One of the Torah-teachers came up and heard them engaged in this discussion. Seeing that Yeshua answered them well, he asked Him, “Which is the most important mitzvah of them all?” Yeshua answered, “The most important is, ‘Sh’ma Yisra’el, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, O Isra’el, the Lord our God, the Lord is one]. (Gospel of Mark 12:28-29)
“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. (Exodus 3: 6-8)
Pointers for prayer: The Sh’ma is the most central prayer in Jewish life. The first paragraph of the Sh’ma in English is: Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. This is taken from Deuteronomy 6. The Sh’ma is recited at every synagogue service and Jesus quoted the Sh’ma in Mark 12:29, in response to a question about which was the greatest commandment of the Torah. Do continue to bring before the Lord the nation of Israel at this time, that they would know the Passover Lamb in whom they seek.
During the Passover, the Jewish people use the Hallel Psalms [113-118] to praise the LORD. In Psalm 118:1-4 we read, “O give thanks to the LORD [YHVH]; for He is good: because His mercy endures forever.” No matter what Israel might go through – we can be thankful that God’s mercy (chesed) – his stubborn love based on His commitment to His covenants – endures forever to Israel and to us. We can praise God in the sure knowledge that Israel come under the wings of the God of Israel. He is their protector, He is their salvation.
Israel exercising her democratic right
As mentioned in last week’s shorter version of the ‘Standing in the Gap’ report, Passover 2015 began on the evening of last Friday, April 3 and will end in the evening of Saturday, April 11. As we do every year, my family and some friends had a lovely Seder meal on the first night, which happened to fall on the traditional ‘Good Friday’ this time, and we will have been joined by millions of Jewish people (and many Christians) also celebrating Passover in Israel and throughout the world. However, many more millions of the world’s population do not know anything of the meaning of the wonderful festival of freedom and liberty known as Passover; a festival recognizing an event that has blessed the world for well over 3,000 years. Sadly, many within the church also completely miss the point of the richness of this festival, and sadly many never read the Hebrew Scriptures, focusing only on the Newer Testament. Yet even here, Passover is celebrated within the gospels and expounded on in the letters of Paul, so that no one within the world-wide church is without excuse not to dig deeper.
The first day of the festival begins always on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. Jews and Christians should know, if they read their Bibles, of the story of the Exodus and of the salvation of the Jewish people from slavery under the Egyptian pharaohs, to the creation and deliverance of an entire nation. Such a momentous event in humanity’s history became the foundation for freedom and liberty, and this was created many centuries before democracy was first enunciated by Greek philosophers who nevertheless lived within a polytheistic society. In Exodus 12:1-28 we read how the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household… thus you shall eat it… Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Here, we have the consecration of Israel as the Covenant Nation of God.
The deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt was at hand but also Israel’s adoption as the nation of YHVH (the LORD) (Exodus 6:6-7). However, for this to happen, a divine consecration was necessary, so that their outward severance from the land of Egypt might be accompanied by an inward severance from everything of an Egyptian or heathen nature. This consecration was to be imparted by the Passover ~ a festival which was to lay the foundation for Israel’s birth into the new life of grace and fellowship with God, and to renew it perpetually in time to come. This festival was therefore instituted and commemorated before the exodus from Egypt.
Today, Israel as a nation is back in the Land, and has indeed been back as a sovereign State since 1948. For those within the church who embrace replacement theology (or the many other names and titles this comes under), they appear completely blind to the many prophetic Scriptures being fulfilled before our very eyes. Admittedly, Israel is far from perfect. The nation may not even be ‘walking with God’ in the fullness of where she should be (yet). However, without doubt, Israel remains and always will remain, the true light of democracy within the Middle East. Whether you wanted Netanyahu back as the Israeli leader, or feel that he should have been removed makes no difference to the fact that by voting him back into power, Israel were exercising her democratic right. As one of the UK’s MPs Michael Gove rightly stated at the recent ‘We Believe in Israel conference’, “It is sometimes forgotten that of all the countries in the Middle East, the country in which if you are an Arab or a Muslim [or a Christian] you can worship most freely, speak most freely and take part in politics most freely is…Israel [the world’s only Jewish state].” Michael Gove MP. Click here to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH7w57cKpcs
Whether or not the ‘dust’ has settled following the re-election of Netanyahu, following his victory, the Israeli Prime Minister went to the Western Wall in his first post-election public appearance after sweeping to victory and said he was moved by the responsibility placed on his shoulders. “Here, in this place, I am awed by the historical significance of a people renewing itself in its homeland after 4,000 years,” he said, after praying at the Wall and placing a note inside its crevices. “I am moved by the weight of responsibility that the people of Israel have placed on my shoulders, and appreciate the decision of Israeli citizens to choose me and my colleagues against all odds.”
