Blow the shofar in Zion; sound the alarm on My holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand – a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come. “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” …Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! …Do not be afraid… Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. … “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… you will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. (Joel 2: 1,2, 13, 22 -27)
- Pointers for prayer: As I start the first of my Watching over Zion reports for 2015, I’m reminded of a word Lance Lambert once brought that stated, “We need to be overcomers… Overcoming is to so discover the grace of God and the power of God made available to you and me, that we stay on course in spite of our faults and weaknesses, even our sin – and come finally to the place where we are no longer Jacob but Israel. Overcoming is when we are still in the race at the end.” With this in mind, let us seek His blessings and press on, running the race… and may God remember you like Noah, favour you like Moses, honour you like Mary, fight for you like the Israeli’s, prosper you like Isaac, promote you like Joseph, intervene for you like Esther, protect you like Daniel, use you like Paul, heal you like Naaman, answer you like Elijah, anoint you like David, and keep you safe like Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego. This is my prayer for all of us as we continue working with CFI and standing with the people and Nation of Israel throughout 2015.
- Now that we have entered this New Year, please pray for truth within the world’s church. There is so much deception and propaganda surrounding the whole issue of Israel. God is concerned for truth and so should we be. Pray that the truth will be revealed and that lies and deception will be cast down, wherever they are found.
- Pray for God’s revealed purposes: As we often mention in these Reports, the Lord has clearly outlined His purpose for Israel in His Word ~ the Bible. Israel and the Jewish people are to be a testimony to God’s existence, His character and His faithfulness. They prove that His Word is true. Pray that He will bless and use Israel for His glory and His Holy Name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:22)
Praying for restoration and breakthrough
First of all, for those who follow the Gregorian calendar, I’d like to wish you a happy and fruitful New Year and throughout 2015. Sadly 2014 wasn’t without its many battles – both for Israel and ministries such as Christian Friends of Israel (CFI). The ministry of CFI Jerusalem saw much upheaval and change, and we need to remain vigilant in prayer for them. Throughout CFI UK, with Trustees, Staff and Area Reps, we have battled with many illnesses, cancers and other troubles, and tragically, as Christmas approached, we were greatly shocked to hear that one of our Scottish Reps suffered a stroke and is now with the Lord (indeed, as I write sections of this report, I’m traveling by train to Inverness to attend the funeral – more on this shortly). And so, the first prayer pointer above is not included without great thought and a deep sense of need. We are desperate to see the Lord Almighty bring breakthroughs and blessings for this ministry and work (and indeed throughout Israel).
With this in mind, I bring before you a ‘word’ that really spoke to me from the Hebrew Scriptures and the prophet Joel. This word has remained with me the past week or so of 2014 and into the New Year. It reads, “I will make up to you the years that the locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25, NASB). In the first chapter of Joel, the writer uses the imagery of locusts to warn the people of Israel of God’s judgment. The second chapter delves into what their – and consequently our – reaction to a Holy God should be – repentance. Joel is speaking to a nation that needs to acknowledge and receive God’s mercy and to repent (turn away from) their sin. God’s deliverance and blessings are named starting in verse 19, leading into the familiar saying shown above. In a merciful response to repentance, the Lord promises to provide every need (v. 19) and protection from the enemy (v. 20). In Israel, even the rain is evidence of God’s faithfulness (v. 23), and Israel have indeed had much rain this winter and are currently struggling with snow.
According to weather forecasts, Jerusalem was expecting a winter storm this week with heavy winds, freezing temperatures and snow. To prepare for the storm, the Jerusalem Municipality have been repairing roads, dealing with dangerous structures, preparing to operate tow-trucks and snow ploughs to clear main routes and more (this is probably not what the current Israel tour for clergy that our CEO is currently leading were expecting –however, having experienced it, Jerusalem in January can be very cold). Jerusalem Police were preparing to seal off roadways due to the winter storm. The only roadway that will enable motorists to leave the city is Route 443. Since then, the authorities announced on Wednesday that all schools in Jerusalem and the surrounding suburbs will be closed due to the storm.
Back to the Scripture, and Joel – in verse 25, after the effects of the locusts, all will be reversed. After restoring what was destroyed, the Lord goes on to promise even more (and of course we see much of verses 28 & 29 being carried out in Acts during the birthing of the early church (I will pour out my Spirit upon all people… I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike. Joel 2:28-29 C/R Acts 2:17).
Though Joel is speaking to the nation of Israel, it’s important to reflect on these promises from God on a personal level, and even nationally – especially here in the UK – of a deep need for an outpouring of God’s life giving Spirit. In the midst of judgment, may God show His mercy here in the UK. However, rather than ‘sin’ being the issue here, I really felt this verse spoke to me regarding the ministry of CFI throughout the globe. How we need to see a move of God in so many areas – areas where I feel the enemy has attacked, mauled and tried to destroy (in a similar way to how the Islamic world is being used by Satan to try and destroy the people and Nation of Israel). And so, please do bring this before the Lord in your intercession as we look to the Lord for all our needs and provision throughout the coming year.
