BY JAN WILLEM VAN DER HOEVEN, INTL CHRISTIAN ZIONIST CENTER—
How heartwarming and deeply moving it is to read or hear accounts of those ‘righteous gentile believers’ who, out of their love for God and His people, dared to stand up for and help Jewish people at a time when this often meant risking their lives.
I am thinking of people like Polish diplomat Jan Karski, the Dutch Family Ten Boom, the German Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the courageous social worker, Irene Sendler, who like her fellow Pole, Karski, was ultimately caught and terribly tortured by the Nazis.
But I also think of those who were fighting the fight for rebirth of the State of Israel, like British Captain Orde Wingate who, driven by his faith, helped train the fighters of the Haganah, that later became the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). And, of course, there were and are many more Gentiles who, because of their belief in God, stood for and at great personal risk helped Jews at the time of their mortal peril.
The recent film about Irene Sendler brings tears to one’s eyes. Reading what her fellow Pole said at the end of his courageous life is equally moving:
“The Lord assigned me a role to speak and write during the war, when – as it seemed to me – it might help. It did not. Then I became a Jew … so all murdered Jews became my family. But I am a Christian Jew. I am a practicing Catholic. Although I am not a heretic, still my faith tells me the second Original Sin has been committed by humanity: through commission, or omission, or self-imposed ignorance, or insensitivity, or self-interest, or hypocrisy, or heartless rationalization. This sin will haunt humanity to the end of time. It does haunt me. And I wait it to be so.”
Corrie ten Boom, whom I knew well, was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, along with her sister Betsy who, after enduring terrifying cruelty, died. Corrie later returned to Holland to tell her family’s story to the whole Christian world – a story now eternalized in the film, The Hiding Place, that was produced by the Billy Graham Association.
But there are amazing, and most telling, examples of such righteous gentiles in the Scriptures.
There are examples that stand out: Ruth, Rahab, and the little known Caleb of Gentile origin; co-warrior with Joshua, he was the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizite! (Numbers 32:12) All three chose to stand with and fight for Israel. Ruth by choosing to go all the way with Naomi as expressed in her now famous words:
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth therefore becomes a symbol for hopefully millions of Gentile believers who are today willing to say these words to lonely, and largely forsaken, Israel, as indeed Zechariah prophecies would occur:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”‘” (Zechariah 8:23)
Ten from each nation!
Corrie ten Boom, Irene Sendler and others, symbolize the courage of Rahab of Jericho, who risked not only her own life, but the lives of her whole family, when she hid the Jewish spies and learned that it was because of this that her family was actually spared.
May these examples – even as I write them – be God-given examples to us when the Jewish people, now gathered in Israel, are again threatened on every side by ferocious enemies, so that we now choose with all of our hearts to stand with them and find ways to help them. For in this way Caleb, with Joshua, was able to take and possess the land promised by God – even Hebron!
May it indeed be the case that such heavenly cooperation between Gentile believers and the Jewish people today cause Israel to again inherit all the land promised to her by God as an everlasting possession!