Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Israel, Gaza and the future ..."

As the events in Israel and Gaza continue, there are many who speculate concerning the outcome.  This morning there was word that there would be a ceasefire, but that did not materialize.  There is a lot of propaganda from the enemies of Israel that they want to stop the rockets and the fighting, but Israel will not agree to their demands.  That is because the demands of Hamas, the extreme terrorist group within the Gaza strip, would require Israel to basically surrender, without any assurance of security for those in southern Israel, or even Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Even then, it appears certain that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian government in Gaza would ever recognize Israel's right to even exist.

So how will all of this end?  While I cannot predict how the present conflict will proceed, the Word of God gives clear insight into the future.  To begin, it is important to understand the origin of the Palestinians as a people.  While there are some Palestinians who are Christians and undoubtedly many innocent Palestinian people who want only to live in peace and freedom, the fact is that the origin of the Palestinian people can be traced back to the Philistines who were enemies of Israel in the days of King David and even before.  So what does that have to do with today, thousands of years later?

The Jews living in Israel are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God promised Abraham that the land of Canaan (present-day Israel) would belong to him and to his descendants forever.  That promise was passed on to Abraham's son, Isaac, and to his son, Jacob.  Jacob's name was changed to Israel, and Jacob's twelve sons became the twelve "tribes" of Israel.  The history of this nation is found throughout the Old Testament Scriptures.  Even though the nation of Israel faced God's judgment and was dispersed throughout the nations of the world, the prophet Isaiah spoke about the future when he wrote, "Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such a thing?  Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?  Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children" (Isaiah 66:7-8).  On May 14th, 1948, Israel was reborn as a nation in the very land the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob promised to their descendants forever.  The next day, May 15th, the Arab nations surrounding them attacked and God miraculously delivered them.  The battle has raged on for more than sixty years.

The nation of Israel exists with Jerusalem as its capital because God said it would.  We are approaching the return of Jesus Christ and the Bible outlines the events leading up to and surrounding His return - and they ALL have to do with Israel.  There is not time here to go into these things.  I have just finished outlining a twelve-week sermon series on "the end." - the facts surrounding the return of Jesus Christ, that will begin on January 6th.  But let me share what God says in His Word about the future of Gaza and the Palestinians (Philistines).  Please remember that in spite of what many, even in the church today, proclaim, all those who do not acknowledge the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the only true God, and who do not confess their sins and confess Jesus Christ as Savior, believing that He paid the penalty for sin on the cross in their place  ...  all those who do not believe will face God's judgment when Jesus returns.  This is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news and why Christians proclaim this Gospel and God's offer of forgiveness to ALL people.

Here, then, is what God says about the future:

"Gaza will be abandoned and Ashkelon left in ruins.  At midday Ashdod will be emptied and Ekron uprooted.  Woe to you who live by the sea, O Kerethite people (those who lived in southern Judah and who settled along the Mediterranean Sea); the word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines.  I will destroy you and none will be left.  The land by the sea, where the Kerethites dwell, will be a place for shepherds and sheep pens.  It will belong to the remnant of the house of Judah; there they will find pasture.  In the evening they will lie down in the houses of Ashkelon.  The LORD their God will care for them; He will restore their fortunes" (Zephaniah 2:4-7).

The prophet Ezekiel also prophesies against Philistia in Ezekiel 25:15-17:  "This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  'Because the Philistines acted in vengeance and took revenge with malice in their hearts, and with ancient hostility sought to destroy Judah, therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Kerethites and destroy those remaining along the coast.  I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath.  Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I take vengeance on them.'"

God's Word is true.  Whether at the present time or in the near future, these things will take place.  Those who know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must rise up and speak truth, knowing that some may come to faith in Jesus as they hear God's offer of forgiveness and as they see these things unfolding just as God said they would.  These are crucial days in the history of mankind; days foretold by God through the prophets, through His Son Jesus Christ and the apostles in the New Testament.  Study these things and be ready for what lies ahead.  Share the truth with others and pray earnestly for those who do not yet know the truth, for God also promises that His Word "will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it"  (Isaiah 55:11).

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