Posts Tagged ‘jews’

A Strange Thing Happened One Evening…

April 14, 2017

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It’s quite a few years ago now and something I hadn’t really thought about in a long time, but in the last couple of days this incident has been very strongly on my mind. I believe it was an autumn evening and I had been reading our local newspaper – something I rarely do these days. Leafing through the pages, for some reason an advertisement in the “local events” page caught my eye. It looked interesting, that talk on local history which was to take place in a small village some distance from where I live. Wanting to know about the subject, I decided to go along on the evening in question.

Now, I find this difficult to explain but all I can say is that before the evening, the Lord spoke to me in that “still small voice,” asking me to take along with me to this event…. a laminated print-out of Isaiah 53. I couldn’t understand why I had to do this but looking back now, it is truly amazing…

“Isaiah 53? Why in the world should I bring a copy of Isaiah 53 to this secular meeting?” I thought. Most, if not all of the people in attendance would be practising (or at least nominal) Roman Catholics, with myself being the only exception – and anyway there was nothing remotely religious about the meeting. But I knew the Lord wanted me to do this – and that His will must be done.

Well, I drove over in the darkness of the night, parked the car and entered the venue, realising that I was a few minutes late. I sat down at the very back and listened to the chairman introduce the special speaker of the evening. “Well, at least I haven’t missed anything,” I thought. But then I pricked up my ears at his next words… “The advertised speaker for tonight has been unable to come, but fortunately for us Mr _____ who is an author in the Jewish community has kindly come to give us an alternative talk at very short notice….

I took a deep breath. I had read about the speaker who was supposed to come – but this replacement speaker tonight was Jewish. Touching the laminated print out of Isaiah 53, I knew exactly why the Lord had asked me to bring it. Most people would say: “But Jewish people know about Isaiah 53 which is part of their Bible…” However, I knew that the Lord wanted me to give it to this gentleman at the conclusion of the meeting for a reason. Frankly, it took courage to do that. I tried to explain to him what had happened and although he did seem a little irritated by the incident, he nonetheless accepted it.

To this day I have no idea what may have been achieved by this. The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible but for the Christian, Chapter 53 is very prophetic of the Lord Jesus Christ, although I was always aware that Jewish people see this differently. I have no idea what was (or still will be) achieved by what happened after the strange turn of events that evening. All I know is that the Lord is Sovereign and that His Word will not return unto Him void! I can still remember my surprise that night when a different speaker was announced and the dawning knowledge that the Lord had a purpose in what He had asked me to do. I will always love the beautiful words of Isaiah 53, which I pray will continue to speak to souls (whatever their persuasion) while we abide still in this, the glorious Day of Grace…

“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53)

Thoughts on Holocaust Denial…. and the “Apple of God’s Eye”

January 27, 2017

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I am currently quite close to the end of the Old Testament once more in my daily reading. This morning I read from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah, in Chapter 2: “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” (Verses 8-13)

This phrase “the apple of your eye” is used commonly today to refer to someone you cherish – and there is no doubt about the fact that the Lord held His ancient chosen people, those who were obedient amongst the Jews, in this esteem. This chapter is also prophetic of the promise of the Messiah – Jesus our Lord and Saviour; and today, for all those amongst the nations (whether of Jewish ethnicity or not) who accept Him as Lord and Saviour, we are “the apple of His eye.” In this regard I believe it is true to say that offences may come – but the Lord’s judgement will ultimately fall upon those who are responsible for these offences. (Luke 17v1)

Later on I coincidentally heard a lady speak on the radio of her court battle with a “Holocaust denier.” Today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I thought: “For a historian or public figure to go out of his way to try to prove that the Holocaust ‘never happened’ must surely take up a lot of valuable time, money and energy. So why would they do it?” I researched just a few of the many well-known personalities who are so strangely adamant that the Holocaust never happened and found that they all had one very obvious trait in common… anti-Semitism. However, to research the psyche of the deniers would take much longer and would perhaps take up much more than just a few paragraphs…

To tell an escapee from Daesh, or a person who has been mugged and robbed that it ‘has never happened’ is a hurtful and spiteful attack on the credibility of that person and the very real traumatic experience which has impacted his or her life. I can only imagine how the (now very elderly) victims of the holocaust must feel when they hear the derogatory words of a denier about a very real pogrom which was directed at millions of their people. The horror of those memories and the extent of those evil offences are still a very real part of their lives too, whether sleeping or awake. Jesus said: “Woe unto the world because of offences!  for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matthew 18v7)

Furthermore, despite what some would have us believe; real Christians, those born again of the Spirit of God have this one thing in common: their love for the Jewish people. It has been recorded in history that “Christians” at one time persecuted the Jews. However, those by whom offences came throughout this world’s turbulent history may have called themselves “Christians,” but they most certainly were not.

How wonderful that the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, of David’s royal line, still stands today with arms outstretched to all individuals of the nations of the world – whatever their background. “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3v14)

I also believe that it is significant in these dramatic days in which we live, that a very great number of Jewish people are coming to see the truth of this beloved Messiah who loved them and gave Himself for them and indeed for all the world. Only He can bring healing to troubled minds in the wake of terrifying experiences and only He can break down the barriers that divide mankind. To those who truly know Him as their personal Lord and Saviour, Paul says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3v28&29)

Holocaust Memorial Day – and Personal Memories of a Jewish Cemetery on the Island of Kos

January 27, 2014

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 On this cold 27th January day while many mark the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, my memories are of a hot day a couple of years ago on the Greek island of Kos. That lovely summer afternoon we found ourselves in a village called Platάni where we decided to have lunch. It soon became evident (from the names of the restaurants) that Platάni was home to Muslims as well as those of the Greek Orthodox persuasion. We sat for a while in one of those Muslim restaurants watching the villagers go by in the heat of the day and later we took a stroll down a narrow road a little way out of the village where we were intrigued to find two well hidden cemeteries, in very close proximity to each other.

The first cemetery was clearly a Muslim one – again we could tell by the names, the Arabic inscriptions used and those shallow graves that are typical of how Muslims are buried. Walking around this cemetery, I thought of the souls of those buried there…. Sadly some of them were comparatively young; I wondered what type of life they had led and why they had died this young. I later learned that this cemetery is still in use by the local Muslim community which is small on the island; they have their own mosque, although the children of Turkish speaking Muslims on Kos attend regular Greek schools.

I felt, in a strange sense, the type of atmosphere in that village which is still prevalent in parts of my native Northern Ireland. At a first glance it would appear that the members of that local community knit well together but I felt an undercurrent… I instinctively knew that behind that peaceful village scene lay deep cultural, historical and religious differences – and perhaps even hostilities.

With these thoughts in mind, we wandered out of the Muslim cemetery and there, just a very short distance away, we saw two lovely stars of David adorning an old gate. Sadly that gate was locked and these days I’m not so good at climbing high walls but I did manage to get a few photographs of the tombs of this Jewish community which, in 1922, still amounted to 66. In 1943 those remaining members of the Jewish community were rounded up by German forces and taken away to concentration camps where many were murdered. Today the only remaining synagogue on the island is used as a cultural centre.

I remember my feelings of disappointment on discovering that the gate was locked to the old cemetery. For a long time I just stood staring through the bars of the gate at the grey tombs set amongst the fir trees where little birds were flitting around the branches. There was an eerie silence about the scene and an atmosphere of deep sadness which words cannot adequately describe… How terrible, how unthinkable I thought, that the forces of hatred pursued the Lord’s ancient chosen people and captured them even from a lovely Greek island to bring them to a horrific place of torture and misery…

Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away; first the King of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones…” (Jeremiah 50v17)

And yet the Lord said: “Behold I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria, And I will bring Israel again to his habitation…” (Verses 18&19)

Memories of talking to a young Jewish couple on the deck of a ship which was sailing between Cyprus and Israel return to me on this Holocaust Memorial Day. The year was 1981, I was young (and young in the faith) – but trying to be a witness to this couple who were coming from different parts of the globe, to return to Israel and live there. How amazing and what a miracle that Israel became once more a nation on May 14th 1948!

Surely “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh…” (James 5v8) This time He is returning to judge the “quick and the dead” (2Timothy 4v1) “for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Romans 13v11)

Hidden graves and ancient tombstones will open and the sea will give up its dead; billions will rise again – either to be with the Lord or to face the horrific consequences of a lost eternity.

 “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16v15)

Love and pray for the people of this world, wherever possible witnessing to them of God’s love for them, in sending His only begotten Son to be their Redeemer.

To those who know and follow Him… “there is neither Jew, nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3v28)

The divisive traditions of mankind melt away, when souls have been truly touched by the Lord Jesus Christ.

“He came unto His own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1v11&12)

Yet many have come to see that he was the Messiah – My prayer is that many many more would do so, seeing the wonderful prophetic truth in scriptures such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53…

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53v4&5)

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