Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Psalm 83 War: Who and Why?

During the past year I have been spending some time focusing upon the teachings of Asaph, one of the musical directors within the court of King David, especially as those teachings related to the end times. My focus has been upon Psalm 83. For the next couple of weeks I would like to have us turn our attention to that Psalm. Let's see what God is revealing to us through this 10th century BC music director.

First, I immediately notice that the psalmist is inviting God to become involved in a matter...and that matter is concerned with the enemies of God's people, thus they are enemies of God Himself. The psalmist writes: O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people, they plot against those you cherish (Psalm 83:1-3). Notice how Asaph makes the strong assertion that those who oppose God's people were also opposed to God. Now who were God's people at the time Asaph was writing this particular hymn? Of course they were the people of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament God continuously refers to them as "my people." Therefore, Asaph lets us know that this psalm concerns a time when God's people are being threatened...therefore, God Himself is threatened.

But let us continue: "Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more." (Psalm 83:4). This is the battle cry of Israel's enemies. They do not want merely a battlefield victory over the Jews; but will be content with nothing less than the complete and total destruction of the Jewish State and the Jewish race itself. Theirs is the cry of Haman, the archenemy of the Jews in the story of Esther. Theirs is the cry of Adolf Hitler and his "final solution." Theirs is the cry of the radical Iranian President Ahmadinejad who declared that "Israel will be wiped off the map." Theirs is the cry of Hamas and Hizbollah and the Palestinian Organization (today's Palestinian Authority) as expressed in the 1964 Palestinian Charter: The partitioning of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of Israel are fundamentally null and void (Article 19). Theirs is the cry of Nasser, the Egyptian dictator who led Egypt into the 1967 War: The Arabs' aspiration is the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel. The cry of the nations mentioned in Psalm 83 is echoed by the cry of the nations today. This is the heartbeat of the Middle East Conflict.

Finally, the psalmist identifies those members of this focused coalition: With one mind they plot together, they form an alliance against you - the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the descendants of Hagar, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot (Psalm 83:5-8). Now let us see if we can make some modern day equivalents to these ancient people groups:
1. Tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites - many Bible scholars believe this is a reference to the Palestinian people today.
2. Moab - this represents the southern portions of the Kingdom of Jordan
3. Descendants of Hagar - Hagar was an Egyptian
4. Gebal - this is the ancient area of northern Syria known today as Byblos
5. Ammon - this represents the central portions of the Kingdom of Jordan
6. Amalek - these were nomadic people who wandered the areas of the Saudi Arabian peninsula and the Sinai peninsula
7. Philistia - this is the region of today's Gaza Strip
8. Tyre - the southern region of Lebanon
9. Assyria - this is a reference to the northern portions of Iraq

Now, let's summarize this coalition: Egypt, Hamas (Gaza Strip), Hizbollah (Lebanon), Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. If you look at a map of the Middle East, you will find that this coalition represents those people who are immediately contiguous to the nation of Israel. In other words, the Psalm 83 war is a battle between Israel and her neighbors. This will not be the first time such a conflict has been incurred. We witnessed it in 1948-49 (The War of Independence), in 1956 (the Suez Canal Crisis), in 1967 (The Six-Day War), and in 1973 (The Yom-Kippur War).

As one listens carefully to the dialogue coming from the Middle East, especially from the lips of those leaders from the above mentioned nations, it is easily discerned that the antagonism against Israel is increasing. What will Israel do? What will God do on their behalf and for the sake of His Name? We will continue that discussion next week. Until then, keep looking up for our Redemption comes soon!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

A few years ago the Verizon company ran a series of television commercials that featured this question: "Can you hear me now?" In each of the commercials the focus of attention was on the clarity with which the people were able to hear each other via cell phones. Now, those commercials implied two principles: one, someone was doing the talking, and two, someone else was doing the listening. In order for communication to become valid, listening is as important as is the talking.

Our politicians in Washington these days feign to be listening, but in reality they only hear what they want to hear. We had a tremendous example during August when hundreds of grass-roots "tea parties" were held. There voices were raised primarily in opposition to a proposed government take-over of our health care. At times shouting was heard. And, unfortunately, at times rudeness became commonplace. Were our political leaders really listening? Or, did they want to do all the talking? Or, was their listening through the sieve of their own biases? To hear what is happening behind closed doors in hallways and closets of power in Washington today, one could state that, even through the shouting, they did not hear us. Perhaps they needed Verizon cell phones.

I don't know about you, but I find this very disturbing. It is almost as if our leaders look down upon us and think, "Well, what do you know?" Being a Senator, Representative, Governor, or President does not automatically give a person the right to believe he or she is above another. It seems that we have forgotten that our country was founded upon the principle of "the consent of the governed." Today, it is more like "the consent of the government." Our Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves if they witnessed our nation's leaders today. "Can they hear us now?" "No, and they do not want to hear us."

As you know I spend time doing research on what God is doing in the world today especially as it relates to the end times. Over the course of the past months we have talked about several of the findings through this blog. I believe that God is shouting to us, "Can you hear Me now?" Yet we pay no attention to what God is saying. We are quick to explain God's work with human efforts. Earthquakes in unusual locations; tsunamis that wreck incredible damage; early snowfalls in many parts of our nation's heartland...caused by too much carbon in the atmosphere. Are we listening for what God is saying? No! Rush toward a centralizing of currencies; a treaty to be signed that will in effect deny our First Amendment rights of free speech; and a hate-crimes bill that threatens to stifle any teaching of biblical truth about sexual perversity...all done for the sake of advancing the cause of humanity. Hey, are we listening for what God is saying through these and knowing what the Bible is stating so clearly? No!

Sadly I know of many Christians who just do not want to know what God is screaming these days. They are content to continue in their apathetic state: don't rock my boat! At times I can almost hear God screaming: "Church, wake up! There is not much time left! Take notice of what I said I would do and of what I am doing! Can you hear Me now?"

Yes, God, I can hear You. I am glad that You dare to speak, yes, even to scream today. Help me to show others how they, too, can be listening.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interesting Days...Interesting Thoughts

Winter in October! Impossible, you say! This past week those of us who live in Minnesota experienced something that had last happened in October 1909...three inches of snow before the 15th of October. I must admit that the white ground looked very picturesque. Some of the children in our neighborhood created a snowman...of course they had to dress him in a Adrian Peterson football jersey. And, a few of the kids got very entrepreneurial...they opened a stand along the street selling snowballs. On several of the golf courses in the Twin Cities area, instead of golf clubs it was cross-country skis that were prevalent. So, this is what "global warming" looks like!

But this wacky-weather started me thinking about a verse of scripture. It is found in Romans 8 - one of the outstanding chapters in the Bible. There the Apostle Paul writes: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Romans 8:22). It seems to me that the natural world is letting out some pretty loud groanings right now. From the powerful earthquakes that recently struck the Samoan Islands and Indonesia to record-setting cold temperatures in many parts of our country, one can almost get the sense that the natural world is shouting to us: "Wake up, the Redeemer is coming!" And so, as I don a sweater about 6-weeks too early, I say, "Thank you, Lord, for reminding me of the nearness of Christ's return and that the natural world is excited as well." It helped my "I-am-not-ready-for-winter" attitude...a little.

So, our President is now joins a long list of prestigious winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the third American President to win the award, the others being Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The question everyone is asking is this: What has President Obama done to promote peace around the world? Remember, nominations for this award were closed on February 1...only 11 days after Obama was inaugurated. What has this virtually unknown leader done that is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize? And here is what I find fascinating. According to testimony from the 5-member Nobel Committee, the award was issued not on what President Obama has accomplished, but what they anticipate that he will accomplish. Again, it seems to me...and it is only my opinion...that this is another sign of how desperate the world is for leadership. They will award one of the most honored prizes to someone they hope will bring peace. Could this not be another indication that the world is ready for a world-leader? (Note: I am not saying that President Obama is the antichrist).

Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee, by a 14-9 vote, gave approval to its version of the Health Care Reform Act. One lone Republican voted with the Democratic majority on the committee. Now, behind closed doors, the two Senate plans are being melded together into one bill that will be presented to the full Senate. That vote will probably occur before the Thanksgiving Senate recess. Will the federal government take over the management of the largest piece of the GDP within the American economy? Healthcare presently accounts for nearly one-third of the national GDP. How has it managed Medicare? Not well! And Medicare was only targeted toward the elderly. What will the government do when it has to manage healthcare for each of us...from the cradle to the grave? What will doctors do? I have read reports that as many as 45% of America's doctors will quit medical work if a national healthcare plan is enacted. Just think of what that will do to your already long wait at the doctor's office.

I don't have an answer to the problem of healthcare. I know that medical costs are terrifically high. But, then again, we have come to expect the best medical care in the world; that means the best in medical technology - not cheap; the best in drugs and prescriptions - again, not cheap to research and develop. Perhaps we need to allow for greater competition between pharmaceutical companies, thus bringing down prices. Perhaps, instead of reforming the healthcare system, the subject of medical lawsuits should be addressed. The threat of litigation adds significantly to medical costs. I am not confident that having politicians and bureaucrats administer my healthcare is really in my best interest.

From a scriptural point of view, in the end least according to my understanding of Revelation...the government will be responsible for every aspect of life, even to buying and selling. Perhaps this is just another indication that the coming of Christ is sooner than we would think.

I cannot help but think that God is at work in ways we often do not understand. Yet we know what His ultimate plan entails...preparing the world to receive His Son as its King. And what a day that will be!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tabernacles, Temple Mount, and Trouble

This week the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot is being celebrated by our Jewish friends. This is one of the three "pilgrimage" feasts defined in the Book of Leviticus. During this week, Israelis eat and sleep in a "sukkot" or booth that they build and decorate. The Feast is a celebration of God's faithfulness to them during those long years of wandering in the wilderness. It is a time of joy and gladness.

Yet, this year, the Feast of Tabernacles has been marred by persistent violence in Jerusalem, especially in and around the Temple Mount area of the Old City. Muslims were throwing stones at Israeli police after Israel had barred all men between the ages of 18 and 45 from ascending to the Temple Mount. This order came after the Palestinian Authority and an Al-Aqsa Mosque group known as the Islamic Movement, called on Arabs to come and to defend the Mosque against supposed Jewish threats.

Muslims consider the Temple Mount to be the third most holy place in Islam. They teach that it was from here that Mohammed took his night ride into heaven. And, in recent years, they have come to strongly deny that the Jewish people had any presence there. They deny that a Temple ever existed. Dimitri Diliani, a spokesman for Fatah - the Palestinian faction that now controls the West Bank area - said earlier this week, "Don't use the term Temple Mount. It doesn't exist. I don't know where it is. I cannot see any Temple. Can you? No one can find any trace of it. The area you refer to is only a Muslim holy site." I know what you are thinking: How can they deny the vast quantity of archaeological evidence that has been unearthed in and around the Temple Compound? They just choose to ignore it, and, if possible to have it destroyed. And sadly, tons of "archaeological dirt" has been destroyed from the Temple area.

Why are Muslims so determined to deny any Jewish presence at the Temple Mount? If they acknowledge a Jewish presence at the Temple Mount, if they accept that there was a Jewish Temple that stood upon that location centuries before their Dome of the Rock was built, then they would also be forced to admit that the entire land had a Jewish presence before there was any Muslim presence. Every archaeological discover in and around the Old City is confirmation of the truth they wish to deny...this land was Israel long before it ever was Palestine. And, what I find incredibly interesting, the archaeological discoveries around Jerusalem are increasing at a rapid pace. From stone quarries to palace foundations to pottery shards bearing biblical names, the discoveries elicit great excitement from both students of ancient history and of the Bible.

Could the land of Israel be on the verge of a third Intifadah. You might remember that it was during this same time period in 2000 that Defense Minister Sharon (he would later become Prime Minister) made a visit to the Temple Mount. He was met by Muslims throwing stones. That was the beginning of the second Intifadah. Only time will tell how this event will be resolved. But tensions are running high. You can only keep the lid on a boiling pot for so long before the pot boils over.

Speaking of archaeological discoveries, did you hear about the discovery of Egyptian coins bearing the image and name of Joseph which were recently found at the Museum of Egypt in Cairo. The report, published in Cairo's "Al Ahram" newspaper said: "A thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs who ruled at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait." I will be anxiously awaiting the publication of photos of these coins.