More than seven months after being severely trounced at the polls, the UK Labour Party is still paying a heavy price for its anti-Semitism scandal.
It has now been forced to pay up to £500,000 in damages for false and defamatory comments against whistle-blowers who had spilled the beans about anti-Jewish smears within the party as well as against the journalist behind the Panorama programme on the affair. A party cash crisis is apparently now on the cards as the prospect of further such cases looms.
It is not the first time that touching the apple of God’s eye has proved a costly mistake for a political movement, but Sir Keir Starmer has made a good start in trying to repair the damage with an unreserved apology.
As I said back in December, Labour had made a rope with which to hang itself by picking on Israel and the Jewish community, much as Jew-hater Haman did for himself in building a gallows for Mordecai, Queen Esther’s guardian, in ancient Persia (Esther 7.10).
I realise that, despite being named after party co-founder Keir Hardie, the new leader is an atheist, but returning to its Judeo-Christian roots would be the best way of ensuring the party’s long-term survival.
Notwithstanding this good news, Israel faces an ever-increasing need to strengthen its defences, especially with threats from Turkey added to those from Iran and its terrorist-proxy Hezbollah. With this week’s 9th of Av Hebrew calendar date (29/30th July) in mind, the Jewish people are reminded of past tragedies which occurred on this day including the destruction of both their Temples and their expulsion from England in 1290!
Now Turkey’s President Erdogan, having re-converted a former Byzantine Cathedral into a mosque (it’s been a museum for the past 86 years), is set on recapturing Jerusalem’s holy sites, formerly in the hands of the (Turkish) Ottoman Empire which he seems intent to revive.
The 9th of Av is traditionally marked by prayer and fasting, which would be most appropriate in the circumstances.
Meanwhile my eye was caught this morning by the phrase “Go to the land of Israel” – not exactly a travel slogan, but a word to Jesus’ parents from the angel Gabriel that it was now safe to return from their exile in Egypt triggered by Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
Moses escaped a similar massacre before eventually leading his people to freedom. And Jews from every corner of the world have been returning to their re-born state after Hitler tried to exterminate them.
With worldwide anti-Semitism dangerously on the rise, they will be safer there, though threats will continue until, when their Messiah returns, he will make himself known to them as the patriarch Joseph did to his brothers in Egypt. (Zech 12.10, Gen 45.1)
For ultimate safety will not be found in the Land, but in the Lord, who says: “Look to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isa 45.22)
I was meditating on God’s promise of Israel’s restoration, with my Bible open at the passage containing this verse, when a paper was popped through my letterbox. It was the August issue of Evangelicals Now and I was drawn to the story of Charles Spurgeon’s conversion, which just happened to be through hearing this very verse.
Diverted by thick snow into a little chapel with which he was unfamiliar, he was singled out by a lay preacher who urged him to “Look to Jesus Christ! Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live.”
This unknown preacher thus helped change the world – quite literally – with his urgent message to Spurgeon, who subsequently became a pastor while still a teenager and was addressing 6,000 people every Sunday by the age of 22.
Spurgeon’s contribution to re-drawing the global map came with his strong support, along with other 19th century evangelical preachers, for the return of the Jews to the Holy Land which in turn influenced the government of the day to work towards this goal.
In a sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on June 16th 1864, Spurgeon took Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones as his text (chapter 37) and made it abundantly clear that the prophet was speaking about the restoration of the Jews both to their land and their Lord.
“The meaning of our text, as opened up by the context, is most evidently, if words mean anything, first, that there shall be a political restoration of the Jews to their own land and to their own nationality; and then, secondly, there is in the text, and in the context, a most-plain declaration that there shall be a spiritual restoration – a conversion in fact of the tribes of Israel.”
Such sentiments significantly contributed to the British Government’s Balfour Declaration of 1917, legally ratified by the San Remo Treaty of 1920, which set aside all the territory from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan as a Jewish homeland.
Israel’s hope, as with the nations, is with the Lord who has shown himself as their Messiah-King long-promised by Isaiah and their other prophets.
Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is deeply concerned for his brothers in the flesh, as well as for each and every soul on the planet. A Bible smuggler caught with a suitcase full of ‘contraband’ in an unfriendly Middle East country wondered why God hadn’t protected him…until his interrogator showed interest in what he was doing and responded by giving his life to Jesus! “God decided to change everything for this one soul,” the missionary reported.
God is prepared to direct every detail of our lives – if we let him. As Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul.” (Mark 8.36)
SAFE HAVEN: Looking out over the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. Ultimate safety for the Jewish people, however, will not be found in the land, but in the Lord. Photo: Charles Gardner
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.