Issue 99 Spring 2011
We send warm greetings in
the name of our risen and exalted Lord Jesus. Grateful thanks to those who
supported our annual Prophecy Conference at RORA on 26 March. Next year’s Conference will take place on the
24 March [not the 31st as announced]. In this issue we deal with the current
disturbances in the Middle East and the present gloomy prospects for the nation
of Israel which Philip spoke about at the Conference. I add some thoughts on the same issue arising
out of what a praying brother brought to our weekly prayer for Israel meeting
Signs of the end of the age 3 - The Surrounding Nations
The Middle East
A Palestinian State
Isaiah 19 [KK]
Philip’s accurate and sensitive portrayal of the present situation does not include a remarkable prophecy about Egypt. In Isaiah 19:1-4 we read of the Lord judging Egypt – again we are given no timing though a number of features seem to fit the current turmoil – ‘I will set Egyptians against Egyptians; Everyone will fight against his brother and everyone against his neighbour, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. The spirit of Egypt will fail in its midst’.
Then in v 4 ‘the Egyptians I will give into the hand of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them’. This could be the Muslim Brotherhood as Philip has pointed out – and we should pray God’s mercy on the Egyptians asking Him to ‘in wrath remember mercy’ [Hab 3:2].
Yet God is sovereign and will do as He pleases with His land – and the later verses of Isaiah 19 speak of a yet future time ‘in that day’ - this expression comes 105 times in the major prophets [NKJV] and it precedes a remarkable prophecy in v 23-25 “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve [= worship] with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria--a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance."
There is no earthly possibility in the natural that such a prophecy could ever be fulfilled literally or figuratively. But fulfilled it will be for the Lord God of Israel has declared it.
There are two books in the bible which have on the surface a very gloomy and bleak message. One is the book of Job who is visited by appalling personal tragedy – the other the book of Lamentations, a poetic response to the fall of Jerusalem & the destruction of the temple, a national calamity. The dark atmosphere is broken in both books by shafts of spiritual light [see Job 19:25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth”]. The book of Lamentations reaches a climax in chapter 3 [a triple acrostic chapter each group of three verses beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet] at 3:22-23: “Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Reading on to v 37 we find a statement of the Lord’s ultimate sovereignty of this world – “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” [NIV]. Such scriptures give substantial grounds for hope in the present distresses.
Signs of the end of the age 3 - The Surrounding Nations [PW]
“Do not keep silent O God! Do not hold your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted together against your sheltered ones. They have said, ”Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” For they consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You: the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelite; Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot.” Psalm 83: 1 – 8
This psalm describes a group of ten nations which unite in their plan to wipe out Israel. Is the Psalm recounting history or is it a prophecy of future events?
It is one of the Psalms attributed to Asaph. He was chief of the Levite musicians appointed by David to minister in the Tabernacle. At the time this Psalm was written, Israel, under King David, had subdued the surrounding nations. His conquests are listed in 2 Samuel 8: 1 – 18.
In that passage the territory of Zobah corresponds to that of the Hagarites listed in the Psalm. The list in 2 Samuel 8 is very similar to the one in the Psalms with the exceptions that the Ishmaelites are not mentioned and Assyria which would conquer Syria was still a rising power at the time.
During the reign of David there was an enforced peace. Therefore this Psalm is not a plea for help in the midst of a current onslaught by Israel’s enemies.
Nor is it a reflection on events of the past. There had been alliances against Israel prior to the days this Psalm was written, but never all of these ten together.
A future confederacy
If the confederacy was neither past nor present then at the time this Psalm was written it was still future. The Psalmist has been inspired to write about future perils and to intercede for events which lie ahead. Does history record a time when this alliance of surrounding nations comes against Israel?
It does but not until nearly 3000 years have passed.
If you look at a current political map of the Middle East none of the names of the nations listed in the Psalm appear. The exception is Tyre which continues in the city of that name. When plotted on the map we see that the territory of these ancient nations surrounds Israel. We can also identify the modern nations which cover their former territory.
The names of the nations disappeared following the conquest of the area by succeeding empires. But the nations themselves did not disappear. They were eventually assimilated into the Arab world following the Ishmaelite Arab conquest of the Holy Land and the surrounding area.
Among Israelis there is diversity of physical characteristics due to many centuries of marriage to proselytes in distant countries. Yet Israel remains Israel, both in its national consciousness and in biblical prophecy.
In the same way, the ten nations of Psalm 83 still exist, though mixed and not distinct. Those who are familiar with the Middle East say that there is still a diversity of facial characteristics which can be observed as you travel from area to area. This is the legacy of their former national identities.
Another legacy is their hatred of Israel. They cling to the antagonism prophesied against them. On the day Israel declared its independence in 1948 she was immediately attacked by Arab armies. The resident Arabs were supported by armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Trans Jordan and Egypt with promised support from Saudi Arabia. If we look at the map these nations occupy the same territory as that occupied by the nations listed in the Psalm. The confederacy described in Psalm 83 came into existence and exists until this day.
Despite overwhelming odds God did answer and as in the words of v.17 they were confounded and dismayed.
The Surrounding Nations
There are a number of scriptures in which the Lord identifies the surrounding nations as the recipients of His divine judgement.
“Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.” Joel 3:12. In Joel 3: 11 the same order of words is used in the Hebrew. So instead of ‘gather together all around’ that verse could read ‘all you surrounding nations’.
The earlier verses of Joel 3 describe the crimes committed against Israel which have called down the divine wrath. One of the crimes is that they have divided the land.
Tyre, Sidon and Philistia are listed as guilty of robbing God and selling His people into slavery. Egypt and Edom are named in Joel 3:19 because of violence against the people of Judah and shedding innocent blood in the land. They will be made desolate.
The punishment of the surrounding nations is confirmed in Zechariah. “Judah also will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be gathered together: Gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance.” Zechariah 14: 14.
Isaiah 11 describes the time when Christ establishes his reign on the earth. “But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the West; together they shall plunder the people of the East; They shall lay their hands on Edom and Moab; and the people of Ammon shall obey them.” Isaiah 11: 14. Here again we see that there is particular mention of the surrounding nations as the recipients of God’s judgement.
The whole of Ezekiel 35 is a condemnation of Mount Seir, which is another name for Edom. They are punished because of their ancient hatred of the children of Israel. They coveted the land and rejoiced when the inheritance of Israel was made desolate. Therefore the Lord will make their land desolate.
The next chapter continues the theme. “...thus says the Lord God: Surely I have spoken in My burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with whole hearted joy and spiteful minds in order to plunder its open country. Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers and the valleys, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have born the shame of the nations.” ‘Therefore thus says the Lord God: I have raised my hand in oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame.” Ezekiel 36: 5 - 7.
Once again we find that the surrounding nations are singled out for special mention due to their treatment of Israel. But for Israel there are promises of great blessing.
A sign of the end of the age is that there will be resurrection of the ancient hatred of the surrounding nations towards Israel.
Edom, Moab and Ammon
There is an interesting note in Daniel 11: 41. That verse describes a time when the King of the North surges through the lands in a flood of destruction. At that time Edom, Moab and Ammon escape his attack. The King of the North is one of the names of the Antichrist who sets himself against God. Some see these three nations as being protected by God for giving shelter to Israel. That cannot be true because as we have seen these nations become the special focus of God’s wrath because of their treatment of Israel. Another conclusion is that the end time Antichrist has a special connection with those lands and protects them. Perhaps he was born there. The former territory of Edom, Moab and Ammon is similar to that of modern day Jordan.
All the trees
Does Jesus speak of this end time enmity between the surrounding nations and Israel? In the second article in this series we referred to the fig tree coming into life. The tree represents the rebirth of Israel. Jesus is recorded as adding another comment in Luke’s gospel. “Look at the fig tree and all the trees”. Luke 21: 29. He mentions all the trees.
The rebirth of Israel is a sign that the end is approaching. It is not just Israel which is the sign but all the trees, ie: the surrounding nations who will come to play a decisive role in the end time events. They will be reborn. That is exactly what has happened. Around the time Israel was established all the surrounding nations gained their independence. Jesus was aware of the significant role that these nations would play in the events which close this present age.
At the time of the end the nations which surround Israel will be reborn. They will persecute Israel with an ancient hatred. Because of their treatment of Israel they will be the recipients of God’s wrath.
The rebirth of this ancient antagonism is the third sign that the end of the age is near.
