Is God Really With Us?

This article was originally published in 40 days of Repentance: A Companion Guide to The LIST – Persecution of Jews by Christians Throughout History. To learn more about this subject, visit The Nations 9th of Av at https://9-av.com/.


German Wehrmacht belt buckle from World War II, with the insciption “Gott Mit Uns” (God with us), via Wikimedia Commons.

We need museums to teach us what we do not know and to reveal to us what we should have known. The Virginia War Museum in Newport News did that for me. This institution exists to educate the public about the American military experience and to honor those who have borne the burdens of it. Its exhibits cover every phase of my birth nation’s conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terrorism, but as one might expect, many of those exhibits are devoted to the Second World War.

The disturbing thing about all wars, including World War II, is that they never bring permanent solutions to anything. The same evils overcome in one generation take shape again in the next, requiring renewed effort to keep them at bay. The evils overcome in the Great Patriotic War, as our erstwhile Soviet allies called it, were not foreign to us. They were, and remain, an integral part of the civilization the Allies struggled to preserve.

One exhibit made that abundantly clear to me. In a well-illuminated display case there hung the tunic of a German soldier. The buckle of the belt fastened around the tunic depicted an eagle of the Third Reich grasping in its claws the swastika of Hitler’s National Socialist Party. That was not surprising, but the inscription above the eagle was a surprise. In capital letters it proclaimed boldly –

GOTT MIT UNS

“Gott mit uns” means “God with us.” German soldiers have worn it on their uniforms for three centuries, long before the Prussian kings began uniting the separate German states into the cohesive empire that eventually became the instrument of Nazi aggression. The Third Reich had ample reason to continue the tradition, not only for many of its soldiers, but also for certain civil servants. Adolf Hitler, after all, believed he was doing the work of God in creating space for God’s “master race” to rule the world. Such work required the enslavement or elimination of all those who were considered lesser beings according to Hitler’s ideology: Communists, homosexuals, Gypsies, Slavs. . .

. . . and especially Jews.

Jews of Germany understood the inscription on the belts of police officers who enforced the decrees that robbed them of life, liberty, and property. Jews of Poland and Russia had no trouble deciphering Gott mit uns on the belts of soldiers who rounded them up and marched them away to an uncertain fate. Jews of France, Holland, Greece, and Italy would have recognized the message as Wehrmacht soldiers handed them off to SS Totenkopf (Death Head) units that staffed the camps where their lives became solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

What would those Jews have been thinking? Some surely wondered which god these Nazis thought was with them. That this was a Christian God seemed to be certain. The Germans were, after all, Christians. Protestants and Catholics alike embraced Nazism. Many of those same soldiers and policemen who efficiently eliminated 6,000,000 Jews faithfully attended church and chapel services, and almost all of them enjoyed the festivities of Christmas. The Christian God, then, was the one served by those who sought to make themselves masters of the earth over the bones of Jews and other supposedly lesser beings.

Why do we wonder that Jews have a hard time accepting the Christian message? If Christians – even nominal or cultural Christians – like the soldiers of the Third Reich did what they did in the belief that their crimes faithfully served their God, why would any Jew want to have anything to do with that God? If the experience of the Shoa (Holocaust) was the only evidence they had, then it follows that Jews might perceive the Jesus those German soldiers praised on Sunday must be a cruel god indeed, or perhaps a demon from hell.

Gott mit uns. God with us.

How arrogant. How dare they believe God would sanction such crimes? Surely the Nazi era was an anomaly. No other Christian nation would do such things. Surely none would believe that God’s chosen people, the Jews, would be so deserving of His anger that they should be eliminated from the face of the earth. Surely the Germans were led astray. It could never happen to anyone else. Or could it? The sad truth is that the same refrain, “God with us,” echoes through the corridors of history.

God with us –

– on the lips of Crusaders marching under the banner of the cross, ravaging Jewish communities across Europe long before they ever set eyes on the Holy Land.

