Carrying the Cross into Operation Protective Edge


Shalom from the battlefront! The battle front I speak of is not the critical Israel-Gaza war, but is very real nonetheless. It accounts for why you have not heard from us since the war began. Though the battle into which we’ve been thrust is different, through it God has given us an intercessory focus for Operation Protective Edge which we have not yet heard expressed in the Messianic media.

The Story
The story begins in early March, when I (Sandy) left California to spend several months in our home near Jerusalem. In Israel, the Lord quickly met me and began refreshing me in body, soul and spirit. But in early June, everything changed. One morning I awoke with unexplainable, crippling back pain. Over the next few days and despite much prayer, the relentless pain became unbearable. Days and sleepless nights blurred together as I unsuccessfully sought relief from the constant agony. Physicians could not alleviate it. This was the worst pain of my life—and God seemed strangely silent. After two weeks I returned to California for diagnosis and treatment. The day I left, terrorists kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers, setting matters in motion for Operation Protective Edge.

Like the Israeli doctors, American physicians and health care practitioners were not able to reach a clear diagnosis. Meanwhile, intercessors from around the world said they discerned intense spiritual warfare; several sensed Islamist-related, satanic witchcraft.

The Cross of Messiah
How does this battle relate to Israel’s present war? Although I’m still processing with the Lord both this personal battle and Operation Protective Edge, I can say the past 40-plus days have taught me the meaning of “excruciating.” Excruciating pain can propel us to the Cross. Not coincidentally, the very word “excruciating” derives from the same word used for “crucifixion.” Pain at such an overwhelming level brings with it something of a force field that can escort us to the Cross, to surrendering all for the Presence of the Lord of love. At the Cross, we are not alone in our sufferings. We find Yeshua with us in holy, intimate communion.

At the place of surrender, Yeshua’s Presence somehow overshadowed my personal pain. He who had already borne my torment, amazingly and willingly—even gladly—met me at the Cross to, in a sense, experience with me that torment all over again. In that place Yeshua spoke to me about forgiving my (and His) enemies.

The Power of Blessing Our Enemies
Yeshua showed me His heart of overwhelming love for His enemies as I’d never before experienced it. I saw that He commands us to love and bless our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28) not just to set us free from the sin of unforgiveness. When we truly love and bless those who hurt us, we gain authority in the spirit realm over the powers of darkness that propelled those individuals to harm us, and which hold captive those same individuals. Therefore, we gain intercessory authority to help set our enemies free.

At the Cross with my pain, I knew Yeshua was challenging me to “forgive from my heart” (Matthew 18:35) that I might be free to carry His heart for my enemies in a new way, blessing them as He desired they be blessed. Then He led me to pray for the Israel-Gaza war in like manner.

We rejoice that believers all over the world are interceding day and night for Operation Protective Edge. Daily we receive reports from the Land reflecting those prayers are being answered miraculously. Surely we should continue praying for God’s restoration of His ancient covenant people. But in the process, are we willing to receive and carry His heart of love for Hamas and other human enemies of Israel? Will we offer more than just a perfunctory prayer on their behalf, but forgive and bless them “from our hearts” with His love and light as He desires they be blessed? Even though they posture themselves—as we ourselves previously did, according to Romans 5:8—against God and His purposes?

The Cross demands complete honesty before God. To forgive “from the heart,” we must personally feel and not deny the pain which our enemies have unleashed on us. Although most Western believers do not stand literally in the line of fire like Israelis, many harbor deep resentment toward militant Muslims—as well as toward secularists and others bent on destroying traditional Judeo-Christian civilization. Precisely because we are not at this time directly and personally attacked by groups such as Hamas, it can be deceptively easy to mask and bury our unforgiveness toward the enemy, even as we intercede, rather than take our pain and anger to the Cross.

A Higher View of the Israel-Gaza War
Let us remember that the pain we feel in intercession gives opportunity for the power of the Cross to intervene. As we forgive from our hearts and release God’s love and light on the human enemy, that same love and light confounds, confuses and defeats the real enemy: Satan and his hordes. We discover not that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” (a maxim popular in the Middle East), but that the enemy of my enemy is our mutual enemy.

Recall that in Joshua 5:13-15, when Joshua encountered a Man with a drawn sword, he asked whether He was for or against the children of Israel. The Man’s reply was, “No, but as Commander of the Armies of Heaven I have now come.” God wanted Joshua to see that Heaven’s “side” was ultimately greater than one or another people group. To be sure, God was—and still is—working through and fighting for Israel, His beloved. But His Kingdom purposes were—and still are—greater.

From this perspective we can see Israel not only on the defense militarily against Hamas, but as God’s instrument of deliverance for Gaza. Now, the Israeli army ‘s concern is to defend and protect Israeli citizens, and rightly so. But in the spirit realm, though largely unbeknown to her, Israel is fighting for the liberation of over a million Muslim souls. God ‘s purposes in this war include the breaking of Hamas’ back to set multitudes in Gaza free to worship Him. This He is doing even as He restores and defends Israel, based on His unconditional covenant with her, according to the prophetic Scriptures. Someday soon, He will carve a highway of holiness crossing the Middle East, Arabs and Jews worshiping Him together to His glory (Isaiah 19:19-24).

How Will the War End?
We do not know how the current war will end. One possibility is a cease-fire that fails to effect long term change. This resulted following Israel’s wars with Gaza in 2008 and 2012, when Gaza temporarily held fire in order to regroup, rearm, and resume hostilities while the world condemned Israel for committing alleged war crimes.

We pray that by God’s grace, Israel will miraculously and successfully dismantle Hamas’ terror infrastructure. But what then? “Re-occupation” of Gaza? Israel has not occupied Gaza in any sense since 2005 and has no desire to take it back with its over one million Jew haters. But without some degree of occupation, could a new, democratic style Gaza emerge? Only by divine intervention, for democracy is a concept foreign to fundamental Islam. Moreover, the world lacks what it once had: a United States of America sufficiently strong and moral to help a war-bludgeoned people rebuild a just and free society. Without accountability to good leadership,”might makes right” in the Middle East, as seen in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere. And precisely because Operation Protective Edge concerns the Middle East, any number of other scenarios involving the region could develop. But the only good solution is Yeshua. So let’s take up the cross, and in the power of His love, follow Yeshua.