“And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith Jehovah: ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.”
“What!” you say, “will not all the sufferings of Israel through all these centuries suffice? Is there a yet future baptism of fire, through which they must pass?” Yes, this is clear from this prophecy, as well as from many others. Listen to this declaration of the prophet Ezekiel:
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying: ‘Son of man, the house of Israel is to Me become dross; all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver.’ Therefore thus saith the Lord God: ‘Because ye are all become dross, behold therefore, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in Mine anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of My wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted, in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out My fury upon you'” (Ezek. 22.17-22).
Here, too, the terrible fiery furnace immediately succeeds the gathering into the midst of Jerusalem.
But may not this “time of Jacob’s trouble” refer to the awful calamity which befell the nation at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, which was repeated with perhaps still greater severity about sixty-five years later in the time of Bar Cochba and Hadrian? No! The ordeal announced here through which Israel is to pass is terribly sharp, but brief in its duration, as suggested by the very figure employed- which is that of a woman in travail; and it ends in their salvation: while the sufferings at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus only inaugurated a long series of dispersions, massacres, spoliations, and oppressions, which have already continued for more than nineteen centuries. Of course, it is not denied that these long-enduring sufferings were predicted in the Word of God, and have their place and relation to Israel’s apostasy and future glory; and, in one sense, “the time of Jacob’s trouble” may be only a summing up, a culmination, of all that has preceded: but it is clear that there is a time of purging by fiery judgment awaiting Israel after the return to their land, which will immediately precede their national conversion and the revelation to them of the Messiah, whom, as a nation, they have so long rejected.
What have we in the last chapters of Zechariah? Israel in their land; not necessarily the entire nation, but the bulk of it, evidently restored in a state of unbelief. Then comes this awful announcement:
“Behold, the day of Jehovah cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city… And it shall come to pass, that in all the land,” saith the Lord, “two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, ‘It is My people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God'” (Zech. 14.1, 2; 13.8, 9).
This is the immediate prospect after restoration to Palestine of the people who rebelled against the Most High, and rejected His Son, and always resisted the Holy Spirit- a furnace seven times heated, and anguish as acute as are the pangs of a woman in travail. Alas! Poor Israel, who desire the day of the Lord, to what end is it for you? Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness and not light, even very dark and no brightness in it (Am. 5.18, 20)? But, blessed be God, His anger will not endure for ever; “though weeping may endure for a night, joy will come in the morning.” And even when Israel sits in darkness- a deeper darkness than they have ever been in yet- “the Lord shall be a light unto them” (Mic. 7.8); and, although their tribulation and anguish shall be so great that there has been none like it, in the midst of the wrath God will remember mercy; and, according to His promise, He will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob.
Suddenly, when the cloud will be thickest, and the anguish most acute; when even the small remnant that shall be left of Israel shall despair of hope, and Israel’s enemies be most certain in their own minds of accomplishing their purpose of utterly exterminating that people whom they will think has been given over to them as a prey; when the proud spirit of the haughty Jew shall be broken, and humility and penitence take the place of stubbornness and pride; when the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, saying, “Spare Thy People, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach;” and when the whole people, brought to such extremities that they will be willing to receive help from whatsoever quarter it may come, cry “Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence! Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech Thee, we are all Thy people!” (Is. 64.1, 9) – then, suddenly, with the speed of lightning, and attended by all His saints and hosts of angels, shall the same Jesus, who ascended bodily and visibly on a cloud from the Mount of Olivet, so and in like manner, be revealed again; but this time in a special and peculiar manner, as Israel’s King and Deliverer. ‘And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east’, and from thence He shall ‘go forth and fight against those nations (Israel’s enemies) as in the day of battle.‘ (Zech. 14.3, 4)
“And the Lord shall utter His voice before His army…and He will go forth with fire and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many.” (Joel 2.11; Is. 66.15, 16)
Just as that shepherd of Bethlehem- himself one of the most perfect and beautiful types of Him who is his great Son, as well as Lord- ‘slew both the lion and the bear,’ and saved from their jaws the lamb which was taken possession of by them as their prey: so will the Shepherd of Israel ‘save’ the remnant of His people from the hands and jaws of those who are stronger than they; and slay them who devoured, broke in pieces, and stamped with their feet, His chosen, with a fierceness exceeding even that of the bear and the lion.
*David Baron was a remarkably gifted Messianic Jewish preacher and theologian who lived from 1857-1926. His books are a glorious treasure trove, and we anticipate that they will be revived in these latter days as a great blessing to the wider Body of Christ. This article is drawn from Baron’s booklet, “The Jewish Problem- Its Solution,” which is the transcription of an exposition that Baron delivered on Jeremiah 30 and 31. The message was originally delivered in 1888, about 60 years before the present State of Israel was established.