The 90th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration
How do we feel compared to those alive at the time of the Declaration?
Thursday, November 01, 2007
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This Friday November 2nd is the 90th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. This is David Billington with the November 1st edition of the Bible in the News. On October 31st, 1917 in the third battle of Gaza led by the British General Allenby, the British succeeded in braking through the Turkish defenses at Beersheba. A key engagement in that battle was a bold charge by 500 members of the Light Horse Regiments of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACS), into the Turkish lines in Beersheba. This event was reenacted in Beersheba this past Wednesday with great fanfare. On November 2nd, 1917 the British government issued the Balfour Declaration by way of a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to a British Jewish leader named Lord Walter Rothschild, who was to inform the Zionist Federation.
The letter was not written by Balfour but had been written, rewritten and revised for months. The early draft was watered down, it read: "His Majesty's Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people. His Majesty's Government will use its best endeavors to secure the achievement of this object..." The actual declaration read: "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object..."
The importance of the Balfour declaration is summed up in a book entitled, "And the hills shouted for joy", with these words: "The Balfour Declaration was the first public acknowledgment by a Great Power of the Jewish connection with Palestine as well as an undertaking by that government to help restore the Jewish people to its homeland. For the first time a sovereign government had entered into a pact with a people scattered over the face of the earth to return them to a land..." The declaration along with the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine became the legal cornerstones for the Jewish State. The text from the Balfour Declaration was incorporated in the Mandate which gave international sanction for the establishment of a Jewish National home. Britain never fulfilled her promise in the Mandate or Balfour Declaration. Britain left the Middle East leaving confusion and chaos in her wake in 1948, out of which God brought the Jewish National home. Britain could never take credit for establishing the Jewish state.
In the first draft of the Balfour declaration the phrase "the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted" as a national home echos the words of scripture in Acts 3:20,21: "And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." The restoration of the kingdom to Israel is part of the Hope of Israel--the hope of the 12 tribes. In Acts 26 the Apostle Paul put it this way: "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come." This hope of Israel has to do with a nation, it is a national hope and this is the way the Apostle Paul spoke of it. When we are baptized into Christ we become part of the commonwealth of Israel and embrace the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:12). The National hope of Israel becomes our hope, so that our hopes and aspirations are intimately connected with the nation and the subjects thereof. There were two occasions when it is recorded that the Lord Jesus Christ wept, one was due to the death of Lazarus and the other was when he beheld the city Jerusalem and knowing what the Romans would do to his beloved city--the city of the great king--he wept. When the nation suffers we feel the pain, when the nation rejoices we rejoice with Jerusalem and shout for joy!
So it was in November 1917. In the December 1917 number of the Christadelphian Magazine an article entitled "Britain and Zionism", commences with the words: "The Christadelphian is 'dedicated wholly to The Hope of Israel, arising out of the Covenants made by God with Abraham and David,' and through the world-outlook is dark beyond description, the Hope of Israel never shone more brightly than to-day. Nov. 2nd, 1917, will be remembered in Israel both after the flesh and the spirit, for on that day Great Britain officially recognized Zionism, and definitely took up the position assigned in the prophets to latter day Tarshish (Isaiah 60:9). Mr. Balfour sent the following letter to Lord Rothschild... It goes without saying that this announcement sent a thrill of joy throughout the brotherhood, and many are the expressions thereof that have reached us." Brother C. A. Ladson comments under the heading "The Jews and Zionism", he wrote: "The declaration of the sympathy of the British Government in the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews, has thrilled to the hearts of the Brethren of Christ the world over. There would be few ecclesias where, on the Sunday morning following the Declaration, the theme would not be joyfully enlarged upon, and the whole service in prayers, hymns, and anthems, be warmly touched with the emotion generated by such a vindication of our faith. 'The thing was done suddenly,' striking one for the moment dumb with silence. 'We were as them that dream.'"
We are now 90 years closer to the return of the King of Israel. The nation has moved on tremendously, many Jews have returned from the four corners of the earth. It is a time for us to pause and reflect on our hopes and aspirations. How do we feel about the Hope of Israel? We need to adopt the excitement of those in 1917 who rejoiced and were glad at the events they witnessed. We need to fill our hearts with those hymns and anthems that are in the class of the Songs of Zion.
If the Lord Jesus Christ remains away come back next week God willing for another consideration of the Bible in the News.
Printed: Thursday, November 01, 2007
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