Text Size: Zoom In

The Roots of a Conflict

I thought twice before posting this picture of a scene I came across just inside Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate. With an armed Israeli Border Patrol in the background, it looked like a human body had been dumped into a garbage wagon. On closer look, I found that a street worker had just crawled into his cart for a nap.

Behind the smile of a wrong first impression lies a heartbreak that is real. Both sides of an ancient Arab-Israeli conflict believe they have been the victims of unforgivable violence. Jewish voices point to the inexpressible loss and suffering inflicted by suicide bombers trying to force them out of their 4000 year old ancestral homeland. Palestinians say they are only trying to defend themselves against an Israeli policy of displacement and settlement that has resulted in the immeasurable loss of their own neighborhoods, farms, and lives– in a land that has been home to their ancestors for almost 2000 years.
Many Palestinians insist that in the days prior to 1948, international leaders misled the world by talking about a “land without people for a people without a land.” This slogan, say Arab advocates ignored hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were displaced in an effort to give a homeland to survivors of the holocaust. But on the other side of the ethnic divide, Jewish families believe they have a rightful claim to a “promised land” for a “chosen people.”

If both sides have made mistakes along the way, we should not be surprised. Human errors of judgment have always intermingled with the purposes of God in the Middle East. Abram, the patriarch whose estranged children are now fighting for his legacy, was no exception. God had promised him descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). But at the age of 85, “the father of many” was still childless. Believing his wife Sarah could no longer have a child of her own, the couple decided it was time for them to solve their own problem. Acting within the customs of their times, Sarah gave her Egyptian handmaid to Abram as a child-bearing wife (Genesis 16:3). Within a year Ishmael was born.

But the couple’s attempt to solve their own problem gave birth to trouble. Ishmael, while dearly loved, was not the son God had promised. After Ishmael’s birth the Lord told Abram that, even in their old age, Sarah would have a son of her own (Genesis 17:15-19). Although the idea sounded laughable to Sarah, it happened. She conceived and gave birth to Isaac.

Now, however, there were two wives and two sons competing for Abram’s affection. The house wasn’t big enough for all of them. At Sarah’s request Abram asked Hagar and Ishmael to leave.

As a result of this conflict, Hagar and her son were pushed out into a hot barren wilderness. But they were not alone. Earlier the Angel of the Lord had given Hagar’s son a name that means “God will hear” (16:11). Now in response to their cries Heaven responded tenderly to their tears (Genesis 21:17-20). God assured Hagar that He had heard the voice of Ishmael and that He would make him a great nation.

It’s just as true that, for Israel, the legacy of being a “chosen people” came with a heavy burden. They were chosen not only to showcase the love of God for all nations (Isaiah 9:6; Genesis 12:1-3), but also to show all the people of the earth what happens to those who wander from the wisdom of their Creator (Deuteronomy 28-30).

Today, even if we believe we can see God’s hand in Israel’s return, don’t we need to wonder whether her efforts to secure her borders by military strength, settlements in contested territory, and a strong international lobby, look like what the prophet Ezekiel foresaw in his vision of the dry bones? Hundreds of years before Christ, God predicted that in the last days Israel would come together physically before being spiritually reborn (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

As a result, I say we need to look for the difference between what God may be doing through Israel, and what Israel is trying to do without God.

But what about the promise that God would bless those who bless– and curse those who curse– Israel? Check me on this. Isn’t it true that the promise was made to Abraham who was the father of both Ishmael and Isaac? (Gen 12:3) And if the promise does extend beyond Abraham to the children of Israel, don’t we need to ask ourselves another question: When did a Jewish prophet, like Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Jeremiah ever close their eyes to “a chosen people’s” lack of faith?

So now let me ask you. Do you think it’s a mistake to say that we cannot “bless” either side of the Middle East conflict by turning a blind eye to their attempt to return evil for evil? Or, if you have anything else to say about the roots of this awful conflict, it’s your turn :-).

Vote on whether you think this post is something you'll be thinking about:
Vote This Post DownVote This Post Up (+1 rating, 1 votes)

12 Responses to “The Roots of a Conflict”

  1. tootithoughts says:

    Situations in our lives as Christians especially for myself sometimes seems to be like the conflicts in the Middle East. The carnal side of me, the weak part is always struggling with the stronger part- the part where God lives. We make a mistake like what Abram and Sarah did, wanting to do things our own way. Wanting to do it our way instead of allowing the hand of God to lead us. God forgives us, because he loves us but there are consequences to face just like the situation in the Middle East which resulted from the decision made by Abram and Sarah.

    However, I believe there is hope and what men made it to be evil, the Lord turned it out to be good. We can bless the Middle East and love them like how God has shown mercy to us. It is not easy and saying that we should bless and love them does not change the situation or the conflicts. We should open our hearts and let God guide us and allow his presence to work in the Middle East while we keep praying for them.

    Criticism is not going to help anyone, if anything it will just add more fuel to the fire.

  2. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Mart, I believe your thought in the begining is the problem, The root of the Conflict is what God tells us through James, James 4:1, From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
    Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
    I believe this is not only a personal problem, but has been a National problems since time began with Cain, and will continue, human strength will never conquer this problem, it must come from within, desiring to be content in what ever state i am in.

  3. Chuck Franke says:

    “And in that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all peoples. All who lift it shall be slashed, and all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3).
    If this prophecy is being fulfilled today, then both the helpers and the oppossers will be slashed and burdened.
    The existance of the state of Israel in our day is a miracle. God is at work. His wisdom will play out. We can but pray for both Jews and Palestinians. Lifting up both Jews and Palestinians is a burden we must accept.

