sermon: The Doctrine of Israel (Part Ten): Where Is Israel Today?
Biblical Directions to Modern Israel
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 11-Jul-20; Sermon #1553; 68 minutes
Even though God promises intensely not to forsake His flock, He will not budge an inch on sin, and was compelled to forsake His Son when He became accursed due to sin. God may forsake sinners, but He desires to show mercy to those who forsake their sins and walk in His law. The offspring of Jacob have perennially broken their covenant with God, forcing God to chastise them severely, but He has always extended mercy and deliverance, not always because they requested it, but to be consistent with His righteous character, keeping His promises to the Patriarch Abraham. In calling His sheep "lost" (Luke 15:6), Christ referred to the lost tribes of Israel, to which He commanded His disciples to minister. The tribes may be lost to scholars, but they are not lost to God, Who has provided multiple clues as to their current whereabouts. Jesus' brother James was aware of the location of all twelve tribes, as dispersed as they were over the face of the earth. Judea and Israel have been in diaspora for over 2 ½ millennia. Josephus identifies the Parthian empire as an extension of the house of Judah, responsible for sending the Magi to honor Christ. Ezekiel 36 describes the incredible proliferation of the "branches" of Israel, ending with God's promise to rescue a remnant of Israel, bringing it back to their homeland. God promises that, no matter how scattered Israel may become, He will not lose sight of even the smallest grain. Using Jerusalem as a point of reference, Israel dispersed north and west (Jeremiah 3:12; 31:8; Isaiah 49:12-22) into what is now northern and western Europe. God promises David's progeny authority over the sea, rivers, and coastlands (Psalm 89:19-24).
To open up let us start in the book of Hebrews. I am beginning to sound like my dad here, but we are going to go to the end of the book. He has not gotten there yet. In chapter 13 we are going to read a well known verse that we probably know fairly well, if not by heart.
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
It is that last bit that we are concentrating on here for a few minutes. We have all read this verse and love it. We have taken a great deal of hope and comfort from it that Christ will never leave us or forsake us. Many of us know that it is written in Greek as a quintuple negative or as my dad said, essentially, "I will never, never, never, never, never forsake you." It is a little bit different in the Greek, but you get the idea that God is telling us in no uncertain terms that He is not going to leave us. It gives us a great deal of confidence and assurance that has us whistling and grinning all day if we really understand what He is saying.
I hate to burst your bubble though, but Paul is employing a bit of hyperbole here or perhaps we could say that we infer a false universality from it. Now, do not get me wrong, it is a true statement that He says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," but it applies only to a narrow segment of the human population. We can thank God that it applies to us because this epistle is written to the church, to the people of God. He has written this to those who are called and chosen and that is who it applies to. When He calls us and we accept that and we become part of His church, He will not let us go. We are one of those chosen ones.
It has a parallel from the lips of Jesus Himself in John 10:28 (the Good Shepherd chapter), where He is speaking of His sheep, and He says, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." So that goes side by side with "I will never leave you nor forsake you." But it applies to His sheep, those that are among His flock.
So you can breathe easier. Do not worry, your bubble has not been too burst. You just have to adjust your thinking just a little bit to understand that He is applying this to His very own people, His called and chosen. He will never leave you nor forsake you as a chosen son or daughter of God. And that is a wonderful thing. But we need to understand that there are certain limits in the verbiage here. Now, this means in the way that I have narrowed this down, that He will leave and forsake other people. We do not like to think of God that way. But He will. For instance, let us go to Matthew the 27th chapter. This should not be a shock.
Matthew 27:45-46 Now, from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. [obviously we are here at Christ's crucifixion] And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
If God will forsake His own Son, do you think He will not forsake others? Certainly He will. The Father forsook His own and only beloved Son as He hung on the cross. Now, context is key here for why He did this. This is just after the sins of all humanity, for all time, had been placed upon the Son of God. So He was filthy, stinking sinful at this point. Not from His own sinfulness, but from the sinfulness of all of us. And since God cannot abide sin, He forsook Him to die and to pay the penalty for all those putrid sins of humanity for all time. He was abhorrent to the Father at that point because the stench of our sins was mounting up to heaven and He forsook Him.
