"What have ye to do with me... coasts of Palestine?"
The latest news from events in Israel is all about the dramatic conflict with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
July 21, 2014 - Audio, 22.34 MIN
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At the time of writing Israel's forces have begun a ground invasion into Gaza to stop Hamas from sending rockets into their cities. The hostilities of a people on the "coasts of palestine" is exactly what we would expect to see occurring in "The Latter Days" as Bible prophecy has foretold this long ago. This is Matt Davies joining you.
It's been a time of great turmoil in Israel over the last few weeks. The conflict in Gaza has been on the news nearly every day. Rockets from Hamas run Gaza have been a regular thing for years. Despite many peace attempt by Israel who have condescended to the Palestinians on countless occasions, still the rockets keep flying over the border indiscriminately onto Israeli cities. It is reported that since 2001 over 14,000 such rockets have been fired into Israel averaging 3 attacks per day.
The rocket fire, although constantly a problem for Israel, intensified during and after "Operation Brothers Keeper" which we reviewed a few weeks ago on Bible in the News. This operation was conducted to find three Israeli boys who had been kidnapped. Tragically the bodies of these boys were found dead. This caused some extremist Israelis to kidnap and murder a Palestinian boy. Although this incident was widely criticised by Israeli leaders, and the Israelis involved have been arrested and sentenced, (clearly showing this is not the position of the wider Jewish community which is in stark contrast to Hamas' response to the killing of the three Isralies), the incident sparked even more concentrated rocket fire. This in turn led to the Israeli Air Force bombarding terror sites and beginning a new operation, "Operation Protective Edge". The stated objective is to restore a sustainable "quite" and security for the Israeli people by seriously degrading terrorist capabilities in Gaza. The mission was openly discussed by Benjamin Netanyahu the Israeli Prime Minister. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday 13th of July he emphasised 3 points:
1. Israel will do whatever it can to protect its citizens from Hamas and other terrorist groups.
2. The areas targeted in Israel by Hamas is huge. Netenyahu stated:
"I just want your viewers to imagine the United States being bombarded not in one city or two cities, but in every city between New York and Colorado. 80% of your citizens would have to be in bomb shelters or ready to go into bomb shelters within a minute to minute-and-a-half, max. No country can accept that, we can’t accept it, and we’ll take the necessary actions to stop it."
3. That the terrorists make it difficult for Israel to fulfill their mission Netenyahu stated: "Here’s the difference between us. We’re using missile defence to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles."
The president of America, Barrack Obama stated on Thursday "There's no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets".
On Tuesday this week Egypt proposed a cease fire which was accepted by Israel but not by Hamas. Other cease fires have been proposed and one tentatively held for a few hours.
At the point of writing this Israel has begun to send in a ground offensive into Gaza and the fighting has intensified. According to recent reports the death toll is now over 230, with only two Israeli deaths. During the first 10 days of the operation, over 1497 rocket were launched at Israel and of these 1093 of those rockets hit Israel. Approximately 301 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system and the IDF targeted over 2,037 terror targets, with both naval and aerial capabilities.
Sadly there have been quite a few civilian deaths - despite the careful attention the IDF give to try and avoid such casualties. The issue seems to be that Hamas are using residential houses and public buildings to store in and fire weapons from. This has led to the ground operation which is, at the point of writing in full swing. According to Netanyahu, because of the way Hamas is operating using it's civilians to shield it's activities, "Hamas are responsible for all the civilian deaths that occur accidentally. We are sorry for any accidental civilian death but its Hamas that bears complete responsibility for such civilian casualties. We need to defeat those people, roll them back or peace is not going to be possible because as far as Hamas is concerned they couldn't care less if you come with a two state solution, a three state solution or a four state solution, they want a no state solution - no Jewish state, and therefore if you want to have peace you have to fight these people, you have to roll them back, otherwise there is no prospect for peace."
The Latter Days
As Bible students, we the Christadelphian community, with our unique understanding of the coming Kingdom of God, being a greater restoration of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, have looked for the return of the Jews to the land as a prerequisite to this event. The Bible speaks of a time period called "The Latter Days" and one of the features of prophecies relating to this is the return of the Jews to their homeland after a period of dispersion.
As an illustration of this consider the prophecy of Hosea chapter 3:4-5
"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days."
Indeed the Jewish nation did, since the dispersion and scattering of the nation by the Romans, remain without any royalty or priestly functions within their nation. However the "many days" are soon to be up for we have seen them "return". This part of the prophecy has been accomplished. The final fulfilment of the prophecy will be when the Jewish nation turn to truly seek Yahweh their God and David, "the beloved" their king. This is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ of whom God said in Matthew 3:17 "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." This requires his return to the earth and for "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David" as is promised in Luke 1:32 which will usher in a period of peace under his righteous rule.
These wonderful events though all happen, as Hosea has said in "The Latter Days" - a time period punctuated with these key episodes.
The coming invasion from the north and how God acts
In Ezekiel chapter 38 we have another prophecy of the same time period, "The Latter Days", mentioned for example in verse 16. Depicted before us in this chapter is a set of invading nations. They are united under the head of a mysterious character called "Gog" who is the "Prince of Rosh" an ancient name for Russia. This group consists of European, North African and Far Eastern territories, all called by their ancient names. They come down from the North against the people of Israel.
The chapter reaches a dramatic climax in verses 18-19 where we read of God acting visibly and openly. How this happens is revealed in a companion prophecy of Zechariah 14, another prophecy about this time when God will "gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle" (v2). We discover here of one bearing God's name of Yahweh who actively fights the nations who have come to attack Israel. With this one are the faithful saints of old (v5) and therefore this is a vision of a time after the resurrection of the dead for judgment, a time which see's those who have been accepted by Gods mercy being employed to assist the one who bears God's name in the work of defending Israel.
It is clear this Yahweh name bearing personage is non-other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He returns to save his people and to claim the throne of his ancestor David - to restore the Kingdom to Israel and be king over the kingdom of God. We can see this by turning a couple of pages back to Zechariah 12 where we read that God acts through "the spirit of grace and of supplications". The prophecy says "and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son..." (Zechariah 12:10). We know this is speaking of the Lord Jesus because in the gospel of John, by inspiration John records that it is because of this prophecy that Jesus' side was pierced by the Roman soldiers after he had completed his great sacrifice on the cross (John 19:37).
A snapshot of the future
Latter day prophecies are fascinating to the Bible student because they paint a picture of how the nations will behave. This gives us a snapshot into the future which we can then see if it marries up to events in our day. If we see the snapshot coming into focus we can be sure that the prophecy is soon to come about. Consider a few key features of Ezekiel 38. For the prophecy to be accomplished the following key conditions need to exist:
1. A restored people - in verse 8 and 12 it is clear the prophecy relates to a time when the land is populated by people who have been regathered. Clearly this is a connection with the prophecy from Hosea 3 mentioned earlier in this broadcast. However consider the fact that for almost 2000 years Israel did not exist as a nation on the territory of the Holy land. It is only in recent times with events in 1948 and 1967 etc. that it can be said Israel have been gathered back to their land. They have to be there for this prophecy to be fulfilled.
2. The mountains - the prophecy is explicit in emphasising the place of the invasion from the north. We are told it is "against the mountains of Israel" verse 8. This is the central area of the land and contains Jerusalem within it. The prophecy indicates that it is this area which the international community of Gog and his bands has a particular issue with, as this is the area they come down upon. Again we find it fascinating that the international community are agasp at Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Disputed territories on the mountains of Israel are what we would expect for the scene to be set for this prophecy to be fulfilled.
3. Spoil - in verse 12 we read Gog is coming to take a spoil. This requires there be something in the land which is valuable. It is amazing to consider the recent oil and gas finds which Israel now have as well as the great advancements Israel has made in technology and computing. These things could well constitute benefits considered as something worth obtaining by any invading force.
