Three red cherries and a one-armed bandit
Slot-machines from a previous generation had a large metal handle on their right side. When this lever was pulled down, the one-armed bandit either swallowed your silver dollars or coughed up a trifling jackpot. For the rare winner, victory bells would ring on the machine and three cherries would line up on the glass-covered panel.
Today in the Middle East there are winners and losers. The slot machine’s bells are frantically ringing and three cherries have lined up. Syria is the slot machine in the present scenario, and the three Bing cherries are Russia, Iran, and Turkey.
Why does Russia love warm water?
Tim Marshall in his Prisoners of Geography (https://en.wikipedia.org/
Russia has three main ports open to world trade:
- St. Petersburg (often ice-bound)
- Vladivostok (ice-locked for several months each year, and accessing only the Pacific theater)
- Sevastopol in Crimea on the Black Sea, officially under Ukrainian rule until recently
Vladivostok is seldom in the news. But on February 26, 2014 Russian forces in green unmarked fatigues seized Crimea. Russia officially annexed Sevastopol (the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Черноморский Флот) on March 18 of that year (www.washingtonpost.com/world/
Russia’s ‘drang nach Süden’ – its intense search for warm-water ports – has led it to the Syrian port of Tartus – strategically close to the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea and the Suez Canal. There it has constructed major military facilities which will significantly aid Russia in the Mediterranean against a potential clash with NATO forces. Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, says, “It is a thorn in the side of NATO, and an increased presence of Russian ships based in the Mediterranean will pose a big threat to the alliance on the its southern flank” (https://www.ibtimes.com/
In a scholarly article published by ISW (Institute for the Study of War) titled “Russian deployment to Syria: Putin’s Middle East game changer,” the authors conclude: “The Russian deployment to Syria is game-changing. It will alter the nature of international negotiations, compromise and weaken the cohesion and efforts of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, strengthen the Assad regime, and initiate direct Russo-Iranian military operations for the first time. The U.S. and its partners must fundamentally reassess their approach to the Syrian conflict in light of this critical inflection” (https://www.files.ethz.ch/
For an up-to-date analysis of current Russian military thinking vis-à-vis Syria in light of the upcoming evacuation of U.S. forces, see http://iswresearch.blogspot.
- Russia in Syria is the first red cherry.
Hammer and sickle meet the Shi’ite Crescent
Over 2,500 years ago ancient Persia (modern Iran) marched its 500,000 strong army up to the shores of the Mediterranean and invaded Greece. The modern dream of Iran’s ayatollahs and its Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps is to conquer the world for its Shi’ite version of Islamist jihad. Its initial goal is an Iranian-controlled superhighway – a Shi’ite (or Shi’a) Crescent (http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/
From the perspective of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Shi’ite Islam’s triumphant message must press west and pass through the keyhole of Syria. For that to happen, a Shi’ite war of control must be about crushing the Sunni powers and influence of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Yemen, as well as the Sunni forces in Iraq, Lebanon and Kurdish enclaves. But the short-term strategic goal is to establish a land route all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast. That way, missiles and rockets can be loaded onto trucks in Tehran and driven by land right into Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s storehouses in Damascus or even to Hezbollah bunkers in Beirut.
Iran is funding and arming Lebanese Hezbollah to the hilt, and is doing the same for Islamic Jihad forces in Gaza. Iranian GPS systems are being flown directly to Beirut where Iranian-run factories in Lebanon are feverishly upgrading Shi’ite Hezbollah’s over 120,000 rockets and missiles, currently aimed at Israel’s population centers. Iranian Fajr-5 long-range multiple-launch rocket systems are flown into Damascus and then transshipped to Hezbollah launch sites (https://www.jpost.com/
Iran is striving to establish air and naval bases in Syria as Russia has already done (https://af.reuters.com/
According to Dr. Azeem Ibrahim (Ph.D Cambridge, International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Adjunct Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College), “Iran now dominates, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, and may also end up doing so in Yemen. It is successfully extending the ‘Shiite crescent’” (http://english.alarabiya.net/
The brilliant commentator Charles Krauthammer spoke prophetically back in June 2017 about the current threat: “For Iran, Syria is the key, the central theater of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony. Iran (which is non-Arab) leads the Shiite side, attended by its Arab auxiliaries – Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militias in Iraq and the highly penetrated government of Iraq, and Assad’s Alawite regime (Alawites being a non-Sunni sect, often associated with Shiism.) This alliance operates under the patronage and protection of Russia, which supplies the Iranian-allied side with cash, weapons and, since 2015, air cover from its new bases in Syria” (Charles Krauthammer, “At stake in the Mideast is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent,” June 22, 2017;https://www.denverpost.com/
In January 2016, a confidant of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman claimed (in desert hyperbole which is not far off the mark) that the Arab world is being confronted not by a Shi’a Crescent (a sliver of moon) but “by a Shia full moon” (https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Iran in Syria is the second red cherry.
Turkey but no Thanksgiving – the resuscitation of the Caliphate
Sunni Islam’s dream of world domination through jihadi dictatorship (the Caliphate) crashed and broke into a thousand pieces on March 3, 1924. On that day Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the Turkish Republic, constitutionally abolished the Caliphate. But some dreams die hard. The vision of a reborn and conquering Caliphate inspires and animates many jihadi Muslims. It is the crown jewels of such organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qa’eda and ISIS.
The current President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan is actively pursuing a dominant role for Turkey over the entire Muslim world. Erdogan is seen by close associates as the up-and-coming Caliph of a resuscitated Caliphate:
erdogans-ambition-for-the- caliphate-and-the-failure-of- turkish-democracy.html
turkey/erdogan-trying-build- new-ottoman-caliphate-saudi- crown-prince
2018/11/27/opinion-erdogans- caliphate-dream-put-in-motion- in-turkey/
caliphate/erdogan-may-hold- referendum-return-caliphate- former-party-leader
History shows that Turkey’s pursuit of Caliphate glory has left a bloody trail of Christian Armenians and Greeks victims between the 1840’s and 1918. Here are some main milestones (https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Badr Khan in 1840’s – the slaughter of 10,000 Assyrian Christians by Muslim Kurds on behalf of the Turkish Ottoman authorities (https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Hamidian massacres in 1894-96 – 100,000-300,000 Christian Armenians by Turkish Ottoman and Arab soldiers (https://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Massacres_of_Diyarbak%C4% B1r_(1895); http://www.armenian-genocide. org/hamidian.html)
- Adana massacres in 1904 – 15,000-30,000 Christian Armenians by Turkish nationalists
- Greek genocide 1913-22 – 500,000-900,000 Christian Greeks by the Young Turk government
- Assyrian genocide 1914-18 – 270,000-750,000 Assyrian Christians by the Young Turk government and Kurdish tribes
- Armenian genocide 1915-18 – 850,000-1,500,000 Armenian Christians by the Young Turk government and Kurdish tribes (https://en.wikipedia.org/
Since 1984, Turkey has destroyed 3,000 Kurdish villages and implemented mass transfer of two million Kurds who became refugees in their own country. Turkish army forces conducted massacres of approximately 30,000 Kurds. And Turkey has clearly stated in the past week that it will shortly move into Syria with plans to slaughter the restive Kurdish independence movement.
Turkey’s State-owned Anadolu news agency on Thursday December 20, 2018 quoted Defence Minister Hulusi Akar (speaking of Kurds in Syria) during a visit to a Qatari-Turkish joint military base in Doha. “Right now it is being said that some ditches, tunnels were dug in Manbij and to the east of the Euphrates. They can dig tunnels or ditches if they want, they can go underground if they want, when the time and place comes they will buried in the ditches they dug. No one should doubt this” (https://www.reuters.com/
For more perspective see “Erdogan is not a benevolent sultan of old, he’s a monster that must be stopped” (Ben-Dror Yemini December 24, 2018:
turkey/turkish-military- considers-six-options-new- offensive-syria-hurriyet
A massacre of Kurds is set to be carried out by Turkish forces in the very near future
turkey-sends-more-troops-to- syrian-kurdish-area-as-us- pulls-out-monitor/).
