It was on this day in 1898 that Theodore Herzl arrived in Jaffa on his first and only trip to the Holy Land. Herzl was a very important and instrumental person in the Zionist Movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. The Zionist Movement paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Jaffa is very important in Israeli history, as well. In fact, there are two primary events that stand out where Jaffa is concerned.
The first involves Jonah, which in Hebrew means “dove.” Jonah fled to Jaffa when God told him to go to Nineveh and preach to that “great city.” Instead of preaching to those he considered as heathens, he decided he would go to Jaffa and take a sea cruise on a boat that happened to be manned by … heathens.
Centuries later, the apostle Peter was in Jaffa staying with a tanner named Simon. It was here that he received a vision alerting him that, like Jonah before him, he was to be sent to the gentiles. Not only that, but Peter is also known to us as Simon bar (son of) Jonah. So consider the fact that Jonah was one of the first prophets to be sent to gentiles and Peter was the first Apostle of the Messiah to be sent to the gentiles. Both of them started their mission in Jaffa.
So why do these two stories intersect at Jaffa? First of all, Jaffa is a Mediterranean seaport and, in Scripture, seas often symbolize the nations (gentiles). Second, it could have something to do with the meaning of the Hebrew word Yaffa (there is no J in Hebrew) which is “beautiful.” Things “beautiful” and the nations come together in this passage from Isaiah 52:7:
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, that publishes peace, that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation, that says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
The significance of this verse is that those who have come to Zion have come from the nations, bringing glad tidings from the nations to Zion declaring that “Your God – not our gods – reigns!” Jonah and Peter were sent to the gentiles to tell them of the one true God. As more disciples shared the Gospel to the nations, from there it spread and now, in the end of days, Zion is being restored. Today, people come from the nations and go to Zion declaring, “Your God reigns!”
What this passage speaks of is tied directly to why Herzl and so many other Zionists were determined that there must be a place called Israel. Besides, God promised it and He always keeps His promises. Furthermore, the same God who used Jonah and Peter has chosen to use you to fulfill His purposes in our time. He will use us if we are willing to submit to Him and be faithful to the call He has placed upon each of us.
Just in case you might think about running from that call, be reminded – it doesn’t do any good; God knows where you are. We may as well make up our minds to do what He’s called us to do and, ultimately that is to proclaim good tidings and to declare that “Our God Reigns!”