So, this verse reveals a principle on this subject of God forsaking people. We can say a very simple sentence here: God forsakes those who are laden with sin. Mark [Schindler] brought up Hebrews 10:26 and Hebrews 6:4-6 last night when we were talking, that those who willfully sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, do not get a second chance. What happens? Where do they go? They go into the Lake of Fire, ultimately. Is that not the ultimate in God forsaking someone, putting them to eternal death?
Well, since we know how the story goes (I am going back to Matthew the 27th chapter here), we know that the Father did not forsake Him forever or ultimately. Once the Son had paid for those sins with His death—the very Creator God dying for all of our sins—three days and three nights passed in order to fulfill the prophecy of His Messiahship, God raised His Son from the dead and returned to Him the glory that He once had when He sat at the Father's right hand in heaven. So there was no ultimate forsaking there. Christ had a job to do and He did it. He won our redemption through His own body in His own death. And God then said, "It is done." That part has been played and He raised Him from the dead.
So we see another principle that arises from this scenario and that is this: God may forsake sinners, but He desires to show mercy and return them to favor, and ultimately to glory. When God forsakes somebody, it is for a really good reason.
Let us leave here and go to II Chronicles 15. We will find another principle. We are going to snatch two verses out of the story of Asa, king of Judah. They are facing a terrible trial there. So a prophet had to be sent to Asa to buck him up, to give him some encouragement. Take the jelly out of his spine and put some stiffness in it.
II Chronicles 15:1-2 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him, "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you."
Pretty simple English there. I am sure it is pretty simple Hebrew as well. God does not want to forsake His people. That is not what He is all about. But if they forsake Him, He will forsake them.
Now, we know God is the most patient and merciful Person in the entire universe. But even He reaches a point in the history of a nation or a history of a certain person who has been sinful where He must turn His back. Even on those He calls His people, when their sins mount to high heaven, as we might say, then He has to take action. And one of the actions that He takes is that He forsakes them. He sends His wrath upon them and turns His back upon them. He does not send them the help that they need. It is all part of the covenant. He said it very simply there in the blessings and curses that if they left Him, well, He was going to leave them and that is the way it was going to go. He saw into the future and told Moses, "tell these people that you are going to leave Me," and that is exactly what happened. And so He left them.
Let us go to Jeremiah 7. This is just a little bit of an underpinning of this this idea,
Jeremiah 7:28-31 "So you shall say to them [this means the people of Judah], 'This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and been cut off from their mouth. Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.' For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight," says the Lord. "They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it. [This is their idols and the things that they were doing even within the Temple precincts.] And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart."
He never imagined that it would be that bad. But they had gone beyond all bounds. Let us go to chapter 12 to something similar.
Jeremiah 12:7-9 "I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies. My heritage is to Me like a lion in the forest; it cries out against Me; therefore I have hated it. My heritage is to Me like a speckled vulture; the vultures all around are against her. Come, assemble all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour!"
This is serious. Talking about hatred and basically throwing them to the wolves.
Jeremiah 23:33-40 "So when these people or the prophet or the priest ask you, saying, 'What is the oracle of the Lord?' you shall then say to them, 'What oracle?' I will even forsake you," says the Lord. "And as for the prophet and the priest and the people who say, 'The oracle of the Lord!' I will even punish that man and his house. Thus every one of you shall say to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, 'What has the Lord answered?' and, 'What has the Lord spoken?' And the oracle of the Lord you shall mention no more. For every man's word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God. Thus you shall say to the prophet, 'What has the Lord answered you?' and, 'What has the Lord spoken?' But since you say, 'The oracle of the Lord!' therefore thus says the Lord: 'Because you say this word, "The oracle of the Lord!" and I have sent to you, saying, "Do not say, 'The oracle of the Lord!'" therefore behold, I even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you, and the city that I give you and your fathers, and will cast you out of My presence. And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.'"