The vacuum which will be created by the upcoming U.S. withdrawal of forces from Syria will open up opportunities for Turkey to once again butcher its opponents.
- Turkey in Syria is the third red cherry
A recent conference in Beersheva focused on the three “cherry” nations, offering perspective on the threats involved. The following article is helpful: “Iran, Turkey, Russia threaten Israel in Eastern Mediterranean” (Efraim Inbar, December 17, 2018;https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/
The Middle East abhors a vacuum
On December 19, 2018 US President Trump announced the upcoming withdrawal of approximately 2,000 US troops currently stationed in northeastern Syria (out of a present total of 2,600):
usa-trump-syria-evacuation/us- state-department-personnel- being-evacuated-from-syria-us- official-idUSKBN1OI1Z3
u-s-military-preparing-for-a- full-withdrawal-of-its-forces- from-northeastern-syria- 11545225641?mod=hp_lead_pos2
On December 23 a U.S. defense official announced that “the execute order has been signed” and that evacuation is proceeding.
How is this withdrawal to be understood in light of all the above history and context?
Getting serious about Syria
Many commentators and analysts have deep concerns concerning Trump’s decision. Here are two examples:
- Joost Hiltermann, “The Kurds: Betrayed Again by Washington” (December 22, 2018; http://on.theatln.tc/kir4jrN)
- Jean-Marc Mojon, https://www.timesofisrael.com/
us-pullout-strengthens-iran- land-bridge-to-the- mediterranean/
Kurdish former Foreign Minister of Iraq Hoshyar Zebari sees the American evacuation as having ramifications far beyond the Kurds. “This sudden change in policy is worrying not only to Syrian Kurds but to all the U.S. allies in the region…The message it sends is that there really is a question of trust. This will cause many governments to rethink their alliances with a superpower that can really can just abandon them and leave them in the lurch and throw them under the bus… Russia, Turkey and Iran will be the biggest beneficiaries…These are the new powers in the Middle East” (Liz Sly, “This time, the United States is betraying more than just the Kurds, allies say”; (https://www.washingtonpost.
On the other hand, some analysts see positive potential here.
- Caroline Glick, https://carolineglick.com/
- Lee Smith, “Trump’s Grand Strategy: Get the United States out of the Middle East, Now” (https://www.tabletmag.com/
jewish-news-and-politics/ 260390/trump-strategy-middle- east)
For some time U.S. President Trump has expressed his intention to withdraw American forces from Syria On April 3, 2018 he declared, “We were successful against ISIS. We’ll be successful against anybody militarily, but sometimes it’s time to come back home … So we’re going to be making a decision, we’ve had a tremendous military success” (https://abcnews.go.com/
“As far as Syria is concerned, our primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We’ve almost completed that task, and we’ll be making a decision very quickly in coordination with others as to what we’ll do … I want to get out. I want to bring our troops home” (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/
On that same day April 3, 2018, a few hours earlier in the same city the AmericanSpecial Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk said, “We’re in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission, and that mission isn’t over, and we’re going to complete that mission.” McGurk added that, while ISIS is on the run, it is not yet defeated.
On December 13 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu agreed to have Trump and Erdogan discuss the latter’s threat to immediately attack and destroy U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels in northeast Syria, where American forces are also based. The National Security Council arranged the call, while Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis prepared a list of talking points for Trump, urging Erdogan to back off from hostilities.
On December 14 President Trump spoke with PM Erdogan, but ended up ignoring the script. Erdogan challenged Trump, reminding him that his official reason for U.S. troops to be in Syria was to defeat the Islamic State. “Why are you still there?” Erdogan asked Trump, telling him that ISIS was 99% defeated and that the Turks could easily deal with the remaining terrorists. Trump quickly pledged to withdraw U.S. troops, shocking both National Security Advisor John Bolton and Erdogan (https://www.timesofisrael.
