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The Christadelphian | July 2013

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Pillar & ground
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning The broad & the narrow ways | T. J. Barling
  • The Lord & the nations 01 – The Day of the Lord | Andrew E. Walker
  • 100 years ago
  • Mary of the house of David | Paul Cresswell
  • Israel’s Geography 07 – From life to death (and back again) | Nathan Kitchen
  • Medical ethics and the Bible 04 – End of life choices | Simon Parsons
  • Special Anniversary Section 1963 – 2013 50 Years at Shaftmoor Lane
  • CMPA Annual Report 2012
  • For better, for worse … 07 – Esther & Ahasuerus | Mark Vincent
  • Readers’ Q&A
  • Faith Alive! Nehemiah’s prayer | Stephen Hole
  • First impressions … of a new Military Service Committee member | Stephen Dawson-Bowman
  • Signs of the times Disturbances in Turkey
  • Israel and their land Dwelling safely | Tony Bradshaw
  • Epilogue “As having nothing, yet possessing everything” | David Caudery
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Signs of the times

Dwelling safely

SINCE 1948, Israel has fought many wars with various neighbouring countries and has always won, but the invasion described in Ezekiel 38 will be different and will overwhelm Israel. When will it be? Verse 11 gives a description of the people dwelling in peace, secure with no barriers needed to keep them safe, no walls or gates:

“And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates.”

The description given of Israel at peace, dwelling safely without bars and gates, is significant because it presents a picture of the nation which is very different from that which appertains today where Israel is under threat from hostile groups bent on its destruction: for example, Hezbollah to the north in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza to the west; and in the east, the West Bank and further to the east, Iran. We may well remember the Second Intifada (2000-2005), which prompted Israel to begin construction of a barrier to separate Israelis and Palestinians – to protect Israelis from suicide attacks. [1] This does not fit Ezekiel’s picture of Israel dwelling without walls.

Israel is also under threat from a prospective nuclear armed Iran which wants to “wipe Israel off the map”. This has been a constant theme in the news over the last twelve months or so, as has the possibility of an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran in an attempt to destroy its nuclear pretentions before they can be realised. Such a pre-emptive strike has been viewed as a high risk strategy with a dangerously uncertain outcome – hence numerous end dates for taking action have come and gone.

So the picture of Israel at present does not appear to match the description given in Ezekiel 38, and it has been difficult to see how things would change to bring about the sort of situation described by the prophet.

Dramatic changes afoot

Now, however, new economic factors with the potential to bring about significant changes have become increasingly apparent. Israel until now has been dependent on outside sources for oil and gas, but is about to be transformed into an oil and gas exporter of global significance. It all began when natural gas was discovered fifty miles (80 km) off Haifa in 2009: the Tamar Gas Field (which came on line in March this year) along with a second gas find another thirty-one miles (50 km) out, called Leviathan.

That same year an Israeli scientist confirmed large oil shale deposits in Israel of “super high quality”, and similar in size to Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves. Consequently Israel’s oil and gas bonanza has the potential to bring about huge economic and other changes.

Other countries involved

Offshore gas has also been found off Cyprus, which is now working with Israel to develop these resources. In addition, the oil shale found in Israel extends into Jordan and Egypt. But oil shale needs expertise to extract it. Israel has this expertise as well as existing complex refineries, excellent infrastructure and seaports – all vital requirements to develop these resources effectively. Israel could well become the hub of an integrated energy zone that crosses borders and unites countries which, while not quite at war, are not particularly close either. However, their reliance on Israeli technical expertise and know-how may be the means of bringing about a significant change in relationships, benefiting not only Israel but the countries around it. Could this be the means of ushering in that period of peace indicated by Ezekiel?

Russian interests

Russian interest in this potential eastern Mediterranean energy bonanza has been particularly significant, especially in view of what Ezekiel says about a latter-day invasion from the north.

Russia is currently supporting Israel’s adversaries Iran and Syria with armaments and technical expertise. However, there are other considerations Russia has to take into account. She is very dependent for revenue on exports of oil and gas. If the price of oil on the world market is high, Russia gets more revenue, but if the price drops she suffers. Russia has been able, where she holds a monopoly of supply, to exert influence on other countries using her energy resources. But if there were to be an alternative supplier like Israel, Russia would lose that leverage over other counties. But more than that, the presence of an alternative supplier could well lead to a drop in price, harming Russia’s economy.

Russia has already moved to counter this possibility and in February this year signed a twenty-year contract for exclusive rights to purchase and sell gas on from Israel’s Tamar field. This is a significant move, especially as Tamar is a US-Israeli venture and one would assume that the US had given its approval, perhaps on the basis that it would encourage peace and security, with Russia now having an interest in the development and prosperity of this project. From Israel’s point of view, Russia is one of the few places it can get the necessary capital investment needed to fund the project, as international companies are reluctant to be seen investing in Israel for fear of Arab displeasure.

Self-interest is a great motivator

It may be that former hostile countries will see benefits of cooperating with Israel which for a time may outweigh their hostility. Israel is rapidly becoming a world leader in many areas of trade and industry. Her expertise is recognized to be at the leading edge of modern technology, and her potential as a major energy producer will bring a realignment of relationships as other nations see the benefits of working with Israel. Will this be the means whereby Israel will enter a time of peace and safety as described in Ezekiel 38? We do not know the particular twists and turns God has in store to bring about the state of the nation described in Ezekiel, but we can be sure that the invasion will suddenly come at a time when Israel dwells safely.

Tony Bradshaw

[1] When completed, the barrier will be approximately 700 kilometres long, and for the most part with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by, on average, a sixty-metre wide exclusion area. Ten per cent of the barrier is a twenty-six foot (8m) tall concrete wall..

 

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