Since ancient times there hasn't been a piece of Real Estate more fought over than that little parcel of land, no bigger than the state of RI, in the Middle East that we now call Israel. To understand the conflict over there is to understand history. This land has passed hands countless times even well before the Romans had control over it in the first century and has continued ever since. Much blood has been shed in that region, more than any other, well before their 1948 Independance Day. It still continues today promising to get worse with each passing moment. There seems to be no end in sight.
So what's going on? Why can't the leaders of the world seem to achieve peace in the Middle East? Why does the Psalmist tell us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem written during the times of King David 14 generations before the birth of Christ? Yet, from then on there has been everything but peace in the region. What are we missing?
Many Christians, as do I, believe that land was promised to Abraham and his descendants since almost the beginning of time. This land was promised to them forever and has been written down for centuries in the oldest manuscripts we have today. Moses in the Pentateuch outlined the story of how all this came to be and then the well written history recorded by the Jews showed the partial conquest and the failures that led to them never obtaining the promises given to Abraham completely.
Moses warned before he died in Deut 7:1-5:
1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- 2 and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
After Moses died, the fearless Joshua was to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. All they had to do was follow God's commands (above) and do what he said. God would hand their enemies over to them easily enough.
In Joshua 21 it's been pointed out, by those who wish to dismiss the claim to the land by the Jews, as already being fulfilled because written in that chapter it says this:
43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
The interpretation of these three verses must be considered in the light of what happens next. The Lord had not failed to keep His promise. It was unfaithful Israel who failed to keep their end of the bargain.
After Joshua's death God gave instruction for the continued battle to obtain the land. So obviously they had not possessed it all quite yet because they were continuing to fight for the rest of it after the death of Joshua. Just reading Judges (book written after Joshua's death) we can see they did not have possession of the entire land before Joshua died. Without brave Joshua the people faltered. Here's what happened:
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?" 2 The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands." 19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. 21 The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites. 27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land.
29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, 32 and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. 33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. 34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain.
They faltered big time. God was certainly not happy with them. He said this to them:
1 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides (even today) and their gods will be a snare to you."
20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, "Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did." 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
So that last underlined section gives the answer that while he gave them into the hands of Joshua all was not completed until the Israelites did their part of the plan...and then look what happens...remembering at the very beginning what God had said to Moses back in the book of Deuteronomy and repeated many times:
1 These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD's commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses. 5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
We see they directly defied God. Because they did not do what He commanded them to do, they paid the consequences. Eventually they ending up in captivity. The nation, for centuries, had been displaced until 1948 when they were allowed to make the land their home for the first time since the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C.
Now while the Mosaic covenant was conditional, the promise or Covenant to Abraham was unconditional. That Covenant said that Abraham and his descendants would forever be linked to the land of Canaan with a much larger area promised than what they have today. The land promised was laid out clearly to Abraham with all the borders mentioned and includes parts of or the whole of Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Turkey etc. Put it this way, it's alot larger than the little piece they are fighting over today.
So the question is, when does the Covenant with Abraham become a reality? When does the time come that Jerusalem will enjoy the Peace that we are all supposed to be praying about?
Ezekiel has the answer to that. That is the rest of the story, but today we are seeing the beginning of the fulfillment to Abraham right before our very eyes. Israel becoming a nation in 1948 was nothing short of miraculous. And it took the likes of a very evil man to make it all happen showing us that God indeed can take something evil and turn it around for good.