All things work together for good

The Goeben (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Have you ever heard of a battleship called the Goeben?

There’s no particular reason why you should have, but this ship played a tiny yet incredibly important role in the formation of the modern Nation-State of Israel.

It happened like this.

The Goeben was a battleship in the Imperial German Navy and on 28 July, 1914, which was the day the First World War started, it and an escorting German cruiser were in the Mediterranean Sea on a training mission.

When the radio message (a relatively new technology at the time) reached them that war had broken out, the officers in command knew they were in trouble. There’s only two ways in or out of the Mediterranean Sea, the Straights of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, both of which were at that time under the control of the British Empire.

So the German officers knew they had to get out of the Mediterranean as quickly as they could and try to get back to Germany, and as they were closer to Gibraltar than the Suez Canal, they thought they’d make a run for it and see if they could get there before the British garrison got the message about the war having started.

But when they got within sight of Gibraltar, the guns of the garrison opened up and the officers knew they had only one chance left, to turn around and sail as fast as they could to Istanbul, Turkey There they would have to throw themselves at the mercy of the Ottoman authorities and hope for the best. The Ottoman Empire had tried to stay neutral up till that point, but was generally more friendly towards Germany than it was towards France or the UK.

Making full steam and dodging hostile encounters all along the way, the Goeben and its escort cruiser did indeed manage to dock in Istanbul on 11 August. Shortly thereafter, the two ships were transferred to the Ottoman Navy and this was instrumental in the decision of the Ottoman Empire to enter WWI on the side of Germany against the Western Allies.

This gave the British the excuse they needed to invade the oil-rich Middle East which the Ottomans had controlled for centuries. A British army under Lord Allenby marched up the Levantine Coast, taking Jerusalem a few days before Christmas in 1917 and Damascus a few months later.

Thus, in the post-war settlement, the Holy Land came under the stewardship of Great Britain, which was the only great power at the time (the US had still not risen to its full stature on the world stage) which was of a Protestant Christian persuasion and with many Christian Zionists holding positions of power and influence in the government and society.

It can plainly be seen that God orchestrated these events in order for His plans and purposes to be advanced. Despite a great deal of griping about the British Mandate which you can read for yourself in the memoirs of the generation which founded the modern Nation-State of Israel, the fact is that if anyone besides the British had taken control of this country from the Ottomans in 1917, it would have been much more difficult for the Zionist movement to work towards Independence. Additionally, the British (for their own purposes, obviously) built many infrastructure projects in Israel during the period between 1917 and 1948, ensuring that when Israel came into existence in 1948 the country was in much better condition than it otherwise would have been.

All of this happened because of a ship, the Goeben, which served as a fulcrum upon which the arc of history bent.

But the story of the Goeben  might have been completely unnoticed by history if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was personally witnessed by a little girl named Barbara Tuchman, who was on a pleasure cruise with her family in the Mediterranean on 28 July 1914 and saw the Goeben sailing by in the distance, pursued by British warships. Tuchman grew up and wrote a book called “The Guns of August” which one of the most popular histories of the opening days of the First World War, and one of the only accounts you’ll find anywhere about the Goeben incident.

There are many other books of history, ancient and modern, secular and sacred, in my office. They were mostly written by people who were not Believers, and yet, if read with spiritual eyes, these books are filled to overflowing with incidents showing the hand of God moving in history.

Aaron's bookshelf of modern Israeli history
Aaron’s bookshelf of modern Israeli history

Living as we do in times of great turmoil and a seeming acceleration of prophetic history, it’s worthwhile to review what’s come before to reassure ourselves that God is still moving. He’s not surprised by anything, and He’s got it all under control.

Our job is not to worry about stuff, big, little or otherwise. Our job is to take care of what He’s given us to be stewards of, whether it’s leading a worldwide ministry with a multi-million dollar budget or simply loving our families and raising our children in the fear of the Lord.

So remember the Goeben!

Do your best, let God do the rest, and cheer up!

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Believe that! Because it’s true!