May 4, 2020
During World War II the Jews in Poland who escaped from the “Ghetto” were taken one by one, and family by family by the Nazi’s to “work camps” where the majority of them would never be heard from again. A true story that came from this horror was about the three Bielski brothers, who were farmers from Belarus. They hid in the forests of Poland and Belorussia and managed to survive in makeshift shelters and live off the land. In order to survive they stole food and supplies from houses nearby. Periodically they skirmished with German troops they encountered on one of their food missions. By 1944 over 1200 Jews had joined them after escaping from the sure death of the “Ghetto.” Unfortunately, the winters were brutal, and food was very scarce. There were also residents of the nearby towns, who in return for favors from the Germans reported their presence and activity. During their struggle many of them died, became very sick, or were left to make it on their own. Throughout their ordeal they tried to practice their faith, trust in God and pray for His deliverance.
A movie about that time in history portrayed a rabbi, who was conducting a funeral for one of the people who had died of malnutrition. His prayer in the movie was compelling as he encouraged the people to pray, not to give up their freedom, and not forsake their heritage. After months of seeing friends and family die and living like animals, this rabbi prayed, “Lord, if this is what it takes to be your chosen people, then choose another nation. We don’t want to be your chosen ones if this is what it takes.” Now I know this was an actor in a movie, and the words were written by a writer many years after the fact, but what he said is true about how many Jews, over so many years, must feel. God’s people to whom He promised a land, a Messiah, and freedom, have never fully occupied all their land. Many of them don’t know or don’t believe that the Messiah came and went and have struggled in every century to live as free men. Not to mention that throughout history there have been numerous nations and rulers who have sought to suppress their vitality for life and ultimately try to extinguish them. Hitler was just another one of those evil men who was carrying out the latest attempt.
When Jesus came to earth Jews were once again in bondage, and in survival mode. They wanted desperately to live in freedom and practice their faith. One day when Jesus was talking to his disciples about the coming Kingdom of God, he told them a story about “the persistent widow.” In the story a widow went to a judge seeking justice for a wrong that had been done to her by someone. At the end of his story the judge gave her the justice she asked for “…because this widow kept bothering me.” John 18:5. Jesus used this story to emphasize to his disciples that God had not forgotten His promises and that He would give His people justice. “I tell you, He will see that they get justice and quickly,” In John18:8. Jesus reaffirmed, to the Jews of his day, that God would fulfill His promises and He encouraged them to pray and not give up. The lesson to them, and to us today as well, is that persistent prayer does accomplish much. What are you praying about today? Have you reached a point where you don’t believe that God has heard your prayer? Remember Jesus promised the Jews that they would get their justice. Surely, we can wait on Him to move in His time right now.
At the close of Jesus’ parable about the widow He made a remarkable statement. He said, “…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” John 18:8. The Bible describes the “remnant” of Jews who believe that their prayers are still to be answered in Romans 11:25-27, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so, all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Believers today may find themselves in a position similar to the Jews in Jesus day, and the refuges during the holocaust. We may be tempted to give up or to lose our hope in God’s promises. But just as in the parable about the widow, we are assured that justice will be done, and God’s promises will be fulfilled. I can tell you unequivocally, and on the authority of His Word, that in the days of this pandemic, and the economic turmoil in our nation, God’s promises are still true. This is not the time to blame God like the rabbi in the Ghetto. As believers we know that our God does hear and answer our prayers according to His will.
When Jesus returns, there will be a remnant of believing Jews who have never given up on Messiah and are the seeds of what Christ will do on this earth at that time. Christ’s church, the believers of this time, must faithfully seek out the remaining “number of Gentiles” which will open the door for His coming. Some of those may be in your own family, your workplace or living next door to you. The question for us, as we serve Him together in these most amazing times in which we live is, will we have the persistence in our prayers like the widow Jesus spoke of? Do we care as much about the souls of people as we do about their health or economic situation? May we continue to serve and trust in the coming Christ and be found faithful in sharing the Good News that God really does hear us when we call on Him.