This is The Bible in the News with Paul Billington; and the Bible certainly is in the news this week!
As many will know, Ezekiel chapter 38 speaks of Russia coming "against the mountains of Israel" (see verse 8). So the news that Russia is to send a shipment of armoured vehicles, plus 1,000 rifles and TWO MILLION rounds of ammunition to Palestinians in the West Bank (the mountains of Israel) can hardly go unnoticed by the Bible believer. This, surely, is a token of things to come.
This is in the same week that a Jewish settler was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen in the area near Elon Moreh. He was driving home from a Bible class--yes, that's right from a study group that met around the Bible. It is hard to understand why the Government of Israel under Ehud Olmert would agree to the armament shipment. Forget the armoured vehicles which Israel Defence Forces say they could easily destroy if they had to--what about the guns and ammunition? Who is that intended for? What we are seeing is a recipe for the massacre of religious Zionists--Jewish settlers like the one who was killed earlier this week. It becomes increasingly clear that Olmert and his Government are eager to sacrifice the Zionist settlers upon the altar now being prepared by the United States in Annapolis. By such a sacrifice they hope to appease the Islamic fanatics.
One Jewish writer this week has put the issue very clearly:
"Precipitous times are at hand. Today, we may be witnessing the fulfillment of Zekharyah 12:3, where all the nations of the world plot against Jerusalem to destroy it.
"It is God Himself who has returned the Jews to their land after thousands of years in exile, as He foretold in His Word. Those who attempt to reverse the rebirth of Israel are fighting against God Himself.
"If the Annapolis conference occurs and America attempts to force Israel to return Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Judea and Samaria, then I shudder in fear for my nation when I consider that God is a God of justice and terrible wrath (Bereshit 12:3)."
Well, of course, the Jewish people have not been brought back from their 'galut' (exile) so that they may be slaughtered by Palestinians. They are not now dwelling upon the mountains of Israel--and in Jerusalem--simply to be massacred, or removed from there in some other way. God has a purpose with these people--and that purpose is expressed in Scripture prophecies such as Ezekiel 34:13-16,
"And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment."
The area of the West Bank is concentrated upon "the mountains of Israel." Russian armaments are to be sent here where they will be used by Palestinians. The West Bank is home to thousands of Jewish settlers.
These despised Jewish settlers are not to be removed from the mountains of Israel--they are to be "fed" there. They are to be fed "with knowledge and understanding" (Jeremiah 3:15). Hence, we must expect to find study groups and Bible classes meeting there, and this will lead to the development of faith, and thus Zionism will become stronger and more Biblical. This is God's work in preparation for the Redemption.
While this work proceeds it will antagonize unbelievers, the fat and the strong--both Jewish and Gentile. The secularists (such as we find in Olmert's Government today) may be compared to the "pragmatists" in Hezekiah's time who sought Egypt's help (see isaiah 31:1-3). Today they seek the help of the U.S. but the principle is the same. On the other hand there are those who trust in the God of Israel as Hezekiah did; when danger threatened he saw it as a time for prayer (Isaiah 37:15). All those who care for Israel today will, in like manner, see that this is a time for prayer and for supplication.
It may well be that "precipitous times are at hand" as has been suggested. It may well be that the words of Zechariah 12:3 are before us in current events and that this is the Bible in the news. The passage from Zechariah reads:
"And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zech. 12:3).
If this is what we are seeing, then the following verses (4 & 5) must inevitably follow:
" In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God."
We can expect to see some amazing things then. Religious Zionism--the settler movement--will not be crushed. There will be struggles and even defeats and set-backs, but this work of God will not be thwarted by men, no matter how powerful they may appear to the eyes of flesh.
Looking at these things many years ago, a Christadelphian writer in February 1948 (and so before the modern State of Israel had been declared) wrote as follows:
"We see the Jewish nation forming itself in Palestine at the present moment, and we know that calamity is to again befall it at the hand of the Northern invader. As Zechariah ch. 12 shows at this time they will be delivered by Divine power... It is indeed a general principle that God builds up faith gradually by the combination of instruction and judgments. When Israel came out of Egypt Moses and Aaron first testified to the elders of Israel, then there was the experience of harder bondage together with increasing miracle before the great event of their deliverance in the slaying of the first-born. We should expect a similar process in the future... It would appear then that there ought to be a re-education of Israel and a partial revival of Jewish faith prior to Armageddon..."
"...Micah says, 'Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand his counsel: for he shall gather them as sheaves into the floor. Arise and thresh O daughter of Zion...' And the words of Joel are: 'I will also gather all nations and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat and will plead with them there for my people, and for my heritage Israel.' Such is the character of the Gathering to Armageddon and of Armageddon itself... Now if God intends to bring the age-long 'controversy of Zion' to a head in order to vindicate His name, then at that time 'Zion' and 'Israel' must be something known and distinct. The passages quoted show that this is so, for their intention is to 'defile Zion' etc. Such a situation as these passages describe will require a much more Israelitish character in the land than we now see. Hence it is essential that the nation's faith in the promises to the fathers, in Messiah, and the things of the Law should be built up to some degree beforehand, and something of a true Israelitish flavour imparted to the nation. This development of a tangible Israelitish policy in the land will stir up anti-Semitism among the nations and will provoke a 'christian' crusade, thus gathering the nations against Zion."
Another news item this week tends to put the finishing touches to this, for several reports have pointed out a worsening of relations between the Vatican and Israel. This is another story and must await another occasion.
Meanwhile we rejoice at the signs of the approaching dawn and of Zion's glad morning when at last Israel will be redeemed, the true Messiah will come, and the great House of Prayer for all nations will be built.
In the face of so much injustice, corruption and ungodliness we can but pray: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth."
The kingdom referred to here is the restored kingdom of Israel. As we continue to look for that, join us again here next week God willing on www.bibleinthenews.com www.biblemagazine.com.