The world is stumbling. The ground is trembling. Everyone is feeling a little weak in the knees.
Newspapers and television remind us of these matters every day. The world’s economy is wobbling. An imperialistic Russia is again flexing its muscles. The specter of rising nuclear instability rises like a mushroom cloud in the Middle East, along with a resurgent jihadi Islam. Untested leaders are trying out unprecedented solutions to cope with unparalleled challenges. All the while a flushed and demonized anti-Semitism has broken out of its cage with a roar, like some rabid tiger running amuck in a public zoo. Though unprepared for combat, we all find ourselves tumbling onto the battlefield of a world in turmoil.
As the world lurches deeper into World War III (see http://davidstent.com/words/ , Dec 9 2006), God wants to make us surefooted, like the hoofs of mountain goats. And He wants to train our hands for battle: “He makes my feet like hind’s feet and sets me on my high places; He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bronze bow” (2 Samuel 22:34-35). But first we need to come to terms with the fact that we are at war, and that God is also at war.
Olive branches amid the bullets
Russian sabers are rattling beside the Black Sea. Jihad warriors are ambushing coalition troops in the Hindu Kush mountains. But in the West it’s all the rage to talk about a deep-seated official repugnance for war, and to express a dripping cynicism about the just use of arms. Many Westerners consider themselves post-Christian, and they are unable to fathom that much of the rest of the world still has zealous anti-democratic convictions.
In the East, Russia dreams of restoring its vast Empire. In the Middle East and Asia, Islamists strive on the path of Allah to help speed the victory of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate. These visions motivate and activate Easterners, but Westerners glaze over in disinterest and disbelief, or due to a short attention span. The West is standing down, but the East is standing up.
President Obama recently extended an olive branch to the Islamic Republic of Iran – one of the world’s two top sponsors of terrorism. While such an offer does afford excellent media coverage, one should remember that olives made their first historical appearance in a Middle Eastern environment. Iran’s leaders may wax eloquent about a new momentum for peace, but the Psalmist reminds us that a man’s speech can be smoother than butter, while his heart can still be turned to war; his words can be softer than oil, yet those words can still be like drawn swords (Psalm 55:21).
Jeremiah tried to warn the leaders of his day about God’s view of ungodly alliances, but to his horror he found that their ears were closed and they would not listen. The reason? The words of YHVH were an embarrassment to them in ancient Middle Eastern political circles. YHVH’s ways created social awkwardness and brought political reproach on Israel. Though Israel’s ancient leaders saw themselves as practitioners of Realpolitik, God Himself lamented that these leaders “have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Shalom, shalom,’ But there is no shalom” (Jeremiah 6:10-14).
“Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee”
The God of the Bible is not only the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He also describes Himself as a warrior in Exodus 15:3, “YHVH is a warrior; YHVH is His name”.
In the Torah God reminds Israel about this facet of His personality, “What other God has tried to go and take for Himself a nation enslaved by another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, as YHVH your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” (Deut.4:34).
The God of Israel commands His people to enter battle as fierce warriors. He Himself gives them military intelligence and unbeatable strategies, and He promises them overwhelming victories on the battlefield (Numbers 31:3-7; Joshua 6:2-3; 8:1; Judges 20:18). One whole chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy is dedicated to explaining how to fight wars YHVH’s way (Deut. 20).
Abraham’s God declares that He is (and will ever be) at war with anti-Semitic forces (Exodus 17:16) and that throughout history He will continue to use Israel’s military might to achieve this goal (Zechariah 9:13; 14:12). The God of the Bible says to the Jewish people, “YHVH your God is in your midst, a victorious Warrior!” (Zephaniah 3:17).
The Bible describes young David son of Jesse, a man after God’s own heart, as “a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and YHVH is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18). In the New Covenant we are told that the Hebrew heroes of faith conquered kingdoms, became mighty in war and put foreign armies to flight (Hebrews 11:33-34).
Simply put, God is still a warrior. He is not only the Lord of the Dance; He is the Lord of the Battle (1 Samuel 17:47; Psalm 24:8; Zechariah 14:3).
History – the narrative of God at war
From the dawn of time, God has declared that human history is enmeshed in war. YHVH’s prophecy to the serpent was “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15). This Messianic prophecy sees history as a constant warfare between Satan and mankind. The wrestling between the dragon and the sons of Adam finds its highest fulfillment in Yeshua’s triumph over Satan – through the cross and the resurrection.
God’s choosing of Israel resulted in Satan targeting Israel for mass destruction. The history of Israel (biblical history) details Satan’s repeated attempts to wipe the seed of Abraham and Jacob off the face of the earth. From Pharaoh to Babylon, from Haman to Hadrian, from Hitler and Stalin to Ahmedinejad – God’s Jewish flock has always been fending off the baying wolves of Satan’s hordes (Ezek.34:5-6).