Boy, that generation really got it, did they not? That is kind of amazing to think about. Sounds really dire, and it was dire! Their God had utterly forsaken them at this point. Both to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. We saw a lot of this. I tried to describe it in detail in my sermons about Lamentations and what was said there by the prophet—the famine, the disease, the slaughter, the fire, and all the other destruction were 11 on a scale of 10. It just went way beyond what other nations had experienced and it makes a perfect type of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord in the end. That is how bad it will be. Those people were crushed, were embarrassed and distraught to the point of despair. I mean, listen to what the prophet says in Lamentations 5. Right as the book is ending he lays this out here.
Lamentations 5:19-20 You, O Lord, remain forever; Your throne from generation to generation. Why do you forget us forever, and forsake us for so long a time?
Can you not hear in his voice the despair? God, You live forever. You could do something but You are not doing it. We do not see any turn around here. It is still horrible. But they did not see anything even on the horizon that would make them be glad and think that things were turning around. But you know God really never utterly forsakes His people, even if He forsakes them for a time. He tries to bring them back. Let us read the last two verses.
Lamentations 5:21 Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored; . . .
Notice that. Turn us back to You. The prophet knew that it had to be initiated by God Himself. This was not something that the people could solve, not at this point. As low as they were and as forsaken as they had been, the only way they could come back was if God allowed them, started things so that they could come back.
Lamentations 5:21-22 . . . renew our days as of old [he says], unless you have utterly rejected us, and are very angry with us!
What you hear here at the end of Lamentations as the book closes, the prophet has the faintest whiff of hope that God will bring His people back. He has this small matchstick worth of light that he sees off in the far distance. And he says maybe there is something out there. Maybe God will act to bring us that light, to bring us to repentance, and return them to His favor. Things were very bad, but perhaps something may change.
Now, the prophet knew God's character. That is what he was counting on. He knew God, he knew that if the wicked forsakes his way, then God will have mercy and abundantly pardon. That is what it says in Isaiah 55:7. That was part of Scripture in Jeremiah's time because Isaiah had written that about 150 years before. And if Jeremiah was the writer of Lamentations, then it was Scripture that he probably had in the forefront of his mind, especially with Judah going through something as terrible as what happened at their destruction. So he knew God would turn them back at some point.
There is another factor at work here. Sometimes, and perhaps more often than not, God does act to bring His people back, but not because they seek Him, not because they turn of their own volition to try to do right. But He does it for His name's sake. That is, to uphold His own reputation and to fulfill His plan. To keep His promises and to follow His righteous character. All those things revolve around Him, do they not? They do not revolve around the people. He acts for His name's sake. That is, to uphold His reputation, to fulfill His plan, keep His promises, and to follow His righteous character. Let us look at Ezekiel 20.
Ezekiel 20:33-35 "As I live," says the Lord God, "surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face."
This is a prophecy of the end time, of the second exodus of Israel to their land.
Ezekiel 20:44 "Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have dealt with you for My name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel," says the Lord God.
This backs up what I have been saying here. God's people, physical Israel, let us say, are very good at leaving God and forsaking Him. But on the other hand, God is the ultimate in faithful, and He acts, as He says in the contract that He made with them, that He will return them to Him after they have forsaken Him. And so, for His name's sake, for His reputation, to uphold His honor, and to uphold everything that He has said that He will do, He will act and He will bring them back.
This sort of thing often has nothing to do with human righteousness or even human desire. You look out in modern Israel as we understand them, how many out there really want to turn back to God? I mean, if you have been looking at the TV or seeing things on the Internet and the way this nation is going, they are moving further and further away, not closer, and it is prophesied it is only going to get worse to the end. So it is not their wicked ways nor according to their doings, but because God will decide at some point to act. Let us get this work going in the way that I wanted to go, He says, and He brings on all of those terrible things in the end time, one of the major purposes of which is to turn back a people to Him.
So these things almost always have to do with God being God and fulfilling His own purposes and bringing His long-running plan to fruition. And you know what? That is the best way because God knows best. God knows how to work with His people in a way that will bring ultimate success. So God's very Word tells us that though Israel and Judah have forsaken Him and He acted to punish and remove them in his righteous wrath, He is not done with them yet. As II Peter 3:9 says, He does not want anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance. He wants to grant everybody eternal life.
