For several weeks we have had to watch the continual ups and downs in the Middle East. We do this with great concern, compassion and sorrowful reflection. Desperately we meditate on the question: When will there finally be peace?
As Christians we are closely linked to Israel and the Arab world, both historically and spiritually. For many years I have regularly travelled to Israel. Together with my wife I host Israel tours, visit friends and have the privilege to minister in different cities and churches. Therefore I am intensely stirred by the continued and severe conflict. What is happening does not only affect compassionate Christians, but also our Western culture in general and our living together in society. Once again we see, for example, how important it is to stand up against every form of anti-Semitism and to oppose hatred and contempt for other ethnic groups.
Understandably a controversial discussion is going on about the political and military course of action on both sides. Yet where is the point in getting heated up in political discussions and in trying to convince those who hold other convictions by using clever arguments? I do not believe it is the Christians’ task to set themselves up as judges over other people and ethnic groups or to justify acts of war. Instead we should humbly submit the events to God and ask for his merciful intervention. In the praises of ancient Israel the character of God was already expressed. It is written: “The LORD isgracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD isgood to all, and His tender mercies areover all His works” (Ps 145:8-9; see also Ex 34:6). God’s heart is full of grace. He longs for the peoples to be reconciled with each other and to live together in peace.
Regarding this I am reminded of the verses in Isaiah 19:23-25. At the end of a word of judgment over Egypt God strikes a different note: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria — a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, ‘Blessed isEgypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance. ‘”
This prophetic vision once more reveals the heart of our God: Even in severest judgment God’s ultimate goal is grace and reconciliation. God ultimately longs for peace among the peoples. God wants to bring enemies together, work reconciliation between them and lead them into a life of peace and harmony. Yes, his words of judgment are equally clear, but our God favors to let grace and mercy triumph over judgment.
God has already prepared the way out in his son Jesus Christ. Through him he proclaims into the chaos of the world: “I have not come to condemn, but to save” (Joh 3:17). That is his heart! God does not want to destroy, but to redeem. Both Jews and Arabs need this reconciliation and redemption which God gives in Christ Jesus. He is the one who mediates between enemies and enables them to live side by side in peace.
Regardless of what may happen in the future, we should not cease to pray for peace in and around Israel. We should bless the people in the Middle East and ask God to put an end to the acts of terrorism. Naturally, I long to have peace not only in God’s eternal kingdom, but already now in this life on earth. Yet Isaiah states that the ways of the Lord often are beyond our comprehension. His thoughts and plans are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Thus we should commit ourselves to him and his plans. The timing is solely in his hand. His promises will come to pass because he is faithful and true. He knows when and how the “city of peace” will indeed experience genuine peace.