In the Book of Daniel the forces of ungodliness wage war throughout history against the Jewish people, against the saints, and against the Messiah Himself (Daniel 7:21; 9:26; 11:30-35). The clearest description of this battle (with specific prophetic emphasis on the Jewish aspect) is found in Revelation 12.
During the coming days of tribulation, the highest complement given to the beast is, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” (Revelation 13:4, 7).
At the Second Coming of Messiah, Yeshua will wage war against the kings of the whole world and against their armies (Rev.17:14; 19:11, 19). That battle will be known as “the War of the Great Day of God the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14).
War is part and parcel of human history, and part of biblical history. From the Garden of Eden through to the Return of King Messiah, God’s followers are also God’s warriors, seeking to be about their Father’s business.
Prepare for war
Yeshua described the days immediately prior to His return as days of great military conflict. He warns us, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for these things must take place, but the end does not follow immediately” (Matt.24:6; Luke 21:9). The Scriptures even describe specific last days military battles revolving around the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem (Zech.12-14; Joel 3; Ezekiel 37-39 etc).
All these passages help prepare us, help get us in the frame of mind and understanding – to be ready for a season of war and not to be stumbled by it. If we insist that peace is “just around the corner” as the waves of war engulf us, we will not only be severely out of touch with reality – we will also be misled in our strategic understandings, behavior and reactions.
Immediately prior to WWII Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain mistakenly viewed Hitler as a reasonable man with whom one could do business. Chamberlain proclaimed “peace in our day” only days before his country tumbled onto the battlefields of a World War. In retrospect Chamberlain was guilty of what is known as appeasement. Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who later became PM), described an appeaser this way in a radio broadcast on January 20 1940, “If he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last”. Chamberlain had fed the Czechs to Hitler hoping to spare England. V-2 rockets on London and heavy bombers over Coventry revealed the criminal foolishness of Chamberlain’s approach.
On October 5 2001 Israeli PM Ariel Sharon addressed some public comments to the American administration, responding to US pressure on Israel both to withdraw from its biblical heartland and to stop encouraging Jews to live in those areas. Sharon drew a pointed parallel to Chamberlain’s 1938 appeasement of Hitler in Munich, where the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia was surrendered to Nazi control in a futile attempt to stave off WWII.
Sharon declared, “Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when the enlightened democracies of Europe decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for the sake of a temporary, convenient solution. Don’t try to appease the Arabs at our expense. We will not accept this. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terror.” The political firestorm generated was so intense, that Sharon was forced to gulp twice and mumble a diplomatic apology.
As US and EU pressures increase once again on Israel, Paul Volcker (President Obama’s economic recovery advisor), Brent Scowcroft (possibly the new chairman of the National Intelligence Council), Zbigniew Brzezinski (former National Security Advisor), Lee Hamilton (former Chairman, Select Committee on Intelligence), Thomas Pickering (former Ambassador to Israel and Jordan) and others called upon the President to recognize and begin negotiations with Hamas, a jihadi Islamist group which calls for the destruction of Israel as one of its main pillars (see www.davidstent.org, “words” Feb. 2006),. Scowcroft said very clearly, “The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process. Don’t move it to the end of your agenda and say you have too much to do”.
For a mainstream US bipartisan group to pressure the President to allow an al Qa’eda-like group to join negotiations on Israel’s borders, security and existence simply staggers the imagination. It would be like Russia insisting that Osama Bin Laden be allowed to participate in setting American security guidelines.
This clearly expressed determination to pressure Israel into dividing up more of its land (a big Biblical “no-no” – see Zech. 14:1-3 and Joel 3:1-3) will bring divine disfavor upon America, unless these pressures are somehow checked through prayer.
- Pray that the God of Israel would grant clarity, wisdom and divine strategies to President Obama as he attempts to approach Jerusalem the heavy stone (see Zechariah 12:2-3).
- Pray that God would frustrate any such harmful advice, and turn the hearts of America’s strategic advisors towards blessing Israel and America (see Genesis 12:3).
Pray with passion
Yeshua told us that these abovementioned events and trends would characterize the last days. At the same time, He told us that, when we see these things coming to pass, we should lift up our heads and rejoice (Luke 25:28). In a relatively short while the joy, power and salvation to be visited upon Israel (and through them to the whole world) will far outweigh the coming birth pangs and the woes.
In the meantime Paul encourages us to seize any and all opportunities, and to make the most of the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). Yeshua adds that those opportunities are not far away – they are actually right in front of our eyes: “Don’t you say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).
From a God’s-eye perspective and strategy, He is the Great Light about to shine on a world wrapped in darkness (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16). From God’s perspective, even Satan’s deepest darkness is unable to hide anything from YHVH’s gaze. His own presence will light up the night like the noon-day sun (Psalm 139:12).
Peter adds, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, 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” (2 Peter 1:19).
In Messiah Yeshua,
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