The Middle East is the most volatile region in the world. Revolutions have toppled governments in Libya and Egypt. Iran threatens to wipe the State of Israel off the map even as they push on toward development of a nuclear weapon. Palestinians push to regain lands lost in past wars.
Arab against Arab. Muslim against Jew. Middle East feuding has been an ongoing crisis for most of our lives.
The feud between these peoples has been continual. But one day it will explode into our backyards and impact our lives more than we can imagine.
What lies at the root of this continual fighting and feuding? Why is the enmity between these peoples so deep and so bitter? It’s almost at times like a family feud. Could it be that that is what it really is--a family fight?
Join us on Beyond Today as we look at the "Mideast Family Feud."
Ever watch families fight? It isn’t pretty. I have been called in on a few in my role as a pastor. Accusations fly back and forth. Grievances big and small from years past often are dredged up. Past hurts are not forgotten and live on in the present--fueling anger, resentment and sometimes hate. I have sat around the table of these conflicts trying to broker a peace, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successful.
You know when police are called to domestic disturbances, they know that they can be walking into as dangerous a situation as they can find on the worst streets of a crime infested city. Caution and vigilance are needed qualities in these matters.
Family conflicts too often can end in separation and divorce. Irreconcilable differences is what they call it.
Yes, family feuds--they’re the worst. Today we live with another ongoing, seemingly endless feud in the Middle East. Since 1948 with the birth of the State of Israel, we have seen multiples wars, suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. Add to that revolutions and assassinations within nations like Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
So much of this is related to religious beliefs that go back thousands of years.
Visitors today in Jerusalem can walk the streets and visit the famous sites such as the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.
There you see Muslims, Christians and Jews praying and worshipping--each in a different fashion and vastly different beliefs. These famous sites are within short walking distance of each other in the city of Jerusalem. So close physically and yet so far away philosophically.
Why, with such a common connection, is their such conflict and animosity between these three religions and the nations they represent?
What, if any, answer is there to the ongoing family feud that threatens the stability of our modern world?
But more importantly, what does it matter to you and what can and should you do about it? For really, this is something that will make a difference in your life.
The three faiths--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--all trace their spiritual roots back to the same individual, Abraham. The towering historical figures behind these three religions--like Moses, Jesus Christ and Muhammad--were all direct descendants of Abraham.
Let’s understand a few things about this family feud. Let’s go back to a scene from this most ancient story that defines so much of the problem, both historically and in modern times.
Imagine this scene. Five people, all living in the same home. Abraham and Sarah--husband and wife. Their female servant, Hagar and her son, Ishmael--who was fathered by Abraham. The fifth person is Isaac, the newborn son of Abraham and Sarah. Isaac is the legitimate son of Abraham and therefore he will be heir to all that he owns as well as an heir to the promise from God of incredible wealth. It’s a perfect recipe for conflict. The seeds of strife were already sown and ready to sprout.
Sarah demands that Hagar and Ishmael leave the home. Abraham objects but has to do it to maintain the peace within the house. And eventually Hagar leaves but not without a promise of hope for her son.
Does this sound like many modern blended and sometimes dysfunctional families? How did one man and his family get to this point? In looking at how this problem developed, we might find a key to the solution of the modern problems that it’s created.
Let’s first look at who this was, this man called Abraham. Abraham was born nearly 4000 years ago in the area that is now known as Iraq.
The story begins in Genesis 12 where God tells him to "to get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you" (Acts:7:2-3).
Although most don’t realize it, this journey was a significant turning point in the history of the world. Abraham was a real person who made a life-changing decision that continues to impact today’s world.
The Bible tells us that Abram "departed as the LORD had spoken to him ..." (Genesis:12:1-4). He obeyed with unquestioned faith. For a man of his time to react to this summons of God was preposterous. It went against the conventional wisdom of the time.
On arriving in the new land, what is today the land of Israel, God promised Abraham that He would give the land and all that he could see, to his descendants forever (Genesis:13:14-15).
Later, as this promise expanded God promised Abraham that he would have an heir: "...who will come from your own body," He told him. Now, when Abraham’s wife Sarah heard this promise she laughed at it. Why did she laugh? Because she was an old woman. She was barren. She had no children at that point.
Notice in the promises that we read, that it is God who is making a gift of this land to Abraham. It was not Abraham’s land by any right other than God giving it to him and to his descendants. Which descendant will he give it to?
This is where the conflict in the story begins. Abraham has already proven his faith in God by moving to this new land. To provide a son for them would be nothing for God. But Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands, and they produced another son, and here begins the age-long conflict that is still with us to this today.
