As the Passover season of deliverance approaches, the world focuses on the Middle East. Chemical warfare near Idlib targeted civilians, causing the gruesome death of nearly 100 (including lots of children) and the injury of more than 500. The cruelty and carnage shake the souls of all who see video footage of the casualties. Syrian fighter-bombers involved in that incident (and operating under a protective Russian military umbrella) were destroyed a few days later by an American onslaught of 59 Tomahawk missiles.
The world’s media are hashing and re-hashing the significance of these events. What does this indicate about the new American administration? How will the Russians respond? What conclusions will other Middle Eastern countries (from Saudi Arabia to Iran) draw? How will this affect world economies?
Secular analysts tend to leave God out of the picture. And the world’s political powers are blind to Israel’s prophetic promises, unable to discern her present and ongoing restoration to the ancient homeland. Israel’s creation has earth-shaking significance. Could it be that that God’s covenant promises of protection for the Jews have something to do with fast-spinning events in Syria?
How can we make sense of the news? Is the Bible silent about what is going on, or does it speak about these countries and these nations? How can we pray and act?
Syria/Aram – the birthplace of the Jewish nation
Ancient Aram (modern Syria) was a pre-Abrahamic nation descended from Shem’s fifth son (Genesis 10:22-23). Arameans (or Syrians) were Semites but were not part of Abraham’s family. Abraham’s few close relatives in Aram were cousins but not his descendants.
Eleven of Jacob’s twelve sons (known as the twelve tribes) were born in Syria (Genesis 35:22-26; 48:7). YHVH commands the Jewish people to remember that fact in their yearly Passover season declarations in Jerusalem, “You shall answer and say before YHVH your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt… and became a great, mighty and populous nation” (Deuteronomy 26:5). Syria was an important maternity ward in the birth of the Jewish people (Hosea 12:12).
Biblical Aram – the evil adversary
Shem’s Aramean descendants figure prominently in the Scriptures as a serious enemy of the Jewish people. Major hostilities broke out in King David’s time. The Son of Jesse killed 22,000 Aramean foot soldiers in pitched battle, establishing a military presence in Damascus and throughout Aram/Syria (1 Chronicles 18:5-6). In a subsequent battle, Syria tried to join a Middle eastern confederacy against the Jewish state. King David decisively defeated the Syrians, killing 7,000 charioteers (they were the ancient equivalent of modern tank drivers) and 40,000 infantry as well as Shophach, Aram’s military commander (1 Chronicles 19:16-19).
Syria’s fierce hatred and abhorrence of Israel
In the days of King Solomon an Aramean named Rezon reigned in Damascus. The text says that “he was an adversary (ed., the literal Hebrew says, ‘a satan’ – an accuser) to Israel all the days of Solomon… and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Syria” (1 Kings 11:25).
The prophetic leak of Syria’s military secrets to Israel
In King Ahab’s day two nameless Jewish prophets came to the King of Israel at two separate times to reveal stunning prophetic words – the entire battle order of Ben-Hadad the King of Syria (1 Kings 20:13, 28). God was fighting for Israel and delivering her from the Syrian enemy, resulting in the death of 127,000 Syrian infantry (1 Kings 20:29-30).
Elisha’s chariots of fire confront the Syrian army
The king of Syria realized that YHVH was fighting on Israel’s side against Syria. Elisha the prophet was getting prophetic briefings from the God of Jacob about every Syrian military strategy, and then promptly sharing it with the Defense Forces of Israel (2 Kings 6:8-12). When Syria’s Special Operations Forces surrounded the prophet and his servant at Dothan, Elisha declared to his trembling aide: “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” “And Elisha prayed and said, ‘YHVH I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then YHVH opened the servant’s eyes and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:16-17).
The God of Israel expresses His commitment to cursing and defeating Israel’s enemies
The promise made by YHVH to Abram in Genesis 12:3 still stands. Those who bless Israel will be blessed, but the one who sneers at, derides, scorns or goes to war against Israel will be cursed and destroyed.
