Our Prayer for Peace in the Middle East

Nov 5, 2023

Our hearts go out to all who are suffering from violence.

The way we look at war in the Middle East must be informed by our understanding of who God is, what God is doing, and our place in it all. This will help us know how we should respond.

Let’s look at Scripture to help us in that regard. Let’s also look at some facts to help in our perspective. Let’s be specific about what we are praying for.

Love is our ethic. Because God loved…we love God, neighbors, enemies.

John 3:16-21 Matthew 28:18-20

God loves people from all nations. Our world would be a better place if everyone recognized Jesus Christ as Savior and King. The Good News of Jesus is a message that we want to share with everyone. We join the movement of people sharing Jesus with others. This “Jesus Movement” is our opportunity to participate in the Kingdom of God. The world would be a better place if everyone looked to Jesus Christ as Savior King and as a result loved each other.

“The Lord is not slow in doing what he promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.” – 2 Peter 3:9-15

The One True Living God is a God of righteousness and justice. God is powerful and faithful in love, calling people to turn away from wrongdoing, forgiving the repentant, and judging the guilty who refuse to repent, as seen in Exodus 34:6-7.

God’s Kingdom includes our response of loving devotion to God, loving respect for others, and a resulting lifestyle of righteousness, peace, and joy, as seen in Romans 14:17.

God tells us that He finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23).

Israel is a People God Loves:

The Apostle Paul who was used by God to establish the foundation of Christian Doctrine for The Church taught that being a natural Jew did not mean that you could claim that you were the true offspring of Abraham unless you exercised faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 2:28-29;4:12;11:17-18) At the same time, the longing of Paul’s heart and prayer for Israel was for them to be saved. He even declared that he would be willing to be cursed forever if it would mean that Israel could be saved. (Romans 9:1-5;10:1) Paul stated at the time of the writing of his letter to the Roman Church that many of the people of Israel were enemies to the Gospel, but they were still the people God loved because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Romans 11:28-29) God’s call on Israel could never be withdrawn. Eschatologically, Paul saw that when the “full number of gentiles” had come to Christ, God would do a miracle work in the heart of Jews to also come to Christ. (Romans 11:25-27)

25 I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. 27 And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.” (Isaiah 59:20-21, 27:9 Greek version) 28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” – Romans 11:25-29

God’s Heart Is For Palestinians Also:

As ministers of the New Covenant, we stand on the truth of John 3:16 that God loves the world. That includes every group of people in the world. That is the Church’s Great Commission “ to make disciples of every people group”. (Matthew 28:18-20) There have been at times Christians in their zeal for Israel a lack of compassion and concern for the Palestinian people. Not all Palestinians are Hamas, and in the Gaza Strip, they have suffered much poverty. Now they are victims of war.

Israel Has A Right To Defend Itself And Bring Security To Its Citizens

Israel Should Resist The Temptation For Indiscriminate Killing of Innocent Palestinians in Its invasion

Americans Should Educate Themselves Concerning The Roots Of This Conflict

Terrorism Is To Be Judged:

God hates the shedding of innocent blood. Kidnapping under Mosaic Law was punishable by death. (Exodus 21:16)

One of the primary calls of The Church is prayer according to 1 Timothy 2:1-5.

Psalms 122:6 says that we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We should pray for a peaceful resolve to the conflict and not a devastating one. Working for peace is a quality of Jesus’ Kingdom (Matthew 5:9). Those who are peacemakers are seen as God’s sons and daughters. In a world where there is already so much hatred, people who work for peace will stand out.

What can we learn?

God loves people from all nations.

Jesus Christ is Savior and King.

Our world is a better place when more people look to Jesus as Savior King.

For Jesus followers, love is our ethic, our motive and value system.

Jesus followers are commissioned to share the Good News.

God calls all people to loving respect for each other.

God’s heart is for Israelis and Palestinians.

God’s heart is for righteous justice, peace, and joy in the Middle East.

We should pray for God’s peace in the Middle East.

Pray with specifics.

May God’s perfect peace come to the Middle East.

May every leader see what God wants them to do.

May there be a ceasefire of hostilities.

All who were kidnapped be reunited with their loved ones.

New homes and support for those who have fled the war.

May those who are suffering receive miracles of food, clothing, healing, and medical care.

May there be new ministries, nonprofits, and businesses started that help people.

May there be new songs written in the Middle East that go around the world promoting peace and truth in reconciliation.

– Some of the historical summaries and thoughts here are from one of my mentors Pastor Bob McGregor an apostolic voice of Ministers Fellowship International, the network of which we are a part.

Thoughts on Jesus’ teaching us to love our enemies and its relevance to current events, from one of our elders Lanny Hubbard.

