Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau in November 2011.
“So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name….O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” (Daniel 9:17-19)
In November, after teaching on Bible prophecy and God’s love for Israel and the Jewish people at a wonderful, pro-Israel evangelical church in Germany , I had the opportunity to travel to Krakow, Poland with the pastor of that church and his wife, and a dear pastor friend from the U.S., and his wife. Together, the five of us spent a day touring the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps not far from Krakow. None of us had ever been there before. None of us will ever forget the experience. More than 1.3 million prisoners were brought to the camps by the Nazis during World War II. Of those, 1.1 million were exterminated in the gas chambers and the crematoria. One million were Jews. So many of them were children.
It is difficult to describe my emotions as a Jewish person as I stood inside one of the Nazi gas chambers. Or walked through rooms filled with enormous glass cases filled with human hair. And glasses. And shoes. And suitcases from all over Europe. How can one explain the inexplicable? With the help of my eldest son, Caleb, I’ve produced a short video report from Auschwitz that we’ve posted on The Joshua Fund’s website to share with you, at least, some of the images that my colleagues and I saw at the camps. At the end of the video, you’ll also see an excerpt of a speech that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered in 2010. He said that the prophecies of Ezekiel 37 regarding the “Valley of the Dry Bones” were fulfilled during the Holocaust and the subsequent resurrection of the State of Israel. I couldn’t agree more. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the video and encourage your friends and family to watch it as well.
My time at Auschwitz raised many sobering questions. Among them: Why was the world silent for so long? Why didn’t the U.S. and the allies take decisive action to stop Hitler before it was nearly too late? Why didn’t the Church do more to rescue Jews? As difficult as these questions are to answer, more difficult still are these: Why is much of the world largely silent again today as Radical Muslims in Tehran and elsewhere in the Middle East threaten to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people? Why are the U.S. and our allies refusing to take decisive action now to neutralize the Iran nuclear threat before it’s too late?
That said, I am glad to be able to report some good news: More and more Christians are repenting for the Church’s sins against the Jewish people in the past. The Church is mobilizing today to bless Israel and the Jewish people in ways that to her shame she did not in the 1930s and 1940s. More followers of Jesus Christ are hearing and heeding the call to learn, pray, give and go to the work of the Lord and caring for Holocaust survivors today than ever before. More Christians are helping persecuted Jews emigrate to Israel than ever before. More Christians are helping to feed and clothe the poor and needy in Israel than ever before. More Christians are visiting the Holy Land and meeting Israelis and learning about the past, present, and the future of the Promised Land and the Chosen people than ever before. Not all. And not enough. But more than ever. This is good, but more must be done. Evil is rising once again. Israel faces existential threats. The world is increasingly turning a blind eye to the fate of the Jews. Now evangelical Christians are the best friends that Israel and the Jewish people have. We cannot undo the past. But we can ask the Lord to forgive us and ask Him for the courage to be faithful to the Scriptures and to the Jewish people in the times in which we live. We can bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3. We can show unconditional love and unwavering support, come what may. This is the heart of The Joshua Fund. That’s what’ our work is all about. And visiting Auschwitz was another powerful reminder to me personally that this work is more vital and urgent than ever.
As 2011 ends, therefore, I see the gathering storm on the horizon, but I am not frightened or discouraged. I know the God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. I know He is moving powerfully. I know the Lord is taking what man meant for evil and turning it for good. Indeed, the Lord is moving powerfully to care for His people, Israel, and turn their hearts back to Him and His Word. And for this reason I rejoice. I look forward to 2012. I’m determined to stay the course, and I hope and pray that you will be, too.
“Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:11-14)
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