On subsequent tweets President Trump posted, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency” (December 19, 2018,https://twitter.com/
Six days after Trump’s decisive conversation with Erdogan, on Wednesday December 19 the President publically announced the coming troop withdrawals. One day later, on Thursday afternoon December 20 Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis went to see President Trump in a last-ditch attempt to change Trump’s mind. For 45 minutes Mattis argued that America needed to stand by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF), who had taken the lead in ejecting ISIS from its Syrian strongholds. The President refused to budge. At the conclusion of their discussion Mattis handed the President his letter of resignation.
The letter stressed that the issues at stake involved abandoning international allies and not sufficiently blocking hostile moves by authoritarian governments such as Russia (https://www.forbes.com/sites/
Mac Thornberry, top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, scored Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan – another surprise move by Trump that leaked in news reports on Thursday. “Reducing the American presence in Afghanistan and removing our presence in Syria will reverse progress, encourage our adversaries, and make America less safe,” he said (https://www.reuters.com/
David Phillips (a Professor at Columbia University, a former senior State Department official, and the author of the new book: The Great Betrayal: How America Abandoned the Kurds and Lost the Middle East) commented, “As soon as the US folds its tent and leaves, Turkey will immediately begin an air bombardment followed by a ground attack by the [Turkish-backed] Free Syrian army. Thousands will die, thousands will be displaced and will be given no haven within Syria. They will be turned away at the Turkish border … For more than three and a half years, the [Kurds] have been our boots on the ground and were the point of the spear in retaking [ISIS command center] Raqqa. Who is going to fight for us in the future when we throw our allies under the bus?” (https://www.theguardian.com/
“It’s a bad day for Israel,” says Ehud Yaari, a veteran Israeli reporter and fellow of theWashington Institute for Near East Policy. “Israeli decision-makers were left in shock by the US decision … Israel is being left alone on its most vulnerable front … The YPG [Kurdish forces] will be eradicated” (https://twitter.com/
On December 18 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I spoke with US President Donald Trump and yesterday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told me that it was the President’s intention to withdraw their forces from Syria and made it clear that they had other ways to express their influence in the arena … This is, of course, America’s decision. We will study the timetable, the mode of operation, and of course the implications for us. In any case, we will take care to protect Israel’s security and to protect ourselves from that arena” (https://www.timesofisrael.
Outbreak in Lebanon
The coming war between Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah and Israel is getting closer all the time. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is interdicting and destroying Iranian, North Korean and Chinese ordinance in Lebanon and Syria on a regular basis (https://www.timesofisrael.
The words of the Psalmist prefigure this challenging situation:
God, do not remain quiet! Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still! For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people, and conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.” For they have conspired together with one mind. Against You they make a covenant: the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre. Assyria also has joined with them, They have become a help to the children of Lot… who said, “Let us possess for ourselves the pastures of God” (Psalm 83:1-8, 13).
- In verses 13-18 of this psalm, the writer calls out to YHVH in intense intercession. We would do well to heed the direction of his petitions, and add them to our own as we pray about these matters.
- Also, in Ezekiel 38:5 Iran/Persia has a future military role against Israel. That is something worth praying about.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for your country’s leaders to receive God’s heart and strategies about these matters
- Pray for your own spiritual leaders to receive revelation about God’s heart and strategies here
- Pray for divine encounters and revelation for Israel’s leadership about these issues
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s army speedily and in our day
This article originally appeared on David’s Tent, December 26, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Avner and his wife, Rachel, live in the Beersheva region of Israel and are dedicated to stirring up the creative arts, worship, intercession, evangelism and the prophetic gifts within a Jewish and Israeli matrix. They oversee Final Frontier Ministries.
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A sign spoken against
One thing about Christmas is that it is not a celebration of a shadow or type, looking for the One of whom Moses and the Prophets spoke. It is focused on Him who came — the Son has come, the Light shines brightly!
Ps 69: 5-9 (6-10 Heb) O God, You know my foolishness, and my sins are not hidden from You. Let not those who hope in You, O YHVH God of Hosts, be ashamed because of me; let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel. Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s children (Mk 3:21; 6:3; Jn 7:1-5). Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. (Rom 15:3)
Lk 2: 29-35 [Simeon] took [Yeshua] up in his arms and blessed God and said: Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. . . .Behold, this One is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against, . . .that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
–Who is That Man?! Who is this child that was born, this Son that is given? (Is 9:6-7)
–just a man, a son of Mary?
–just a brother, of Yaakov, Joseph, Judah, Simon, and of sisters, too? They thought He was crazy.
–just a carpenter or a stonemason, son of Joseph? (Mt 13:54-57) They were all offended by Him and His wisdom.
–just a son of David, or one of the prophets and teachers (rabbis)? (Mt 22:42-46; 16:13-20)
–Jesus the Son bears the reproach of God His Father: YHVH is holy, holy, holy. Yeshua did not come to please Himself, but His Father – God – and those weaker than Himself, in order to build them up. Yeshua love His Father and His Father’s house – the Temple. Do we stand up for Jesus when He we hear others speak against Him, or say something not true about Him? Do we defend the congregation when we hear others speak poorly of it? Do we love Jesus; do we love the church?
–We are to go outside the camp where Messiah is and bear His reproach.
–He is the only one with the words of eternal life.
–He is the one who brings both Jew and Gentile into equal standing with God: this Jew; this crucified One.
–Yeshua – like His Father – is blamed for all the evil and suffering in the world, because He allows it, and does not prevent or stop it [yet]. He is the Scapegoat because He took our sins upon His own body on the cross, becoming a curse for us, so that we could become righteous and blessed!
–If Jesus is only a myth, then Israel as God’s chosen people – and this land as God’s promised land for His people – is also only a myth. If YHVH and Jesus is/are just a myth, then why is He blamed for everything. Thus, the Jews become the scapegoat, since they “invented this myth”; and Christians are hated, because they believe it. Why live, or die, for what is only a myth or a legend?!
–While we believe that this is no myth, but that YHVH God is the true God and Creator of all that is, those who do not believe in Him or in His words (written for us in the Bible) make up their own myth and expect people to validate it as a legitimate alternative to believe and live for. YHVH God is true, and His word is truth. YHVH God is not a myth or a legend, and neither is the Bible – both OT and NT.
–Great responsibility not to be a cause of stumbling for those seeking truth, for those seeking the true God, or of those whose hope is already in YHVH God of Hosts, the God of Israel
–It is essential to give our children and our churches proofs from the Bible concerning controversial issues, to enable them to stand against those who want to attack generally accepted truths handed down to believers from generation to generation – the faith which was once-for-all delivered to the saints.
—God will abase all pride because He – the great God – humbled Himself and was/is humiliated by the pride and foolishness of man.
–God Almighty came in flesh and blood; born as a baby, in poverty, in weakness.
–What reproach did Mary and Joseph have to bear for being chosen for such a miracle and done in such a way that Miriam was thought to have been unfaithful to Joseph and to the holiness of YHVH?
–If illegitimate, then Yeshua is unworthy and unacceptable to be in the assembly of God (Dt 23:2) But He is the Holy One of God, the Holy One of Israel! (Lk 1:30-35)
–What did the people of Bethlehem think when all the babies were killed by Herod because of hearing that the Messiah, the rightful King of Israel, had been born?
—God does not do things to satisfy our own understanding or expectation, but rather for us to take note that He has intervened in the affairs of man for His own holy name’s sake.
God is good; He is righteous; He is love; He keeps covenant and mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments. He has a plan of redemption that He is fulfilling, and will fulfill fully. Yeshua was born according to God’s promise; Yeshua died and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; Yeshua is acting and governing today according to the will of the Father; and He will return at the set time which the Father has determined already. We are to remain faithful to the end, growing in trust and hope and love in the Living God. Blessed are they who are not offended in Him. (Mt 11:3-6)
We want to celebrate and to exalt our Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, who still today is the Rock of Offense for the falling and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against, that the hearts of many – including us in the Body of Christ – may be revealed. He is our hope and joy.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish, but inherit everlasting life.”
