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Israel & Christians Today – A round up of the past week

Andrew Tucker - 16 November 2018

Israel & Christians Today –
Understanding Israel and world events from a Biblical perspective


Remembrance
At the beginning of this week, on 11th November, we remembered that it was 100 years ago that WWI ended – a war in which over 7 million young soldiers were killed in the trenches in Europe and the Middle East, many more were injured, and societies were destroyed. In many ways this horrendous war emanated from the political and social turmoil of the preceding century of massive changes since the French Revolution. Instead of being the “war to end all wars”, WWI turned out to be the first of many conflicts during the course of the 20thcentury. Only two decades later, in 1939, the world again plunged into another huge conflict, this time even bigger, across all continents, which claimed more lives than all previous wars together, and culminated when the Americans dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Although we have now had 70 years of relative peace, the world is still in turmoil. In fact arguably the world faces the most momentous and fundamental challenges it has ever had to deal with. Not the least of these is the fact that there are more than 15,000 nuclear warheads distributed around the world, many of them probably in the hands of groups whose aims are not necessarily peaceful.

Geopolitically, we are still dealing with the consequences of decisions made during and shortly after the First World War. Most of these were the decisions to taken by the Allied powers during the Paris peace conference which lasted from the end of the war in 1918 until later the following year. One historian described the decisions taken at that conference as the greatest political settlement of all time. Amongst other things, the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, United States and Japan), who had taken over control of pretty much the whole of the Middle East, southern Europe and northern Africa following the collapse of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, decided to establish the League of Nations, and help the peoples of the Middle East to achieve self determination. Those peoples were Armenians, Kurds, Arabs and Jews. This resulted ultimately in the creation during the course of the 20th century of the modern states of the Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

The roaring of the nations
In fact the vast majority of the current 193 member states of the United Nations were created during the course of the 20th century, many of them emerging from the colonial regimes of the European powers in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The modern nation state was very much a European idea intended to achieve the balance of powers in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is proving to be not necessarily the most appropriate way organizing emerging nations. Put simply, the world is full of failed states that are marked by lack of democratic institutions, internal chaos and external conflicts with their neighbors. Millions are living in refugee camps throughout the world, forced to flee their homes by violence and aggression. The modern system of nation states cooperating in the United Nations is under a enormous pressure. What we see in practice over recent decades is that certain religions and ideologies are effectively hijacking the political processes and striving to impose their ideological or military will on the minority. In response, there is a strong push for the rejection of sovereignty and nationalism and in its place creation of multilateral structures in the hope this will enable men and women of good will to establish international peace and security. This is of course an illusion, for it ignores man’s fallen nature. The stage is clearly being set for a “strong man” to emerge, who will use these new global structures and systems to unite the dominant religions and ideologies in the promise of establishing a new world order. At the centre all of this is the miraculous re-emergence of the Jewish nation, and their restoration to the land and the establishment of the city of Jerusalem.

The Lord God is in the process of creating His structures that will usher in world peace with the coming of Messiah; and those structures are in direct conflict with the structures and ideologies of the world. As a result it is no surprise that the Middle East, with Israel and Jerusalem at its centre, is the focus point of the conflict of religions and super-powers. All of this poses a challenge for us as Christians: do we look at world events in the natural, or in the spiritual? In other words do we look at these things from the perspective of men or of God?

The Lord Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit who spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament, warned His disciples of the great conflict that would emerge between the nations and God in the last days. There can be little doubt that we are living in those days. Our calling is to wait for the Coming of our Messiah, watch with spiritual understanding, and pray without ceasing. We must ensure we do not fall asleep or become “lukewarm”, but put on “eye salve” of the Holy Spirit, clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ, and buy the gold of pure truth (Revelation 3:18).

The Gaza conflict
In this light it’s very interesting to reflect on events of the past week. The pressure on Israel is growing. This week we saw have yet another outbreak of violence between Israel and the extreme Islamic regime of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the loss of many lives. Tragically, but ironically, those killed in Israel by rockets fired by Hamas were Arabs, not Jews. Although Israel has entered into some kind of truce with Hamas, many feel that full-scale war is both inevitable and necessary in order to restore peace and security.

Political crisis in Israel
This situation in turn has led to a political crisis in Israel. Defence Minister Lieberman resigned Thursday in protest against the truce negotiated under the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is now under great pressure, and there is a strong chance that elections will be held soon which could result in new coalition government. There are enormous divisions within Israeli society about how to manage these threats, and the direction the nation should take. No doubt this is all part of the process of the Lord uniting His people; at the end of the day the Jewish people are united in their determination to protect the Jewish nation from annihilation. He will bring them to their knees, when the only choice they will have will be to look up to heaven for their salvation.

The time of “Jacob’s trouble”
Before you think this is an anti-Semitic remark, let us remind ourselves that the same is going to happen to us Christians. We will not all be raptured leaving the Jews behind to suffer. On the contrary, while possibly a first fruit company will be taken as a “wave offering” before the Lord to bless and prepare the whole harvest, the church too is going to be cleaned and tested in the time of ”Jacob’s troubles”. We will not be spared God’s judgment on the nations. Only those who are prepared to forsake everything for the sake of Jesus Christ will be saved. We in the West, especially, who have had it so good for so long, need to start preparing ourselves for a time of tribulation and persecution.

Jerusalem takes centre stage
Interestingly, Jerusalem is becoming more and more the focus of world attention. The newly elected President of Brazil Bolsonaro – a dedicated Christian – has announced he is determined to fulfill his electoral promise to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has similarly announced his government’s intention to consider doing the same. The announcement caused a huge outcry from the left in Australia, and (veiled) threats from the Islamic governments in Indonesia and Malaysia (important trading partners for Australia) to cancel major trade deals. Fortunately the Prime Minster, and his (Jewish) deputy Josh Frydenberg, are standing their ground, stating that Australia will determine its own foreign policy even if it conflicts with that of its neighbors. Such moral leadership is rare, refreshing, and much needed – but the PM may end up paying a high political price, as the majority in Australia seems determined to play the politically-correct line of not aligning with the USA or upsetting the Islamic world.

Europe enters a new era
Chancellor Merkel’s announcement to step down from politics ushers in a new era in Europe. For the last decade there has been relative stability in terms of Europe’s foreign relations (Merkel’s remarkable decision to allow in hundreds of thousands of refugees was the exception to her normally very measured and conservative line). It will be interesting to see what direction Germany takes. It is still Paris and Berlin who together effectively determine what happens in Europe. The rise of right-wing parties in Europe in recent years, coupled with the growing economic problems in the southern Eurozone members such as Italy, Greece and Spain, do not bode well. Not to mention to challenge of dealing with a Russian neighbor that under President Putin seems to have ever-increasing expansionist ambitions.

Brexit – whither Great Britain?
Finally, it is important to keep our eyes on what is happening in Great Britain. The nation that once had a great empire during the time that it favored the Jewish people, and even laid the foundation for the creation of the modern state of Israel (the Balfour Declaration of 1917), has gone into moral and economic decline ever since it turned its back on the Jews after 1920. The decision to pull out of Europe can be seen as a decision to return to its own values, and not be governed by the spirit of humanism that resigns in Brussels. Prime Minister May will probably have to pay a high price, and the Brexit threatens to be a very messy affair. But it is arguable that the Lord will honor this brave decision. There is a praying remnant in Britain, a body of faithful Christians who have been praying day and night for many years that Britain will be restored to her position of independence, and will be brought to her knees in order to return to God.

The Lord is faithful and hears the prayers of the saints.

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