The competition for power in the Middle East has been hotting up this week with Palestinians fighting each other in Gaza, with Lebanese troops pounding Palestinian refugee camps, Arabs talking tough to one another--and to Iran--while the United States puts on a show of force in the Gulf. Not to mention rockets being fired into Israel and some retaliation to that. With such madness and a mixed-up picture of events before us, how can we make any sense of it all?
Well, welcome to the Bible in the News! The things that we are seeing today were foretold centuries ago in the Holy Scriptures. In Isaiah 46:9-10 we read this:
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."
So what has God declared? What has He said from ancient times concerning the things we are currently seeing in the news?
Israelis inspect the damage to a burnt out vehicle which was struck by a Qassam rocket launched from the nearby Gaza Strip.
Well, God has said many things through His servants the prophets who prophesied in old time over many years. Some of those things concern Iran--that is to say Persia--who is making a lot of waves in the Middle East right now. Iran is said to be backing Hezbollah in Lebanon, and so destabalising Lebanon's potentially explosive politics. They are said to be supporting Hamas in Gaza--and so thwarting agreements between the Palestinians and Israel. They are understood to be stirring up the Shiite--Suni fighting in Iraq in order to frustrate the attempts of the United States to bring calm there. And, of course, there is concern that Iran is developing nuclear weapons while calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. It is difficult to escape the fact that Iran (the Biblical Persia) is having a lot of influence in the region at the present time, and this does not sit well with Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt. These countries are particularly worried about Iran's nuclear programme and are talking about starting their own.
What we are witnessing is the long-expected north-south split in the Middle East. Behind Iran stands Russia who is supplying Air Defence systems through Syria. According to Jane's Defence Weekly, Tehran and Damascus undertook this arrangement in order to spare Moscow diplomatic pressure from the West over defence sales. Behind the Arabian countries, stands the United States who is staging a show of military force off the Iranian coast line involving carriers and landing ships packed with some 17,000 U.S. marines and sailors. Nine U.S. warships passed through the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday.
We have spoken about this expected north-south division of the Middle East before on this programme. It is a situation that can be seen from prophecies such as the King of the North and the King of the South in Daniel 11:40; the mountains of brass which relate to the north country and the south country in Zechariah 6:1 and 6; and also the line-up of nations given in Ezekiel chapter 38.
It is Ezekiel chapter 38 that specifically mentions Persia (that is Iran) in verse 5. Iran is described here as being allied with those nations who come from the north parts. The other group of nations mentioned in verse 13 include "Sheba and Dedan," identifiable today as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Again, the north-south divide is quite evident and involves the latter-day trading nations.
Ezekiel chapter 38, as most already know describes an invasion of Israel. It is without any doubt an attempt to wipe Israel off the map, and especially off the mountains of Israel (the West Bank) that was taken by Israel in 1967. But the group of nations mentioned in verse 13 protest this design saying "Art thou come to take a spoil? Hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey...?"
Now until recently it would have been unthinkable that Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States--let alone a Palestinian--could make any remarks favourable towards Israel. And yet amazingly this is what we saw happen only this past weekend.
At the World Economic Forum held in Jordan a top aide to Palestinian President Abbas told an Iranian representative that Iran should stop its anti-Israel rhetoric. He said: "Add Palestine to the map instead of removing Israel from the map." This reveals the fact that so-called moderates like Abbas and his aide Erekat, see Iran's meddling as a major stumbling-block to their achieving their desired state. Iran's interference includes support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as others who refuse to recognize Israel.
Former Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal told Iran that the Persians had little to do with Israeli-Palestinian peace-making. He said: "It's an Arab issue and should be resolved within the Arab fold." In other words he was telling Iran to mind its own business!
Well, it is an interesting development to watch. The Bible has told us to expect a divided Middle East, and here it comes. It is just one more sign among the many that the final crisis draws near. As this situation develops in the Middle East, another one is taking place in Russia and Europe. And yet another one is taking place in Israel itself. All these are leading towards that crisis spoken of in Revelation 16:12-16 in the midst of which a voice rings out: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
As we see these things then, let us continue to watch, to gain and keep the covering for our sins that Jesus Christ provides. May it be that we find mercy at his hands in the great day of inspection.
Watch with us again next week as we consider more Bible in the News, God willing. www.bibleinthenews.com and www.biblemagazine.com