The Israeli Prime Minister has been in Washington for talks with President Obama this week. The subject for discussion was Iran’s growing nuclear threat. The Israelis want an assurance that the U.S. will not go soft on stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb. President Ahmadinejad of Iran openly denies the historicity of the Holocaust and equally openly preaches the cause of the total obliteration of Israel. His rival political figure, Supreme Leader Khamenei, takes a similar line. It’s a very jittery time for Israel, with half its people calling for a “strike” on Iran and half of them dreading the consequences. Is such a strike actually feasible? Would it backfire? It’s a situation that looks well beyond human wisdom.
It’s the sort of situation, however, that Israel has been in before in its sixty year history. At the nation’s inception in 1948, at a point of extreme vulnerability, it was attacked by overwhelming Arab forces but survived. In 1967 the same happened and again in 1973. All these deliverances had a distinct feel of the miraculous about them.
Arguably more striking than even those deliverances, however, was an event widely remembered last month. Seventy years ago in January, 1942, in Germany, 15 senior Nazis, with the support of the Grand Mufti Arab leader, were planning the “Final Solution” for the extermination of European and Middle Eastern Jewry. The threat was enormous and of serious intent, even if it the plan looked like megalomania. Hitler’s unbeaten armies were poised to conquer Egypt and overrun Palestine; they were also poised to conquer Russia. Victory on both fronts would be used to destroy Jewry, and victory looked all too possible. Within three years, however, Hitler’s Reich was utterly destroyed as victory turned to abject defeat, and the Jews found the superpowers sympathetic to their return to the “Promised Land”!
Most political analysts of the time saw that return to Palestine as marking the end of such anti-Semitic megalomania and as solving “the Jewish problem”. The Jews certainly believed that. Unfortunately nothing could have been further from the truth. Anti-Semitism did not die. It transmuted into a much more focussed and virulent strain to become Anti-Zionism. The violence and hatred were once again to be seen and heard. We have now had sixty years of it, and it is not diminishing. I am in fact writing at this moment about a new peak in its threatening history.
A Spiritual Problem
Despite the world’s explanations, this violence and hatred is not a social or a political problem; it is a spiritual problem. It is to be explained only in categories which this humanistic and “enlightened” world despises and rejects. It is a spiritual problem because its causes are spiritual; that is to say we are looking not at human forces of hatred at work but supernatural spiritual forces. I find this most clearly presented in an “apocalyptic” prophecy in Revelation. John saw in his Revelation (Chapter 12) a picture of a woman giving birth to a child. The woman unmistakably represented Israel. A dragon, equally unmistakably representing Satan and the Powers of Evil, sought to devour the child. The child, however, who was obviously Jesus, was swept up into heaven. The dragon then went to war and sought to destroy the woman (Israel) and her other “seed” which are the followers of the child Jesus. The woman was, however, kept safe “in the wilderness”, despite frequent floods from the Dragon’s mouth to drown her.
Apocalyptic is hardly a modern idiom, but any serious student of Jewish history will recognise immediately that this vision is profoundly in tune with what actually happened to the Jews in the following 2000 years. They were caught up in a supernatural battle. Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism defy any other convincing analysis.
The Key of Israel
At this juncture of history one of the most relevant aspects of this revelation is to be found simply in the prophesied safety of the woman (Israel). Nothing could be clearer, and nothing more demonstrable from history than its amazing preservation both from violence and from assimilation by other nations . Floods of all sorts over two millennia, though inflicting much loss of life, have not destroyed Israel. The reason for that is that God has a purpose for the nation. That purpose remains, and the purpose is that Israel has a significant part to play in the Lord’s return.
Israel remains the key to the turmoil in the Middle East. I find it fascinating that two of its worst opponents, Iraq and Syria, are now in complete disarray after years of threats against Israel. Iran in its turn is now no more an obstacle to God than they have been. And God is very much on the field. These are extraordinary times. They may be violent and vicious times, but the battle in the Middle East must inevitably go God’s way. Rest assured!
We can, therefore, be confident, but that does not mean complacent – it means watching and praying. But God’s victory is sure.