Learning From History?

Don West is a new columnist and speaker for Prophecy Matters.  His passion for Israel and prophecy is instantly contagious.  He is a professor at North Arkansas College in Harrison Arkansas.  Dr. West holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas.
Last Updated on Monday, 16 May 2011 02:47 Written by Don West Monday, 16 May 2011 02:44
As already mentioned in the previous two articles, God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom we collectively know as the Patriarchs; changed Jacob’s name to Israel so that Jacob would bear his Creator’s name, that is God (EL); and then with Jacob/Israel’s twelve sons would begin the process of growing Himself a nation. Through twenty-one centuries( 2000 BC-100 AD) God would develop and use this nation of Israel, through its prophets and apostles, to prepare a record for the world (the Bible) to reveal Himself as the One, Sole, and Only God and the many aspects of His nature: Perfection, Supremacy, Incomparability, Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Patience, Longsuffering, Forbearing, Kindness, Tenderness, Compassion, Loving, Merciful, and Gracious, to name just a few; as well as His Triuneness, as Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit.
The entire Old Testament is a history of God’s relationship with His people, particularly His immense love for, bountiful provision toward, and protection of Israel. But, there is also a grim and sobering aspect to this relationship between Israel and its God. For Israel was prone to disobey and reject God’s clearly expressed and intended will for His people, and so in this written historical record of Israel and God, we can also see some additional aspects of God’s nature that are given far less consideration by humankind than they should be: Anger, Fury, and Wrath.
Privileged to be a history instructor, I give students several reasons why it is beneficial to study and know history:
1. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
2. A fool is one who has to learn from his own mistakes, but a wise man is one who can learn from the mistakes (history) of others (and correspondingly avoid the frequently bitter consequences that have come to those others).
3. Learn from other people’s mistakes; you cannot possibly live long enough to commit them all yourself. (I do believe that I am getting close myself, however.)
And here is the really tragic, sole, and singular lesson that comes from the study of history. It applies, unfortunately and grievously, to us individually as well as nationally and internationally: THE ONE THING THAT MAN HAS LEARNED FROM HISTORY… IS THAT MAN DOES NOT LEARN FROM HISTORY!!!
So I submit that a study of Israel is extremely helpful in learning the good, the bad, and the ugly, so to speak, that has occurred in the life of Israel, not only biblically, but also post-biblically, and currently. An experience that would well serve us all if we would but just learn from Israel’s bitter history. But as we undertake this study of Israel, it must be remembered that this is not just the historical account of a nation, it is also the account of the supernatural involvement of God in that nation’s existence and life. A national existence and life which God has both generally and, at times, very specifically set forth in these ancient, but totally and completely relevant today, writings of the Bible.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God states the following: “ …For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9-10 NKJV (italics mine). All of God’s declarations, for general human consumption at least, are to be found in His Written Word; and many of those declarations, not surprisingly, concern Israel, and particularly so since more than half of the Bible is all about that people, land, and nation. Declarations concerning not only the time of Israel’s biblical existence, but declarations made by God that pertained to Israel’s distant future as well. Unfortunately, since most of us are more inattentive to His Written Word than we should be, we, therefore, fail to grasp or know His declarations. About Israel, or anything else.
Dr. David Reagan’s book, The Master Plan, Harvest House Publishers, which initiated my interest in Israel, made some observations that enabled me to begin to read the Bible with an attentiveness to and an alertness for specific points of what God has declared about this nation, and all of which have occurred or are occurring:
  1. The CHOSENNESS of Israel. Look for the many, and I mean many, words, phrases, and scriptures which reflect God’s affinity for and intimate relationship with this nation. For a quick start in this area, start with chapters 40-66 of Isaiah.
  2. The DISPERSION of Israel. Chosen, yes; but because of sin and disobedience against God, the nation would be driven out of their God given land in 586 BC by the Babylonians for seventy years, and in 70 AD by the Romans for almost 2000 years. Today, the Jewish people refer to all Jews living other than in Israel as being in the Diaspora (dispersion).
  3. The PERSECUTION of Israel. During the last 2500 years of Israel’s history, the Jewish people have endured unmitigated hatred, persecution, and violence in repeated efforts to destroy them and, more recently, their nation. Sadly, it continues to this present day. Of the 193 national states that comprise the U. N. today, only one state hears repeated calls for it to be “wiped off the map”: Israel. Courtesy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and his adherents worldwide.
  4. The DESOLATION of the land of Israel. As a concurrent event with Israel’s dispersion and persecution, the nation’s land would be diminished, desolated, deserted, and desertized.  
