The Farthest North – Ezekiel 38:6,15

Ezek 38:1-6  Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.

Ezek 38:14-17  Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “On that day when My people Israel dwell safely, will you not know it? 15 Then you will come from your place out of the far north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great company and a mighty army. 16 You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes.” 17 Thus says the Lord God: “Are you he of whom I have spoken in former days by My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied for years in those days that I would bring you against them?

With the latest developments in Turkey of an unsuccessful coup last night, and a renewed alliance with Israel after six years of open animosity, can we see anything in the Scriptures that shine some light on this?  Turkey was the seat of the Islamic Ottoman Empire/Caliphate for more than 600 years in the Middle East, supposedly dissolved completely in 1922, in the aftermath of WW1.  The Ottomans ruled in Israel (Palestine) for 400 years.  Islam is a religion of the sword, and was established in direct opposition to the truth of the triune God, Yehovah, and against His Word that is the Bible — both Old and New Testaments –, and against His Son, the Lord and Messiah Jesus, and against His people, the Jews and Christians, and against His city, Jerusalem, and against His land — the Land of Canaan which YHVH covenanted to give to the Children of Jacob/Israel as an everlasting possession, the Land of Israel.

Islam is being revived with a vengeance, and terrorizing the whole world.  They are at war among themselves over the ‘rightful heir’ to the Caliphate, and the spiritual war is ultimately between Satan in the person of the coming Antichrist, and between YHVH, God Most High (El Elyon) in the person of Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah. God the Father has given all things to His beloved Son, Yeshua, and to all who believe in Him for salvation.  For this, the devil is in a rage, and out to destroy everyone he can.  The Muslim jihadist cry of “Allahu Akbar” actually means Allah is greater, not God is great, as usually reported.  Greater than whom?!  Which God?! (Dan 11:36-37; 2Thes 2:1-4)

Israel is looking for peace in any human way possible.  Therefore, she will never really have peace, until she returns to YHVH her God, through repentance and faith in her only Savior, Jesus.  (This is similar to the story of Joseph with his brothers in Egypt.)  Israel is making agreements with several Islamic countries in a joint effort to combat terror (which can not succeed, since Islam promotes jihad, which for most of us expresses itself in terror to bully and intimidate others into submission.  Turkey, which became secularized following WW1, under the leadership of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, has, under the current leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, returned to being again a more religious and political Islamic country again.  The coup attempt last night was an effort by some of the military to restore the secularized Islamic character of the State.  It failed, and retribution will be swift and brutal, and Erdogan will consolidate his grip on power more firmly.

Why is this of interest?  The prophet Ezekiel was given a Word of YHVH for us living in the latter days.  Twice in ch 38, which speaks of Gog and the preparation for the war and invasion against Israel in the Land of Israel, the Holy Spirit gave Ezekiel the words translated as the “farthest north”, in vv 6 and 15.  Many commentators have said that this refers to Russia, since it is north of Israel.  Yet all the commentators agree that the reference in v. 15 to Togarmah is located in Asia Minor, i.e., part of Turkey.  (Asia Minor is also the area where the seven churches in Revelation were located.)  So, if the “farthest north” is Asia Minor in v. 15, that same Hebrew expression in v. 6 must refer to the same “far north” country, that is Turkey!

Let us awaken to the events swirling around us, as prophecy and current events increasingly come together to help us understand the times in which we live, and what the Body of Messiah should do in light of that.   “You heard Me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe.  I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming, and he has no claim on Me. (Jn 14:28-30)

Religious War? – 21 Nov 2014

The recent terrorist attack in a synagogue in West Jerusalem by Arab Muslims from East Jerusalem, in which rifles, knives, and meat cleavers were among the weapons used against Jewish men praying their morning prayers, has brought closer to home the reality that we are entering a religious war, and not only a nationalistic, political war here in Israel.   Among the dead and wounded Jews, a Druze policeman was also mortally wounded and killed as he responded to the terror within the Har Nof neighborhood synagogue.

There are those who remember what Dr. Baruch Goldstein did 20 years ago, when he entered a mosque in Hebron and massacred 29 Arab Muslim pray-ers during their morning prayers, and wounded many others.   As despicable as Goldstein’s act was, it is not comparable as a modus operandi to what took place in the synagogue:  apart from some fringe supporters, the government of Israel and the people as a whole repudiated such use of violence to achieve whatever the goal may be.  The then PM Yitchak Rabin said that he was ashamed to be a Jew.  Such an act taints all of us.  On the other hand, the Islamic terrorists are praised and celebrated, called martyrs, and others are encouraged to go out and wantonly murder Israeli Jews — and any others — in order to rid the land and the planet of particularly Jews and Christians — those who are the living witness of the one, true, living God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah.  This is done in the name of their God, who is not the same as YEHOVAH, God Most High.  The murderous attack by the Jewish terrorist and murderer, Jack Teitel, against Palestinian Arabs and against Jewish believers in Jesus was his act of war, thinking to do God’s will; yet he, too, was widely denounced for his thinking and for his actions.