God spoke over Amalek and prophesied that, because they initiated war against Israel, YHVH would be at war with them from generation to generation. “Then YHVH said to Moses, ‘Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and named it ‘YHVH is My Banner.’ And he said, ‘YHVH has sworn; YHVH will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.’” (Exodus 17:14-16).
Elisha prophesies over Syria’s murderously anti-Jewish king
The prophet Elisha was directed by YHVH to go to Damascus and to prophesy to Haza’el (King Ben-Hadad’s top aide) about the assassination of the monarch. Elisha wept as he spoke, “I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel. You will set their fortresses on fire, and you will kill their young men with the sword, and you will dash in pieces their little ones, and you will rip up the stomachs of their pregnant women.” Haza’el’s response? “But what is your servant…that he should do this great thing?” (2 Kings 8:12-13).
The modern reality – Syria’s non-stop cursing of Israel and war against her
Syria’s hatred of the Jewish people is extensively documented in history. Some recent examples include:
- In 1840 a blood libel against Damascus Jews (a false accusation of murdering a Christian priest to use his blood for ritual purposes) resulted in the pillaging of the Syrian Jewish synagogue in Jobar as well as the destruction of its Torah scrolls. In 1984 Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass published a book called The Matzah of Zion, claiming that Jews had killed Christian children in Damascus to make Passover unleavened bread – https://www.memri.org/reports/damascus-blood-libel-1840-told-syrian-defense-minister-mustafa-tlass).
- After WWII Syria welcomed Nazis to its country, employing them in their security services and military command. One of the most famous protégés was SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Alois Brunner, the ‘Holocaust’s engineer’ and Adolf Eichmann’s deputy in the murder-apparatus Central Office for Jewish Emigration. His oversight extended to Jewish victims from Vienna, Slovakia, Salonika, Drancy camp in France and included the destinations of Theresienstadt, Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Stutthof and Auschwitz. Brunner was granted Syrian government protection as an advisor. In 1971 he helped Hafez al-Assad (Bashar al-Assad’s father) come to power in a military coup. In a 1987 telephone interview from Damascus to the daily Chicago Sun Times, Brunner stated, when asked about the Jews: “All of them deserved to die because they were the devil’s agents and human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again” (US Department of State, “Nazi War Criminal Alois Brunner’s Presence in Damascus Hits the Papers Again”, The National Security Archive).
- Roger Garaudy, the French Holocaust denier, was invited in 1996 as an honored guest to Damascus by Syria’s Ministry of Information. The government-owned newspaper Tishrin praised Mr. Garaudy for “exposing the lies of the Zionist movement which exaggerated what happened to Jews during the Second World War for political purposes.”
- In 2001 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a public broadcast: “The Arab-Zionist conflict is a struggle between truth and falsehood; between the spirit of tolerance and peace of Islam and the Zionist path of racism …criminal aggression and barbaric crimes, on the other. Israel has been committing these crimes, ever since it was a bunch of racist gangs; and it still commits them now that it is a state based on loathsome racist values and hatred towards Arabs and Islam” (Syrian News Agency SANA, January 7, 2001).
- Syrian armed forces attacked Israel repeatedly in attempts to wipe out the Jewish state. On May 14 1948 Syrian forces invaded Israel on the day of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. In June 1967 Syria joined with Egypt in preparation to attack Israel as part of the United Arab Republic war confederation. In 1973 Syria initiated a surprise attack on the Day of Atonement, Israel’s holiest day.
- Syria has continued to arm and train terror groups for over 60 years (PLO, al Fatah, al Saiqa, PFLP, PFLP General Command, DFLP. Abu Nidal Group, Abu Musa Faction, Popular Struggle Front, PLF, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas). Former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas states: “Syria has always partaken in the bloodshed involved in the Palestinian struggle….The Palestinian revolution was launched from Syrian territory. Moreover, the revolutionaries know there was a time when arms were taken from Syrian soldiers to be handed over to the fighters of the Palestinian revolution” (http://jcpa.org/article/syria-and-terrorism/).
