On Saturday morning 7th October, the terrorist group Hamas breached the border encompassing the Palestinian territory of Gaza. What followed was unspeakable in its savagery. In a rain of terror paragliders with machine guns descended on a desert rave, Jewish families were butchered in their homes and others abducted as hostages to endure an unimaginable fate at the hands of Isis-like brutality.
In turn, Israel has responded with shock and awe, bombarding Gaza with a fearsome retribution. Tragically, the real victims on both sides are civilians, thousands of ordinary families who simply wanted to get on with their lives have become an intended and unintended twenty-first-century “slaughter of the innocents”.
The mutually assured carnage being visited upon Israel and Gaza is apocalyptic. Not that we should begin to imagine that this is some mark on a biblical timeline, but rather that the demonic, deathly horsemen of violence and death that Revelation identifies are pounding their vicious hooves across the Middle East in our days.
The conflict is complex, deep-seated and beyond the scope of a blog post. Nevertheless, you like me, may well be anguishing over how to respond this week.
My mind has been pulled back into Revelation 6 and 7 and the recurring plea that echoes from the living creatures even as they watch the apocalyptic horses and riders charge forth into the world.
It is the simple cry:
I am with those who see this as the inarticulate heartfelt cry of prayer. The voice of invocation that cries for the intervention of God even through the overbearing clatter of the hooves of destruction. It is the call of those violently killed (Rev 6:9) for true rectification of wrong and not rapacious vengeance. It is the call which recognises true justice belongs to God and that there will be, one day, a reckoning.
“How long O Lord, until you judge the earth …?”
Revelation invites us to restate these prayers for today.
To simply say
“Your kingdom come your will be done.”
And to hear the promise of Revelation
1:7 Look he is coming,
22:7 Look I am coming quickly
22:20 Yes, I am coming.
And thankfully these are promises not simply of God wrapping up all things by sending Jesus at the end of time. They are written in the present tense. Jesus is, by the Spirit, coming even now into the world, even now “walking amongst the lampstands” even now at work in and with us as we pray and live for him.
In the midst of history and tragedy, pray!
“History belongs to the intercessors”, is a mighty claim,
Yet contained in the simple intercession “Come Lord Jesus” is the power to bend the arc of history towards the kingdom of our God.
Thomas Torrance captures it wonderfully:
“The prayers of the disciples of the Lamb are the most potent, most disturbing, most revolutionary, most frightening power that the world knows. Would to God we in Christ’s church really understood the power of prayer like that!
It is through prayer that the Spirit of God comes upon the church in tongues of fire. It is through prayer that Satan falls like lightning to the ground. It is through prayer that the voice of the gospel thunders through the clouds of darkness.
All history moves at the impulse of prayer. The real initiative is not held by the riders on the white, red, black, and pale horses, but by the saints under the altar.”
(Apocalypse Today, 73–74)
Thank the Lord!
Here are some thoughts on how we should pray for Israel and Gaza:
- Pray for the cessation of all violent activities that bring harm to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
- Pray for brave leaders and wise and patient mediators to address the root causes of the long-seated tensions and injustices.
- Pray for Jewish and Palestinian Christians to be instruments of His peace, promoting justice, understanding, reconciliation, and a just peace in the Holy Land. That they might follow the way of the lamb who laid his life down and not be tempted by the powers that invite them to take up arms and aggression to resolve their grievances.
Maranatha! Even so, come Lord Jesus.