[Israel Politics 101] Who is Benny Gantz and his new Israel Resilience Party
Dubbed as “an officer and a gentleman,” (JPost, 2/1/19) former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has given centrist favorite Yair Lapid a run for his money. The tall, imposing figure who commanded the Israel Defense Forces from 2011 to 2015 is, to many, a symbol of patriotic duty, unwavering authority and moral integrity. He is a trusted brand who engenders safety and assurance, perhaps the most needed commodities for Israeli citizens who constantly face the threat of annihilation by neighboring Arab countries.
In fact, it was Prime Minister Netanyahu who, in Gantz’s February 14, 2011, swearing in ceremony as new IDF chief of staff said to the general, “Benny, today you are taking on the command of the IDF. You have all the qualities to succeed in this important mission – a combination of quiet determination, calm and pleasant ways that will ensure continuity and stability.” (Ibid)
Those words still describe how many Israelis view Benny Gantz, post-military, as he now redefines himself as aspiring political leader and future prime minister. With a fervent love for his country, Gantz’s humble beginnings serve to reflect that trust placed upon him by Israel’s citizens. Born in an immigrant collective agricultural community (moshav), to holocaust survivor parents who were among the moshav’s founders, he grew up like many other children who worked the fields while also dedicating time to faith and public service. Today, he is married and the father of four.
In December 2018, he established a new political party named “Hosen L’Yisrael” (Israel Resilience Party) and announced his desire to be Israel’s next prime minister.
Since that time, Gantz has deliberately and, perhaps, wisely been silent concerning his personal political positions so as not to define himself in ways which would ultimately squeeze him into a box and, thereby, limit his popularity. Consequently Israeli audiences could see him through the lens of his many prior accomplishments and judge him according to the values which he has held and lived up to.
This, too, seems to be a winning strategy for the general who is being viewed as a refreshing departure from the usual nasty, mud-slinging politicians who do their utmost to bloody their rivals with defaming character assassinations. So his personal promise not to attack anyone is working. To him, the harm which would come to Israeli society would not be worth the price of being divisive.
This attractive portrait of Gantz has helped him move up in the polls with a projected 15 – 24 knesset seats being won. Yet, those numbers are not enough to unseat Netanyahu and another Likud coalition.
But for now, very little is known about the man’s platform other than his shared desire for lasting peace, his hope to carve out an agreement with Palestinians that would have Israel retain major settlement blocks and give full security control to sites such as the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.
He has also stated his desire to improve healthcare, bring in a lower cost of living and put an end to corruption in government. While these are the usual in political fare, Israelis seem to gravitate to the more trusted personality who seeks to deliver such promises, and, in that regard, Benny Gantz may definitely have the edge since so many Israeli parents have, for years, believed he could be entrusted with their most precious possessions – their sons and daughters who served under his command.
Yet, at some point, Gantz may have no choice but to expand upon his political views, causing him to be more closely scrutinized and critiqued, but if he manages to squeak through with minimal controversy, shrouded in the mystique which has, up until now, protected him, no one should sell him short, because this dark horse just might pull off an upset which would startle everyone – especially those who insist that there is no viable alternative to Bibi Netanyahu.
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.
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Blood of the covenant and spiritual warfare (Part 1)
There are over 400 references to blood in the Scriptures. There is a spiritual meaning to the “blood” in addition to being the red fluid that flows through our bodies. The blood is said to carry the “soul” of the human being.
The soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to atone for your souls, for the blood by the soul will atone. Leviticus 17:11
The rule is: soul in place of soul. When a human being sins, his soul becomes unclean. The soul (represented by the blood) is then given to make atonement for the sinning soul: to purify the soul, and to pay the punishment. The unclean soul under the death penalty is redeemed, “bought back” by the death of the innocent soul.
Ultimately, the soul of a righteous human being is demanded to compensate for the soul of the sinful human being. The animal sacrifices of the Torah are only symbolic, pointing to the blood of Yeshua. The soul of an animal cannot make atonement for the soul of a human. The animal’s blood points to the blood of the righteous Messiah, who indeed makes atonement for us: soul for soul.
This exchange is offered free of charge to everyone by grace, receiving the price paid for his or her own soul. In this way a soul is “saved” by the sacrifice of the blood. The blood is not only the sacrifice that allows a soul to enter into covenant with God, it is the seal that keeps and protects that covenant.
Blood means that a person’s life has been shed. A blood covenant is the strongest kind of covenant, because it involves a price of life and death, a total commitment. The blood allows the covenant to take place; and blood is demanded if the covenant is broken.
Many types of witchcraft involve a blood covenant to control the souls of the people involved, who then become victims of total manipulation and destruction.
In the case of our new covenant with Yeshua, the power of the blood is for good, not evil. We enter into a covenant of holiness, life, healing, joy and peace. The New Covenant also involves a total life-and-death commitment.
