How does the Holy Spirit engage with us?
How did God deal with the Nazis?
(EXCITING NEWS: From this Saturday, November 15th, we have our own programme on PREMIER RADIO. The programme starts at 12:30pm GMT and will run for 6 weeks. Do put this in your diary! The programme will also be available on-demand from here.)
The horrors of the Holocaust must never be forgotten and there’s simply no space here to adequately get this idea across. Instead I urge those of you in the UK to visit the Holocaust experience, at the Imperial War Museum in London, or Yad Vashem in Israel or one of the Holocaust museums in the USA. You need to hear testimonies of the survivors, watch the Nazi propaganda films, see the evocative exhibits.
“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when not feeling it
I believe in God even when he is silent.”
This short poem was found on a wall in a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where Jews had hidden from the Nazis, but had ultimately perished. It speaks of a spirituality that has been severely challenged by the horrific events. Many lost faith; others clung on regardless. Jews cried out in utter anguish, but their Creator did not seem to hear. Jews prayed and there was no response. Jews died Kiddush HaShem, sanctifying the name of the Lord with their last breath on earth, and the heavens only responded with a deafening silence.
How could the Jews continue to believe in a God who allowed an Auschwitz to happen? It’s not humanly reasonable to do so; it’s like a rejection by a loved one. There is a sense in saying, ‘OK, you’ve let me down once too often, now leave me be to live the rest of my life in peace’. Who could blame many Jews, particularly Holocaust survivors, from doing so? Many did and have allowed the experiences of the Holocaust to dictate the rest of their days on earth. Others have been set free by the power of God.
One thing we must remind ourselves of is the fact that God views individual Jews differently to the Jewish nation as a whole. As individuals, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free; the Jew competes on an even playing field, so to speak. For each and every Jew who has ever lived, God offers a personal relationship on a one-to-one basis. The trouble is that, due to the actions of others, many of whom should have known better, the knowledge of this possibility was mostly kept from the Jewish people.
On the other hand, on a national level, the Jews are a Covenant people. As such there are responsibilities, leading to advantages or setbacks or, putting it more bluntly, blessings or curses.
On an individual basis, God is forever holding out His arms to us, whatever dire situation may surround us, whatever plans evil men and women may have for us. God’s word is clear on this. He will always show compassion on the weak and the defenceless, but the fate of these wicked is sealed and you can be assured that, for the Nazi perpetrators, their eventual fate would be far worse than their victims. Let us read Psalm 9.
“I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished. The LORD reigns for ever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted. O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation. The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The LORD is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God. But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish. Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men.”
This may have been little consolation for those facing the terrors at the hands of men and women without compassion, mercy or conscience but the fact remains that, in terms of life everlasting, God will provide a refuge for the oppressed, but for the oppressor – saving acts of sincere repentance and restitution (and very few of these have been documented) – no mercy will be shown. The Holocaust showed what man is capable of, but, in the final judgement that no-one will escape, all will see what God is capable of.