News & Views
31st October – Destiny’s Date? A Synopsis
On the 31st October, four history changing events occurred; in Wittenburg 1517, Jerusalem 1898, Beer Sheba 1917 and London 1917.
“On the 31st October, four history changing events occurred; in Wittenburg 1517, Jerusalem 1898, Beer Sheba 1917 and London 1917. They involved a German Roman Catholic monk, a German Kaiser, a British general, a British foreign secretary and soldiers from the uttermost ends of the earth. The events comprised of nailing a document to a church door, the consecration of a new church, a battle and large-scale mounted charge and a decision in the British War Cabinet. All occurred in different regions of the world involving different people but all four of these events were connected, as Kelvin Crombie explains in his latest documentary, 31st October- Destiny’s Date? On the 31st October, 1517, a disillusioned Roman Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther, nailed 95 thesis to the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany. This challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and ultimately resulted in a split with the Roman Catholic Church and beginning of the Protestant movement. Harald Eckert in 31st October- Destiny’s Date? (2017) remarks that Luther’s proclamations put “…faith in the centre, the Word of God was put in the centre, the faithfulness of God and the grace of God was put in the centre of public debate, of public interest and it drew a lot of people who that were seeking, that were frustrated with faith as it was expressed at their times and it continued over decades, over centuries…”. And the result? The Bible became accessible to all Christians and in their own languages. Christians were able to read about God’s covenant promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some even proclaimed that now was the time for Israel’s restoration. Come 1898, it’s Jerusalem and the German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, parades into the city on a white horse. The purpose was to dedicate the new Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, on Reformation Day – the 31st October. The Lutheran church was established following the actions taken by Luther, so much so the denomination was named after him. In the 1840’s the Prussians and the British established a joint Protestant Bishopric in Jerusalem, based at CMJ’s Christ Church. The new German Empire withdrew from this arrangement in the 1880s and the dedication of the new church further indicated the separation of the two principle Protestant nations. The Kaiser’s visit to Jerusalem also had the purpose of forging a closer relationship with the Ottoman Empire, at the expense of supporting Herzl and his quest to restore the Jewish people to their covenantal homeland of Israel. These events were closely followed by Britain and the rest of the world who sensed that the destinies of Germany and the Ottoman Empire were becoming closely intertwined - an ominous sign for the future. When war broke out in Europe in 1914 between Germany and Britain and their allies – the Ottomans chose to side with the Germans. The War concentrated on the Western Front in France where a stalemate had developed. Eager to break through to her beleaguered Russian ally, as well as protecting her empire to the East, Britain looked towards the Ottoman Empire. Britain and her allies attacked the Dardanelles – hoping to relieve the pressure from Russia to Turkey’s north but were defeated miserably. She withdrew her troops back to Egypt and established a force to protect the Suez Canal- the lifeline to her eastern Empire. A change in government in London in late 1916 with David Lloyd George becoming prime minister and Arthur Balfour foreign secretary resulted in this newly established force, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, being given command to enter the Land of Israel in order to safeguard the Suez Canal - and to defeat the Ottoman Empire. Before the British forces even began their Palestine Campaign, they had already been discussing the future of Palestine for some time. Britain knew that the future of Palestine would be determined together with their allies, France, Italy, Russia, as well as the the Vatican and the United States of America. It was at this time that the previous proposals of establishing a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel under British protectorate began to resurface. After several unsuccessful attempts at capturing Gaza, the British re evaluated their military tactics and set their eyes inland towards the ancient town and wells of Beersheba, where the Biblical Patriarchs had resided. It was a daring operation, where they needed to keep the element of surprise and capture the town before the Turks destroyed the water wells. The British attacked the Turkish trenches to the south-west and the New Zealanders objective was to capture Tel-El-Saba (ancient Beersheba), a hill with machine gunners, which had to be captured before the town could be entered from the east. As it was getting late, a desperate move was needed, and the Australian Light Horse (mounted infantry) charged in from the east and secured the town. On the 31st October, in the late afternoon and after a day of heavy fighting, Beersheba was captured. At almost the exact same time as the battle for Beersheba was taking place, the British War Cabinet had convened in London and one of the topics for discussion was the future of Palestine. In an almost unanimous decision, the Cabinet declared that “His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people and will use its best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This became known as the Balfour Declaration. Arthur Balfour, as well as almost everyone else in that cabinet, came from Protestant backgrounds who either had a strong faith themselves or were raised in Bible-believing Protestant environments. They would have grown up reading the Scriptures in their own language, thriving in an environment that would have been what Luther had endeavoured to achieve through his proclamations and understood what the Bible had said about God’s covenantal faithfulness. How amazing that such a declaration was made on the very day that the town of Beersheba was captured- the town associated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to whom God Almighty promised the land by a covenant oath. Additionally, one of those covenant promises was that the entire world would be blessed through Abraham – that promise was fulfilled when the message of Jesus, who was of the seed of Abraham, spread to the uttermost ends of the earth. A major reason why this message went forth was because of the fruits of the Protestant Reformation, an event which had a great deal to do with Luther’s bold actions in Germany, exactly 400 years previous. It was as a result of the Protestant Reformation that many Gentiles, including many within the British War Cabinet, received an understanding and sympathy for the return of the Jewish people to live as a nation in the Land of Israel.
The story line provides testimony of the Sovereign God working out His purposes through history and revealing His covenant keeping nature.”