The newly-retired chief executive of Christian Witness to Israel, one of several movements dedicated to sharing the gospel with the Jewish community, has warned of a “battle royal” over the Balfour Declaration this coming year.
Mike Moore was referring to the forthcoming centenary celebrations of the British Government’s 1917 pledge to do all in its power to help Jews return to their ancient Middle East homeland.
We have already witnessed the chaotic launch of a campaign to persuade the government to apologize for Balfour – a House of Lords meeting where Jews were even accused of bringing the Holocaust on themselves.
That led to the resignation from the Liberal Democrat Party of the meeting’s host, Baroness Tonge.
And the British Government has now supported an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations that completely undermines legitimate Jewish rights to the city of Jerusalem and, in particular, Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.
We have also seen a significant rise in anti-Israel protests on university campuses and elsewhere, causing London’s Metropolitan Police to request organizers of pro-Israel gatherings not to disclose the venue of their meetings in the interests of their own safety.
Indeed, the UK Government has responded to these worrying developments by allocating over £13 million towards the security of its Jewish institutions following 924 reports of anti-Semitic incidents last year including 86 violent assaults.
Why is the Balfour issue in particular causing such a stir? The short answer can be summed up as rebellion against God and his plans, both for the salvation of all through his Son and for restoration of his chosen people – to the land promised them for millennia, and to Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah known to Westerners as Jesus.
The timing of the declaration by Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour in November 1917 could not have been more precise, coming just weeks before the capture of Jerusalem by British and Allied forces led by General Edmund Allenby, ending 400 years of rule under the Turkish Ottoman Empire and handing to Britain on a plate the means by which they could honour their pledge.
It could not have happened in today’s politically-correct climate which has seen the Bible almost entirely marginalized from our culture – and certainly from the corridors of power. But in 1917 things were very different. Britain was at the zenith of its power and influence largely, I believe, through honoring God and sending out missionaries to many parts of the world.
The preaching of the gospel and the application of biblical teaching to everyday life had been going on for well over a century courtesy of what has become known as the Great Evangelical Revival, all of which had a direct affect on the social welfare of the nation, considerably reducing the crime rate for one thing.
Crime rates fell dramatically throughout the 19th century, so that by 1870 there were only 10,000 in the jails of England and Wales. But even more remarkable was the continuing fall over the next few decades, so that by 1910 there were only 3,000 prisoners in the nation’s jails, despite the population rising from 25 to 35 million.
With today’s population at 60 million, our jails are full to capacity with 80,000 prisoners, and bear in mind that many Victorian inmates would only have been regarded as petty criminals today.
The contrast is staggering. There is no more room in our overcrowded prisons, and yet we live in a more lenient society – with some exceptions of course, such as the repeated injustice meted out to Christians.
During the famous Welsh Revival in 1904, crime was almost non-existent in some places, leaving police with little to do, while the pit ponies (used down the coal mines) are said to have no longer understood the commands of their masters whose foul language had been cleaned up.
It was this revival of biblical Christianity that changed everything for the Jewish people. It meant that the generations preceding the Balfour Declaration were made aware that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still has a special love for his chosen people, whatever they may have done to disown him, and that national prosperity was dependent on our blessing the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12.3).
Men of influence understood this well – among them General Allenby himself who had prayed for Israel’s restoration as a young boy, and in the end he was used by God to help bring that about.
With the bridge to neighbouring Jordan named after him, Allenby is still honoured in Israel.
Tragically, today’s generation is biblically illiterate, knowing almost nothing of our precious Judeo-Christian heritage. On a recent train journey to London, I heard a young boy pointing at a tall church steeple in Grantham, Lincolnshire, (typical of many in the land) asking his dad: “What is that? Is it Big Ben?” (We were still 110 miles from London).
The irony is that Virgin Trains, who sold me the ticket, advertise their service with the slogan Be bound for glory, taken from the traditional gospel song This train is bound for glory.
Recent generations in this great country have rebelled against God, and a glorious future for ourselves and our nation is only possible if we get back on track with the biblical truth that tells of a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned.
Jesus is the only way to glory. If your intended destination is heaven and eternal life, then you need to take the gospel train that leads to Jesus, who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6, New Testament)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon, and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com