The Word: For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross (#6205) darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:2-3)
The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His righteousness, and all peoples see His glory. (Psalm 97:1-6)
Pointers for prayer: As we look at the current circumstances within Israel and throughout the Middle East, let us remain watchful and constant in our prayers, and continue to pray that the LORD God would place His Wall of Fire around the Nation and people of Israel. (For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ” Zechariah 2:5)
- Please continue to pray for the Arab Nations too. As Muslims and Christians in Iran, Iraq and throughout other Islamic countries in the Middle East continue to suffer under the Islamic leaders and groups such as Isis, Hezbollah and Hamas, do pray that even now God would continue to give these people dreams and visions of who Yeshua (Jesus) is, and that they would find freedom from this oppressive Islamic religion. And pray for the protection of Christians whose very lives are under threat. May the Lord God have mercy in these dark days throughout the Middle East.
From April through to the end of May within the Jewish calendar, it appears to be a mass of feasts, festivals and memorial days. Having just celebrated Passover (Pesach) from April 4th -11th (including the Feast of Unleavened Bread), we count off 50 days to Shavuot (of which the church calls Pentecost) on May 24th -25th. This commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the ‘Ten Commandments’ are read in synagogues, just as they were in the desert on Mount Sinai over 3,300 years ago. It was at Shavuot that the Ruach haKodesh (the Holy Spirit) came down upon the Temple in Jerusalem during the Acts of the Apostles (in Acts 2:1–4) hence the church also celebrating Pentecost. But in-between these dates are four modern memorial dates, starting with Yom HaShoah on April 16th (International Holocaust Memorial Day); Yom HaZikaron on April 22nd (Israeli Memorial Day); Yom HaAtzma’ut on April 23 (Israeli Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalayim on May 17th (Jerusalem Day).
In Hebrew, a cloud, heavy cloud or darkness is called ‘araphel’ (deep darkness, gloom, gloomy, thick cloud, thick darkness, thick gloom – Strong’s Concordance 6205). We read about a thick darkness coming over Egypt as one of the plagues during the days leading up to the Exodus of the Jewish people (Passover). Once they had crossed over the Red Sea, the Israeli’s were to follow a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And at Shavuot, the mountain of Sinai was covered in a thick dark cloud, as Moshe (Moses) heard The Lord speak and gave him the Torah (Exodus 20:21- The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was). When reading Isaiah 60 (above), I often hear people within the church preach about an ‘end time’ environment in which the world will be in gross darkness, and the church will dwell in God’s light. However, even though the days do appear to be growing darker – specifically within the Middle East – I discovered that this may not be the full meaning of this verse. There are several scriptures in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament as the church calls it) using this same Hebrew word for gross darkness and I realised God Himself can dwell in the gross darkness and so, in essence, there is nothing to fear if we are surrounded by darkness on every side. This surely, must give both us, and the people of Israel hope.
However, because God is incomprehensible to man and such an awesome God, that same cloud brought darkness to those in the Egyptian camp and light to those in the camp of Israel. Now although the following verse uses a different Hebrew word and was not gross darkness, it did help me to see the idea of how God does dwell in both the darkness and the light. In Exodus 14:19-20, we read, ‘And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.’ And so, even if thick darkness covers the land – and indeed, with Isis running wild with murder in many Middle Eastern countries; Hamas once more preparing for yet another attack on Israel; Hezbollah prepared for war in the north and the U.S. appearing to not want to stop Iran with their nuclear plans – we might well feel oppressed by the thick darkness. And yet, God is light, and His light is shining upon the only democracy within the Middle East – Israel. May the nation of Israel put their hope and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the same God that saved them during their journey from Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Land of Israel; the same God who is worshipped by the Christian church today, and the same God who is bringing the Jewish people back to Israel and is at work in Israel today.
Hamas prepare for next confrontation
It has only been nine months since the last military conflict in Gaza (July-August 2014), that once again brought world-wide condemnation upon Israel for protecting herself against the daily bombardments of rockets from Hamas in Gaza. Although I do not want to see innocent people suffer (both on the Israeli and Arab Palestinian side), I was convinced that if Israel stopped their campaign too early last year against Hamas, that the same problem would once again rear its ugly head, and Israel would once again be under attack. Well, nine months have passed and I believe the Israeli government did call a cease-fire too early without completing the task at hand. Today, Hamas have been working to restore and build up its strength in advance of the next conflict with Israel renewing its excavation of tunnels and manufacture of rockets, building up its weapons stores, conducting military training exercises, and establishing army camps. Senior Islamic officials are calling repeatedly for liberating ‘all of Palestine’, praising and encouraging jihad, martyrdom, and armed resistance, and threatening to expand their attacks into a full-blown intifada in the ‘West Bank’ and ‘East’ Jerusalem.
