Dear Friends of Israel
Although Israel is in greater danger on one hand, due to Iran’s growing nuclear weapons program, there is less immediate threat from its direct neighbors, Egypt and Syria, because they are occupied with their own, internal problems. This has led to discussions about a decrease in Israel’s defense budget, which of course is supported by some and opposed by others. For a nation like Israel, it is almost taboo to reduce funding for the military, because defending the nation’s borders has been the top priority since its inception. There was always less funding for other important items like childhood development, education and health care programs. The debate over reductions in defense spending shows how much Israel wants to become like other nations and be able to provide for the welfare and advancement of its citizens instead of constantly struggling just to survive.
Along with Israel’s desire for normalcy lies also a hope for permanent peace, which we know historically has never been more than simply a hope. Although the Jewish prophets always predicted a coming time of peace and justice, they made it clear that the coming time will be tied to the coming of the Prince of Peace.All year long, but perhaps more so in this particular month, we think about the coming of the Prince of Peace, who, according to Isaiah 9:6, will come to the earth as a child. Micah 5:2 tells us that he won’t be like other children, because, “his origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
These verses are in stark contrast to a widely held belief among modern Jews that the Messiah will be a man like any other. Although it wasn’t always so, that belief was perpetuated by Maimonides, one of the best-known Jewish scholars of the thirteenth century.
The prophets also tell us that the Messiah will put an end to war once and for all, “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Micah 4:3).
The hope that the Messiah would bring peace on earth is one of the reasons that the Jews didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah. However, the beginning of Micah Chapter 4 says clearly, “In the last days…”
They didn’t realize that a long time span stood between His birth and the events of the “last days”; now more than 2,000 years. The establishment of peace by the Messiah is yet to come, but we hope that it will happen soon.
The entrance hall to the UN building in New York has the biblical expression, “beating swords into plowshares” as its motto. However, we know that real peace will not occur through human efforts, but rather through the god-given power and authority of the Prince of Peace.
The failure of human efforts to attain peace is readily apparent in the land where the Prince of Peace came into the world. In spite of all the past failures, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are currently being undertaken to find a way to achieve peace. They might be successful this time, but even if they are, we know that their differences are too great for it to be permanent. The creation of permanent peace remains the province of the coming Prince of Peace.
Warm wishes to you for the coming holidays, in the name of Him who has brought peace to those who believe in him.