We need to talk about the news
Hello dear friends…
I am sure you are, like me, reading and watching the terrible events in Israel and Gaza over this past week with great sadness. While it is not a comfortable topic, nor what any of us would prefer to be considering right now, there are profound biblical implications to what we are seeing in the news. Prophecies and teachings in the scriptures abound as it relates to coming events in Israel. As believers, we are called to pray God’s “Kingdom come, [God’s] will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We have a responsibility to understand these events, know what God’s Kingdom-will is, and then engage our prayer response accordingly. I’ll share more about this in “Deeper Thoughts” below…
But first, may I turn our attention to some more enjoyable matters before we go heavy??
· NEW Video Series! We have an exciting online video series that we will be releasing every Thursday night for the next many weeks. To reinforce what we are learning in our Spiritual Power Bootcamp, we will share a weekly video testimony on how individuals in our congregation approach prayer, spiritual power, and victory. Click here to check out this week’s video for a story of standing upon a promise from God!
· Spiritual Power Bootcamp, Thursday nights, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. We had 40 folks with us last night for a powerful time in the Word and discovery of spiritual victory. If you missed it but would still like to attend, click here to let me know. I can get you caught up and we can slip you into next week’s session. We have five more to go!
· Due to weather and other complications, tomorrow night’s Ladies Line-Dancing event has been cancelled.
· Fall Fellowship Dinner and “Stone Soup Dinner Theater”--Saturday, October 21, 5:00 – whenever! Join us for an amazing evening of fun, food, fellowship, and laughter as we come together as the family of Mt. Hope. Plan on sharing something from your life—a talent, artwork, hobby, or interest. AND…we need your help with potluck yummies to add to Chris Nicholson’s world-famous roast beef! Click here to sign up for what to bring… we especially need desserts and side dishes.
o An important note: Don’t be intimidated by the “talent show” dinner theater idea. Sure, if somebody wants to sing an opera aria, that's great. But really, we're just out to have a good time. Past acts in this great Mt. Hope tradition have included fun music, magic, juggling, poetry slamming, comedy, clogging, dramatic interpretation, and even a pair of three-year-old twins squeezing orange juice. Click here to email Kristie Zoller to talk about what you could share!
· Trunk or Treat--Sunday night, October 29, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.—Another great night out with the Mt. Hope family to share love, sugar, and entertainment with kids and local families. We still need some volunteers to help with decorating trunks to give out candy, run games, or help with set-up/clean-up. Click here to email Chris Bowen to get involved.
OK…that’s it today for you email skimmers and you who need to avert your eyes from such difficult news to our east. BUT…
Some Deeper Thoughts…
This is hard to talk about and even harder to watch.
There are a wide range of voices either decrying or defending various tactics and agendas on all sides of the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Much of the rhetoric we hear from our government, our media, and the global conversation is not new. Debate about the human welfare of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians; about the sovereign rights of the territories involved; about the freedoms and oppression of both Jews and Arabs; about the legitimacy and proportionality of combat or terror tactics used by either side; about the legitimacy of governments… none of this is new and has frankly been going on for decades--perhaps even centuries—as we understand the global history of the region.
As Christians, I believe there are three different divisions of thought that we must engage and educate ourselves to form a biblical worldview and a biblical, God-honoring response to these events.
First, we need to understand the global and historical nature of this conflict. It extends for centuries through the complex narrative of both the Jewish and Arab people. The history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all feed into this story. Anti-Semitism, oppression, persecution, wars, crusades, and atrocities have attended--and been wrought by—all three of these religions through the last 4,000+ years. Secular governments and humanistic prejudices have also played harshly into these stories.
Secondly, we need to understand the contemporary humanitarian and political landscape of the crisis. The factors creating the conflict are complex and complicated. There are, of course, specific realities inside these events that have no nuance whatsoever—for example, the beheading of infants has no moral equivalency or justification, certainly not from any biblical or moral worldview. Some matters are purely evil and flow from demonic sources. But other matters that feed the conflict are more nuanced in the heartaches of individual people, families, and communities involved.
For these first two segments of thought, I’ll leave that to others to explore in depth. But I would encourage you to do your homework. I’ll throw some links below my signature line that might be worth reading.
But the third area of thought--and I would argue the most important for us—is to consider the biblical and prophetic context of conflict in Israel.
Ultimately, this entire problem goes back to one dysfunctional family, a wrestling with God, sexual immorality, and the mistreatment of a young woman. Genesis 12 – 16 tells the story of Abraham, his wife Sarah, his illegitimate mistress Hagar who was later abused, and their children—Isaac and Ishmael. The Jews (and Jesus) descended from Isaac, the Arabs (and Mohammed) from Ishmael. And the wild dysfunction of this family has echoed ever since in the global, historic, and cataclysmic conflict between these peoples.
The prophecies of scripture unmistakably point to a global conflict in Israel as the climax of the human experience. Building towards the end of humanity is the devil’s hatred of God’s chosen people (the people of Israel: descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—see Genesis 12 – 32).
The oppression of the Jewish people began in Egypt in the 1400’s B.C. (see Exodus 1 – 12). They were engaged in much warfare as they later took possession of the Promised Land, often called Palestine in later centuries (see Joshua, Judges). They wavered in their faith, sinned, abandoned God, fell under judgement, and were ultimately carried into exile (see Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, and the prophetic books). They were restored to a tentative nation-status by the Persians, later the Greeks, and then Rome (see Nehemiah, Ezra).
Jesus was born from within God’s people to be their Messiah (see the Gospels and Hebrews). A Jewish Rabbi himself, Jesus railed against the corruption that had evolved in Judaism and he was ultimately crucified for it. Yet God still holds a tender place in His heart for the Jewish people (see Romans 11). And the devil holds an unending hatred. Armageddon will be the culmination of that demonic hatred, as the land of Israel and Palestine will be embroiled in an ultimate battle in which Jesus will return, bring the earth to an end, and create a new heaven and new earth for all eternity (see Revelation 19 – 22).
So, what do we do with all this? I’m going to devote our teaching time this Sunday to exploring the biblical narrative of Israel, God’s people, and how this all plays into the End Times. What is our part in this narrative? What should we be praying for? Watching for? Hoping for?
There is hope, and there also is a call for our godly response. Let’s go there on Sunday. If you’d like to do some advance reading, dig around 2 Peter 3, Romans 11, and 1 Thessalonians 4.
Let’s be the family of God this Sunday and pray for God’s Kingdom to come, His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Much love to you all…
Mt. Hope Pastor
PS… a few links you might want to explore on the subject… not a suggestion to adopt any viewpoints presented in these articles, but they offer a somewhat broad understanding of the contemporary forces at play:
History of antisemitism from the American Defamation League
20th Century antisemitism’s cause and effects from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Outline of Israel / Palestine conflict and U.S. policy from the Council on Foreign Relations
History of Palestine from Wikipedia
Timeline of Palestine and Palestinian people from Wikipedia
Some current American political responses to this crisis from Politico