The Year in Retrospect

IN THE year just past, the first of the new decade of the seventies, the world saw no alleviation of the problems with which that year was introduced. It is still confronted for the most part with the same difficulties; but an impartial consideration of conditions at the year-end must lead one to the conclusion that, by and large, these difficulties have measurably worsened. All around the globe tensions and confrontations between nations continue to fester; while here at home responsible public officials are using such words as “revolution” and “anarchy” to describe conditions prevailing in certain segments of the nation.

President’s Aims for 1970

In his State of the Union message to the people of the United States, the President gave recognition to these problems, and outlined his main objectives for the ensuing year. Among these he especially stressed the continued fight against pollution; the promotion of law and order; and the hope of controlling inflation. He expected to balance the national budget to that end. And he hoped to improve the quality of life for all. Later, in his message concerning the state of the world, he promised continued disengagement of United States military power abroad, and hoped to foster a climate of negotiation with the communist countries. He observed, ominously, that at the present time either Russia or the United States could militarily destroy the other; a condition, he said, that all the world would have to learn to live with.

Pollution 1970

Mr. Nixon described the need to reduce pollution as a “now or never” proposition, and the number one domestic issue for the seventies. A main difficulty in solving this matter is the fact that the pollution of the air, sea, and earth is directly related to the world’s ever-increasing population, and to the constant human drive toward securing and enjoying earth’s material bounties with little or no concern for the awesome, ultimate price to be paid for these enjoyments in terms of destruction of the environment.

Simply stated, rising production of goods means rising production of wastes. The burning of oil, coal, and gas by power companies and industry produces wastes that permanently contaminate the atmosphere. It has been said that there is “no absolutely pure air anywhere in the world today.”

There are widely differing views on the degree and seriousness of pollution in the world today. But on two things almost all are in agreement; one is that it is still growing at an alarming rate, and must be brought to a halt; and the other is that the economic cost of eliminating it would be staggering. Public apathy and human selfishness being what they are, one does not expect any early or substantial improvement.

The Burgeoning Bomb

The year also brought a frightening resumption and increase in the incidence of bombings by members of various radical groups who want certain changes made in the nation’s social structure—today, not tomorrow. All over the country, bank offices, police stations, college buildings, corporate headquarters, and other institutions too numerous to mention—all symbols of the “establishment”—were special targets of the dissidents.

Fear is growing among thoughtful citizens that we are entering a period of sabotage of a magnitude to jeopardize the security of the country. As a result, public representatives at all levels are urging the adoption of stricter laws dealing with this type of criminal activity, including life imprisonment.

Hostages, New Style

The taking and holding of hostages, another ready form of violence, though ages old, took on new dimensions during the year. This is a particularly vicious and inhuman form of extortion, for it often inflicts cruel suffering and even death on the innocent; and while showing themselves bereft of mercy, the perpetrators attempt to gain their ends by playing on the mercy and anxiety of others.

This device takes many forms—plane hijackings, kidnappings, illegal detention of officials within their own offices, etc. What happened in Jordan this past summer is perhaps a classic case, when the passengers of three hijacked planes, including women, children, and the aged, were held for weeks without proper food, water, or sanitary facilities, pending the outcome of Arab demands for the release of some of their imprisoned associates in crime. After the passengers and crew were finally released, the three planes were wantonly destroyed. Worldwide, the hijackings go on, and increase.

In Canada, James R. Cross, senior British Trade Commissioner in Quebec, was kidnapped, and demands made for his ransom. He has now been released. Later, M. Laporte, the Labor Minister of Quebec, was kidnapped and murdered, presumably by members of the same terrorist group seeking to accomplish the separation of the province of Quebec from Canada. The Canadian Government became so concerned that the nation was brought under martial law, and so remains. In the United States the same fears are growing. In public buildings all over the Capital one finds extra guards, locked doors, and electronic devices in evidence as never before. While in South and Central America political abductions are becoming almost commonplace.

