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Commentary

How history ends

The recent deal to free abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit brought joy and relief to most Israelis, even while many also sensed a deep pain at having to release hundreds of murderers in return. It is not my place to criticize the terms of that deal, as it is Israelis who send their sons and daughters to the IDF and they alone should determine the price to be paid for bringing their soldiers home safe. Still, I wrestled inside with the fairness of the Schalit deal until I found solace in the last words of the biblical “Song of Moses.”

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43)

This verse assures that every one of those cruel terrorist murderers will be held accountable by God one day, even if they walk free today.

Deuteronomy 32 is one of the most remarkable chapters in the entire Bible, as it actually foretells the sweep of Jewish history before it ever happens. Israel had started out on a long journey for the sake of world redemption. God had already seen in the Wilderness that whenever He drew the Israelites close to see His glory, the “inclination of their behavior” (Deuteronomy 31:21) was to eventually turn away from the Lord.

So Moses was told to warn Israel of the stern but loving corrections ahead, of times when God would use the surrounding nations to punish Israel in measure for their rebellion. But these nations would become proud, as if by their own hand they had defeated the Chosen people. Or they would show no mercy. So God in turn would severely punish the very nations He would employ as rods of correction against Israel.

This indeed has been the course of history, but when history draws to an end Israel is told that she will complete the long, hard journey with a certain Gentile people standing by her side. These are a people who rejoice in (1) the ultimate justice of God over Israel’s enemies and (2) in the atonement which He has provided for His land and people.

First, a word about Israel’s enemies…

Those who are true anti-Semites have always shared two characteristics. First, they have had to suspend all reason in order to believe the vicious lies and slanders thrown at the Jews. Think about it: If Jews truly control the world, why is Israel always losing all those lopsided votes against her at the United Nations?

Second, they have had to totally override their consciences in order to carry out and condone the horrible atrocities committed against the Jews down through time. The Nazis had to methodically train the Einsatzgruppen – the roving death squads responsible for killing 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe – on how to tune out the feelings of guilt when shooting innocent women, children and the elderly in cold blood. This required an override of the conscience placed within each and every human.

In other words, you actually have to work at being as callous and cruel as many anti-Semites have been to the Jews. So whatever vengeance God pours out upon them will be well deserved, and I for one will rejoice in His justness.

And now a word about Israel’s friends…

Due to the massive challenges facing Israel, she needs as many friends by her side as she can get. Now some of these friends are neo-cons and security hawks, such as my favorite diplomat, Amb. John Bolton – the thickly-mustached former US representative to the United Nations.

Some of Israel’s friends share her democratic values. Some are aficionados of Jewish art and culture.

But I would commend to my Israeli friends the parting words of Moses, knowing there is no higher human authority in Judaism. Moses said that as your long journey comes to a close, you should be looking for a Gentile people standing beside you who know how to get happy in the Lord, who long to see the justness of God, who have come to appreciate the divine purpose in your election, and who extol His way of salvation.

That is an amazingly accurate description of Christian Zionists. And we are here, standing by your side in the millions. Can the end of history be far behind?

The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org

The Wonder of Christmas

There is no doubt that the Christmas story is filled with wonder and awe. It fills young and old with delight that is even more enjoyable and amazing because it is all true!

Shepherds, at the bottom of the social fabric of that time, were entertained and blessed by a choir of angels that filled the night with glory and hope. Mysterious wise men from the East followed a star that brought them to a manger in Bethlehem, where they presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Then there is the centerpiece of the story; a young couple, probably still teenagers, who were uniquely chosen to bring the Christ-child into the world. They faced a challenge of faith and courage that was undergirded by angelic visitations! Mary, the young virgin maiden, was with child without ever knowing a man and before marriage; an outward looking scandal by any stretch of the imagination. Then there was Joseph, who had to endure the gossip and “whispering” of a community who knew nothing of the angelic announcement heralding the birth of Jesus.

More sinister still was the plot to kill the child and, by so doing, frustrate the will and purpose of God for world redemption. The Christmas story is truly beautiful, amazing and thought provoking. For Christians, it teaches us:

1.  That Christmas is worth celebrating since all of Heaven did so and gave beautiful voice to the wondrous events that were unfolding in Bethlehem. The Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all devote lengthy passages to this story of wonder and great joy. We should do the same.

2.  That Christmas is the hope of the world. God became man and did so to save us from our sins and give us a new beginning. The message is ever the same; peace and goodwill to all the world. That is, a peace and goodwill which has to be appropriated individually by repentance and faith in the finished work of the Son of God on the cross.

3.  That Christmas has a unique message in the gifts delivered to the Christ-child by the Kings from the East. Gold was a tribute to his identity. He is King of the Jews and the King of Kings of all the world. Frankincense meant his life would be pleasing to God and sinless. And myrrh foreshadowed that he would die for the world and atone for its sins. This is because myrrh was a burial ointment that was used to prepare the body for its final resting place.

4.  That Christmas reminds us of a conflict that ever rages over the souls of men. Dark forces were at work on that beautiful, awe inspiring night. They sought to destroy the babe born to Mary and Joseph and thus they ultimately sought the destruction of all of humankind. This battle continues!

We would do well then to gather our families around a beautiful meal on Christmas eve and carefully read this wonderful narrative from the Gospels. Prayers of thanksgiving and joy should ascend to Heaven and sweet carols of years gone by should bathe our souls in the wondrous love of God. We would do well to visit the House of God on Christmas morning and there, together with all the family of God, give thanks for the gift of all gifts that became ours on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas!

Rev. Hedding is vice chairman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org

The Enemy Within

I recently watched a TV program in which the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was being discussed in the wake of Mahmoud Abbas’s request to the United Nations for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rebuttal address to the UN General Assembly. Granted, the program I was watching was clearly and unashamedly biased towards the Palestinians. So I did not expect in any way a balanced approach to the issue. They were clearly out to demonize Israel and portray her as the real obstacle to peace in the conflict.

However, what shocked me was that Israelis, “sabras” at that, appeared on the program and happily went about trashing their own people, government and history! Naturally, all this was done in the name of academia and thoughtful insight. Yet actually, it was an attempt to rewrite history, debunk the Bible, deny the threat of Islamic radicalism, and offer respectability to terrorist groups like Hamas. The latter were cast as well meaning advocates for peace! In short, it was garbage!! There is no other word for it.

However, it begs the question: ‘What motivates Israelis to turn against their own people, distort the truth, and collaborate with Israel’s enemies?’

To me it appears as if they want to be accepted so badly that they are unwilling to bear the reproach of standing with a people who are isolated and condemned by the world. These “new Israelis” are seeking to join the world as they see it and probably hope to gain recognition and prestige by these acts of betrayal. They are the enemy within.

Some years ago, in October 2000 after the beginning of the second intifada, the ANC majority government called for a debate in the South African parliament to discuss the unfolding conflict in Israel. Naturally, given their long relationship with PLO chief Yasser Arafat, they took a biased pro-Palestinian position and thus the debate was one-sided and anti-Israel. To my amazement, their “ace” advocate – a prominent South African Jew – was then called to take the podium and condemn Israel! It was a brilliant PR move and it left me shocked!

In fact, and sadly, we read repeatedly of this problem, particularly of liberal-leaning Israeli academics exploiting the democratic freedoms of Israel to condemn their own nation and people. This plays directly into the hands of Israeli antagonists, who then use these ‘useful idiots’ to strengthen their case against Israel. I have time and again been challenged by the fact that, when defending Israel internationally, some prominent Israelis disagree with me and would seek to fold groups like Hamas into the negotiating process. This is not helpful! However, this is not a new problem.

Way back in the second century before the Common Era, Israelis joined forces with Hellenists (the Bible calls them the “sons of Greece,” see Zechariah 9:13) in order to undermine the foundations upon which that nation was built. Daniel also refers to this and writes:

“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)

In those days, this ‘enemy within’ despised the Word of God and the biblical history of the Jewish people. Instead, they desired to drag Israel into the gentile Grecian world and thereby refashion her in the image of the world. All this required Israel to abandon her history and her biblical foundations and values. Not much has changed! The enemy within is still hard at work undermining the legitimate position and place of Israel.

Our encouragement, however, comes from the fact that the God of the Bible is not dead, is ever watching, and will raise up people of faith to counter this foolishness and they will do “great exploits” in His name and from a source of truth.

This we clearly witnessed in conclusion to the attempt to Hellenize Israel and the Jewish people in the second century BCE. God raised up a family of Hasmoneans and they began a revolt that saved Israel, enabled her to recover her independence, and retain her faith. Great exploits were done and we celebrate this every year in December at what is called the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. God is faithful!

Rev. Hedding is vice chairman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org

‘As in the days of Noah’

“You are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…” Romans 2:5

The recent rare earthquake near Washington and a major hurricane menacing New York City has everyone wondering once again about the bizarre behavior of Nature lately. Last year witnessed an Icelandic volcano shrouding Europe in ash, wildfires choking Moscow for weeks, and ‘apocalyptic’ floods drenching Australia. This year has seen an earthquake and tsunami staggering Japan, severe tornadoes ravaging across the American South, and a freak earthquake rattling Spain, all before the unusual rumblings along the East Coast.

Many Christians and even those in the secular world are bewildered at the abnormal spate of natural disasters, and are asking if these are “signs of the end!”

Some Christians are now heavily into preaching a God of judgment and say this is His wrath being poured out. Within this camp are many Christian Zionists who insist it is divine punishment for the way the nations are bullying Israel.

Meanwhile, others are countering that they serve a God of love who would never do such things. Their message is one of ‘sloppy Agape’ – that we should not expect such dire consequences for our sins.

