On arriving in the Middle East my cab driver said that he used to be on “the left.” But said he had come to the conclusion that Arab and Jewish people would never be able to live together.
Later an Israeli friend said, regarding peace, “The United States has been the savior of the world.” Made me wonder how many Israelis might be looking to America for security the way ancient Israel looked to Egypt for help (Isa 31:1)?
Admittedly, such a view might sound pessimistic.
But, here in the Middle East, I find myself wondering how appropriate it is for followers of Christ to speak disparagingly of a peace process because the Bible foresees, in the last days, a false-Messiah bringing the illusion of peace to the Middle East—before leading the whole world into a series of apocalyptic battles.
Am quite sure that we don’t do our cause much good by using such predictions to speak against peace efforts in the Middle East… or anywhere else… as if we knew where we are on God’s calendar and time clock.
Woke up yesterday morning to find this view of Jerusalem. Rain and much colder weather had moved in over night… and Jerusalem sitting at 2550 feet above sea level was fogged in. Now our physical vision seemed to equal our understanding of what is going to happen next in this part of the world– or anywhere else.
Looking for better weather we decided to head to the Jordan Valley which, at the lowest dry point on earth is about 1300 feet below sea level (a drop of about 3800 feet).
When we got there we found that the rain had beaten us to the valley and was cascading down rock cliffs, shutting off the highway in its rush toward the Dead Sea.
Turns out that it was an event that drew a bit of attention.
The fact that Israeli citizens and media all showed up to see water here was an indication of its infrequency.
The water, as you can see from this picture, was very dirty because of all of fine dust and dirt that it had picked up along the way.
We watched as children and young people waded into water that looked pretty foul…
Some even played with the foam that was piling up in the pool at the base.
This wadi (which is usually a “dry river bed”) was actually Wadi Qumran from which the Dead Sea Scrolls surfaced in 1948 just as the modern State of Israel was being born.
Archeologists have found evidence that for infrequent occasions like this– when water rushes down to the valley– the ancient Qumran community, at the base of these cliffs, had devised a means of channeling the rain water into cisterns. Am wondering whether it was always this dirty by the time it reached here. Maybe it was just a matter of letting the sediment settle out.
We drove a short distance and found Qumran Cave number 1 where the large jars containing scrolls were found.
We used the “water event”, and the wilderness region to talk about the role of “empty times and spaces” in the unfolding story of the Bible. From Genesis to Jesus, the Bible makes clear that our God uses the wilderness places and times of life to help us see what matters.
Nearby we found this interesting building which was once a hotel on the beach of the Dead Sea. On the walls was a painting of a Medieval Map that, on opposite walls, depicted both sides of the Jordan valley.
Now the hotel lies a good distance from the shrinking Salt Sea. Behind it are a web of barbed wire and electric fences creating a barrier between the Israeli and Jordanian borders.
In light of the security challenges of the region we are scheduled today to work on programs dealing with Arab-Israeli issues. Our plan is to show how followers of Christ are called to rise above the political issues, identify with the humanity of those on both sides, and express a voice of peace in the middle of conflict.
We found this pile of rocks at Wadi Qumran. It’s the kind of memorial that people in the Middle East used even in Bible times to be a reminder of an important event.
Here at Qumran these stones seemed especially significant. The Scriptures found here remind us that our motive for making peace can be rooted in the sacrifice and suffering of God to reconcile us to himself.
But, someone might ask, doesn’t the Bible warn against those who declare peace where there is no peace (Jer 6:14). Yes. But that statement was made of those who were speaking words of reassurance and comfort to God’s people even when God’s people had turned away from Him.
Offering false spiritual assurance is different than wanting to help others wherever we can by seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God
Should we stop praying, working, and hoping for peace for ourselves, or for the Middle East– just because it won’t last?
Most of us know—that unless Christ (meaning Messiah) returns first, our bodies are going to prove mortal. But knowing that doesn’t keep us from trying to delay the inevitable by taking care of our health and by getting medical help when we need it. Life is so precious that those who have been told that they have only a short time, may still do whatever they can to buy time.
In a similar way, peace is precious… even if temporary. Not peace at any price. But the kind of peace that is based on mutual compromises that give mutual consideration under far from ideal conditions.
The Apostle Paul taught followers of Christ to pray for such peace for themselves (1Tim 2:2) And if we will pray that for ourselves… why not pray it for one another—including our conflicted neighbors of the Middle East…
This so different than using selected Bible texts to choose sides in the Middle East or anywhere, to honor some while dehumanizing or even demonizing others. How can we use then name of our Lord or predictions of the Bible to wish harm on anyone whether they agree with us spiritually or not?
Governments will continue use force and wage wars, based on their own logic, to protect the security of their people. But followers of Christ within these governments, even while being good citizens can rise above the political issues and military strategies to reflect concern for whatever measure of justice and peace are possible for now.
Who can we point to on any side, anywhere, and say, “For this man or woman… God’s Son has not suffered and died?”