Disenchanted Youth

Nor does the rebelling of large numbers of the young against any and all forms of authority that has erupted in recent years show any signs of abating. Parents, teachers, civil and governmental authorities alike seem baffled in their efforts either to define its root cause, or to devise a way to meet it.

Unfortunately, those who suggest solutions are the very ones with whom the young are most disenchanted, and for whose views they have little respect. Who was it, the young ask, that maneuvered the nation into an undeclared war half way around the world? And which is fought, by the way, by the young? And how can the older generation honestly talk to the young about morality, ethics, and respect for the law when they are themselves so destitute of these qualities?

The year also experienced further tragic events on campus. At Kent State University in Ohio four students were slain during disorders on the grounds of the university; and less than two weeks later two more students were slain by police at a campus outbreak at Jackson State College in Mississippi.

Drug Explosion

From his position as Director of the Bureau of Narcotics, John E. Ingersoll stated that the drug problem—and he was talking largely of marijuana—“has exploded into a problem of frightening proportions. … Our information, intelligence, statistics and arrest data show that drug abuse in this country is mounting at a startling rate.” The increase is especially alarming in the juvenile sector; children are even employed as “pushers,” or salesmen, and some young people callously finance their college careers by the sale of drugs.

Among the United States troops in Vietnam the use of marijuana has become so general that it has been said that there are two separate wars going on—that against the enemy, and that against the use of marijuana. In certain areas of Vietnam it is said that marijuana is as easy to obtain as chocolate bars.

This accelerating use of, and dependence on, drugs is a further sad commentary on the trying and disordered times in which we live.

Viewing the overall havoc resulting from the strife, the use of drugs, the violence and crime of all forms besetting the nation, Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine solemnly warned that the country may soon be faced with a “choice between anarchy and repression.” We must agree with Mrs. Smith’s judgment that if it should come to making such a choice, the American public would most likely choose repression as the lesser of two evils; forgetting, perhaps, that repression is often the first step down the road to tyranny. That the possibility of having to make such a choice is even discussed by one of Senator Smith’s eminence is an indication of the seriousness with which she views the current scene.

How accurately the Apostle Paul portrayed the times in which we are living: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”—II Tim. 3:14

A New Role for the Church Nominal?

The religious world has not come off unscathed from the restiveness that is abroad in the world. The mood of the people is revealed in a growing sense of indifference toward religion, in a feeling that the churches are not supplying substance, direction, and leadership which is relevant to present day life and problems. As a result, religion is losing its influence in the lives of increasing numbers of Americans. Attendance at church services continues to dwindle; and along with this, contributions are, of course, declining, leading to financial difficulties. In the United States alone the Catholic Church has had to close almost one thousand parochial schools in the last four years.

The attitude of a growing number of today’s religionists can best be indicated by quoting the view of Reverend James D. Watson, Moderator of the New York City Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church. He said. “I see the ministry in terms of social action, not in terms of preaching or the rest of the nonsense we went through years ago. In our day, we are more concerned about man than God. God can take care of himself.”

One cannot refrain from quoting from Matthew’s Gospel, in which is set forth the essence of Jesus’ ministry: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17) And the words of our Lord himself to his disciples: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) Jesus’ ministry should be the ministry of all who profess to be his followers—and that ministry is the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom.

Apollo 13

One of the most harrowing events of the year, and one of the most heart-warming, was the voyage around the moon by three men in the crippled spaceship, Apollo 13, beginning on April 11. For four agonizing days the minds, hearts, and prayers of the world were united, perhaps as never before, in their concern and hope for the safe return to earth of the three imperiled astronauts. For four memorable days all differences, all contention, all disputes were forgotten as the entire world, almost holding its collective breath, strained to catch the latest news of the journey, the latest words of the brave men themselves concerning their plight—ever hopeful of good news, ever fearful lest the words they would hear should announce a tragedy.

