The name that the Israel Defense Forces has given for this current round of fighting with jihadi terror group Hamas is ‘Shomer Hachomot’ – ‘watchman on the walls.’ The term is based on Isaiah 62:6-7: “On your walls, Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen. All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who profess YHVH, take no rest for yourselves – and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem an object of praise on the earth.” Through this choice of name for the military operation, the promised Messianic and irrevocable calling on Israel (Romans 11:28-29) has found its way into world headlines.
Some intercessory prayer movements refer to this verse, but I am not sure if people understand that God is referring to a real people here – the Jewish people; to a real place – the Jewish state and its Jewish capital city Jerusalem; and to the God of the Hebrews who like to call Himself ‘YHVH the Lord of the armies of Israel’? (1 Samuel 17:26; 2 Samuel 7:26; Jeremiah 32:14-15; 50:18).
King David and his watchman’s sword
King David had a finely tuned awareness of who the God of Israel is, and he expressed quite forcefully in his confrontation with Goliath:
- So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a saber, but I come to you in the name of YHVH of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day YHVH will hand you over to me, and I will strike you and remove your head from you. Then I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that this entire assembly may know that YHVH does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is YHVH’s, and He will hand you over to us!” (1 Samuel 17:43-47)
All this may come as a shock to some followers of Messiah Yeshua as they grapple with the nature of the God of Jacob. CNN may whitewash evil terrorists by referring to them by the euphemism ‘militants,’ but let’s cut to the chase: the God of Israel is a God both militant and military. Here is how King David describes YHVH in Psalm 110:
- YHVH says to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” YHVH will stretch out Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will volunteer freely on the day of Your power . . . YHVH is at Your right hand. He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations. He will fill them with corpses. He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. He will drink from the brook by the wayside. Therefore He will lift up His head.
As the Jewish people confront their mortal enemies on the battlefield of the Promised Land, we would do well to remember how YHVH the God of the Bible views these conflicts. David says “I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and I did not turn back until they were consumed” (Psalm 18:37). The psalmist declares that YHVH will fight for David and for his people: “The enemy will not deceive him, nor will the son of wickedness afflict him. But I will crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him” (Psalm 89:22-23). The God of Israel takes these matters very seriously. It’s getting to be the time for us to do so as well.
Aiming rockets at Washington D.C., JFK and LA
The current battle between Hamas and Israel is not a generic battle. It is not a war between Arabs and Jews per se, for Israel has peace treaties with Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. The clash is between the Jewish state and Hamas, a jihadi terror offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas follows an Islamist perspective which sees destroying Israel as a religious duty and privilege, no matter the cost. Hamas began this round of armed conflict by firing seven long-range rockets toward purely civilian areas to the immediate west of Jerusalem. One of these fell across the valley from the Muslim village of Abu Gosh. Later targets in the following days included Ben Gurion International Airport and Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city.
To understand the significance of these targets in comparable terms, these rocket attacks would be like jihadi terrorist Osama bin Laden and his Muslim Brotherhood offshoot al Qa’eda simultaneously attacking America’s capital city Washington D.C., the JFK Airport and Los Angeles in one fell swoop. The nature of these attacks reveals the life-and-death struggle going on here. Hamas has to date fired over 2,000 rockets solely at Israeli civilians, and all have been fired from houses of Gaza’s exclusively residential areas.
God’s military advice to Israel
The writer of Proverbs gives solid military guidance to Jewish kings: “Establish your battle plans by consultation, and with cunning stratagems [wise guidance] make war” (Proverbs 21:18; also Proverbs 24:6). The Hebrew word for ‘cunning stratagems’ is tachbulah (תַּחְבֻּלָה) and it refers to the rope (hevel) used by the captain of a ship to steer the sail or the rudder.
In Joshua 8, the God of Jacob commands Joshua to engage in subterfuge and ambush. This was His divine military strategy:
- Now YHVH said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you. Arise, go up to Ai. See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king. You shall take only its spoils and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.” So Joshua rose up with all the people of war to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose thirty thousand men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as they did the first time, we will flee before them. They will come out after us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us just as they did the first time.’ So we will flee before them. Then you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for YHVH your God will hand it over to you. Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it in accordance with the word of YHVH. See, I have commanded you.”
On Thursday night May 13, the IDF used a similar strategy. In every battle with Hamas so far, there has been a similarity of rolling tactics. Hamas opened up hostilities by firing rockets first at the Jewish villages and towns close to Gaza, and then exponentially increased its rocket fire to Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheva and finally to Tel Aviv and beyond. Israel responded by some aerial bombing, and then a ground invasion. But over the past few years IDF strategists have been working on new plans involving both subterfuge and ambush.
