Israel. Hamas, Iran and the Body of Christ: A Time for War

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:…a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,8)

As 2005 has rolled into 2006, it is valuable for God’s people to be sober-minded and aware of what He is doing in the earth. Sometimes earthly realities are encouraging in the natural. At other times they are not, but that does not mean we are to deny those earthly realities exist. The Church has not done well in its history when it has tried to live in denial of natural reality in favor of solely the supernatural.

There is a time for peace and a time for war. God has not relegated His people to a lag-behind posture for either time. He wants us joining Him in the forefront, though the forefront represents something different for each one of us. Regardless of earthly realities, He wants us assured He is not only in control, but His plans for us are for good. He wants us assessing earthly realities in the context of eternal heavenly realities, so we can live and move effectively with Him in both realms.

If we examine the day with a sober mind, we see it is a time for war. And in approaching the season of Purim,* it is not hard to see that the genocidal, antisemitic spirit of Haman is entrenching itself with ever-intensifying force. In late 2005, the United Nations held a round of “Palestinian sympathy” meetings. UN officials delivered their sympathetic speeches as they sat next to prominently displayed maps of “Palestine” encompassing and replacing all of Israel. The terrorist organization Hamas, whose charter unequivocally declares its goal to annihilate the Jewish State, has gained political control of the Palestinian Authority. Iran publicly boasts of its intent to “wipe Israel off the map” as it appears headed towards the development of nuclear weaponry. Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon, former warrior-leader of the Jewish nation, languishes in a coma, leaving the country without clear direction. How much longer, Lord, before You exalt Yourself among Your people and all nations? How are we to respond to such realities?

The World Scene
Most Western commentators—secular, Jewish, and Christian—feel that Hamas’ victory paves the way for its downfall. At last, they say, the warmonger must remove its mask and show its face—a face that salivates for Jewish blood, vowing never to recognize Israel’s right to exist. And now that the devilish ravings of Iran’s Ahmadinejad (energized by the ages-old prince of Persia) threaten Europe and the US, many expect those nations will be forced to disable his regime.

Certainly the crystallization of evil can bring it more into focus. We ought to be thankful that God is giving all an opportunity to see more clearly. Ultimately, Creator God wins every holy war, including jihad. He will not allow Allah to triumph and be exalted over Adonai. He desires to save multitudes of Muslim (as well as Jewish) souls. But the view that this, and the defeat of Mideast terror regimes, will be accomplished easily or quickly will prove wrong in the long run. Despite the currently popular view, we must not assume that Hamas’ victory leaves Israel any better off. To the contrary, it is more likely that her security is even further threatened, and her demise, apart from divine intervention, a real potentiality.

A Future with Hamas
It is said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it, and it appears the majority of commentators may have a short memory. A brief review of history recalls to mind that in 1974, after a massive Arab effort to annihilate Israel with an overwhelming military invasion had failed, the Palestinians adopted their official “Phased Plan.” The Phased Plan, which has never been renounced, calls for the destruction of Israel in three phases. The first phase involves the establishment, through “armed struggle” (terror), of an “independent combatant national authority” over territory that is “liberated” from Israeli rule. The second phase entails continuing the struggle against Israel using “liberated” Palestinian territory as the base of operations for provoking all-out war against the Jewish State (phase 3), in cooperation with other Arab nations.

As Yasser Arafat eventually made clear, the Oslo Accords of the 90’s provided a mere pretext for peace, a means by which Phase 1 could be achieved in order to then accomplish Phases 2 and 3. Accordingly, the Palestinian Fatah party never renounced the Phased Plan. Rather, Fatah, together with certain Hamas factions, has acquiesced solely to the Muslim concept of hudna, a fake temporary truce. Conceived by Mohammed, hudna is merely a temporary cessation of hostilities until the Islamic position is sufficiently strengthened to assure future victory. It involves no change of ideology or military goal. It requires no adherence to truth or honesty.

It was long believed that hardliner terrorist Arafat and his Fatah party would never negotiate with Israel, as negotiating with the Jewish nation required an implicit recognition of her existence. But, with time and pressure, the granddaddy of modern terror himself relented. Then Israel eventually embarked on its present policy effecting appeasement, turning Gaza and portions of the West Bank over to the Palestinians. It appears phases 1 and 2 of the Plan are soon to be accomplished facts.

Hamas, though quite splintered, may well embark on a course similar to Fatah. Let us not get hoodwinked: They too may resort to so-called peace negotiations (hudna) as a tactic toward finalization of the third phase, i.e., the eradication of Israel. The US is likely to again play a part.

Even if Hamas maintains its present, very blatant policy of destroying the Jewish State, it is not by any means a foregone conclusion the nations will come to Israel’s aid. True, there’s been a bit of international dismay at Hamas’ unforeseen victory. But ultimately, an increasingly Islamic Europe has little reason to risk going to war for Israel. Russia has already announced its willingness to recognize and deal with a Hamas-led Palestine. The United Nations, with its 22 Arab and 46 Muslim-majority countries, has already essentially abandoned Israel. Only the United States still counts the sliver of a State as a worthwhile friend and ally (despite its questionable record in this regard). Yet the increasingly secular US has other interests and imperatives, not the least of which are its own war on terror and, in President Bush’s recent words, its addiction to [Arab] oil. Thank God for America’s praying, Bible-believing, Holy Spirit-energized Church that unconditionally loves and blesses Israel!

Notwithstanding Hamas’ unexpected victory, Iran’s threat to wipe Israel off the map is far more than mere rhetoric. According to Israeli news sources, Iran’s nuclear program is now past the point where it can be destroyed. In other words, it is already too late for Israel to preemptively wipe out Iran’s nuclear facility, particularly since much of it is housed and hidden underground. An air strike could still set back Iran’s program for a short time. But even in such event, Israel understands that a preemptive strike on its part will result in a retaliatory hit by Iran in the future that, given Israel’s small size, could erase the entire country. So for now, the Jewish nation sits and waits for the Western world to decide

It is a time for war; now is the time to act. But now, perhaps for the first time since its modern-day inception, Israel lacks the governmental direction and authority needed to do so. Seemingly symbolically, warrior-leader Ariel Sharon lies comatose, unable to move. Though Israeli elections are scheduled in late March, no candidate stands poised as a clear successor. The nation is divided and distrusting, battle-weary from carrying on in its constant state of so-called “regular emergency”. Israel is understandably war-weary. In a sense, she has fought the battles of the whole Western world—and with her hands tied—for the past 58 years.

Facing Realities
The sobering reality is that God is allowing Israel’s enemies to play out, to an extent, their evil intent against His people—on our watch. How far will it go? We must be willing to face facts—in faith—even when they may appear to disappoint our theology. At times in Israel’s biblical history God permitted nations to attain a fullness of iniquity, while Israel suffered terribly as a result. As nations’ sins mounted, God’s cup of wrath against those nations filled until it eventually, in due time, overflowed onto them as judgment. To the extent this takes place today, we must cry out for mercy in every biblical respect, and especially for the salvation of souls throughout the Middle East. We are to weep with those who weep and extend practical help to innocent individuals ravaged in a time of war. We must not assume that God will not allow Israel to temporarily lose much of her land and people. We must assume instead that He will respond to our intercession on her behalf. We must intelligently bless Israel (Gen. 12:3), pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6), and support the Jewish people in their distress (Obadiah). We are also to sincerely love and bless the Arabic peoples.

Of course we are to understand current events in their biblical context. Many of these events are birth pangs preceding Messiah’s return. But birth pangs can be extremely painful. These painful pangs may well lead to the military campaigns of Psalm 83 and eventually Ezekiel 38-39. At some point the Mideast conflict will trigger nations’ acquiescence to an ostensible peace-establishing, global governing entity—a setup for the Antichrist.

In any case, we are not called to watch prophecy unfold as mere, wide-eyed spectators. God wants us actively participating in His purposes in the earth during our watch. We must learn to war while passionately loving Him, ministering to the lost and those who are innocently suffering, and while realities change, sometimes unexpectedly.

Advice from Habakkuk
Like us, the biblical prophet Habakkuk found himself and his country confounded with present and impending evils. The account of his grappling with the Loving Almighty is alive with prophetic direction.

The meaning of Habakkuk’s name is not certain. There is evidence, however, that it derives from the Hebrew root havak, meaning “to embrace.” In any case, Habakkuk embraces God as He grapples with Him; His intimacy with the Almighty evokes both an answer and an empowering. Habakkuk’s prophecy takes a unique form. It consists partly of lamentations he addresses to God and partly of prophetic utterances from God. No other biblical author writes in such an intimately holy, yet conversational, manner. ** Here is our fundamental call: Despite the devastations we see and hear, the eyes and ears of our hearts must be magnetized to our Abba-King. We are to look up, for our redemption is at hand. The war in the earth realm is related to the war in the heavenlies as the kingdom of God converges with earth. This is good news. Pray for and be propelled toward increased, fiery intimacy with Yeshua.

