For the Jewish people, as exaggerated as it may sound, there has hardly been a single year in the last 2,000 when this nation, as a nation, has had it good and sweet. Take almost any day since AD 70, and you will find somewhere, some Jew having been afflicted simply because he or she was a Jew. This was true during the centuries when the Jews’ land lay desolate––its people scattered across the face of the earth. It has been true every year since the return of the Jews to their land. And it has been true through the last 14 years of the peace process.
Perhaps it is because their history has been so saturated with suffering that Jews everywhere live in constant anticipation of the biblically promised day of national redemption––a day when Israel will no longer be the tail among the nations of the earth, but will be elevated back to its once held position at the head. It’s been about three millennia since Israel enjoyed that place of honor.
During the reign of King Solomon, Israel was the known world’s ranking superpower. More an emperor than a king, Solomon had kings ruling under him. His dominion spanned the entire area of the divinely promised land. World leaders made state visits to Jerusalem, where they marveled at Solomon’s wisdom and at the visible signs of his abundant wealth. They gazed awestruck upon the magnificent Temple erected to the God of this powerful nation. Israel’s defense forces were mighty and unchallengeable. Although his father David had been a man of war, Solomon did not need to conduct a single military campaign. For the duration of his rule, the nation of Israel enjoyed the fruits of real peace and prosperity. Every man lived under his own vine and fig tree, with no one to make him afraid.
Solomon’s reign marked the high point in Israel’s history––peace came to the Middle East. His death, however, tipped the nation into strife, division, war, and ultimately exile. From that day to this, the Jews have been waiting for the Messiah to come. As a Christian growing up in a Bible-believing family, when we welcomed in our New Year, we would often ask ourselves, “Could this be the year when Yeshua (Jesus) will return?”
Across the ages and around the world, God-fearing Jews have had a very similar question on their minds. Countless burning eyes have searched for the coming of Messiah, the arrival of the Son of David, who, with His coming, would redeem them out of all their troubles. Could this be the year?
In the scene from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, when the Jews of Anatevka are commanded to leave their homes and village, one of them says: “Rabbi, we have been waiting for the Messiah all our lives. Wouldn’t this be a good time for Him to come?” The Rabbi replies, “We’ll have to wait for him someplace else.”
Modern Messianic Hope
In 1917, Jerusalem resident Rivka Amdursky-Buxbaum witnessed the arrival in the Old City of the conquering British General Sir Edmund Allenby. She recounts: “They opened the great gate [Jaffa Gate] for him, which was always closed. But on that day it was wide open. When I saw him, I thought that perhaps it was the Messiah––so respectable, so upright, and handsome. People cheered and applauded. We knew that redemption had come. How we yearned to be redeemed.” This yearning and anticipation grew as events continued to pave the way for the rebirth of the Jewish national home.
Max Nurock, secretary to British High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel, has spoken of the Messianic fervor ignited by Samuel’s arrival in the Land of Israel on July 1, 1920. The first high commissioner for Palestine disembarked at the port of Jaffa wearing a white uniform, with a gleaming sword strapped to his waist. “My breath, even today, stops when I think how that scene looked,” Nurock said decades later. Crying and shouting Jews could be seen behind every window, and in the streets, which were spread with carpets and lined with flowers and flags.
A few days later, as Sir Samuel walked through the Old City of Jerusalem on the day after the ninth of Av,––a day on the Jewish calendar when Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple––“people felt that the days of the Messiah had come.” Samuel stood up in the Hurva Synagogue to read the heart-stirring passage in which Isaiah the prophet proclaimed, “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God” (40:1, NIV). “In that golden moment,” said Nurock, “the Jews inside the synagogue and all who knew of it outside, felt that the hour of redemption had come.”
The Road to Redemption
It is vividly clear that the process of redemption has been underway since the Spirit of God first began moving Jews to immigrate to the Land of Israel in the mid-1800s.
Major milestones along this Redemption Road have included the rise of political Zionism under Theodore Herzl, Great Britain’s liberation of Palestine from the Turks, the issuing of the Balfour Declaration and its subsequent international ratification at the 1920 San Remo conference, the ongoing immigration to Israel as Nazism arose in Europe, the Holocaust, the liberation of the death camps, the United Nations vote partitioning Palestine in 1947, and the declaration of Israel’s independence in 1948.
As every Jew in Israel will acknowledge, redemption did not come completely with the rebirth of Israel. Not a day of peace has been savored by the Jews since 1948. They are back in their land, but redemption still eludes them. Wars have threatened Israel every decade since 1948. Terrorism continues to ravage the country. This past year has seen the Disengagement Plan implemented. Thousands of Jews were dragged out of their homes once again (this time by a Jewish government), Jews who may not live in part of their promised land purely because they are Jews.
Full redemption will come. As surely as the Jews’ physical return to the Land of Israel literally fulfilled ancient prophecy, so will the coming of the Son of David, to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and Messiah will finally redeem Israel.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
By Stan Goodenough, Jerusalem Newswire, www.jnewswire.com, Bridges for Peace Board Member
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