1 Kings 16:20-21 All the people left from the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (these peoples were not Israelites), that is, their descendants remaining in the land, whom the Israelites could not exterminate--these Solomon conscripted for his slave labor force, as it is to this day.
The current explosive situation in Gaza is affecting the entire world politically, economically, and even spiritually. Ever since the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948, Palestinian refugees have posed a large scale humanitarian problem. Prior to 1948, the British maintained the government on a colonial basis which was set up after World War 1. When Britain left the Palestine Protectorate, both the Jordanians and Jews carved territory for themselves, ousting the Palestinians from both sides of the River Jordan.
War was inevitable between Jews and Arabs, with the Palestinians often being caught in the middle. Bigger Arab States like Syria and Egypt tried to eliminate Israel, but they were beaten back on several occasions by Israeli forces. Throughout the following decades, the situation worsened, which meant that the whole region became ripe for terrorist groups to take over the leadership of the displaced Palestinians.
Extermination is a terrible word, but the region has experienced it on many occasions. In today’s passage (1 Kings 9:20-28) we sadly read about the extermination of regional peoples and the enslavement of the remnant by the ancient Israelite nation. Throughout the centuries, extermination of the regional people – whether Philistine or Israelite – continued through the barbarism of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Islamists, and Crusaders. Rural Palestinians and Jewish communities were often uprooted, attacked, and slaughtered at the hands of invaders. Sadly, much of the history of the whole Holy Land region has been anything but holy: ‘Inhumanity Land’ may be a more appropriate term.
So what can we do about the current crisis? What can Christians do to help? Praying for peace helps, but until extremists on both sides lose their power over the masses of the people, the ceasefires will always be broken and the wickedness of war will be prevalent.
We should choose to be neutral and be wary of propaganda from both conflicting sides. When we pass on unsubstantiated reports or heavily support one side over the other, we are not promoting peace: we are just escalating and expanding the conflict. If we truly follow the Prince of Peace, then we need to do our best not to get caught up in the conflict. Cooler heads and sincere prayers, humanitarian support and expressing the truth are what is needed. Children on both sides of the divide cannot sleep because they are afraid of war, and of one another. That fear escalates into hatred where ignorance, falsehoods, and propaganda are unchecked. As Christians, we need to find a better way than continuing the bitter wickedness.
Questions for personal reflection
What do I truly know and understand about the present conflict between Israelis and Palestinians? Are my sources of information unbiased?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray for both the Palestinian and Israeli people. We ask for a cease fire to be resumed quickly and accepted by both sides. We pray for the protection of innocents, as well as for strong compassionate leaders to emerge from both sides who will truly seek peace instead of war, justice instead of revenge, conciliation instead of conflict. Help us to do whatever we can by seeking truth over propaganda, as well as providing aid instead of arms. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message or ask questions, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is John’s Siochain Celtic Cross. Siochain is an ancient Gaelic word for peace. The cross depicted has the Holy Spirit descending as the Dove of Peace. If you would like to view a larger version, please click the following link: Siochain Cross.