The Apostle Paul actually stood squarely in between both camps when he proclaimed, “therefore consider the goodness and severity of God.” (Romans 11: 22)

Paul knew how to walk between these polar opposites within the character of God – that He indeed is a God of love and compassion, but also a holy God who lashes out at sin. And he knew these two paradoxical attributes meet together in God’s righteous character. That is, He will never judge unjustly and in the end we all get what we deserve.

Jesus also sheds some light on the rampant natural disasters of our day. In Matthew 24:7 he foretold of “famines, pestilence and earthquakes in various places.” Most Christians are familiar with this passage and thus see the current upheavals in nature as a sign of the “End Times.”

But Jesus did not directly ascribe these to God, suggesting instead they would be random. Further, he gave us a more significant warning signal in this same passage, when he said “as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37)

So we would do well in understanding what was transpiring in Noah’s day, and the Bible has much to say about this.


The descent of mankind
In the Genesis account of the pre-Flood world, we are told that man’s thoughts were continually evil and violence had filled the earth. God despaired at the lack of repentant hearts and thus regretted He had made man. So He decided to take a step back from humanity, saying, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” (Genesis 6:3)

Ultimately, God pronounced catastrophic judgment over mankind, but then He did a strange thing. He waited for 120 long years before bringing it to pass. Why?

Because the righteous character of God requires that He judge humanity in a certain manner. God actually begins by taking His hands off to allow the rebellion bound in the heart of man to run its course, so that it ripens for His just judgment.

The book of Romans begins with a fuller description of humanity’s moral slide in the pre-Flood days, and declares that in tracing it, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…” (Romans 1:18)

We learn that even though the human race had full knowledge of the incorruptible God and Creator, they lowered their concept of Him to their level, making idols of Him in the form of corruptible man and even of beasts and “creeping things.”

So the Spirit of the Lord stopped dealing with men’s conscience and left them to their own devices. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…” (Romans 1:24); “God gave them up to vile passions…” (v. 26); “God gave them over to a debased mind…” (v. 28).

Where did this take humanity? Men left the natural use of the woman and turned to homosexuality. Women began mating with the nephilim (fallen angels) and produced mutant offspring. This introduction of mutant genes threatened to alter the Adamic nature of man, and so God determined to wipe them all out and start over.

To do so, God found one man who had faith and was “perfect in his generations.” (Genesis 6:9). By this it means that Noah had a pure gene pool; his DNA code was still like Adam’s. And then God waited 120 years to unleash the Flood, allowing Noah time to finish the ark and thereby warn the world of impending judgment.

Hebrews 11:7 explains, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world…” Because God could find one man willing to walk uprightly before Him in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, everyone else had no excuse when the flood waters came. Noah showed it could be done, thereby condemning the rest!

Thus Paul poses this pertinent question of the pre-deluge world: “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…” (Romans 9:22)

In other words, He is longsuffering and actually withholds His judgment until humanity’s rebellion has run its course and ripened unto the just judgment of God. When He does finally show up, we are without excuse and deserve whatever we get.

Jesus also illustrates this principle in the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13. The servants want to immediately uproot the bad tares sown in with the good wheat, but the Lord of the harvest says to wait until they all ripen together, making it easier for the reapers (angels) to distinguish between the just and the unjust.

It is, therefore, in His forbearance and longsuffering that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.

So do we see signs of this moral slide of humanity today, as it was in the days of Noah? Alarmingly, yes! It is all around us.


Parallel plunge
I believe it started in the mid-to-late 1800s when we began adopting a perverted view of mankind and thus a distorted concept of God. Charles Darwin gets a lot of credit or grief – depending on your point of view – for giving us the theory of Evolution. But the truth is he never applied his notions of natural selection to the human race, only to the plant and animal kingdoms.

It was actually two German naturalists – Ernst Haeckel and Houston Stewart Chamberlain – who extended Darwin’s theory to humankind, contending we were no different than the animals, and thereby denying that we were created with a special dignity as beings made “in the image of God.” In so doing, they also began lowering our view of God our Maker.

Haeckel first theorized that the different human races did not all come from Adam but each had different origins. He even drew ‘scientific’ posters of black Africans sitting in trees with monkeys and apes to depict their lowly origins as an inferior race.

Chamberlain then came along and added the Jews to the inferior pool, while identifying the Aryan race as the pinnacle of our species. Chamberlain’s book outlining his racial theories, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, would later be adopted as the “gospel of the Nazi movement.” Driven by romanticized Teutonic legends, he even wed the daughter of notorious anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner.

The ‘fruit’ of these twisted racial theories includes not only Hitler’s genocidal campaign against European Jewry, but also our ‘humane’ medical practices of euthanasia and abortion. After all, we are no different than the animals.

