It was on this day in 1943 that over 4,000 Jews of Thrace were seized by Nazis and deported to Treblinka and Auschwitz. These Jews included inhabitants of the island of Samothracia, most all of whom were exterminated upon arrival at the death camps. One week later, over 7,000 Jews of Macedonia were rounded up and shipped to Treblinka and, unfortunately, were also destined to that same fate. By the time the war had ended, only about 200 Jews from Thrace and a similar number from Macedonia had survived the Holocaust. Those that did survive had either chosen to fight as partisans or had been hidden by their Christian neighbors.
Looking over the historical events that occurred on certain Hebrew calendar dates, there is seldom a day that does not a mention some Holocaust related event, most of them disturbing. I try not to speak of these things too often because, quite frankly, it could become quite depressing over time, when our intention is share those thoughts that are inspiring. Today, I’m making an exception and here’s why: Thrace and Macedonia are two ancient regions, existing in the Roman era, that encompass parts of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. But more specifically, both of these regions are mentioned in the book of Acts.
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia.” (Acts 16:9-12)
I find it interesting that the two places related to our historical event, today, – Samothrace and Macedonia – are specifically mentioned here. Before receiving the vision, Paul had desired to go to different places and preach but God prevented him from doing it. In time, the reason became obvious – God wanted him to go to Macedonia. According to the Scripture we read, Paul traveled and preached to people who lived in the very regions that we are discussing today. In fact, it was in Macedonia that Lydia received the gospel of the Messiah and later on, where the Philippian jailor came to believe. The point is this: Who knows what kind of an impact Paul made beyond what is recorded for us? Who knows what kind of an impact Lydia and the Philippian jailor may have had on others? From there, there were doubtless hundreds of unnamed people who continued affecting the people living in the region.
It’s quite possible that the believers who were living in Macedonia and Thrace during the time of the Holocaust, and who protected some of their Jewish neighbors, MAY have been a direct result of Paul’s journey into this region. That would also infer that those Jews in these particular regions who survived the Holocaust might not have had Paul not made that trip? And so we can conclude that Paul’s answer to the Macedonian call had a direct impact on a small remnant of Jews who lived 2,000 years later.
Think of it this way, Noah not only built an ark, but according to Scripture, was also a preacher of righteousness. How effective a preacher was he? Well, in the short term, he was pathetic – only eight people got on the ark and were all related to him. However, looking at his effectiveness long term, he was very successful. If you’re breathing and alive, that means you owe some degree of gratitude to Noah for answering the call upon his life. Noah’s obedience so long ago, without any knowledge of you or me, is why we are here today. Because Noah was faithful to the call, future generations could live.
So might it be, that Paul’s obedience, in some small way, is responsible for the survival of that remnant of Jews during World War II? Personally, I believe that is probable but what does that have to do with you and me? None of us truly realize the impact our obedience can have, not just for today but for the future. We might think that no one notices or cares whether or not we’re struggling with God’s call on our life. And it may be that no one in this generation will take note or even care. But who’s to say that future generations won’t benefit from our obedience to answer God’s call upon our life. The Creator isn’t just considering today but is also looking at tomorrow and beyond. Because His eye is on the big picture, according to His purposes, He’s placed us here for this hour. So then, be faithful to the call. Answer the call. Someone’s life may depend upon it.