The Iran Deal is Nixed, but What Other News Can We Expect over the Next Few Days?

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Netanyahu attends a Victory Day parade (WWII Soviet victory over Nazi Germany) ahead of meeting with Putin  (Photo credit: PMO)

Welcome back friends!  As you know, President Trump has pulled the US out of the Iranian nuclear deal.  However, that’s only one of the many newsworthy events expected in the next few days.

Certainly, there is fall-out from Trump’s announcement yesterday.  Netanyahu, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, European leaders, as well as some Arab states have all responded to the news in one way or another.  (See various comments here.)

Also,  the Israeli Air Force took care of business by destroying Iranian missiles aimed at Israel.  (See this morning’s post.)

2018-0508 IDF Tweet

Big news for sure, but other “newsy” days are ahead.  Here is a recap of what is on tap:

  • Today – Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.  (See yesterday’s post for more info about that meeting.)  Information is just coming out about that meeting, where Netanyahu is said to have thanked Putin for engaging in a conversation about regional issues, and warned the Russian premier that Iran’s ambition is another Holocaust.  Putin’s response: “We remember the tragedies of the two world wars, about the lessons of history which do not allow us to become blind. The same old ugly traits are appearing along with new threats: egoism, intolerance, aggressive nationalism and claims to exceptionalism. We understand the full seriousness of those threats.”  Time will tell!
  • Related imageSunday, May 13 – Jerusalem Day (Hebrew: יום ירושלים‎, Yom Yerushalayim) is the day Israel celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War.  Though Israel was victorious in the War of Independence (1948) and the Suez War (1956), in which they legally took control of their land, part of Jerusalem (and what is known as the West Bank today) fell under control of the Jordanians.  When Israel was threatened again in 1967, they were again victorious, reuniting Jerusalem.  Obviously, that is much disputed to this day, as there continues to be argument over the “pre-1967” borders.
  • US Embassy SignsMonday, May 14 – Israel will celebrate her 70th anniversary and the US will officially open its embassy in Jerusalem.  Many protests are expected, particularly from the Palestinians who continue their “March of Return” protests along the Israeli security fence.  Hamas if fueling the riots there, and they are expected to grow in intensity.
  • Tuesday, May 15 – Palestinian observance of nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), marking the establishment of the state of Israel.  Again, protests in Gaza and the West Bank are expected to reach a fever pitch during these days.
  • Wednesday, May 16 – Guatemala will officially open their embassy in Jerusalem.

As you can imagine, opportunities for conflict over the next few days abound.  Pray for peace, and pray for wisdom of world leaders.  Things are boiling beneath the surface and the eruption is bound to occur at some point.

As believers, we know these to be “birth pangs” Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:1-8 and Mark 13:1-8.  Never in the history of the world have we seen the stage so fully set for end time prophecies.  Not to set dates or predict when the rapture (next thing on the prophetic calendar) will happen, but to simply say:

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
~Matthew 24:6-8

But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
~Luke 21:28

Our Lord could tarry, but our duty is to be ready, and to be about our Father’s business as we wait.  Keep that in mind as we navigate the days ahead!

PS: Stick with me, as I hope to report from the ICEJ/ACLI Conference and a celebration in a few days at the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC.

Netanyahu, Putin to Meet in Moscow Tomorrow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, January 29, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Netanyahu and Putin in Moscow, January 2018 (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In what is believed to be their eighth official meeting in two years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow.

Why so many visits in so few years?  Are the two allies or enemies?

I hear those questions at times and, while I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about these two men and their motives and agendas, I certainly have thoughts about those things.  First, the two are far from allies, but I believe each recognizes the potential challenges to their own agendas if they do not find a way to cooperate on a few things.

For example, I don’t believe either nation wants to enter war with the other.  Yet, they have very conflicting interests in Syria, where a significant portion of the action is taking place.  While Russia is backing the Assad regime in Syria, alongside Iran, Putin has seemingly turned a blind eye when Israel has needed to do business in Syria militarily, to keep Iran from transferring weapons to Hezbollah and to keep Iran from establishing a threatening presence just the other side of Israel’s border.

Over the course of the 7-year-long Syrian civil war, Russia has become increasingly involved and, more recently, entrenched in Syria.  With significant military presence there, it has become increasingly important that Israel coordinate military efforts with the Russians in order to avoid inadvertently drawing fire from them.  Thus, frequent visits between the two leaders.

Tomorrow’s visit, however, is said to be focused on regional developments.  Following Netanyahu’s bold unmasking of Iranian nuclear plans, he has lobbied world leaders, particularly those who signed off on the nuclear deal in 2015, to fix the deal.  Russia was a party to that agreement, and has been very resistant to modifying it, but I suspect it is safe to surmise that will be a large part of the conversation.

Biblically speaking, what should we make of this?  We know that Ezekiel 38 refers to an invasion from the north, led almost assuredly by a power-hungry Russian leader.  Putin fits the description, and the “players” named in Ezekiel 38 are fairly clearly identified as Iran and Turkey (among others), who are very active in Syria.

So, is the War of Gog and Magog (referenced in Ezekiel 38) upon us, or could it be delayed diplomatically? Is it possible, though an attack from a Russian-led coalition is ultimately inevitable, it could be delayed via peaceful negotiations between Netanyahu and Putin?

We don’t know…but we can pray.

Blessed are the peacemakers…
~Matthew 5:9

Afterthoughts: The US-led Attack on Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities

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Questions about the US-led attacks in Syria are swirling, so let’s approach them the appropriate way: by viewing them through the lens of Scripture.

What led up to the American-led attack?

In brief, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is opposed by rebel groups who have suffered under his tyrannical reign.  Thus, to rid himself of the rebels, Assad has repeatedly attacked them with chemical weapons.  Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, America (and the rest of the world) stood on the sidelines, despite “red lines” that were crossed by the Assad regime.  Once elected, President Trump vowed to take action if chemical weapons were used, and he followed through on that promise about a year ago when Assad unleashed a chemical attack on his own people.  Again, on Saturday, April 7, Assad used chemical weapons to decimate citizen (including children) in the city of Homs (just outside Damascus).  President Trump openly declared that missiles were forthcoming, though they were not launched until April 14.

Why did President Trump wait so long to strike?

That is a  complicated question and I may not have the correct answer, but here is my take.  In early April (before Assad’s latest assault with chemical weapons), Trump announced that he wants to pull troops out of Syria.  Following Assad’s attack, Trump then had a dilemma: pull out (as recently promised) or attack (to fulfill a previous promise)?  To remain true to his campaign promise to respond to chemical weapon attacks, he had to do something.  But he wanted the assistance of others, and he did not want to be dragged into a long conflict.  Thus, I believe it took time to draw the UK and France into commitment to strike alongside the Americans.  (Which they did.)

Meanwhile (in the span of that week), rhetoric from the White House, the State Department and the Department of Defense had grown fairly course toward Russia and Iran, holding them responsible for aiding and abetting Assad in his monstrous attacks on his people.  In fact, in the aftermath of Assad’s attack, President Trump very specifically aimed tweets at Russian President Vladimir Putin, stating smart missiles were coming.

So, if Russia and Iran were being held responsible, why didn’t the US target Russian and Iranian facilities?

Reports from trustworthy sources indicate that there may have been considerable disagreement among Trump’s advisors regarding attacks on Russian and Iranian positions.  Also, the timing was interesting.  It was several days after Trump promised action that he actually ordered the attack.  By that time, virtually all Russian and Iranian military assets were evacuated, leaving very little for the Americans and their allies to attack.  In fact, reports indicate that Assad very likely evacuated the Syrian chemical weapon stashes from the two storage facilities that were hit.  Therefore, while I see the destruction of the research facility as a major “hit,” I’m not convinced the attack was very successful in terms of setting back Assad’s capabilities in using chemical weapons again.

Will the US and its allies carry out further attacks?

It appears this round of attacks is over.  Things are “returning to normal,” meaning Syrian jets are back in the air, bombing rebel positions.  (Though no chemical weapons are believed to have been used since April 7.)  Though the US has said they will levy additional sanctions on Russia, Russian and Iranian military assets are returning to their bases in Syria, and I suspect it will soon be “as you were.”

Now….through the lens of Scripture.  We’ve talked at length in previous posts about the Isaiah 17:1 prophecy, foretelling the destruction of Damascus.  That is coming, and I believe, could be the spark that lights the fuse for the Ezekiel 38 prophecy.  (War of Gog and Magog – attack on Israel by a coalition led by Russia and including Iran, Turkey and others.)

Now, the elephant in the room: is the US truly standing with Israel or not?  By not taking more decisive and determined action against the thugs in Syria whose target is ultimately Israel, is the US as strong a partner as Israel needs?

Dear friends, Scripture tells us that, in the end, Israel will stand alone.  Of course I want the US to take the strongest stand possible for Israel.  Of course I don’t want America to let Israel down.  But God’s Word is God’s Word.

The US is not specifically mentioned in Scripture, so that should be our first clue that the US will not likely be a key player in the end.  If there is any possible mention (indirectly) of the US, perhaps it is part of the “…merchants of Tarshish with all its villages…” in Ezekiel 38:13.  However, if that is the case, those “merchants” and “villages” do nothing to assist Israel.  They simply stand on the sidelines asking questions!

Furthermore, Joel 3:2 indicates a time in which God will gather ALL nations to be judged for how they treated Israel.  Unfortunately, America is part of “ALL nations.”

But here is my favorite view of these current events through the lens of Scripture:

Some boast [trust] in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast [trust] in the name of the Lord, our God.
~Psalm 20:7 NASB (“trust” used in other translations)

It will NOT be the strength of the military (US or otherwise) that will protect and save Israel.  It will be the Lord Himself!  Should we, as individuals, be faithful to stand with Israel, regardless of the cost?  Absolutely yes!  Should we pray that our nation remains faithful to stand with Israel?  Absolutely yes!  But at some point, will Israel ultimately stand alone?  Yes…and Israel will see the power of her God!  Trust in the name of the Lord our God…He reigns over all!

 

 

Will there be a US Strike on Syria?

White House briefing from military leaders (Photo Credit: Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

News is abuzz over the potential US strike in Syria.  President Trump has cancelled a trip to South America in order to remain at the White House to manage the situation, and movement of US vessels and aircraft has been observed in the Mediterranean.  The Pentagon has likely drawn up possible attack options, while the President is soliciting assistance from current allies such as France, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Qatar.  All have called for Syria to be held accountable, though it remains to be seen how active they will be in any military action.

Following Trump’s recent announcement that he plans to pull US troops out of Syria, he now walks a thin line in determining how to orchestrate an effective strike on Syria.

News reports can be found on almost any news outlet, so if you are interested in more logistical detail, just scan the news outlets.  However, I think it is important to view current events through the lens of Scripture, so let’s consider a logical  stream of Biblical thought:

  • Isaiah 17:1 tells us Damascus will be utterly destroyed in the last days.  Damascus and the surrounding area are taking a beating, and should the US or its allies strike hard and relentlessly, Damascus will cease to exist.
  • As you likely know, Russia has propped up the Assad regime in Syria almost from day one of the Syrian civil war.  Putin has become “czarish” and is calling the shots in much of Syria.  No one has attempted to restrain Russia and Putin is smelling the power he so desperately desires.
  • Along with Russia, Iran has set up camp inside Syria.  In fact, it is believed that the helicopter that deployed the latest rounds of chemical weapons took off from an Iranian-controlled base.  That base (T-4) was attacked by Israel soon after the chemical weapons attack, destroying infrastructure.
  • Turkey is the “silent partner” at the moment (though not-so-silent in the grand scheme of things).  Wanting their piece of Syria, their motive is to drive out their arch enemies, the Kurds.
  • Taken together, Russia, Iran and Turkey make up the key players (though not the only players) in the coalition named in Ezekiel 38.  A ruler (Gog) will arise out of Russia and will command the invasion of Israel.  Puting could well be that ruler Ezekiel describes, and we could well be on the verge of that War of Gog and Magog.
  • It is believed by some well-known Bible scholars that the destruction of Damascus (Isaiah 17:1) could be the spark that lights the Ezekiel 38 fuse.
  • Interestingly, the United States is not mentioned specifically in Ezekiel 38, and only as a spectator if one believes the US is a “village of Tarshish” (Britain or Spain), alluded to in Ezekiel 38:13.  (More detail in Week 8 of the study, Looking for the Blessed Hope.)  If the War of Gog and Magog is indeed at hand, we can expect America’s power to be taken away somehow, because they will not be a major world player at that point.  What will happen to diminish or totally dissolve America’s military might?  Internal collapse? External attack? Rapture?  (That’s my pick!)

Most are oblivious to what it taking place in the Middle East right now.  Many of those who do have an inkling are expressing fear.  But let’s anchor Biblical truth here!  As believers in Christ, we should most definitely care about what it taking place in the world.  We should be praying as Scripture commands, and we should be doing whatever the Lord leads us to do.  We must be about our Father’s business!

But, dear friends, Scripture is filled with “do not fear” messages!  We do not have to be afraid of what is happening, or what is about to happen.  We know how it all ends!  As believers in Jesus the Messiah, we are another day closer to joining our Savior for eternity!  Therefore, we stand firm.  We stand bold in our faith.  We stand steadfastly with Israel (while the world turns their back on her).

Prophecy is not meant to scare, but to prepare!  It is time to take stock in what we believe and how we live it out.  It is a time to prepare to meet our Lord!

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.  But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
~Matthew 24:42-44

Are you ready?