This week brings with it “Yom Ha’aztmaut—Israeli Independence Day.” As Jews around the world celebrate the miraculous rebirth of Israel, I’m reminded of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 4, Moses tells the Israelites that they will stray from the God of their fathers; they will go after idols and carved images, provoking God to exile them and scatter them to the four corners of the earth.
But Moses doesn’t stop there, he continues on and tells the Israelites that in exile, they will “seek the Lord [their] God, and will find Him if [they] seek Him with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul.” In Deuteronomy 30, Moses continues on this same point and tells the Israelites: when you are in exile “and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice…the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you… And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” God’s promises to bring the Israelite captives out from exile are always coupled with the promises of God reigniting a relationship with His people.
The Jewish people couldn’t just come back and start up a nation in the ancient land of their forefathers. These verses are telling us that, if the Jewish exiles return to the land of their forefathers, then they have returned to the God of their forefathers as well. Even as the prophets Malachi and Zechariah exhorted the nation of Israel with God’s words, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.”
God’s promises to bring the Israelite captives out from exile are always coupled with the promises of God reigniting a relationship with His people.
This has been God’s invitation to the nation of Israel, and remains an open invitation extended to all of humanity. In some way or another we are all exiled and separated from God. So as we celebrate this year’s Independence Day for Israel, let us remember that true freedom only comes when one becomes dependent upon the God of Independence!