A Christmas Message
More than 19 centuries have passed since the memorable night when an angel of the Lord brought the heavenly message to the shepherds tending their sheep upon the hills of Judea. The message filled their hearts with the supreme joy of their lives: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
Savior, Salvation, Jesus—wonderful words so closely knit together that they can be used interchangeably without violating their meaning or ultimate sense.
How Sweet the Name
“Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21, KJV). It is significant that the name Jesus, which in Hebrew is Yeshua, and the word salvation, which is Yeshua, are identical. The word salvation had a sweet sound in the believer’s ear of the old dispensation. It meant to him the fulfillment of those things most earnestly hoped for—redemption from sin and the power of sin, from guilt and the sense of guilt. Atonement with God—forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and the return of the Shekinah Glory to dwell visibly with His people.
It meant the coming of the Savior, the Anointed of God, His wonderful Sinbearer, who was to shed His own blood for the redemption of His people. This was the faith and expectation of Moses when he sacrificed the Passover Lamb. As we read in Hebrews 11:28 (KJV), “Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood.” This was the earnest expectation of the fathers before him and the great prophets who followed after him.
Salvation also had a meaning for God’s people here on Earth. It meant deliverance from oppression and the power of the ungodly. It meant the return of God’s favor to a people repentant, cleansed, and forgiven. These and similar thoughts must have filled the hearts and minds of the Judean shepherds when they heard the angelic message. For them it was the moment supreme. It was the day that crowned the yearning and prayers of generations.
It was with a view to this glorious day that David prophesied, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24, KJV). The Messianic hope lightened the burdens of every Israelite and gave sense to his sufferings. It made the reproaches and scorn of the ungodly bearable and the riches of Earth as trash compared to the glory and riches of Christ. About Moses we read he esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11:26, KJV). The coming of the Messiah was the climax of all things hoped and prayed for. It was the crowning day of glory.
It is in this light we understand the exultation that filled the breast of the aged saint of God, Simeon, as he held in his arms the Child Jesus, whose very name spelled salvation. “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Lk. 2:29–30, KJV).
Nineteen centuries have passed. Oceans of tears and blood have stained the face of the earth. Yet to them who have admitted Jesus into their hearts and have longed for His coming again, has come peace—wonderful peace—amid sadness, strife, persecution, and suffering—sometimes beyond endurance. And when the hour of their parting from this world came, they went away, not defeated, but with peace in their hearts and the full knowledge of Him who made them more than conquerors. They, too, “have seen [His] salvation”; and they departed in peace to be with their Lord.
Nineteen centuries have passed, but we still find the name of Jesus full of solace and sweetness unspeakable. We sing, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear.”
Nineteen centuries of sin and tragic failure have come and gone. History has been made, a history that records the futile attempts of men to save themselves without God and without His Anointed. It is a record of disaster and defeat, a record of defiance of God, of shame and sin. Today the Christian lives in a world engulfed by hate and human wretchedness.
The believer of our day finds himself very close to the believer of old in his waiting for the consolation of Israel and the coming again of the Christ to reign in glory and majesty, when He will put an end to all man’s tragic failures.
An Instrument in God’s Hands
The year 5707, according to the Jewish reckoning, has ended. It was a year of undiminished suffering, especially for the Jewish survivors in Europe. [Editor: The current Hebrew year is 5778.] Two and a half years after the end of the war [World War II], the Jews are still the inmates of concentration camps in Germany and in Austria and on the island of Cyprus and elsewhere, just as in the evil days of Hitler.
It was a year pregnant with bitter strife and struggle about Palestine. The year 1947 has amply illustrated the truth of God’s Word that the wrath of man worketh no righteousness.
The report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommending the partition of Palestine into two separate states has been made public and has gained the support and approval of the leading powers of the UN. It seems the partition into two states is about to be accomplished for woe or for weal. Whether the UN realizes it or not, it is an instrument in God’s hand to hasten the fulfillment of His eternal purposes concerning the restoration and salvation of Israel.
We are witnessing the approach of an all-time climax of history—the Second Coming of the Lord. What shall we as Christians think about it? Shall we rejoice or sorrow? Our feelings are mixed. We do rejoice with our brethren, especially the homeless and tempest tossed, that at last their hopes and prayers and ancient dreams are coming true; that home will come to the wanderer, and that the weary-footed people shall find a place of rest with no warships or armies to sweep them to concentration camps. But oh, how our hearts ache as we think of the sorrows and trials and the Great Tribulation that is yet to come upon the children of Jacob.
God is speeding up His program for Israel’s redemption. With the return of the Jewish people to their land, even in unbelief, God is accomplishing His purpose. And as He is bringing to pass the former things, full of sorrow and agony, He will also bring to pass the latter things, of restoration, regeneration, and salvation.
The Day of the Lord is coming when He shall be King over all the earth: “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and His name one” (Zech. 14:9, KJV). Then the prayers of countless generations, “Thy Kingdom come,” shall have been fulfilled.
In the meantime, the lovers of God’s people Israel shall pray in the words of the ancient hymn of the church:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
This year has been for The Friends of Israel a year rich in blessing and progress. More relief has been sent to the needy than ever before; and thousands have been fed and clothed, and their needs both spiritual and physical supplied.
During my recent visit to Europe, so many came to see me and said, “God sent you to us when we needed you most.” They pointed to the clothing they were wearing and asked if I recognized it. Of course, I did not. We have sent thousands of garments for men, women, and children. It would be impossible to know each piece of clothing. Hundreds said if it had not been for the food we sent them when hunger stared them in the face, they surely would have perished. How humbled and grateful I felt that our Heavenly Father has so graciously made it possible to help these His children. It is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
A great and sacred cause has been entrusted unto us. Like John Wesley, we might say, “The world is our parish.” For indeed our borders have been increased, and wherever the need is greatest, there we seek to go. And still pleas for help are coming in, each more heartrending than the former. “Come over and help us” is their cry, and we cannot turn a deaf ear to them.
The coming year, 1948, promises to be a year of great harvest. Souls are hungry and lost in this world without hope and without God. Only in Christ is salvation and peace.
The Lord has blessed us and caused us to become one of the leading gospel and relief organizations in the world, laboring among the Children of Israel. We enter into 1948 with the confidence the Lord, who was with us in the days of small beginnings and blessed us above all our hopes, will go before us in the days to come.
→ This article first ran in the December 1947 issue of Israel My Glory, at the outset of Israel’s War of Independence. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the passage of UN Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947, officially giving back to the Jewish people their God-given land for a national home in Israel.