The Current Scene
“A Burdensome Stone” (Zech. 12:3)
While momentous events are happening elsewhere, they have been eclipsed by the madness in the Middle East. It is a small part of the world’s land mass, but it invokes the concern of every major power. It has been termed “the crossroads of the world.” The Bible lover can appreciate why God made this the covenanted home of His ancient people. The Moslem sees things differently but arrives at the same conclusion when he says, “Allah didn’t put oil in the Arab world by accident.”
This has made Jerusalem a strategic consideration for all four of the ancient world empires and often a hotly contested scene of armed hostilities. The Crusaders made it their goal but finally lost it to the Arabs. The opening of the Suez Canal enhanced its importance in the 19th century, and the great powers saw the expedience of leaving the area in charge of Turkish inertia.
World War I drove Turkey back to her own borders, and Jewish Zionism, at Arab expense, has kept the area a virtual warcamp to the present. All of this, the Lord Jesus said, “is the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:8). Present events make it strongly appear that we are near the end of what has been a long “beginning.” The episodes of strife that have concerned Jerusalem have been but rehearsals of a yet greater prophetic event, “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem” (Zech. 16:2). Already another of Zechariah’s prophecies is in acute stages of realization, “Behold I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all peoples.” At least President Reagan should appreciate this prophecy as he has to do business with its feisty Prime Minister Begin who defiantly says, “The Jews kneel but to God.”
Religion In Disrepute
At present it is Beirut that is focusing attention, but the real source of the trouble is the possession of a Jewish Jerusalem in the area. Adding to the frustration is the presence of three conflicting religions that contribute to the fanatical madness that requires such a small pretext to inflame passions. The recent massacres of Arabs were performed by so called “Christian” Lebanese.
The Moslems would have no quarter for the Jews if the power to do so was in their hands. Farther away, the Northern Ireland atrocities have also a religious connotation. The irony is that these religions have a Biblical source. As far as Christianity is concerned the critical world does not appreciate the difference between profession and possession. The Bible is careful to state its ethical standards: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). We can appreciate “born again” Christians who must make choices in such a hostile environment. They need the guidance and consolation of the Scriptures, and our prayers.
In situations where mindless killings can only go on indefinitely the need is for a strong man who can call a halt to the blood bath. For a dizzy few days it appeared that Lebanon had its man of destiny — Bashir Gemayel. He and his cabinet died from a bomb explosion, obviously the work of his Arab enemies. He has now shared the fate of other moderates who have attempted to come to terms with the Jews. We call to mind Abdullah of Jordan and Anwar Sadat. This recent killing has sent American and European “peace keeping forces” back to Lebanon.
The threat of another such killing now goes to Bashir’s brother who, they say, does not command the popular support that was his brother’s. Certainly the man that can bring peace, any kind of peace, in these strife-torn lands will be hailed as some kind of saviour. The present presents fertile ground for the rise of the antichrist. Or are we witnessing just another rehearsal? If so, each one gets better. The seven-year covenant that the “prince” of Daniel 9:26-27 makes with the “many” (Jews still blinded by unbelief) will include assuring these Jews of their security and the restoration of their temple worship. This “prince” is “the little horn” of Daniel 7:8. He, in order to be a supreme dictator, roots up three lesser “horns” (powers).
Could they be Arab nations still fanatically opposed to the Jews? Anyway, it is obvious that someone or something must soon appear and subdue this caldron of religious and national strife.
The reasons behind the occupation of the present “peace-keeping forces” appear to be two. If the West does not, Russia will, and side with the vast amount of anti-Semitism that prevails. This would bring on a confrontation that all who are wise dread. Then there is the oil that must be kept flowing to the outside world. The massacres afford an excellent pretext for this military action, as well as being a moral necessity. If peace is brought about by outside interference it is not hard to envision the Israelis being coaxed to retreat to dictated borders with a guarantee that if attacked the same outside powers will come to her aid. Somewhere in the yet prophetic outlook we have Israel as described in Ezekiel 38:11: “And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely … to take a spoil.” This invader of Israel is said to be “Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters” (Ex. 38:6).
In the event of Iran (Persia) winning its war with Iraq it would not be much of a strain on the imagination to hear the cry, “On to Jerusalem,” with Russia in full accord. This proposal to annihilate Israel will be completely cancelled by divine intervention. Dr. C. I. Scofield’s footnote on the chapter is illuminating. We quote it in part: “That destruction (that is of Gentile power) should fall at the climax of the last mad attempt to exterminate the remnant of Israel in Jerusalem is congruous with divine justice and the covenants.” Out of this crucible of fire, this “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), the nation is to discover its Messiah, Jesus Christ (Zech. 12:10), and as the New Testament affirms, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 12:26).
Certainly startling events are happening in our 20th century. So many events fit into Bible prophecy. To close our eyes to God’s revelation of the future is to ignore large portions of the Scripture. Those who ignore prophecy are tempted to make their own forecasts. Such cannot help but see Israel eventually forced to capitulate. (If her enemies had the upper hand at this moment the Beirut massacre would be in the hundredfold.) As to the world at large, science sees that it has dug its own pit — our globe to wind up an atomic cinder. Bible prophecy, linked to the dispensational school, refutes such a doomsday. The Jew is yet to fall into God’s favor and become the head of the nations and no longer the tail. This tortured world is to have its golden age when nations shall at last beat their swords into ploughshares (Isa. 2:1-4) .
In his comments on the 9th psalm, F. W. Grant has this to say, “The psalm has for its subject the contemplation of that throne of righteousness which the earth has so long desired to see and found not. Christ as the King of righteousness has been refused, and the world has sought all kinds of substitutes for Him in vain! Yet the ‘desire of all nations’ shall come, and shall be found in Him. He shall be, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’”