“Christians who received their name in Syria, cannot ignore Syria now!”
An event that happened in the Syrian capital city of Damascus became a turning point in history. A radical young religious fanatic armed with authority from the highest political and religious level was on his way to fight the ‘holy war’ against a group of people in Damascus, when he was struck by a laser light from heaven and was blinded and terrified by the experience. Saul of Tarsus went there to arrest Christians; instead he himself was arrested by the Lord who changed not only the destiny of his life, but the geopolitical world of his time.
In modern day Syria, thousands of such militants under the Free Syrian Army, backed by many Arab and western countries armed with modern weapons are marching toward the capital Damascus with one objective; Jihad to overthrow the regime of President Assad. The Syrian Arab Spring revolution has resulted in over 100,000 lives lost, most of them civilians, creating the largest refugee crisis in the world which the UN says is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. Should the church around the world just pass by on the ‘other side’ of the road in this terrible conflict leaving it to negotiators and aid workers to resolve it?
The Syrian Arab Spring Revolution?
Why did the war in Syria continue for nearly 3 years when all the other Arab Spring revolutions had brought change? Was it because it was hijacked by other super powers in the Region? Or is it because the western powers used it as a proxy to neutralize the interest of Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia? Or as other suspect, was it orchestrated by Saudi Arabia’s Sunni dominance over Shia rulers in Syria, financed by Qatar and promoted by media through Al Jazeera? Did it begin as a social media sensation and end up being the opportunist agenda of the Jihadist and Al Qaida?
Does God have an agenda for Syria?
If we are to intercede for Syria effectively, we must know the prophetic purposes of God for Syria and it is imperative that we understand ‘heaven’s agenda’ for this nation. Prophetic purposes are always in retrospect to the historical roles of nations. To know that, let’s pray through Bible and see God’s purposes revealed through it because the Church must reclaim the Biblical significance of Syria in both Israel’s and Church’s history.
Although there were a small number of Christians in the time when Saul was going to Damascus, today, there are over 2 Million Christians living in Syria. Damascus contains a sizable Christian community and Aleppo is where the largest Armenian Christian population resides. Homs, which has the second largest Christian population and Ma’loula is where there are old Christian sites and where priests and nuns were abducted. Saidnaya, Tartous, Latakia, Suwayda, Al-Hasakah and Qamishl are other towns where Christians are and in many of these places the jihadist fighting against the government has caused suffering to Christians. We must not abandon Syria in our prayers just like nations are doing politically. I believe that God’s plans for Syria are going to be accomplished as he has done in history through the prayers and intercession of God’s people. Just as God had to speak to Ananias His Disciple in the city of Damascus – who was terrified to get involved at the very mention of Saul’s name – the Church worldwide must strategically pray for Syria instead of being driven by fear. Act 9:11 And the Lord said unto him: “Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.”
Syria shall turn to the Lord
When we study Syria’s Biblical history, we cannot but think that God has plans and purposes for that nation. When God called Abraham to leave Mesopotamia, he journeyed through Aleppo and Damascus in Syria; if you look at a map in the back of your Bible you’ll find that Abraham’s journey to Canaan was through these cities where the modern day Syrian war is raging. Damascus is known to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Footprints left by God’s people in history cannot be ignored by intercessors who can reclaim divine purpose for Israel’s neighbors. While the future of Syria is in the balance between a legitimate government, opposing militants and jihadist, we must pray for God’s purpose and plan for Syria.
The Old Testament significance of Syria.
God’s chosen People Israel certainly had historical affinity and roots in Syria. Abraham’s brother Nahor married Milcah, whose son was Bethuel. By the time Isaac married their daughter, Rachel, her brother Laban was called a Syrian. Jacob not only married the daughters of this Syrian, Rachel and Leah, but also served him for over 7 years. The Syrian connection was so strong that Jacob was identified as a ‘Syrian’. In fact out of the 12 tribes of Jacob, 8 of them had direct Syrian identity through their mother while others were from the concubines. (Dan, Naphthali, Gad and Assher.) Later Hosea the prophets says: “And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.” Hos 12:12
After the Tribes of Israel lived in the Promise Land, they were asked to bring the first fruits of the Produce of the land, God asked them to refer to their roots with Syria by saying: “And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous…” see. Deuteronomy 26:5-8.
Syria and the Kingdom of Israel.
However, during the times of the Kingdom of Israel, Syria became more of an enemy to God’s people than their allies. There are numerous accounts of Israel’s confrontation with Syria but also there were times when God blessed Syria through Israel, especially in the time of Elisha the prophet.
The Syrian kings often attacked the Kingdom of Israel and sometimes became allies with them to fight with the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The book of Kings records how God frequently supernaturally delivered Israel and Judah from the Syrians attacks. God even used Elijah to anoint the King of Syria to fulfill prophesy. (1 Kings. 19:15) The Prophet Elisha too had a varying contact with the Syrians. At one time he was the number 1 target of the Syrian Army because he had prophetic insight into their war strategies and exposed them to the King of Israel. However God used him to bless the Syrians in many ways and used Elisha to direct the Kings of Syria and prophesied about the Syrian’s Kings’ role in bringing judgment on Israel.
It was a Syrian Army General to whom the young Israeli slave girl testified of the God of Israel whom Elisha healed from Leprosy. “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. 2Ki 5:1
The Syrian siege of Samaria.
One sad account of a Syrian war against Israel is when they laid a siege against the city of Samaria. The terrible conditions resulting from this siege is found in 2 Kings 6. And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver. (2Kings 6:24-25)
Later it resulted in cannibalism, where Israel’s mothers were willing to kill their babies to survive the famine. It is ironic that such terrible conditions are repeated in Syria’s current civil war which has seen terrible brutalities against civilian population. Last year I read in the news that the siege against Damascus in Syria, the famine was so severe that the Moslem clerics gave permission to eat donkey’s flesh!
The BBC report of 15th “A group of Syrian clerics have issued a ruling – or fatwa – allowing people living in besieged suburbs of Damascus to eat meat that is normally forbidden. In a video, the Muslim clerics said people could eat cats, dogs and donkeys to stave off hunger. The fatwa comes amid reports of starvation in the besieged, rebel-held Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya. The clerics said it was a cry for help to the whole world, adding that if the situation continued to deteriorate, the living would have to eat the dead.”
However in Samaria, the prophetic declaration of Elisha promised change overnight, which the Israel’s king’s chief adviser skeptically questioned how such a thing would happen, ‘even if the windows of heaven are opened’. But God used the faith act of 4 Lepers in Samaria who walked by faith to the Syrian camp leading to victory over Syrian Army and the Lord released His armies against them. Can you believe that in the dire conditions of hopelessness and brutal war where the world has only skeptical forecasts about Syria, that a small band of prayer warriors can bring positive change to Syria today?
Syria and the coming of Messiah.
It is symbolic that when the Northern Kingdom of Israel joined with Syria as allies to fight the southern Kingdom of Judah, that God sent Isaiah to prophesy about the victory and it was in this context the prophecy was given about the birth of Immanuel. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isa 7:8
And, Our Lord in His first sermon in Nazareth, would choose to refer to a Syrian man as His Old Testament example: “And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:27
During the time of His ministry, it is said that the influence of Christ’s healing and deliverance ministry even reached Syria: “Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted… and He healed them. Matthew 4:24
The only healing to the wounds and scars of modern day Syria is Jesus, and we must pray that His fame will go throughout this nation again!
The first Church and Syria.
Do you realize that the name ‘Christian’ was first mentioned in Syria! And the “disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Acts 11:26.
Antioch, which is in Syria became the most important center for the Gentile church and the Church established there became the headquarters of the Missionary movement which Saul and Barnabas were part of. Although the Jerusalem church was primarily involved in establishing Jewish churches, it was in Syria the first missionary movement started fulfilling the Great Commission to go to all nations.
The agenda of modern day jihadist is to eliminate the name ‘Christian’ from Syria, and they had killed many Christians, destroyed churches, kidnapped to 2 Archbishops and many nuns. (see Syrian Church) Only Intercession and fervent prayer that can reverse this and re-establish Syria’s historic/prophetic significance. Everyone who bears the name ‘Christian’ is obligated to pray such prayer to redeem back it’s worth again in Syria.
What is the role of Syria today in relation to Israel? Politically and geographically, we know that Syria plays a significantly strategic part in relation to the Nation of Israel. Just like in the Old Testament, Syria and Israel have been in conflict in modern times and had to contend with its neighbors for survival and has fought many battles with Syria. In the 1967 war it captured the strategic Golan Heights and later had to withdraw due to the peace accord. Since then Syria has been in a proxy war against Israel through various groups based in Lebanon, Hamas and through Hezbollah.
How does all this conflict relate to present day Israel?
Here are some quotes from a commentary of Robert Frisk in the Independent Newspaper almost 2 years ago in March 2011.
“Oddly, there are parallels with Syria which we – and Assad – may not like. For it is Syria’s refusal to bend to the United States’ “peace process”, its unwavering support for the Hezbollah “resistance” in Lebanon which broke the Israeli army in 2006. Hamas maintains its head political office in Damascus. Syria remains the lung through which Iran can breathe in the Middle East; through which Iran’s own president can enter Lebanon and proclaim…that southern Lebanon is now Iran’s front line against Israel. The Israelis – who have steadfastly opposed the overthrow of the Middle East’s dictators – published a series of photo-reconnaissance pictures of southern Lebanon, supposedly marking the exact locations of 550 Hezbollah bunkers, 300 “monitoring sites” and 100 weapons storage facilities run by Syria’s Lebanese Shia militia allies in the country. Indeed, the real Hezbollah bunkers known to the Lebanese are not marked on the map. The Turkish air force forced down an Iranian transport aircraft supposedly flying over Diyarbakir en route to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo with “auto spare parts”. On board the Ilyushin-76, the Turks found 60 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles, 14 BKC machine guns, 8,000 rounds of ammunition, 560 60-mm mortar shells and 1,288 120-mm mortar shells. Forget Facebook. These were not part of any Arab “reawakening” or “uprising”, but further supplies for the Hezbollah to use in their next conflict with Israel!
Prayer for Syria is vital. In the month of January we are focusing Prayer for Syria and we want intercessors around the world to join together to pray strategically for this nation. On the 22ndin Geneva with Assad’s government and the opposing groups. The outcome of these talks are vital for peace and more than that for hundreds of thousands of refugees suffering under horrendous suffering. Over 1.2 million Children are in these camps and we must pray for change.
Please pray for the following areas of need in Syria.
1. Pray for the Syria Peace talks to be held on 22nd of UN; that both the Government and opposing parties will be open to ending this conflict.
2. Pray that God’s redemptive purpose and plans for Syria will be fulfilled. (See Article attached.)
3. Pray for the Christians and churches in Syria to be encouraged and strengthened through this crisis and will continue to be a strong church for the future.
4. Pray for thousands of people displaced by war who are going through unimaginable suffering, which the UN calls the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world.
5. Pray for the Government of Syria to have wisdom and guidance to allow humanitarian help for the suffering.
6. Pray that God will raise Christian NGO’s to show love and compassion of Christ to the suffering people.
7. Pray for the extremist and Al Qaida groups who are taking opportunity in this conflict to be ousted and peace will prevail.
Please focus prayer on Syria in your Church, nation and Organization.