On 27th January, 70 years ago, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. There are not many left to tell the tale, but I had the privilege of sitting next to a Holocaust survivor on a plane recently, and she told me how she had been rescued as a baby and eventually reunited with her mother after the war. They were from the same town in Holland as Corrie Ten Boom, and her family knew the Ten Boom family well. She explained to me that Casper the watch-maker and his Christian family had helped to hide Jews from the Nazis. She lost almost all of her family during the Holocaust, except for her mother, who just cried and cried, day after day. “She never had a single happy moment after that”, she reflected.
In these times, “truth” is becoming a very debatable concept for some, and certainty is being treated with suspicion. But let’s be honest - is it even possible for anyone to know what is true?
Many people know the famous verse, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”, but not so many people are aware of the context of the verse, and critically, the sentence that is said directly before it…
As diabolical as the bad news is at the moment, we would like to highlight some good news happening in Israel! The darkness seems to be increasing, but those who are shining as lights for Yeshua the Messiah are burning even brighter in contrast. A real breakthrough happened in the kingdom of God recently when a young believer called Shai Sol went on a national television show and boldly talked about her faith in Yeshua. What is even more amazing is that the Israeli press responded positively to her shocking revelation!
Many Christians believe that the Modern State of Israel is not the work of God, but of man, because God says wrongdoers would be spit out of the Land of Israel…. and clearly, Israelis are not following God as a nation. So, such people ask, are the Jews in the Land illegitimately?
Yeshua is coming, ready or not. What will it be like to see Him face to face? This mighty God who calls us “friend”? Have you tried to imagine it? The idea of the “face of God” appears many times in Scripture, and can be understood to mean Yeshua himself - the visible incarnation of our invisible God. With the escalating chaos and destruction in the world, many are wondering if we might be seeing His face sooner rather than later. But are we ready to face Him?
Many times in the gospels, Yeshua tells us to “watch” and to be ready. He tells us to look out for the signs and to be attuned to the birth pangs as the earth groans for redemption.
But whilst the people of Israel by and large missed the time of the first visitation, expecting a conquering king (definitely not a suffering servant) is today’s church in danger of making the opposite mistake?
Storms of every kind are raging at the moment - and not only in Israel. Sometimes, when the storm becomes overwhelming, we might ask as the first disciples did, “Yeshua, we’re in serious trouble here! Don’t you care?”
There have been severe weather warnings in the last few days as a strong storm rips through Israel, matching the fury rising as the Jewish population are in shock and outrage at the recent slaughters and the Arab population are fuming about the racist reprisals. It is becoming more and more unbearable for everyone.
So we turn to the Bible to see what God has to say - does He care? Why does it seem like He’s sleeping through our troubles sometimes?
We are hurtling into a largely unknown future and we are living in very troubled times. This statement is true today in Israel and it could easily have been said with equal accuracy in previous millenia. The Bible shows that God well understands the insecurity of living in tumultuous times with threats growing on every side, and has some great counsel for us to follow. Judaism itself has incorporated some of God’s principles about dealing with future-phobia into its very fabric. As we read the news and see tensions picking up pace, let’s consider what the God of Israel has to say about facing the future.
Tensions are high, riots are breaking out, and all hopes of peace seem to be slipping away from the minds of Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab residents.
It must grieve God’s heart to see the city that is so dear to Him in such violent turmoil yet again. Psalm 122 urges us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, or more literally, to ask… ask for shalom, ask about shalom for Jerusalem. Let’s delve into a bit of the meaning behind that... and do it!
Sometimes just a small detail coming to light can totally change our understanding of a situation. Over the millennia, Bible scholars have scratched their heads over things that seem obvious to us now with hindsight. Today, it is not hard for us to fathom how everyone in the world could witness the same event simultaneously, for example. The “explosion in knowledge” and great “increase in people traveling to and fro” that Daniel the prophet wrote of (Daniel 12:4) now makes perfect sense with the development of the internet and air travel.
And for centuries it was extremely difficult for Christians to grasp that the word “Israel” in the Bible could possibly mean ethnic or national “Israel”, since it had apparently ceased to exist as a nation. The Jewish people were scattered across the globe, and it certainly appeared to many that God’s purposes for them had come to an end. So scholars interpreted the Bible in light of their understanding, not imagining that Israel would exist again once more.
There was a humble German carpenter who loved the Lord and lived in Romania around the time of the second world war. He loved to pray, and he loved to share his faith, but the cry of his heart and his one prayer was to lead just one Jewish person to faith in the Messiah.
He was old, sick and poor, and there were no Jewish people in his area, but he prayed earnestly that God might bring just one Jewish person with whom he could share the good news of Yeshua.
Just one... and you'll never guess what God did...
The rainy season has begun here in Israel! The prayers for rain began in earnest at the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and the former rains have begun to fall already. Visitors to Israel will often notice the signs about the water shortage, and stressing the importance of water conservation. Like most things in Israel, rain and drought are also deeply spiritual subjects, and God has a lot to say about it all. And have you ever wondered why God chose that little piece of real estate rather than say... the South of France? A stunning part of China? Or lush Ireland? Why dusty little Israel?
Last Wednesday was the special celebration for the beginning of Sukkot, and this Wednesday is the joyful feast to mark the end of the week long holiday. It is known as Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which means the eighth day of the assembly and joy of the Torah. Once again, God has instructed that the Israelites should down tools, and enjoy. In the last blog, we looked at the gathering of the harvest and the importance of rejoicing during Sukkot, and this week will be about some of the other important aspects of the feast; the waving of the four species, and the welcoming of Ushpizin...
The Feast of Sukkot is one of my favourites. All of God’s ingeniously designed feasts are full of creativity and wonder; treasures and promises. But in Jewish literature, Sukkot is often simply called “THE feast”. The biggie - no other clarification needed. Three times a year, all of Israel were supposed to make the trek to Jerusalem for Passover and Shavuot in the Spring, and then Sukkot in the fall. Sukkot means “shelters” or "tabernacles". This is a feast in which God instructs his people to set about making a temporary shelter or booth to camp out in for a week. As a kid I loved making dens, and Sukkot is a bit like that. But why in the world did God want us to make dens?
This is some great training from our friends at EvanTell which will help you to share the good news with Jewish friends from a historical, cultural, and scriptural perspective. Following these guidelines will help you to effectively proclaim the gospel to a Jewish person with sensitivity and tact.
About a month ago, eleven new Israeli believers from a congregation in the north were baptised, and five of them were Israeli-born “sabres”. This might sound a small number but we are praising God wildly over here. This is the pitter patter of the early rains of revival. As we approach Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement this weekend, Jewish believers in Israel will be joining in the country-wide fast, but with a different twist. Unlike the rest of Israel’s Jews, they will not be fasting to atone for their sins, because they know that Yeshua their Messiah has already taken care of all that, once and for all. No - their fast is one of intercession for their dear brothers and sisters who do not yet know Him and the atonement He has bought for them at great cost.
This year (5775 in the Jewish calendar) is a Shmita year - a special, one-in-seven kind of a year. God instructed Israel to let the fields lie fallow every seventh year, and give the land its sabbath rest. This is called the “shmita” year in Hebrew, which means a year of “release”. Not only is it a massive test of faith to not work the land for an entire year, but it also has blessings for those in poverty and debt: the poor are free to glean all the naturally growing crops they want for no charge, and all debts among the people of Israel are cancelled. They are released. That can only be good, right?
Shana tova! Happy new year! Tonight Jewish people across the globe are starting their new years celebrations, called “Rosh HaShana” which means literally “Head of the Year”, even though Biblically, the Jewish year starts in the Spring. In the Bible, this festival is called the Feast of Trumpets, or of shouting or loud noises!
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’”
In the Hebrew calendar, today is the 22nd of Elul, 5774 years since the creation of the world. Elul is a special month of preparation and repentance before the "Ten Days of Awe” starting with Rosh HaShanah - the Feast of Trumpets (which will start on 24th September this year), and continuing until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement ten days later. It’s time to turn our backs on sin and turn towards God again. It’s time to turn away from the world, and look to the face of the One who loves and leads us. If we want to say “repent” in Hebrew we say, “Lachzor be Tshuva” - to return to the answer. Actually the two words both imply a return - one is to return as one might go away from home and return later, and the other is from the root word to respond, or reply, to come back with an answer.
Perhaps you heard about the Syrians who were treated in Israeli hospitals this year, or the field hospital Israel set up at the Gaza border for Palestinians? Israel has excellent medical care and is generous in sharing that expertise with the world, and even with those who are hostile to the Jewish state.
One organisation dedicated to helping to bless Israel by serving her neighbours in this way is called “Shevet Achim”; a ministry based in Jerusalem that coordinates travel, visas and medical appointments for children with life-threatening heart problems from the nations surrounding Israel.
The name “Shevet Achim” comes from a verse in Psalm 133 which talks about brothers dwelling together in unity. As they bring Syrian, Kurdish, Iraqi, and Gazan children into Israel to be treated, these servants of God help to make links of love and peace instead of fear and enmity.