The children of Israel put blood on the doorposts and lintel (Exodus 12:7) to show that they had chosen to be part of the covenant. The blood was the sign that they had received the covenant (Exodus 12:13). The covenant then protected them from death and destruction. The sign of the blood faces upward for salvation, and sideways for protection—an amazing foreshadow of the cross of Yeshua.
And YHVH will pass to strike Egypt, and He will see the blood on the lintel and the two side-posts; and YHVH will pass over the door, and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike. Exodus 12:23
Advantages of the Blood
Here is the first advantage of the blood. It marks the territory. It shows ownership. It is like a street sign, a name tag, a brand label, or even like an animal that marks its territory by shedding drops of urine along the border.
The blood allows God to say, “This person and his family and his property belong to Me. Destroyer, you are not allowed to cross the line into their area.”
Think how powerful that is in spiritual warfare. We declare that we and everything connected to us belongs to God through the blood of Yeshua. God says to all demons that they cannot come into our territory to harm us. If we believe in the power of the blood covenant, no demonic force can cross the border into our territory.
In part 2 I will share with you two more advantages we have through Yeshua’s blood.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, January 30, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Asher Intrater is the founder and apostolic leader of Revive Israel Ministries, and oversees Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem, and Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv. Asher was one of the founders of Tikkun International with Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff, and serves on the board of the Messianic Alliance of Israel and Aglow International.
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Protecting the “old”
PARASHAT MISHPATIM (JUDGEMENTS)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 21:1–24:18
I’ve really wrestled with this week’s Scripture portion (parasha). I spent a lot of time in prayer and seeking the Lord’s wisdom before writing this commentary. My goal in writing this blog is to offer some thoughts to encourage us to think before we rush to make statements and take stances on issues that, at times, contradict what we believe.
I’d like to share some of what I wrote on this parasha two years ago:
Our weekly Scripture portion opens with a very interesting verse, Exodus 21:1, which is usually interpreted in a negative way, because I believe we misunderstand the essence of what the LORD is saying to us in it:
And these are the ordinances (statutes) [המשפטים] that you shall set before them.
(*All quoted scripture is my translation directly from the Hebrew.)
God tells Moses that He is about to give statutes (המשפטים) to the Children of Israel. I chose to translate the Hebrew word, “המשפטים” (mishpatim) as “ordinances/statutes” and not “judgments” since they are far more than just a set of laws. And we know that the LORD never uses a word without a specific purpose!
I’ll be honest, this topic is very sensitive for me since I grew up very secular, not even believing that God existed. I hated religion and the hypocrisy I saw in so many areas of religious life. After I accepted the atonement found in Messiah Yeshua, and put my trust in Him, an amazing journey began in my life, full of new discoveries, revelation, full of life and excitement. But it also came with a price of persecution from my own family, friends, and my people (Israel), many of whom believe I betrayed them as well as our Jewish identity. I also experienced persecution from many in the Body of Messiah who often accused me of being a “Judaizer” because I refused to let go of my Jewish identity, and insisted on worshipping God in a Jewish way, as a Jew.
In truth, since I became a Jewish disciple of Yeshua, the Promised Messiah, the LORDremoved the blindness from my eyes, allowing me to see not only the truth about who He is, but also the amazing truth of His Word! In my struggle with rejection, I’ve understood two of the biggest reasons that my people refuse to believe in Yeshua (from a practical point of view — not a spiritual one):
- The fear that this could actually be the truth, and…
- The historical fact that gentile disciples started a new religion that stripped Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, of His Jewishness.
Speaking to this point, I just read an article (whose author I will keep anonymous) in which the author writes, “Wherever and whenever the old was blended with the new, unchristian behavior and attitudes ensued.” These kinds of statements are not a new idea and come from people who believe that the “old” testament is something bad, something that is no longer relevant, and therefore something we should ignore. But they are dangerous attitudes because they draw us far from Him and His principles. May I suggest that ignoring the foundational principles of God will only lead to heartache and sin! And where do we find these foundational principles? In the “old” Hebrew Scriptures!
As I was reading this week’s portion, I found an amazing list of moral and godly statutes that I believe if everyone in the world would live by, the world would be a much better place! While some may consider these statutes to be legalistic or “mean”, the reality is that if everyone followed them, we would have a world without the evils of slavery, murder, stealing, cursing, dishonoring and mistreating of foreigners, and the list goes on…
The past three years, I have devoted much of my time to studying the first five books of the Bible, what we call in Hebrew the “Torah”. My eyes were opened to an amazing world where I discovered not only God’s amazing plan of salvation (so many of the Hebrew Scriptures point to Yeshua as the Messiah), but also who God is and His desire for our lives. I am exhorting you to look at God’s Word with a clear and pure heart, to put aside your pride, and to open yourself to an incredible world with an incredible God, who was, and is and will always be!