Underlining this, Abu ‘Ubaida, the spokesman for Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades, said, “The battle is not yet over… The arrogance of the occupation will force upon it new wars, whose shape and character it cannot foresee… Every day, our people are capable of refreshing the flow of the blood in the arteries of the resistance, in numerous ways.” In a speech marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas’ founding, former Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad said, “Thousands have joined the Al-Qassam Brigades since the last Gaza war… The West Bank will also rise up in an intifada against the occupation, and the resistance in Jerusalem must be escalated.” Many of my sources have stated that the Al-Qassam factories are operating day and night to be able to prepare for the next full scale war with Israel.
An IDF (Israeli army) source stated, “Hamas is continuing to practice and prepare for its next confrontation with Israel. This doesn’t come as a surprise to us at all, since we are monitoring every action Hamas takes, such as firing rockets at the sea from the Gaza Strip, flying drones in the Strip, infantry training, military exercises, and more. There is no doubt that Hamas is preparing. They are trying to do as much as possible. We know that Hamas is working to dig new tunnels and to upgrade its weapons. Just recently, we intercepted a shipment of weapons at sea, which was intended for the terror organization.”
In another report from Memri (The Middle East Media Research Institute – http://www.memri.org/) they stated that at a closing ceremony for youth training camps, Al-Zahhar said: “Every year until Palestine is liberated, thousands will join the training camps…These youths will be standing behind the rockets, firing them at every inch of Palestine in the war of Judgment Day the war for the liberation of Palestine. We pledge not to withhold anything from you not our weapons, not our money, not our efforts, and not our sweat. Generation by generation… whenever there is a school holiday, you will be on the military training grounds, until we accomplish our goal.” In a similar statement, Hamas political bureau deputy head Isma’il Haniya said in a Friday sermon: “Hamas will continue to gradually build up its weapons, its means of resistance, and its strength, and will maintain them until Palestine is fully liberated.”
At Islamic training camps, Hamas are teaching the children and training them with live ammunition and Hamas officials were present during the training. According to an Arab news website noonpost.net, the effort is aimed at “forming the core of a popular army comprising members from all sectors of society, and at preparing the teenagers both ideologically and militarily for jihad and for the fight against Israel.” Youths who participated in the camps stated that they had come to learn how to kidnap Israeli soldiers and liberate Jerusalem.
Russia aiding Iran in flexing their muscles
As you may have seen on the national and international news, Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoons had to be launched to intercept two Russian aircraft near UK airspace. The incident happened on Tuesday April 14 and has been confirmed by the Ministry of Defence. It happened as Britain hosts a NATO exercise in northern Scotland involving more than 50 warships. The Ministry of Defence said the Typhoons, from RAF Lossiemouth, were deployed “after Russian aircraft were identified flying close to UK airspace”. The Russian planes later turned back, flying north past Norway. Earlier in the day, the Royal Navy deployed HMS Argyll to track three Russian ships, including a destroyer, as they passed through the English Channel.
