The Voice of Trembling

AS LITTLE AS a century ago, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq would hardly have made front page news, much less the front page headline in most newspapers around the world. The oil of that region would have been of small concern to anyone, and as long as the political transfer of land and power was confined to the Middle East community, and European colonialism was not involved, practically nothing would have been made of the matter.

How different is the situation now! Almost the entire world is vitally affected. What a few years ago would have been, at best, an irritating inconvenience to international relationships, now emerges as a world crisis situation. One newspaper completely filled page one with these startling words: WINDS OF WAR.

Who can tell at this point in time what the outcome will be, and how the world will be changed by it. The prognostications of many political analysts is that the present stalemate will soon escalate into a short-lived shooting war, in which the United States and other United Nations participants will emerge the victors. It has also been predicted that the United States will probably maintain limited military forces in the region for years to come to protect our own economic interests (oil) and that as a result our national political strength will begin to shift away from Israel in favor of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran.

In the future, the defense of Israel might well be relegated to a position of lesser priority by the Western powers.

It seems clear from the prophecies of the Bible that Israel will eventually be the victim of a powerful attack by nations from the north. And it also seems clear that great impetus will be given to those powers’ decision to invade Israel, by a calculation that the nations which are friendly to her are not in a position to defend her. The prophecies seem to imply that no one will come to her defense, and Israel will stand alone against the invaders.—Ezek. 38:8-13

Looking at the reality of current events through the eyes of Biblical prophecy, we are forced to conclude that God’s hand is at this time directing world affairs in such a way as to shape the balance of power among the nations to bring about the finale of this present time of trouble—Armageddon. It appears that the coming invasion of Israel by the armies of Gog, and the destruction of that army (Ezek. 38:1-7), will be the spark that sets off the existing nuclear tinderbox on a global scale. Only God’s intervention can save the world.—Matt. 24:21,22

For centuries, Israel has been the focal point of God’s interest in the course of world affairs. Their place in world history has been well marked out in the Bible, and from our vantage point in time we can look back at their past and trace how accurately God’s Word has been fulfilled!

Probably no other people have passed through trials so deep, so discouraging, and so enduring as have the Jews. Their polity destroyed by the Roman legions in A.D. 70, driven from their ancient homeland to scratch a hazardous living in ghettos in hostile lands, and persecuted beyond imagination, the simple fact of their existence today as a nation among nations is eloquent, living testimony to the faithfulness of Jehovah God, and to the trustworthiness of his Word of truth.

“Blindness … Is Happened to Israel”

And strangely enough, the real import of this astonishing fact is almost totally lost, not only upon the world in general, but upon the Jews themselves, who have been the principal actors in this great drama. For this little nation came into being, at long last, against all odds of probability. Almost certainly, any other people, after two thousand years of afflictions such as they suffered, would have been swallowed up and assimilated into the cultures of the countries to which they had been scattered. Nothing but the power and providences of God himself could have accomplished the preservation of their identity as a people.

But while the Jews themselves are largely blinded to the fact that even today the great God of the universe is directing their destiny, those whose hearts have been blessed with an understanding of the Lord’s great plan of the ages have their faith strengthened as they watch the unfolding of events in the troubled land of Israel.

While Abraham was dwelling in Canaan, the Lord repeated this promise, saying, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth.” (Gen. 13:14-16) Again, when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, and once more definitely confirmed the promise. He said, “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee … all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Gen. 17:8) On a still later occasion, after Abraham had demonstrated his faith by his willingness to offer his son, Isaac, in sacrifice, God made an additional remarkable promise to Abraham, to the effect that in his (Abraham’s) seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed.—Gen. 22:18

Thereafter, God went to great lengths to assure the descendants of Abraham of his love and care for them. Over and over again he assured them that they were his people, and he their God. In the third month after he delivered them from bondage in Egypt, and they were to begin their long journey through the wilderness, he seemed especially anxious to assure them of his love and care for them as his very special people. “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself,” he told them. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”—Exod. 19:5,6

Even after repeated instances of faithlessness during the forty years’ journey through the wilderness, and having arrived at Jordan before going into the Promised Land, God again spoke to them through Moses. “Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all the people that are on the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6) And a thousand years later, after numerous additional breaches of their covenant with him, God still loved and cherished them, though he found it necessary to correct them, as a father disciplines unruly children. Through the Prophet Amos he told them, “Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”—Amos 3:1,2

