Isaiah gave a prophetic message of warning to God’s people about trusting in man rather than God. ‘Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely in horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1). The people had gone deeply into idolatry, worshipping false gods, and needed to repent and come back to the Lord. That would eventually come to pass.
They needed to know God’s heart. Unlimited in power, unlike horses which are limited in strength, God intended to come and fight for His people, like a growling young lion. He also would be protective of the city of Jerusalem; ‘Like birds hovering, so the LORD will protect Jerusalem; he will protect it; he will spare and deliver it’ (Isaiah 31:5).
Many Christians believed this prophetic word was literally fulfilled during the First World War on 11 December, 1917. General Allenby had commissioned every aircraft he could find, as he led a campaign against the Turks in the territory of Israel. He used them for reconnaissance, and sometimes to machine gun or drop bombs. After a series of successful victories, he was given orders to press on and take possession of the city of Jerusalem before Christmas.
One writer said that General Allenby cabled Britain asking for instructions and received a reply asking him to pray, and quoting Isaiah 31:5, which he in turn had read aloud to all his troops. Another writer said that a pilot flew over Jerusalem and dropped a letter to the inhabitants urging them to surrender peacefully. This letter was signed by General Allenby, whose name in Arabic translates as ‘the prophet of God’.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that so many people attributed a divine quality to the General as their deliverer. At all events, the Turkish army decided to quietly retreat from the city during the night (Allenby had strategically provided a gap in his line of defence which they could use), and the mayor of Jerusalem took a white flag and surrendered the city to the British army. So, Jerusalem was captured without a shot being fired or anyone being injured and the land which was called ‘Palestine’ in those days was declared to be a British Protectorate. This was a stark contrast to the other events of the First World War which were so filled with bloodshed, with vast numbers of those who were killed or suffered horrific injuries.
The sight of many aircraft flying low over Jerusalem was understood by many Christians as God’s way of protecting, delivering and rescuing Jerusalem’s inhabitants, and I was delighted to discover a beautiful stained glass window in Durham Cathedral which shows an airman in a flying suit standing on a flying eagle with its wings outspread, and the verse Isaiah 31:5.
Prayer: Loving, heavenly Father, help us to trust in You rather than human methods of protection. Thank You for Your promises to Your people long ago, and to all of those who have been more recently grafted into the ‘vine’. We choose to trust in You for our protection, salvation and deliverance. Amen.
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