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“For by grace we have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
I chose that Scripture because it brings out the fact that when we come to know the Lord Jesus and are born again, God has already prepared good works for us. We don’t have to plan our own lives, we have to find out what God’s plan is.
There’s another Scripture along the same lines in 2 Timothy 1:9 which says:
“God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
That’s a staggering thought. God had a plan for the life of each one of us who is a believer, in eternity. And again, the application is find God’s plan and walk in it.
Then I remember the words of Paul in Romans 15 where he said, in effect:
“I don’t want to speak about anything in my life that Christ has not done. I only want to talk about the things that He has done.”
That’s my purpose tonight. The title of my message is “How I Became Involved in Israel.” It was totally the sovereignty of God. I was the typical non Jewish intellectual. At the time my story begins, I had a teaching position in philosophy at Cambridge University and I had majored in Latin and Greek and the Classics. I knew absolutely nothing about Israel, the Jewish people or the Middle East. I was highly educated in some areas and abysmally ignorant in others.
Well, when the second world war broke out, if you can believe people were alive that long ago! I realized I was going to be called up into the British army and I had one major problem, what shall I take with me to read? Because my life’s consisted in reading books and a few other things which I won’t mention—which weren’t at all connected with reading books. So, I thought it over and I said to myself, here I am, I’m supposed to be a teacher of philosophy but there’s one book of philosophy in the world which is more widely read and more influential than any other book, and I know very little about what’s in it. Do you know the book I had in mind? The Bible. That’s an unchallengeable fact. Undoubtedly it is the most widely read and influential book in the history of the human race. So I felt it was my philosophic duty to study the Bible.
And so, when I went into the Army I bought myself a nice, new black Bible in the Old King James Version and took it with me. I started to study the Bible. I said to myself how do you study the Bible? I said just like any other book, it’s a book like any other, start at the beginning, read it through to the end. My first night in the British army, the 12th of September, 1940, in a barrack room of 25 new recruits I sat down on my bed, opened my Bible and started reading at Genesis 1:1. What I hadn’t allowed for is that anybody seen reading the Bible in the army immediately becomes very conspicuous. I hadn’t anticipated the reaction. The thing was I baffled everybody, including myself, because when I wasn’t reading the Bible I didn’t live the least bit like somebody who regularly reads the Bible. I found it boring, baffling and unattractive. But I said to myself no book is going to beat me, I’ll read it through from beginning to end.
After nine months in the army I had got somewhere about the middle of the book of Job. I now compare myself with some professing Christians and I think I didn’t do badly! Then something totally life transforming happened. I cannot give you the details but in the middle of the night in an army barrack room I had a personal encounter with somebody I had never met before. The thing I want to emphasize is that praying for the first time in my life about the middle of the night, not knowing whom to pray to or what to say, I found myself suddenly in the presence of an unknown person. I did not see this person physically but I was clearly aware that I was in contact with Him. I felt that my whole destiny was being settled by that contact. In desperation I began to say to this person, “Unless you bless me I will not let you go.” When I got to that I couldn’t stop saying, “I will not let you go.” And at that point I made contact with Him, the power of God came on me and I was under the power of God in that barrack room for well over one hour.
The next morning I was a totally changed person. I had not made any resolutions or decisions, but something had happened in me that completely changed me. It took me months to discover all the changes that had taken place in that one encounter.
I mention that encounter because I realized later that I was saying to that person exactly what Jacob said to the angel whom he met and who wrestled with him. This was a critical moment in the life of Jacob because if you read the story, it’s in Genesis 32, and I’ll turn there in a moment. Jacob was on his way back to the land promised him as an inheritance after being away probably 14 years or more. He could not get back into the land until he had encountered this person. His destiny, like mine, was decided by that encounter.
There was one other person that Jacob had to meet and that was his twin brother Esau. The last time they’d been together Esau was preparing to kill him. This is a sort of historical parable because the time has come for the Jewish people to return to their inheritance but they’ve got to deal with two persons before it’s settled. The first is that mysterious person whom Jacob met, and I’ll give you his identity in a moment. The other is Esau, the brother. I didn’t intend to go into this but it was a dramatic moment when Jacob encountered Esau. He did something that he would never have done if he hadn’t encountered the other person first. He humbled himself and he bowed seven times to the ground before his offended brother. His brother was won back into a relationship.
I personally believe that is something that has to happen to God’s people Israel. They’ve got to meet that unknown stranger and settle with Him, and then they have to settle with their offended brother.
Let me just read a few words from the encounter of Jacob with the angel. It says a man met him, a man, and wrestled with him all night. The next morning Jacob called the place Mael, which means the face of God. For he said:
“I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.”
So this person was a man but He was also God. And at the end of his life when he was blessing the two sons of Joseph he referred to this encounter again and he said in Genesis 48:15:
“He blessed Joseph and said, ‘God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me [or shepherded me] all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.’”
And so you have an amazing revelation that Jacob encountered a person who was both man and God and an angel, which is a messenger from God to men. And because I believe of God’s purpose in my life, I came to know that same person nearly 4,000 years later. I have no doubt as to the identity of that person. There’s only one person in the universe who answers to that description: a man, God and a messenger from God to men. He was manifested in human history as Jesus of Nazareth. I want to say to each of you, you can join a church, you can become religious, you can go through all sorts of religious rituals and stay very much the same. But when you meet Jesus you will be changed. No one can meet Jesus and stay the same.
Just about a week later God baptized me in the Holy Spirit in the same barrack room. I was such a pagan I didn’t know you had to go to church to get baptized in the Holy Spirit! And God gave me the gift of tongues. And again, I was so ignorant I didn’t know you had to wait six months to get spiritual gifts! So God immediately gave me the gift of interpretation. And every time I spoke in tongues I got the interpretation.
Well, one of the things that I kept getting, every time almost I spoke in tongues it was God and He was saying to me, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob.” I thought to myself well, you know that’s historically true but why is it so important? But gradually—and bear in mind I was very much a Gentile, very unspiritual—gradually it was borne in upon me that that’s important. He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob.
And one of the most astonishing facts in the Bible is the fact that He revealed that name to Moses. I tell people if you’ve never been surprised by the Bible you’ve never really read it. Because, it is an astonishing book. And in this encounter that Moses had with the Lord at the burning bush, Moses said to God, “If you’re sending me back to the children of Israel, at least tell me your name. Whom am I to say I’ve met?” And the Lord answered:
“Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord [the sacred name, Yaweh], God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you. This is my name forever and this is my memorial to all generations.’”
I became aware of an astonishing fact, that Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, has chosen to be known forever as the God of three men: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All weak, fallible men. And yet that’s His memorial forever. God’s ways are so different from ours. We would never have planned that, we would never have thought of it. Especially Jacob. I mean, I could understand the God of Abraham. Even maybe Isaac. But when He says, “I’m the God of Jacob,” it’s astonishing. But, dear friends, it’s true. God impressed upon me that I need to know that.
I don’t think I would have ever been openly anti-Semitic but I certainly wasn’t a friend to the Jewish people. I had two Jewish friends in all of my college career but they were so assimilated the only way you could know they were Jewish was their name was Kish. My attitude, I think, was like that of a lot of intellectuals. “Well, I wouldn’t persecute the Jewish people, I’d give them their just civil rights. But there must be something wrong with them that they’re always in trouble.” I think a lot of people think like that, really. I’m sorry, Lord, I repent. It was my ignorance, it was my carnality.
Well, I was in the army, as I say, and it was the second year of the war, and we were due to go overseas from Britain. At that time because of the danger of U-boats and all sorts of things, they never told you where you were going. We just knew our unit was going overseas and I had made friends with a wonderful Pentecostal family, the people who took me in when no one else wanted me, and through whom I eventually made my contact with the Lord. I said to them, “It’s a funny thing, but everywhere I go the word Palestine is in my mind.” You have to bear in mind that in that time, up to 1948, what is now called Israel and Jordan was then called Palestine. So I said, “I don’t know, I have this word Palestine in my mind all the time.” They said, “Derek, God must be calling you to Palestine.” Well, that kind of language didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t know what it was to be called and I didn’t understand it.
Well, sure enough, our unit was sent to the Middle East. We went there by a round about route because of the U-boats, so we went almost to North America, down the Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, up the east coast of Africa and eventually ended up in Suez in the beginning of December, 1941. The first piece of news that greeted us was the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. We thought that was rather good news because it meant now the Americans would be on our side.
So, I spent the next three years of my military service in the Middle East in the deserts of North Africa. If you have never been in a real desert, it’s an important part of a person’s education. I think I understand why God took Israel through the desert to their inheritance. Because, a lot of us, myself certainly, have a lot of unrealistic expectations, wants and fads. But in the desert you’re stripped down to the things that really are necessary. And, very little else is there. Really what you need is water, food, shelter and transportation.
Well, by that time I had become a convinced and firm believer in the Bible. I was cut off from any kind of religious life. I never met a British chaplain who knew the Lord, I’m sorry to say. And although I was seen reading the Bible every day, no chaplain ever came to me and offered to help me.
But, I lived with the Bible for three years without any real significant contact with Christians except for one very life changing event. After nine months in the desert when I hadn’t seen a paved road and I hadn’t seen water, I was allowed to take a week’s leave to Jerusalem. Really, it was just about like going from hell to heaven in one journey. I remember that when I saw water and green foliage I became almost delirious with excitement.
Then I got to Jerusalem and I think of the words of Psalm 102 which are so vivid because of that. Psalm 102 is the Psalm that promises the restoration of Zion. It says about Jerusalem in verse 14:
“For your servants take pleasure in her stones, and show favor to her dust.”
I’d have to say the two most obvious features of the landscape were the stones and the dust. There was plenty of both.
But, I met an elderly Christian lady who lived in Jerusalem many things and she said one thing to me which was very significant. She said, “Derek, you don’t choose Jerusalem, Jerusalem chooses you.” And at that moment I knew Jerusalem had chosen me. That’s something I have never doubted from 1942 until this time.
Well, during the period I was in the desert I became sick with a skin condition which the doctors couldn’t heal and I spent exactly one year in military hospitals in Egypt. That is not the kind of place where you’d want to be in a military hospital. I did not get out of hospital until God had taught me the secret of divine healing. I lay in bed and said to myself day after day after day, “I know if I had faith God would heal me.” But the next thing I always said was, “I don’t have faith.” When I said that I was in what John Bunyon called the “slough of despond,” the dark lonely valley of despair. But in that darkness a brilliant light shone in which was Romans 10:17:
“So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
I latched on to those two words “faith cometh.” I want to leave that thought with every one of you. If you don’t have faith, you can get it. It comes by hearing the Word of God.
So I made up my mind to read the Bible through once more and I armed myself with a blue pencil, which is not always used for that kind of purpose, and I determined to underline in blue everything that had to do with healing, health, physical strength and long life. And when I’d finished, do you know what I had? A blue Bible! I was convinced it was the will of God to heal.
But there was one particular passage of Scripture that actually got me out of hospital. It was Proverbs 4:20–22, which says:
“My son, [and I realized it was God speaking to me] attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings, let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thy heart, for they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.”
And when I read those last words I said, “Not even a philosopher can make flesh mean anything but the physical body.” And the alternative reading in the margin, “for health was medicine.” So I made a decision to take God’s Word as my medicine.
I happened to be a medical orderly so I was familiar with how people take medicine. I said I’ll do the same, three times daily after meals. I did that for three or four months. I was transferred to the most unhealthy climate, I think, in all of Africa which was the Sudan. In that climate, without further medication, the medicine of God’s Word completely and permanently healed me.
God was putting me through a school. In the Sudan I ended up in a very wild and desolate area in what’s called the Red Sea Hills in a small military hospital. I found myself directly exposed to the Sudanese whose language is Arabic, and who are all Muslims. God gave me a supernatural love for those people. By nature they are not lovable. There’s very little that attractive. Because of the love God gave me I had the privilege of leading to the Lord the first member of the Hadandua tribe who had ever confessed faith in Christ.
But I say that because I believe it was a very important part of God’s preparation. He didn’t intend me ultimately to minister to those people. His plan was for me to cast in my lot with the Jews. But I think it’s very important, no matter how much we may be concerned about Israel and the Jewish people, that we realize God loves every nation. God loves all people. Actually, if you’ll forgive my saying so, one thing that convinces me that a Jew has really been born again is when he has a love for other nations. And so I think God put me through that training.
Well, at the end of three years I was transferred to what was then Palestine. I ended up in a very small medical depot in what was then a little village called Kiriat Motzkin, which is now part of Haifa, north of Haifa. But I’d heard in the Sudan from another Christian if you really want a blessing, there’s a little children’s home in Ramallah, which was then a small Christian village—Christian nominal, not what we’d call evangelical—run by a Danish lady. If you really want to be blessed, that’s where you need to go. I mean, during that period hundreds of soldiers from the forces: American, British, Australian, New Zealand, went to that little home where the lady whose name was Lydia Christiansen had a little family of eight fatherless girls. When the soldiers came in, Lydia would wave them to a chair and say, “Kneel down,” and they’d start to pray. The little girls would start to pray and the Spirit of God almost invariably fell.
I thought I need this. After three years in the desert I need some refreshing. I made my way from Kiriat Motzkin to that home in Ramallah and I was so impressed by the peace. You know, military life is not a peaceful kind of life, even when you’re not fighting. But there was such an atmosphere of peace in that home it was like stepping out of one environment into a new environment. And there was very little peace all around it because an Arab village is not a peaceful place.
When I got back to Kiriat Motzkin I had plenty of time because I was supervising a team of Basuto soldiers caring for bales of medical supplies. It was not a challenging job. I would walk up and down in the midst of these bales, praying and worshiping. And almost invariably I would speak in tongues. By this time I learned that I didn’t have to take the interpretation. I said to God, “Do I always have to interpret?” He said, “No, you make the decision.” Because, believe it or not, I interpreted everything I spoke in tongues for a while. I was walking up and down and then the Spirit of God came on me and I spoke very powerfully in a tongue. I knew I got the interpretation, which wasn’t lengthy. But it was God speaking to me personally. And in those days He spoke in King James English, which is, you know, the pinnacle of the English language. It’d declined sadly since those days. There are certain advantages because you distinguish between you, plural, and thou, singular, which you can’t do in modern English. This is what the Lord said to me, and I remember every word.
“I have called thee to be a teacher of the Scriptures in truth and faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus for many.”
I was still a corporal, all the electronic media and all that had not developed. But since that, which is now 49 years, God has fulfilled His Word. I don’t want to be boastful but to give God the glory I regularly teach millions of people every day, because my radio broadcast is in ten languages besides English: five Chinese languages, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Mongolian and Tongan. It has been going for six or eight years into China in Chinese, into Russia in Russian, and literally millions of people listen every day to that teaching. I say that just to demonstrate the faithfulness of God. He said “for many.” I wouldn’t have had any conception at that time of what many would mean.
Well, a little later I was pacing up and down this depot and the Spirit of God came upon me. Well, I thought, I need to pray for that Danish lady because there she is, she’s tired, she’s overworked, she has very little help and she has the financial burden of those children, and obviously very little money. So I thought my duty is to pray for her. And as I was praying for her, again the Lord gave me tongue and interpretation. This was astonishing. The Lord said, “I’ve joined you together under the same yoke and in the same harness the message of blessing and the hand of power.” I thought what does that mean? I thought it must mean that God wants us to work together.
