Peace in the Middle East was considered a pipedream just a few years ago. So when my book Peace in Jerusalem was published in 2015, it was meant to be provocative.
But it was also true, in part, because it was effectively a report of a conference called At the Crossroads, held at Christ Church in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2014.
It was there that I witnessed the amazing spectacle of Arab believers from throughout the region sharing fellowship and communion with their Jewish brothers, the barrier having been broken down at the cross of Calvary where Jesus reconciled us all to God, and to each other. (See Eph 2:14-16)
God’s purpose is to create ‘one new man’ out of the two (Jew and Gentile), and the peace among the brothers and sisters at Christ Church could truly be felt and touched. For all the delegates had encountered the Prince of Peace, who had transformed their lives.
This sense of reconciliation between Jew and Arab has spread across Messianic congregations throughout Israel. But there is a wider application to this growing unity.
The conference theme was taken from Isaiah 19 where the prophet foresees a time when a highway of peace and reconciliation would cut a swathe through the Middle East. “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria…The Egyptians and the Assyrians will worship together…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’” (Isa 19:23-25).
I realise Israel is far from perfect, and is this week held elections for the fourth time in less than two years. But we are now seeing Arab nations queuing up to normalise relations with the Jewish state, and there is even talk of a rail link to the Persian Gulf, dubbed the ‘Peace Railway’.
The concept of the project, from Israel’s Mediterranean port of Haifa to Arab states, was raised four years ago by Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, who was transportation minister at the time. Miri Regev, who has succeeded him in the latter role, has now announced that the China-backed 3.5 billion shekel ($1 billion) project is moving to the planning stage.
There are obviously economic and other pragmatic reasons for Arab realignment with Israel, particularly the need for defence against a common enemy – Iran.
But God is more concerned with reconciliation between the sons of Abraham than we care to imagine. We are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) not just for the city’s sake, but because it holds the key to the region’s future – and to the entire world for that matter.
Enemies will continue to come against Israel, and are doing so as I write in the shape of Iranian proxy Hezbollah setting up their arsenal on the Lebanese border. But Jesus will, in the fullness of time, return to Jerusalem to reign with justice for a thousand years of peace.
We are living in extraordinary times, as the fresh discovery of an ancient scroll makes clear. An archaeological dig has unearthed fragments of a biblical scroll hidden in a cave by Jewish refugees almost 1,900 years ago.
Written in Greek, one of the fragments focuses on the need to speak truth to one another and to “render true and perfect justice in your courts” (Zech 8:16f) while another (from Nahum 1:5f) refers to a great shaking in the midst of divine wrath and fury.
As we celebrate Passover this weekend, we are reminded of Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt through the blood of a lamb, pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God in Jerusalem, and to the time, still to come, when all Israel will be saved and they will look on the one they have pierced (Rom 11:26, Zech 12:10).
Jesus will reveal himself to his brothers in the flesh, as Joseph did in ancient Egypt when he said: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)
The opening up of the Arab world to the land of Jesus is a great opportunity for the gospel. Millions of Arabs and Iranians are already following the Messiah as a result of visions and dreams and satellite TV stations, along with individual evangelists risking their lives.
It is God’s purpose that Jews, as a nation, will recognise their long-lost (to them) Messiah once back in their own land where the Lord will reveal himself to them ‘in private’, as it were, just as Joseph did with his brothers who had sold him into slavery (Gen 45:1).
I suspect that Arab and ex-Muslim disciples of the Jewish Messiah will cause Israel to envy the beauty of their relationship with the living God (see Rom 11:11). I foresee tourists and businessmen from the Gulf flocking to tread the land on which Jesus trod with feet proclaiming the good news to Zion that “Your God reigns”! (Isa 52:7)
Although we are not ignorant of the devil’s plans to destroy them, which will ultimately fail, these current peace moves could well hasten Israel’s salvation.
The Jews have suffered at the hands of Gentiles for nigh on 2,000 years, and Jesus would have felt their pain and anguish every step of the way, but he longs to gather them under his protective wings, and to hear them say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt 23:37-39)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.