There is something inside of man that delights in solving problems. For example: in a marriage, when a wife shares with her husband about a problem she’s having, the husband immediately tries to solve the problem for her – though she may be looking for something more relational than his proffered solution.
Some people have spent years trying to solve Bible problems. Calvinists and Arminians, Pretribers and Posttribers – some have dedicated the lion’s share of their energies trying to become ‘the Bible Answer Man’ on one (or all) of these subjects.
There can be an aspect of godliness in this searching. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to thoroughly figure out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). On the other hand, there can sometimes be a restless striving to be the one who has everything figured out: “I have seen that every labor and every talented deed is the result of envy that a man has of his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4). Professional jealousy and obsessive-compulsive tendencies are handicaps that preachers and teachers (and even apostles) also struggle with.
- Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Yeshua with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Yeshua answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. (Matthew 20:20-24)
Middle East experts
American stage cowboy, humorist and social commentator Will Rogers said that an expert is “a man fifty miles from home with a briefcase.” Danish atom scientist Niels Bohr described an expert as “a person that has made every possible mistake within his or her field.” Surfing the internet, I’ve run into a fair number of experts about prophecy, Israel and the Middle East.
Recently I’ve been receiving e-mails from puzzled friends and baffled acquaintances asking for my read or clarification about some new teachings circulating on the web. Subjects raising red flags include new and detailed eschatological scenarios; a unique interpretation of Isaiah 19 and its potential prophetic connection to Jewish-Arab relationships; surprising suggestions of Last Days roles for Ishmael and Egypt; and teachings about End of Days timelines supposedly encrypted in poetic portions of the Hebrew prophets.
Since the community of those who write about the prophetic destiny of the Jewish people and the Middle East is not that large, and since nearly all of these writers are also my friends, I will stay away from mentioning names, book titles or other identity markers. What follows are two sections:
- the first section lays out a compilation of some of these new teachings (without discussing their validity)
- the second section attempts to bring a measure of biblical balance to these issues
Much could be written on these subjects. I’ve written one book which touches on some of these specific matters: ‘Jews, Arabs and the Middle East’ (https://davidstent.org/product/jews-arabs-the-middle-east/).
SECTION ONE: a compilation of some of these new teachings
Egyptian eschatology, Isaiah 19 and Israel
A teaching gaining traction in some streams of Christianity proclaims that Isaiah 19:18-25 is God’s paradigm for soon-coming Middle East unity, a prophetic guideline for revival in Egypt which will occur prior to Yeshua’s return. According to this teaching, it is essential that houses of worship and prayer be established in Egypt and Assyria (defined as the broader Middle East – wherever the ancient Assyrian Empire ruled). These Houses of Prayer will catalyze a revival among young Egyptian believers.
Other widespread views in this stream that various people teach:
- The State of Israel will be totally destroyed or nearly destroyed
- Israeli Jews will flee to Egypt and to ‘greater Assyria’
- Jews will be imprisoned in concentration camps
- A genocide greater than the Holocaust will fall on the Jewish people at that time
Some in this movement teach that young Egyptian believers will be living a life of such purity, spiritual fullness and power than the Jewish exiles will be moved to jealousy and come to faith in Yeshua. Egypt (in this scenario) is the key to Israel’s salvation, and will trigger life from the dead for Israel. When Israel calls out to Yeshua, the Messiah will return to Egypt, free the Jewish people from their concentration camps and then lead these exiles in victory procession back to Israel. Secret literary keys to decrypting and unpacking some of these detailed End Times events are said to be concealed in poetic passages of the Hebrew prophets.
Advocates of this teaching proclaim that the salvation of Egypt, Israel and greater Assyria will come to pass prior to Yeshua’s return, and the these three countries will have equal future standing, bringing amazing blessing to the whole world.
Ishmael and covenantal standing
Another stream of teaching has recently been circulating, stating that Ishmael has an equality of covenantal standing in the Abrahamic covenant due to his physical descendance from Abraham. Ishmael is called the father of the Arab world and all Arabs are described as descending from Ishmael. Sarah is guilty of ‘an original sin’ against Hagar and Ishmael by pushing for their departure from Abraham’s camp – thus causing a ‘wound in the original family.’ This wound needs to be healed by repentance prayer on the part of Messianic Jews standing in for Sarah. There also needs to be the championing of equal standing for ‘the three mothers’ (Hagar, Sarah and Keturah) at the Abrahamic Covenant table. Jewish believers need to request pardon from the descendants of Ishmael and Hagar, asking forgiveness for the ‘sins of Sarah.’ When Messianic Jews extend an invitation to Ishmael to sit down and join in as a full participant at the Abrahamic Covenant table, the ‘spirit of rejection’ which affects Arabs will be healed, and ‘the orphan spirit’ hanging over the international Arab community will be dealt with as well.
