Who is the God of your fathers, to you?
Is He, as Abraham discovered, "Thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward?" [Genesis 15:1]
Or, do you, like some of your brethren, despair of His very existence? "If there is a God of love," they ask, "why did He allow six million Jews to die in the Holocaust?" To some, it seems that God Himself must be numbered among the dead.
No doubt, we can never fully comprehend the immensity of this travesty. But, if we would begin to understand where God was during this hideous chapter of history, we must turn to His Book.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea..." In the face of total chaos, God speaks to us: "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." [Psalm 46]
There is peace in the valley of death's shadow, for the heart that knows "Thou art with me." [Psalm 23]
However, lofty words, if that is all they are, will be like salt rather than salve to the sore. So it was with Job, who in spite of the eloquence of his friends, could find no satisfying reason for his sufferings. But as we look back on his story, it is evident that Job's many sorrows were inflicted, not by the hand of God, but rather by Satan. True, God allowed the Evil One a reign of terror over one of his select servants. But He also limited the scope and duration of Job's affliction. In the end, Job's dark days were turned to light as God revealed Himself to him, and restored his losses. [see Job chapters 1-2 and 42]
God was not the author of Job's troubles. But He did allow evil to befall him, in order that a greater good might come. Job's case, rather than being unusual, is actually representative of God's dealing in the affairs of mankind. The pattern is recurrent throughout the Scriptures. Was it not God, the shield of Abraham, who allowed Israel to suffer under cruel task masters in Egypt? Yes, in fact, God had foretold that their bondage would last 400 years, before He would bring them out. [Genesis 15:13-18]
Abraham's great grandson, Joseph, who oversaw Israel's move into Egypt, believed God's promise. He knew God would prove faithful through centuries of travail. Remember how he gave commandment that when God visited His people to carry them up to the land of promise, they should carry his bones up with them? [Genesis 50:24-26]
Joseph himself had known unjust suffering: sold into slavery by his brothers, imprisoned under the false charges of his master's wife. But through it all, Joseph saw God's hand at work. For God raised him out of prison and slavery to be Pharaoh's right hand man. Joseph's sufferings and subsequent elevation were the means by which God provided for aged Jacob and his family through the years of famine. As Joseph told his brothers: "What you did to me, you meant for evil. But God meant it for good." [Genesis 50:20]
By any stretch of the imagination, could this possibly be said of the Holocaust? The full story will not be known, until Messiah establishes His reign. Therefore, our thoughts on this question are necessarily incomplete and preliminary... But consider that for 1900 years, since the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 A.D., the Jewish people lived in diaspora, scattered throughout the nations. They made homes for themselves in their adopted lands, and enjoyed varying measures of wealth and power. They were amazingly successful in maintaining their identity as Jews in an often hostile world.
For most, "next year in Jerusalem" was a noble aspiration which was impossible to accomplish. Some were content where they were. For others, who would have "made aliya," there was no place to which "to go up."
Yet, all along, the Lord said that they would return to their land. "For lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and will cause them to return to the land that I gave their fathers, and they shall possess it." [Jeremiah 30:3]
When the time came, the State of Israel became a reality, practically overnight. In the wake of the Holocaust, Jews universally felt an urgent need for a place of safety. Simultaneously, the gentile powers, stunned by the inhumanity of man to man, allowed Israel to take root. There was a brief window of political opportunity, which was unprecedented and probably unrepeatable, and Israel re-entered the land. But would it have come to pass without the Holocaust?
God's promises are being fulfilled. Yet, God did not bring this suffering upon His people. Rather, evil men, inflamed by the Evil One, expressed hatred toward the Lord by touching the "apple of His eye." God thwarted their boasts of a "final solution" by raising up those whom they would have put down. As the psalmist observed: "In Judah is God known; His Name is great in Israel... Surely, the wrath of man shall praise thee..." [Psalm 76]
Having said that, we cannot yet say that Israel's sufferings are all behind her. If it were so, there would be no knifings in her streets, no bombings on her buses, no cries of "jihad" from her neighbors. But when the Redeemer comes, "Violence shall no more be heard in the land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise." [Isaiah 60:18]
"O that the Salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!
When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of His people,
Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad." [Psalm 14:7]
In that day, the Lord will wipe away all tears from their eyes [Isaiah 25:8].
But we seldom take notice of His tears. Have you read the Lamentations of Jeremiah over the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple? [For example, see Lamentations 1:1-12.]
It is not so much the prophet, as the Lord who weeps for His people. "In all their affliction, He was afflicted..." [Isaiah 63:9]
When the time is right, the promised Redeemer will give to Israel "...the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness..." [Isaiah 61:1-3]. Yet, it is also written of Him: "Surely, He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." [Isaiah 53] Would it trouble you to know that He, like Joseph of old, bore undeserved sorrows, while awaiting His brethren to recognize Him as their Hope and their Salvation?