Please note due to the CFI 30th Anniversary conference in Jerusalem and Israel tour, there will be no reports for the next three weeks. The next report will be out on 18th June.
“And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.” ‘Thus says the LORD GOD: “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God.” (Ezekiel 28:24-26)
Pointers for prayer: The more I study the world events, and the rise in anti-Semitism, along with the growth of Islam, the more I realise the need to depend upon, and saturate myself in the Word of God ~ the Bible. Without God’s Word to strengthen us, we will get sucked into a world of apathy, want and humanistic discourse. As we attempt to throw light on important issues relating to the nation of Israel, please continue to intercede in line with your Scriptures for the people and Nation of Israel. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day.”
Please continue to pray for the well-being and security of the nation of Israel. As troubles increase on Israel’s borders, pray that the LORD would shield the nation with His wall of fire. Pray too, that the whole of the Jewish nation would turn to the LORD God, and seek His council, and salvation.
Please continue to pray that the Word of God would reach the Palestinians and the Arab World. As Islam increases within our shores, pray that the Church would take every opportunity to reach out to the Muslim and to share the truth.
Do remember all who are involved with the ministry of Christian Friends of Israel. Pray that all the Staff, Area Reps, Trustees, Volunteers and Supporters in CFI UK and CFI Jerusalem would be greatly blessed and strengthened in this most important work. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary conference in Jerusalem, may the Lord God be greatly glorified in and through all that has gone before us, and all that is to come.
Troubled by the ‘pricking brier’
As I mention above, due to the CFI 30th Anniversary conference in Jerusalem at which I’ll be speaking, along with the Israel tour, there will be no reports for three weeks. The next report will be out on 18th June.
This week’s report is slightly different in that I felt the need to spend some time in reflection over the bigger picture within the Middle East, and hopefully we can use this for prayer purposes. Checking out an old commentary on Wesley’s Notes for the above Scripture of Ezekiel 28:24, I recently read, “By these two metaphors the prophet points out the troublesome neighbours of the Jews, such as Moab, Ammon, Edom, Tyre, and Zidon. This never had a full accomplishment yet. But it will, for the scripture cannot be broken.” Any gardener will know that to rid the land of weeds and thorns, much hard work is needed. Indeed, in Biblical times one of the main ways to get rid of the pricking brier or the painful thorns was to burn them out. Now before I get ‘hung, drawn and quartered’ by the ‘Politically Correct’ I’m not suggesting that by comparing the Islamic world as a ‘pricking brier’ that we should be praying that Islamic nations get ‘burnt up’. Rather, we need to have compassion on the lost and even pray for our (and Israel’s) Islamic neighbours. But without doubt, with the rise in hatred against Israel by these Islamic nations – especially Isis, Hamas and Hezbollah – these groups are indeed troublesome and painful briers. But where are the former areas known as Moab, Ammon, Edom etc.?
Jordan: The Bible makes no reference to a national entity by the name of Jordan, because the modern nation called Jordan is a relatively recent creation. The British and French victors of the First World War divided the Middle East as the spoils of the Ottoman Empire, which had sided with the Germans. By writing lines on maps, British and French diplomats created the ‘nations’ of Jordan, Iraq, Syria and others. The victors of World War 1 also set up Kings and Kingdoms. Arabia was once ruled by the royal Hashemite family, who claim direct descent to Mohammed and Fatimah. But the Hashemite’s were driven out of Arabia by the now ruling Saud family. The British allotted the rule over the newly created nation – ‘Jordan’- to the Hashemite’s who rule over it to this day. Biblically that land is known as Ammon, Moab and Edom, and is of great significance in Bible prophecy.
Many ‘thorns and painful briers:’ I remember back in 2006 reading a quote from Iran’s President at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who told his American counterpart George W. Bush, “The whole world is moving towards Allah. Would your Excellency not wish to join?” The Prophet Muhammad initiated the practice of writing letters to the rulers of the world offering them a secure place in paradise by converting to Islam or otherwise “cling to your beliefs and face the sword of Islam.” Many Islamic leaders have done the same throughout history before declaring war on the ‘infidels.’ This is exactly what ISIS are attempting to carry out today. President Ahmadinejad might have stepped down in Iran, but there are many ‘thorns and painful briers’ willing to fight the same Islamic war.
Sometime ago, I was rather rudely interrupted during one of my teaching sessions at an engagement by a Church Minister who strongly disagreed with my stance on the current Islamic threat by Isis, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood etc. to the world and the problems of Church history. I stated something like, “the Islamic world believes that God has finished with both the Jewish people and the Christian Church due to their sinful behaviour, and that now the only way forward is to embrace Islam”, to which I suffered the ranting of one man’s disagreement. It’s not often I get heckled during my ‘talks’ but I don’t really mind ~ it keeps one sharp! Following this, I was sarcastically spoken to by a gentleman from a church I’d been teaching in, who claimed, “you must be one of those people who think Islam is a threat to world peace, and believes the Jews have a God given right to Palestine!” Needless to say, he wasn’t too impressed when I calmly answered, “yes, of course“. I did however, go on to clarify what I meant by that.
In Isaiah 59:14-15, we read, ‘Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.’ But what is the truth regarding the Islamic world? Well, it would all depend on which nation you live in. One Muslim within the UK recently wrote, “One of the recurring themes of Islamophobia is the idea that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim or that there are as many and varied strands of thinking amongst Muslims as there is with the rest of humanity. The mere fact of being a Muslim is enough to make you a supporter of suicide bombings, an anti-Semite, a threat to ‘Western Civilisation’ and of course a potential terrorist. When the racists and Islamophobia’s come across Muslims who are not sword wielding Mad Mullahs out to establish a world caliphate their reaction is not to temper and refine their own views but instead to attack, smear, denigrate and falsify in order to portray their target as being a reflection of their own caricature of Muslims”. Has he got a point? Yes he probably has – especially in the Western world – although even here, there have been many examples of extremist behaviour. But what of the rest of the world? As Myles & Katharine Weiss of Zola Levitt Ministries recently stated in their June 2015 newsletter, “There are more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Many people estimate that only 10–15% of Islamic adherents are “radicalized.” Yet, 10–15% of 1.6 billion still represents a huge number of adversaries—160 million. Too many of these so-called radicals are actually the true followers of Islam as practiced by Mohammed and his early followers.”
And yet if we turn the focus around, 160 million out of 1.6 billion doesn’t seem too bad, as presumably the rest are moderates, right? However, when the world declares that Abbas is a moderate, should we be worried? And are we really getting the truth from their leader’s lips anyway?
Fatah: While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) takes on the position of ‘moderate’ when speaking in English, his words to audiences at home in Arabic present a completely different picture. According to many sources Abbas has referred to Arab terrorists serving “tens of life sentences” in Israeli jails as “our heroes.” The terrorists referred to are actually arch-terrorists who have personally killed tens of Israelis and are sentenced to one life sentence for each murder. Speaking on Palestinian Authority TV Mahmoud Abbas regularly expresses his satisfaction with the initiative of those he called “our brothers, our jailed heroes… [their] initiative proves that these heroes, who are sentenced to tens of life sentences, feel too that the homeland [Israel – or in the PA’s opinion, Palestine] is in danger…” Noting that he calls for an Arab state on ‘all territories occupied in 1967,’ Abbas states, “We must stop dreaming and accept what we can take now. Let us not speak of dreams. Let us take the Palestinian state on the ’67 borders.” It is clear that Abbas rejects terror for tactical reasons only, and not because it is immoral… Abbas has always been careful, in Arabic, not to condemn terror because it is evil or immoral. He has criticized suicide terror only because it hurts the PA cause.
Hamas: Then of course there is Hamas. This offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood emerged in the Gaza Strip in the late 1980s during the first Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israel. The group’s ideology blends Islamism and Palestinian nationalism and seeks the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Hamas has maintained its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, but also receives financial and military support from Iran, which supports Hamas’s intention to destroy Israel. In recent years, Qatar has also provided significant funding for the group. Like its parent organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas strives to create an Islamist state based on the principles of sharia (Islamic law). Hamas views the entirety of the land of Mandate Palestine – excluding the 80 percent of Palestine that became modern-day Jordan – as an Islamic birthright that has been usurped. To that end, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has dedicated itself to violently seeking Israel’s destruction. Hamas’s slogan, spelled out in Article 8 of the organisation’s 1988 charter, sums up the terror group’s belief system: “Allah is our target, the Prophet is our model, the Koran our constitution: Jihad is our path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of our wishes.”
