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FRIDAY FEATURE - Sudan and the ‘Sons of Thunder’

Friday Feature

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7 Feb 2020
FRIDAY FEATURE - Sudan and the ‘Sons of Thunder’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been dashing around the world over recent weeks in another blitz of high-powered statesmanship intended to demonstrate to Israeli voters once again that “only Bibi” can deliver amazing diplomatic achievements for Israel. After shuttling to Washington to unveil the “Deal of the Century” alongside US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu paid a quick visit to Moscow to bring home an Israeli backpacker basically being held hostage by Vladimir Putin. Then he flew off on a hush-hush mission to Uganda which many expected would produce another embassy move to Jerusalem but turned out to be a face-to-face encounter with the new president of one of Israel’s staunch enemies – Sudan.

The meeting with the Sudanese leader was kept so under wraps that even his own government was surprised by the news!

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is heading Sudan’s interim ruling council overseeing the struggling African nation’s transition from an Islamist regime to a more democratic, civilian-ruled system. They apparently also want to shift towards a more Western orientation, after decades of being an ally of Iran. They especially want to get off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, thereby lifting international sanctions and hopefully fostering development.

Al-Burhan, like many Arab leaders in the region, realizes that the road to Washington often leads through Jerusalem, so he was trying to curry favor with the Trump administration by first holding a friendly meeting with Netanyahu. However, the nation’s interim cabinet is claiming they knew nothing of this mission and had never approved the meeting’s announced outcome of Sudan moving towards “normalizing relations” with Israel. And while they are tapping the brakes on al-Burhan’s initiative, it does appear that Sudan is undergoing an historic shift away from the Iranian orbit which will entail some measure of rapprochement with Jerusalem.

Sudan has a long history of hostility towards Israel. After the 1967 Six-Day War, Sudan hosted an emergency meeting of the Arab League which issued its infamous “three no’s” of the Khartoum Declaration – no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel, and no peace with Israel.

Since then, Sudan allowed Palestinian militias to train and operate in the country. Radical Islamic terror militias also found sanctuary there, including the up-and-coming al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. This landed Sudan on the US list of terror sponsors in the 1990s.

In addition, under military dictator Omar al-Bashir and firebrand cleric Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan also began to align heavily with Iran. Of particular note, Sudan served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Thus, Israel was believed to be behind airstrikes in Sudan which destroyed a weapons convoy in 2009 and an arms factory in 2012.

But this all changed after al-Bashir was deposed by the military amid popular protests last April. Now Sudan is a country looking to modernize and attract Western investment, and thus the outreach to Washington via Jerusalem.

The fact that the secret meeting between al-Burhan and Netanyahu took place in Kampala is also quite remarkable. Just a few short decades ago, Uganda was ruled by a brutal dictator, Idi Amin, who was forcing the nation to officially adopt Islam and had millions of African children afraid he would eat them alive. He was also very anti-Israel and hosted PLO training bases in Uganda. Amin’s total embrace of the Palestinian cause peaked with the PLO’s hijacking of an Air France jetliner to the Entebbe airfield, forcing Israel to undertake its daring commando rescue raid of July 4th, 1976.

Yet today, Uganda is largely a Christian nation which loves Israel and whose Evangelical president is reportedly preparing to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

The stories of Uganda and Sudan turning towards Israel are not isolated, but part of the larger seismic shift in the region among Arab/Muslim nations finally starting to reconcile with the Jewish state. These are exciting and historic times, to say the least.

SUDAN’s sudden turn to Israel and the West is significant in another respect. In recent years, many teachers on Bible prophecy – both Jewish and Christian – have been pointing to developments in the Middle East as signaling that the so-called “Gog and Magog War” of Ezekiel chapters 38-39 are now upon us. This prophetic speculation has reached fever pitch in some circles over recent months, but Sudan’s actions now indicate otherwise.

These prophetic passages from Ezekiel 38-39 suggest that a unique alignment of nations – including Russia, Iran (Persia), Turkey, Libya (Put) and Sudan (Cush) – will suddenly descend on an Israel living complacently at peace to wipe her out in one massive military blow, only to be destroyed by the divine intervention of the God of Israel.

The current alignment of nations in the region who are unfriendly to Israel has certainly fueled this prophetic speculation. But it appears Sudan is moving away from its hostility to Israel, even while Russia has a mixed record under Putin as both a friend of Israel and a patron of its most bitter foe, Iran. And today, Israel is anything but a nation with its guard down; rather, it is maintaining a constant vigil of defense every second of the day on all fronts, and it is (thankfully) armed with the strongest military in the region.

The Apostle John, in Revelation 20:7-10, actually places the ‘Gog and Magog’ conflict at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ, when Satan is released for a short season to lead a coalition of nations against Jerusalem, only to be destroyed by fire from heaven – exactly as Ezekiel also described it. So it is hard to ignore that clear Apostolic message in Scripture from John the great Revelator.

In Luke 9:51-56, we find James and John, the sons of Zebedee, wanting to call down fire from heaven on a village of Samaritans, the rivals of the Jewish people, for refusing to welcome them. But Jesus rebuked his two disciples, saying: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

And in Mark 3:17, we learn that it was Jesus himself who nicknamed them the “Sons of Thunder” – and this was likely not meant as a compliment.

So perhaps we should not be so eager to see the fireworks of Gog and Magog. Is it because we want the Lord God to move mightily in our day and show everyone that we are on the right side as supporters of Israel? That great battle and victory for God’s people indeed will come one day, but until then we need to work and plead with the Lord to save and not destroy men’s lives.

Meanwhile, Israel can expect more wars and terror attacks from its adversaries in the days and years ahead. But we are also seeing incredible changes in the region, as sworn enemies turn and seek friendly relations with Israel, seeing it as a path to progress and blessing for their nations.

David R. Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist and ordained minister who serves as Vice President & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

 

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