I would like to close with the same words that I closed my blog entry two years ago: …
The LORD’s statutes are a blessing, not a curse. He gave them to Israel — and in turn to all who would be grafted in to the Tree of Israel — in order to help us to choose life. They are not a heavy burden, but are instead boundaries, which in turn, bring us freedom in Him.
Freedom in Yeshua is not lawlessness! If we love Him, we will obey Him and His statutes. And we will know true freedom.
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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Yeshua raised the bar
The Law of Moses allowed divorce, which Yeshua told us was because of the hardness of men’s hearts. Differing opinions within Judaism allowed husbands to divorce their wives for almost any reason. Yeshua allowed divorce for one reason only – sexual unfaithfulness.
The Law of Moses commanded Israelis to love their neighbors as themselves. Other religious codes do the same, such as Islam; however Islam’s meaning of that is much different than the Law that YHVH gave to Israel. Yeshua commands us not only to love our fellowman as ourselves, but also our enemies. And above all that, He gives His disciples a new commandment, that we are to love one another as He has loved us. The royal law to love one another as we love ourselves is already a high bar for most human beings; the new commandment raises this standard to the level of God’s love. The Father has redeemed us to become conformed to the image of His beloved Son, who is the express image of the invisible God. What love He has bestowed upon us to call us the children of God!
The Law of Moses teaches us that God forgives sins, and provides a substitutionary sacrifice for us to receive His forgiveness. The Law of Messiah teaches and commands us to also forgive sins. When Yeshua forgave the paralyzed man, the religious berated Him, since only God can forgive sins. But the Lord said that the Son of Man also has authority to forgive people their sins. Jesus tells us that if we do not forgive sins of others against us, then neither will our heavenly Father forgive us. If we, who have been forgiven so much by God through the sacrifice of His Son, do not forgive our fellows for the far less debt they may owe us, then the Lord will take back His mercy shown us and require us to pay back the full amount! (Mt 6:14-15; 18:21-35)
Joseph is the best example we have from the Tanach of someone who forgave grievous sins and betrayal. He lived before the giving of the Law of Moses, but, by Joseph’s fear of the LORD and his faith, the Holy Spirit and grace of God enabled Joseph to overcome those very difficult circumstances that he suffered; and he also saw how God worked all things to together for good for him, who loved the LORD and was called according to His purpose.
As believers and disciples of Yeshua, we do not want to return to the lower standard of the former covenant – a standard which the Apostle Peter said was a yoke that they nor our fathers could bear — but to go on to full maturity in the liberty and exceeding glory of the blood of the New Covenant of the Lord and Messiah. (Acts 15:9-11)
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Messiah Yeshua has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phlp 3:12-14)
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, January 26, 2019, 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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Do Jewish people need Jesus?
The question has challenged both the Jewish and the Christian communities since the first century. Our answer determines much in the way we approach relationships and priorities. The fact that we ask this question, means that there are some who may answer this question with a ‘no’, or at least a partial ‘no’. Since our lives are passionately invested in the primary question of the Jewish need for Yeshua, it is important to answer it clearly and biblically.
The view that Jews do not need Yeshua, or at least not so much, can be described in three categories:
The Idea that Jesus is not for Jewish People
Some teaching says that the covenant made by Yeshua is for the Gentiles and not intended for the Jewish people. This view holds that God has two covenants – one for Jews through Abraham and Moses and one for Gentiles though Jesus – and that it is not God’s intention for Jews to believe in Yeshua. This view was put forth by the Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenweig in The Star of Redemption. It is today held by some denominational liberal Christians. Jewish people are to find their salvation though Judaism, not Jesus. Very few Christian Zionists and no Messianic Jews to my knowledge hold to this position because they value the authority of Scripture. The witness of the New Testament is overwhelmingly against this view. Paul writes that the Gospel is “To the Jew first.” The original disciples were Jewish. All sought to convince as many Jews as possible to believe in Yeshua. So there must by this evidence be at least some need for Jews to believe in Yeshua.
The Idea that Jews Need to Eventually Believe in Jesus but Not Now
Secondly are those who believe that Jews need to eventually believe in Jesus, but this eventuality is after his return. Until then, the one New Covenant that all will embrace, is primarily being offered to Gentiles. In this Age, Judaism is an adequate religion and way of salvation for the Jewish people. When Romans says, “God has blinded their minds,” it means that it is not their fault that they do not yet believe in Yeshua, but is rather the will of God. Ultimately all the saved will acknowledge that the atonement of Yeshua was the means of their salvation. Again, this position is belied by the example of Paul and the other apostles who were zealous to bring Jewish people to the knowledge of God. While a significant number of Christian Zionists have adopted this position, I know of no Messianic Jews who believe this, for it would contradict their own identity.
