By Charles E. McCracken
READ TODAY’S EXTENDED TEXT: ISAIAH 49:14 – 23
ISAIAH 49:22 – 23
“Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders; kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; they shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet, then you will know that I am the LORD, they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.’”
The Zionist vision at the turn of the century was a single delicate cord drawing the Jewish people back to their ancient home; but, that cord had more than one strand. One of those strands included influential people who were committed to a literal interpretation of Scripture and firmly believed in the veracity of God’s promises to His Chosen People.
It was the spiritual climate of Victorian England that propelled the Zionist movement forward into what could well be described as the zenith of British Zionism. Beginning in the mid-1800s, the driving force of Christian Zionism came not from dispensationalists who were politically uninvolved, but from evangelical Anglicans adhering to Premillennialism and a literal interpretation of Scripture.
One such Christian Zionist, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury was well-known for his unflinching literal interpretation of the Scriptures. He self-identified as, “an evangelical of the evangelicals,” and popularized the slogan first used by Reverend Alexander Keith: “A Land without a People for a People without a Land.” (1).
He was the first British political figure to advocate the resettlement of the Jewish people back in Palestine—a position known as Jewish Restorationism in England at that time. His evangelical background coupled with political acumen, Shaftesbury influenced key government officials to the point that, “the religious beliefs of Christian Zionists became official British policy (for political interests) in Palestine and the Middle East.” (2)
In 1865, Lord Shaftesbury became the founding President of the Palestine Restoration Fund, the purpose of which was to prepare the land for its ancient owners—God’s Chosen People. Shaftesbury’s support for Jewish restoration never waned, but actually increased over time.
The signet ring Shaftesbury wore throughout his adult life was engraved with the words, “Oh, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” He did not live to see his dream of a Jewish state become a reality. By the time of his death in 1885, however, his influence had inspired a generation of politicians and clergy promoting Zionism on both a religious and political level.
At the turn of the 20th century, godly and influential Christian Zionists carried Shaftesbury’s vision to the next level.
Arthur James Balfour spent most of his life serving in some of the highest offices of British government including Prime Minister from 1902 – 1905. Born in Scotland and raised by godly parents, Balfour’s love for the Jewish people was based on his love for the Bible. At that time, the Church of Scotland was at the forefront of Jewish Restorationism. Even as a child, Balfour believed that Christianity was deeply indebted to the Jewish people and their ancient homeland should be given back to them in payment of that debt.
Unlike others working to secure the homeland for the Jewish people, Balfour truly empathized with the Jewish plight and his Jewish Restoration efforts were characterized as, “biblical rather than imperial.”(3)
Shortly after his term ended in 1905, Balfour met Chaim Weizmann who succeeded in convincing him of the value of a Jewish state in Israel’s ancient homeland. From that point forward, Balfour became passionate in his endeavors to accelerate the movement of Jewish Restoration on the political level.
In 1916, Prime Minister Lloyd George appointed him Foreign Secretary. A year later, he formally articulated what became known as the Balfour Declaration expressing Britain’s support of Jewish aspirations for a national homeland in Palestine. When the League of Nations charged Britain with the Palestinian Mandate in 1920, “it did so based on Britain’s pro-Zionist Balfour Declaration of 1917, which it incorporated into the language of the Mandate.”(4)
The Balfour Declaration accelerated movement toward a homeland for the Jewish people and was the first recognition of Zionist aspirations by a world power. Near the end of his life, Balfour told his niece, B.E. Dugdale, who was also his biographer that, “what he had been able to do for the Jews had been the thing he looked back upon as the most worth his doing.” (5)
The aforementioned David Lloyd George held the office of British Prime Minister from 1916 – 1922—a crucial time in the advancement of Zionist goals. A good friend of Balfour, Lloyd George also supported the creation of a Jewish state and actively worked toward that end. Lloyd George was not only influenced by Theodor Herzl, but had served as Herzl’s lawyer representing the Zionist movement in the British Isles.
An ardent student of the Bible from his youth, Lloyd George not only believed that the creation of a modern Jewish state was a just cause and morally right, but also that a Jewish nation in Palestine would also be an asset to Great Britain.
As Prime Minister, he was responsible for the decision to launch an offensive to conquer all of Palestine despite the risks and expense involved during World War I. He determined to gain control of Palestine and prevent any French interference in policies regarding aspirations for a Jewish state after the war. As a Christian Zionist, Lloyd George desired Great Britain “to carry out what he regarded as God’s work in Palestine”. (6)
He was influential in guiding post-war settlement efforts of the Allied Nations. The Versailles conferences held between 1919 and 1923 shaped the division of Europe and the Middle East following the war. The plan included a land for the Jewish people in Palestine; and in 1922, the last year of Lloyd George’s term as Prime Minister, the British government was given the mandate to, “be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home.” (7)
Committed to the Zionist cause following his tenure as Prime Minister of England, Lloyd George was outraged by the increasingly unwarranted appeasement of those the Allied forces had just liberated from four centuries of Turkish subjugation. He was incensed that the British government would favor Palestinian Arabs who had supported the Turks against the British in World War I at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Jewish men who fought with the British army in Zionist battalions formed by Zionist leaders and commanded by Col. John Henry Patterson. (8)
When Lloyd George envisioned a homeland for the Jewish people, his view included the whole of ancient Israel—the land of the Bible he knew so well. Lloyd George died shortly after being named Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor in 1945 only three years before Israel’s rebirth.
It is no coincidence—that as the Zionist vision became more focused among the worldwide Jewish community and the need for recognition by a world power became more acute—that God strategically placed men with a godly heritage in the leadership of the British Empire. These were men who lived their faith with courage and conviction (Jas. 2:18). Men of action and leaders in the world’s most expansive empire, Shaftesbury, Balfour and Lloyd George aided and facilitated the progress toward a modern Jewish state in the ancient homeland of God’s Chosen People.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
1) Gertrude Himmelfarb, “Before Pastor Hagee, There Was Lord Shaftesbury”, Mosaic Magazine October 20, 2013.
2) Thomas Ice, Lovers of Zion: A History of Christian Zionism.
3) Barbara Tuchman, Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1956), 311.
4) Benjamin Netanyahu, A Durable Peace, (New York: Warner Books, 2000), 51.
5) Barbara Tuchman, Bible and Sword, (New York: Balantine Books, 1984), 318.
6) Thomas Ice, Lovers of Zion: A History of Christian Zionism.
7) British Mandate of the League of Nations, Article 2.
8) Netanyahu, 51.
1) Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl Shaftesbury. By H. Robinson after Sir W. Ross. [CC BY 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Portrait of Lord Balfour, along with his famous declaration. [PD-1923], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement – MKM Portfolios
3) David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor. (1910). By Christopher Williams (1873-1934) (National Library of Wales) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios