In the early morning of Saturday 7th October the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a massive attack on Israel from their base in the Gaza Strip. Israel retaliated. Military and civilian casualties on both sides are huge and mounting. Saturday was described as the worst day in the modern nation’s history. Israeli politicians declare they are at war – not just with Hamas, but potentially with the group’s sponsors the Islamic State in Iran. The world watches in trepidation.The Conflict in Context
Let’s remind ourselves of the background to this conflict.
May 1948 – following a flood of Jews to their ancient homeland, largely out of Europe following the Holocaust of the Second World War, the state of Israel was declared. It was the realisation of the Zionist dream which many had said was impossible. Immediately afterwards, five Arab nations invaded Israel’s territory, determined to destroy the new nation. Against all expectations, the aggressors were defeated.
June 1967 – a confederacy of its Arab neighbours again invaded Israel, intent on pushing the young nation into the sea. Israel’s military was vastly outnumbered, but after six days of war Israel was victorious, gaining control of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.
October 1973 – on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, Israel’s Arab enemies again launched a huge surprise attack. After three weeks of fighting, they were again defeated and Israel consolidated its position.
The ensuing half century has seen ongoing tension between Israel, its Arab neighbours (such as Jordan and Syria), and the Palestinians who represent the native inhabitants of the land of Israel prior to the state’s establishment. This tension has often escalated into deadly violence.
October 2023 – following an inexplicable failure of Israel’s vast and sophisticated intelligence network, Hamas launched its invasion by land, sea and air, killing many Israelis and taking many others hostage back into Gaza. In retaliation Israel has targeted many hundreds of Hamas locations with air strikes, imposed an all-out siege of Gaza and is preparing for a ground invasion. What next?The Bible Background
The Israelis are a proud and self-confident nation. Generally, they attribute their survival and successes to their own prowess. But it’s often pointed out that in their long history there seems to be a peculiar force in operation that defies natural explanation…Christadelphians are not political supporters of Israel. But we recognise that the Jews as a people have always had, and still have, a special part in God’s purpose with the world:
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he” (Isaiah 43:1–10}.Bible students were expecting the establishment of the modern state of Israel, when others dismissed it as impossible:
For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it (Jeremiah 30:3).
And we are watching current events keenly. With great sadness, at the almost unimaginable violence and suffering that is playing out in the conflict. But also with expectation, because this is one more step towards the climax of God’s purpose – the return of Jesus Christ. Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle (Zechariah 14:1-3).
The Bible’s prophets describe the circumstances around Christ’s return (for example Psalm 83, Ezekiel 38, Joel 3 and Zechariah 14, Luke 21). It’s evident that the crisis in the Middle East will not be resolved – it will get very much worse. We don’t know whether the current crisis is the start of a bigger escalation, or merely a nudge as the nations align themselves for the final conflict. So what do you think? We’re all dismayed by the bloodshed and destruction, and we pray that this conflict will soon be over. But are you fearful for what the future holds – or will you take the opportunity to look into what God is telling you? The Bible explains what is happening, how it will turn out, and what we need to do about it. For those who are prepared, Jesus Christ said:
Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).
Picture credit – Michael Shvadron, Israel Defense Forces, CC BY 2.0