Is peace in the Middle East possible?

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04. Is peace in the Middle East possible?

November 15, 2023 -

Smoke rises from an explosion following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Smoke rises from an explosion following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Smoke rises from an explosion following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

With centuries of conflict in the Middle East, is peace possible? Peace between the State of Israel and her neighbors has been a series of starts and stops.

The Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978 were the first step. Israel and Lebanon (to the north) came to peace terms on May 17, 1983. On October 26, 1994, Israel came to an agreement with Jordan (to the east); the Jordan–Israel Peace Treaty defined the international border between Israel and Jordan and normalized relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the PLO, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, waged a continuing battle with Israel. The first step toward peace came on September 9, 1993, when Arafat affirmed that the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist. Arafat also pledged that the PLO would renounce the use of terrorism and seek a peaceful resolution to their conflict with Israel. On September 13, 1993, the joint Israeli–Palestinian Declaration of Principles was signed.

In May 1994, Palestinians were granted self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area. In February 1997, this area of self-rule was expanded to include all the cities in the West Bank (Bethlehem among them).

On September 28, 2000, Israeli political leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount with a strong security force. The next day, riots broke out in the area. Unrest soon spread across the country, sparking an intifada (“rebellion”) which continued for several years.

In June of 2002, Israel began building a wall around the West Bank. Another was constructed around the Gaza area. Israel says that it built the separation barriers to protect its citizens from suicide bombings and other attacks; Palestinians claim that the walls are stealing their land and oppressing their people.

Major questions remain:

  • Will Israel give Palestinians complete control of the West Bank and remove their settlements from the area?
  • Will Israel return the Golan Heights (in the north) to Syria in exchange for peace?
  • Will Gaza continue under the control of Hamas, now known for its terrorism and zeal for destroying Israel?
  • If so, how can Israelis live in a country where their lives are so threatened?
  • And what will become of Jerusalem?

The Palestinians want control of the eastern part of the City (which includes the holy sites); many (probably most) Israelis do not want to give it to them.

These issues have been exacerbated greatly by the October 7, 2023 invasion and its aftermath.

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.

Conclusion: Our first step into spiritual awakening

Israel’s long history illustrates the first fact we must grasp if we are to advance God’s kingdom through spiritual awakening: God is king of the nations.

“God reigns over the nations”

All through Scripture, this reality is made clear: God is “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17). He said of himself, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation” (Jeremiah 10:10).

Jesus began his preaching ministry with the proclamation, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). He taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” promising that “all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). We are to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

The prophet foresaw a day when “the Lᴏʀᴅ will be king over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9). On that day, when Jesus comes in glory, his name will be “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).

God’s providential sovereignty as king of the world is powerfully illustrated in his dealings with the Jewish people and the nations. In the next chapter we will discuss the question of whether the Jews are still his “chosen” people today, but here we can remember how the nation of Israel began:

The Lᴏʀᴅ, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves (Psalm 47:2–4).

What was true of ancient Israel is true of the world today:

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted! (vv. 8–9).

In the ancient world, a king was the monarch and ruler of the nation in every dimension of its existence. He was king every day of the week and every minute of every day. He was king of public and private life. Everything in the kingdom was subject to his dominion—you worked in his fields, obeyed his laws, and served in his army.

And he was your king whether you wanted to do what he said or not. You can reject the advice of a friend and even the guidance of a parent, but if you live in a true kingdom, you must do what the king says.

When God gives his best

All of this applies to God as our king. Our first step into his kingdom is to admit that we need to step into his kingdom. As Jesus said in the beatitude that is foundational to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). To be “poor in spirit” is to recognize our spiritual poverty and need of God.

Such humility is foundational to experiencing God’s best for our nation: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

In Scripture, God is our king. Tragically, in our culture, he is our hobby.

Western spirituality, from the ancient Greeks and Romans today, separates religion from the “real world” and faith from life. The Greco-Roman world had a transactional religion whereby they would make offerings to the gods so the gods would answer their prayers. This is why they had so many deities—so they could placate the god who provided whatever they needed. If you were going to war, you sacrificed to Ares (or Mars, if you were Roman). If you were going to sea, you sacrificed to Poseidon (or Neptune).

When Christianity grew into this pagan culture, many adopted its worldview. Today it’s commonplace to confuse a religion about God with a relationship with him. We go to church on Sunday so God will bless us on Monday. We give him some of our time and money so he will bless our time and money.

However, our king seeks not a transactional religion but a transformational relationship. Jesus was clear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, my emphasis). We are to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” to him (Romans 12:1), to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) in a daily decision to submit our lives to his lordship.

When we make Christ our king and seek to serve his kingdom, we take our first step into spiritual awakening. We position ourselves to experience all that the sovereign king of the universe can do in and through our lives.

The truism is still true: God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.

When last did you make Christ your king?

Why not now?

Continue this series: Are the Jews still God’s chosen people? >

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