A New Season Begins for God’s People in God’s Land

At the ICEJ/ACLI Conference this week, we were reminded of the significance of “jubilee years” throughout Israel’s modern history.  To place it in Biblical context, read Leviticus 25 (particularly verses 8-10)to discover the Lord’s plan to designate years of jubilee every 50 years.   Those years were established as years of redemption for those who gave up land they could no longer afford, or who went into slavery because they had no other way to live.

Over the course of recent history, we have seen the Lord remain faithful to implement jubilee years for the Jewish people.  For example, in the 1860’s, Charles Warren, an officer in the British Royal Engineers, was prohibited from excavating areas beneath Temple Mount.  Thus, he moved his operation south, where he discovered the ancient City of David in 1867.  This was historic because it put King David’s kingdom on the map, verifying a critical part of Jewish history.  More importantly, it became the first season of aliyah (returning to the homeland) for the Jewish people.  Jubilee!

Fifty years later (1917), British General Edmund Allenby liberated the city of Jerusalem from Arab oppression.  British forces not only captured Jerusalem, but established a strong fortified line to ward off Israel’s enemies.  On December 11 of that year, Allenby refused to ride into the city on horseback (as victorious leaders were prone to do), but instead dismounted and walked through the Jaffa Gate because he believed that no conquering king other than Jesus should ride into the city!  Again, property was returned to its rightful owner (Israel) in a jubilee year…50 years after Warren’s discover brought aliyah.

Fast forward another 50 years to 1967 and Israel prevailed in one of the most critical battles of all time.  Egypt’s President Gamal Abdul Nasser, having been fully embarrassed by failed attempts to conquer Israel in 1948 (War of Independence) and 1956 (Suez War), concocted a plan to cut off shipping to Israel, thus choking off their livelihood.  Not only that, he enlisted the backing and military support of Syria and Jordan.  But, knowing of the plan, Israel launched a preemptive strike that caught Egypt and her allies totally off-guard.  Not only did Israel soundly defeat the Arab aggressors, but in so doing, they regained control of the Old City of Jerusalem (held by the Jordanians)!  It was a miraculous victory, only possible through the hand of God who was faithful to His promises!  Jubilee!

Fifty years later (2017) another jubilee year occurred.  Donald Trump surprisingly won the US presidential election and one of his campaign promises was to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, per the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.  The law mandated the move be made no later than May 31, 1999, but it had one caveat: the President could sign a 6-month waiver if it was a security risk.  Every US president since that time promised to move the embassy, yet signed waivers every 6 months, delaying the move.  Yet, in December 2017, President Trump made a surprising announcement containing two very key points: he recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and he officially decreed that the US Embassy would move to Jerusalem!  Jubilee!

Well, on May 14, 2018, Israel’s 70th birthday (on the Gregorian calendar), the US officially opened that embassy in Jerusalem…and the celebration continues.  Israelis are rejoicing in the streets as they celebrate yet another jubilee!

So, you may have known all that, so what’s the point?  Great question!  It is now a new season in Israel.  Things will be different there, as they are each time a jubilee year occurs.  Once possessions are returned to a poor man, life changes!  Moreover, Israel has now been a reborn nation for the same number of years she was once in Babylonian exile.  Not that the two events are linked in many ways, but it seems somewhat interesting that, just as Cyrus helped restore the land to the Jews after 70 years, so the US has helped to restore the land to the Jews.

My point is this: the US remains a critical vessel in God’s plan for Israel.  Our nation has been abundantly blessed, because we have chosen to bless Israel.  Biblically speaking, we know that, one day, the US will cease to be the strong ally that partners with Israel today.  Israel will stand alone.  But until that time, dear friends, it is vitally important that we continue to bless Israel individually, corporately through our churches and nationally through diplomacy, military coordination and assistance.

Rejoice, for the jubilee year has brought a new season to Israel!  (And stay tuned…I’ve got lots more good stuff to share from the conference!)

Superpowers Face Off : US and Russian Involvement in the Six Day War

Friends, we have covered lots of ground over the past two days!  Thanks for joining me in the journey, and I hope you’ll stick with it, as we continue down the path.  In understanding why Jerusalem Day is such a celebratory holiday, we have looked at Israel’s Greatest Hour of Danger and Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future.  Now, we press on toward these ideas:

  • Superpowers Face Off – US and Russian involvement in the Six Day War
  • Six Days of Miracles – God brings the victory for Israel
  • Biblical Significance of the Six Day War
  • Aftermath of the Six Day War

Let’s tackle the superpowers!  Did you know the Six Day War came very close to igniting major action between the US and Russia?  As the world’s greatest military forces of the era, the two superpowers were pitted against one another, and some say only a miracle of God kept conflict between the two from erupting.

When Israel launched the preemptive strike on Egypt, beginning the Six Day War (June 5, 1967), Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol notified US President Lyndon Johnson of Israel’s actions.  In the message to the President, Eshkol said:

“Israel’s existence and integrity have been endangered…prevent the Soviet Union from exploiting and enlarging the conflict…[in our] greatest hour of danger.”

For Israel, the stakes could not have been higher.  They faced destruction if they did not take action, and they faced utter annihilation if the Soviets engaged.  The Jewish state indeed faced its greatest hour of danger, and they desperately needed the backing of the US.

Israel’s initial strikes on Egypt prompted a “hotline” call from Soviet Premier Kosygin to President Johnson in the pre-dawn hours.  Kosygin’s message: if the US does not get Israel to stand down, the Soviet Union would take direct military action, elevating the conflict to a level far beyond a Middle East conflict.  In fact, it appeared World War III was imminent.

Previously, during the buildup of conflict, the US had threatened to cut off political and military support to Israel if they initiated a preemptive strike.  Therefore, the Prime Minister and his advisors took a huge gamble that President Johnson would not stand by his threat.  However, with the Soviets involved, a new dynamic was in play and it broadened the scope of engagement from simply an Israeli-Arab conflict, to a potentially global US-Soviet conflict.  As a show of strength, President Johnson immediately sent the Sixth Fleet into the Mediterranean.

Miraculously, despite threats and chest-puffing, the Soviets never took action.

As for the US, involvement in the Six Day War was actually influenced by its involvement in the 1956 Suez War.  Israel had taken land in the Sinai, but then-President Dwight Eisenhower pressured Israel to withdraw in return for Israel’s guaranteed right of passage in the Straits of Tiran.  Thus, during the run up to the Six Day War, Israel remembered that deal forged by the Americans and expected their support in regaining access to the Straits following Egypt’s blockade.

However, mired in the Vietnam conflict, the US was less than eager to get involved in the Arab-Israeli spat.  President Johnson was unsuccessful in diplomatic efforts, and silent in warnings to the Arab world.  As seems to always be the case, American neutrality emboldened the Arabs, eliciting threats of Israeli annihilation from the likes of Egyptian President Nasser and others.

Meanwhile, Soviet actions (and lack thereof) seem to be an enigma.  Scholars disagree regarding whether or not the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or “Soviet Union”) was responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, and if so, why.  Did Moscow instigate the war in an attempt to increase Arab dependence on the Soviets?  Or perhaps to unify Middle East forces and consolidate the Soviet position in the region?

Nikita Khrushchev was overthrown in late-1964, so some believe Soviet leadership was divided.  Premier Kosygin and his followers seemed unsure of the Arabs preparedness to go to war against Israel, while Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and his followers pursued a more aggressive policy, including escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Conspirators even go so far as to propose that the conflict in the Middle East was to improve the domestic position of Brezhnev and his party.

Yet another idea is that the Soviet Union did not encourage its Arab clients to wage war, but that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser assumed Soviet consent to block the Straits of Tiran and did so without consent.

Regardless, the two world superpowers both refrained from further escalation, and America’s Sixth Fleet show of strength was apparently just enough to keep escalation at bay.

Dear friends, there is a reason the Bible emphasizes the importance of blessing Israel.  (Genesis 12:3)  Throughout history we see those who come against Israel destroyed.  Where are the Canaanites?  Where are the Amalekites?  Where are the Jebusites and the Hittites?  What about the Philistines?  Nowhere to be found, except in history books!  You see, my fellow truth seekers, God is faithful to His Word!  With a strong and mighty right hand, He will strengthen and uphold Israel!  (See Isaiah 41:8-13)  God is on her side and enacting miracles at times!  We will revel in miracles of the Six Day War tomorrow.  Be sure to come back for that!


Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future

Welcome back!  As Israel heads toward celebration of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), we are taking a look at what that day represents.  It is in celebration of victory in the Six Day War of 1967, and this year marks the Jubilee Year (50th anniversary of that all-important victory).

Yesterday, we focused on Israel’s Greatest Hour of Danger, including the events that led up to the Six Day War.  We will move forward, looking at these ideas today, and in days to come:

  • Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future – events of the war
  • Superpowers Face Off – US and Russian involvement in the Six Day War
  • Six Days of Miracles – God brings the victory for Israel
  • Biblical Significance of the Six Day War
  • Aftermath of the Six Day War

Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future

As noted yesterday, the contention between the line of Isaac (Jews) and the line of Ishmael (Arabs) began at the birth of those two brothers, and continues to this day.  By 1967, Israel had already miraculously defeated much larger and much better armed Arab nations in the War of Independence (1948) and the Suez War (1956), leaving the Arabs humiliated and vowing to destroy the tiny Jewish state.

The 1960’s saw the rise of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, a crafty and conniving Jew-hater. The PLO began launching terrorist attacks in the early 1960’s and attacks became more frequent in the mid-60’s (at least 35 raids into Israel in 1965, 41 in 1966, and 37 in the first few months of 1967).  Attackers infiltrated Israel from Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.

Rhetoric from Arafat and Egyptian President Nasser repetitively called for the destruction of the state of Israel, with the aim of perfecting Arab military might.

Image result for egyptian troops mass in the sinai 1967In May of 1967, Egyptian troops moved into the Sinai and massed near Israel’s southern border.  Meanwhile, Syrian troops prepared for battle in the north, on the Golan Heights.  On May 22, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli shipping, cutting off Israel’s only supply route with Asia, and stopping the flow of oil from Iran, Israel’s main supplier.  All the while, President Nasser of Egypt taunted Israel: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight….we will not coexist with Israel.”  King Hussein of Jordan and President Abdur Rahman Aref of Iraq joined in the war of words, and Arab troops were mobilized. Roughly 465,000 Arab troops, 2800 tanks and 800 aircraft encircled Israel.

“I believe we could find ourselves in a situation in which the existence of Israel is at great risk.”
~Chief of Staff Lt Gen Yitzhak Rabin

Israel decided to preempt the expected Arab attack and the element of surprise was key.  On June 5, 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol gave the order to attack.  These six days literally changed Israel’s future, and here is how they played out:

Day 1 (June 5):

  • The IDF had trained extensively in rapid refitting of aircraft returning from sorties, enabling a single aircraft to fly up to four missions per day.
  • By 7:30am, Israeli planes were in the air, headed for Egyptian airbases, flying extremely low so as not to be detected by Egyptian radar.
  • A miracle occurred…but more about that in a day or two!
  • The element of surprise allowed the Related imageIsraeli Air Force (IAF) to obliterate six Egyptian airfields, destroying over 200 aircraft (about half of Egypt’s air force).

Day 2 (June 6):

  • Constant battle for 24 hours left IAF pilots weary and their aircraft low on ammunition, yet Israel continued to press on the Sinai front, both in the air and on the ground.
  • As ground troops advanced, massive explosions were heard in the distance. When they arrived, Israeli soldiers found that the Egyptians had destroyed their own equipment and abandoned their bases.  Some outposts were left with supplies as the Egyptians hastily retreated.  (Another miracle?)

Day 3 (June 7):

  • Political pressure for an Israeli ceasefire, under the proposal of King Hussein of Jordan, was nearing execution when, suddenly, King Hussein became unwilling to comply with his own terms!  (Miracle?)
  • Image result for 1967 Western WallThe delay in ceasefire allowed time for the IDF to finish annihilating opposition infrastructure, AND to follow through with the mission to invade and bring the Old City of Jerusalem back under Israeli control! (Jordan had been in control since Israel became a nation in 1948.)
  • Paratroopers successfully recaptured the Old City, including Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Jerusalem was united as the capital of the Jewish people.

Day 4 (June 8):

  • The city of Hebron, a holy city and the resting place of Hebrew Patriarchs and Matriarchs, was once home to a sizable Jewish population and almost 60 synagogues. However, Jews had been banned from the city and its synagogues destroyed.
  • When the IDF marched in, they found white sheets of surrender hanging from windows all over town. The Arab population surrendered.
  • The West Bank had also been under the control of Jordan, yet Israel conquered it on this day, bringing it back under full Israeli control.

Day 5 (June 9):

  • Attention shifted to the Golan Heights, where Israel suffered significant casualties in efforts to fight the uphill battle to overtake the Golan Heights. Commander Musa Klein’s platoon of 25 men, however, continued upwards.
  • Nearing the top, Klein’s men charged Tel Fakhr, not knowing it was one of the most heavily fortified Syrian positions on the Golan, with bunkers and trenches inside a double row of wire.
  • In opposition, the Syrian commander gave orders for his men not to fire until the Israelis breached the wire, yet it was too late! The Jews were already inside.  Victorious, they continued up the Heights.

Related imageDay 6 (June 10):

  • Fortification upon the Golan Heights was significant. First, it was literally an uphill campaign into well-entrenched, fortified positions, manned by 75,000 Syrian troops.  Bunkers were virtually immune to attack, and one Israeli official estimated the cost of Israeli human lives at 30,000.  Life is precious to Jews, but their very existence was on the line.  There was no reasonable solution.  (They simply had to depend upon the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to protect and sustain them…and He did!)
  • After many hours of extremely heavy fighting the day before, the IDF managed to establish strongholds on the Golan Heights and were pressing toward Damascus. As the dawn of June 10 broke, Israeli forces were facing another day of fierce fighting…but it never occurred.
  • In a panic, the Syrian army pulled out of the Golan Heights and retreated in chaos, leaving most of their weapons behind.
  • The Golan Heights, overlooking the Galilee region of Israel, had once been a place to murder Jews. Now it was in their hands!
  • The final offensive was completed and, on June 10, 1967, a ceasefire was signed.

Image result for egyptian troops mass in the sinai 1967Six days that absolutely changed Israel’s future.  Six days after Israel’s “greatest hour of danger,” rather than annihilation, Israel defeated the Arab forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and others, and tripled the size of their nation!  Beyond just the land of Israel, they now controlled the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.  (Take a look at the territory on the map to the right.)

But most importantly: for the first time in about 2,000 years, Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli control, and Jews could freely visit the Western Wall, their most sacred site.

Gang, those are a few of the details of the war, but you need to know “the rest of the story!”  Hang with me over the next few days.  Tomorrow we will touch on the roles the US and Russia (the world’s superpowers at the time) played in this whole ordeal!  Then it’s  on to miracles and Biblical significance.  Don’t miss it!

In only a few days, Israel will celebrate Jerusalem Day, the 50th anniversary of the victory.  If you have not already done so, why not send your congratulatory remarks!

Motives behind the Invasion

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So, what do you think of this week’s Who’s Who?  Not the group with whom you wish to befriend, is it!  Now that we know the alignment of nations who will come against Israel during the northern invasion, let’s talk about why.  What is the motive for the invasion of Israel?

The most obvious motive is the pure hatred those nations have toward Israel.  In this week’s introduction, we heard some of the venom that drips from the lips of world leaders who hate Israel.  Before we dive more deeply into today’s study, let’s review some of those quotes and a few others.

  • “The Arab people will not be embarrassed to declare: We shall not be satisfied except by the final obliteration of Israel from the map of the Middle East.”  Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Salah al-Din (Al-Missri, April 12, 1954) See quote here.
  • “We aim at the destruction of the State of Israel.  The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might.  The national aim: the eradication of Israel.”  Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser (March 8, 1965)  See quote here.
  • “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified.  This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy, which has been with us since 1948.  Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map.”  Iraqi president Abdur Rahman Aref (May 31, 1967)  See quote here.
  • “We are announcing a war against the sons of apes and pigs [the Jews] which will not end until the flag of Islam is raised in Jerusalem.”   Hamas leaflet (September 1, 1993) See quote here.
  • “Israel is a regime based on evil that cannot continue and one day will vanish.”  Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (May 11, 2006)  See quote here.
  • “Israel is doomed to be ‘wiped from the map’ in ‘a war of destiny.’”  Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (April 28, 2006)  See quote here.

It is clear that the hatred of Israel by Arab nations is not a new phenomenon.  Later in our study we will discover just how vile those threats are.  But for now, let’s get back to our question, “What will be the motive for the northern invasion of Israel?”

We’ll return to our previous passage to determine the true motive.  Re-read Ezekiel 38:10-13.  According to the last phrase of verse 12, what is Israel’s position in the world?  Not only did God place Israel at the center of the world, but this passage also implies that God provides tremendous resources.  What is the spoil?  What is there to plunder?  Ezekiel mentions cattle and goods.  Exactly what goods will those nations be after?

Today, tourism is perhaps Israel’s biggest industry, but tourists that are seized and plundered don’t return!  Thus, tourism is not the industry these nations are after.  There must be other goods they want.

Perhaps you have a clue.  But let’s look at Scripture, then at today’s news to consider what resources may be coveted during the raid of terror from the north.  Read Genesis 49:22-25, Deuteronomy 33:13 and Deuteronomy 33:24.  Based on those passages, what natural resource might Israel have that the Russian/Iranian-led coalition want?

Let’s review some headlines:

Israeli Drilling Platform – Tamar Gas Field in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Israel

A Geopolitical Game Changer (Haaretz.com, June 11, 2010)
Israel Announces Discovery of (Third) Offshore Gas Field (Washington Free Beacon, December 15, 2014)

Indeed, a strong argument could be made that the oil and gas-crazed invaders (primarily Russia and Iran) may attempt to plunder those resources from suddenly oil and gas-rich Israel!  Stay tuned, because this will be a news maker as the last days draw to a close.

Let’s close our day today by examining God’s reaction to this invasion.  Return to Ezekiel 38 and read verses 17-20.  What is God’s reaction?

We’ve covered some ground today, but before we call it a day, stop to consider what you’ve studied today, in light of today’s headlines.  Then, why not spend some time praying for the peace of Jerusalem!