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God Reshuffles the Cards in the Mideast

israel today Magazine
You've read the news. Now understand it.

Middle East regimes which once seemed so secure have suddenly been thrown into utter chaos. Arab leaders in office for decades have been violently overthrown. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who called himself the “King of Babylon,” was found hidden in a hole in the ground, and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who wanted to be addressed as the “King of Africa,” was dragged from a drainpipe and paraded naked through the streets by a jubilant mob.

Yet those who believe that democracy is coming to the Middle East will be bitterly disappointed, for the secular dictatorships are being replaced by Islamic dictatorships. Nor should free elections mislead us. In Tunisia, for example, 30 parties ran for the new parliament; but the Islamists emerged victorious with just 15 percent of the vote and plan to introduce Islamic Sharia law.

Mass protests in Cairo toppled Hosni Mubarak, yet because the transitional military government does not consist of Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood fomented a fresh wave of unrest. Their intention is to create chaos and instability until Egypt, like Iran, is a strictly Islamic republic.

At a mass demonstration in Cairo the leading Islamic cleric Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb demanded, “Down with the Zionists, who are judaizing Al-Quds [Jerusalem]!” and “Tel Aviv! Tel Aviv! Your judgment day has come; we will kill all the Jews!”

These Muslims are also persecuting the 11 million Christians in Egypt and setting fire to churches. Under Mubarak, things were going relatively well for the Christians. It was the same when the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was in power. The Shah was no angel, yet after him came the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and now President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Shah was bad, his successors worse. Mubarak, Gaddafi and the deposed Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were predictable. The new rulers, on the other hand, are motivated by Islamic zeal which makes them unpredictable and dangerous.

Jesus says, “Behold the fig tree and all the trees: As soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and…recognize that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:29-31). Since biblical times, the fig tree has symbolized Israel. What is noteworthy about this passage is that other “trees,” i.e., the nations roundabout, are also putting forth leaves and are awakening to new life, as is Israel.

Therefore, the revolutions in the Middle East can be seen in the context of God’s plan of salvation. These new Arab governments have arisen in order to enter into Holy War with Israel—as prophesied in Zechariah 12:3: “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.” This will bring God’s judgment on the nations.

With regard to the fig tree, no matter how often you try to chop it down, it will always sprout anew from its deeply-set roots. How often in the course of history have people sought to cut down the fig tree of Israel and wipe out the Jewish people, starting with Pharaoh in Egypt up to the Holocaust and the present-day Arab-Israeli wars. Israel’s enemies have never succeeded in exterminating the fig tree because its roots are deeply established in God’s promises. Pruning the fig tree only makes it stronger. That is why we can still proclaim today: “Am Yisrael Chai—the People of Israel Live!”

Isaiah 19 provides insight into the Middle East conundrum. “So I [God] will incite Egyptians against Egyptians; and they will each fight against his brother and each against his neighbor, city against city and kingdom against kingdom” (verse 2). This brings paralysis and causes them to fall into the hands of even crueler tyrants. Then “the streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up” (verse 6). Indeed, the Nile region has been devastated by a terrible drought, which will ultimately cause the Egyptians to cry out to the God of Israel (verse 20). The Lord hears their cries and helps them, and consequently a highway will be built linking Egypt to Syria, with Israel living in the middle (verses 23-24). Then the Lord will say: “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance” (verse 25).

So we learn from the Hebrew prophets that the current revolutions promoting enmity against Israel will lead in the end to a great and positive turning point in the Middle East, and also to peace with Israel.