This evening marks the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this solemn day, I pause to reflect on two things: the Jews and their enemies.
I know more than a few Jews wept on May 14, 1948, when the state of Israel was born. For the first time in 2,000 years, the Jews could defend themselves. The Auschwitz flyover by IAF pilots a few years ago was one of the great circle-closings in all of history. Although Israel today has many enemies, many anti-Semites who seek to harm them, Israel is strong. Stronger even than many suspect.
The internet images of imprisoned Jews on the other side of the barbed wire from their descendants in the IDF are very moving.
Message from reality to the Jew-haters: Israel is here to stay.
By contrast, one almost struggles to comprehend the mindset of the enemies. Apart from understanding the Bible, and the origins of evil, I don’t believe one can fully understand. Such historic evil can only be explained by reading and believing Genesis chapter 3.
When an architect of the Holocaust, the Nazi Adolf Eichmann, was captured by Israeli agents in South America in 1961, it was a signal that while Divine Judgment is sometimes slow according to human standards, It is still sure and chilling.
Eichmann was taken to Israel—delicious irony—tried, convicted, and executed. Years before, at the war’s conclusion, the madman actually said:
“I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”
Such madness almost defies comprehension.
But it should be remembered. With anti-Semitism on the rise around the world, we must remember.
“Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he[a] came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:1-5)
Humanity never really changes. We often think “people are worse” now than ever before. Part of that is the 24/7 news cycle we can’t seem to escape from.
Yet I’m often struck by the commonality between eras and generations. The cuneiform tablets unearthed in Mesopotamia in the last couple centuries attest to that. Financial records, crime logs, personal letters…all reveal human frailties and character defects we display today. People were cheating on taxes then, robbing stores, committing adultery.
Just like today.
An interesting passage from Ezekiel, which highlights prophecies directly given from God to the prophet, shows us clearly that human nature never really changes. The passage comes from Ezekiel Chapter 12:26,27—
“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, the Israelites are saying, ‘The vision he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies about the distant future.'”
The context is the coming Babylonian invasion of Israel, due to the idolatrous nature of the Israelite kingdoms since Solomon’s kingdom was divided. Think about what the Israelites were telling God’s man, Ezekiel: No, the Lord isn’t telling us about our near future; He’s talking about something coming way off in the distance.”
Years from now. Decades. Centuries.
Typical human behavior.
Of course, we know (as they should have and perhaps really did) that the prophecy very much concerned their futures. Due to the punishments handed down by the Creator, the Israelites would either be slaughtered in the coming invasion, or they’d be taken into exile.
All that happened.
Likewise, Jesus and the apostles predicted certain things that would come to pass in the very last days of human history, around the time of Jesus’ Second Coming. Ironically, there are key scoffers in the Church claiming all these things (if they are even literal) are very far off. The scoffers even scoff about the Second Coming.
They could learn a few things from the ancient Israelites.
We are all on our own individual journey.
No matter who we are or where we live, we have similar issues. Even if we are not outwardly emotional or appear to be stoic, the big questions of life confront each one of us at some point.
At his country estate at Down, the British naturalist Charles Darwin had the advantage of independent wealth, which allowed him to spend the last several decades of his life doing literally anything he wanted.
Of course, what he wanted was to advance his philosophy of naturalism, even beating competitors like Alfred Russell Wallace to publication with his On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection.
While reading the brilliant book on Darwin, by Paul Johnson (Darwin: Portrait of a Genius), I was struck by the fact that Darwin cherished a “walking path” near his home. It was here he took strolls daily, his nimble mind crafting the means of marketing his philosophy to the masses; with this, he had enormous help from his friends like Thomas Huxley (“Darwin’s Bulldog”) and Herbert Spencer (who coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest”).
A walking path.
Darwin chose his lot in life, and we all do, really.
I have a walking path as well, near my modest home. It is secluded, bounded by woods and meadows. In fact, my walking path is so secluded, no one knows where it is. I mow it regularly in the spring and summer, and it is here I do my deepest thinking. I have been doing that since boyhood.
On the same path.
How different, though, are my thoughts from Darwin’s. Where he saw the cold, impersonal hand of Nature producing the world Tennyson called “red in tooth and claw,” I see beauty and purpose.
I hear the birds right now, in the heavy woods. I see cattle on, if not a thousand hills, quite a few. A dog runs through a pasture in the distance. My memories of tractor rides in this very meadow, with my grandfather, are still fresh. To be very honest, these thoughts and feelings make me feel good.
If that is my opiate, so be it.
For I believe that the cold, impersonal god of Darwin could not have made the birds, or the cattle or anything else. That god could certainly not develop my mind and heart in such a way that beauty and love and goodness bring a contentedness I am certain come from the God of the Bible.
Finches may have different beaks. Mild forms of erosion might explain modest examples of rock layers.
But only the Bible gives us a true picture of earth history and, more importantly, our own history. It is in the Bible that we learn where we came from, why we’re here, and where we’re going.
When I watch animals play, with all their intricacies, I marvel. When I consider that God had a purpose even in the flood of Noah, I marvel. When I see a re-born nation of Israel, defying all historical odds, I marvel.
I realize Darwin marveled at the world he fashioned in his mind. He saw purpose in it, I suppose. However, I am certain that his views of naturalism were philosophical, and not science in the sense we think of it today. Many will disagree with me, of course. Interestingly, the loudest voices of criticism today would come from within the Church.
I also know that Darwin and many of his colleagues suffered from lifelong depression.
The apostle Paul likened his life’s journey to a race. He wanted to finish well.
I might run sometimes in my life journey, or more often, stroll up and down my walking path. But I too want to finish well.
And it is only in the Bible that I find a world that makes sense to me. God has lit my path all my life, every step.
He is the only true God.