The Current Scene
On November 1, 1988, the Israelis held their national election. Since the abdication of Menachem Begin from the national scene the country has been equally divided between two opposing viewpoints. With neither side having a clear mandate the nation has hobbled along with compromises. The two parties are Likud and Labour. Yielding to recent Arab hostilities, Labour has been willing to trade some of the captured land back to the Palestinian Arabs for peace and assurance of Israel’s right to exist as a nation. The Likud, with its 73 years old Prime Minister Yitzhuk Shamir, said: “They want the West Bank and Gaza.” Shamir, in his stump speech, went on to warn, “but what they really mean is Tel Aviv, Haifa and all Israel.” Either view, if implemented, is fraught with danger. The more radical Israelis settle for clearing the land of Arabs. In their reasoning, they conclude, not without some justification, as one election poster asks, “Who goes, them or us?’ The popular Palestinian goal is to drive the Jews into the sea and no compromises. It is not hard to foresee both sides hardening in their positions.
If the Jew is back in his land in harmony with God’s providence, then Palestinian intentions are not to be realized. God has an unfulfilled future for His chosen people. At the request of our Lord’s disciples for a “sign” announcing His second coming they were to look for the sign of the “budding fig tree.” Obviously, this is a reference to the rebirth of the nation of Israel, according to the Hosea 3:4-5, “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrafice.” This part of the prophecy has been literally fulfilled from the destruction of the temple under Titus A.D. 70 until the present. However, the prophecy does not end there. But if the already fulfilled prophecy is allowed to be our guide we will know what actually still lies ahead for Israel as the chosen nation. Here it is, “afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.” The present wonder that the Jews are actually back in their land is a most convincing bit of evidence that the world is witnessing the preliminaries that point toward the final and climactic goal of God’s earthly chosen people.
The recent election gave the Likud Party a small edge over Labour. This should portend for the Likud to take a firmer hand in dealing with “intifada,” the name given to the 10-month-old Palestinian uprising. This could result in events heating up in the area and giving pretext for outside intervention, to possibly being a catalyst to hasten the stage for the final acts that culminate in the coming of Jesus Christ to reign in righteousness—“whose right is.” Shamir and his Likud will also be finding sympathetic supporters from the fanatically inclined orthodox wing (the fundamentalist element) of Israel’s political spectrum. They interpret and seek to enforce the Old Testament morals and a divine right to the Holy Land. A surprising number of the representatives were elected to Israel’s Parliament.
We appear to be living in a contradictory world. At least this is the impression to evangelical who is inclined to think and wonder. Most of what we consider to be Christendom is a spiritual wilderness. The supernatural, particularly the miracles of the Bible, are relegated to the area of mythology and superstition. Now the Bible carries its own credentials—Just read it! Its difficulties have been squarely faced by able polemists down through the centuries. Most men are constitutionally sympathetic to the supernatural. The world is too big a puzzle for him to be comfortable without something beyond his own limitations. The Christianity he is likely to encounter has been secularized or heavily obscured by an accumulation of tradition.
Along comes the “New Age Movement” with its crass superstitions, and from accounts it is catching on. It appears to this writer to be a composite of everything that is pagan. From its study of astrology the world is about to enter the Age of Aquarius. Reincarnation, Transcendental Meditation, healings, Buddhism, and for some, sort of a millennium is about to dawn. The most articulate leader is, to no surprise, a woman, Shirley MacLaine. To sum it up we would say, “Here is a full bag of eclecticism and basic pantheism.”
Peter, when answering our Lord’s question, said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The alternatives to an inerrant Bible and incarnate Jesus Christ are so many avenues of error. The natural man discovers or develops an inward guard against Christianity and somehow fears the implications if he dared to repent. Consequently, many will settle for a watered down Christianity, evolution, atheism or the “New Age” cult. The uncertainties of life, tragedies, health and death are so real, but beyond rational explanation, that men are going to find something to believe and with it is most anything preferable to the Bible and absolutes.
God’s prophets in the Bible never maintained their popularity, if they ever had any in the first place. The presence of a prophet supports that there is something to correct. So his message is often one of rebuke and correction, and irritating to his hearers. With our Lord the crowd could one day say, “Hosanna, Blessed is the King of Israel” and another day cry, “Crucify Him.” Paul in his last epistle laments, “all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” The prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, were being constantly contradicted by numerous lying prophets and the people believed them, for they said what was pleasant to their ears. They proved to be deaf to the Lord’s warning, “Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to their dreams. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have sent them, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:8).
As in that day, so in ours, we see how prone the people are to error. Again, in this context we quote from the Word of God, “Seek not them that have familiar spirits. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). Yet amid all of this error created in darkness the principle still is, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Yes, there is such a thing as truth and it will be found by the honest seeker.
In the election year of 1988 the U.S. received a real exposure of itself by its own citizens. Both parties seeking elections became adept in exposing the negatives of their opposition. Each candidate had an optimistic outlook; he dare not be otherwise no matter how pressing may be the contradictory facts. Of course, behind the spokesmen are the media specialists, advisers and ghost writers. Their principle aim was only to have their man win the election. The words to Isaiah the prophet can in some instances be applicable today. His hearer’s request was, “Say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things,” and they even expressed desire for Isaiah to “prophesy deceits” (30:10).
We have been hearing a lot of “smooth things” while the nation is seriously losing on two fronts—namely, education and exports. Our competitors, especially in the Orient, are two to three years ahead of American high school students. Thus we are losing our one-time first place in technology and production know-how. Many of the good jobs promised have gone abroad. We are not told what it will take to bring them back.
Economics has been dubbed “the dismal science” and it is certainly that with the nation that once enjoyed a dizzy height of success now resorting to red ink. A quote may be descriptive of our present complacency: “Outside the walls of every nation what has grown fat and overly fond of itself has lurked a lean and hungry enemy that is our major challenge.” Somehow we are constituted as individuals or a nation that the ease we think is so desirable can be nevertheless our undoing. Moses spoke of his nation reaching prosperity: “Jeshurun waxed fat, thou hast grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Deut. 32:15). As we view the present, where sin and death rule the way, the Christian realizes this is not his all. As Paul reasoned, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead.” This assured a future life of perfect bliss to those who have chosen to make Jesus Christ their own personal Saviour. Those who have it made still face many uncertainties. A quote comes to mind from Mrs. Charles E Cowman’s Streams in the Desert. “He builds too low, who builds beneath the skies.” The prophet Micah has this to say: “Arise ye, and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.” A lot of that destruction is detailed in the last book in the Bible, Revelation. A heaven to win, a hell to shun.
In the light of these things many see the church as socially irrelevant if it does not get into the fray of solving human problems. Its members should cease to be dreamers of the felicity of another world, if there is such; rather it should take sides against poverty and injustice. Others say the church should not meddle with political and industrial issues. Just stick to spiritual needs. Here it is bless you if you do and bless you if you don’t. Actually, Protestantism did meddle when it was responsible for Prohibition. Just think if the Christian view of sex, liquor and theft were prevalent in our ghettoes, yes, nation wide, what wonders would be the result. But, no, anything but Biblical norms. Then too, the church is called out of the world, “in it but not of it.” We have no king but Caesar is still at the heart of this present evil world.