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Gaza: Hostility against Israel Escalating Sharply

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  • Gaza: Hostility against Israel Escalating Sharply

    Gaza: Hostility against Israel Escalating Sharply

    Prof. Johan Malan, Middelburg, South Africa (Jan. 6, 2009)

    The war between Israel and the Hamas terrorists in Gaza is but one of various fronts in a much larger conflict between two religions: Judaism and Islam. However, among Israel’s enemies there is major disagreement on which strategy is to be followed against Israel. Various moderate countries and groups recognize Israel’s existence and are pursuing political solutions for peaceful co-existence with them, but nevertheless exert great pressure on Israel to transfer larger parts of their territory to the Palestinians, and also to divide Jerusalem.

    On the other hand there are radical countries, as well as various terrorist groups, who completely reject Israel’s right of existence and have committed themselves to the utter destruction of Israel. To them a holy war, or jihad, is the only method by which to achieve this objective. Among these radicals are Iran, a non-Arab Muslim state; Syria; the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon; Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories; as well as Al Qaeda which operates internationally against Israel, America and their allies. Hamas completely denies Israel’s right of existence and refuses to establish diplomatic relations with them. They have only one objective and that is to fight and undermine Israel in every conceivable way.

    Hamas maintains close ties with Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, and it is to be expected that these like-minded allies will come to the assistance of Hamas. They already do that by providing weapons and military training to the Hamas army of 15 000 members. They can of course extend this assistance by launching independent attacks on Israel. Iran’s spiritual leader, Khamenei, called on all Muslims to help Hamas by conducting suicide bomb attacks on Israelis. He promised the privileges and rewards of martyrdom in heaven to all Muslims who die in combat, and tries to recruit 10 000 of these mass-murderers.

    The idea of martyrdom is strongly present in the Hamas movement. They desire death with the same intensity that Israel desires life. They only live for the demise of Israel and hope that they might have the honour to die as martyrs in the struggle. That is the reason why they have been provoking Israel towards warfare for many years by their rocket attacks. Since the coup in June 2007 when they violently seized control of the Gaza Strip by ousting officials of the Fatah Movement of Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas have sharply increased the number of rockets fired upon Israeli towns and cities close to Gaza. There were times when they launched up to 600 rockets per week.

    Hamas have lately acquired more powerful rockets form Syria and Iran, and smuggled them through tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. They can now strike large towns and cities such as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva. Ashdod is the fifth biggest city in Israel and a major seaport, while Beersheva is the sixth biggest city with a large university. Fears exist that Hamas may obtain even stronger rockets and missiles that will enable them to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

    From Israel’s point of view the terrifying scenario is that their enemies are increasing while their armament becomes more destructive. Hamas aims to pound the southern parts of Israel with their rockets and missiles from Gaza. Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon have re-armed after they were involved in a war with Israel in 2006. They are now able to bomb large parts of northern Israel. Then there is Syria that strengthened their defence force with modern Russian equipment. They also pose a big threat to Israel from the north.

    The biggest threat however comes from Iran in the northeast. This fundamentalist Muslim country is developing nuclear arms and will probably be able to produce nuclear warheads for long-range missiles this year. Iran knows that the Israelis are considering bombing their nuclear plants. Some experts therefore suspect that they are responsible for the escalation of hostilities in Gaza in order to detract Israel’s attention from Iran. Israel’s enemies are rapidly closing in on them and plan to attack them from all sides.

    Another influential factor in this conflict is the role of the USA as Israel’s ally. Israel’s offensive occurs during the last month of Mr. Bush’s term of office as president of America. It was to be expected that the Bush Administration would support Israel’s attack on Gaza since they view Hamas as a terrorist organisation intent on destroying Israel. Israel could not risk waiting until Barack Obama has taken control in the US as they cannot be sure of his full support. In fact, it is a foregone conclusion that he will not unconditionally support Israel.

    Everywhere in the Muslim world there is great anticipation for Obama’s inauguration as president of the most powerful country in the world. They believe he is a Muslim because his father was a Muslim. They are hoping that he will give Israel the cold shoulder, thereby assisting to surrender the Jewish state to the powers of Islam. However, Obama has converted to Christianity, although it is evident that he entertains strong multireligious ideas. Nobody knows what he will do since he has not made any pronouncements on the conflict in Israel as yet. As it is, he has enough problems in the US to occupy his attention.

