Christian Life 

Is Isaiah speaking to Syria today?

A prophesy given through the prophet Isaiah almost three thousand years ago carries an ominous message for the Syria and its capital.
 

by Watchman

Syria and IsaiahLet me say first of all that I struggle in concerned fashion with all the ‘prophets’ who are ‘out there’; each claiming a unique insight regarding what God is doing in relation to His revealed word.

I have lost track of the number of times every flare-up in the Middle East is trumpeted by someone or another as being the portent of the Gog/Magog conflict in Ezekiel’s prophesy (Chs. 38 and 39), while conveniently ignoring the fact that the fulfilment of that scenario requires Israel to have been in a settled peace (in ‘a land of unwalled villages’) for a considerable period of time (Ezek 38:11).
 
So it is with a fair degree of reluctance that I write now on the situation in Syria (and beyond). However, as the world waits in nervous expectation to see what retribution Obama might (or might not) visit upon President Assad and his regime it is surely a moment that calls for a re-reading of a chapter of Biblical prophecy.
 
Grand Mosque in Damascus
Damascus mosqueThe city of Damascus is the capital of Syria. It is a large prosperous city with modern amenities and an ancient history: it is also one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Founded by the Aramaeans over four thousand years ago it is a living depiction of human history. Yet today Damascus is dying.
 
Two thousand seven hundred years ago Isaiah the prophet carried God’s word to the people then. Cascading down through history these words are with us today.


An oracle concerning Damascus:

"See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no-one to make them afraid. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites," declares the LORD Almighty (Is. 17:1-3).

Damascus todayWhat we are seeing in the civil war which is raging in Syria is the most complex of pictures. The lines of demarcation are multitudinous and blurred. They comprise a heady and eclectic mix of tribalism, political persuasions, religious affiliations, territorial ambitions, personal agendas and international allegiances and interests. [See 'Making sense of the Syrian crisis' - Ed.]

The present regime of the Alawite President al-Assad is fighting for survival while the perennial Sunni/Shia conflict is expressed within the range of countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar – offering support to one side or another. Amidst it all, the major players – with the U.S. and Russia foremost – are fighting to defend their national interests and their prestige in the international community, while Iran and Turkey respectively look to maintain and expand their agendas within the region.
 
A few verses further on we read: “Oh, the raging of many nations-- they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples-- they roar like the roaring of great waters!” (Is. 17:12).
 
 While Damascus was counquered by Tiglath Pileser when the Assyria king invaded in 734B.C. it has never been “taken away as a city” to become “a ruinous heap”: in fact it continued as an important city of the Assyrian empire.  And even if it had been destroyed Biblical prophecy can often have more than one outworking.  God’s word through Amos forewarned “the people of Aram [Syria] will go into exile in Kir [Jordan] (Amos 1:5). This would have been fulfilled as part of the aforementioned invasion, but what we are seeing today is exactly the same thing happening.
 
Syrian warMeanwhile, Jeremiah 49:23-27 states:

‘Concerning Damascus: "Hamath and Arpad are dismayed, for they have heard bad news. They are disheartened, troubled like the restless sea. Damascus has become feeble, she has turned to flee and panic has gripped her; anguish and pain have seized her, pain like that of a woman in labour.

Why has the city of renown not been abandoned, the town in which I delight? Surely, her young men will fall in the streets; all her soldiers will be silenced in that day," declares the Lord Almighty. “I will set fire to the walls of Damascus; it will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad” [the title of several Syrian kings].’
 

Israel also under serious threat

Continuing in Isaiah’s prophesy we read:

"In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away. It will be as when a reaper gathers the standing grain and harvests the grain with his arm-- as when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Yet some gleanings will remain, as when an olive tree is beaten, leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches, four or five on the fruitful boughs," declares the Lord, the God of Israel (Is 17:46).

So the calamity is not confined to Syria: Israel will become very lean because of their failure to remain faithful to God (cf Is. 29:13). In the present volatility, UN peace-keeping troops – there since the Yom Kippur war of 1973 –  are being withdrawn from the border separating Syria and Israel.  So Israel is again very vulnerable; and the more so if the Iranian-supported Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Sunni forces in Syria acquire doomsday weaponry.

While the world waits for the US decision, the BBC's Jeremy Bowen reported from Damascus

"There’s a range of possibilities.  If the Americans attack, and it’s big, that could give the armed rebels an edge they have never had.  A small attack would allow the regime to claim a moral victory. No attack at all would also have an impact as it would change America’s standing in the region. Whatever happens American intervention in the war here pushes it into new and unknown territory."

But in all the turmoil and conflict we learn that when people and nations are brought to the end of themselves:

“In that day men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 17:7).


Ed footnote: See article 'Peter made the connection: we must do the same' which outlines the need for everyone of God's children to have a knowledge of God's word and an ability to understand current events through the prism of Scripture.

See left-hand margin for other 'Related Articles' on the situation in Syria.

Watchman, 08/09/2013

Feedback:
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Gordon (Guest) 12/09/2013 22:40
Jack, I don't believe God has finished with His chosen people, but old Israel is no longer the tenant of the vineyard...it has been taken away and given to another. His chosen nation now is not ethnically based. I agree with you that He will save the 'elect' of the Jews, but these are but few in number ; only those individuals who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved. What about the vast majority of the unbelieving Jews of the once 'chosen race'... where do they find themselves now ? Perished and excluded, according to John 3: 16-36. We do people no favours if we give them false hope that they will be saved by their ethnicity. We may support them culturally and politically , but when it comes to having peace with God, the is only ONE WAY, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jack Thomson (Guest) 13/09/2013 07:29
Sorry Colin, I never meant to suggest that all the Jews will be saved.
As a remnant of the world will truly accepted Christ and be saved - so, only a remnant of the Jews will truly accept Christ and be saved.
Editor 13/09/2013 09:45
We are now getting to the nub of all of this.

