Online Midweek May 13

The Land of Israel While the People of Israel Were Gone

Remember how the land of Israel was described in the Scriptures:

the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 

(Deuteronomy 26:8-9)

 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; 

8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 

9 a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.

11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today

12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, 

13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 

14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 

15 He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. 

16 In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. 

17 Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 

18 But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 

19 It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. 

20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God.(Deuteronomy 8)

The Lord had brought the nation of Israel into a land where in His words they would “not lack anything” and that as long as they were obedient to the Lord they would flourish. However the Lord also promised the Israelite people that if they were not obedient there would be consequences which included the scattering of the people of Israel and the devastation and natural deterioration of the land. What would happen to the land is described in the 29th Chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy:

22 “Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the stranger who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it, will say, 

23 ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’ 

24 All the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’ 

25 Then men will say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. 

26 They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. 

27 Therefore, the anger of the Lord burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; 

28 and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.’ (Deuteronomy 29)

Keep in mind the Bible study we did last week centering around Deuteronomy 29:22 – That “the generation to come” could legitmately be translated “the latter generation” meaning at the time God would begin the process of fulfilling His promise and bring Israel back into her land as a nation, in preparation for the return of Jesus. The summation given by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn stated:

It was all there at the beginning of their history. The return of the Jewish people to their ancient land would be the sign of the end times. But for that to happen . . . for a nation to be destroyed, for its people to be scattered to the ends of the earth and then to return to their homeland and come back into history…that would be unprecedented…it would go against all odds and would defy the laws of history. For the Jewish people to return to their ancient land would be the mystery of the Jubilee manifesting on a cosmic scale. And if this was to happen it would mean the hand of God moving in the events of the modern world. It would mean that behind the events of the modern world was an ancient mystery.” (The Oracle, p. 27)

Today we are honing in on the words in verses 22 and 23 which say:

22 “Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the stranger who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it, will say, 

23 ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’ 

An interesting question to consider:

Does this prophecy refer to strangers in general or a particular stranger?

The answer is: Both

Any visitor to the land could see the devastation. However: The word stranger in the original language is singular, thus denoting a particular individual.

The question then becomes: Is there a particular individual who made this observation?

The answer is Yes! And his identity may be shocking to you. He did indeed come from a far land and passed through many lands to get to Israel. He was one of the best known writers of his time period and some of his works remain in print to this day. He was an American, sometimes known as the Father of American Literature. Almost anyone reading this will be familiar with two of his works. The unlikely candidate to fulfill this role, like King Cyrus of the Old Testament was not a believer. His name was Mark Twain.

I will admit my first thought when I read that in Cahn’s book The Oracle was: “You havegot to be kidding me!”,

but Cahn lays out a compelling case for Twain indeed being “The Stranger” referred to in the prophecy.

Here is what Cahn had to say:

Twain was a skeptic and so the most powerful of witnesses, those who bear witness despite themselves. He was working as a journalist on the West Coast when he heard of a journey across the world on a steamship called the Quaker City. It would be among the first ships to undertake such a voyage. It would take months, bringing Twain to Europe, the Middle East, and finally to his ultimate destination, the land of Israel . . .the city of Jerusalem. And as one appointed to bear witness, he would keep a notebook throughout the journey to record his observations.”

All quotations by Twain are from his book The Innocents Abroad. Here they are interspersed with the words of Moses’ prophecy.

In Deuteronomy 29:22 Moses mentions:

 the plagues of that land and the sicknesses which the Lord has laid on it:

Twain’s description reads:

Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt . . .Lepers, cripples, the blind . . .To see the numbers of maimed, malformed and diseased humanity that throng the holy places . . ‘

According to Moses’ prophecy the stranger will say:

23 The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there,

Twain’s descriptions read:

all desolate and unpeopled . . . miles of desolate country . . .the far-reaching desolation . . . the waste of a limitless desolation

Another translation of Deuteronomy 29:22 in part says

Your land has become a scorching desert

Twain wrote:

It is a scorching, arid, repulsive solitude.

Such roasting heat, such oppressive solitude, and such dismal desolation cannot surely exist elsewhere on earth.

Nowhere in all the waste around was there a foot of shade, and we were scorching to death.

Deuteronomy 29:23 speaks of the land having no one to sow it.

Twain says:

All its land is . . .unsown.

One may ride ten miles, hereabouts, and not see ten human beings.

These unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines.

There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent – not for thirty miles in either direction

Just as Deuteronomy 29:23 predicted so Twains words would bear witness to the land’s inability to grow and sustain plant life. The Hebrew word used (tzamach) specifically refers to sprouting vegetation.

Twain writes:

a desert, paved with loose stones, void of vegetation this blistering, naked, treeless land

Notice that Deuteronomy 29 says:

nor does any grass grow there,

So Twain writes:

No sprig of grass is visible

Remembering that the prophecy from Deuteronomy (29:227) said:

Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book.

So even though he was a skeptic, a person we would not expect to find writing such things Twain recorded:

Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse.

Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?

Cahn writes this:

The stranger was to bear witness to that generation. So Mark Twain would send his words back to his native land. They would appear in articles in America and beyond.

He would bear witness to the multitudes of his generation and thus fulfill the prophecy.

So he accomplished what he was appointed to do. What he was born to do. The stranger must come before the return of the Jewish people and when the land lies in desolation and utter hopelessness. . . It i hopelessness that sets the stage for the moving of God’s hand and the impossible that sets the stage for a miracle. So the stranger would mark the end of the land’s devastation and lead into the beginning of its redemption and the return of its exiles.

The year was 1867.

Just tuck that date away in your memory. It will be important as we continue to explore the Jubilean Mysteries