So we see the similar development of distorted concepts of God and of man in modern times, as well as a repeat of the deviant sexual revolution which took place before the Flood. According to Romans, the widening acceptance of homosexuality in our day is actually a sign that God has let go of our collective conscience. This is where men turn when the Holy Spirit stops dealing with human hearts, and Paul maintained that we are just as guilty of these immoral acts if we “also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32)

We also are on the threshold of major genetic mutations to human nature. Modern bio-medicine is on the cusp of incredible breakthroughs, and promises accelerated healing processes and prolonged longevity like never before. This will be done largely by genetic manipulation and overriding the aging process, which is triggered by a built-in quota for cell division in our DNA code. Governments are investing billions in this human genetic research, and have no doubt that it is coming just as swiftly as the Internet age hit us only a few short years ago!

As humanity crosses these thresholds, the haunting question posed by Paul rings out: “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

That is, when we cross a line in our moral descent, and there is no immediate lightening from heaven or the earth does not swallow us up, we should not misread it as a stamp of God’s approval. He is letting us go our way, and we are actually storing up for ourselves in heaven the just punishment we deserve.” (Romans 2:5)


An earth in labor
So how do the earthquakes and other natural disasters play into this biblical scenario? The Apostle Paul addresses this as well, explaining that “Creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God… the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:18, 22)

You see, the Bible does describe the earth as having certain maternal instincts, and thus there is something to the notion of “Mother Nature.” But the Bible is also clear we are not to worship her; that the earth is part of Creation and we should worship God alone.

The earth itself has survival mechanisms that allow it to adapt to changing conditions, a fact which has been affirmed by science. But the earth also senses the increase in sin around it, that humanity’s rebellion is growing, and this it cannot handle. Thus nature is going haywire; it is travailing, like a woman in birth pangs. The extraordinary natural phenomena are yet another indication God has let go of mankind.

This means He is actually storing up His wrath, not doling it out with a hurricane here or a tremor there. No, when God judges something, it is beyond repair! The fact is, they are still looking for Sodom and Gomorrah!

Likewise, you do not rebuild New Orleans within two years after Hurricane Katrina and go back to the same old sins and vices if it was a true judgment of God. It was surely a divine warning, but not divine wrath. And that should be a chilling thought for us all.


An unmistakable sign
Yet God is also abundantly merciful and always gives clear warning before His wrath rains down. The ancient world had the sign of Noah’s faithful building of the ark. If there is a parallel to today, what is the clear warning signal that mirrors the ark in Noah’s day?

Jesus took the phrase “as in the days of Noah” straight from Isaiah 54:9, where God proclaims that the promised end-time restoration of Israel is “like the days of Noah to Me.” That is, it is a matter of sworn covenant to Him.

The Book of Psalms then announces that the greatest sign of the ‘end of days’ is the building up of Zion.

“For the Lord shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory… This will be written for the generation to come… (Psalm 102:16, 18). In the original Hebrew, this latter phrase literally means “for the last generation.”

Today, the restoration of Israel is the most unmistakable sign of coming judgment on the earth. It is a sign post which appears everywhere in Scripture, including the fact that nearly the whole world would resist the small nation of Israel in our day. Yet in the end, no one will be able to deny that we all had fair warning.

It is thus quite interesting to note that the Zionist movement was birthed in the late 1800s, right about the time humanity began our moral slide to oblivion by lowering the self-view of our origins and defying our Creator.

All this leads to the following conclusions:

1) We should all be preachers of righteousness, with a balanced message of the goodness and severity and ultimate justice of God.

2) We must all search our hearts and root out any rebellion against God, lest we too get swept downward with the rest of humanity.

3) We should all be actively involved in the building up of Zion. Don’t just profess a love for Israel, do something to make a difference in her future.

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Israeli Technology

Throughout world history, the Jewish people – even though small in number – have contributed much to humanity. It is the moral values of the Torah, especially the Ten Commandments, which still represents the foundation of most Western societies.

It was the revelation of the God of Israel as the Creator of the heavens and the earth which transformed entire nations even in the most remote parts of the earth.

Through the centuries great Jewish thinkers, artists and scientists contributed much to mankind. While the Jews make up only 0.25% of the world population, 25% of all Nobel laureates in Medicine, Chemistry, Physics and Peace were given in the past 100 years to Jews.

This great tradition is continued in the modern State of Israel. Israel is probably the only country which already had a world class university, scientific, medical and agricultural research institutes, and an internationally acclaimed symphony orchestra, all before the State of Israel was founded in 1948.

The agricultural development of Eretz Israel is historic. Today in any country where there is a desert region, the desert is increasing. Israel is the only nation where the desert area is consistently receding – even until today. No wonder that Israel is the only nation in the world which has more trees on its territory than 100 years ago. Therefore Israel’s agricultural know-how is exported and is making a significant contribution to many African countries and even to China. The Israeli patented “drip irrigation system” is used all over the world.

The scientific and technical achievements of the young nation of Israel are incredible. Today Israel’s technological products and advanced systems has become an integral part of the global high tech revolution. If you are among the 100 million users of ICQ to chat on-line with your friends around the world, you might not know that the software code for this ground-breaking utility was written by three young Israelis. If your computer uses a Pentium, Centrino or Quad Core Processor, they have been designed and developed in Israel.

Do you like to send SMS or Multimedia messages on your cell phone? You can do so thanks to technology developed in Israel. If you are in China and use the telephone, then your call and that of every other Chinese person is being routed through the Telecom DCME system which was developed by an Israeli Telecom company. Today many civilian airliners - including those which flew you into Israel - are being protected from ground launched terrorist attacks through a ground-breaking Israeli-developed surveillance software.

Did you know that the very first anti-virus software package was developed in Israel? And if your computer is protected today from hackers trying to penetrate your system, then you are most likely protected through a software code developed by the Israeli company “Check Point.”

If you happen to drive an S-class Mercedes, the Microprocessors which control all the vehicles electronics, are developed by a Tel Aviv-based high-tech company. And if you look in Copenhagen for a free parking space for your car, a monitoring system developed in Israel will direct you to the nearest free parking spot.

It is therefore no wonder that all prominent high-tech companies -  be it Microsoft, Motorola, Cisco, Intel, IBM and many others – have major research facilities in Israel. Kurt Hellstrom, President and CEO of Ericsson, a world leader in mobile systems, recently stated: “We must be in Israel today! It is an innovative and competent country. We are here to stay!”  

Israel’s achievements are literally out of this world, as Israel is one of only eight nations which have successfully launched its own satellites into space. It is today a senior partner in American and European space programs. The pictures you saw on your TV from NASA’s “Spirit Rover” on Mars could only be transmitted due to Israeli technology.

Today, Israel’s medical research has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Approximately one medical drug out of 15 which is being sold in the USA comes from an Israeli pharmaceutical company. Israel’s medical research teams have become world leaders in non-intrusive check-ups and operations and in medical NMR scanning equipment.

The medical research laboratories of the Haifa-based Technion and the Weizmann Institute are on the forefront of combating Alzheimer’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Highly trained medical doctors from Israel saved countless lives in government-sponsored overseas missions in Haiti, Japan, Turkey and in many African nations. Israel truly has become a light to the nations!

As the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and on behalf of millions of Christians from around the world, we salute you! We consider it a privilege to stand at your side in love, support and in friendship! Chag Sameach and God bless Israel!

‘Our minarets are our lances’

This article was published in the November 2010 (US) edition of the ICEJ's flagship magazine, Word from Jerusalem. It is reposted here due to the decision by Turkey to sever ties with Israel following the release of the United Nation's official report into the Gaza flotilla incident in September 2011.

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The ramifications of the recent Gaza flotilla incident are still unfolding. Yet it is already clear that Turkey’s government, in backing the flotilla organizers and lashing out at Israel’s interception of the hostile fleet, is steering that nation away from its alignment with Europe and the West back into the Islamic fold.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AP)This historic shift was foreseen by some long before the Gaza aid flotilla set sail from Istanbul. Germans in particular have been sensitive to signs of change due to their country’s long and unique relationship with Turkey going back to the Ottoman era and Germany’s alliance with Turkey in World War One.

In 2002, the German political analyst and writer Peter Scholl-Latour projected in his book “Allah’s Shadow over Atatürk” that secular Turkey might soon become a relic of the past. Fervent Islamic faith, he observed, was no longer the religion of a small, backwards-looking fringe group, but represented a burgeoning political movement. Today, it indeed has become mainstream in Turkish society, and the turn Eastward has been especially evident since Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose to power five years ago in the AKP faction which has governed Turkey for eight years now.

A decade ago, Erdogan first became popular nationwide while serving as mayor of Istanbul. He was sentenced to a 10-month prison term by the Kemalist generals because he had quoted from a Turkish poet during a campaign speech: “Our minarets are our lances, our cupolas are our helmets, our mosques are our barracks, our faithful are our army.” Western journalists criticized the verdict as arbitrary despotism. But the generals saw the secular character of their country threatened.

When Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey in 1923, he established a secular state inspired by the Swiss constitution. Islamic clergymen were not allowed to advance in the army, which safeguarded the secular nature of the state. In some ways, Muslim Turks living in Germany could express their faith even more freely than their compatriots back home.

Given this commitment to secularism and democracy, Turkey was a solid member of NATO and a promising aspirant to membership in the European Union. It had tried earnestly to secure its place within the European Union, mainly by adopting strict new economic guidelines demanded by Brussels. Yet as its application for EU membership was prolonged, Turkey began heading in the opposite direction, back towards its Islamic past, which included a 400-year era of Ottoman Turk dominance over the Arab/Muslim heartland.

Eurocrats turned a blind eye to this development, hoping the fruits of growing prosperity would make the Islamic yearnings dissipate. But by the time of the IDF incursion into Gaza in January 2009, Erdogan was more outraged at Israel than most Arab leaders, accusing Israeli President Shimon Peres in person of knowing “how to kill.”

In 2008, Erdogan had also stunned the German government during a state visit to Berlin. Addressing a crowd of some 20,000 Turks living in Germany, France and Belgium, some of them for three generations, he insisted, “Assimilation is a crime against humanity.” He challenged his compatriots to adhere to their Turkish and Islamic heritage. His German host, Chancellor Angela Merkel, was not pleased.

Recently, Erdogan’s colleague and foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, declared that Turkey is no longer content with its role as a bridge-builder between the Christian West and the Islamic East. Turkey, he demanded, needs to become again the center of gravity of the region. This harkened back to the nearly five centuries when the “High Porte” in Istanbul controlled a territory reaching from the Balkans down through most of the Middle East and as far as Morocco. The Ottoman Empire was not only a political entity, but its Caliphate served as the highest spiritual authority for most of the Islamic world.

Is Turkey intent on returning to those glorious Ottoman days? After the Gaza flotilla clash, it is clear that Israel and the West are confronting not just Iran but a resurgent Turkey. This represents a unique challenge to Europe, due to Turkey’s proximity and its economic integration with the EU. A leading German commentator also recently suggested that the millions of Turks living in Germany and Holland may one day prove to be a “fifth column” of a very ambitious Turkey.

Dr. Juergen Buehler serves as ICEJ interim Executive Director in Jerusalem.


WFJ NOV 2010, 90x100November 2010- Minarets & Lances

No longer content as a bridge-builder between Christian West and Islamic East, Turkey is beginning to turns from Europe and towards its Ottoman past..
Read more (pdf) »

 

Sinking Sand

There is not one part of the world today that is not in some kind of turmoil and upheaval. Europe has literally gone bankrupt and thus one EU country after the other has descended into financial chaos. More will follow!

America is drowning in debt and embroiled in two wars.

The Arab world is engulfed in riots and public protests as millions of people attempt to finally break free from the shackles of totalitarian dictatorships.

And Africa continues to struggle with poverty, war, famine and inept governments that cannot do what is right for their people.

Then there are the alarming images of London burning, as lawless youths rampage through its streets, breaking and burning everything in sight.

Even Israel has been beset by protesters who have decided that enough is enough in terms of the outrageously high costs of basic food and housing.

We could go on and on! Add to this picture the seemingly out of control natural elements that are ravaging almost every part of the globe at regular intervals. The picture is not a good one.

More sobering is the fact that much of the above is man-made! It did not have to be this way, but misguided socialist policies promising entitlements to all on an unprecedented scale have brought nations to their knees.

And this is just the beginning. The age old ideas of hard work, discipline and faithfulness have gone. Now everyone is a victim of his environment and deserves a ‘free ride’ in this world. Politicians, hungry for power, have recklessly promised these entitlements without ever thinking about the consequences and manner in which they can be paid for. Truly we are on sinking sand!

The chaos is everywhere and with it comes great risks! The nation of Germany taught us that out of such chaos a strong man arose in the 1930s, through a democratic process, who promised order, hope, prosperity and peace. He turned out to be a tyrant, without equal in human history, and in the end he destroyed 53 million lives. Could the global chaos facing the world today produce a similar “Mr. Fix It” who would become “Mr. Trouble”?

It is worth noting that we arrived on these treacherous sands because of inept leaders who are mere politicians and not real statesmen! In short, the world is crying out for a leader who will extract it from its ever growing woes.

Economic chaos and meltdown threaten everyone. Without a stable economic order, there can be no future for the average citizen. Thus economic stability is the major issue facing the world. In response, economists and politicians are beginning to call for a one world currency and a tighter form of global government. Just last year, the Russian president presented a global currency coin to the international community! This is serious business and we must not underestimate it. He was not playing.

On the other hand, the Bible warns that days of great shaking will beset the world, to remove the flimsy foundations upon which humanity has built its plans and systems. These shakings will also involve the natural elements, and all of this combined will produce such fears that men’s hearts will fail them! The Bible also warns that fierce times will come of unprecedented lawlessness. All of this comes because the world is burdened down with the weight of sin and rebellion against the God of Israel.

Of course, the whole notion of being accountable to God for our sins is scoffed at today. God is considered a myth, we are the masters of our own destiny, and we will prevail. I think not!

This same Bible also warns that out of world chaos a global leader will emerge who initially will achieve great success and thereby gain the allegiance of the fearful but unsuspecting masses. He will bring the world to ruin just as Hitler did. We would do well to place our feet upon the foundation of God’s Word and a personal relationship with Him. Anything short of this will leave us standing on sinking sand!

Rev. Hedding is vice chairman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; int.icej.org/

No ordinary fiefdom

As ancient Israel’s last Judge, there are some important lessons from the life and ministry of Samuel which are extremely relevant today as world leaders take their respective stands regarding the current heated battle over the restored nation of Israel.

