This week it seems that all the world has fixed its attention back on the nation Israel. It’s always perplexing to consider how Israel once again takes center stage within the context of broad world dynamics, being such a proportionately small geography filled with for the most part people known for having an un-flamboyant temperament.
The Jews are special to us Christians because our Old Testament history is built on the history of Israel, who are God’s chosen people. More importantly, our redemption history is apexed in Christ, our Jewish Messiah, born in Israel, bar-mitzvah’d in Israel, crucified in Israel, resurrected in Israel, and ascended to heaven from Israel. Jesus, the Son of God, was born a Jew and as Christians, we give our full devotion to him.
Last Saturday morning at 6:35, the terrorist group known as Hamas launched a missile strike from the Gaza strip (the southwestern tip of Israel) leveling innocent Jews who live on the other side of the borner with Gaza. This was later found to be a coordinated measure strategically followed by a cyber-attack (approximately one hour later) against the “touch sensitive” barrier wall/fence there to separate the Jews from neighboring Palestinians.
The cyber-attack dropped the border defenses, making Jewish military there especially vulnerable. The border guard was already scheduled to be lighter due to their observance of a Jewish holiday. Hamas, heavily armed, entered the breeched fence through 80 exposed holes, killing every Jewish guard they encountered and progressing their terrorist attack into neighboring towns. Hamas infiltrated homes, slaughtering whole families, house to house, to include, raping women, kidnapping girls with intent to force them into being sex slaves, along with beheading defenseless victims, to include babies.
At least 1,000 people are known to have died with thousands more injured or kidnapped (to include some US citizens). The attack was menacing, where grenades were thrown inside homes to evacuate innocents for the express purpose of gunning them down. Those fleeing in their cars were also barricaded, stopped, and gunned down. Video footage taken by Hamas were shared to document numerous body bags and coverings over dead men, women, teenagers and children were strewn everywhere. One such video portrays Hamas attackers coming by hang gliders, with purpose to slaughter young Jewish adults at an outdoor dance party, completely unaware of their fate. These were not casualties of war, this was not a legitimate act of war, not a cycle of violence (Arabs and Israelites), and certainly not moral equivalence.
Again, Hamas supplied their own video footage to document their killings. There was no hiding this and there was no real delay in taking full responsibility. Their celebrations over mutilated bodies along with bragging speeches and explanations and declarative invitations to world jihad were all on meant to be viewed with a clear agenda to incite more of the same. This placard of their Islamic religion communicates that their intent was to go into Israel and kill them off all infidels along with all others who would refusing to convert.
According to their belief system, this self-declared jihad, slaughtering victims while possibly being martyred in the process is the sure way to guarantee their heaven. Islam’s heaven is defined as promising 72 virgins for perpetual gratification forever.
Practically speaking, Saturday was antisemitism with no conscience, that is certainly inspired and empowered by Satan. So, what are the geo-political implications? I’m no expert to say anything definitive here. Prophesies of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 and 39 could reference alliances that perhaps are existing between nations such as Russia and China to the Middle East. God’s Word refers to nations from the east that will form these very alliances when the end comes, leading to Armageddon (see Genesis 10; 1 Chronicles 1 and 5; Ezekiel 38-39; Revelation 20). This week, alliances were publicly made between Hamas with other organized terrorist groups, as with Hezbollah.
Saturday’s event was dramatic under any circumstance, with any number of geopolitical implications, but my question is how this event intersects with Scripture’s Kingdom of God? How do we understand the times we are in, on the level of doctrine? Viewing this attack on Israel through your understanding of Israel’s role in the Bible sets this particular terrorist attack apart from others in the past. As horrible as a terrorist attack is from an individual or group like the cartel, God’s Word clarifies how this attack is fueled by a dark false religion with far reaching tentacles. When terrorism is fueled by false religion, it will span geography and even political alliances.
Think about this attack not only in terms of killing and maiming but also with the immediate broadcasting from its named leaders. This was meant to be felt and celebrated by people around the world who together subscribe to their same antichrist ideology. Modern technology with real time video was leveraged by broadcasting their hardhearted pride fueled by satanic lies.