While most wars seem to have be for economic and political reasons, there have been many religious wars in history; the Crusades come to mind fairly quickly.  The Islamic conquests after its beginnings in the 7th century were all religiously motivated.  There have been intra-faith wars between rival parties within religions; for example, the Jews led by the Maccabees against the Hellenizing Jews and Greeks; Sunni vs Shia Muslims; Catholic vs Protestant Christians.  Hindis have fought Buddhists.  When the Israelis first conquered the Land of Canaan in the 15th century BC, it is stated in what would be considered religious terms:  the iniquity/sin of the inhabitants of the land was full, and YHVH God was bringing His chosen people — the descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob — back into the land from Egypt in order to possess it as an everlasting possession, with the stipulation that should they also act as the Canaanites did, then they, too, would be removed from the land as a punishment under the terms of the covenant between YHVH and the Children of Israel.  The return of the Jewish people back to Palestine (the Land of Israel) in the 20th century was both pragmatic, political, and religious, and God in His sovereignty brought both His will and the will of man to coincide.   This return of the scattered Jews from out of nations all around the globe is itself a strategic act of war by the LORD of Hosts against those who seek to prevent Him from fulfilling His covenant promises and glorifying His name.  The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount — the place which God led King David to choose as the place for YHVH’s earthly Temple — and the Muslim efforts to eradicate the validity of Israeli and Jewish history there, is itself an affront and act of defiance to the historical record.

Yet, for the most part, most religions do not teach to engage in war in order to propagate their faith and culture.  Islam does, and there have been many who have written about that, using the Koran and Mohammed’s teachings as a proof.  The God of Israel also instructed His people to use force as needed, under His directions and guidelines, when taking possession, and then defending their natural and spiritual identity and heritage.  This use of force by Israel was not to extend beyond their borders.  Until today, this is generally the way Israel employs its military might and prowess.

The Word of God in the Bible tells us that war was declared already back in the Garden of Eden, when YHVH, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth — including the angels and human beings — let Satan (the devil; the fallen angel, Lucifer) know that his rebellion against God, and his active efforts to spread that rebellion among humanity, whom God created in His image and likeness, would not go unanswered.   The enmity between the seed of the serpent and between the Seed of the woman — this ‘state of war’ between the devil and Christ Jesus — has been the “mother of all wars” since, whether carried on in the heavenlies, or played out here on land, seas, and air.   “Just wars” are those which are perceived as being between good and evil.  While warfare is itself a result of sin and rebellion, it is nonetheless used by God to ultimately defeat all enemies of that which is godly and righteous and good, and to glorify His holy name in the process.  One of our problems is that we have not exercised our senses to discern both good and evil.

Those who believe in Yeshua as Lord and Messiah are also called to engage in what is called spiritual warfare:  this is the war against lies, against the works of the devil, against unrighteousness, against the truth of the true God and Savior.  We are called to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth to all nations and people groups, to deliver people from the lies and darkness of Satan and to bring them into the truth and light of Jesus Christ.  This is effected through preaching, not by carnal weapons or through lying, intimidation, or force of arms.  It is a war for the hearts and minds of men, women, and children — to know and believe the Word of the God who alone forgives sins, and who has power and authority to not only kill the body, but also to send both soul and body to hell.  In His love, and to win this war, God the Father sent Yeshua His only-begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but inherit eternal life.

Jesus won the war on the cross, in His death, and subsequent burial and resurrection!  The sad news is that many people have not heard, or have not believed what they have heard concerning this good news.  The good news is that the Holy Spirit is still at work to bring the many who do repent and believe to saving faith.  The peace which Jesus gives is not the peace which the world gives.   The day is nearing when the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return from Heaven to put an end to all rebellion and unrighteousness, and to establish the true God’s kingdom over Israel, and over the entire Earth and universe!  He alone forgives sin.  “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

THE BURDEN AGAINST EGYPT – 5 Feb 2011

This last month has seen the beginning of rumblings in the Islamic nations of North Africa and the Middle East.  There is an uprising against the entrenched leadership of the Arabic Muslim rulers, beginning with the ruler of Tunisia, and moving on to Egypt, and threatening Yemen and Jordan, with other rulers and nations worried about the repercussions within their borders.  Israel, the only non-Muslim nation in the region, is rightly concerned with the outcome of these uprisings:  only Egypt and Jordan have peace agreements with Israel, and these “peaces” are more cold than warm, but they have held for more than 30 years.

