Why Do the Nations Rage?
by Jill Shannon
The Psalm was written by Asaph three-thousand years ago, and yet it seems as fresh and relevant as the summer headlines:
"O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.
See how Your enemies are astir, how Your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against Your people, they plot against those You cherish.
'Come,' they say, 'let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more." (Psalm 83:1-3)
Three-thousand years later, the same nations listed in this Psalm exhibit the identical determination to destroy the nation of Israel. Although the Jewish people had been driven and scattered from their land for eighteen-hundred years, the same ancient enemies rose up to annihilate them as soon as Israel was restored as a nation in 1948.
Unconditional Land Grant
Out of the Chaldean empire, God called Abraham to become the father of many nations. He made a covenant with Abraham and granted to him and to his descendants the land of Canaan, later called "Israel," the new name God gave to Jacob (Gen 12:1-3, Gen 15). In Genesis 15, we see that God put Abraham into a deep sleep and made an unconditional covenant with him, granting to him and his descendants this land. God also promised him a son through his aged wife, Sarah.
Although Abraham's son Ishmael was born earlier through his Egyptian maid, Hagar, the Lord confirmed this land grant to Isaac, the promised child born in Sarah's old age (Gen 26:3-4). Likewise, although Esau was Isaac's firstborn, the Lord confirms the covenant to Jacob (Gen 35:11-12) and reiterates it often throughout psalms and the prophets (Psalm 105:8-11, Amos 9:14-15). One of the most compelling passages is found in Jeremiah 31; in this prophecy, the permanence of Israel's nationhood is irrevocably established.
"This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar--the Lord Almighty is His name:
'Only if these decrees vanish from My sight,' declares the Lord,' will the descendents of Israel ever cease to be a nation before Me...
'Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth be searched out, will I reject all the descendents of Israel because of all that they have done,' declares the Lord." (Jer 31:35-37)
The Nation of Israel Today
Although the land grant to Abraham was unconditional, the Law of Moses given at Mt. Sinai was a conditional covenant. This simply means that the Israelites had a responsibility to keep their part of the covenant. The Lord would do His part, but He required obedience and faithfulness from His people.
The Torah describes the rewards for obedience and the horrific consequences of disobedience (Lev 26, Deut 28). The chronicles of Israel's history and the extensive warnings of the prophets tell the heartbreaking story of Israel's idolatry and disobedience to the Lord, with some notable righteous exceptions. These witnesses still speak through our Scriptures as a testimony to both the unfaithfulness of our people and the faithfulness of God to His unfailing Word and promises.
All that was spoken by the prophets came upon Israel, and in His righteous judgments, the Lord used pagan Gentile empires to execute cruel punishments upon His own people. As a result of each of these sequential judgments, the Jewish inhabitants of Israel were killed in their hundreds of thousands and exiled to distant countries; also, the Lord's temple and the city of Jerusalem were trampled upon by Gentile empires until the days of the promised restoration would come (Luke 21:24).
The prophets Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah, Zechariah and Ezekiel wrote that in the last days, God would regather His Jewish people to their land after centuries of exile. The Lord knew that His Name and reputation among the nations as a faithful, covenant-keeping God would depend on the Jewish people coming back to their land of promise, despite their unfaithfulness to Him (Ezekiel 36:1-37:14). After all, He made an unconditional land grant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
Why Do the Nations Rage?
The tiny land of Israel is the most contested piece of real estate on the earth. The United Nations takes an inordinate and disproportionate interest in the ownership and political status of Israel, particularly the "West Bank" and the city of Jerusalem. The repeated resolutions produced by the UN are always critical of Israel, and supportive of those groups and nations which target and attack her civilian population.
Despite being only 58 years old since her modern statehood was established out of the ashes of the Holocaust, Israel has experienced seven wars, five of which could have easily brought about her destruction.
At the time of this writing, the world looks with fearful expectation at the conditions in the violent and unstable Middle East. As Israel and the nations watch, Iran prepares for Zion's destruction with "one decisive blow," a brazen reference to a nuclear weapon; the terrorist army of Hezbollah in Lebanon has now re-armed to the deadly levels before the summer 2006 costly and unresolved war with Israel; Iran and Syria continue to provide weapons, trained fighters, and vast financial support to the murderous attacks in Iraq and to the various violent Palestinian factions in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.
As the recent 2006 war proved, for Israel to fight a guerrilla war in Lebanon, or to prevail in a lengthy campaign of simultaneous attacks from the "West Bank" and the surrounding nations would be very costly.
Although the danger to Israel is very serious, the God who delivered His people from Pharaoh, Haman, Antiochus IV and Hitler, will again prove Himself faithful to defend the descendents of Jacob in times of trouble.
May those who trust in the Lord pray for the physical and spiritual salvation of Israel! May the Jewish people look to her Rock and acknowledge Yeshua, the Prince of Peace, for in Him alone is deliverance from destruction!
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.