We’ve now had several weeks of what is probably the most intense military action in the nation of Israel in my lifetime. It has been complete with sudden attacks, harsh reprisals, hostages, and thousands of civilian casualties, which have resulted in protests around the world and the mobilization of numerous militaries. In other nations far away from Israel, Jews and Muslims have been the victims of ethnically-motivated violence.
Things have been mostly quiet in my city. I haven’t seen or heard of any protests. Some Palestinian students at the university where my wife teach harassed a Jewish student. Heather wasn’t there but heard about it. It resulted in administration getting involved, but it was dealt with, and no physical harm came to the students.
A Groundswell of Intercession
At the house of prayer, our community has been devoting all of our prayer sets to praying for the situation. I don’t say “praying for the war” because that implies we have picked a side.
That being said, we pray for Israel and have prayed for them ever since I joined the prayer movement. Back in May, there were 21 days of prayer across the global body of Christ praying specifically for Israel. About 100 million across the world joined in praying for the Holy Land and its people, and about 5 million participated in one way or another in a 21-day fast. I wonder if those prayers will come to fruition somehow during these tumultuous times. It’s not lost on me that God called His people to pray on a scale never before seen in the months leading up to a conflict the likes of which Israel has not seen in over a generation.
This should stir our hearts to pray because the Bible was a book written through Jews and mostly is centered around their people and homeland. Yes, they did reject the Messiah, but “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). That verse, which is usually referred to as a proof text that individuals can still be used by God even when they blow it, was actually, in its original context, referring to how God still has a plan for the Jewish people, no matter what happens.
(Romans 10:1) Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
Paul wanted it so bad that he was willing to be cut off from Christ himself if it meant his Jewish brothers got to be saved. Written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this shows us how viscerally the Father desires the salvation of Israel. That’s why the enemy rages against the existence of the Jewish people and will make any attempt to foil God’s plan and destroy them. It’s been played on repeat throughout the centuries, and this is just the most recent track on that same playlist.
There’s a Difference
All that being said, we can’t and don’t equate the spiritual Israel and the current geopolitical entity known as Israel. They are not the same thing, though there is some overlap. Neither are Palestine and Hamas the same thing. Many Palestinians hate being ruled by extremists. That’s why we don’t pray carte-blanche that the IDF crushes everything and everyone in its path, and neither do we pray that they do nothing. I believe terrorism must be defeated, but the question of how many innocent lives must be sacrificed for that to happen is one I’m deeply uncomfortable wrestling with, especially since I have met and spent time with Palestinians here in my city. I’ve sat in their homes, eaten with them, and even walked in the park and ridden horses with them. They have families, too.
I saw a doctor for some sinus issues this week. As a Jordanian Arab, he has a brother who lives in the West Bank. After he finished administering some treatment, he opened up to me a little bit. “You know, I’ve felt so little motivation to do anything the last few weeks. I haven’t been reading or exercising, and I have felt like all I want to do is watch the news for updates.” I was struck as he described the general feeling of malaise that has come over him. As civilian casualties pile up in Gaza, time stands still for those whose communities are affected, but cannot do anything about it. Perhaps there’s a spiritual element, too. Maybe a dark cloud has descended over the hearts of many in the region. The devil hunts the Arabs as well as the Jews.
The Devil Rages
We know the enemy rages, above all, against the rule and reign of Christ. In the clearly Messianic 2nd Psalm, the rulers of the earth take their stand against the Lord and His anointed (that is, His Christ). In that heavenly drama, the Anointed One is invited to ask to receive the nations as an inheritance.
We have a weekly intercession set where we pray for outreach efforts. It’s focused on the Good News going forth to unreached peoples. Over the last few weeks, we have changed it and devoted it entirely to praying for the situation in Israel.
I told the gathered intercessors that the gospel going forth has everything to do with what’s happening in Israel now. The devil sees how many more worldwide are being reached with the Good News, and it fills him with rage. He can’t stand to see Christ receiving the inheritance due him. Thus, he has conspired to throw a wrench in the plan. He has stirred up great conflict in the Middle East.
This region is no stranger to minor conflicts. I live in one of the safest areas, granted, but the Middle East has had proxy wars, civil wars, and humanitarian crises continually since I’ve lived here. What’s different this time is the capability to escalate and draw other major players into the mix. If the war accelerates and becomes a region-wide war or even (God forbid) a world war, there will be serious ramifications for the spreading of the Good News. Borders will close. People will have to relocate. Markets will fluctuate. Funding will be affected. People might get enlisted or drafted. Those who study the history of the gospel have noted that cross-cultural ministry mostly grinds to a halt when wars engulf the nations.
We see the devil wants to undo God’s purposes for Israel and, at the same time, to halt the spreading of the message of salvation.
Rick Ridings leads Succath Hallel, a 24/7 house of prayer overlooking the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and he had this to say about the current war.
The Lord had given me a strong word for this season, that we are to pray to “contain and restrain” regional conflicts so that they do not escalate into a premature World War 3 that would greatly hinder the Great Harvest. So pray that this situation will be “contained and restrained” … Pray for great wisdom for the military and governmental leaders.
This is a time for prayer and for faithful intercessors to arise for the sake of those in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, and the region.