Surprisingly for many visitors the land of Israel does not appear as they had imagined it. When Mark Twain toured the land in 1867 desolation was widespread, and he noted it quite graphically in his book, “The Innocents Abroad”. The land has since become green and agriculturally productive, and there are modern cities and manufacturing facilities at almost every turn. The deserts there today are mostly where natural geology has always meant them to be along with those places the Jews have not yet reclaimed from past neglect and abuse.
Seeing the land the first time is quite a surprise for many people because the stereotypical image of vast ruin is quickly dispelled. Often, after the emotion brought on by the initial view of the land’s color and production fades and the words of the tour guide fall silent, Bible-savvy visitors will pause and begin to really think about what is in full view before them. Then it slowly begins to dawn upon them that what Ezekiel said would happen in the last days is happening! God is speaking to the land commanding it to produce dramatically, and the upswing in fertility and production is happening in ways other than agriculture.
These are things Bible prophecy teachers have been talking about for decades; about how the Jews started back to that barren land 100 years ago and began draining swamps and irrigating large areas of barren deserts making them productive. They planted millions of trees as part of the reforestation of the land because Israel was stripped of trees by the Ottoman Muslims who occupied the land for several hundred years.
Consider again Mark Twain and note his words as he described the land when under Arab control:
"Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or mottled with the shadows of the clouds. Every outline is harsh, every feature is distinct, there is no perspective--distance works no enchantment here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land...
Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the Holy Cross. "(“The Innocents Abroad”, chap 56)
It is true that much has changed since those days of Twain’s visit. In fact, much has changed even in the last 50 years. In addition to the back-breaking work and blood that have gone into this great metamorphosis, there has been a lot of brain-power expenditure, also. The Israelis have invested their fortunes, both mega and meager, into business and technology. Further, many Jews took dramatic cuts in income and personal security to leave the balm and serenity of the West in order to answer a call and longing that many could not understand.
From every corner of the earth the Jew has been going home, and he will continue to go with grit in his craw and hope in his heart. And the result has been phenomenal. But, there is something else at work here; something that takes nothing away from those sacrifices, but something that is indispensable for understanding the truth of what is going on. In reality God is causing these things. And, because He is not capricious He has a reason for causing them and that reason is the land must be made ready for the final chapter—the restoration of the people to their land and to their Messiah.
This is firmly born out in the Book of Ezekiel. Much of the alleged confusion about issues such as the valley of dry bones and the battle of Gog and Magog (chapters 37-39) would be cleared up if Bible students followed the natural progress of the book and simply took what is said in its contextual, plain meaning. Chapters 33-48 have to do with the restoration of Israel in the end times, and much of what is written in those chapters is literally being fulfilled this very day. Paramount among those things is the amazing advent of Israel’s agricultural and manufacturing capacity. The Arab nations, with their hundreds of millions in population and multiplied fortunes in oil surround them, yet they are decades behind in technology, food production, etc. Israel is leading not only the region, but in some areas they are even leading the world.
Some examples of what God is doing in Israel, which is about the size of New Jersey, are: 4th longest life expectancy in the world at 82 years (longer than the US, the UK and Germany); more Nobel Prizes per capita than the US, France and Germany; the only country on earth to enter the 21st Century with a net gain of trees (amazing in that it is 60% desert); 93% of Israeli homes use solar energy; scientific research institutions are ranked 3rd in the world; produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin; leads the world in patents for medical equipment; highest standard of living in the Middle East and third highest in Asia, and the list could go on (Portal: Israel Did You Know; Wikipedia). Not bad for a country that was birthed in a scorpion-infested, malaria-plagued, sparsely inhabited land 75% of which was immediately expropriated by a spiteful world and given to people with a visceral hatred for them.
As a sidebar to the progress of Israel is the fact that many Arabs who are Israeli citizens like what is happening. Their standard of living is much higher in Israel than in the Palestinian territories, and they do not necessarily like the thought of losing their Israeli citizenship and becoming citizens of a Palestinian State.
That is just one reason why many of those Arabs living in Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank) and working in Israeli businesses like “Soda Stream” are against what is essentially an almost global boycott against Israeli products manufactured in Judea and Samaria. It hurts them dramatically!
The major Soda Stream manufactoring facility is in Mishor Adumim in Judea and employs 1300 workers. Of those are 950 Arabs. Jews and Arabs work side by side with supervisors coming from both groups. There is no difference in pay or in promotion opportunities.