Islam has its own doctrine and version of the end times. John Calvin is attributed for saying that Satan has his antichrist in every age because he does not know the future.
Islam’s messiah, their Twelfth Imam, is surprisingly like the Bible’s depiction of antichrist in the end times. Islamic prophecy predicts a figure they call Mahdi who will return and that this return is preceded by horrendous world events and chaos where he will come to rule over the Arabs and the world for seven years. His appearance will be accompanied by two resurrections, one of the wicked and one of the righteous. According to Shiite teachings, Jesus will accept the Mahdi’s leadership, and the two great branches of Abraham’s family will be reunited forever [referenced from internet sources].
Unpanicked Christians will be quick to identify that now is not necessarily the end of days (we do not know the day or hour) but we likewise ponder a question. How should we feel about Israel’s attackers and how should we approach our world in terms of its evil? Here's a few thoughts to consider and some practical ways that believers can respond in prayer to the events going on with Israel today:
- It is right for believers to pray for God to execute his justice upon evil and evildoers. Just consider all the imprecations in the Bible, not only in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament.
- It is right for government to protect its citizens. That's part of the role of government ordained by God (cf. Rom. 13; Gen. 9:5-6).
- It is right for believers to leave individual vengeance and justice to God (Rom. 12:9; Deut. 32:35).
- It is right to pray for our enemies to be converted (Matt. 5:43-48)
- It is right to pray for peace. Not simply a cease-fire, but true peace.
- Israel is not responsible for Hamas' evil against them. There is no moral equivalence between these two parties.
- God promises to curse those who curse Abraham's descendants (Gen. 12:3; Deut. 30:7).
- Israel is also not experiencing the kind of divine protection they once enjoyed under the Mosaic Covenant. They live now in the time of the Gentiles, and they currently reside outside the umbrella of covenant protection (consider all the blessings and curses of Lev. 26 & Deut. 28-29).
- Israel will experience worse tribulation in the future (Jer. 30:7 "Jacob's trouble").
- God will ultimately save and restore Israel as he brings her through this future time of trouble.
With these statements in mind, consider some ways you can pray now for Israel and for the situation unfolding in real time:
- Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6)
- Pray for the salvation of Israel through these trials (Rom. 11:25-27)
- Pray that God's justice would be executed against evildoers
- Pray that God would open hearts to think about eternal things (Luke 13:1-5)
- Pray that Israel would have safety from her enemies
- Pray for wisdom as to how you can answer questions from unbelievers about what's going on and what the Bible says about it.
Let me recommend that we need to protect our hearts from the temptation to return evil for evil (even on a heart level). A first and practical step in doing so is to identify the driving force behind this conscience-seared hatred. This source is none other than Satan himself and his satanic doctrine that he promotes through false religion. Identifying the Hamas source of hatred makes a terrorist no less a terrorist and makes their evil no less evil and makes them no less culpable for their sheer unadulterated actions. Evil will have consequences under God’s wrath to be sure and we must rest in God’s justice. At the same time, as believers we have an obligation to pray for our enemies (and dare I say even love them) who are the enemies of the Jews. These are those who can easily become the enemies to Christians. Discerning false religion (cf. 1 John 4:1-6 “test the spirit of antichrist”) should help you to do what seems to be the most unnatural thing to do. We know Jesus prayed for his Roman executors and likewise the Jews who’d turned on him, while dying on the Cross. We also know that the Apostle Paul witnessed to and won his own Roman jailers, creating a revival via his jail cell to “the whole praetorian guard” (cf. Phil. 1:13).
Second, Christians need to remember that God has a plan for his people the Jews. What I am going to preach about this Sunday! Understand and remember that within Jews that Bible promises that there is always a remnant, and that this remnant will succeed in the end. One of the key ways to remain steady, soft, loving and prayerful during days you see and hear dark things, like what happened Saturday is to remember how God’s plan ends. As Christ’s church, we too are part of God’s believing remnant, so as believing Israel goes, we likewise will go. Believing Jews will endure the worst possible circumstances on earth and like the believing Jews, in the end, we too will be victorious. Come back Sunday to hear how Israel is grounded in God’s plan!