Well, you couldn’t of thought of anything less unlikely because I was a bachelor, an only child, I never had brothers or sisters. Girls were a mysterious unknown quantity to me. And how could God send me to a home with a single lady and eight girls?
However, I’m fairly bold at times so the next time I got to Ramallah I said to Lydia, “I think God wants us to work together.” Her answer was absolutely typical, she said, “God will have to work on both ends of the chain.” However, I became a regular visitor at the home because the army had transferred me to Jerusalem. I want you to see this, this is where I ended my military service. How many of you know Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives? The big hospital there which is now a Lutheran Hospital, the Augusta Victoria Building? Well, it was a military hospital in the war and I was posted to it. That’s where I ended my military service. That’s where I got my discharge. Think of the faithfulness of God. I had no control over my own destiny, the army could have sent me anywhere. It took me precisely where God wanted me to be.
Well, I won’t go into a lot of detail but I ended up by marrying the lady. And I married her because I loved her and she loved me. We had complete harmony about Israel and the destiny of the Jewish people. She was a Dane, as I said, and you probably know the Danes have been unusually pro Israel most of their history.
But afterwards—my wife is showing me that I should show you a book. Probably most of you know it, called Appointment in Jerusalem. It’s the story of how Lydia went out and started to take in one little dying Jewish baby. And out of that came the children’s home. So if you haven’t read it, I tell you, I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t moved by that book. And interestingly enough, it has been given to probably a hundred Jewish people. It’s a very clear testimony about Jesus. But never has one Jewish person been offended by that book. And many have been stirred by it.
So there I was, there were eight girls, ranging in age from 16 to 3. Six of them were Jewish, one was a Palestinian Arab, and one was English.
Let me just say this, I want to impress upon you that when God initiates something, it works. The only things that work are what God initiates. There were plenty of things I’ve done that God didn’t initiate that didn’t work, but I’m talking about what God has done tonight.
Today, which is nearly 50 years later, the family of which I am now the head, because Lydia went to be with the Lord in 1975, numbers something over 120 members and they are scattered through three continents. They live in England, Canada, the United States and Australia. I have about 35 grandchildren and about 45 plus great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. They are a close family, closer than many natural families. That is the sovereign grace of God. But it also is a testimony to Lydia’s character that she built such a sense of family into those girls. Sometimes people called them orphans and they would get offended. They would say, “We’re not orphans, we have a mother.” And eventually they said, “We have a father, too.”
I must tell you about one Jewish girl whose name was Ruhamah, she’s changed her name now so it doesn’t identify her. She was typically Jewish, dark, olive skinned. But the little English girl was very blonde, golden hair and blue eyes. One Arab in the village said, “How come you’re so dark and your sister is so fair?” Ruhama didn’t hesitate, she said, “My father is dark and my mother is fair.”
So, there we were.
At that time the real tension between Jews and Arabs was really developing. It became unsafe for us to live any longer in an Arab village. During World War II, the Arabs had been very kind and loving to the Jewish girls. And many of them still would have been but there would have been others who probably would have done harm to them. We had to move, we moved into Jerusalem and we settled in a house which is today number 90 Hebron Road. If you want to find it, you can find it. It wasn’t Hebron Road in those days and it wasn’t number 90. Then came the 29th of November, 1947. You know what happened then, don’t you? There’s a street in Jerusalem named the 29th of November. What happened? The United Nations voted to partition Palestine and give the Jews a state. They didn’t know what that would mean in the land. But after that, Jews and Arabs no longer trusted one another. Up to that time they had lived, on the whole, fairly peacefully with one another.
And so, in Jerusalem there were some areas that were totally Arab, some areas that were totally Jewish. They didn’t change. But there were mixed areas where there were Arabs and Jews. Without anybody saying anything, each group sized the other up and decided who was the stronger, and the weaker ones moved out. They didn’t take a lot of luggage or furniture with them because people seen moving became targets for snipers at that time. By that time there were snipers in Jerusalem on the housetops who would shoot at anything. They would shoot at a cat or a piece of paper or a human being.
Well, we lived in a mixed area called at that time Upper Baka. And Lydia and I said to ourselves, “Listen, we’re Christians, we’re both Arabs and Jews. This fight isn’t for us. So, we’ll stay.” Well, we lived on the two top floors of the house. The bottom floor was an office of a Jewish businessman who had a Muslim Arab office boy. The Jewish businessman disappeared, we didn’t see him any more. The Muslim Arab boy stayed and looked after the lower floor.
One night one of our daughters went just a few houses down the road for a piano lesson. It was about dusk. As she came back she saw a truckload of Arab Legion soldiers right in front of our house and they were talking to the office boy.
Now, the Arab Legion was probably the most efficient Arab military force in the Middle East, trained and officered by British. They were theoretically part of the security forces in Jerusalem but there was no security for Jews where they were. I don’t want to seem biased, that is just a fact.