After Israel’s 120 MPs were sworn into the new parliament (the Knesset) last week, and the national anthem was played, a familiar scene unfolded. Most members of the ‘Joint List’, an alliance of Arab parties that became the Israeli parliament’s third-largest grouping during the recent election, headed out of the hall, demonstratively boycotting the HaTikvah – Israel’s national anthem. But here is the main difference between this tiny nation of Israel (0.1% of the Middle East), and the rest of the Muslim Arab Middle East (99.9%) – ONLY in Israel are Arabs, Christians and Jews allowed to vote. Had Israel been some form of Apartheid nation as some people proclaim, then those Arab MPs who refused to acknowledge the Israeli National Anthem and walk out, would not have been allowed to do so. Why? Simply because they would not have been allowed to be there in the first place. For as Geoffrey Smith, former Director of Christian Friends of Israel once rightly stated, “If apartheid was in Israel there wouldn’t be Arab members of the Knesset, or Parliament; There wouldn’t be Arab justices in the Israeli High Court; There wouldn’t be Arab university students studying the same subjects as their Israeli peers in Israeli universities; There wouldn’t be Jewish doctors treating Arab patients and Arab doctors treating Jewish patients; There couldn’t be suicide bombers on buses and in cafes. Yes, Think about it. If apartheid was in Israel, Arab bombers could not get on the same buses as Jews, nor could they use the same cafes. So they couldn’t mount suicide bomb attacks in buses and cafes. There is no apartheid in Israel. The allegation that there is, is a wicked lie.”
Indeed, of all the countries in the Middle East, the country in which if you are an Arab, Muslim, Jew or Christian, you can worship most freely, speak most freely and take part in politics most freely. Israel – the world’s only Jewish state – a breath of fresh air of true democracy in the Middle East.
Observing a good opinion
It’s not often you’ll hear me congratulating one of the Western world’s newspapers, but I have to say, “Well done the Observer” for publishing an excellent article on March 26, 2015. Under the headline ‘It’s Hard To Be a ‘Christian Arab’ in Israel, But Not Why You’d Think’ the article, written by Father Gabriel Naddaf states, “Only in Israel can Middle Eastern Christians fully practice their faith and be productive members of society”. Father Naddaf writes, “I have the privilege of being a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth in the Galilee. My people have mistakenly been called “Christian Arabs,” but the reality is that we are Arameans, descendants of people who lived here in Israel since the time of the Bible. Following a lengthy public campaign, Israel’s Interior Ministry has recently recognized us as the “Aramean nation.” Partners in this effort were a number of Israeli Zionist organizations.” He then goes on to write about the many non-Jews who serve in the Israel Defence Force (IDF).
Father Naddaf writes, “Over the past three years I have become a controversial figure in Israel for the simple reason that I embrace Zionism, Jewish sovereignty in Israel, and the tolerance, respect and opportunity for all that have grown out of that sovereignty. I believe that our youth—Christian youth—should fully integrate into Israeli society. Part and parcel of that integration includes serving in the Israel Defence Forces, or undertaking some other form of national service that Israel routinely provides for teenagers.”
When I was last in Israel, we were taken to an IDF base where I witnessed first-hand the camaraderie between Jews, Arab Bedouins, Arab Druze and Christian Arameans. However, as I interviewed many of these people, I found that although they happily served in the Israeli army, they often suffered abuse from their own people when they went ‘on leave’ and had to leave their soldier uniforms at their army bases before going on leave. This too was also witnessed by Father Naddaf. He writes, “For me personally, my conviction and actions have led to numerous death threats, my ex-communication by the Orthodox Church Council and the prevention of my entrance to the Church of Annunciation. None of this has anything to do with the Israeli government or the Jewish community. The assertion of Israel as a so-called Apartheid state is complete nonsense. My successes and challenges speak loudly as to where the real problems lie for my fellow Christians.”
