This month Israel is celebrating 63 years as a modern state. Yom HaAtzma’ut” (Israel’s national Independence Day) falls on May 9. With so much unrest in the Middle East and all the uprisings various countries have experienced over the last several months, one can only hope and pray for Israel to be joined by emerging democracies in the region. Perhaps there will be more Independence Day celebrations to come.
But celebrating independence can mask a problem that Israel, and in fact all countries experience when seeking the freedoms that so many western democracies enjoy. Winston Churchill once observed that democracy is the worst form of government—except all the others that have been tried. As important as independence and democracy are, no type of government or politician can ever provide real and lasting solutions to the problems people and nations face in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Independence and democracy can promote human rights, including the blessings of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. But rather than taking advantage of those freedoms to love and serve God, all too often people use their freedom to disconnect from our Creator and assert independence from accountability to the King of the Universe.
We should want so much more than independence and democracy. The longing of Jesus’ people for a heavenly home is not a hunger for democracy but the God-given desire for His rule and reign; to live under the only truly benevolent dictatorship, that of our Lord Jesus.
The history of Israel as recorded in Scripture provides one example after the other of the kind of national problems that occur when people assert independence from God. We see this in the cycles of sin and judgment as recorded in the Book of Judges, or in the pronouncement of Samuel: “But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations” (1 Samuel 10:19). Such rejection ultimately led to political and military disaster for Israel, humiliation and captivity in foreign lands such as Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Rome— indeed all the nations of the Diaspora.
The results of living independently from God should come as no surprise. God had promised Israel that with obedience to Him would come blessing and security in the land. However, disobedience and independence from God would bring disaster: “And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess” (Deuteronomy 28:63). These are hard words, but they must be viewed with the promises of ultimate restoration in mind, when Israel will turn to God and be saved from all her enemies.
The fact that the Jewish people are back in the land of Israel today may be cause for celebration and it may indeed be a part of God’s plan for ultimate restoration of His people—but it is not an indication that Israel is walking in obedience to God. I see Israel’s presence in the Land today as a result of divine mercy rather than divine right. The distinction is important for those who believe the promises of God’s Word. Until Israel celebrates true dependence upon the Lord, causes for celebration are fragile at best.
After all, Israel was still dwelling in the land—albeit under Roman occupation—when Paul the apostle wrote, “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2-3). Paul was looking forward to a day of celebration, but it wasn’t Israel’s independence day he was looking for and longing to celebrate: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). That salvation comes with dependence upon God through faith in Jesus. We who love the Lord like Paul did also should love Israel as Paul did—and long for Israel’s “Dependence Day” celebration.
Israel is certainly not the only nation that suffers from an independence problem that only Jesus can solve. It is human nature to insist on independence from God and His right to say what is right and wrong, true and false, good and bad in our lives and in this world. Such independence leads to war and unrest, poverty and crime, immorality and the disintegration of the family—everything that the Bible calls sin. These are the real problems that threaten peoples and nations. Thankfully God provided the real solution.
Jesus willingly gave up His glory and heaven’s freedom to be human, to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our self-centered, independent and sinful ways. He rose from the dead so that those of us who trust in Him, who declare our dependence on His finished work on the cross, can be free from the penalty of sin. And that is just the beginning of the liberty we enjoy when we declare our dependence upon God. No longer are we to worry about our lives, what we eat or what we put on. No longer do we need to worry about the future, what may happen to us as a result of the turmoil, sorrows or deprivations that surround us. We still find ourselves living on this earth under democracies or other less than adequate forms of government, but we recognize that our true home is in heaven with our King Yeshua, living under His just and joyful rule and Lordship. Now that is something truly worth celebrating.
Please don’t misunderstand: I don’t think it is bad for Israel or the United States or any other nation to celebrate Independence Day. But for believers, why not reflect heaven’s perspective and celebrate our dependence on God and the salvation He brings us? When we depend on Him, it makes it easier to offer His salvation to others, including the people of Israel.
God made many promises to Israel, and some of those promises point to a day which has yet to be celebrated: “And it shall come to pass in that day that the remnant of Israel, and such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, will never again depend on him who defeated them, but will depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth” (Isaiah 10:20).