Now, we know that that will not happen. Human beings are stubborn and they will fight Him to the end. Many will fight Him all the way to the Lake of Fire. How many of those there are we do not know, but human beings can be very perverse. But we saw last time in Romans 11:26 that Paul says "So all Israel will be saved." He was very confident that the vast majority of Israel would eventually be saved. They are going to have to go through an awful lot. But God will, in His goodness, make sure that that statement comes to pass. So sometimes soon, whenever that is (we have got Charles on record saying 2050 is going to be in the Millennium, so we will just kind of hold his feet to the fire on that), He will seek them out, that is, Israel, and begin to turn them back to Him.
Please turn to Luke 15. I want to just use this as a principle of God and the way He works. If you know your chapters, this is the Lost and Found chapter, if you will. Three parables here of something being lost and then being found. I am just going to read the first one, the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Just think of the character of the Son and obviously of the Father as well here.
Luke 15:1-7 Then all the tax collectors and all the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them." So He spoke this parable to them, saying: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."
What joy will there be in heaven when millions of Israelites finally are found and return to God. That is the kind of God we have. He will go after those who have forsaken Him, who have forsaken the flock, who have forsaken the nation, the covenant that He made with them, and He wants to bring them back. He does not want to lose anyone. Now, if we look at John the 10th chapter, this is in the chapter of the Good Shepherd.
John 10:16 [Jesus says] "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd."
You might just want to write down Ezekiel 34 and the whole section there from verse 11 through 24. You will see that these passages parallel one another in terms of God working with His sheep. But He says there as we are getting toward the end of that section, that He will raise up David and there will be one shepherd over Israel. So it is very similar in concept here, that He has another flock that He wants to bring into His fold, but that has to wait for a certain time. But He will do it at some point.
Now, we have often said that this applies to the Gentiles and it was the Gentiles that He was bringing into Israel, but it works just as well with physical Israel in spades. I mean, they are cut off from Him. They might as well be Gentiles that He is going to bring them into His one fold, eventually. So I think this applies very well to His lost sheep, the house of Israel. Israel may be lost to this world. That is what they are called. That is everybody talks about—the lost ten tribes—but God has not lost them. God knows exactly where they are. And He has revealed to us generally where they are. The Bible provides multiple clues as to where they live today.
The rest of this sermon will be devoted to investigating these clues that we find in Scripture so that we can locate the nations of modern Israel. Many of you know these things very well. You have read Herbert Armstrong's "United States and Britain in Prophecy," so you have gone through all that stuff. But this sermon may help to refresh those revelations to you and help as we go forward in terms of prophecy and what is happening on the world scene.
Now, conventional wisdom and even most Christian teachers declare the house of Israel, the northern ten tribes led by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, to be lost. That is, the people of Israel disappeared from the sight of history. No records trace their movements, they say. No nations or empires arose claiming descent from Israel, they say. Some proclaim them to be extinct. No more Israel other than the Jews. So most scholars dismiss the idea that the Israelites, other than the Jews, exist as a people today. They usually say something like other nations absorbed them and they just became Syrians, Persians, Medes, what have you. And when those empires fell, they kind of just went away in the wind or something. Or they say that the Jews, when they went to Babylon, absorbed them into themselves, into the Jewish nation. I mean, they will even quote the Bible. Paul was of Benjamin, Anna was of Asher, so there is proof right there that Israelites were absorbed into Judah.
Well, let us go to Matthew 15 as we start building our case here. We will read verse 24. This is when the Gentile woman came to Him but we will not go into all that.
Matthew 15:24 But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Here we have a very bold statement that Jesus Himself was sent to the house of Israel. Not Judah, but Israel. Let us go back a few chapters to chapter 10. This is Jesus sending out His disciples to preach.
