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Jonathan Bernis - Israel The Land


Jonathan Bernis - Israel The Land
TOPICS: Israel

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome Jewish Voice, and thank you for joining me today. I'm Jonathan Bernis. Now, you might be aware that there are 193 nations in the world. Some are large, like the United States, China, Russia. They have populations of hundreds of millions or billions. But then, there's tiny Israel, a tiny sliver of land with a population of just over nine million people. So, how is it that Israel is constantly in the news and at the forefront of issue, after issue, after issue? Today we're going to talk about this little, tiny land and why there's so much conflict. Ezra, welcome back to the program.

Ezra Benjamin: Thanks, Jonathan.

Jonathan Bernis: It's such an interesting question. My whole life, this tiny land, the size of Rhodes Island or New Jersey, with the population of, when I was younger, about half of that, about five million, has been at the center of controversy since the formation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, and every president I know...

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Has made that sort of their mantelpiece, to try to solve this crisis.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, I remember as a kid watching, you know, Clinton and Arafat go at it, trying to broker peace in the Middle East, and it seems to be this elusive thing that nobody, no matter their national leadership role or worldwide power, can seem to kind of crack the code on peace in the Middle East. Jonathan, in the natural, it doesn't make any sense.

Jonathan Bernis: It doesn't.

Ezra Benjamin: So, it leads me to believe there must be some spiritual things going on there.

Jonathan Bernis: It has to be spiritual because there's no military value to the land. Strategically, it's not a major center of resources, like oil.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: It's not Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. It has to be spiritual, and in fact, I'm convinced it is spiritual.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: And I think we see that in the scriptures.

Ezra Benjamin: We do. Where do we see it first? Because some at home may be asking, "Okay, I've heard this idea that Israel, the land of Israel, is the Promised Land," and what do we mean by that? The land promised to the Jewish people. Where do we find that, though? It's not just an idea, it's a biblical principle, isn't it?

Jonathan Bernis: It is. It goes back to Genesis 12, and we're going to put this up so you can see this. This is God calling Abram, who is unknown to us at this time. But God has come to him at some time in the past and has commissioned him to leave everything behind, and I'm reading from the "Tree of life," kind of our house scriptures here. Genesis 12:1, it says, "Then Adonai," or the Lord, "Said to Abram" - he hasn't had his name change yet to Abraham - "Get going from your land," this is Ur of the Chaldees, "And from your relatives, from your father's house, to the land that I will show you". Now, let me keep reading on, and then I'll make a couple comments. "My heart's desire is to make you into a great nation, to bless you, to make your name great so that you may be a blessing," and then he says this. God says this to Abram. "I will bless those who bless you, but whoever curses you, I will curse. In you, all the families of the earth will be blessed". So, there's a few things in here, Ezra. There's a promise of a people, the children of Abraham.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: There's a promise of a land. "You will go to a land that I will show you". So, a people, the people that later become known as the people of Israel, the children of Abraham. The land that's given to Abraham and his descendants. And then, the promise of blessing - "Through you, through your descendants, every family on earth will be blessed". There's the spiritual promise that Abram would be the father of blessing to the nations of the world.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: And that, of course, has come to pass. And the reality is that the reason that Israel is so disputed, both the land and the people, the attacks against the people of Israel, the Jewish people, the Israelites, and the land of Israel, is because they're connected to a promise of God to bring blessing, and that blessing is redemption.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay. Now, here we see God's called Abram out, and we understand who, you know, Abram, who would become Abraham, and his descendants - Isaac and Jacob, and the people, the twelve tribes of Israel - called them out to be a blessing, but he's also promising a land, almost as a reward for Abram's faith to leave his family and his own land, and go to a place God would show him.

Jonathan Bernis: And that's the journey. That's the journey that Abram is taken on, to go to a land that God has promised him.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, but is it just sort of where he ended up? Like, he finished a journey and said, "I think I'll stop here"? Or are there actually God-ordained boundaries and borders of the land that God was promising Abram?

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, there's very specific boundaries, and Abram is led by the Lord daily, and we're told that daily he's asking God to show him which way he's to go. Now, let me turn us now to Genesis 15.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: Beginning in verse 18. 15:18, after he's had this vision, which I really encourage you to go back, everyone to go back and read, where a covenant is cut and Abram sees the future of his descendants. And in verse 18, he says, "On that day Adonai," the Lord, "Cut a covenant with Abram, saying, "I give this land to your seed," and look at the boundaries, "From the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates". I'm just going to stop there instead of going into all of the different tribes of that day, but they're very specific landmarks.

Ezra Benjamin: Correct.

Jonathan Bernis: North and south. "I give this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates river". Now, one more scripture I want to read, and then we're going to look at a couple of maps and talk about it, Ezra, and that's going over to Genesis 17 now, in verse 8. 17:8, let's put that on the screen. It says, "I will give you," God speaking again to Abram. "I will give to you and your seed after you the land where you are an outsider, the whole land of Canaan," or Canaan, "As an everlasting possession, I will be your God". Two points - the land is specifically, the boundaries are specifically laid out in Genesis 15, as we read, and in other places, in numbers, for example. And, God makes the statement, "You and your offspring will inherit this as an everlasting possession".

