Why is there war on land and religion?

Question:  Why is there war (based on) land and religion?  Like war in Gaza, for example. It was never the Jews’ land, that’s for sure! And if they say that, well they are lying it was first for the British 61 years ago.

My Reply:
Actually, if you'll read the Bible (book of Joshua), you'll see that Gaza was in fact the land of the Jews (Israelites then), and that was over what, 3000 years ago? 4000?  Granted it wasn’t theirs before they moved into Canaan, but it was theirs way long before it belonged to the British.

Let’s look at this for a moment though.  Why is land such a big deal?  Well, land is often associated with possession and identity. 
For example, when people ask you where you're from, you tell them the town you live in, right?  If not, then you tell them where you grew up or lived most of your life.  That's because such is part of your identity.  Now, if somebody were to burn down your house, you’d be upset because such was your possession, right?  Or if somebody were to attack your town, you'd be upset then too because such is your home town…a piece of your identity, right?  But what happens if you’re kicked out of your home, or if it burns down, or if you’re forced to move away?  To what or where do you associate your identity now?  Or what if your home was a gift given to you, due to a promise from long ago, like it’s been a part of your family for generations, and suddenly somebody attacks it or forces you to leave, claiming you’re trespassing on their land?  You’d be pretty upset, wouldn’t you?
This all explains the reason why I think land is a big issue in terms of war in the Middle East…not so much for power, but placement and identity in connection with the land.

Now Gaza actually belonged to the Philistines, who are believed to have been Greeks.  You may’ve heard of the Philistines from the story of David and Goliath, for Goliath was a Philistine warrior.  So when Israel finally defeated the Philistines, they also added Gaza to their collection of God’s Promised Land to them.  But because of their continued sins against God, He removed the Israelites temporarily from the land.  And each time the Lord exiled them from it, others moved in to claim it.
In my family history, an ancestor of mine left his cabin for some time, possibly to visit family or serve in the military.  By the time my ancestor returned, somebody else was living in his cabin!  Neither parties were willing to give it up, so they agreed to fight over it, and the loser would move.  My relative won the fight, they made it legal, and the other guy moved out.  If it was that easy in the Middle East, then there probably wouldn’t be any more wars over the land.

So how does the religion side fit in?  Well, we need to remember that the land of Israel, originally the land of Canaan, was promised by God to Abraham long ago.  So this becomes another issue when you look at the fact that Abraham had 2 sons, Ishmael and Isaac  (mentioned in order of birth).  Yes, one was the promised son and one was the son born out of sinful distrust of humans, but still, they’re both sons of Abraham, and the land was promised to him.  So you have Israelites (or Jews) who are descendants of Isaac, and the Muslims who claim to be descendants of Ishmael.  So with both being sons of Abraham, who gets the Promised Land and the main blessing?  Muslims say that Ishmael was the beloved son of Abraham, and therefore should be recognized as the blessed child.  But Scripture tells us that regardless of which son Abraham loved most, God’s blessing was promised to continue on through Isaac.  So now it’s not only about land and possession, but also about God (or religion) and status. 

So to each side, it’s more than just land…there are deeper identity issues related to possession, blessing, and personal beliefs. And such strong conviction of each, I believe, are what start the wars.

---Pastor Andy
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