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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The root cause.

Any student of history is aware that many major conflicts can be traced back to a single event.   So the First World War was the result of a single pistol-shot, by a man named Gavrilo Princip.  That shot fatally wounded the Arch-Duke Franz-Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, when he visited Serbia on June 28th, 1914. 

In my personal devotions, I am currently reading in Paul's letter to the early believers in Galatia. This letter is sometimes referred to as an introduction to his letter to the early Roman believers.  It's a letter that I have studied before - so much so that even my wide-margin copy of the Bible that I use for my devotions, has little space to accept additional notes!  However, as is so often the case, it is when one reads a passage for the umpteenth time, that one sees something that has never occurred to one before!

None of what I read this morning was actually "new" to me.  I didn't receive any wonderful revelation - a direct word from the Lord to me.  However, something became more real to me.  It is that the current, ongoing, conflict between Israel and the Arab nations, started with a single event - an event that took place some 4,000 years ago!  That event was the physical union of Abraham with Hagar, his wife Sarah's maid.  It was from that union that Ishmael was born.

Paul writes: "Tell me, you who desire to be under law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise." (Gal 4:21-23).   

This was the great difference between Abraham's two sons - one was born of a servant, the other of a free woman; one was born "according to the flesh" (that is, 'naturally'), the other "through promise" (supernaturally).  If we go back to Genesis 15, we see God's clear promise to Abraham - the promise of an heir.  All very well, except for the fact that, even then, both Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were well past the normal age of producing children!  The years passed; neither of them was getting any younger; and no child was born.  Eventually, Sarah suggested that Abraham father a child by her maid, Hagar - culturally quite acceptable.  However, although it may have been acceptable, it was bad advice!  Out of that union, Ishmael was born.

It was some 14 years later that the miracle took place when Sarah, now 90 years of age, conceived and gave birth to Isaac.  This, of course, was a supernatural birth!  We read, later in the Genesis account that "... Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac." And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named." (Gen 21:9-12).

That is the beginning of the enmity between the descendants of Isaac - the Children of Israel (the Jewish people); and the descendants of Ishmael - the Arab nations.  We might say that the current Israeli-Arab controversy actually started in Hagar's bedroom (or tent)!  A single act - with results that were to be far-reaching, and totally unexpected.  The feud continues - each group looking back to Abraham as their progenitor; and each claiming the land of Israel as their own.

However, the Biblical record makes it absolutely clear.  The "Promised Land" is given by Almighty God to those who are the descendants of, not only Abraham, but of Isaac and Jacob as well.  That is why so many of the disciples of Jesus - Himself a Jew! - are firm supporters of the modern State of Israel.  If we believe the Bible to be true, we can be no other.  Of course, we may not agree with every political policy followed by the Israeli government - any more than we agree with every policy of our own national governments.  But I believe that we must stand by the Jewish nation - particularly in the light of the current rise in anti-Semitism.  To that end, I encourage anyone to become part of Christians United for Israel (http://www.cufi.org.uk/).  If you are not resident in the UK, then you may prefer to join the "parent" organisation at http://www.cufi.org/

When Jacob received the blessing of the first-born (even although he did so by deceiving his father, Isaac), that blessing ended: "Cursed be every one who curses you, and blessed be every one who blesses you!" (Gen 27:29).

In Zech 2:8-12, we read "... thus said YHWH Sabaoth, after His glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye: "Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the YHWH Sabaoth has sent me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says YHWH. And many nations shall join themselves to YHWH in that day, and shall be My people; and I will dwell in the midst of you, and you shall know that YHWH Sabaoth has sent me to you. And YHWH will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.

The Jewish people are still "the apple of His eye"; and those who curse them will be cursed, even as those who bless them will be blessed.  Choose blessing, not a curse!

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