For the week of May 10, 2008 / 5 Iyar 5768
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31

Israel: 60 Years

So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD." (Vayikra / Leviticus 22:31-33)

This Thursday (May 8, 2008) is Yom Ha'atzmaut, the commemoration of the declaration of the state of Israel by David ben-Gurion on the Jewish date of 5 Iyar 5708 (May 14, 1948. Note that the Gregorian equivalent changes year by year. The day is also adjusted to avoid the Sabbath - for more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Ha'atzmaut).

This year marks 60 years since the modern state of Israel was established. That's 60 most remarkable, difficult, controversial, miraculous, confusing, distressful, profound, intense years. Israel is the world's youngest ancient country. No other nation has ever risen from the dust of history like this. From the ashes of the Holocaust it rose as from the dead to become an advanced modern democratic society. Living under the continued threat of annihilation, it has continued to not only survive, but thrive.

Readers of the Bible understand that the existence of Israel in our day is more than an interesting fact of history. It is a testimony to the faithfulness of God to his covenant people and a witness to the truth of the Scriptures. The reality of Israel's existence takes what could be an intangible spirituality and brings it to the domain of the real - the here and now of everyday existence.

To say that Israel evokes emotion and controversy is an understatement. Few if any countries top the news as much as Israel does. Yet it ranks 96th by population and 152nd by land mass. People who read the Bible shouldn't be surprised. We might say that once God planted his flag in that tiny land centuries ago, all hell let loose. The events of the last 60 years as significant as they are, represent only one chapter in a most complex and difficult history for that location.

Whatever anyone thinks of the Land of Israel, ancient or modern, readers of the Bible should understand that behind all the political maneuverings and media postulations lie the plans and purposes of God. I am aware that the details of this as expressed by preachers and scholars are as diverse as the political musings. But at this 60th anniversary, it would be most beneficial to get as close to the core of the issue as possible. Whichever "end times" scenario proves right, whatever theological perspective is most accurate, however the current political situation plays out, the real controversy over the land of Israel is that God made it holy.

I think for most Jewish people, Israel represents survival - a place to call home after almost 2000 years of dispersion. But God's intent for the Jewish homeland has always been for it to be that and so much more. The land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to be home to a nation of priests, serving the Master of the Universe in his holy dwelling. Its destiny was that it would be the place out of which his Word would go forth to the rest of the world.

This is a destiny that has been realized, yet is still awaiting its fullness. For it was in this land that Yeshua prepared his followers to proclaim the reality of the One True God to all the nations of the world. Yet we still await the day when all the nations will gather in this land to worship the One True God as he reigns in peace over all the earth.

Until that time Israel remains in turmoil, having survived against all odds, not understanding its continued call to be priests to the nations. But that day is coming.

Happy birthday Israel! May you come to your destiny soon.

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