The simmering Middle Eastern pot is about to break into a full-fledged boil. Islamist forces of jihad have been beating, beating, beating on Israel until this sleeping Jewish giant fitfully awakes, swats at the buzzing bees (see Psalm 118:9-12), and sinks into a drugged slumber once again. Let’s look at some of the recent events, and then at a word given 2,600 years ago by the prophet Obadiah.
“As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (Obad. 1:15)
On February 12 at approximately 10:15 pm one of the world’s top terrorists, Imad Mughniyeh, was blown up in his Mitsubishi Pajero on gray Damascus streets. He was getting into his SUV in the fashionable Kafr Soussa neighborhood, not far from an Iranian school, a Syrian police station and an office for Syrian intelligence. An unconfirmed report by Iranian sources said Hajj Hussein Khalil, politburo director and deputy to Hezbollah chief terrorist Hassan Nasrallah, was also killed in the explosion.
Mughniyeh was born in 1962 in the Lebanese village of Teir Dibbah not far from Tyre. He joined Yassir Arafat’s Force 17 special forces as a teenager and fought against Lebanese Christian and Druze forces in the 1970’s and 80’s. After Israel expelled the PLO from Beirut to Tunisia, Mughniyeh helped found the Islamic Jihad Organization, a Shiite terror arm of Hezbollah (“the Party of Allah”) under the tutelage of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley. He was responsible for the following terror acts:
- Suicide attack on U.S. Embassy Beirut (April 18 1983) – 63 murdered (including 6 of the C.I.A.’s top Middle East agents).
- Bombing of U.S. Marine Barracks, Beirut (October 23 1983) – 241 casualties. These two events caused U.S. forces to retreat from Lebanon.
- Bombing of French Multinational Forces paratroop barracks, Beirut – (October 23 1983) – 58 casualties.
- Kidnapping, torture and murder of Lt. Col. William F. Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut – March 1984 through June 1985. This led to the Iran-Contra affair. Buckley’s kidnapping was morphed into a scene in the recent film ‘Syriana’ starring George Clooney.
- Kidnapping and six year imprisonment of Associated Press chief Mideast correspondent Terry Anderson. Beirut – March 1985.
- Hijacking of TWA Flight 847; torture and murder of U.S. Navy Seabee diver Robert Stetham, Beirut – June 15 1985. Mughniyeh was indicted by the U.S. with a $25 million bounty on his head.
- Kidnapping of more than 50 foreigners, including Terry Waite (special envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury), British journalist John McCarthy, Father Lawrence Jenco, Rev. Benjamin Weir, American University President David Jacobsen, etc. – Beirut, 1984 and following.
- Kidnapping, torture and murder of Colonel William R. Higgins USMC, Beirut – February 1988 through July 1990.
- Bombing of Israeli Embassy, Buenos Aires, Argentina (March 17 1992) – 29 killed, 242 injured.
- Bombing of AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina – Argentine Israelite [i.e., Jewish] Mutual Association) building in Buenos Aires (July 18, 1994) – 87 killed, 250 injured.
- Bombing of Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia (residence for USAF and families) (June 25, 1996) – 20 killed, 372 injured. This event was morphed into a scene in the recent film ‘The Kingdom’ starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner.
- Kidnapping of Colonel Elhanan Tannenbaum (IDF Reserves), kidnapping and murder of three Israeli soldiers Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham, Omar Sawaid.- October 2000.
- Oversight of PLO/Hezbollah joint weapons ship Karine A, captured by Israeli Special Forces Shayetet 13 (IDF Seals) – January 3, 2002.
- Kidnapping and murder of 2 Israeli reserve soldiers (Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev) on jeep patrol (July 12, 2006). This event triggered the Second Lebanese War.
