Moving Barbarians and Titans
By Al Gray
Berkshire-Hathaway stands at the pinnacle of world finance, having weathered decades with stunning returns for its investors under the guidance of the legendary Warren Buffett and his sidekick Charlie Munger. This week Munger set off a small firestorm by questioning the wisdom of a young superstar of investing, David Einhorn, in recommending gold as an investment. The curmudgeonly Munger said “Gold Is a Great Thing to Sew into Your Garments If You're A Jewish Family In Vienna In 1939 but civilized people don't buy gold.” Critics slammed these words as a backhanded put-down to the Jewish Einhorn, while others noted that the barbarous relic, as gold has been called to by Buffett, has greatly outperformed Munger and Buffett’s flagship Berkshire for the last decade. Their attitudes toward precious metals are unmoving.
The mention of Jews in exile, gold, and immovable titans brought to mind the Book of Ezra, Chapter 1, Verses 1 - 11.
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. 4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”
5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved —prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.
7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.[a] 8 Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah…..
11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.
Yes, this is a story of moving back from an exodus of the Jews then, and more recently in 1949. The people of Judah had swept into bondage by Nebuchadnezzar and had been transported to Babylon with their treasures, which included gold and silver from the temple in Jerusalem. The book of Ezra is the story of their return to their lands in the 6th century B.C., much as they returned after the Holocaust, in Munger’s reference, and World War II.
Barbarous then and now
The second facet of this story is the transition from barbarity to benevolence (and back) of powerful worldly titans. The Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar had been uncivilized in his treatment of the Jews. He enslaved them, threw those who offended him into furnaces, and used precious metal wares from the temple in Jerusalem in his pagan temples. According to the Book of Daniel, he grew so evil that the Lord beset him with madness, sending Nebuchadnezzar into his own exile as a beast of the fields. He eventually acknowledged the Lord and was restored to his throne. Alas, his heirs returned to barbarity and evil.
Last week Mr. Munger totally missed the point with his remarks. Hardly a “barbarous relic,” then Gold turned out to be a lifesaver for those Jews in the 1930’s, a hard money deliverance from the hideous, very real barbarity of the Nazi’s. It bought them safe passage out of Hitler’s Europe and provident savings toward a new life in safety and freedom. Throughout Ezra, the importance of gold and silver to the people in times of evil shines through in repeated references and accounts.
What may turn out to be truly uncivilized are our modern monetary and financial systems under the control of the perhaps the most corrupt men the world has seen since Hitler and Stalin. Our life savings and fruits of our labor are mere digits in various computers under the authority of people who can eviscerate their value with mere keystrokes, men who have proven amoral, thieving, and remorseless in electronically converting our “assets” to their use by outright theft or by “money-printing.” The situation is so bad that this clip came out of Southpark Studios after the near banking collapse of 2008:
In this evil world what is “civilized”? “Responsible”? The Berkshire corporation of Buffett and Munger was beneficiary of bail-outs facilitated under the electronic monetary system, so are these titans of business really credible arbiters of what is “civilized” versus “barbarous?” Are titans like these foisting a modern society built on looting while calling it “civilized?” (Later in his interview, Munger repeatedly cited the increasing “sin” in our world and the danger it poses, so he is not absolutely oblivious to reality. )
Titans moved and unmoved
Our business and political titans of the day are mostly resolute in their worldview. Many are globalists bent on one world government. They are people who are seemingly immovable.
Pay heed to the words in Ezra. “The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia.” Indeed, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.” Isn’t it truly incredible that the Lord moved the heart of a ruler of a gentile empire to free the Judeans, restore their lands, replace their treasure, and rebuild His temple in Jerusalem?
Why was Cyrus so powerfully moved? The ancient Jewish historian Josephus wrote in Antiquities of the Jews - Chapter 11
“ This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: "My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple." This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written…..”
Imagine the powers of reading your name in a 2 century old prophesy! The Old Testament is replete with other pagan kings being bent to the Lord’s will or being tools of the Lord. Here in Ezra, we read of one who read the works of the Jewish prophets and honored them with belief and action.
Pray today that the titans of our world are moved by the Lord to do the right thing and honor His commandments, from which our rule of law derives. Be prepared to consider that they may be not so inclined, remaining resolute in their pursuit of one world government, corrupt finances, and power. Then you can determine for yourselves whether that which is “uncivilized” and “barbaric” in their eyes might be a lifeline out of evil times. Pray that another Cyrus will emerge who will be moved by the Lord and his holy word to restore our temple, the Constitution of the United States.
Should they do these things, no one need be compelled to move themselves into exile, wear garments lined with hidden gold, or live in fear in our own land.
Lord, move us one and all, even the titans. If this be not Your will, move us with the wisdom to protect ourselves from them, until You move another Cyrus in our direction.