Back from the dead

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“The nation of Israel are a wonderful witness to the Living God. Back from the long dead. But although as a nation they thrive, in God’s sight they are just lifeless bodies, waiting for the One who can bring life. The Lord Jesus Christ will return to save the nation in their darkest hour and in Him they will find abundant life.”

Whatever horror movies might depict; zombies staggering around, wall-eyed living dead, skeletons grinning evilly – we know that this is the stuff of make-believe. Life requires heartbeat, brain function, muscles and a multitude of complex interdependent systems to continue. Once a human being has been dead for any length of time, the recollection of what they once were – warm, living flesh and blood, able to move of their own accord, speak, listen and function as a living being – becomes increasingly difficult to visualise let alone become a reality.

So the question put to the Prophet Ezekiel, author of one of the longest prophecies of the Old Testament, is a strange one.
Confronted with a vision of dried, scattered bones strewn around a valley, Ezekiel is asked;


“Son of man, can these bones live?”     
(Ezekiel 37v3)

Had the question been posed by anyone else, Ezekiel would undoubtedly have replied; ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ or words to that effect. The bones were not only very dry; they were dispersed all around the valley floor. Thousands of bones – it would take a team of forensic scientists years to assemble each skeleton together again and the end result would be no more alive.

But Ezekiel is asked the question by Almighty God for whom nothing is impossible. So Ezekiel elects to play safe:

 “O Lord GOD, You know.”

The rest of the vision is astonishing, terrifying even. Upon being commanded to speak to the bones, there is a great rattling and an unseen force drags the desiccated remains together, bone to bone until each is matched to its skeleton. Then the same force restores muscles, tissues, eyes, blood vessels, organs and skin to each so that now Ezekiel is looking upon a great army of dead men.

Like every prophecy in scripture, you cannot be slap-dash with the details. Look at what God said would happen:

“I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin… (verse 6)

Which is the point we have reached. Then it continues:

…and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”

A two stage process. The assembly of a chaotic disarray of bones into ordered but dead bodies is followed by the breath (or Spirit) of God energising and resurrecting them into a mighty army that stands upright.

As prophecies go, this one is strikingly clear. Its interpretation is found in the next few verses.

Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’’ (verse 11)

Taking a very simple viewpoint of this whole episode we can say with confidence the following:

  • The vision relates to the nation of Israel.
  • It predicts that they will find themselves in a helpless and hopeless condition, scattered over a wide area with no prospect of being restored to nationhood.
  • But God will intervene in two stages – firstly to restore the nation of Israel to a semblance of life, then in a second stage to cause them to truly live and crucially to know:

‘that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.’ (verse 13)

Could there be a clearer sign for our day and age? In the course of eighty years the Jewish people have gone from being the ragged, emaciated survivors of the concentration camps to amongst the most advanced culture and nation on earth. Industry, expertise, ingenuity – these are the hallmarks of the collective nation called the State of Israel – a concept that for nineteen centuries was little more than a forlorn prayer on the lips of the faithful.

What does it mean, though, when God declares:

‘I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land’?

The answer is found on the lips of the greatest Jew of them all;

‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’ (John 10v10)

The nation of Israel are a wonderful witness to the Living God. Back from the long dead. But although as a nation they thrive, in God’s sight they are just lifeless bodies, waiting for the One who can bring life. The Lord Jesus Christ will return to save the nation in their darkest hour and in Him they will find abundant life.

An unseen force did this, just as it assembled the bones in the vision. A force that defies human logic, crushes all opposition and relentlessly achieves its aim. The force is God. As the LORD said to Jeremiah:

‘You are My witnesses,’ says the LORD. (Isaiah 43v10)

So it remains for Israel to truly live. Presently they exist, clinging on to their precious tract of land surrounded by fierce and implacable hatred. But God has decreed that one day they will recognise Jesus as their Messiah and live in peace and harmony with their Creator in the land that God promised to their first ancestor, Abraham.

‘Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the LORD. (verse 14)

Dead bones don’t come to life again. It is a ridiculous idea. But we are talking about the God who created the Universe. He can, and does what He likes. He can give you true life as well.

Come and find out more:

Anti-Semitism

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It looks like a problem that refuses to go away. What is it and why does it matter? Well, anti-semitism is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews, and if current allegations spread across the media are found to be true, they will be by no means unique. Indeed, anti-semitism has dogged the whole of mankind in one way or another for as long as there have been Jews.

Why?

The contribution of Jews to whichever country they have found themselves in has never been in doubt. Even their bitterest enemies grudgingly admit that they are a brilliant and ingenious race. Industrious, inventive and skilful, Jews have risen to the top of their social class wherever they have resided. Until, that is, the next pogrom or bout of persecution has toppled them to pariah status or forced them to run for their lives.

Logically, national governments would be better off harnessing the Jewish ability to do well and supply them with the resources to enrich their host nation. If pre-war Germany had utilised the brilliance of Jewish theoretical scientists like Max Born, Hitler could have had the Nuclear Bomb long before the Allies. Instead he chose to eradicate the same people, thus creating a rapid and disastrous brain-drain arguably at the point when they were most needed. Over 1500 scientists fled pre-war Germany to friendly countries like Britain where their research undoubtedly helped sway the balance of the war.

You only have to consider the nation of Israel. It has, not inaccurately, been described as the third superpower. It bristles with advanced technology, hosts research facilities from developed nations like America anxious to exploit its creative qualities.

There are more Nobel prize-winners from the Jewish race then from any other.

But this doesn’t answer the question: why do we see so much anti-semitism?

In the book of Deuteronomy ch8v18, God gives the Jewish people a clear warning:

And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

‘The power to get wealth’ a phrase with a neat summary. Wherever they have roamed and settled, they seem to have an uncanny knack of accruing money, so much so that when Shakespeare wrote the play; ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ the central villain, Shylock, a grasping, scheming money-lender was a caricature that audiences across Europe would have instantly recognised. It reinforced the perception that Jews and money, were as linked in people’s psyche as the combination of a horse and carriage.

And this ability to ‘get wealth’ perhaps causes resentment that can spill over into outright harm. A fifteenth century German woodcut depicts Jews accused of desecration of Christian relics. For this unproved offence they were burned alive.

And this became typical of countries the world over. It prompts another Biblical verse, again from the book of Deuteronomy, this time chapter 28v64-65 because the Jews were warned of what would happen if they failed to keep up their side of the covenant with God.

Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other…

…And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul.

So why would we be interested in this on a bible centred website?

Put simply, the Jews are God’s witnesses. God himself says so in Isaiah 43v10. There are many aspects to this witness, but one could be that ‘Brilliant, and achieving far above any other race, punching above their weight both historically and globally’, they proclaim that God is working out His purpose in the earth. Another scripture declares bluntly that the sun is more likely not to rise in the morning, than the Jews perish from the earth. (Jeremiah 31v35-36)

But this witness carries a responsibility to God. The bible records that the Jewish race failed to keep their side of the agreement and so God has made them a wandering people; settling, prospering but then uprooted to wander again…  Until…

Jeremiah’s prophecy (chap 31v10) closes the story of the endless persecution.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say,

‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock. 

Another aspect, and in many ways the most profound, of Israel as ‘God’s witnesses’ is Israel regathered as a nation, the Jews driven out of all the nations through which they wandered and drawn like iron filings to the magnet of their homeland (Isaiah 11v12) and the story is almost complete. But not quite.

The story of the wandering Jew is one that reverberates with heartache and sorrow. And the Bible tells us there is more to come. More international irrational hatred of God’s witnesses until it rises in concerted acts of fury to try one more time to wipe out the race. This and much more that the Bible urgently warns us about as our world races to the precipice and beyond.

So, whatever happens with this current focus on anti-semitism, be assured that we should not be in the least surprised. It is the witness of God, to events that will change the world forever, and ultimately herald a new age of peace and righteousness. The only distinction will be towards those who do not accept the rule of the ‘Prince of Peace’, that Jewish, son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will come in power to reign on this earth.

Israel – A Year of Anniversaries

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Have you ever wondered why Israel is in the News so often? Why there is always conflict in the middle east? Well, if you haven’t you should because the answer affects us all.

In the Bible we read that Israel are an important people in God’s plan so watching what is happening in that part of the world is also important to us. In Isaiah 43, God said to Israel “You are my witnesses…”, meaning that Israel are a witness to the existence of God. When we see things that the Bible has said about this nation coming true, we can have confidence and belief in God.

For example, this year marks the anniversaries of 2 extraordinary events, that relate to the establishment of the State of Israel.

• 7th June is the 50 year anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem (1967), during the ‘Six-Day War’.

• 2nd November is the 100 year anniversary of the Balfour declaration (1917)

The Balfour Declaration was a single paragraph in a letter from the UK Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community. In the letter, support was given for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, whilst committing to maintain the rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.

For hundreds of years Israel were scattered across the world. The Balfour Declaration was a significant turning point and against all likelihood we had the start of them returning to the land of Israel. No other nation in history has been through similar experiences over such a timespan and survived – and yet here Israel are.

When you look at the events that led to the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, during the 6 day war, they are mind blowing. All human logic and reasoning says that Israel should have been utterly defeated and yet not just did they survive, they came out of it with even more territory than before. A truly miraculous outcome?

God said about Israel “Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you.” (Jeremiah 30v11) and “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36v24)

There is no doubt that during this period and continuing to today, there are some terrible things being done by all sides involved. Sadly, such acts only bear witness to the hopelessness of human nature. Despite this troubling human side, the remarkable part is that what we see happening is exactly what God said would happen.

God willing, we plan to hold 2 public talks as part of these anniversaries. We do not take any political views or sides in any of these events so cannot offer anything on that but we would love to see you there to instead share how these events are a miraculous witness to the truth of the Bible and of God.

Our first presentation is titled “Jerusalem – City of Peace?”, to be held at 19:30 on Wednesday 7th June 2017 at Christadelphian Hall, Hill House Road, Downend. BS16 5RR.