ZIONISM AND THE MESSIAH*
[* The following tract - written well over half a century ago and taken from Mr. D. M. Panton’s evangelical magazine "the Dawn" - is full of instruction for Christians today: particularly those Christians actively involved with C. W. I. (‘Christian Witness to Israel’), - Ed.]
Once while travelling in the train I had an opportunity to witness a discussion between an Orthodox Jew and a Modernist Jew. I say ‘witnessed,’ because the argument was fought out with their hands as much as their lips, though they did not actually come to blows. We were travelling from the new modern city of Tel-Aviv, the capital of the new State of Israel, to the important port of Haifa. This meant a journey of three hours through the coastal plain. Passing through grove after grove of beautiful orange trees it was difficult to turn the eye from such a sight, but finding that the man opposite me was a Jew who knew English well, I began a conversation. I found out that he was an accountant from London, and that he had come to Palestine to take part in the rebuilding of the Jewish nation. Our conversation was something as follows - "Are you expecting a Messiah to come to the Jewish people?" I asked. "Not a personal Messiah" he replied. "Then you do not believe in that ancient belief of your nation?" "O yes, I do, but the spirit of the Jewish people is our Messiah."
"But," I said, "Your prophets spoke of a King Who would reign at Jerusalem." "O that must not be understood literally. When the revived spirit of the Jewish people results in the establishment of a Jewish state then our Messiah will reign over Jerusalem, but it will be the spirit of Zionism not a special person." "But the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be of the tribe of Judah and of the lineage of David. How does that fit in with Zionism which includes Jews of every tribe." "O," he said, "the prophets wrote like that because they belonged to the kingdom of Judah, and that was their conception of Messiah." "But," I said, "Do you not believe your prophets were inspired of God when they wrote, for that is what they clearly claim." "O no doubt they felt they were inspired and their love of their nation inspired them, but of course they made mistakes and we cannot take all they say literally."
What a first class Modernist he was! His words sounded very familiar, very like the words of some to-day who profess to be ministers of the Gospel and yet do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God.
While we were talking I noticed that a man, sitting next to him had put his book down and had become very much absorbed in our conversation, and by the look in his eye I could see that he was not in agreement with the theology of his fellow Jew. At last I said to this Jewish modernist :- "But you do not believe that Moses was told by God to make the tabernacle after a certain pattern and that God gave him the ten commandments?" "O no!" he said, "We have given up those kind of beliefs now. Moses was a great man and a great leader and statesman, but we cannot believe that he talked with God for forty days on mount Sinai."
"Then," I said, "the only other alternative is that Moses was a great deceiver, for he tells us dozens of times: ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ ‘as the Lord commanded.’ If you do not believe that Moses came down from the mount with the commandments written thereon and that he broke those same two tablets when he saw the idolatry of Israel on the plain below, you cannot believe anything in the sacred records. You are without God and a revelation from Him."
When I had said this the other Jew sitting nearby could contain himself no longer and, turning to my London friend he burst out like a pent-up volcano, "How do you dare to say such things? Do you deny all that our nation has held sacred for so long? Do you deny that the law was given us by God? Do you reject all the teachings of our rabbis?
With excited gesticulations he broke off into Yiddish which gave him more freedom of speech than English so I could not follow all he said, but he held the floor for a time while his opponent soon judged it best to keep quiet. When at last he paused for breath I saw my opportunity. "I am fully in agreement with our friend here that in the Bible we have a revelation from God and that the prophets of Israel were holy men of God who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to give their messages to the people and that the same time prophesy about things to come." "Now," I said, "Do you believe that they prophesied about a personal Messiah Who would rule over Israel and over the world?" "Of course I do," he replied: "Every Jew ought to believe that." My London friend smiled but kept quiet.
"Then how do you account for the fact that the prophets say that the One Who is to rule over the nations will first be despised and rejected?" "No, no, we do not believe that." "But," I said, "See what Isaiah says about the Messiah in chapter 52. There it tells that the One Who is to rule over the nations must first have His face marred beyond recognition, and a little further down it says that He will be rejected and be known as a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. Does this not show that Messiah must first come and die for the sins of the people, as it says ‘He was wounded for our transgressions’?"
He was a little perplexed about this question and read the verses very carefully. "We do not believe that this chapter refers to our Messiah," he said. "Then to whom does it refer?" "Some of our Rabbis say it refers to Isaiah himself." "How can that be?" "There is a tradition that Isaiah was put to death by violence."
