"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Israel and Palestine: A Brief Summary of the Issues

If you are a person who is constantly bewildered by the animosity between Arabs and Jews, and if you scratch your head trying to understand the centuries-long conflict between Palestinians and Israelis – a bitter fight over a claim both make on a piece of land called Israel (if you are an Israeli) and Palestine (if you are an Arab), then I would encourage you to read this short summary of the Arab/Israeli conflict. The next 10 minutes might save yourself a lifetime of confusion.

In 2000 B.C., a young man named Abram was “called by God” out of the land of Ur (Babylon) to a land that God promised to give “to your descendants, from the Egypt to the Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18-21). This land, called the Promised Land, was already inhabited by the Canaanite people, but God promised Abraham that He would give him this land. Over 500 years later, under the leadership of Joshua, the descendants of Abraham drove the Canaanites from their land and established the new nation called Israel.

What Happened to the Canaanites?

The Canaanites got into ships and left the land of Israel. The evidence is clear that the Canaanites left Israel for north Africa.  

Close to the Pillars of Hercules (e.g. Gibraltar), on the south side or African side of the Mediterranean, the vanquished Canaanite refugees built two cities:

"They [the Canaanites] built THE CITY OF TINGE AND TANGER IN NUMIDIA, where were two pillars of white stone, placed near to a great fountain, in which, in the Phoenician tongue, was engraven: WE ARE CANAANITES, WHOM JOSHUA THE THIEF CHASED AWAY" (Relations of the World and the Religions Observed in All Ages, Samuel Purchas, Book I, chapter XVIII, p.85)

In The Complete Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston, there is a footnote on page 110 that corroborates the Canaanites went to North Africa:

"Moses Chorenensis sets down the FAMOUS INSCRIPTION AT TANGIER [TANGER] concerning the old CANAANITES driven out of Palestine by Joshua thus:

"We are those exiles that were governors of the Canaanites, but have been driven away by Joshua the robber, AND ARE COME TO INHABIT HERE'" (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids. 1988).

In time these inhabitants of Northern Africa became known as Berbers and Moors.

From the city of Numidia the Canaanites eventually made it across the Straits of Gibraltar and reached as far north as Scandinavia and the British Isles. In these countries, and in Europe in general, the Canannites have left evidence of their existence over large areas of land, and are known to the anthropologists as the "Beaker People."

Meanwhile, Back in Israel

After a period of 400 years, the nation of Israel united under kings. First Saul, then David, then Solomon.

The nation of Israel split in 931 B.C. over a dispute concerning taxes. There were 10 tribes of Israel who composed “the northern Kingdom of Israel” with their capital in the city of Samaria, and there were two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) who made up “the southern Kingdom called Judah.”

In 722 B.C. the northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians, and the wicked Assyrians (capital of Nineveh) took captive the men of the 10 tribes of the north (thereafter known as “The 10 Lost Tribes”), and forced pagans to move to northern Israel and intermarry with the remaining Israeli women. The “half-breed’ descendants of Israeli women and pagan men came to be known as “The Samaritans.”

The southern kingdom of Judah had help from God and successfully resisted the Assyrians. It is only AFTER 722 B.C. that the name “Jew” comes into existence, an abbreviation of “Judah” or “Judeans” (e.g. people from Judah). Also, since the northern kingdom of Israel was wiped out after Assyrian invasion, after 722 B.C., the kingdom of Judah also would often go by the ancient name Israel.

The Jews stayed in the land God had given them until 586 B.C. when a new world empire – Babylon – conquered the Jews and took them into Babylonian captivity. When the Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians, and conquered the city of Babylon in 539 B.C., the Jews were allowed to return to their land of Israel.

The Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, the Temple, and re-instituted the sacrificial system. During their Babylonian captivity they had learned how to built synagogues since they had no access to the Temple, and they had learned Aramaic, the business language of the known world. For the next five centuries, until the coming of Jesus Christ, the Jews remained in their land, building a nation and seeing the rise of various Jewish religious sects, including the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These years are the years “between the Testaments” (e.g. between the Old Testament and the new Testament). During this time, Persia was conquered by the Grecian Empire, and then the Greeks were conquered by the Roman empire.

Rome Rules the World

Around the time Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago, Rome ruled the world. The Romans began having trouble with that portion of the empire called Israel. The natives of Israel, a people called “Jews” (e.g. short for “Judeans” or people who descended from the family or tribe of Judah) were expecting a coming Messiah who would lead their little country to global prominence. The Jews were often resisted Roman rule, and they were in the habit of assembling unlawfully, protesting regularly, and arguing forcefully against Roman rule.
The Roman emperor raised a wary eye against the Jews and their seditious ways. Jewish religious leaders, knowing that Rome was threatened by any claim of a Jewish Messiah, used Rome’s fears for their own advantage to thwart the influence of a young Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus before the Roman governor Pilate and claimed that “This man says he is the Messiah, the King of the Jews!” Pilate acquiesced to the Jewish demand that Rome crucify him who had the audacity to claim himself “King of the Jews.”

Around four decades after Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross, a new Roman emperor could no longer ignore the ever-increasing Jewish rebellion against Rome. More Roman soldiers were tied up in Israel fighting sedition than anywhere else in the world, and the Roman emperor’s patience ran out. He needed his troops elsewhere, so he decided to handle the Jews once and for all. Nobody knows why the Roman emperor didn’t just kill the Jews, possibly because he was too superstitious to utterly obliterate them, fearing an offense against the gods.

Instead of killing the Jews, the Roman emperor decided to forcibly remove the Jews from their land using Roman legionnaires and relocating them to the far-flung corners of the Roman empire. In America during the 1820’s, the American empire did the same thing to the native Americans, in a forced relocation to “Indian Land” (Oklahoma) that we call “The Trail of Tears.” The Romans forcibly relocated the Jews in a long, sad journey that Jewish history calls the diaspora. The word diaspora comes from the Greek and means “scattering.” We get our English word dispersion from this Greek word. The diaspora begins in A.D. 70.

Judea Becomes Philistia (Palestine)

Judea (Iudaea) was the Roman name for the Land of Israel during the heyday of the Roman Empire. This meant not only the area called Judea in Israel today; (West Bank) it included the whole area ruled and/or chiefly inhabited by Jews. We can see this usage in various writers in Latin and Greek of that period. Consider Pliny, Suetonius, and Tacitus in Latin, and Plutarch as well as the geographers Strabo and Ptolemy in Greek. Judea stretched along both sides of the Jordan and included, besides Judea proper, most of the coastal plain, Samaria, most of the Galilee, the Golan Heights of today and considerable land to the east of there. The Romans called this land Iudaea, a translation of the Hebrew Judah.  

However, to spite the Jews, after the Diaspora, the Romans changed the land of the Jews to Palestinia (Palestine), in honor of the Philistia people (Canaanites) that were the mortal enemies of the Jews prior to Abraham. Palestine was a word Romans used to spite the Jews.

In the Jews’ absence from their former homeland beginning in A.D. 70, a now-empty patch of beachfront real estate on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea begins to fill up with people from Arabia. The Arabs migrate slowly to the former land called Israel. It was never their land in the beginning.  And there is no such thing as Palestinian people. It’s Arab people in the land of Israel, a land that the Romans began calling Palestine.

After the diaspora in A.D. 70, the Jews lived in little communities all over the world, but especially in Europe. The Romans had scattered these Jewish people to all over the Roman empire, and Europe is where most of the Roman Empire was located at the beginning of the diaspora.
Rather than Jewish culture and religion coming to an end through the diaspora, this forced exile from their homeland became a defining event in Jewish history

The diaspora became a crucial part of the Jewish heritage and tradition, a permanent fixture of their rituals and soon became prominent within their holy commentary on Scriptures, a book called the Talmud. For the past two thousand years, in a thousands of  little communities all over the world, Jewish fathers have passed to their sons,  and rabbis have passed to their synagogue congregations, the importance of remembering the diaspora.

There is no better example of the permanence of Israel culture than the contemporary existence of the Hebrew language, the same language Moses, David, Solomon and all the Jewish people have spoken for over 5,000 years. Latin, the language of the Romans, is the basis for French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. But nobody speaks Latin anymore. Only the Roman Catholic Church uses it in church services. People don’t speak it. Groups of medical students worldwide study it for their medical classes, but Latin is not a language of conversation.

Language Represents a Culture.

After being scattered by the Romans, the Jews learned the local languages and became a part of the local population. However, the rabbis kept the Hebrew language alive and the Jews used the language in their worship. Just as Christian monks kept knowledge and literacy alive through the Dark Ages, the rabbis used Hebrew in synagogue services and required all Jews to learn at least enough to actively participate in worship.

From the mid-1500's until well into the current century the dominant pattern in the world was European colonialism. First the Spanish, then Dutch and finally the British were the preeminent powers in the world -- challenged with varying degrees of success by likes of the French, Germans and Italians. The Jews stayed in the background, minding their own business.

No matter where the Jews settled, they were seen as just a little bit on the outside by virtue of their religion, their "secret" language of Hebrew and even their ethnicity.

Since the Jews were mostly prevented from holding public office, becoming military leaders or even entering institutions of higher learning. As a result, they'd entered the only field left open to them: business.

As it turned out, they'd seemed to have a knack for it, too: by the late nineteenth century Jews in Europe were widely perceived as being rich, mostly because many of them had entered jewelry and banking, being forced out of politics and government.

About this time a pro-Jewish political movement called Zionism arose in Europe. Its purpose was "to return the Jews to their rightful historical homeland.”

Here’s Where It Gets Complicated

For the past two thousand years, over 75 generations of Arabs have lived and died on that Eastern Mediterranean soil that the Arabs now called Palestine. These Arabs figured that they had a bit more right to determine who was going to live on what was now their homeland than a bunch of European nations which had still been a bunch of wild barbarian tribes when the Romans had booted the Jews out in the first place (the following is an excellent summary from an anonymous writer at http://www.wwco.com/religion/israel.php).

Why the Arabs Hate the Jews

One of those wild barbarian tribes, now calling itself the British, was perhaps a bit influenced in its thinking by Zionist arguments and by the idea that European Jewry was a rich and influential group one would do well to have one one's side. Besides, the British Empire was at the height of its power and glory: India was the jewel in its crown about which books by Rudyard Kipling were being written, Sherlock Holmes was stalking the streets of London, Stanley and Livingston were making their way around Africa and Queen Victoria was on the throne.

The sun never set upon the British Empire, she had the largest and most powerful navy in the world and by George, she'd do whatever the heck she bloody wanted to -- and without any guff from any bleeding Arab beggars! Besides, the whole point was academic: Palestine had been under the control of the Ottoman Empire (Turkish Muslims) for centuries, so the Arabs living along the Eastern Mediterranean had no say about anything anyway.

What harm would it do, then, to issue a meaningless policy statement in order to win the favour, support and financial attention of the European Jews? So it was that British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour issued the appropriately-named Balfour Declaration in support of an independent Jewish homeland to be located in Palestine.

The Jews loved it, of course, but it remained just that -- a meaningless policy statement. It was certainly forgotten a couple of decades later in 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by an anarchist in the city of Sarajevo. The French, Germans and Russians mobilised their troops and, before anyone knew what had happened, a million mothers' sons were charging out of their trenches only to cough their lungs up from the mustard gas or be mown down by machine-gun fire. The Great War, the War to End All Wars, had begun.

Trench warfare held the war at a stalemate in Europe for the better part of four years. British General George Allenby, in charge of the "Southern Front", was under pressure from his superiours at the War Office in London for some progress against the Ottoman Empire, a British enemy in the war and the power that controlled the Middle East as it had for centuries. By manipulating Arab tribesmen into fighting the Turks in exchange for tentative implications of Arab independence, Allenby ensured that by the end of the war the Middle East was British-held territory.

The League of Nations

Immediately after the war, the newly-created League of Nations, really just an old-boys' club of the same old European colonialist powers, legitimised continued occupation of territory captured by the victors in the war by ceding areas to their occupying victorious forces as "mandates". The idea was that the "big brother" nation would prepare the mandated area for eventual independence, but in practise it was colonialism by any other name... which still smelled just as bad.

Britain got the League of Nations mandate for the Middle East, which included Palestine. Zionist groups and Jews worldwide immediately began pressuring the British to live up to the promises they'd made decades earlier in the Balfour Declaration. If they did nothing the Jews would accuse them of going back on their word, but if they started airlifting massive numbers of Jews into Palestine the local Arabs would riot. They tried to go the middle ground and brought in a slow trickle by sea.

This went on for nearly thirty years while the British controlled the area, and the Arabs certainly did riot, more than a few times. The population of Jewish immigrants slowly swelled, living in an uneasy peace with the Arabs. Then one day a man with a severe little moustache started raving about how the Jews had ruined his country, the rest of Europe and the world besides. The joke was on him, of course; Adolf didn't realize that he himself had Jewish blood, but his countrymen bought it hook, line and sinker, and the Second World War was on.

During the war Palestine remained under British control, never seriously threatened by the massive tank battles in the North African desert between British General Bernard Montgomery and German Field Marshal Erwin 'The Desert Fox' Rommel. At war's end, though, the world was a very different place. All the 'great powers' of Europe were totally tapped out, shattered and economically devastated. Even England, which had resisted invasion, had taken a beating from German bombs.

Suddenly only one country had a healthy economy. Suddenly only one country had no domestic damage at all from the war. Suddenly only one country had the largest and most powerful navy in the world, and it wasn't England anymore. Suddenly only one country had the atomic bomb. Suddenly only one country had the undivided attention of every other country in the world, was calling the shots, could do whatever it wanted to and had the force to back up its foreign policy initiatives.

The United States started pressuring all former colonial powers to grant independence to their colonies. Her moral high ground for doing this was that she herself had been a colony and had had to fight for her independence, so she sympathized with other colonies that wanted independence. 

A more likely reason for doing this is that since colonies trade exclusively with their host countries, excluding other nations, the U.S. wanted to get those host countries out of those colonies as quickly as possible so that she could get access and start selling Coca-Cola and other fine American products.

They grumbled, but Britain and the other former colonial powers of Europe started vacating their colonies rapidly, not only because the United States was pressuring them to but also because they could no longer spare the troops, funds or resources to maintain those colonies when so much reconstruction needed to take place back in their home countries. Amongst others, Britain was making plans to vacate its League of Nations mandates in the Middle East -- including Palestine.

Modern Zionism

The world had been shocked, sickened and horrified beyond description when it had seen photographs and newsreels of the ghastly 'final solution' of the Nazis. Concentration camps liberated by the Americans had yielded mass graves, poison-gas showers, non-stop crematoria and living skeletons with haunted eyes. The carnage was so far beyond anything ever seen before that even conventional language did not have a word for it. A new word was created to describe it: genocide.

No one could conceive of anything that anyone could ever have done to deserve such a fate. The hearts of everyone on Earth went out to the Jews. Everyone felt guilty for not having stopped Hitler sooner, before six million Jews had gone to their deaths. Filled with shock, compassion, guilt, shame, remorse and regret, the world of 1945 could deny the Jews nothing.

The British were rapidly vacating the land of Palestine, the Jewish homeland of two thousand years ago. Many Jews had emigrated there during the last thirty years. Many European Jews were wandering around the continent as "Displaced Persons", sole survivors of their families or villages with nowhere to go. The world felt shamed and wanted to "do something for the Jews" to "make up" for what had happened. Some Jews themselves and other Zionists were clamouring about the Balfour Declaration, made by the British in a very different world over fifty years and two world wars ago.

Almost before the British were out of Palestine, the United States stepped in and declared that the area would once again be the Jewish homeland. The Americans were trying not only to make up for the Second World War, but to correct an ancient historical wrong. Huge waves of Jewish immigrants flocked to their ancient ancestral homeland.

As these European "displaced persons" found a home once again, they created a whole new flood of "displaced persons" -- Arabs whose umpteenth great-grandfather had farmed the same land 75 generatons ago, forced to leave because a newly-arrived European Jew had become the new owner. These Arabs, today called the Palestinians, left in droves.

It took two years from wars' end for the British to finish vacating and for the brief period of American assistance with Jewish immigration to conclude. Jews all over the world had been delighted with the idea; those who didn't emigrate to live there were quite generous financially. The United States gave much financial and military assistance so that in 1947 the area which had been known as Palestine for two thousand years declared itself the state of Israel.

The brand-new state was promptly attacked at the same time by several of its outraged Arab neighbours. They themselves had been under the boot of the Ottomans for centuries, then had had to endure the British, but now that the entire Middle East had looked as though it were finally going to be free and self-determining, here had come the meddling Americans to eject the Palestinians —brother Arabs— and move Jews in in their place!

Aside from this strange, offensive new outpost there were no Jews for thousands of miles around — only Arabs. For the Arabs it was like surgically transplanting a tuft of blond hair onto a head full of black. They saw these Jews sitting proudly on land that had been Arab land for two thousand years, while the 'rightful' Palestinian-Arab owners sat shivering in refugee camps just outside the borders of the new state. Outraged and offended, they attacked with their combined military force.

Unfortunately for the Arab states that attacked in 1947, U.S. weapons and training that had been provided to the Israeli military allowed Israel to trounce them. In other Arab-Israeli conflicts (1956, 1967 and 1973), almost always started by the Arabs, the same has been the result: one was called the Six-Day War because that's all the time it took the Israelis to win, while another was called the Yom Kippur War because the Arabs tried to win by surprise-attacking on the holiest Jewish day.

The previous Palestinian inhabitants haven't been sitting idly in their refugee camps on Israel's borders for fifty years while fellow Arabs from other Arab countries have been fighting and dying in attempts to win back their land for them. The Palestinians formed the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), a terrorist group that has been bombing Israel and conducting other terrorist raids on her for decades.

For many years now Yasser Arafat has been the leader of the PLO, and thus Public Enemy Number One of the Israeli state. He was controversial in the 1980s for once wearing his customary pistol on a visit to the Pope and because the United States didn't want to grant him a visa to enter the U.S. so he could speak at the United Nations.

The first real progress in the Arab-Israeli situation was made by President Carter, who got Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to sign a peace treaty. We later found out what ordinary Arabs thought of that when some of Sadat's own people assassinated him as he stood on the reviewing stand during a parade.

The fact that Israel recently allowed the Gaza Strip to become an 'autonomous Arab zone' with its own police force and Yasser Arafat (Israel's Public Enemy Number One), of all people, as its leader, is probably the most encouraging move towards peace since the Americans started the whole mess in the 1940s. Of course, we found out what ordinary Israelis thought of that when a former member of his own security forces assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the guy who made the Gaza Strip thing possible, as he moved through a crowded public square a few months ago.

The Oslo Agreement

Since historic agreements signed in Oslo, Norway in September of 1993 between the Israelis and the PLO set the Gaza Strip aside for the Palestinians, the PLO and its leader have been kept busy with the headaches of self-rule. Those Palestinians and other Arabs who felt that this arrangement was not good enough and that there was still more for which Israel must answer felt that the PLO had gone soft and sold out; they became dissatisfied with the PLO as the representative of their interests.

These extreme anti-Israelis formed a group called Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Islamic force composed of Palestinians and other sympathetic Arabs. Backed by the sympathetic Islamic countries of Iran and Syria, since the 1993 Oslo accords Hezbollah has set up shop in Israel's chaotic bordering neighbour to the North, Lebanon, which has been paralysed for decades by civil war.

The situation in Lebanon is so fractious and its government so weak that Hezbollah has actually taken over the running of schools and hospitals in some areas, gaining it popular support amongst some Lebanese. Its primary purpose for existence being to inflict harm upon Israel, however, in April 1996 Hezbollah began raining fire down upon its hated enemy in the form of Katoushka rockets.

Surrounded as it is by hostile neighbours who would prefer to see the blood of all its citizens running through the sands, Israel has perhaps understandably developed a 'massive retaliation' policy over the years. To guerrilla attacks by the Egyptian-backed Palestinian terrorist group fedayeen ("self-sacrificers", the predecessor of the PLO and Hezbollah) in the 1950s, Israel invaded Egyptian army posts in the dead of night, shooting hundreds of Egyptian troops as they slept, and on 29 October 1956 actually invaded Egypt herself, taking the entire Sinai Peninsula from her.

In Israel's belief that she must show a tough face in order to deter aggression, she has not hesitated even to operate far outside her home region. On 3 July 1976 she reacted to the hijacking of an airplane containing her Olympic team by storming the plane with a massive assault force as it sat on an airport runway in Entebbe, Uganda, a country well into Africa and decidedly not in Israel's home region, the Middle East. Israel had refused to negotiate or even talk to the hijackers, it attacked without regard to casualties and it took no prisoners. The message was clear: don't mess with us.

When terrorists attacked Israel from bases in Southern Lebanon in March of 1978, Israel responded by invading Lebanon. When Mossad, Israel's secret intelligence service, learned in 1981 that its neighbouring country of Iraq (with its new leader Saddam Hussein) had an atomic reactor near its capital city of Baghdad that would enable it to manufacture nuclear weapons, Israeli jets invaded Iraqi airspace, flew on over to Baghdad one fine day and blew the atomic reactor to Kingdom Come.

When Israel's ambassador to Great Britain was wounded in a PLO terrorist attack on the streets of London —just one man, mind you— Israel responded by launching a massive, all-out, coordinated land, sea and air attack against PLO bases in Lebanon on 6 June 1982. By 14 June they had the PLO trapped and surrounded in Lebanon's capital city of Beirut and were pummeling them into oblivion with round-the-clock bombing.

If Ronnie Ray-gun hadn't yanked on the leash of his Israeli pit bull and forced him to wait while the United States Navy evacuated what was left of the PLO from Beirut, the Israelis almost certainly would've done there and then to the Palestinians what the Romans hadn't done to the Jews almost two thousand years earlier. In any case, the message "don't mess with us" was once again clear.

Israel's Right to Exist

With the election of Yitzhak Rabin as Israeli prime minister in 1992 on a campaign of peace and reconciliation with Israel's Arab neighbours, it looked as though perhaps such stiff reprisals might no longer be necessary. In the historic Oslo accords of 1993 the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist and Israel acknowledged the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians. The Gaza Strip and the West bank of the Jordan river were designated as Palestinian homelands, and Israel and Jordan (the country) signed a treaty ending their 46-year state of war in 1994. Things were really looking up.

A few months ago, however, we found out what at least some ordinary Israelis thought of all this 'peace with the Arabs' stuff when a former member of his own security forces assassinated Rabin as he moved through a crowded public square. Shimon Peres became Israel's new prime minister and tried to continue as best he could his predecessor's policies of peace and reconciliation with Arabs.

When the extreme Palestinian-Arab Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group Hezbollah started firing salvos of deadly Katoushka rockets at Israel from its guerrilla bases in Lebanon in April of 1996, frightened, disappointed Israelis began to cry loudly to their government that perhaps those ingrate Arabs would only take advantage of peace and reconciliation, would only understand the language of force. Perhaps, some said, the only sure policy for security was the old 'massive retaliation'.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, facing an upcoming election and terrorist rockets raining fire down on those who would be deciding whether or not to vote him into office again, didn't take long to decide. On Thursday, 11 April 1996, Israeli ground-based planes and helicopter gunships operating from navy vessels in the Mediterranean launched a massive, non-stop bombing assault on Lebanon.

As of Wednesday, 24 April 1996 the Israeli bombing is still going full-force... but Hezbollah rocket attacks from Israel against Lebanon continue unabated. The Israelis, who have code-named their bombing campaign "Operation Grapes of Wrath", pledge to continue it until Hezbollah's rocket attacks cease. In years to come it may be Israel who will taste the sour grapes, since its military offensive in the first six short days already produced 800,000 homeless refugees in Lebanon -- many of whom will probably become embittered towards Israel and provide excellent new recruits for Hezbollah.

On Monday, 15 April 1996 the United Nations Security Council in New York spent the entire day debating the situation but in the end could reach no decisions. United States Ambassador to the United Nations Madeline Albright made it clear that the U.S. position was that Israel's actions were appropriate and justifiable, and implied rather obviously that the U.S. would use its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council to block any punitive measures the council might attempt.

The reactions of Syria and Iran, the two Islamic Arab countries which helped establish Hezbollah in the first place and continue to fund and supply her, have been no surprise: they have loudly decried that Israel is committing a monstrous crime against humanity and must be stopped. Israel, for its part, has pointed out that both Hitler and Hezbollah launched attacks trying to kill Jews, and reminds the international community what the countries of the world felt was necessary to do about Hitler. With all this rhetoric, the average confused bystander surely must be wondering what to believe.


Two thousand years ago the Romans committed a great wrong against the Jewish people. One hundred years ago the British made a promise that that wrong would be made right. Fifty years ago, after the Germans committed another great wrong against the Jewish people, the Americans tried to make up for it by honouring England's promise. In the process, they committed a great wrong against the Palestinians, who even today still sit shivering in their refugee camps.

The Palestinian Arabs hate the Jews for taking away their homes. The rest of the Arabs hate the Jews for taking away the homes of their brethren. All the Arabs hate the Americans for what they did to the Palestinians. So now today, in a region consisting of dozens of Muslim countries twice as wide as the United States, stretching from Morocco on the West coast of North Africa to Pakistan on the Indian Subcontinent, everyone speaks a form of Arabic, obeys Islamic law and worships a single god most recently revealed to him by Muhammad the last Prophet...

...everyone, that is, except for those living on one tiny little strip of land, forty-seven miles long. For two thousand years the people there also spoke Arabic, obeyed Islamic law and worshipped the god most recently revealed by Muhammad. Now, however, those people are shivering in camps on the borders of what used to be their land. Today the people on that strip of land speak Hebrew, follow Talmudic law and worship the god of Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca and Sarah.

It has been suggested that there are historical parallels between the Arab-Israeli situation and the plight of the native inhabitants of North America (Native Americans / American Indians). Very few people are suggesting today that everyone whose ancestors came to North America after A.D. 1500 should go back where they came from so that the Native Americans can have their lands back. Why, then, was Palestine "returned" to the Jews? We were all taught as children that two wrongs don't make a right, so why did the U.S. try to right a two-thousand-year-old historical wrong by wronging the Palestinians?

Such speculation, however, is merely crying over historically spilled milk: wouldn't removing the Israelis yet again, or blasting them out of existence as the Arabs tried so many times to do, simply be more of the same? Viewing the Middle East as it is today, should we not seek to learn from the mistakes of the past? Shouldn't we seek to learn not only from the mistakes of the Romans and the Nazis, but also from the mistakes we ourselves as Americans made a mere half-century ago when we sought to offer a quick fix to someone else's problems? Good intentions are not enough; surely only listening to and understanding the problems of those who must LIVE there, and then giving help IF it is requested, will finally bring peace. 

War without Guns, Baker Mayfield and Flag Plants

Baker Mayfield carrying OU's colors at Ohio State
One of my favorite football stories of all time is when the Carlisle Indian School, a group of Indian boys from Oklahoma and other Indian lands, played a football game against the Army Cadets at Westpoint, New York, on November 9, 1912. Oklahoma's Jim Thorpe was the Carlisle Indian's tailback, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Army Cadet's tailback. Nine future American war generals played on Army's football team that year, and nobody gave the Carlisle Indians a chance to win the game. Army's football team was the best in the nation. This Carlisle vs. Army game has been called Football's Greatest Battle.

At half-time, the Army Cadets led the Carlisle Indians by a score of 6-0. In probably the greatest speech ever given by a football coach, Carlisle Indian's coach Glenn "Pop" Warner motivated his players by saying the following:
"Their fathers and grandfathers are the ones who fought and killed your fathers on the plains of Oklahoma. These men playing against you today are soldiers. They are the Long Knives. You are Indians. After today, we will know if you are warriors. Get out there and defeat Army!"
Carslile came out and shocked the nation by winning the game 27-6. The Indians had defeated Army on the battlefield.
Pop Warner and Jim Thorpe at practice before the 1912 Army
game. Courtesy of Cumberland County Historical Society.

Naval Captain Johnny Whelchel, Navy's football coach during the 1942-1943 season, described the game of football as "a war without guns, and who in hell wants to lose a war."

In football, two opposing forces face each other for final victory on the scoreboard. As in war, the defeated foe will lose the battle - sometimes in their home territory - and will leave the battlefield defeated and dejected.

It is the custom of victors in war to place their flag on the battlefield as a sign the battle has been won.

The Union placed its flag on Little Round Top Mountain and Big Round Top Mountain after the  Union defeated Confederate forces at the Battle of Gettysburg.

British and American soldiers planted their flags on formerly held German territory in France after the battle of Normandy.

American troops planted their flag on formerly held Japanese territory at Iwo Jima.

Baker Mayfield and Flag Planting at Ohio Stadium

Rachelle and I were in Columbus, Ohio for the Oklahoma Sooners vs. Ohio State Buckeyes football game at Ohio Stadium. I've been following Oklahoma football since I learned to walk, having a grandfather who was an All-Big Six tight end for the University of Oklahoma in the late 1920's and early 1930's.

If you've never sat close to the football field for a college or professional game, it's hard to comprehend how physical and brutal football can be.

Football is truly "war without guns."

Oklahoma and Ohio State players were flying around the field, using strategy to take a little pigskin ball into the enemy territory, and fighting each other for victory. At the end of the battle, Oklahoma won.

And after the battle was over, Baker Mayfield planted Oklahoma's flag in the middle of Ohio Stadium.

Some are saying Baker Mayfield's actions display a lack of class.

Since when do men fight a war with class?

Some are saying Baker Mayfield's actions display a lack of civility.

With apologies to the Civil War  - a war where more American soldiers died than all American wars combined - since when is war "civil"?

Some are saying that planting your flag on the opposing team's field is unsportsmanlike.

I get it.

People think football is a sport like chess.

It's not.

Football is a war without guns.

And Saturday night the victors planted their flag in Ohio Stadium.

The way to stop the enemy from planting a flag in the center of the battlefield is to win the war.

Pointing Sinners to Christ by Saying "I Don't Care"

I'm a movie buff.

Maybe this penchant for movie watching derives from a strict parental prohibition against watching movies during childhood based on the parental belief that anything originating from Hollywood must be evil and therefore the Burleson children must be isolated and protected from such evil.

I'm a prime example that external boundaries imposed (e.g. "Thou shalt not") become internal longings produced (e,g, "I must have"). As Paul said, "I wouldn't have known what it means to covet until the Law said, 'You shalt not covet.' But sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the Law, sin is dead" (Romans 7:7-8).

So I see movies. Often.

In my opinion, a movie can provide a good illustration for sound theology (e.g. theology means "the knowledge of God"). Don't misunderstand. No movie serves as a revelation of God. There is a difference between illustration and revelation. We can only know who God is through revelation, so God graciously reveals Himself to us in His Word.
"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days God has spoken to us through his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe." (Heb.1:1-2). 
You want to know God? Find Him in Jesus Christ.

But as I said, if you want an illustration of how God works, you might find it in a Hollywood movie.

Let me show you one of my favorite illustrations of God's character from a movie.

Tommy Lee Jones won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor when he played a United States Marshal opposite Harrison Ford in the classic movie (my all-time favorite) entitled The Fugitive.

Ford played Dr. Richard Kimble, a man who was falsely accused of killing his wife. After escaping police custody during a bus crash while being transported to prison, Dr. Kimble runs from the dogged pursuit of a U.S. Marshal (Jones) who is intent on capturing the fugitive.

The most memorable scene in the movie is when the U.S. Marshal confronts Dr. Kimble in a water tunnel over a dam, right before the latter jumps to freedom.  Harrison Ford points a pistol at Tommy Lee Jones and yells "I didn't kill my wife!" and Jones fires back a classic line...

"I don't care!"

The beauty of this line is that it sums up the Marshal's position in the movie. He really doesn't care what Dr. Kimble has or hasn't done. His job is to bring Dr. Kimble in.

Many don't know that Tommy Lee Jones actually improvised his classic response to Ford's line, "I didn't kill my wife!" The script as originally written called for Jones to respond by saying "So you didn't kill your wife?" 

But Tommy Lee Jones forgot his line. He improvised. He said the first thing that came to his mind, the memorable movie line - "I don't care."

An Illustration of Sound Biblical Theology

I see in that scene from The Fugitive an illustration of God's relationship with us, and our relationship with other people.

Every one of us seemingly has a dire need to proclaim our moral innocence. Yes, I know that Dr. Kimble was actually innocent of killing his wife, but when it comes to God, nobody stands before Him morally innocent.
As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12; cf Psalm 14:1-3; Eccles. 7:20). 
If we accept that there nobody is right before God, then we come to the logical question, "How then is anyone made right with God?" And the answer is clear:
"But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24). 
God makes sinners right with Him at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Churches and various religions, however, will often get into prolonged conversations about who's guilty, who's not guilty; who's innocent, who's not innocent; who's worthy, who's unworthy; who's morally good, who's not morally good.

It's as if religious people want to follow the script and say, "So, tell me, you really didn't do this...?" while we who are self-righteous stand on the other side shouting and proclaiming our innocence.

We tend to treat our sins like we do our children. We nurture them, protect them,  hang on to them, and compare them to the sins of others. "Mine are better; yours are worse" or "They're not as bad as they seem."

But I hear God saying, "I don't care!"

The one thing God is concerned with is bringing sinners in - into an understanding of His love. God is pursuing us and capturing us in order to convince us of His love for us.
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (I John 4:10). 
All God cares about is that we embrace His love for us through His Son.

The word "atonement" means an "at-one-moment." God, in His love for morally guilty people like us who've been running from Him as Judge all our lives, has given us His Son as "an atoning sacrifice for our sins." At the cross, God brought us to an "at-one-moment" with Him. He reconciled Himself to us when we were still at enmity with Him. In other words, our sins have been dealt with in Christ.

Believe it. Receive it. Enjoy it.

You are free from the guilt and shame of sin because of Jesus Christ.

We are Harrison Ford in the water tunnel, frantically shouting to anyone who will listen how innocent we really are. We are comparing our sins to others; hiding our gross sin from others, all the while shouting over and over, "I may have done this ____ (fill in the blank), but at least I didn't do this.... (fill in the blank)."

All the while God is gently saying,

"I don't care!" 

God doesn't care if you've had an abortion.

God doesn't care if you've slept with dozens of people.

God doesn't care if you've had sex with people from the same sex.

God doesn't care if you're addicted and can't seem to stop your addictions.

God doesn't care if you've lied, stolen, and done things that should put you behind bars.

In love, He sent His Son to pay the penalty we sinners owe Him (death). 

God only cares that you embrace His Son. 

That's all. 

I can hear Christians saying, "But Wade, please, be careful! If you continue to say 'God doesn't care how you live, then people won't care how they live." 

You're misunderstanding me. 

When God says, "I don't care," it doesn't mean that He doesn't care about the pain you feel because of your sin, pain which comes to you and to others because of the nature of sin. It doesn't mean that God doesn't care enough to help you understand how your life can change and how you can find freedom from your sins. 

All "I don't care" means is that God isn't requiring you to declare your innocence or lack of guilt to find the favor and mercy of God. God is capturing you by His love in the midst of your guilt. And by golly, if this is what God is doing, then I'm going to do the same thing.

I don't care.

This morning I've put in a call to the former mayor of our city. The headlines in today's paper are "Ex-Mayor Resigns from Bank Amid Police Investigation." It could be that our former mayor may proclaim his innocence to me. It could be that people in leadership over at the bank may proclaim to me the ex-mayor's guilt. It might be our community will get into the water tunnel over the dam of life and point fingers and get into verbal wars over another man's guilt or innocence.

I don't care.

Of course the police care. They should. Their job is to uphold the law. Of course the overseers of the bank care. They should. Their job is to uphold banking regulations. 

I don't care.

My job is to point people to Jesus Christ. 

I know many people are living through "hell" right now because they've made really poor choices in this life. Sin is destructive. I get it. I get it because I've made many stupid, poor decisions myself. 

But in my opinion, none of us can ever truly wrestle away from our compulsions toward destructive behaviors till we come to the knowledge that God is saying "I don't care." 

God only cares that we come to know His love for us in His Son. 

I think we all might find our inner compulsions toward destructive behaviors seem to die a quicker death when we come to the place of understanding the outer prohibitions from a stern authority have been removed.

That's exactly what God did for us at the cross.

God's reconciled to us by His grace for us in Jesus Christ, not by our proclamations of innocence.

Those who refuse to embrace God's love for sinners at the cross will find a day is coming when their patient, loving Creator will be asking about those things they did in life. God cares about the conduct of those who spurn His love, for it is only His love that truly changes one's conduct.
"Kiss the Son, or God will be angry and your path in life will lead to destruction. Blessed are all those who take REFUGE in Him" (Psalm 2:12). 

