Shalom. My heart breaks for those killed during the Syrian civil war, especially for Syrian Christians who have suffered persecution by fellow Syrians and Muslim fundamentalist soldiers from other countries. 
Yet what concerns me the most is the possibility that chemical weapons will find their way to the borders of Israel.
Let me explain why this is a threat that has caused even more concern than the previous fear that Syria would unleash missiles with chemical warheads upon Israeli cities.
You might recall that last May Israeli warplanes struck targets in Lebanon for the stated purpose of shutting down efforts by Syrian forces presumed to be transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah forces. At the time, an Israeli embassy spokesman in Washington said, "Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, especially to Hezbollah in Lebanon." 
Many believe the Assad regime has already moved a large number of their chemical weapons outside of Syria, especially to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.  If a transfer of some of these weapons to Hezbollah has already taken place, it is possible that these chemical weapons (including blister agents, such as sulfur and mustard gas, and nerve agents like sarin ) are presently in the hands of Hamas and terrorist forces focused on the destruction of Israel. This is the position of the Israeli and United States governments, and so I believe that this is a real threat.
It is my hope that the resolution of the United Nations Security Council to restrain Syria will be upheld. I believe that the enforcement itself will be difficult, but if weapons are already in the hands of Israel's enemies, then it might just be a matter of time before they are used. This concern will keep Israelis on edge and only increases the hair-trigger threat of terrorism that Israelis live with on a daily basis.
A Call to Prayer
This is not intended to be a political commentary, but rather a call to prayer. I find myself praying for the safety of Israelis who are collecting gas masks for their families, and especially for our staff and those we are serving in Israel. I also pray for the elderly Holocaust survivors and Russian Jewish immigrants who cannot easily defend or take care of themselves.
As you will read in this newsletter, there is a great history of Jewish life in Syria that very few people know about. I know you will find learning about the Syrian Jewish community to be fascinating. A recent book entitled Aleppo on Flatbush describes the growth of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York - a very influential community. The Syrian Jewish community in Israel is also important, as Syria has had great impact on the global Jewish community and continues to play an important role in Jewish life.
Syria in Prophecy
As Bible believers, we cannot help but view current events in light of what we read in the Bible. So what does the Bible say about the future of Damascus? In Isaiah 17:1-3, the prophet writes,
"Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they will be for flocks which lie down, and no one will make them afraid. The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they will be as the glory of the children of Israel," says the Lord of hosts.
The Bible is very clear on the ultimate fate of Damascus! The Hebrew words for cease and ruinous heap leave us with little doubt that one day Damascus will be destroyed and no longer occupied.
According to Old Testament scholar, Dr. Walter Kaiser,
Isaiah 17 locates this prophecy "in that day" (17:4, 9), thus a city that has been occupied and served as a capital for all these years is threatened with "no longer being a city" (17:1b) and will be reduced to "a heap of ruins" (17:1c). It will then "be deserted" (17:2a) and a place that is no longer filled with buildings of the city, but a place to pasture flocks and herds! When did this ever happen in history? Even if it is hyperbolic, it surely must point to some major tragedy that is coming. So a major "fortified city will disappear and a royal power from Damascus" (17:3). 
Well-known author Joel Rosenberg adds,
Isaiah's prophecy about the judgment of destruction of Damascus in chapter 17 is eschatological, and yet to be fulfilled. Damascus has never in history been utterly destroyed. To the contrary, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. What’s more, the book of Isaiah indicates that he received the prophecies concerning the judgment of the Gentile nations, including the judgment of Damascus in chapter 17 after Tiglath–Pileser, (the Assyrian King) conquered Damascus. (2 Kings 16:7-18) 
I must add that there are also many excellent Bible scholars who believe the prediction in Isaiah 17 refers in one way or another to the destruction of Damascus by the Assyrians in 734 BC. Yet while I believe that the destruction of Damascus by the Assyrians did fulfill previous prophecies, I nonetheless continue to believe it more plausible that the predictions in Isaiah chapter 17 will take place in the future.
Prayer and Prophecy
All too often we miss the relationship between prayer and prophecy.
Even though we know that one day Damascus will be destroyed, we are still called to pray for the salvation of Syrians and for peace in the Middle East. We must continue to pray for those on both sides of the civil war in Syria. We should pray for a cessation of hostilities and for the Gospel to go out among Syrians, including the hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Jordan and other countries. We should pray that the use of chemical weapons will end as we look forward to a day when weapons of war will be turned into instruments of peace and the wolf will lie down with the lamb.
In that glorious day, our true King will reign from His rightful throne and His kingdom will be established. In that day we will understand the meaning of peace in a way that we have only understood "through a glass darkly."
The Scriptures tell us in Psalm 122:6 to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." By praying for peace in the Middle East, we are praying for the salvation of Israelis and Syrians who are suffering as a result of the conflict and heightened tensions.
Please remember to pray for Chosen People Ministries and our staff serving in Israel, and elsewhere - bringing the message of the Prince of Peace to Jewish people in seventeen countries around the globe!
Thanks for caring, for praying and for supporting our outreach among Jewish people. We do live in very challenging days, and we need to pray fervently for one another.
P.S. For your gift of $200 or more in support of our ministries, we will send you a beautiful menorah from Israel.