You see one day Sarah said to Abraham, take my servant girl, Hagar. Go and have a child with her. I am old, she’s young. Let her have a child and this will insure that the inheritance stays within our family. So Abraham did what Sarah suggested.
Now right here is a major complication. Any man who gets involved with another woman other than his wife is creating a big problem. Abraham let himself get talked into an action that had long term implications. The son produced from this union was the start of another line of people who laid a claim to the promise and to the land given to Abraham. You see God intended to work out the promise that He made to Abraham in a specific manner. Abraham and Sarah did not have to add further complication through a lack of faith.
The seeds for a family feud are now in place. As soon as Hagar begins to show with child in the story, Sarah’s jealousy is inflamed. Hagar has to pick up and leave the home. It’s inevitable that two women in this situation are not going to get along.
But God sent a message to Hagar, assuring her that her son would have a history and a story. He said to her, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count ... You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael [which means 'God hears'] for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all [of] his brothers" (Genesis:16:10-12, New International Version).
Now this description of Hagar's descendants is very significant because many of today's Arabs are descendants of this same Ishmael, whose father was Abraham. Muhammad, the founder and the prophet of Islam is said to be a descendant of this Ishmael, the son of Abraham by Hagar.
That Ishmael as it says, "will be a wild donkey of a man" is really not meant as an insult. You see, the wild donkey in the desert was an aristocrat of the wild beasts of that desert area. The prophecy is a reference to how Ishmael's descendants would emulate the lifestyle of the wild donkey, leading a free and noble existence in those desert lands.
It goes on to say that "His hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand against him." That too refers to an independent lifestyle. Ishmael's descendants have always resisted foreign domination.
It goes on and says that he will live in hostility towards all of his brothers. That’s a reference to the enmity that has historically existed among the Arabs and between the Arabs and the other sons of Abraham.
Now this story of Abraham’s descendants in the Middle East is very large. We have condensed the biblically critical parts of the story into this publication that we are offering you today which is: The Middle East in Bible Prophecy .
Many Bible prophecies focus on the Middle East as the stage for events leading to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God on earth. This booklet, The Middle East in Bible Prophecy covers those important prophecies.
We are offering this free booklet today to give you a deeper understanding of this family feud that dominates today’s headlines. You can get your free copy by calling: 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv . Or call: 1-888-886-8632.
And, here’s something for you who have e-readers like the Kindle. This booklet is available for download via the Amazon website. Just do a search for "The Middle East in Bible Prophecy" on their site and you can download it for free direct to your e-reader. It is the quickest and most direct way to get the booklet.
The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East is a really very real human problem. It is no more difficult to understand than this story of five people that we’ve been tracing. It was a family problem then and it is today. Abraham’s descendants cannot get along today any better than they did thousands of years ago.
When you see this firsthand you understand it’s a very human problem. It is easy to read about it in the news and make judgments about it from the comfort of your home.
I have talked with men who are cut off from their families because of the politics of this issue. I have seen the look on the faces of elderly Palestinian women making border crossings to visit family, and enduring the humiliation of body searches and suspicious treatment. And I have heard the fear of Israelis who wonder when the next attack will come. It’s all part of the complications that began millennia ago in the family of Abraham.
And this conflict, this family feud, impacts our world today and you need to understand this.
So let’s review. God promised Abraham a child to carry on the promises and the inheritance. Lacking faith that God would do it, Abraham conceived a son, Ishmael by one of his female servants, Hagar. Ishmael, with his mother, live under the same roof as Abraham and Sarah in this story.
But now comes a twist.
Fourteen years after the birth of Ishmael, Sarah gets pregnant! She has a son named Isaac. Now things become really complicated. Sarah grew jealous of Ishmael, by now a teenager growing toward manhood. Sarah wants Ishmael out of the house! She can’t stand the sight of him any longer.
Abraham’s conflicted. He does not want to do this. But God tells him that Ishmael would become a great people and is not to be neglected. God provides for Ishmael--he is not left destitute.
After 14 years as an only child, Isaac's arrival fundamentally changes Ishmael's relationship with his father, Abraham. Afterward, Ishmael felt envy and rivalry toward his half-brother; feelings that tribally have survived down through the centuries and affect the politics of the Middle East today.
To this point in the story, we have told the story of only five people. But further family complications were ahead in this story. Isaac, Abraham’s son by Sarah--Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Even before these two were born, they struggled within the womb of their mother. And God explained that these boys would become two nations with one being stronger than the other.