The prophet Samuel is a remarkable biblical figure who oversaw Israel’s transition from a council of elders or “judges” to a kingdom ruled by a hereditary monarch. Until then, wise and anointed leaders were entrusted with overseeing the nation, which was set apart and “not reckoned among the nations,” according to Numbers 23:9. This was because God Himself was their King! Beginning with Moses, God had provided for the Israelites in the wilderness and led them into the Land of Canaan through Judges who could hear His voice.

This system of governance ‘peaked’ under Samuel, who presided over an era when Israel had almost possessed the land, were prevailing over the Philistines and other enemies, enjoyed harmony in the ranks, and recognized the prophetic voice to the nation. But as the prophet grew old and his sons lapsed into corruption, the people cried out for a king, like the surrounding nations. Primarily, they cried out for a commander to lead them into battle.

Surprisingly, God instructed Samuel to “heed the voice of the people, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7)  Yet the prophet must also give the Israelites a stern warning of the abuses they will suffer under self-indulgent kings. And they are immediately given a merciless example in the very flawed character of King Saul.

Now I believe Israel was destined to transition to a kingship, when the time and personalities were right. The prophet Balaam has foretold that, “His [Israel’s] king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.” (Numbers 24:7)

Israel’s lack of a king is also presented as undesirable in the account of an internal war against the Benjamites for raping a woman to death. This sordid tale concludes with the words: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

But more importantly, a kingly line was to prove necessary in order to pave the way for the promised Messiah – a coming Prophet, Priest and King all wrapped into one. The emergence of David as Saul’s successor was to provide a proto-type of this future Messiah. Indeed, King David’s reign remains the pinnacle of the ancient commonwealth of Israel, and the model to which many Jews still aspire today in their national life.

David was naturally gifted with skills and positive character traits which suited him well for this role. But he also was able to quickly learn vital lessons from the mistakes of Saul. There are too many to mention here, but one was that being king of Israel is not like being the king of any other nation. This was not his personal fiefdom, where the people would be subject to his every whim and fancy.

We see this at play in David’s decision to pour out the water from the well of Bethlehem which his most valiant men had risked their lives to collect just so he could satisfy an old craving from his youth (2 Samuel 23).

No, Israel was different from other nations! It was set apart! God’s “special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

And the king of this people had to realize that, which we see David do when receiving the promise of the Messianic line: “who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people…” (2 Samuel 7:23)

Today, the restored nation of Israel is internally in great need of such leadership. David was also flawed and so we should not expect perfection. But, oh, to have leaders willing to pour themselves out of all personal ambition and pride for the sake of steering Israel towards its prophetic destiny in God.

Externally, the world is in great need of leadership that also recognizes Israel is different, set apart; that this is no ordinary fiefdom which the world can kick around according to its whims and fancies.

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Making deals with God

Every passing day, more and more Christians around the world are discovering within themselves a growing love for Israel and a greater appreciation of God’s enduring election over the Jewish people.

Yet many in the growing Christian Zionist movement are no longer comfortable with all the popular ‘end-time’ charts which portray Israel as just another piece of the prophetic puzzle. Many charts have the Church escaping to heaven while Israel goes through hell. This just seems too impersonal, detached and contrary to their burning, heart-felt passion for Israel.

So rather than speculative charts about future events, many Christian Zionists are looking for a more solid biblical foundation which better expresses their zeal for the Israel of today. And they are finding it in the scriptural tenets of Covenant theology.

While some Christians take a very fatalistic approach to Bible prophecy and often focus too heavily on its dark side, Covenant theology is an uplifting view rooted in the very nature and character of God as eternally faithful to his sworn promises to Israel. It sees the great divine covenants with Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant as telling the story of God’s salvation plan for all humanity, with the Jewish people playing a central role – both in the past and the future. Indeed, the covenants “belong to” Israel, the Apostle Paul says in Romans 9:4.

Covenant theology holds that Israel’s journey down through time, until she reaches her ultimate destiny, is steered by the promises which God delivered by solemn oath to Abraham, Moses and David, culminating with the New Covenant (Hebrews 6:13-20). These covenants set out the terms and conditions for Israel’s relationship with God as His primary vehicle for world salvation – which pivoted around her eventual birthing of Jesus, the promised Messiah (Romans 9:5).

The Hebrew prophets then come along as “servants” of the covenants. They cannot go outside the covenant promises and provisions which God has already set out by sworn oath. But their prophetic utterances do tell us something about how God will keep His covenant promises to Israel. Thus interpreting Bible prophecy first requires that we understand the purposes, terms and conditions of the successive covenants with Israel. This is where many Dispensational interpretations go wrong.

Thus the modern-day restoration of Israel can and must be understood, first and foremost, as God being faithful to his covenant promise to Abraham to deliver the Land of Canaan as “an everlasting possession” to his natural descendants (Genesis 17:8). Furthermore, this restoration process will continue until God also fulfills the promises of the Davidic covenant that the Messiah will one day sit on the throne of David and rule the earth from a Jewish Jerusalem and a redeemed nation of Israel.

