As we focus once more on the suffering of our Jewish brothers with the Holocaust Memorial Day, I am reminded of the remarkable German-based international ministry of the Evangelical Sisters of Mary.
Founded by Mother Basilea Schlink, the order quite literally rose from the ashes of World War II as their ‘motherhouse’ and chapel was built with bricks scavenged from the ruins of Darmstadt.
It was Mother Basilea, perhaps more than most, who faced many of us in the West with the reality of our being complicit in the mass murder of the Jewish people through failing to be Good Samaritans in their darkest hour.
Summoned before the Gestapo “for proclaiming Jesus – and not Hitler – as the true leader,” Mother Basilea had already risked her life by standing up to the Nazis. And although love for Israel is the order’s clear calling, it has always sprung from a passionate love for Jesus.
But it was not until 1954, during a time of prayer, that she was challenged by the question: “Where is your brother Abel? Where is your brother Israel?”
The enormity of her country’s national guilt had finally broken upon her, which set the ball rolling towards repentance, restitution and reconciliation as the vital message of God’s everlasting love for his ancient people spread across the globe.
We have been talking of late of the need for prophetic preachers. Well, this ministry, for one, has been truly prophetic. During a 40-day time of prayer at Sinai in 1963, Mother Basilea ‘saw’ the nations of the world losing their bearings (that is – their focus on the Ten Commandments) and heading for destruction.
And so, branches of the ministry, bound together by a great love and sense of debt to our ‘elder brother Israel,’ duly spread around the world, the UK branch being founded in 1967.
As David Lazarus wrote for Israel Today, the Jewish state is actually key to world survival. He too has the Ten Commandments in mind, for they have provided the essential foundations of Western civilization. But the persistent flouting and undermining of these divinely-inspired principles of life will inevitably lead to a collapse of our societies.
Our own country is in total disarray as ‘bearing false witness’ has exposed the corruption at the heart of institutions once the envy of the world. And to make matters worse, a growing cartel of corporations and nations are biting the hand that has fed them (with these civilising principles) by bearing false witness against Israel itself.
But they will come a cropper, as in the case of international food conglomerate Unilever, whose stock prices have plummeted by a staggering $26 billion after effectively boycotting the Jewish state. This caused Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to quote Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.”
It was last summer that Unilever informed the owner of the local Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary, Avi Singer, that he could no longer sell the popular ice-cream in the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria due to the ‘Israeli occupation.’
All of which prompted the withdrawal of investments and pension funds by the state governments of New York, Illinois, Texas and others, leading to a 20.7% drop in Unilever’s stock prices, according to Israel’s Channel 12 News. Shaked noted that anyone who knows Scripture should not be surprised by this outcome.
And, may I add, that neither should anyone who knows their Bible be surprised that Jewish people the world over are turning back to God, just as the prophets foretold would happen in the run-up to Jesus’ return.
Zechariah wrote: “On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zech 12:9f)
Writing of their return from the nations to which they have been dispersed, Ezekiel says it will be followed by spiritual restoration: “I [the Lord] will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36:26)
Most people in modern Israel live a secular lifestyle, like many of the nations. The religious minority, however, still wield much influence, not all of which is helpful, especially with regard to their dislike of Christian ‘missionaries.’
But something remarkable is happening. Several religious/orthodox singers have become hugely popular in mainstream Israeli music. Ultra-Orthodox Ishay (Jesse) Ribo, for one, has been singing his heart out to God as he asks, “What can be done to an old heart like mine?” later adding that “only you can turn my mourning into dancing”.
And his sung prayer has attracted 29 million YouTube views in the tiny Hebrew song market, roughly equivalent to 1.5 billion in the English song space. With lyrics drawn from biblical passages wrestling with the nature of the human heart, Ribo has said that “…complete atheists…write to me and say, ‘I don’t believe in anything, but your songs awaken something in my soul’.”
An awakening in Israel? The prophets have foreseen this, and it’s something for which Christians have been praying for centuries. Our Jewish brethren have come through so much suffering, and there is no doubt more to come. Now, more than ever, we need to stand with them, because their God is our God (Isa 52:7, Isa 44:6, Rev 1:17).
Many in Israel have already discovered Jesus to be their true Messiah and, if Ribo’s heart is anything to go by, many more will soon follow. For the Lord has clearly said: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13).
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.