This multifaceted message is being spread through conferences and Zoom meetings where Messianic Jews and believing Arabs meet (along with tens of thousands of non-Jews and non-Arabs), bless each other, repent to each other, testify to God’s working in their lives, and listen to teachings from leaders in this movement.
SECTION TWO: bringing a measure of biblical balance to these issues
Text, context and pretext
The late Bible scholar David L. Cooper of the Biblical Research Society would often say that a text apart from its context is a pretext. That is why the Holy Scriptures challenge us to use the highest care and accuracy as we unpack God’s word:
- “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)
- “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries” (1 Peter 1:10)
The original Messianic Jewish movement was birthed 2,000 years ago having a profound respect for and interest in Messianic prophecy. John believed that “these things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him” (John 12:41). Philip also communicated the same when he shared with the Ethiopian eunuch:
- So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. And he had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah . . . The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Yeshua to him (Acts 8:27-34)
John and Philip were not speaking visions birthed out of their own imaginations. They spoke forth visions given to them from the mouth of YHVH (see Jeremiah 23:16). But not all Bible teaching today is being carried out with accuracy. That is why we’re called to pay attention, to weigh teachings with respect but also with discernment:
- “So we have the more sure prophetic word, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:19-21)
The prophetic words which we find in Scripture are actually ‘breathed out of the very lungs of God’ (Greek, theopneustos – breathed out from God) as Paul teaches in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Many of us have discovered that there’s a difference between God’s inerrant word and human beings’ interpretations of that word. Paul notes, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it . . . Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident. For the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our interpretations of Isaiah, Genesis or any other book of the Bible need to be guided by what the texts say. The God of Jacob still has things He wants to communicate to us through His word. And we are challenged to be faithful and accurate as we explore what He is saying in the Scriptures.
Hebrew highways and Egyptian houses of prayer
Recently I gave a series of lectures in Warsaw, Poland on the Book of Isaiah. My students had many lively questions regarding Isaiah 19 (https://davidstent.org/the-isaiah-19-highway-prophecies-amidst-the-potholes/).
Isaiah 19:1-15 starts off with a prophecy of an approaching Egyptian drought. Other prophets brought similar prophecies: Zechariah 14:17-19 (a future drought on Egypt after Yeshua returns), and Jeremiah 50:35-38; Jeremiah 51:11, 59 (a Babylonian drought coming in his own day).
Isaiah 19:16-22 details six prophecies (all identified by the phrase “in that day”) – some of them prior to Yeshua’s return, some of them after Yeshua’s return. These include:
- Egypt coming face to face with ‘YHVH of the armies of Israel’ (see 1 Samuel 17:26, 45)
- a great Egyptian fear of Israel’s armies (19:16-17)
- a great destruction in Egypt either at the hand of Israel or possibly the anti-Messiah (see Daniel 11:42-43)
- a national repentance and healing in Egypt, honoring the God of Israel and the Jewish nation
- the construction of an Egyptian altar and memorial pillar dedicated to ‘YHVH of Israel’s armies’
- five Hebrew-speaking cities in Egypt – a sign of their changed spiritual heart
- the Egyptian nation will know YHVH, worship Him and take vows in His name
Verses 23-25 prophesy that after both nations (Assyria and Egypt) repent and after Yeshua returns, a physical highway will be constructed between the two grizzled superpowers. Tiny Israel, the Jewish nation which suffered much throughout history at the hands of Assyria and Egypt (cruelty, enslavement and exile) will impart blessing (see Genesis 12:3; 26:4; 28:14; Acts 3:25) to both superpowers, smack dab in the middle of that superhighway. The Hebrew wording in 19:24 clearly emphasizes that it is Israel who will be the blessing to the other two nations, and not that a synthesis of the three nations will bring blessing.
