by Dale Reeves
This past weekend our senior minister, Brad Wilson, continued our “Blessed” series by teaching on meekness, which means “strength under control.” The day before, on Saturday, we saw just the opposite of that dominate the global news, as Hamas launched a brutal surprise attack on Israel. We might call it “power out of control!” Hamas, formally known as the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” is an Islamist political and military organization currently governing in the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian territories. Hamas has vowed to annihilate Israel for years, and this past weekend, approximately 1,000 Hamas fighters stormed across the Israeli border by land and sea in an attack that caught Israel’s military off-guard. Hamas rejects proposals for a two-state solution and believes in the complete eradication of Israel through violent means.
To date, over 1,200 Israelis have been killed, and 2,900 others have been injured. The brutality of this attack has been pure evil, as the terrorists killed many young people at a music festival, targeted civilian sites, children, and the elderly. We’ve seen reports of innocent babies being beheaded, women being raped, and children being kidnapped. As of this Thursday, twenty-five U.S. citizens have been confirmed dead. The death toll continues to rise in Israel and the Gaza Strip, as missiles rain down and hostilities rage for a sixth day. Israeli airstrikes continue to pound Gaza in retaliation for the barbaric atrocities carried out by the Hamas terrorists. Israel has called up a record 360,000 reserve troops, and a ground invasion of Gaza is anticipated as Israel works to rescue hostages that Hamas is threatening to execute.
Beyond the obvious need for us as Christians to pray for all those who have been affected by this evil, for families who are grieving the loss of their children taken from them in such brutal ways and at such young ages, we must care about what is taking place in Israel because it matters a great deal to God. King David tells us, “He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps” (Psalm 121:4, NLT).
The Apple of His Eye
In a recent Christianity Today article, editor in chief Russell Moore tells us why we should stand with Israel: He says,
“There is no moral confusion here. Hamas—and its state sponsors—attacked innocent people, as they have done repeatedly in the past, this time employing a force and brutality previously unseen. . . . As Christians we should pay special attention to violence directed toward Israel—just as we would pay special attention to a violent attack on a member of our extended family. After all, we are grafted on to the promise made to Abraham (see Romans 11:17). Our Lord Jesus was and is a Jewish man from Galilee. Rage against the Jewish people is rage against him, and because we are in him, against us.”
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 11:17, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree” (NLT).
The very land that has been attacked is the land that God promised to Abraham and his descendants. In speaking to Abraham about the future for his descendants, God promised blessings on those who bless Israel and curses on those who curse her (see Genesis 12:3). We Gentiles who have been grafted into God’s chosen people must bless, not curse—Israel, whom God called “the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8).
The prophet Isaiah clearly describes God’s heart for Israel:
“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off’”(Isaiah 41:8, 9, ESV).
Praying for the Prince of Peace to Come
Though many in Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, when he came to his own, in the New Testament the apostle Paul shared how God still feels about the nation of Israel:
“Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law” (Romans 10:1-3, NLT).
If Paul is telling the church that his heart’s desire is to pray for Israel that they may be saved, that should clearly be our prayer for them also. We are instructed in Scripture to pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! ‘May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!’
For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good” (Psalm 122:6-9, ESV).
Based on the prophecy in Zechariah 14, many scholars believe that when Jesus returns, he is going to plant his feet down in the Mount of Olives and go through the Eastern Gate in Jerusalem, as he establishes his messianic kingdom that will usher in permanent peace. If you are a Christ follower, you should be eagerly awaiting his return and praying for the time when the Prince of Peace will reign in Jerusalem. You should also be praying for many Jews who have rejected Christ to recognize and confess Jesus as the true Messiah who came to save them—as Scripture foretells will happen for many in Israel.
Jerusalem literally means “foundation of peace.” Jerusalem is anything but peaceful right now, but the King of Peace is coming—perhaps sooner than anyone expects. Until then, let’s make sure we aren’t complaining or cursing about the bleak situations in our world, but rather speaking blessings whenever we can—and most importantly, praying for the peace of Jerusalem and for the King of Peace to come. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
“Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and cursed is everyone who curses you” (Number 24:9, NLT).