A week or so ago, I was talking with a relative about the recent kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas. His response was that he was thankful to live in Canada.
This seems like an innocent enough response. It’s the kind of thing Canadians often say, especially around Canada Day.Yet for me it’s not so simple.
I am privileged to live in a prosperous and peaceful country, and recognize that much is required of those to whom much has been given. My primary identity is not that I am Canadian, but that I belong to Jesus. And so, I can’t simply hide behind the safety of my Canadian identity and ignore events elsewhere. As someone who prays regularly both for Israel and for the Muslim world, such events touch me deeply.
At one level, it’s a simple human tragedy. Both the Jewish young people who were murdered, and their murderers, are people for whom Jesus died. Their lives, and the lives of their families, matter to God. And so, I lift them up before the Lord and ask for justice, mercy and reconciliation.
At another level, I recognize that this particular act is a provocation. There is little doubt that Hamas was trying to elicit a retaliatory response from Israel, which will in turn serve as a pretext for further attacks on Israel. The Hamas charter is straightforward and unapologetic about its intent to destroy Israel and see it replaced by a Palestinian state.
I believe that we are approaching the End of the Age. I believe this for many reasons, which I won’t take the time to spell out in detail in this post. My study of Scripture, and observation of world events, has led me to expect that as the end of the age draws near, several trends will accelerate. Persecution of the people of God will increase, and followers of Jesus will be hated by more and more people, and blamed for all kinds of evil. Increasing opposition, as well as the pleasures, worries and pressures of life in this age, will cause many who once professed Christ to fall away as their love grows cold. An enemy of God’s people will arise and will become a focal point for this persecution, especially in Israel. At the same time, those who truly love the Lord will be drawn to Him more and more, setting aside other allegiances, and will be increasingly transformed by His glory, power and love. The good news of the Kingdom of God will be proclaimed in every nation. Israel will be regathered to her land (this has already begun and is continuing), will go through a time of intense trouble, and the remnant of Israel will turn to her Messiah. At just the right time, the Lord Jesus will return on the clouds of heaven and will establish His Kingdom openly on the earth.
I believe the Scriptures are clear that while salvation – for both Jew and Gentile – is through the blood of Christ and faith in Him, God has a particular purpose for Israel which is not yet complete. He also has purposes for other nations, of course, and it is right and good that we should pray for our own nation and seek its welfare. I have recently been convicted in a fresh way (by Anne Graham Lotz’s 7-7-7 call to prayer for the USA) of the need to pray for national awakening in Canada. But I also believe that as a follower of Jesus, I must pray for the salvation and protection of Israel. If you are a praying person, I urge you to do the same. Because I live in a free country, where I have a voice, as the Spirit of God leads I must also use my freedom to be an advocate for Israel as she is increasingly scorned and hated by the nations and even by many in the church. And yet, at the same time, I must also keep my heart open to everyone who is sincerely seeking God, specifically including my Muslim neighbours. Lovers of Jesus must hate nothing but sin, while asking the Holy Spirit to give us genuine love for all people, even our worst enemies.
I am convinced that this attack on the three teenagers is the tip of the iceberg. Israel’s enemies are looking for any excuse to destroy her. Ultimately, only Messiah Yeshua can bring peace to Israel – and all who put their hope in Him, including Palestinians and people of every nation. But until that Day, we can expect a roller-coaster ride of both glory and trouble, both tests and blessings, both upheavals and miraculous deliverances.
In the relative safety of North America, such talk may seem extreme. We prefer our comfort. But our comfort is lulling us to sleep. It is time for us to wake up.