DID YOU KNOW: Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 29:22-23 that one day there will come a stranger, one who will journey from a faraway land. And when he enters the land of Israel, he will bear witness of its barrenness, its devastation, and its desolation.
This prophecy come true when the land’s devastation was at its most extreme, in the nineteenth century. The stranger would come from America, from San Francisco, from the ends of the earth. And since the prophecy required someone to bring forth words of testimony, so he would be a man of words, a writer. He is considered by many to be the Father of American literature; the stranger was Mark Twain.
His journey had begun in June 1867 and he would reach the Holy Land in mid-September. He would enter the gates of Jerusalem on September 23. On September 27, after an excursion in the desert, he would return to the Holy City for the culmination of his pilgrimage.
September 28 would constitute his last full day and night in Jerusalem. The following day he would leave the city and head back to the shore to board his ship and begin the journey home to America where his writings would appear in articles across America and beyond. September 28 fell on a Saturday. Saturday in the Hebrew culture is the Sabbath.
Every Sabbath day, from ancient times, the Jewish people gather in their synagogues, open up the scrolls, and read the ancient Scriptures. Thus, on every Sabbath day there is a specific portion of Scripture appointed to be read called the PA-RASH-A. The appointed Scripture for September 28, 1867 was this:
. . . the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD has laid on it: ‘The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there . . . ’” (Deut. 29:22-23)
The prophecy of the stranger! It was on that day that the stranger had accomplished what the prophecy had foretold, on the day the prophecy was read throughout the earth.
The prophecy was appointed to be read in every synagogue in the world. So, across the earth, in every synagogue from San Francisco to Siberia, they were reciting and chanting the prophecy of the stranger, who would come from far away to the land of Israel to bear witness of the desolation. And so, the prophecy of the stranger was being proclaimed throughout the earth at the very moment the stranger was in the land fulfilling its words.
Since ancient times the scattered children of Israel would pray to God to have mercy on Jerusalem and bring them back to their homeland. They prayed that prayer, seeking God’s mercy, virtually every day of their exile for two thousand years. And for two thousand years it seemed to them as if God wasn’t hearing their prayers. But the stranger would be the sign that their exile was about to end, and that God had heard their prayers.
The stranger’s real name was NOT Mark Twain. At his birth he was given the name Samuel. Samuel is a Hebrew name. So, he was given a name that came from the land of Israel, the land he would one day visit. And in Hebrew Samuel means “God has heard”.
Yes, for God had heard the prayers of His people. He would fulfill His purposes for Jerusalem and the Promised Land. And what were the prayers that His ancient people prayed, that He heard and would soon answer? They were that He would restore the land and that He would bring them back, that He would have mercy, that He would be merciful to them. The stranger’s real last name was not Twain; it was Clemens. And in Hebrew Clemens means “Merciful” . . . the quality of showing mercy.
The stranger was a sign from God.
Samuel—God had heard their prayers.
Clemens—and was about to show them mercy.