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The Middle East: Blessings and Curses

Counter-CutThis is the second in a series of essays examining the Middle East situation from a Biblical perspective.

Clinton coined the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid!”
Perhaps we can better understand events unfolding in the Middle East if we rephrase his statement and remember,
“It’s spiritual warfare, stupid, not just politics!”  Let me explain…

Blessings

There is something different about the Jews, something special.  The world’s Jewish population is estimated to be a mere 13,428,300 – only 0.2% of the entire world population – yet they account for over 22% of the Nobel Prize winners.  They are overrepresented by a factor of 100!  That kind of anomaly is way beyond any possibility of statistical variance; it is statistically impossible.  Jews somehow are different from the rest of us.

Many would ascribe this difference to environmental factors, specifically to centuries of persecution.  That theory is illogical.  Others might ascribe this disparity to social factors.  I have trouble subscribing to that theory because other people groups, such as the Chinese, have strong social structures but nonetheless can’t compare to the Jews in accomplishment per person.  Still others might ascribe it to intelligence (as in IQ), but tests have not supported that theory either.  Therefore something else must be making the difference.

There is only one other possibility:  The unique God of the Jews, the LORD God. [1]  I believe these Jewish accomplishments provide witness and proof of the LORD God’s existence, His constant involvement in our world, and of His faithfulness.  Specifically, the LORD made this promise to Abraham:

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:2-3) [2]

According to this promise, the Jews are especially blessed by the LORD so they will become a source of blessings to the rest of the world.  The statistics of Jewish accomplishments are the manifestation of that promise:  The LORD continues to bless all mankind through the Jews, just as He promised to Abraham!

Curses

Just as the Jews have been extraordinarily blessed, they also appear to have been extraordinarily cursed.  There is no other people group that has experienced comparable level of continuing persecution for 4,000 years. [3]  No other people group can “boast” of such a long history of persecution!  Yet the Jews have not only survived but prospered.  For example,

  • What other people group endured and survived the following, let alone grew stronger after each wave of persecution?
    • 400 years of Egyptian slavery
    • 800 years of constant see-saw warfare with neighbors
    • Permanent destruction and scattering of ½ the nation by the Assyrians
    • Total destruction and 70 years of exile for the rest of the nation under the Babylonians
    • Brutal subjugation by the Persian, Ptolemaic, and Seleucid kingdoms
    • Ruthless oppression under the Romans, culminating in the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD
    • World-wide dispersion and continuing persecution wherever they lived for nearly 2000 years, including through Christians, Muslims, the Inquisition, and Holocaust
    • Multiple premeditated, merciless but unsuccessful attacks by an entire confederation of neighboring nations intent on obliterating the modern nation of Israel and every Jew in the world.
  • What other people group came back to life as a nation in one day, 2000 years after that nation was totally destroyed?
  • What other people group survived being the constant target for total global annihilation?

None.  So the questions remain,
“What makes Jews different from everyone else?  How come they’ve survived – and thrived – in spite of all the persecution?”

Once again we can consider environment, history, intelligence, or even character but none of those factors provide satisfactory explanations.  None explain the miraculous ability of the Jews to achieve resounding victory from certain defeat over and over. [4]    Statistically speaking, Jews should not exist as a people group or as a nation; but they do!  Something else must be at work.

The answer lies once again in the unique LORD God of Israel – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – who made the following promise to the Israelites through Moses:

“… neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. (Lev 26:44)

OK, so He promised not to destroy the Jews, but why would he abhor them?  God unambiguously answered that question also, and stated His expectations to the Israelites along with the consequences if the Israelites did not meet those expectations:

Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods (Deu 11:16)

I am setting before youblessing, if you obeythe LORD your God, … and the curse, if yougo after other gods that you have not known. (Deu 11:26-28)

The LORD promised to greatly bless the Israelites, but also to inflict curses and great catastrophe on them if they turned to “other gods.” [5]

The term “other gods” implies the existence of some supernatural – perhaps divine – tug-of-war going on for the hearts of the Jews.  And the immense blessings and curses experienced by the Jews testify to the invisible reality of such a tug-of-war.

Indeed, the long history of the Israelites confirms this situation, being replete with instances of the Israelites turning from the LORD to follow the gods of their neighbors with disastrous consequences, then returning to their LORD God and receiving subsequent blessings.  (See Judges and Kings).  The pattern occurs consistently not just once, twice, or three times, but for 14 Judges, 19 Northern Kings,  and 20 Southern Kings.  Random occurrence of a highly predictable pattern for such a large sample is statistically impossible. [6]

Therefore one can only conclude that all these earthly events were but an echo of a larger unseen spiritual warfare between the LORD God and “other gods.”  This conclusion is confirmed in the following specific, unmistakably explicit Biblical descriptions of battles between the LORD God and “other gods”:

  • The LORD commanded the Israelites to keep separate from the Gentile nations of the Promised Land and to utterly destroy them – especially the altars of their gods – lest the Israelites were enticed to go after the other gods.  (Deu 7:1-7)
  • Balak, King of Moab (Israel’s enemy), hired Balaam (a free-lance prophet) to curse the Israelites in the name of Moab’s gods.  But the LORD God caused Balaam to bless the Israelites instead – much to Balak’s displeasure. (Num 22:1-24:25)
  • When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and placed it at the foot of their god Dagon, the idol of Dagon was miraculously beheaded and the Philistines were infested by tumors.  They were forced to return the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites. (1Sa 5:1-6:21)
  • When  Israel turned from the LORD God to the gods Baal and Asherah, Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to a contest to determine which is the true God.  The LORD God prevailed in this rather comical one-sided “contest”.  (1Ki 18:1-46)

Throughout Israel’s history, one can see two opposing spiritual forces in action:  On the one hand the LORD God is blessing the world through the Jews and protecting Israel (the Jews) from utter, complete destruction; on the other hand He is using Israel’s enemies and various catastrophes to severely discipline Israel (the Jews) for national disobedience.

That is exactly why the Jews are so unique:  They have been uniquely set aside by the LORD God for His purpose to bless all peoples and to survive against all odds forever, so that all peoples and nations will recognize and admit that the LORD God is the one true God and protector of the Jews.

It’s a spiritual war, not just human politics

That being the case, the current events of the Middle East must be understood as part of this continuing spiritual war that has been raging for millenia, with Israel as its focus.   As we shall see, history does repeat itself, and many of today’s Middle East events are but echoes of past conflicts.

Therefore if we want to understand current events in the Middle East today, we must first understand the spiritual context and ancient root causes of those events.  Any “solutions” that fail to take this Biblical perspective into account will surely fail because the promises of the LORD God of Israel never fail.

All is not as it looks – especially in the Middle East!

Next:  Anti-Semitism

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[1] YHWH, or Jehovah (Anglicized); also identified as the LORD and as the LORD God.

[2] The LORD is absolutely crystal clear that the blessings will flow through Isaac and the Jews, not Ishmael and the Arabs.  This is the LORD speaking to Abraham:

God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.  As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.  But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.” (Gen 17:19-21)

The following is God speaking to Isaac, Abraham’s son:

I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Gen 25:4-5)

The following is God speaking to Jacob, Isaac’s son:

Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen 28:14)

[3] Based on Biblical and extra-Biblical historical sources, Abraham lived around 2,000 BC.

[4] Just take the Holocaust as an example.  50% or more of all Jews worldwide were exterminated by Hitler, yet a mere 4 years later the remainder formed the modern nation of Israel, in spite of an all-out attack by all its neighbors at the moment of birth!  And within a few short years the new nation of Israel became a regional powerhouse.

[5] Note that this is totally consistent with the teachings of Jesus in Mat 13:11-12, 28-29; Mar 4:24-25; and Luk 19:24-26.  (“to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”)

[6] Just consider a simple 50-50 random chance of the Israelites receiving a blessing each time after turning from and subsequently returning to the LORD.  In that scenario, the probability of the pattern of blessing repeating 53 times at random is between 0.0000000001% and 0.000000000000001% (a statistical impossibility)!  The only conclusion one can reach is that the blessing is not the result of a random occurrence, but the result of the exact blessings and curses consequences defined by the LORD.

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