“Unless Your Presence goes with us…”
The Torah readings (Exodus 30:11 to 34:35) for this week tell the wonderful story of Moses’ absolute understanding that if the LORD’s Presence would not go with them, then it would be pointless to move forward. “What else”, he asks, “will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth … if your presence does not go with us?” If Moses, whose relationship with the LORD caused his face to absorb the Glory of the LORD, so that the people could not look at him, knew so profoundly that he was not qualified to lead the people successfully, that they needed the Presence to go before them and be with them, then we must admit that we, personally and as a nation, need to depend on the LORD’s Presence for our lives to be successful. Israel today needs the LORD’s Presence ever more completely.
The 66 years since Israel’s re-constitution as a nation provide us with abundant examples of miraculous protection and success. I recently read a pamphlet titled supernatural or just remarkable? It recounted page after page of events in Israel’s history since 1948 in the context of that question. How often, for example, in the entire history of the world, have you read of a people who have been decimated and forced out of their land to become exiles among many other nations, had their capital city and places of worship totally demolished and finally, after almost 2,000 years of persecution, pogroms and genocidal attacks, return to their ancestral homeland, where they revive a long dead language, re-settle their former towns, build new cities and transform a wasteland into a flourishing land; all this while being threatened with annihilation by the surrounding nations. During this whole time, instead of succumbing to victimhood and bemoaning their situation, they have prospered in every area of endeavor; Israelis have won 12 Nobel Prizes, at least one in each of the 6 areas the prize is awarded. (Worldwide, although Jews account for only .2% of the population, they have won 20% of the 850 individual prizes awarded since 1901, when the first Nobel Prize was given; including 9% of all Peace Prizes.)
During this same time period, most of the 800,000+ Jews who were expelled, after 1948, from Arab nations around them were welcomed into Israel; no whining about a “refugee problem”.
In addition to those forced out of Arab countries, Israel brought back home millions of Jews from Europe, Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, India and many other countries of the world; a process that continues today, with most of the Menashe, from India, back home.
To me it sounds like the question posed by the pamphlet title is, just possibly, rhetorical.
All of this, of course, was predicted by Israel’s ancient prophets, beginning with Moses himself. In the latter chapters of Deuteronomy, after a lengthy portrayal of the consequences, both blessing for ethically sound behavior and cursing for ignoring the LORD’s instructions, Moses predicts that they will become self-centered and ignore their call to be Holy and a Light to the nations, and assures them that the LORD will scatter them amongst all the nations.
In fact, in Deuteronomy 28, Moses’ words regarding the consequence of “not carefully following all the words of this law”, become extremely harsh, so explicit in nature that I feel compelled to quote extensively to assure you that I am not making this up. He says, “You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.” (They have not even entered their inheritance at this point.) “Then the LORD will scatter you among the nations” and “you will find no repose, no resting place for the soles of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’ –because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.” Although there were certainly periods of prosperity during the Diaspora, this description could aptly represent most of the nearly 2,000 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and their Temple, and expulsion from their land.
But Moses also assures them, in these same chapters, that their God will restore them by bringing them back to their land; most of the Prophets echo this prediction. Ezekiel, however, not only offers another insight, but repeats this additional word of clarification: through him the LORD says, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name”. The LORD’s name had been “profaned among the nations where you have gone” in that the nations are saying of them, “These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.” That is, the nations know that the LORD had made a covenant with them which included a specific land to which He brought them, and they possessed in the time of Joshua. The Covenant was an “everlasting covenant”, yet here are these people, scattered among the nations, rather than prospering and secure in their land. This the LORD will make right by bringing them back to their own land.
The re-establishment of Israel in 1948 is the beginning of the LORD’s restoration process, a process that Ezekiel describes in specific detail in chapter 36 and 37. The LORD will not only bring them back and leave them to fend for themselves; rather, the LORD says, “I will give you a new heart…I will put my spirit in you…You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people and I will be your God…. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field…I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.” He will be part of the entire restoration process so that “the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate.” This rebuilding, as seen below with the new community of Shiloh on the hill behind the archaeological dig at ancient Shiloh, is happening all over the "mountains of Israel".
How can anyone think that US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and his equally insightful superior, US President, Barak Obama, are anywhere near the right road to peace in the region?
Neither we nor they, however, need to read the Bible to understand their folly; just read a little accurate history, untainted by the re-written narrative offered by the Arab and PLO/PA version, which the world seems to prefer to the truth. That will need to be left for another time; it desperately needs to be done.
Where is the truth?