All had gone well until the trouble occurred late on the night of April 13, with the explosion of a tank containing oxygen essential to the production of Apollo’s energy supply. As one lived with the ensuing drama, admiration and respect were stirred by the courage and ingenuity of all involved, both on the stricken ship and at command headquarters, as the many unforeseen difficulties were overcome. And finally the spacecraft was brought to a perfect splashdown in the Pacific, bringing the brave and weary travelers safely home.

The world gave vent to a mighty, prayerful sigh of relief as happy messages of congratulations poured into Washington from every corner of the globe. Presently, each resumed his usual routine—but, hopefully, a little better, a little more kindly, a little closer to his fellow man, if only for a little time. The world had had a brief glimpse of what man can be, and will be, at his potential best, when God’s kingdom is established in the earth; “when each man shall love his fellow; justice give to each and all; dwell in love, and dwell in Jesus, who redeemed them from the fall.”

Vietnam Quagmire

Looking away from domestic matters, we find at year-end that the brutal war in Vietnam drags on, and the Paris “peace” talks continue interminably, and with the same dismal ineffectiveness. Mr. Nixon would like nothing better than to end the war and bring the American troops home. But he is plagued by military commitments which, as President, he inherited with his office. Nevertheless, he did proceed steadily to reduce the number of American troops engaged in Vietnam.

It is to be wondered how much longer the American people will endure the war. At the same time, one shrinks from contemplating what would happen to the South Vietnamese people when and if the presence of the United States is withdrawn from that land. Perhaps the pitiful inhabitants of that unfortunate nation are too numbed by over twenty years of war to care very much.

The Cambodian Venture

One of the surprising events in connection with the Vietnam War was President Nixon’s decision to use American troops to invade Cambodia. This raised a storm of protest from all sides. Even some of his friends were skeptical of the wisdom of such a course; for the President was risking not only his own personal prestige on the success of the thrust, but the prestige of the nation as well.

Under heavy pressure from his critics and from the Congress, the President brought the invading American forces out of Cambodia by the end of June. He announced later that the engagement had succeeded in its aim of destroying or capturing quantities of enemy supplies; enough, it was stated, to hamper enemy operations for many months. This may be true; but it is also true that the invasion became an additional source of dissatisfaction and protest by those opposed to the war, and fired up further disorders and violence throughout the country.

Death of a Giant

“General de Gaulle is dead. France is a widow.” Thus the world received the news of the passing on November 9 of Charles de Gaulle, former Premier and President of France.

He was the last of the great leaders of the Second World War. He had lived a life of intense activity; he had experienced the heights and the depths in his military and political careers. By contrast, his passing occurred in a quiet little country village far from the strife and turmoil of government.

He was not universally loved, either in his own country or abroad; but his place in history is assured, and the world will remember him as the one who led his beloved and stricken country back to a measure of strength and stability after the Second World War.

The Middle East Conflict

In spite of the turmoil prevalent in other parts of the world, there is no doubt that the war in the Middle East between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations engaged the anxious attention of the world more than any other situation during 1970. At the beginning of the year, concern was renewed over the threat of a general war evolving out of the conflict, possibly even sucking in the two great powers.

In an effort to cool down the worsening situation, the United States proposed a cease-fire. The Egyptian Government promptly accepted, hoping to use the time to build up her strength along the Suez. Israel, apparently discerning Egypt’s intentions, reluctantly agreed, on the assurance of President Nixon that Egypt would not violate the cease-fire. As it turned out, Israel’s fears were well-founded; for Russia promptly strengthened Egypt’s position along the Suez with numerous missile-launching bases.

Later, while observing Israel Air Force Day, and having in mind the Egyptian violation, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said wryly: “Now in the fourth year of the six-day war, I fear that the next round will not be held at a peace table … but … in the bunkers and skies with rockets, artillery and attempts at invasion.”