So, the moment this little girl saw these soldiers talking to the office boy she knew something was wrong. Instead of going in through the front she went around the back, up the side stairs to the second floor, dropped on her hands and knees, crawled out to a balcony which is still there today, and listened to what they were saying. Now, she was fluent in Arabic. They were inquiring how many people lived in the house and what kind of people were they. The office boy was saying they were mostly women and mostly Jewish, and giving the ages of the girls. And so, the legionaries said, “We’ll be back. What’s the best time?” The office boy said, “If you’re here at midnight there’s no one around.”
Well, our daughter knew well enough what was intended. Interestingly, we were having a prayer meeting. There was a British police constable who’d come seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Just about that time my wife Lydia got a tongue and I got an interpretation. It began, “I have delivered you from the snare of the fowler.” Well, as I gave that interpretation the daughter burst into the room, she looked as if she’d seen a ghost. She told us what had happened. We knew enough about Jerusalem and the Middle East to know this was no idle threat. First of all, the British constable went out and said, “I’ll phone police headquarters and find out what to do.” Well, the message was that maybe at midnight they would have a police patrol there, which would be one British constable, one Jewish constable and one Arab constable. Well, the Arab would never turn against his fellow Arabs and one Jew and one British against a truckload of Arab Legionaries would not be much. So we knew nothing to do, we have to go.
It was 7:00 o’clock when this happened so Lydia cooked a little food, which nobody was very excited to eat. We said to the girls, “Make up a little bundle with the things you need most that you can carry in your hand.” It was interesting because every one of them, the first thing she put in the bundle was her Bible. At 9:00 o’clock at night, very quietly we filed out into the totally dark deserted streets of Jerusalem. No one went out after dark. There were snipers around, you didn’t know what might happen.
I took the youngest little girl, the English girl, in my arms and led the way. Then the girls followed in age order, and Lydia came behind and very quietly closed the door. That was the last the family ever saw of that home.
We didn’t know where to go but in the middle of Jerusalem there was a British security zone surrounded by a wall of barbed wire as high as this ceiling. No one was permitted in it without a special pass, but we felt that’s the only place we could go to. The constable said, “I’ll go with you and I can go in.” He went in and we stood for about 40 minutes at the entrance. I remember the British soldier that was in the sandbag sentry box was very polite and got up and gave Lydia his seat so she could sit down. The policeman went to the commanding officer and told the story and said, “Can they come in?” After a while the commanding officer said, “All right, let them in.” The news was you can come in.
Well, it was 11:00 o’clock at night by then. We knew there was an American Assembly of God mission building in the security zone. We knew the missionaries. So around about 11:15 we turned up and said, “Here we are, can you take us in?” Well, they were wonderful, they said, “We’ll put mattresses down.” So, there we were, we’re sleeping.
The next day at about midday the missionary in charge of the building took Lydia and me aside and said, “We’ve had a message from the Moslems that if you keep the Jewish girls in that building they’ll burn the building down.” He said, “We have a pregnant woman here and other women, we can’t afford to take that risk.” He said, “You and Sister Prince are welcome to stay but the girls will have to move.” We said, “We’re one family, where we go they go, and where they go we go.” So, 24 hours later we were out in the streets of Jerusalem again. This time we ended up in a British mission which was in what had become No Man’s Land. If you heard of the (unintelligible) gate? You probably remember that, some of you. Well, that’s just about where it was. They took us in and they were kind and hospitable. That’s where we spent Christmas 1947.
But, all around there were people fighting. Not major fighting but people shooting at one another, so we never walked past the windows, we always dropped down and crawled on the floor.
Then we got a word that the American missionaries were going home and they needed somebody to look after the building. Would we like the job? Well, I mean, it was the only hope for us. We moved back into the building, the missionaries moved out. They sold us their canned goods and so we had some food.
Well, by this time Jewish Jerusalem was under siege because the Arabs all around were cutting off all the convoys that should have brought food into Jerusalem. The British administration was siding with the Arabs. They didn’t arrest the Arabs but if they saw Jews with rifles they arrested them and took the rifles.
By April 1948 the city was virtually starving. I actually saw Jewish residents, doctors, dentists and people like that, going around the outside of our house plucking up grass to see if they could get some food. People had no heating materials so they would break up packing cases and light a fire and kindle it in the gutter to heat them. Because the American missionaries had left their food supply behind we had enough to eat.
Then on the 13th of May, about 9:00 o’clock in the evening there was a knock at the door. The British officer was there and he said, “I want to tell you we’re moving out. Tomorrow you’ll be under the Jews because they are taking over this part of the city.” The next day there was a nice little note on our door from a young man who signed himself Phineas Pincas, and he said, “I’m in charge of the Hagganah for this area. May we set up a post in your garden?” Well, we knew they’d do it whether we said yes or no so we said yes. And anyhow, we were glad to have them there. So, we shared our garden from then onwards with the Hagganah.
Then the 14th of May the war started, what they call the war of independence. At that time there were less than 600,000 Jews in the whole country, and they were surrounded by Arab states numbering 40 million, most of whom had armies with modern equipment. I’m British and I’m saying this, I was there. I think the British calculated the Jews just cannot hold out, we better side with the Arabs. I would have to say that I witnessed a miracle, something I think just as miraculous as some of the battles described in the Bible in the Old Testament. You know what happened, 600,00 Jews routed 40 million Arabs, six armies.