4. Peace and safety - before the great attack, Ezekiel, by inspiration, tells us the land is in a state of tranquility. Gog invades a peaceful state. We read the thoughts of Gog, before they are even his own, in verse 11 "And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,". Now we pause and wonder - how is it this will come about as it cannot be said this is in place today?
Clearly something dramatic has to take place to cause Israel to dwell safely and so it is often postulated how it might be accomplished. Israel's Arab neighbours are currently extremely hostile, especially those living in the Palestinian territories as illustrated by the constant rocket fire - what will bring about the peace and a state of rest that the prophecy speaks about?
It seems there are two options. One is that Israel will continue as it is and negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinians. Perhaps for a trade off. Another option is that, by shear militant force, the Palastinans will be weakened by Israel to such a degree that they cannot continue their terrorist warfare, thus causing peace to be enforced and then become a way of life.
Historically the negotiating table has not been something which has been very fruitful - despite Israel offering and making many concessions which were hoped to lead to peace this has not been forthcoming. Unfortunately the Hamas group do not believe Israel should have the privilege of existence and so negotiation really does not look, at this moment like it is by this means the peace and safety will come about.
So perhaps a war of suppression by Israel will cause the Palestinians and Hamas to surrender their aggression in favour of peace. Maybe "Operation Protective Edge" is a stepping stone towards this.
"when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem"
Whatever happens in the conflict though, latter day prophecies do have something to say about a people living on the old territory of the ancient Philistines who will be hostile against Israel at the time just after Gog attacks.
Joel 3 is another "latter day" companion prophecy to those of Zechariah 12-14 and Ezekiel 38. It has some very interesting things to say about the state of some of the territories around the land of Israel at the time just after Gog and his band attacks.
Verse 1 tells us that this is a prophecy about a time just after Israel have been regathered to their land after a period of dispersion:
"For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, 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, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land."
This clearly connects with the time period of Ezekiel 38 but it gives us a few more details. One of the things which has grieved God is the parting of His land which is interesting thing to consider in the light of the long hoped for two state solution concept which is often held up as something the international community wish for the Palestinians to accept.
"all the coasts of Palestine"
As part of the prophecy the prophet addresses areas of the land which seem to have become embroiled in the conflict, joining the side of the Gogian nations. For example we read in verses 4-8:
"Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head; Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border. Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head: And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it."
Here the prophet is condemning "Tyre and Zidon" and "all the coasts of Palestine". Both Tyre and Zidon are located to the north of Israel in the country of modern Lebanon. It is here where the terrorist organisation Hezbollah live. The peoples of this area and their hatred for Israel answer to this section of the prophecy. The "coasts of Palestine" relates to the coastline of the Gaza strip and the area controlled by Hamas. Hamas who arrange for rockets to be fired into Israel on a daily basis.
These prophecies tell us that there is going to be a people, sitting on the ancient territory of the Philistines who are hostile to Israel after Gog attacks. It is a remarkable thing to be witnessing the way world events have been and are slowly making progress towards the fulfilment of these things foretold of old.
If we piece these prophecies together it seems that what has been revealed to us are certain events which are soon to take place:
1. That Israel will somehow find peace with their neighbours, perhaps by dividing God's land.
2. That this peace will be short lived so that when Gog attack these neighbouring nations will swiftly join against Israel.
3. That at this point they will help to sell the Jews to "the sons of the Grecians" in order to forcibly remove them.
4. For this they will be punished by God through the work of Christ and his saints.
"Roar out of Zion"
The prophecy of Joel 3 foretells that at this great time of crisis Yahweh will cause his "mighty ones" to come down (v11). We read in verse 16 that Yahweh shall "roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel." This is clearly the work of Jesus Christ and his faithful saints as recorded in Zechariah. What purpose will this great intervention from God's representatives serve? Verse 17: "So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more."
The kingdom will indeed be established in that day when "Yahweh dwelleth in Zion" (v21). The events we are witnessing in the land today are a precursor to this time so let us watch and wait knowing that God is in control of all things and knowing that soon Zion's king shall reign victorious.
This has been Matt Davies joining you. Join us again for another Bible in the News next week God willing at www.bibleinthenews.com. Review of recent history