I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group to the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I hope to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you'll come to understand why a person once wrote, "A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor."
My first message was presented on a visit to Independence Hall in Tel Aviv.
Birth Pains for a New Nation
Independence Hall in Tel Aviv was built in 1911 and was the home of the mayor at the time. When he died, he gave it to the city of Tel Aviv. It became an art museum and later was used for Israel's Declaration of Independence, but years later afterwards just fell into disrepair. Finally, the government took it over and restored it to look exactly the way it was on the day that the Independence Declaration was pronounced in this very spot. It's been open ever since the 1970's and Israel's government has been renovating it year after year.
I would like to begin by reading a verse from Isaiah 66 that has to do with what happened here in this room.
There are many more prophecies in the Bible concerning the regathering of the Jewish people and the re-establishment of the State of Israel. In fact, there are more prophecies in the Old Testament about the regathering of the Jewish people and the reestablishment of the State of Israel than any other topic. It's the most prolific prophecy in the Old Testament. Just over and over and over God talks about how He is going to regather the Jewish people in the end times in unbelief, and how their state will be re-established.
The reason I'm going to read Isaiah 66 to you is because it's my favorite prophecy. It's a symbolic prophecy put in symbolic terms, but those terms are very, very descriptive.
Reading from Isaiah 66 beginning with verse 7, "Before she was in labor, she gave birth. Before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has ever heard of such a thing?" Have any of you ever heard of somebody giving birth to a child and then having the labor pains afterwards? "Who has seen such a thing? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Shall a nation be born all at once?"
That's exactly what happened. In one day the nation of Israel was reborn here in the city of Tel Aviv, in this place where I'm standing. The birth pains began the next day when five Arab nations attacked Israel, and the birth pains continue till this day.
The first birth pain was the War of Independence in '48 and '49. Second, the Suez War in 1956. Third, the Six Day War in 1967. Fourth, the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Then came the two Arab Intifadas and the first Gulf War. It's just been war after war after war. The most recent ones being the war with Hezbollah and then the war with Hamas.
Everything's building up for what's probably going to be the great war as the Arab nations close in and try to take Jerusalem. It's going to be the most destructive war for Israel.
Israel will become extremely dangerous, which is why I probably won't be making a trip here again anytime soon. In the past I would bring groups over to Israel during wars because it was very safe, but that won't be true in the future, because the future war that's coming is going to be a missile war. Thousands of missiles are going to launched from Iraq, Iran and from the north by Hezbollah and from the south by Hamas. They are just going to be pouring down like rain. It's going to be a very, very dangerous time. The people in Tel Aviv are the ones who are most subject to these attacks because they are the focal point. This is where the nations are going to aim their missiles because they are afraid if they shoot into Jerusalem they may end up hitting the Dome of the Rock; which by the way, I think would be very appropriate, but nonetheless they don't want that to happen.
The Founding Father
With Isaiah 66 I read earlier in mind, let's talk a moment about what happened here. When we arrive in Jerusalem we're going to go to Mt. Herzl Cemetery and we'll see that at the centerpiece of that cemetery is the tomb of the man, Theodore Herzl. We'll talk more about him when we get there.
All I want to say right now about Herzl is that he was a Hungarian Jew who lived in Austria. He always wanted to be a playwright, but never made it. Theodore Herzl was a writer and a great intellectual, but he was an egomaniac. Nobody could get along with him. But, he was a man who had a vision for the Jewish people, and that vision was to bring them back to their homeland.
In 1896, Herzl wrote a book called The Jewish State. It wasn't really a book, but it was more of a booklet. In it he said it's time for the Jews to go back home. He had a premonition of the Holocaust coming, so he said it's time to go back home. The Jews must go back to their homeland.
Preparing the Right Man
There were only two people in the entire US government who favored the creation of the State of Israel. One was President Harry Truman and the other was his right-hand man, his counselor, his private lawyer – Clark Clifford. Clark Clifford favored the creation of the State of Israel because he was a Bible student and he believed that the Jewish people needed to go back to their homeland, as did Harry Truman who was also a Bible student.
I don't know how much you know about Harry Truman, but he was a remarkable person. You can look at his story and see God's hand orchestrating Harry Truman into this position. Prior to Truman, the Vice President of the United States had been Henry Wallace, who the president – FDR – just dropped summarily and said, "I want Harry Truman to be the next Vice President." As we'd learned, Henry Wallace turned out to be an extreme Socialist, a Communist sympathizer, and an extreme liberal. So, we know God orchestrated Truman to take Wallace's place.
Harry Truman comes into office even though FDR barely knows him, because they'd only met once before. During Harry Truman's vice presidency, he wasn't really kept in the loop. So, when he became President, he didn't even know there was an atomic bomb. They had to call him in and tell him about the project because FDR had never shared that with him.
Now here's an interesting thing about Harry. Just watch how God's hand is in Harry Truman's life.
First, He orchestrates for Harry Truman to become President. Second, Harry Truman was a child prodigy. He was reading at age three, and by the time he started school at age six, he'd already read the Bible twice. Third, his parents were devote Christians. They were Baptists. Truman knew the Bible backwards and forwards by the time he started school. Fourth, he was a guy with a photographic memory.
I used to teach a course on the presidency, and every year when the course was over my students and I would travel up to Independence, Missouri to meet with Harry Truman, which was after his presidency, by the way. You could ask Truman just about anything about any president of the United States. We'd ask him questions about different presidents like, "How many children did he have?" "What was his wife's name?" He was just unbelievable! Truman was a walking encyclopedia of history on the Presidents of the United States.
In the second and last part of this sermon from the Holy Land given at Independence Hall, the battle that went on behind the scenes over whether the United States would support Israel becoming a nation will be revealed.