    Should Obama not fulfil the expectations of radical Muslims, it will drive them into the arms of Russia, which is also a major power with strong interests in the Middle East. Russia already collaborates with Iran and Syria in the fields of technology and defence, and it is possible that they may even join these countries in a military invasion of Israel. When that happens we may expect the great war of Ezekiel 38-39.

    It is obvious that world opinion is turning against Israel. Hamas is not blamed for their continuous barrage of rockets, but Israel is strongly condemned for what is called the excessive use of force. In a mental climate like this the world will look the other way when Israel’s enemies, under the leadership of Russia, try to completely annihilate the Jewish state.

    It is obvious that we are faced with much more than an internal conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. What happens in Gaza is one of the focal points which will eventually give rise to the great end-time war between Israel and their neighbouring states, as described in the Bible. Even if a peace treaty is concluded in Gaza, Hamas and their equally radical allies will not change their stand on Israel. They will use the cessation of hostilities to dig new tunnels for the smuggling of more lethal weapons for a renewed future war against Israel.

    The present wars and rumours of wars are escalating to a point when the Antichrist will appear on the scene as a false prince of peace. He will pave the way for the greatest war of all time in the Middle East, i.e. the battle of Armageddon. The Lord says, “I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:2). Here He will, according to Joel 3:2, enter into judgement against the nations who have maliciously attacked and tried to destroy Israel.

    It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God: “And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths” (Zech. 14:12).

    It will be of no avail for Hamas to predict that Gaza will become a graveyard for Israeli soldiers. That will not happen. Instead, there will be a demarcated big graveyard for Israel’s enemies after the great war of Ezekiel 38-39. Ezekiel says, “For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land” (Ezek. 39:12).

    Looking at the bigger picture enfolding in the Middle East, it clearly contains very bad news for the enemies of Israel. But Israel themselves will not escape scot-free. They will enter into the time of trouble for Jacob because they are still not reconciled to the Messiah, the true Prince of Peace, who came to them 2000 years ago (Jer. 30:7; Zech. 13:8-9). Peace will only be experienced by them when they look on Him whom they have pierced and bitterly grieve for Him (Zech. 12:10). He will bring lasting peace to Israel and the entire world.

    Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

    How should we as Christians pray for the very serious situation in the Middle East? We should take the divine plan of God for Israel and their neighbouring nations into consideration and pray according to His will for all of them. Nobody should be excluded from our prayers – not even the cruelest enemies of Israel. The saving of souls must always take precedence in our prayers, followed by petitions for peace and material blessings.

    The basic injunction is: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps. 122:6). We must realise that Israel was called by God as a Messianic people so the Messiah and Saviour of Israel and the nations could be born within this nation. His first mission would be to restore the spiritually blinded descendants of Jacob to the Lord. With Jerusalem and Israel as the point of departure He would, through His disciples, proclaim His saving grace to all nations on earth (Acts 1:8; Luke 24:46-49). God said of His Son:
    It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You shall be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). It was God’s will that Messianic congregations be established in Israel after the coming of His Son, to lead the twelve tribes back to the Lord from their wanderings.

    The early Christians church indeed had its beginning in and around Jerusalem, the first 5000 members of the church being saved Jews. Although there was much resistance against the Messiahship of Jesus, many of the rabbi’s and priests accepted Him as their Saviour: “And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women… And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 5:14; 6:7). But they were still a minority compared to the rest of the nation who rejected Jesus as Messiah. For this reason hostility towards the believers continued, giving rise to their active persecution.

    In the light of this situation the first subject on our prayer-list for the Middle East should be the salvation of Jews. The spiritual need among them today is even greater than it was during the earthly ministry of the Messiah almost 2000 years ago. The antagonism towards Messianic Jews continues unabated under the leadership of orthodox Jews who are still strongly opposed to the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus.

