Faith to Sight
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Many of us can recite Jeremiah 29:11 by memory. Maybe you have the verse hanging in your home or have used it to give encouragement to a friend or family member. Have you ever thought about the circumstances surrounding the verse? Jeremiah wrote it to the Jewish people. God was talking to the Jewish people when He declared He had plans for welfare and not for evil and to give them a future and a hope. But wait! Before you take down the verse from your wall, Chris is teaching this week how thousands of years after God’s promises to Abraham were made, He is still fulfilling His promises by bringing the Jewish people back to the land of Israel. And if God keeps His promise to the Jewish people, He will do the same for us as believers in Christ Jesus. That is why we should love the verse. It may not be written directly to us as believers but it’s written from a God who keeps His promises.
We hope as you look at the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12 and listen to the series we’re in now, The Common Thread, you see that all of what has happened in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation has a theme. It’s connected to the promise God made: for descendants—the Jewish people, land—Israel, and blessing the world—ultimately Jesus Christ. And the rebirth of modern Israel is all part of that too. Chris will explain how this was prophesied in Ezekiel 36—37. God has a plan, and if you are a believer in Jesus, you know that plan includes you. Looking at the modern State of Israel should make us praise God for loving us, the Jewish people, and keeping His promises.
If you would like to learn more about Ezekiel 37 you can listen to Chris explain it here in a previous episode. https://radio.foi.org/2017/10/20/ezekiel-37-dry-bones/
If you’ve missed the previous episodes of this series, you can find them in our Archives.
Steve Conover: You may not know it, but we live in one of the most unique times in history. God has miraculously done what He promised. He restored the Jewish people to the land of Israel. This is The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover.
Chris Katulka: And I'm Chris Katulka. You know, sometimes in my life when I'm beginning to question and doubt what's going on around me and whether or not the Lord is working through me or any circumstance like that, sometimes I need a little sight to my faith. You know, Israel is that. Israel is the promise that God had that He would restore the Jewish people to the land. Sometimes when I need a little sight to my faith, all I have to do is open up the newspaper and I see that Israel is back in the land.
Steve Conover: We'll hear more on that, but first in the news, a new Gallup poll showed American support for Israel fell to the lowest point in a decade. In 2018, 65% of Americans said they were more sympathetic to Israel over the Palestinians. However, the same question asked this year showed a six-point decline. 59% said they were more sympathetic to Israel. Surprisingly, the survey found that Republican sympathy for Israel declined more over the last year than Democrats.
Chris Katulka: You know, it's interesting because the actual numbers, I don't think that we should get too worried just yet, Steve, but the actual numbers show that American support for Israel is still very high. 69% of Americans still favor Israel over the Palestinian authority. But we do have to be careful because there are some rising political stars like Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib, who are definitely more pro-Palestinian than they are Israeli and they're young, so they can have an influence on young people. That's why we can't get lazy. I do believe we need to be diligent to continue to support Israel and to share with our friends and families that Israel is a force for good in the Middle East, not evil.
At the top, Steve mentioned how miraculous it is that Israel is back in the land, that the Jewish people are returning to their ancestral homeland, to the land of Israel. You know, we're continuing our series here called The Common Thread. The whole point of the Common Thread series has been to show you how the Bible has a theme that runs through it from Genesis to Revelation. It isn't a book of random verses that were meant to simply encourage you through life. The Bible does do that, but you first need to know how it connects to God's overall message before you apply it to any particular circumstance that you're dealing with. Over the past few weeks, I've been trying to show you that the common thread that binds the whole Bible together is this promise that God made to Abraham.
I've been trying to show you that the characters and the stories and the prophecies from the Old Testament and the New Testament all look back on this promise that originated in Genesis 12. Let me give you a quick example. A passage people love to go to, I've heard it all the time, I hear it at Christian college graduations, I hear it all over as people are dealing with issues in their life or whatever circumstances, I hear Jeremiah 29:11. It's probably a passage that you're very familiar with. It's often a passage that's connected to the fact that God has a plan for your life, a plan to prosper and to grow you, to give you a future that's filled with hope. This passage is great for anyone who is wondering if God is listening or cares about their future or about their current situation.
