His Holy Spirit has brought Jews streaming home from the four corners of the earth.
Awaiting them here before Wold War II were plague and disease, hard work and hatred, terrorism and war. And when, from the ashes of the Holocaust, their state was reborn, it became anything but a haven and place of peace.
Why? Also on this the Bible is not silent. The restoration of Israel is a work in progress. The Jewish people are headed towards a reunion with the God of Israel that is going to shake our world. On the way they remain a sinful people before the Holy One. As He has said, while their time of affliction is nearing its end – most vividly demonstrated by their return from captivity to their land – He cannot let them go altogether unpunished. As He has said, He is punishing them, but ‘in measure,’ for they have received from the LORD’s hand double for all their sins.
“But do not fear, O My servant Jacob,
And do not be dismayed, O Israel!
For behold, I will save you from afar,
And your offspring from the land of their captivity;
Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease;
No one shall make him afraid.
Do not fear, O Jacob My servant,” says the Lord,
“For I am with you;
For I will make a complete end of all the nations
To which I have driven you,
But I will not make a complete end of you.
I will rightly correct you,
For I will not leave you wholly unpunished.” (Jeremiah 46:27-28)
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
God is in the process of bringing comfort to His people, and He is appointing those who are not physically part of this nation to be channels of that comfort.
Multitudes of Christians (though, tragically, by no means most of us) have been watching, praying, interceding and waiting for the fullness of God’s glory to return.
As we look on, we see dark clouds boiling on the horizons all around, threatening to sweep back aross this land in full and evil force and blot out the promise of light.
Israel must not despair, and we, with her, must not surrender hope. The darkest moment always births the dawn.
When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. (Isaiah 59:19-20)
Grafted into this “kingdom of priests” through faith, we take our stand against these dark forces and put God’s name on His ancient people:
“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”’
And to Israel we proclaim His Word:
Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)
Yes, glorious truth: Soon the Temple will again stand upon God’s holy hill. And God’s glory, which Ezekiel so long ago saw depart through the Eastern Gate, will in like manner return to the mountain east of the city, cross the Kidron Valley, enter through the Eastern Gate, and come to rest on the throne of David.
“And the name of the city from that day shall be: ‘THE LORD IS THERE.’” (Ezekiel 48:35)