BIRTH OF A NATION
I don’t suppose too many of us have ever watched D.W. Griffith’s blockbuster silent film, The Birth of a Nation. Every now and then you might catch it on TCM or some other golden oldies television station. Upon its release in 1915 and for several years thereafter, it was considered one of the greatest movies ever made, even though its portrayal of African-Americans was considered derogatory … at the very least, controversial.
The movie depicted pre-civil and post-civil war America; with an underlying implication that the real birth of our nation actually took place after the Union defeated the Confederacy and abolished slavery. Some believe that’s when the United States actually became united, via a birth or rebirth of a Union that all states eventually recognized and supported. That American history up to that point was more of a gestation period that consisted of two wars with England, the granting of statehood to more territories, and the westward pioneer pilgrimages.
Whether the United States was born at the signing of the Declaration of Independence or reborn when General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox is a matter for the historians to debate. Either way, the formation of the United States of America was by all accounts an extraordinarily rapid phenomenon in contrast to the much-more gradual development of virtually all other nations up to that point in history.
But there is the dawn of another country that, beyond debate, beyond speculation, beyond doubt, constitutes the swiftest and most remarkable national birth in the annals of human history. It was truly a nation born in one-day: the nation of Israel. Even more astounding … this birth was predicted some 2,700 years before it took place! Not just the fact that it would happen, but exactly HOW it would take occur. That it would be unlike any other birth ever experienced: (1) the birth would take place in one day, and (2) the birth would precede the labor pains!
Isn’t that exactly backwards? Of course it is. Regarding point #2 for you men: If you missed it or have forgotten how much to appreciate it, just ask your wife who gave birth to that beautiful daughter or handsome son. Or, ask your mother who brought you into this world. First came the contractions. Then, “Hello, I’m here. Give me a name and give me something to eat!”
Let’s read the prophetic description from one of the great Old Testament prophets: ‘Before the birth pains even begin, Jerusalem gives birth to a son. Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Who ever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But by the time Jerusalem’s birth pains begin, her children will be born. Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?’ asks the Lord.’” ‘No, I would never keep this nation from being born.’ Says your God’” (Isaiah 66: 7-9).
Normal Birth of a Nation
Actually, nations do not normally arrive on the scene of history through a birth process; that is what we consider analogous to a woman giving birth to a child. Rather, they gradually develop into a political, social, and national identity through decades of homogenized language, geography, culture, government, and interactive economy. Examples that come to mind are the four superpowers prophetically identified in the book of Daniel, subsequently confirmed by both Biblical and secular records … Babylon, Persia, Greece, and the Roman Empire.
For other nations who were seemingly birthed into existence, the pattern does reflect the metaphor of a woman giving birth. Beginning with conception, then birth pains, then deliverance into a brave new world of freedom and autonomy. Here, The United States of America comes to mind. This great country began with a concept (conception) of individual and corporate freedom from tyranny (taxation without representation), then painful contractions through resistance to oppression, and finally a liberating birth as a self-governing, self-determining republic of the people, by the people and for the people; albeit one that acknowledged Creator God as her sovereign benefactor and source of moral and spiritual excellence. Which makes the birth of Israel all the more unique and miraculous.
The Reverse Birth of Israel
For those who have read Eye of Prophecy on a somewhat regular basis, you have seen several articles that touch on the astounding introduction of Israel to the family of nations that took place in 1948. This amazing birth of a nation, the shocking victories over enemies far superior in number and weapons, the stunning agricultural, technological, cultural, political, and military growth of a people who turned swampland into gardens, desert into oasis, hamlets into hubs of commerce, diversity into unity, and defeat into victories.
It is one thing to predict the rebirth or revival of a nation from the dead (read again about Israel’s Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel Chapter 37). I suppose an argument could be made that this kind of prophecy has a 50% chance of coming to pass. Either the nation will return or it won’t. If, however, you were fully aware of the Roman Empire’s utter destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple in 70 AD, followed by exiled eviction of all but a few Jews from Israel, with hundreds of ensuing years of subjugation in/by nations all over the world, I think the odds might take a nosedive to a miniscule probability of less than 1%.
But it’s quite another thing to predict the sequential details concerning the resurrection of a nation, particularly one that died a brutal unnatural death hundreds of years ago. Our passage in Isaiah does both. It tells us that this will happen and then tells us how it will take place; that it will be unimaginable, inconceivable, unheard of … unlike anything experienced in the annals of human history.
No matter where you rank the likelihood of the Jews ever returning to their land, let alone the undreamed-of improbability that they would or could restore and speak their ancient, near-extinct Hebrew language, what makes the rebirth of Israel so unfathomable is HOW it happened. Moreover, it catapults the prophecy of Isaiah 66 into a stratosphere that is absolutely breath-taking and mind-boggling. What am I referring to?
Look again at the text. It says, “Before the birth pains even begin, Jerusalem gives birth to a son” (Isaiah 66:7).
Once again, isn’t that totally backwards? Do you know of any woman who gave birth to a child, then went into labor after the child was born? Of course not … it doesn’t work that way. Unless, that is, you were born of, in, or through (as a result of) Israel. On May 14, 1948, seemingly out of nowhere Israel became a nation literally overnight. At the end of World War II, over half the Jews in Europe had been murdered by Hitler’s Third Reich. The survivors continued to be dispossessed, without any semblance of community or identity, let alone the hope of national unity. Yet, in less than two years the earth gave birth to Israel! Her children were born as naturally birthed Israeli citizens (Sabra) or through the exponential increase of Jewish emigrants from many nations of the world to Israel. Only after the birth of the State of Israel did the labor pains really begin. Strange? Unusual? Exceptional? I would think so.
This was also part of the amazing prophecy. Let’s review: “Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Who ever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? By the time Jerusalem’s birth pains begin, her children will be born” (Isaiah 66:8). This is precisely what happened when Israel was birthed as a nation in 1948.
First, she had no more to say about the matter than does a baby whose delivery is completely dependent on others. Although a handful of Jewish visionaries and Gentile supporters of Zionism had conceived the improbable birth of a new Israel, they had no idea how or when this would happen. They had no real say in the manipulation of nations to achieve this seemingly unattainable goal. Instead, it took the absolute sovereignty of God to deliver the Jews from the birth canal of Gentile oppression and horror which reached its ugly zenith during the Holocaust. ‘Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?’ asks the Lord.’” ‘No! I would never keep this nation from being born,’ says your God’” (Isaiah 66:9).
Second, the cruel contractions did follow the birth of Israel; in the form of an immediate assault by five Arab nations against the tiny, newly birthed, virtually helpless and defenseless infant nation called Israel. And what happened then? Not only did God bring forth a newfound nation from the womb of exile, but he delivered the newborn children from total annihilation at the hands of ancient enemies. Decades later, these birth pains would continue to strike Israel time and again … the Suez Canal conflict, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the deadly homicide bombing attacks, the incessant launching of missiles from the Gaza Strip, the perfidious anti-Semitic boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. And the labor pains go on and on and on.
In my generation, we are witnesses to the spectacular fulfillment of a 2,700 year-old prophecy: The nation of Israel would be literally born in a single day, in a mere moment (of history). This new creation of national life would be unlike any birth known to mankind. One that is not ordinary, but extraordinary; one that is not expected, but unexpected; one that is not natural, but supernatural. Children would be (immediately) born, then the excruciating pain of childbirth (nationhood) would follow the birth, not precede it. But like the arrival of any newborn baby, the family rejoices; not because of the pain that goes with childbirth, but because of the miracle of life itself.
In fact, that’s what comes next in our text: “Rejoice with Jerusalem! Be glad with her, all you who love her and all you who mourn for her. Drink deeply of her glory even as an infant drinks at its mother’s comforting breasts” (Isaiah 66:10-11).
Once again we see the astounding accuracy of Biblical prophecy. Once again we are reminded that we are living in the last days, that we are very likely part of the generation that will experience the glorious return of our beloved Jewish Messiah. Once again our vision is renewed, “While we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus 2:13).
Things to Ponder
– At one time or another, we marvel at God’s perfect timing concerning events or developments in our lives individually, as a family, and as a nation. Although the United Nations is essentially a coalition of ungodly countries the world over, God used this organization to approve a resolution that granted Israel Statehood rights. Without the UN resolution of November, 1947, it’s highly unlikely that Prime Minister David ben Gurion would have announced the Birth of a Nation (Israel) in 1948.
– The Holocaust was NOT indicative or representative of childbirth pains. In fact, it cannot be analogous to childbirth (life) at all, as it was a horrendous time of persecution and death. The birth pangs of a woman about to give birth are not persecutory, nor are they a signal that something or someone is about to die. Rather it is a necessary time of struggle that yields to the miracle of birth, then rejoicing and celebration over a new life given to us by an awesome God. A God who gives us life, then gives us life (eternal) again, through His Son.
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