By Roland Clarke
Luke 13:1-9 tells how Jesus got into a lively conversation with some Jews about a tragic disaster. The conversation began with the Jews asking Jesus a question, but he took the opportunity to mention another disaster in which 18 people had been killed. He made an insightful remark about these much-talked about headline news stories, using them to challenge people to make right with God. How can we be alert to these current conversation topics so we can make the most of such opportunities, as Christ did?
Is there a way of engaging Muslims in meaningful conversation about the masses of Muslim refugees pouring into Europe?
I have found that it is not difficult to discuss this humanitarian disaster spawned by the deepening violence in Syria and indeed, across much of the Muslim world. I broached this topic with Alif and then nudged the discussion in a positive direction by sharing how I came across a remarkable prophecy that seems relevant. He agreed to read Isaiah 49:24-26 even though I warned him that it paints a gruesome picture involving people slaughtering one another. Verse 24 begins by posing a question, “Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fierce?” Then God replies, “I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine.” As horrifying as this judgment may seem, it has a positive impact, “Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26, NIV).
J. Alec Motyer explains this verse in his excellent commentary on Isaiah,1
Maybe “eating their own flesh” and “drinking their own blood” draws on a picture of siege conditions with cannibalism as the last resort against starvation. But the reality is that those who choose their own way, are in the end self-destructive, and it is part of the divine justice which rules the world to effect this outcome. [All the bold font throughout this article has been added for emphasis.]
Motyer notes that the theme of self-destruction is a recurring theme in earlier wars of the Lord (see Judg. 7:22; 1 Sam. 14:20; 2 Chron. 20:23). However, let me add that this theme also correlates to future wars which are predicted to happen near the end (Ezek. 38:21-23; Rev. 6:4). Thoughtful readers will realize how relevant this is considering the rampant self-destruction going on in terms of sectarian feuding and bloodshed across much of the Middle East.
As a matter of fact, in the last half of the 20th century, 11 million Muslims suffered violent deaths, of which 90% were caused by Muslim-on-Muslim violence.2 Indeed, this trend has intensified over the last year (2014-15), in the wake of a resurgent radical Islam.3 Note, for example, groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, not forgetting the Iranian regime which continues threatening to wipe Israel off the map.
Now let us take a closer look at the second half of verse 26, describing the positive impact resulting from God’s judgments: Then all mankind will realize that the Lord is the Mighty One of Jacob, the Savior, Redeemer. There is, in fact, a growing awareness across the world that the one true God, is indeed Savior and Redeemer.
David Garrison provides much evidence in his book, A Wind in the House of Islam, observing that in recent years there has been an unprecedented harvest among Muslims. He adds that, “one of the greatest recurring motivations for Muslims coming to Christ” is the widespread violence they see in their societies (p. 58). A story recently out of Germany confirms what Garrison says. This story illustrates God’s sovereign hand shaking the nations and ripening his harvest. The Associated Press tells of an evangelical church in Berlin that has grown from 150 people three years ago to 600 in September 2015.
After showing Alif Isaiah’s prophecy, I told him Christ posed a similar question to the religious leaders of his day: “who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger – someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house” (Matt. 12:28-29). This intrigued Alif, so I read the whole paragraph explaining what prompted Jesus to ask this question. The Jewish leaders saw a blind man miraculously healed and freed from the grip of demons yet they accused Jesus of doing it by the power of Satan!
My friend immediately realized these leaders were blinded by evil motives and jealousy. Moreover, one doesn’t need to be an expert to connect the dots with what is happening today, especially in relation to extremist groups like ISIS who portray themselves as being so religious! Moderate Muslims, like Alif, do not want anything to do with radical Muslims such as ISIS and Boko Haram. They hate them. In fact Alif agreed when I told him that I think they are inspired by Satan! Interestingly, the Bible tells us that Christ accused the Jewish leaders of being murderous, “like your father the Devil” (John 8:44).
After reading this passage in Matthew 12 I pointed Alif to Psalm 83, another Scripture which is quite similar to Isaiah 49. Whereas Isaiah assures God’s people he will contend with their enemies, the Psalmist asks God to deliver his people by crushing their enemies. He prays that divine judgment will cause them to “seek your name, O LORD. Let them be put to shame … that they may know that you alone whose name is the LORD [Yahweh], are the Most High over all the earth” (Ps. 83:16-18, ESV).
I showed my friend how similar this psalm is to Isaiah 49, especially verse 26 which says,“Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Time did not allow us to explore the divine names, Savior and Redeemer. Click here for the full article God our Savior, Redeemer.