Much of what is in the Old Testament's Major and Minor Prophets relates to Israel's judgement for her own sins. Yet at the same time, that same judgement is invariably in relation to the judgement of Israel's surrounding nations.
The theme of judgement is throughout the Bible. God initiated a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy all flesh. God did not say that He wouldn't destroy, punish or discipline nations (individuals or collectively). He just said he would not destroy ALL. For example, in Exodus 34 verse 7 God promised not to leave the guilty unpunished; and Jeremiah 50 verse 7 states that God is the Habitation of Justice.
Christians affirm this is God's word, that we make individual and corporate choices and we recognise His rules, and therefore the consequences are correlated to our decisions.
Further, the Prophets exposed the sins of the surrounding nations, which served as a warning to other nations, against inviting the same judgements.
Interestingly, the judgements included sins against Israel which "created the heaviest judgement". Yet, in many instances repentance stayed God's hand (as in Ninevah with Jonah).
Israel, which is synonymous with the Jewish peoples, are God's chosen; a special treasure above all the nations (Dueteronomy 7 verse 6). This is also a burden because, being God's chosen also incurs a stricter judgement as they have a greater 'light'.
The people of Israel were twice exiled from their land.
First: "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters for they rejected the Living God from whom came their well-being and gave attention to idols," (Jeremiah 2 verse 13); and
Second: "Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust", as only a few thousand survived the Assyrians and Babylonians, (Jeremiah 17 verse 13).
Christians believe that some 560 years after God returned them from exile the descendants of the survivors added to their situation by rejecting the Messiah, as in Isaiah 53 verse 3 "He was despised, and we did not esteem Him". He is the spring of living water and Jesus came to quench spiritual thirst, as explained in John 4 verse 14
And their descendants cried out, as recorded in John 19 verse 15 "Away with Him, Crucify Him!". Then every attempt was made to stop the spread of the Gospel, I Thessalonions 2 verse 16 "Wrath came upon [Israel] to the uttermost".
Yet there are also indeed serious costs for anti-semitism. In Genesis 12 verse 3: "And I will curse him who holds you lightly in esteem", and in the book of Esther where Haman is punished (Esther 8 verse 7).
The Old Testament shows how judgements on the surrounding nations are severe, yet Syria's judgement is light. Isaisah 17 verse 1 says, "Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap" (this is not the nation of Syria, only one city).
M V Tronson explains that Syria once included Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, parts of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Syria itself has been a prize for conquerors and traders, and Syria has always enjoyed an array of architecture, art, culture and ambience. Syria was a cultured and rich part of the Roman Empire with many wealthy merchants.
Damascus' temple to Zeus was altered in focus by Theodosius 1 into the Church of St John the Baptist. Later again it was altered into the Great Mosque. There are beautiful and extraordinary churches still functioning in Syria which were built in the 400's.
Syria was the centre of earliest Christianity. Paul's conversion was in Syria. It was in Syrian Antioch that the followers of Christ were first called Christians, and from where Paul's team was sent on missionary journeys.
Syria is one of the last Middle East societies in which pluralism is intact, it was never partitioned like Palestine, it never had an expulsion of Christians as in Turkey. The Christian quarters in Syria are intact, Syrian Orthodox Priests are regularly seen in possessions carrying the cross. The Christian churches are in back streets and an integral part of the community.
There are plenty of Christian car stickers seen on Syrian motor vehicles, such as the fish, and some congregations still use the Aramaic language, the language of Jesus' time, the 1st Century (as in the movie produced by Mel Gibson on the blood thirsty crucifixtion of Jesus).
Syria was the centre of the third and fourth century super-saints (the celebrities of the time). Simeon the Stylite stood on a pillar for 40 years in devotion to the Lord; The Younger for 68 years; Rulers sought his blessing and asked advice.
John of Damascus' influence as a Christian leader was so sognificant that it led to the Muslims developing their own systematised understanding of God.
Syria's mix of religion and politics past and present has set it aside with an internal religious tolerance, as an Arab nationalist ideology, rather than one based on Islam, although there are radical elements circulating in Syria.
It may be a surprise for many to learn that Michel Aflaq, the founder of the modern nationalist Syria in the 1950s, was a Christian who drew together a broad coalition. This resulted in authoritarian regimes, but it allowed open religious pluralism.
Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles is the story of Salvation for Gentiles, and Syria and Syrians had a precious part to play in this. It may be another surprise to many, that today, Salvation includes Syrians who have fallen at the feet of Jesus' Cross in repentance, accepting Him as Lord.
In conclusion on this lecture (article) on the Judgements, there is a need to carefully analyse the Biblical announcements as it is not always as it might seem. This leads us into the fifth lecture (article) on the nature of the 'mystique'.