    It is conspicuous that when great distress comes upon Israel, for instance during the military offensive against Gaza, orthodox Jews experience a resurgence of their Messianic expectation. They pray that the Messiah will come to their rescue and institute His promised reign of peace on earth with Jerusalem as capital. They say that the Messiah will, according to Zechariah 14, appear during a time of great wars against Israel to judge the enemies of Jerusalem.

    We should pray that Israel’s eyes will be opened to see that Zachariah also gave them clear prophetic indications on who their Messiah would be. He said, “Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion! Shout, o daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). This King’s fist appearance would not be in might and majesty, but as a lowly Servant of the Lord who would enter Jerusalem on a donkey. That is exactly what Jesus did, as described in Matthew 21:1-11.

    The majority of Jews did not recognise Him as their promised Messiah-King and eventually betrayed Him and handed Him over to be crucified. How can orthodox Jews fail to observe the very obvious fact that the same Jesus who was rejected and crucified by their fathers will come again to save the remnant in Israel? Zechariah clearly says that they will look on Him whom they have pierced, and that they will bow down before Him in deep contrition for all their sins (Zech. 12:10). This is the vitally important message which orthodox Jews still need to hear today: Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel and the nations, and He will soon return to set foot on the Mount of Olives which faces Jerusalem on the east (Zech. 14:4-5). If you cannot proclaim this message of salvation to Israel yourself, you should be praying for missionaries and evangelists who are busy fulfilling this commission. Trust the Lord for a great spiritual awakening among His people.

    The Son of God who was born in Israel was not only destined to be the Saviour of Israel and the world, but also the King who will rule from the throne of David. Isaiah said, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David” (Isa. 9:6-7). We must realise that the Messiah of Israel is not merely a human prophet, but God the Son. We should not only refer to Him as Jesus but as the Lord Jesus. When Zechariah speaks about His second coming He says: “Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You” (Zech. 14:5). Recognise His supreme position and worship Him as Lord and God.

    We must continue to emphasise that Jesus Christ came for the salvation of all people – and that includes the most hated enemies of Israel. Pray specifically for the Palestinians and other Islamic peoples who are blinded by the devil to believe a lie. Support missionary work among them. Isaiah says that, in the coming Millennium, a believing remnant of them will be Messianic nations who worship the Holy One of Israel. During this time, when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, God will say, “Blessed is Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance” (Isa. 19:25; cf. Isa. 11:9).

    When praying for the salvation of all people we should also pray for the fulfilment of God’s final purpose with Israel and the nations. We should pray for the second coming of Christ, when He will establish a government of righteousness on earth. The seat of this government will be earthly Jerusalem, and all the nations will walk in its light. The Lord calls upon all of us to pray for the fulfilment of these wonderful promises: “I have set watchmen on your walls, o Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:6-7).

    There will be true peace on earth when God’s promises have been fulfilled: “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; thy shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17). The Word of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem and the nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Warfare will completely vanish and all people everywhere will live in peace and harmony (Isa. 2:2-4).

    When praying for the peace of Jerusalem we actually pray for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His reign of peace on earth. As long as the majority of the Jews still reject Him as Messiah and King there cannot be true peace in Jerusalem. In fact, a situation like this actually paves the way for the coming of the false messiah. This is the bitter alternative which people bring upon themselves when they reject the true Messiah. Jesus said, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43).

    The false messiah will not bring lasting peace, despite the fact that he will initially promise it to all nations. The disillusionment of his followers will be great: “For when they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them” (1 Thess. 5:3). Under his rule the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem will be desecrated when the Antichrist declares himself to be God in the Holy of holies (2 Thess. 2:4). Subsequently, during the second half of the tribulation, the scene will be set for the great world war of Armageddon.

    We must pray fervently that the eyes of Israel and the nations would be opened to the true spiritual facts which confront all of us. Personal as well as world peace is only possible in Jesus Christ. Outside of Him the judgements of God will befall all sinners. The Lord Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

    Pray that people will be delivered from the power of Satan, so they can experience the peace of the living God in their hearts. Orthodox Jews, Muslims, members of all other faiths, as well as nominal Christians who are not born again, are victims of deception and have to repent to God through Jesus Christ. He alone can give everlasting life and peace.