Lydia had been through a lot of previous troubles, she’d seen Jews with nothing better to defend themselves than a broomstick with a carving knife bound on the end. She said, “This time we’re going to pray.” I am not anti anybody but we prayed specifically that God would paralyze the Arabs because we knew that was the only hope for survival. And actually, the Jewish authorities said to Jewish women with daughters, “Keep a revolver loaded with one bullet for your daughter and one for yourself, but don’t get taken alive.”
After that these Hagganah boys and girls would come to us, we became very friendly with them. They would say, “You know, we can’t understand it but we go into a place, we’re outnumbered and they Arabs are better armed, and it’s just as if they were paralyzed.” They used the very word that we had been praying.
Well then the fighting really started in earnest and those of you that know Jerusalem, the building we were in is on the corner of Agron and King George Avenue. Those of you that know the King’s Hotel, it’s kitty-corner across. It is not the Conservative Jewish Synagogue, or center. But at that time it was still an Assembly of God building.
Then the Arab Legions started shelling the city from Nebe Samoel, which is the highest area north of the city. They started firing hundred pound shells. The first hundred pound shell landed just behind our house. Two of our girls, one Jewish and one Arab were sitting in the window, and the blast knocked them down and a piece of shrapnel went through the window between their heads. The little Arab girl came in and said, “Momma, momma, a bomb has come into the house.” We said, “Nonsense, it couldn’t come into the house.” “Well, come and see,” she said. We ran to the room and there was a hole in the plaster of the wall opposite the window, and at the bottom was a large shell fragment. So being incautious, I picked it up and it was still too hot to hold. I dropped it and waited until it cooled and I picked it up and it was most of the base of a hundred pound shell. Being British I was interested to notice that stamped on it were “Made in Britain.” I said, “Thank you, Britain.”
Well, we survived. That house at that time had 23 rooms, it has more now. There was a laundry room in the basement where they just did the laundry. That’s where we lived, all of us, everybody. One family, one room. Every now and then I would slip out, much to Lydia’s disapproval, and go up to the attic and watch the fighting, which was interesting. I mean, I saw it. I saw the Jews raise their flag over Barclays Bank which was one of the main focal points. That’s the first time I had ever seen the Star of David raised like that.
Then there was a cease fire imposed by the United Nations and when we emerged and went up to our living room we counted approximately 100 spent bullets on the floor of the living room. The front of the house we couldn’t go out because it was directly exposed to the snipers. But I would go out of the side entrance, cross the street and go down to a little grocery store. We had got the first ration cards ever issued in Hebrew. I still keep them as a kind of memento. I went to the store with the ration cards for a family of six, which we were at that time, and I said, “We want a week’s rations.” I’m convinced they treated us just like the other people. We got a loaf of bread about as long as my arm from the elbow to my fingers, and a lump of cheese about the size that I could hold in my fist, and that was a week’s rations for six people.
Well, I’d just like to read one Scripture which I think is appropriate. You see, a lot of things in the Bible that I’d been reading for three months in the desert suddenly became very real to me. It was like I was reading the day’s newspaper. The first is in Jeremiah 3:14. At that time, we in the British army knew very little about the Holocaust. It was something that had not been fully disclosed. We were beginning to get Jewish survivors in Palestine and I talked with several at different times. They would always say something like this, “Well, I’m the only member of my family that escaped in this city, but I have one relative in another city that escaped.” Maybe a brother or an uncle or a cousin. Mostly German cities. I read in Jeremiah 3:14, and it’s addressed to the north, which is Russia and Germany:
“Return, O backsliding children, says the Lord, for I am married to you. I will take you one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”
It was so exact. I was impressed again and again that the perfect word of God is not metaphorical, it’s not approximate, it’s extremely accurate.
The other Scripture—I don’t believe this is the final fulfillment but it became very real to me, was Isaiah 66:8.
“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth [or the land] be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed she gave birth to her children.”
I realized I had seen that happen, a nation born in a day, the 14th of May, 1948. A complete nation, a very tiny nation, a very weak nation. But, with everything: a government, a police force, an army, a civil administration. In one day. I don’t believe it’s ever happened before, I doubt if it will ever happen again. It was so accurate.
I believe there’s a further spiritual application to that but it was so vivid to me.
I have to continue because this is a long narrative. Later God showed Lydia and me very clearly that we were to move to Britain, which we did with great reluctance. But I believe God had His reasons. I’m going to skip a whole lot now because when I was outside of Israel I still maintained contact but I wasn’t so immediately involved. I believe God had a purpose in exposing me to what was going on in the Gentile world. And so for a while I ministered in Britain, then I ministered in Kenya, then I ministered in Canada and then I immigrated to the United States by accident, if you can understand that.
