“A quirk of history???” Although many Bible believers consider the Jewish State of Israel to be a modern miracle, one leading theologian has maintained that Israel is totally insignificant—It is, in his words, “a quirk of history.”
Israel will celebrate its 69th Birthday this upcoming Tuesday. David Ben Gurion, first Prime Minister of Israel and father of the modern state, said “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles!” After more than 2,000 years since the Jewish loss of independence, the long term dispersion of the Jewish people around the globe, and the relatively recent horror of the Holocaust, it seems to be a miracle that there is once again a Jewish state in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
Yet, some people object that Israel is a secular state—that the majority of Israelis are quite irreligious and not even observant Jews. And the 25% of its citizens that are orthodox Jews and do believe in God, do not yet believe in Jesus. Of course, there is a strong remnant of Jewish followers of Jesus in the land today. But they are a miniscule minority. So, people object to me, how can you believe that the restoration of Israel today is a work of God and not of secular humans?
There’s much to be said, and I’d recommend my book, Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict: What the Headlines Haven’t Told You if you’d like to read more. But right now I want to specifically address the objection that Israel is a secular nation that for the most part does not believe in Jesus. Three perspectives help us to see that God has brought His people back even now, when most Israelis don’t yet believe in Jesus.
First, there is a principle at work here: God remembers His people Israel even when they forget Him. This is the point of the book of Esther. God isn’t named directly, not because He’s not working but because Israel in captivity had forgotten Him. So the author of Esther deliberately chooses not to refer to God directly and yet shows how God’s providence, in faithfulness to His word, preserves the Jewish people. That’s why Mordechai tells Esther “If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place” (Est 4:14). His message was that God would be faithful to His covenant and His promise even when Israel was not acting in faith. And so Israel’s secular nature today, certainly does not prohibit God from acting in conformity to the Land promise He gave and biblical prophecy He revealed.
Second, there is an example of precedence: God brought the people of Israel back to the land of Israel after the first exile even though they were not filled with faith then either. Those that returned were not driven by faith—read the prophets that wrote after the exile (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). Each book challenges the people for lacking faith and being disobedient to God. Here’s just one example—Malachi 2:11 says: “Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the Lord’s sanctuary, which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.” Nevertheless, the restoration at that time was certainly a work of God even though Israel was living in unbelief.
Third, there is the promise of prophecy: the prophets foretold that the people of Israel will only come to faith after being returned to the land of Israel. For example, Ezekiel 36:24-26 says “For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.” Clearly, this is a promise of restoration. But the next verse says, “Then I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Only after being returned would Israel believe and be transformed. Also, Zechariah 12:10 teaches that it is only after being returned and facing a terrible attack that Israel will turn to the One who can save them; they will look in faith to the Him who was pierced and mourn in repentance for having so long rejected their Messiah, and then they will be saved.
So yes, I agree that Israel today is a secular state but that does not preclude that the modern state of Israel is indeed a work of God, a modern miracle. God is faithful and He is working, restoring Israel to the land today so He can and will restore Israel to faith in the Messiah Jesus yet in the future.