Pray for Israel, Gaza and us
The Israel-Hamas war has gone on for over a month now, commencing with Hamas carrying out a terror attack on Israel on 7 Oct. Some 1400 Israelis were killed and 240 kidnapped in that attack. In the retaliatory bombardment and ground incursion of the Israeli army into Gaza, it is reported that over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed to date, mostly civilians including many children. The inhabitants of Gaza are suffering an acute shortage of food, water, electricity and medical essentials caused by an Israeli blockade of access to crucial supplies. Both sides claim justification for their hostile action due to the other side having wronged them first.
It is human nature to allow hatred to develop, or even fuel hatred and be driven by a desire for revenge. If you or I have loved ones in Israel or Gaza who have fallen victim to the atrocities from the opposing side, we may be consumed by anger and may call for vengeance also. As a Chinese saying goes: “The vicious cycle of vengeance, when can it ever end?”. It cannot end, except through the transformation of hearts by the gospel. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (being His enemies and rebelling against Him), Christ died for us.”, and even as the world rejected and crucified His Son, He still lovingly calls them to return to Him. That stands in absolute contrast to our own vindictive human nature. As Christ’s community, we are admonished to “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” 1 Thess 5:15. This is very relevant and practical for us as a church. Grudges and vengeance in our context may not be physical, but even in subtle ways and in our minds, they can be detrimental to the individual and our community. Forgiveness and repaying wrong with good is absolutely necessary for maintaining our unity, harmony, love and effective witness as people of Christ.
In regard to the Israel-Hamas war, some Christians see it as a necessary step to further the restoration of the land to the nation of Israel according to God’s promise in OT times, which will begin the countdown to Christ's return. For that reason, they solidly support Israel in her retaliatory attack, despite the enormous collateral damage perpetrated. Subscribing to Reformed Theology, we understand God's promise differently. It is for True Israel, Christ’s church rather than national Israel, even though He still has mercy for that nation and is calling it to be part of the True Israel. Hence, we see this war as abhorrent to God, with unrighteousness on both sides.
Let us earnestly pray for Israel and the Palestinians that the enmity between them will be quenched. Seeking God's intervention is the only solution because it lies in human hearts being changed, which is not achievable by political or pragmatic means. Prayer is not the last resort. It is the first. Let us exercise our responsibility of intercession, to bring about God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.