The late Dr. A.T.Pierson used to call history His story—that is, God’s story. It was a way of putting it that conveyed a new thought to many. We may not be able always to see how God is working in the little affairs of this life, but in all the great sweeping movements of history we can most certainly trace God’s hand at work.
The history of the Jews is especially interesting from this standpoint. When the writer was a converted lad in his early teens he was sorely tried with sceptical doubts, so much so that more than once he came within an ace of throwing up all profession of Christianity. But it was the history of the Jews that held him back. That history could only be explained by the power and overruling providence of God.
It reminds us of the well-known story of King Frederick of Prussia. He was an infidel and the friend of Voltaire. One day, knowing that General Von Zicthau was a professed Christian, he demanded that he should defend his Christianity in one word. The white-haired veteran bowed and uttered the one word, “Israel.” The king could make no reply.
The recent capture of Jerusalem by the British has once more focussed the eyes of the world upon that wonderful city. We were told that the soldiers taking part in its capture were awed as they had forced upon them the thought that they were fulfilling prophecy, and that it was wonderful to see men hailing from different parts of the British Empire studying their Old Testaments to see how that prophecy affected them. General Allenby refused to ride on his state entry into the city, stating that he would not ride in as a conqueror, but would go on foot as a deliverer. He recognized, doubtless, that the Lord Jesus alone had the right to ride in as a Conqueror, as one day He will. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king comes to thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9).
The Bible tells us that the Jewish nation is to go back to its own land in unbelief. Ezekiel 37:21, says, “Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land.” History is penning the fulfilment of these lines. In 1882 Jerusalem numbered 24,000 inhabitants, 4,000 of whom were Jews. In 1910 there were 100,000 inhabitants, 80,000 of whom were Jews. That is to say, in less than thirty years the population more than quadrupled, whilst the Jewish portion multiplied twenty times. This increase can only be attributed to God’s power, cities have been known to spring into being with mushroom growth, but there have been patent reasons for their so doing, such as big manufactories being set up, demanding labour; or the discovery of gold in the vicinity attracting population. But no such reason even remotely governs the increase in Jerusalem’s population.
The war has given this a temporary set-back, but now that Jerusalem is in the hands of the British, and the proclamation has gone forth to the world that Great Britain will arrange that Palestine be put in possession of the Jew the immigration will assuredly set in in fuller volume than ever. Already a Zionist committee is at work on these lines, and a society formed, the membership of which makes a pledge to return to the Holy Land obligatory.
The present size of Palestine is 150 miles long by 50 broad, that is 7,500 square miles, or about the size of Wales. But the promised land is to be much greater. Said Moses, as the mouthpiece of God to the people of Israel, “Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even to the uttermost sea shall your coast be” (Deut. 11:24). That means a country 600 miles long by 500 broad, or 300,000 square miles, which is bigger than any European country save Russia. This vast territory will be needed when the millennium comes. Is it not significant, in view of Bible prophecies, that it is just this country, Palestine and Mesopotamia, that is now being cleared of the Turk?
Then, again, the rainfall of Palestine has doubled in twenty years.
|Annual rainfall||Palestine||662 mm.|
God drove the Jews out of their land, and withdrew the latter rain, thus reducing the country to barrenness, because they refused their Messiah. The past sterility of the land and its returning fertility, due in the former case to the withdrawal of the latter rain, and in the latter case to its return, were foretold over 2,500 years ago, by the prophet Isaiah. “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the God of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants [plantations, N.Tr.], shalt set it with strange [foreign, N.Tr.] slips” (chap. 17:10). A Christian friend was talking to an unbeliever at Minehead, Somerset. He invited him to look with him in the window of a wine merchant’s shop and he would show him a striking proof of the truth of Scripture. They went, and my friend pointed to a row of bottles of wine, bearing a label, stating that the wine was made from grapes grown in Palestine from slips imported from Spain. These labels proved four things. (1) Foreign slips would not have been needed unless barrenness had overtaken the land. (2) Foreign slips would not have been imported unless the rainfall had improved and the sterility thereby overcome. (3) The wonderful inspiration of God’s word that could prophesy this 2,500 years ago. (4) God’s present ordering and arranging. Man could not arrange for a return of the latter rain. God alone could do that. A friend of the writer’s was in Palestine when the latter rain came down in torrents. An aged Jew’s face was wet with tears. It was the first time in his long life that he had witnessed such a sight, and he rejoiced with tears of joy in what it signified.
There are forty agricultural colonies in Palestine now. In one colony alone—Rishon-le-Zion-3,000,000 foreign vine slips and 400,000 fruit trees have been planted.
Volumes could be written on this fascinating subject, but if the above remarks lead any to see (1) that God is moving in history (His story) ; (2) that Christ is the great keystone for everything; (3) that the end of all things is approaching; (4) that the Lord’s coming must be very, very near, these pages will have fulfilled their purpose.
May they stimulate us to greater faith and courage, and above all to greater missionary enterprise at home and abroad, whether by our own efforts or helping by prayer and pocket those who seek thus to spread the glorious gospel.