Matthew 10:6 "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
So not only Jesus was sent to the lost Israel, but also the disciples were sent to the house of Israel. Notice that it says "the lost sheep" there, actually in both places it says "lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Jesus also says in John 10:35 that the Scripture cannot be broken. So we cannot accept the rather superficial conclusion of the scholars about where Israel is, that they were just absorbed either into the other nations or into Judah. These two verses inform us that Jesus and His disciples were supposed to be sending a message to the house of Israel—the whole house of Israel.
Jesus lived 700 years after the fall of Samaria in 721 BC or thereabouts. So 700 years have passed, but He was sent to Israel long gone from the land. We can thus conclude that in the first century AD when Jesus was alive and when His disciples were alive, that He and His disciples knew where supposedly-lost Israel lived. And it was near enough under the transportation technology or whatnot of the day, that He could send His emissaries to them.
Israel is lost only to modern intellectuals, many of whom are humanists and atheists and scoff at the Bible's historicity. Do you know why they do that? The answer is in Romans 1, but I will just put it this way in my own words: They do not want to have to believe and follow the Bible. If they start accepting things that are in the Bible, that means they will have to start accepting the other things too—the more important spiritual things. And so they all say, well we are just going to chuck the whole thing in the trash can because that is hindering us from having our fun doing what we want to do.
We will not go there, but in James 1:1 where the apostle James addresses his letter "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." James knew where they were too. Of course, he was one of those disciples that were sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But in this simple salutation that he gives in his letter, he tells us two things. One, the tribes of Israel were extant and known by the church and we can assume that they were known by other interested parties, like the Jews. And two, they were scattered across a broad swath of the earth. This implies a dispersed migratory people. They had been on the move in the past and they were likely to do so in the future.
Now, as a note of interest here, James says twelve tribes, not ten. The twelve tribes scattered abroad—all Israel, not just the ten. He includes the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin in his count because they too were scattered over the whole earth. Remember, the ones who were in Judah, the ones who lived in Judea under the Romans, were a mere remnant of Judah. Most of their brethren were dispersed with Israel and became "lost" too.
If you remember my sermon, oh so many months ago, about the invasion by Assyria of Israel. Remember, I mentioned there that the only ones that were left after Israel was overthrown by the Assyrians were the people of Jerusalem and those who had run to Jerusalem. Everyone else in the whole nation of Israel, both the house of Israel and the house of Judah, had been conquered and the only part left that was not conquered by Assyria was Jerusalem. Remember Hezekiah, he was caged like a bird in his citadel there. And the only ones that were left were those that were within the walls of Jerusalem. And so when he took all the slaves and such, all the captives back to Assyria, he took a lot of Jews too, a lot of Benjamites, a lot of Levites, and a lot of all the other tribes of Israel. And then those who were saved were what became Judah after that point.
And then they were further sifted, if you will, when Judah itself was devastated and destroyed about 120 years later or so, and only a small remnant went back to Babylon and an even smaller remnant from there came back to Judah. So God whittled Judah down three times at least before you get the people that were there in the time of the first century. The Jews have been in the Diaspora for how many millennia now? Two millennia, but actually it has been closer to two and one-half millennia for most of Judah. So that is why James says "the twelve tribes scattered abroad." Most of the Jews were dispersed with Israel and became lost to.
Now, a half century later from James, the Jewish historian Josephus verifies James in his Antiquities of the Jews. This is Book 11, chapter 5, paragraph 2. He says, "The entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [he was speaking of Medea]. Wherefore there are but two tribes [he is meaning Judah and Levi or Judah and Benjamin, we are not sure which two he meant] in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now and are an immense multitude and not to be estimated by numbers."
So Israel did not only not disappear, they were in fact known and fabulously populous as a people, but they were beyond the bounds of the Roman empire. They were not in where the Jews of Jerusalem, they, the "lost" people of Israel (and I always use that "lost" people of Israel), were existing quite well beyond the borders of the Roman empire. At the time, the region beyond Euphrates all the way to India and northward to the Russian steppes, was the great Parthian empire, which Western education ignores. You have to really get specialized to learn anything about the Parthian empire. These Parthians were the same Parthians that sent the Magi to Bethlehem to honor the newborn King of the Jews, the King of Israel. Now, why do you think they did that if they did not have a vested interest in the Israelite king. Parthian kings up to, I believe, the Sassanids, were scions of Judah. They may have even been of the house of David. So you have an entire empire that modern education ignores that is mostly Israelite. They think of them as Persians or Medes or some other people. But if nothing else, they were ruled by Jewish monarchs. Really crazy what has happened in this sphere of things.
