Focus on Zionism
A Christian Zionist View Of Zionism In Relation To The Bible, The Jewish State, And World Peace
IN THESE TROUBLED DAYS, and probably for the first time in recorded history, thinking men are puzzled and apprehensive on a truly universal scale, as the prospect of a failure and collapse of our world order presents itself, like a dark specter, before their minds. In the past, we read, men sought and usually found alternatives when their terms of living became unacceptable, always assuming that those alternatives were there for the finding. At worst, peoples from without would move in and take over when a nation, or even an empire, crumbled to anarchic decay. Always there were alternatives and with them, Hope.
The puzzling, frightening thought which continually and ever more insistently asserts itself, is that the world is running out of — or has already run out of — alternatives. There are now no "peoples from without" to look to, since in our shrinking world, all nations are involved and the peoples "within" are reaching their wits' end.
Warnings have been sounded, ultimatums have been given and everything from a world-wide economic and social disaster to universal annihilation and planetary devastation have been threatened as the penalty for failing to find an alternative world order. Yet the problems facing mankind, with turmoil mounting on all sides, are so complex and so vast that none of the world's wise men has any idea what that alternative is — or even if there is one.
AN HISTORICALLY UNIQUE EVENT
It is against this ominous setting that an event of truly historic proportions has thrust itself, against all precedent and probability, upon the world scene. The regathering of the scattered people of Israel to their ancient homeland from all the countries in the world where they had been driven in exile, and their sudden, dramatic rise to nationhood and influence in world affairs, is unique.
Hope for the Jew comes at a time when hope for the Gentile world is falling away, as uncertainty, fear and growing despair take over. Marxists, Monetarists and all philosophers of the middle political and economic roads have made their bid for future prosperity, but to no avail. They have sought by new industrial growth, new social patterns, new alliances and mergers and by every other means they can conceive, to stabilize their own, and world conditions. The news each day is a depressing catalogue of their failures.
Much to the contrary of all their understanding, the answer — the only answer — to their problems and the key to a future of world-wide security and prosperity, lies in the past where neglected truths have been concealed under the traffic of our present civilization's affairs.
It is for the Jew — the Israeli Jew in particular — to understand this situation, for these neglected truths are his. At the present time when Gentile rulers and Gentile societies are losing confidence in themselves and in their mores, Israel is rising out of her checkered historic and religious past to a vision of the future bright with Hope.
Yet as we look at Israel today, who could believe such a thing? Threatened militarily and by economic boycott from without, vastly outnumbered by sworn enemies and with her allies wavering in their support, torn by political, religious and ethnic factions within, her internal economy in a whirling inflationary spiral that few countries could survive — where is that Hope to be seen?
The best and possibly the only answer to such a deep and complex question is a simple, conceptual one. The sum of Israel's hope, which in turn enshrines the ultimate hope of the whole world of mankind, is in one word. That word is "Zionism." As it is written: "And many nations shall come and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And … nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Mic. 4:2, 3) "The joy of the whole earth is mount Zion … city of the great King." (Psa. 48:2)
Four millennia have passed since Abraham, at the time of his father Terah's death, passed from Haran into Canaan that there he might secure and bind the covenant proposed to him by God some time before (Gen. 12:1-4). That covenant, when it was made on Moriah's mountain and sealed with God's oath, was a unilateral statement of God's purposes in calling Abraham, in guaranteeing that his seed would eventually bless all the nations of earth and in granting him and his seed the Land of Canaan for an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:1-8; 22:15-18).
Thereby was the foundation of Zionism laid, a thousand years before the word even entered the Hebrew language. As an embryo, the idea lived on and grew in Joseph's request of faith to have his bones removed to Canaan, the Land of Promise (Gen. 50:24, 25); but the "birth" was long delayed. From Joseph's day, two hundred years were to pass before the birthpangs were begun in the Passover and the coming out of Egypt. They intensified in Sinai's covenant and law, and in the wanderings and warfare of forty Tabernacle years with Moses. Then came the birth as, under Joshua's leadership, Israel issued forth through the breach of Jordan's parted waters to take that Land of Promise.
Yet it was a nameless birth. It was indeed the Land of Promise, but not yet Zion, when Judges ruled. Five hundred years rolled by in changing fortunes before David came, the man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). He took by siege and storm from Jebus the fortress-hill of Zion, and removed that reproach from the midst of the Land (Josh. 15:63; Judges 1:21). He called the place the City of David, but its citadel was Zion and remains so to this day, epitomizing to every believing Jew his inalienable right to the Land of Promise.
For four hundred years of prosperity or failure according to their keeping of God's law, the sons of David sat on Judah's throne. To the North the ten rebellious tribes degenerated under their unbidden kings from Jeroboam to Hoshea, to reach God's final judgment, and were by Assyrian invaders carried away into captivity and historic obscurity. Judah's Kings fared little better. As they forgot and ruled in pride, the people sinned, the land failed and foreigners oppressed. In due time, in spite of Prophets' warnings and dire predictions, King and people together followed their Northern brethren into captivity (Jer. 18:15-17), but not into the same obscurity. God would surely punish His people, but He would not forget them (Isa. 49:15).
Jeremiah and the faithful few who had loved Zion mourned, as God in righteous anger thus moved against His people. There, in Babylon, the captives remembered. In the lands beyond the great river they wept when they remembered Zion.
Yet even there a question must be raised — how many wept? And how many sought assimilation in advantageous Gentile conditions, forgetting their allegiance to Jerusalem?
With the coming of Cyrus, named by Isaiah long years before when Hezekiah had ruled in Judah, came the promised release (Isa. 44:28; 45:1). Those who wept need weep no more as Zerubbabel set forth with the King's authority to return to the Land and to rebuild the fallen Temple. Yet who set out upon that journey of faith and Hope? But fifty thousand souls, from all those scattered across an Empire, and most of them from but two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Some women, some children and some old ones who longed to lay their bones to rest with Joseph's in the Land, would be numbered among them (Ezra 3:12), a faithful remnant from a forgetful people.
Ezra, by persuasion, found seventeen hundred more, and by these all was the Temple raised again in a broken, neglected city in a desolate land (Ezra 8:1-36).
The faithful Nehemiah next returned, armed with the King's letters. He raised the spirits of the people. The walls of the city were rebuilt in the teeth of heathen opposition, and the gate was fastened securely in its place. Jerusalem and Zion stood up again to reassure the faithful, to reprove and warn the unfaithful, and to announce to the World that God's promises were sure, and that He will never cast off His people Israel.
Even so, Jerusalem was not yet free. In due time Persian overlord gave way to Greek and then to Roman, as God kept to the pattern of His judgment in Ezek. 21:26, 27. So passed another four hundred years, and yet again, although possessed of City, Temple, Priest and Prophet, the Law fell into disuse among the many. Once more besieged, this time by a Roman army, the city fell, the Temple was burned and Zion was but a word on the lips and a longing in the heart of the faithful among an exiled people. Titus and Masada figured briefly but bloodily with Jerusalem as the years of the great eclipse, the Diaspora, set in. Bar Kokhba served but to intensify the rigour of the exile, for Jews were after his revolt forbidden even to enter the Holy City.
NO RESTING PLACE
Who can tell the miseries of Israel since that day? Gone was the Temple with its altar in the Holy Place. Gone was the Priesthood. Gone was the Bullock of Atonement. Gone was the city and its people, as once more the land lay desolate, this time for eighteen hundred years (Isa. 64:9-12).
In all the lands to which they went, Jews found no lasting respite from bitter persecutions of religious bigotry. Harried and hounded from city to city and from nation to nation, a target for every insult and a convenient scapegoat to carry any blame, the history of their experiences is a shame upon their great traducer and oppressor, Christendom. For all that, Jewish intellect flared up here and there in the gross darkness of Medieval Europe (Isa. 60:2) only to be followed by spoliation, violence and further expatriation.
As their homeland lay wasting under successive rule of Arab, Crusader, Kurd, Mameluke and Turk, the minds of deeper thinking Jews were largely preoccupied with the Kabbala and the Talmud. The guiding light of the Torah (Psa. 119:105) shone but dimly through the mysticism and endless commentary of those dark days. Yet each new wave of persecution cut through the shroud thus spun by human intellect (Isa. 55:8, 9) to reveal again the Promise and the Covenant. As they saw once more in clarity the true need and the destiny of Israel, the people cried again for their Messiah, and turned their hearts and thoughts to Zion (Psa. 77:7-20).
