Peace In The Middle East

Rev. Willem J.J. Glashouwer - 23 February 2011

When one looks at the heartbreaking conflict in the Middle East, one cannot help but think about the biblical background. Can one find some solutions and understanding there? What has the Bible to say about the conflict between these two brothers with the same father Abraham, but with different mothers?

Ishmael, who is considered to be the forefather of the Arab nations, was born from his Egyptian mother Hagar who was a maidservant to Abraham’s wife Sarah, and Isaac was born from Abraham’s wife Sarah and is the forefather of the Jewish people, of Israel.

What are the positions and the rights of these two half-brothers, when you look at it from a biblical perspective?

When Abraham is 99 years of age – and Sarah was past the age of childbearing – the Lord God visited Abraham, and told him that his wife Sarah would have a baby of her own. Then we read in Genesis 17:17-22: “Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ’Will a son be born to a man a hundred   years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!’ Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ When He had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.”

So Ishmael and his descendants, the Arab nations, have the promise of the blessing of God. He promised them that they would be fruitful and would be great nations. Today there are between 200 and 300 million Arabs, living in over 20 different and independent nations in the Middle East, in a vast area of very oil-rich land. They can choke the economy of the world, if they like! They are very powerful. So God has kept His promise and He has blessed Ishmael tremendously.

After all the slaughters throughout the centuries there are only about 15 million Jews left in the world. In Israel – which is smaller than tiny Holland and you can hardly find Holland on a world map! – are living about 5-6 million Jews, in a tiny land with no oil. Another 4-5 million still live in the USA and  about 1-2 million in the former Soviet Union. The rest is still scattered around the globe.

By the way, the prophet Zechariah prophecies that ‘In the whole earth’ (because that is the correct translation, instead of ‘in the whole land’, compare with Zechariah 14:9) two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it.’ (Zechariah 13:8) And when one adds up all the numbers of Jews that were massacred throughout the ages, the numbers show that in history 2/3 of the Jewish people have been wiped out, and only 1/3 is left. Even if ones likes to translate ‘in the whole land’ – meaning ‘Eretz Israel’, the ‘land of Israel’, this prophecy has been fulfilled as well, when by the Romans in 70 AD and 135 AD over 2 million Jews were slaughtered and the rest, almost totally – although there have always been Jews living in Israel, also during the last 2000 years! – was led into captivity. When we add the numbers of the killing of the Jews over the centuries – with the final slaughter of 6 million under the nazi-regime in Germany – the conclusion can be drawn that over the ages 2/3 of the Jews have been wiped out, and only 1/3 is left. So to think that in the near future Israel will become ‘one big Auschwitz’ during the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’, the ‘tribulation’, is not necessarily according to Scripture, although difficult times for Israel are still to come.

Blessings for Ishmael, but God’s everlasting Covenant He made with Abraham, and confirmed it to Isaac, and later to Jacob. The problem in the Middle East is not that one is an Arab or a Palestinian, because there are great blessings for them, being descendants of Ishmael. The problem is that Arabs and Palestinians almost totally nowadays are under Islam and serve Allah – as so many other people and nations, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the former USSR-republics, the half of Africa. The conflict in the Middle East is a spiritual conflict, between the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, and all the other gods of this world, including Allah and Islam. Christian Arabs and Christian Palestinians are therefore in a very difficult situation as well. Not that much because of the Jews and Israel, but because of their fellow Islamic Arab and Palestinian brothers.

What about the future?
Will Islam finally conquer the world, as promised by Muhammad? Will there be a ‘jihad’ of the whole Islamic world against Israel? Because Israel and Jerusalem are number one on the agenda of many Islamic leaders. They do not forget about the Christian world (remember 11th of September 2001 and the destruction of the twin-towers in New York), but Israel is first. It cannot be in Islamic thought and Islamic theology that this tiny piece of land Israel and this third holy city of Islam, Jerusalem, who were under Islam for over a thousand years, would remain forever under religions like Judaism or Christianity that are considered by Islam as stations passed by.

