Overland Monthly / OV063 - God's Chosen People (I. Faith the Foundation of Jewish Character)
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OV63 THE DIVINE PROGRAM
GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE
I.—Faith the Foundation of Jewish Character
BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle
THE RESURRECTION of Jewish hopes as represented in Zionism is amazing, not only to well-informed Gentiles, but also to the more learned of the Jewish peoples. Seventeen years ago the writer visited the Holy Land to note the evidences of rejuvenation resulting from the increase of rainfall in that region, in harmony with certain prophecies of the holy Scriptures to which he then had been calling attention for more than fifteen years. On that occasion he endeavored to awaken Jewish interest in the prophecies relating to their reestablishment as a nation in their own land, and the Divine blessing then to be poured out upon the Promised Land and the chosen people. But no Jew at that time seemed to have a hearing ear.
Amongst the poorer classes of them there was indeed a temporary animation of countenance, but the dejected look returned as they replied that the prophesied blessing could not come until after the year 6,000 A.M., and that their chronology showed this to be about 150 years off. We attempted to show them from their own Scriptures that 6,000 years had already elapsed, and that the "Times of the Gentiles" would soon expire—in 1915—and that, according to the Scriptures, great blessings would then be poured upon them as a people. But they merely sighed, and by looks and actions said, "A Gentile cannot tell us about our own Scriptures; surely our rabbis are more wise and would give us such consolation, if it were true."
On our return from the Holy Land our report of prevailing conditions was quite widely published in America and Great Britain, and we sent special copies of it to the managers of the Jewish Colonization Committee, representing Sir Moses Montefiore’s bounty; also to the managers of the Baron de Hirsch Jewish Colonization Fund. The latter Association was then expending millions of money in endeavoring to establish Jewish colonies in Argentine Republic, while the former was laboring in Palestine. We called the attention of the latter Association to the Scriptural declaration that Israel would be regathered to its own land, and that efforts expended elsewhere would be comparatively fruitless—as they have since proven.
We do not claim that our influence has contributed in the slightest degree to the marvelous awakening of the Jewish people in respect to the rehabilitation of their land and their nation. We are merely noting how marvelous the change that has come over that people since that time! Now Jews voluntarily inform us that they read regularly our weekly discourses, and are specially interested in the items which touch upon Jewish welfare and coming national glory. And, we have been invited by Hebrews to lecture before them on the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures, in which they are evincing a deep and a growing interest.
When Zionism first made its appearance it appealed only to the "poor Jews." The rich and prosperous Jews very generally sneered at Zionism as impracticable, foolish, etc. Prominent Rabbis preach against it, declaring that America is the promised land of the Jew, from which no Palestine prospect could attract him. They declare themselves unorthodox—Jews by
OV64 race and not by faith—iconoclasts, agnostics. Editors of Jewish papers expressed similar views, evidently feeling that the Zionist movement would bring discredit on their race in the eyes of the Gentiles. Meetings were held in which Zionism was decried and made sport of, and American citizenship held up as the ideal for the Jewish youth, etc.
Gradually Jewish sentiment has veered more and more toward Zionism, until to-day Jewish journals find it advantageous to have a Zionist Department. And rabbis and editors find it not wise to run counter to the steadily increasing current of Zionist sentiment. Now they admit that a rejuvenation of Palestine is in progress, that Zionism has a hold upon the hearts of the poorer Jews in every land, and particularly in Russia. Now they admit that the poor of their race have heart-longings for Palestine, which impulse them toward it rather than elsewhere.
Now they admit that the rehabilitation of Israel in her own land would not only be advantageous for their poorer brethren, but possibly add to the influence of the less orthodox, who would not think of leaving this and other lands, where they are enjoying so great financial prosperity that they are not thinking particularly of the future nor of the past.
The Power of Jerusalem’s Hope.
