A Little Piece Of Land
One amazing feature of biblical revelation is the prominence it gives to a tiny strip of land at the east end of the Mediterranean, originally known as the land of Canaan. Most of the events recorded in the Bible as history, or predicted as prophecy, center around this land. In particular, it is the focus of a series of statements contained in Psalm 105:7-11. This passage opens with a declaration of God’s supreme authority over the whole earth: "He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth" (v. 7).
The God of the Bible is Lord over the whole earth. The judgments He pronounces do not apply just to one nation or one little piece of land. His authority extends to all nations and the whole earth.
However, God has made a special, unique commitment to one human family, descended from Abraham. This commitment is summed up in verses 8-10: "He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant."
What an amazing Scripture passage! I know of no other that combines so many words to express a solemn commitment of God: covenant, word, commandment, oath, statute, everlasting covenant. There is no language used in the Bible that could more strongly emphasize God’s total commitment.
Every covenant of God represents a solemn commitment, but this one is further described as an everlasting covenant. It remains in force forever. It can never be revoked.
Furthermore, it is expressed not merely by God’s Word; it is confirmed by His oath. The writer of Hebrews tells us why God gives His oath: "That by two immutable [unchangeable] things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation…" (Heb. 6:18). The first unchangeable thing that God gives is His Word; the second is His oath.
The unparalleled emphasis which the psalmist here uses to express God’s commitment naturally prompts us to ask: What does it all center in? What is God so tremendously concerned about? To what is He taking pains to express His total commitment? The answer is given in this verse in Psalm 105: "Saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance’" (v. 11).
What is it all about? I never read this passage without being amazed that almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the King of the earth, has gone to such lengths to assert the destiny of a little piece of territory at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea. God attaches far more importance to it than most of us imagine!
Somebody else attaches a great deal of importance to it as well – and that someone is the devil. This is why the Middle East continues to draw tremendous conflict.
The verses of Psalm 105 that we have just looked at represent the title deed to the land of Canaan. Just as a title deed specifies the exact identity of the person holding the deed, God also ensures with specific language that we know to whom this land is committed. He refers to "the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed…to Jacob, for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant" (vv. 9-10). Thus, the covenant goes from Abraham through Isaac (not through Ishmael) to Jacob, whose name became Israel.
I do not know how God could have said it more clearly or emphasized it more decisively. A person has to have a "theological squint" not to see what that passage is saying. And I have to add that I believe it insults God to suggest that He does not know how to say what He means. To question this passage (or other similar passages) is to say, in effect, "God, I know You said it, but I don’t think You really meant what You said." That is a position I would not wish to take!
I have personally studied the passages in which God gives His oath in confirmation of His word. I have concluded that it is the most emphatic form of divine declaration provided in the Bible. If Psalm 105 were the only passage of Scripture which records God’s oath confirming His promise to give the land of Canaan to Israel, that would be sufficient in itself to establish this promise beyond question. But God considered this issue so important that He caused it to be recorded in the Bible in forty-six places (see list on page 7). Surely this is one of the unrecognized wonders of the Bible!
The final passage that records God’s oath concerning the land of Canaan is Ezekiel 47:14 – "You [Israelites] shall inherit it [the land] equally…for I raised My hand in an oath to give it to your fathers, and this land shall fall to you as your inheritance." Beyond all question, the context indicates that the fulfillment of this promise is still in the future. This rules out any suggestion that restricts the outworking of God’s oath to events that have already taken place. On the contrary, it stretches out into a future to which no limits are set. As long as the land continues to exist, its destiny will be determined by God’s oath.
God has committed Himself by covenant with the utmost clarity to give Israel that land. The covenants, according to Paul, remain in effect. Speaking about the Israelites, Paul says: "…to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises…" (Rom. 9:4).
So the conclusion that the land is no longer for Israel must be false. The land is included in both the promises and the covenants. In fact, when Paul said the promises and covenants belong to Israel, he was saying in effect that in many different ways the land is given eternally to Israel.
An argument sometimes used by Christians is that Israel had her chance but was unfaithful and failed God. They say, therefore, that God has changed His mind and the promises given to Israel are now for the church.
When I hear this theory, I find myself mentally looking back over nineteen centuries of church history. I see an endless succession of heresy, apostasy, covetousness, immorality, continual squabbling and division and ceaseless struggles for power and preeminence. I even see professing Christians subjecting their fellow Christians to torture and cruel deaths in the name of Christ. Add to all this sixteen or more centuries of vicious anti-Semitism, and I am left wondering: Who has been more unfaithful, Israel or the church?