Parts of Isaiah 19 are prophecy past (verses 1-15). Other parts are definitely future (verses 16-17 – military defeat, much destruction). Verses 18-25 prophesy a peaceful future after Yeshua returns. But there are no biblical descriptions in Isaiah 19 (or anywhere else in the Bible) of Egyptian houses of prayer bringing Israelis to faith.
The term ‘House of Prayer’ is only used once in the Hebrew Scriptures (in Isaiah 56:7). Yeshua is quoted three times in the gospels referring this to the Temple in Jerusalem. But a network of houses of prayer across the Middle East is not mentioned anywhere in Isaiah 19. There are those who say that this concept can be spiritually discerned in the text. But it seems that somehow they have inserted this concept into their interpretation of this passage (a process known as eisegesis). As a result it seems to me that this End of Days scenario lacks biblical authority. Like the description of Egypt in Isaiah 36:6, this scenario of a powerful prophetic role for Egyptian houses of prayer vis-à-vis Israel may end up being a bruised reed to those who lean on it for support.
Houses of prayer and worship are important to God and to the body of Messiah. Some of our dearest friends are involved in these endeavors, and we are as well. But it is my appraisal that the ‘house of prayer’ paradigm cannot be forced as a hermeneutical grid onto Isaiah 19 without doing damage to the biblical text.
Assyria by any other name
Those who champion this unusual interpretation of Isaiah 19 regularly interpret Assyria as including any countries over which the Assyrian empire ruled. This allows them to interpret Assyria is representing the entire Middle East. At the same time, they differentiate between Assyria, Egypt and Israel, seeing them as three separate countries.
There are two basic problems with this allegorical-mystical approach:
- The first is that God clearly has created and established an Assyrian people (Akkad, Assyria and Ashur; Genesis 10:10-11, 22). They are a real flesh-and-blood nation with a prophetic future. Today’s Assyrian and Syriac Christians claim to be descended from the ancient Assyrians.
- The second is that the Assyrian Empire at its zenith ruled Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Cyprus, together with large swathes of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Sudan, Libya, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
If we define Assyria as all the countries included within the borders of the greater Assyrian Empire, the countries of Israel and Egypt would actually disappear from the prophecy, since at one point in history they too were defined as part of the greater Assyrian Empire. Such a broad interpretation would make the prophecy of Isaiah 19:23-25 unintelligible.
In Bible days Assyria and Egypt were not Arab countries. The Bible (Genesis 10:11-12) says that Assyria was founded by Ham’s grandson Nimrod. Its capital city of Assyria had a distant connection to Shem, but that was through Shem’s son Ashur and not Abraham’s line through Arpachshad (1 Chronicles 1:17). In the prophet’s days Assyria and Egypt were pagan empires not related to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Ishmael, and were spiritually unconnected to the covenants YHVH the God of Israel had made with the Jewish patriarchs (see John 4:22).
Slicing the Ham really thin
God wants us to know our roots – where we’re from, who were our forefathers, what people-group we belong to, and what is the destiny of our people-group. That why the Book of Genesis establishes these principles at the beginning of recorded human history: “Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood (Genesis 10:1). John tells us that national origins are also connected to national prophetic destinies:
- After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands. And they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10)
- And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God. And he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel (Revelation 7:2-5).
The national origins of Egypt are non-Semitic and non-Arab. “Then Israel entered Egypt, Jacob resided as a foreigner in the Land of Ham” (Psalm 105:23, 27; 78:51; 106:22). Ham was one of Noah’s three sons, the others being Shem (father of the Semitic peoples) and Japheth. Scripture tells us that Ham’s descendants moved into Ethiopia, Sudan (Cush), Libya (Put), Egypt and Canaan (Genesis 10:1, 6–20).
According to the Scriptures, Egypt was never an Arab land. It was a land given to the sons of Ham. A dear Egyptian pastor friend told me something that most Egyptian Christians only discuss freely in the privacy of their homes — that the original Coptic Christians (who survive to this day in Egypt) are not Arabs at all. The word ‘Copt’ was probably the Greek word for ‘Egyptian,’ linguistically mangled by Arabic-speaking jihadi invaders. Modern Egyptians are a mixed blend — mostly Hamitic (Copts and Sudanese) but also partly Arab (as a result of the jihadi invasions). But the original Egyptians in Isaiah’s day had no racial connection with Abraham or Ishmael.