Throughout his life of terror Mughniyeh had deep connections with Iran and Syria, and his death in Damascus draws attention to this fact – though Syria continues to deny any state connection with terrorism. Ali Hassan Khalil, a Lebanese member of parliament with al-Amal (a Shi’ite group allied with Hezbollah) said, “He played an essential role in all resistance activities, especially the last war. ”
In 1985 French intelligence allowed Mughniyeh to evade arrest in exchange for the release of a French hostage (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/13/AR2008021300494_2.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2008021303878). Ten years later, in 1995 the FBI attempted to arrest Mughniyeh in Saudi Arabia on a stop-over between Khartoum and Beirut, but Saudi authorities diverted the plane.
Unlike Osama Bin Laden, Mughniyeh never spoke to the press and was rarely photographed. “He was one of the most dangerous terrorists ever on earth” said Danny Yatom, former head of Israel’s Mossad.
“The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a cold-blooded killer, a mass murderer and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives lost, ” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. “One way or another he was brought to justice.”
Terry Anderson, a former AP correspondent and Mughniyeh’s hostage for six years, unknowingly reflected the words of the Hebrew prophet Obadiah (1:15) when he said, “I can’t say I’m either surprised or sad. To hear that his career has finally ended is a good thing, and it’s appropriate that he goes up in a car bomb. ”
“All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and … set a trap for you, but you will not detect it.” (Obadiah 1:7)
In 2005 on the eve of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, former PM Ariel Sharon promised harsh retaliation if even one Qassam rocket would be fired by Hamas against Israel. He promised that in such a case Israel would immediately invade Gaza and decisively stop the rocket fire.
Since that time over 6,000 Qassam rockets have landed in Israel. Sharon lies in a vegetative state in Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon recently stated: “The fact that we did not stick to our promise that if Qassam rockets were fired after the disengagement we would react with all our force, eroded our deterrence, adversely affected our status in the region and also encouraged Iran” (Ha’aretz, Ari Shavit, July 7 2006, interview with COS Ya’alon).
On Thursday February 28, 2008 ten longer range Grad rockets were fired by Hamas and landed within one of Israel’s larger cities, Ashkelon. Within a few days dozens more had struck the same city, causing shock and anger within Israel. Across the board Israelis were coming to the bitter conclusion that PM Sharon’s disengagement had led to missile terror on Israel’s southern border – and not the peace and world acceptance that he (and others, including a few Messianic leaders!) had mistakenly trumpeted at that time.
The retreat from Gaza has brought the enemy to the very gates of Israel’s cities. And still many of Israel’s leaders are pre-occupied, while her friends and allies press for more Israeli withdrawals and less IDF retaliation against terrorists.
On February 28, in response to the Grad attacks, the IDF initiated an inconclusive invasion of the northern Gaza Strip. Terror squads firing Qassams and Grads were targeted, and one truck carrying over 160 rockets was blown up by an IAF helicopter. Over 100 terrorists were killed with minimal civilian casualties. One Messianic Jewish soldier was wounded in skirmishes with terrorists, and two Israeli soldiers were killed in firefights with Hamas jihadis.
The invasion was abruptly called off in response to US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s impending visit, as well as State Department, UN and EU disapproval and pressure. Hamas continues to build up its stockpile of Iranian long range rockets (smuggled in with quiet Egyptian oversight through Egyptian tunnels in Sinai).
“For violence (Hebrew – Hamas) against your brother Jacob…” (Obadiah 1:10)
On a warm Jerusalem evening (Thursday March 7) Alaa Abu Dheim, a Jerusalem Arab from the Jebel Mukaber suburb, entered the Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav (rabbinical seminary) where he worked as a driver. This time he carried a sub-machine gun, a pistol and belts of ammunition. He shot and killed 8 yeshiva students at point-blank range, seven of them teenagers. He was able to wound 9 others before a religious Paratroop Operations Officer nearby burst into the study hall and gunned Abu Dheim down.
This yeshiva was chosen by jihadi forces because of its symbolism – the Rabbi who founded the movement in 1924 was Rabbi Avraham Kook. Kook believed that the people of Israel were being regathered according to Ezekiel’s prophecy of the dry bones (chapter 37). He championed a threefold spiritual cord – the people of Israel returning to their promised land of Israel in faithfulness to the God of Israel. Not a believer in Yeshua as Messiah of Israel, Rabbi Kook was considered a leading light of the modern Orthodox pro-Zionist youth.
Outside the traditional mourning tent in Jebel Mukaber, Abu Dheim’s Jerusalem family hung up the green Islamist flags of Hamas and the yellow flags of Hezbollah.
History lessons from a servant of YHVH
Obadiah’s name means “servant of YAH” in English. He prophesied about the Edomite invasion of Judah which began in 605 BC. Taking advantage of the Babylonian conquest, the descendants of Esau crossed over from what is today southern Jordan (south of the Dead Sea). They conquered Arad and moved up into the south Hebron Hills, murdering, raping and ransacking the Jewish inhabitants.
Obadiah warns the Edomites that they will be brought to justice by the God of Israel for their heart attitudes toward the Jewish people, for being accessories to a Babylonian crime, and for murderous anti-Israel actions. He points out that even a country which considered itself impregnable, which compared itself to an eagle in its strength and power, could be brought down if it raises its hand against the Jewish people (1:3-4). And to top it all off, in point of fact the Jewish nation was part of Edom’s extended family, related to them through Abraham and Isaac (1:10).
Standing aloof while Jewish blood is spilled (1:11a), participating in murder of Israelis (1:11b) and gloating or boasting about these deeds (1:12 – consider the popular victory parades in Gaza when news of the yeshiva attack was broadcast) – the God of Israel says that all of these actions kick-start the promised curse of Genesis 12:3. “The one who curses you (Hebrew meqalelecha, literally ‘makes light of you’, ‘considers you lightweight or insignificant’, ‘mocks you’, ‘ignores you’) him I will curse”.
“For the Day of YHVH upon all the nations in near. As you have done, so it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return upon your own head!” (1:15). Even today these same biblical principles are active, living and sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing the hearts and exposing the motives of men and women as they react and act in regards to Israel. And what is true for individuals, Obadiah teaches us, is also as true for nations.
Modern Geopolitics in the Prism of Prophecy
I am often asked, “Why is it that so much of the modern prophetic movement focuses on personal or church fulfillment and success, but seems to avoid or allegorize the prophecies regarding the Jewish people, their restoration and Satan’s attempts to destroy them?”
My response tends to be that the prophetic movement is still in its infancy, more concerned about personal peace and prosperity than in the apple of God’s eye. In time that maturity will come. In time the scriptures referring to Israel will be dealt with accurately, honestly and humbly. In time the prophets of the nations will receive a deeper revelation about God’s passion for Israel and about the urgency of the hour.
Obadiah draws some prophetic conclusions which have sharp and pungent relevance for our day:
- The Jewish people who have been turned into refugees by the nations throughout history – they will return to their ancient homeland where the Holy Spirit will overwhelm and spiritually renew them (1:17).
- The Jewish people will execute God’s burning judgment on the House of Esau, burning and devouring Edom until no survivors are left (1:18).
- The regathered Jewish people will increase their borders, which will include the mountains of Esau (southern Jordan), Philistia (the Gaza Strip), the fields of Ephraim and Samaria (all of the West Bank), Gilead (northern Jordan in the area near Irbid), and the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath (southern Lebanon) (1:19-20).
- The Jewish people will sit in legal judgment on their former enemies (1:21a; see Psalm 149:6-9).
- The Davidic kingdom will be raised up once again (the real “Restoration of David’s Tabernacle”), and world government will be centered in Jerusalem (1:21b).
As we consider these fast-paced events in the Middle East, let us keep praying for the fulfillment of this biblical vision for Israel, for the Arab world, and for all our nations – the vision of Obadiah, YHVH’s faithful and obedient servant.
In Messiah’s bonds,
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