There's a cloud of confusion out there that is surrounding us all. It affects all of us, wherever we live, whatever our standing in life. It seeps through to us through the mass media, our window to the world, and because the glass has been tainted, we don't see the full picture, just a clever distortion.
The World recoiled in horror at the tragedy at Qana, in Lebanon, when an Israeli air strike killed 56 people sheltering in a building. A human rights group called it a 'war crime', Muslim leaders are using it as a rallying call for a new Jihad, with demonstrations in Beirut, London and Cairo, with a mass call to "liquidate the Zionists". Yet are we aware that, in Iraq, Muslims have been slaughtering each other at a rate of over 100 a day, according to the UN? Where is the outcry over that statistic, or are some lives more important than others? Depends on your viewpoint really, doesn't it?
A stage hypnotist is a clever chap, able to fool us into believing the impossible, but it's not secret powers, it's just training. He is trained to misdirect his audience, tricking their minds to believe one thing, where the reality is something very different indeed. Qana was, indeed, a tragedy, as are all episodes of war where innocent civilians are dragged into the death-zone. Yet, as in most cases in this particular conflict over the past 40 years or so, the World is watching through one window, unaware of the wider picture offscreen. The airstrike was not a deliberate act to kill civilians committed by the "demonic and bloodthirsty Israelis, intent on massacring the innocent, wherever they may be found". You may choose to believe that if you wish. It was a strike against Hezbollah positions, to remove the launching sites of over 2000 rockets that have been raining down on Israeli civilians, mostly launched from Lebanese civilian areas. These rockets, that Hezbollah have been sending over for the last six years (and not just since recent hostilities started, please note) are designed for one thing and one thing only - terror.
It's the same thinking behind 9-11, 7-7 and every suicide bombing the Muslim world has inflicted on its neighbours in recent years. Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation and it brings terror to all it touches, including those innocent Lebanese civilians at Qana, who were told to leave the area by Israelis well in advance of that attack, because, just as the British are finding out in Afghanistan, there's a strategic advantage for terrorists to cower among civilian populations and that is the immense power of World opinion when a tragedy occurs.
One thing that needs to be said about World opinion is that Israel has no real interest in defending its reputation, it is too busy defending its people. It responds to attacks on its people in the best way it can, to ensure their safety against an enemy who prefer to use their people as human shields.
To believe that the Israelis would purposely target civilians is to show just how far you have been drawn into the cloud of confusion. What would be the point of it, there is no advantage to be gained. We see the pictures on the TV and we are coaxed into believing the biggest distortion of all - mighty Israel pummelling its defenceless neighbours. After all, doesn't Israel have the fourth strongest army in the World? Isn't that indicative of its militaristic intentions? There's a clear answer to that one, an answer born out of harsh reality. The army of Israel is of such a size and power that it needs to be to ensure the survival of the whole nation. If Israel only had the fifth strongest army in the World, then that would not be enough to repel the enemies that surround it and desire nothing short than its complete destruction. Read this:
"Let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more."
There is one chapter of the Bible that is currently being discussed more than any other, in blogs, newsgroups and forums, in the light of the conflict. That is Psalm 83, and the above quote is verse 4 of the same. The interesting thing is that even God has got into the act! Some would find that curious, strange, even ridiculous. And that is just among Christians!
Recently an ancient book of Psalms was found by a construction worker in an Irish bog. Archaeological experts commented on the miracle of the survival of the manuscript that was over 1000 years old. Only one page was immediately visible. It was reported to be Psalm 83 and this fact was reported by the secular news media all over the world, with the added comment that this referred to the situation of the enemies of Israel attempting to destroy the nation. As a result of this, discussion on Psalm 83 started to appear in secular blogs, newsgroups and forums all over the World, with a sudden interest in Biblical exposition in the light of "end times" by those who have never before picked up a Bible in their lives.
But there's a sting in the tail, a potential dampener, when it transpired that the Psalm in the manuscript was numbered according to the old Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, which meant that what was Psalm 83 in the discovered manuscript, corresponds to Psalm 84 in our Bible, which does not speak into the current situation in the same way.
So where does that take my carefully constructed argument? Potentially it destroys it, but in actuality there are still thousands around the world, including Christians, who now know about Psalm 83 and the possibility that God's World could have relevance in our World today. To me God has spoken through this whole episode, through His mysterious ways. We don't follow a predictable God, a god in a box, who follows our scripts and expectations. He is speaking to us continually, not just to individuals and churches through prayer and His revealed Word, but to His created World, through people, events, disasters, outrages, even through long lost manuscripts. All you need are ears to hear.
And a key message that the Lord does not hesitate to proclaim is that He has not forgotten the Jewish people. He has told us this in no uncertain terms in Jeremiah 31:35-37:
"This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-the LORD Almighty is his name: "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me." This is what the LORD says: "Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done," declares the LORD."
This declaration is so close to the Lord's heart that it immediately follows the great assurance of the New Covenant, prefiguring the work of Jesus the Messiah. The implication is that the survival of this New Covenant and the Nation of Israel are connected in some mysterious way. Read the passage from Jeremiah 31:31 onwards, mindful of who the New Covenant was actually made with.
A summary of Psalm 83 is that a confederation of nations, corresponding chillingly with those nations that currently surround Israel, plot to wipe this Nation from the map. With this thought in mind, let us review a few proclamations from key players of this conflict:
"Israel must be wiped off the map", Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad
"Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated." Excerpt from the Hezbollah manifesto
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad (holy war). Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with." Excerpt from the HAMAS covenant
So, try to put yourself in Israel's boots. You are a tiny country, inhabiting a strip of land the size of Wales, that the international community is trying to shrink further. Your land is a hoped-for safe haven for a people with historical links to the land going back over 4000 years, a people who have not, in truth, been welcome anywhere else in the world. This land is surrounded by over a dozen nations gripped by a religion characterized by military conquest and subjugation and who hate it intensely because its very existence is an affront to their religion. Despite giving away a strategic part of your land as a gesture of peace (Gaza), your enemies invade your territory from the south and the north and kidnap 3 of your citizens and continue to fire rockets into your civilian territories. Now consider that the international movement that sponsors these acts is the very same one responsible for 9/11 and 7/7 (and others) and, mindful of the response of the UK and the USA to these despicable acts, what else can Israel do that it isn't doing now?
The facts speak for themselves so loudly that it's hard to believe that the cloud of confusion can still affect so many people in the UK. And nowhere is this more so than in the Church. In a survey of the top 100 UK Christian websites, not one of them showed any support, let alone understanding, of Israel's position.
Here's is what the UK Evangelical Alliance has to say
"The Evangelical Alliance is deeply concerned with the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East. Our thoughts and our prayers are with all those concerned, for those families who have suffered loss and whose homes and livelihoods are being threatened and destroyed; for those in government and leaders seeking a political resolution. We are calling upon Christians and others to join with us and continue praying for peace and for the emergency services, that they would be strengthened as they carry out their tasks in trying circumstances."
It's worthy stuff but, apart from the call to prayer, it reeks of the bland superficiality that you would expect to find with secular proclamations. Other Christian websites speak of the humanitarian disaster or the need for reconciliation (do you believe that really is possible?), but most, including the Anglicans, Methodists and the Baptists make no mention at all of the drama that is unfolding in the Middle East.
One thing is clear above all things, in all circumstances and despite all that we may hear from the media and perhaps also from the churches. God is very much alive, very much in control and very much wanting to grab our attention. He's present in the big things and the little things because there is nothing in His creation that He is not intimately interested in. He is the Lord of all creation and He is weeping over Zion.
The Church in the UK may be stricken by the paralysis of political correctness but at least there are some corners of the UK press that do have ears to hear. Today the editorial in The Times, under the heading of "A Question of Values", said the following:
"This is not the contest between misguided equals that many in the West seem to see. One is the region's lone democracy, which for much of its existence has faced a very real existential threat and would like, if possible, to live in peace with its neighbours. The other is a terrorist organisation, bent on preventing such a future."
Isn't it sad that the Church in the UK cannot show such understanding and insight. Recognise this cloud of confusion and pray yourself out of it, so that the Church can be truly a witness for the truth.