The Middle East: Winds of War and God’s Calendar

We hope this letter finds you in peace and joy, regardless of life’s ever-changing circumstances. Certainly the Middle East (“ME”) continues to undergo historic change. In this letter we offer an overview and analysis of how nations are prophetically shifting in the ME, and suggest key prayer points.

Summer is often a trying time in Israel, as reflected in God’s calendar and the biblical feasts. The spring feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Weeks – were all fulfilled at Yeshua’s first coming. We believe the fall feasts – Trumpets, Atonement, and Booths – will be fulfilled at His second coming. These seasons generate excitement in the natural and spiritual realms. Yet the summer months between them are equally important. Now, in a sense, the whole span of time from Yeshua’s first to His second coming represents the summer season of God’s redemptive plans for humanity. But whether viewed as months or as millennia, summer is the time to consolidate what we learned in the spring and prepare for the fall. Fruit—natural and spiritual—grows or wilts in the summer. The season called “between the straits,” a time of repeated disasters through Jewish history, takes place this year from July 8-29. This notorious period culminates with Tisha b’Av, known in Scripture as the fast of the fifth month (Zechariah 8:18). To the Western world, summer often means fun and vacation, but we cannot afford to grow lax or complacent, or weary in well doing.

Each summer seems to bring predictions for war in Israel. This year is no exception. What forces are in place that could lead to war—if not this summer, by year’s end? EGYPT: In a turn of events Western world powers thought unthinkable 1-1/2 years ago, an Islamist jailed by Hosni Mubarak has succeeded him as president of the largest Arab nation in a victory at the ballot box, with historic consequences for Egypt and the ME. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi will not enjoy the extent of modern, pharaonic powers exercised by Mubarak. Those have been curtailed by a military establishment which will decide just how much he will be able to do in government. Still, the radical Islamist victory in the country’s first democratic presidential election breaks a tradition of more moderate though despotic rulership backed by the West. Behind the scenes, to his own people in Arabic, Morsi has promised to implement Islamist sharia law throughout Egypt and re-evaluate the extent, if any, to which Egypt will uphold its 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Polls indicate an overwhelming majority of Egyptians are strongly anti-Israel and do not favor the cold peace that has been in place for over thirty years. With a powerful military outfitted by the United States, Egypt now represents a serious threat to the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Morsi’s victory is being celebrated in Gaza and, to a lesser degree, the West Bank, as it will likely further empower Hamas—a division of the Muslim Brotherhood—in its relentless, low-level war with Israel. Continue praying, according to Isaiah 19, for God’s highway from Egypt to Assyria. Pray for Egyptian Christians to stand firm, by the strength of the Spirit, despite persecutions that may lie ahead. Pray they will undergo a heart change toward Israel that will impact their nation and posture Egypt for blessing.

SYRIA: Syria is embroiled in a civil war that may end only through international military intervention. But as the world has recently seen, a regime change without a viable plan for succession is a recipe for disaster. Syria has extremely tight ties with Iran and the terror group Hezbollah. These could well be strengthened if President Assad is removed from power. Israel is highly concerned about Hezbollah accessing huge stockpiles of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction known to exist in Syria. These came from Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, as well as Iran. Though Assad (like Egypt’s Mubarak) is a despot, he did refrain from attacking Israel due to backing from the West. Sadly, the history of the modern ME is filled with examples of Western-backed tyrants viewed as a lesser evil than those who might be popularly chosen or democratically elected. Such despotism has often resulted in the best prospect for peace with Israel. It is telling that the only two neighbors Israel has peaceful relations with at present are Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both nondemocratic, Western-backed monarchies. Sadly, Western-style democracy and peace are incapable of coexistence in a radically Islamic ME. Pray for God’s mercy on Syria, especially the innocent victims of ongoing civil war. Pray that in their distress, Jesus will reveal Himself to many. Pray He will give wisdom to Israel’s leaders, and use them from behind the scenes to help frame the Western nations’ response to the crisis.

LEBANON: Lebanon’s elected Hezbollah leadership continues to defy UN efforts to demilitarize. It boasts that it is better equipped today to devastate Israel than it was in its war with the Jewish state in 2006. Hezbollah’s main supporters, Iran and Syria, have also been ruled by strongmen powerful enough to keep them in relative, temporary check. Those restraints have been seriously lessened as both countries now face international pressures of their own. Hezbollah, meanwhile, has missiles and rockets capable of reaching, from their positions in the north, at least as far south as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel fears that if the end of Hezbollah’s Iranian or Syrian lifeline of terror appears imminent, it will have no reason not to launch its lethal cache into the Jewish state. (Meanwhile, Hamas-ruled Gaza continues to regularly fire missiles and rockets into Southern Israel in its ongoing low-level war against her. Recall that Hamas came to power several years ago through Gaza’s democratic election.) Pray for a miraculous spiritual shift in the terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas. Pray that God will raise up and protect voices such as that of Mosab Yousef. This Muslim background believer (“Son of Hamas”) is making a movie on the life of Muhammad to expose the darkness behind Islam. 