Habakkuk begins with his passionate plea: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (Hab. 1:1-2, NIV) The Hebrew word translated “violence” is hamas, which connotes unjust or wrongful violence. In fact, “hamas” appears so often in Habakkuk that one could say it constitutes, in a single word, the very background of the book. (It must be pointed out that hamas means “zeal” in Arabic. Arabic and Hebrew are closely related Semitic languages and the “co-incidence” is interesting.)

Initially, Habakkuk decries the violence, destruction and injustice taking place within and by the people of Israel. (Hab. 1:3-4) It is Israel’s own lawlessness, or straying from God’s ways, that breaks the prophet’s heart. Likewise, we cannot dismiss the grieved heart of God at Israel’s straying from His ways today. Our hearts, like Habakkuk, must break for the Jewish nation to turn back to Him. Our hearts’ desire and prayer to God for Israel must be that they be saved.(Ro. 10:1) Pray that the Jewish people will turn to God as our only Savior in Messiah. Pray for Israelis to cry out to Him to raise up a God-fearing man to lead the nation at this time.

The Lord replies that He will deal with the issue of violence by raising up an enemy filled with far worse violence (hamas) than Israel. This dreaded enemy will wreak havoc with the Jewish nation. (Hab. 1:5-11) The upcoming season will be a time for war. At this, the prophet is stunned. How, he wonders, is this just? To the extent God may again allow Israel’s enemies to succeed temporarily and to a limited extent, pray that He will also mercifully minimize Israel’s suffering and devastation. Pray He will make known His Salvation and defend the Jews for His Name’s sake. Pray for the Church to rise up and stand with Israel.

Baffled but emboldened by the revelation of God’s strategy, Habakkuk next declares, “I will climb my watchtower now, and wait to see what answer God will give to my complaint.” (Hab. 2:1, TLB). The Hebrew translated “I will climb my watchtower” more literally means, “I will stand upon my watch.” The Captain of Hosts will reveal specific war strategies for this time to those who continue standing their watch. Prayer involves both watching and waiting patiently on the Lord to discern His specific war time strategies. It’s intimacy with Him first; watching/waiting follows.

In Hab. 2:4, God reveals the often-quoted, simple yet profoundly multi-dimensional strategy: “The righteous will live by his faith.” Here is one of only two times the word “faith” appears in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew conceptual equivalent of faith is not mere mental assent to God’s will, but deep and wholehearted trust and obedience. This is the quality of faith to which we are called during war. Faith is being certain of the unseen, that which is not yet perceived in the natural. Pray for faith to explode, propelling God’s people into heavenly realms, compelling heaven and its armies to earth. A time for war is about advancing the kingdom of God, not just defensively holding ground.

Why, ultimately, has hamas risen to its current position? According to Hab. 2:14, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” God assures Habakkuk and us that His violent enemies will be judged for their assault against His people Israel—for the ultimate purpose that the kingdom of heaven overtake the earth. Sometimes we are so closely involved with immediate circumstances that the only way to view things clearly is to put on long-distance lenses. Pray against the enemy’s success, but pray even more for the breakthrough of God’s glorious kingdom. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

In conclusion, an awed Habakkuk prays (as should we): “Renew [Your fame and deeds] in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” (3:2) Can you catch the passion in the petition? The prophet knows the nature of his Abba-King. Embracing His tender as well as tenacious, Glorious Personality, Habakkuk emerges from the divine encounter with an ecstatic song—that God will make uniquely ours as well:

“I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Hab. 3:16-19)

The prophetic advice could be summed up: Wait on the Lord; justice is coming. While war and its decimations are at hand, abide in the Beloved. In His Presence is fullness of joy, the source of strength for going on to earthly/ heavenly heights!

* Purim is the biblical holiday celebrating God’s victory in the book of Esther.

** The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, M.Tenney, Gen. Ed., Vol. 3:4, 1975.

*** Technically, Habakkuk prophesied concerning Judah, not Israel. He ministered when Israel was divided into two kingdoms: Judah, the southern kingdom; and Israel, the northern kingdom. Habakkuk lived in Judah.