Oh, the suffering, the homelessness amid the cold, winter winds--the hopelessness amid the crumbling of structures and the loss of all possessions which the Syrian War is generating.
Recall the aria in Handel’s “Messiah” where the Lord says He will shake all nations…shake: “And I will shake….And I will shake….”
Syria is shaking with destruction and grief. It is being shredded into little pieces.
About 4 million Syrians cower together in desperate, homeless, winter conditions in rebel-held territory. Bashar Assad’s fully-armed forces are backed up by Russian air power ready to destroy them. This in freezing temperatures, crowded against the Turkish border.
This is the climax of the 9-year civil war with more than 400,000 dead, 5.6 million international refugees and 6.2 million people displaced within its borders. (Reported by The Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead, 2/24/2020. The Jerusalem Post says that this war has seen 10 million people driven from their homes. (J. Post, 2/14-20, 2020, p. 15)
Assistance from international agencies and the United Nations is nowhere nearly enough to prevent further devastation. The U. N. agency describes the refugee camp in Idlib Province as the world’s largest.
And this crisis in Northwest Syria is intensifying by the day. The U. N. and other aid agencies are doing their best to deliver necessary aid, but they can’t keep up with the growing mass of refugees. In Idlib Province, the last rebel stronghold, some people are using bags of clothing as fuel to warm their shelters.
In Southern Syria, other nations are operating to gain power and position in order to blast Israel with drones and rockets.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that President Erdogan of Turkey whose country is sheltering nearly 4 million Syrian refugees is threatening to march over the border and attack the loyal Syrian army. If Assad continues to march north to the border, the war would become international and the devastation would be even more widespread.
But Assad is not giving up. He is determined to retake every inch of Syrian soil and is directing his militias to move into Idlib Province (Northwest Syria) assisted by Russian airstrikes where millions are amassed in the cold.
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QUESTION: What has gone wrong with this nation of Syria? We know how stubborn the Assad’s have been. But is there something that has happened under the surface—something not recognized by the news agencies and foreign policy wonks?
CONSIDER: Those familiar with the prophets in the Tenakh (the Old Testament) understand that God Himself punished foreign nations that laid their hands on Israel unless God Himself had provoked them to do it as Israel’s punishment for their wickedness. For example, Edom repeatedly harassed Israel during its history. Many of the Edomites actually came into Israel as the Babylonians were destroying everything in their reach in Israel….and laughed, danced in the streets and yelled obscenities.
Syria is not Edom, but the story is similar. Syria has been a perennial enemy of modern Israel, aligning itself with whoever it could to harass her and seriously attempt to destroy her.
Syria is severely anti-Semitic.
Let’s go back to the first partition of Palestine in 1936 when the British were attempting to quiet the local, rioting Arabs in Palestine. The British Commission thought they’d appease the Arabs by allotting Israel only a tiny portion of Palestine. When the Arabs (Palestinians) turned it down, that wasn’t the only sign of rejection. In Aden, Syria, for example, 76 Jews were killed. In Aleppo, Syria, 300 Jewish homes and 11 synagogues were burned to the ground, and half the Jewish population of 4,000 fled the city.
This was the most violent reaction of any Near Eastern (Middle Eastern) city in reacting to a little slice of land going to the Jews.
Syria gained its full independence from France in 1945. Without French authorities to stop them, they immediately began to harass its Jewish residents. The civil service and banks evicted their Jewish employees. Mobs were formed and rioting began against Jewish homes and businesses. Professional licenses up for renewal were refused to doctors and lawyers. Jewish neighborhoods were subject to curfews. Jewish accounts were frozen.
When Israel gained her independence a couple years later, this is what happened in Syria: the Jews living there were beaten, some murdered, their homes looted, their institutions were closed and their holy books destroyed.
When Syrian Jews planned to emigrate, they couldn’t sell their land and liquidate their property. Rioting in city neighborhoods resembled the Russian pogroms of the early 20 century. Those who robbed, beat or otherwise harassed the Jews were not subject to arrest or fines. An economic boycott was slapped on Jewish businesses. Thus, many Jews became destitute.
The Jews who tried to escape the country were usually caught, imprisoned and would often be tortured. The secret police, the Muhabarat, had a special section dealing only with the Jews. Most Jewish worship services had one Muhabarat in attendance.
NOTE: There in Syria many of the Jews could trace their roots to their ancestors who settled there after the Babylonian captivity of the 6th century B. C.
During the brief history of the Israeli nation, Syria was strongly in favor of any war against Israel and has been one of the sharpest goads of any of her neighbors to instigate war. During the lead-up to the Six-Day War, Bashar al-Assad took it upon himself to prod President Nasser of Egypt to “get on with it”—with declaring war on Israel and driving them into the sea. (Mediterranean)
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CONSIDER: The prophets on this issue of anti-Israel activity.
In Ezekiel chapter 25: "Because Edom acted revengefully against the house of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance on them….I will stretch my hand against Edom and cut it off from man and beast, and I will make it desolate…”
CONSIDER FURTHER BACK: The Call of Abraham.
In Genesis chapter 12: "Now the Lord said to Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and those who dishonor you, I will curse.”
And therefore, when we look at the shaking and crushing of Syria today, we must look at this sordid and hateful history in relation to Chosen Israel. It seems that the Lord of the nations and the God of Chosen Israel is acting to honor His covenant with Israel and bring judgment on those who despise Him.
What do you think?
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
The worship of Idols was the prevailing sin of ancient Israel. It is no different today if one sees idolatry as it really is—a substitute for the Living God.
Naturally, when homage to the true God is rejected or neglected, a substitute will arise in the vacuum. The substitute for the true God is an idol. And an idol is a fraud. And fraud involves trickery.
A voice on the bare heights is heard:
The plaintive weeping of Israel’s children,
Because they have perverted their way,
They have forgotten the Lord their God.”
- Jeremiah 3:21 (NRSV)
It is sad to see and know those who live their whole lives for their own material success; for when they leave this world, they are nothing, have nothing and leave nothing of worth to their posterity except money and material possessions.
Vanity of vanities…
MOURN WITH ME
Many American Jews today are not truly Jewish. They have not taken that narrow way of identifying with the Covenant People of the Law. They pick and choose the things they agree to in their observances.
Most of them have largely assimilated into the secular culture. They easily meld. Most do not talk at all about religious experience. They get nervous when discussing America's religious moorings. America has given them the option of disconnecting from their Judaism of the past and giving only a tip of the hat to the Judaism of today.
The Old Testament prophets bewailed such a situation:
Israel is swallowed up;
now they are among the nations
as a useless vessel…
-- Hosea 8:8 (NRSV)
American Jews today are increasingly saying “no” to Judaism and Jewishness. In a survey six years ago 32 percent of Jews born after 1980 defined themselves as “Jews of no religion,” compared with on only 7 percent born in 1914-27. Today, it would be even more.
SO MOURN WITH ME
Young American Jews have a 70 percent rate of intermarriage with Gentiles. And they care nothing about belonging to a Jewish community.
American Judaism has become much less God-centered and more people-centered, according to Rabbi Mark Golub.
Jewish scholars acknowledge this. Yossi Klein Halevi of Shalem Institute in Jerusalem predicts that “Fifty years from now, the Jews will either become a God-centered people again or Judaism will be a dying faith….The God-centered faith of the Jewish past has scarcely survived the combined onslaught of the European Enlightenment, the Holocaust, Americanization, Soviet Communism, and secular Zionism. Today Jewishness is about peoplehood, ritual observance, Torah study, Zionism, defense against anti-Semitism--everything but God. Each of those facets of contemporary Jewish life is worthy in itself. None of them…necessarily involves a conscious relationship with God.” (Commentary, November 2015, p. 35.) This is particularly true of American Jews.
Jonathan Sacks, well-known as the chief rabbi of the British Hebrew congregations: “Today Jews have overachieved in every field except Judaism.” Commentary, Nov. 2015, p. 61.
MOURN WITH ME
Is it wrong to accuse many of them of making Material Possessions their gods?.... houses, lands, automobiles, art, etc., and positions deserving of public respect? Are not political, educational and corporate positions a substitute for a covenant relationship with God?
Jews who only casually cling to their religion as a power that holds together and gives a bit of meaning to their existence—they will have to go deeper and ask themselves: “Is this belief and this ethical tradition (e. g. the Ten Commandments and Torah)—is this all just legendary, or is it based on solid ground?" They will have to take it seriously enough to study it.
Up to the present, most American Jews feel comfortable with secularism. They despise the constraints that they see in their Orthodox Jewish brethren and that which committed Christians live with….and they want nothing to do with them. Their comedians are amoral and many of their business people, too. They have an aversion to talk about prayer, faith and the religious life. I understand that and still feel compassion.
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I learned to know an older Jewish man in Sun City through a group fishing experience, and we became friends. At lunch one day he told me of his episodes with lymphoma. In one of his first episodes with the disease, he was lying in an Episcopalian hospital in Austin. The crucifix was on the opposite wall at which he stared all day. He finally blurted out his anguish (to Jesus) with the request: “Well, if you’re so good, why don’t you do something for me?”
There at lunch with scripture in front of me, I asked him, “Well, you did recover, didn’t you? Did you ever give thanks to Jesus for your renewed health?” He didn’t answer. I pressed him: “Didn’t you thank God?” (I wasn’t easy on him.) And he just laughed. He would revert to laughter or divert the discussion to other questions. He was funny. But he never gave thanks. His life was making money. Down to the very last days of his life he was working in real estate—buying and selling houses—buying, maintaining and selling. And then the lymphoma finally took him. AND I MOURNED.
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The prophet Isaiah speaks to Israel’s God:
“Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
In our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon your name--
Who rouses himself to take hold of you;
For you have hidden your face from us,
And have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.”
-- Isaiah 64:5-7 (ESV)
MOURN WITH ME
The life of Jesus occurred at a time of expectation: the Jews expected that soon God would free them from the rule of empires. “Free us from our enemies,” was the typical prayer.
So this was the expectation. But Jesus, instead of describing their freedom, forecasted a disaster. Jerusalem would be destroyed, and all Jews would have to escape on their own. And once again, they would be taken captive!
Said He: “They [the Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24 ESV)
Whoa! Not again!
The Jews were sick and tired of being under the heavy fist of foreign powers in their homeland.
But here Jesus was forecasting Jerusalem’s continuation under the heavy-handed rule of Rome and other Gentile nations.
And oh, another exile from their sacred land? Yes, yes, yes! “And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be held captive among all nations….” Yes, they would be expelled from Jerusalem and Judea and escape to other parts of the Middle East (Near East) and many eventually be scattered to all parts of the earth.
This came to pass--first in the complete and horrendous destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. and then in a final and extreme manner in 132 A. D.
The temple was destroyed in the first war with the Romans in 70 A. D., after which the city was completely cleared of all Jews in the second war.
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Then came “the times of the Gentiles.” Jerusalem and its environs would be trampled underfoot by the Gentile nations, as Jesus put it. And Jerusalem, for most of that time, would be a “nothing city.”
REPEAT: During this “times of the Gentiles,”—for 2,000 years--the Jews would be captive, living in all parts of the world-- “captive among all nations.” Plus, the Gentile nations would be controlling Jerusalem.
And that’s been the situation from 70 A. D. until recently. (There were exceptions to being held “captive.” In modern Europe and America, some Jews were given “emancipation.”
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Then the transition: that exile and that captivity and that Gentile control of Jerusalem would continue “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Dear reader: that is the time that we are entering in these day….NOW! The times of the Gentiles are in the process are being fulfilled. Gentile empires are now releasing control of the Promised Land.
-- Great Britain released control in 1947-1948.
