“Conflict in the Middle East” – it’s a headline once again…or still. Somewhere in the Middle East, there always seems to be some sort of skirmish taking place – but when Israel is involved, it always garners more attention.
Curiously, this is not just political, but religious – even when it ostensibly involves Jewish extremists and Islamic extremists, some Christians still get involved in the fray. Why? Because, depending on how one interprets the Bible, some believe that the political state of Israel plays a major role in the end of time as we know it.
Yes, some believe that the existence and prosperity of the state of Israel today will make a difference in the timing of Jesus’ return. Personally, I don’t read the Scriptures in this way, but some do. I prefer to leave the matter of Jesus’ return and the final judgment up to Jesus to determine. I will simply trust in him as I await that great and glorious day.
That said, there still is a desire on the part of many Christ-followers to see at least some parts of the Holy Land preserved, if for no other reason than to retain the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked, and to see some of the sites of biblical events. There is a greater desire on the part of Jewish people to maintain the state of Israel, because they believe this is the land that was given to them by God in the time of Abraham. They believe it is theirs by divine right.
There’s a whole political and theological Can Of Worms that I’m not going to open in that discussion, and frankly, there are many others who are better qualified to do so than I am. But I will say this: irrespective of the politics, and who’s firing on whom today, the Bible is unequivocal on one thing. We are enjoined to seek the peace of Jerusalem.
“Pray for peace in Jerusalem”, says the Psalmist. “May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘May you have peace.’ For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 122.6-9, NLT).
The people of God were often in conflict with other nations, usually because of their own disobedience. There was always a desire, though, to maintain their nation, and particularly not to lose Jerusalem. Major parts of the Old Testament are devoted to the building, or rebuilding, of a temple in praise of the Lord in Jerusalem. It is no surprise, then, that the Psalmist would enjoin us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and to seek what is best for it.
In the conflict that has arisen in the past few days, I’m certain that there is fault on both sides. Israel has long been oppressed, and it has oppressed the Palestinians – ironically, many of the Christians – in the occupied territories. This sort of political stress can only last for so long without some kind of eruption. Irrespective of blame, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Whatever constitutes your devotional practice, add Psalm 122 to your readings in these days.
God’s best for your weekend. At St. Paul’s, Nobleton this Sunday, we’re concluding a series on prayer, and folks are invited to write out a “cardboard testimony” – in this case, a few words about something God has done in their lives through prayer. It will be an amazing time of encouragement about what God is doing through prayer. (Don’t forget yours, St. Paul’s folks! There is some extra cardboard at the church if you need it!)
Wherever you’ll be this Sunday, may your time of worship be blessed.