But before you apply it, first remember this passage connects to God's promise made to Abraham. Israel is about to go into judgment in Jeremiah. It's the lowest point for Israel in their history. God was bringing judgment on them for their sins against Him and Jeremiah is trying to warn the people of Israel to just throw up the white flag and to go into judgment. Yet in the midst of this judgment passage, in the midst of Jeremiah talking about the fact that God's going to judge Israel, God still speaks to Jeremiah and tells him to tell the Jewish people that God has a plan for them despite their disobedience, despite their sin. God has a future for them filled with hope. Why? Because God made an unconditional promise to Abraham that cannot be broken. It's God's name written on the dotted line. He must fulfill it. He must be the one to make sure Israel's promises are realized.
Folks, not only Israel's promises, but that your promises are realized. Jeremiah 29:11 is about God giving Israel a future even though they've fallen away. The truth is, God gives us a future. God has a plan for us despite our sin, despite our shortcomings, despite our limitations. See, it's important to understand the theme that runs through the Bible because it matters how we read and understand the depths of what God is trying to tell us and how we can apply it to our life. Last week, we left off with the Apostle Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles who knew that Jesus was the one to fulfill the promise made to Abraham. He's the one who would bring blessing to all the nations of the world. That's why Paul went out.
Paul went out to announce to the nations the blessing that God promised. But see, Paul knew that there was more to the promise that God made to Abraham. Yes, blessings are going to come to all the families of the Earth through Jesus Christ, but remember, the promise that God made to Abraham was also designed to ensure that He would establish a nation of Abraham's descendants, the Jewish people, in the land that He promised them, Israel. The people and the land still matter and that's why in Romans 11, the Apostle Paul actually says, "I ask then, did God reject His people?" He's talking about Israel here. "Did God reject His people? By no means. May it never be." Paul goes on. He says, "I am an Israelite myself." When Paul uses that phrase, that term Israelite, he's actually connecting a national identity to himself. He's saying, "I am an Israelite. I am connected as a Jew to the land of Israel."
Look, he goes one step further. He says, "I'm a descendant of Abraham. God's not through with Israel." Even Paul knew this because of what the prophets promised. One prophecy that comes to mind is found in Ezekiel 37 where the prophet is writing from Babylon as the Jewish people are in complete despair because they've been kicked out of the land of Israel and exiled to a foreign country. They're alone. They're empty. They're questioning what's next. Then God brings Ezekiel by the Spirit to a valley full of dry bones. God says to Ezekiel, the prophet, "Can these bones live?" I love this because Ezekiel actually throws it back to God. He goes, "You know, most of the time, God, bones don't live. But anything's possible with you." Ezekiel throws it back to God and says, "Lord, you alone know."
That's when God says in the beginning of Ezekiel 37 this, "Then He said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones and tell them, "Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord, that this is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones. Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live. I will put tendons on you and muscles over you and will cover you with skin. I will put breath in you and you will live, and then you will know that I am the Lord."'" Folks, Ezekiel does just as the Lord commands and He watches, all of a sudden, these dry bones resurrect. They take human form, and then muscle and flesh and skin begin to take shape, and then there's a pause. Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the divine breath, to breathe on these corpses. The moment that happened, the lifeless bodies came to life and stood on their feet, an extremely great army, it says.
These bones that are in a valley go from dry, dusty, dead bones and all of a sudden they stand to life. They resurrect and God tells Ezekiel, "These bones are the house of Israel." Listen to this. He says, "I will place my breath in you and you will live. I will give you rest." Everyone listen. "I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord. I have spoken and I will act, declares the Lord." Despite their sin and disobedience, God promised to restore Israel to the land, to resurrect them as a nation, to give them a new spiritual life and a new life in the land of Israel. Why? Because of God's unconditional promise made to Abraham. Here's what's absolutely amazing, I mean, just ponder this for a moment. God promised 2500 years ago with Ezekiel that He would restore His people to the land and that He would take dry bones and resurrect them.
Here we are 2500 years since that prophecy and there is a land of Israel. There are still Jewish people who identify as Jewish and there's still a Hebrew language that itself was resurrected. What was one considered a desolate land in the 1850s is now a thriving country full of life. Friends, the modern state of Israel is nothing short of a miracle, and I want you to think about this. The Jewish people, they were banished, exiled from the land of Israel 2000 years ago. They were scattered all throughout the nations. For 2000 years the Jewish people embedded themselves in the cultures they settled in, like the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, North America, South America, Northern Africa. They planted themselves all around the world, and yet they never lost their identity.
