Understanding the Middle East, part 1
October 7, 2020
Hubris. Foolhardy. Is that how to describe anyone’s claim to understand the Middle East? I believe we are supposed to try to understand it. To make headway, we have to start with the Bible, which is essentially a Middle Eastern document that focusses on God’s interactions with its peoples, cultures, history and geography. It begins in a garden from which four rivers originate. Two are easily identifiable Middle Eastern rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates (Ge 2:10, 14). It ends with the heavenly Jerusalem coming down on earthly Mount Zion. One would think the Almighty has something to say about the Middle East!
Lord, help us understand the scope and integrity of Your magnificent plan revealed in the Middle East and the meaning of Your intentions there.
God handpicked Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, sent him by explicit direction to Canaan and entered into a covenant with him there, promising a specific tract of land, which He described and Abraham saw with his eyes, to him and his descendants through a specific line – Isaac and Jacob (renamed Israel) (Ge 12:1-3; 21:12b; 26:1-5; 28:3-4, 11-19). It stretched “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Ge 15:18).
God chose a specific place within this land for His name to dwell (Dt 12:5, Ezr 6:12, Neh 1:9), identifying it as Zion, the “holy hill” on which He installed His King (Ps 2:6). King David and King Jesus called it “the city of the great King” (Ps 48:1-2, Mt 5:35, Eze 43:7). Jerusalem is where Abraham took Isaac for sacrifice, where David built the tabernacle and Solomon the temple, where Jesus was crucified, and where He will return to reign and receive tribute from the nations (Isa 60).
Lord, help us, your family by faith, embrace Your choice of a people – the Jews, and a land – Israel to accomplish Your divine purposes among the nations.
Christians grew in number throughout six centuries and filled the Middle East. Then Islam rose, disputing God’s steadfast love unto the Jews, denying Jesus’ Kingship, conquering and claiming nation after nation for Allah until now only a small remnant of traditional Christians survive (the largest, about 10%, in Egypt). The physical locations where God cut covenant with the descendants of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, where the patriarchs bought land and built altars, are in the “West Bank” with large Arab populations, and are hotly contested by Islam:
- Shechem (Ge 12:6-7), today Nablus. Joseph’s Tomb here was destroyed by Palestinian rioters in 2000.
- Bethel (Ge 28:10-22), today Bet El, adjacent to Ramallah (meaning “height of Allah”). Headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority.
- Hebron (Ge 13:14-18, 23:17-20, 35:27, 50:13). Abraham, Isaac & Jacob lived and were buried here, and David was anointed as King. “Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Hebron” has its own Wikipedia page.
- Jerusalem (Ge 14:18-20, 22:1-18; 1 Chr 22:1; 2 Chr 3:1; Zech 12), divided into West (Jewish) and East (Palestinian) Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is controlled by Jordan and boasts a mosque and an Islamic monument blaspheming the Triune God.
We praise You Lord, the covenant keeping God who is faithful to keep all Your promises. You promised Abraham he would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. We acknowledge Middle East peace will come only through Yeshua (Jesus), the fulfillment of Your promise to Abraham. Reveal Yeshua as Savior and King to the Jews, Muslims and traditional Christians in the Middle East. We pray they will love You with all their hearts and their neighbors as themselves. With You all things are possible! Amen!
Author's note: this image is a reproduction of a map of Jerusalem from the 6th Century Madaba map.