With the retreat of the Middle Ages before Renaissance thinking and the upheavals of the Reformation, there came new freedoms and a broadening of the spectrum of Jewish society. Hasidism in Eastern Europe clung to piety, to the traditions and to the Yiddish language, while Haskalah sought Enlightenment, "Westernization" and that Emancipation which first saw the light of day in the Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty (1786), in the newly constituted United States of America. The movements of Reform and assimilation were soon to spread the pattern wider still.
THE FIRST "ALIYAH"
But yet again the eruption of anti-Semitism brought terror to the people, and the Pogroms of nineteenth and early twentieth century Russia and Eastern Europe led to another mass migration. While some sought "enlightenment" and liberty in lands where prosperity was established and Jewish emancipation was won, among the faithful few it was not so. Groups such as the Bilu (Hebrew initials for "House of Jacob, come ye and let us go"), and Hibbat Zion (Hebrew for "Love of Zion") promoted a return to the Holy Land, and produced schemes for settlement there. The year 1882 saw in Palestine the start of a wave of immigration as the first "Aliyah" (ascent) got under way.
And so, while the forgetful many sought quick prosperity and, frequently, assimilation in established and prosperous Gentile society, the faithful few sought their neglected Land and their ancient Promise. On stony, desolate earth, with a few primitive tools, a handful of men cleared, dug, irrigated and planted in faith, and by these, Zionism moved from its occluded past into the promise of a bright new era. The time had come for God to favor Zion.
"But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations. Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favor her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof" (Psa. 102:12-14).
THE MODERN MOVEMENT
The modern Zionist movement was built on the unshifting foundation of Jewish longings for their homeland. From the early eighteenth century, charismatic leaders of the Hasidim, known as "Rebbes", aided by the weariness of spirit, the constant danger of persecution and the grinding poverty of their flock among the Eastern exiles, had kept alive the hope of a Return. A few, from time to time, added strength of purpose to their faith and led the way in courageous, but sporadic and ineffectual attempts to resettle in their ancient Land. These, however, were early days. The "set time" (Psa. 102:13) was yet future and this religious imperative of largely Hasidic origin, having no logistic support, made little headway in promoting effective resettlement. Even so, it kept alive a Vision, and a Hope.
In 1878 C.E. the Berlin Congress of Nations, especially as a result of Benjamin Disraeli's efforts, decreed the amelioration of restrictions on Jews in Palestine. Then out of Haskalah's influence in Central Europe came a new approach in the Statesmanship of Zionism's great champion, Vienna's Theodor Herzl. In 1897 his idea of a sovereign Jewish State as the only solution to the Jewish problem was founded as a political concept at the first Zionist Congress in Basle. The modern movement was thus initiated as a political, not a religious, solution to the age-old problem of Jewish homelessness.
After Herzl's death in 1904 (an event which staggered early workers) the Zionist movement faltered, but was revived by an unexpected message from an entirely unexpected source. In 1910 a Christian, Charles Taze Russell, Gentile friend of the Jewish people and a deep student of Hebrew prophecy, penned twelve articles under the title "God's Chosen People", which aroused great curiosity and interest among the Jews. Nineteen years earlier, which was six years before the first Zionist Congress and when even Herzl's work was little known, he had included in his book, "Thy Kingdom Come", a long chapter headed "The Restoration of Israel".
The twelve articles, which appeared in the widely read "Overland Monthly" magazine, led to his being invited to address a Jewish mass meeting at the New York Hippodrome in that same year, 1910. More than 4,000 representative Jews attended and were uplifted and inspired as he spoke to them on their own Hebrew prophecies, assuring them of God's returning favor and a glorious future for Israel. As a result of widespread interest he published a special newspaper in Yiddish, "Die Stimme" (The Voice). Thus he and his cooperators aroused fresh interest in the prophecies and kindled again the fires of Zionistic zeal along religious (but not conversionist) lines. One wonders why he figures so seldom in Jewish Zionistic literature.
In 1914 the Great War broke out in Europe and hostilities spilled over into the Middle East. In 1917 the Islamic Turk fled Palestine before the advancing General Allenby and the British Expeditionary Force from Egypt, and, seemingly by a miracle, they left the city of Jerusalem intact and the Land itself in question for the future.
