Rockets Rain Down on Israel

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IDF airstrike inside Gaza (Times of Israel photo)

Since Sunday night’s IDF special ops raid into the Gaza Strip, activity has ramped up in and around Gaza.  A top Hamas commander and several other terrorists were killed as a result of that mission, though it came at a cost.  Israeli sources have now confirmed that an IDF special ops officer was killed in that mission into the Strip on Sunday night, and another soldier was wounded.

Since then, Hamas has rained down at least 300 rockets on Israeli cities (perhaps the largest one day total ever), and the IDF has targeted over 70 Hamas and Islamic Jihad sites (backed by Iran) in the Gaza Strip.  Air raid sirens have gone off almost continually in cities throughout southern Israel and the Gaza Envelope (areas surrounding the Gaza Strip).  You will find a timeline and several videos here.

Meanwhile, other interesting things relative to the region are happening elsewhere.  During an official state visit to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  It was the first meeting between Netanyahu and Putin since the Russian-made S-200 missile system (operated by Syrians, in Syria) shot down a Russian plane.  Israel was ultimately blamed for the incident.   Though no details of the meetings were reported, it is probable that Iranian influence in Syria and the region (including their backing of Hamas in Gaza) was a focal point in those conversations.

It is currently in the best interest of both Russia and Israel to cooperate at least to some degree militarily, in terms of not getting in each other’s way.  However, as we see events around the world, particularly in the Middle East, confirm Bible prophecy day-after-day, we know the stage is being set for end time events.  We see evidence suggesting the imminent destruction of Damascus (Isaiah 17:1), setting of the stage for the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39), and the rise of the Antichrist out of Europe (Daniel 2, 7).

In fact, one cannot help but think the spirit of lawlessness, described in 2 Thessalonians 2, is already at work.  As I look at what’s happening in our world…and even America and evil things for which so many stand…I am reminded that our time is short.  What we see are signs of the tribulation,yet our rapture occurs before that terrible time of hell on earth.

As we see these things, we must be alert,  be about our Father’s business (as Jesus was in Luke 2:41-51), be watchmen on the wall (Ezekiel 33:1-6, Isaiah 62:6-7), sound the alarm (Joel 2:1, Jeremiah 4:5-6), and be ambassadors of Christ while still on this earth (2 Corinthians 5:20).

How are we doing?

PS: For a timely commentary on why Gaza is such a problem, check back later today.  Blessings!

“What in the World is Going On!?!”

Do you wonder that at times?  We live in a crazy, mixed up world and news is rarely stunning any more, despite how outrageous it may have once seemed.  Just a glimpse of today’s headlines tells us we live in extraordinary times.

Image result for jordan floodAfter hearing the tragic story yesterday of Jordanian school children washed away in a flash flood (and Israel’s search and rescue efforts to save them), today we read of 8 more rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.

Netanyahu makes historic visit to OmanIronically, in the midst of that chaos, Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel’s Prime Minister) completed an unprecedented, secret trip to Oman to discuss regional peace and a warming relationship between Israel and that moderate Sunni nation.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, another American lunatic is arrested for idiotic behavior, after sending pipe bombs to various anti-Trump political figures and supporters.

So, is the world falling apart?  From a human perspective, it may well appear that way.  However, from a heavenly perspective, I don’t believe things are falling apart…they are falling into place.

First, we must understand that America will not be there to stand with Israel in the end.  This latest ugly American incident is only a microcosm of what is happening in our country.  Short of divine intervention, it appears we will see America spin totally out of control and be overcome by anarchy and lawlessness, where everyone will point a finger at everyone else.  Seems to be happening right before our eyes, and at that point, America will be in no position to help anyone.

Secondly, the happenings in and around the Gaza Strip could well be miniature signs of unraveling of Arab-Muslim attempts to control the Middle East (and ultimately the world).  Right now, Gaza is simply a distraction, but one day in the not-too-distant future, a much greater threat will bear down from the north.  A coalition, led by Russia, but joined by Muslim nations such as Iran, Turkey, Sudan and Libya, will come against Israel, only to find their own undoing!

Thirdly, what do we make of Netanyahu cozying up to the sultan of Oman?  Well, if you have paid any attention to recent news, you know that several moderate Sunni nations, such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (among others) have warmed in relationship to Israel because they all have a common enemy:  Iran!  Oman is in that group of Sunni Muslim states now wishing to explore cooperation with Israel.

Not so ironically, God’s Word predicts all these things!  Israel will stand alone, a northern coalition will attack, and certain Muslim nations (including Saudi Arabia, Oman and others) will stand back and not be involved with Russia and other Muslim groups when they invade upon the mountains of Israel! (Need Bible references?  Joel 3:1-2 and Ezekiel 38-39 are good places to start.)

Indeed, God’s Word is more relevant than today’s headlines!  Therefore, my encouragement to us all is to trust wholly and completely on the Word of God rather than be frightened or anxious about the news of the day!  We serve a faithful God who is fully in control.  We know the end of the story.  So let’s rest in His sovereignty!

4 Biblical Principles Regarding Israel

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We’re into week 7 of Why Israel Matters, and I hope you are enjoying our study together.  Our focus this week has been on the parting of ways between Jews and Christians.  What a sad history has passed, but what tremendous hope if we abide by the apostle Paul’s instructions to us in Romans 11!  (We studied that chapter earlier.  If you missed it, catch Has God Rejected His People? and Life from the Dead.)

Now, we move our focus back to Israel and consider 4 principles regarding Israel and the nations.

Principle of Domicile

Yesterday, we established that some of God’s promises are unconditional, but others are conditional.  Deuteronomy 29-30 provide clear evidence that Israel’s privilege of living in the land is conditional upon their reverence and obedience to God.  However, though they may lose the privilege of living in the land, it doesn’t mean they lose ownership of the land!

Even while in exile, the land belongs to Israel.

Principle of Righteousness

When faithful to God, Israel has a right to live in the land.  God desires righteousness, and He illustrated it to Joshua after leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.  Take a look at Joshua 5:13-15.

There, Joshua had an encounter with the Commander of the Lord’s Army, who told him to take off his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground.  In Hebrew minds, taking off one’s sandals was a sign of humility, respect and honor.  God desires righteousness and humility.  If the Israelites were to stand on holy ground, they must do so with sandals off.

Principle of Discipline

Our key passage is Jeremiah 25:6-11.  Here, Jeremiah prophesies of Israel’s exile to Babylon because of their disobedience to God’s command not to pursue other gods.  When they did, God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take them into exile.

God will discipline His people when they disobey.  But we must remember: the root word of “discipline” is “disciple.”  He might use even Israel’s enemies to discipline His people, but He disciplines for their ultimate good.

Principle of Retribution

Though God may use Israel’s enemies to discipline her, those who desire Israel’s total destruction will face retribution.  God spoke this plainly through the prophet Isaiah.  Quick glances at Isaiah 49:25-26 and Isaiah 51:21-23 reveal that God Himself will contend with those who contend with Israel.

But Joel 3:1-2 serves as perhaps the clearest warning to those who would scatter His people and divide their land.  God promises to bring all nations to the valley of Jehoshaphat for the ultimate “Israel Test.”  (Click here to take the test yourself!)

So, in light of current events, Israel is in the land, but is primarily secular and, in many ways, not living righteously.  In times past, God has exiled them for lack of obedience.  Isaiah 11:11-12 indicates God exiling them, then bringing them back a second time…but not a third.  Could God exile and bring them back a third time, though it is not prophesied in Scripture?  Perhaps.

But I believe God’s plan is different now.  God’s correction will ultimately culminate in the tribulation, during which national revival will take place and all Israel will be saved!  God is intent on saving His people!

We are approaching the meat of the study, so stick with us!

Why the Calm? Why the Storm?

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What faithful students you are!  Welcome back!

Today we’ll finish the summary of the live class I’m teaching at 11:00 am each Sunday morning at Calvary PHX in Phoenix AZ.  If you like what you’re reading and are in the Phoenix area, come join the live class.  We’re in Room 209 at the Central campus and there is a seat ready for you!

We are living in the calm before the storm.  Indeed, Israel is as calm and peaceful as she has ever been since rebirth in 1948.  (If you are wondering how I can say that when rockets fired from Gaza recently, see yesterday’s post.)  We know, also, that there is a huge storm on the horizon.  Ezekiel 38 describes that storm and we’ll spend some more time talking about it in the next live lesson.

So, why the calm…and why the storm?  Does God really have a purpose in all this?  Absolutely!

First, let’s talk about what happened in America.  Understand, though, that America is NOT God’s timepiece.  Israel is.  But something significant happened in America over the past few years.  From a spiritual perspective, many believe we were teetering on the brink of the abyss.  For years, our country has been spiraling out of control morally.  We have thrown God out of schools, government buildings and city parks.  Abortions are killing over 600,000 babies a year.  Religious freedom has been trampled while gay rights have sky rocketed to levels unimaginable.  Marriage has taken on new definitions and the dignity of aging adults has been striped away.

But someone (LOTS of someones!) took 2 Chronicles 7:14 to heart:

…[if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Christians began to pray and began to stand up for what is right…and miracles happened.  (If you prayed, you had a part in the miracles!)  One miracle (there were many) was the election of Donald Trump as President.  Many (including myself) were skeptical that a man with such a sordid background would actually stand for things such as the sanctity of life, religious freedom…and Israel.  Furthermore, he was not supposed to win!  Behind in all the polls and lambasted by the liberal media, it took a miracle of God (despite skepticism!) to put Donald Trump in the White House.  Praise God for that!

Our nation is far from perfect and still has the same issues it had before.  But I truly believe God heard the faithful, effective prayers of the righteous (James 5:16), He honored them, and He gave America a short reprieve.  American friends, this is our season!  Time is short and the reprieve won’t last forever.  We must NOT be complacent.

Now the whys.

Why the calm?

  1. God honored the prayers of the righteous!
  2. God is preparing the region for what comes next.  Ezekiel 38 says Israel MUST be living in safety, security and prosperity.  Meanwhile, Russia, Iran and Turkey are all struggling economically.  That will bring about motivation for attack.
  3. God is establishing Jerusalem’s status.  Jerusalem is to be the heavy stone that others will try to lift, only to be injured.  Establishing Jerusalem as the capital, moving embassies there and destroying Iran’s presence on the Israeli border helps establish Jerusalem’s status!

Those things are happening right before our very eyes, and this is the calm before the storm!  Also, as a side note: talk among Jews in Israel is turning to “days of Messiah!”  They are looking for that someone who will bring lasting peace and allow them to rebuild the third temple!  Interesting!

Why the coming storm?

  1. To expose the intentions of man’s heart, and that of the nations.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked, and 2 Timothy 3:1-5 provides a laundry list of wickedness that will characterize the last days.  Joel 3:2 warns the nations that God will judge them according to how they treat Israel!
  2. To glorify God and destroy Satan’s plans.  (Read Ezekiel 38.  That’s your homework for next week!)
  3. Set the stage for the hour of trial.  Though believers will be saved from it (Revelation 3:10 and many places in 1 Thessalonians), the Jews will face the hour of trial after God defeats the enemies of Ezekiel 38-39.  They will look for their Messiah, only to find he is the Antichrist.

Despite their own blindness, Israel is the flagship that leads the world to salvation.  So, why does Israel matter?  Because Israel is our insurance policy!  If God is not faithful to the Jewish people, why would we expect Him to be faithful to us?

As we close out this week, why not pray for the eyes of Jewish people to be open to see and recognize the One True Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Some are seeing…let’s pray for a larger harvest!

Thanks for following this week, and I look forward to sharing more in Week 2, as we get into Signs of the Times: Storm Clouds Rising.