"But can you say that Jehovah laid on Isaiah the iniquity of the people? Did anyone ever say of Isaiah that he was ‘smitten of God?’ Can you say that with his stripes you are healed? Is there any place in the Scriptures that says that Israel was healed through Isaiah’s death? Was Isaiah sinless? Yet it says of this Suffering One that there was no sin in Him and yet that it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him? And after Isaiah died, did he rise again because it says after his soul is made an offering for sin he shall see his seed and prolong his days? Were any of these things fulfilled in Isaiah?" "Perhaps not" he said. "In fact some of our rabbis say that this chapter refers not to Isaiah but to the Jewish nation." I noticed our London friend still smiling and enjoying the perplexity of his opponent.
"The Jewish nation!" I said. "How could the Jewish nation die for the sins of the Jewish nation? When it says ‘he was wounded for our transgressions,’ how can ‘he’ and ‘our’ refer to the same people. It is not ‘we died for our sins,’ but ‘he’ died for ‘us.’ Who is the ‘he’? Who is the meek and lowly One without sin Whom God made an offering for sin? Who is the One who was numbered with the transgressors and bare the sin of many? You say that you believe the prophets were inspired by God to write. Then of Whom was God speaking?"
"Yes, tell us," said the other Jew, "If you say I am an infidel because I do not believe in the literal interpretation, tell us what this means." That was just what his orthodox opponent found it hard to do and the modernist took his chance to get his own back upon him. "Tell me," I said, "Can you deny these prophecies have been literally fulfilled in the One you call Jesus of Nazareth? Was not every detail of this chapter true of Him? Was he not of the line of David? Was he not born in Bethlehem as Micah said Messiah must be? Why do you not believe in Him?"
Each had taken part in silencing the other and now the Word of God left them without a reply. Both were subdued, and listened with hardly a word as I went through scripture after scripture showing that Jesus is the Christ. Forgotten was the beautiful scenery: we had passed the ruins of the Crusader’s castle unnoticed. Suddenly we heard the whistle of the train and looking out saw that we had rounded the corner of Mt. Carmel and the beautiful city of Haifa lay before us. As we drew into the railway station I told them of what Christ means to me. I told them how He had born my sins and died and risen again, and that one day He is coming again, and that in the meantime it is my joy to tell others of Him.
The train stopped and we said ‘Goodbye.’ I left them with one or two booklets to read. They thanked me for the talk, the first of its kind they had ever had. Often I have thought of those two sons of Jacob and prayed that one day I shall see them among those who fall at the feet of the glorified Christ crying ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive the power and honour and glory.’
- The Indian Christian.
May I humbly suggest that the greatest Christian hope is not the rapture, but the glorious millennial reign of Jesus over this earth of ours. The angel told the Galilean disciples not to be gazing into heaven, and gave as his reason that Jesus was coming back to the earth. He will no doubt reign over the earth from the heavenly places, and His overcomers will reign over the earth with Him. We need to be sacredly busy when He comes. The proper translation of "watch and pray" is "Keep wide awake and pray." When He comes we must be found, not gazing at the skies, but "wide awake" in our earthly service. This is the "blessed hope" in front of us. I feel assured that, after the present fires of testing and cleansing, the Lord will shake the world with the fire and the wind of Calvary. Will not that be glorious? Therefore, my beloved brethren, be strong and of good courage.
- JOHN THOMAS, M. A.
Christ is coming! Let creation
From her groans and travail cease; (Romans 8: 19-22.)
Let the glorious proclamation
Hope restore and faith increase:
Christ is coming!
Come, Thou blessed Prince of Peace.
Earth can now but tell the story
Of Thy bitter cross and pain;
She shall yet behold Thy glory,
When Thou comest back to reign:
Christ is coming!
Let each heart repeat the strain.
Long Thine exiles have been pining,
Far from rest, and home, and Thee:
But, in heavenly vestures shining,
They their loving Lord shall see:
Christ is coming!
Haste the joyous jubilee.
With that blessed hope before us, (Titus 3: 7.)
Let our joyful songs be sung,
Let the mighty advent chorus
Onward roll from tongue to tongue:
"Christ is coming!
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!"
- JOHN ROSS MACDUFF, 1818-95.