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Israel's Messenger,

THE LAND COVENANT..

by Moshe Gold

For some Bible believers the establishment of modern Israel is attributed solely to human political endeavor unrelated to God’s promise of land for His chosen people. They link the inheritance of the Promised Land with the final ingathering and establishment of the Kingdom of Israel at the beginning of the earthly reign of Messiah as described in Deuteronomy 30:1-10, usually called the Land Covenant. For others these verses summarize a process of inheritance begun in the past that will not be completed until the future and include modern Israel. There is sharp contrast between these groups.

A Point of Contention

     Among Israelis, the Haredi1 community, a disproportionately influential 20%, believes that when the majority of Jewish people are living according to the Torah (as they teach it), Messiah will come to institute the Land Covenant and gather Israel to inherit the Promised Land. They say that today’s Israel founded on political Zionism is not the Israel of God, but is tolerated by Him. A minority among them routinely undermine Israel’s legitimacy believing it is preventing the coming of Messiah. The majority grudgingly acknowledge the existence of Israel as a sign of the impending establishment of the true Israel. The Haredim base their beliefs on the Jewish commentary2 of Deuteronomy 30:1-10 which speaks of the future of the nation founded in holiness by God Himself. The commentary associates the Land Covenant exclusively with chapter 30. However, Moses’ narrative concerning the land begins with chapter 28. Therefore, inheritance of the Promised Land begins with the people being unrighteous and, after dispersions and re-gatherings, it concludes with their righteousness being established by God.

Of the remaining Israelis, most in some in some way do view the re-emergence of the sovereign state of Israel as the work of God. They typically express this as the end of the exile and suffering at the hands of the world’s nations or as God fulfilling the Zionist dream.

In Israel the vast majority, both secular and religious, believes the land is promised to the descendants of Jacob; it is the timing of the inheritance that separates them as far as the east is from the west. The re-emergence of Israel in 1948 is at the root of the secular/religious divide in Israeli society that has plagued the country since its independence, creates extreme internal pressures, and is one of the key reasons that there is no constitution.

Gaining popularity with Christians is this same belief that present Israel is a political creation, not fulfilling prophecy, and should not be preferentially aided. Acceptance of this view tends to produce negative attitudes and behavior toward Israel and Jewish people. These are expressed in anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish rhetoric, calls for divestment from corporations doing business with Israel, and boycotting Israeli products (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement – BDS) while sympathizing, validating, supporting and approving of the activities of the enemies of Israel for which in the future there will be judgment for those who do so3. For the most part, individuals who hold to this opinion minimize the need to bring the Gospel message to Jewish people under the assumption that they will all be saved in the future when God establishes them in the land.

A Point in God’s Promise

     The Bible is the progressive revelation of the plan of God for mankind. It is the record of how, from age to age, He extends grace to the household of mankind and man’s responsibility for accepting and living in that grace. Prophecy is also many times progressively revealed so there is no confusion on man’s part about the original intent.  A correct reading of prophecy begins from the older pronouncement and reads forward as more detail on the subject is given. The newer does not supersede the older; it amplifies it. This is true of the unconditional promises made by God to Abraham4; part of which pertains to a large piece of land in the Middle East. As more detail is added to the promise of land, there emerges a fuller understanding of it in regard to size5, struggle to claim the inheritance6, apportionment7 and the timing of the final allocation8. Beginning in Deuteronomy there are details that affect Israel’s comfort on the land and their ability to maintain sovereignty there. While the complete inheritance is assured with certainty, the road to get there is not without its complications. It is fraught with choice of direction determined by the obedience of the people to God. All choices arrive at the same destination, but with some there are long detours through dangerous landscape.

The text of Deuteronomy 30:1-10 contains the good news that Israel will exercise complete and everlasting sovereignty over the full extent of the land they were promised as the descendants of Isaac and Jacob, the chosen children of Abraham. When we consider the promise to Abraham together with this and other Scripture describing Israel’s relationship to the land, we can correctly conclude that from the moment they crossed the Jordan into the land9 and, regardless of sovereignty or lack thereof over it10, the land has been theirs. That includes all time from the days of Joshua through expansions under kings like David, Solomon, Uzziah and the Hasmonean Alexander Yannai. Yet, their efforts fell short, never incorporating the totality of the land promised to Abraham by God.

The inheritance was never fully attained because, as with all the Law of Moses, the Land Covenant was meant to reveal sin by the inability to achieve it11. The conquest of the land did not bring peace to the soul and rest to the body12 because to know the peace of God13 one must be at peace with God14. God declares that He by Himself will make the heart of the Jewish people acceptable to Him15, bringing peace. He reminds Israel that it is not by physical prowess that they will be successful in conquest, but only through the Spirit of God will they have rest in the land16.  In this portion of Scripture we see the future national realization of that promise. However, it will take place only after the cycle of blessings and cursing mentioned in Deuteronomy 28 have reached their end (Deuteronomy 30:1).

