In 1992, the government of Norway offered to act as an intermediary between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in an effort to bring lasting peace to the region. They were hoping to follow up on the Madrid Conference from the previous year, which had not produced any concrete results. A series of increasingly high-level secret meetings were held both in Oslo and in London. At the conclusion of those meetings, a Declaration of Principles was prepared, which came to be known as the Oslo Accords.
In September of 1993, Israeli and Palestinian leaders met in Washington. At a ceremony hosted by President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat officially signed the agreements. Clinton held a celebration on the White House lawn for what he called “a brave gamble for peace,” where he forced—actually standing with his thumb pressed into the prime minister’s back—Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin to shake hands with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat over a blank sheet of paper that represented the Declaration of Principles, or Oslo Accords. The paper lay on the same table over which President Jimmy Carter had presided, as Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signed the earlier peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979.
President Clinton later described it as one of “the highest moments” of his presidency as the two “shook hands for the first time in front of a billion people on television, it was an unbelievable day.” One of Clinton’s greatest hopes was to go down in history as the man who finally resolved the Arab–Israeli conflict in the Middle East. In order to do this, he used his tremendous aptitude at image transformation to turn the terrorist and murderer Yasser Arafat into a diplomat. Arafat became the most-welcomed foreign leader to the White House during the Clinton years. It also seems likely that Arafat received some coaching from Clinton and his advisers on what to say, how to speak, and what to do to help in this metamorphosis.
The Nobel Prize Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Rabin, Arafat, and Israel’s foreign minister (later prime minister and president) Shimon Peres. But the hope of peace again proved to be empty. The late Jewish actor and spokesman Theodore Bikel said: “Arafat turned out to be no partner for peace…he had never intended to be such a partner in the first place. Oslo and the handshake gave him the cachet of peacemaker; it also gave him half of a Nobel Peace Prize, which, if he had had any sense of shame, he would have returned. In truth, for him Oslo was nothing more than an opportunity to obfuscate and spin wheels.”
For all of the concessions Israel made, the PLO and Yasser Arafat took no steps toward peace. Instead, they continued to incite attacks against Israel and to pay terrorists (or their families) an annual salary for killing innocent Jewish people. Israel lost far more than it gained from the Oslo Accords.
The importance and role of the Holy City in Jewish life and worship unfold in the pages of Jerusalem’s history. The city seems always to have been exceptional—almost an oddity. Back in Joshua’s time, when the Israelites were battling to take the land of Canaan from its previous inhabitants and conquered Jerusalem, its name was omitted from the review of Joshua’s conquests. We see later in Joshua 15:63 that the tribe of Judah was unable to rid the village of the Jebusites who controlled it.
It remained that way until roughly 400 years later. After King Saul’s death on Mount Gilboa, David ceased to be a fugitive running for his life. When he became king, something important happened: God instructed him to establish his headquarters in Hebron in the midst of his own tribe. This is where the people of Judah anointed David king. Abner ruled over the northern tribes after Saul’s death, but after his murder, the elders of Israel made a pact with David and anointed him their king. The Prophet Samuel’s words had come to pass, and the nation of Israel was reunited under David’s leadership.
Now David needed a city from which to rule a united Israel. Jerusalem was ideally located. It stood on the border between the northern tribes and Judah, and more importantly, it had never been associated with any specific tribe of Israel. It would be the capital of all the tribes and a center for the worship of Yahweh, to whom David was deeply devoted. Determining this would be the seat of government, David and his men marched to Jerusalem. The Jebusites refused to take David’s challenge seriously. They had successfully held the Israelites at bay from their high perch before, why should things be different this time?
David, however, succeeded where others had failed. He used a water channel to get inside the Jebusite fortifications surrounding Jerusalem. In short order, he took the city and began to consolidate his people from the new capital. Hiram, King of Tyre, sent men and material to assist David in building a palace. David saw it all as God’s favor and understood that his rule as king was blessed for the sake of His people Israel. David’s success would go unchallenged, until the entry of the Philistines. They viewed David as just a renegade shepherd, who had been lucky in killing the giant Goliath, and set out to punish this upstart!
David soundly defeated them in two separate battles and sent them back to their fortresses along the southern coast. Afterward, David mustered his troops to escort the Ark of the Covenant to the fledgling capital. This was of vital importance to him. It was Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had brought David through his years of shepherding, Samuel’s anointing and prophecy, battling Goliath, Saul’s attempts to kill him, and his years of exile. Never had God forsaken him. Once David had settled in Jerusalem, it became the center for worship of the God of the Hebrews.
King David desired to build a Temple for the Lord he loved and revered, but the prophet Nathan told David that his warlike ways had made it inappropriate for him to carry out such a task. During his reign, although the Ark of the Covenant continued to dwell in a tent, it in no way hampered David’s enthusiasm in promoting the worship of Yahweh. Animals were sacrificed morning and evening, and the Sabbath was rigorously observed. Even today, David’s intimate relationship with his God and the worship that relationship evoked is preserved in the book of Psalms. Both Christians and Jews are deeply affected by the beauty and sense of awe of Almighty God that flows through its pages. Jerusalem is what it is: a center of worship and God’s city on earth. No other reason can be offered for its importance.
