One week ago, on October 7, 2023, terror struck the nation of Israel when Hamas coordinated a vicious attack of southern Israel and launched missiles further north. One week later, conflict is building further in the lands of Judea/Samaria on the west bank of the Jordan, and from the north as Hezbollah threatens from Lebanon. Historically, this is an all too familiar feeling … the 1948, 1967, 1973 wars come to mind … but also (sadly) the atrocities of the Holocaust.
The common theme? Many people in the world historically (and today) want to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. This (in fact) is the stated position of Iran and their proxies (Hezbollah and Hamas) in the middle east.
Indeed, Jewish people have survived enslavements, deportations, wars, and attempted genocide throughout their history (spanning back millennia.)
Where does this anger come from? Political scientists look to the complicated (and crowded) geo-political history of the middle east … but that does not explain the opposition in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Many others point toward the treatment of Palestinians over the past 75 years … but that ignores the Palestinian leaders’ role in the conflict. While the politics and modern history of the region do play a role in this conflict, the Bible actually provides a deeper explanation for this struggle … it has Satanic roots.
Revelation 12 describes the conflict between Israel and Satan in a poetic way. In these verses, Satan is a “dragon,” Israel is “a woman,” Jesus is the “male child,” and the church is the “offspring.” In a cosmic sweep of history, Satan falls from heaven, and then wages war against the people of God (Israel) and the plan of God (blessing all the people of the earth through Jesus) throughout time. How does Satan engage in this conflict? Well, it is a multi-front “war,” but one wing of the battle is through earthly armies. Hitler and Hamas (knowingly or not) were/are participating in a fight of divine proportions. Satan hates God and channels that rage on this earth at God’s people.
When I read Revelation, though, I am reminded of something: Satan’s efforts to wipe Israel out will never succeed. Why? Because the Lord will sustain the people of Israel. But what do we mean when we say that?
Well, we mean that in the Bible, as the end times are described, there IS a distinct nation of Israel, living in the promised land, and even possessing a Temple. This clarity helps us know that no matter how fierce the opposition, the people of Israel will survive (at least as a remnant) to the end times. In fact, Revelation 7 goes so far as to describe representatives from EVERY tribe present at the end. The people of Israel will see God make good on His promises to them before the end arrives.
So we know that Israel (as a people) will survive. We also know that at the end of the world, Israel will have a geo-political presence in the Middle East. But based on these two points do we KNOW that the country of Israel will win the war they are engaged in today? Well, no. For nearly 2,000 years (from 70AD to 1948) the Jewish people were scattered all over the face of the earth, without possessing a country in the Middle East. Was God’s plan in jeopardy during that time? No! God’s plans will be implemented in His time, but God’s timing is often slower than we would like or expect. God waited nearly 2,000 years to bring Israel back to the land. Israel could be scattered among the nations of the world again for some extended period of time. What we can say with certainty is that Israel will be an entity in the Middle East as the world opens its final chapter. As long as Israel prevails in this current struggle, we feel closer to the end. If they are scattered, it seems the story is longer than some might be predicting.
That said, here are six things to consider for Jesus followers today:
- Israel as a country has a right and a responsibility to protect its citizens from these attacks and hold those responsible accountable. Romans 13:1-7 describes the “justice” role that government plays in rewarding good and punishing evil as they wield the “sword” of their authority. War is an awful reality in this world, but is justified in this world before Jesus makes “all things new” and all wars will cease.
- Ultimate justice belongs to the Lord. When we experience wrongs in this world, we long to see every wrong righted. We want evil punished and righteousness rewarded. However, retribution on the earth is never fully satisfying. The leveling of cities in response to terrible terror attacks may feel cathartic in the moment, but it still will not bring the lost back to life. Thankfully there is an Eternal Judge who sits outside of time who will one day bring true justice to every situation. This is not to say that some measure of justice should not be pursued today, it should. But we know that ultimately God will be the One to hold all accountable.
- Mourn with those who mourn. The images and stories coming out of Israel and Gaza today are heartbreaking. Children killed or captured. Women raped. Civilians slaughtered. These are real world tragedies. Pray for those effected. Pray for their physical needs … but also pray for …
- Pray that God would use these events to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ. Less than 2% of the people who live in Israel today are Christians. Only 185,000 total. AND, 75% of the Christians in the land of Israel today are of Arab descent – about 1/3 of the Christians in Israel are living in the West Bank and Gaza. This means that right now, the vast majority of those experiencing the horrors of war ALSO are awaiting the greater horror of divine judgment. While the earthly conflict may seem difficult to solve, God has provided a certain way for ALL to find peace with Him. Placing our faith in Christ leads to forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Pray for the Church in Israel and among the Palestinian people to boldly proclaim the Gospel in these difficult times and that many would place their faith in Jesus as a result.
- Know that God is worthy of the worship of all people. Revelation 5:9 pictures the worship of heaven including people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. In our world today, one tribe hates another, one language slanders another, and one nation wars against another. But in eternity, there will be individuals from all these groups united in Christ and worshipping Jesus together as one body. This (of course) will include Palestinians AND Israelis! Indeed, Romans 11:25-26 lets us know that before the end, Jesus will save a “fulness of the Gentiles” (including some Palestinians) and “all Israel” (Jews who are alive at the time of the second coming of Christ.) As Zechariah 12:10 indicates, at the return of Christ, the Jews will “look on Him whom they have pierced” and will mourn and weep bitterly with regret for prior generations of their people failing to recognize Jesus at His first Advent. Jesus ultimate plan is to gather worshippers to Himself for all time. Those of us who know Christ are invited on mission with Jesus to point others to Him today, regardless of their ethnicities or political affiliations. Jesus can save all who turn to Him. Let us pray for Christ to be the everlasting peace in the middle east as people trust in Him.
- Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6 famously says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! ‘May they be secure who love You!’” Pray that God would help the people of the middle east to find their security in Him.