As the focus of the world is now fixed on the Gaza Strip, students of the Bible would do well to stop to consider what the ancient Hebrew prophets had to say about the future of this little piece of land.
Letâ€™s consider a few passages. First, according to the Scriptures, the return of Jesus and the subsequent judgment will largely revolve around what the prophet Isaiah referred to as, â€œthe legal cause,â€ or â€œthe controversy of Zionâ€:
For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. (Isaiah 34:8)
No doubt, today the â€œcontroversy of Zionâ€ rages throughout the nations, as the state of Israel seeks to crush the Gaza-governing Hamas, a group with the stated goal of exterminating the Jewish people and setting up their capital in Jerusalem.
According to several prophets, the controversy will only intensify as we draw closer to the return of Jesus, when a vast coalition of nations will invade Israel and surround the city of Jerusalem, seeking to commit the final genocide against the Jewish people. The prophet Joel tells us that the Lord will execute judgment against all parties involved in this invasion, and specifically any who force the dividing of His land:
I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land. (Joel 3:2)
Jehoshaphat is the valley that runs north to south, between the Temple Mount, and the Mount of Olives.
In Matthew 25, as Jesus was actually sitting on the Mount of Olives looking down at the Valley of Jehoshaphat, He declared that when He returns, He Himself will sit as the judge of the nations.
He declared that He would judge the nations specifically based on how they treated his â€œbrethren.â€
It is clear that Jesus was harkening back to Joel 3, actually inserting Himself into the passage as YHVH, the divine Judge.
We must also note that Joel also informs us that the judgment will be based on how the nations treated â€œMy people and My inheritance, Israelâ€ and also on their having, â€œdivided up My land.â€
As the prophecy continues, it goes on to speak of the Lord specifically executing vengeance against those from the regions of Lebanon and Gaza who have engaged in violence against the people of Israel:
What are you to Me, O Tyre, Sidon (Lebanon) and all the regions of Philistia (Gaza)? Are you rendering Me a recompense? But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head. (Joel 3:4)
Where it says â€œTyre, Sidon,â€ and â€œthe regions of Philistiaâ€ one could nearly insert Hezbollah and Hamas. It is nearly pulled from todayâ€™s headlines.
The prophecy, of course, is not speaking of every single inhabitant of Lebanon and Gaza. The specific emphasis of the prophecy is on those who have sought out â€œviolenceâ€ to â€œshed innocent bloodâ€ in the land of Judah:
Edom (shall become) a desolate wilderness,Â because of violence against the people of Judah, for they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah will be inhabited forever And Jerusalem for all generations. And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, for the LORD dwells in Zion. (Joel 3:19-21)
Like Joel, so also does the prophet Ezekiel reveal that Jesus will come back to execute judgment against those who embrace and foment the â€œancient hatredâ€ directed toward the Jewish people and shed the blood of â€œthe children of Israelâ€:
â€œBecause you have had anÂ ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity â€¦ therefore, as I live,â€ says the Lord GOD, â€œI will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you;Â since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. (Ezekiel 35:5-7) (emphasis mine)
While it is clear that Jesus passionately loves all peoples and is grieved over the loss of innocent life on both sides of the present conflict, the Scriptures are also painfully clear that when He comes back, because of the aforementioned violence and hatred, the region of Gaza will be devastated.
The prophet Zephaniah, in specifically speaking of the Day of the Lord, warns the inhabitants of Gaza to repent; â€œSeek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden In the day of the LORDâ€™S anger.â€
Then comes a very stark description of what lies ahead for Gaza when Jesus returns:
For Gaza will be abandoned. â€¦ Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you so that there will be no inhabitant. So the seacoast will be pastures, with caves for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; For the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune. (Zephaniah 2:4-7)
Now, for those who are seeking to take a middle-of-the-road stance, it may be a hard pill to swallow that much of Gaza will become devastated and deserted, being left for the righteous remnant of Judah.
This, however, is exactly what the prophecy declared. This is not a historical prophecy. The prophecy is ultimately pertaining to the Day of the Lord and the Return of Jesus.
Does it shock anyone that world events are now aligning more and more with the state of affairs that the ancient Hebrew prophets spoke of just prior to the return of Jesus?
In pondering all of these things, we must all tremble. For in truth, through this passage the Lord is not merely warning those from Gaza, but everyone â€“ Jew, Palestinian, you and me â€“ to righteousness, humility and repentance. If we hear this warning and genuinely take it to heart, then as the prophet says, â€œPerhaps [we] will be hidden In the day of the LORDâ€™S anger.â€