Despite being exiled and living in foreign lands with foreign people, Jewish people never stopped innovating, they never stopped learning, they never stopped helping the countries they live in and in many ways, you could say they became a blessing to the nations even as they were away from the land of Israel. Then after 2000 years, God begins to move. The longing to return to Israel had never left the heart of the Jewish people. For centuries they cried out during Passover and Yom Kippur next year in Jerusalem. Then between 1947 and 1948, a miracle happened. After 2000 years of exile, the nations of the world permitted the Jewish people to establish their own state in their ancestral homeland, Israel. Even with Arab armies surrounding them like the empires of the past, God remembered His people, the oath He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Outnumbered 10 to one, the fledgling Jewish state was able to withstand the Arab armies that were coming from the north, from the south, and from the east to push the Jewish people into the Mediterranean Sea. Even those who don't believe in miracles say Israel's rebirth as a nation is statistically improbable, but as you know, with God anything is possible. In fact, He takes the impossible odds and uses them for His glory. Friends, there's no other people group on the face of the Earth that have dodged annihilation or assimilation more than the Jewish people. From a human perspective, the Jewish people shouldn't exist anymore. They should have disappeared in the annals of history like the Canaanites or the Hittites or the Jebusites. Trust me, there was plenty of opportunities. Let me just list a few for you.
The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Spanish Inquisitions, the Russian pogroms, and the Holocaust. But think about this. God has preserved them, the Jewish people, throughout history as a constant reminder of His faithfulness. Because of the promise He made to Abraham to preserve them, to protect them, and to give them a land and descendants and to be a blessing to all the nations of the world. If you're ever wondering if God is working, if you're ever wondering in your life if God is out there and listening, and you need a little sight to your faith, just look at the nation of Israel. God promised to restore and resurrect His people to the land and, my friends, you live in one of the most unique times in history. God returned Israel to the land.
When we come back, we're going to read from modern Israel's Declaration of Independence that was read aloud for the world to hear by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, on May 14th, 1948.
Steve Conover: At the Friends of Israel, we want to provide you with every available resource for understanding the depth of the culture and history of the nation of Israel.
Chris Katulka: That's why we're pleased to offer the video "Israel, My Home." This DVD captures the spirit of the Jewish people as they turned adversity into opportunity. Beautifully filmed to capture the landscapes of the Holy Land, this film is a new look at the state of Israel and the fulfillment of God's promise. One of the best ways to experience Israel is to see it yourself. But next to that is "Israel, My Home." Whether you've been to Israel or not, I highly encourage anyone who desires to encounter the Holy Land to purchase this DVD.
Steve Conover: If you love Israel, then you are sure to love this DVD. Don't delay. Visit FOIRadio.org and get your very own copy of "Israel, My Home." Again, that's FOIRadio.org.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back, everyone. For several weeks, we've been going through the Bible looking at the promise God made to Abraham. Today we are looking at how that unconditional promise made with Abraham 4000 years ago has a direct effect not only in the Bible, but what's happening today. Today the very fact that you can open a newspaper and see that there are Jewish people that are living in the land of Israel. On May 14th, 1948, Israel declared to the world that it was establishing a Jewish state. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, read these words aloud from the basement room of Tel Aviv's old art museum. An underground location was chosen because Ben-Gurion and his cabinet knew war with the Arab nations would break out at any moment. Listen to what Ben-Gurion read to the Jewish people longing to have their own country to see the dried bones from Ezekiel 37 come back to life. Listen to this.
"The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance, and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it through their dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to reestablish themselves in their ancient homeland."
See, Ben-Gurion and the Jewish population knew that this land mattered to them. It's a promise written in the Book of Books, as Israel's Declaration of Independence says, and he's talking about the Bible there. You know, I once heard somebody teach that in 1947 as the people were discussing the right of the Jewish people to return to their homeland, someone asked, "What gives the Jews the right to live there?" In the same year that question was being pondered, a Bedouin stumbled upon the Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel. These ancient scrolls that predate Jesus contain the Old Testament, and written in plain Hebrew was Genesis 12 when God said to Abraham, "To you I give this land."