God with us –

– in the minds of Inquisition agents searching for Jewish houses in the cities of Spain. It was easy. Since the Torah prohibited Jews from kindling a flame on the Sabbath, all they had to do was wait until Saturday and look for the smokeless chimneys. Once identified, the Jews were given opportunity to embrace the Savior. If they refused, the best fate they might hope for would be deportation. Even descendants of Jews who converted were not immune. Those who aspired to a privileged position in society required a certificate of limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) to prove several generations of Christian heritage. Unwary applicants might find, to their horror, that they had a Jewish grandfather, making them subject to the mercies of the Inquisition courts.

God with us –

– in the decrees of Christian kings across Europe as they expelled Jews from their realms. Spain, England, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Lithuania, Holland, Portugal, and the German states all did so. After, of course, expropriating whatever Jewish wealth might be available to aid the crown in its “divine work.”

God with us –

– moving the hands of Russian Orthodox magistrates as they authorized pogroms that made the Motherland uninhabitable for the Czar’s Jewish subjects.

God with us –

– in the hearts of American Protestants as they excluded Jews from their professional organizations and social clubs, insulted them with derisive jokes and demeaning names, and complained fearfully about Jewish bankers who supposedly controlled the world’s wealth. It’s not that these American Christians objected to the blessings of Jewish achievements. They appreciated the financial innovations of Marcus Goldman and Samuel Sachs, the scientific advances of Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, and the creativity of George Gershwin and Leonard Nimoy. It wasn’t so bad that they were Jewish, but it would have been better if they could have been Jewish somewhere else.

Come to think of it, the German Nazi experience was not so unique after all. We might think of it more correctly as the culmination of two millennia of Christian holy arrogance. Such arrogance seems to have overlooked the solemn word of God:

“If the heavens above can be measured
And the foundations of the earth searched out below,
Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel
For all that they have done,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:37 NASB)

If God can break His promises to the Jewish people, and to the rest of scattered Israel, then what prevents Him from breaking His promises to Christians? How, then, do we dare presume that we act for God by relegating Jews to the status of lesser human beings?

Or what do we make of these words of our Savior, the Messiah of Israel?

They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. (John 16:2-3 NASB)

It is customary to consider this as a prophecy of persecutions coming upon Christians, but we rarely consider that these words were spoken by a Jew to His Jewish disciples. Did He, perhaps, have in mind the persecutions that would happen to all His Father’s covenant people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike?

Do we truly desire to heal this breach between Christians and Jews? If so, the first thing we should do is to let our Heavenly Father restructure our thinking. It is, after all, His Kingdom we profess to serve. Perhaps He should have the last word about who is in it.

Repentance prayer ~ Our Father and our King, truly the revelation of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah is an awesome gift You have given. Your prophet Isaiah identifies Him as Immanuel, God With Us (Isaiah 7:14). The redemption of all Israel and the world through Him is the greatest message of life. Yet we who profess His Name have all too often turned the message of “God with us” into an authorization to persecute those we should be embracing and honoring. Forgive us, Father, for our arrogance. We do not understand how Your mercy and grace work with our Jewish brethren, but the testimony of history demonstrates that You are not finished with them. Judgment belongs only to You. We want to leave it in Your hands, and instead be Your instruments of peace and reconciliation. Help us, Father. We ask in the Name of Yeshua, Amen.

Christians Repent For Anti-Semitism By Supporting Holocaust Survivors – Breaking Israel News | Latest News. Biblical Perspective.

[Editor’s Note: This article from Breaking Israel News illustrates why the Nations’ 9th of Av exists. The act of kindness recounted here is something we pray will be multiplied the world over as Christians come to understand our history toward the Jewish people and begin to take action to make things right. Please visit www.9-av.com to learn how you can be part of this work that touches the heart of our Heavenly Father.]


CHRISTIANS REPENT FOR ANTI-SEMITISM BY SUPPORTING HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS

Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler

Breaking Israel News, July 28, 2020

Rabbi Tuly Weisz of Israel365 visiting with Holocaust Survivor Chanoch Hoffman.

For Jews, the 9th of Av, also known as Tisha B’Av, is a 25-hour fast spent mourning over the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem. 

A remarkable group of Christians, sensitive to the bloody history of Christian anti-Semitism, have chosen this exact day, the 9th day of Hebrew month of Av, for what Breaking Israel News reporter Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz called “a powerful act of contrition by Christians.

