The world gathered in London this August for the 30th Summer Olympic Games. Athletes from every nation competed for the gold, silver and bronze medals which would crown the planet’s top sportsmen and women. It was the most watched TV event in U.S. history (219.4 million), while the closing ceremony alone had an estimated global audience of 750 million. “One billion watch star-studded finale to greatest Games,” screamed the headlines of the Daily Mirror. Sleepy London Town has planned and hosted a huge world event of global significance.
The Games’ Chairman Lord Sebastian Coe proclaimed at the closing ceremony, “We lit up the flame and we lit up the world … What we have begun will not stop now. The spirit of the Games will inspire a generation.” Robert Hardman of the Daily Mail declared that the 30th Olympiad “will be one of the defining moments in Britain’s 21st Century history.”
In sunny England, a land given to understatement and fondly self-mocking humor, such superlatives stand out. So what exactly was the significance of the Games – not just for Britain, but for the world – and how will “the spirit of these Games” inspire a new generation?
Running the race
The modern Olympic Games are a relatively new phenomenon (1896) though they draw their inspiration from Greek athletic culture. The famed historic Marathon run of Pheidippides was quite an exploit of physical exertion, but the account was transformed and dramatized somewhat inaccurately through the years (see Robert Browning’s ‘Pheidippides,’ www.online-literature.com/robert-browning/shorter-poems/6/).
The Apostle Paul was not acquainted with the modern form of Olympics (since they only began in 1896 AD), but he did use Greek foot races and wrestling (sports of which all his readers were aware) as illustrations is his teachings:
- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1)
- “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
The commitment, discipline and passion of these sportsmen also speaks of our divine calling to press onward and upward for the prize:
- “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Messiah Yeshua took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Recalibrating national myths
The 2012 Games were foremost about the athletes themselves – their achievements, efforts and victories. Every move of each contestant was voraciously consumed by media watchers worldwide. Successes and failures were open to the eyes of all. World records were broken. Two individuals in particular drew international amazement – Michael Phelps (the most decorated Olympian ever) and Usain Bolt (considered the best sprinter of all time).
Many commentators believe that these Olympics also had specific significance for England. Phrases were spoken over the past two weeks like “rediscovering a sense of possibility that had been muted,” “a nation relaunched,” “a different Britain,” “a greater sense of inclusion,” and “a recalibration of the national myth.”
Ecclesiastes 7:8 notes that “the end of the matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” The closing ceremony summed up all the hopes, drama and joys of the Games, and it is worth considering what this final message communicated to the world about Britain as well as about the values and beliefs of the international world community.
The creative director and choreographer of the closing ceremony Kim Gavin (producer of 2007’s Concert for Diana) explained that this Olympic finale was “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” “Music has been Britain’s strongest cultural export of the last fifty years and we intend to produce an Olympic closing ceremony what will be a unique promotion of great British popular music” (www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19094398).
Called “A Symphony of British Music,” the closing ceremony involved 4,100 performers (including 3,500 adult volunteers, 380 schoolchildren and 230 professionals). The arena’s stage centerpiece was modeled on the Union Jack, while newspaper clipping became the motifs on the set and on road vehicles – all conveying the theme “A Day in the Life of London”, with apologies to John Lennon. Printed quotes from literary masters from Samuel Butler to William Shakespeare and Rudyard Kipling covered buildings, motorcars and streets across the set. One wag described it as “London landmarks wrapped in newsprint like fish and chips.” But it was the literary heritage that was meant to be the focus here.
Imagining a world without God
Over thirty British pop singers and rock bands led the concert through a medley of hits which Cole Moreton of The Telegraph described as “the Brit-pop equivalent of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” Over all hovered the memory of John Lennon and the Beatles. From “A Day in The Life” to “Because,” from “Here Comes the Sun” to “I Am the Walrus,” the Fab Four’s verve and word-smithery was saluted.
At one point in the festivities, a face-mask of John Lennon was assembled out of 101 plastic interlocking forms, and then scattered to the stage wings, all done to the music of Lennon’s anthem “Imagine.” The words of that song are deeply significant in themselves, and especially as an anthem of this global community gathering.
“Imagine there’s no heaven – It’s easy if you try.
No hell below us, above us only sky.
Imagine all the people living for today …
Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too.
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will live as one”
(“Imagine”, words and music John Lennon, © 1971 Lenono Music; administered by EMI Blackwood Music Inc.)
The Daily Mail noted that “there was a definite warm and fuzzy moment when the audience started singing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’” “Hearing 80.000 people sing … (is) a globally communal experience” (Robert Hardman, Telegraph) “No amps are needed when you have every voice in the world singing along” (Sarah Robinson, CTV).