IRAN: Iran continues its pretense of negotiations while at the same time advancing its nuclear program. The international community will not be able to convince the Islamic Republic to do anything it does not desire. Nevertheless, the United Nations and other coalitions seem unwilling to abandon their posture of appeasement. In addition, it appears that in an election year, America does not possess the interest, desire, or leadership necessary to militarily enforce its preferences upon Iran. Therefore, it is left to Israel to intervene at a time of its choosing in an attempt to curtail or delay Iran’s development of nuclear arms. The recent consolidation of power by Netanyahu’s government, brought about by joining forces with the former opposition Kadima party, likely gives it the domestic support to attack Iran if it so desires. But a pre-emptive strike on the Islamic Republic would result in fierce retaliation, involving weaponry deployed in Syria and Lebanon, as well as Iran. These weapons, with confirmed biochemical warheads, are in the hands of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other rogue terror groups. Israeli loss of life would be inordinately severe. The main question is whether thousands of Jewish lives should be sacrificed to spare millions more—the inevitable result of a first strike from a nuclear Iran. 

President Ahmadinejad recently announced that he will not run for re-election in 2013. (By Iran’s Constitution, he cannot extend his term.) Now is the time to start praying that God will raise up a righteous leader for this nation. Pray that He will break the power of the mullahs that control the presidency and run the Iranian government behind the scenes. Pray for God’s will regarding any Israeli preemptive strike, for any cyberspace warfare that could hinder progress on the nuclear program, and for all other realistic options—including His totally sovereign intervention. Pray that Western nations will courageously awaken to the reality of Iran’s ambitions and capabilities.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (PA): Rumors of talks with the Palestinians are afloat. But even if rumors of talks lead to talks, it is clear behind the scenes that neither Netanyahu nor Abbas are willing to budge from their long held positions, which at present, are not reconcilable. Before talks begin, the PA wants Israel to agree to relinquish Judea and Samaria, including East Jerusalem, and Netanyahu will not be party to this. As Israeli Foreign Minister Liberman recently stated: “Abbas has no interest in coming to any agreement with Israel. Someone who did not reach an agreement with Olmert and Livni [the previous liberal Israeli administration] in Annapolis [Maryland, USA] should not expect to reach an agreement with Netanyahu and Liberman.” (Jerusalem Post, June 18, 2012) Perhaps we can thank God that President Obama suggested preconditions to peace talks which are so adverse to Israel that Netanyahu’s administration will never agree to them, ensuring the status quo, at least for the near future, stays the same. Pray for an outpouring of the Spirit on Palestinian Christians, many of whom do not personally know the Savior, but are merely Christian by tradition. Whether or not they’ve been born from above, most Palestinian Christians adhere firmly to replacement theology, which they call “fulfillment theology” or “Palestinian liberation theology.” Pray they will gain fresh passion for biblical truth and stand courageously in that truth before their brethren, both Christian and Muslim. Pray that by the power of the cross, they will shed the identity of victim for that of victor in Messiah. 

IN SUMMARY: The Jewish state is surrounded by enemies filled with venomous fury toward her. We steadfastly pray mercy and salvation upon them. Yet it seems only a matter of time before the region explodes into a conflagration of the type depicted in Ezekiel 38. Reports currently circulate about a heightened military presence in the region by Russia and China—the very powers behind the war about which Ezekiel prophesied. Speculations abound, but they remain speculations. In any case, we can with confidence pray into both the present ongoing, as well as future battles ahead. We can cry out for and release justice and mercy, salvations and revival, and the glory of our God. Our intercession can lessen the severity of war’s devastation, which is always His preference. Will Islam fall, as some say? Or will it prove part and parcel of the Antichrist structure? Do we even need to know in order to pray in alignment with God’s heart for lost humanity? “Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8) Pray that Israeli leaders will receive supernatural wisdom in preparing for a war which many believe could occur soon. Israelis know the next war will involve a major penetration of missiles and rockets into civilian population centers. Please pray earnestly for protection, to God’s glory. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and all Israel, through salvation in Yeshua, the Prince of Peace.