It has taken me three days to sit in front of my computer and start this article. The difficulty began when I sat down at my desk and glanced over at my open Bible. I don't even remember turning to Isaiah, but what was really disturbing was that I was staring at chapter 34 and I began to read, "Draw near, O nations, to hear, and listen, O peoples! For the Lord is angry with His enemies, furious, and has doomed them ... the mountains will flow with their blood. For the Lord has a day of vengeance on behalf of Zion..."
Am I supposed to write about this upcoming bloodshed? Fortunately, chapter 35 is a blessing of the restoration, "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return with singing, joy, gladness and sorrow and sighing shall vanish."
Interestingly, I did not turn the page to read chapter 35 until I took up the challenge to put my thoughts on paper.
It was about 30 years ago when my brother-in-law, David, and I had the fantastic opportunity to have a week of study in Israel. When we landed in Tel Aviv, we got off the plane and hit the ground running. There is too much to see, too much to do and too little time to do it all! There must have been around 20 of us who had been chosen from around the country to take this trip. David and I always wondered why we were chosen but smart enough not to ask the question.
Anyway, we were all taken on a bus to tour most of the area around Jerusalem and then dropped off for lunch in the old part of the city. The new part might remind you of downtown Savannah, while the old part is like a trip into a movie set of "Casablanca". After a very odd looking but tasty lunch — helped by a Coke to wash down the interesting parts — we broke up into small groups and began to take in the city. We just happened to stop at the Dome of the Rock, home of one of the most sacred shrines in all Islam and the location of the Western Wall and site of Solomon's Temple, the center of worship for the world's Jews. Sitting on the steps in front of the shrine was an old man cleaning his fingernails with a very large curved dagger. One of our traveling companions, assuming he was being very friendly said, in Hebrew, "Shalom Alechem," or, "Peace be unto you." This is a nice way of saying to have a good day. The old man looked up, stopped cleaning his nails for a moment and said, "There is no peace here."
He resumed cleaning his nails. David and I both told our companion, "Please don't ever speak Hebrew to an Arab ever again!"
Folks, this was 30-some years ago and nothing has changed since.
Writing this was made even more difficult when I listened to the address given to Congress by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. I have heard most of his speeches over time and he said this, and I believe it was to the United Nations, "As far as the Palestinians and other Arab states are concerned, when Israel is no more, there will be peace." Now that does not mean these other countries will not continue to fight among themselves and commit atrocities to one another over land, oil or old insults. It just means that one hated enemy is out of the way forever and that 4,000-year-old obstacle to peace is gone.
Whether or not we agree or disagree with Netanyahu is not up for debate. However, I believe he is absolutely correct in articulating the fact that Iran is not to be trusted and lives for the day when that country can wipe Israel off the map with a nuclear device and most likely take out much of the United States in the process. One brief digression, please.
David and I stood at the summit of Masada and watched a short video of recent Israeli graduating recruits shouting, "Never again!"
They were declaring that they would never again be victims like those who suffered the pogroms or Holocaust. Netanyahu voiced that same opinion in his address, "We will never be victims again!"
I believe he means it.
When the words of God — speaking through the written words of Isaiah — say, "I will destroy the enemies of Israel!", I believe we must take the words seriously. How God takes care of His warnings is His prerogative.
I hope what I have written is acceptable.