and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.
“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”
says the LORD your God. — Amos 9:14–15
NOTE TO READERS: 2018 is an important year for Israel and the Jewish people as we celebrate the modern State of Israel’s 70th Birthday. As we mark this momentous milestone, we are offering 70 devotions between now and April 19th, Israel’s Independence Day, tied to our Keys to Israel – six fundamental principles underlying God’s covenantal relationship with His chosen people and His Holy Land built upon the acrostic I.S.R.A.E.L. These first ten devotions provide an overview to Israel and her people.
In 1867, Mark Twain visited the Holy Land. This is what he saw: “A desolate country . . . given over wholly to weeds . . . a silent mournful expanse . . . a desolation . . . we never saw a human being on the whole route . . . hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” The land that Mark Twain saw was the way that the land looked for more than two thousand years. As foretold in the Bible, once the children of Israel were exiled, the land ceased to blossom.
In Leviticus 19:2, God gave the command to His people to “Be holy.” This command was followed with a series of do’s and dont’s that would lead the people onto this path of holiness. When God gives a command, it is not to be taken lightly. As is evident from this passage from Amos, failure to heed God’s Word can lead to disastrous consequences.
The prophet Amos was addressing a wayward nation who had strayed from this path of holiness, and he told the Israelites that they would be exiled from their land. As God had warned His children back in Leviticus, “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). Once the children of Israel failed to keep the laws of the Lord, it was only a matter of time before they would be spit out. And indeed, they were.
For 2,000 years, the nation of Israel was exiled from the land of Israel. During that time, it was as if the land itself was in mourning. This is how Mark Twain found the land in 1867. But history was about to advance to the next stage mentioned in the verses from Amos: “ . . . I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities . . .” God promised to return the people of Israel to their land. And indeed, He has.
Reading the rest of the verses from Amos, one can hardly believe that the prophet is talking about the same land that Mark Twain had seen. He describes cities with vineyards, plentiful wine, abundant vegetation and fruit. Yet, this is a perfect description of Israel today. Miraculously, the “silent mournful expanse” has been transformed into an abundant garden!
Friends, we are living in these miraculous times and watching biblical prophecies unfold before our very eyes. As we celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday this year, join us here at The Fellowship as we do our part in contributing to God’s purposes. In the end, God’s Word will be fulfilled, but we can choose to play a part in the unfolding of His plan.
For more information on our Keys to I.S.R.A.E.L. resources visit www.ifcj.org/keystoisrael.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President