Like the jaws of an enormous vise, a Pan-Arab force is consolidating with the single, driving obsession of erasing Israel from the face of the Earth … forever! Something new is happening in the Middle East that tempts us to say Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled now, at the present historical moment.
However, in our Bible studies, we dare not go that far. Still, you can compare the late news from the region with Scripture and draw your own conclusions. Among other startling developments from Israel is a Hamas initiative for an army custom tailored for battle in a “holy war” against Jerusalem. Hamas, headquartered in Gaza, is at war with Israel. Its charter calls for the total destruction of both the Jews and any trace of their culture. In the years since Israel abandoned Gaza, this coastal region has become the launching pad for the thousands of rockets, set off by a variety of neighborhood terrorist groups.
Hamas now has a Prime Minister whose vitriol is daily becoming more and more shrill. He is Ismail Haniyeh, who constantly reaffirms his oath to capture Jerusalem. From the January 1st edition of Arutz Sheva, we read the following: “Hamas’ Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, reiterated on Saturday that his organization will never recognize Israel and will never give up on Jerusalem …
“Haniyeh made the comments during talks in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where he several days ago met President Omar al-Bashir. The visit to Sudan is part of Haniyeh’s first official regional tour since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007.”
At this point, it should be noted that in this state visit, Haniyeh was cultivating a relationship with the Islamic militants of Sudan, which comprises much of the territory known in the Bible as “Cush.” In the ancient world, this region also included today’s Ethiopia. Of course, in the Ezekiel 38 description of Gog invading Israel, this territory forms part of the southern flank of the invading force: “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet” (Ezek. 38:5).
It has become obvious that Haniyeh is laying down lines of cooperation with the very people named as Israel’s future invaders. This, of course, makes a great deal of sense in the larger prophetic picture of the coming Mideast war.
A Jerusalem Army
But when combined with a statement made by Haniyeh to the Sudanese government, it fairly leaps off the page. Arutz Sheva adds this note: “He also called for the establishment of a ‘Jerusalem Army,’ an army of Arab nations who will conquer Jerusalem from the Jews.
“Haniyeh’s remarks were reportedly made in a forum entitled ‘The Jerusalem Forum’ being held in Khartoum.”
It was reported that, “… during the discussions, Haniyeh’s men met with senior members of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood movement. According to the report, the purpose of the meetings was to look into the possibility of having Hamas join the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The “Arab Spring” of 2011, has become the Muslim Brotherhood Movement of 2012. It appear that in a short time, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and perhaps, Turkey will unite under the Brotherhood. Until now, these countries have been surprisingly disorganized. Far from unity, they displayed internecine strife. That condition is now in the process of being swiftly replaced by a powerful, goal-oriented drive to wipe out Israel, exactly as in the prophecy of Zechariah 12:
“The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zech. 12:1-3).
Here, we have a prophecy that has virtually universal acknowledgment among scholars as an account of latter-day events in Israel. In it, an army lays siege to both Judah and Jerusalem. This would include the now-contested area of East Jerusalem and Judea, including territory all the way east to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.
It now appears that the Muslim Brotherhood is quickly coalescing into Israel’s major opposition in the Middle East. It is useful to recall that the last great siege of Jerusalem was put in place by the Romans, beginning in AD 68, under the direction of Vespasian. Two years later, in AD 70, the Romans broke through and wiped out all resistance in Jerusalem. Sixty-five years later, in AD 135, Jewish opposition was ended when the forces of Simeon bar Kochba were defeated.
From that time until the present era, Jerusalem was a city of ruins and changing cultures. Now, however, with its Jewish presence, it is once again a booming and attractive location that arouses covetousness in every country on earth. It is a place to be desired, particularly by the forces of Islam.
Once again, according to Zechariah, the great city is destined to be the target of another great siege. Only this time things will end up a little differently. In the following continuation of the verses above, the Lord tells Israel what He will do to those involved in the siege:
“In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God. In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:4-9).
Although this is a well-known prophecy, there is a point in the above text that should not be overlooked. It is the word, “governors” which is a translation of the Hebrew, eluf, meaning “brigadier.” In today’s Israel Defense Force [IDF], the term denotes a brigadier general. Once we know this, it is easy to say that these “governors” are the leaders of the modern IDF.
Zechariah’s prophecy, then, is speaking of a situation that exists in today’s Israel. Some have said that the current Islamic Brotherhood’s call for a “Jerusalem Army” could fulfill Zechariah’s scenario.
Notice also the telltale phrase, “in that day.” Usually, when these words appear in the prophecies of the Old Testament, they refer to the Tribulation, or Day of the Lord. One of many good examples that illuminate this idea can be found in Ezekiel 38:19:
“For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel.” Of course, the setting of this statement is the attack of Gog on Israel at the beginning of the Tribulation. Both here and in Ezekiel’s account, the Israeli forces are shown to be victorious over the invading forces.
Then and Now
In Luke 21, there is the account of the siege of Jerusalem, which many interpret as having occurred in the period just prior to the Roman assault of AD 70. It is said that many faithful early Christians heeded these words, and when Vespasian temporarily lifted his final siege, they fled to the territories northeast, in the Decapolis region.
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:20-22).
Thousands of lives were saved when the Jews escaped in a first-century exodus from Jerusalem. However, it must be said that Luke’s quotation of Jesus’ words are also given in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse, where they are obviously meant to apply also to the horrific days of the Great Tribulation.
So a past prophecy becomes a future prophecy. As they were once saved from the Romans, they will be saved from a future army. In any case, prophecy tells Israel that they should be on the lookout for the forces surrounding Israel, regarding them as a sign of things soon to come.
The Consolidation of the Brotherhood
The phenomenal rise of the Islamic Brotherhood is viewed by many Western experts as an encouraging development. They see the possibility of democratic governments springing up in various regimes throughout the Middle East.
But the true analysis of this trend is gloomily realistic. The Israeli government’s position was recently laid out in blunt language. In the Israel Today magazine of January 3rd, we find the Jewish view:
“In the West, the ‘Arab Spring’ has been hailed as the rise of democracy and personal freedom in the Arab Middle East. But in reality, the Arab Spring has given rise to the kind of Islamist forces that seized power in Iran’s ostensibly pro-democracy movement in 1979.”
Israel’s deputy prime minister and former army chief, Moshe Ya’alon, told reporters last month that the problem is Western powers instinctively promote and support pro-democracy movement as though elections alone will give birth to democratic freedoms.
“‘We believe you cannot reach democracy by elections,’ said Ya’alon. ‘We believe it is a long process that should start with education.’”
“Ya’alon pointed out that it took Europe hundreds of years to fully develop real democracy. But for some reason, the West believes that the Arab world will transition from totalitarianism to that same real democracy overnight.
“As evidence that this is simply the wrong approach, Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University told Israel National News that it is precisely this ill-advised rush to elections that has now given rise to Islamists across the region.
“What was once a problem confined to Iran has now spread to Lebanon with the rise to power of Hizbollah, to the Palestinian-controlled territories with the landslide electoral victory of Hamas in 2006 and to Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood’s current success at the polls.”
Israel is acutely aware of the growing power that surrounds them. Its viselike grip is increasing from every point of the compass. From the military perspective, it almost looks like they’re defeated already. God’s perspective is the only thing that gives them hope.
“Gather Yourselves Together”
There is an often-cited prophecy in the little book of Zephaniah that lends some perspective to Israel’s current situation.
In the context of the Tribulation, the prophet urges Israel to become spiritually aware, and to conduct itself in faith. After an initial series of warnings about coming global judgment, it issues specific direction to an Israel described as a “nation not desired:”
“Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger come upon you. Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zeph. 2:1-3).
The prophet’s cry is to a nation under siege. Here, Zephaniah urges Israel to unify itself (pull itself together) and begin to act in faith before the prophesied events of the judgment come to pass. Today’s Israel – the product of many Jewish cultures gathered from all over the world – is far from unified about how to react under enemy attack. Its Knesset has a mix of secular, liberal and Orthodox Jews … even Arabs!
That attack seems imminent. In the verses that come after the introduction above, Zephaniah mentions Gaza to the west, Moab and Ammon to the east, Ethiopia to the south and Assyria to the north. They invade Israel from the four points of the compass and are, in turn, destroyed. By the time these assaults come, the church will most probably have been removed from the Earth, hidden in heaven until the time comes to return with Christ to receive the Kingdom of David.
But in the midst of the Tribulation, Israel will be hidden, too. The Lord will take His people to a place of hiding. Given today’s situation in the Holy Land, it appears that Prime Minister Haniyeh of Gaza should heed the Lord’s words. Judgment will come first to his regime. Remember the prophecy of Zephaniah:
“For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant” (Zeph. 2:4, 5).