Yeshua told his followers to let their “light shine before men”, and to be visible, like a city on a hill, not hidden, like a covered lamp. But in Israel the light-bearers representing Yeshua can often go unnoticed.
There are reasons for this, of course. As soon as Israeli believers put their heads up out of the parapet, criticism, attacks, vandalism and even violence can result. It’s a difficult balance. But when we pray for Israel, one of the top agenda items must be for the remnant who love the Lord and follow the Messiah to be a light to those around them.
Rejection and hostility
Although Messianic Jews are sometimes viewed with suspicion by other Israelis because they seem to be a secret group, openness is often met with hostility. I talked to one pastor whose congregation building had been broken into by a mob of angry Orthodox Jewish people, who had been whipped up into a frenzy by rumors that they were forcibly baptizing Jewish children! Of course, no such thing was happening… just one adult who had decided to follow Jesus had willingly chosen to be baptized, but it was enough to create chaos. The pastor was pushed into the baptismal pool and mayhem ensued. The legal system, which does not look favorably upon Messianic Jews, never delivered justice for the damage caused. More recently, some anti-Missionary vigilantes caused havoc in a congregation near Tel Aviv. Again, they were acting on misinformation and rumors, but the fury is real. People have lost jobs, families have turned their backs, and firebombs have even been thrown into a Messianic center in the past.
The persecution is nowhere near as bad as it can be in other countries, of course. Physical injury is rare, and death for following Yeshua is unheard of. But the social stigma runs deep. A decision to follow Yeshua is considered a very serious betrayal of the Jewish people.
We are God’s Plan A. There is no Plan B.
When praying for Jerusalem, I realized that one of the most important things to pray for is the believers in her midst – Jewish believers, Arab believers and Christians from all different backgrounds and nationalities. There are lights representing Yeshua all around the city. I prayed for Yeshua to be glorified in their lives, and in their love for one another. I prayed for their witness to be strong and powerful. I prayed for good connections and conversations that would bring the love, peace and knowledge of God to the city. Because we are God’s chosen way to bring his kingdom. He has, rather scarily, put this task into our hands, and promises to be with us and to give us all the power we need as we carry out his instructions:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Our witness is only as strong as our love for one another
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
What an awesome responsibility. God has chosen us, his people, to be his hands and feet on earth. We are his representatives.
Please pray in earnest for all those in Israel who love and Yeshua, whatever their race or background, that we might love one another deeply and do well at representing him. Pray for wisdom in being bold and open in our faith, and that we would live lives worthy of a good reputation without fear of man. We long and pray that everyone would know that we are disciples of Yeshua by our love, and that we would cause people to believe that Yeshua was indeed sent by God.