The Current Scene
The term “human rights” sounds like a noble and worthwhile goal. However, on second thought, it is difficult to define and could be hard to live with constantly, human nature being what it is. Even President Carter cannot give it a top priority in several instances. In the eyes of foreigners, it is a matter interpreted as an attempt to transplant Americanism into their peculiar situation. It is viewed as suspect and probably unworkable for them. Anyway, we are experiencing its outworking in our own land. Marches, demonstrations, picketing for the rights of women, non-smokers, minorities and paraplegics are representative of only a few of the current areas of human rights.
Notwithstanding the huge umbrella that big government has spread over the society of the United States, and certainly to a degree in Canada, the populace has still been minting new “rights.” An Atlanta, Ga., lawyer and former president of the America Bar Association has said, “Many of the common, everyday risks of four decades ago are no longer acceptable.” He went on to say, “The concept of human responsibility has been seriously eroded. Today, people expect to be protected even from their own gullibility.” Hence, we have an “epidemic of hair-trigger suing” as one jurist calls it. More and more patients are suing their doctors, and even children are suing their parents. A student is seeking an unbelievable sum from his university for the poor grade he received and the consequent mental anguish. Sympathetic juries have agreed for millions of dollars to be awarded a well organized suit. In such a train of thought, an inordinate cupidity has been generated and a glut of lawyers is specializing in this field which, for them, promises the most lucrative fees. We learn that the United States has one lawyer for every 500 people — ten times as many as France. We wonder how many of those who are engaged in this new drama of life are acquainted with the parable of the forgiven servant. He that was forgiven much contended that his fellow-servants who owed him a little should immediately pay up (Matt. 18:23-35).
Our Lord was teaching us that we who have been forgiven so much — all of our sins — should be considerate toward those who are obligated to us. Cannot some of the misfortunes of life be one of God’s methods of speaking to us? The psalmist must have had such in mind when he wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word” (Psa. 119:67).
The three great revolutions of the English-speaking people were led by Cromwell, Washington, and Lincoln, the leadership of Lincoln having freed the slaves. They were sobering affairs and, in large measure, by-products of the influence of Biblical Christianity. Certainly in these cases the abuse of power was sufficient to incite reprisals. In the past, democracy meant only the curbing of despotic powers; wealth and rank were to be respected and the law enforceable. Now the politicians — at least the thoughtful ones — are alarmed over the success of their policies. To where is it all leading? To people’s rights! Who of us cannot discover some grievance that does not call for redress? Someone has defined it as mobocracy. The outcome of this is too often anarchy, and the only remedy for this in other lands has been for the military to take over.
Nor has this excitement for human rights been restricted to the secular world. It now plagues our churches. The final message to the church found in the Bible is given to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. In light of what we have been saying, the name Laodicea appears more than accidental. It is a compound of two words, Laos meaning “people” and dike meaning “what is right, a judicial hearing,” according to W. E. Vine in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Here, then, we have the people’s rights. Nor should we be surprised to see Christendom get into the act of correcting human wrongs. In many instances the church has forsaken its heavenly calling and has descended to the mundane affairs of the earth. Its activists have joined the civil rights demonstrators and its monies have gone to the support of African liberation fighters. The synods and conclaves of the mainline denominations, instead of engaging in the weightier matters of God’s revelation, are dead-locked with matters that merit only a positive “no” in the first place. Some of those matters involve the right of “gays” for the ministry, women for ordination, and the revising of creeds, with collects and hymnals to accommodate their liberal theology. We notice in Scripture that Samson, the last of the judges in the book of Judges, was blinded by his enemy the Philistines. The last king to occupy the throne of David, Zedekiah, had his eyes put out by Nebuchadnezzar.
Now we have the last message to the church and it is informed of its blindness. In this case, spiritual blindness, and with the added tragedy — “and knowest not.”
The otherwise doleful message to the church in Laodicea has its prescription for a cure and a bright hope. This is, of course, a characteristic of all Scripture. Ironically, the challenge is co the individual. We read, “He that hath an ear.” This implies that the mass will remain indifferent to its plight. The immediate remedy is to anoint the eyes with salve. In other words, take a new look at the Holy Bible. Let it be God’s authoritative voice to you. This is the only way Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians and for us can be answered. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (Eph. 1:18). Such will be appraising the vanities of the present with the certainties of eternity. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne.” The Biblical revelation of eternity puts sense into the present. Otherwise, the fleeting pleasures, the trials and tribulations that catch up with most of us, and the question of life beyond the grave, are all enigmas to him who believes not.
The Peace Treaty
This column is being written while the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has just taken place. Most of the credit for this must go to President Carter. Things were falling apart in the Middle East calling for something dramatic and courageous. Dominoes were falling. At the same time, pressures were giving way elsewhere in the world: China had invaded Viet Nam, plus wars in Africa where thousands of Cuban mercenaries tip the balance of power on the side of Soviet interests. These places beyond the Bible lands were bypassed. Israel must be preserved because of its strategic position in the world of geopolitics. Above this, the Bible student who sees things in a dispensational perspective has much to convince him that Israel is back in the land for the literal fulfilment of the many prophecies that primarily apply to them. Then, too, the free world depends heavily upon Arab oil. Apart from the high stakes that the West has in this oil, that area would be of minimal importance. Israel and oil have so aroused the United States that it is prepared to risk a major war. The present dependence upon oil for survival and prosperity makes the stability of the Middle East a top priority of the United States’ foreign policy. President Carter has obligated the nation to a frightening financial burden as the price of the peace treaty. Along with this a military presence is the next likely step. The establishment of two American air bases in the area is soon to be a reality.
All of this impresses us as a rehearsal of the peace treaty with Israel that is yet to come. This treaty will be made at the commencement of Daniel’s 70th week and by “the prince that shall come.” From Daniel 9:26, we learn that it was the people of this prince who, under Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and its temple sanctuary. This identifies the prince as a Roman, or head of the revived Roman Empire. This yet future covenant will assure Israel the right to revive its temple worship for a week of years. In the midst of the week this prince will renege his covenant, and then the great tribulation will be ushered in. This coming prince is “the little horn” of Daniel 7:8 and 25, and his dominance is limited to “a time, and times, and the dividing of time” (i.e., 3 ½ years). This positive measure of times occurs again in Daniel 12:7 and is picked up in Revelation 12:14. In Revelation 11:2 it is “forty and two months,” and in 13:5 “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” This beast, for so he is identified in Revelation 13, is at the end of the period cast alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).
Some are rightly alarmed that the United States should be so heavily committed in this volatile area of the world. President Carter had no other choice but to do something, even if it meant giving away the shop. The Soviets were threatening to close in from all directions on the oil rich lands. Now to keep the treaty from coming unstuck promises to be a constant nightmare.
We appear to be approaching Zechariah 12:3: “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the nations of the earth be gathered against it.” Jerusalem has become the key to the Middle East strategy. With this city in the hands of the Arabs or Soviets, the jugular vein, oil, of Western might and prosperity would be at the mercy of enemies. Nor is this viewpoint strictly that of a biased dispensationalist. A few lines from an editorial in The Wall Street Journal gives a secular opinion: “An ominous momentum has been evident in events along the Middle East oil lanes. Events have pushed the administration into another world — where dominoes need propping, aircraft carriers come in handy, and diplomatic spectaculars like Mr. Carter’s Egypt-Israel trip depend on the demonstration of American resolve.”
It was music to the ears to hear all three signators quote from Isaiah 2:4 — “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” This, of course, will require real peace. It is a literal prophecy. Certainly Isaiah would understand it this way; so did the recent dignitaries who met on the White House lawn. Our Lord definitely said in answer to the question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” that “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars.” Such is to characterize this age and has been true throughout history. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can make Isaiah’s prophecy a reality. It will be at His Second Coming, when He comes to reign.