Since Saturday, September 30th, many people around the world have been watching in outrage the videos of the combative exchange taking place in the land of Israel. The images are appalling and the outrage is justifiable when they witness the disregard for the lives of old people, women, and children that the aggressors seem to demonstrate. The feeling of anger, however, that many Christians experience when viewing these reports is not because it’s just another conflict somewhere in the world. This conflict is taking place in the land of Israel. It involves the Jewish people who are regarded by Believers everywhere as special. They were God’s chosen nation. The land of Israel is seen as the “Promised Land” and any conflict that happens there makes that battle biblical or even apocalyptic in the minds of Christians.

The history behind this piece of land causes many to see this war as different from other conflicts. Because of the special place that Israel has had in the unfolding plan of God, anyone who attacks them will not be seen as just ordinary aggressors. They will be seen as enemies of God Himself. Christian onlookers can easily turn the attackers into satanic forces of evil and not just humans blinded by hatred and revenge. This mental association will vilify Israel’s enemies into being different than mere human attackers. Once they are seen as enemies of heaven it makes them worse than just ordinary sinners.

In Matthew 5:44 Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven…” Once we turn Palestinians and Iranians into satanic forces in our minds it is easy to convince ourselves that Jesus was not referring to them when He said “Love your enemies”. By turning this conflict into a “Holy War” we give ourselves a reason to see Hamas differently than any other lost people. We put them all into one big category and forget that many of them are just people blinded by hatred and sin. We forget they are people God loves. We forget they are people that Jesus died for. We see them as people beyond the limits of redemption, and once we think they are beyond redemption, we can justify our own hatred for them. We can justify them being worthy of being destroyed. In our words and thoughts, we can justify them being extinguished.

As outsiders, we can watch what is happening in Israel and analyze it through our various worldview perspectives. As Americans, we can interpret what is happening there with the idea that we see everything more clearly than the people in the Near East do. We can interpret the events from the perspective that we are a nation superior to those involved, so our assessment of what should happen is the best one. What we do not often think about is that our assessment of the situation can be just as clouded as theirs. We are sinners too and just as susceptible to anger and bias as they are.

Once our feelings of American superiority and religious bias set in we often forget things. It is easy to forget that we too were all sinners once and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). It was when we were in that condition that God loved us. We also forget that God tells us that He finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). We even forget that it is the will of God that all people are saved (1Timothy 2:4). The actions of Hamas should be condemned, but we MUST condemn them for just reasons and not simply out of human anger. It is easy to react to what is happening at the moment and lose sight of God’s bigger plan.

What should be done about the crisis? First, it should be brought to a quick end. Needless killing needs to stop. Those who have perpetrated the attacks and committed violent acts against innocent people should be judged for what they have done. Justice must be handed out to the aggressors on all sides

Second, it is also important to remember that only a portion of Palestinians are involved in the attacks. Palestinians are not all terrorists and Christians need to remember that there are Believers in the Palestinian communities. There are Arab Christian churches existing in some of their villages. There is a thriving Christian church in Iran. To extinguish all the people in these areas involves killing people who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to pray earnestly that the saints in those regions will be preserved as much as we pray for victory over Israel’s enemies. We must see them as part of our spiritual family.

God’s primary business is saving people. Yes, there will be conflicts, but God will find in those conflicts people that can be saved. He saved Rahab and her family out of a city that would be destroyed. He saved Ruth out of a nation that would experience divine judgment. He saved Lot and his daughters out of a city that was destined for destruction. We pray for God’s judgment, but will we pray also that these people will come to Christ? Will we pray as earnestly for Palestinians and Arabs to be saved as Abraham prayed for Sodom?

Psalms 122:6 says that we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We should pray for a peaceful resolve to the conflict and not a devastating one. Working for peace is a quality of Jesus’ Kingdom (Matthew 5:9). Those who are peacemakers are seen as God’s sons and daughters. In a world where there is already so much hatred, people who work for peace will stand out.

After the decisive end of WWII an amazing thing happened. Japan opened its doors to missionaries from the west to bring the Gospel to their island. The end of the war caused many of our former enemies to respond to the saving work of Jesus Christ. As a result, many churches were planted and 1000’s of Japanese people became Christians. We have had an opportunity to relate to these new Believers not by derogatory racial slurs left over from the war, but as true brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Book of Esther records the story of an attempt to destroy the people of Israel. By the grace of God, Israel’s aggressors were defeated. God’s people were protected from the assault, but more than that, many of the people from the attacking nations proselyted to become Jews (Esther 8:17). They saw the ability of the Jews’ God to protect them and it was enough to convert to the Jewish belief. Can we believe that the same power of God today can cause many of Israel’s aggressors to turn to the Lord? Can we believe that God can change combatants into converts?

We should pray for a decisive end to the current conflict in Israel. This could have a similar effect as was in Ether’s day. A decisive end to the conflict, however, would not be for an opportunity to declare a national superiority on anyone’s part. The end of the conflict would allow once warring nations to turn their spears into pruning knives (Isaiah 2:2-4) and 1000’s of Palestinians and Jews turn to the Lord. Our God is able to do this today just as He has done in the past. We should pray for the peace to be restored to them. But for us, to share in such a marvelous work, we need to see the aggressors not as people to be extinguished, but as souls that might get saved.

Jesus even had trouble with vengeance in His own disciples. James and John were called by Jesus “Boanerges” which means “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). This is because they wanted to call fire down from heaven on a Samaritan village that did not extend hospitality to them (Luke 9:51-52). The Samaritans were the Palestinians of their day. If Jesus had to deal with nationalistic hatred in His day, it is no surprise that the same problem will crop up in some of His disciples today. WE are no different than they were. We must admit that sometimes it is easier to be a “son of thunder” than it is to be a “son of God”.

In closing, we need to remember the words of James. “Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). It is far too easy to get angry at people that God Himself loves. The actions of the Hamas fighters are terrible. They are criminal and should be judged appropriately. If we as Christians, however, let anger become our primary motivation through this situation, then we are moved by the same emotion as the Hamas fighters that we condemn.

Romans 12:21 tells us to not be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good. This is said in a passage that warns us about seeking revenge in dealing with our enemies. Our conduct is not to conform to the world’s way of doing things. It needs to be based on Kingdom principles. Martin Luther King Jr said “violence begets violence and hatred begets hatred”. We as Christians must be careful that the emotions we may feel do not choke out the Word of God we say we believe. We are to pray for salvation, and not destruction, for 1000’s of people God wants to save and not extinguish. We are to act like His children.

Lanny Hubbard, Elder
City Harbor Church

Historical Notes:

Americans Should Educate Themselves Concerning The Roots Of This Conflict

At times, we all tend to classify things as “ good guys against bad guys.” In the case of Hamas that would be true; however, the conflict in the Middle East has a long history. We do not have time to address it thoroughly, but people should understand the basic history in the Middle East over the last 100 plus years. Different people start at different places in this discussion, but I think it is important to understand Zionism. In the late 19th Century, there was a movement by certain Jewish leaders to influence European Jews to return to the homeland of their ancestors. They had suffered programs under the Russians, inquisitions in Europe, and severe discrimination and racism for centuries prior to the rise of Nazi Germany. At the core of Zionism was the aspiration to establish an independent Jewish State.

WWI brought the dismantling of the old Ottoman Empire who ruled over the Middle East. The British army captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire in 1918, and in 1922, the League of Nations awarded Britain an International mandate to administer and secure the establishment of a Jewish home and to secure the civil and religious rights of all the other inhabitants of Palestine. This mandate was the result of allied powers endorsing what is known as the “Balfour Declaration”, a document that supported a national home for the Jewish people. During the time of this Mandate period there were successive waves of Jewish immigration movements. There was also the rise of nationalist movements among the Jews and the Arabs in the region. This led to the Arab revolt in 1936-39 and the Jewish insurgency in Palestine from 1944-1948 where Zionist underground groups brought military campaigns against British rule.

The United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1947 between two states – one Arab and one Jewish, and Jerusalem internationalized. War broke out between the two states. The Arabs did not accept the UN’s ruling. The British withdrew their rule and their troops on May 14,1948, and the second phase of the war developed between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. An armistice was signed with Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Syria; however, an estimated 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were left without a country or a home. At the same time, Israel implemented what is known as the “One Million Plan.” This plan was to allow the surviving Jews from the Holocaust and Jews expelled from other nations to immigrate to Palestine. The stateless Palestinians were given refuge in territories that Egypt and Jordan obtained in the 1948 War or other Arab states. Many, though, were placed in refugee camps and remain in this condition today.

Tensions remained between Israel and its Arab neighbors after the armistice. One thing that happened is that Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli vessels. Israel invaded Egypt over this in 1956. The canal was reopened to Israel along with the deployment of a UN Emergency Force; however, in 1967, Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser closed the canal again to Israel. This time ordering the UN to leave and placing his army on the border between Egypt and Israel. Israel invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula along with Egyptian occupied Gaza Strip. The war lasted six days. At the end, Israel occupied Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Jordan’s West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Israel has been accused of illegally occupying this territory since 1967.

According to Israeli Nationality Law, Palestinians have “passport citizenship” rights. They have civil and political rights but are denied rights to social security, welfare, and education. Time doesn’t allow us to cover the other conflicts starting with the Yom Kippur War but obviously conflicts have continued in Israel ever since.

The region known as Gaza was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Based on what is called the Oslo Accord, the area was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority in the 1990’s. Hamas won the last held election in 2006 and took full control of Gaza. When Hamas took over control of Gaza, Israel and Egypt placed a blockade around Gaza and closed its borders. For Egypt, their fear was Iranian influence and control in the area. For Israel, the Palestinian Authority’s military forces evacuated Gaza, no longer being able to bring security in the region. The blockades have caused economic disaster in the Gaza region. At the same time, Egypt’s and Israel’s fears proved to be legitimate based on what happened on October 7. So here we find ourselves facing one of the greatest crises of our time.

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