Let us go to Ezekiel 36. This is another proof that Israel is not lost. We will be hopping, skipping, and jumping, doing the triple jump through chapter 36, starting in verse 1.
Ezekiel 36:1 "And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord!'
Now, if you know anything about the chapters of Ezekiel, you know as they get into the 30s and into the 40s we are moving forward in prophetic time. So here we are in chapter 36. Right after chapter 36 of course, is the Valley of Dry Bones. We are in the end time in this particular section of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 36:8 "But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the city shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, My people Israel; they shall take possession of you, and you shall be their inheritance; no more shall you bereave them of their children."
Ezekiel 36:19-20 "So I scattered them [He is doing a bit of a flashback here.] among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds. When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name—when they said of them, 'These are the people of the Lord, and yet they have gone out of His land.'
Ezekiel 36:23-24 "And I will sanctify My great name [This is very similar to what He said in the past.], which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord," says the Lord God, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land." [another prophecy of the second exodus, if you will.]
I went here because, as I said, this is another proof that Israel is not lost and will be restored. Another proof is this: Much of biblical prophecy disintegrates if Israel is lost and cannot be found. Yet scores, literal scores of prophecies like this one here in chapter 36, will tell of a repentant Israel returning to their homeland for the Millennium under Messiah's rule. Throughout the major prophets and the minor prophets there is always this hope that Israel will be returned to the land. We know from Isaiah 55:11, that God's Word does not return to Him empty. When He says something, it is going to happen exactly as He says. His prophecies will be fulfilled.
So, these prophecies of Israel at the end time prove that Israel still exists somewhere in the world because His plan depends on it and God brings His plans to fruition. Ezekiel 36 here says that Israel is scattered among the nations. He said that in verse 19. Or we could also use what Amos said in Amos 9:9, that they were sifted through the nations. But God marks them wherever they are, He knows. As God says of them in the metaphor in Amos about sifting grain, "Not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground." So He knows where each individual Israelite is in the world today. He can keep all that straight even among many billions of people. He knows where they all are so it is not necessary for us to know where they are exactly. God knows, and that means everything.
Remember, earlier I said it all depends on God and His actions. These prophecies will be fulfilled by Him so we do not have to worry about that. Even so, we have a general idea of their location because God provides the clues about where to look. He does not give us GPS coordinates. He does not say it is at this latitude and this longitude. He does not give us pinpoint descriptions of geography—"They are on the banks of the River Seine," or "They are among the Alps." He does not tell us that sort of thing, but He does give us directions oriented from the standpoint of Jerusalem. Everything in the Bible is oriented around Jerusalem and that provides general information for us to understand generally where they are.
So, let us start to get some of these directions from God's Word. We will start in Jeremiah 3. Hopefully we can go through a lot of these very quickly.
Jeremiah 3:12 "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, 'Return, backsliding Israel,' says the Lord.
We do not need to go any further than that. Just notice that he says there "Proclaim these words toward the north."
Jeremiah 3:18 "In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers."
Back to the land of Israel. The Israelites will come and the direction they will come from is the north. The prophet speaks toward the north to call them, in a sense, to tell them what is going on and then they come from the north. Let us just move forward to Jeremiah 31 just to pick up a corroborating scripture here.
Jeremiah 31:8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; a great throng will return there.
So, Israel comes back from the north country and from the other parts of the earth. But we should understand the language here to mean that the bulk of them will come back from the north country or out of the north, and then others from other parts of the earth.
Jeremiah lived during the decline and fall of Judah. That is sometime right around 600 BC. One hundred and twenty years after the fall of Israel. At that time to find and proclaim a message to Israel, he would have had to travel north of Jerusalem to speak to the bulk of the children of Israel. So, this is something that is going to continue to the time of the end. As we said, by the time they come back in the end time, they will still be in those north countries. Israel will still generally live north of the Holy Land.
