There is a season for everything under heaven, according to the wisdom of Solomon. And I’m specifically thinking of his dictum that there’s “a time to mourn and a time to dance”. (Ecclesiastes 3.4)
Black clouds of impending doom are swooping down upon us all, and especially on God’s ancient people, but the rainbow of ultimate peace also lies ahead, and we should not be too downhearted.
On September 14 there will be much rejoicing as Jews everywhere celebrate their New Year in a month set to witness some quite extraordinary, even alarming, events connected with the future of Israel. I will look at these in a moment.
We have just marked a time of mourning for Israel – a date known as the 9th of Av in the Jewish calendar (July 25 this year) which brings back bad memories of a past which has seen so many attempts to annihilate the Jewish nation.
For it was on this date that the First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. And it was on the very same day 656 years later – in 70 AD – that the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. The Jews subsequently rebelled against their occupiers, but were brutally butchered in 133 AD – again on the 9th of Av – after which they were dispersed to all four corners of the earth.
This included England, from which they were expelled in 1290 AD – on the 9th of Av. Then in 1492 they were expelled from Spain and given four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country, the deadline for which was the 9th of Av.
Then came World War II and the Holocaust, said by historians to have been the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I, which broke out on the 9th of Av. And, it is said, the first gas chambers were put into use on the very same day of the year!
Understandably, the Jewish people have much to mourn. And our duty as Christians, grafted into the Olive Tree of God’s chosen people (Romans 11:11-24), is to love them, stand with them and pray for them.
A series of significant events are scheduled for September, starting with the New Year celebrations perhaps. The Pope will be visiting the White House to meet with the President on the holiest day of the Jewish Year (Yom Kippur, September 23). And a super-sized blood-red moon will shine over Jerusalem on September 28 during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). This will be the last of four successive blood moons (known as a tetrad) to coincide with the main Jewish feasts of Passover and Sukkot in 2014 and 2015, a rare occurrence last witnessed in 1967 when, as a result of the Six-Day War, the Old City of Jerusalem came under Israeli control for the first time in 2,000 years.
In addition, the United Nations are said to be planning to declare a Palestinian state without Israel’s consent or input and there is also, of course, the ongoing threat of Hamas and Hezbollah along with that of a potentially nuclear-armed Iran whose leaders have made no bones about their intention to “wipe Israel off the map”. The recent deal negotiated with the big powers is, at best, only putting off the evil day rather than neutralizing a dangerous rogue state.
In the light of this, an 800-year-old rabbinic commentary is most revealing. Known to the Jewish world as the Yalkut Shimoni, it has been translated by Rabbi Nachman Kahana, a specific portion of which says:
“Paras (Persia-Iran) will be the dread of humanity. The world’s leaders will be frustrated in their futile efforts to save what they can, but to no avail. The people of Yisrael will also be petrified by the impending danger. And HaShem (the Lord) will say to us, ‘Why are you afraid? All of this I have done in order to bring you the awaited redemption. And this redemption will not be like the redemption from Egypt, which was followed by suffering. This redemption will be absolute, followed by peace.”
Various Jewish rabbis are now sensing that their Messiah is soon to come. The day is surely not far off when beleaguered Israel will recognize the One who has loved them with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31.3) and who is destined to reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years of perfect peace (Revelation 20.4).
Jesus told his disciples that his coming would follow an unprecedented period of distress after which “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light”. (A total solar eclipse occurred in the midst of the current tetrad of blood moons).
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,” he said. (Mark 13.24-26)
I am indebted for much background to David Soakell of Christian Friends of Israel and to Kolyah, a correspondent in the know who wishes to keep a low profile for security reasons.