“Your House Is Left unto You Desolate”

Their final loss as a nation, because of their faithlessness, of their privileged status as a special treasure unto the Lord and as a kingdom of priests, occurred some seven centuries later when, in spite of the many signs that he was indeed the long-promised Messiah, the ‘seed’ of blessing, they rejected Jesus. It was Jesus himself, after the Jews as a whole had made clear their disbelief, who pronounced the words of doom upon their house. He said to them, “Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Then, as though signifying the sorrows that should later befall them, he added, “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. … And the chief priests and Pharisees … perceived that he spoke of them.”—Matt. 21:42-45

Shortly thereafter, Jesus announced their final national rejection, in these words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”—Matt. 23:37-49

With what sorrow Jesus must have spoken these words concerning that people who had been Jehovah’s special treasure! Surely the words of Moses must have passed through his mind: “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As a eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him.”—Deut. 32:9-12

And yet these words of Moses’ were not without a hint of the tragedy that, so long hence, was to take place. “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hath forgotten God that formed thee. … They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities; and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not [now] a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”—vss. 18,21

The Reward of Faithlessness

The Apostle Peter later enlarged on this theme, and showed that it is the called ones of the Gospel Age, both of Jews and Gentiles, who inherit the promises to be God’s special treasure and kingdom of priests. He writes, “Unto you … which believe he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed. But ye [footstep followers of Jesus during the Gospel Age] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; … which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”—I Pet. 2:7-9

Not long after Israel’s final rejection as a nation, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, and the Jewish people scattered among the nations of the world, while over the ensuing centuries the Holy Land itself became subject in turn to Rome, the Moslems, Egypt, the Turks, and finally, in 1920, to Great Britain under a League of Nations’ mandate.

“What Is Our Iniquity?”

But this tragic outcome should not have been unforeseen by discerning Jews, for the Lord had repeatedly warned them of the terrible consequences of disobedience to their covenant. God had said to the Prophet Jeremiah, “Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride. And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt show this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God? Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the Lord, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, … and have forsaken me, and have not kept my Law, … therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night: where I will not show you favor.”—Jer. 16:9-13

Scattered among the Nations

Much earlier, when the Israelites were about to cross Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses recited to them the manifold blessings that should be theirs if they kept their covenant with God. But he also pointed out to them the pains of disobedience, saying, “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.”

Then follows an awesome list of curses, including the statement that they shall “be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth; … and thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee. … And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God. … And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth even unto the other.”—Deut. 28:1,15,25,37,62,64

When Jacob went down into Egypt, his entire family totaled just 70 souls. (Deut. 10:22) Some 300 years later, on leaving Egypt, the number of males 20-years-old and upward who were “able to go forth to war” amounted to a multitude of over 600,000, not counting the tribe of Levi. This would suggest that, including all women and all those males under 20-years-of-age, the number of Israelites that left Egypt would approximate some 2,500,000 people! Truly, God’s promise to Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the seashore was abundantly fulfilled, even as the Apostle Paul later confirmed. No wonder Egypt’s king was alarmed at their presence in the land of Goshen!—Gen. 22:17; Num. 1:46; Deut. 10:22; Heb. 11:12; Exod. 1:7-12

There is no way, of course, to determine how many Jews there were at the time of their rejection of the Messiah and their subsequent scattering into the far nations of the earth; but we do know that they failed to keep their covenant with God, and it is therefore fair to assume that as a result their numbers were indeed reduced even as Moses had prophesied. We also know that, whereas in their relatively short stay of a few centuries in Egypt their numbers had increased from a mere 70 people to some 2.5 millions, yet in the following 4,400 years from that time to just prior to the Second World War they had grown only to about 16 million in all the world, of which number some 5 to 6 millions later perished by massacre during that war.

We also know that the curses which were foretold to result from disobedience have fallen heavily upon that sorely oppressed people. It well may be that the sentiments of many Jews are truly reflected in the words of the Jewish milkman in the play, “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he wistfully remarked, “Lord, we know we are thy chosen people; but why don’t you choose someone else for awhile?”

