These thoughts have been much on my mind this past weekend as I have celebrated my birthday with family. Actually, I have been greatly spoiled and the centre of attention with heaps of treasured gifts and cards. And yet I am convinced more than ever that these blessings are from the Lord, who taught me early on in my near-50 years as a disciple of Jesus that, if I “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” all my basic needs would be met (Matt 6:33).
One national leader who thought too highly of himself, and was definitely not seeking God’s ways, was former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin who claimed many grand titles for himself including the uncrowned King of Scotland. But he got his comeuppance.
Last Sunday (July 4th) marked the 45th anniversary of Operation Entebbe through which over 100 hostages were rescued in a daring raid on Uganda’s main airport after the hijacking of an Air France plane bound for Paris from Tel Aviv with 248 passengers on board.
The Arab and German terrorists responsible for the hijacking were evidently determined to kill the more than 100 Jewish and Israeli passengers if their demands were not met, with Amin facilitating their wicked plan.
But they hadn’t counted on divine intervention. An elite Israeli force, under the command of Yoni Netanyahu, older brother of long-time Prime Minister Benjamin, managed to infiltrate the airport terminal, which just happened to have been built by an Israeli construction company.
As Jewish-American businessman Jonathan Feldstein recalls: “It would have been impossible for Israel to transport a convoy of planes and equipment so far, alone, undetected, without God’s protection and the involvement of numerous people.”
The battle was swift: 102 hostages were rescued, though three were killed, along with all the hijackers and 45 Ugandan soldiers, with most of the country’s Soviet-built MiGs destroyed. Tragically, however, Lt Col Netanyahu was also killed and five of his commandos wounded.
Israeli Defence Force planes were given permission to cross Kenyan airspace and refuel there on the way home. “As a Christian, Kenya’s president Jomo Kenyatta understood God’s imperative to bless Israel,” Feldstein wrote. (See Gen 12:3)
Many nations and organisations who have attacked Israel over the years have similarly suffered a bloody nose. But Amin has long since disappeared into the dust of bad memories, and Uganda is a happier place despite current problems with Covid. As I write, I am buoyed up by delicious Ugandan coffee, and I am also blessed by Christian friends from the country.
Also as I write, I have received a news alert of how a Moroccan air force plane has touched down in Israel for the first time – a sign of how God has turned things round for the Jewish nation with former enemies becoming their friends.
The prophet Ezekiel reminded Israel’s enemies that it wasn’t for them to take advantage of his people’s weakness or vulnerability. They very often don’t get things right and walk in disobedience to their heavenly Father, but it is for him to punish and discipline, not them. Rejoicing over distress or disaster befalling Israel will inevitably bring calamity upon their own heads. (See Ezek 25:6f, 26 & 35:15).
A more recent example is the anti-Semitic stance of former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, which has surely contributed to a serious decline of the party’s fortunes. Even under new leader Sir Keir Starmer, they have been unable to take advantage of the usual mid-term blues suffered by serving governments, narrowly holding on to Batley & Spen in a by-election, with help no doubt from the hypocrisy exposed by the Hancock affair.
The psalmist asks: “Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain” against God’s chosen and his Messiah? But “the One enthroned in heaven laughs,” saying: “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” And he adds: “Therefore, you kings, be wise…serve the Lord with fear…” (Psalm 2).
Job confesses that his life “is but a breath” (Job 7:7). And Paul urges the Romans: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Rom 12:3)
An amusing story told by Daily Mail columnist Craig Brown recalls how the Beatles decided on the title for their Abbey Road album. Paul (McCartney) had apparently suggested ‘Everest’ with the Fab Four posing amidst the mountains of Tibet. But Ringo, who didn’t like foreign food anyway, brought them down to earth by saying: “Let’s just step outside (the studios) and call it Abbey Road.”
God has the final say in all our lives. We are here today, and gone tomorrow (see also Matt 6:30). Whether we strut our stuff defiantly across the world’s stage or choose to ignore God’s promptings in the privacy of our homes, we will all wilt before the breath of the Lord one day.
Isaiah, too, brings us down to earth, saying: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever.” (Isa 40:7f)
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.