A Road in the Desert

By Dr. Ross L. Riggs

Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in the dream saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him. (Matthew 2:13 NASB)

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt… and the Lord was with Joseph… But Joseph said to them, do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 39:1, 50:19-20
NASB)
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The route of Abraham’s travels in ancient times would have been nearly identical to the traders’ route that those who purchased Joseph would take to Egypt and later Joseph’s brothers and family would eventually take to Cairo. Centuries later, Joseph, step-father of Jesus, would take the same route when fleeing Herod in Jerusalem.
The point marked on this map with a is the location of current day Bir al-Abed. (See map later in this monograph).

Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham was taken to Egypt and lived there around 2900 BC. (The Exodus under Moses took place about 2450 BC and King David ruled in Jerusalem 1003 to 970 BC)

Archaeologists believe that a massive volcanic eruption followed by a tsunami of epic proportions wiped out the coastal cities of Sinai in 1500 BC. This would have been during the years of the Judges before the reign of King David. A city in the location of Bir al-Abed during the travels of Joseph and his family would have been destroyed and then, perhaps, rebuilt by the time that Joseph, Mary’s husband would have brought the Messiah to Egypt in the 1st Century AD.

In the 7th Century A.D., Islam began to grow in the areas of Mecca and Medina in the area today known as Saudi Arabia. In the years following Mohammad, Islam spread west along the northern shores of Africa in a bloody campaign by those loyal to Mohammad.

On Friday November 24, 2017 Terrorists attacked the Al Rawda Mosque in Bir al-Abed in northern Sinai. Though not yet claimed, as of this writing, likely the local Islamic State of ISIS is responsible for the attack that killed 235 with more than 100 wounded. Sources claim “it was the worst terrorist attack on civilians in modern Egyptian history. It was well-planned, highly coordinated and aimed at slaughtering as many people as possible.”
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Al Rawda (also spelled in some sources, Al Rouda) is a Sufi mosque, a branch of Islam known for its mystic ways that involve chanting and enchantments meant to draw worshippers closer to a spiritual awareness. Many of the worshippers in Bir al-Abed are workers in a local salt mine.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi vowed that the attack “will not go unpunished” and that Egypt would persevere with its war on terrorism. But he did not specify what new steps might be taken. U.S. President Trump took to his Twitter account and called the crisis a horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshippers. The world cannot tolerate terrorism” he said on Twitter, “we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”

According to sources, the terrorists approached the mosque in four off-road vehicles with at least a dozen terrorists entering the mosque where hundreds were gathered. Very likely they approached the city along highway 40, the same road that had carried travelers and tradesmen and in the centuries before the destruction by a massive volcano and tsunami may have carried the 17-year-old prisoner Joseph who would one-day rule Egypt and generations before that the caravan of his great-grandfather Abraham. That same road carried the body of Joseph’s father, Jacob, back to the Promised Land in a great procession, where he would be buried. Jacob’s directions for his burial are recorded in Genesis 49:30-32.

“…in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. “There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah – the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.”

Over four-hundred years later, when Moses was bringing the nation of Israel, now millions strong back to the Promised Land they would be carrying the bones of Joseph only for another Joseph to travel that way again to bring his wife and toddler step-son, baby Jesus, the Messiah to Egypt for safety.
Jesus Christ, by this time a young boy, after the death of Herod, would have passed along this same area again, returning to Israel perhaps even staying the night in a town on or near the site of Bir al-Abed.

On this Friday in November, just a few weeks before the Christian world celebrates the nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ, terrorists used the this non-descript road in the desert to bring about carnage, bloodshed, tears, pain and death.

They were firing rocket propelled grenades and firing indiscriminately into the crowd. One boy of 14 who had shrapnel and a bullet wound described the carnage. He said “I saw many people on the floor, many dead. I don’t think anyone survived,” he said at a hospital in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where around 40 of the wounded were taken, including many children.

The Egyptian army has been battling ISIS-linked militant Islamists in the Sinai four years with limited success. But if the world knows little about this fierce ongoing struggle, that is no accident. The Egyptian government has imposed an almost total media blackout on its efforts to repress what is becoming a deeply embedded insurgency

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Egyptian president al-Sisi claimed that “the attack would only “add to our insistence” on combatting extremists. Addressing the nation later on television, he said Egypt is waging a battle against militancy on behalf of the rest of the world, a declaration he has often made in seeking international support for the fight.”

Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi went on Egyptian television Friday evening to declare three days of mourning and denounce the attack, which he called the work of cowards. He vowed to respond with air strikes and “brutal force.”
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But the use of such brutal force, which critics say is also indiscriminate, has created greater resentment among Sinai residents. It has also radicalized the local population and generated new recruits for the terrorists – even as most Egyptians reacted with shock and outrage to the assault on a holy mosque during the Muslim day of prayer, a rarity in the deeply religious country.

While no group immediately claimed credit for the attack on the Al Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed in northern Sinai, the culprits were almost surely the local branch of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State.

It is just a road in the desert, probably the current-day road is one with a heritage that is as old as civilization itself. It has witnessed the dawn of mankind’s growth as a people of the One Creator God, the historic events that took place across it and it witnessed the sons of Abraham trying to survive horrific draught and famine. It witnessed the funeral processions of patriarchs of the Christian faith and the escape and return of the Messiah from Israel to Egypt and the fulfillment of prophecy, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.”

This map shows that simple road. Notice the red color, the subscript of the source just says, “Travel Not Recommended.” So, when one wants to plot their travel from Cairo to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, there is a bit of a side-trip. That side trip is shown in the next map.5

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You will notice a red line and a blue one. One is the distance to go directly from Cairo to Tel Aviv. The direct route is 395 km and if you travel at 85 km/h it will take you just under 5 hours, depending, of course on how well you swim; so you may want to add some time if you choose to stay on dry land. Because of the violence, however, you will likely have to take the more circuitous route which will take you 9 hours to travel the 756 km. Sounds like the same kind of problem Moses had getting to Israel from Egypt!
There could be close to 300 people dead, men, mostly salt mine workers, women and children all who practice a strange cult version of Islam dead for no other reason than a group of another cult find their worship untenable.

The terrorist lives to strike fear into the hearts of those who just want to live out their lives in relative peace. When Christ returns there will be a time of tribulation on the earth with its purpose to bring back to the faith those who have run away from God, chasing false teachings and empty promises of peace. The violence earlier today was there just for the sake of indulging in terror.

God save us from ourselves and walk beside us along a little-known road in the desert.

 

THE WRONG COLOR RED: Radicalism Comes Home

We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

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ON THE HOMEFRONT

ImageGilles de Kerchove,the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator declared before a UK Parliamentary hearing that the return of high risk, highly volatile Islamic extremists from Syria to the United Kingdom is “unprecedented. … All the reports I have seen suggest that it is becoming increasingly acute.” According to the Langley Intelligent Network, the British Home Office warned, “Dealing with terrorism in Syria is a very significant challenge due to the numbers of people fighting with the many Syria based terrorist groups, their proximity to the UK, ease of travel across porous borders and the ready availability of weapons.”[i]

What does this mean for the United States and its foreign policy particularly when it comes to dealing with international issues of terrorism and political unrest?

The current situation in Ukraine unveils the Russian bear, Vladimir Putin again showcasing the vulnerability of the United States and the weakness of this administration. It is a case in point of the inability of national governments to function effectively when leadership fails to adhere to the standards by which a citizenry can live in peace. There is no excuse that the citizens of Ukraine living on the peninsula of Crimea are suffering without water or electricity because their homeland has been invaded by an opposing army and no one has checked the violence brought by criminal elements acting under the direction of Vladimir Putin. A nation’s leadership will set the bar for its vulnerability whether international terrorism, crime or attack by foreign forces.

The same is true now for Great Britain. Parliament failed to act decades ago to stem the tide of Islamic extremists pouring across the borders, overwhelming communities, and degrading the legal and political system to their own advantage. The political correctness police have brought the British society to the point of near annihilation. Several British nationals have shared that they cannot even recognize London as their own any longer.

Feckless has become a term equated with the inability of the current Obama administration to be able to do anything to stand up against those forces that spit in the face of America. Recently, Retired Lt. Colonel Oliver North was quoted as making this very clear statement, “We don’t need a head of state who draws a phony red line with a pink crayon.”

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What will it take for societies – that value freedom, democracy and, (whether they now admit it or not), have a foundation of Judeo-Christian values; to stand-up strong for those values that once made them great?

There has been a lot of blood spilled, not just over the centuries, but in these last two decades all in the name of Islam. If the hardline followers believe it to truly be a religion of peace, then how do they explain its resulting hardship, pain and grief particularly for their own people? Their own leadership has succeeded in embittering their people and reducing their lives to a struggle to survive. Never has there been a generation of harmony and peace between them and their neighbors for they define peace as only the total rule of Islam  with total subjugation to their own rule, where no persons may live under another faith.

The African sub-Saharan is a primary example of the extremist mindset. Thousands of non-Muslim people, men, women and children are murdered in the most brutal of ways, without any shred of human dignity or compassion.

This piece is not, however, primarily a piece on the logic or the fundamentals of Islam. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of all comfort, the Father of all mercies (as Paul described him); never forced Himself on anyone. But, you say, in the ancient times the God of the Bible ordered entire populations killed in order to preserve His people ‘of the Book’, the Hebrews. I can only reply that in those instances, God, as sovereign with total right to reign over His creation, I believe knew the heart of every individual soul that perished and none were punished eternally that God was not fully aware of what was taking place and it was necessary for righteousness of His creation. Does that mean that children died naturally and were eternally separated from God? I believe that as God is a God of compassion and grace, no one was separated from Him eternally that was not fully capable of choosing to deny His grace.

God, Jehovah, was very clear that His people were not to allow themselves to be drawn away by other religions or gods; nor were they to allow those who taught such religions to take root within their communities. God’s people were (and are) to live among them in peace and if by the lives of the believers that they might win some, (those are Paul’s words). That was a good thing but to allow those who degraded and derided their faith, God would not allow for that. His patience is longsuffering and His grace sufficient but it is not without end. There will be a day when the doors shall be shut and the chances have run out.

To what end does this bring us? Here is a list: National governments who prey on and destroy their own people like Bashar al Assad and his cronies, even to the point of chemical weapons and mass murder. Egomaniacal dictators like Vladimir Putin whose demented mind at the age of a young teen even longed to be a KGB agent to strike fear into the hearts of those who trusted him. Inept novice rulers, like those atop the Ukrainian political rubble. Parliamentarians who have leaned so far left in the desire to be politically correct they have allowed themselves to be blinded to the eroding away of the very fabric of their Kingdom.  Then there is the United States with a socialist president who believes that re-setting buttons with Putin, bowing before Middle Eastern royalty, backing down from countries like Iraq and Syria, turning his back on our only allied democratic nation in the Middle East who also happens to have the divine promise for those who aid Israel and the curse for those who fail to do so. And finally, the people of the United States who have stood back and allowed it to happen.

This is the list of the culpable. It is time to put a stop to the madness. Every citizen of each of the countries named here and, for that matter, every  citizen of each of the countries not named here, should realize the important role – the absolutely critical role – that they have to set and maintain the standard for democracy, independence, and true freedom of religion. That means that each citizen may not only worship, in a house of worship as they choose (these are the limitations the Obama administration seeks for religious “freedom”) but to live out their faith within community. This requires, of course, that the Muslim has as much right to choose to live out his or her faith in peaceful accord with the remainder of society as does the Southern Baptist. I mentioned earlier that God required His people not to syncretize their faith with that of the other religions. But, Christ also modeled the ability to love people where they were and by love, show them the true faith.Strong, yet compassionate. We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

 

[i]http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/UK-Threat-Radicals-Returning-From-Syria.aspx?ns_mail_uid=4703528&ns_mail_job=175366_04282014#ixzz30WceLmyA