Beer Sheva: Gateway to Jerusalem
“Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness, seekers of the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham you father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him.”
‘For the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her desert like Eden and her wilderness like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the sound of melody.’ (Isaiah 51:1-3)
Beer Sheva has a history of nearly 4000 years: the City of the Patriarchs of the Israeli people; the city named by Abraham, the father to the Jews, to the Christian believers, to the Arabs. Beer Sheva’s future is full of hope because she has deep roots in the past Messianic promises of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob – the God of Israel. Believers in Jesus from all nations confess their own faith in the God of Israel’s fathers, who all lived in Beer Sheva.
Both Judaism and Christianity place great spiritual significance on the binding of Isaac, when Abraham believed and obeyed God to go together with his son from Beer Sheva up to Jerusalem, and then, after such an historic and dramatic event, to return again to Beer Sheva full of living faith, thanksgiving, praise, worship, hope: the wells of salvation were opened in Beer Sheva, the city of the “Well of the Seven” (or, “Oath”). Beer Sheva offers the hope of true peace and reconciliation: it was here that Abraham made a peace covenant with the Gentile Philistine king; it was here where the one true God of Abraham and of Isaac also blessed the Egyptian Hagar, the concubine of Abraham, and their son Ishmael, considered the father of the Arab nations.
The modern city of Beer Sheva rose again back in 1900, when the Moslem Turks built the beginnings of what is today the “Old City”, the historic downtown which also has British Mandate influences, and the Jewish presence which has predominated since the 1948-49 independence of the homeland for the Jewish people. The Old City is undergoing a renewal both physically and socially, with younger people seeing its unique appeal. The great and courageous victory of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZAC) in capturing Beer Sheva from the Ottomans on October 31, 1917, during WW1 opened the gateway once again up to Jerusalem. Many Christians, together with the Jewish Zionists, believed what was written in Moses and the Prophets concerning these times in which we live, and helped open the way for thousands of Jewish people to return to the Promised Land from Dan to Beer Sheva.
Today Beer Sheva remains, as always, the Capital of the Negev, and has a population of around 200,000, and a large student population, with active building to make it Israel’s third largest city: we are Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews; Jews from the North and from the South, and from all the nations where we have been scattered. Besides our unifying language of the Hebrew Bible, we speak Russian, Spanish, Amharic, English, French, Persian, Hindi, Arabic. The vision of the Prophets of Israel was picked up by the modern nation’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, who saw the Negev as a key to Israel’s future, symbolized by the desert springing forth in streams of water and fruitful fields.
Beer Sheva and Jerusalem have been joined together forever: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, whose blessings will flow down to the waste places and out to all the world; and, when the dry places bloom and blossom as a rose, it will be as life from the dead!
Beer Sheva is home today to a major university and medical center; it is being developed as a cyber security hub; it boasts of an excellent music conservatory; major industrial engineering companies have their head offices here; the military has found the solitude of the desert a good place for its training bases; it is a regional shopping center.
Walk in the footsteps of our father Abraham; see the wells which remain, but in need of being “released”; follow Abraham, from where he dwelt in tents in his city of Beer Sheva, up to Jerusalem, the intense City of the great King! A voice is crying in the desert to prepare a way in the Holy Land. Come and see!
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, November 9, 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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God is here… Do you know it?
PARASHAT VAYEIZEI (AND HE WENT FORTH)
BERESHEET (GENESIS) 28:10–32:3
In the Book of John, we read an account that becomes much clearer once we read our weekly portion:
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Torah and also the Prophets wrote, Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Yeshua saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Yeshua answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Yeshua answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
It is interesting that Philip told Nathanael (whose name means “God gives”), “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Torah and also the Prophets wrote…” and then after Yeshua’s encounter with Nathanael, he tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This statement on its own seems outrageous! What in the world could He possibly mean by this?
The answer is found in this week’s Torah portion, where Jacob saw the angels of God descending and ascending on a ladder. In John 1:51, Yeshua was referring to Jacob’s dream, which speaks clearly about the “seed”, about the Word, and about the fact that the only way to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s take a look at that portion:
Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
God affirmed His unconditional covenant to Abraham, Isaac and now here, to Jacob. This covenant included a land, but also a promise that through their (Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob’s) seed, “…shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” This echoes the same promise found in Genesis 12:3: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) referred to this promise when he wrote: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Messiah.”
Through God’s promise to Abraham, we can clearly see how He points to Messiah Yeshua! Through His promise, we also find evidence of God’s endless love for us, in that He provided a way for us to return to Him through the Seed of blessing—Messiah Yeshua—from the very beginning of time.