The Flickering Hope of a Homeland

Yet through all these agonizing centuries there was ever kept alive in the hearts of many Jews, albeit as a flickering flame, the hope of one day returning to the Promised Land. It sustained them in their afflictions; it kept them alive in their ghetto existence. Finally, in 1878, as a consequence of the Berlin Congress of Nations, the way was cleared for the purchase of land in Palestine by Jews, and Jewish colonists began to trickle in from Europe to eke out a precarious existence among hostile Moslem neighbors.

Coinciding most wonderfully with the chronological end of the Times of the Gentiles, World War I began in 1914, resulting in another remarkable coincidence in that Palestine, not many years thereafter, came under control of Great Britain, whose Foreign Minister—Lord Balfour—issued the Balfour Declaration, whereby the British government pledged support to the Zionist hope of establishing a national home for the Jews in Palestine.

For those who entertained it, this hope was further strengthened in 1920 when Great Britain acquired Palestine as a mandate of the newly created League of Nations, and Jews in modest numbers found their way to that land. But when Hitler came into power in Germany in 1933, the frightful persecutions that followed drove greater numbers to seek refuge in Palestine. Those who succeeded in doing so were the fortunate ones, for during the Second World War some five to six million Jews were cruelly massacred, constituting one of the blackest stains to foul the history of so-called human civilization since the world began.

The severe immigration restrictions imposed by Great Britain ended when the United Nations took away their mandate, and opened the way for the partitioning of Palestine. The Jews immediately proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel at Tel Aviv. The surrounding Arab nations attacked the newborn country, but eventually Israel was successful in repelling the attackers, and even won some Arab territory. Since that time the Jews and Arabs have fought three more wars, resulting in a stronger Israel.

What Kind of “Peace”?

Now, at this very time, world Jewry is watching with bated breath, the outcome of the present military maneuvering, fearful that the United States, edgy under the international stress brought on by the threat of an oil crisis and reshuffling of power politics in the Middle East, may force a change with Israel which will leave her vulnerable to future attack by her enemies. For in spite of vague hints emanating from certain quarters of an Arab desire to reach a peaceful settlement with Israel, that nation is far from convinced that the Arabs have abandoned, or ever will abandon, their often-stated intentions of one day ‘driving the Jews into the sea’.

It is precisely this frightening possibility that haunts the hearts of Jews everywhere in the world, including those in the United States. And it is precisely this fear that Israel might indeed be destroyed that resulted in uniting all Jews, of whatever opinion, in a spontaneous outpouring of support for the nation of Israel. For they firmly believe that if such a calamity should be permitted to come about, then no Jew would ever again be safe in any part of the world.

Thus it was that, at the time of the Six-Day War of 1967, and especially during and after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Jews of every shade of thinking came together in hearty support of Israel, by demonstrations, by offers to serve Israel in any capacity—even in the army, and by pouring great sums of money into the coffers of that nation in a mighty effort to preserve her national existence. For if Israel were allowed to disappear, they feared, then their own lives and the lives of their families would once more, as in the days of their worst persecutions, be in jeopardy. And as one considers the tragic history of this suffering people, one can readily be sympathetic with their dismay.

“The Time of Jacob’s Trouble”

That there would come such a time of deep anxiety for the Jewish people following their regathering to their own land is indicated by the Prophet Jeremiah. He writes, “Lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. … For thus saith the Lord: We have heard a voice of trembling, there is fear, and not peace [Margin], Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?” (Jer. 30:3,5,6) It would appear that we are now approaching the period described so vividly by the prophet.

But what kind of tomorrow may the Jews look forward to from this point? The prophets describe a time of great sorrow and suffering to come upon Israel. But just when all seems hopelessly lost, the Lord God comes to her aid.

“Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.”

“Fear thou not … O Israel!”

Speaking of this time of Jacob’s trouble, the Prophet Jeremiah adds, “But he shall be saved out of it.” (Jer. 30:7) The same prophet then offers much hope and encouragement to Israel. “Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel,” he writes; “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. For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee; though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.”—Jer. 30:10,11

In this way Jehovah will clearly reveal both to Israel and to the world that he is the one Lord God Almighty, and that his promises are true, and his faithfulness everlasting.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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