The changing face of the Middle East and Coming of the Messiah
"I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely..."
Sunday, November 13, 2011
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The current situation in the Middle East is a tense and fascinating one. Momentous changes are taking place. The situation in regards to Iran's nuclear program could explode at any moment. This week on Bible in the News, we want to examine the situation described in Israel by the prophet Ezekiel, in chapter 38.
Please keep in mind that Ezekiel 38 is a chapter that describes the situation when Gog invades and is destroyed by the Messiah and not necessarily the situation that will be, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to raise the dead and judge the believers. Both of these events will take some time, especially the latter. The situation could mature considerably during that period. As far as believers are concerned, the Lord Jesus Christ could return at any time.
When Gog plans his invasion he says, "I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely..." This gives us a picture of what Israel will be like at the time of Gog's invasion.
Rest means "quietness" and the Hebrew translated "safely" means "securely". These two words are also paired together in a couple of other passages. One example is Isaiah 32:17 where they are translated "quietness and assurance". The verse reads, "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." The other example is Isaiah 30:15, where it says, "For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not." Here it is translated quietness and in confidence."
Ezekiel 38 gives us more information to add to the picture. Verse 11 describes the re-gathered Israelites, dwelling on the mountains of Israel, as a "land of unwalled villages... all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates."
Jeremiah 49:31 speaking concerning Kedar, translates Ezekiel's word "safely" as "without care". Like Ezekiel the dwelling "without care" is associated with a lack of gates and bars. "Arise, get you up unto the wealthy nation, that dwelleth without care, saith the LORD, which have neither gates nor bars, which dwell alone."
"Unwalled villages", is translated from one Hebrew word. It has the idea of a country village rather than a walled town. This gives us more insight into the area which is the focus of Gog's invasion. Ezekiel says it is the mountains of Israel and those that dwell in the midst of the land. This indicates the centre of the land, known today as the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria. The Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are more readily described as country villages rather than cities.
When we put the whole picture together we see a people "gathered out of the nations", dwelling upon the mountains of Israel, they are known to be a people who are in a restful, quiet, assured, confident, carefree and safe situation. This is stressed in the chapter. They are also prosperous, as in addition to coming against the people, Gog also comes to take a spoil from those in the midst of the land who have obtained cattle and goods.
This does not completely describe the situation we see in Judea and Samaria, or in a wider sense the whole of Israel today. The Jewish people have been gathered out of the nations of the world. There is a large degree of prosperity, especially in regards to high-tech and the recent oil and gas finds. Israel is a prosperous nation. There may be a certain confidence among those who dwell in Israel; but the full sense of restful, quiet, carefree and safe are not there. There is the regular fear of missile attacks and other terrorist acts. The surrounding Arab nations are in turmoil, with peace more elusive than ever. In fact due to the issue of Iran's nuclear program the whole region could descend into war at any moment. Many reports have suggested that Israel may try to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Zero hour before Iran has nuclear weapons is here.
When we focus in on the area of Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank there has to be a major change in order to reach the situation described by Ezekiel. Judea and Samaria today are areas of walls, bars and gates. It is not a carefree situation. Just this week tragedy struck, as a rabbi was mistakenly killed at a checkpoint. Many of the Jewish "villages" or settlements are in a tenacious position. Again this week, one settlement called Givat Assaf, just north of Jerusalem near Beit El (Bethel), was slated for destruction. Givat Assaf overlooks the Beit El junction. The name means Assaf's hill. It was from the location that a local Jew named Assaf was murdered on the road by an Arab sniper. However, due to legalities, six months have been granted to try and sort things out.
Before the situation described by Ezekiel is realized, the scene must change considerably. The bars and gates will come down. The settlements in Judea and Samaria will obtain prosperity, security and quietness. They will not be under constant threat of Arab terror on the one hand and Israeli government expulsion on the other.
It is difficult to think how the Middle East could ever get to this point described by Ezekiel. The Palestinian Arab problem seems unresolvable. Yet when we look at the Middle East today we see that a major change in the scenery is taking place. Egypt and Syria have major unrest. The Iranian situation is nearing the point of no return. The whole region could experience a major conflagration at any moment and a completely reshaped Middle East could emerge. The stage is being set for a new act, which will prepare for the introduction of the King of Israel. If the stage is being set for a new act, it should impress upon us how close we could be to the introduction of the King! We need to take notice, examine ourselves, make corrections to our walk before it's too late. The mercy of God is something that we can trust and hope in. If you've left the community, it's time to come home. If you haven't obeyed the command of the king to be baptized, the days of opportunity are slipping away. Whoever we are and whatever our situation we need to consider our ways and always remember, he is able to save to the uttermost those that come to him. Repent. Hope in his mercy. Overcome through the word of life. Lay aside every weight. Look towards the kingdom. Show mercy to others with the same measure it has been shown to you. And come back next week God willing! This has been David Billington with the Bible in the News.
Printed: Sunday, November 13, 2011
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