If God could change His mind about His promises to Israel and take her name and give it to some other group, surely He could just as well change His mind about His promises to the church and take her title and give it to some other group. This is an important issue, then, for every Christian to consider.
In the final analysis, our confidence in God’s mercy is based on His commitments in His Word and in His covenants. If God can change those commitments and annul those covenants, we are left with no security whatever as Christians. Thus, the issues of the identity and destiny of Israel concern not only the Jews but also all Gentile believers who have come to God through the new covenant in Jesus.
The God of the Bible, who is the God of the whole earth, has a plan and a place for every nation. (See Acts 17:26.) ...He has a place not only for Israel but for every nation on earth. There is just one important thing to bear in mind: the place He has for Israel is not offered to any other nation.
This does not mean, however, that Arabs or other nationalities are excluded from the territory assigned to Israel. On the contrary, throughout Israel’s history as a nation, God has always made specific provision for people of other nations to dwell among them, accepting both the privileges and responsibilities that doing so entails.
In Ezekiel 47:22-23 God ordains an allotment of Israel’s land that is still in the future. In this passage of Scripture He makes specific provision for people of other nationalities to reside among the people of Israel and to share all their privileges: "‘It shall be that you will divide it [the land] by lot as an inheritance for yourselves, and for the strangers who dwell among you and who bear children among you. They shall be to you as native-born among the children of Israel; they shall have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall be that in whatever tribe the stranger dwells, there you shall give him his inheritance’ says the Lord God."
God has indeed given the land by an irrevocable covenant to Israel, but He opens the door wide for strangers from all other nations to share it with them, provided they fulfill their obligations.
In addition to this provision for strangers, however, God has given the Arabs a place of their own. At present, the Arab nations from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf number 170 million people. They possess a land mass of 14 million square kilometers. Israel controls only 28,000 square kilometers.
In 1917 the Balfour Declaration promised to the Jewish people a certain geographical area that included the whole of what is now Jordan. Then in 1922, by a stroke of the British pen, Winston Churchill created out of that area an Arab state named Transjordan (later renamed Jordan). By that one act, 78 percent of the total area appointed for a Jewish national home was given to Arabs. Furthermore, Jews are not free to live in Jordan, while Arabs are free to live in Israel.
This means that the rest of the territory now left west of the Jordan is only 22 percent of the original inheritance offered to the Jews. Even in this area the Jews have been subjected to continual pressure and harassment, both by political agitation and by open acts of aggression.
God has warned the nations of the world, however, that a time is coming when He will call them into account for their highhanded actions in regard to the land of Israel. In Joel 3:2 He declares: "I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land."
In contemporary speech, "dividing up My land" is called partition. This is precisely what the United Nations did on November 29, 1947, when they voted to divide Palestine into two areas, one for Jews and one for Arabs.
A Time of Relocation
The governments of both Britain and the United States have at times sought to influence the allocation of the land of Israel. This has also been the subject of various resolutions of the United Nations. No human government, however, has the last word on this matter. Ultimately, at the appointed time, every nation on earth will occupy the place God has appointed for it.
The twentieth century witnessed many significant developments that are related to the outworking of God’s purpose to relocate the nations within the boundaries He had appointed for them. At the beginning of the century, God’s time had come for the Jewish people to return to their own land. The stage was set for this by the first Zionist world conference held in 1897.
Then in 1917, one of the most significant years in world history, Jerusalem was liberated by General Edmund Allenby from four hundred years of Turkish domination, the Balfour Declaration was signed by the British government, and the first officially atheist state came into being – that is, the Soviet Union. All these events were part of God’s program to close this present age.
As we look at history, however, it is clear that the Jews did not, for the most part, want to go back to Palestine. A minority was eagerly committed to it, but had it been left to the Jews themselves, few would have returned.
...But then came the holocaust! Our minds reel at the agony and horror of it, yet…Nothing less would have uprooted the Jewish communities from Europe, where they had settled and lived for hundreds of years. The pressure of the holocaust impelled them to turn their faces once again to their own land. …In Jeremiah 31:3 God speaks to Israel and says, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love…." This love turned the human wickedness of the holocaust into the occasion for Israel’s rebirth as a nation. God thus fulfilled His promise in Hosea 2:15 – "I will give her [Israel]…the Valley of Achor [trouble] as a door of hope."
Taken from The Destiny of Israel and the Church by Derek Prince. Copyright © 1992, 2007 by Derek Prince Ministries – International. Used by permission of Derek Prince Ministries. www.derekprince.org