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When they shall say, Peace and safety...
Iran, Hezbollah and Israel
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August 24, 2012 - Audio, 11.00 MIN
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With Iran accelerating its uranium enrichment programme, having commissioned 300 new centrifuges in recent months, and with Hezbollah, this week, conducting 10,000 strong, 3 day, maneuvers in the Beqaa Valley, in preparation for war with Israel (a war that could see Hezbollah unleash its arsenal of several tens of thousand rockets, including several thousand capable of reaching Tel-aviv, of which some can carry a 600kg warhead), and with the Muslim brotherhood appearing to consolidate its power in Cairo, whilst at the same time the nations of the world use their weight to prevent Israel doing anything to defend itself, it is difficult to imagine how Israel could ever reach a condition where they are lulled into such a false sense of security, that they are willing to lay down their arms and give up their defenses.
Welcome to Bible in the News, with Nick Barnes.

Nevertheless God will fulfill his purpose, and what he has declared will happen, will indeed happen, however unlikely it might appear.  In fact history is littered with apparently unlikely events, which God’s word explicit foresaw.

And it is in Eze 38 we find this particular state of affairs which appears so improbable.  In the first few verses of Eze 38, God addresses a great confederation of nations, and in v8, He says to them...
 8* After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.

That countries should band together, to seize the territory of another people, is far from exceptional in the history of the world.  But in this case the land is a land that has been “always waste” and the people are a race whose dispersion, persecution and restoration is unique among the nations.

The preceding chapters of Ezekiel, have described how this recalcitrant tribe would be reestablished in the land, promised to their fathers.  They would be, in the words of v8,
“brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them”

And, indeed, the 20th Century saw this people assembled in that place.  Some returned willingly.  Others returned only when driven by the horror of the holocaust.  But from where we are today, it is very hard to see how they
“shall dwell safely all of them”

Despite this, the passage adds further detail to the picture.  God speaks again to Gog, the leader of this great host.  In Eze 38v9, He says
 9* Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
 10* Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
 11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,
 12* To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.

What is so difficult to envisage, is not that Israel is to be overrun by its enemies, but that it is described, in v11, as a of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,

Now as visitors to Israel will know, Israel is not a land of unwalled villages today.  In many areas, in the north, south or east of the country, the towns and villages, the kibbutzim and moshavot, are secured by armed guards, and substantial gates and fences.  This low level protection is underpinned by one of the highest, per capita, defense budgets in the world.

So how will it ever reach this peaceful condition, where it is without walls, bars and gates?

In the 1990’s, the Oslo peace process was seen by many as a possible route to this looked for tranquility, but even had these accords delivered on their promises, they would never have fulfilled the prophecy, because the agreement traded land for peace; and that particular land traded, commonly known as the West Bank, is what is described in the Bible as the Mountains of Israel - the very land where, Eze 38v8 tells us, Israel will be dwelling in peace; unsuspecting of the storm descending on their land.

So unimaginable, is this twin requirement of
an Israel so peaceful that it has relinquished its defenses,
whilst at the same time it has retained not only Jerusalem, but the West Bank or Judaea & Samaria as the Jews would call it,
...that some commentators have suggested that the passage might have its fulfillment after Messiah has returned to Israel, as its king.

However, God specifically tells us that this period, when they “dwell safely” is a period when they are dwelling in trespasses and sins; before they know the LORD their God, and know that it is He who has punished them and He who has saved them.  We read in Eze 39v25
 25* Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;
 26* After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid.
 27* When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations;
 28* Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.
It is only once God has destroyed the invading army of Gog, with all his many nations, that Israel come to know, the LORD their God and recognise His punishments and His blessings; that they come to the repentance described in Zech 12v10 when God’s says
 10* ...I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

and in Eze 36v25-28 where God says to them...
 25* ¶ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
 26* A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
 27* And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
 28* And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

We may not know how God will bring about this calm before the storm, described in Eze 38, but we do know that he will do it.  

I suspect that there is yet some great event, probably another major war, which will change the facts on the ground and will change western nations attitude to Israel - at least for a time - and to its possession of the heart of the land of Israel.

But, of course, this doesn’t mean that the Lord Jesus cannot return immediately.  The Bible teaches us to expect a period of time (maybe years) between the return of Jesus to Earth, with the resurrection and judgement of the believers, and his revelation to Israel and the World at the battle of Armageddon.  It is likely that this period will see both the consolidation of Judaea-Samaria in Jewish hands and the climax of anti-Semitic hatred, that will bring Gog to his destruction on the Mountains of Israel.

May the Lord soon come, to justify those who have loved and served him, so that in due course, Christ and his, by then, immortalised followers, may save God’s people from the irrational hatred of the nations - there on the Mountains of Israel.

But if not yet, then see you again next week, God willing, for the Bible in the News

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