The Middle East [PW]
The turmoil in the Middle East came to the attention of the world press in January. First came the fall of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Then came popular unrest in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, Morocco, Libya. Other countries such as Saudi Arabia feared that discontent would appear on their streets and instituted clamp downs. Egypt as elsewhere has suffered from the rise in global food prices. By the end of 2010 food price inflation in Egypt was running at 17%. It was the hardship of ordinary people facing rising food prices, high unemployment and low wages which sparked the present round of unrest.
In the West the events have been reported as a movement of the people to replace corrupt autocratic leaders with democracy. Like the fall of communism 20 years ago there is a feel that history is being made with a new order emerging. However what we are witnessing today is very unlike the fall of communism. Back in 1989 we had a good idea who would step into the place vacated by the communists. [In this article I am avoiding the issue of whether communism was replaced or just metamorphosed]. Today in the Middle East there is no clear alternative to the former leadership. Opposition has been suppressed for so long that the removal of existing leaders results in a power vacuum. Who is placed to fill that vacuum?
The Muslim Brotherhood
In answer to the question of who is placed to fill the political vacuum the Muslim Brotherhood has been mentioned. What is the Muslim Brotherhood? Will its rise to power be beneficial or detrimental to the future of the Middle East?
Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor, calls it "conservative and non-violent," and "poorly understood - especially in the West."
In contrast Walid Shoebat calls the Muslim Brotherhood, “a rising dragon which will deceive many by trumpeting non violence.”
Who is correct?
The history of the Muslim Brotherhood starts in the days of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the removal of the Caliph. The Caliph based in Istanbul was the central unifying figure not just of the Ottoman Empire but for the whole of Islam. The Caliph was deposed in 1924 by Mustafa Kemil Ataturk the President of the new nation of Turkey. For Muslims this was a fatal death blow for their religion. A promotional video by Hizb-ut-Tahrir an Islamic group whose goal is to restore the Caliphate describes it as follows: The 3rd of March, 1924—the world was plunged into darkness. The Khilafah—His light, spread from East to West for over a thousand years—was brought to an end. The consequences were unimaginable: death, destruction, chaos, exploitation. After 80 years of the absence of the Khilafah, the Muslim world has awakened from its slumber, and the Ummah [the community of all the world's Muslims] is ready to resume its political destiny. From the darkness will emerge a new light.
Founding of the Muslim Brotherhood
Into this world in which Islam had been crushed the Muslim Brotherhood was born. It was a world in which Islamic lands were dominated by foreign powers. The heart of Islam had been ripped out with the removal of the Caliph. And society was adopting secularism and western values.
The colloquial version of the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood is as follows: “In 1928, six Egyptian workers employed by British military camps in Isma'iliyya, in the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt, visited Hassan al-Banna, a young schoolteacher who they had heard preach in mosques and coffee-houses on the need for an Islamic renewal. "Arabs and Muslims have no status and no dignity," they said. "They are no more than mere hirelings belonging to the foreigners.... We are unable to perceive the road to action as you perceive it...." They therefore asked him to become their leader; he accepted, founding the Society of the Muslim Brothers.
In the early 1930s The brotherhood undertook small scale welfare work among the poor, set up workshops and small factories, and organised the collection and distribution of Zakat (the Islamic alms tax). It also established a number of Qur’an schools, important in a country with 80% illiteracy. Later it went on to found benevolent institutions such as pharmacies, clinics and hospitals. The widespread popularity of the Brotherhood has from the start been founded on its benevolent work among the poor. It also has a reputation of being free from corruption which is prevalent among the ruling classes.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s English language website; http://www.ikhwanweb.com has more history on the movement’s origins and development. The website paints a picture of the Brotherhood being a tolerant and benevolent organisation which seeks to spread Islam through peaceful means. There is no doubt that work to improve the lot of the ordinary Muslim is a very strong side of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the reason why many non violent Muslims are attracted to it.
From the start another essential aspect of the Muslim Brotherhood has been the making of Islam comprehensible to a new generation. To achieve this Al Banna trained preachers and founded publishing houses. Al Banna and other leading Brotherhood thinkers such as Said Al Qutb, Mustafa Mashur and at present Yusuf al-Qaradawi see Islam as the solution to the world’s problems. Individualism in the West and collectivism in the East have failed. For them the time had come to establish an Islamic Ummah. This is a society of people whose lives are fully in accord with Islamic ethics. This Ummah when established would, they believe, spread throughout the world.