-- At the present time, being the friends of Israel, America has indirect control. Note what nation in the United Nations votes on the side of Israel—America. Sometimes the ONLY nation that votes NO on the Security Council’s moves to blame Israel, is America--vetoing resolutions that are unfairly critical of Israel.
But increasingly, the Israelis realize that they cannot rely upon the U. S. forever, because lately part of the American electorate does not view Israel as a good ally. Thus, Israel knows that it may soon have to stand alone among the nations.
-- Thus…thus my dear readers, we are now living in the times when the “times of the Gentiles” are just about over. Israel may soon be on her own. The Gentile powers will release their authority (what Great Britain had) and control (what America has had and is releasing; for…the times of the Gentiles are close to being at their end.
-- For now, Israel has it good: the Trump Administration now recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the other hand, the Trump Administration is bent upon getting out of the messy Middle East.
-- But reading reports of Israel’s military readiness, I believe that Israel is almost on a par now with the United States in the development of advanced weaponry and defensive warfare.
The Jews do not control all their land yet. But….note this:
It hasn’t been but a year or so, since the two-state solution was the ONLY solution being talked about by most diplomats and interested people. EVERYONE with few exceptions believed that in the peace talks, Israel would have to give up a considerable amount of land. That is no longer the case.
NOW we hear that Prime Minister Netanyahu is consulting with his cabinet about how to proceed with annexing sections of Judea and Galilee.
WHO OWNS JUDEA AND SAMARIA NOW? These areas are called “Israeli-Occupied Territories,” or “disputed territories,” even though the League of Nations Palestine Mandate designated this as the homeland of the Jews, later to be assumed by the United Nations in 1948.
Today, most land in Judea and Samaria is not privately owned, but is unsurveyed and without proven ownership. But for settlement purposes, there are three areas—A, B, and C, and only Area C is opened by the Israeli government for Jewish residences.
SO NOTE: Two statements summarize the modern fulfillment of this prophecy:
I. SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE HOLY LAND IS STEP-BY-STEP BEING TRANSFERRED BACK TO ITS ANCIENT OWNERS—THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
II. THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES ARE WANING.
Europe’s empires have had their day. And what about America? America is declining, not in real obvious ways, but in culture, in religion and in law we are going the way of Europe. We are becoming increasingly decadent and self-absorbed. That does not bode well for world leadership. And America is vulnerable.
It seems like the “Times of the Gentiles” has neared its end. Jerusalem is the city of the future-- not Rome, or Brussels, or Washington, D. C. or Moscow.
Jerusalem, once encircled by the Roman army and destroyed by it, is now a magnet to which Jews and righteous people are drawn.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May they prosper who love you.” (Ps. 122:6)
And…it is the earthly Jerusalem that betokens the heavenly Jerusalem where lives the “assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” and Jesus “the mediator of a new covenant.” (Hebrews 12) Believe it! And believe Him!
ONE MORE THING: Further down in Chapter 21 of Luke’s Gospel, we read this statement of Jesus’ prophecy:
“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (21:28 ESV)
The Trump Administration Peace Plan: “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People.”
The newest and best of all Middle East plans is out. It’s different.
It outlines the details of a program to facilitate the inauguration of a new “State of Palestine,” a title referred to a total of 1397 times in the 180 page document.
It pledges all kind of benefits to the Palestinians, monetary and new development.
Some “Peace to Prosperity” Vision Particulars:
1. Estimates that its participation could double the Gross Domestic Product of the Palestinians State to “double in 10 years, create over 1 million new jobs, reduce the unemployment rate below 10 per cent and reduce the poverty rate by 50 per cent.
2. The plan calls for the establishment of a “Dead Sea Resort Area,’ demanding that Israel allow Palestine to develop it to the north of the Dead Sea.
3. We are familiar with such benefits. They have been offered in other forms in other offers. They are outlined in all the Peace Process offers and in some of those that have become signed agreements. Those benefits are made up of land, economic incentives--over $50 billion in new investment over ten years.
To receive the benefits, the Palestinians “shall have implemented a governing system with a constitution or another system for establishing the rule of law that provides for the freedom of the press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights, protections for religious freedom….due process under the law and an independent judiciary….”
If only the Palestinians will behave themselves….if they become de-militarized, renounce ownership in and refrain from developing military, paramilitary or electronic warfare capabilities, this plan can be put in place. Though the police force will be armed, Hamas in Gaza and militias in Gaza must be disarmed and fully de-militarized. Likewise, the population shall be fully de-militarized.
All Israeli captives and remains must be returned. The State of Palestine must refrain from attempting to join any international organization without the consent of the State of Israel. The State of Palestine must take no action against the State of Israel or the United States before the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice.
The day following the release of the Trump Administration Peace Plan, the Palestinians responded by rejecting it as "The Apartheid Peace Plan."
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Time after time during the during the Madrid and Oslo Peace Process talks, there were great expectations; and the great one was this: that Yassir Arafat would tone down his rhetoric and encourage his henchmen to cooperate to co-exist with Israel. Time after time, Arafat disappointed them.
In all of this, officials from America and Europe and from the liberal/Labour parties in Israel believed. Yes, they firmly believed that the talks, especially Oslo, would be successful….that the incentives would be gladly received by the Palestinians and Arabs for their economic benefits.
The agreements would improve relations and lead to peaceful coexistence…and then that peace would allay Israel’s fears—fears that required a fence and defensible borders. Improving the economic conditions of the Palestinians would then encourage them to come to reject their terrorist activities and gradually become partners in constructive regional projects. Ah yes! How fine these hopes! In the 1990’s, it was Shimon Peres, Israel’s President (not prime minister) who authored the book The New Middle East. The reconciliation between Israel and all her neighbors and the Palestinians was a sure thing, wrote Perez. It was “the irresistible direction of history.” (Levin, The Oslo Syndrome, p. 334)
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It is often true that when human plans come to nothing, it is God Himself Who is conspiring to bring about the failure. He is there, botching things up.
Let’s examine that.
We may be trying to make friends out of enemies—a noble thing, especially when Jesus gives us the command to “love your enemies.” But is this applicable in this instance?
God is in a covenant/marriage with His Chosen People. How can this covenant be renewed? The Chosen must become aware of and acknowledge their unfaithfulness to their husband-God. If these Chosen Ones become too close to other peoples, God, the husband-God, will lose them before the covenant is even renewed. His Chosen will become intertwined with other peoples and intermarry. And literally, that is what is happening to American Jews. They have forgotten God; and their numbers are being reduced through intermarriage. That must not happen in Zion with the Jews who have returned. The warmth of friendship must not develop between the Jews and the Muslim Arabs. So…I, Quinton Everest, believe this:
A stubborn, evil attitude has been inserted into the hearts of the neighbors of Israel—an enmity strong and fierce as well as long lasting--an enmity which will not be removed by angling concrete benefits in front of them. Think. Think of Israel's past: the hardening of Pharoah's heart is just one example.
Most people will ask: “How can Israel continue to exist while having to tolerate such hateful neighbors--neighbors who use “Jew” as a curse word and train their children to believe that Jews are direct descendants of pigs and apes and train them to become suicide bombers?”
But, I now ask: “HOW COULD ISRAEL CONTINUE TO EXIST IF THEIR NEIGHBORS WERE FAIR AND FRIENDLY?" With the exception of the Orthodox Jews, there would come…INTERMINGLING AND INTERMARRIAGE and—the loss of separateness, distinctiveness and devotion to the Torah!
When the ancient Hebrews went into the Promised Land, they were commanded to renounce the ways of the peoples around them, to break down their altars, make no treaty with them and not intermarry (Deuteronomy 7:5). I posit then that the enmity of Israel's enemies is doing a service to Israel and to her covenant with God the Lord. Israel's enemies are one force among others making Israel to eventually be separated unto the Lord, preventing them from taking on the ways of their neighbors and from marrying the beautiful women of the Arab lands.
What do you think?
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.
The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people
for his treasured possession.” (Deut. 7:6 ESV)
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.