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Fighting for the "Promised Land"

by Donald Geddes — last modified Dec 13, 2014 08:49 PM
Rev Donald Geddes

The bloody conflict between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza does not appear to have the possibility of a final resolution. Since the latest fighting began in July over 2,000 have died and 10,000 have been injured—nearly all the casualties are Palestinians.

A number of cease-fire agreements have been broken by Hamas firing rockets into Israel.

It is hard to see how this conflict can ever be settled as Hamas is committed to drive Israel into the sea and Israel is just as determined to hold on to what they see as their “Promised Land”.

Over the past 70 years every peace proposal has been rejected by the Palestinians who bitterly resent being displaced when the state of Israel was set up after World War 2. Muslims see some of their holy sites occupied by Jews as desecration by infidels.

Orthodox Jews continue the provocative policy of establishing settlements in Palestinian land on the basis that all Palestine is their “Promised Land” given them by God.  So, do the Jews have a Divine Right to the land of Palestine?

God chose Israel to be His special people (Deut. 7:6). Part of the Covenant God made with Abraham was God’s promise to give you this land to take possession of it.” (Gen. 15:7). This is described as an everlasting covenant (Ps. 105:10–11). "All the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever" (Gen. 13:15). Orthodox Jews take these promises as giving them the absolute right to possess the land of Palestine.

However, the irrevocable covenantal promises were also conditional. God’s people had to live in faith and obedience to His commands as Gen. 18:19 makes clear. The continual disobedience of Israel led to judgement and exile in Babylon.

The Prophet Ezekiel was part of those Jews sent in exile to Babylon. The question uppermost in the minds of the exiles was “Would Israel lose the land promised to Abraham?”  In Chapter 33 he records God’s answer. Israel’s possession of the land depended upon keeping the Covenant (verses 23-29). Having violated the Covenant, why should they keep the land? The Land was about to become desolate.

In Chapter 34 Ezekiel lays the blame on the leaders who he describes as “false shepherds” who were more interested in seeking material gains than looking after the flock of Israel. These false shepherds would be removed and God Himself would gather his flock by sending a True Shepherd—the Messiah. This was Jesus as John 10:14 indicates. God would establish a New Covenant which would bring “showers of blessing”.

Today, Israel as a nation is a covenant-breaking people—they are rejecting their Messiah, Jesus. In this condition of unbelief and disobedience, Israel has no "divine right" to the Land of Promise. This does not mean that other nations have the right to molest her. The fact that the Jews are able to exist in Palestine shows they still enjoy a measure of God’s protection—but this is because of God’s common grace rather than their right.

Does this mean God’s promise to Abraham of a Land for his descendants has failed? No! Romans 11 indicates that Gentile believers constitute a new Israel which will include a remnant of Jewish believers. The land the New Israel will inherit will be the new Earth God will create after this sinful earth is destroyed by fire (Isa. 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, Rev. 21:1). All followers of Christ, and only followers of Christ, will inherit the new earth.

In the mean time the dispute over Palestine cannot be resolved unless the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah and the Palestinians hear the Gospel and become Christians.