In the late Sixties the rock group Chicago recorded a lovely jazz-swing hit. The song asks if people are truly aware of what is happening in the world around them: “As I was walking down the street one day, being pushed and shoved by people trying to beat the clock…People runnin’ everywhere, don’t know where to go, don’t know where I am, can’t see past the next step, don’t have time to think past the last mile, have no time to look around, just run around… Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?” (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Robert Lamm, © 1969 Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.).
Three thousand years ago there was a Jewish tribe which was able to answer Chicago’s question in the positive – the tribe of Issachar. Issachar was Jacob’s ninth son and Leah’s fifth child (Genesis 30:17-18). His tribal territory includes the Jezreel Valley and the foothills of Mount Carmel, the Hill of Moreh and Mount Tabor, the area north of modern Jenin and the southwestern shore of the Lake of Galilee (Joshua 19:17-23; 17:10-11).
Issachar was one of the ten northern tribes. Though they had followed King Saul, after his inglorious death they took the initiative and catalyzed Israel into crowning David king over the entire Jewish people in 1 Chronicles 12:32: “The sons of Issachar were men who were skilled in understanding the times, and they had knowledge of what Israel should do” (see verses 38-40). To put it simply, the leaders of Issachar had spiritual discernment. They recognized that God was establishing David’s covenant (2 Samuel 7) and they had the courage to advocate for the physical changes that would bring promise to fulfillment. They knew what time it was. They really cared. And they acted accordingly.
A time to plant
Two thousand six hundred years ago YHVH spoke through the prophet Jeremiah about how to spiritually discern the times, how to draw the right physical conclusions. Israel had been sent into Babylonian Exile and was languishing beside the willows of the Euphrates. Some false ‘positive confession’ prophets were attempting to stampede the exiles into a premature return to Jerusalem.
Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…saying,
“Thus says YHVH of armies, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. For thus says YHVH of armies, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, declares YHVH” (Jeremiah 29:1-9).
- Jeremiah reminded the Jewish people that the Exile was not merely the work of men or the result of super-power machinations. It was a direct work of the God of Israel – God’s judgment on His beloved but mostly disobedient people.
The Jewish exiles of Jeremiah’s day had been torn from the bosom of the land of Israel and they intensely desired to return home. Jeremiah’s word caused their hearts to screech to a grinding halt. YHVH was causing His people to come to terms with a divinely mandated Dispersion (Galut). This was quite a challenge. Little did the Exiles to Babylon realize that their national exile would last over 2,500 years. There would be a lot of praying for the welfare of the nations into which Israel had been scattered.
A time to uproot what is planted (Ecclesiastes 3:2)
“For thus says YHVH: When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you, declares YHVH, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares YHVH, and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, declares YHVH, and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:10-14).
Jeremiah expected the house building and garden planting in Babylon to last a maximum of seventy years. But seventy turned into 700, and then nearly four times 700. The exiled Jewish people were getting accustomed to the Galut. Their roots went deep into the soils of their host countries – from Assyria and Babylon (modern Iraq) to Morocco, Spain and Germany, and from Poland to Russia. Daily Hebrew language gave way to Aramaic, and then made way for Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish and English. Israeli patterns of life diminished while rabbinic traditions multiplied. Soon the Restoration to Zion became more a confession of eschatological faith than an activist hope.
- Today the majority of the Jewish people are content to build houses, plant gardens and seek the welfare of the cities of their exile – rather than prepare for a return to Zion. A ‘three hour tour’ has turned into an Exile lasting nearly three millennia.
Discerning the times
Over the past 150 years something most unusual has been happening. The God of Israel has been uprooting His people from the Exile and regathering them to their prophetic homeland. Amidst pogroms and revolutions, World Wars and Holocaust, the Jewish people have continued to stream back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Neither Nazism, Communism nor jihadi Islamism have managed to stop this prophetic resettlement of the Land of Israel. Western attempts at establishing a false and ultimately destructive peace through dividing the land must also be seen in this light.
Yet the majority of the planet’s Jewish population have not yet voted with their feet and returned to Zion, especially from the West. Jeremiah’s admonition to build in Babylon has become a mantra for most of Jacob’s sons and daughters. The blasé comforts of the Exile have dulled the palate of God’s prophetic people (Psalm 105:8-15).
Trembling and seeking
The prophesied return of the Jewish people to their Promised Land is occurring in spite of international opposition, and in spite of Israel’s soporific state. The prophet Hosea declared that this Return to Zion would be accompanied by events which would make Jacob’s children tremble.
- For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek YHVH their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to YHVH and to His goodness in the last days (Hosea 3:4-5)
- For I will be like a lion to Ephraim and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away. I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver. I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face. In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me (Hosea 5:14-15)
When men will not take guidance from divine carrots, sometimes the Hound of Heaven is forced to bring sticks into play. The State of Israel’s impassioned appeals to world Jewry to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) have not been as successful as was hoped. The war cry of anti-Jewish Last Days’ hunters (Jeremiah 16:16-21) will catalyze an even greater return.
Today’s super-powers are giving the Islamic Republic of Iran enough wiggle room to fashion weapons of mass destruction against Israel (Isaiah 54:17). The Jewish state may justifiably need to take preemptive measures – actions which would probably trigger increased world hatred against Israel. Were Iranian Islamist forces then to activate a few well-placed acts of terror against Western targets, an international wave of anti-Semitism would flood the planet. Western Jews would be forced to seek physical refuge in the Land of promise, to cry out to the God of Israel, and to turn in repentance to Yeshua the Messiah, Son of David.
These are the days in which we live. Nam qui intelligit – oremus (Those who understand – let us be about the business of prayer)!
- Pray for the salvation of Jewish people worldwide (Romans 11:25-29)
- Pray for God’s protection over the Jewish state and people from all weapons formed against her (Isaiah 54:17)
- Pray for the return of Jacob’s scattered flock to their ancient pasture (Ezekiel 34:11-16)
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,