On July 6, 1924 a non-descript Scotsman approached the pulpit on 17 rue Bayard in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The building was L’église écossaise de Paris (The Scots Kirk, Paris), and the preacher was Eric Liddell, the ‘Flying Scot’ and great Olympic hope of the United Kingdom. He chose not to run that day in the prestigious Olympic 100 meter race held at the Stade Colombes stadium because it was held ‘on Shabbat’ – on Sunday (which he believed to be the Christian day of rest). Like Orthodox Jewish people, Liddell refused to engage in secular pursuits and efforts on his sabbath. Instead, he stood at the pulpit and preached a message from Isaiah 40:
- Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales. Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. It is He who sits above the circle of the earth (and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers), who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to live in. It is He who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless . . . Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, YHVH, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives strength to the weary, and to the one who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for YHVH will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:15, 17, 22-23, 28-31)
The Academy Awards-winning film ‘Chariots of Fire’ (see 2 Kings 2:11) focused on the lives of these two Olympians – Eric Liddell (a Scottish Christian) and Harold Abrams (a British Jewish athlete). The theme in both men’s lives involved being faithful to one’s convictions and values, as well as the character needed to go against the stream. The film reminds us all about what counts, and especially what counts in God’s eyes. This jogging of memory is so helpful in our present day. “If you are not guided by God, you will be guided by something or someone else” (Eric Liddell, British Olympian).
Playing by the Book
Five days after his Paris sermon, Liddell was preparing for the Olympic 400-meter final on the morning of July 11, 1924 where he would win the gold. He was handed a folded square of paper by one of the team masseurs. Reading it later he found the message: “In the Old Book it says: ‘He that honours me I will honour.’ Wishing you the best of success always.” The reference here was to 1 Samuel 2:30.
In that passage YHVH honors those who honor Him and His precepts, but condemns those showing contempt for God’s word and His commandments: “But now YHVH declares, ‘Far be it from Me! For those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be insignificant.’” Eric Liddell had brought his message about the fear of the Lord and obedience to His word directly into the popular forum of the world of sports. He played by the Book and he received his reward.
Chariots of fire
The ‘chariots of fire’ in the movie are described in the Bible as angels who carry out God’s orders and judgments on the earth:
- “He makes the winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers” (Psalm 104:4)
- “And regarding the angels He says, ‘He makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire’” (Hebrews 1:7)
- “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11)
In the Scriptures the Holy One of Israel is described as a consuming fire:
- “And to the eyes of the sons of Israel, the appearance of the glory of YHVH was like a consuming fire on the mountain top” (Exodus 24:17)
- “For YHVH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24)
- “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let’s show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
A day is coming when the God of Israel will re-establish His truth over a planet which increasingly spurns His message and His ways:
- For behold, YHVH will come in fire, and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For YHVH will execute judgment by fire and by His sword on humanity, and those put to death by YHVH will be many (Isaiah 66:15-16)
The context of fire
Isaiah tells us under prophetic unction, that the return of God and His fiery angels comes in an international context regarding the Jewish people – how the nations have voted against Jacob’s welfare and restoration; how YHVH has determined to bless those who bless Israel, but how He has also determined to condemn those who scorn or curse the Jewish people (see Genesis 12:3):
- “Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her. Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, so that you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, so that you may drink fully and be delighted with her bountiful breasts. For this is what YHVH says: ‘Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream. And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and rocked back and forth on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you, and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, and your bones will flourish like the new grass. And the hand of YHVH will be made known to His servants, but He will be indignant toward His enemies” (Isaiah 66:10-14)
As the world in general and the still-united USA seem to be stumbling at midday (see Isaiah 59:10, 14) over God’s heart for Israel, for innocent life, for purity and for justice, let’s remember the words of Jeremiah 30:16-17 where YHVH gives us a prophetic foreshadowing of how He will render back upon the nations according to their heart-attitude to the Jewish people:
- Therefore all who devour you will be devoured. And all your adversaries, every one of them, will go into captivity. And those who plunder you will become plunder, and all who plunder you I will turn into plunder. For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds, declares YHVH, because they have called you an outcast, saying, “It is Zion; no one cares for her!”
Run but don’t stumble
If we are to run the race in a way which will please God, we need to know what the rules of the competition are. Those rules have been laid out in the Old Book and in the New Book – the Bible. That Book says that the Jewish people are the people of the Book, the nation who has been entrusted with the original Scriptures:
- He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt this way with any other nation. And as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise YHVH! (Psalm 147:19-20)
- Then what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?Great in every respect. First, that they were entrusted with the actual words of God (Romans 3:1-2)
- For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29)
It is painfully obvious that most world leaders and world media are not factoring God’s word and His strategically warm heart for Israel into how politics and news are to be pursued. It is therefore up to us who follow Yeshua to stay on target and “run the race with endurance that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). “If you have run with infantrymen and they have tired you out, how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket by the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5)
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win!” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
How should we then pray?
- Pray for rest, peace, trust and bold joy to fill the hearts of weary saints who are being worn down by the enemy
- Pray for believers to receive divine revelation about the importance of accurately following God’s original intent in understanding and teaching His word about Israel
- Pray for an outpouring of renewed vision and commitment to shine Yeshua’s light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:14-16)
- Pray for the raising up of the Ezekiel 37 prophetic army among the Jewish people
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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