Well, while we were in Kenya, Lydia and I adopted our ninth daughter. We didn’t plan it, I was principal of a teacher training college and we were very busy with educational work. But one evening a European lady and an African couple turned up about 6:00 o’clock in the evening and the European lady was carrying a little black baby in a very dirty towel. They asked if they could come in and we said yes. Then the European lady said, “This little girl was born in a hut. Her mother died, she was found unconscious on the floor. They took her to the hospital, she’s getting better but the hospital said we’re not a children’s home, we can’t keep children forever. We have been going around for three days, the whole of this area, looking for any family—African, Asian or European—that would take her.” Then they said, “We heard that you take children.” We said, “Oh yes, that was long ago, but not today.” They said, “We’re so tired, can we sit down?” We said sure, sit down. They sat about half an hour, got up to go and as this white lady carried this little black baby past me, the baby put out its hand like that, as if to say, what are you going to do about me? I looked at my wife and I said, “Maybe we’ll change our minds.” She said, “Give me a week to find a cot and some baby clothes, and you can bring her back.” So that’s how we got our ninth daughter. Lydia had always said, “I’d always like to have one little black girl.”
So, later we had traveled through Canada because I was associated with a Canadian mission at that time. I had an invitation to visit the States, a pastor in Minneapolis whom I’d met in World War II. We got to the border and presented ourselves and they said, “What are you coming for?” I said, “A visit.” They said, “How long?” I said, “Six months.” They said, “Six months is too long for a visit.” I dealt with a lot of immigration officials because I had to get all our family into Britain. I knew you don’t argue so I said, “Maybe you can help us.” I think we must have looked the most helpless trio with this little black girl. The immigration official said, “Come in and we’ll see what we can do.” They led us into Minneapolis and they arranged the whole process of immigration, which I had never intended. I say to people I’m probably the only person who immigrated into the United States by accident! But, it was one of the most decisive events in my career because I’ve lived now from 1963 to 1993, that’s 30 years unplanned but planned by God.
Now, in 1975 my first wife died and 1977 I was invited to join a tour to Israel, led by Cardinal Soonans, who was the Catholic Charismatic cardinal from Belgium. He was going to celebrate his 50th year in the priesthood in Jerusalem. A group of people including Bob Mumford and Charles Simpson and others were invited to go along. I never really thought that I’d find myself in an Armenian church in the old city in Jerusalem, laying hands on a Catholic cardinal to celebrate his 50th anniversary. I mean, some of the situations that you get into you don’t expect.
Well, when the rest of the group went home I said I believe it’s time for me to go back to Israel because I always knew I was to go back. I stayed a week beyond the rest of the party and there was a ministry there that had been circulating my literature and even translating it into both Hebrew and Arabic. I thought I owe it to them to go and say thank you. I had received a letter from them in the course of business about something and written in handwriting at the bottom was “I want to thank you for your ministry, it has meant a great deal to me. Ruth Baker.” I thought, I’ll thank the lady and I said, “Is there a lady named Ruth Baker that works here?” They said, “Oh yes, but she’s sick, she’s injured her back, she’s at home.” Now I have had for years a ministry for praying for people with back problems so I thought I really couldn’t be so callous as to do nothing about it. I said, “Do you think she’d like me to pray for her?” They said, “Oh yes!” They phoned and arranged it all.
I was being driven around by a young man. We set out to find the house, got lost, wandered around Jerusalem for about 30 minutes. Eventually I said to him, “Listen, David, it’s no good. We just can’t find it, God doesn’t want us here.” We stopped the car right opposite the house! So I went in and there was this lady lying on a couch and I could see from her face that she was in pain. I was a little hesitant, I said, “I have a rather unusual way of praying for people who have back problems, I check their legs and if they’re unequal the short leg grows out and then you know you’ve been touched by God and you just take whatever you want.” Has anybody ever seen me do that? I’m sure somebody must have. Okay. It still works. I didn’t plan it, I mean I would never have thought of such a thing. If I have time I’ll tell you how it worked with an Israeli.
So I said to this lady, “Do you mind if I check your legs?”
She said okay. I checked them, they were absolutely even. Now, that’s very unusual. Very few people have absolutely even legs. I said, “That’s most unusual. The only people that have even legs are people who’ve been prayed for. Did anybody pray for you?” She said, “Yes, you did.” And without knowing it, about six years earlier she’d been at a meeting and I prayed for her.
Well, when the legs are equal I have to find somewhere else to start. I said, “The Bible says lay hands on the sick and they will be healed.” I laid my hand on her, gave her a prophecy and thought that’s a job well done, and took off.
Now, my last night in Israel I could not sleep. I didn’t even feel sleepy. I just lay there and sometime after midnight I had a vision. I knew the vision was about returning to Israel. It was a vision of what they call Mount Zion, which isn’t Mount Zion, a very steep hill on the west side of Jerusalem. There was this zigzag path going up the hill, steep, and I knew what God was showing me was the way back to Israel will not be easy, it will be uphill and it won’t be straightforward, it will be zigzag. The thing that impressed me most, right where the path started there was a lady in this vision in a rather unusual dress and a rather unusual position. As I looked at her I thought that’s the lady I prayed for the other day.
Well, what really made things difficult was I felt the Lord was saying, “I want you to marry that lady.” I said, “Lord, I don’t know her, I don’t love her. How can you ask me?” But the Lord didn’t answer. So I said to myself this is where Pentecostal preachers get into trouble. I’ll be very discreet so I did nothing but pray for a month. And at the end of that time I still had this impression.
By that time I was back in the States so I wrote the lady a nice tactful letter and said if you should ever be visiting the States, there is a fellowship in Kansas City which is very interested in Israel. I know they would make you welcome.