Do we consider it strange that an influence, a hope, should so quickly spread abroad over all the earth amongst the eight millions of the Hebrew race? Do we consider it "extraordinary patriotism" that, after eighteen centuries of absence from their fatherland, the thought of returning thither should so pulsate the hearts of their whole nation? Do we marvel still more, when we consider that they have been a longer period out of that land than ever they were in it? If these are the interrogations of our mind, they merely prove that we do not comprehend the sentiment which now for nearly thirty-eight centuries has influenced Abraham and his seed!
The fact is, that the Jew is not well known even amongst his most intimate Gentile acquaintances. And he cannot be broadly and intimately understood, except from the standpoint of his religion, which few Gentiles comprehend, and which with the majority of Jews, even, is a matter of prejudice and pride, rather than of clear understanding and religious conviction.
Originally isolated from other nationalities by Divine command, and in accordance with his religious convictions, the Jew became a stranger and an alien to the world at large; and it, resenting his claim of Divine favor and religious superiority, has disdained the Jew and ostracized him—yea, and persecuted him even, in a most un-Christian manner. Cut off thus from social intercourse with Gentiles—shut up by himself, the Jew has cultivated a spirit of social resentment. Crowded in upon himself, he has had the ambition to cope with the Gentiles in every field of progress in a competitive and not a fraternal spirit. For a long time forbidden to own and till the land, he abandoned agriculture and confined himself within certain limits of cities of the old world, and has distinctly marked his "Jewish Quarter." Finding that the Gentile came to him generally under stress, if at all, he has engaged in pawnbroker businesses, and applying to it his natural energy, he learned how to make that business profitable—but thereby frequently increased the animosity of his Gentile neighbors. Gradually his strong character has become chiefly enlisted in money-making—and in this he has a large following amongst the Gentiles, though the latter are comparatively less successful in the strife.
Not until our day, since the overthrow of Jerusalem, has the Jew really had full, fair treatment and equal opportunity with other nationalities in certain parts of Europe and in this land. Now his persevering energy places him in high positions of influence in banking, in merchandising, in newspaper work and in literature Yet, however great his achievements, however wealthy he may be, there is a great gulf socially between him and his Gentile neighbor. Nor can we claim that this is purely an objection to his religion, for many Gentiles of high social rank hold to very similar religious tenets—Unitarians and others. This social chasm the Jew admits and resents, but does not understand. It would appear to be due largely to the fact that his commercial
OV65 instincts have in these long years gained such an ascendancy as to dominate him in whatever field he may exercise himself. The money sentiment, the cash value, How much is it worth? How much can I get? What will it profit? are sentiments which, to a lamentable degree, afflict all of humanity—some more, some less. But with the Gentiles there are sentiments, there are occasions, there are things and circumstances, into which he enters quite separate and apart from commercialism. This super-commercial sentiment our Hebrew friends generally find it difficult to appreciate and impossible to attain.
What can be the foundation from which proceeds the irrepressible hope and courage of the Jew, which have carried him through bloody seas of persecution, through social ostracism, against the current of prejudice and superstition, to his present lofty stand in the world? Why has he not been crushed, as have other people? Why has he not disappeared from the face of the earth as a race, as have other races? Why is it that to-day, after thirty-eight centuries, he is such a force, such a power in the world financially, that the wealthiest Governments are indebted to him and dare scarcely undertake a war without his co-operation in raising the funds? What is the secret of Jewish hope, courage and pride?
The Chosen Seed of Abraham.
The key of the situation is given us in the Bible, and nowhere else. The relationship of Jewish people and the land of Palestine and the Bible, rightly understood, constitute a proof that there is a God: that he has a great and wonderful Plan or method by which he is dealing with mankind; that his Plan is connected with the Jewish nation, and that the Bible is the record of that Plan. But here we must remember the truthfulness of the poet’s expression: "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."
It is a mistake to suppose that the Bible was written for the world or intended to be understood by the world. Its own testimony is to the contrary of this—that the Divine purposes are intended to be concealed from mankind in general and to be understood only by those who come into heart harmony with the Divine intention, and who from this standpoint "search the Scriptures." It should not surprise us, therefore, that our Jewish friends have not comprehended clearly the Scriptures, which they so reverently and painstakingly preserved from Moses until Christ.