Late Thursday night the IDF spokesman distributed a press release which could have been read two different ways. World media concluded that the press release was signaling that Israel was getting ready for a massive ground invasion. Never ones to miss a scoop, they immediately broadcast that an IDF ground invasion was underway. When Hamas military command heard this, they rushed their commando squads to the border in order to confront the projected invasion. But the generals and colonels did what they always do at that point – they ran for their underground bunkers and rat’s nest network of Viet Cong-like tunnels. This was the IDF’s hoped-for result. Over 160 IAF warplanes moved into position over the underground bunkers, armed with JDAM bunker-buster bombs. Simultaneously, crushing fire was directed at the underground Hamas command bunkers by Israeli Merkava tanks, IDF self-propelled howitzers, and Israeli Navy artillery. Though in all previous battles Hamas’ underground network had proved to be unassailable, now the IDF was able to degrade these tunnels with pinpoint precision and move much of the Hamas high command on to other spheres. The military doctrine of ‘shock and awe’ had once again proved its value.
No weapon formed against you
God’s promise to the sons of Jacob is so very encouraging: “You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear, and from terror, for it will not come near you . . . Whoever attacks you will fall because of you . . . No weapon that is formed against you will succeed, and you will condemn every tongue that accuses you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of YHVH, and their vindication is from Me, declares YHVH” (Isaiah 54:14-17).
Two sobering illustrations of this point:
- Some Hamas rockets targeted at Israeli civilians fell short and destroyed Gazan electric power lines, leading to severe power outages for 250,000 Gazans.
- Terrorists destroyed key elements of the water system for 5,000 Jewish residents of the South Hebron Hills region. That resulted in water being cut off to the Israeli Bedouin town of Kuseife (population 22,000), some who had been stoning Israeli cars and destroying highway lighting only a few hours before.
At this point Israeli Military Intelligence believes that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have 60 days of rockets left in their storerooms – approximately 12,000 units. Chances are that this war will not go on for 60 more days, due to Great Power pressure. But the jihadi goal is to keep firing to the very end, even as Gaza’s infrastructure and economy are being blown into a million pieces. “Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I’m willing to make,” declared Lord Maximus Farquaad in the movie Shrek. It could just as well have been a verbatim quote from Hamas’ Chief of Staff in this war, directed to each and every Gazan. The aged, the women, the children and many of the wage-earners in Gaza are trapped by their Islamist overlords. They have not voted for this war – or for anything, since the last elections were in 2006, and since then Gaza has been ruled by Hamas’ shari’a-compliant Islamist dictatorship. Tonight many Gazans in the northern part of the Strip are heading southward to find refuge in UNRWA schools. They never volunteered to Hamas, asking to be human shields while jihadi commanders hide under their houses and businesses.
A God’s-eye history of war
In the Book of Judges, Jephthah attempts to bring a ceasefire between Israel and Ammon. When Ammon claims Israel’s land, Jephthah goes into the history of the conflict and, when Ammon refuses to listen, he calls on the God of the armies of Israel to bring severe military defeat upon the sons of Ammon:
- So Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, “What conflict do you and I have, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” And the king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, “It is because Israel took my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan. So return them peaceably now.” But Jephthah sent messengers once again to the king of the sons of Ammon, and they said to him, “This is what Jephthah says: ‘Israel did not take the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon. For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea, and came to Kadesh . . . So I have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me. May YHVH, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon’” (Judges 11:12-16, 27).
When Jewish people and Gentile friends of Israel today insists that the God of Israel has never handed over the Promised Land to jihadi terrorists, and when those modern ‘sons of Ammon’ spurn God’s word and attack His people, this is not simply a situation that calls for “immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities,” as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded today. Guterres added that he was doing this “out of respect for the spirit of Eid” (the final feast of Ramadan, Eid al-Adha). To many Muslims this feast is a happy family time, similar in some ways to Western Christmas. But then again, why would Hamas choose to attack Israel on ‘Christmas’ and then complain that Israel is fighting back?
An ancient Arabic proverb explains, “He hit me and howled, then rushed first to cry foul!” This proverb helps us to understand Hamas’ worldview and behavior, as they attack the people of the Lion of Judah while insisting that we have no right to fight back and decisively crush our enemies.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for the defeat of Islamist terror forces (see2 Kings 6:8-14)
- Pray for protection for Israel’s citizens who are facing jihadi terror rocket attacks
- Pray for minimal injuries and loss of life for Gazan civilians trapped under Hamas’ iron hand
- Pray for strategic and political wisdom for Israel’s leadership in every area
- 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,
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