History’s darkest chapter : The Holocaust & God’s sovereignty

The first time I was ever introduced to the Holocaust was while I was in boarding school in 11th grade. Hostellers occasionally got an opportunity to watch a movie or two at our school’s audio-visual room and one time we watched the movie – The Boy in stripped Pyjamas (2008).

Many might be familiar with the film and the story line and how the German boy exchanges clothes with the Jewish friend he made across the fence of a Nazi concentration camp. Not knowing why he was there, he would sneak in some snacks to him and one day they exchanged clothes and the German boy entered the camp and ends up in the gas chamber along with his friend. They are made to undress as they’re told that they’re being deloused but it was gas that poured in through the taps.

It was then that I was exposed to the sheer horror and the catastrophe that took place in the 1940s, between 1941-1945. Looking back at history, it appears to be massive hole in the human history.

I felt compelled to write about this subject. It must be talked about. And more than that we ought to know and seek the God’s heart about this. Did He not see the suffering of His people? If He did, why didn’t he do anything?

Another movie was instrumental in shaping my knowledge and awareness of the holocaust. It was – Schindler’s list (1993). And also – Playing for time (1980).

As I sat to research and write down about the subject, all that I had heard, seen, and understood about the holocaust, not just through these movies but over the years after my first encounter with the subject. This was the summary of it all.

If death could be personified on Earth, It would be Auschwitz.” And “It was like a crack in the ground through which hell could be seen.”

As this image was formed in my mind, I went forward to read and research about the survivors of Auschwitz. Here is the first article I read – I was 90% dead: Henri’s story of surviving Auschwitz. (Article link- https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51204090)

And very interestingly, the first of lines of this article read. –

The death camp the Nazis built in occupied southern Poland during World War Two was, another survivor once told me, like a crack in the surface of the Earth through which hell could be seen. And a crack in the surface of our common humanity through which could be seen our capacity for enduring suffering, and inflicting it.

Ask Henri how he lived through it and his answer is simple: “You did not live through Auschwitz. The place itself is death,” he tells the BBC, 75 years after it was liberated.

I was astounded as I read that.

Many have talked about the horrors that have taken place in these designated death camps set up by Hitler. But all of us know that our words do not do justice. Rather, silence is more fitting. Where now in our culture people shout from the rooftops about the injustices they are facing, a silent remembrance through the darkest corridors of history is the only way to remember the holocaust. Words cannot describe it.

The Jewish nation, the people of God endured an adversity of unparalleled scale. Their adversaries had a mission to wipe them out from the face of the Earth. And boy did they try to do it.  Approximately Six million Jewish men, women and children were killed.

People talk about – “ Where is God in the pain and suffering of the world?”. Why doesn’t he stop war, famine, hunger, and injustice? Doesn’t He see death, pain, and suffering?

People may complain about their own pain and suffering or that of the world  and attribute that to ‘The reason Why He doesn’t exist’.

Little do we realize, we fail to take notice that the Jewish Nation, the people God called His own endured suffering, anguish, death, and pain of inequitable measure. Survivors still suffer, long after being liberated. They walked through the darkest corridor of their lives and though now they have passed through and are in the light, they can never forget. And in the most astounding way – this reveals the Glory of the God.

A few days after watching the movie Schindler’s list, I was doing my daily Bible reading and the reading portion was from Isaiah chapter 43. I must say that the movie had made me think and feel the pain, suffering and the deep void of the lives of Jewish people. And reading the first few verses of this Chapter drove home the astounding reality and truth.

Isaiah – Chapter 43

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

God was with His people Israel. It helps when we remember that the God is speaking to Israel as a nation in this passage and not as individuals. He says, ”When”. Not “If”.

And that’s not to say that the God brought this affliction on His people out of his own will and plan. No. The affliction was brought about by the evil residing in one man’s heart. But our God is sovereign over the will of man and over everything that happens. Rather this means that when the affliction and atrocity was brought about on them – God was with them. With each and every one of them who are called by His name.