Beginning in 2018, and continuing in a dramatically expanded way in 2019, there is a movement in the Christian world to use Tisha B’Av to repent for the atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the name of Christianity over the past two millennia.

Because COVID-19 has shut Israel’s borders to tourists, the Nations’ 9th of Av planning committee prepared a completely virtual experience for 2020, including lectures, prayer events and virtual tours of Israel for Christians worldwide. 

Something New For 2020

This year’s event, which runs online July 28-August 6, includes yet another new dimension, something Board member Barbara Wilkins called “putting ‘feet’ to our prayers.”

Touched by a personal visit wita Holocaust survivor couple living in Israel, Breaking Israel News Publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz suggested to the Nations’ 9th of Av Board that making a donation to assist this elderly couple would enhance their mission of repentance. The Nations 9th of Av Board unanimously agreed.

Weisz described the couple’s story. During the Holocaust, Mr. Hoffman was six years old when his father was taken away from the family home. Before he left, the father put his hat on the six-year-old’s head and charged him with being the man of the family. He was told, “It’s your job to take care of your mother and your younger brother,” Weisz related, “and it gave me the chills. It was very emotional to hear that.”

Hoffman fulfilled his father’s wishes and cared for his younger brother and mother who also survived the war living in a ghetto in Budapest.

Sadly, according to Weisz, “Mr. Hoffman’s health is declining and his needs are increasing. He has not only Parkinson’s disease, but he also has dementia. He doesn’t even recognize his wife. It’s a lot on the wife, who is elderly herself, to take care of him.”  They need a number of renovations to their home, including a ramp outside of their house, renovations for him to enter the bathroom in his wheelchair and specific equipment to get him in and out of bed.

Weisz said, “I told the Hoffmans two things. Number one is that you told your father you’re going to look after your family when you were a child and now, in your old age, I’m telling you, we’re going to help take care of you. And I said that this help will come through the generosity of Christians who love Israel and love the Jewish people.

“Mrs. Hoffman was so blown away by that. She thanked me profusely, from the bottom of her heart. It really meant a lot to her that Christians would be so moved by repenting for Christian anti-Semitism by compassionately caring for Holocaust survivors. She asked me to thank them on her behalf.”

Board Members Comment

For 9th of Av Board members, caring for Holocaust survivors is a natural extension of the repentance work in which they are already engaged.

Board member Al McCarn told Breaking Israel News, “This gift, going directly to help a Holocaust survivor in the days leading up to Tisha b’Av, testifies of our desire to see healing and reconciliation between Christians and Jews. We can’t make up for the untold suffering Christians have inflicted on Jews over the past 20 centuries, but this humble act is a gesture of hope that we can build a better future together.”

Fellow Board member Laura Densmore explained that, “Each one of the nine hours of prayer is focused on a theme for that hour. One of those hours (from 4-5pm EST on July 30) is focused on prayers of repentance regarding the Holocaust.

“The principle of teshuva (repentance) involves a change of mind, a change of heart and a change in behavior/actions, which can include making amends or restitution for the past wrongdoings.

“It is a joy and an honor for the Nations’ 9th of Av team to make a financial contribution to the Holocaust Survivor Fund to bless Holocaust survivors. Our repentance must go from our head, to our heart, and finally, to our feet,” she shared.

Last year was Barbara Wilkins’ first experience with the Nations’ 9th of Av and today, she’s an active member of the planning committee. “As we planned for this year’s event in Israel, it became apparent we would not be able to travel there, and our hearts were grieved for our Jewish partners in the Land over the disconnects to tourism and income that people from other Nations coming in provides.”

Instead, travel funds are being used, “To try and bless, in loving support, those in need. In Christianity we call it putting ‘feet’ to our prayers. It’s one thing to pray, but another to support. We pray that all our efforts brought forth to the Nations’ 9th of Av Virtual Tour event this year will bless our Jewish friends and partners as well as all who view it and participate in the nine hours of prayer kicking off this event,” Wilkins elaborated.

