What does the future hold for Syria, Israel, and the Palestinians, amid all the protests and turmoil in the Middle East?
With many tanks and soldiers marching into different cities in Syria, the clash between Sunni and Shiite groups intensifies and threatens to add to the tension. There will be planned protests, too, on May 15 which could add even more fuel tot he fire. A Palestinian state could be declared by September. Why is there so much feuding, and what will result from all of this?
First, a brief explanation of why all the feuding. When Abraham sojourned into the land of Canaan, God told him he would be a great nation. He promised, “I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee.” (Genesis 12:3)
Abraham ran ahead of God, though. Instead of trusting in God’s time for his wife Sarah to bear him a son, he had a child with Sarah’s maid, Hagar. (Genesis 16) This child, Ishmael, was also blessed, but not with the same blessing God gave Isaac, Abraham’s son through Sarah. Instead, the children of Ishmael would often be at war with each other, for, “His hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12) This same verse says he will “dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
In other words, the Arabs would end up living in the presence of the Jews. However, the conflict would not just be between these groups. Instead, God merely prophesizes that they will dwell together. There have been times when there was relative peace throughout history.
Instead, the prophecy is that there would be great civil strife among Ishmael’s seed. That strife exists in the Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as the clearest example. This conflict is what the protests in Syria are about.
As for the Palestinians, first, it should be noted that not all Palestinians are Muslims. About three-quarters are, with 17% being Jews. They are, instead, a people group which has been trying to get a homeland.
Some claim that Palestinians only want to claim part of Jerusalem. But, some really want to eliminate Israel, as a few maps show. They also have refused to accept Israel’s right to exist, something Germany and Britain, among others, have insisted must happen before a state is granted.
To make a long and convoluted story short, the Palestinians are supported by Syria in part, opposed in part, and it can change by the minute at times.
Several things come into play here.
First, the Bible says God promised this land to Abraham. In fact, the Biblical patricarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are buried here, with their wives, according to Jewish tradition - a tradition which Muslims recognize. They simply believe that God promised the land to Ishmael.
Not only do Muslims believe that Abraham – whom they call Ibrahim – is buried there, which would give the Jewish people just as much right to inhabit the land, there is also ample archaeological evidence for the Bible and that the Jewish people were there many centuries before the Palestinians, unless the Palestinians claim that they descended from the Canaanites (which some, perhaps, might). So, their right to a homeland based on being there before the Jewish people is fallacious. They were given a home by the United Nations in 1948; and yet they are not accepting the right to exist of the other nation given a home in that same mandate.
Of course, that brings up all sorts of complex International Law questions, So, instead of debating whether they should claim this, let’s instead look at what will happen? And, how does this tie in with Syria? Can the Bible, which makes so many other correct prophecies, also tell us what will happen here?
Yes, it can!
This doesn’t mean we can know everything with pinpoint precision, like, “At 8:32 PM on this day this will happen.” Prophecy isn’t like reading a precise history, though some of it gets quite specific. For instance, as I noted in another blog on this site, it is specific to the point that it’s easily understandable afterward. Take the judgment against Tyre, a very rich ancient trading city which was prophesized several centuries before it happened to be destroyed, not be rebuilt, and to have its ruins literally scraped down to the rock.(5) In 332 B.C., after many other nations had fought against it, Alexander the Great’s armies did just that – they scraped the ruins into the sea to make a way to the island part of it was on, and destroyed it entirely.
Instead, prophecy gives us knowledge such as Isaiah 17. This chapter of Isaiah tells us that Damascus will be a “ruinous heap,” and that it will become so very quickly. Once this happens, it will on longer be inhabited. Now, that city has been lived in for thousands of years. This has not come true yet. This doesn’t mean it will happen as a result of the tension in Syria right now. However, it will happen, whether by meteor strike, weapon explosion, or natural gas explosion perhaps triggering weapons, if there are a lot stored somewhere.
We also don’t know when it will be. It could be during the final Battle of Armageddon, or during a war which comes before that. It could also be from a natural disaster.
The Bible tells us that Jerusalem will be given over to the Gentiles (non-Jews) till the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. This means the time the Gentiles control Jerusalem.
This may or may not have begun to be “phased out,” as Hal Lindsey has said, when Israel took the land in 1967 – Israel is still a secular state, after all, though a miraculously reborn one after 2500 years and one with definite similarites to the Biblical/historical one. However, regardless of whether Israel’s rebirth or taking of Jerusalem started a heavenly clock ticking, it is clearly a sign that God is gathering the Jewish people together in the last days as He promised in many places in the Bible.
