The Gentile Role in the Restoration of Israel
By David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman
Israel today is a remarkable country. Though small and threatened on all sides, it is nonetheless making major contributions to the world, such as in hi-tech and biomedical advances. Many of the world’s largest companies are investing billions of dollars in Israeli start-ups and setting up Research & Development (R&D) offices here, which is crucial to their future success in the global marketplace.
Israel is also leading the way in agricultural innovations and water conservation. For example, it pioneered drip irrigation and currently recycles over 90 percent of its wastewater, far outstripping any other nation. And although more than half its land is still arid desert, Israel exports high-quality farm produce in all seasons, even while its neighbors must import food to feed their populations.
The Israeli people are also blessed with one of the most nutritious food supplies in the world. In a recent global survey by the Bloomberg news agency of the world’s healthiest countries, Israel ranked an impressive sixth, a full seven spots ahead of the legendary food-producing nation of France and far ahead of the United States at number 33.
A few years ago, I heard one of Israel’s chief rabbis share a fascinating story about a group of Russian farmers who had come to Israel to learn how this nation’s farmers were able to produce such high-volume and high-quality yields. When they asked how many kilos of apples Israeli orchards produce per acre, they were shocked when their Israeli counterparts said it was best to speak in terms of tonnage, and not just kilos. Incredibly, the Israeli orchards were producing 10 times as many apples as those in Russia.
Yet the Land of Israel was not always so fruitful. … In fact, the land lay desolate for all the centuries of Jewish exile, and in both Christian and Muslim lands where the Jews were dispersed, they were largely forbidden from owning land. This meant they had basically lost the ability to farm and had to rely on the gentiles to feed themselves. This was true even up to some 100 years ago when Jews first began to return to the Land of Israel and try to scratch out a living in the barren fields.
The Law and the Prophets had warned the ancient Israelites that this would be their fate if they turned their backs on God. The land itself would “vomit out” those inhabitants who turned to wickedness (Leviticus 18:28), and the fields would lie desolate in their absence (Jeremiah 18:15–17).
Meantime, the Jewish people were also told they would be scattered among the nations and would never find a place to rest their feet (Leviticus 26:26–39; Deuteronomy 28:64–67). The sword would follow after them (Jeremiah 24:10), and they would bear the reproach of famine while in exile (Jeremiah 14; Ezekiel 5).
But God also promised that one day He would come and find His people, no matter how far they had been scattered, and return them to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants as an “everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8). This promise of a future restoration is spoken of by all the Hebrew prophets and is affirmed by all the great covenants of the Bible.
The Promise of Restoration
Throughout Scripture, Israel is promised a last-day restoration in the land. This promise rests on the faithful character of God—that He can be trusted to carry out His promises because He cannot lie. This is especially true if it is a covenant promise sworn by divine oath.
• In the Abrahamic covenant, we find the election of both the people and the Land of Israel for the purpose of world redemption. The two would merge to become a “great nation” which, over time, would bless us with all the things we need for salvation (Romans 9:3–5).
• In the Mosaic covenant, the relationship between the Land and people of Israel is regulated by their spiritual standing before God to show forth His holy and righteous character. Yet any separation of the people from the land as a divine corrective measure would always be followed by a return to the land in God’s timing (Leviticus 26:40–45; Jeremiah 31:10).
• In the Davidic covenant, we are assured that one day the people and Land of Israel will be reunited and restored beyond that which King David had built. In fact, it will be an everlasting kingdom presided over by a promised Messiah, the Son of David, who will rule from Jerusalem over all the earth in righteousness and peace.
• Finally, in the new covenant, Jesus proved His Messianic credentials through His perfect obedience even in enduring a cruel death on the cross (Philippians 2:5–11). Thus, he earned the right to sit on the throne of David forever and rule over the earth from a restored Israel—and now no one can ever challenge His right to rule.
Some Christians question whether Israel is promised restoration in our day. They contend it was either forfeited or already fulfilled in the earlier returns under Ezra and Nehemiah. Or they say the New Testament does not support this idea, and therefore, Christians can ignore Israel today as a political accident or as the result of a “man-made Zionism” lacking God’s handiwork.
Yet by the time the New Testament was written, the Israelite hope of restoration was such a prevalent idea that the Jews even minted coins in the first century expressing their longing “for the return of Zion” or “for the redemption of Zion.” This hope was largely based on the promises in the Davidic covenant, beginning with 1 Chronicles 17, that God would establish the throne of David forever and that Israel would one day have eternal rest from all its enemies in its own land.