And may we not truthfully say that the same lack of understanding very generally prevails, even amongst Christians? Is not the fact that comparatively few of the Lord’s people have been privileged to comprehend the length and breadth and height and depth of the Divine Plan, fully in agreement with the Scriptural declaration that such knowledge has been intended throughout the Age only for a very small minority? The hindrances which have blinded so many are the creeds, traditions and Talmud. "The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence him (and His Word) and he will show them his covenant."—#Ps 25:14.
The Scriptures seem to indicate, however, that the time is at hand when "The mystery of God shall be finished," and when the understanding of the Divine Plan may be comprehended by increasing numbers, and amongst these the reverential Jews. Indeed, the Jew should be specially attracted by the outlines of the Divine Plan set forth in the prophecies of his own Scriptures. They explain the experiences of Israel while still in God’s favor, and the experiences of the past eighteen centuries of their disfavor, and show how both of these will work together eventually for the blessing of Israel and through Israel for the blessing of the Gentiles.
The Divine Promise to Abraham’s Seed.
As the very foundation of Israel’s every hope, the mainspring of that people’s courage, the motive power of their energy, their perseverance and their pride, has been the Divine promise made to Abraham, their illustrious ancestor, "the friend of God." To Abraham, after certain tests of character—obedience, loyalty, faith—God made a Promise which constitutes the hope, both of Israel and the Gentiles. It reads, "In thy Seed shall all
OV66 the families of the earth be blessed." (#Ge 22:18.) Abraham’s son Isaac was indicated by the Lord to be the channel through which this blessing should proceed. Later on, Isaac’s son, Jacob, was indicated as a further channel. At Jacob’s death the Divine blessing passed, by Divine direction, not to a single one of his posterity, but to them all as a whole nation.
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which signifies a prince influential with God—in Divine favor. This name Israel, indicative of so much of honor and Divine favor, was subsequently applied to the whole nation of Jacob’s descendants, who became known as Israelites, or Children of Israel. It was understood by that nation that they were the seed, the posterity mentioned in the promise made to Abraham—in whom "all the families of the earth should be blessed." They correctly understood that this would signify a great exaltation for their little nation. They had full confidence in that great Promise, because the Lord had secured it to them in a most remarkable manner—he made oath to it. Since he could swear by none greater than himself, he said, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; therefore, I will greatly bless thee and I will exceedingly multiply thy Seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the sea-shore ...and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."—#Ge 23:16-18.
This hope in God—that they were his chosen people whom he would use as the channel of Divine favor to all nations—has ever been the mainspring of Jewish courage and pride. Not all Jews have inordinate self-conceit as the basis for success. Some of them are fearful and some deficient in self-esteem; but they are nerved by the conviction that God was specially interested in them, and the hope that he will yet fulfill to them his Oath-Bound Covenant. A faith so persistent (for thirty-eight centuries) must surely be pleasing to God, and must challenge the admiration even of their enemies. Christian Bible students well know that much of the Bible consists of Israel’s past history and prophecies of their coming glory. The past eighteen centuries have been merely a parenthesis in which spiritual Israel has been in process of selection from every nation. The speedy return of Israel to God’s favor marks another onward step in the Divine Plan of the Ages. According to the Scriptures, their coming uplift to Divine favor marks the Millennial epoch of blessings so long promised by God through the Hebrew prophets and attested also by our Lord and his apostles, mark the words of Peter—"Times of Refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ, whom the heavens must retain until the Times of Restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began!" (#Ac 3:19-21.)
Jewish Restitution is the first item of the many blessings then to be poured upon mankind by a gracious Creator.
As in future articles we shall outline various Scriptural prophecies in which the Jew is vitally interested, it is our hope that not merely our Hebrew friends will be interested, but also Christian Bible students and non-professors.
The coming blessings will be abundant to the blessing of all mankind, but the Jew first, for "God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew"; "For the gifts and calling of God he never repents of."—#Ro 11:2,29,32.
BUILD thee more stately mansions, O my soul, As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea.