The "Red Alert" app on my phone sounds whenever the Iron Dome radar sends an alert to Israelis that a rocket is headed for their town. Often, as during our last Life in Messiah board meeting, we have used it as a signal to pray for those under attack. When a city name flashes as a target where LIFE staff or other dear friends live, the reality of war is much more personal. In addition to the alarms, they get to hear the loud BOOM as rockets explode (hopefully mid-air as Iron Dome intercepts them). We are always happy to hear they are safe.
I am able to turn off the audible alarm when I'm sleeping or in a meeting, but the phone still vibrates. Alerts often come in waves, signaling a barrage of rockets. For me, multiple tones may be an annoyance. For those running toward bomb shelters or lying flat on the ground the alarm is far more than an irritation, I'm sure.
But we also have brothers and sisters living in Gaza, fellow believers who are enduring the horrors of war. And we pray for their safety, as well as the Body of Messiah in Israel, including those serving in the Israel Defense Forces – indeed for all living under the shadow of death. Last week we learned of the first Messianic soldier to lose his life in the current conflict in Gaza, a 20-year-old named Shai Kirchner. Again, the war became more real, though we didn't know him personally. An only son, Shai normally would not have been permitted to serve in a combat unit. But at his own insistence he was assigned as a medic to an armored brigade, and was killed with four of his fellow soldiers.
Amidst all the news flashes, politician and pundit interviews, and endless debates about proportionality the harsh realities remain: people are dying. Tragically, many of them are non-combatants.
And the tragedies are not isolated to Gaza. Few television cameras are capturing the slaughter of thousands in Sudan, Syria and Iraq. And when we do see reports of beheadings or, as in recent news, the crucifixion of eight Christians in Syria by ISIS, the images are too awful to gaze upon.
The physical battles are a manifestation of the not-less-real spiritual warfare we cannot see. Hatred against the Jewish people is growing. Violence against European Jewry is one indicator. Fears in Jewish communities are rising with each attack. Our workers in France live with these daily realities.
Another evidence is the harsh condemnation of Israel by world leaders who refuse to condemn Hamas for its reign of terror. (The UN and most media also somehow overlook the terrible slaughter by jihadis of Christians and fellow Muslims.)
Many who voice strong opinions on the Middle East seem totally ignorant of historical context. [For those wishing to understand the background of the current struggles in the eastern Mediterranean countries, I highly recommend David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace.]
But even the best secular historians will not have a sense of God’s working out His purposes in the world, nor the distinct role the Nation (Israel) plays among the nations (Deuteronomy 7:6-9, e.g.). And some Christian theologians overlook the fact that even the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31ff) was promised by the God of Israel to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. By God’s grace, believing Gentiles have been included with Israel’s faithful remnant.
We’re thankful for the respite the unconditional cease fire now in place gives, temporary though it surely will be. If Hamas is allowed to resupply its depleted store of rockets and renew its tunneling efforts, Israel will face another round of hostilities.
And as I understand Scripture, the prophetic word of Zechariah 12 has yet to be fulfilled. May God give us discernment to stand for the right as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and the nations surrounding her – regardless of how many Red Alerts will yet be sounded.
May we with compassion and boldness present Israel’s Messiah – the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7) and the Desire of Nations (Haggai 2:7) – as God’s provision for mankind’s deepest need.
From our inception, Life in Messiah has highlighted the significance of God’s covenantal care for the Jewish people. The August bulletin of the Billy Graham Center Archives documents some of the practical steps taken by our founder, William E. Blackstone [see http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bulletin.htm].