ISIS: ISIS is the latest group, however they appear more a threat to other Muslims, and specifically Christians than they do to Israel. Even so, although Egyptian cleric Sheik Dr. Ahmad Al-Naqib recently criticised ISIS, he did go on to say that, “there is no doubt that they [ISIS] are much better than the criminal Rafidites [i.e., Shi’ites], who kill the Sunnis because of their Sunni identity.” So in Al-Naqib’s opinion, ISIS are better than the Shi’ites! (See the film clip by Memri here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryCi_IeUgCs ).
Hezbollah: Then there is Hezbollah – now once again fully armed – who are supported by Iran. The Syrian war has of course been a strain on both Iran and Hezbollah. Tehran has spent billions supporting Assad economically and militarily. Hezbollah, with a fighting force estimated to number many thousands, has been burying a steady flow of fighters killed in Syria. When Lebanon’s Hezbollah first joined Syria’s war on the side of President Bashar Al-Assad, its role was a closely guarded secret. Today, as Hezbollah plants its flag in land won from rebels north of Damascus, its role could hardly be more public. And for Syria’s increasingly embattled president, Hezbollah’s help is more critical than ever. In the last week, the Iranian-backed guerrilla group has unleashed its powerful arsenal to drive insurgents from wide areas of the Qalamoun mountain range, a short drive from Assad’s seat of power in Damascus. However, Hezbollah could at any time refocus its military sights back on Israel – if it ever took its sights of them in the first place.
Iran: And of course there is Iran herself, still dismissing the world’s call to stop their nuclear plans, and who will soon receive a delivery of Russian-made S-300 air defence missile systems. The Iranian deputy foreign minister announced this week, “The negotiations on the subject have ended in success. I estimate that the S-300 delivery will take place in quite a short time,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying by AFP after a Monday meeting with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow. “It will be done at the soonest opportunity possible,” the Iranian official noted.
I’m aware that I’m constantly painting a rather dark picture of the problems within the Middle East, and I certainly don’t want to exaggerate the situation, but certainly there remains, as Ezekiel calls it, ‘a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them.’
Regarding the nation of Israel and the threat of Islamic control, the threats are a real concern. Without doubt there is still much need for Christians who are called to be ‘Watchmen’ to intercede day and night for the people and nation of Israel. And yet, we still need to remember the Word of God, and stand on what the Scriptures promise.
Sometimes God allows us to make a mess ~ He allows us to go through temptations, afflictions etc., but God works through these things, and expects us to come back to Him. God rescued Israel time after time, despite their disobedience [and still does ~ see Ezekiel 36]. God rescued Israel from Egypt… He rescued them from many of their enemies throughout Scripture… despite the fact the six millions Jews perished in the Holocaust, God rescued Israel from the ashes of Nazi Europe, and the nation of Israel was re-established. The Word of God declares in Ezekiel 28, ‘And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them…’ Without a shadow of a doubt, the Islamic nations surrounding Israel (and remember the Middle East is made up of 99.9% Muslim countries) despise Israel. However, God will once again rescue the Nation of Israel out of their enemy’s hands. Indeed, He will even rescue them out of unbelief and humanism ~ yes, He will rescue them from themselves, and finally enable the nation to turn to Him, the LORD God of Israel. In the meantime, we need to allow God’s grace to work through us, and keep interceding. Ultimately though, Israel should not be looking to anyone other than the LORD God Himself for their survival, and to the One who brought them into being (They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. Jeremiah 31:9).
Finally… CFI conference, Jerusalem.
On behalf of Ray & Sharon Sanders, Kevin & Stacey Howard, Jacob & Ellen Vince and Julia and I – along with all the CFI staff in Jerusalem and the UK – we would really value your prayer support during the upcoming CFI 30th Anniversary and Tour. Julia and I travel with Jacob and Ellen on Sunday May 31 to Israel and I will be speaking at the conference on Tuesday June 2nd. Julia meanwhile will have to travel with her crutches and foot bandaged after her four operations in her right foot. Do pray for all the travel and conference plans, and we would ask for safety and an outpouring of the Lord’s mighty blessings on all who are involved. We do appreciate your prayer and support – without which, we simply wouldn’t function. Thank you.
(Middle East News Report Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio