A Unique Land

           Whatever we may think of modern Israel and the struggles she has with the surrounding Arab nations, believers should at least comprehend the importance of the land from a scriptural perspective. In order to more fully understand the Bible, it is helpful for Christians to become familiar with the land of the Bible. As we study the form of the land as well as the function of God’s chosen topography we are enabled to contextually unpack God’s revelation to us. A recurring theme throughout Scripture is the election of God—a chosen land, a chosen people, and a covenantal relationship that he provides with those he has chosen from the foundation of the earth (Eph. 1:4).
And the Lord appeared to Abraham and said, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7 NASB). When God made this promise to Abraham, he revealed to him a specific territory. Although God is the legal owner of all the earth, he chose a relatively tiny portion of land in the Middle East to bequeath to an undeserving, but a unique people. Of course, there is no one that is deserving of God’s beneficence, for all of us are sinners (Rom. 3:10-12). Yet, just as God chose a certain man, Abraham, to be the progenitor of a special people, he also chose a certain piece of ground to be the staging area of his revelation to mankind through the ages.
Why did God pick this narrow portion of land, once called Canaan, now Israel, as an inheritance to Abraham’s descendants? First, this stretch of ground is important for its geocentric location. In the ancient world, it was the bridge between two major civilizations and, as such, it became the connection between the nations and the scene for the most important events of history.  The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land the light will shine on them (Isa. 9:2). Messiah would emerge from this land; but not only would the Hebrew people be impacted through His ministry, but also the Gentiles. From this stage God would broadcast his word, promising a Liberator for those who came to understand the nature of their captivity and the need for a Redeemer.
People from every nation, from various ethnicities and from all walks of life were confronted with the gospel message. History has shown that this small piece of land from the time of Abraham to the present era has always been the epicenter of religious turmoil and upheaval. Even today three of the major religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–vie for the land. The struggle, although often times bloody, causes the world to refocus on the centricity of this land and the history of its people. 
A second reason why God evidently chose this land is due to its topographical uniqueness. The contour of this area not only made it desirable for the various trade routes traversing through it but also very difficult to defend. As a gateway to three continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe—it became the center point to controlling the ancient world. From each of the continents came conquering hordes: Egyptians and Ethiopians from Africa, Babylonians and Assyrians from Asia, and Greeks and Romans from Europe. Against these conquerors, the people living in the land of Canaan were virtually helpless. Because of the land’s physical characteristics and central location, Canaan was destined to be dominated rather than to rule. The vulnerability of the Israelites to foreign domination resulted in continued dependence on Jehovah and thus deepened their faith and left an indelible lesson for all mankind. As an indefensible nation, Israel’s only hope against certain annihilation and potential extinction was reliance on God, for, in reality, he is a peoples’ only refuge in time of trouble (Ps. 46:1).
The land still seems indefensible, for militant Arabs have vowed to annihilate Israel and push her into the Mediterranean Sea. It seems unlikely that Israel will accept a partitioned land and agree to a Palestinian state, for with the recent discovery of intricate tunnels into her land, Israel cannot afford a long cease-fire or a separate nation of Arabs that could rebuild tunnels to eventually strike at the heartland of Israel.
A third reason for God’s selection of this land is its meteorological variants. The climate was a powerful incentive to the development of faith in the unseen God. With no great river like the Nile or the Euphrates to bring an unfailing supply of water, the land had to rely on the water from heaven to replenish it and to provide this essential for life. If the rains failed to fill the cisterns during the rainy season and enrich the springs and the rivers, then drought was inevitable. Other calamities, which frequently occurred, were earthquakes, locust invasions, and pestilence. In a land like ancient Canaan, it was natural for men to look to God for security and sustenance. Pagans, however, worshipped nature and created deities that personified a particular aspect of their environment, such as rivers, trees, and springs. The Israelites, however, through God’s initiative, power, and love came to depend upon the true God of weather and climate change. Although not often faithful, their reliance on Elohim always deepened their devotion as they learned they could not depend upon the land alone for their provision. When they understood the lessons of the Lord the proclamation of Amos was the voice that came behind them:

And furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain;…I smote with scorching wind and mildew; and the caterpillar was devouring your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees…I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt…Yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord. Amos 4:7-10

To ancient Israelites the climate was seen as God’s instrument for advantage and for calamity. Understanding this principle helped to solidify their faith in a sovereign God. A land like Israel, therefore, served as the environmental classroom to nurture the chosen race into a deeper sense of Jehovah’s presence—a presence that was personal and relational.
            A fourth reason God chose this “Land of the Covenant” was its geopolitical location. Unlike our own, ancient civilizations had no difficulty with the integration of religion and politics. In fact history shows us that the two were closely intertwined. The mix of religion and politics provided a context for the Israelites to easily accept a theocratic state with God as the ultimate King. On many occasions and with many of Israel’s leaders, political decisions were decided based upon God’s Word and direction. 
            Although politics still play a major role in the affairs of Israel and its surrounding Arab nations, God has, for the most part, been left out of the decision making. Although not consulted, God is still sovereign and will accomplish his will for the Middle East. The land of Israel is still the center of the world, for how goes the Middle East will determine what happens in the rest of the world. Although world politicians demand peace, they will not find it without the intervention of the peace of God--who is the Messiah, the Christ of Scripture.