Noting how the Hebrew Scripture focuses on action, Board member Steve Wearp told Breaking Israel News, “I believe God’s people are called to be people of action. And I see all that throughout the Torah. Abraham took his family, packed it up and left. You see Moses doing the same. You see Jacob doing the same when he’s leaving Laban. Everything that I see in the Torah is people of action making a difference – Joshua going into the Promised Land, the people of Israel, building the Temple as a house for God to dwell on Mount Moriah. Everything is action.

“So for me, giving just a little bit to help a survivor, is the minimum I could do. And I pray my life and the lives of many others, all the nations, will someday come alongside, and bless the Lord, and bless the Jewish people. If you bless, you’ll be blessed. If you call insignificant or don’t pay attention to the Jewish people, God says you’ll actually be cursed or cut off.

“This is huge. This is not insignificant, because Israel bears the name, Israel bears the testimony of God.  We are seeing His faithfulness. So I would just call all Christians, we [the Nations’ 9th of Av Board] shouldn’t be the exception. We should be the norm.”

Christian interest in the 9th of Av began when two Christian men gradually uncovered the truth about the myriad of sins committed against the Jewish people in the name of the church throughout Christian history. They intuitively understood that they had to share these shocking facts with other Christians.

The two men, Bob O’Dell and Ray Montgomery, chose the 9th of Av, the traditional Jewish day of mourning, to raise awareness and encourage Christians worldwide to repent for centuries of bloody acts of antisemitism.

This year’s Nations’ 9th of Av planning and prayer team includes: Sister Georjean, Bob O’Dell, Al McCarn, Donna Matts, Barbara Wilkins, Matthew Wearp, Steve Wearp and Laura Densmore.

via Christians Repent For Anti-Semitism By Supporting Holocaust Survivors – Breaking Israel News | Latest News. Biblical Perspective.

How Foster Care Saved a Civilization | Nations’ 9th of Av

Memorial of Sir Nicholas Winton savior of 669 Jewish children from former Czechoslovakia. This memorial, dedicated in 2009, is located in Prague Main railway station. (Luděk Kovář – ludek@kovar.biz, sculptor Flor Kent / CC BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wintons_Prague_memorial_by_Flor_Kent_-_1.jpg)

Here’s a powerful word of wisdom from the Bible:

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22 TLV)

Let’s set aside that part about sinners and righteous for the moment and focus on the first part – the part about a good man leaving an inheritance for his grandchildren. What is the primary requirement for that to happen? It should be obvious: there can be no inheritance if there is no man, good or bad, to leave it. Of course, this is just as applicable to good women, especially to the courageous single mothers striving to make ends meet while playing the roles of both parents. For them it is immeasurably more difficult than for families where both parents contribute to the welfare of their children and grandchildren.

Suffice it to say that with no parents, or with only one parent, it’s highly unlikely that much of anything will be passed on to the rising generations, except perhaps the pain of rootlessness. It’s bad enough if we are discussing one family, or even a segment of society. For example, in the United States, about 20 million children – one in four – live in a home without a father.[1] The percentage is much higher among African American, Native American, and Hispanic children, even as high as 65% or more.[2] Yet even as tragic as those figures indicate, there is still hope simply because a large part of the society consists of intact families that, at least in theory, can help those in need.

But what if there are no intact families? What if an entire population of adults ceases to exist, leaving their children without care and guidance? Can you imagine it? That would be an entire generation –

    • of brides who would never be given away in marriage by their fathers.
    • of young men who would never know the approval of their fathers as they enter professions and begin families of their own.
    • of children who would never hear the stories of their grandparents.
    • of young people who would not know their own history – where they came from, who their people were, what special things they created, how they talked and sang and laughed.

Can you imagine such an unspeakable tragedy?

I can. It has happened too often in human history. Ask me about the Pequod nation of Connecticut, or the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, or the mixed African peoples thrown on unfamiliar shores as slaves in the West Indies and North America. But there is a more immediate example.

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[1] These are the numbers as of 2017, according to the Census Bureau as referenced by the National Fatherhood Initiative (https://www.fatherhood.org/father-absence-statistic).

[2] According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center, the percentages of children in single-parent homes in 2018 was 65% for African Americans, 53% for American Indians, 41% for Hispanic or Latino, 40% for mixed race children, 24% for non-Hispanic White, and 155 for Asian and Pacific Islander. The national average in 2018 was 35%, or 23,980,000 of all the children in the United States (https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/107-children-in-single-parent-families-by-race#detailed/1/any/false/37,871,870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38/10,11,9,12,1,185,13/432,431).

via Articles | Nations’ 9th of Av

What I Saw in Auschwitz

The 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is the cause of much reflection and remembrance.  A list of events and much more information is available at http://70.auschwitz.org/.
The world will pause on January 27, 2015, to remember the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

One generation ago, on January 27, 1945, the Red Army liberated the Polish town of Oświęcim.  The world has come to know that town not by its Polish name, but by the name its Nazi German occupiers called it:  Auschwitz.  This account of my visit to Auschwitz is offered again in memory of the 1.1 million human beings whose voices were stilled there.


 

On January 18, 1997, I had opportunity to visit the death camp at Auschwitz.  This is the story of that visit.  I publish it now as a necessary reminder of what has happened before, for without such reminders we would be only too quick to let it happen again.

Admiral Miklós Horthy Regent of Hungary
Admiral Miklós Horthy
Regent of Hungary

Admiral Miklós Horthy was not high on the list of Adolf Hitler’s favorite people.  He had proven a lukewarm ally throughout the war.  Even though Horthy’s Hungarian legions had fought bravely alongside the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union since 1941, Horthy’s government had never given its unqualified support to the Nazi regime.  A particularly sore point was that the Hungarians refused to surrender their Jewish citizens for deportation.  True, the leaders in Budapest had enacted repressive laws against Jews, but they never permitted the Germans to gain any measure of control over Hungary’s Jewish population.  Consequently, Hungary became a place of refuge for Jews from Romania and other nations whose governments were far less willing to defy Hitler.

Perhaps the Führer would have overlooked Horthy’s insolence in this matter of the Jews had this been the only matter of concern.  Yet events during the spring of 1944 brought this and other issues to a head.  By March of that year, the Red Army had thrown the Nazi invaders almost completely out of Soviet territory.  In the West, the Allies threatened to invade France as soon as the weather proved favorable.  Such disagreeable developments merely underscored Hitler’s compelling need for full cooperation from all his allies.  Since Admiral Horthy would neither listen to reason nor acquiesce to demands, Hitler employed other means to ensure Hungary displayed the appropriate measure of National Socialist ardor.  German soldiers accordingly occupied Hungary late in March.  Although they left Horthy in control of Budapest and its surrounding region, the remainder of the country fell completely under Nazi control.

The fears of Hungary’s Jews soon became reality as the Fascists implemented the Führer’s orders.  Over the summer of 1944, 300,000 Jews found themselves crammed into cattle cars and shipped off to some faraway place.  The Nazis told them they were to be resettled in the conquered lands of the East.  Some believed the lie, either out of naiveté or out of the need for a hope of an end to the nightmare that had fallen upon their world.  Some did not believe it.  Some even whispered of the rumors that the Nazis had built a death factory and were herding all the Jews into it.

Admiral Horthy heard these rumors as well.  He was no lover of Jews, but he was a refined gentleman.  He was also a realist who understood what was happening to his country.  An appeal from Pope John XXIII on behalf of the Jews helped to sway Horthy’s mind, and late in June he reasserted control over all of Hungary.  Thanks to this, and to Allied bombing of Budapest, the deportations stopped for a brief time – but only a brief time.  The Germans soon put Horthy in his place, and removal of the Jews resumed.  Horthy protested and resisted up to the moment the Nazis arrested him in October, but to no avail.  By the time the Red Army smashed into Budapest in late December, almost all of the Jews who had sheltered within Hungary’s borders were gone.  Most of them were dead.

The story is true.  I know.

I saw where they died.

The place is called Auschwitz.

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That Jew Died For You

BFB140423 Yellow Magen David

Why should Christians care that this Sunday, April 27, is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day?  Isn’t that something we have been over enough since 1945?  It is a Jewish thing, after all.  It was a huge tragedy, but we can’t do anything more about it now.  We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  So just leave it at that.  Let the Jews and the Israelis have their memorial, and we’ll get on with our lives.

Except I can’t leave it at that.  This is not just a Jewish thing.  It is a human thing.

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