Spiritual warfare and the war in Israel

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13. An urgent call for spiritual warfare

November 17, 2023 -

A man bows his hand on top of his clasped hands in prayer, which are resting on an open Bible. By Halfpoint/stock.adobe.com

A man bows his hand on top of his clasped hands in prayer, which are resting on an open Bible. By Halfpoint/stock.adobe.com

A man bows his hand on top of his clasped hands in prayer, which are resting on an open Bible. By Halfpoint/stock.adobe.com

“The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.” So said President Biden’s national security advisor a week before Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel.

One reporter starkly described the surprise invasion: “The operation was of unprecedented scale, involving thousands of personnel and pieces of equipment, from hang gliders to bulldozers and rockets. Such an effort demands weeks if not months of preparation, and all of it took place under the nose of an Israeli intelligence service that has a deserved reputation as one of the most effective in the world.”

This attack is historic on many levels. It marks the largest one-day loss of civilian life in modern-day Israel’s history. It shows that Israel’s foes are indeed virulent in their hatred of the Jewish people and pledged to their absolute annihilation. It has exposed antisemitic fault lines in America and around the world. It may lead to further geopolitical alliances between Iran, Russia, China, and other geopolitical foes of America and the West.

And, most tellingly for me personally, it has brought about a deep grief and fear among the Jewish people in Israel, including some of my best friends in the world. For the first time since 1948, some are wondering if they have a future in this ancient land. This is a crisis of global significance and true urgency.

Let’s close by exploring this urgency more fully, then answer the call of this hour with an equally urgent commitment to spiritual action.

NOTE: This resource article belongs to a series regarding the foundational issues behind the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. The full series is also available as a free ebook.

Five threats that could fuse into one

“Polycrisis” is a term in use today to describe the constellation of issues we are facing. While fallen humanity has confronted death and despair from Abel’s time to ours, the acceleration and conflation of challenges we are facing magnifies and compounds individual problems.

The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker writes: “A modern de facto alliance of tyrannies—we might call it an axis of evil opportunism—advances across the globe.” He lists China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as members of this “axis” and notes:

They see a weakened and declining West, an America at odds with itself over its identity and its leadership in the world, a nation enfeebled by deepening self-doubt, widening division, widespread mistrust, timid leadership, institutional paralysis, and soaring debt. They see . . . a culture—in the media, educational institutions, public discourse—that increasingly does their work for them, willfully propagating falsehoods that advance their cause, always eager to attribute evil to us and not to our enemies.

Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus has warned that there is a very real chance the Middle East conflict could escalate significantly. What’s more, the battle between Hamas and Israel is dividing world opinion, pitting nations against nations in ominous ways.

According to former US Defense Secretary Bob Gates, America is facing the most crises since World War II ended seventy-eight years ago. None can be solved; all could spiral into something much worse:

  1. The war in the Middle East
  2. China and Russia’s growing military and economic collaboration
  3. A malicious Iran
  4. The unhinged leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un
  5. A massive spread of doctored or wholly fake videos to manipulate world news and opinion

US officials are especially worried that all five threats could fuse into one. The State Department recently issued a rare “Worldwide Caution,” warning US travelers abroad of “increased tensions in various locations around the world” that raise “the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against US citizens and interests.” This at a time when the US government and people are deeply divided and another toxic presidential campaign with rising domestic unrest is on the horizon.

“The most dangerous time the world has seen in decades”

Jamie Dimon is the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank; the New York Times calls him “as close as Wall Street has to a statesman.” He generated headlines because of a statement he made accompanying his bank’s quarterly earnings: “This may be the most dangerous time the world has seen in decades.”

High inflation and rising interest rates are risks, to be sure. But Dimon told reporters that the conflict in Israel and Gaza is “the highest and most important thing for the Western world.” In his view, it could have “far-reaching impacts on energy and food markets, global trade, and geopolitical relationships.”

The Wall Street Journal offers evidence, reporting that the war is “affecting the global balance of power, stretching American and European resources while relieving pressure on Russia and providing new opportunities to China.” The article notes that both are positioning themselves to lead the global movement against the West’s “neocolonialism.” An escalation of the war could force many European nations into greater dependence on Russian oil and gas and carries the risk of renewed violence by Islamist militant groups across the Continent.

Walter Russell Mead is one of the most perceptive cultural commentators of our day. His Wall Street Journal response to Hamas’s atrocities, titled “A Middle East Wake-Up Call,” concludes with this paragraph:

Finally, there is the question of whether American and Western opinion will awaken to the new state of the world. In a horrible way, the descent of death-dealing paragliders into a peaceful music festival in Israel is an apt symbol of our times. The post-Cold War trance of the West, reaping peace dividends, celebrating flower power, and generally living as if utopia had already arrived, has left us mentally and morally disarmed. The revisionist powers that recognize no moral limits on their power as they seek to overturn the existing world system in an ocean of blood are descending onto our festival of folly like the hell-bound paragliders of Hamas. We cannot and should not respond with irrational panic and random outbursts of violence. We must soberly and deliberately address a mortal danger to everything we hold dear—and we must at long last wake up.

If Dimon and Mead are right—and I believe they are—we are witnessing a hinge point in history. Our secularist path has indeed “left us mentally and morally disarmed” as the moral therapeutic deism that dominates our culture separates God from life, rejects moral absolutes, and celebrates self-centric self-reliance.

As a result, America can forge a new future only by turning to the source of Israel’s courage in the past. Abraham and his heirs who built the biblical nation of Israel risked everything to follow God’s call.

Now Jesus is calling us to do the same for the sake of our nation and her future.

“Paint the dragon red”

A dear friend once advised me to “paint the dragon red.” In other words, wage spiritual warfare by recognizing what the Enemy is doing so we can counter him in the Spirit. We can know that the devil is ultimately behind the October 7 attacks, for three biblical reasons.

One: Satan loves to deceive.

The devil is a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44) whom Scripture calls “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). He “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and has “blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Two: Satan hates the people of God.

The devil has been in conflict with God from his fall to the present (cf. Revelation 12:7–9). He cannot attack our Father, so he attacks his children. And he has been attacking the Jews, God’s “chosen people” (Deuteronomy 14:2), for millennia. Long before the Holocaust, they were subject to genocides from the Egyptians, Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans. It is no coincidence that the Qur’an calls the Jews “apes and swine” (5:60; 2:65; 7:166). Or that Hamas targeted them for slaughter on October 7, 2023.

Three: Satan loves to kill.

Jesus warned that our enemy “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). The atrocities committed by Hamas against innocent civilians are shocking beyond words. Several legal and security experts said such horrific violence constitutes war crimes. Satan is rejoicing today.

Complete this series: 7 ways to pray for peace in the Middle East >

See all chapters

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