I can well remember the first thuds of the Katyushas on July 16, 2006. This was the first day that Haifa and the surrounding area came under sustained rocket attack. I had the door open and was ready to leave for the Tents of Mercy building when I heard an unfamiliar sound – Katyusha rockets exploding all around me. I was stunned. As a new immigrant to Israel I never had to process this sort of information before. It slowly dawned on me, “Someone is trying to kill us.”
To add to my perplexity I also had to figure out the preponderance of condemnation I was hearing on the only English radio station in range, the venerable BBC. We had been attacked, 8 of our soldiers were dead, 2 wounded and 2 more kidnapped. (Later we learned they too died shortly after the Hezbollah raid.) Israel responded and the world’s opinion soon castigated Israel as the aggressor and Lebanon as the victim. I am from a peaceful country and had never had to seriously deal with the issues of war. It seemed clear to me that Israel was the victim of Hezbollah aggression but the vast majority of the public opinion on the BBC radio was sharply negative towards Israel – much of it seethingly so. It slowly dawned on me, “Most people hate us!”
Based on the reaction against Israel in the Second Lebanon War, I expected an outcry of condemnation against Israel in response to the recent Gaza offensive, “Operation Cast Lead.” To be sure the mood in Israel was, “Well it is about time the IDF finally took action.” The protests quickly organized around the world. Negative opinion is one thing but the calls for Israel’s destruction, the comparison of Israel to the Nazis and the offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust were so over the top, it was hard for me to grasp exactly what spring of bitterness was pooling up this flood of anger and hatred.
As a child I was always struck by the line in the Passover Haggadah that states, “In every generation there are those who rise up to destroy us, but the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.” As a teenager, typically self absorbed and with little interest in my heritage I wondered if my forebears had some sort of twisted victim complex. In a few weeks we celebrate Purim (the 14th of Adar in the Jewish calendar), the deliverance from Haman the Agagite who rose up in Mordechai and Esther’s generation to destroy our people – But the Holy One, blessed be He, saved us from his hand.
The New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3)
At Purim, the angry cries from protesters around the world to rid the earth of the Jewish people move the story from history to present reality. The prophet Zechariah predicted, “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah. 12:3).
As we move rapidly towards “that day” I am reminded of the writer of Hebrews exhortation, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard …” (Hebrews 2:1). Now is the time to pay attention. In hindsight, the Jewish people understand that our passive response to the Nazi regime was a terrible mistake. Because our people were unable to conceive of the extent of depravity a “civilized” society such as modern Germany was capable of, we were unprepared for action. Mordechai knew better – he didn’t organize a partisan resistance, but guided by the wisdom of God he served as a wise counselor to exhort Queen Esther to action. He understood that if Esther took a passive role, she and her household would perish (Esther 4:14). Today, we desperately need the wisdom of God to discern the signs of the times and even more so to be like those wise men of Issachar who knew “what Israel ought to do” (I Chronicles 12:32).
But despite the threats surrounding us (I am not just referring to the threats against the Jewish people – the enemy of our souls seeks to devour all people of faith), we are not to fear. Try as they might, the stone is just too heavy for the nations to heave out of the way. Purim demonstrates that the unseen hand ultimately hangs the enemy on the gallows he had made. “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh …” (Psalm 2:4). Purim is the time to join with our Heavenly Father in the laugh that dismisses fear and sees beyond the raging of the nations to the joyful outcome.
One day, the immovable stone will be transformed into the most glorious and awesome stonework that the divine mind can conceive. The city that all nations will try in vain to remove will one day be the dwelling place of God and man together.
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God … And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal (Revelation 21:3, 10).
The Book of Revelation tells us that the kings of the nations will come into this lavish stone city to present the glory of their nations before the King of all nations – the Kings of Kings (see Revelation 21:26). As they do so, they will pass through the gates that bear inscribed over their doors the names of the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:12); a reminder to all of God’s sovereign choice to use Israel to test the nations and ultimately through the King of Israel to save them.