Return of the Exiles
What’s the connection between Aliyah and the Lord’s Prayer taught by Jesus to his disciples?
It may not occur to many Christians that the Lord’s prayer actually starts with a plea for the return of the Jewish exiles (as I will explain). And 72 more of them have been sponsored to make the journey to Israel through nearly £20,000 raised in memory of Ginnie White, a Sheffield-based Jewish believer in Jesus.
Most of them are from Argentina, where antisemitism is particularly rife, while others are from Bulgaria and Poland.
The memorial fund for Ginnie, who led an international dance ministry dedicated to proclaiming Jesus as Messiah, is also being used to plant a dozen trees in Israel in line with national plans (and biblical prophecy) for the desert to bloom.
Jews have been making Aliyah (returning to their ancient land) from all over the world since the re-birth of the modern state, but there are still as many in the Diaspora as in Israel, where some seven million live alongside nearly two million Arabs.
Seventy-two is thought to be a very fitting number – one for each year of Ginnie’s life as well as being the number of completed years since the re-establishment of Israel. And it’s also appropriate that 20,000 people from 70 countries have moved to Israel within the past year – despite the pandemic.
According to author and theologian Dr. Fred Wright, whose latest book A Banner to the Nations charts 30 years of Christian-sponsored Aliyah, this massive migration is the last great sign prior to the return of Christ, and the very first line of the Lord’s prayer stresses its importance to God.
The opening petition of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples – repeated by millions of Christians worldwide on a regular basis – focuses prominently, among other things, on the return of the exiles.
“Hallowed be thy name” – or ”may your name be sanctified” in more modern versions – is obviously our Lord’s priority. And Dr. Wright points out that there is only one portion of Scripture that explains how the Lord’s name may be sanctified, and it is found in a passage from Ezekiel chapter 36 (beginning at verse 16) that, in the Hebrew Bible, is headed Kidush ha Shem (The Sanctification of God’s Holy Name).
Jewish exile is a consequence of their rebellion against God whose holy name is constantly profaned while they remain in foreign lands, “for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land’.” (v20)
So it is out of concern for his holy name, which they have profaned (a word used five times in this short passage) by their exile, that the Lord will bring them back.
Yes, it’s also true that God would wish his name to be hallowed in every way. Yet on 14 occasions throughout this passage, the Lord says ‘I will’ in respect of the benefit of Jewish settlement in their ancient homeland – not just for his people, but for everyone including his own reputation; even the desolate land would blossom like a rose!
Aliyah would also hasten their national salvation (Ezek 36:24-26, Zech 12:10, Rom 11:26) and the Church would benefit from the richness of its Hebraic heritage (Rom 11:11).
The return of the exiles from the four corners of the earth is of course a fulfilment of many biblical prophecies, thus confirming the reliability of the Scriptures, and is a ‘banner to the nations’ (Isa 11:11f) of the imminence of God’s rule through the Jewish Messiah.
It will be an even greater miracle than the crossing of the Red Sea by the ancient Israelites in the wake of the first-ever Passover. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “…The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.” (Jer 16:14f)
Indeed, they have come back in droves from Russia (the north) and the Ukraine, from Ethiopia, South America, France and many other places – even the far corners of the earth.
And so, although the modern nation state of Israel may be seen by many (including some Christians) as an irrelevant political issue to be avoided, it is in fact the complete opposite.
Jeremiah also wrote of a new covenant through which he would write his law on the hearts of his people (Jer 31:33) and Isaiah outlines the role of the Suffering Servant “led like a lamb to the slaughter” as he bore our sins at Passover (Isa 53).
Much of the work of Christian agencies engaged in helping Jews to make Aliyah involves the costly and time-consuming search for appropriate documentation. In any event, it is a demonstration of love and reconciliation after nearly 2,000 years of Christian antisemitism.
Requests are now being received from Mexico, and there is still much work to be done, Fred tells me. “Aliyah has brought about salvation for many who have returned, particularly among younger Russian and Ukrainian Jews. In addition, many Ethiopians have come to the Lord and have set up their own Messianic fellowships as well as joining established congregations.”
The conservative estimate of Jewish believers in Israel now stands at 30,000, but the real number is thought to be higher. Some have come through divine revelation rather than evangelism. And there are several reports of Jesus appearing to individuals praying at the Western Wall!
So remember, when you pray ‘Hallowed be your name’, that you are also pleading for the return of the exiles so that God’s reputation will no longer be profaned. And this great phenomenon will clear the path for his kingdom to come!
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.