by Anton Stier
Sharon’s disengagement plans are a matter that exercised many minds; even after the first stage of the plan being fulfilled. The relevant question is: Whose is the land?
There is a lot of disharmony in Israeli society. On the one side are the settlers whose claim to the land is based on Deuteronomy 11:24 “Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.” The idea of giving away land is disobedience to the God-given promise and so the Promised Land has to be claimed and taken possession of as a hastening of the coming of the Messiah. Secular Israelis see this biblical claiming as an enormous threat to Israel’s continued existence.
Isaac or Ishmael?
Genesis 12:1-9 states that God promised the land to Abraham and his offspring. How intense Abraham’s prayer was: “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” The Lord’s answer is clear: “No, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (verse 19). According to the Bible Isaac, and not Ishmael, is Abraham’s heir.
Seeds as of one, not of many
The Bible tells us more about this right of inheritance. Galatians 3:16 states: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” Paul notes that the right of inheritance has been promised to “thy seed”, Christ. We also find this declaration in the first verse of the New Testament: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The Lord Jesus is David’s heir, rightfully claiming his throne and also Abraham’s heir, rightfully claiming the promises given to him. Also the Old Testament stated that God is the owner of the land, Leviticus 25:23: “The land shall not be sold forever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”
Eretz Israel is a holy land. This is the land where most of God’s Word was written and proclaimed by Israel’s prophets, apostles and evangelists. Israel is the land where acts of salvation took place and will take place in the future.
It’s not only a holy land but also a good land, “a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.” (Deut. 8:7-9)
Enjoying such blessings is not unconditional: “When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.” The purpose of these blessings was for the people to acknowledge and worship the Lord as the Source of Life.
Eretz Israel is, “A land which the Lord their God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (verse 12). The psalmist writes: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep”. This on the condition of Israel’s obedience to the Lord.
“Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heavens, that there be no rain and that the land yield not the fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.” (Deut. 11:16,17). The state of the nation was a reflection of the state of the hearts of the people. If they turned away from the Lord the heavens would be shut up and the people would perish.
Egypt en Israel
In connection with this it is important to pay attention to the difference between Israel and Egypt. Moses speaks of this in Deut. 11:10,11: “For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven”. The land of Egypt had to be irrigated artificially; the Promised Land would drink the water of the rain of heaven. In this way God would amaze the people of Israel by His care for the land and make them depend upon Him for their needs. This is in contrast with Egypt which served the Nile as a God, because the fruitfulness of the land depended upon this river.
Sabbath of rest
Another important ordinance in regard to the land was the Sabbath year of rest. During six years the fields could be sown, “but in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” (Lev. 25:4).
In these verses the Lord as landowner issues an important law. The people of Israel had to rely upon the Lord’s provision every seventh year. It was meant as an act of obedience and faith to the Lord. For Israel this was a hard law to fulfil according to 2 Chron. 36:21, Lev. 26:34,35.
A holy life
That Israel was living on holy land is made clear from the warnings in Lev. 18:28: “That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.” (see also Gen. 15:16). If they defiled the land the same thing would happen to Israel that happened to other peoples; they would be spued out. These sincere warnings cannot be neglected not even today. Everyone who claims the Land implicitly connects himself to the regulations concerning the Land that were given by the Owner, the Lord Himself.
To scatter and to return
Long before Israel enters the Promised Land, the Lord predicted through Abraham and later on through Moses that they would have to leave it some day, but He also promised a return. The Lord said to Abram: “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterwards shall they come out with great substance. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen. 15:13-16). The Lord predicted that Abram’s offspring would be oppressed for four hundred years, a clear reference to the oppression Israel would suffer in Egypt. But how did the Lord decide Israel’s moment of return? They would not return before His judgement on Egypt was executed and not before the iniquity of the Amorites had come to fulfilment. God’s acts of salvation for Israel implicate His righteous judgement upon the nations. A remarkable similarity with these words is found in Luke 21:24: “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (see also Zech. 12:1-3).
Scattering predicted by Moses
Also through Moses the Lord predicted the scattering of His people. Moses predicted this just before Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land. Moses warned them that if they didn’t listen to the Lord He would, “scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.” (Deut. 28:64) At the same time Moses speaks of the wonderful promise of return in Deuteronomy 30:1-7. This promise of return has never been completely fulfilled. Pay attention to the details:
1. The condition of return is “return unto the LORD, and obey His voice”;
2. This conversion will take place in all the nations, to which they have been scattered;
3. The Lord, Who scattered them, will bring them back;
4. They will be gathered from all nations;
5. They will possess the land as heirs;
6. The Lord will circumcise their hearts and the hearts of their offspring;
7. The result of all this is eternal life!
We have already discovered that when Israel turns to God, they will inherit the land. Paul says in Galatians 4:4-7: “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
Christ is the heir of the promises given unto Abraham as Galatians 3:16 states: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” The heir of the land is always through Christ “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Cor. 1:20).