Let us go to Hosea 12 for another clue, another direction.
Hosea 12:1 "Ephraim [which is often a word He uses for all Israel] feeds on the wind, and pursues the east wind."
God gives us another clue that Israel follows the east wind and when we talk about wind and the direction it travels, we know that an east wind travels west. It comes from the east so we say it is an east wind. If it came from the north it would be a north wind. A north wind travels south. So Ephraim pursuing or following the the east wind goes west.
Hosea 11:10 "They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When he roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west."
So, they follow the east wind and come trembling from the west.
Let us go back to the book of Isaiah, chapter 49. There is a lot of clues in this chapter. I want verse 12 only at this point, where God says,
Isaiah 49:12 Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, and these from the land of Sinim."
In this verse, God puts the two directions together, the bulk of the Israelites will live northwest of Jerusalem. Now, if we could stretch a line, let us say on a globe, from Jerusalem to straight northwest, it would cut through the heart of Europe, from Greece to the North Sea. We should expect Israelites to be living somewhere either side of that line from the north and from the west.
Now, as for Sinim here (just as a quick aside), no one knows where Sinim is exactly. Guesses vary widely. Today's common guess is that they meant to say Syene, which is in upper Egypt, a place we call Aswan where the dam is, the great Aswan Dam on the Nile. Other people say China because this word in Hebrew is Shinom. And the Chinese have been known for, I do not know, probably close to 3,000 years as the Shin people. Some say that it means Persia because it is generally east and south and they think that this Sinim is supposed to be the opposite of north and west. And a few have speculated Australia because in Latin the word Australia means southland, using again this idea that these other people come from the south and the east rather than the north and the west. They assume that the verse means that Israel is going to come from all over the world and that could indeed be its meaning that what He is saying here is that Israel will come mainly from the far north and west, but some Israelites will come from all points of the compass.
Now, God does not leave us with just these few meager clues. He supplies us with plenty more information about this. Let us go to Psalm 89. This is a psalm that has a theme that goes back and forth between David as a person and his dynasty, and it also throws in a few Messianic prophecies as well, particularly verses 24 through 28. But it highlights the eternal covenant between God and David.
Psalm 89:3 "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: 'Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.'"
We see David receiving the covenant—making it with God—and on the other hand, his descendants will be on the throne to all generations, it says here.
Psalm 89:19-21 Then You spoke in a vision to Your holy one, and said, "I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen for My people. I have found My servant David; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand shall be established; also My arm shall strengthen him."
Psalm 89:24 "But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn shall be exalted. Also I will set his hand over the sea, and his right hand over the rivers."
This particular prophecy has to do mostly with the great heir of David, Jesus Christ. But it also gives us a clue about David's progeny. So, a significant point for our purposes today is God's declaration that David's throne will have authority over the sea and rivers. It says He set his hand over the sea and his right hand over the rivers, plural. Now, we might dismiss this verse as a clue if it were alone, but others support it. And just as an aside here, sea power usually represents that they will have a strong navy, they will have a very strong naval presence. River power suggests that they will have a very strong presence in maritime trade as goods go up and down the rivers.
Let us go to Jeremiah 31 for more of this sort of thing. I know I am cramming a lot of this in but I do not want to leave you without a lot of these clues here. In my Bible the title of this set of verses says, The Remnant of Israel Saved. So this is talking again about the second exodus.
Jeremiah 31:1-2 "At the same time," says the Lord, "I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people." Thus says the Lord: "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness—Israel, when I went to give him rest."
Jeremiah 31:10-12 "Hear the word the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.' For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the Lord—for wheat and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and the herd; their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, and they shall sorrow no more at all."
Isaiah 41:1 "Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength! Let them come near, then let them speak; let us come near together for judgment."
Isaiah 41:8-10 "But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'"
I am just trying to make sure you understand the context a little here, but here He called them from the coastlands.
Isaiah 49:1 "Listen, O, coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! The Lord has called Me from the womb; from the matrix of My mother. And He has made mention of My name."
