Jonathan Lethem wrote, “You could grow up in the city where history was made and still miss it all” (The Fortress of Solitude).
It is possible to witness history being made, and yet miss it. History was made last week, on Monday, May 14, 2018, when the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. On the surface, it doesn’t seem that spectacular, but let me tell you why it was historical.
About four thousand years ago, God promised Abraham, “I will make you a great nation…and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). This everlasting covenant between God and Abraham included a people (the nation of Israel) and a possession (the land of Israel). God had the right to give it to Abraham, because He made the land in the first place. And Abraham had the right to receive it because he moved to the land of Canaan from Ur, in obedience to God’s direct command.
Several years later, as Abraham and Sarah were childless and uncertain, God came to him again and said; “’Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (Genesis 15:5). Then, to encourage Abraham further, God said, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it” (verse 7).
God’s covenant with Abraham was extended to his son, Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5, 24); then to his grandson Jacob (Genesis 35:10-12), and to his twelve great grandsons, the twelve sons of Jacob, the children of Israel, and to their descendants (Exodus 2:23-25).
About three thousand years ago, King David made the city of Jerusalem his home and capital of Israel. David purchased the site of the future temple on Mount Moriah and declared it the “house of the LORD God” (1 Chronicles 21:18, 26—22:1). It was on this very site a thousand years earlier Abraham had offered Isaac (Genesis 22:2). It was here that David’s son, Solomon, constructed the Temple of God (2 Chronicles 3:1).
At the ascension of King Solomon’s son to the Jerusalem throne, the kingdom was divided in two, between Israel (mainly the 10 northern tribes) and Judah (primarily the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin). For the most part, Israel forsook the Lord and fell to Assyria in 722 BC, while Judah and the capital of Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 586 BC (2 Chronicles 36:15-21).
Around 500 BC God moved the heart of King Cyrus to authorize the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The city was rebuilt, the Temple was restored and Israel was a nation, though weakened and often defenseless.
A few years before the birth of Christ, Herod the Great built the second great Temple in Jerusalem, the foundations of which remain to this day under the Temple Mount. However, Herod’s Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem ransacked and Israelites scattered by the Roman General Titus in AD 70. Jesus had prophesied this destruction and dispersion in Matthew 23:37—24:2. From AD 70 until May 14, 1948, the people of Israel were driven to every corner of the earth, scattered among the countries and nationalistically was non-existent.
During the past two millennia one would think Israel would have dissolved and been assimilated into scores of cultures and nationalities, as has happened to many distinct people groups throughout history. However, the path of distribution, dissemination, loss of distinction and ensuing destruction could not happen to the people of Israel. God kept His eternal covenant with Abraham, and Israel, though scattered, remained a distinct people.
Despite their disobedience, defection and defeat, the chosen people of God are always part of God’s plans and future events. Even their rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, the Son of God, did not alter God’s plan and course for Israel. This promise to Israel was kept: “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:35-37). Israel survived, thrived, and now occupies their God-given land.
Last week history was made. The nation of Israel enjoyed her 70th anniversary by celebrating the move of its capital to Jerusalem. In a speech at the celebration, Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu said, “The prophet, Zechariah, declared over 2,500 years ago, ‘So said the Lord, I will return to Zion and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth.’”
Surely glorious days are ahead when those words, and these, come to pass: “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle…. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west…. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!” (Zechariah 14:2-5). When prophetic becomes historic, that will be a great day!