Well, I got the letter back saying I’m coming next week!
So, I got her phone number and I can’t go into the details but we ended up arriving at Kansas City airport within five minutes of one another. Ruth had her youngest daughter with her.
So, we spent a few days together and we talked about Israel and the Bible and so on, but nothing very deep.
Then I had to go to South Africa for ministry. I said, “Are you going to be back in Israel?” She said, “Yes, I’m going to be back for Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement. I had planned to return from Africa through Jerusalem and be there for Yom Kippur. I said, “Maybe we’ll meet.”
Then the last place I preached in South Africa was Pretoria. It was a rather wealthy church and they gave me quite a generous offering. I’ve always had an ambition to buy a South African diamond. So I said to the pastor, “Can you help me?” He said, “Yes, the best jeweler in town is a member of my church.” So Monday he took me to his shop and showed me all the diamonds and the benefits and the blessings of one of them. I chose one that I liked and I had a little money over so I bought what they call a Tiger’s Eye, you know what that is? A double Tiger’s Eye.
Then I sent a telegram to this lady saying, “Meet me in the King David Hotel for breakfast at 9:00 am” on a certain date. I thought this is going to settle it one way or the other. I was staying in the King David Hotel, at 9:00 o’clock I was down there in the lobby, at ten to nine, sitting in a chair facing the revolving doors, saying to myself will she or won’t she? And, promptly at 9:00 o’clock in she walked.
So we had breakfast and if you know Israeli breakfasts, they’re pretty ample. We sat and talked and I wanted to know everything about her so I pumped her about her life story. Then we went out and sat beside the swimming pool and I went on asking questions. Then I said, “Maybe we should have lunch together.” So we did. I was still asking questions. After a while she said, “I’m sorry but I’m too tired to answer any more questions.” I thought I was very, very tactless. I said, “I think I need to tell you why I wanted to have breakfast with you.” So I said, “I was praying and I saw you in a vision and I felt the Lord wanted me to marry you.” She said, “Yes.” She had her own struggles but we won’t go into that.
So then I slipped my hand into my pocked, pulled out a little packet wrapped in paper and said, “It so happens I have a diamond,” which she is now wearing. So if you want to know about that story, it’s in God Is A Matchmaker. There’s a lot more besides that story but it’s not just for people who aren’t married, there’s a lot of other chapters in the book. But lately I’ve met three couples, two in Britain and one in the States, they said, “Each of us got the book separately, we didn’t know the other, and here we are married.” So, it works.
So we got married on the 17th of October—you know, you’ve always got to check with your wife if you’ve got the right date—1978. A lot of things happened before we got married but anyhow. Then I knew we were to move to Jerusalem and in 1980 we started to build a house. That was a long story and I can’t go into it.
But once is enough to build a house in Jerusalem! You have no idea what’s involved. And it’s not getting any easier, I don’t think. From 1981 through 1989 our Jerusalem home was really a base for worldwide ministry. We hadn’t planned it that way. We made three journeys around the world in succession. One of three months, one of five months and one of seven months, ministering in many different countries. I think it is partly a fulfillment of the word in Isaiah 2:3:
“The Lord shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
I think God wants to restore Jerusalem as a center for the truth of His Word. God chose certain of us, myself and Brother Lance Lambert who is a close friend of ours, and it is happening that way. The word of the Lord is going forth from Jerusalem.
Then in 1990–91 we took a so-called sabbatical to seek God because we felt we’d arrived at a crisis. Somehow our ministry was going to change. Meanwhile our ministry had grown worldwide so that now we touch almost every nation on earth with teaching material, in cassettes, video cassettes, books and through the radio broadcast. My books have been translated, part of them, at any rate, into 50 different languages. We have 16 of my books now in Chinese and there’ll be just about that number in Russian.
I just want to conclude by saying this, that while we were on sabbatical God dealt with us, I would say, ruthlessly. I don’t have time to tell you but it was one of the toughest periods in our lives for both of us. Myself, I became critically ill and without antibiotics I probably wouldn’t be alive. But, praise God, I bounced back, I’m flourishing, for which I give God and the doctors the thanks. Years ago I wouldn’t have thanked doctors but I’ve humbled myself and acknowledge I need doctors. That’s one of the things God dealt with.
God dealt with us both primarily about pride and He showed us a remedy for pride which is confess your sins one to another. It’s difficult to remain proud when you’ve confessed to each other the various sins. God brought back to my mind sins I had committed 40 years ago, and He said, “I’ll forgive any sin that’s confessed, but if it’s not confessed it’s not forgiven.” That’s a very searching thought that I don’t want to go into.
But at the end of this sabbatical God finally—we gave six months, we thought that will be plenty to find out what our future is. At the end of six months we didn’t know a thing. We took an extra month and a half and at that period God showed us from now on our primary ministry is intercession and our home in Jerusalem is to be the base. I am to go and minister but only where the Lord specifically sends me. I’m here this evening because I believe the Lord specifically sent me.
I want to say the future of Israel is in the hands of the Lord. Things are not going to get easier. Later on in this series I’m going to deal with the prophetic picture of Israel and their future.
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