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: This isn't about a U.N. Vote. This isn't about any decree of man. This is a land grant given by the God of creation.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right, and pay close attention at home, not just here. But as you're reading the scriptures, Old Testament, New Testament, when God says forever, Jonathan, he means forever, and this is one of those forevers. "I'm going to give the descendants of Abraham and his seed - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Jewish people, the people of Israel - this land forever, an everlasting inheritance".

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, this is so important. I think we need to pause on this point, that God himself gave the land, with boundaries, with very specific boundaries.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: In a very specific lineage to Abraham and his offspring. So, it's Abraham, and he declares Abram, later Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, not Ishmael. The land promise is very specifically Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and then the children of Jacob, which become known as the twelve tribes of Israel. So, you have the people, the tribes, and the land. Why are they all called Israel? Because it's part of one promise.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: A promise of a people with a land. Now we have a 2.000-year period where they were outside of that land, and it's a miracle that they survived, only by the grace of God, but the people of Israel were tied to that land even as they wandered. They wandered with the promise, "I will bring you back".

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: So, Israel is both the land and the people. The people have been scattered, but the people have always been brought back. The promise to Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, then it's a promise that's eternal. What does eternal mean?

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, it's forever.

Jonathan Bernis: Forever. Okay? So, it's not conditional on whether the Jewish people, whether the children of Israel, are obedient or not. What is conditional is whether they have peace in the land. Right?

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But the land is unilaterally given by God and not conditional on their own behavior.

Ezra Benjamin: That's absolutely right.

Jonathan Bernis: This is huge.

Ezra Benjamin: So, it's not an issue that can or should be debated and decided in the U.N., on the United Nations floor in Manhattan.

Jonathan Bernis: That's right, and many point to the U.N. - even Israelis, by the way, will point to, even before that to a declaration that came from the British under Lord Balfour in 1917, when England won World War I and was overseeing that land. They administrated that land, and he said, "We look favorably" - Britain, the kingdom of Britain looks favorably, England looks favorably - "On a Jewish homeland being established". Now, that was an official document, but not the basis for ownership of the land.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Then, the U.N., 1947, a vote, 33 to 13, establishing the state of Israel. Still not the land grant.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Okay? Or Sykes–Picot. There's all kinds of different things that...

Ezra Benjamin: Sure, but the basis for ownership is right here. It's on your table and it's in my hand.

Jonathan Bernis: It's here, folks! If you believe this book, Israel has the right to the land, it's eternal, and there's very specific boundaries, which we'll look at in the next segment. You may be looking for a way to make your charitable giving really count. Through our outreaches, we're making a real difference in the lives of Jewish people and their neighbors in some of the most difficult, remote places on earth. I want to ask you to consider what you can do today to provide medical care, clean water, and most importantly, the good news of the Gospel. Please watch this short message to learn how you can get involved.

Jonathan Bernis: I want to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who support Jewish Voice. We honestly could not do this work without you. You are making a real difference in the lives of so many. I'm talking about Jewish people and their neighbors. So, thank you again for your generous giving, and especially for those of you who have joined as monthly shalom partners. Your ongoing support of this ministry is so greatly valued. Amen to that, Ezra.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: So grateful for our partners. Anyway, we're going to get back into this important topic, the land of Israel.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right. And you know, Jonathan, when people think of a map of Israel, they're thinking probably of one of two maps, right? Of the modern state of Israel, that either has a giant chunk cut out of it - we're going to talk about that in a few minutes - known as the west bank. We'll explain what that means. Or, that doesn't take that chunk out and that really is the whole land of Israel as it exists today. But what we see in the scriptures, and we can look at that first map, is that the Promised Land, the land promised to Abram, who becomes Abraham, was actually far greater than the land currently held by the modern state of Israel.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, I just looked at this again recently, and it really shocked me. This is such a huge area of land! Look at this. This is the land that's promised to Abram initially. It goes all the way up to the Euphrates river, down all the way to the Nile, and look how far east it goes. It includes Jordan. It includes Lebanon. It includes most of turkey. It includes Iraq. I think it goes, Ezra, all the way to Kuwait, in fact.

Ezra Benjamin: All the way to modern-day Kuwait and the tip of the Persian gulf, and then into southern Egypt. And Jonathan, our audience may be saying, "One, I've never seen a map like this in my life. Two, how on earth did you come up with it"? Well, we didn't. Again, Genesis 15:18, look there. It talks about, "From the Nile," it says, "To the great river," which we understand historically is the river Euphrates, and then it names all these ancient kingdoms or people groups, as you said, Jonathan, before, that God was in essence turning over their lands to Abram because of his faith. And if you look at where those people groups lived, here it is, outlined in red.

Jonathan Bernis: What I'm thinking about as I'm looking at this, Ezra, is two things. One, think of all of the oil, that Israel would be so rich.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But also, look at the little sliver, the gray sliver, that's identified as Israel.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Look how tiny that is in the midst of all of this land promised to Abram, and yet, this little sliver of land the size of Rhodes island or new jersey is still too much.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Too much land for the surrounding nations, arab nations. So, this has never been a reality, Ezra. Right? This has never been a reality, but it's promised in the Word of God.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And then, why don't we go to the second map? Talk about this. This is the next map.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah. So, fast-forward a few hundred years. The children of Israel, you know, the sons of Jacob, go to Egypt. We know the story. Read the book of Exodus. The children of Israel become enslaved in hard bondage slavery in Egypt. They're delivered miraculously by the hand of the Lord, and by signs and wonders Moses leads the people out into the wilderness on what becomes a forty-year trek toward what we know as the Promised Land, right? The land that God would give and cause the children of Israel to inherit, and we know Moses isn't allowed to, but Joshua is, because of his faithfulness as one of the faithful spies. And the Lord is very clear in numbers 34, Jonathan. The Lord is very clear about the tribes of Israel, from hundreds of years before, the sons of Jacob - the tribes of Israel inheriting some very specific lands. And outlined here in green and gray are the numbers 34 boundaries of the land that God promised that Joshua and the children of Israel would inherit.

Jonathan Bernis: And of course, we recognize the Sea of Galilee.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: We recognize the Dead Sea, which that's the break-off point. We see Jordan would be to the right. What catches my attention, Ezra, is just how far north this goes.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: And how far east this goes, way beyond the current boundaries.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure, into Jordan, into part of modern-day Syria. And interestingly, the entirety of the modern-day nation of Lebanon is included in the land that God promised that the twelve tribes of Israel would inherit. It's right here.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, tyre. So, again, this is the land of conquest when the children of Israel, under Joshua, came into the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for forty years, correct?

Ezra Benjamin: Correct.

Jonathan Bernis: Okay. Again, much bigger than the current reality.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. Interestingly, some of our maybe more astute, you know, more well-versed historians are looking at this map and saying, "Wait a minute. The southern tip of modern-day Israel, which isn't on the map here, called Eilat, on the coast of the Red Sea, is not included". That's actually correct, that a portion of the Southern Negev and a portion of what's modern-day Israel isn't in that tribal inheritance. And this map, interestingly, Jonathan, Ezekiel was looking into the days when the Messiah would rule and reign on earth and the twelve tribes would be restored to the land of Israel, and he saw some boundaries, and the boundaries that God showed Moses are almost identical to the boundaries that God showed Ezekiel for a day yet to come.

Jonathan Bernis: I just think it's interesting that you see the promise given to Abram, much larger, scaled back now in the time of Moses. And now, look. Let's turn to the third and final one. Here's the reality, this little sliver of land that we saw, that gray area in the first map, is Israel today. And I want to just draw your attention to the one on the left because you see two colors, right?

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: You see the yellow, and then you see the orange-ish color. That delineates what is known today or called the west bank. Some refer to it as, "The occupied territory".

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: It is occupied, correctly by the people that the land was given to. Okay? So, this is the area that is in dispute. Gaza has been given over to the Palestinians, which by the say, deals - I think deals with the issue of people that are saying, "Land for peace, land for peace. If you just give up land, there'll be peace". Well, Gaza was given to the Palestinians, and now is a staging ground for daily missile attacks. All of the area in Israel near Gaza is unsafe because they're launching weapons. That's not peace. They gave the land away under Ariel Sharon. There is no peace. Another thing that I want to mention quickly, Ezra, is the call to go back to a pre-1967 boundary, which is giving the orange back to... Well, it belonged to Jordan. It was occupied by Jordan. That was when it was occupied. It's indefensible. Look at the Mediterranean sea and look at the orange in the narrowest places. That's between nine and eleven miles.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, so this idea of pre-1967 borders renders the modern state of Israel in the end no wider than the island of Manhattan.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, tiny sliver of land. It's still too much because it's the Jewish state. It's a little island of democracy in the midst of a Muslim world that wants to push the inhabitants of that little sliver of land into the Mediterranean sea, and that's the truth that you're not going to hear on mainstream media.

Ezra Benjamin: But you're hearing it here today. Why? Because we want to talk politics? No, no, no. Jonathan, we're interested in our audience at home understanding biblical truth. The scriptures are clear. There's coming a day when all the nations of the world will be gathered together against Jerusalem, and we want you to stand on the scriptural, eternal promises of God today so you can keep standing when it becomes ever more difficult to do that.

Jonathan Bernis: Friends, this is important to God. It needs to be important to you. It may not be now, but study the scriptures, pray and ask God to open your eyes, and you will see it. We need to take a short break so we can share some information about the resources that we're making available this week and the amazing opportunities for you to help Jewish people in need. Please consider joining us as a shalom partner today. Your monthly support will make all the difference for those who are suffering. Stay with us. After this short message, Ezra and I want to come into agreement with you in prayer for your needs, and I know there's many, but God answers prayer. Don't go away, we'll be right back.
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