This might be hard to digest. But let me go ahead and hopefully by God’s grace you will understand and have peace as you see His goodness and sovereignty.

The people of God in this world went through the terrible suffering which cannot be put into words. Just Thinking about it sends chills down our spines, our soul trembles. It almost feels like a void, where millions of Jewish lives just disappeared. It is an incomplete story, a story with the ending that we will witness on the other side of eternity.

When we look a little farther back into the Jewish history, something similar happened to a Man whom  God loved and called His own Son. Jesus Christ of Nazareth. While on Earth, Jesus was blameless, a Holy Man. He loved the Lord His God with all of His heart, with all His mind, with all His soul and all of His strength. He himself was God incarnate, God in human flesh.

Yet he was betrayed by one of His very own disciples. He was falsely accused and captured by the guardians of the Jewish temple at the time who were the religious elites.

The blameless, righteous and Son of God suffered the most agonizing and excruciating execution ever invented. But not only that. There was unpresidential suffering that Jesus went through prior to the crucifixion – The spiritual anguish that the He bore in Gethsemane where His sweat fell down as drops of blood, the whole night where He was led from one place to another for trial before different rulers, the slapping, the spitting, the mockery, the crown of thorns that they made him wear, the repeated hitting on His head, the dishonour, the scourging, holding up the heavy cross beam and finally the execution.

Apart from all that, the suffering of the Lord Jesus is far insurmountable by anyone because He was blameless, Holy Lamb of God, The Second person of the Trinity – The Eternal Son. He endured on the cross the full wrath and judgement of God for the sins of all mankind, He did this for you and for me. He was crushed in body and spirit, and He endured the righteous Judgement of the Lord God against sin of all humanity on that cross. The sin was so great that the Father turned His face away from the Son and that was the deepest anguish of our Lord apart from all the physical agony and pain. The Lord Jesus Christ entered death to bring us to life.

The saviour of Israel and all of the world endured the greatest suffering ever inflicted on a man, because it was only afflicted on Him. Apart from tremendous physical suffering, he bore the wrath and judgement of God on our behalf, which no human can ever bear. He has saved mankind from God’s just judgement against sin and wickedness.

Jesus’ life ended on Earth in extreme anguish that we cannot understand unless the Lord helps us to, and it ended in death. People may have thought the story had ended and the Lord God did not care or act for His own. But we know what follows, the Lord God raised His Son, Jesus from the dead on the third day!

He was resurrected. Our Lord and Saviour, gloriously alive forevermore!

Jesus said in Matthew 5

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Our God allowed His Son to go through immense and indescribable suffering, in the same way He allowed Hitler to persecute His people and even though God could stop the carnage, He walked through the waters with His people, He was with them in the fire.

He led them through the valley of the shadow of death and will restore them in His glorious presence with eternal glory. The people of God will be comforted and filled eternally in His presence as Jesus said in Matthew 5:10

The holocaust displays the riches of the God’s patience and mercy.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (even the Nazis)

The Lord has the same love for all people like Lord Jesus had love for the ones who crucified Him. From the cross, the Lord prayed – “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” – Luke 23:34

Even though we don’t see or understand why the Jewish people went through this terrifying atrocity, we will see the complete picture when Lord Jesus returns and the Lord’s judgement is displayed against all evil, sin and wickedness. And on that day, we will praise Him for His judgements.

Even though the Jewish people underwent a soul shattering experience, attempts of annihilating them which birthed these plans in Hitler’s mind were thwarted by the Lord and Israel stands today as one of the most prosperous nations and advanced nations of the world.

Indeed, they walked through the fire, but were not burned.

Revelation 19:1

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for true and just are his judgments.

In the end it is important to remember, that though people may use pain and suffering as the reason to disregard the existence of God, it was Jesus Christ, God’s only Son in the flesh who endured the greatest suffering that could ever be borne, and Israel who are called God’s own people endured one of the most horrific suffering mankind has ever known.