Isaiah 49:3-5 "And He said to me, 'You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.' Then I said, 'I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God.' And now the Lord says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (for I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength)."
Again, it is Israel coming back to God and He has to tell them, "Listen, O coastlands."
So we have three passages here, all having to do with the second exodus, and He says that where the scattered Israelites are in the isles afar off and in the coastlands afar. He is speaking, not of the near islands and coastlands of the Mediterranean Sea because they were familiar with those things, but distance ones, mainly along that northwest axis that we talked about before. Because he mentions it in one of these passages, Isaiah 49:12. That could only mean that He is talking about the northwest coast of Europe and the islands off it like England and Ireland and all the other islands that make up the British Isles and elsewhere along the coast.
We should also remember that He talked about the rivers in Psalm 89. So we can say that this also has to do with people who are living along places like say the Seine, the Loire, the Elbe, the Rhine, the Thames, and other great rivers of Europe. So all the clues are pointing to the same place, right out that northwest corridor from Jerusalem.
Let us go back to Jeremiah 31 and get another thing here, another little clue.
Jeremiah 31:7 For thus says the Lord: "Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, 'O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel!'"
Jeremiah 31:9 "They shall come with weeping and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn."
Another significant clue that we see here in Jeremiah 31 is that He will gather the remnant of Israel from the chief of the nations. They will be citizens of the chief of the nations. The nations of Israel are not puny, insignificant countries but are among the most vital, wealthiest, strongest nations on earth. He has to yell at them, shout at them, to the north and to the west and into the chief of the nations in order to get their attention and draw them back to Him.
So they are hiding in plain sight, if you will, their glorious recent histories as chief of the nations veiling their storied ancient roots in the Holy Land. Is it not "odd" that the nations of northwest Europe and their major colonies have driven not just Western civilization, but also the direction and progress of most of the world for the last millennium, give or take? Let us say since 1066 or something right around there. Like I said, hiding in plain sight. There is a parable about that where God says He found this great treasure and He put it back in the world to hide it. And that is exactly what He has done with Israel, as He has done with the church.
Let us go back to Genesis 49. I just want to pull this out of the prophecy Jacob made about the tribes of Joseph.
Genesis 49:22 "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well [it is well-watered and when something is well-watered, it grows]; his branches [then] run over the wall."
They go beyond the bounds of their enclosure.
Isaiah 49:19-20 "For your waste and desolate places, and the land of your destruction, will even now be too small for the inhabitants; and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children you will have, after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, 'The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.'"
Both of these scriptures go together. Both passages indicate that in the end time, the people of Israel will be known for going beyond boundaries, for spreading out, for seeking new lands for their burgeoning population. In other words, they will be a restless, pioneering, migrating, colonizing people, especially the people of Joseph, those Ephraimite's and Manassites.
Now there are other nations of Israel—France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, etcetera—that also have colonized various places around the globe. Almost all the colonies in the world that we are aware of from history, at least in the last, let us say, 1,000 years, were mostly made by Israelite peoples moving, like they have always moved, migrating somewhere, finding new lands to conquer, to pioneer, to have a bit of their own. It seems to be part of the DNA of Israelites that they want to be on the move and finding new places and making their home in new parts of the world.
Like I said, this especially fits the two half tribes of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Jacob prophecies in Genesis 48:19 to be a great people and an even greater multitude of nations. And this naturally leads us into Jacob's prophecy about the tribes of Israel in the last days. That is, Genesis 49, and that, along with Moses' similar prophecy in Deuteronomy 33, is what I intend to cover in the next sermon. These chapters foretell the end time status of each tribe, providing additional clues about their specific identification on today's world map.
This is not absolutely vital information to know. God is not going to stand there before the gates of His Kingdom and ask you to tell Him where Zebulun is. I mean, you will say they are here in the Holy Land, right? But it is good knowledge to have as we try to put the big puzzle of biblical prophecy together. Most of all, beyond that, this knowledge helps to build our faith in God and His Word because we know that it is true, He is true and faithful, and that will help us in our walk toward the Kingdom of God.