Arabs predate Ishmael
Before Ishmael was born, the Arab peoples existed. Today those Arabs who are descended from Ishmael are a minority in the Islamic world. The Arabs of the Saudi-dominated Arabian Peninsula are commonly divided into two groups: those whose historical origins traditionally begin with Shem (Al-‘arab al-‘āriba – ‘the Arab Arabs’/‘pure Arabs’ from Yemen), and those whose historical origins traditionally begins with Ishmael (Al-‘arab al-mustaʿribah – ‘the Arabicized Arabs’ from central and northern Arabia). Some ramifications here:
- The majority of Muslims in the world today are not Arabs
- The majority of Arabs today are not related to Ishmael
- The teaching that Arabs are descended from Ishmael is nowhere mentioned in the Quran
- To teach that Ishmael is the father of the Arab world and that the words ‘Ishmael’ and ‘the Arabs’ are interchangeable, is not correct either biblically or historically
The Scriptures clearly teach that the Abrahamic covenantal status and its related blessings come exclusively through Isaac and Jacob, not through Ishmael or Esau: “And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him’” (Genesis 17:18-19).
An errant claim is sometimes made that, because Ishmael was born to Abraham and was circumcised, he is a full partaker in the Abrahamic promise and a true son of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Apostle Paul explains why such a conclusion is in error:
- Nor are they all [covenant] children because they are Abraham’s [physical] descendants, but: “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh [real children but not the seed of promise] who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Romans 9:7-9)
French historian and Orientalist Maxime Rodinson points out that some Christians make much “of the fact that the Arabs are supposedly descendants of Ishmael.” As a result, they conclude that Ishmael “was therefore a party to the first covenant . . . [They believe that] certain of God’s promises apply to him.” Those who hold these positions have “a tendency to go beyond what is given in the texts with very bold interpretations that reflect their own passions and inclinations.”
Jewish ‘original sin’
I have been hearing from a handful of friends (Jews and Arabs) that Sarah is guilty of ‘an original sin’ against Hagar and Ishmael, first by mistreating Hagar and then by forcing Hagar’s and Ishmael’s departure from Abraham’s camp, thus causing a ‘wound in the original family.’ This wound, I have been told, needs to be healed by repentance on the part of Messianic Jews standing in for Sarah. And then the ‘original family unity’ will be restored.
Biblical and historical facts don’t jibe with this statement. According to Middle Eastern laws from Abraham’s time, if a slave woman bore a son for her mistress and then tried to assert domestic equality with her, that slave would either be returned to a full slave status or expelled from the household. Hagar had violated the boundaries of Middle Eastern propriety, as it says in the Book of Proverbs: “Under three things the earth quakes, and under four it cannot bear up: under a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is satisfied with food; under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she supplants her mistress” (Proverbs 31:21-23).
As soon as Hagar conceived, she began to despise or mock Sarai (Genesis 16:4). The Hebrew verb used here is based on the same root used in Genesis 12:3 (“the one who mocks you” from the root qalal). Sarai responded to Hagar’s mocking with harshness (according to Genesis 16:16). Though that was grievous, this grief must be balanced by a clear-eyed appraisal of the reality of the situation. When a slave begins to usurp a king, the stability and security of the realm is in danger. When Ishmael began to manifest the same scorn to Isaac as Hagar his mother manifested to Sarai (Genesis 21:9), Sarai saw an upcoming threat to Isaac’s dynastic survival and insisted in no uncertain terms, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac” (Genesis 21:10).
Hagar and Ishmael sadly had brought down upon themselves the ‘curse’ clauses of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:3) in this situation. They had mocked Abraham’s wife and Abraham’s covenant son. The biblical text is clear that the ‘original sin’ was Hagar’s and Ishmael’s mocking. Sarah is considered a stalwart woman of faith who believed God’s promises and conceived Isaac by faith (Hebrews 11:11). The Bible nowhere describes Hagar and Ishmael as part of Abraham’s family of covenant, and God takes the time to encourage Abraham (Genesis 21:12) not to be distressed in sending Hagar and Ishmael away.
