Reporting from the Land of Oz
Here in the land of the free and home of the brave we are hearing thunder and the blessings of abundant rainfall along with the rumbling and rattling of sabers all around about- north, south and east, predominantly. Muscles and missiles are flexing on our border with Lebanon and that of Syria and Gaza, not to forget Persia promising to erase us from the map in a mere three days. Of course our immediate neighbors the Palestinians have already done that on their maps of Palestine with no hint of the State of Israel existing on them. But never mind, with odds against us of more than a million to one, why worry?
It’s part of a long and arduous story, a process of history for millennia where we have somehow thus far outlived the great empires who have regularly tried to destroy us. But now, besides owning a remarkably armed and highly motivated military on land, air, sea, and under the sea, we’ve got our Secret Weapon (don’t ask).
That Secret has brought us abundant rains this year to refresh our aquifers, and has now opened the treasures of the deep with a massive offshore discovery of natural gas about to render us energy independent. And that odd Jewish mind, which has long been the receiver of mysteries from that Secret, has been harnessed here to develop wonders of technology to, among other things, turn salty sea water into fresh, becoming a large percentage of our potable water to drink and to irrigate our land for abundant crops to feed our folks with every culinary delight, including pineapples and trout.
And by some other specie of miracle, fear is virtually non-existent among Israelis, who are too busy building, surfing, biking, and also skiing on the snows of Mt. Hermon and, in one form or another, continue happily celebrating all the ancient festivals of YHVH, undeterred. As our first prime minister, the secular Ben-Gurion noted, “Whoever lives in Israel and does not believe in miracles is not a realist.” And so realists we are.
*Oz in Hebrew: ‘strength’
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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Resting from the daily grind
PARASHAT VAYAKHEL (AND HE ASSEMBLED)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 35:1–38:20
I marvel at God’s Word and the amazing wisdom and insight that it contains! In it, we find instructions that are relevant until today, and that enrich our lives when applied. Before I continue sharing a couple of thoughts from this week’s Scripture portion, it is important for me to emphasize that I am sharing my own personal convictions from God’s Word, and am in no way passing judgment on anyone who disagrees with me.
In this week’s Scripture portion, the command to keep the Sabbath is found right in the first verse. This is actually a repetition of the same command found four chapters earlier in Chapter 31, verses 12–17. When God repeats something more than once, it’s a pretty clear indicator that it’s important:
Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
In Exodus 31, the command to observe the Sabbath comes in the middle of God giving Moses instructions for how the children of Israel are to prepare His dwelling place, the Tabernacle. The entire Tabernacle was centered around God, His precise instructions, and His holiness. But the building of God’s dwelling place on earth also contained a provision for God to commune with the children of Israel! In the midst of all the instructions, we find that God instructed Israel to stop all of their work on the seventh day — the Sabbath — and to make the Sabbath day a holy day, a day that was set apart from the other days of the week.
What does this have to do with God communing with His people? Well, the Sabbath day was also a sign of a special relationship between God and the people of Israel (Exodus 31:13). I believe that the Sabbath is itself evidence that God created us for relationship. God stopped and rested from creating after He created man so that He could spend time with him! Therefore, the Sabbath is a sign that Israel belongs to one living God, who created human beings for the purpose of relationship. The Sabbath is also a sign of trust that God is our provider and that He will provide everything we need!
I am reminded of a challenge that I received many years ago before I entered fulltime ministry. In that period of my life, I was working about 80 hours a week, 7 days a week. I was sharing with a friend about how much I was working and he asked me a very important question that I’ll never forget. He asked, “Moran, do you think that in six days, God can accomplish what you can do in your own strength in seven days?” I was so convicted by my lack of trust in God’s supernatural provision for my life, and I started to take a Sabbath one day a week to rest and to be with Him.
In essence, God shows us that part of doing His “work” — building His Kingdom — includes time to spend with Him and to trust in His provision for us and our families. Even when we are doing God’s work, we need to stop, seek Him, follow His instructions, and apply His wisdom to our lives.
I would like to encourage you to take a break from the daily grind, and simply spend some time with your Creator.
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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My spiritual bucket list
There are some events in the Bible that if I had a spiritual bucket list these events would be on it. One of them would be the parting of a body of water so I could walk through it on dry ground. It would not have to be the Reed Sea or the Jordan. I would be happy for it to be a river near my home in Florida. Another would be for food to miraculously appear where I am. It would not have to be manna or quail, I would be happy for something like a bagel and lox to just appear from nowhere. I would also love to go fishing and find my tax bill to be in the mouth of the fish so I could say “I caught a tax check…this big…” But the event that I would put highest on my spiritual bucket list is the event that takes place in Exodus 40:34-35:
34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Adonai filled the Tabernacle. 35 Moses was unable to enter into the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud resided there and the glory of Adonai filled the Tabernacle.
