By Daniel C. Juster | www.tikkunministries.org | Originally published in Israel’s Restoration Newsletter
Most media leaders have been euphoric over the revolutions taking place in the Middle-Eastern Arab world. Dictatorships are being swept away; power is now in the hands of the people! Or at least this is the officially perceived wisdom of the day. Many are the editorials in the conservative and moderate newspapers in Israel warning of the great dangers ahead. Few are such reports in the Western press!
Many political leaders in the West are not in touch with reality. The head of national intelligence in the U. S. declared that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a mostly secular organization. The head of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has returned to Egypt from exile, is said to be a moderate according to many Western politicians. In such a context, the word moderate is stretched beyond any reasonable definition. This particular leader is an anti-Semite, vilifies the Jewish state, and calls for a world Islamic Caliphate! It is said that he (that is the Brotherhood) is almost assured a great electoral influence because his views are considered absolutely mainstream in Egyptian society. By some estimates, two million people turned out to welcome his return. Is this not uncomfortably frightening?
The revolutions are fraught with danger for Israel and the West, but most do not want to face the danger. The word democracy seems more important than the content of the democracy. Democracy is not an automatic force for justice.
Am I defending the dictatorships of the Arab world? No. These dictators are getting their just deserts because they did not train their people in the moral and civic virtues that could have led to a true republican form of government. That training should have fostered values that have been a key in free societies. They could have moved their societies toward greater freedom, while still banning parties and individuals who professed Islamic radicalism, just as Germany continues to ban the Nazis. In their hearts, these dictators were simply not committed to the values of human rights, dignity, and political empowerment for groups affirming true human rights.
Wisdom from the Founding Fathers of the United States
The founding fathers of the United States were very clear on several crucial axioms for government. First, the vote is only one part of a republican form of government. They were careful to note that they did not believe in democracy and associated it with mob rule. They actually wanted only educated voters. After all, the 51% could vote to destroy the 49% in a pure democracy. True democracy is mob rule. This is why the idea of true democracy horrified the founders. Constitutional checks and balances, the separation of powers into three branches of government (legislative, judicial and executive), defined rights and freedoms, representative government and more were seen as crucial to a republic. In addition, they understood the character of the people as foundational. For John Adams, this character was formed by Christianity, and without that character formation, there could be no lasting free society. Adams said that the form of government he supported would only work for the kind of biblically rooted people that populated the colonies.
Alarming Tales of Democracy
So let’s look at a few cautionary tales in regard to the call for democracy: Iran, Gaza, Lebanon and Germany. Many Western leaders backed the removal of the Shah of Iran, who was slowly westernizing his country. They welcomed the return of the Ayatollah Komaini. Within a short period, he overthrew the moderates and, years later, had one of the early prime ministries, Shapuar Baktiar, a man who stood for human rights, murdered in France. In the Palestinian territories, free elections put Hamas, a terrorist group, in power. In Lebanon, democracy has given Hezbollah, another terrorist organization, enough votes to veto the rest of the Parliament and to essentially control the government. We should never forget that Hitler was elected. Why Western leaders and media deny that this is a likely but not certain scenario is amazing. It is either denial and blindness or incredible ignorance! Few reported that some of the revolutionaries chanted that they would march on Israel – all the while shouting, “Death to the Jews.”
The Danger of Our Times
We are now entering a very dangerous time in the Middle East. If Egypt falls to an Islamic controlled government, in the pattern of Turkey (it took some years) or Iran, it will be very bad for Israel. Can we be confident in a people where the majority of women are still forced to undergo genital mutilation? The backwards nature of many of the people should not give us confidence in their readiness for democratic government. People have to first be trained or discipled in human rights.
Justice, Israel and the Arabs
This leads to the issue of justice in the Middle East. Some focus on the microcosm. They get all worked up over Jewish injustices to innocent Palestinians. Sometimes the issues are valid and sometimes they are trumped up. However, if one focuses on the macrocosm, we note that there are 21 Arab nations and only one Jewish nation in the whole world. Jordan is predominantly Palestinian, and if a Palestinian state is created in the West Bank and Gaza there will be two Palestinian majority Arab states. Whatever one’s view of forming such a new state, the macrocosm justice issue is very clear in the whole light of Jewish history. The Jewish state must be supported as a foundational issue of justice.
My view echoes that of John Adams. I do not really even trust the long term prospects in the West for freedom, justice and respect for human rights because the West has drifted, and is now drifting further, from its Biblical roots. I certainly do not trust the long term prospects in countries that profess Islam. I believe that the answer is always and only in the Gospel. Only coming to Yeshua and embracing His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount can deliver Arabs from violence, hate and tyranny. We say that the Gospel is to the Jew first, but there is no greater second focus for prayer and witness than the Gospel to the Islamic world and especially the Arab world. This is why our related ministries support, in large ways, Arab Gospel witness.
I wish I could be more optimistic, but until we see a change in the hearts of peoples, we will have to support a balance of power arrangement between blocks of nations and a judicious navigation of foreign policy that is not given to fantasy. Many of Islam’s top scholars say that democracy is only a temporary expedient since Allah should rule through a council of top religious leaders who enforce Shariah law. That law is a disaster for minorities and for women. Only a balance of power arrangement can limit the potential damage of the dangerous Islamic Arab and Islamic Iranian expansionism. Containment and eventually defeat have to be the order of the day. As followers in Yeshua, we need to also face the fact that the relativistic and multi-cultural West may not have either the will or the means for a strong stand. We may not see victory until the return of Yeshua.
Let us pray for our political leaders in the U. S. and the West. Some do have open eyes and some are speaking out, but they are the minority. May we yet see these many peoples under the bondage of Islam delivered and come into the glorious liberty of being children of God in Yeshua.
Dan Juster, a Messianic Jew living in Jerusalem, is Director of Tikkun Ministries.
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People, News Tagged with: Ayatollah Komaini, daniel c juster, egypt, Germany, Guest Writer: Dan Juster, israel, Jerusalem, John Adams, Lebanon, Middle East, muslim brotherhood, Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” -1 Tim. 1.15
The phrase “peccator justus” is Latin for, “justified sinner.” I am not a Latin expert, or anything close to one actually, but the two words are reverberating through my mind and heart as I type today. Here is the reason why:
On December 9th, 1968 a man named Karl Barth- a Swiss/German theologian- was working on writing a lecture. Barth was probably the most well-known theologian of the 20th century. He was a controversial man, who was known to challenge the categories of both Liberal and Evangelical theologians, and to shake the dusty definitions of God that had crippled the world of theology. He resisted the Nazi Regime’s falsely concocted version of Scripture and Church, personally mailing his statement to Hitler himself, for which reason he lost his esteemed position as a professor in Germany at the University of Bonn. The beloved Evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce noted that Barth’s 1919 commentary on Romans fell “like a bombshell on the theologians’ playground, and we are still feeling its reverberations today.”
He challenged the entire landscape of 20th century theology, jolting systems of thought and calling scholars and pastors to let God be God over their labors and studies. He said that we needed to recover the “Godness of God,” and to hear Paul’s spirit beneath the surface of the NT texts. He hand-wrote over 20,000 pages of theology over the course of 50-plus years in theological work. I may not agree with all of his theological conclusions, nor all of the decisions he made over the course of many years in pastoral ministry, theological labors, and authorship. But I really appreciate the man, and so much of what the Lord brought to the Church through him. The fruit of his labors goes on in the lives of many believers who have never heard his name and who are not likely to ever read one of his books.
Back to December 9th of ’68. Barth was 82 year of age, and by this time he “spoke of his death remarkably often and even wanted to talk about the details of his funeral.” Being the thinker, theologian, and pastor that he was, Barth had reflected on the reality of death and eternity very long and very hard for many decades. When he visited the U.S. in 1962, he was put on the cover of TIME magazine in painted form, standing in front of Jesus’ empty tomb with his own words as a banner above: “The goal of the human life is not death, but resurrection.”
Now he was aged, and even seemed to sense that his days were drawing to a close. In some of his last letters written, he made these awesome statements:
Looking back, I have no serious complaints about anyone or anything: except my own failures today, yesterday, the day before yesterday and the day before that- I mean my failures in real gratitude. Perhaps I still have bitter days ahead, and certainly my death will come sooner or later. One thing remains, for me to remember and impress upon myself…. ‘Do not forget the good that He has done!’
… How do I know whether I shall die easily or with difficulty? I only know that my dying, too, is part of my life… And then- this is the destination, the limit and the goal for all of us- I shall no longer ‘be’, but I shall be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ, in and with my whole ‘being,’ with all the real good and the real evil that I have thought, said and done, with all the bitterness that I have suffered and all the beauty that I have enjoyed. There I shall only be able to stand as the failure that I doubtless was in all things, but… by virtue of His promise, as a peccator justus. And as that I shall be able to stand. Then… in the light of grace, all that is now dark will become very clear.
It’s remarkable how tender and sensitive to mercy a man becomes when he is on the edge of eternity. All of a sudden, the grudges we have held, the suspicions we have harbored, the fears which have ruled us, the possessions we’ve coveted, and the self-righteousness we’ve carried, all become utter vanity before the reality of standing face to face with the God of all creation. Before the Light of His unveiled glory, every one of us have marks of the intensest soul-stains, and we realize that all of our boasting has no merit whatsoever- all of our religious and social facades are exposed for the falsities that they are, and we are moved to cry out for the reality of mercy.
Barth was interrupted from writing his lecture by the phone calls of two friends. One of them, a man named Eduard Thurneysen, had “remained faithful to him over sixty years. They talked about the gloomy world situation. Then Barth said, ‘But keep your chin up! Never mind! He will reign!‘”
These would become his last recorded words.
“… Barth did not go back to his draft which he had left in the middle of a sentence, but put it aside until the next day. However, he did not live that long. He died peacefully some time in the middle of the night. He lay there as though asleep, with his hands gently folded from his evening prayers. So his wife found him the next morning, while in the background a record was playing the Mozart with which she had wanted to waken him.”
Interestingly enough, before he breathed his last “he had been writing a few sentences of the draft for his lecture in which he was saying that in the church it is always important to listen to the Fathers who have gone before in the faith. For ‘God is not a God of the dead but of the living. In him they all live.'”
If we would walk with a greater consciousness of the fragility and preciousness of life, and the reality of death, we would become in a more concentrated manner, a people of mercy. We all fall under the category of ‘peccator.’ We have sinned, and worse, our souls actually consist of the substance of iniquity and wickedness. Sin is not only a litany of things we’ve committed, it’s a part of our very fiber and nature as humans. Yet death approaches for each one of us, and immediately following the breathing of our last breath, we encounter the One Who made heaven and earth. As Barth said, “I only know that my dying, too, is part of my life…” The only hope that any of us have is in the cross of Jesus Christ. Only He has the power to yank us from the category of sinner (peccator), and to place us within the glorious family of those who have been justified and transformed by the power of His indestructible life (peccator justus)!
When Christ has transformed our hearts, we can face the adversities of life, and the shakings and tumblings of the Kingdoms of this world in the same vein that Barth encouraged:
“… keep your chin up! Never mind! He will reign!“
He will reign, saints, and no matter what befalls the nations in these last days, however dim your vision is at present, there is a vital and eternal hope for those who have repented and believed the Son of God. He will reign, and the proof is in your own justification before the throne of God. Rejoice, then, in so great a salvation! Let your heart send streams of enraptured gratitude to the Savior!
There will come a day when the saints will inherit the manifested reality of resurrected and glorified bodies. The propensity for sin, the pulls of temptation, the stubborn presence of pride and self-consciousness, fatigue and sickness will once and for all be removed from our experience. Our fallibility and dim sights will be totally submerged in the Light of His wonderful perfections. Glorious day!
Until then, we turn to Him day by day, that His likeness and glory might rise in our present experience. We’ve been justified by the power of a Blood which speaks better than the blood of Abel. We have a radically opened access to righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. One day, our justification before God will be manifested in full, but until that day dawns, let us receive the Spirit of Holiness in increasing measure. Let us go from glory to glory and from faith to faith, hastening the day of His return, and letting our newfound light shine before men. As A.W. Tozer once stated:
What God is seeking is a people in the earth who will trust him now as completely as they know they must at the final day.
“… keep your chin up! Never mind! He will reign!“
(All Barth quotes taken from Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts, Eberhard Busch; Fortress Press, 1975, pp. 497-499; Tozer quote from an audio message)
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: F.F. Bruce, Germany, Karl Barth, Paul, theologians, theology, time magazine