All of you are aware of the brutal attack by Hamas forces into Israel last Saturday, October 7, 2023. About 50 years ago, on October 6, 1973, several Arab nations attacked on Yom Kippur—called the Yom Kippur War. Israel eventually won that conflict but sustained significant casualties. Saturday’s attack happened on Shabbat when many in Israel were gathered in synagogues and believing assemblies. It was also a special Shabbat—Simchat Torah, marking the conclusion of the fall Jewish holidays.
Besides the normal trauma that goes with war, the Hamas invaders indiscriminately killed many Israeli citizens, men, women, and children—all ages—and took a large number of others as hostages back into the Gaza Strip. There is evidence that Iran helped plan and fund this multi-pronged attack.
The evil character of the attackers is almost incomprehensible. There is no justification for it, no political arguments that make it acceptable in any sense. This sad reality brings us face to face with mankind’s depravity. This dark set of purposes reminds us of mankind’s desperate need for the life-transforming power of the Gospel.
Israel became a nation in May 1948 and immediately faced a war with six Arab nations and the military odds against them. They held onto the land assigned them by the United Nations and in the next seventy-five years faced several attempts to wipe them out. In 2005, the leaders of Israel offered the Palestinians a peace branch by giving them control of the Gaza Strip. Soon after that, the radical group, Hamas, took control of that region. Funded and directed by Iran, Hamas has always been committed to eradicating the nation of Israel. Because of their total commitment to Israel’s destruction, Israel has sought to secure their borders with the Gaza Strip and limited Gaza’s access to free trade—to attempt to prevent resupply with modern weaponry. Israel’s willingness to allow scores of trucks carrying non-military supplies into Gaza through border crossings as well as medical care for numerous inhabitants of Gaza is often overlooked by many. Numerous times, radical Islamic groups in Gaza and from Lebanon have fired numerous rockets at nearby Israeli settlements and Israel has had to respond for the protection of their citizens. What happened this weekend demonstrates the lack of any moral compass for Hamas. The majority of those who were killed or taken as hostages were not soldiers, but average civilians of all ages—from infants to the elderly.
My purpose here is not to rehearse the abhorrent and tragic details of the violent actions by those committed to the purposes of Hamas and Iran. I also am not trying to pursue political ends. My desire is to help Christ followers know how to think and act in the wake of the dark evil and tragic violence that we have heard about and seen.
How to Pray
Here are some suggested prayer prompts. Some of these prompts are drawn from messianic leaders in Israel and others involve my thoughts or rewording of suggestions by others. These are just some of the things we can pray for:
- That God will limit the evil efforts and impact of the attackers and their sponsors.
- That He would protect all those who have been touched by this attack—the families of those killed, those injured, and those who have been taken hostage.
- That God would bring to pass the deliverance of many who have been taken hostage.
- That God would protect the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces, some of whom are brothers and sisters in Christ, and that He will take care of their loved ones in their absence and strengthen them for the difficult days ahead.
- That He will provide safety and ministry blessing for all our evangelical ministry partners in Israel—messianic assemblies, ministry organizations (e.g., Friends of Israel, Jews for Jesus, Chosen People Ministries, etc.).
- That God would provide wisdom for Israel’s leaders, both political and military, as they plan and lead the response to Hamas’s massacre of innocent Israelis.
- That this region which has known such violence would soon know peace.
- That God will use this tragic moment in Israel’s history to awaken many to the truth of the Gospel and that many will come to faith in the Messiah; that believing soldiers or believing hostages would share the life-transforming message of the Gospel to those around them.
- Also, pray broadly for Jews and Palestinians who have been impacted by these events.
How do we process events like these with our belief in a loving God who is sovereign over that world?
In a staff meeting at The Master’s Seminary and Grace Community Church, our Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty, Dr. Nathan Busenitz shared some observations from Psalms 10–13 that impacted my heart, esp. considering recent events. Here is my expanded version of those helpful thoughts.
In Psalm 10:1 the psalmist asks the Lord the common question, “Why?”: “Why, O Lord, do You stand far away? Why do You hide yourself in times of trouble?” The psalmist goes on to describe a time when wickedness seems to be dominant (10:2-11). After asking God to intervene (10:12-15), he gives us his answer to the why question—pointing to who God is—He is totally worthy of our trust and will do what is right and for His glory in His time- 10:16-18:
“The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from His land. O Lord, You hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline Your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” (emphasis added).
In Psalm 11:1a the psalmist writes these comforting words: “In the Lord I take refuge,” and then asks if the wicked are doing their destructive work, “what can the righteous do?” (11:3b). He then describes who the Lord is and what He does, ending with this notable set of truths: “For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold His face” (11:7). In total contrast to those who practice wickedness, our Lord is characterized by righteousness.
Finally, after asking Yahweh to deliver him from his distress (Ps 12:1), in the very next psalm he asks the painful question: “How long” (13:1a). The same psalmist who was struggling with distressing life circumstances tells us his ultimate answer to his own question: “But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance. I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously” (Ps 13:5-6).
As our hearts are heavy considering this pervasive wickedness, be encouraged that we have a God in whom we can find refuge. We can celebrate that He is the King of the universe who remains on His throne. He is not absent or unaware. He is worthy of our trust. He is and does what is right. He is our ultimate hope.
What does this set of events have to do with the future?
I write this with a very particular audience in mind—people who believe that the OT promises that God will restore His chosen people to the Promised Land in a millennial setting. If you don’t believe this, I am not trying to cause you frustration. I have in mind the confusion that might exist for brothers and sisters in my theological world. Also, even some of you in my theological world may not agree with every detail.
- As the creator of the universe, including earth, God is the owner and controller of all that exists (Ps 24:1-2). He can apportion land on that earth as He pleases, for His glory.
- Yahweh (the covenant name for God) chose Abraham and His descendants—through Isaac and Jacob—to be His covenant people. He made them His people and guaranteed that He would give them land and make them into a nation (Gen. 12, 15, 17, et al.).
- God loves His covenant people (Deut 4:37; 7:7-8; 10:15; 1 Kgs 10:9; Jer 31:3; Rom 11:28; Pss 78:68; 87:2).
- God repeatedly affirms His relational commitment to Israel as His servant nation (Exod 19:4-6; 20:1; Deut 4:32-35; Isa 41:8-10; 46:3-5, 9-13). He remains faithful in His commitment to His covenant people.
- God gave His Word, both the OT and the NT, through Israel—almost all the biblical authors were Jewish believers.
- God provided the Messiah, Jesus, through His chosen people (Matt 1:1-25).
- OT predictions about God’s promise to establish His Millennial Kingdom over the entire globe, which includes His promise to restore a believing nation of Israel to the Promised Land (Zech 9:10; Is 11:6-9) will be literally fulfilled in a way that closely matches the wording of those promises.
- The biblical prophets often connect that fulfillment of a redeemed nation of Israel’s return to the land of promise to the second coming of the Messiah and His establishment of His Millennial Kingdom on earth.
- The next prophetic event in God’s plan involves the Rapture—Christ’s return to take believers to heaven and move His plan for His creation forward toward His rule on earth in justice and peace.
- Israel becoming a nation in 1948 does not represent the consummation of God’s promise to restore His covenant people to the land of promise. Regardless, having Israel as a nation at that time is part of God’s providential preparation for the Tribulation. The Antichrist will establish a peace treaty with Israel in the first part of that seven-year period (Dan 9:27), which he will then break halfway through the Tribulation.
- When I pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:8), I do want that region of the world to have peace instead of violence and conflict. However, I believe that the main thing I am praying for is the return of Jesus, the Messiah, to earth. He is the only on who can ultimately bring true and lasting peace to pass.
***I must be sure to state that I don’t know if recent events could lead to other events that are part of God’s plan to prepare the world for the return of His Son. As we must do every day, we must live ready for His imminent return as well as live prepared to pursue life and ministry for His glory if our Savior does not return in the near future. My primary point is that there is no necessary connection between this recent horrific set of evil actions by Hamas and the next phase in God’s plan for the world. God will bring His plan to pass according to His timetable.