Through a Glass, Darkly
Vol: 114 Issue: 21 Monday, March 21, 2011
As the eleventh year of the twenty-first century drew to a close, there was not an inkling of the unrest now overspreading the Middle East.
I got an email over the weekend about the Middle East meltdown in which my correspondent asked me how it will affect the Middle East scenario as outlined by Psalms 83.
Indeed, the year began with a discussion of the prospect of the all-out war against Israel that Jordan’s King Abdullah had predicted six months’ before.
This is the way it appeared to me as of the third day of January, 2011:
“Adding up all that we know so far and throwing in a little New Year’s speculation, one could almost make the case for the Psalms 83 conflict in 2011 — followed by the Gog-Magog War in 2012, assuming the two-year time frame Iran needs to clean up Stuxnet. And no additional sabotage.”
In retrospect, I am very glad I used the words ‘speculation’ and ‘almost’ in that statement and went straight to a discussion about Bible prophecy and historical facts.
Saves me from having to apologize now, because any speculation I may have engaged in then would most certainly be wrong now.
Nobody could have foreseen that the death of a Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi the very next day would set in motion the chain of events that resulted in US missiles streaking across the skies of Libya two months later.
Bouazizi died from self-immolation on the fourth of January. Bouzazi set himself alight in front of the governor’s residence to protest being humiliated at the hands of local police over a vendor’s permit.
What sparked the subsequent demonstrations was the sweeping injustice of it all. Mohamed Bouazizi held a degree in computer science, but was forced to sell fruit on the street. Then the government attempted to take even that from him.
Bouazizi became the symbol of defiance that triggered the Arab Revolution of 2011. Tunisan President Ben Ali fell within ten days. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was toppled a month later.
By the end of February, unrest had spread to thirteen Arab states; Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.
Arab leaders attempted to blame Israel for the unrest. Speaking to a crowd of government supporters holding a counter-march at Sanaa University, President Ali Abdullah Saleh trotted out the usual suspects:
“I am going to reveal a secret,” he said. “There is an operations room in Tel Aviv with the aim of destabilizing the Arab world. The operations room is in Tel Aviv and run by the White House,” he said.
“The Americans also talk with the government officials about this (the protests), but they tell them ‘allow these people to demonstrate in the streets’,” Saleh said. “We say that this is a Zionist agenda.”
But something happened that shocked the Arab League to its core. It precipitated the talks that led to the whole Arab League undertaking a decision to ask the UN to take military action in Libya.
Blaming the Jews didn’t work.
Crowds set fire to the headquarters building of the ruling Ba’ath Party in the Syrian city of Dera’a over the weekend. It was the third consecutive day of protests against one of the Arab world’s most authoritarian dictatorships.
The demonstrators also set ablaze the main courts complex and two phone company branches. One of the firms, Syriatel, is owned by President Bashar Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf.
A nearby bank was untouched, indicating the demonstrator’s beef was with the Assad regime, not the system.
Syrian police fired live ammunition into the crowd, killing at least one in Dera’a and wounding scores more, according to reports.
“Thousands gathered in and around the Omari mosque in Dara’a, chanting their demands: the release of all political prisoners; trials for those who shot and killed protesters; the abolition of Syria’s 48-year emergency law; more freedoms; and an end to pervasive corruption. “No fear after today,” the crowd chanted, according to witnesses and human rights activists.”
Syria also attempted to blame Israel, blaming the shootings on “infiltrators pretending to be high-ranking security officials.”
It isn’t working for the Syrians, either. It isn’t that the Arab public wouldn’t like to blame Israel. But that ship has evidently sailed, for now.
While coalition bombs continue to pound Libya will the support of the Arab League, Yemen’s army has split — with the commander of the Yemeni first armored division announcing he was siding with the protests and called on the army to protect the demonstrators.
So where does this leave the whole Psalms 83 scenario? Until the beginning of this year, it all seemed so crystal-clear. It appeared that the Arab world was poised, as King Abdullah suggested, for an all-out attack against Israel.
The nations that would naturally be drawn into that all-out attack included all the nations named in Psalms 83, Obadiah and Isaiah 17 as combatants in one last pan-Arab effort to annihilate the Jewish state.
Instead, the leaders of virtually all of these states are the ones that are under siege. Efforts to redirect the anger towards Israel have utterly failed.
Hamas sent operatives into an Israeli settlement to commit the most heinous atrocity they could think of, in hopes of drawing a massive Israeli military response against Gaza that they could use to refocus Arab attention on Israel.
They sent murderers with knives to butcher the Fogel family, including a three-month old infant. Then Hamas fired fifty missiles into Israeli towns, including one that struck the roof of a kindergarten.
Not even pro-Palestinian groups.
“It is a dismal reflection on Hamas that it is violently cracking down on peaceful demonstrators calling for political reconciliation,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. “This is just the latest instance of Hamas assaulting Palestinians’ fundamental freedoms.”
So what does it all mean? Is the Psalms 83 scenario wrong? Did we miss something? Not exactly. The scenario outlined in Psalms 83 is yet future and will be fulfilled as the Bible lays it out.
But it might not unfold the way that some prophecy teachers have speculated that it will. It may not all unfold the way that I have speculated that it will. This is the hard part when it comes to interpreting Bible prophecy — accountability.
Interpretation necessarily demands a certain amount of speculation when dealing with prophecy, but sometimes people confuse interpretative speculation with the prophecy itself.
Bible teachers can be wrong – especially when it comes to speculative interpretation – but that doesn’t translate into the Bible being wrong.
People who have bet it all on their interpretation of a particular prophecy can feel that the Bible has let them down, or their faith has let them down, when in reality, it was where they placed their faith that let them down.
Ultimately, the Bible says, there will be a final, all-out pan-Arab attack launched against Israel and it is clearly a different war scenario and one with a different outcome than the Gog-Magog War prophesied in Ezekiel 38.
But it would appear that all the scenarios that included the present Arab world leaders in it will require reexamination.
We know that Bible prophecy WILL be fulfilled. But HOW is the stuff of speculation.
We can only speculate what it means when Jesus says, “men’s hearts to fail them for fear” — does that refer to faint-heartedness or fatal heart attacks?
Don’t put all your faith in a particular interpretation of HOW Bible prophecy will unfold. There are things we know, and there are things we don’t know.
Bible prophecy is deliberately vague – its purpose is to demonstrate to even the least attentive among us that what taking place in this generation is following an organized blueprint. That is the PURPOSE for Bible prophecy in the last days.
So that when we see these things BEGIN to come to pass, we can know to look up and lift up our heads because our redemption draws near.
And so we can spread the Word to those that don’t.