Then the LORD GOD of Israel will have mercy on them and “return” for them (vs.3)17. Although some attempt to frame this statement metaphorically to mean as if God was returning to the land with them, it is violation of the language to do so. Others interpret this to denote His Dwelling Presence will again lead them. Since Messiah Jesus is the brightness of His shining18 and the very image of the invisible God, He is the Dwelling Presence and will, as He promised, return to lead His people Israel. Only then will they control all of the land that is their rightful inheritance; territory that is already theirs because it legally belonged to their ancestors (vs.5). They will be blessed beyond what Abraham experienced in his lifetime (vs.5, 9), becoming a very large nation and sought after for their relationship with God19. He will gather their remnant to the land from wherever they are in the world (vs.3-4)20. He will, at that time, send such strong conviction upon them from the average person to the religious and political elite21 that they will repent and turn to Him as their savior (vs.6). God will judge those who persecuted them (vs.7). They will then have peace with their neighbors and respect from the world’s nations22.

A Point for Our Time

     God can never renege on His word and He says what He literally means which gives us assurance that Israel has had an unbroken right to their land from the moment the soles of their feet touched it. In Deuteronomy 30, Israel is shown what the end will be to encourage them in troublous times. God has demonstrated His faithfulness to Israel in the past and during this present dispensation. Ezekiel spoke of the day that Israel would be restored to the land in unbelief. They would come up, as if out of graves, as dry bones given new life23. This is proof of God working in the world today. With such testimony there is every reason to believe that He will fulfill all His promises to Israel, including preserving them24, returning to them, dwelling among them and establishing a kingdom for them that will include all of the Promised Land. Therefore, we as followers of God through Messiah Jesus should take comfort that He will also fulfill His promises to us regardless of present circumstance.

The Prophet Daniel informs us that until the end of the age of Gentile world domination the people of Israel will not find rest or peace nor fully inherit the land God has established them on as promised to their forefathers25. In our time, we are seeing the nation of Israel live out the reality of choices made in the past as stated in the Land Covenant.  However, regardless of their choices and national rejection of Messiah, they are still loved by the Father in a unique way, different than any other people group26. They are still the people of God and the inheritors of the promises made to the Fathers. The promises and special status are physical and must be respected, but as far as a spiritual relationship with God, He has concluded everyone equally in need of a savior and equally savable27.

It is only in eisegesis of Deuteronomy 30:1-10 and allowing a private interpretation to become the authority, that some have come to a wrong conclusion about the Land Covenant, Israel and the Jewish people. By not applying the whole of Scripture, today’s ultra-Orthodox community and some Christians have together fallen into the same error. Like the Sadducees who raised the words of Moses above the prophets, they have rejected the whole council and context of Scripture. Like the Pharisees they have made the interpretation of Scripture according to their teachers more authoritative than the word of God itself.

You have two choices before you: accept that the inheritance of the land has begun or reject it. Your choice will shape your understanding of Israel, yesterday and today, and the prophetic portions of the Word of God.

 

End Notes

1 Haredi (singular/collective) Haredim (plural) refers to all sects of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community.

2 Rashi on Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos, Hapthtorah and Rashi’s Commentary; Translated by M. Rosenbaum and A.M. Silberman; Vol. Deuteronomy, p. 148-150; Hebrew Publishing Co, New York,

3 Matthew 25:31-ff

4 Genesis 12:1-3

5 At its center, the children of Israel have been given the land inhabited by every clan or tribe of Canaanite (Genesis 13:15-17; 17:8) and beyond that all the land between the River of Egypt (Wadi Al Arish) up to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:18-21).

6 Deuteronomy 28:15-62; Jeremiah 25:1-12; Daniel 9:24-27; Ezekiel 37:1-13.

7 Numbers 34:1-12 is the size of the down payment or the beginning of the inheritance with the total remaining area of land to be included in the future (Ezekiel 47:13-20; 48:1-ff).

8 The time of national conversion to God through Messiah (Deuteronomy 30:5-6; Ezekiel 37:14-ff; Zechariah 12:10-13:1)

9 Deuteronomy 27:2-3

10 Deuteronomy 28:33, 38-44

11 Romans 3:20; 5:13

12 Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 4:7-11

13 Philippians 4:7

14 Romans 5:1

15 Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 24:7; 31:31-33; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27

16 Zechariah 4:6. After the return from Babylon the enemies of the Jewish people were trying to keep them from reclaiming sovereignty over their rightful inheritance; God gave them courage in knowing that He was with them.

17 Zechariah 8:3; Ezekiel 48:35; Jeremiah 23:6; Zephaniah 3:14-17

18 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:3; Hebrews 1:3

19 Ezekiel 36:28-30, 33-38; Zechariah 8:4, 12-13, 22-23

20 Isaiah 66:8-14, 20-22; Zechariah 8:7-8

21 Zechariah 12:11-14

22 Zechariah 8:13

23 Ezekiel 37:1-13

24 Zechariah 13:8-9; Romans 11:26

25 Daniel 2:31-45; 9:26-27; 11:41-45; Zechariah 12:2-4; 14:2-3

26 Romans 11:28-29

27 Romans 10:11-13; 11:5, 30-32

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2 Responses to “THE LAND COVENANT”

  1. Carole Massey-Reyner says:

    Excellent article. I’ve seen this same argument put forward by “Christians” who refuse to see the plain truth.

    I have a question about Zechariah 12:11-14,where only four family names are mentioned. I can find very little commentary on it. Do you have any light to shed on that passage?

    God bless.

    Carole Reyner

  2. Mark Robinson says:

    Carole,

    The four families are two from the royal line and two from the priestly line. David Baron in his commentary sees them representing the upper and lower people of each line, and thus from the top to the bottom there will be repentance and mourning.

    There is probably no significance in the names of the families beyond picturing that there is repentance among ALL the people.

    As verse 14 says, “all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.”

    Mark Robinson