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, December 22, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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Secrets surrounding the birth of Messiah (Part 1)
You know what I love about Christmas? Well, it is not the eggnog or Santa imposters. Nor is it the trees, stockings, watching “Home Alone” or “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In truth, I have never celebrated Christmas. I did not grow up with it and, here in Israel, December 25th is just another day. You could go through the entire day in Tel Aviv and have no idea that it was Christmas.
But what I do love about it, is that each year, at this time with so much focus on the story of the birth of Messiah, I find myself drawn afresh to Luke, chapter two. Over the past few years, I have really fallen in love with this story. And, then, something happened last April—something possibly earth-shattering. I saw something that I will share a few details about, at the end of this series.
I urge you to read this until the end -the most exciting parts are in the middle.
But, first, there is much about the story of Yeshua’s birth that is slightly off and incorrect. Let’s set the record straight.
Ruth Needs to be Honored
The story of Yeshua’s birth really starts with a Gentile who loved the Jewish people. You know Ruth’s story. She was the Moabitess whose husband died. Instead of going back to her own people, she clung to her mother-in-law Naomi, and was eventually spotted by Boaz. Where was Boaz from? Why, Bethlehem, of course. Technically, it was Bethlehem Ephrathah.
“Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’
” …Ruth … gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.’” (Ruth 4:11-17)
Ruth is the great-grandmother of David, and Yeshua is the Son of David. Those blessings over Ruth were prophetic and referred to the coming Messiah. I imagine those elders, who thought they were just taking care of some mundane business, suddenly felt the Spirit of God when Ruth legally was given to Boaz and they prophesied.
When they said, “May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem,”surely they were prophesying where the Messiah would be born! Of course, this is confirmed by the prophet Micah, who said:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, December 22, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
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Trump’s Syrian policy undermines Israel’s security
For end-time prophecy followers, last week was a big week. Many end-time prophecy scenarios forecast an alliance of Russia, Iran and other “northern” countries against Israel and a renewed Roman Empire (the European Union?). President Trump’s surprise announcement of withdrawing America’s military forces from Syria hands Russia and Iran carte blanche in Syria and essentially seals her fate as a Russian/Iranian puppet regime in the Middle East.
While Israel is most concerned by the spread of Iranian influence, Russia’s strengthening position in the Middle East does not bode well for Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu artfully has triangulated Russian and American interests in the region, but with the exception of a period of support for Israel at the founding of the State, Russia historically has bolstered Israel’s enemies. The alliance between Russia and Iran in Syria, absent a US presence, spells trouble, especially with Putin as President, who has grand designs for a greater Russia.
Many believers enthusiastically support President Trump, especially because of his “pro-Israel” policies, best exemplified by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. But this is an example of elevating symbol over substance. Simply put, Trump policies are increasing Israel’s security risks. One of his early foreign policy positions was to withdraw the US from the nuclear agreement with Iran. While the Iranian agreement, fashioned under the Obama Administration, had many drawbacks, the reality was that the US maintained clout with Iran, and an effective leader probably could have curbed Iranian aggression in the Middle East. By withdrawing from the treaty, the US forfeited any role in influencing Iranian behavior, and further thrust Iran into the hands of Russia and China. While the Trump Administration strengthened sanctions against Iran, Russia and China continually ignore them and assist Iran in circumventing them. This was not true during the Obama years when most countries abided by the sanctions against Iran, ultimately forcing her to the negotiating table.
Now, the one stabilizing force in the region, the US, is pulling out. With the help of Russia and Iran, Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s butcher of a president, should easily be able to retake territory currently under US and Kurdish control, thereby solidifying his position over the entire country. It’s almost certain that weapons transfers from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon will only increase, leading to a likely conflagration with Israel in the not too distant future.
As I said at the beginning, for Armageddon watchers this was a big week. For those who live in Israel, nerves are fraying.
Jamie Cowen is a Partner at Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh Law Offices, Petach Tikvah, Israel; Former Rabbi, Tikvat Israel Congregation, Richmond, Viriginia; Former President, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations; Former Chief Counsel, US Senate Subcommittee 1978-1986
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I’ve had the draft for this blog post sitting here for a while now, and I think I was in the middle of walking through a fresh lesson on this, and needed to come through it before writing it down.
