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EYES WILL BE OPENED
Though all stand on level ground at he foot of the cross, the Apostle Paul stands much higher than most. His hyper-unlikely conversion and suffering in the service of Christ were arguably essential to the launching of the church. Though God always makes a way, and could have also without Paul, it is generally agreed that the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles would not have been as rapid or efficacious without his repentance and obedient work for our king.
Via his contribution to Holy Scripture, his words have been at least as essential to the the development of the church up to and through today. That’s due in large part to the development of saving faith in individuals who take those words seriously.
It is with that as backdrop that I urge y’all to take a look at events now shaping up between Israel and Syria, in the same region where Paul was first converted, on the Damascus Road connecting the two. In the ninth chapter of the book of Acts, we hear Luke’s account of Saul’s conversion. The word ‘Damascus’ shows up seven times. (Seven is the number associated with spiritual perfection throughout scripture — appropriate given Paul’s spiritual perfection on that road: his turning from a murderous mission to kill the gospel one of gospel-spreading.)
ACTS 9:1 But Saul… 2 asked him [the high priest] for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him… So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus… Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias… For some days he [Paul] was with the disciples at Damascus… 22 Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ… 27 Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
In recounting Paul’s own recounting of these events, in Acts 22, the Holy Spirit, via Luke, uses the word ‘Damascus’ six times, the number associated, throughout scripture, with man’s work absent God. (Very simply, it’s a secondhand, man-filtered account of the original.)
In total then, in the book of Acts, the word ‘Damascus’ shows up thirteen times, the number associated, throughout scripture with, “rebellion, apostasy, defection, corruption, disintegration, revolution, or some kindred idea”.
One can make too much of such things (word counts, textual patterns, sub-textual and supra-textual messages, etc.) however, taken in their appropriate context, I find that they help to authenticate and solidify my faith in the Divine authorship of Holy Scripture. They also help us to have faith in scripture’s ongoing, living application to events unfolding in the world. E.g., of the specific words E.W. Bullinger lists regarding the number 13, at least five occur frequently in secular news stories about what’s been going on in Syria. (Several thousand stories for each word or variant when Googled in combination with ‘Syria’, ‘Syrian’ or ‘Damascus’. Yes, I checked.)
THE COMING ISRAELI-SYRIAN WAR
Jul 23, 9:42 AM EDT
Syria says will use chemical weapons if attacked
BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian regime threatened Monday to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.
Much has been made of the so-called Isaiah 9:10 prophecy as it applies to the United States and the events of 9-11-01. I don’t doubt that that application ‘works’ on some levels. (The fact that some have listened and repented, while others have boasted and rebuilt serves as proof.) Yet I’ve grown increasingly concerned, for multiple reasons, about the too-hasty application of prophecies clearly directed at Israel to peoples and nations other than Israel. That’s a whole ‘nother subject I hope to take up in another post, but we’ll have to ‘park’ it for today. (Hint: Mormon additions to scripture set America as the eschatological apple of God’s eye.)
In the context of Syria arming-up to attack Israel (and/or, as Israel has done several times in the past, striking Iraq, Egypt or Syria unilaterally to avert such a threat) I urge you to consider another application of those verses that puts Israel at the center as it should be in most proper Biblical interpretation).
ISAIAH 9:11 But YHWH raises the adversaries* of Rezin against him [Israel], and stirs up his enemies. 12 The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth… [For 'Philistines', substitute 'Gaza Strip' & Hamas. Re. 'Rezin', see below. *Most manuscripts read 'princes of Rezin', i.e., the cabal ruling Damascus.]
ISAIAH 7:8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.
‘Israel’ is an alternative way of referring to Ephraim, the ancient Northern Kingdom, as contrasted with Judah, the Southern Kingdom. This text had its ancient fulfillment when the Northern Kingdom was undone, however I find it interesting that next May 14th (2013) marks the 65th anniversary of Israel’s re-founding as a modern nation. (This November 29th, 2012, marks the 65th anniversary of the deal being sealed in the UN.)
A number of different Old and New Testament scriptures (e.g., Hosea 5:15, Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 6:9-13, Romans 11, etc.) require the shattering of the unbelieving Jewish nation as a nation as the essential final step in the re-establishment of a Hebrew remnant, with eyes opened in humility to Messiah Y’Shuah (Jesus), acknowledging him as being firmly in charge of the universe as well as of a greater Israel as Christ (king):
GALATIANS 5:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
2nd PETER 2:7 …the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
ISAIAH 17:1 An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins… 3 The fortress will disappear from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Syria will be like the glory of the children of Israel, declares YHWH of hosts. 4 And in that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low, and the fat of his flesh will grow lean.
In other words: both Syria and Israel will be severely humbled as a result of a war.
5 And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain and his arm harvests the ears, and as when one gleans the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. 6 Gleanings will be left in it, as when an olive tree is beaten– two or three berries in the top of the highest bough, four or five on the branches of a fruit tree, declares YHWH God of Israel. 7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. 8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. 9 In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation. 10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge…
A remnant, from both countries, and other nations will be ‘gleaned’ in this severely humbled state. (E.g., by way of example: my barber is a Syrian Christian. He still has Christian family back home.) Seeing how awful this conflict is, a few final souls will turn to Christ.
12 Ah, the thunder of many peoples; they thunder like the thundering of the sea! Ah, the roar of nations; they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
See Psalm 2 for the same idea. As I began composing this post, late the week of the 16th, a severe thunderstorm came overhead. As I got to this passage, several lightning bolts hit within yards of us. This is the first storm of this magnitude we’ve had all year. Go figure.
13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm. 14 At evening time, behold, terror! Before morning, they are no more! This is the portion of those who loot us, and the lot of those who plunder us.
In the run up to the US-led multi-national invasion of Iraq, in March, 2003, Saddam Hussein received help from Russian special forces units to move chemical and biological weapons, and the missiles to deliver them (plus wads of cash) out to Syria. (If you were of evil mind, what would you have done if you were him and had several months to prepare?)
It’s a story you’d be excused for missing, even at the time. Yet the evidence for it is compelling, the implications far-reaching
Detailed primary-source material is laid-out in this July, 2008 post, ‘The Iraq – Russia – Syria WMD Conspiracy’ by Marianne Tioran at her blog, Heaven Awaits. It validates and adds depth to things I learned at the Intelligence Summit in Washington, DC in late February, 2006. See: ‘Intelligence Summit, Part IV – WMD to Syria With Russia’s Help’.
When one thinks through all the different political agendas that were flying around at that time, it starts to become clear why nobody with the power to beat this particular drum had any incentive to do so. Nobody wanted to give the story any more ‘legs’ than it got.
The anti-Bush crowd didn’t want to give any credence to evidence that Bush had, in fact, been right about Saddam having WMD, while Bush, and his supporters didn’t want to admit the invasion was the equivalent of a raid on a crack house after the dealer has moved his stash. I.e., still a useful exercise in terms of inconveniencing and locking up a few bad guys, but not at all in terms of addressing the issue that ostensibly motivated the raid in the first place.
Meanwhile the UN and ‘international community’ had no more interest in shining a light into the clandestine movement of WMD, and the effects of their ineffectual hand-wringing than it has had in putting a stop to the multi-billion-dollar bribe-spewing black-market smuggling operation that constituted Saddam’s ‘Oil-for-Food’ program… or the horror of the Rwandan genocide… or just about anything else that they should put a stop to but never quite did.
The UN had supposedly been in charge of monitoring the WMD in Iraq. Then they lost them, with plenty of blame to go around. At the ’06 Intelligence Summit, I had the privilege of listening to an emotional first-hand hallway account by one of the UN inspectors — a Christian frustrated at UN cover-ups and bureaucracy. He’d been in-country during the 1990′s at many of the WMD sites and had translated many of the original audio tapes of Saddam Hussein’s high-level meetings. He kindly agreed to dialogue with several of us bloggers. But I digress…
The larger point is that we — both the US and the UN (i.e., in Biblical terms, “the nations”) — were complicit, at least through ineptitude and negligence, in allowing the Syrian regime to come into possession of these weapons. Babylon invades Babylon and as a result, some of the most virulent weapons on the planet move from the cache of one despot to that of another.
What are the implications of that?
For those unfamiliar with the Hama Massacre, of February, 1982, I strongly recommend you take a few minutes to become acquainted with it, as it sheds sickening light on the capability for extreme ruthlessness which a string of interrelated Syrian regimes has harbored over many decades. In her 2008 book, ‘Dreams and Shadows: the Future of the Middle East,’ author Robin Wright describes Hama as, “the single deadliest acts by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East,” with 10,000 to 40,000 killed, most of them un-armed civilians. All that without the use of any special weapons. Don’t get hung up on the fact that Sunni and Shi’a, Ba’ath and Brotherhood have clashed in different ways and seem to shift alliances as is convenient. The larger point is that they all hate Israel.
That is all meant as background to a post by brother Daniel Eggers which he put up on July 14th, entitled, ’3 Missiles: Tragedy and Betrayal’. When he wrote it, he tells me, he did not know about these clandestine, 2003 transfers of WMD from Iraq to Syria. Here’s what Daniel said he saw in his brief 2008 vision:
I saw three warheads, the type I recognized as being on parade in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein years, mounted on scuds. I understood the word Syria and the word North. [Syria is due north of Israel, as is Moscow, in Russia.] In the dream, I understood that when I witnessed these things I would know that terrifying and tragic events would follow.
Western intelligence sources are reporting that on July 11-12, 2012, Syria held a simulated missile attack on three nations, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey. The type of missiles used in this simulated war game are scud type, capable of carrying conventional warheads, but more concerning is the fact that these missiles can also carry unconventional warheads, specifically mustard, sarin nerve poison, and cyanide.
Stepping back a few paces, the ‘hot’ issue of ten years ago appears to be coming back to the fore. Were there really WMD in Iraq? And if so, what happened to them? It’s not even worth debating anymore. We will soon find out. And here’s the irony: we made it possible. Modern Babylon (the U.S. and UN) kicked off a ‘messy’ process by which the land of ancient Babylon comes against Israel, albeit indirectly.
REVELATION 9:12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. 13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
I recognize this may seem out-of-sequence according to traditional interpretations, yet I’ve never been fully convinced that Revelation, (at least the part between chapters 4 and 20) is entirely linear according to our way of thinking about time. The more I read it, the more I see the events of those chapters as folding back on one another in various ways. Some reference things in the spiritual realm, while others refer to things we can see. Many of the temporal relationships between the two are open to question. All of which is to say: suspend your theories about Revelation for a moment while you consider Woe #2 (above).
We know that angels are spiritual beings. We’re told in Revelation 9:14 that the four angels are ‘bound’, presumably by God Himself, waiting for a time and a purpose. We also know they are evil — i.e., demons. Again, keep in mind that God is Sovereign in all. We need not fear.
Now, what if the unbinding process were not an instantaneous event but a complex, cascading series of events… i.e., a process spanning (say) 10 or 20 years?
What if we, the USA, modern Babylon, began assisting (albeit unwittingly) in the ‘unbinding’ of these demons in (take your pick) 1991 or 2003?
Would it not make sense that a cache of weaponized sarin, VX, mustard and/or cyanide gas, plus a bunch of bio-weapons and scuds to launch them into Israel, Turkey and Jordan would be attended by at least one powerful demon? Maybe two? Maybe four?
Because those same deadly caches used to be near the River Euphrates, just like the text says. And the result, we are told, is a lot of dead people. Round about January/February, 2003, while the world dallied, those deadly caches were ‘unbound’ and sent much, much closer to the border of Israel. And all of this was orchestrated by, a) the leader of the B’aath Party, the well-documented genesis of which is quite directly linked to Hitler and the Nazis and, b) the Russians, whose totalitarian leanings are pretty much identical to Saddam’s or Hitler’s when you clear away the clutter of false political rhetoric that’s been spun up over the years.
All of this would tend to be very scary if our treasure were here on earth — if we valued our temporal physical lives and comforts more than our eternal security in Christ Jesus and the pain and suffering which are integral to his kingdom coming to as many as possible.
ACTS 9:15 But the Lord said to him [Ananias], “Go, for he [Saul/Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Ananias means, “whom Jehovah has graciously given”. Have you received grace through faith in Jesus Christ? Are you a member of the body of Christ? Are you His faithful servant, longing to hear the words, “well done…”? Then consider: How willing are you to go forth in His name to people whom you have every right to believe will spurn, hate and even kill you? Or like Paul himself, how willing are you to suffer for Christ so that a few not of your own tribe or nation would come to saving faith and avoid hell?
If we were inclined to distrust and disobey our Lord, worrying about tomorrow, these unfolding events would be extremely unsettling. Death and war and evil are of course nasty and unpleasant to contemplate. Satan’s purpose in them is to paralyze us and take us out of the game — by death, fear, or both.
It’s hard to look at the Middle East at the moment and feel joy, yet we are told clearly that Christ is Sovereign and that it all will work out for good for those who love him. To the degree that you find these things unsettling in the deep reaches of your spirit, it would not be such a bad idea to put your faith to the test (2nd Corinthians 13:5, plus the “by this we knows” in 1st John) asking yourself what you really treasure.
ISAIAH 6:8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12 and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
UPDATE I: H/T to Bill Koenig at www.watch.org for highlighting Chris Wallace’s insightful 15-minute Sunday interview (below) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding regime change in Syria, the possibility that Hezbollah or others might commandeer these chemical weapons, and other related issues. Be sure to note the touching and telling exchange between the two in the last 30 seconds of the interview.
UPDATE II: Two texts have been brought to my attention by the Holy Spirit since writing this post. First is Jeremiah 45, which was teed-up as the first chapter in my daily reading the day after publishing it –
4 Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up — that is, the whole land. 5 And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.
The superlative, “disaster upon all flesh” echoes Genesis 6-9, hinting that this prophecy and promise has a ‘telescopic’ application well beyond the ancient context in which Baruch and Jeremiah found themselves. So too the part about plucking up what has been planted. (For the LORD can replant and regrow at will.) Think Israel. Think USA. Think church.
Second is something that came on my windscreen just this morning (Wednesday) in 2nd Samuel 8. It outlines a Davidic typology for Christ being the power behind the reigning-in of Damascus, perhaps a precursor to the Isaiah 17 destruction. (‘Zobah’ means “station”. It was as distinct kingdom in David’s time, situated to the NE of Damascus, i.e., near what is now the Iraqi-Syrian border area.)
3 David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to restore his power at the river Euphrates. 4 And David took from him 1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but left enough for 100 chariots. 5 And when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians. 6 Then David put garrisons in Aram of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.
UPDATE III: Broadly speaking, diplomats and politicians, more than most people, tend to choose their words carefully. That’s especially true when the stakes are high and one misunderstood word can kick off a long stream of ugly events. (E.g., See ‘Glaspie, April Catherine‘.) As such, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s recent comments, from Brussels, are as startling as they are clear:
“In the moment we see that the Syrians transfer chemical and biological weapons to Hezbollah, this is a red line for us, and from our point of view it’s a clear casus belli [justification for war]. We will act decisively and without hesitation or restraint. It will be a completely different ballgame. And we hope for the understanding from the international community and we hope for cooperation.”
I’m no expert on such things, but are those not code words for weapons and tactics that could fulfill the Isaiah 17 prophecy (“Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins”) in about… ten seconds?