Lowering the Flag

Momentous events are often captured in a phrase or some symbolic gesture that, in itself, seems relatively insignificant. Such was the case in the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The sight of the red hammer and sickle flag being lowered from the Kremlin flagstaff for the last time framed an historical etching that reflected a stunning new reality for the world. The very ring of the name for the Soviet Union’s replacement—the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)—held the hope of better things for people who had, for over seven decades, cringed beneath blows from the Soviet hammer. Who can forget the helmeted Russian legions marching stiff-legged past Lenin’s tomb in Red Square in the Kremlin’s annual demonstration of potential for global butchery?

For Americans who were paying attention, the import of the event took shape in a phrase spoken by President Bush in his annual State of the Union message last January. We were reminded that the cold war was over. But it didn’t trail away into the mists of history because opinions about atheistic socialism’s dream of seizing the world’s free people simply faded away. No. The cold war ended because, President Bush quite properly reminded us, “America won the cold war!” Come to think of it, we had. Of course, it hadn’t been done alone. There was a free world there beside the U.S., and our steadfast friends in Europe, Britain, Canada, and, yes, little Israel in the Middle East stood with us to stave off the red menace.

Realistically, we acknowledge that what we are glorying in is only a lull in the action. There are other ominous forces in the region that will have to be dealt with in due course. But for the moment, there are other matters to attend to.

For spiritually attuned people, those other matters distill into massive opportunities to demonstrate the reality of the gospel, which was railed on as a deluding opiate by Communist slaveholders. We have heard much about what must be done to help alleviate the spiritual hunger of those who were for so long denied truth about God and His Word; we must now turn our attention to long-term efforts.

People in the Western world tend to have rather short attention spans. Perhaps this is due in part to the “sound bite” conditioning of the media. When an event ceases to be a “grabber,” the media cranks up new visual imaging that quickly turns talk and attention to other things. The task at hand among the thousands who have trusted Christ in Russia and the republics is to equip them for the future. Solid training in doctrine, discipline, and; dedication to the obligation to evangelize are all long-term propositions—endeavors that will tax the energies and resources of believers for years to come.

Particular occurrences, such as those mentioned above, which symbolize what one is trying to convey, can indeed make the picture much clearer. A few weeks ago, a new student walked onto the campus of the Institute of Biblical Studies here in New Jersey. This very special student embodies all sides of the political and spiritual liberation of people once held captive behind the Iron Curtain. He is Russian. He is also Jewish. He is also a believer in Jesus as his Messiah. Politically, he is now a free man. Spiritually, he is eager to prepare for a life of service for his Lord. We can only speculate about what God will choose to do with this miracle of His grace. But we, by His grace, are determined to do all we can to contribute to equipping him to become all he’s designed to be for God’s glory.

Intriguingly, the student’s name is Mikhail. While that is a common name among Russian men, I can’t help thinking of something I’m sure has already crossed your mind. The last leader of the Communist empire and, ironically, the custodian of its dismantling was also a Mikhail. And so we pause at this reminder of the passing of the old order to salute the soldiers of the new day. Hail to all the Mikhails, Borises and those, by whatever name, who have been truly liberated by Christ and are forming their ranks, not to march past the occupied grave of one dead and discredited Communist, but the now-empty tomb of the Redeemer who has triumphed over death, hell, and the grave. We can be sure that they march at the orders of a superior Commander. And His battles are not waged to build walls to pen in hapless captives but, rather, “to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Lk. 4:18).

Speaking of momentous events, this issue of Israel My Glory marks the 50th anniversary of the magazine. As you read on, you will encounter some information about the past, a bit of nostalgia, and insights into the future course plotted for IMG. At this point, we can only speculate about how much time is left in which to labor or how many stunning new events are waiting at the crossroads ahead, but we are eager to report to you what the Lord will be doing through our ministry among the Jewish people in Israel and throughout our troubled world. We’re exceedingly grateful that you will be with us for the journey.

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