Our hearts are broken for the people of Israel who have endured such great atrocities inflicted upon women and children and the elderly, slaughtered mercilessly. I also pray for those who seek peace, including believers in Jesus in Gaza, who will inevitably suffer as a result of Israel’s justified actions in defense of its people. (What else can Israel do but retaliate and try to bring justice to the perpetrators of these terrible crimes? What would the U.S. government do in the same circumstances? What would we want them to do?)
It is Hamas that has done this, a terrorist organization, and if there was a way to punish Hamas, and only Hamas for this, it would be ideal. But that would be like saying in World War II one should wage war only against the Nazis, not against the people of Germany, which included many who did not support the Nazi government, though there were, unfortunately, many who tolerated it.
My heart breaks for innocent Israelis and innocent Palestinians, but for sure any chance of peace in the Middle East, at least in the near future, has been decimated by the horrific actions of Hamas against innocent men, women, and children. Gavin Ortlund writes, “There is some evil in this world, like what Hamas terrorists are doing, that is hard to account for apart from belief in supernatural evil (demons). God, protect the innocent and break the teeth of the wicked (Psalm 58:6).”
I have met genuine believers in Christ in Gaza and in Israel. Let’s pray for those Christians, and their influence on those around them. Pray that in the midst of tragedy—and the further tragedies that are almost certain to follow—hearts would be turned toward Jesus, who is not only King of Kings, but also the Prince of Peace.
In his article “Rachel weeps for her children: Israel’s fight is our fight as well,” Al Mohler writes,
The cumulative shock, grief, and horror experienced in Israel over the last few days is unspeakable and incalculable. The anger is palpable and justified. The righteous wrath of Israel is now to be unleashed, and difficult days lie ahead. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Among the residents in Gaza are Christian believers, trapped in a war started by Hamas and now prosecuted by Israel. We pray for those Christians even as we pray for Israel. Some of these believers are also victims of Hamas and its ideology.
A brother in the U.K, Gavin Drake, has a written a helpful article on “What’s happening in Israel and Gaza, and how should Christians pray?” He explains some of the history of the Gaza strip, and writes:
There are two evil positions: one is to be so pro-Israeli that you want to see Palestinians crushed, the other is to be so pro-Palestinian that you want to see Israel destroyed. Peace will only come to the Holy Land when Israelis and Palestinians – Jews, Muslims and Christians – feel secure and live in justice.
…In Psalm 122, King David extols us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. That has never been more important.
Many people are thinking about prophecy right now and wondering if these events are a specific fulfillment of any particular biblical prophecies. Biblical scholar Chad Bird addresses, “Is Psalm 83 predicting events in Gaza and Israel?” and reminds us to be responsible with our treatment of the Scriptures.
We know for sure Jesus is going to return, and we long for His return, but we don’t know when it will happen. Sometimes it is obvious when biblical prophecies are being fulfilled, but often there is such out-of-context speculation that the same passages have been cited as being fulfilled dozens and dozens of times by different events.
This goes back at least to the 70s when as a young Christian, like many others, I was reading Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. He was saying, based on his interpretations of passages, that Scripture was clear that Jesus would have to return by 1980.
Then there was the bestselling book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Happen in 1988. A variety of biblical passages were interpreted in ways which history did not bear out—and obviously, Jesus did not return in 1988. He said we do not know the day or the hour of His return. We need to believe that. The errors of that popular book (and many others have made similar errors since) were dealt with in this article by the Christian Research Institute, and can still be learned from today.
Finally, let’s be careful in how we talk about these subjects with others. No doubt, we will disagree about various aspects of this conflict, the specific actions of Israel’s response, how this particular war does or doesn’t fit into prophecy, and countless other things. I have already heard some sad stories of this issue dividing brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember that Satan is called the accuser of God’s family (Revelation 12:10) and uses every means to undercut our love for each other. Too often we do his work for him. His goal is to divide churches and keep people from believing the gospel. (See Healing a Pandemic of Disunity, and When Christians Disagree about Beliefs and Actions.)
God’s people can be united in our desire to pray for peace, for His work in the hearts of both Israelis and Palestinians, for the growth of God’s Kingdom, and for His will to be done. We can be gracious with each other and believe the best of others. Let’s “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), always looking forward to the day when we will experience everlasting peace when Christ reigns from the New Jerusalem.
God promises that He has a great future in store for Jerusalem: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream” (Isaiah 66:12). One day, Scripture’s repeated promises about land, peace, and the centrality of Jerusalem among all cities and nations will be fulfilled:
“I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” (Isaiah 65:19)
“They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Yahweh—the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.” (Jeremiah 31:12)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Revelation 21:1–5)