What we are witnessing in the world may well be another angelic move to set the stage for the return of Christ. The nations of the world are being prepared to take their appointed roles. The west is being weakened. Russia is being stretched to its limit and goaded by its energy-driven economy to be ready to take action.
America’s Goal of Energy Independence
Over the past couple of decades, America has embarked upon a policy of oil independence. Recently, President Trump wanted to free the USA from any external pressure when it came to energy. As the Economist reported this last week:
Donald Trump’s commitment to reducing America’s involvement in the Middle East also relates to the black stuff. It is justified in part by the shale-oil revolution that has made America the world’s biggest producer, lessening its dependence on the region.
The shale-oil revolution has pushed America onto a forward foot when it comes to energy. Oil crises of the past few decades have forced America to exploit its native oil reserves - adding to the global market.
Saudi Arabia tried to counter this in 2014, opening its taps to force the price of Oil down making shale-oil production unprofitable. However, America was able to push on, and as the Economist stated:
America in 2018 eclipsed Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer.
To counter American energy independence, two unlikely rivals teamed up. The Economist stated:
In 2016 Russia teamed up with the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, in an attempt to offset booming American shale production.
A recent CNBC article by Ron Isana reiterated the goal:
The aim is to inflict pain on American frackers, forcing them to shutter wells and give up the market share the U.S. has taken from Saudi Arabia, Russia and others.
The production of Oil around the plant has been reaching an all-time high. Consider this reflection in the April Economist:
Each day about 100m barrels of oil rise from reservoirs deep below Earth’s surface. A ship called Liza Destiny sits off the coast of Guyana, collecting the black stuff from wells on the seabed nearly 2km below. On Norway’s continental shelf, the Johan Sverdrup project is ramping up faster than expected. In Texas, some 174,000 wells are at work, from big shale operations to solitary pumpjacks nodding as cattle graze nearby. Last month Saudi Arabia said it would ship a staggering 12.3m barrels a day to customers in April. From the Niger delta to Siberia, Oil continues to flow.
America has pressured to cut production to prevent the industry from collapse. However, Russia broke away from this, and as the article continued:
In an effort to snuff out shale Russia shocked OPEC in March by refusing further production cuts. Furious Saudis declared the price war in response.
Planet Shut Down
Then came the brunt of Coronavirus, and the planet went into lockdown, completely decimating the demand for Oil. With people not driving to work, nor driving for work, and staying shuttered in their homes, the “demand” has collapsed.
The beginning of this week saw the market completely dive. A special report from Bloomberg’s Energy and Science section described the situation:
The price on the futures contract for West Texas crude that is due to expire Tuesday fell into negative territory - minus $37.63 a barrel. That’s right; the sellers were actually paying buyers to take the stuff off their hands. The reason: with the pandemic bringing the economy to a standstill, there is so much unused Oil sloshing around that American energy companies have run out of room to store it. And if there’s no place to put the Oil, no one wants a crude contract that is about to come due...
An unprecedented output deal by OPEC and allied members a week ago to curb supply is proving too little too late in the face of a one-third collapse in global demand...
The price collapse is reverberating across the oil industry. Crude explorers shut down 13% of the American drilling fleet last week.
Political and Economic seismic events have a way of redrawing the world map with lightning speed. Political earthquakes are a sign of the times, similar to the situation in AD70:
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (Matthew 24:7)
In the late ’80s, the Soviet Union collapsed. In the vacuum of superpowers, Sadaam Hussein invaded Kuwait triggering the First Gulf War. It drew an international force into the Middle East. America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada (the Merchants of Tarshish and Young Lions) return to the Middle East after an absence of years. America and Britain established permanent bases.
In 2000 President Bush ran on a platform of pulling out of the Middle East. In September of 2001, his first year in office, Osama Bin Laden coordinated the September 11th attacks. Instantly, America was drawn back into the Middle East. The Second Gulf War followed, and Iraq was overthrown.
Two terms of President Obama saw American policy in the Middle East turn on its head. It prepared the American people to elect an unlikely candidate, Donald Trump. It is a reminder of the fact that God is in control:
This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. (Daniel 4:17)
President Trump re-wrote the situation in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s capital in Jerusalem, and then their annexation of the Golan Heights. Israel, invigorated by new impetus pushing it forward, is set to annex the West Bank. The Associated press reported,
“The European Union Thursday issued a warning against the incoming Israeli government’s intention to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, saying that such a move “would constitute a serious violation of international law.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the 27-member bloc does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Palestinian territory and that it will “continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”
We know this is the target area of the Gogian invasion – the mountains of Israel, which the liberal media call the West Bank. The whole situation is very volatile.
We are beginning to see the economic fallout from the global pandemic. The collapse of the energy sector is part of this. There are other issues looming, including a large number of debts people are running up while not working, the loss of market share companies are experiencing, and many companies are slipping into bankruptcy. The temporary loss of work and permanent damage to the economy will have a reciprocating effect. Once the COVID crisis ends, some will have no jobs will no longer exist. Some companies will have gone bankrupt. Others will not be able to return to work until the economy grows and demand increases in the market their industry supplies. Economic recovery will be slow, especially in the western world.
A Weakened Western World
A weakened Western world is what the Bible predicts. When we contemplate the situation in Ezekiel 38 and Daniel 11 we do not see a response like we did in 1991 or 2001 during the Gulf Wars. We see a protest:
Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil? (Ezekiel 38:13)
Western forces are there countering the King of the North, described by Zechariah as “two mountains of brass” (chapter 6:1), but they seem impotent to do anything. It will be the Messiah who comes to the rescue of Israel in that day:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, As the Lord hath said, And in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:32)
Around the time of the establishment of the Kingdom, the ships of Tarshish will be broken. Psalm 48 records the following:
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised In the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, On the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; They were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, And pain, as of a woman in travail. Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. As we have heard, so have we seen In the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah. (Psalm 48:1–8)
A Predatorial Russia
An article published today by the Associated Press ran under the headline, “Russia is the world’s biggest loser from oil’s crash, and that’s a reason to worry.” The article stated:
Russia’s economy and power is highly dependent on oil and energy prices. A country that depends so heavily on any one commodity, as Russia does, will always be vulnerable. Since the price of commodities is inherently volatile, determined as it is by the robustness of industrial powers, the exporter can neither control the price nor have an opportunity to generate investment capital on a systematic basis.
Some among us will recall the Arab oil embargo, which defined the 1970s and was the opportunity for countries like the Soviet Union and Iran to create modern economies. The oil producers assumed that their power, and therefore income, would be permanent. But high prices generated a search for new sources of Oil and gas, as well as new efficiencies in energy use, and the price fell dramatically in the 1980s.
Having said this, Russia has been building what the Economist calls “a fortress economy”. It reported in March:
Russia now sits on one of the world’s largest gold and foreign-exchange reserves, worth nearly $570bn. Oleg Vyugin, a former official at the central bank and the finance ministry, explains the thinking: “We’re protected against external shocks and foreign enemies because we have modern weapons and rockets, but also because we have gold and reserves.”
What is clear from the scripture is Russia’s future enterprise in the Middle East is partly driven by economics. This is clear from Ezekiel 38 where they are have come for a spoil and to take a prey, to take away silver, gold cattle and goods (v12-13). Daniel also highlights the motive:
“But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.” (Daniel 11:43)
Zechariah 14:2 adds detail to this too, describing “the houses being rifled” or plundered by the invaders. Joel 3:5 gives God’s indictment,
“Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, And have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things...”
It is interesting that God says the wealth of Israel is his, after all, it is God that has blessed the land since the return of the Jews.
This is the root of the evil thought that Gog thinks in Ezekiel 38:10. It may well be the “hooks” that are put into its jaws to draw it to the mountains of Israel are the economic circumstances that are being generated today.
What we are witnessing in the world may well be another angelic move to set the stage for the return of Christ. The nations of the world are being prepared to take their appointed roles. The west is being weakened. Russia is being stretched to its limit and goaded by its energy-driven economy to be ready to take action. War has always been a method of breaking the deadlock.
What about us?
Are we preparing for the crisis, which will come upon us before it comes upon the rest of the world. As Peter puts it:
“The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
We need to be prepared, and see we are at the end:
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. (Luke 12:35–37)
The crisis is upon us, like a birth pang which announce the birth, it may be painful and intense. Sometimes this is what we need to wake us up and refocus us on the things that matter, and the reality of our coming king.
Like a natural birth, the pangs may subside, and this will be the real test. Will we lose our focus and intensity? Will we drift back to our former malaise? Or will we remain sober and vigilant, as men that wait with eager anticipation?
The birth-pangs may subside, but they will return, and eventually, so will our Lord:
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12)
For the Bible in the News, this has been Jonathan Bowen joining you.