IsRAEL, GAZA AND PROPHECY
Recent months have seen dramatic events taking place between Israel and Gaza, and the role of the Bible Student is to place these events into a Biblical perspective. Seeking to understand how world events fit into the overall prophetic scheme of things, we must beware of “forcing” events to fit into what Scripture testifies, or vice-versa. In recent weeks I have seen 2 articles by different brethren on this matter, yet both are wanting in terms of the Biblical backing for what is proclaimed.
A GENERAL OBSERVATION
Over the years, it has become evident that when dramatic events take place, there is a proportionate excitement and general expectation in the brotherhood for Messiah’s coming—yet when things are quiet, this fervent expectation quietens down. To give one example: Israel and Iraq. When Saddam Hussain was at the zenith of his power, there were those who confidently asserted that he was the long-expected “king of the north”. There was much political and military activity, and this was seen to be a “sign” of Messiah’s coming. However, events came and went, Hussain was executed and his dominion taken by a stronger power than he. What of the expectations that brethren had then? This has been cited by our detractors as an instance of a “failed prophecy” that Christadelphians have been guilty of—and this accusation does contain truth!
But we must make a distinction between those things that some brethren expect to happen (and were wrong), and those things believed by the body as a whole (i.e the BASF and what it contains). Such things are not so much “failed prophesies” by Christadelphians as a whole, but rather a few brethren being carried along by the excitement of events to make predictions based on assumptions, as opposed to the plain teaching of Scripture.
In the matter at hand then, we must take care not to be rash in our predictions or expectations. Messiah himself proclaims that his coming would not be at a time of great excitement and expectation, but rather “in such an hour as ye think not” (Mat. 24:44). Again, the Apostle writing for the generation of those who would see Messiah’s coming warns against the believers falling asleep (1 Thes. 5:1-8)! And the prophet Joel describes the mighty men of war has having fallen asleep (Joel 3:9,12). Every indication is that when Messiah comes, it will be at such a time when there is a “peace and safety/security” to the extent that a spirit of slumber sets in, in both the heathen and those disciples should be watching and waiting for their Lord.
THE LAND OF GAZA
The region known as Gaza is part of the ancient homeland of the Philistines. That this is so is evident from the following testimonies:
“the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza” (Jud. 16:21)
“these are the golden emerods which the Philistines took for a trespass offering unto Yahweh; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one …” (1 Sam. 6:17)
“he smote the Philistines even unto Gaza …” (2 Kings. 18:8)
In our day, there are no Philistines as a distinct nation as in times past, who are descended from the ancient power—but Scripture does speak of what we might call a “latter day” Philistine power. One such prophecy is Isaiah 11:
“they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west …” (Isa. 11:14).
This is a passage which some have taken hold of, and confidently applied to the events of recent months, in which Israel has made a number of successful incursions into Gaza, treading it underfoot as a subjugated area. However, this application ignores the context of the chapter, which is of the future reign of Messiah:
“… with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the week of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:4).
That there is a latter-day Philistine power is undeniable in the light of particular Bible references, but we need to be careful to make a correct application of those references at their correct time. Isaiah 11 as cited above, speaks of the Philistine power to “the west”, which includes the territory currently occupied by the Palestinians, including Gaza. The term rendered “Palestine” is literally, “the land of the Philistines”, and is translated this way in scripture. In the example at hand therefore, there is a correct application being made in terms of the latter-day powers involved, but the prophecy is being used incorrectly in terms of the time-period that it relates to. That is, a period in which Messiah shall lead the warfare against Israel’s enemies, and cut them down as prophesied so many times, so long ago.
However, there is a point that we can derive from Isaiah 11, in relation to our own day. The passage specifically placers a power in the ancient territory of the Philistines, which Israel shall overcome when Messiah comes. That indicates to us that this area is not going to be given up as part of a supposed “peace process”, or, despite the events of recent months, will not be destroyed by Israel before Christ comes. What this passage leads us to expect, is for the Palestinians to continue their role as a latter-day Philistine (as a thorn in Israel’s side) until the day when the Greater than David shall come upon them with destructive power as a Stone smiting the kingdoms of men (Cp. Dan. 2).
There is another passage that relates to the land of the Philistines/Palestinians. That is Joel chapter 3:
“… what have ye to do with me, O Tyre and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? Will ye render me a recompense? And if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head …” (Joel 3:4-5)
The context of this chapter is that of the Gentile powers uniting together against Israel, afflicting Yahweh’s people in particular ways detailed in verse 5 & 6 of Joel 3. Notice the terms used; “all the coasts of Palestine”, or the Palestinians. This people are seeking to render a recompense—which implies that something has been done to them, that they are seeking a recompense for! The idea of a “recompense” contains the idea of revenge: the latter-day Philistine power is seeking revenge against Yahweh’s people, which, because Yahweh is contending for his people at this stage, is regarded as being against Him.
What, might we ask, is it that the Palestinians are seeking recompense/revenge for? The Scriptures do not say. We can only speculate— taking care as we do so. It could be that Israel is to defend herself further from the latter-day Philistines by lauching further strikes into that land: that would provide further reasons for a retaliation on the part of the Palestinians as a “revenge”.
The position of Christ’s brethren in relation to world events, whether they be concerning Israel, or any other country, is that of being neutral observers. We have no place in the things of this world, let alone the politics and wars of the kingdoms of men. Our part is to simply observe, allowing the light of Bible Prophecy to show us where our personal standing is, in relation to the coming crisis at the coming of our Master.
SUPPORTING ISRAEL’S ENEMIES
It is of concern therefore, that the February issue of The Christadelphian makes reference to a “significant donation” being made to ease the afflictions of the Philistines in Gaza, brought about by the defensive incursions of Israel. The item is headed: “Humanitarian Appeal—Save the Children” and reads:
“in the light of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Samaritan Fund has responded as best as it can by making a significant donation to the Save the Children Fund appeal for help in Gaza …”
Place this action in a Biblical context: did Abraham collect money for the Canaanites? Or more relevantly still, did David collect money to ease the Philistines of his day, that warred against his kingdom? Of course not—yet in our day such actions take place, and the people of Israel’s enemies are supported “significantly” by Christ’s brethren! The article speaks of the underlying reason for this: “the worsening humanitarian crisis”. It is solely to do with “humanitarian”, not Scriptural reasons. The spirit of humanism permeates through, even to the brotherhood. Not that we condemn giving per se as some falsely say we do. There is the general command: “as we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Eph. 6:10). But that is not to say that we should violate our separateness by supporting the people of Israel’s enemies.
To summarise therefore: in seeking to understand current events in the light of Bible Prophecy, we must be wary about using passages out of their context to make predictions concerning which there is no proof. To do this give occasion for the adversaries of the Truth to claim that Christadelphians make false predictions, and therefore are not to be trusted. But also, as observers of world affairs, we ought to stand in a position of neutrality, and take care how we use the resources that our Father has provided. To financially support the people of Israel’s enemies must surely compromise our state of detachment, and is something which has no precedent in Scripture.