The Idea that Believing in Jesus is not Needed Now for Personal Salvation, but is Important for a Minority of Jews for God’s Last Days Purposes.
Thirdly are those who believe that it is important for a minority of Jews to believe in Yeshua as part of God’s end time plan, but not for personal salvation. While Jews may find an adequate means of salvation through Judaism, it is nevertheless true that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and the Savior for all. To believe in Yeshua offers a fuller and richer faith. Beyond this, the Bible predicts that a large remnant will believe before Yeshua comes and will play a great role in the ultimate conversion of the nation to faith in Yeshua. However, Judaism without Yeshua is a very good faith and Jewish people may find personal salvation through it. This view is held by a significant minority of Christian Zionists and a small but significant minority of Messianic Jews. This is a far better view than the first two. It recognizes that the New Covenant in Yeshua is made with the house of Israel and Judah and is indeed offered for both Jew and Gentile. It is also true that the end time remnant of Jewish believers has a crucial role before the return of Yeshua in witness to Israel and to the nations of the world. Revelation chapter 7 makes this very clear, for we read of the 144,000 sealed from all the tribes of Israel who play a great world role. They are distinguished from the rest of the Church because the latter are described as those from all nations, peoples and tongues. In the ultimate fulfillment of His return, all will understand that His blood purchased our redemption.
The Conviction that Jewish People Desperately Need Yeshua
This is the position of the vast majority of Messianic Jews, and many Christian Zionists. They believe that Jews need Yeshua desperately, and for several reasons. I count myself in this number. We agree with the third view that our destiny is tied to a large minority of Jews believing before the return of Yeshua. A significant minority of Jews need to believe in Yeshua for Israel to fulfill its last days’ destiny. This is a strong motivation. Yet there is more. How do most Messianic Jews deal with the assumption that normative Judaism is the sole faith of the Jewish people? To Judaism we say both yes and no.
Rabbinic Judaism is a faith with roots in the Bible and a heritage that preserves much which is good and beautiful. However, there are some aspects of Rabbinic Judaism which appeal to intellectual pride and can elevate religious culture above the need for God-initiated salvation. These pitfalls exist in any religion. Yet we can become enamoured of a Yeshua-less Judaism in a way that weakens the conviction that Jewish people need the Messiah. The conclusion of the great apostle Paul with regard to first century Judaism and the condition of the Jewish people fits orthodox Jews today. It is that most have not come to understand the way of salvation by grace. While we must not presume to judge the destiny of any individual, the general conclusion of Romans is clear. Many practicing Jews have sought to establish their own self-righteousness and have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1 ff.) Romans 3 includes Jewish people within the category of people who are in need of faith in Yeshua for personal salvation. Peter’s preaching in Acts, where thousands embraced Yeshua, shows the same urgency. While there is an element of grace to be found in Judaism, without a blood sacrifice for his sins, the Orthodox Jew becomes focused on his own actions instead of the divinely – granted atonement first presented in Torah. This “way back to God” was never cancelled or superceded and was ultimately fulfilled by Yeshua’s sacrifice on a Roman cross (Hebrews 9:11-15).
Furthermore, the condition of the Jewish people today is much worse than in the first century. This includes both those in Israel and the Diaspora. Most Jewish people do not believe in the divine authority of the Hebrew Scriptures. Many question whether or not God exists. A majority of the nation which gave the world the Torah, do not really believe in the Torah. Many Jewish people have associated Judaism with liberalism. Therefore many support socialism, homosexual rights, sexual license (rampant in Israel), New Age Religion and much more. Indeed, Jewish morality among the majority today is not very different than liberal secular morality. Sin is not recognized as a significant problem.
In this vacuum of unbelief, the Messianic Jew and his Christian friend have a great opportunity. The Gospel itself is God’s clear and powerful instrument in offering the grace of God for salvation. It dispels the fog and presents our people with a resurrected Messiah and Savior. It breaks the bondage of secular liberalism and orthodox legalism. Indeed, without the Gospel, the general conclusion, rightly drawn, is that the Jewish people are lost. Yes, we are preserved as a chosen nation for God’s purposes, but individually and communally we need Yeshua. Most Jewish people have no sense of real fellowship with their Creator, the One who called them His inheritance. So the eternal destiny of the nation and the Jewish individual makes it a necessity for us to proclaim the Good News. Indeed, it is “the power of God unto salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Of course salvation is much more than personal eternal life. It is the wholeness of our lives now, including joyful and redemptive participation in community. This is why the first priority of Tikkun is seeing Jewish people come to faith in Yeshua, and as part of this to be discipled to walk in His ways. To be involved in this historic awakening is the privilege of a lifetime.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, January 27, 2019, 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.