- 1 http://www.charismanews.com/world/40931-how-god-is-moving-in-syria-despite-heart-breaking-persecution
- 2 http://www.dailymail.co.uk
- 3 http://www.timesofisrael.com/top-defector-claims-assad-moving-chemical-weapons/
- 4 Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed from Washington, D.C. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/20/syria-declares-chemical-weapons_n_3961849.html). Also see http://www.opcw.org, http://www.opcw.org/chemical-weapons-convention/about-the-convention/genesis-and-historical-development/
- 5 Personal e-mail to the author
- 6 http://www.joelrosenberg.com/files/2013/09/STUDY-Damascus-prophecies-R.pdf
*The amount of the contribution that is deductible for federal income tax purposes is limited to the excess of money contributed by the donor over the value of goods or services provided by the organization.
Israel, the Church, and the Middle East Crisis Conference DVD
More than two thousand people attended the Israel, the Church and the Middle East Crisis conference in March 2012 at Biola University to hear addresses by the featured speakers: best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg, leading evangelical Old Testament scholar Dr. Walter Kaiser, and Chosen People Ministries president Dr. Mitch Glaser.
The conference also included a variety of workshops and panel discussions on topics such as how to witness to both Jewish people and Muslims, the impact of antisemitism on Jewish evangelism, and the plan and purposes of God for the Jewish people. Many were encouraged and equipped to delve further into the Scriptures, and to share the Gospel with their Jewish and Muslim friends.
"The Biola conference contained some of the best messages I've ever heard on the Middle East and prophecy. Joel Rosenberg was insightful and dynamic, and Dr. Walt Kaiser's biblical exposition will engage your mind and thrill your heart. I know that you will want to hear these messages and share them with your friends and your pastor!" ~ Dr. Mitch Glaser
Few Biblical passages depict suffering and atonement as clearly and poignantly as the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. Surprisingly, this text is not the product of New Testament writers, but the message of a Hebrew prophet who lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Considering the important role the prophet Isaiah plays in shaping both Jewish and Christian theology, this chapter should be of interest to any student of the Bible.
The recently-published work entitled The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology, edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, provides an indispensable resource to anyone who desires to delve into the interpretive complexities of this chapter. Bock and Glaser have compiled contributions from a remarkable array of Christian and Messianic scholars to examine the various aspects of redemption and atonement presented in Isaiah 53.
Featuring contributions by distinguished Bible scholars, including Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Walter Kaiser, this book offers a unique, diverse, and thorough analysis of the passage. Whether you are looking for a scholarly analysis of Isaiah 53 or ways to incorporate the chapter into a presentation of the Jewish Messiah from the Hebrew Scriptures, this book is a necessary addition to your collection. The anthology of great scholarship on a crucial passage of Scripture makes The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 an accessible and valuable resource for all, including the most erudite Bible student.
The Gospel According to Isaiah 53
Maybe, Just Maybe, It Is True
There has been an unmistakable revival of interest in ancient texts. The phenomenal success of The DaVinci Code a few years back and the astonishing number of Kabbalah centers springing up like mushrooms is ample proof that there is a yearning for life’s meaning that no amount of modern knowledge can satisfy. And we have a disquieting suspicion afoot that the ancients had something we may have overlooked.
Perhaps it’s time to take a look into a collection of ancient texts from which many have drawn priceless knowledge. It’s called the Bible.
The meaning which we crave, whether we are aware of it or not, is built into the fabric of the universe. But how are we to discern it?
Rather than decipher some code or puzzle to figure out the future, our Creator has given us a plainly marked path to follow and someone dependable to show us the present. It is none other than the Messiah of Israel—Yeshua (Jesus) whom the Hebrew Scriptures foretold and the New Testament revealed.
Look Before You Leap
It is said that faith requires a leap. But it’s always good to scope out the terrain first. The Bible has some signposts to look for:
1) Everyone needs God’s forgiveness.
“For in Your sight no one living is righteous.” (Psalm 143:2)
2) God has provided a means through which we may be reconciled to Himself.
“Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them.” (Psalm 65:3)
3)The Messiah is God’s provision for our forgiveness.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
What Should I Do About It?
There is only one thing to do. Receive the gift of forgiveness God offers by accepting Yeshua as your Messiah. You can do this, right now, by praying: “Messiah Jesus, I receive You now as my Lord and ask You to guide and empower me to become Your true follower. I accept the atonement You made for my sins, and Your free gift of forgiveness. Help me turn from falsehood and follow You in truth.”
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
By Tony Pearce
Because of the return of the Jewish people to Israel and the crisis in the Middle East, many people today are interested in what the Bible says about the Messiah and the end of days. In an article posted in the summer of 2002 on the Jewish website Aish.com, Rabbi Wilson wrote,
“We are living in very turbulent times, to say the least. Whereas only two years ago the world and the people of Israel were optimistic about a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, today that optimism has been replaced by fear and depression—fear of unbridled and senseless terrorism, and depression from what appears to be a no-win situation for the State of Israel.
“Now, more than ever before over the last 50 years, the Jewish people, and even the world in general, need a savior. We need someone who can, somehow, perhaps even mystically, bring about more than just a tenuous cease fire between two warring peoples. We need someone who can, once and for all, bring an end to all human conflict, especially in the Middle East. And, if someone can do that—a tall order—then perhaps he would also be able to destroy whatever other evil exists in the world. As he engineers this long-dreamed-of world peace, let him make unethical and immoral behavior a thing of the past, too. In other words, this savior, if he is truly a savior, should usher in a permanent utopian society where virtuous living is second-nature. And what shall we call this modern-day hero of Biblical proportions? In Judaism, he has always been called ‘Moshiach’ (Messiah), ‘the anointed one,’ because as a Jewish king he is to be anointed upon taking office.”