From my first encounter with God as a child of eleven, I began to learn that God did, indeed, speak to me, and everything He said, no matter the delivery method, was of great importance. It was up to me to stay tuned to His wavelength. It was up to me, as it is with you, to turn off the television, the radio, the iPad, or any other device and listen! The appropriate response when God speaks—however that may be manifest—is, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
To hear God, you and I must listen with our entire being: mind, soul, and body. It is difficult to hear His voice over the cacophony that constantly surrounds us—traffic noise, television blaring, electronic devices beeping. Parents sleep with one ear tuned to the nursery, waiting for a babe’s cry in the night. As Believers, we must walk with our ears totally tuned to the Father so that we can hear that still, small voice that calls to us above the frenzied crowds. What, then, do you think God might wish to say to us once He has our attention? Perhaps, as He did me, He would call you “son” or “daughter.” He might tell you that He had been waiting for you as the earthly father did for the prodigal son or searching for you as the good shepherd searched for the lost sheep. Our Lord might possibly warn you that there is danger ahead and you need to change direction.
John, the Beloved, wrote in his Gospel chapter 3, verses 16–17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Our loving heavenly Father desires that you and I know that we can be overcomers through Him; that if we follow in His footsteps, He will lead us in the way we are to go. Then He will whisper, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
The great orator and preacher Charles Spurgeon said: “Having once discerned the voice of God, obey without question. If you have to stand alone and nobody will befriend you, stand alone.” God calls the humble and obedient to fulfill His mission. His power is made perfect in our weakness. Only with the realization that you can do nothing without Jehovah are you then ready to be used by Him. Only then will you be able to fulfill the Good Father’s wonderful plan for your future.
At the end of World War II with all its horrors of the Holocaust, devastated Jewish survivors in Europe longed for a return to their homeland. Their dreams were to be delayed when Great Britain remained in control of Palestine, as they had since their defeat of the Turks in World War I, by mandate of the United Nations, and with a growing dilemma: How to walk the tightrope between world opinion and the Arab nations.
After the shock and revulsion of the Holocaust, much of the world increasingly demanded that the Jews be allowed to return to their homeland in Palestine—arguably thought to be a place of safety for them. Arabs in the region were adamantly opposed to the move. Greatly frustrated by the situation, the British announced in February 1947 that control of Palestine would be ceded to the United Nations, even then a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
In November 1947, the UN offered a plan for partition that would divide the region into an Arab state and a Jewish state, calling for British troops to leave Palestine by August 1948. The Jews welcomed the proposal; the Arabs scorned it. Some British leaders felt it would be impossible for a Jewish state to flourish in the face of such hostility from the Arabs. But on May 14, as Egyptian fighter-bombers roared overhead and British troops readied for departure, Ben-Gurion and his political partners gathered at the museum in Tel Aviv. At 16:00 [4:00 PM], Ben-Gurion opened the ceremony by banging his gavel on the table, prompting a spontaneous rendition of Hatikvah, soon to be Israel’s national anthem, from the 250 guests.
For 2,000 years, Israel had been a nation in exile; overnight it had astonishingly become an autonomous state on the world stage. But, the following day, Israel was attacked by the five Arab nations that ringed her borders: Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. There was no peace in the beginning, despite the world’s efforts to bring Israel to life in a negotiated manner.
Ben-Gurion’s announcement of Israel’s rebirth was the initial step in a war that would last one year, three months, and ten days; it would test Israel’s very resolve and preparedness. At the outset of the confrontation, it was obvious that Israeli forces were greatly outnumbered. One army, alone—the Egyptians—boasted 40,000 ground troops armed with approximately 135 armored fighting vehicles, heavy artillery, and 60 planes in its arsenal—including bombers and single-seat fighter planes. Forces in Egypt and Jordan had been trained and led by British army officers. The Israelis were faced with those daunting figures, yet marched forward determined and unbowed.
To protect their land and its inhabitants cost the Israelis over $500 million and approximately one percent of its population at that time—6,373 men, women and children. How many lives might have been saved had the United States and its Western Allies sufficiently armed the Jews so that they were able to protect their land and people!
Do you realize that the Good Father takes every circumstance into account as He plans your future? As a Believer, your destiny has already been decided: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2–3 NASB).
Too often we fret about finding the Good Father’s perfect will for our lives. To no one in Scripture did God lay out a step-by-step plan for their life. Hebrews 11:8 says of Abraham that “He went without knowing where he was going.” No five-year, ten-year, or even a lifetime plan for him! When the magi went in search of the Christ child, they did not have Google Maps or Waze to lead them. They simply followed the star not knowing where it would lead, nevertheless certain of what they would find at the end of their journey: “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2 NKJV).
Even when David was anointed by Samuel, the shepherd boy had no indication of the path his life would take. He knew nothing of a meeting with the giant of Gath or of his headlong and even years-long rush to escape Saul’s angry determination to kill him. Following the Good Father is not akin to living a novel. There is no introduction, no intervening chapters, no ending neatly tied with a bow. It is necessary to constantly seek His wisdom, conversing with Him through prayer, giving God the time and opportunity to respond to our petitions and praise. It is developing a relationship with Him through the study of His Word.
Walking with Jehovah is not a “twelve-step” program, marching mindlessly forward with no direction. It is living in the light of His Word, loving Him completely, and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. There are those who would have you believe that a life of devotion to the Good Father involves no sacrifice, no pain. One need only read Hebrews chapter 11 to discover the fallacy in that: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35b–38 NKJV).
It sometimes behooves us to remember that “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens” (James 1:17 NLT). Psalm 16:11 (NIV) reminds us, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 23 reveals that the Good Father is also a Good Shepherd. He leads us beside the still waters and into green pastures, and bids us partake of His bounty. We are not led to a specific spot on the bank to sip of the clear, cool waters or to a lush spot beneath a tree to fill our hungry bellies. No, we simply follow Him and trust that He has our best interests at heart and will not lead us to brackish water or poisonous weeds.