  5. The PRESERVATION of Israel. Throughout their long exile and concomitant sufferings and tragedies, God’s Written Word indicates that He will preserve His people, and that He will eventually bring about …
  6. The RESTORATION of Israel. And I would submit to you, that certainly one of the most important events in the twentieth century occurred on May 14, 1948; when, less than three years after the last Jewish victim died in Hitler’s maniacal, unadulteratedly evil effort to destroy this people, God’s nation of Israel was not only reconstituted as a state, but was done so in the very land that God gave their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel. Just, by the way, as He proclaimed He would through His prophets over two thousand years ago.
 “ I (God) declare the end from the beginning…”
(adapted from The Boone County Spotlight; used with permission)
Special Relationship
As previously submitted, Israel is important because it has a special relationship with God; a relationship created by God, and Him alone, pursuant to His sovereign will. And as part of that sovereign will, God would use this special and chosen nation to provide the world with His Written Word, the Bible (remember: of the sixty-six books of the Bible, a minimum of sixty-four of them are Jewish authored); but even more importantly and critically, God would use Israel to provide the world with the ultimate of all gifts, the Living Word: the Savior, Jesus, who is the Christ. As we explore and study this relationship between God and His people, Israel, we should start with a basic, but largely unknown, piece of information that may surprise you.
I had for years a vague awareness that God had numerous names, but being generally disinterested, I, naturally, remained generally ignorant of those names until I was stunned to learn approximately two years ago that Israel bears the name of God in its own name. One of the names of God in the early history of the Hebrew people was “EL” meaning The Strong One; but “EL” was also used in compound forms to further identify the various aspects and characteristics of Israel’s God. And thus, we also have:
1.     EL ELOHE YISRAEL              God, the God of Israel (Gen. 33:18-20)
2.     EL ELYON                                God, The God Most High
3.     ELOHIM                                   God, The All-Powerful One (plural of EL)
4.     EL OLAM                                 The Eternal God, The Everlasting God
5.     EL ROI                                      The God Who Sees me
6.     EL SHADDAI                           The All-Sufficient One, God Almighty
7.     IMMANUEL                             God With Us
8.     BETHEL      *                            House of God
*Names of God, Rose Publishing, 2003, 2005 RW Research, Inc. 4733 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503 
 Interestingly, but now maybe not so surprisingly, numerous of God’s prophets also bore God’s name in their own: (emphasis mine)
1.     ELisha                                          God Is Salvation
2.     DaniEL                                         God Is My Judge
3.     EzekiEL                                        God Strengthens
4.     JoEL                                              The Lord Is God
5.     ELijah                                           God Is YAH, the Lord
6.     OthniEL                                         Lion of God
7.     SamuEL                                         Heard of God
With this significant item of information in mind, let us turn to the history of Israel to determine how and why it bears the name of God. Most of you are well aware that after God chooses Abraham, that Abraham will have a son named Isaac; later Isaac will have a son named Jacob. Eventually, Jacob will have a metaphysical encounter with God, and during that encounter God will advise Jacob that He is changing his name to Israel. That event, approximately 3900 years ago, is set out in Genesis 32:24-32, wherein God says, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”  
Thus, in addition to all of the above cited names bearing the name of God, we have the God initiated word ISRA-EL meaning, he who struggles, or strives, or wrestles with God. Unfortunately, Israel continues to live up to its name to this day, but God in His renaming of Jacob to Israel indicates, I believe, that ultimately Israel will, as stated, prevail and be His supreme standard for all the nations that God intended Israel to be from its beginning.
While the account of Jacob’s name change at Bethel in Genesis 32 leaves some question as to just who is doing the name change (God or a Man or an Angel), Genesis 35:9-11, states clearly that the one altering Jacob’s name is, indeed, God: “And God said to him, `your name is Jacob: your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name`. So He (God) called his name Israel.”
But there are several other scriptures that also identify the one effecting the name change   as being God that seem to clarify the issue thoroughly and finally. Keep in mind, as you read these, that while the writer of the scripture may be speaking primarily about something else, he nonetheless makes the claim that it was God who changed Jacob’s name to Israel:
1.     “ And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, ` Israel shall be your name.`” 1 Kings 18:31
2.     “ To this day they (Israel) continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel.” 2 Kings 17:34
3.     “ The Lord also brings a charge against Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways, according to his deeds He (God) will recompense him. He (Jacob) took his brother (Esau) by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he (Jacob/Israel) struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed… He (Jacob) found Him (God) in Bethel and there He (God) spoke to us (Israel). That is, the Lord God of Hosts…” Hosea 12:2-5
4.     “I am the Lord, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.” Isaiah 43:15 
*All scripture is from the New King James Version
One final thought in closing. Just as a father, not infrequently, gives a son his name in pride and love at birth, so within these scriptures there is the appearance, at least, that God has chosen to do the same with IsraEl (emphasis mine).
…Thus says the Lord: ‘Israel is My son, My first born. ‘ ” Genesis 4:22. And:
“For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim (another name for Israel, as I understand it) is My firstborn.” Jeremiah 31:9.          
(adapted from The Boone County Spotlight; used with permission)

    My Passion

I’d like to talk to you about a subject that has become the passion of my life over the last seventeen years. The subject’s origins began a little over 4000 years ago, and yet it is considered to be part of one of the most important geopolitical issues confronting the world today. That issue, and the subject of my interest, is the nation of Israel.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this: “The single most important global issue facing the world today is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” If one thinks that only leadership in the Western world judges this to be so, I would like to also quote the MOST WANTED man in the world and a real crowd pleaser in the Islamic world, Osama bin Laden, an individual all of us are already too familiar with. As the founder and leader of Al-Qaeda, he asserted shortly after September 11, 2001: “I swear to god (allah), there will be no peace in America until there is peace in Palestine.”
Now when jihadists like Osama bin Laden of Al-Qaeda (Afghanistan), Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah (Lebanon), Khaled Mashaal of Hamas (Gaza Strip and Syria), Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (West Bank), and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran) speak of Palestine, the anticipated future state of the “Palestinian” people, these individuals and their followers (who comprise, unfortunately, much of the Islamic world of approximately 1.5 billion people) mean to include geographically all of the present modern-day state of Israel. And Israel, well, to these people and groups, Israel is like a fishbone lodged in the throat; blocking the air passage; causing convulsions of choking; and unless expelled, extracted, or expurgated, causing death. And indeed, tens of thousands of Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians, and other assorted jihadists have died attempting to do just that in the roughly calculated eight wars with Israel over the last sixty-three years; and thousands of Israelis have died keeping the Arabs from their repeatedly stated and unapologetic goal of the elimination, eradication, and annihilation of the State of Israel.
Trips to Israel in 1994 and 2003, which for me engendered a previously unprecedented reading of the Bible, culminated in my growing recognition and understanding that the people, land, and capital of Israel were intended to be, and have been, used to reveal the MOST PROFOUND TRUTH that exists in the universe today: THE TRIUNE GOD OF ISRAEL, who is, by the way, the GOD of all other peoples and things as well.
In subsequent articles I will submit for your analysis portions of these Biblical writings that make these claims, and attempt to relate aspects and events of human history that I believe validate, confirm, and ratify the veracity and accuracy of the scriptures which range in date from the earliest writings of 3,400 years ago (Genesis) to the most recent which are a mere 1,900 years old (New Testament). Ancient writings with much, I submit, current application. But a question must then be asked: Am I engaged in contextual distortion? Or is all this mere coincidence? Further still, is there indeed a correlation between these ancient biblical declarations and current global events? You, reader, get to decide.
In concluding this initial undertaking, let’s note just some of what the Bible’s scribes say is the relationship between GOD and this nation called Israel; and frankly, it looks to me like something special is going on here. God is declared to be:
            1.   THE GOD OF ISRAEL                                                                            Ezekiel 8:4
            2.   THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL                                                              Joshua 24:2
            3.   THE LORD GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND ISRAEL       2Chronicles 30:6
            4.   THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL                                                            Isaiah 1:4
            5.   THE MIGHTY ONE OF ISRAEL                                                            Isaiah 1:24
            6.   THE STRENGTH OF ISRAEL                                                            1Samuel 15:29
            7.   THE CREATOR OF ISRAEL                                                            Isaiah 43:15
            8.   THE HOPE OF ISRAEL                                                                       Jeremiah 14:8
            9.   THE REDEEMER OF ISRAEL                                                             Isaiah 49:7
         10.   THE KING OF ISRAEL                                                                        Isaiah 44:6
*All scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version and most of these phrases are used more than once, and some repeatedly.
Additionally, it has just been reported in a New York Times article dated April 3, 2011, that the United Nations appears to be on the verge (September, 2011) of recognizing the Palestinians as a nation and demanding that Israel, among other things, return East Jerusalem, the location of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic holy sites, to the Palestinians. Since the reunification of Jerusalem by Israel during the Six Day War in June, 1967, Israel refers to this city as “the eternal and undivided capital of the nation of Israel, never to be divided again.” God calls Jerusalem “Mine” (Ezekiel 16:1-8); and Israel “Mine” (Isaiah 43:1), as well.
I hope to have you with me in later editions as we begin an examination and study of this very small, but extremely important country: Israel.
(adapted from The Boone County Spotlight; used with permission)