It's as if the Bedouin found the deed to the land of Israel, the Word of God just as Israel was becoming a nation. That's why at the end of Israel's declaration, Ben-Gurion reads this. "Placing our trust in the rock of Israel, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the provisional council of the state, on the soil of the homeland, in the city of Tel Aviv, on the Sabbath eve, the fifth day of Iyar," which is May 14th, 1948. Friends, in a human understanding, Israel shouldn't exist. The Jewish people shouldn't be around. The modern state of Israel shouldn't be here. But because of God's faithfulness to Abraham and His promise to fulfill His oath, they are still here as a testimony of God's faithfulness. Let me just remind you.
If God can be faithful to a people who have a history of falling away and chasing after false gods, how much more faithful will He be to you to fulfill the promises He made to you in Christ Jesus? Israel and the Jewish people give a little sight to our faith.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Our Muslim neighbors are trying to begin a new war. Living in Israel is like living on an active volcano. Our enemies are a mighty majority who refuse to rest until they erase our nation from the map. Every day they wait for our destruction. Recently I told several of them, "You spend your lives thinking about how you will destroy us, but read what is written in the Bible." I gave them an Arabic language Bible so they could read Exodus 15:4-19, Pharaoh's chariots and his army He has cast into the sea. His chosen captives also are drowned in the Red Sea, for the horses of Pharaoh went with the chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
When they had read what had happened to Pharaoh and his army during the days of Moses in the Exodus, one man asked, "Who was this man who hurled the chariots into the sea?" "The Lord God Almighty," I answered. "We are like a poor little worm and you are like muddy locust. Yet we are still here, so who is on our side?" After thinking awhile, someone replied, "That was a long time ago. These are only stories about Israel's many victories." I told them about the many wars they started against us, determined to destroy us. 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and many others. But we are still here. "We won all those wars against you." "This cannot be." I showed them my certificate of discharge from the Israel Defense Forces. I told them I saw our victories with my own eyes because I fought in all these wars.
They began to ask many questions. "How could you have defeated us in 1948? You were only half a million people and had no weapons. We were a multitude from five Arab countries." "I will show you," I said. I opened the Bible and read Psalm 124:1 where it is written, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say, 'If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive.'" Our help is in the name of the Lord who made Heaven and Earth. "Here we are and you with your mighty power of 1.5 billion people and 56 Muslim countries are the ones who are lost. We're only six million, but look who is on our side."
One said, "Now we must read so we will know more about the Bible. We also want to buy one for our sheiks so they will know with whom we are dealing." We talked for a long time before we got to this point, but as the Lord says, "The servant of the Lord must be patient."
Steve Conover: Thank you for listening today. Chris, we're finishing our series, The Common Thread, next week. How's this all going to end?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, you know, 11 weeks we've been going through and I really hope that our listeners have been able to see how the promise that God made to Abraham really binds all of the Bible together. But, you know, what really just closes out, what fulfills this promise, is going to be the return of Jesus the Messiah. When He returns to Earth and establishes His kingdom, that's when the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham will reach its realization, its culmination. That's what we'll be talking about next week.
Steve Conover: That's great. Please join us next week for the conclusion of the Common Thread series. Thank you, Chris. Chris is our host and teacher. Tom Gallione produced today's program. Sarah Fern co-wrote this episode. Apples of Gold was voiced by Mike Kellogg. Jeremy Strong composed our theme. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Israel, My Home DVD
This DVD captures the spirit of the Jewish people as they turned adversity into opportunity. Beautifully filmed to capture the landscapes of the Holy Land, this film is a new look at the state of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promise. One of the best ways to experience Israel is to see it yourself. But next to that is Israel My Home. Whether you’ve been to Israel or not, we highly encourage anyone who desires to encounter the holy land to purchase this DVD.
Apples of Gold: Who Is On Our Side?
Zvi reflects on how volatile it is living in Israel with neighbors who want to push them (Jews) into the sea. He asked his Muslim acquaintances to read Exodus 15 about what happened when Pharaoh tried to destroy the Jewish people. Listen to the curious question they asked after reading how God preserved His people.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Also heard on this week’s show
»Hatikvah (The Israeli National Anthem), Public Domain