The Middle East Hornet’s Nest

Middle_East_(orthographic_projection).svgIt’s not like things have ever really calmed down in the Middle East for, oh, the last seventy years or so, but believe it or not, tension has risen yet again. Apparently Israel took action against Syria’s sitting government with an air strike near Damascus, targeting a military and research site. At least one Syrian official says the attack was a declaration of war.

Now the report is that Syria will retaliate despite the fact that the US has backed Israel and in fact is talking about arming some of the moderate rebels.

Israel’s great concern in Syria’s civil war is this increasing armament, especially of those linked to Hezbollah, an organization operating in Lebanon that has continued to make the annihilation of Israel a cornerstone of its policies.

The Middle East has long been a hotbed of conflict. In ancient times, key trade routes passed through the region, linking Africa with Asia minor, the Arabian peninsula, and Europe. With the changes in transportation, the Middle East seemed to lose much of its importance, but in the twentieth century, with the demand for oil and the discovery that many countries in the region were “black gold” rich, the eyes of the world again shifted in that direction.

Add in the confusion reigning after World War II, in which displaced Jews were promised a homeland. When Britain, which had governed the region after World War I and the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, declared its intention to terminate the Mandate under which it operated, “the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending partition into an Arab state, a Jewish state and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem” (from “Palestine” ).

Palestinians rejected the proposal, and a civil war ensued, resulting in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. War or peace accords have been a way of life since, resulting in varying degrees of stability.

Nothing has brought more concern, however, than the threat of Iraq and Iran gaining nuclear weapons. With Iran now having some type of nuclear capability (they insist they are merely generating electricity) and determined to support failing Syrian President Bashar Assad by shipping arms to his regime, the unstable situation has all the ear markings of a conflagration waiting to escalate.

Knowing all this history and the dynamics of the region, the religious tensions, and the economic factors, it still amazes me that such a small area can command such a great deal of interest, especially when you realize that Israel doesn’t have oil–not in the pipeline loads as does Iraq or Saudi Arabia or a handful of other Arabic states.

I remember hearing when I was younger, the interpretation of the book of Revelation that believes in a physical, literal fulfillment of the prophecy of the events surrounding Israel, and I thought, why would the whole world want to go up against that tiny, insignificant nation? It seemed unlikely.

In area, Israel comes in at number 153 out of 249 nations, making them smaller than countries like Belize, El Salvador, and Haiti. Such a tiny place to stir up such anxiety, such hatred, such animosity. But for one reason or the other, it has managed to stay at the crossroads of the world and generate strong feelings. Not many people are neutral about Israel.

This is one of those topics that can easily bring people to blows or at least to heated arguments. I’m glad to know there is a sovereign God superintending the situation. Otherwise it would be easy to become overwhelmed by the irreconcilable issues and the long-standing acrimony. We’re talking about the mother of all feuds–the granddaddy of the Hatfields and the McCoys. With modern weapons.

Yeah, not good.

But God is.

Which doesn’t mean He will stop the Middle East from erupting. In fact, it might mean the opposite. However, He has promised that when His people pass there the waters, He’ll be with us, and through the river, they will not overflow us. When we walk through the fire, we will not be scorched nor will the flame burn us. (Isaiah 43:2). The promise isn’t that He’ll prevent high waters or a fire we must walk through. Rather, He promises us His presence and provision in the midst of it.

Good to remember when we listen to the news.

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Published in: on May 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm  Comments Off on The Middle East Hornet’s Nest  
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