  4. fudd-99 says:

    Very good analysis of a difficult situation. The unfortunate part of it all is the flaw in the muslim faith. Any religion that directly advocates violence and murder as an approved method of spreading the religion will always be at odds with the rest of the world. The Palestinians need to come to Jesus – same as the Jews – and then and only then will peace reign in the region.

    Yes, we should not condone evil for evil, but God deals with nations on a different level than He does with individuals. The section in Romans 12 is directed at us as individuals. The world and especially the English tried to be nice to Hitler in 1936 and the only result was to encourage the spreading of his evil and murderous destruction. As a result, 100’s of thousands of Americans, Brits, French and Christians of all nationalities died trying to defeat the spread of evil. And what is worse, an estimated 20 million Germans perished in the process. If Amreicans had been total pacifists and wanted to simply lead them all to Christ, the entire European population of Jews would have been exterminated.

    “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” I thoroughly believe this applies to individuals. And this should trump our duty or committment to a worldly government: i.e. if a government were to tell me to go to war for an unjust and evil cause, I should use the above as the Biblical reason to refuse to serve. However, if my country is violently attacked by those that hate and want to kill us w/o reason, and my government asks for my military service, then I believe I am obligated to serve and do what I can to turn back the tide of evil – on a national scale.

    If that were to occur, I would also do all I could to spread the Word, show compassion and mercy to the enemy on an individual basis. At the same time, if shot at, I would return fire to protect the lives of those around me and to help stop the spread of evil.

    I hope it all makes sense.

  5. brownsfan1642 says:

    The core of the conflict will always be the choice to not view others through the eyes of God. In order to hate others, we are forced to devalue and dehumanize them. When we devalue and dehumanize them, however, we are inevitably doing the same to ourselves. Only when we understand that our shared worth is in the value God has placed on us as His creation, and as the objects of His love on the cross, can we move beyond what separates us and move toward what we have in common.

  6. pochimay says:

    After reading this passage, one film is coming up from my mind, I just watch it in the Hong Kong International Film Festival 2008, the film name is “to die in Jerusalem”……a real story on a Palestian family who daughter was committed as a suicide bomber and a Israeli family who daughter was killed…

    I remember in the bible there is one sentence:
    Proverbs 10 : 12 “Hatred stirs up dissension,
    but love covers over all wrongs”
    seems….only LOVE is the only way to solve problems…
    but Life is fragile, handle with prayers.
    Let us be humble and pray….being a Christian is the best grace….

  7. mutisadele says:

    I believe the root of this current conflict is also caused by the failure of Israel to fully destroy all the pagan tribes that lived in their Promised Land when Joshua led them over the Jordan River. After Joshua’s death, the children of Israel were supposed to completely destroy all the nations God told them due to their pagan worship of false gods, idolatry, immorality and they were supposed to recieve their judgement at the hands of the Israelites. However, because they failed to do so and even intermarried with them, God said that he would keep those nations their to be a constant conflict and stuggle for Israel, hence, the present day war and conflict situations. Today, they serve as a memorial stone to us that when we disobey the Word and Will of God, we will be punished. However, we can see that Israel did have times of peace only when they fully and whole heartedly surrendered to God. We must follow this example and commit ourselves fully to Christ, Denying ourselves, Taking up or Crosses and Following Him. And yes, we should pray for Israel, for through their denial of Christ who came to turn them back to God, we have recieved the opportunity of adoption by God through His Son. We must show them compassion and also keep track of the situation their, for they are the timeclock for which the Bible is based…and in the end, God will reconcile His people unto Himself..

    Peace and Love

  8. charlie64 says:

    The Jewish people are God’s chosen people>>>How He will indeed bring the “dry bones” back to Himself is His mystery!!As Christians we are God’s elect saved by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ and we are commanded to love one another,not to understand one another but to love one another!I do not believe we can possibly understand the turmoil and chaos of the middle east,we can only pray for God’s people!! Gods word teaches us that His ways are not our ways! we look at the outward appearane and God looks at the heart! Blessings

  9. Jwigg says:

    The gifts and calling of God to Israel are “without repentance” Rom 11:29. Isaac, not Ishmael is the son of the promise Gal 4:23.

    Restating these Biblical facts is a valid exercise. Neither Jew nor Christian can accept Muhammad as “the seal of the prophets” or the “apostle of God”.

    Some years ago, an Easter program from Israel featured both Israeli Jewish Christians and Palestinian Arab Christians standing together in the shadow of the walls of Jerusalem singing the praises of Jesus. Such peace in Christ is surely the only eternal answer to the pain of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

  10. jabadu says:

    We all know it’s all in God’s hands… the conflict will continue… let’s trust and obey God’s Word as He convicts us to do our part and as the Spirit leads–to love, to serve, to pray for, & to preach the Good News… see how Paul was led by the Spirit:
    Acts 16:6-10
    Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia
    6Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

  11. Mart De Haan says:

    While Romans 11 shows that God has a plan for Israel in the future (the foreshadowing of which we might be seeing in the present return to the land), he also makes it clear that the promise to bless the world through Abraham and his seed (Gen 12:1-3) was not meant to refer to all of the physical descendants of Israel. In Romans 9:6 Paul writes, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, in Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise and are counted as the seed” Rom 9:6-8). I want to consider more about that in a future post about “The Promise.”

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.