Unfortunately the Arab political leadership does not care whether their people live in wretched poverty or not; the main thing for them is to keep alive hatred for Jews and for Israel. Consider the following statement by Khaled Abu Toameh published January 6, 2014 in the Gatestone Institute International Policy Council entitled, Israeli Arabs: We Do Not Want to Live in Palestinian State: “But what the Arab Knesset members are not saying openly is that they do not want to wake up in the morning and discover that they are citizens of a Palestinian state. It is much easier for them to accuse Israel of racism than to admit that they do not want to be part of a Palestinian state.”
If a reader’s main source of news is the mainstream media those words are both strange and unbelievable.
The prophet Ezekiel did not know about John Deere tractors, heart/lung by-pass machines, water desalination plants and crop production of 68 bushels of wheat/acre, or 180 bushels of corn/acre. He just knew that his people would one day return to their land en masse, and that God would insure that the land would be able to support them. Not simply to a level of base subsistence but with an abundance of sustenance along with expertise in every discipline that would be needed to compete with the best the Gentile world would have to offer. And that is exactly what is happening this very moment.
But, there is a problem. And as much as prophecy-minded Christians are aware of the hatred of the world toward the Jews and Israel, the real problem is not found there. It is found in the fact that though the Jews are going back to their own land and are doing all those great things, they are going back in unbelief regarding Jesus being their Messiah. Thus, they believe that what they are accomplishing is because of their own intellectual prowess, moral courage and military power. That is not true and one day soon, beginning at the mid-point of the tribulation and continuing until the 2nd Coming, God is going to allow the last great Gentile world Führer and his rabidly anti-Semitic world to teach them that lesson. Sixty-six per cent of them will die in the process. But as was the case with God’s punishment upon Babylon for their glee in bringing down Judah, so will He pour out His wrath on this Jesus-rejecting, Jew-hating world for its gleeful attempt to annihilate Israel.
Most Christians balk at these words. They say this reflects a cavalier attitude toward scripture and results in it being too plainly interpreted. Further, their 21st Century Christianity is a hindrance to the believability of God “speaking” to the mountains as seen in Ezekiel 36. This might be secularly understandable, but at the same time it is blinding. Nobody denies that Jesus spoke to the wind and to the sea and that those inanimate elements of nature immediately obeyed Him (Matthew 8:23-27). In like manner the prophet has told us that God will speak to the land and that the land will respond. If God’s word means anything at all we can take our stand on the fact that the land will not only respond, but is doing so now as the Jews return (Ezekiel 36:22ff), a process that will stretch into the very near and visible future.
From the Jew’s expulsion from the land in AD 70 until this generation the land has lain in ruin. If that fact is carefully studied in light of scripture, it will become evident that such ruin is strong evidence that the land’s full capacities are reserved for the last days when the Jews return. As God prepared the land for the early Israelites by making it a land of milk and honey prior to their entrance, so He is preparing the land in a similar way for the full measure of returning modern Israelites of these last days.
The land did not become like the garden of Eden (Ezekiel 36:35) in those centuries of Arab occupation because it was impossible. From the Romans to the Ottoman Turks the occupiers had no blood or covenant kinship to the land, and neither do the modern Arabs. The Arab national genome has no hereditary attributes traceable to that land that came under Abraham’s gaze at God’s direction (Genesis 13:14-18). Theirs is the connection a wild ass (Genesis 16:12) has to any land he is on—reckless exploitation. It is what the illicit Ishmael and Esau had to the lands of the east. To people not in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the land has always been estranged. God has not allowed a productive relationship between the land and those occupiers whose only connection to it has been a visceral hatred of His people.
God used the politics of 19th Century Europe and the 20th Century World Wars to bring about the events that culminated on May 14, 1948 with the reestablishment of Israel. The land, groaning under the abuse of the Muslim occupiers for centuries, then began to stir under the gentle husbandry that only its legal owners could give. >From the halls of global academia the owners have been bringing their research and expertise to bear on agriculture, industry and technology. Even with Israel’s constantly fluctuating internal conditions and international relationships God is causing more to be made available than what is presently needed in order to have what is necessary for those yet to come.
There are two modern efforts under way to destroy Israel that should be of particular interest to Christians. One is associated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement whereby people and groups are strongly encouraged, and very often intimidated into withdrawing from any economic enterprise associated in any way with Judea and Samaria, e.g. the Soda Stream company. The second is the effort by some heads of state to force Prime Minister Netanyahu into accepting conditions for the so-called “Two State Solution” that are untenable by any reasonable standard.
Because of who and what America is there should be no doubt whatsoever that this country will be held to a higher standard regarding its official attitude and treatment of both the nation of Israel and the Jewish people—God’s people (Romans 11:1). The undeniable fact of Israel’s modern celebrated status compared to the much less than celebrated status of her neighborhood adversaries should be flashing lights of both promise and warning to countries, businesses, churches and people. And that includes a warning to our own beloved country—one that will go unheeded.