The Jewish Problem - Its Solution or, Israel's Present and Future/Chapter 05
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IV. The Present Condition of Israel
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ISRAEL'S present state, and the miracle of their preservation. This is the next item in the divinely dictated message through the prophet Jeremiah.
After proclaiming the fact of their restoration, and describing the glad day when the remnant of Israel, after passing through the purging ordeal, shall "call on the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one consent," we read in the tenth verse:
"Therefore fear them not, O My servant Jacob, saith Jehovah; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid."
It is beautiful to note how the people are encouraged to draw consolation and hope in their present desolation and sufferings, from the brightness and glory which is yet to break upon them. "Therefore" in view of the glorious prospect just dilated on "fear thou not, O My servant Jacob."
"I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Gloomy indeed is the prospect of the present state of the Jewish people in its dispersion and unbelief, if viewed apart from the bright morn of promise so clearly foretold in the Word of God; but, in the light of the bright future, even the present darkness and gloom become less intense. How full of consolation is the assurance that "Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid"!
The present state of the peculiar people has been foretold with minute exactness in predictions like the following:
"For lo, I will command, and I will sift (lit. toss or shake about) the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is tossed about in a sieve" (Amos ix. 9).
Or, in the words of Jeremiah:
"I will even give them up to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth for evil; to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them" (xxiv. 9, r.v.).
O ye who doubt the inspiration of the Book of books, compare these prophecies of thousands of years ago with what is going on before your very eyes! How can we account for the repeated dispersions, and the continued, unceasing wanderings and strange restlessness of the Jew, apart from these ancient inspired utterances? That Palestine should be vanquished, and that Israel should be cast out of their own land, or even be dispersed among the nations, was within the range of human possibility, and mayhap within the power of a shrewd observer to forecast; but, that for centuries and centuries, a people, vanquished and scattered out of their own country, instead of becoming absorbed among the nations—as has been the case with other peoples; and instead of taking root and finding rest in the new soil to which they have been transplanted, should retain a separate existence, everywhere dwelling alone, and not reckoned among the nations, yet in all places kept in a state of unrest, and continually agitated or tossed about: who, but He whose hand has kept up this standing miracle as His witness among the nations could have foreseen or foretold that?
Before even their first settlement in Palestine, Moses predicted that, if Israel sinned, and was disobedient, "Jehovah shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; . . .and among all these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot find rest" And as the mouth of the Lord has spoken, so it has been all these centuries. What is the monkish legend of the "Wandering Jew " but a parable of the whole Jewish nation? The original version of the legend is as follows:
Joseph Cartophilus, a Jew, was door-keeper at the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate when Jesus was led away to be crucified. As Jesus halted upon the threshold of the Praetorium, Cartophilus struck Him on the loins, and said, "Move faster. Why do you stop here?" Jesus turned round to him, and said: "I go, but you will wait till My return." Cartophilus, who was then thirty years old, and who has always returned to that age when he has completed a hundred years, has ever since been awaiting the coming of the Lord and the end of the world. This wretched man, who must exist in spite of his longing for death, and desperate efforts at self-destruction, is further said to be possessed with a spirit of restlessness which makes him ceaselessly wander over the face of the earth.
Who cannot see the application of this legend to the whole tribe of the "wandering foot and weary breast"? More than eighteen hundred years ago, when Israel insulted their Messiah, and hastened Him to the cross, Jesus, with a pitiful but disappointed look, turned to them, and said: "The Son of Man goeth as it is written of Him; but this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled; for I say unto you, ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say: Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord." Forthwith Israel, taken possession of by a spirit of restlessness, had to take staff in hand, and gird his loins, and commence his wanderings amongst the nations. 1 Still they are on their weary march, which has already extended over a period of nearly two millenniums.
How often has not my people built a nest for itself, and said: "Here let us rest!" But, as often has God put His hand under the nest and said: "Arise and depart, for this is not your resting-place!"
"That which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say: We will be as the nations, as the families of the countries" (Ezekiel xx. 32).
If God had cast away His people which He foreknew, He would have let them alone to go to national destruction and amalgamation, which they courted; but no, even in these repeated dispersions and long-continued wanderings and chastisements, we see God's faithfulness to His covenants, and love for His people. Israel gives us the picture, on a national scale, of God's dealings with a backslider. And surely it is in love and mercy that rest and peace are taken from those that wander from God. If the prodigal in the far country had found what his heart desired, he might never have turned his thoughts to his father and his home.
"Thou turnest man to the very dust, and sayest, Turn, O children of men!" (Psalm xc. 3, Heb.).
Each stroke, each separate edict of banishment from one country or the other, which has, as it were, been God's word of command to the nation to resume its long march, each calamity and wrong which has befallen the dispersed people, has been a call from God: "Turn ye! turn ye! from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
"If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land" (Leviticus xxvi. 41, 42).
But the day is not far distant when God will heal their backslidings; and then at the cross, where they commenced, Israel's wanderings and dispersions will cease. "Jacob shall return, and be in rest, and be quiet; and none shall make him afraid." Meanwhile, though scattered and peeled, tossed about among the nations, and finding no rest for the sole of their feet, Israel's preservation is guaranteed.
"For I am with thee, saith Jehovah, to save thee: for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have scattered thee, but I will not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee with judgment, and will in no wise leave thee unpunished" (Jer. xxx. 11, r.v.).
This agrees with what the same prophet says in another place:
"Thus hath Jehovah said, The whole land shall be desolate, yet will I not make a full end" (Jer. iv. 27).
And again, in giving His mandate to the nations to "go up upon her walls and destroy," He is careful to put in the reservation clause, " but make not a full end." We also read in Amos ix. 8:
"Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith Jehovah."
Let the miracle of the continued existence of the Jewish people bear witness to Jehovah's faithfulness to His promises, as well as to His threatenings. By the word of God was this nation first brought into existence; and by the word of God it continues to exist, and nothing can move it.
It surely is not necessary to remind the world that there are no thanks due to the Gentile nations—especially not to professed Christendom—that there is such a being as a Jew now left on the face of the earth. What force or influence is there, which might be supposed to tend to the utter extermination of the people, which has not been brought to bear upon them with terrible severity for many centuries? On whatever else the nations of the earth were divided, they were at one on this point; and, to use the language of Psalm Ixxxiii. 4, which will be the war cry of the final great con- federacy of the nations who will assemble against Jerusalem, they have said:
"Come, let us cut them off from being a nation; That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance."
Popes, councils, bishops, monks, kings, and peoples, seemed equally enraged against them, and equally determined on their extermination. To effect this, every expedient has been tried, but all have equally failed. Let me remind the reader of a few typical actions on the part of the great representatives of the Gentile world, to illustrate their attitude to Israel.
Pharaoh, the head of the Gentile world of his time, conceived the idea of a policy of extermination against the chosen people, and he tried the expedient of water. "Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river," was the stern edict. But what was the result? Israel ultimately passed the water ordeal in safety; not only the River Nile, but also the Red Sea. But note the retributive justice of God: the very means which he had planned for the extermination of God's people were chosen for his own destruction. Ptiaraoh and his hosts were drowned!
Once again Israel was in bondage, though for a short period; and the great head of the Gentile world at that time, Nebuchadnezzar—with whom pre-eminently began the "times of the Gentiles"—tried how it would do to destroy these Jews by fire. Three Hebrew youths, because they would not serve his gods, nor worship the golden image which he had set up, were cast into the "burning fiery furnace," heated one seven times more than it was wont; however, the fire had no power over the bodies of these Jewish men, nor was a hair of their head singed, but the flames slew those men who threw them into the furnace.
Darius, another great monarch of the Gentile world, tried the expedient of throwing one Jew, the representative of his people, to wild beasts. But God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they did not hurt him; although these same lions had the mastery of Daniel's enemies, and brake all their bones in pieces, or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
Were these occurrences mere chance? Oh no! they were in fulfilment of that wonderful promise, primarily given to Israel as a nation:
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah xliii. 2).
Coming to more modern times, it may well be said that no weapon that was forged against Israel prospered, and every tongue that rose up against them in judgment was contemned. Whenever there arose a Haman, who planned their destruction, there was an Esther or a Mordecai foreordained. Behold, He that keepeth Israel did neither slumber nor sleep. Hence it comes to pass, that after nearly two thousand years of dispersion, untold and unheard-of sufferings, confiscations, violence, tortures, massacres, banishments, and systematic oppressions, the Jewish nation has proved indestructible; and not only exists, but exists in larger numbers to-day than in the most palmy days of David and Solomon, and shows no symptoms of an exhaustion of the early vigour of their national life.
Note the eloquent appeal of a Jew: "Braving all kinds of torments—the pangs of death, and still more terrible pangs of life—we have withstood the impetuous storm of time, sweeping indiscriminately in its course nations, religions, and countries. What has become of those celebrated empires, whose very name still excites our admiration by the idea of splendid greatness attached to them, and whose power embraced the whole surface of the known globe? They are only remembered as monuments of the vanity of human greatness. Rome and Greece are no more; their descendants, mixed with other nations, have lost even the traces of their origin; while a population of a few millions of men, so often subjugated, stands the test of revolving ages, and the fiery ordeal of eighteen centuries of persecution. We still preserve laws that were given to us in the first days of the world, in the infancy of nature. The last followers of a religion which had embraced the universe have disappeared these eighteen centuries, and our temples are still standing. We alone have been spared by the indiscriminating hand of time, like a column left standing amid the wreck of worlds and the ruins of nature. The history of our people connects present times with the first ages of the world, by the testimony it bears to the existence of those early periods. It begins at the cradle of mankind; it is likely to be preserved to the very day of universal de- struction."
"Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the Lord of Hosts is His name: if those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever. Thus saith Jehovah, If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Jehovah" (Jeremiah xxxi. 35-37).
- Zephaniah iii. 9.
- Hosea ix. 17.
- Hosea xiv. 4.
- Jeremiah v. 10.
- Michael Beers, Appeal to the Justice of Kings.