What is important for this discussion is, how does the dispute with the Palestinians relte to prophecy? It seems like just another war. And, in a sense, that’s true. God’s Word says in James 4:1-2 that wars come from our own lusts, instead of trusting God to open the doors to allow things to happen which are for our best interests. He knows the future and what will result from each action better than we do, and therefore it is His perfect knowledge of a situation that allows us to succeed.
So, thsi desire for land comes from a human desire, a lusting after something which will one day pass away.
However, it is more than just another confrontation. This is apparent because jesus said that the wars, rumors of wars, and many other problems would be like birth pangs.
When a woman is in labor, the contractions start out slow – sharp, yes, but not nearly as close together or as sharp as later. They increase slowly till the baby comes out, at which point they come one right after the other, with no stops.
It might seem like this war has gone on for 2,000 years. It’s true. But, these wars are one of the labor pains, and the unrest has increased since 1948 alone. From wars every decade to skirmishes every few years to almost constant rocket attacks into the northern part of Israel from Lebanon, the stride has increased. So, too, has pressure on Jerusalem, which the Bible says will be a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone which will crush all who try to lift it. (Zechariah 12:1-3) Many world leaders have tried to solve the problem, and all have failed so far.
One won’t, of course – the Antichrist. When he is on the scene, just before Jesus’ Second Coming, most experts agree that Jerusalem will be divided again. Half of the people will be taken captive at this time. (An earlier reference to this, in Zechariah 1, is referring to the past, when Babylon had done this.) God will then fight against all those nations that try to make war against Him, and He will prevail. This will usher in the Millennial Kingdom, during which he will reign 1000 years and the world will be perfect. (Revelation 20)
We see, then, that the Palestinian cause, just as with all those who try to rely on worldly treasures, will not succeed in the end. The answer for them, as for Syria and everyone, is to seek heavenly treasure. This is what Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:19-21. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
So, whether or not their cause is right, the words of Matthew 6:33 are most prudent and important to follow. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Jesus has just finished speaking of housing, food, clothing, and other necessities here. But God – who knows all of our needs – knows what things we have need of and will provide them for us if we don’t go and try to act like we can do it all ourselves. When, in reality, we can only accoml;ish what God allows us to with the skills, chances, and so on which He has lovingly given us.
How is that Kingdom of God sought? It can’t be sought through works, but only by faith. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) He wants us to come to Him by faith. For we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
God wants peple to have freedom, of course, And, in His timing, He may give some protesters their wish and allow them to win and find great freedom in their lands. But, if he does, it is to serve a greater purpose.
That purpose is to show His love, power, holiness, etc.. He is not willing – it’s not His desire – that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) He constantly works in our hearts to show us His love and goodness. He has lovingly promised that the Jewish people will keep their everlasting covenant with Him; it is just that the Gentiles are grafted in. And, He has warned us of the coming wars and rumors of wars, and the time of the end.
Isaish 17, along with Ezekiel 38:39 and other wars, may not come tomorrow, but they are rapidly approaching. The death of bin Laden and public celebrations following it – celebrations which would never have come to such an extent years ago – show the mindset that is growing which will cause people to celebrate the death of God’s two witnesses as mentioned in Revelation 11. Things are moving closer every day – to the point Jesus is even now at the door.
The way to be prepared when that happens is to know Him personally. Because, He doesn’t want anyone to perish – He doesn’t want anyone to suffer everlasting punishment away from the face of God. However, He lets people have free choice. He wants each of us to choose eternal life.
It’s not just a head knowledge like some have. I ahd that myself till I was in my late teens. Then, I realized I needed heart knowledge – I need a personal relationship with Him. I received jesus Christ to save me from my sins by faith, because I knew I tried really hard and was usually pretty good, but I still wasn’t perfec, which is God’s standard for goodness. Once I trusted Him to forgive me, He did. He’s been a faithful guide, helper, comforter, friend, and so on every since.
Any of us can have Him as a friend, guiding here and protecting from the wrath to come. All it takes is a single, sincere step of faith, calling on Jesus Christ, believing He is God in flesh, and trusting Him to save you from your sin, through what He did on the cross, when he took the punishment for your sin by dying for you; then, He rose from the dead. He has the victory over all the evil in this world, but He continues to allow people to make bad choices and sin. One day, though, when the age of grace is over, he will judge it, though.
The battles in the Middle East are over things that will pass away. It’s possible that Syria will have much more freedom soon. However, no matter which side wins, that victory will be short-lived. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Romans 14:11) Even if the Lord would give the Palestinians victory, the important thing is not the treasures we get on Earth. The important thing is that we gain treasures in Heaven by serving Jesus, showing the love and compassion that he has for us. It’s not because we have to; it’s because we want to after what He has done for us.