The last two weeks or so have demonstrated how the hand of God can be seen in world affairs as they affect Israel. What this means is, He is a God who answers prayer. Perhaps though, it’s time to take stock of how, as the Christian community, we can be more and more effective in critical issues involving the treatment of Israel on the world stage.
Perhaps we could mark our ‘scorecard’ in this. I must point out that these comments apply to the communications that come out of the Christian community as a whole. Many individuals within that community will have a different ‘scorecard’. So, based on what I see being written about all these events, I suggest that the scorecard would look something like this:
- Recognising approaching crises.
- Placing these crises in their Scriptural contexts.
- Issuing appropriate warnings.
- Undertaking important and very effective activities like providing much needed detail, using various media to get the message out, conducting things like petitions and rallies, and communicating with politicians.
A pass mark at:
- Recognising that prayer is our most valuable and effective weapon.
- Utilising this weapon fervently (James 5:16b-17), unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and in faith without wavering (James 1:6-8).
Often failing to reach a pass mark at:
- Publicly acknowledging and crediting the hand of God for “unexpected” outcomes that have actually been prayed for by many, including publicly rejoicing over and celebrating answered prayer.
- And, most importantly, publicly thanking God for His intervention (1 Thessalonians 5:18), instead, often moving on to discussing the next looming crisis, encouraging people to engage with it and its various forebodings. As important as this might be, when we don’t thank the Lord for His intervention in the previous crisis, we are starting from a position of disobedience as we come to Him with the new problem.
Recent events have surely shown that the Lord will move in response to the prayers of His people. UN Resolution 2334 was a serious attack on the sovereignty of Israel that came without warning, and so without the opportunity for specific and focused prayer against it. But it did mobilise the Christian community in this country, and worldwide, to pray against the intention of that resolution which was to provide the catalyst for another Israel damning resolution to result from the Paris conference that was due three weeks later. Those prayers were answered in a mighty and miraculous way!
Indeed, there were a number of ways in which the Lord moved against the effect of Resolution 2334 and the subsequent Paris conference. For example, even after the preciseness of the wording of Resolution 2334, the Paris conference was unable to reach a consensus on a similarly damning follow-up resolution against Israel, which could then have been put to the UN Security Council. This followed the clear communiqué, that had been sent in advance to all attending countries, clearly stating the aims of the conference and the proposed outcomes. Yet confusion reigned and the resulting outcome bore little resemblance to the intended one, effectively adding nothing to the existing international ‘recommendations’ regarding the Israel – Palestinian situation. Interestingly, I am reliably told that there were those in New Zealand whose specific prayer focus was for confusion among the conference attendees!
In a broader sense, I believe it was also an answer to prayer that the confused result of the Paris conference meant that the inauguration of President Trump duly arrived and took place before there was an opportunity for a further UN Security Council resolution, which was widely expected, and which President Obama was expected to support by again failing to veto.
It’s also of interest that New Zealand did not attend the Paris conference, after having been a crucial player in the preparatory Resolution 2334. Perhaps this too was an answer to the prayers of many New Zealanders that the Lord would have mercy on our nation, notwithstanding our leaders’ anti-Israel stances. Perhaps our leadership realised its grave mistake regarding Resolution 2334. Either way, we kept away from heaping further coals.
Perhaps too, the Lord protected New Zealand when former Prime Minister Helen Clarke failed in her New Zealand supported bid to head the UN. The new Secretary General, who took over on 1 January, has stated that he regrets his country’s (Portugal) treatment of Jews in the past and has pledged to condemn all forms of expression of anti-Semitism. Thank the Lord for this very encouraging development.
Often, something that characterises the Lord’s working in a situation is the way things happen in unexpected ways or from unexpected sources. As I am writing this today (23 January) the Newstalk ZB radio host, Larry Williams, returned to air for his regular 4pm programme, for the first time since before Resolution 2334. His first comments concerned New Zealand’s sponsoring of Resolution 2334. He was scathing of New Zealand’s role, stating that this may well make the situation in the region worse; that our friends are now those who want to see Israel obliterated; and that this will “undoubtedly cost National votes”. I applaud him for his courage. He stands apart from the majority of the secular media.
Larry Williams’ comments about New Zealand’s agreement with those who are committed to the demise of Israel reminded me that we are totally out of step with our major allies and partners – the US, Australia and Britain. Both the new US administration and Australia have been strident in their criticism and Britain has thought better of its original acquiescence in Resolution2334 and made only a nominal appearance in Paris, and refused to sign the resulting resolution.
In conclusion, since we are speaking of prayer and praying for Israel, I am reminded of something interesting from the Hebrew language of Scripture. Many will be familiar with the words of Psalm 122:6. In most English versions it reads “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. In the Hebrew it is actually ”Ask for the peace of Jerusalem”. My question is: what does it mean to ‘pray for’? If one thinks carefully about it, it is not easy to define ‘praying for’. A person might say to another who is unwell, grieving, in need, or in a difficult situation, “I will pray for you”. I suggest this is a rather unspecific promise. In James 4:2b we read “You do not have because you do not ask” (emphasis added). When we ask, we have to ask for something specific. In the Messianic Psalm 2 we read in verse 8b: “Ask of me and I shall give…” – an instruction from God the Father to the Son. Even the Son must ask. I believe that the Lord would have us name our requests of Him very specifically when we come to Him over Israel.
Maybe, when we make a specific request we are then able to clearly recognise the specific answer, which means we are more likely to acknowledge God’s hand and go on to specifically thank Him for it. I would like to see the highly informative and prolific communications about the treatment of Israel that emanate from the Christian community go on to be as prolific and vociferous in acknowledging the hand of God and thanking Him for answered prayer. This is not something that should be taken for granted, it should be expressed