Lebanon, a fruitful field
August 21, 2020
The Bible mentions Lebanon more than 60 times, often with acclaim for its natural beauty – towering cedars, forest shade, snow on mountain summits, flowing streams, famed wine. Solomon coaxes his bride to come down with him from their retreat in the heights of Lebanon and says the fragrance of her garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon (SS 4:8, 11). David employs Lebanon’s fruitfulness in a blessing for the King: “May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!” (Ps 72:16).
Solomon purchased timber from Lebanon to build the temple and other buildings in its precinct. His armoury adjacent to the Temple was called the House of the Forest of Lebanon. Isaiah confirmed God’s intention to make use of the trees He planted in Lebanon (Ps 104:16) to build His temple in the Messianic age: “The glory of Lebanon shall come to [Zion], the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to beautify the place of My sanctuary, and I will make the place of My feet glorious” (Isa 60:13).
After WWll, Lebanon’s capital Beirut became the “Paris of the Middle East” because of its vibrant intellectual and cultural life, a blend of the Middle East and Europe. But civil war from 1975-1990, factionalism and corrupt government, an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees into a nation of 4 million (from 2011) and economic collapse (46% unemployment in 2018) led eventually to massive demonstrations starting in October 2019. There were already food shortages when COVID hit. A Lebanese pastor admitted the church was “very tired”.
Then on August 4, 2.75 kilotons of ammonium nitrate improperly stored in the port exploded, killing at least 200, injuring around 6000, and leaving at least 300,000 homeless in a city of 2 million. In moments, the explosion caused more destruction than 15 years of civil war. You can watch a video on the impact of the explosion here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53720383.
The Christian quarters, being closest to the blast, were hit the hardest. The Lebanese identify by religious affiliation – Christian, Sunni, Shi’a or Druze, but it’s more about their cultural group than their faith. Religious freedom has made Lebanon a beachhead in the Middle East for preaching the Gospel to Muslims. The part of the church that has shown hospitality to Muslim refugees has found them to be overwhelmingly responsive. Converts are open about their new Christian faith and often bring their entire extended families into the fold. I know of two international Christian ministries already connected with the Lebanese church that were able to provide immediate humanitarian aid after the explosion, along with proclaiming Jesus’ love for the Lebanese. Lebanon has been shaken to its core, but the unshakeable Kingdom of God will prevail there.
“Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest?” (Isaiah 29:17)
Yes Lord, according to Your word, Lebanon is indeed a fruitful field for the eternal Gospel to flourish!
- Strengthen Your church in Lebanon to be the hands and feet of Jesus demonstrating to their neighbors that Jesus is with them and for them.
- Awaken Your global Church to support our growing family in Lebanon effectively as they extend themselves to help others even when they themselves are experiencing severe problems.
- May they grow to send missionaries throughout the Middle East like Antioch of the early church.
- May Your love, evident in the Lebanese church as they welcome and embrace Muslim refugees, reveal Jesus to all of Lebanon, so that Christian, Druze, Sunni and Shi’a alike find their identity in Him.