In the Bible we find some remarkable prophecies.
Isaiah 17:1-2 says: “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer (about 14 miles east of the Dead Sea on the Arnon River) will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid.” This has never been fulfilled in history, but one day it will. By Israeli armies? By Israeli bombs? By an Israeli atomic bomb, used in defence because of a Syrian attack? By other (natural) causes? We can only answer those questions for sure after the event has happened.

Isaiah 19:16-17 says: “In that day the Egyptians will be like women. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them. And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the Lord Almighty is planning against them.” This has never been fulfilled in history, but one day it will. Although we have seen how the LORD fought at the side of His people Israel when they were attacked several times since 1948, and how the Egyptian fled in panic, still this is only a foretaste of what is going to happen one day. And the end-result then will be that Egypt no longer will serve Allah, but the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the 4 letters of the unspeakable Name YHWH. Hard to imagine that mighty Egypt will tremble because what the Lord through tiny Israel will do to them. But the result will be that Egypt will recognise who the true God is, see Isaiah 19:18-25.

Psalm 83:1-8 says: “O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how Your enemies are astir, how Your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against Your people; the plot against those You cherish. ‘Come’, they say, ‘let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’ With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against You – the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot.” When one looks at today’s map, these old names all refer to a ‘first ring’ closely around Israel, Like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, with Iraq (Assyria) in the background. A combined war against Israel, to wipe it off the face of the earth. These are all predominantly Muslim countries and peoples. Has this already happened or is this also referring to some future event?

Ezekiel 38 and 39 say that nations under the leadership of Gog (from the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal) will suddenly invade the land of Israel. It talks about Persia, Cush and Put joining him, as well as Gomer with all his troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops – the many nations with him, nations that are like a ‘second ring’ around Israel. When one reads Flavius Josephus to identify these old names, they refer to nations like Saudi-Arabia, Libya, Turkey, Iran, and even the former southern Soviet Republics, who today are all Islamic. This has never happened in history so far. Some say that even Russia itself is involved in the background. Syria, Egypt and Iraq are not mentioned, by the way! Are they no longer a thread when the ‘first ring’ was dealt with? But the Lord will fight for His people Israel, and they will need 7 months to bury all the corpses.

Zechariah 12:2-4 says: “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations.” The plague mentioned in Zechariah 14:12-15 by which the Lord will smite these ‘United Nations’ makes one think about A(tomic) B(acteriological) C(hemical) weapons. But the victory will be for the Lord and for Israel. The wars and plagues of the end-times will be terrible, Revelation 8 and 9.

Although one could be tempted to put all these prophecies into one big end-time scenario (one thing leads to another, a kind of domino-effect, starting with Syria, then Egypt, then the ‘first ring’, then the ‘second ring’ and finally the whole world), one should be careful with speculations like these. The Bible is not a jigsaw puzzle book. But that the outcome of these ‘battles of the Lord’ will be that His Name and the Name of His Anointed One will be recognised by the whole world – also by the Islamic world – seems to be obvious.

Isaiah 19:23-25 says: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”

So could the outcome of these battles be that by the terrible defeat these predominantly Islamic armies will face, the Islamic world will realise that not Allah is all-powerful, but that YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth all-powerful is? That He is the one and only God? Will the shattering of all the dreams and hopes of the Islamic world lead to an openness and willingness to hear the words of the Gospel? Will they finally realise that there is only one real Prophet, Jesus Christ? And that Muhammad was a false prophet? Will that finally bring peace to the hearts of numerous followers of Islam? Will that change their hatred into love and compassion for their Jewish brothers and sisters? Will they then start blessing Abraham instead of cursing him? As we all have to learn that? These prophecies show us that one day Egypt and Iraq no longer will worship Allah, but YHWH.

And Paul concludes that one day “every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)



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