Tensions between NATO and Russia have risen in recent months over Moscow’s role in the conflict in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. However, Russia is also involved in aiding Iran with more missile systems. With the U.S. – Israeli relations at arguably their lowest point in history, Russia’s ties with Iran are suddenly growing much closer. Vladimir Putin on Monday cleared the way for the delivery of sophisticated air defence systems to Iran, and Iranian officials say the S-300 missile system could be delivered this year. Iranian officials of course have once again been publicly boasting on how Iran will remove Israel from the Middle East map. Only last Tuesday, Senior Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati met with Deputy Secretary-General of the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’ Abu Ahmed Fouad in Tehran. While attaching great significance to unity among different Palestinian resistance groups, Abu Ahmed Fouad maintained ‘Palestine must be liberated and the imperialist enemies such as USA and the Israeli regime as well as some Arab states will be ultimately defeated’. With news coming in from Fars News Agency that China are to build nuclear power plants for Iran, the Israeli government will be on alert all the more with these developments. You can read the Fars story on China here: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13940125001139
In related news, Israeli officials warned on Monday evening that, over the last few weeks, Iran has stepped up its operations to arm terrorist group Hezbollah in order to prepare the group for a large-scale conflict with Israel. According to Israel’s Channel 2 News, the Israeli officials revealed that new intelligence has been received that Tehran has accelerated its ‘proxy war’ with Israel on all fronts. Iranian delegations have been arriving in the Gaza Strip, and in recent months, the commander of Iran’s Basij paramilitary militia spoke of arming the residents of the ‘West Bank’ to rise up against Israel. Iran has reportedly already begun arming members of Hamas in the ‘West Bank’. According to the report, Iran has also been attempting to establish a new front for Hezbollah with Israel on the Golan Heights, linking it to the existing one in southern Lebanon. So once again, there is, as always, a great need for those who have been called to be ‘Watchmen’ to intercede for the nation of Israel. Pray that the LORD God would place His Wall of Fire around the Nation and people of Israel (Zechariah 2:5).
Global Prayer Day for Israel
On May 8/9 2015, various ministries connected to Israel are organising a ‘Global Prayer Day’. As Thursday is Yom HaShoah (officially known as Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day), I thought it would be good to promote this ‘Global Prayer Day’ now – especially in light of Iran’s recent increase in their desire to see Israel wiped off the map – we cannot allow a second Holocaust.
As the name suggests, Yom HaShoah is a day dedicated to memorial and sombre reflection in recognition of the millions of lives murdered during the Nazi persecution. But Yom HaShoah also reminds us to reflect on the acts of resistance that took place throughout the war. For this reason, an early proposal favoured by many Holocaust survivors and Zionists called for the holiday to be commemorated on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which is perhaps the most well-known of the many revolts against Nazi aggression. The recommendation however was dismissed because of the day’s proximity to Pesach (Passover), but the ‘spirit of the event’ was maintained when the Israel Parliament (Knesset) approved a plan calling for Yom HaShoah to be observed within the timeline of the actual uprising just two weeks later. The 27th of Nisan was ultimately chosen, placing the commemoration in between Passover and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. How any Jews survived the Holocaust is a miracle in itself, and through the amazing work of Christian Friends of Israel, many survivors in Israel today are blessed by the outpouring of Christian love through CFI’s ‘Forsake Them Not’ project. To find out how you can help this work, simply click here.
Following this horrific time, on May 8, 1945 Nazi-Germany signed a document of unconditional surrender in front of representatives of the three Western Allies (USA, UK and France). On May 9 it was signed in Berlin in the presence of the representatives of the Soviet Union. With the end of World War II in Europe the Holocaust, the greatest crime in human history, finally came to a halt. The genocide of six out of eleven million European Jewish people was the greatest tragedy in the last four thousand years of Jewish experience. For us Christians who love the Jewish people with the love of God, this is an appropriate moment to identify with their unique suffering 70 years ago and to obey the call of God of, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people…” (Isaiah 40:1)
The end of the Holocaust and World War II was an act of God’s grace and mercy. The rebirth of the modern Jewish state of Israel, only three short years after the end of the Holocaust is a powerful sign of God’s faithfulness towards the Jewish people (Ezekiel 37). And so, the Global Prayer Day, which will be observed exactly 70 years after Victory in Europe Day (V Day), is a fitting occasion to do so. Therefore can I suggest that you make the decision to join Christians all over the world for the Global Prayer Day on May 8/9, 2015. If you already run or are part of an Israel Prayer Group, why not organise a special prayer meeting on one or both of these days in your home or church. Please also inform others about this call to prayer. I’m happy for you to forward this report on also to those you feel might be interested in joining this.
Harald Eckert, initiator of the Global Prayer Call, encourages praying Christians around the world to participate personally in this prayer event. To watch the video on You Tube, simply click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiZkraf_jgc&feature=share You can also find more on the website here: http://www.100-days.eu/en/ or if you use Facebook, click here: www.facebook.com/100daysgpc . Finally, you can download the Global Prayer Day Document here: http://www.100-days.eu/content/files/gpd.pdf
(Middle East News Report Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio