The Preacher Says....  
  The Jewish Question Part 1  
  Ezek 36. 24 - 36

The phrase The Jewish Question has been used in both a general and a specific sense. Generally speaking, a better phrase might be The Jewish Puzzle that refers to a people long dispersed, despised, and deprived of property rights. Despite the continued role of second class citizenship, or no citizenship at all,–even as criminals, they not only retain their identity, but in the face of unbelievable hardship and persecution lend vigor, intellect and culture to every society in which they find themselves.

The Jews are a unique people. Their unparalleled ability to survive in the face of every conceivable obstacle is remarked on not only by Bible students, but historians, e. g,. Arnold Toynbee and Will Durant-- both have recognized this truth. In the general sense the Jewish question remains as we see the nations of the world baffled in how to achieve peace in the Middle East by trying to establish boundary lines in an attempt to quell the hatred of Arab for Jew.

In a special sense the Jewish question is a phrase used by two notables in recent history: Theodore Herzl and Winston Churchill. Herzl, a young Austrian Jewish journalist, was dispatched to Paris in 1894 to cover the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army officer, and a Jew. Dreyfus, accused of espionage, was convicted by an army court martial and sentenced to life imprisonment. The discovery of new evidence established his innocence. He was re-tried. The charge was made, and justly so, that his conviction had been due to the rampart anti-Semitism that pervaded the French army. This miscarriage of justice incensed Herzl who, though a Jew–and not religious, believed that as a matter of survival a haven for the Jews was needed to provide an answer to the Jewish question. He himself used that phrase when talking about anti-Semitism. Wherever Jews went, and the Jewish question arose–as he put it–the inevitable result was anti-Semitism and persecution.

Winston Churchill, out of power in 1939, denounced the British decision to stop immigration to Palestine, in direct contravention to their obligation under the Balfour Declaration, to establish a Jewish homeland. He used the phrase the Jewish question in this connection. Generally and specifically, therefore, the Jewish question relates to their dispersion, persecution and survival which had commenced at least as early as the 8th century before Christ, when 10 of the tribes of Israel were carried into captivity by Shalmaneser IV of Assyria (727 - 722 BC). However, we’ll start a review of the highlights of Jewish dispersion in 70 AD with the destruction and burning of Jerusalem by the Romans under Titus. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered. Countless more were captured and used principally as prey in the Roman games. Nevertheless, a remnant of Jews were allowed to remain in the Holy Land until 135 AD, at which time the emperor Hadrian so terrorized and persecuted the Jews that virtually every single surviving Jew was forced to flee his homeland. They went to all parts of the compass. Jewish slaves were a glut in the marketplace.

One might have thought that the wholesale conversion to Christianity of the pagan Roman empire in the fourth century might have stopped these persecutions. They were, in fact, heightened . Theodosius in his legal code in the fourth century established the idea of Jewish inferiority which was to permeate western thought from that day to this. The choice for the Jew was to convert to Christianity or be executed. Country after country has, at one time or another, banished Jews forcing them to seek an alternate refuge.

In the first crusade (1096), when the prime purpose was to capture the holy places from the Ottomans, the crusaders thought it desirable to kill the Jews in Europe before proceeding to fight the Turks. The second crusade followed the same course. Jews were accused of ritual murder in the 12th and 13th centuries, particularly in Germany and England. The Jewish communities in London, Winchester and Cambridge were almost wiped out. The Jews were blamed for the scourge of bubonic plague by poisoning wells. Jews were banished from France in the 13th century, and from Portugal and Spain in the 15th century. At the end of the 15th century most Jews were to be found in Poland and Russia, with a few remaining in northern Italy and Germany. In the 17th century the Poles commenced their persecutions. Up until the time of the French Revolution the Jew was hounded all over the face of Europe. He often could not own property, exercise the rights of a citizen, hold public office, practice certain trades, yet he survived–and he survived as a Jew.

It was thought that the slogan of the French Revolution, Liberty, equality and fraternity would at last bring an end to Jewish persecution, but it was not to be; witness the Dreyfus affair and the persecution of the Tzars of Russia which drove many Jews to America. The latest among the most blatant crimes against the Jews was, of course, Hitler"s mass murder of six million of them. After the French Revolution, however, there were pockets of sympathy for the Jews that allowed them to seek an end to persecution–to look for a time and place for peace and rest.

I’ve mentioned Zionism incidentally in the allusion to Herzl. Some feeble attempts at colonization of Palestine by Jews, when the Turks would permit it, had been going on since 1870 or earlier. The first effective step in this direction was not taken until the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the British government announced that it was its policy to establish a homeland for the Jew. Britain thus paid its debt to the brilliant chemist and ardent Zionist, Chaim Weisman, for his improvement in acetone and the development of more powerful explosives. Even after the Turks were driven from Palestine in 1918, however, it was difficult for Great Britain to fulfill its commitment to the Jews. They had in 1915 promised Palestine to the Arabs in exchange for their aid in World War I.

Zionism between the wars proceeded with much foot dragging. First, Great Britain did not live up wholeheartedly to its commitment under the Balfour Declaration. Second, the Jews were beginning to prosper in Europe and did not wish to leave the peace and security that some of them had finally found. World War II changed all that. The Jews illegally fled to Palestine and in the face of inaction by the United Nations, fought their own war of independence. The state of Israel was founded and at last Israel was home.

But is the Jewish question finally solved in the minds of the leaders of the world? The events in 1967 in the Middle East; the continuing strife between Jew and Arab; anti-Semitism in Poland and Russia negate the idea of a final solution to the puzzle. I’m sure that many have attempted to explain this continuing puzzle in terms of behavioral psychology. Persecution of minorities is, after all, not limited to the Jew. For example, the Irish, Polish and Italian immigrant was oppressed when he reach America’s shores. But the comparisons are inadequate: none has sustained persecution for 2,500 years and survived except the Jew–and more remarkably with his religion more or less in tact. Perhaps the resentment of the Jew is explained by the oft quoted phrase, How odd of God to choose the Jew. It is at this point that the Christian steps in and says, Look--the Jewish question is no question at all. Psychological and sociological speculations are useless or, at best, irrelevant. God has decided the fate of the Jew. What was to happen to him was known from the time of Moses. Now it is almost finished.

The time has come for us to turn from the plain pages of history, which are familiar and agreed upon almost universally, to a book not so familiar and often misunderstood. The Bible holds the answer to the Jewish question. To understand we must get our premises straight; two are essential to our understanding: First, It is not he that wills, nor he that runs, but God that shows mercy. We live in God’s world–his universe. He makes the rules. Man proposes, but it is God who disposes. Second, It is God’s purpose announced from the beginning and re-stated in various ways in Old and New Testaments to fill the earth with His glory, inhabited with perfect, immortal beings. If one can convince oneself of these two premises, the rest is easy.

In exercising the prerogative that is His over His own creation, God did choose–no matter how odd it may seem–the Jews. He chose them for the following reasons:

1. That from this nation a savior would come to save man from himself;

To blot out mans’ imperfection so that he could be a participant In the perfect world which God purposed from the beginning.

2. Israel would be the repository of His divine revelation and carry His Message, as revealed in the scriptures, throughout the whole world.

3. That through the message carried by natural Israel, spiritual Israel could be born. That is to say, a Gentile, through a relationship with Christ by baptism, becomes a Jew by adoption, and a part of Israel that will ultimately inherit the earth.

4. That even though natural Israel would be dispersed and punished for their disobedience, they would at the end be re-gathered, to form the nucleus of the everlasting kingdom of God to be established when Christ returns.

For each of these purposes, probably no less than fifty (in some cases as many as 500) testimonies could be called to witness to their truth.

(To be concluded)