We Must Never Forget Israel

God is calling Christians to come alongside the Jewish people— praying for them, blessing them, and comforting them.

by Michael Utterback
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erusalem! It is difficult for me to say that name or describe this land without emotion spilling our of every word. I am mesmerized by the sites, the history, and the people—but, most of all, what I know will happen here in future days.

From my balcony, where I am writing now, I see the ancient walls surrounding Mount Moriah, where the temple of God once stood. Ascending from the south, I see places where Jesus stood and taught on so many occasions.

After living here with my wife, Gina, for many years, it still seems new. Perhaps I’m sentimental, but anytime I travel from here, I come to this balcony to take a mental picture of the city one more time. When I return, it’s not long before I’m standing once again gazing at those walls and at the Mount of Olives where Christ will return.

This compelling love for Israel I have is not mine alone. Over the past few decades, the hearts of millions of Christians have been captivated by the land of Israel and the Jewish people. Without hesitation I can tell you, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Israel’s Purpose

Israel is unique. No other nation can rightfully claim they are the chosen people of God. In the opening pages of the Bible, we hear God promising Abraham he will father a nation that will be a blessing to every family on earth. He also promised the land of Canaan as Israel’s inheritance forever.

The purpose of God’s choosing Israel is not revealed until Exodus 19. Here we catch a glimpse of Israel camping as a little flock before Mount Sinai. Dramatically, God reveals their earthly destiny. He says to Israel, “You shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vv. 5-6 NKJV).

To seal their calling, God descended on the mountain with fire, completely surrounding it with smoke, accompanied by violent shaking. Then a trumpet blast grew louder and louder until God’s thunderous voice was heard by every person present.Wow! What an ordination service! What a revelation of the purpose of Israel’s existence!

Among the many responsibilities of priesthood, none is more significant than being the revealers of God and His Word—precisely what Israel has done. We would know nothing about God’s existence, the creation of the earth, the fall of humanity, and God’s efforts to bring us to Himself without these revelations that came through the Jewish people.

Most important, the Jews were exclusively chosen to present Jesus the Messiah to the world, demonstrated by what He said to a desperately inquiring Gentile woman:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24 NASB).

Furthermore, all the apostles chosen by Jesus were Jewish. The early church was Jewish, and the spreading of the gospel in the first century was generally a Jewish movement. Of course, many in the nations became believers and began spreading the word as well.

In A.D. 70, Jerusalem was tragically destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations of the earth, where they existed for over 1,900 years. Their path was unbelievably difficult, suffering persecutions and expulsion from one country after the other. To the casual observer, their priestly calling was apparently withdrawn.

    Israel’s Restoration

In the late 1800s, God began stirring the hearts of the Jews to return to their homeland as the first wave of Jewish immigrants made their way from Eastern Europe to reclaim their promised land. A half century later, after the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust, just as the prophets proclaimed, Israel and its people came back to life in 1948, when Israel officially became a nation once again.

From a prophetic point of view, these are the days of restoration spoken of by the prophets. Ezekiel described Israel as nothing more than dry bones scattered across a valley. But then he watched as the Spirit of God breathed on them, giving them life. God said to Ezekiel:

Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves’” (37:11-13 NKJV).

And the prophet Isaiah stated it would be Gentiles who would help bring them home:

Thus says the Lord God: “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” (49:22 NKJV).

It is no coincidence that when the Iron Curtain came down in 1991, numbers of Christian ministries from the nations, including Ministry to Israel (MTI), crossed into the former Soviet Union to help bring Jewish people home.

I remember one particular time in the Ukraine when we were bringing Jews by bus to the airport in Kiev to fly to Israel the next morning. We had ridden for eight hours, and it was late. There was a 40-year-old invalid woman on the bus and no one was coming to help her, so I picked her up in my arms and carried her into the airport. As the automatic doors opened, the words of verse 22 exploded in my heart: “They shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.”

Tears began streaming down my face. The next morning we flew 186 Jews to Israel. Since we chartered the flight, just before landing, I had the opportunity to speak over the public-address system, telling them that their God was finally bringing them home. The whole plane broke out into applause.

Today, MTI and her sister organization, Ezra International, have over 200 Christian workers in the former Soviet Union helping Jews return to Israel. To date, we have assisted over 130,000 Jews to return home. Also, MTI has established the Jerusalem Support Center and the Israel Sup- port Network of Jewish fellowships, where we have assisted tens of thousands of new Jewish immigrants, including thousands of Lone Soldiers (members of Israel’s military whose families live abroad).

    Understanding the Spiritual Events of Our Time

These are remarkable days. In our times, after 1,900 years of waiting, we are seeing the final ingathering of believers from the nations while also watching the miraculous return of the Jewish people to their beloved Promised Land. With great precision, the Lord is setting the stage for His soon return to the nation of Israel. Jesus said, “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” (John 10:16 NKJV).

This is His work, His final intent in these days—one flock, one Shepherd.

The restoration of Israel, however, is by no means complete. It is a process, not an event. Though they are coming home physically, there is still a spiritual void in the hearts of many Israelis. As darkness approaches the planet, Israel will become more isolated than ever. God is beckoning to Christian believers to come alongside His people—praying for them, blessing them, and comforting them.

The reason Christians are so drawn to this land and the Jewish people is because we have been gathered into their flock, adopted into the priestly calling, and grafted into their olive tree. They are our spiritual family. Like Ruth the Gentile and Naomi the Jew, we are inseparable. May we never forget.