It is not by mistake that right after the Lord reiterated this amazing promise to Jacob, he woke up from the dream and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Even today, a condition to “wake up” from our “spiritual sleep” is to accept the truth of the “Seed of promise”, which is our Messiah. We cannot fully experience the presence of God Almighty without Messiah, as He is our entrance to the Kingdom (John 14:6).
In closing, many years ago, I said to God, “If this is true, if Yeshua is the Promised One, I want to know it, not just based on an experience or feeling, but on true knowledge.” I want to exhort each one of you to do the same… Just like He knew where Nathanael was, so too He knows where you are and is waiting for you!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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What was the religion of Jesus?
Did Jesus ever have a Christmas tree, or go to church on Sunday? Did He ever denigrate the Law of Moses and tell people to stop keeping its precepts and commands? Did Jesus ever abolish the Ten Commandments, and change the Sabbath to Sunday? Did He ever eat pork and shellfish?
The answer is no, He did not.
Jesus- whose name was Yeshua- was a Jew. He not only was a Jew, crucified as the King of the Jews- but is a Jew, and will return as a Jew: the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. All His days he practiced Judaism, kept the seventh day Sabbath in the synagogue, and kept all of the Jewish Biblical Holy days, and even the festival of Hannuka (John 10:22). In all His teachings he never suggested creating another religion.
Most writers of the New Testament and all of the apostles of Yeshua were Jews, and did as their Rabbi did by example, practicing Judaism. Peter (Shimon), chief of the apostles, when shown a vision of unclean animals, said that no unkosher food had ever passed his lips. Then he himself interpreted the vision to have nothing to do with food, but of bringing the Gospel to the Gentles. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, kept the Torah, and even sacrificed in the temple in Jerusalem. When accused of teaching others to not keep the Law, James (Jacob) replied, “Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law”(acts 21:24), and he described himself only thus: “I am a Jew” (Acts 21:39). When in Ephesus Paul declared that he must return to Jerusalem to keep the coming Biblical festival (Acts 18:21), probably Shavuot (Pentecost). And in Rome he declared to his Jewish brethren there, “I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers.”
At the Jerusalem council, when the apostles discussed the question of whether the Gentiles who had come to the Messiah must keep the Torah, it was declared “to Paul, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the Law.” (Acts 21:20). And Paul told the Gentile Christians in Rome that they are grafted into the olive tree of Israel through the Messiah (Romans 11). At the same time it was decided that Gentiles could learn the Torah in the synagogues in their cities, though not obliged to be circumcised (Acts 15:19-21.
It was Jesus who told us, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:18-20).
Though Christianity indeed practices the rite of communion, it was instituted by the Messiah as part of the Passover meal, a central holy day of the religion of Judaism, which in fact was the religion of Jesus.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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The general atmosphere here in Israel during the Autumn “high holiday” biblical feast season is one of repentance. Many people (even atheists) ask each other for forgiveness, at least on a superficial level, leading up to the Day of Atonement.
In Matthew 18:15-22 we read Yeshua’s teaching on forgiveness. “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother…” (NKJV). This is not forgiveness between man and God but between man and man. Here the person who has been hurt must go to the one who caused the damage.
What is the damage caused through hurt and unresolved issues? Anger, bitterness, resentment, and even physical pain and sickness are a few of the results we may experience when we’ve been hurt.
What are the stages we go through from the point of being hurt to the point of having the ability to go to our brother as Yeshua teaches?
First, someone hurts us.
Then, we must recognize how we are reacting to that hurt. What are the emotions we are experiencing? What are we thinking? If we approach the offending person while in this initial state of turmoil, it will likely only cause more trouble.
Once we are aware of our own condition, we must seek help from the Lord through prayer. What is the help we need in this situation? Part of it is certainly to forgive them. However, we need to also look at our motivation. Is it coming from a place of unhealthy fear? Or, are we looking to “prove” ourselves superior to, or more spiritual than, the other person? Neither of these are good motivations and can be an indication of the condition of our own heart.
After we have gone through the above stages, then the desire to forgive the person who hurt us can come from a place of humility, as we remember that Yeshua while on the cross asked the Father, “Father forgive them…” Who were the ones whom He asked the Father to forgive? His executioners! Why did He ask the Father to forgive them? “…for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Another tool we can use in working through our hurts is putting ourselves in the other person’s place. What would I want them to do if I had hurt them? This is also a good time to consider those we have hurt and think about what we have or have not done to make amends.
Only now comes the right time in this process to go to our brother. This is not truly possible without Yeshua and the covering of His love. Our hope is that God will cover the nation of Israel and all nations, with Yeshua’s love; and that they will see Him – the one who is the atonement for our sins.
This article originally appeared in Oasis newsletter, November 2018, and reposted with permission.
Guy and his wife, Tali, founded and lead Harvest of Asher, a Messianic congregation of Jewish and Gentile believers in Akko, Israel.
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Messianic Jews are not Antisemitic!
One of the mini-controversies to erupt in the wake of the horrific Antisemitic murders in a Pittsburgh synagogue was a candidate inviting a Messianic Jewish leader to pray at a campaign event at which Vice-President Pence was present. Afterwards, both in the media and on social media, Messianic Jews were characterized as Antisemitic. Are Messianic Jews hateful of their fellow Jews?
At the outset, I don’t want to comment on the wisdom of having a Messianic Jew pray at a political campaign event or even if such an invitation should be offered or accepted. That’s not my concern. The question is, are these public characterizations of Messianic Jews as Antisemitic fair or true?
Some Gentile Christians are shocked that anyone would make an accusation of Antisemitism against Messianic Jews because Gentile Christians often don’t know or understand the history of Christian persecution of the Jewish people. That’s why Messianic Jews are vilified this way. Nevertheless, the history of the past does not make this charge true in the present. Here’s why it’s a mistake to call Jewish followers of Jesus Antisemitic.
First, Jewish people who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) do so out of conviction not convenience. In the past, some Jewish people adopted Christianity to avoid the persecution that came with being Jewish. In some cases this provided protection from Antisemitic mobs while later on it offered opportunities to advance in society without the social stigma of being Jewish. But these are not motivations for contemporary Messianic Jews. Most of us, having grown up in Jewish homes, valued our culture and heritage. And by studying the Scriptures, we have become convinced that Yeshua is the fulfillment of the messianic hope of the Hebrew Bible. Our faith is the sincere outworking of the promises God made to Israel. We are convinced that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and our faith in Him does not eliminate our identification with the Jewish people. In fact it enhances it.
Second, Jewish people who believe in Yeshua identify with the love of Yeshua not the past hate of so-called Christians. While many Christians today are unaware of this history of Christian Antisemitism, most Jewish people are equally unaware of Yeshua’s love and concern for the Jewish people. As Yeshua taught in the synagogues of Galilee, He looked at the crowds of Jewish people around Him, “and He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:35-36). In the very next chapter of Matthew, when Yeshua sent out His disciples, He instructed them to “go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6). It wasn’t only the impoverished Jewish masses that Yeshua loved. When he met an affluent leader of the Jewish people, Yeshua looked at him and “loved him” (Mark 10:21). Yeshua even loved the Jewish leadership that opposed Him. He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matt 23:37). Yeshua loves the Jewish people in a special way and so do His Jewish followers who identify with Him as their Messiah.
Third, Jewish people who believe in Yeshua stand in solidarity with the Jewish community not with the vile haters of the Jewish people. Messianic Jews have always been subject to Antisemitism not proponents of it. When the Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jewish people of Rome, Jewish followers of Yeshua, like Priscilla and Aquila, were expelled with the rest of the Jewish community (Acts 18:1-2). In the modern era, Jewish followers of Yeshua in Germany and Eastern Europe went to Hitler’s ghettos, concentration camps, and gas chambers as did the rest of the Jewish people there. Messianic Jews not only suffer with the Jewish community but they also boldly oppose Antisemitism. Jewish followers of Yeshua are some of the most outspoken supporters of the state of Israel, defending it against the legion of haters that attack it. And when there is a terrorist attack there or one in a Pittsburgh synagogue, Messianic Jews weep and are just as brokenhearted as the rest of the Jewish community.
It is mistaken and false to label Messianic Jews as Antisemitic. In their desire to be sensitive, Gentile Christians should not be taken in by these charges. C.S. Lewis had a special insight into what it meant for a Jew to believe in Yeshua because he married such a Jew, Joy Davidman Gresham. Lewis said the Jewish follower of Yeshua “is the only normal human being in the world. To him, in the first instance, the promises were made, and he has availed himself of them. He calls Abraham his father by hereditary right as well as by divine courtesy. He has taken the whole syllabus in order, as it was set; eaten the dinner according to the menu. Everyone else is, from one point of view, a special case, dealt with under emergency regulations … we christened gentiles, are after all the graft, the wild vine, possessing ‘joys not promised to our birth’; though perhaps we do not think of this so often as we might.” It would be a good idea for traditional Jews and Christians to adopt this perspective.
This article originally appeared on Dr. Michael Rydelnik’s blog, November 10, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Michael Rydelnik is Professor of Jewish Studies and Bible at Moody Bible Institute. He is the Host/Bible teacher on Open Line with Dr. Michael Rydelnik, answering listener Bible questions every Saturday morning for more than 200 stations across America. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in an observant Jewish home in Brooklyn, New York. Michael trusted in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah in high school and began teaching the Bible almost immediately. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute, Azusa Pacific University, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where his doctoral research focused on the messianic hope of the Hebrew Bible.