In Geoffrey Giuliano’s book Lennon in America (Cooper Square Press, 2000) John Lennon is quoted as stating that the song Imagine was “anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic … but because it’s sugar-coated, it’s accepted.”
Though one commentator described the ceremony as “reverent of the past but hopeful of the future,” we probably need to ask an uncomfortable question here: What does YHVH think about this global experience – a people’s choir of 80,000 voices proclaiming that world peace and unity will be a reality when mankind rejects belief in heaven and hell, in YHVH Himself, and in Yeshua the Messiah of Israel as Savior of the world?
The singing of this world anthem was much more than simply a warm and fuzzy moment.
Defending the Faith?
In the country that birthed Donne, Cranmer, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Fox, Bunyan, Edwards, Wesley, Whitfield, Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Carey, Booth, Hudson Taylor, Stott and Martin Smith – this “Imagine” choir reveals a different England than the one lauded by Shakespeare in Richard II,
“This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle … This other Eden, demi-paradise;
This happy breed of men, this little world;
This precious stone set in the silver sea, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England” (Richard II, Act ii, Scene 1)
The journey from “All Hail the Power” to William Blake’s “Jerusalem” has finally ended up at the crossroads – a mass confession in the heart of London, witnessed by 750 million people, which denies the faith and power of God, the truth of the Holy Scriptures and the foundations of the British Reformation. Jarring as it may be to some, this is where John Bull lives today.
One of the titles and offices of the Queen of England is Fidei Defensor or “Defender of the Faith” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidei_defensor).
- Pray that Queen Elizabeth and those who come after her will once again stand up to defend the faith entrusted to them in both public and private spheres
From Brit-Pop to Gay Rock
Gay and bisexual pop and rock singers took their place center stage in the closing ceremonies. From George Michael to Jessie J, from Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys to photos and snippets of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust days – one homosexual blogger described the roster as “a virtual gay pride parade.” “London closes 2012 Summer Olympic games with a celebration of British music talent including top gay and bisexual names” said another.
Even Freddie Mercury of Queen was drafted in hologram fashion, “rousing the crowd virtually with a call-and-response routine” (Jasper Rees, www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19195421).
The acceptance and prominence granted to these artists who champion gay lifestyles and values show how drastically the moral consensus in Britain has changed over the past century.
The quintessential British rock band The Who ended the ceremony with a bang. “Of all the voices of the Closing Ceremony, The Who was the one the world heard last” (Sarah Robinson, CTV). They chose three songs, “Baba O’Riley,” “See Me, Feel Me” (the anthem from the rock opera Tommy), and “My Generation.”
Part of the song “Baba O’Riley” was written by Pete Townsend describing what he witnessed during The Who’s set at Woodstock in 1969. The absolute drug-induced desolation of many teenagers (bad LSD trips and assorted psychotic manifestations) profoundly affected him, and his song ruefully declares, “Teenage wasteland, it’s only teenage wasteland – they’re all wasted!” (Guitar World, Vol. 30, number 9, page 76). The tragedy had turned into a farcical celebration, and the artist was lamenting that fact. In the 2012 Olympics version, singer Roger Daltrey subtly altered the words to “Teenage wasteland – there’s more than teenage wasteland” (www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-57491906-10391698/did-roger-daltrey-forget-the-lyrics-to-baba-oriley/).
The next song “See Me, Feel Me” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_(album)) was another rock anthem which had resonated with many youth in the 1960’s and 70’s – young people yearning to have a spiritual touch and a supernatural encounter. The words of the chorus implore “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!”
The theme of the rock opera Tommy focuses on an abused deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes the leader of a messianic movement. The spiritual longing of the words comes across openly, “Listening to you, I get the music. Gazing at you, I get the heat. Following you, I climb the mountain. I get excitement at your feet. Right behind you, I see the millions. On you, I see the glory…” In 1998 this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant value.”
The Who’s final song, “My Generation” is, to many rockers, the theme song of a generation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Generation). Rolling Stone magazine named it 11th on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” while VH1 placed it 13th on their list of the 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll.
The lyrics reflect the alienation and despair of British Mods in the mid-Sixties, who didn’t fit in and did not want to fit in to normal society (“Why don’t you all fade away and don’t try to dig what we all say?”). The fear of what may await this generation (whether through war, or through economic and social collapse) has caused a loss of hope (“Things they do look awful cold, talkin’ ‘bout my generation. Hope I die before I get old”). These messages resonated well then, and they resonate just as well now.