YHVH God has always warned His people Israel not to lean on Egypt for help, yet with Egypt being the leading Arabized nation (Egyptians are not Arab in their origins), Israel has always sought quiet borders on her south side with the nation God used to make a nation for Himself.

What is striking about these uprisings so far is the cry of people in these countries for their deposed leaders to get out.  This is a sad testimony that these rulers have not led their people as a father to their nations, but as lords and benefactors who enrich themselves at the expense of the common welfare.  Islamic fundamentalists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are set to take advantage of these uprisings through so-called democratic processes — rousing the passions of disaffected citizens and of lawless trouble-makers —  and this does not bode well for Egypt herself, or its relations with Israel or with the Christians within Egypt and the other Muslim nations.

I am reminded of an Egyptian church leader I heard speak at a Middle East conference held outside Cairo in 1993.  He spoke from Isaiah 19, and reminded all of us that the day will come when not only Israel will be the “People of God”, but also Egypt will be called by Israel’s God, “My people” (v.25).  This preacher spoke prophetically then that those who oppress Egypt (Is 19:20) are not Egyptians, but Arab Muslims who have come in.  Egypt, from the Biblical record, is named from Mizraim, one of the sons of Ham, a son of Noah. (Gen 10:6)   (The Arab peoples originate from Abram/Abraham, a Semite, and his Egyptian concubine, Hagar, whose son was Ishmael.  In Hebrew, the word for Arab denotes ‘mixture’.)  After the gospel went out from Israel, many in Egypt became Christians, and the Copts today continue that heritage.  The burden which these “oppressors” bring will be used by the Lord to turn the Egyptians to call upon Him for a Savior and a Mighty Deliverer.  It may also be worth noting that the “land of Judah” (Israel today) is a “terror to Egypt” (v. 17), and despite the peace treaty between them now, Egyptians are brought up to fear Israel as a hated and cruel enemy.

It is interesting that in Egypt they do not teach their children or people about the Israeli exodus from Egypt, led by Moses.  This Exodus made YHVH, God of the Hebrews, “famous”. (Ex 9:13-17)  It was also the plagues which YHVH brought upon the Egyptians to bring out His people Israel with signs and wonders that are memorialized in the Passover, and which demonstrated that the gods of Egypt are no gods.  Israel, likewise, does not teach her children or people about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for in His death and resurrection He made a show openly of all satanic and human opposition to Himself and to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Both Egyptian and Jewish historical chronologies are distorted so as to divert attention from the true account and historical records given in the Bible.

So as the rulers of Egypt continue to mislead their people as to the true God (v. 11-13), He will bring them all into disarray, that they may call upon the name of Yeshua/Jesus for salvation, and know that YHVH alone is the one true God.  As more Egyptians are saved, the day draws nearer for the salvation of Israel and the coming again of the Lord. (Rom 11:25-27)

The Word of God given to us in the Old and New Testaments is always up-to-date to shed light on current events and insight to their significance.

Still Living in The Days of The Bible – Part 2 – 5 Jan 2009

I write this unexpected Part Two of our living today in Bible times.  I do so at some risk of what reactions you have, spoken or otherwise, but I hope that for the most part it is for building up of our faith in our God and Redeemer, and to prepare us for even worse to come before the far better ‘end of the Lord, who is very compassionate and merciful.’ (James 5:9-11)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war in the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your (our) obedience is fulfilled.” (2Cor 10:4-6)

Yeshua reigns!  What a relief in days of trouble, and in the day of evil, to hold fast to what we have:  the name of the LORD, Yeshua, and the blood of the Lamb!  These words that we read from the apostle Paul, and are reminded of from the written words of the apostle John, were written in Bible days a little less than 2000 years ago for us today.  Surely we are living in both exciting and troublous Bible times!

Throughout Bible days – and Jesus promises to be with us all the days through the end of the age – there have been those within Israel and within the Church who would make the truth of the written word irrelevant.  It is to the Jews and to Christians – whether Jew or Gentile – that the Word of God has come and to whom He has entrusted it/them.  Therefore, we who know the truth of Messiah are more accountable before the Lord than other people:  we are in covenant relationship with Him through the shed blood of the Son of God for us.