From the Pripet Marshes of Minsk, a Yiddish society, and the abject poverty of Russia's Pale of Settlement came the boy destined next to champion the Cause. Chemist, inventor, life-long Zionist and later friend of British Statesmen, Chaim Weizmann used every available argument and situation to promote a National Home for the Jewish people. In 1917, in spite of opposition from influential assimilated Jews, his efforts were rewarded in the Balfour Declaration with its support of the imperial government. Thus in that same year, as the blood and wealth of Christendom drained away on Flanders fields, the Land promised to Abraham and his seed was cleared and the Jews again were bidden by an alien empire's decree to return to establish there a National Home for their scattered people.
Between the wars, that Declaration was vitiated in violent Arab opposition, British hesitancy and the indifference of the rich Jews. Weizmann testifies that the land was bought from profiteering Arabs on the open market — not with the wealth of Millionaires, but with money from the pockets of the Jewish poor. Zerubbabel and Nehemiah would no doubt sympathize, remembering their own "Aliyah" experiences in the days of the Persian kings. Uncompromising militant Zionists such as Trumpeldor and Jabotinsky, however, held the hard-pressed, faithful Jews to their still visionary purposes in the Land during those years of British vacillation.
And then came Hitler, the war, the Holocaust. The call of Zionism, even in the face of rising German anti-Semitism, had not been popular. Wealthy Jews were so closely woven into the fabric of European society that they felt secure. The work of spreading Zionist ideas was hampered, as were the workers. And then, for most, it was too late. Hitler struck.
As the world recoiled from the horror of six million dead, the Jews of continental Europe who survived received that vital thrust toward their ancient homeland. Where the call of Zionism had failed, the terror of the death-camps succeeded and Jews poured South to reach Palestine by any means available. As they came ashore they surged past harassed British soldiers to kiss the earth they were so soon to fight for. World opinion turned against the British. On 29 November 1947 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in the land and on 14 May 1948, against all odds and historic probability, the State of Israel was established in David Ben Gurion's reading of the Declaration of Independence. Five Arab states invaded the next day and quickly learned the first of a series of bitter lessons — that Israel had come to stay. Surely, since the Zionists had failed to persuade their Jewish brethren to return by "fishing" for them, the "hunters" had done their work (Jer. 16:14-16). The world looked on in shock; the Arab feared and Russia breathed out threats, but all to no avail, for the time had come for God to favor Zion.
ACCUSATIONS OF RACISM
From that time, the aims of Zionism have been the subject of much political misrepresentation. "Racism" is repugnant to the many nationalities gathered in the United Nations, and in that august assembly one may not overtly attack the Jew for having a homeland. And so, those nations and individuals who have hatred for the Jews attack them as Zionists. "Zionism is Racism", they say in justification, and the United Nations is being used as a platform for the attack. Strident voices are raised against Israel, as the unlikely partners of Marxism and Islam are made bed-fellows in their shared misunderstanding, and thereby their fear and hatred, of Zionism. Why this should be so, we shall see in a later chapter.
As Islam's oil supplies are held back or sold at soaring costs, the world staggers. Israel's potential allies take fright and speak against her, or keep silent when they should speak in her defence. Evidence is on all sides of overt and covert Arab pressure upon oil-hungry nations to alienate the Jews. It shows in international councils, commercial decisions, financial dealings and in the columns of the Press where unjust, distorted presentations of Israel's position, acts and motives are otherwise inexplicable.
Can Israel survive? With all these external difficulties, she has also religious and secular factions of her own population warring in the streets, and a racial mix that defies evaluation. Yet as they love Zion, so will God prosper the Jews and will reveal Himself to them through mighty works yet future. Each difficulty they face will be turned to good account as they learn, with His help (seen or unseen), to rule with equity.
Now a word for the so-called "Anti-Zionist Jews". Is not this a contradiction in terms? Where will such "Jews" stand when God delivers Zion (Psa. 69:35; 102:13-16; 132:12; Isa. 2:3; 30:19)? Thus far, this "Deliverance" has just begun. Israel's future, albeit fraught with seeming peril, is indeed glorious, as we survey that part of Prophecy which is not yet fulfilled.
"But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen … fear not, for I am with thee … I will strengthen thee … help thee … uphold thee" (Isa. 41:8-10).
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