Father Naddaf states, “As Christians in Israel survey the situation of our brethren in the wider Middle East, we are appalled by the persecution that so many have experienced in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, among others. Truly, it has only been in Israel where Christians can fully practice our faith and can be productive members of society.” The full article is well worth reading and can be found on line here: http://observer.com/2015/03/its-hard-to-be-a-christian-arab-in-israel-but-not-because-of-jews/#ixzz3Wio1bnxE
I can verify that what Father Naddaf states is correct. Taking this into account with the first article I’ve written this week about Israel exercising her democratic right, the question needs to be asked as to why Israel is condemned by the U.N. more than any other country in the world? Well, another online article, this time by Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, needs to read. Prosor published the important article, asking: “Why is Israel condemned by the U.N. more than any other country? More than Syria, a country that pursued war against its people, and has killed 200,000 men, women and children; more than Iran, a country that executes on average two citizens a day?” According to Prosor, the U.N. includes more and more anti-democratic, anti-Israeli countries. These countries, which many of them deny human rights from their own citizens, such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea, use the U.N. “as a forum to deflect attention from their own ruthless rule.” You can read Ron Prosor’s article in The New York Times online here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/01/opinion/united-in-ignominy.html?smid=fb-share&_r=4
I have finished the race
Jerusalem is the most sought after City in the world – we realise this when we look at the history of this city, and the battle that rages today from the Islamic groups such as Hamas and the PLO etc. Jerusalem is also the holiest city in the world – holy for Jews, Christians, and other religions. The Old City of Jerusalem is home to the Temple Mount, Western Wall, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb – where Yeshua was crucified, died, buried and rose again. Anyone who follows the faith that flows from the roots of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is therefore instantly interested in visiting Jerusalem. Three weeks ago, Christian Friends of Israel’s Area Rep for the Swindon area in the UK took on a mighty challenge and entered the Jerusalem Marathon. In 2 Timothy 4:7 we read, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’ Well Matt has certainly kept the faith and run this particular race.
Matt and Immy Elwick are CFI UK Reps for Swindon and regarding his Jerusalem Marathon Matt stated, “I’ve been a CFI rep since 2011 and a Christian for a lot longer yet I’d never visited Israel until this Marathon. The challenge that I sort for myself when I took on the representative role was the question, ‘How can I get the message of the miracle restoration of Israel into the hearts of young people today?’ For me it was the result of actual anti-Semitism from a family member that motivated Imogen and myself to really understand the History, Prophetic significance and miraculous restoration of Israel because we knew the Word of God commands and encourages us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to bless God’s covenanted people. For a lot of young Christians today they don’t see the relevance or importance that the restoration of Israel presents even though it is the place where our Saviour Yeshua (Jesus) will return.”
Matt continues, “At times, talent sometimes feels limited but at other times it motivates one to think of ideas that are out of the box, different, and to consider with God’s help opportunities that are fresh and new. I saw by running the Jerusalem Marathon an opportunity to hopefully captivate young men and women with something that may be appealing to a younger audience. And so, I got the opportunity to run through the sun drenched golden streets of Jerusalem, the centre of the earth, a place where faith collides, where our Saviour Jesus walked and did the miraculous, and a hot bed of history, pilgrimage and romance. How can that not be captivating to anyone and everyone?”
Matt also saw within that opportunity, something that could present itself and generate interest in local newspapers and radio. Through this amazing achievement Matt will bring blessings to CFI and extra blessings to two projects that CFI UK supports which are ‘Under His Wings’ a ministry to Israel’s terrorist victims, and Shevet Achim (ministering to Arab children with heart defects and other illnesses). And so Matt has succeeded in running this great race and if you haven’t already done so, would you please consider supporting this great cause.
Matt has already achieved his goal by completing the Jerusalem Marathon. In an age of ‘Comic Relief’ and ‘Children in Need’ let’s be different, and help Matt achieve his goal of getting the amount raised of £2000.00 to help these CFI sponsored projects; ‘Shevet Achim’ & ‘Under His Wings.’ His online giving page is still active and you can safely give by going to: https://www.justgiving.com/LoveMatthew-Elwick/ . You can also give in the UK via text to: 70070 – do make sure that in the title you put JMME67 and then the amount £1, £2, £3, £5 or £10 you would like to give. Alternatively, should you wish, cheques can be sent to the CFI Head Office, PO BOX 2687, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN22 7LZ. Cheques need to be written out to CFI Charitable Trust and state on the back where you want the money to go.
(Middle East News Report Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio