While a constant barrage of rocket-fire continues to create a ‘hell on earth’ for Israel’s southern residents, abundant rain keeps falling from heaven.
Bearing in mind that rain has been seen by Israelis as a blessing from God since ancient times, the Sea of Galilee – the nation’s only source of fresh water – has risen to such levels that it may soon be used to feed the depleted Dead Sea. And now visitors are flocking to the arid Negev region to view the wonder of the desert blooming in fulfilment of ancient prophecies (Isa 27.6 & 35.1f).
It’s almost as if the Lord is blessing, while his enemies are cursing. All of which is accentuated by reports of threats by the Iranian authorities to destroy the tombs of Esther and Mordecai in retaliation for President Trump’s perceived favour of Israel in his peace plan. This coincides with the annual festival of Purim, so precious to Jews, when they recall how the orphaned Queen Esther and her guardian foiled a plot to wipe out the Jews of Persia (modern-day Iran).
The enemies of Israel are still sabre-rattling and Jews are now under just as severe a threat as they were under King Xerxes and his anti-Semitic henchman Haman in 400 BC. Today’s Ayatollahs are ready to press the nuclear button to carry out their oft-repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map.
But The Lord, Adonai, is reminding his people that he still cares for them; they are still, he says, “the apple of my eye”, “my treasured possession” and “engraved on the palms of my hands”. They will indeed still be “a light to the Gentiles” (Isa 49.22) and his purposes for them will be fulfilled (Jer 29.11).
That the Jews are special is even acknowledged by a journalist from Israel’s northern neighbour Syria, an avowed enemy of the Jewish state. Thaer Al-Nashef challenges fellow Arabs to question why Israel is able “to make miracles out of the impossible” – referring to the technological expertise of a people who “lived in Europe for 2,000 years as exiled refugees, prisoners and slaves”.
Is this why Arab Israeli citizens (there are 1.8 million of them) have been demonstrating in their thousands to express their rejection of the idea in Mr Trump’s peace plan of placing them under the sovereignty of a Palestinian state? I suggest it’s because they know that it will be anything but democratic. It is a well-known fact, borne out by many polls, that most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule. But it’s an inconvenient truth for the mainstream media to absorb.
Sometimes we’re so focused on our own understanding or agenda that we can’t see the wood for the trees. We need to see the bigger picture. In drawing up a timeline to illustrate the history of Israel for the purposes of a display, I saw with greater clarity how conflict over the land has shaped its 4,000-plus years. Or, to put it another way, how God has emphasised the importance of the boundaries he promised to Abraham while successive generations of his enemies shake their fists in stubborn refusal to accept his plans.
From the time when Abraham was called by God to father a chosen nation and inherit a special land, there have been competing claims over this divine piece of real estate. During the Crusades, both ‘Christians’ and Muslims saw it as their duty to battle over the Holy Land and it seemed, over a 400-year period under the (Muslim) Ottoman Empire from 1517, that all was lost.
But a British commitment to restore Israel paved the way for a new era. And now, in spite of all the archaeological and historical evidence for Jewish ownership going back at least 3,000 years, backed by an international treaty signed at San Remo, Italy, in 1920, ongoing bloodshed is spilled to persistent cries of ‘stolen’ or ‘occupied’ land.
But the God of Israel will have the last word: “…I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” (Amos 9.14f)
Israel’s place in the world is in God’s hands, not Mr Trump’s or anyone else’s, and the Bible assures us that all hell will break loose as rebellious man tries to subvert the destiny of God’s chosen ones. Any plan that doesn’t accord with God’s will is doomed to failure, particularly in the case of Jerusalem. All who try to move her (i.e. interfere) will be injured (Zech 12.3).
It is not man’s business to compromise over Jerusalem and the land of Israel – not even for the sake of peace. At the final judgment, the nations will be put on trial “for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.” (Joel 3.2)
I wouldn’t want to be leader of a nation that allowed that to happen. What an awesome responsibility! Pray for President Trump.
‘Why all the fuss over Israel?’ some Christians ask. They are not following God and don’t deserve our concern, they argue. But would you say that about a lost man who needs Jesus? Of course not; his body needs the life-giving Spirit from heaven, and we Gentiles are called to share the gospel with the Jews as of first importance (Rom 1.16).
Jesus came for both Jew and Gentile, but he has a special interest in the restoration – both physically and spiritually – of Israel. He is looking to that time when the body and spirit come together as one, as it were. As individuals, we are born of the flesh, then of the Spirit (John 3.3). As a nation, Israel is restored to their land, and will then recognise Messiah and follow him (Ezek 36.24-26).
As with the confession of Nathanael at the start of Messiah’s ministry – “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” – the second coming of Jesus also has a significance for both heaven (Son of God) and earth (King of Israel).
All the tensions in the Middle East are a portent of Christ’s soon return. May we be among those who are ready to welcome him back!
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International