Stepping up for battle
Well here we go again… another year, another battle. Already, I have heard that Israel has been removed on certain Collins maps. Apparently, having Israel included in its ‘Collins Primary Geography Atlas for The Middle East’ would be “unacceptable” to their customers in the Gulf and that leaving Israel off the maps incorporated “local preferences.” I personally find the behaviour of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and other Islamic nations unacceptable; however I would not wish to have them ‘wiped off the map’. Is this behaviour by Collins acceptable? The Collins Middle East Atlas is described by its publisher as “an ideal school atlas for young primary school geographers”, which “enables students to learn about the world today by exploring clear and engaging maps”. It is also “specifically designed for schools in Middle East countries”, according to HarperCollins, with the Catholic newspaper The Tablet the first to notice that this meant its map of the area shows Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean. Gaza and the West Bank are both labelled, but Israel does not appear.
Meanwhile, the PLO have been up to their old tricks again by their numerous Palestinian officials claiming that Yeshua (Jesus) was a Palestinian, and calling him both a Palestinian “martyr” and a “messenger of peace.” Just as he does every December over the Christmas holidays, the PA President Mahmoud Abbas made the Christmastime claim that Jesus Christ was a Palestinian, rather than a Jew. Abbas stated, “We celebrate the birth of Jesus, a Palestinian messenger of love, justice and peace, which has guided millions from the moment that his message came out from a small grotto in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago… His message resonates among all of those who are seeking justice and among our people who have been the guardians of the holy sites for generations. It resonates in our prayers for our people in Gaza.” This is rather ironic when we think of the thousands of Christians who have suffered terribly of late under Islamic leaders. Yet Abbas went on to say, “Jesus’ message resonates in our prayers for our people in our capital Jerusalem, who continue to resist the Israeli attempts to turn the city into a Jewish place… The mosques and churches of Jerusalem will continue to remind the world of the Palestinian, Arab, and Christian and Muslim identity of the city. Justice means ending the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, an integral part of the State of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 border.” Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the Supreme Shari’ah Judge and Mahmoud Abbas’ Adviser on Religious and Islamic Affairs joined in with the myth stating, “Christmas is also a Palestinian holiday, because Jesus, peace be upon him, was Palestinian. He was born in Palestine; lived and was sent [as prophet] to Palestine, therefore, Christmas has a special Palestinian flavour.” To read the facts on whether Jesus was a Palestinian, can I recommend a booklet by CFI’s Jacob Vince here: https://www.cfi.org.uk/was-jesus-a-palestinian.html
As I stated earlier, much of this report has been written in transit throughout Scotland. I often wonder if I have a ‘neon light’ above my head stating ‘I stand for Israel, so go ahead, insult me’. After a mere ten minutes into my train journey, a sweet elderly lady sitting next to me asked where I was heading. The conversation eventually moved to ‘why I was connected to the Middle East’ with a ministry, and I was then informed ‘that those nasty Israeli’s are to blame’. It turned out that this ‘sweet elderly lady’ was a strong pro-Palestinian supporter, yet became agitated when I explained that before 1964 the Arabs would not have associated themselves with the word ‘Palestinian’, as it was a reference to the Jews of the land. One abruptly ended conversation later (and stony silence) caused me to reflect on why it was that these people believe a lie? As one gentleman connected to Edinburgh Friends of Israel stated recently, “The public have been, and are being, denied accurate, truthful and verifiable information about Israel whilst at the same time being subjected to consistent, well-organised and increasingly successful propaganda that seeks to delegitimise Israel by propagating untruth, misrepresentation and bias.” This is so true.
So, are you tired of seeing Israel slammed in the Media? Are you weary of hearing church members speak out against Israel? Do you care and want to help Israel practically? Are you able to use CFI’s educational resources and free literature to bring truth into your church? Or maybe you feel you’d like to get involved with advocacy? If so, we would love to hear from you. CFI has many Area Representatives and Advocates in the UK – but we need so many more. If you feel God is laying this area on your heart, do get in touch with me at the email address or website at the top of this posting.
In loving memory of a dear friend and colleague
As I mentioned earlier, throughout CFI UK, we have battled with many illnesses, cancers and other troubles, and tragically, as Christmas approached, we were greatly shocked to hear that one of our Scottish Reps, David Masson, suffered a very serious stroke from which he didn’t recover and is now with the Lord. At his funeral on Tuesday, I was surprised to hear one of the speakers at the service state that on the day of his stroke, David had got up as any other day, went for a swim and then met with his prayer partner. Then the speaker stated, “but David was ready” –meaning that he knew the Lord Jesus personally and had lived a life of service for Him. It really spoke to me. None of us know the moment that the Lord might say, “your time is up”… but are we ready?
We had been praying daily for a miracle for David and I was deeply sorry to receive the sad news. Like all our Reps, David Masson wasn’t just ‘a rep’; he was a lovely humble man of God, a good friend and will be solely missed. I remember David telling me some time ago that not long after he became a Christian in 1975 he was invited to a Conference at Largs organised by Hansie Douglas, the author of the book “Selected To Live.” As a young Jewish nurse, living in occupied Holland Hansie Douglas alone out of her family was saved from the Nazi extermination camps in Poland. Her story opened David’s understanding of the horrors of the Second World War and the suffering of the Jewish people. During that Conference David Masson received teaching on the many passages in the Bible concerning the future of God’s plan of salvation concerning the Jewish people. Through that teaching he came to an understanding of the spiritual battle concerning the State of Israel.