Jacob and Esau struggled through deception and envy all of their lives in their own relationship. Because of deception and trickery, Esau literally grew to hate his brother.
In this family story we are witnessing envy and conflict generated within a family. In the case of Abraham’s descendants, the implications are far more critical than what occurs in normal families. But it is one critical way, and a very important way to understand the current problems in the Middle East. Understand this: Nations are families grown large with the problems that affect families grown larger with, as in this case, a global impact.
Again, the consequences of this are with us to this day. The descendants of Esau intermarried with Ishmael's descendants. Their bitterness and resentment against Jacob's descendants grew through the centuries.
And so we come to today and the immediate problems in the Middle East.
Palestinians without a homeland.
You know since 1948 and the creation of the State of Israel in the "promised" land of Canaan, there has been an unresolved issue with the Palestinians--those peoples up rooted during the first Arab-Israeli War. These millions have sought a permanent homeland to which no party, Arab, Israeli or any other nation has been able to provide any solution. Today Palestinians reside within and without the borders of the State of Israel. Many live in Arab lands such as Syria or Jordan. They live in isolated swatches of land like Gaza. This physical divide results in a political division within their own ranks. It is a deep problem that has become multi-generational. No one has demonstrated the qualities of leadership needed to cut through the political and religious dogma of this discussion. There have been summits and treaties and discussions for decades trying to solve the Palestinian Issue.
Perhaps the single biggest issue facing the Middle East right now is the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon and the threat made to annihilate Israel.
Iranians are not Arab and therefore they do not share descent from Abraham but they are Muslim, professing belief in Mohammed's teachings. And as we have seen, Mohammed's descent is from Abraham and Islam holds Abraham in deep reverence as a patriarch and prophet of Allah.
Part of Iran’s hostility is the existence of a Jewish state within the Middle East land the Muslim faith believes to be a part of the sacred Muslim entitlement. It’s all a part of the long and complicated hostility between descendants of one man, Abraham.
So here we see Jew and Arab contending over an inheritance, a spot of land that in the end does not belong to either of them but it belongs to God. Remember the scriptures from Genesis where we saw that it was God who gave to Abraham and his descendants the land? It was not Abraham’s land nor was it his sons or their descendants. In fact we read in the book of Hebrews. It says of Abraham that "he dwelt in the land by faith as in a foreign country" and that "he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews:11:9-10).
Abraham never really inherited the land and considered himself a stranger and a pilgrim while he lived there!
God owned the land then and God owns the land now!
This is a critically important matter that no one understands, no one acknowledges. The present religious and political turmoil in the Middle East is at its heart a family feud between Abraham’s descendants. It will take the return of another descendant of Abraham, Jesus Christ, to settle this dispute. A dispute prophesied to erupt into a larger conflict much sooner than we might think.
Because no one has been willing to change the heart and the way each looks at the other, peace treaties have been made and peace treaties have been broken through the generations because of the way people look at one another. There is still envy, jealousy and infighting--the kind one sees in a family divided and fighting over things.
You know the information that we provide you here on Beyond Today about Bible prophecy and the Middle East is critical to your understanding the news of today and the headlines and what they mean for your future.
Make a change in your life to obey God and to get in tune with His way. Do this now as a preparation for the time when the God of Abraham will begin to impose a peace upon the Middle East through His Son Jesus Christ. Christ is going to return as the Messiah no one in these faiths will recognize. They won’t know Him then because they do not know Him now.
Get to know Jesus Christ--the Prince of Peace now and you’ll be prepared to work with Him to bring peace to these warring families. Do it today and you might begin to bring some peace into your own life and into your own family.
Now there’s more to discuss. My fellow Beyond Today host, Steve Myers, will join me for a discussion about the Middle Eastern family feud.
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I'm now joined with fellow host, Steve Myers. Steve, from the story of Abraham and his family that we've been going through in very brief summary here, what is it that we learn about faith, conflict and families?
[Steve] Well I think one of the interesting things about the story of Abraham is it brings it down to that family level. That there are lessons we all can learn on that basis. And how things on the family level, if we don't get a handle on them, they can get totally out of control. And that's what happened in the family of Abraham. Once you add extra kids into the picture and extra women into the picture, and it just gets totally out of control.
[Darris] It was all a very human story. Abraham made human decisions that a lot of people make and of the same kind but...
[Steve] Yeah and I think that's interesting...
[Darris] ...it has bigger implications.