The other side of the Brotherhood
That is the public face of the Muslim Brotherhood as presented to the West. But it is not the only side. The insignia of the Brotherhood is a green shield with crossed swords the sign for Jihad, with a Qur’an above and the Arabic word ‘Wa-a’iddou’ below. Wa-a-iddou means prepare and reminds the members of the verse from the Qur’an: "Prepare against them as you are able of force and cavalry to terrorize Allah's enemy and yours", Their main motto is "Al-Islam-Huwa-Alhal" [Islam is the Solution]. The full version of this is; “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” These mottos express an underlying belief that violence is justified to bring about their vision of an ideal world.
Jihad is the Way
This message is reinforced by the Brotherhood’s Arabic publications. One titled ‘Jihad is the Way’ was written by Mustafa Mashur who led the Egyptian Brotherhood from 1996 to 2002. The text has been translated by Palestinian Media Watch and can be read by using the following link;
The booklet sets out the necessity of Jihad for the achieving goal of the global spread of Islam. It makes clear that Jihad is not just an inner struggle for self discipline or a necessity for self defence. Included below are two out of many quotes which illustrate that aggressive warfare to bring in the Ummah is what is in mind.
“He [Hassan al-Banna] felt the grave danger overshadowing the Muslims and the urgent need and obligation which Islam places on every Muslim, man and woman, to act in order to restore the Islamic Caliphate and to re-establish the Islamic State on strong foundations... and to liberate the Muslims and defend them from any attack, and to spread the Da'wa (Islamic missionary activity) of Islam in the world and to establish this great religion, which Allah wanted for his servants.”
“In all his (Hassan al-Banna's) writings and conversations, he always urged towards Jihad and aroused the desire for seeking Shahada (Martyrdom)... he did not content himself only with speech and writing, and when the opportunity arrived for Jihad in Palestine he hurried and seized it. The [Muslim] Brotherhood provided the most magnificent models [for Jihad and courage] and were it not for the [evil] scheming and the treachery on the part of the leaders of the Muslim countries of the time, the situation would have been different.“
Walid Shoebat describes the Muslim Brotherhood as; “a rising dragon which will deceive many by trumpeting non violence.” He went onto call this dragon which trumpets non violence as the form of Islam which we in the West really need to fear. It would appear that he is correct. The coming months will see the Muslim Brotherhood consolidate its power in Egypt and elsewhere. A firm objective of the Brotherhood from its inception has been the eradication of Israel. The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is now effectively dead. Outright war may be delayed for a time if the scenario described below comes about.
A Palestinian State
Ynet news reports that the Palestinians will take their case for an independent state to the United Nations this autumn. This is not a desperate move but a clear rational decision. They have calculated that support for their state has risen while Israel has been delegitimized as an apartheid state. The Palestians have nothing to lose. Even if the Security Council rejects the plan it is very likely that the General Assembly will accept it. The General Assembly can press for sanctions against countries which fail to implement its recommendations.
Ynet speculates that an outcome could be the gradual escalation of reprisals following Israel’s failure to implement the resolution. First there will be sanctions due to the continuing presence of Israeli troops in the newly declared Palestinian state. Followed by terrorist attacks portrayed as a legitimate response to Israel’s failure to implement the UN resolution. As terrorist attacks escalate there will be the usual condemnation for Israel’s retaliation instead of restraint. Neighbouring countries will be drawn in to defend the Palestinians against what is seen as Israeli aggression.
If Israel is still obstinate in the face of sanctions and Arab attacks the next step will be the international military occupation of Judea and Samaria by the UN. Israel will be forced to remove all settlers from the territories.
Following the isolating affect of sanctions and de-legitimization, together with incessant terrorist attacks and missile showers, the threat of military intervention will probably do the trick. Having been cowered by the cumulative effect of all the actions, Israel will be sufficiently pliable to give in on everything – the removal of all Jewish presence from Judea and Samaria, the acceptance of the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, the division and internationalization of Jerusalem. Thus, the Palestinian War of Independence, the first stage in the total elimination of the State of Israel, will come to a conclusion. [But not if we continue to pray].
This quarterly newsletter has been circulated for the past 25 years. It provides an update on worlds events seen in the light of scripture prophecy and is prepared by Ken Kite and Philip Wren. We seek to help Christians prepare for the final turbulant years which will preceed the return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is coming soon, hallelujah.
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