II Corinthians 4:5-7

"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

A Cup of Trembling

by Jon R. Welker

"The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it." Zechariah 12:1-3

Dear Friends, Students & Strangers,

Greetings in the Name of He Who is even at the doors!

I wish to comment on several momentous events which have and are even now transpiring in the Middle East, for it is there we have repeatedly stated that the spark will ignite the final conflagration of Armageddon. Carefully note how the Prophet Zechariah stated that "all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces." One translation says, in substance "all who seek to remove this heavy stone will injure themselves."

Few things have so dramatically changed the momentum of events in the Middle East since the fall of the Shah of Iran, than Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and the following declaration of Jerusalem as the United and Eternal Capital of Israel, on July 31, 1980. The day after, August 1, 1980, thousands of Arabs, angered by the declaration, gathered outside the walls of the Old City chanting, "with blood and fire we shall liberate Palestine." Syria demanded that Israel be expelled from the U.N. The Syrian President also called for ALL Arab nations to develop a special relationship with the then Soviet Union.

Former foreign minister Moshe Dyan of Israel made the following statement at that time: "Israel faces an international offensive that could lead to its end." He also said, "the parliament's declaration of sovereignty over Old Jerusalem was totally unnecessary," and "that Israel faces a very grave situation because of repeated attacks on it by the U.N., and recently by western Europe." Continuing his grim assessment of Israel's predicament, he said, "our situation is very grave indeed, and Jews in Israel and throughout the diaspora outside Israel must be alerted and made to take steps. An international offensive is being mounted against us that could lead to the end of Israel. If not the state as a physical entity, then its political, economic and security independence."

It is important to notice that twice he mentioned an "international offensive" that is, worldwide. What a dramatic fulfillment of the previously quoted Zechariah 12:1-3:

"The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it."

Another important event that should be considered at this point is an Islamic summit conference which was convened in Saudi Arabia in January 1981. Thirty-seven Islamic nations attended that conference and displayed unity on the emotional issue of Jerusalem. They rallied behind new calls for a "jihad" or "holy war" to wrest the Holy City of Jerusalem from Israeli control. Both Morocco's former moderate king, Hassan, and Palestine Liberation Organization's chief, Yasir Arafat, urged united action to regain Arab sovereignty over Jerusalem. That conference ended with an endorsement of a "Mecca Declaration" to expand the boycott on companies dealing with Israel as a part of a strategy designed to put pressure on Israel and its supporters for an Israeli withdrawal from captured Arab territories. The Mecca Document, named after the birth place of Islam, declared: "we are equally determined to engage in jihad (holy war) with all means at our disposal to liberate our occupied territories." The Saudi foreign minister was asked whether oil would be used as a weapon to put pressure on Israel. He replied, "Oil is one potentiality for facing the enemy." (I believe this is significant in light of the fact that even now America and the West, the world for that matter, has again been made keenly aware of its dependence on Middle Eastern oil.)

It is important to note that the statement of the Saudi Foreign Minister of the intentions to engage in a "holy war," "with ALL means at our disposal," was to put pressure "not only on Israel, but her supporters" (the main one of course being the United States). The result of those implied statements resulted in the United States having to sell to the Saudi's the military equipment which they needed for their "defense," thus putting our country in the position of having to continue to arm Israel's enemies for a "holy war" again in which those enemies were and are committed to use "every means at their disposal" if necessary, that they might "liberate" Jerusalem and other "occupied lands" under Israeli control.

Again we should take note of how the Lord said that He would cut in pieces ALL people that burdened themselves with it, and ALL the people of the earth who are gathered against it. Even though some might argue that we are not against Israel, nonetheless, we were and have been forced into a policy of supplying Israel's sworn enemies with the very means which they said they will use at their disposal to wage holy war against them. Therefore, we can see how we are among the "all people of the earth gathered together against it."

Nothing has so "solidified" the Arab nations against Israel as her invasion of Lebanon many years ago. This caused many militant groups to organize in a united attack on Israel, ending in Israel's humiliating unilateral withdrawal. It also began God's strategy to "humble" Israel to the point that they will eventually call out to Him. In Ezekiel 36:37 we read:

"Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them...."

Israel will take a beating, but they will not be destroyed (Scripture seems clear on this). The Arabs most likely will retake the old part of Jerusalem, in which are located all of the "holy sites." The Zechariah passage quoted tells us that when God brings all the nations against Jerusalem, that "the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity [to the Arabs], and the residue of the people [of Israel] shall not be cut off from [the other half of] the city" (14:2). We believe that this battle will take place before the time of the 3 1/2 years of the Great Tribulation, for Revelation 11:2 says: "the holy city shall they [the Gentiles] tread under foot forty and two months [3 1/2 years]." The military armaments and political backing of this attack will most likely be supplied by Russia, and maybe China, for these nations like to fight their battles by proxy and not get directly involved themselves. Yet we are given to understand that some time later, likely well into the Tribulation Period, something will happen which will draw those from the North [Russia, etc.] into a full scale invasion, with Israel as their main goal or target. (Ezek. 38 and 39 detail this invasion.) The United States and a few other Western nations will fight for Israel, and the last battle of the ages will begin. But first comes the `holy war" of the Moslem nations aligned against Israel and the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem as per Zechariah:

"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it."

Israel's "daily" will be taken away (likely the daily prayers at the Wailing Wall), and the "abomination of desolation" will be set up in the "holy place" (Jerusalem) whatever that may be. Jesus links that event with the time of the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24:15 and 21.

We are presently beholding the overthrow of the governments of Egypt and Tunisia, and tumultuous demonstrations in Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya. Other countries in the Mid-East are reported to be shaky. All of this is changing the balance of power in that region and causes Israel to wonder about its future. The present events are truly momentous and really worth WATCHING!

I would like to share some thoughts about SYRIA. For many years, Egypt was the leader in the fight of the Arab nations in their continued and determined struggle to eventually crush and eliminate the nation of Israel and restore the land back to the Palestinians. But under former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Egypt made peace with Israel – this also having been negotiated at Camp David. Even though the Camp David retreat for American presidents was named after David Eisenhower, it is more than intriguing that it is at a place called `camp' David that these various historical negotiations regarding Israel and the Middle East were convened. Surely, most people, and especially our readers, are aware of king David and the various intrigues and trials associated with his assent to power and his reign.

"And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." II Samuel 15:31

(This is just one reference to such events in "Camp David.")

This negotiation of peace with Israel by the Egyptian president was considered a betrayal by the other Arab nations and Egypt was ejected from the membership of the League of Arab States. Thus, Arab tradition of blood-revenge was carried out in the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

As a result, Syria emerged as the leader in the Arab world and as the strongest and most militant antagonist against the state of Israel. Syria was determined to lead the Arab and largely Moslem nations of the Middle East in a war of extermination against the Israeli nation. Some in Israel have also been concerned that it is almost inevitable that she will have to fight Syria again. This has caused me to ponder a passage in II Kings 13:

"Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died. And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, `O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.' And Elisha said unto him, `Take bow and arrows.' And he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, `Put thine hand upon the bow.' And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands. And he said, `Open the window eastward.' And he opened it. Then Elisha said, `Shoot.' And he shot. And he said, `The arrow of the LORD'S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them.' And he said, `Take the arrows.' And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, `Smite upon the ground.' And he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, `Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.'" verses 14-19

Will history repeat itself? In Bible times, when ancient Israel occupied the Promised Land of Canaan (Palestine), of the Gentile nations which were bordered on their territory, the one which was their chief protagonist and caused them the greatest trouble and havoc in warfare, was SYRIA. At the time mentioned in this II Kings 13 passage, Syria had been continually harassing Israel. This significant prophecy was given to Joash who was then king of Israel. Notice how the Prophet Elisha was "wroth" (extremely angry) with king Joash for not striking the arrows against the ground for "five or six times" instead of 3 times. As a result, the Prophet declared: "now you shall strike Syria only 3 times."

Let us review the history of modern Israel since its rebirth as a nation in May of 1948. How awesome to consider in light of this Scripture, that Israel has been involved in 3 wars with modern-day Syria since the time of her rebirth and the struggles surrounding that rebirth. Yes, other Arab nations or factions have also been involved, but Syria has often played a key and integral part of the nations aligned against Israel. The 3 wars since establishment of Israel in 1948 were: 1) the 1967 "Six Day War" in which Israel made a surprise, preemptive strike against the Arab armies who were poised and ready to attack. 2) The 1973 "Yom Kippur War" at which time the Arab armies attacked on Israel's high and holy "Day of Atonement." In the early stages of this war, Israel was almost overcome until the tide was turned back by what many said was the "providence of God." And finally, 3) Israel fought a war with Syria in 1982 when she invaded Lebanon to eliminate the PLO, which had been harassing Israel with terrorist attacks for many years. Syrian armies were in Lebanon in strength, and they used the numerical superiority of their aircraft to mount an effort to help the PLO stop the Israeli offensive, but without success. Israel, for all practical purposes, demolished the Syrian air force and other aspects of their military capability.

Could not even a sceptic agree that these events are intriguing in light of the II Kings 13:14-19 passage? Continuing this train of thought, would this not suggest that modern Israel will suffer a reverse in the next confrontation with Syria since the king was criticized for not having struck enough times so that "thou [hadst] smitten Syria till thou hast consumed it"?

Military experts have declared that Syria has approached quantitative equality with Israel in military power. This was accomplished under the leadership of former Syrian president Hafez Assad, who was described as a supreme tactician, very shrewd and ruthless, and willing to play very high stakes – not easily swayed from the line that he held of grandiose objectives for a greater Syria. He was described as bent on building a powerful Syria who would be the most powerful Middle Eastern nation. The question then becomes: if Syria has approached quantitative military strength with Israel, has she also approached qualitative equality? Many believe that the military balance of power between Israel and Syria still favors Israel, but the Syrians have remained committed to changing that equation.

There was another series of events which contributed to the rise and dominance of Syrian power and influence in the Middle East. The U.S. policy in the Middle East began to suffer a series of failures, beginning in June of 1982 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to eliminate the PLO strongholds which were being used for bases to harass Israeli settlements along Lebanon's southern border. The U.S. had failed to consider Syria's national interest and historical claims to influence in Lebanese politics. Assad came to believe that Lebanon was almost an extension of Syria. But the U.S. government remained committed to establishing a strong central government in the war-torn country of Lebanon. Thus, U.S. officials backed the Christian controlled, pro-Israeli regime of Bashir Gamayel. Bolstered by his U.S. backing, Gamayel refused to make any concessions to the Moslem majority. This increasingly turned the Moslem population of Lebanon away from American influence towards the overtures of Syria.

As American military forces began to suffer failure after failure, it revealed to elements in the Middle East that the U.S. role was confused and shifting. Hafez Assad seized the opportunity to sabotage the peacekeeping efforts of the U.S., France and Britain. He renewed old ties with the Lebanese Druse and Shiite Moslems, creating a series of alliances with various Moslem militias inside of Lebanon. These he continued to equip with arms and training them into terrorist activities. He stubbornly refused to participate in any American diplomatic efforts for a phased withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon. He remained adamant until his death that he would withdraw no troops from Lebanon until Israel had withdrawn all of her military forces. Syria had then and, as far as we are aware, still has from 40 to 60,000 troops inside Lebanon. Assad's efforts paid off in that, after many years, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon in one of its most humbling experiences.

One of the Lebanese Moslem fundamentalist terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the bomb which killed at least 241 Marines. They also claimed support by both Syria and Iran. And again, Syria became the main beneficiary of the bombing which eventually led to the withdrawal of international peacekeeping forces from Lebanon at that time. Assad's stature among the Moslem-Arab world was significantly enhanced and his role as the leader of the Arab nations in the Middle East became more solidified.

Even at the time that he was cleverly engineering the collapse of the American sponsored peace efforts, Assad was also strengthening his alliance with the former Soviet Union. He quickly moved to replace his decimated military hardware and air force which had been effected during the Israeli blitzkrieg into Lebanon. Advanced Soviet weapons began pouring into Syria. Among the most sophisticated and deadly were long-range missiles which could shoot down Israeli planes many miles away. The warning according to a spokesman in Syria at that time was: "no more easy wars in the Middle East. Syria is stronger no doubt about it."

And again consider the present events and revolutionary forces at work in the Mid-East. It is likely that new governments there will be more aligned with anti-Israeli regimes such as Syria and Iran.

What is the meaning of all of this in terms of the prophetic picture for the future? It is: we can expect another Arab/Israeli war in the not too distant future. With the empowerment of fundamentalist Moslem clerics in Iran and elsewhere, there has been a growing fanatical hatred spilling over in the Middle East against the State of Israel, and also a revival and a rededication to the Moslem tenet of "jihad" or "holy war" against the "enemies of Islam." This, of course, means Israel and primarily the U.S. (which is the main supporter of Israel). Moslems have increasingly come to believe that Western (mainly American) influence and culture has for many years continued to corrupt "the pure Islamic faith" in Arab countries.

In addition to this, there has also been a revival of the Moslem doctrine of "martyrdom." Since the 7th century A.D., when the death of the Prophet Mohammed precipitated a division in Islam between the Sunnis and the Shiite Moslem sects, the Shiites have stressed martyrdom as a way of "atonement." This is a belief that if a Moslem dies fighting for Mohammed, it is a "gateway to heaven" and a "promised eternity in glory." In more recent times, many Sunnis and members of other smaller Moslem sects (Druse, etc.) have begun to also embrace this belief. Therefore, with a growing reservoir of fanatical Moslems ready to go into battle and die a martyr's death, the pressure has been building in the Middle East for an all-out "holy war" against Israel.

Some students of Bible prophecy have believed that the next dramatic event in the Middle East would be a Russian invasion into the area with a goal of taking over the nation of Israel according to prophetic patterns in chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel. We see it differently. We believe there must come first another Arab-Israeli conflict, with Russia maybe only in a support role. Russia's "mad drive" towards Palestine, as indicated in the Ezekiel chapters mentioned, does not begin until approximately half way through the last 3 1/2 years of the age (known as the Great Tribulation period). THAT time period is given in the Book of Revelation. Again, THAT drive also begins World War III, and the final Armageddon (Rev. 16:16), a battle fought between the Beast empire of the East against the formerly "Christian West."

But previous to that final "all-out battle of the ages," God has purposed to put Israel into a corner where she will be humbled to accept the peace overtures of a False Prophet or False Messiah. Jesus referred to this when He said:

"I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." John 5:43

He is called the "idol shepherd" in Zechariah 11:17:
"Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened."

With God's help, Israel had emerged victorious in her previous battles because the Lord wanted her to become well established as a reborn nation in the Promised Land. For, He had promised that He would regather a remnant in the land a "second time."

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea." Isaiah 11:11

The first time was after the 70-year Babylonian captivity and in preparation for the first coming of the promised Messiah Jesus. The 2nd regathering is in preparation for the 2nd coming of that same Messiah.

But the Biblical prophecies seem to clearly indicate that in the next Arab Israel conflict (maybe led by Syria and/or Iran) Israel is going to take a beating, yet not be destroyed. She may well lose all or most the territory she conquered and has occupied since the 1967 Six Day War, including half of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2). This will place her in a precarious situation. Though it is not easy to discern the exact order of events that will take place, it seems that there will be great strife and division in the nation.

So let us again consider the Scripture quoted earlier from II Kings 13:14-19. The king of Israel struck the ground with the arrows 3 times. Elisha the Prophet was angry, for he said: "you should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Syria until you would have consumed, destroyed, or made an end (according to different translations) of it." The Prophet didn't mean necessarily that Syria would cease to be a nation, but that Israel would have crushed Syria to the extent that the nation would no longer be a serious military threat.

As already mentioned, with the exception of the "war of liberation" in the late 1940s when Israel was able only to hold her Arab foes "at bay" until a cease-fire was negotiated, the present reborn nation has had 3 clear-cut battlefield victories over Syria 1967, 1973, and 1982. This seems clearly a repetition of the ancient prophecy. Yet in each war, Israel has been pressured by her Western allies, especially the U.S. upon whom she is so dependent for financial and military aid, to stop short of a decisive and crushing defeat of Syria. Such a crushing defeat for Syria would have forced that nation to sue for terms of peace and have brought about the opportunity for a lasting treaty ensuring peaceful borders with Syria. Yet each time, what Israel gained on the battlefield was forfeited through diplomatic blunders, ineptitude and weakness and timidity of outsiders especially officials of the U.S. government.

America seems to have lost sight of an important principle repeatedly manifested since the end of World War II: there is no substitute for a total victory over an aggressive enemy. In Ecclesiastes 8:11 we read:

"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."

Clear evidence of aggressive evil in a nation or terrorist groups must be met with speedy action, otherwise it only encourages the aggressor in their evil intent. Winston Churchill called for the Western nations to unite in military action against Russia and the spread of Communism after World War II. He was vilified by many leaders in the West as a "warmonger." But he was right. As history conveys the story of the Cold War, the spread of Communism, and the present growth and empowerment of China and her allies, what could have been a relatively small sacrifice at that time will, in the near future, be multiplied in cost and lives and sacrifice to incalculable levels. Even though the former Soviet Union has been broken up, we should not be deluded or blinded in the reality of the military power and demonic intrigue that still motivates enemies of the West.

In recent years, Israel has been depicted as the aggressor in the Middle East, especially Lebanon. Is that an accurate picture? No! Israel had no design on Lebanon or her Arab neighbors, like less an evil intent. Actually, at the time of her entrance into Lebanon, many Lebanese civilians cried with joy and thanksgiving for there liberation! One news report quoted an individual as having said: "we have suffered terribly for 7 long years under the PLO terrorists, and no one in the world cared or even tried to help us until the Israeli soldiers came."

Many reports at the time catalogued the atrocities committed by the PLO in Lebanon (aided and abetted by the Syrians). PLO terrorists were using Lebanon as a sanctuary to train other terrorists from many countries of the world. They also used it as a place to lob shells of destruction on civilian villages in the north of Israel. Israel was seeking to deprive her enemies of such a "sanctuary."

As already mentioned, the peace negotiations over the final status of Jerusalem and the occupied territories continue. Again, I emphasize that regardless of any peace settlement or the failure thereof, we should meditate upon the prophecies as delivered by Zechariah "all who seek to remove this heavy stone shall injure themselves." WATCH the Middle East, for the prophetic Scriptures indicate that it is THERE that the clashes of interest, the power struggle and the intrigue will eventually lead the nations – of not only that region, but of all the world – to an impasse. THERE the war clouds will gradually emerge which will finally ignite the final conflict and conflagration of this age. "Peace talks" which specifically include the volatile issue of Jerusalem is of incalculable magnitude.

May God soon take away the veil of deception over the eyes of our leaders' and those of other Western nations and prepare them to confront and destroy the aggressive evil forces of this world. We can but hope and pray that the level of the degradation, blindness, apostasy and spiritual apathy has not reached such low levels that we cannot still be used as a key people, with God's supernatural help, to turn the tide of Satan's all-out effort to destroy and enslave mankind.

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