A generation yet to come
The Who’s rock anthems point beyond the psychedelic fantasies of the Woodstock Generation to a hope which is being birthed from the very heart of God. The psalmist knew of this hope, and prophesied about it in his songs, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise YHVH” (Psalm 102:18).
That future generation, David son of Jesse believed, would be one who seeks the face of the God of Jacob: “Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:6)
These Davidic words will find their ultimate fulfillment in a Last Days generation, one whom YHVH is not ashamed to call “My Generation!” (see Hebrews 2:11) – “Posterity will serve Him. Future generations will be told about YHVH. They will proclaim His righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn, ‘He has done it!’” (Psalm 22:30-31).
The prophets who penned these words knew that there was a priority reference in them to the sons and daughters of Jacob – to the Jewish people. Ezekiel was able to put these hopes into words when he prophesied about the incredibly mighty army of Jewish dry bones (Ezekiel 37:9-14) which would do exploits at the End of Days.
- Many of the soldiers in this army will be from among the nations, yet at the same time God is pleased to repeatedly focus on the fact that the spearhead of this army will be Jewish.
- God’s heart for Israel and the nations is to raise up a generation of spiritual warriors who will be bold emissaries of His Messianic message. His heart longs for both Jews and Gentiles to enter into that holy calling!
God’s heart is not for a generation to run after an abused pinball wizard, or for His children to pursue a spiritually blind and dumb guru addicted to video games. His heart is for the youth of the nations to press in to know Him – to come to know Yeshua the Servant of YHVH, and to speak His burning word to a global community with passion, power and creativity!
Silence of the hams
On the evening of September 5, 1972 at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terror group sent a Black September squad to torture and murder the Israeli Olympic delegation in its apartments within the Olympic Village (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munich_massacre). Their operation resulted in the deaths of eleven Israeli Olympic athletes.
The operation was set up and planned by Mohammed Daoud Oudeh or “Abu Daoud,” a personal friend of Yasir Arafat and one of the founders of the al-Fatah group within the PLO (www.seattlepi.com/sports/article/Munich-mastermind-has-no-regrets-1196762.php). It had the personal endorsement of Arafat, who saw the team off on their mission with the words, “May Allah protect you, Abu Daoud!” (Mohammed Oudeh, Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich, 1999).
In an interview with Sports Illustrated Abu Daoud affirmed that funds for the Munich terror attack were provided by Mahmoud Abbas, the present Chairman of the PLO since 11 November 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority since 15 January 2005 (“The Mastermind, Alexander Wolff, August 26, 2002; Sports Illustrated).
Abu Daoud believes that, if the Israeli delegation had known of Abbas’ role in that attack, the 1993 Oslo Accords would not have been achieved. Today, of course, Abbas is the President of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. German TV interviewed Abu Daoud in 2006, who declared, “I regret nothing. You can only dream that I would apologize.”
Italian author Giulio Meotti recalls,”Given the supposedly apolitical Olympic backdrop, the sight of Jewish sportsmen, blindfolded and manacled, shuffling to their doom in Germany, stirred international revulsion” (Giulio Meotti, A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism). The distance between the Munich Olympic Village and the Nazi murder-camp of Dachau is less than ten miles.
On September 5, 1972 the Munich Olympic Games were temporarily suspended. But Avery Brundage, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared that “the Games must go on.” A short memorial service was held, and the Olympic Flag was flown at half-mast. Ten Arab nations objected to their own flags being lowered to honor the murdered Israeli athletes, and as a result their flags were restored to the tops of their flagpoles almost immediately. Within 24 hours, by September 6, 1972, the Games continued.
Violating the image of God
Sports Illustrated quoted Dutch distance runner Jos Hermens as saying at that time, “You give a party, and someone is killed at the party, you don’t continue the party. I’m going home.” That basic and fundamental human decency was not part of the Olympic Committee’s work ethic.
Since 1972 the IOC has refused to officially acknowledge or commemorate the Israeli victims of the Munich massacre, saying that this could alienate other members of the Olympic community (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3581866.stm).
Current IOC President Jacques Rogge declared just before the London 2012 Games that “the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident” (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/olympics-opening-ceremony-honored-british-terror-victims-not-israelis-killed-munich).
Nevertheless, there was time given at the opening ceremony to remember the jihadi terror attack of 7/7 (July 7, 2005) in London, where 52 civilians were murdered and over 700 were wounded. When NBC dropped their U.S. coverage of that part of the 2012 opening ceremony to broadcast an interview with Michael Phelps, the response was British outrage at many levels (www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2181011/NBC-coverage-Outrage-claiming-7-7-tribute-Olympic-Opening-Ceremony-wasnt-tailored-U-S-audience.html).
