“As birds flying…”
Standing back to get a bird’s eye view of history through the lens of bible believers, we find many important landmarks in the calendar year of 2017. These notable points in history, spanning four hundred years from 1517 to 1917, involve both Christians and Jews, and all point to the centrality of Israel in God’s plan of redemption. The Lord’s incredible faithfulness to his covenant promises can clearly be seen in the restoration of the land of Israel to the Jewish people, who have been returning in increasing measure during the past hundred years. Some of these have also made the ‘ultimate return’, that of turning to Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah.
In order to bring his people back from exile, God has been meticulously executing his master plan for generations. One of his instruments was Martin Luther, who challenged the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and initiated the Protestant Reformation five hundred years ago by nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church on October 31, 1517. Consequently, the bible was made available to all believers, who could then read for themselves about God’s promised restoration of the Jewish people to their land and to their Messiah – and pray for this to happen. In Britain, the movement was led by the Puritans and from the 1790s, by the Evangelicals.
Among the Evangelical Christians was a British foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, who was convinced that modern Israel would be a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. He was the key person in the British Government’s decision of October 31, 1917 to reestablish a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, as it was called then. The decision, later known as the Balfour Declaration, would have been meaningless without the capture of Beersheba on the very same day, October 31, 1917. This victory opened the door to the conquest of the whole of Palestine, and to the subsequent rebirth of Israel as a nation, thirty years later.
The Ottoman Turks had controlled Jerusalem since 1517. The British sought to regain control of the holy city after the Balfour Declaration was signed. British General Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem on December 9, 1917, the eve of Hanukkah. Allenby, a devout Christian, felt that no violence should be used in taking Jerusalem, and he prayed to God for advice. The instruction he received was from Isaiah 31:5 “As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.” Allenby understood the prophecy as a reference to aircraft, not yet common at the time, and ordered his men to fly a number of sorties over Jerusalem at a low altitude.
The effect utterly demoralized the Turks, who fled the City without awaiting orders. As a result, Jerusalem was taken without a single shot. This Hanukkah, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the deliverance of Old Jerusalem, the mother of all cities – interestingly, also celebrating the 50th anniversary of her reunification. “The restoration of all things” is happening in front of our very eyes (Acts 3:21). The Way has been prepared for his people to walk in. Many more will yet see that “It is the Lord” (John 21:7), the Redeemer and Deliverer of Jews and non-Jews alike.
This article originally appeared on Caspari Center, January 7, 2018, and reposted with permission.
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President Trump and the view of Israelis
For the most part Israelis are glad for the election of President Trump. Many are pleased that he has recognized Jerusalem as the capital and is relocating the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Generally, they were relieved to see the end of the Obama administration and the beginning of this new one. They understand that President Trump is bombastic, but they are primarily concerned about his policies.
Israel is first and foremost interested in how American policy relates to it as a nation. They believe the Obama administration treated them unfairly. Israel was regularly blamed for the lack of progress in the peace process, yet the great majority of Israelis believe that the real holdup is the Palestinians’ refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state. While the Obama administration declared Jewish housing east of the 1948 armistice line to be the primary impediment to peace, most Jewish Israelis see the main issue as the intransigence and insincerity of a Palestinian leadership that does not really want peace. Twice in the past two decades Israeli governments have offered nearly all of the “West Bank” to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. Yet Arafat and Abbas walked away. This has convinced Israelis that there is no real partner for peace on the other side. Therefore, they elected a more conservative government under Benjamin Netanyahu.
In addition, since Gaza is ruled by Hamas (considered by Israel and the United States to be a terrorist organization), and since Abbas is no longer the elected leader of the Palestinians, there is no party that represents the Palestinians as a whole. We can talk to President Abbas, but he doesn’t have the authority to implement a peace agreement. Were he to run in an election, it is very possible he would lose and that Hamas would be elected in his place.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration is inconsistent. Israelis are aware of this as well. The ambassador from the United States, David Friedman, says that settlements are not the problem. On the other hand, the U.S. State Department in general, has a long-standing record of negativity towards Israel. Israelis think and hope that Trump’s own sentiments are more in line with those of Ambassador Friedman. In any case, even though President Trump allows the inconsistency, at least he is more even handed than Obama. Israel also appreciates that the Trump administration is much more adamant in its opposition to Iran’s nuclear program.
Israelis also admire Nikki Haley. Her strong defense of Israel at the United Nations is greatly appreciated. This is another great change, especially since the Obama administration allowed a condemnation of Israel to pass in the Security Council in regard to Israel.
There are other reasons why Israelis are happy with Donald Trump. Israel as a whole has moved away from its socialistic origins toward a more conservative direction. So Israelis are correspondingly comfortable with a more conservative government in the United States. This is reflected in other democratic nations as well. Conservative governments tend to be supportive of Israel, liberal governments less. We can compare Harper in Canada with Trudeau today. Governments in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand show that this is true in general.
Israelis might also be concerned that Donald Trump’s tendency to shoot from the lip (my phrase) could undercut the progress and that he could lose his political influence in America. They worry about Trump’s character issues. There are liberals in Israel who despise Netanyahu, who want to give in to the Palestinians and who think Israel is the problem. They miss Barack Obama. But they are by far the minority.
This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration newsletter, January 2018, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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How much do you really know about Israel?
I’ve been in Israel for almost 16 years now and I always ended up, one way or the other, working with or around Christian pilgrims, supporters, tourists and local congregations. This varied but consistent ecosystem allowed me to see the phenomenon of Christian Zionism from many different angles and I have a few thoughts on the subject to share with whoever might be interested.
To start off, I hope it doesn’t shock or scandalize anyone too much for me to say this, but it’s my honest opinion that Christian support for Israel is a mile wide and an inch deep. That is to say, most Christians who would say they support Israel are no doubt sincere, but the fact is, they really don’t actually know much about this country. The “Israel” they support is, with all due respect, very likely to be a figment of their imagination which has very little connection to flesh and blood reality.
It is an oft-repeated phrase that you hear from Christians who visit Israel that “the Bible has become much more real to me now that I’ve seen the places it was written.”
That’s fantastic, and I absolutely believe that this is a very legitimate and important reason for Christians to visit Israel. But it’s not enough. Israel is “the Land of the Bible” but it’s not a museum. There’s a lot of things going on here in 2018 that aren’t directly connected to the Bible but if you’re not aware of them, you’re missing a big part of the picture and frankly, you’re missing a big part of the Heart of God for these people and this country.
But it is, sadly, easy for me to understand why and how this happens.
On a typical Holy Land pilgrimage tour, Christian groups land at Ben Gurion airport, get on buses and go straight to their hotel in Jerusalem where they stay for a week and go on day trips to explore the sites of interest to Christians in and around the city. Then they go to a hotel in Tiberius where they stay for another three to five days and go on day trips to visit Nazareth, Capernaum, etc. On the last morning of their visit they check out of their hotel, load up the bus and go on their final trip back to the airport so they can get on their plane and go home.
That’s what the overwhelming majority of Christians mean when they say they’ve “visited Israel” and it’s not incorrect to say that, but is it VERY incomplete.
Brothers and Sisters, please hear me.
Tel Aviv isn’t mentioned in the Bible while Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are the “biblical heartland” and it is absolutely appropriate to visit those Biblical sites when you come here. But again, this country isn’t a museum.
The overwhelming majority of the living, dying, working, breathing, PEOPLE who call themselves Israelis live in Tel Aviv and the Coastal Plain, and if you never visit them and get to know them, you’re not getting the full picture.
If the Bible is the only book you’ve ever read about Israel, than there’s loads of highly relevant information that you need to know about this country in order to pray for and otherwise support her effectively that you won’t have. You should also read books about the history of the modern State, including the memoirs of people like David ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres and Chaim Weitzman, as well as more recent books written by the current generation of leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
Beyond that, take advantage of the many Israeli books that are published in English every year covering a wide variety of topics related to culture, political and military affairs, religion, etc. as well as works of fiction which you should read in order to get a feel for the cultural landscape here. Explore the websites of Israeli universities, think tanks, cultural institutions and, of course, Messianic congregations and ministries.
I’ll say it one more time, Israel is not a museum. If you’ve visited this country but you never got any closer to Tel Aviv then when you flew over it on your way in and out of Ben Gurion airport, come again and this time go check it out. That’s where most Israelis live, and they need a lot of love, support and prayer.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
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Hated by everyone
Rabbi Yeshua warned His disciples that a time of strife would come during which family members might betray them. He said, “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name” (Luke 21:16-17). When will these things happen?
On the one hand, the Master spoke prophetically about the coming times of persecution His followers would face. The first-century Jewish believers sometimes suffered acute persecution from the religious establishment. Paul of Tarsus pursued, persecuted, arrested, and prosecuted them. Occasionally, believers suffered martyrdom by order of the Sanhedrin or the government of Herod Agrippa. In the decades after the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin at Yavneh declared the believers heretical and forced them from the synagogue. Meanwhile, the Roman government began to arrest believers and, in many cases, execute them if they refused to renounce the name of Yeshua. Nero sent the believers of Rome into the arena, and the Romans declared Yeshua-faith to an illegal superstition, punishable by death. Just as Yeshua had predicted, His disciples found themselves hated by everyone for the sake of His name.
On the other hand, the Master spoke prophetically about the end of days—the last generation before the Messianic Era. Jewish tradition refers to the tribulations of those troubled days before the coming of Messiah as “the birth pains of Messiah.” The sages called the last generation before the coming of the Messiah “the footsteps of Messiah” or “the heels of Messiah.” In those days, lawlessness will increase:
And in this generation children will reproach their parents and their elders … Some of these will strive with others, the young against the old and the old against the young, the poor against the rich and the rich against the poor, the lowly against the great and the great against the lowly, and the beggar against the judge. They will strive concerning the Torah and the covenant because they have forgotten the commandments and covenant and festivals and months and Sabbaths … (Jubilees 23:16-19)
Those who weather through the persecution for the sake of Messiah, however, will find salvation. “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved,” Yeshua said (Mark 13:13).
Jewish believers today understand what it means to be hated by everyone for the sake of the Master’s name. The Jewish disciple who confesses Yeshua and remains faithful to Torah may find himself or herself ejected by the Jewish community but also unwelcome in a Christian community so long as the new disciple continues to practice Judaism. It’s still possible to be hated by everyone for the sake of the Master.
This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, and is reposted with permission.
First Fruits of Zion specializes in the study and teaching of Scripture from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. Using the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature, we present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity. We do this by publishing books, ebooks, magazines, journals, study programs, audio and audio-visual resources, and presenting new material through seminars, conferences, and guided Israel tours.
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G-d’s goodness overcomes all
Throughout the Bible there are many places where, as believers, we read the text and immediately grieve in our hearts. One of the saddest dialogs is found in the book of Exodus, yet this same dialog takes place today and, unfortunately, too often we respond in exactly the same way without realizing what we are saying and doing.
In Exodus chapter 6:6-9, we find one of the most powerful promises Scripture contains.
Therefore say to Bnei-Yisrael: I am Adonai, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Adonai your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. So I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and give it to you as an inheritance. I am Adonai.” Moses spoke this way to Bnei-Yisrael, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and cruel bondage.
According to verse 9, when Moses spoke these words to the Children of Israel, they did not listen to him because of their spiritual and physical condition. They looked at themselves and their circumstance and then judged G-D’s ability to fulfill His promises based upon their situation. Here, we see the Creator of the Universe reminding His people that He still loved them and remembered them and was going to redeem them and fulfill His promises. Yet, because the Children of Israel based G-D’s power and sovereignty on their current state of affairs, knowing how bad their spiritual and physical conditions were, they could not believe that G-D’s good could overcome their bad.
Reading these verses today, I know that some of you are in difficult circumstances right now. You know the promises G-D made and the redemption that was brought to you in Messiah Yeshua. You know who G-D is and can quote John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and Romans 9:9, as well as many other verses filled with promises from G-D by memory. Yet, you are looking at your situation in the same way that the Children of Israel viewed theirs. You may not be proclaiming your response vocally as the Children of Israel did to Moses, but your response is heard by G-D just as loudly. You are allowing your heart to believe that your problems, your Egypt, is more powerful than G-D’s promises.
So, let me remind you today that when G-D said these words to Moses to speak to the Children of Israel, they were at the lowest point in their lives physically and spiritually. Yet, none of their predicaments kept G-D from promising them that He would deliver them, He would restore their relationship with Him, and that He would bring them to the land of prosperity.
With this in mind, please remember this absolute truth: Your bad, no matter how large it appears to your heart and mind, will never, ever become larger or more powerful than G-D’s good.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.