I can just imagine how one would feel seeing the cloud descend upon the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in such a powerful way. Not only seeing the presence, but feeling it so powerfully that you could not physically enter the tent because His Glory had filled it. Over my years as a believer, I have felt G-D’s presence in powerful ways in different places around the world. But never to the extent that we read about in these verses.
Because this experience is on the top of my spiritual bucket list, I have taken some time to prayerfully study the event and here are my thoughts. First, everyone that was at or around the Mishkan was already saved from Egypt, and they had already entered the covenant at Mount Sinai. So they were already in relationship with the G-D of Israel. This powerful experience wasn’t a result of them coming to faith or being redeemed.
This awesome outpouring of G-D’s Ruach (Spirit) was a result of those who were already “The People of G-D” collectively doing two things. The first was GIVING. As a matter of fact they gave so much so freely that Moses had to ask them to stop giving.
5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the work of this construction that Adonai has commanded to be done.” 6 So Moses gave an order, and they proclaimed it throughout the camp saying, “Let neither man nor woman make anything else as an offering for the Sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing more.
The second thing was OBEYING. As we read through the chapters leading up to the cloud falling and filling the Mishkan, we see the phrase “just as Adonai had commanded” over and over.
So I concluded that this awesome, tangible, and visible appearance of G-D’s Ruach is available even today to those who are in covenant relationship with G-D and who are willing givers and who are willing to do just as Ad-nai had commanded. If we as the Body of Messiah want to experience this kind of outpouring, we have been provided with a pattern to follow.
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, and his most recent book God Has No Plan "B".
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Deny myself? – Why?
Yeshua said to let our “Yes” be “Yes” and our “No” be “No” (Matthew 5:37). In context He was speaking of making religious vows, but we can take this a step further: Good is good; bad is bad (Isaiah 5:20).
To what do we say “Yes”? – everything good! All the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen” through Yeshua (II Corinthians 1:20). We are to think about every good and pure thing (Philippians 4:4-8). Through meditating on God’s promises we develop an optimistic attitude and are transformed in our minds (Rom 12:1-3).
But we also have to say “No” to bad things. Evil comes from three sources: the World (social pressure); the Flesh (pride and lusts); the Devil (demonic spirits). We say “No” to everything that leads to sin and death.
Burying Our Flesh
Yeshua said, “Whoever desires to follow Me, must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and come after Me” – Luke 9:23. Following Yeshua brings us into all of the glorious blessings of God.
However, the path of following in His footsteps starts with: “deny yourself.” That means saying “No” to our own selfish desires. The Rabbis call this יצר הרע, yetzer hara’, the evil instinct.
- Think how many of the Ten Commandments start with “Thou Shalt Not…”!
- Psalm One starts with three “Does nots” – not walk in path of wicked; not stand in way of sinners, not sit in seat of mockers.
- Yeshua’s great prayer of Gethsemane repeated over and over, “Not My will, but Yours…” (Matthew 26:37ff).
- The last of the fruit of the Spirit is “self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
- Part of becoming “partakers of the divine nature” is also self-control (II Peter 1:3-7).
Paul also spoke of “self” crucifixion: “crucify myself” (Galatians 2:20); “crucify the world” (Galatians 6:14); “crucify the flesh” (Galatians 5:24). This is not speaking in any way of self-flagellation or self-condemnation, but of saying “No” to evil influences, particularly our own sinful instincts.
Self-denial is the opposite of self-condemnation; it is a work of grace by the Holy Spirit. “Now there is no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yeshua” – Romans 8:1. Thank God, by the blood of Yeshua, we have been cleansed from all guilt (Hebrews 9:14, 10:1-3, 12:24).
However, the same Holy Spirit which frees us from condemnation, also “puts to death” selfishness and lusts. “If by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body…” (Romans 8:13). In all the wonderful, positive verses about the work of the Holy Spirit, did we kind of “glide” past that verse? The Holy Spirit puts a halt to the works of the flesh.
From the Inside Out
Why is this quality of self-restraint so important? It has to do with our destiny as children of God to take dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:26-29). We are called to “rule and reign” together with Him (Romans 5:17; Revelation 5:10; 20:6). Self-restraint is actually governing ourselves. If you can rule yourself, you are ready to rule the world.
Proverbs 16:32 – Better is he who is slow-to-anger than a mighty man; and he who rules over his spirit than he who captures a city. One has to be able to rule his own feelings and desires, before he can rule over more external things. Taking dominion over ourselves precedes taking dominion over God’s creation. This is an essential character quality to enable us to fulfill God’s highest purposes in our lives.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, February 27, 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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Breaking through the walls
The walls of Jericho were demolished by the sound of the shofar and human throats shouting. This profound breakthrough occurred through the unlikely weapon of a ram’s horn. Centuries of idolatry and a formidable defense were shattered. A rag-tag “nation” of ex-slaves managed to pierce the walled city of Jericho. In an instructive blend of divine firepower and worshipful human obedience, thick walls were no longer a barrier.
In ancient times the walls that defended a city were thick. I’m looking at a photo’ of the walls around the city of Akko. Today it is a small city on the northern coast of Israel not far from the Lebanese border. But in days past it was a mighty fortress, a strategic Mediterranean port positioned on the route between Egypt and Syria. Napoleon tried to conquer her and could not. He was bested by a salty old Turk named El-Jazzar, the Butcher. El-Jazzar’s defensive walls enclosed the city. They were 39 inches (one metre) thick and 33 feet (10 metres) high!
We are now facing these walls, not so much the physical ones as those in the spiritual realm. What will it take to break through with the love of Yeshua, to establish a Messianic congregation in a city steeped for millennia in idolatry and bloodshed? For that matter, what walls are blocking you from changing the spiritual complexion of your city? What fortress defies penetration in your pursuit of the will and calling of God on your life? I believe Joshua’s experience can help us.
The walls of Jericho stood, imposing, on the other side of the Jordan River. Joshua had already seen the walled cities of Canaan forty years earlier as a spy. He well knew the perils of attempting to take the city of Jericho. His dialogue with God on the subject of crossing the Jordan and taking Jericho creates a valuable sequence we can now apply  to our personal preparation (Joshua) and  to our congregation or ministry team (Israel) if we are to break through the walls in our lives. The applications I see are printed in bold type.
Joshua’s personal process:
- After the death of Moses – For many it is a new season, requiring greater faith.
- Joshua, Moses’ assistant – We must be discipled, disciplined and submitted to God-appointed leadership as Joshua was.
- Arise, and go over this Jordan – We will have to leave our comfort zones.
- I am giving you this land … every place your foot touches – It is God who sovereignly grants access to your region, city or neighborhood. Residence = Inheritance.
- No man will be able to ‘get in your way’ for I will be with you … – God’s presence is what enables us to stand before the enemy.
- Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land … – You will be opposed, but do not yield to fear and discouragement. Then others will enter the inheritance with you.
- Command the people, saying ‘Prepare provisions … for in 3 days you will cross over this Jordan to … possess the land.’ – It is time to prepare well, as God’s people in solidarity.
Israel’s Shared Sequence:
- Spies scoped out the city of Jericho. Know your territory. What are the strongholds in your city? Historical research, prayer walking, and local interviews will be helpful.
- They crossed the Jordan with priests in the lead, setting stones as memorial. Worship, Intercession and Thanksgiving precede breakthrough.
- The men were circumcised as soon as they arrived in the Land. Strongholds of fear, rejection, etc. in our own lives must be broken. A tender heart toward God is essential.
- The commander of the Lord’s army appeared to Joshua. Unless Yeshua is our Commander in Chief, and we have a revelation of His AUTHORITY we will not break through strongholds.
- The city was securely shut up and the Lord told Joshua to march around the city blowing shofars and carrying the Ark of the Covenant for six days. The more resistant the walls of the city before us, the greater must be our dependence on God, our singular focus on His will and unity among us.
- The priests and armed men circled the city, blowing shofars, shouting on day seven. Simple obedience and persevering declaration of God’s purposes and greatness brings His power.
- The wall of the city fell flat and the Israelites took the city. Personal breakthroughs and city-transforming revival will come as in faith we follow the sequence God gives us.
Not only in Akko, but in the Haifa Bay area we are operating in territory that has virtually never been touched by the Gospel. I’ve been wondering “How can I ever possibly break through to the people where I live?” At times I feel remote, disconnected, unable to touch them. It must be that God is drawing me to Himself. Out of my aching sense of inadequacy compared to the vast need of the tension-soaked faces around me, I can only turn to the Father of Mercy and appeal to Him.
I am asking God for heart surgery, to give me His intense love and persevering compassion for the region where I live. God is also deeply interested in the people where you live. You see them every day, driving to and from your neighborhood. They are next to you in the shopping mall. They are your fellow 10s, 100s or 1000s of employees on the job.
How to break strongholds? I’m no expert in spiritual warfare. Necessity is pushing me to read books and to dig into The Book. Yet in any army it is the responsibility of the Commander in Chief to make sure that his troops are prepared. So, I’m confident that Yeshua is equipping me, even as I experience moments of frustration and apparent failure.
Truthfully, I’m not super jazzed by warfare terminology. I was a “flower child” in the 60’s, a peace-love hippie who wanted nothing to do with war. I still find it hard to be as aggressive as I need to be to function in Israel. But my personality and background are irrelevant in this issue. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that I am at war. I am not only under attack, but I am called to take territory back from the enemy. I will have to fight in order to fulfill God’s calling and commission. “We have been summoned to this battle by the Commander in Chief” as John Dawson says in Taking our Cities for God. The Battle is the Lord’s. The Earth is the Lord’s. Yeshua has called us as His disciples to withstand the enemy and to see the walls of unbelief and idolatry come down.
He said “I will build my congregation and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, February 21, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.