Anyone tempted to grumble about restrictions under the coronavirus pandemic would do well to be reminded of the conditions under which Jews were forced into hiding from the Nazis during World War II.
Perhaps the most famous account concerns that of 13-year-old Anne Frank, who was locked with her family in a cold, cramped Amsterdam attic for two long years before being dragged off to the concentration camps where only Otto, her beloved father, survived.
Amid all the tensions of sharing meagre food and facilities between three families, they were subjected to the constant fear of being discovered, having to creep around in their stockinged feet while being jolted in fright by every knock and creak.
Anne spent much of her time writing her diary – a gift from her father – recording all her hopes and fears along with the daily arguments arising from some difficult relationships including the annoying behaviour of Peter, an older boy with whom she gradually fell in love.
With dreams of being a writer, she expressed her feelings in such a winsome, lively and unabashedly personal way – naturally childish at times but injected with lashings of wisdom and maturity in one so young. And she never lost hope of being saved from the camps.
Of course she wasn’t to know that she was already a gifted writer whose tragic, though poignant, story would be published in 66 languages and sell 40 million copies.
It was a mystery as to how Peter had been allowed to bring along his cat as it was bound to give the game away at an inappropriate moment.
In the end they were betrayed by a thief, who must have heard the cat scurrying around upstairs while he rummaged through a safe in the office below. It is thought he would have used the evidence as a bargaining chip with police.
Betrayed by a thief! Sounds familiar. It’s what happened to the Jewish Messiah.
It was evident from the 1959 movie The Diary of Anne Frank that the Frank family looked to God for help as the words of Psalm 121 are repeatedly read: “I will lift up mine eyes to the mountains, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
This god-fearing family are also shown celebrating Hanukkah, the annual Jewish ‘feast of lights’ marking victory over an anti-Semitic dictator in an earlier era. Would God intervene for them now?
As I said, they were betrayed by a thief, as Jesus was by Judas. And the great tragedy was that they were expecting to be rescued at any moment after hearing news on the radio of the D-Day landings. The liberation of Auschwitz was just three months away.
Now it all seemed hopeless, just as it must have done for Yeshua’s disciples watching him being dragged off to the mount of crucifixion. But the day of resurrection would one day come for the Jewish people too, when God would open their graves, bring them back to the land of Israel and put his Spirit in them (Ezekiel 37.11-14).
I can’t speak, of course, for individual members of the Frank family – only God knows – though they may well have been influenced by the many thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus who will have joined them in the camps and no doubt have shared their hope of resurrection and new life through Christ.
For her part, Anne left an amazing legacy still influencing young people today. Among them was my friend and colleague David Soakell, of Christian Friends of Israel, who came to share a love for the Jewish people as a result of watching the film I have mentioned as a 12-year-old schoolboy.
It was becoming a Christian, another dozen years later, that set him on the road towards his current work of speaking up for a people still much maligned and persecuted – an Oxford University survey has found that nearly 20% of UK citizens believe Jews were behind the spread of COVID-19.
Like Anne, I too dreamed of being a writer and have been a journalist for most of my adult life, but a specific call to be a ‘helper of Israel’ has been a particular privilege to fulfil over the past ten years.
From my reading of the Scriptures, there is yet more trouble ahead for the Chosen People, but when we look at the bigger picture of how God is shaking the nations in these latter days, the Jews have a very bright future and can look forward to living under the royal rule of King David’s descendant, the Messiah Yeshua. (Ezek 37.24f)
The great 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, certainly believed so. Preaching on this passage in 1864, he said: “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.”
He added: “It is the duty and the privilege of the Christian Church to preach the gospel to the Jew, and to every creature…” – to remind them of God’s love and promises, and to preach Christ crucified.
Pray that the Jewish people will, like the Frank family in their darkest hour, lift up their eyes to the One from whom their help comes.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International