“And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”
– Isaiah 49:6
What is the special nature of Israel in the world?
It is recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures – Isaiah 49:6.
It is to bring salvation and restoration to the whole earth, as I wrote in my latest book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.”
Unfortunately, not many Christians or Jews could so succinctly and accurately state that purpose – even though it is repeated twice, almost verbatim, in the Greek Scriptures as well.
- Acts 13:47: “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
- Acts 26:23: “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”
While Christians believe Jesus came to do just that and will complete the mission upon His second coming, Jews see the completion of that assignment by God as coming in the future with the arrival of their Messiah.
It was nice to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make reference to the prophetic purpose of his nation in a recent address to Christian media representatives to Jerusalem.
He was asked why Israel goes out of its way to provide aid to disaster victims around the world as it recently did in Haiti, Nepal, Japan and Mexico, where it was among the first on the scene with international relief efforts.
“Because we’re a light unto the nations,” he said. “That’s the great fulfillment of that great prophecy, and, in fact, what Israel is doing. … And the people say, well, what do you do? What is it that you get out of it? And the answer is we’re not getting out of it anything. We’re fulfilling our deepest values – Israel is a light unto the nations.”
I’ll be headed to Israel in two weeks, leading a tour of about 100 American evangelicals – something I do annually to help spread that light to the people.
What I’ve noticed over the many years and many trips I’ve taken to the Jewish state is that you see two things:
- You see the evidence of past judgment in the archaeological ruins being uncovered and restored. Almost anywhere they dig in Israel, you find it. The judgment came whenever Israel did not fulfill its mission to be a light to the nations.
- You see the evidence of restoration already beginning – with God’s chosen people returning in vast numbers in their original homeland, rebuilding their nation, speaking in their original language and, yes, trying again to fulfill that original mission, which ultimately will be completed with the arrival of their long-awaited Messiah.
Maybe you ask: “Why, then, is Israel so controversial in the world today? Why do so many not appreciate its work? Why do so many – most of the world, in fact – hold Israel in contempt?”
The Bible explains that – it’s predicted in Zechariah 12:2-3: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.”
That Israel is a source of controversy in the world today is also a fulfillment of Bible prophecy found in Jeremiah 25:31: “A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord.”
While Israel is once again attempting to be a blessing and a light to the nations, the nations cannot see it because they are not in the light – at least not yet.
Israel is a dividing line between those who believe in the God of Israel and those who do not. It will remain that way until the fulfillment of the Lord’s Prayer and a thousand other prophecies: “Thy Kingdom come, They will be done – on earth as it is in heaven.”