A commentary by Peter Hawkins
United Church of God pastor, British Isles
Posted June 10, 2010While most of us live generally peaceful lives, news reports bring into our personal space the tensions and troubles at home and abroad.
Tragedy in Cumbria; conflict in the Middle EastJust over a week ago my wife and I were part of a group touring around the north and central parts of the beleaguered land of Israel. Amazingly, we felt safe in both Israeli and Palestinian areas, in spite of the fact that Israel is surrounded by nations that would be glad to see it removed from the map. Still you could feel the tension of a nation continually on guard against terrorist attacks or possible invasion.
After returning home, Sonja and I expected to settle back into relatively calm Britain. Barely a week ago, however, the tranquillity of Cumbria and the Lake District was shattered by mass murder.
Known for its beauty and as home to several past authors and poets, Cumbria has also become an area of tragedy. This time Derrick Bird, a quiet taxi driver, "snapped." His day of rage left families and villagers mourning as he fatally shot 12 people and 12 more were seriously wounded. Mr. Bird also killed himself. It was a reminder that no place in this world is safe or immune to the violence plaguing human nature.
At the same time news from the Middle East told of another conflict brewing in this international flash point.
Terrifying experiences and expectationsIsraeli security forces are on the alert to prevent additional weapons and jihadists from reaching its enemies. Israelis point out that this vigilance has subdued the spate of bombings that claimed the lives of both Palestinians and Jews a few years ago. Having been close to a small bomb blast in the 1970s in Johannesburg, South Africa, I know it is a terrifying experience.
Yet in many countries, not only Israel, people live their lives with violence and indiscriminate destruction all around them. It is not only a suicide bomber or an I.E.D. (improvised explosive device) that is a danger.
Missiles are also a constant threat in border regions.
While we were visiting Israel, local news reported the delivery of longer-ranged Scud missiles to Lebanon. So while diplomats talk, the next round of the Middle East conflict is ready to erupt. Residents of cities like Haifa and Tel Aviv live with the expectation of sirens that will trigger a rush to the bomb shelters.
Londoners who survived World War II would remember the V2 rockets overhead; when the engine stopped, the bomb was on its way down. Today, there is little time to warn residents of incoming missiles. It must be emotionally draining to live with that constant expectation.
There is no doubt the Israelis would be willing to strike at the nuclear facilities of Iran before nuclear bombs travel skyward toward their own cities and installations. Even if the rest of the world dithers as to how to handle the situation, Israel knows that without a preemptive strike, it would have only a few minutes to react to a nuclear attack.
Shalom? When will it come?The common greeting in Israel is "shalom" or "peace," but the reality for inhabitants is that war is an ever-present threat.
As we see prophecy marching on towards the return of the Messiah (whom Jews believe is coming for the first time), it is good to know that God's eyes are continually on that land (Zechariah 2:8)—focused on the eventual return of the house of Israel to join with the house of Judah under the resurrected King David (Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5).
We stood in the excavated City of David in what was probably the foundations and broken walls of the palace of King David. It is a couple hundred yards from the steps leading up to the Temple Mount, where his son Solomon built the first temple. The Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant were probably in the area presently enclosed by the Dome of the Rock.
Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, traveled the countryside, villages and towns we visited. When He returns to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11), Jesus will come to restore peace.
We are encouraged to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which will come when the resurrected saints are there with the returned Messiah, working together to bring peace that will spread to the whole world!
"Jerusalem, what a strong and beautiful city you are! Every tribe of the Lord obeys him and comes to you to praise his name. David's royal throne is here where justice rules. Jerusalem, we pray that you will have peace, and that all will go well for those who love you" (Psalm 122:3-6, Contemporary English Version).
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Related ResourcesThe Middle East in Bible Prophecy
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The Middle East: Ground Zero of Bible Prophecy
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