Welcome to another edition of the Bible in the News. This is Paul Billington bringing you this week's edition--and as we look at the news headlines this week, we have to stress just how important it is that we do NOT leave the Bible out of the news! To do so could, and probably would, lead us to make all kinds of wrong conclusions.
At the present time we are seeing a lot of political posturing ahead of the planned Middle-East peace summit in Annapolis--and we are hearing a lot of talk in the media about Israel having to give away much of Jerusalem as well as pulling out of West Bank settlements.
Headlines in Israel's Haaretz newspaper today (Wednesday Nov. 14) reflect the posturing and the talk. 'Jerusalem Promises to freeze W. Bank settlement Construction' is the front page headline, supported by others such as 'Most Israelis ready to give up W. Bank.' Haaretz correspondent Aluf Benn writes: "These gestures are meant to make it clear that Israel does not intend to remain in the territories, and understands that its presence there is only temporary."
Other voices in Israel are warning against the planned Annapolis surrender. A member of the Knesset, Aryeh Eldad commented:
"The government is declaring open season for the Arabs to come and take whatever they want - future borders, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, refugees, and everything else."
Head of the Yesha Council (which is an administrative body for the West Bank), Danny Dayan, told Prime Minister Olmert that the Annapolis-planned transfer of 120,000 Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria is something that Israel, as a society, will not be able to survive. 'Such a move would break the backbone of our society,' he said."
As to the West Bank settlers themselves (several of whom we know personally), there seems to be a growing mood of despondency among them. They would probably not admit to this, but it is not hard to detect it.
One friend of ours, Moshe Kempinski, an orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem, has written an article in which he laments the current situation. He points to the pain of those who have lost loved-ones to terrorists, to the many funerals that have taken place. He points out that the protest marches, huge prayer gatherings and other legitimate means of expression (even singing songs) has apparently accomplished nothing. As these people--these settlers--face eviction from their homes and banishment from the Biblical heartland, what else can they do?
Another friend of ours, David Wilder of Hebron together with his colleague Noam Arnon has written an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rice appealing for a re-consideration of the present policy. After writing about the promises to Abraham in the Bible, and of the long history of the Jews and of this area, they warn of the bloodshed that the current U.S. policy will bring. They say:
"Your schemes plainly include the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews from their localities and homes. Therefore, we wish to inform you that we do not intend to leave our homes on any terms. You will have to use force against us in order to transfer the territory, free of Jews, to the murderers' organizations - the PLO and Hamas. This is the direction in which you are leading the Middle East. Is this how the United States fights for justice and against Islamic terror?"
Now as I said earlier, we must never leave the Bible OUT OF the news. And if we want to know how these Jewish people feel, just read the words of Lamentations 5:1-3.
"Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows."
Those words are literally true for many in Israel today--and especially in the West Bank area. As they face the future--and the results of Government policies enforced by the United States and others, it becomes clear that the way forward is hardly likely to be achieved through political activity. No one is listening to their cries, no one is taking any notice of their protest rallies--or reading their open letters. Deliverance has to come, eventually, in some other way.
The Bible has long since told us of the process of restoration for Israel. First there is to be a physical restoration of the people to the land before the advent of Messiah (or, in Greek, Christ). To begin with, it is to be a return in unbelief. As Ezekiel 38 informs us, this will lead up to a great crisis involving the mountains of Israel (the West Bank). This seems to be where events are now beginning to lead. An attempt to transfer 120,000 Jews from their homes in the West Bank would initiate an unparalleled emergency in Israel. It is questionable as to whether such an operation could be achieved by the Israeli Government itself. It would seem to us that other nations would have to be involved--it would seem that Ezekiel 38 is describing just such an operation--as is Zechariah 14:2-3, and other passages.
Be that as it may, we cannot help but note in passing that all this is building up just when many students from the past thought that it would. Many writers on prophecy looked forward to "about the year 2000." One writer, Robert Fleming, published his work in 1701 (that is over 300 years ago), and he calculated that according to prophetic time periods understood on the basis of Julian years, the great crisis would come in the year 2018.
Well, time will tell. But it is just interesting that 2018 comes--more or less--50 years after 1967-8. And THAT year fell some 50 years after 1918 when Britain took Palestine from the Turks.
Whatever the time periods and dating may turn out to be, it seems very clear from the events happening today, that we are on the very edge of some great crisis involving Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank. Whatever results come out of Annapolis, the prospect ahead appears closer to the road-map given in Ezekiel 38, than to the wishful thinking of the current American administration.
In all this we must remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ who said:
"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 24:42-44).
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