How can we make irrelevant the Bible?  Jesus says that when we make our traditions or the explanations of our interpreters and commentators of greater value than the written Scriptures, we make void God’s word.  By our politics, we can make God’s word void; by so-called knowledge, we can make God’s word irrelevant; by thinking that the future can be changed from what has been planned from before the creation, we dismiss what God says.  By being party to accepting additions or deletions, we say that the Scriptures are irrelevant — dead.  The philosophy of Nietzsche that ‘God is dead’ is that which simply makes God irrelevant.  If God and His Word are rendered irrelevant – by our own understanding versus the revelation of Jesus Christ – then we will be more open to deception by the spirit of antichrist, who plays with the truth just enough to make his lie and evil intent seem plausibly worth accepting, hoping if possible to deceive even the elect.  Yet his perverse pleasure is to have those who are called by the name of the Lord dishonor Him and ourselves through believing the false prophets rather than the plain truth of the Spirit of YHVH:  “and so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which [we] do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit”. (2Pt 1:19-21)

I am sobered by the times we live in when the words of Jesus pierce through them with end-from-the-beginning clarity of what has never yet been fulfilled:  “For then, there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be like it.  And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Mt 24:21-22)  These words Yeshua received from His Father – and, praise God, now our Father, too — to speak to us.  God loves us, and so tells us what He knows is good and needful for us to know about His thoughts and ways.  We should be under no illusion, nor deluded, to think that this war will bring peace to Israelis or to Palestinians.  It will not –wars are determined till the end — but we are to act in the present as best we can to carry out our proper duties.  This is true as we pray for and give any counsel to unbelievers.  How much more so for us.

The Spirit of God tells His people to come out from Babylon – the ‘good country’, the material comfort, the alternative and counterfeit ‘promised land’ which the world offers.  Babylon represents a place of freedom and potential and worldly glory, whereas Egypt represents slavery and bondage.  In the Old Testament, YHVH spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the physically exiled Israelis in Babylon to physically “flee from the midst of Babylon, and everyone save his life!  Do not be cut off in her iniquity, for this is the time of YHVH’s vengeance. . .YHVH has taken out our righteousness.  Come and let us declare in Zion the work of YHVH our God.” (Jer 51:6-10)  In the New Testament, John heard a voice from heaven saying, “Come out of [Babylon], My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.  For her sins have reached to Heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. . . . Therefore her plagues will come in one day. . .for strong is YHVH God who judges her!” (Rev 18:4-8)

If the sons of Issachar knew what Israel should do because they understood the times; if Daniel, through reading the Bible, understood the times and knew what to do; should not we — in the fuller light of history and with the whole Bible in our possession, and with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and leading us into all truth — be discerning the times and knowing what to do?  Are we making the Scriptures irrelevant so long as we prefer to stay with our hearts and maybe our bodies, too, in Babylon!?  Messiah the Lord teaches us like this to pray:  Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. . .lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (the evil one/the evil day); for Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.

To return to the issue of putting things in proportion which I wrote about in Part 1:  when one considers how many thousands of Palestinians were killed by the Jordanian government military in 1970 (just to take one example, which a Bedouin today mentioned to me as he praised Israel), and the world let it be, the fact that till now, however terrible it is, that the heavy Israeli attacks on Hamas have resulted in ‘only’ about 500 deaths and many wounded, testifies to the general policy of Israel to minimize the deaths of both enemy forces and civilians caught up in the battle zone.  This is in direct contrast to Islamic jihadist (holy war) policy and efforts.  Yet the world, including many Jewish and Christian people, jump on Israel as barbaric and disproportionate in its response to determined threats to her existence.  War is not hell; Hell is hell.  But war is terrible.  Wars and fights come from lust and covetousness: wanting what someone else has, even if you have to murder to get it from them. (Ja 4:1-2)  This has been the spirit of Islam before there was a religion called Islam! (Ps 83; Obadiah)

WE have been GIVEN the KINGDOM OF GOD.  We need covet nothing of anyone:  in Messiah we have been given an eternal inheritance of all that God has!  Let us fight the good fight of faith, while being, insofar as is possible on our part, at peace with all men, doing good to all, especially to those of the household of faith.  If you want war to cease, let us first examine our own hearts, confess our sin and repent, and then let us look for, long for, love, hasten Yeshua’s appearing, fulfilling our obedience to Him and His Word with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Even so, come Lord Jesus!