Fire and Fury and this Earth as an Inheritance

"The meek will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)

"The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not inhabit the earth." (Proverbs 10:30)

Let Korea and all present and future world empires, including America, take notice. Nations, kings, dictators and Presidents may flaunt their alleged powers to destroy the earth, and seek to intimidate God’s people as they choose, but it is only for a season (2:1-23; 14:1-12; 27:1-2, 11-37; cf. Psalm 36).

Those who follow Jesus' teachings will ultimately "inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

The Prince of Peace told us to go and “make disciples of all the nations” (28:19) until He returns. When Christ begins to reign in the heart of a person, the "Prince of Peace" is King over that person. (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). However, there is coming a day when Christ will physically reign from the earth as King of Kings, living among His people forever.

The Bible teaches the righteous will live forever with earth as our eternal home.

God said to Abram,
"Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever." (Genesis 13:14-15).
Abraham, of course, is "the father of us all," that is "those of us who have the faith of Abraham" (Romans 4:16). Abraham "believed God" and it was credited to him as righteousness. God's righteousness, the only kind of righteousness that counts, is received through faith. And those with this faith in Him will live forever on the earth.

Moses knew the earth would be God's peoples' possession forever. He prayed:
"Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'" (Exodus 32:13).
God reiterated His promise throughout the prophetical writings that He would give His people land forever. God declared through the prophet Ezekiel:
 "I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them .... They will be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David (the Messiah) will be king over them, and they will all have one Shepherd. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their Prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.'" (Ezekiel 37:21-28). 
Ezekiel plainly teaches the righteous will inherit this land forever.

When Jesus raises the dead to judge and sentence the wicked to the second death and gives to the righteous immortal life, He will usher in this everlasting age where "the meek inherit the earth." Paul describes this event:
"We tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." (I Thessalonians 4:15-18). 
Notice, Paul teaches the home of the eternal home of the righteous is on the earth, with the curse of sin and death fully reversed. It is on this earth that we will be "with the Lord" forever, for He will make His habitation among us.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:1-4). 
Christ will be dwelling with us on earth. We will be on earth with Him. God's purpose at the general resurrection and judgment is to sentence the resurrected wicked from all the ages to "the second death" and to gift the resurrected righteous with "immortal life."

This last judgment is described by Christ Himself.
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; And they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:36-42). 
The Gentile gospel writer, Dr. Luke, describes the final judgment of the wicked similar to Matthew.
"I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left" (Luke 17:34). 
The Gospel writers assume that we know what happened in the days of Noah. So, do you know what happened in the days of Noah when God judged the world for sin?
God then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation....Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." (Genesis 7:1-4). 
Noah and his family "in the ark" were delivered to a "new land," and the wicked were destroyed. No one was physically removed from the earth. The earth was transformed and made new. Only the righteous (those in the ark) inherited the new earth.

So it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.

The final judgment of the wicked is also compared to the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.
And God said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous... Then Abraham approached Christ and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:20-25).
Luke compares the coming of Christ in final judgment of the wicked and the gifting of eternal life to the righteous to what happened in the days of Sodom (e.g. "the days of Lot").  
 "It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. "It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:28-30). 
Again the pattern of God's judgment throughout the Bible is consistent; the wicked are killed and the righteous stay on earth.

When Jesus describes His coming in final judgment in Matthew 24:36-42 (through v. 35 it is the judgment of Jerusalem), Jesus is only repeated what the Law (e.g. the Old Testament) has consistently taught about God destroying the wicked and rewarding the righteous with land.
"For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; But the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it." (Proverbs 2:21-22). 
"Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, For God will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared." (Proverbs 3:25-26). 
"The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land." (Proverbs 10:30)
"For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in God will inherit the land." (Psalm 37:9). 
"A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found." (Psalm 37:10). 
"Those God blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off." (Psalm 37:22). 
"For God loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off" (Psalm 37:28). 
"The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever." (Psalm 37:29). 
"When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever." (Proverbs 10:25). 
Jesus, steeped in the teachings of the Law, and One who came "to fulfill the Law," taught consistently with the Hebrew Scriptures. The wicked will be destroyed and the righteous will be gathered into His Kingdom forever - a Kingdom that is on earth.
"The highest heavens belong to God, but the earth he has given to man." (Psalm 115:16). 
You might need to adjust your view of "heaven." Heaven is nothing more, nothing less, than the righteous being "raised from the death" and inheriting "the earth" forever. God's people will live on this "new earth" with the "curse fully reversed," for the wicked will be destroyed and as the prophet Malachi said, "The righteous will walk on the ashes of the wicked" (Malachi 4:3).

The Bible teaches that Christ will dwell with His people on earth forever.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:3). 
"The days are coming," declares God, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land." (Jeremiah 21:5). 
"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:10). 
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Son, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11;15). 
"The righteous shall inherit the earth, and dwell therein for ever." (Psalm 37:29). 
The Old Testament Scriptures, the apostles, and Jesus Christ all taught that the righteous have their eternal dwelling on earth. We never see disembodied spirits floating in some mystical heaven as something taught in the Bible. The prophets of Scripture all taught the resurrection of the dead, a final judgment where the wicked are sentenced to death, and the righteous are gifted with immortal life and given the title deed to the earth.

No matter what Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, or Kim Jong-Un have in mind in terms of "the destruction of the earth," the King of Kings has given His Word that the earth will be preserved for His people at His coming.

So, next time you are tempted to litter, remember,that you would be soiling your eternal home. A proper understanding of one's future home gives a good corrective to one's present conduct.