[Steve] He listened to his wife. He listened to his own reasoning and didn't pay attention to what God said. God said he'd have a son of promise and he took it into his own hands instead of waiting for that son of promise. And so sometimes, maybe that's part of the lesson for all of us, is how often do we take things into our own hands without looking for God's direction in our lives?
[Darris] I think that's one of the bigger lessons in the overall issues that are still there today in the nations grown from this family and that is the relationship with God and where is God in the whole picture, of this and that probably is part of the lack of the solution.
[Steve] Maybe that's part of the lessons involved in this too is how these things can spiral out of control because what started with a family problem, then became a tribal problem. And then as that develops over the years it becomes a nation problem--a problem between peoples. That this animosity has been passed on between these people so now we've got nations that are arguing and fighting with each other. And so it's just escalated out of control and so we follow that pattern all the way up till today.
[Darris] It's interesting to imagine what Abraham would say to his descendants today if he sat down around the table.
[Steve] I wonder what he would say to himself to begin with. Maybe if I had gotten a handle on that way back when, this wouldn't have gotten to the point that it has. And yet, I think he'd want a solution. He'd want to be able to work it out and maybe we'd be able to see some of the complexities that have resulted from all of this.
[Darris] I can't help but imagine that he would probably make every effort to point his descendants back to the God that he followed out of Mesopotamia. Out of his homeland into this new land that he was promising to him and point them back to that God that he came to understand that is so difficult to grasp today because of all the different ideas, that people have about that God.
[Steve] And following God has the opportunity to have blessings that flow from God and God made certain promises and as we follow those promises, blessings do result. And I think he could look back and reflect upon those things throughout history and see how God had blessings in store as people obeyed Him.
[Darris] Will the descendants of these brothers ever be reconciled?
[Steve] Humanly speaking, I don't think it's possible. You know when you look at the history of the Mideast, even the present history of the Mideast, how many times have people tried to broker peace and try to solve these problems between brothers? Family issues seem to drive the heart and core of things sometimes and they’re some of the most difficult things to resolve. There's got to be a spiritual solution to the problem.
[Darris] Can it be that all of these ideas about religion and faith miss the mark somehow?
[Steve] Yeah, they do miss the mark...
[Darris] And that's why we still have the conflict and that's why the Bible itself shows that there will be conflict leading up to the time of the culmination of these events?
[Steve] There is no doubt going to be a solution. Jesus Christ is going to return. He holds the solution. In fact He talks about, and it's prophesied in the Bible that the nations are going to flow to Jerusalem. It's not just going to be one nation's property but they're going to flow there. Each man is going to sit under his own fig tree, it talks about. There's finally going to be a solution and there won't be this fighting over territory any longer. That with Jesus Christ and the right godly government, He's going to establish that and it is going to solve the problem. It will fix and present a solution that is workable, that is right and one that everyone can agree on because it starts with the right authority.
[Darris] And you know Steve it is that same Jesus Christ that said before Abraham was, I Am. And it is that Jesus Christ that is going to bring the ultimate real solution to the feuding and the problems and the complications that emerged out of this one family of Abraham and are still with us today in this Mideast family feud.
Don't forget our free offers today and call for your free subscription to The Good News magazine and a copy of our Bible study aid, The Middle East in Bible Prophecy . Call 1-800-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv . You can read it online or request your own free copy.
If Abraham, the faithful father of these warring feuding peoples, were to sit at a table of peace with all of them today what might he say to bring about an end to the hostilities?
Perhaps he would point them to another one of his descendants, Jesus Christ of Nazareth--the Prince of Peace, who said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God" and who encouraged followers to "turn the other cheek" in a dispute (Matthew:5:9, 39). .
These are two steps that must be taken to settle matters that have lasted many thousands of years.
Peace between these feuding sons of Abraham will come, not by the hand of man but by the hand of God. May God speed that day.
We’ll be right back with one final comment after this.
[Narrator] Christ came to earth with a central message of the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? Most have never heard or understood what Jesus actually taught on this subject. The United Church of God is hosting free seminars held simultaneously around the world.
[Steve] That Kingdom is coming to earth--that was the message of Jesus Christ. It’s not a Kingdom that’s off up there in heaven but it’s a Kingdom that Christ is going to establish right here on this earth.
[Narrator] Go to KOGSeminars.org for details to find one near you. Kingdom of God Bible Seminars--giving the message of hope for tomorrow, beginning today.
Sign up to attend these Bible Seminars today. And, watch our program again here next week.
Remember to join us in praying "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today , I’m Darris McNeely.