Kingdoms rise, kingdoms fall, but the Lord’s love for Israel is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3), and his word will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).
I think of Isaiah’s message, part of which was to remind his hearers that the grass withers and the flowers fall in what seems no time at all. (See Isaiah 40:6-8)
Our time on earth is fleeting, but God’s truth is eternal. We are just a breath away from being lost forever – unless, that is, we have built our lives on the One who came to rescue us. For only what is done in Messiah’s name will stand the test of time.
But having focused on the fleetingness of our lives, it’s also true that life is a marathon; and we’re in it for the long haul. This is as much the case for Israel as a nation as it is for us in our individual walk. The short-term prospects of the Jewish state, coming under fire from all directions, may seem bleak.
But we are reminded of the words of the young David facing the wrath of Goliath:
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45)
With all their hi-tech military hardware, Israel must resist putting their trust in ‘horses and chariots,’ but reaffirm their conviction that God is with them – and for them.
Speaking personally, the greatest battle I ever won was when I realised that, without God’s help and direction, I was going nowhere fast.
Precisely 51 years ago, on this very day, I was preparing to travel to Edinburgh to run the Scottish Marathon. I had completed many marathons, some of which were considerably longer than the standard distance of 26 miles 385 yards.
My intent was to better my fastest time yet of 2 hours 57 minutes. But in battling against persistent rain and an inability to find my usual rhythm, I grew progressively weary and came to an abrupt halt at the 22-mile mark, just opposite the entrance to the famous Muirfield golf course.
I had hit a wall, as they say, just as Paula Radcliffe had done at the very same stage of the 2004 Olympic marathon in Athens. I was literally stopped in my tracks.
I was desperately disappointed and disconsolate over the succeeding days, until I realised that something much greater was at stake. I began to see the bigger picture that, at 22, my life had no clear direction or purpose. There was surely more to life than running.
Just a week after the race, a good friend and fellow athlete challenged me on whether I had ever seriously considered the New Testament. Was I aware of the words of Jesus, who said:
“I have come that you might have life – life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
That single verse of Scripture struck home like a sharp sword, and I was at once totally convinced by its truth. I invited Jesus, the Messiah, into my heart, as instructed, and began to have my eyes opened to a whole new world.
I am still on the marathon of life (and still running too, though at a slower pace), but this one is much more exciting and fulfilling, just as Jesus promised. You never know what’s around the corner, but you know that Jesus is always with you, by his Spirit. And there is no challenge to which he has called you that you are unable to complete.
So, as the writer to the Hebrews urges:
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
At a time when Israel is bombarded with lies, threats and missiles with increasing intensity and vicious hatred, when neutralising terrorists is translated by the media into ethnic cleansing, we should take note of the very next verse in Hebrews, which says:
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Be encouraged, O Israel, that God is on your side, that Christians around the world are praying and fasting for you as I write. They are answering a call to set an hour aside for prayer each day until May 28th, responding in turn to Isaiah’s challenge never to be silent day or night “till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” (Isaiah 62:7)
As Isaiah also says, even young men stumble and fall. Israel is still a relatively youthful nation – and I had a fall while running a few days ago.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength… they will run and not grow weary.” (Isaiah 40:30f)
May all who love Israel, and the God of Israel, be able one day to say with the Apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; To the Jew First, A Nation Reborn, and King of the Jews, all available from Christian Publications International.
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