Into this mélange of events came the startling news of Nasser’s death. Nasser’s moves in the Middle East have never been entirely clear to observers, for his statements could rarely be taken at face value. Yet he did maintain a measure of control over the Arab world. With that firm leadership removed, it is uncertain what may ensue.

But the basic elements of conflict remain. The fragile union between the Arab nations has been maintained only by their common determination to destroy Israel. The Palestinians, no longer counting on help from their Arab relatives, have vowed they will regain their former homeland in Israel in their own way. With her new missile bases established along the Suez, Egypt seems to have gained the initiative over Israel, and may be tempted into testing her advantage militarily.

When the cease-fire proposal was being debated by Israel’s leaders, one of those most strongly opposed to its acceptance was one Gahal. He argued that Israel should not relinquish an inch of the territory gained in the six-day war, maintaining that her boundaries should be those of biblical Israel. Now deeply disturbed over the cease-fire developments, Israel seems more determined than ever not to give up any captured territory, and is girding for a long period of war conditions, if not for war itself.

All this is of the most intense interest to students of God’s Word, as they watch the unfolding of divine prophecy. For the land involved in this death struggle is that which God promised to give to Abraham and his seed. When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees in response to the Lord’s invitation, the Lord said to him, “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession: and I will be their God.”—Gen. 15:7; 17:8

The land of Canaan of Abraham’s day was somewhat roughly the land that has been occupied by the nation of Israel for the past three years, including that taken in the Six-day War of June 1967, except for a large area bordering on and east of the Suez Canal. But Israel was not faithful to the Lord and subsequently, even as he had warned them, he “scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries.” (Ezek. 36:16-19) This scattering, of course, is a matter of history.

But the Lord also promised that he would regather them into the Promised Land. “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.” (Jer. 16:14,15) This, too, is now a plain historical fact. For the Jews once more, after centuries of suffering in alien lands, are regathered to their own land, with the status of a nation among nations.

But Israel is a small nation, outnumbered and beset on every side by implacable foes who are pledged to bring about her destruction. Does this mean that the promises of the great God of the universe are to be nullified by Israel’s enemies? We believe not! The Lord, long ago, not only foresaw all these developments that we now see, but he foretold them, and the outcome, through his prophets of old.

The prophet also foretold that when the Jews had returned to their homeland, they would there be confronted with frightening circumstances: “Lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. … For thus saith the Lord; 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 [Israel] shall be saved out of it.”—Jer. 30:1-7,16

This same period of trouble upon regathered Israel, when she is surrounded by her enemies, is described by Joel: “Behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity [regathering] of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them [judge them, Schofield, NEB, Rotherham] there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.” (Joel 3:1-2) The prophet identifies this time with the day of the Lord —that day into which the world has already entered, at the close of which all the unrighteous institutions of this present evil world will be utterly destroyed in the final phase of the great time of trouble, before the establishment of Christ’s kingdom.—Joel 2:1-11; 3:9-14

The prophet indicates that Israel’s enemies will attack her, and the destruction and carnage that shall befall that nation are graphically described by the Prophet Zechariah: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”—Zech. 14:1-2

It is at this point, when “the arm of flesh” has utterly failed her, that the Lord will intervene on behalf of Israel: “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:3) The same prophet says also, “It shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek [set about, NEB] to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” In that hour of defeat and despair, when the Lord finally destroys her enemies, Israel will at last recognize and praise their Jehovah God. And they will also recognize the Lord Jesus, for then “they shall look upon [him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”—Zech. 12:10

After those days, the Lord tells us, “they shall dwell safely and none shall make them afraid. … Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God.”—Ezek. 34:28-31

And finally, in that glorious day when all sin and evil are banished from the earth, not only will the Jews recognize God, and Jesus their Redeemer, but the whole world of mankind, risen from the grave, will with their whole heart render love and homage and praise to the Heavenly Father, and to his Son Jesus—in that wonderful new world wherein dwelleth righteousness.—II Pet. 3:12,13; Zeph. 3:9; Rev. 21:1-4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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