It is unfortunate that British and Olympic outrage was not similarly stirred up regarding Israeli casualties of terror.
- This double standard reeks of anti-Semitism, and proves the truth of Jeremiah’s word:
“All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you… But all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares YHVH, because you are called an outcast, ‘Zion for whom no one cares’” (Jeremiah 30:14, 16-17).
Meotti remarks that “the Israeli athletes were the first Jews killed in Germany for being Jewish since 1945. Since then, their murder vanished from international memory.” Because the IOC has refused the few seconds of silence in their honor, “the 11 Israelis died a second time” and this year’s distribution of medals “will be stained in disgrace and shame,” he said.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “We know why the IOC has refused: Because the murdered Olympians were Israelis, and the IOC does not want to draw the ire of foreign governments who still object to the very existence of a Jewish state in the homeland of the Jewish people. Well, the leadership of the IOC needs to recognize that leadership is about doing the right thing, particularly when it’s not the easy thing. The Olympics are not about taking the path of least resistance,” she said. “The Olympics are about overcoming obstacles and going the extra mile” (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/olympics-opening-ceremony-honored-british-terror-victims-not-israelis-killed-munich).
Crocodile tears versus humble confession
Two interesting responses should be noted regarding these issues.
Jibril Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association. sent a letter to IOC President Rogge thanking him for his stance in not permitting a remembrance of the Israeli victims murdered by PLO terror. “Sport is a bridge for love, unification and for spreading peace among the nations, and it must not be a cause for divisiveness and for the spreading of racism,” he declared (www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=280727). Jibril is a former terrorist, and is well known in the Palestinian community for his cruelty in interrogating fellow Palestinians as Head of Arafat’s Preventative Security Force (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jibril_Rajoub).
On the other hand, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at a non-IOC event in Guildhall, London organized by the National Olympic Committee of Israel, the Jewish Committee for the London Games and the Embassy of Israel. Here are excerpts of his address:
“This evening we mark the 40th anniversary of one of the darkest days in the history of the Olympic Games. A sickening act of terrorism that betrayed everything the Olympic movement stands for and everything that we in Britain believe in … So as the world comes together in London to celebrate the Games and the values it represents, it is right that we should stop and remember the 11 Israeli athletes who so tragically lost their lives when those values came under attack in Munich 40 years ago. It was a truly shocking act of evil. A crime against the Jewish people. A crime against humanity. A crime the world must never forget. We remember too the six Israeli holiday makers brutally murdered by a suicide bomber in Bulgaria just last month.”
“And let me say that we in Britain will do everything we can in helping to hunt down those responsible for that attack. Britain will always be a staunch friend of Israel. And we will stand with the Jewish people – and with all victims of terror around the world, whoever they are and wherever they are from.”
“The British people know only too well what it is like to suffer at the hands of terrorists. In July 2005 our euphoria at winning the right to host these Olympics was brutally shattered within just 24 hours when terrorists targeted the London transport system and 52 innocent men and women were murdered. But our two countries, Britain and Israel share the same determination to fight terrorism and to ensure that these evil deeds will never win.”
“We remember them today, with you, as fathers, husbands, and athletes. As innocent men. As Olympians. And as members of the People of Israel, murdered doing nothing more and nothing less than representing their country in sport” (www.number10.gov.uk/news/munich-memorial/).
Global celebrations versus Zechariah’s horsemen
The prophet Zechariah had a night vision which perplexed him. All the world seemed to be at peace and at rest, having a wonderful time. Yet Zechariah’s prophetic spirit was deeply grieved by this false peace and the false sense of celebration.
- The key to understanding this passage is to first understand God’s heart for Israel and the Jewish people. Unless we grasp that, we have not grasped His heart.
On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shvat, in the second year of Darius, the word of YHVH came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo.
During the night I had a vision, and there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. I asked, “What are these, my lord?” The Angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.” Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones YHVH has sent to go throughout the earth.” And they reported to the Angel of YHVH who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.”
Then the Angel of YHVH said, “YHVH Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” So YHVH spoke kind and comforting words to the Angel who talked with me.
Then the Angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what YHVH Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.’
“Therefore this is what YHVH says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there My house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares YHVH Almighty. Proclaim further: This is what YHVH Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and YHVH will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’” (Zechariah 1:7-17)
How can we pray?
- Pray for a revelation of God’s heart for Israel to the leaders of the nations, and to the leaders of the International Olympic Committee as well
- Pray for God to raise up a last days generation of Jews and Gentiles – an army which will break world records in dedication, boldness, creativity and sacrifice for the gospel
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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