So why would anyone want to level blame against Sarah? And why would someone tell the Jewish people that they must ask forgiveness from Arabs for the blowback of Hagar’s mocking? Sometimes, it is said, the issue is not the issue. Is there a key to unlock deeper issues of the heart here? I have heard some teachers declare that the Arab peoples have an ‘orphan spirit’ and ‘a spirit of rejection,’ and that this is all due to Sarah’s rotten behavior. It is true that some in the Arabic-speaking world struggle with such issues, and it is also true that some blame these dynamics on the Jewish people. But respect for biblical accuracy (and for the physical make-up of the non-Ishmaelic majority of Arabic-speaking peoples today) prevent us from taking that path. There is an Arabic proverb, “First he hit me, then he started to cry, and then he went straight to the judge to sue me.” Let’s remember that:
- The majority of the Islamic world are not Arabs
- The majority of Arabs are not descended from Abraham
- Egypt, Syria (Aram in Hebrew; Genesis 10:22; 25:22) and Assyria are not biblically related to Abraham
I must confess that something sounds fishy in the way this ‘dynamic’ is being presented – calling for ‘a healing in the family of Abraham,’ when the majority of the Arab world has no ties to Abraham, when the Scriptures never call Hagar and Ishmael part of the ‘covenant family,’ and when the Bible never presents a mandate to ‘heal this family wound.’
A more helpful focus might be an examination of some biblical leads. These might be valid spiritual wells worth peering into:
- the root of bitterness in the heart of Esau and his descendants (see Genesis 27:41; Hebrews 12:15)
- the ramifications of Ishmael’s spiritual characteristics (Genesis 16:12)
- the cursing of the Jewish people and their Land (see Ezekiel 35-36)
- the seeking of Israel’s destruction (see Psalm 83)
Three mothers at one table?
The call for equal standing to be given at the ‘Abrahamic Covenant table’ to ‘the three mothers’ (Hagar, Keturah and Sarah) is also a call with no biblical grounding. The biblical covenant was made between YHVH (one the one hand) and Abraham (and his seed through Sarah on the other hand). Hagar and Keturah are nowhere described in the Scriptures as partaking in Abrahamic Covenant promises. In point of fact, the angel of YHVH prophesies that Ishmael will live not in the Promised Land but to the east of it, in the desert (Genesis 16:12). Isaac prophesies to Esau that he too will live not in the Land of Israel but in the barren wilderness (Genesis 27:39).
These new teachings floating around the web involve a subtle yet significant tweaking of the irrevocable calling and gifts to Israel (Romans 11:28-29).
In Islamic theology, Isaac’s firstborn status gets replaced by that of Ishmael. This Islamic worldview may be spiritually influencing some people’s thinking here. The process we’ve been looking at begins with an understated watering-down of Jacob’s priority status, before segueing into a non-biblical view of Ishmael’s status and finally into a distorted interpretation of a Last Days vision regarding Egypt and Assyria. Years ago I remarked that “left unchecked, this distorted take on Isaac and Ishmael could lead to a new mutation of Arab Replacement Theology.”
Apocalyptic visions of destruction, and hidden poetic keys
The gospel message has two indispensable elements – Yeshua’s death of the cross, and Yeshua’s resurrection (see Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 4:11; Philippians 1:20; Revelation 2:10). The Hebrew prophets declare that God’s ways involve not only Millennial joys, but also the judgments of the Day of Lord (see Hebrews 10:31). Believers in the West have tended to shy away from the reality of judgments. They are shocked to discover verses like this: “Rejoice, O nations, with His people! For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). We salute those who preach the cross and not only the resurrection.
At the same time, it needs to be pointed out that it is a human tendency for some people to exaggerate and overstress aspects of specific judgments or even their extent. Not every ‘judgment event’ coming down the pike has been described for us in the Bible, but that does not give us the authority to ‘fill in the blanks’ here. Great care must be exercised, both regarding accuracy of interpretation and pastoral wisdom when it comes to teaching Middle Eastern eschatology.
The Scriptures talk about overwhelming judgment falling on Israel (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28; Ezekiel 20; Zechariah 13-14; Joel 3; etc.) but also on the nations (Isaiah 24; Revelation 8-9, 11-12, etc.). Not all details of how these judgments will be actualized or their detailed timelines are given in the Bible. I have seen some teachers weave together scores of unrelated passages into complex eschatological scenarios – yet those passages are not clearly identified in Scripture as dealing with God’s final judgments, and these verses have no clear biblical markers connecting them to specific events. I believe that there is a cry in God’s heart for some Bible teachers to exercise greater care and demonstrate greater humility as they work out their eschatological convictions in the glare of the spotlight.
A new book is about to circulate on the web, teaching that poetic passages in the Hebrew prophets conceal detailed keys to Last Days judgments and intricate timeline events. The method used in this book again involves the weaving together of scores of unrelated passages into complex eschatological scenarios – which are then proclaimed as being the cutting edge of Last Days theology on the Middle East. This approach has been championed in years past by Art Katz. In his article ‘Israel in Flight’ Katz acknowledged that his theological perspectives are not easily arrived at from a simple reading of the Bible: “There are no systematic line-upon-line statements to make it easy for us to understand them. We need, therefore, to be apprehended by the implicit pattern rather than by a methodical, chronological approach.”
What is being stated here is that clear, plain, systematic study of Scripture regarding Israel will not get one to the conclusions being offered. On the contrary, one must combine a mystical perspective and an eisegetical use of Scripture in order to bolster these peculiar eschatological views regarding the Jewish people’s destiny. In this case above, Katz’s perspectives of Jewish history ended up fixated on judgment and the punishment of Israel, downgrading God’s biblical emphasis on continuing grace, love and covenant faithfulness as demonstrated in the present ongoing regathering of the Jewish people.
Balancing the highway
The best way to reach a spiritual balance regarding the relationship between Jews, Egyptians and Assyrians is to start with what the Bible says about national callings. Scripture repeatedly emphasizes that the Jewish people have gifts and a priority calling which are different from any other nation (see Romans 11:28-29; Psalm 147:20). Israel is specifically called to be a light and a servant to all nations (Isaiah 49:5-6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47). Israel needs to be faithful to her calling, and surrounding nations in the Middle East would do well to recognize and honor that calling. The next step after that would be for each nation to faithfully fulfill its own calling. For example, the nations of the Middle East are also called to bless and serve the Jewish nation (see Isaiah 60-61; Psalm 117).
Isaiah’s vision in chapter 19 (a fellowship of worship between Egypt and Assyria, with Israel acting as the blessing between the two of them, after Messiah returns) can be a powerful impetus in our day for local believers throughout the Middle East to worship and pray together. It may come as a surprise for those who are new to the Middle East that activities of this nature have been going on in Israel since the early 1980’s, though it has not always been easy. When the First Intifada broke out in 1987, two years of meetings between Jewish and Arab pastors (in which we had also been involved) hit the deep freeze and never fully recovered. At present there are continuing modest contacts between Jewish and Arab believers within Israel, and occasional low-profile gatherings in other areas of the Middle East. The vision of Isaiah 19 can encourage us as we walk what is still a long and bumpy road into the Messianic future.
If errant interpretations of Isaiah 19 can be brought into a more biblical balance, some wonderful clear sailing could be experienced for those who focus on this chapter’s encouraging points. YHVH gives great honor to both Egypt and Assyria after their purifying judgment. It is then that the God of Israel uses terms of affection about his children, words that a happy father would tenderly use. Assyria is called “the work of My hands.” Egypt is called “My people.” Israel still maintains her covenantal gifts and calling; she is called “My inheritance.” The story “is not over until it’s over.” And in this case, the end of the story is better than its beginning. What a day that will be!
When all else fails, read the Bible
Considering that over 90% of the Bible has been written by Jews, and that over 90% of the Bible is about the Jewish people, there is room available for all of us to deepen our awareness of YHVH’s prophetic plan for the Jewish people. Most of the prophetic writings in the Bible are Israel-centric, though it is sad to say that most believers (and that includes most Arabs and most Jews) still are barely acquainted with these amazing coming events. “Your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight. They are my counselors!” (Psalm 119:23-24).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for God’s heart and calling for Israel to be perceived by many in the Middle East
- Pray for Messianic Jews to receive a revelation of God’s heart for the nations of the Middle East
- Pray that God would shine the spotlight of His clarity on areas of inaccuracy and unbalanced teaching about these matters that are appearing with increasing frequency
- Pray for the raising up of the Ezekiel 37 prophetic army among the Jewish people
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
Donations can be sent to:
FINAL FRONTIER MINISTRIES
BOX 121971 NASHVILLE TN 37212-1971 USA
Donations can also be made on-line (by PayPal or credit card) through: www.davidstent.org