- Syrian-sponsored terrorism has not only hit Israel. Countries targeted include the USA, Lebanon, Turkey and Germany. The attack on the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut was planned out of Syria (http://www.gotc-se.org/statements/Syria_terrorism.html).
Modern Syria – realpolitik, Russia, Iran and ISIS
In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address President George W. Bush classified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” In May 2002, US Undersecretary of State John Bolton gave a speech titled “Beyond the Axis of Evil” which added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the list of nations seeking to obtain chemical or biological weapons.
Today Syria sits astride a radioactive Middle Eastern bucking bronco. It has attempted to manufacture nuclear weapons. It channels Iranian missiles and other weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It has developed warm and intimate relations with Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Yet the country of Syria is in agony and it is not clear if these are birth pangs or death throes. Syria’s civil war has claimed 470,000 lives since March 2011, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (February 2017) – an average of 262 deaths per day and 7,860 deaths per month. The estimated death toll today is over 520,000.
Israel is actually quietly aiding wounded Syrian civilians and fighters, supplying clothing, food, medicine and free surgery in Israeli hospitals (www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4946780,00.html).
The gathering of the sharks
Al- Assad’s brutal dictatorship is confronted by over 70 different rebel or terrorist or Islamist Salafi groups (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_armed_groups_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War). Major players like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and ISIS are all vying for influence, power and control (http://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/russia-putin-syria/). Israel is watching carefully from the sidelines.
It seems that good solutions are in short supply for Syria. Over a half a million people have been murdered and the world shows little resolve or desire to halt the bloodshed.
- As jihadi forces grow in power in the Middle East (whether Shi’ite, Alawite or Sunni), many in the West do not sufficiently understand or respect the spiritual forces at work here.
The Jewish people and their ancient biblical promises of restoration continue to be attacked by an amalgam of anti-Jewish, Islamist, secularist and anti-Christian forces. This targeting of the Jewish state has led the God of Israel to paint a target on the aggressor countries. His divine laser-gun is ‘lighting up’ these nations in preparation for the Day of His wrath.
The God of history is not mocked. He sees into the secret councils of nations and confounds their plans: “Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered. Give ear, all remote places of the earth. Gird yourselves, yet be shattered…Devise a (destructive) plan, but it will be thwarted. State a proposal, but it will not stand, for God is with us (ed. Immanuel)” (Isaiah 8:9-10).
Centuries of violent Syrian hatred toward Israel and aggressive acts of Syrian leadership aimed at Israel’s destruction – none of these matters have slipped past the attention of the God of Jacob. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a future judgment yet to come on Damascus (Isaiah 17).
“O YHVH, God of vengeance”
Do we still believe that the God of Israel is a God of covenant? Do we trust that He will keep His promises and honor the prayers of the remnant of His people?
- “O YHVH, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth!” (Psalm 94:1)
- “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Let there be known among the nations in our sight,Vengeance for the blood of Your servants which has been shed” (Psalm 79:10)
- “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)
- “Now YHVH saw and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice ( for Israel). And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede. Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate and a helmet of salvation on His head. He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. According to their deeds, so He will repay – wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies. To the coastlands He will make recompense…For He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of YHVH drives. A Redeemer will come to Zion… declares YHVH” (Isaiah 59:15-20)
- “The Spirit of YHVH God is upon me because YHVH has anointed me to bring good news to the He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;to proclaim the favorable year of YHVH and the day of vengeance of our God;to comfort all who mourn, and to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
How should we then pray?
- Pray for the leaders of your nation to receive a revelation of God’s character, His ways and His Day of visitation
- Pray for the suffering citizens of Syria who are walking through the valley of death – that lives would be spared and strengthened
- Pray for all the leaders involved – that they would make wise choices (see Psalm 2:10) which would preserve life, crush evil and bring a greater measure of peace
- Pray for believers to receive greater wisdom, discernment and revelation about what is actually going on in light of God’s word and heart for Israel
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,
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