Throughout the Psalms and the Prophets, this promised restoration is expounded upon repeatedly and is often expressed in such terms as the Lord will “bring back the captivity of Zion” (Psalm 126:1); “restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Nahum 2:2; Isaiah 49:6); or “show favor to Zion” (Psalm 102:13). It also can be clearly found in such passages as Isaiah 2, Jeremiah 31, and Ezekiel 36.
And finally, this promised end-time “restoration” of Israel is indeed vouched for in the New Testament, such as in Jesus’ specific words in Matthew 19:28 and in Peter’s preaching in Acts 3:21. In Romans 11, the apostle Paul further assures us of a future ingathering and acceptance of the Jewish people that ends with all Israel being delivered from their sins by a Redeemer who will “come out of Zion” (v. 26).
A Two-Phase Process of Restoration
All the prophets agree that Israel’s last-days restoration would involve a two-phase process. First, there would be a physical return to the land followed by a spiritual return to God—that is, Israel would return to the land in unbelief for the purpose of coming to belief.
Both Zechariah 1:3 and Malachi 3:7 express this two-step process in simple terms: “Return to Me and I will return to you.”
Hosea 6:1–3 also speaks of Israel’s return, or tshuva (repentance), leading to God’s return to them.
Jeremiah 24:6–7 states: “I will bring them back to this land … Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.”
In Jeremiah 32:37, 40 the Lord promises: “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever … And I will make an everlasting covenant with them … and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart, and with all My soul.”
And in the clearest picture of this two-phase process of restoration, Ezekiel 36 declares: “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you … I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations” (vv. 24–30).
For more than 100 years now, the world has been witnessing the physical restoration of Israel to her land with amazing accuracy. The people are returning to rebuild the waste places of Judea and plant vineyards once again on the mountains of Samaria. The land is yielding its fruit once more, the desert is blossoming like a rose, and the people are being restored to health.
Indeed, the “reproach of famine” has been removed from the Jewish people in an incredible way, and Israel has become a land of plenty. Not only does it have one of the healthiest diets in the world today, but every year the nation’s farmers are somehow producing greater yields with less water.
Now consider again that even within the past century, the Land of Israel was still barren—and that only 70 years ago, Jews under Nazi occupation in Europe faced mass starvation and death. Thus, the transformation of the Land and people of Israel in just a few generations is nothing short of miraculous. And if we see the promise of Israel’s psychical restoration being fulfilled with such remarkable precision, it means we can completely trust God for their spiritual restoration as well.
Gentiles: Partners in Restoration
Another core feature of the promised restoration of Israel in the last days is that it would be marked by gentile assistance. The same Hebrew prophets who foretold of a time when God would set His hand a second time (Isaiah 11:11) to finally regather the scattered Jewish people back to their homeland also foresaw that gentiles would be involved in this restoration.
This is made especially clear by the prophet Isaiah, who repeatedly speaks of God bringing “the wealth of the gentiles” to a restored Israel. The prophet assures, “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you” (Isaiah 60:10). He adds that “the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet” (Isaiah 60:14).
It is hard to find a more apt description of the modern-day phenomenon of Christians coming in humility to aid and assist a people whom our forbearers in the faith once oppressed.
Isaiah also proclaims: “Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders; kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; they shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:22–23).
This particular passage opens with an unusual Hebrew phrase that has been interpreted in various ways in modern English translations of the Bible, including that God would “beckon” or “wave” or “whistle” to the gentiles. In other words, it is the sort of very loud and visible gesture one makes to flag down a taxi. God has not kept this as a little secret that He only shares with a few dear saints in their prayer closets. Instead, He is out on the street corner shouting at the gentiles to get involved in the restoration of Israel.
Thus we Christians have little excuse when we fail to answer that call in this day when it is so obvious that God Himself is gathering the outcasts of Israel.
And the fact is that gentile kings and queens have indeed contributed greatly to the Zionist cause. In 1865, for example, Britain’s Queen Victoria gave royal patronage to the founding of the Palestine Exploration Fund for the purpose of settling Jews back in their ancient homeland. The British crown later endorsed the Zionists’ national aspirations in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
Meanwhile, American presidents—such as John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry Truman—openly supported Israel’s restoration.
Today, gentile Christians are still partnering in the great return of the Jewish people back to their land, knowing that it eventually becomes a spiritual return to their God. Therefore, the question is: What are you doing to help with Israel’s restoration?
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem offers many ways in which you can be involved in the great restoration of Israel in our November 2022 edition of the Word From Jerusalem magazine. Whether it is through our Aliyah efforts, assistance to new Jewish immigrants, various social AID projects to the diverse peoples throughout the Land of Israel, global prayer initiatives, or many other ministry activities, you can be a part of repairing the breach, healing the historic wounds, and humbly telling the Jewish people they are home for good!
Take part in the gentile role in the restoration of Israel.