Recently I walked through a very painful season of having to deconstruct many things I hadn’t realised I’ve been doing. I was disappointed, hurt, angry and disgruntled with God.
Anyone been there?
He had walked me down a path, which I had, in all honesty, followed him down in blind obedience. He had provided for all my needs – up until a point, and then he seemed to just disappear! Over the course of weeks that followed this ‘great disappearance’ my prayers moved from somewhat holy requests for help, to pleading, to begging, to outright tantrums.
I have realised with the beautiful gift of hindsight that not only was I having a hissy fit in front of the great almighty creator of all things, but I was also threatening him. Not in a conscious, violent way, but I definitely found myself praying things like this; “God, I don’t know what to ask or say to you, but if you don’t do XYZ, I will just have to quit”.
Looking back, it’s amusing, but it was painful. I was genuinely upset, saddened and disappointment that God hadn’t ‘kept his end of the bargain’. It was a bigger lesson for me to learn, because I don’t have a problem finding faith for big things. I was raised in a home which was fuelled by faith and we saw miracles all the time. I am used to God providing in amazing and last minute ways. So when he didn’t, I felt insulted, that I, the person who had the faith, couldn’t even push through this thing I was tough for me.
And then one day it hit me.
God doesn’t owe me anything.
He can easily provide a thousand cattle on a thousand hills, but for some reason, right now, he’s choosing not to. I don’t know why, but as God – he is allowed to be above my understanding!
Then another thing hit me.
Maybe the whole process I’ve walked through wasn’t about the thing I have been working on (although I do think God will use it), but has actually been about me coming through a process?
I arrived at a place where I was so broken and smashed by the lack of ‘results’ I was seeing from God that I eventually collapsed in a heap and said those small words that always change everything “Ok God – just take it.”
This thing was twisting me up inside. I was drowning in a sea of tears of disappointment and couldn’t understand why God would tell me to do something, provide for most of it, and then just disappear with his wallet!
“Ok God – just take it’“ – Wow. It was like I suddenly felt the weight of what I’d been carrying as it lifted! I realised this project doesn’t actually belong to me anyway. It’s his. It was his words, his songs and if he wants people to hear and read them, then he has to breathe on it. Otherwise, I’ve done my best, I’ve written it for the glory of his name, and that is enough.
My wonderful friends and family say such beautiful things to me like “I’m sure it’ll do better than you think, you wait – it’s going to be epic…etc”. To these wonderful comments I found myself saying “nothing is guaranteed. Even in that response, there is a wrong motive.
Yes. One could say in the writing of books and the recording of music, there is a hope that it’ll be heard and read. Yes.
I’m not entitled to anything.
My job is to be an obedient servant. It is not to question, demand, expect or think I, in some way deserve something because God has a deal to keep with me. He doesn’t. He’s looking for a truly surrendered life that finds joy in knowing that they are walking in the centre of his will, even when things don’t make any sense. That is clay he can work with.
The moment I start making demands, put expectations on him, or worse yet – threaten him, I have turned my mouldable clay self, rock hard. He can’t work with that.
He will do as he pleases with the work of my hands. If it remains hidden, then so be it. He has his reasons.
Ok God – just take it.
Five words that change life.
This article originally appeared on Simcha Natan’s blog, October 7, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Simcha emigrated to Israel from the UK, with her husband and three children. Having studied theology and music and worship in London, and trained as a worship leader and song writer, she went on to teach music and be involved in worship teams in several congregations in the UK, and now in Israel as part of Sarah Liberman's team. Simcha is the author of the “Dare to Ask” project, comprising of the book 'Dare to Ask', and 3 CD's, Dreaming', 'Awakened' and 'Soar (To come) which each have a counterpart 30 day devotional study guide to accompany them. She is passionate about enabling people to engage with God in the way which they were made to, and is committed to multi sensory expressions. Simcha is also an artist, and paints her songs and messages to accompany the music and books. She is also the coordinator Ascend Carmel Programs.