In captivity … still
As a Christian Zionist this is my carefully weighed opinion — and I say it not sermonising but with a steady assurance based on observation of what is written in the Bible and what I see happening in this world as the people of Israel commemorate Passover once again.
The Jewish celebration of this event is — as it has been for millennia — of their liberation from captivity in Egypt specifically; an emancipation that enabled them to go on and conquer the land God had set apart exclusively for them, and to become established for the first time as a nation in this land.
Surely reason to celebrate — yes, even for 3300 or so years!
For Israel’s 6.4 million Jews today, the celebration also has a modern application, for they have come back to their land once again – this time not after only 430 years in captivity, but after nearly 2000 years of being entrapped in that unenviable condition. And instead of ‘only’ their liberation from the slavery of manual labour, they can also celebrate their deliverance from the chains of anti-Semitic Gentile society in which they languished for so long.
In the words of Isi Leibler speaking to the Jewish Broadcasting Service this week: “We are celebrating yitziat mitzraim (Exodus from Egypt) on the Festival of Freedom on Passover. When we sit at our sedarim (Passover meals) and we recount the history of our emergence from bondage into a people and talk about the great miracles that took place with the Exodus – we should look at the situation of the last 70 years and say we are the most blessed generation of all generations and that the miracle of what we have experienced is as great a miracle as the exodus from Egypt. We have to thank God and pray that He will continue to watch over us and that our future is assured.”
Israel’s Jews are home and this does mean – biblically speaking – that they are free. It is true that, now back in their land, they face near universal anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism directed towards them as a reconstituted nation. And lethal weapons are being formed against them, both in the form of a nuclear bomb and in the form of a Palestinian state.
But they have the assurance of nothing less than the word of their own God, that He has brought them back to preserve them here and to save them from their enemies all around.
Against both anti-Semitism and weapons of mass destruction there stands this Divine guarantee:
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17)
This follows what He He says just a few verses earlier to the battered and bruised people of Israel:
“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted…
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
And from terror, for it shall not come near you.
Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.
Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.” (Isaiah 54:11(a), 13-15)
Yes, Israel’s Jews can celebrate their freedom, and their security under God.
But not so the millions of Jews who are still living among the Gentiles.
They are not freed men. No matter whether they are Jakarta’s 200 Jews whose only synagogue was shut down by Muslim authorities three years ago, the 18 Syrian Jews left in the alleys of Damascus, the hundreds of thousands of Jews living by the boulevards of Paris and throughout France, or the millions of Jews overlooking the beaches of California and other parts of the United States of America – they are, all of them, in captivity.
In his Passover message to am yisrael (the nation of Israel – all Jews everywhere) one of Israel’s chief rabbis – David Lau – spoke to the recent spate of terrorism that has afflicted the nation when answering the traditional question posed at this feast: What is different?
“King Solomon, the son of King David,” said Rabbi Lau, “asked the same question of ‘mah nishtanah’ (what is different) in Jerusalem around 3,000 years ago that is asked by children at the seder now.”
Referring to the Hamas bus bombing in Jerusalem a few days earlier in which Israelis were wounded, and which indicated that the nation still suffers, he asked: “So on the face of things, what’s different? We see that in every generation ‘they stand before us to destroy us,’ but we have to remember that we have a complete faith which tonight we will again instill within us: ‘And the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from their hands.’ ”
“What’s changed?” he continued. “We are blessed that in contrast to previous generations, we are able to be at this special seder night in our land, in our homes, in our national place.”
Addressing Jews around the world, Lau said, “We’re here already, we’re in the land, but we also ask from those who maybe can’t but really want to come to the land, (and) we remind those who can and still don’t want to: Come, the chair at the seder table is waiting for you.”
“This is the land where soon, we will merit to reach Jerusalem and stand in its walls to offer the Passover sacrifice, to see the Creator bless the entire community of Israel, all as one.”
Too many Jews are still in captivity. And as long as they are in captivity, they are not safe. They need to come home. And they all will, for good. God says so:
“When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 39:27-29, emphasis added)
I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God. (Amos 9:14-15, emphasis added).