Replacement Theology (which teaches that that God has no longer any prophetic purposes - along with His salvific purpose in Yeshua HaMashiach - for the Jewish people and the land) is, in my estimation, going to be the defining issue regarding whether 'Christians' are prepared to accept God's word over their own opinions and/or theological systems (of every stripe).

This dynamic could be summed up in the willingness of fallen man (including believers) to allow God to be Sovereign: a concept which can be summed up in just four words as the last sentence of a verse in Leviticus.

The verses run:
>>>
And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God.

But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God.
<<<<

And here's the punch line:
>>>>
I am the LORD". (Lev 26:45)
<<<<

Israel was not chosen because they were better than any others; they were chosen because it was God's Sovereign will. If we cannot believe in God's unconditional covenant with Abraham then we cannot trust the covenant in Christ.

However, given that this article relates primarily to Syria it would better to get back to that.

There are many other threads that relate to Israel. One of which is -
http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/305538/Christians_Together_in/Esther_414/Israel_the_Jews.aspx
Colin Ford (Guest) 13/09/2013 09:50
"His chosen nation now is not ethnically based"?

True, all believers are "one in Christ" Ephesians 2.13-14 KJV, of that there is no doubt, and there is no partiality with God, Deuteronomy 16.19 KJV, Acts 10.34 KJV, Romans 2.11 KJV etc. But the land is a separate issue, the King is coming and He will rule over His people in THAT land in a soon coming day! Will not Abraham the father of faith yet tread there?
Joshua spoke of another day? Hebrews 4.8 KJV; the millennial or 1000 year reign of Christ. This is the coming Kingdom that Peter spake of in Acts 1.6 KJV.
Gordon (Guest) 13/09/2013 19:35
Editor Colin,
All the OT verses quoted by you are true and relevant.... provided they are rightly understood in the light of the New Covenant which fulfils, supersedes and replaces the Old (Heb 8:13) . Your application seems to me to be faulty because you take these verses to refer to all national ethnic Jews as a group , whereas they refer only to faithful, individual, spiritual Israel, who alone are the true children of Abraham (Gal 3:29 "If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise" and, " the Israel of God "(Gal 6:16). All the others are disobedient, unbelieving, political/cultural Israel.
We should recognise that the Old Order has passed away and the New has come. Every time we participate in the Lord's Supper, we remember this....God's New Covenant in which He replaced the sacrifices of animals with the precious blood of Christ;and we remember Him until He comes to take us to a better land that is fairer than gold. In God giving us something new, he also gives us a much better replacement in Christ, which is the theme all the way through the book of Hebrews. We can trust God fully to keep His promises far above what we can ask or think. He has fully fulfilled his Old Covenant in and through Jesus Christ, and we have no cause to doubt He will now also fully and faithfully fulfil His New Covenant promises.

Colin Ford (Guest) 13/09/2013 20:18
Gordon,
To cut to the chase, as they say, do YOU believe in a literal coming Kingdom on this earth? The Millennial, or 1000 year reign so-called?

Editor 13/09/2013 20:34
Gordon,

The 'old' covenant which has been replaced by the 'new' covenant (in Christ) is the Mosaic Covenant NOT the Abrahamic Covenant.

See article: 'A Covenant-keeping God' -
http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/176014/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/A_Covenant_keeping.aspx

If you wish to continue with the 'Covenant' discussion, please do so on that thread.

And if you wish to respond to Colin's 'Millennium' question then the place to do it is -

http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/365002/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Christian_Survival_Resource/The_Coming_Millennium.aspx

Colin Ford (Guest) 13/09/2013 20:45
Editor, that is what I believe!
As this thread is on Syria, from what I have heard today, it would appear that the situation there is calming?
Editor 13/09/2013 22:05
There is a 'calming' but it is only regarding the immediate prospect of an American strike.

All that will happen (is happening) is that the warring factions within Syria don't - for the moment at least - have to worry about incoming cruise missiles.

This means that they are freed up to continue with the vicious civil war.

There is a good article on FrontPage Mag, part of which says:
>>>>
What is happening in Syria is not a war between two sides. It’s Afghanistan. It’s Libya. It’s the collapse of a country into warring bands. The only difference is that this collapse has been carefully orchestrated.

There is no Free Syrian Army. There is no Syrian opposition. There are just groups of fighters carving out territory, seizing homes, oil depots and bakeries, raping women, killing Christians, and behaving exactly the way that armed gangs with heavy firepower and no law to restrain them do.

There are no moderate Syrian rebels. There isn’t even a Syrian rebellion; only Muslim Brotherhood men in Turkey who act as gatekeepers for Qatari and Turkish weapons flowing to thousands and thousands of fighters, drifting in and out of gangs, killing their way across Syria the way that their distant ancestors might have during the original conquests of Islam.
<<<<

Read full article at:-
http://frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/there-are-no-moderate-syrian-rebels/
Editor 16/09/2013 14:38
ASSAD CONCEALING WMDs

Headline: "Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile"

Report: A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime's chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials.

The movements of chemical weapons by Syria's elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, officials said. It also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile, they said.

Read on...http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324755104579071330713553794.html
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