Such an approach is refreshingly focused on the positive side of Bible prophecy and it is built on solid theological grounds. No wonder Covenant theology is finding so many new Evangelical adherents.

Yet there are some ‘prosperity preachers’ out there who are latching on to the concept of divine covenant and trying to twist it for carnal purposes. They speak of making “salt covenants” with their supporters, and promote three-way contracts between you, their ministry and God which guarantee financial blessings in return for donations. In short, they think it is possible to just make deals with God.

This ignores the fact that any divine covenant is first birthed in the very heart of God, and then He finds a suitable human partner to receive the promises. We see this reflected in the Lord’s covenant with Noah, which originated “in His heart” (Genesis 8:21). One does not just decide to enter a contract with God; He carefully chooses the vessel to be entrusted with His sure promises.

Each of the divine covenants with Israel also had a unique purpose in furthering the redemptive plan of God. Christians can be third-party beneficiaries of those covenants, but we cannot just make our own separate deals.

In addition, the divine covenants of the Bible are largely unilateral. That is, God usually makes promises that only He can and will perform. Some conditions of performance are placed on the human partner(s), but the core obligations He reserves unto Himself.

This does not mean one cannot make vows before God. But if we do, the Bible is clear we better pay those vows.

Parsons is Media Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Days of Testing

The so called “Arab Spring” has steadily turned into the “Arab Winter” as democratic movements in the Middle East stall and are “hi-jacked” by militant Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the matrix of AL Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel. All of this was of course foreseen by Christians Zionists with discernment but our Western politicians were again oblivious to the dangers inherent in this movement. This coupled with a resurgence in global anti-Semitism and the weak response of the United Nations and the European Union to militant Islam has left Israel isolated and now even President Obama has left Israel dangerously exposed by affirming a return to the pre-war 1967 borders! Accordingly, the Palestinians are emboldened and are moving toward a unilateral declaration of independence through the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Even if the USA vetoes this declaration the psychological victory of a majority UN vote to declare Palestinian Statehood will be immense.

Sadly, for many in the West the Arab/Israeli conflict has become a huge irritant as it constantly defies resolution and frequently outwits the best trained political minds. Tony Blair for instance has been “on the job” for many years, since leaving office in the United Kingdom, but his efforts have yielded little or no progress at all. The same could be said for George Bush, Sarkosy of France and many more. Then major international players like the European Union, the United States of America and the United Nations have equally failed after launching numerous initiatives in this regard. The story goes on and on and the question we have to ask is why? The answer is really quite simple; they all refuse to take into consideration the radical Islamic doctrine that renders any notion of a non-Islamic state existing on land that once belonged to Islam as totally and completely unacceptable. This is precisely why the Charter of Hamas and that of the PLO call for the complete and utter destruction of Israel. This is precisely why Arafat could never close a deal and this is why protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo call for democratic freedoms and the removal of Israel in the same breath and, this is why Ahmadinejad of Iran routinely calls for the removal of Israel from the face of the earth. Sadly the Western politicians don’t get it because they are by and large ignorant of Islamic theology and incapable of believing that people can be committed to the destruction of another people in this way.

All this has birthed two things: One, Israel fatigue and two, a heightened sense of need for resolution attainment without reference to truth, fact, history and justice. In the minds of many politicians Israel is small, insignificant, has little oil and should make compromises to once and for all finish this business! Thus we now hear calls from Western Leaders for Israel to sit down and talk with Hamas. New attempts are being made to “recast” Hezbollah as an enlightened movement that can be engaged with and leftist groups “in bed” with radical Muslims are launching new “Flotillas” in order to challenge Israel’s sovereignty. Once again the Jews are the problem and if they go away the world will be at peace!! I think that we have heard all this before in a book called “Mein Kamph”. The world is facing a huge moral test and this just sixty-eight years after the Holocaust.  Time is running out!

The Bible is therefore right when it says that great darkness will cover the earth but true light will arise over Israel. (Isaiah60:1-3) This darkness is not the loss of the light of the sun or the gathering of a real dark cloud. No, it is moral and spiritual darkness that arises in men’s hearts. Having a long time ago abandoned the Bible and having abandoned the Judeo/Christian value system they have no moral compass by which to pilot themselves through a broken and sinful world. Darkness is the consequence and decisions consistent with this darkness will prevail. Sadly a small nation, yet again, puts the world to the test and once again the language of compromise is selling out a people whose existence is supernatural but whose story is filled with great sorrows. God as ever is watching!

We live in testing times in that the God of the Bible is indeed watching and though He knows that an ungodly world will go the way of rebellion against His purpose for Israel He expects His church to stand firm and support, bless and pray for Israel. Sadly, this is not a given today but there are many churches throughout the world and organizations like the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem which constitute a shining light of hope in this regard. May the Lord watch over us all and keep us near to His heart and may we pass the test before us in these dangerous times. He remains the guardian of Israel as He watches over her but He calls us into His purpose with Him. Who will hear the call?

 

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