Judging the nations which have divided God’s land

I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land. (Joel 3:2 ESV)

Joel 3 is a prophecy of the conflict that engulfs Israel at the time of the end when Gog and his allies invade and overpower the Jewish state, only to find themselves overthrown in turn by divine intervention. The prophecy says that “all the nations” will be involved in this judgement.

Zechariah also speaks of how “all nations” will be gathered to Israel for this judgement, and draws attention to the fact that Jerusalem will be central to this conflict: “On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it” (12:3).

Joel 3:2 speaks of “all the nations” incurring the wrath of God for two reasons:

  1. They scattered the Jews among the nations. This has been fulfilled in the nearly 2,000 years that have passed since the Romans destroyed the Jewish state of Judea in AD 70.
  1. They have divided up my land. This is a more modern phenomenon, and may be regarded as having commenced in 1947 when the United Nations voted for the partition of Palestine into two states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs.

In 1947 the Jews accepted the partition plan for Palestine and went on to establish the independent state of Israel in 1948. The Arabs did not support the partition plan and launched a bitter war hoping to destroy the Jewish state at its birth. They failed in that War of Independence in 1948 and 1949 and in several wars since.

69 years later, the nations of the world in general continue to support the partition of the Holy Land into separate states for Jews and Arabs. Even the Israeli government officially endorses this view.

On 15 January 2017, the French government convened a conference in Paris to discuss the Middle East peace process. Attended by representatives of 70 nations (a significant number in the light of the seventy nations listed in Genesis 10, the number of Israelites in Genesis 46:25 and Exodus 1:5, and the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:8), the conference reiterated support for the so-called “two state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The United States was represented by outgoing Secretary of State, John Kerry, known for his animosity towards the Israeli government, but not by anyone associated with the administration of incoming President Trump. The United Kingdom attended as an observer only rather than as a participant. There were no representatives at the conference of either the Israeli government or the Palestinian administration.

Not surprisingly, the Palestinians supported the final communique of the conference and reiterated their view that Israel is the only impediment to a “two state solution”. It is also unsurprising that Israel expressed scepticism about the conference outcome. In remarks to his Cabinet after the conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

“This conference is among the last twitches of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near.”

No doubt Mr Netanyahu was referring to the fact that in just a few days the new Trump administration will assume office in the United States. But like the words of Caiaphas in John 11:49-52, his comments could also be read as an unintended “prophecy” of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that, while supporting a “two state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United Kingdom was critical of the conference in an official statement issued by the Foreign Office:

“We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them – indeed which is taking place against the wishes of the Israelis – and which is taking place just days before the transition to a new American President when the US will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement. There are risks therefore that this conference hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace.”

This conference in Paris is just the latest in a long list of ineffective initiatives to promote peace in the Middle East. More importantly, however, it is further confirmation of the truth of the words of Joel about all the nations being judged by God because of their determination to divide God’s land.

Israel and the X factor in Australian Politics

One of the big winners in the 2016 Federal election in Australia is the Nick Xenophon Team, a political party created by former independent Senator Nick Xenophon.  Mr Xenophon first came to prominence as a fervent campaigner for gambling controls.  Gambling often leads to significant problems for vulnerable people and his stance on the evils associated with gambling appealed to many in the community.

As first a member of the Upper House in the South Australian parliament and later as a senator in Federal parliament, Mr Xenophon expanded his platform by campaigning for a number of populist causes, portraying himself as the champion of the downtrodden and marginalised.  He is a strong advocate of domestic manufacturing and has argued for protection for industries and jobs perceived to be at risk from economic reforms and liberalised trading arrangements.

In the 2016 Federal election Mr Xenophon’s populist policies attracted considerable support and delivered his team several seats in the Federal parliament.  He now has more influence in Canberra than ever before, especially in the light of the tight outcome of the election and the finely balanced numbers in parliament.  Mr Xenophon’s support will be vital if the government is to remain in power and in its efforts to secure support for legislation it wishes to enact.  It must be expected that Mr Xenophon will seek support for causes he holds dear in exchange for his support of the government.

But what does this have to do with Israel?  More than you might have imagined.  While Mr Xenophon’s views on gambling and support for local industries are well known, what is less well-known is his fervent advocacy for the Palestinians in their struggle with Israel.  In August 2014, Mr Xenophon travelled to the Middle East as a guest of the Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA).  While there, his itinerary involved mainly meetings with Palestinian officials.  His contact with the Israeli side of the conflict was confined mostly to meetings with extremist Israeli groups which are harsh critics of the Israeli government.  Mr Xenophon has donated funds to the AFOPA, an organisation which actively supports the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which condemns Israel and seeks to isolate the Jewish state from the wider world.

Mr Xenophon was one of the first signatories of what is known as the Canberra Declaration.  This extremely one-sided and poorly-informed document calls for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and its alleged blockade of Gaza.  His contributions in the Senate have reflected his support for this slanted view of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

In the Senate on24 March, 2015, following a meeting he had with the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), Mr Xenophon made a speech which was highly critical of Israel, in the course of which he claimed incorrectly that:

Gaza has been living under an Israeli blockade since 2007 when Israel placed massive restrictions over movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza.

In that speech Mr Xenophon did criticise Palestinian forces in Gaza for firing rockets into Israel but his rhetoric was overwhelmingly anti-Israel.  He questioned the proportionality of Israel’s response to the rocket attacks from Gaza, ignoring the fact that this is complicated by Hamas’ policy of using civilian infrastructure and human shields for military purposes.  He also ignored the stringent border restrictions imposed on Gaza by Egypt.  It is likely that the omissions from that speech reflected the slanted information supplied to him by the APAN.

At a Senate committee hearing on 3 June, 2015, Mr Xenophon directly questioned whether recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is consistent with the Australian government’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  In the light of Joel 3, students of prophecy have good reason to be sceptical of the two-state solution.  It should be recognised, however, that when an avowed supporter of the Palestinian side questions the legitimacy of the two-state solution they are really calling into question the concept of a national homeland for the Jews in any form.

On 25 June, 2015, Mr Xenophon addressed the Senate criticising the Attorney-General’s statement that “the description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ … is freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful”.  It is clear whose side Senator Xenophon supports in the debate about the status of Jerusalem.  His position may be confirmed by the fact that, on 15 July, 2014, Mr Xenophon co-hosted a forum to mark the tenth anniversary of the International Court of Justice finding that Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal.

It is hard to know how many of his colleagues in the Nick Xenophon Team share their leader’s views about Israel and the Palestinians, mainly because he has been very reluctant to allow them to speak for themselves.  It is known, however, that the Team’s lead candidate for the Senate in Victoria, Naomi Halpern, who is Jewish, has used social media to support the description of Israel as “a 68-year-old apartheid state”.

Since its creation as a Jewish state, Israel has enjoyed strong support from Australia.  While the electoral success of Senator Xenophon is unlikely to overturn completely Australia’s support for Israel, the government might be encouraged to tone down its advocacy for the Jewish state.  Ezekiel 38 portrays Tarshish and the young lions as mounting a somewhat muted response to the Gogian host which invades Israel at the time of the end.  One wonders whether the political influence of Senator Xenophon and his colleagues in the new parliament might extend to foreign policy issues affecting Israel and the Middle East.  We cannot be sure, but we may be certain that God is at work influencing the nations in unseen ways to ensure that His plan and purpose is worked out.  Should our Lord’s return be delayed we may watch with interest how the X factor influences Australia’s policy toward the Middle East.