During two visits to Israel David visited the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. There the full story of the attempt by the Nazis to exterminate the whole Jewish population in Europe is powerfully displayed. Few leave that Museum without shedding a tear. He also visited the former camp at Bergen-Belsen in Germany. I remember him stating, “There are no buildings left standing – nor are there are any birds singing in the trees. What happened in the Holocaust has left a stain over humanity.” Perhaps one of the most compelling statements David Masson ever read concerning the Holocaust was attributed to Raul Hilberg. He states; “The early missionaries of Christianity had said in effect: ‘You may not live among us as Jews.’ Secular rulers from the late Middle-Ages then decided: ‘You may not live among us.’ The Nazis finally decreed: ‘You may not live.’”
Since 2001, David and his wife Elspeth served the Lord and Israel through their work as Reps for CFI UK. Elspeth has already stated that the planned Holocaust Memorial Exhibition David worked so hard on getting arranged will go ahead later this month in Inverness. David Masson, a loyal supporter, faithful colleague, and good friend will truly be missed. What is our loss is Heaven’s gain. Please do remember to pray for Elspeth and their family.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
How many of you were able to go to the movie about the Exodus at Cinema’s over the festive break? The film, still showing at all major UK Cinema’s is the story of God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt 3500 years ago or so, told in the Book of Exodus in the Bible. This is one of the greatest, most exciting and most inspiring historical stories ever told, yet for me this latest movie failed in many areas. Director Ridley Scott’s new epic, EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS, tries to follow the Bible, but it does so in a manner that avoids the richness of the biblical story and certainly doesn’t bring any glory to God. Hollywood has repeatedly managed to mess up the story and alter it to their own liking.
In this latest version of the story, God does use Moses to set the people free, however, the messenger of God is a young boy, who may or may not be God Himself. Another serious alteration is that of Moses himself. He is portrayed as an agnostic before his encounter with God on Sinai. Although Moses argued with God in the Bible, the movie clearly portrays Moses’s wrestling with God on a more cynical level. At one point in the film, Moses shouts at God “if you meant to humble me, it will not work!” This in contrast to the declaration that “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:2). Moses also tends to shout rather than stutter as Jewish tradition recounts (cf. Exodus 4:10). Most intriguing is that he only meets Pharaoh twice face to face before the death of the first-born children. In the first encounter, Moses pulls a sword on Rhamses and threatens him. He does not say “Let my people go,” but speaks of his own authority as a rebel leader. He spends much of the movie hiding from Pharaoh, and he even tries to lead a military revolt before God intervenes.
The miracles are made to look more like a natural phenomenon rather than being unleashed by God. Consider the plague of blood. In the movie, a series of crocodiles attack and eat so many people and animals that the water of the Nile becomes filled with the blood of their victims! Would it not have been better (and more realistic) to simply portray it as it is recounted in the Bible? When the Red Sea drowns all of Egypt’s army, Moses and Pharaoh are staring each other down in the middle of the Sea when the water hits. Apparently both are strong swimmers, for they both survive, ending up on opposite sides of the sea. And, as mentioned, Ridley Scott even casts an eleven-year old boy, Brit Isaac Andrews, to represent the Lord God Almighty which I found almost laughable to somewhat blasphemous.
Andrews plays God as an impatient and petulant child, who appears more like some little Buddhist Tibetan mystical Golden Child figure from the Eddy Murphy film back in the 80s. And to end with, rather than God Himself writing the Ten Commandments ‘by the figure of God’ (Exodus 31:18), the boy figure (God) watches over Moses as Moses chisels out the commandments. As I sat watching this film, I have to say I was hugely disappointed but not really surprised. And in many ways, it reminded me of the news item I mentioned earlier – that of Abbas’ reinterpretation (and Arafat before him) of Jesus being a Palestinian. It only proved to me how much wisdom and discernment we need in these days, and just how much we need to know our Bibles. Sadly, most will have ate their popcorn and thought nothing more. Once again, as with the film Noah, the public have been, and are being, denied accurate, truthful and verifiable information. Let’s pray that if nothing else, some would actually desire to get home and read a Bible.
As news is breaking of what appears to be an Islamic terrorist attack in Paris, one wonders at what both Israel and those who support her will face over the next 12 months. Twelve people at the Paris offices of a ‘satirical’ newspaper Charlie Hebdo are reported dead. The attackers were reported to have said, “We have avenged the Prophet,” as they entered the building shooting. President Francois Hollande stated, “This is a terrorist attack, there is no doubt about it.” Another 10 people were injured in the incident and police union official Rocco Contento described the scene inside the offices as “carnage.”
France is already on high alert after calls last year from Islamist militants to attack its citizens and interests in reprisal for French military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa. British Prime Minister David Cameron described the attack as sickening.
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, iNews.com & Israel National Radio