On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud shofar blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the shofar grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (Exodus 19: 16-19)
Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel… And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the House of the LORD, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the House of the LORD. Then Solomon spoke: “The LORD said He would dwell in the dark cloud. I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever.” (1 Kings 8:1, 10-13)
The festival of Shavuot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole House where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which came to rest on each one of them. (Acts 2:1-3)
- 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)
- In the midst of Shavuot/Pentecost, please cry out to the LORD God that Israel would experience a mighty move of the power of the Holy Spirit throughout her land this week. (I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:27; see also Ezekiel 37:14).
- Please continue to pray for strength and wisdom to the leaders in Israel, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu to deal with the threat from Hamas & Hezbollah. (See Isaiah 1:26-28)
- Pray for encouragement, strength and perseverance for the Israeli people in the face of constant physical and spiritual opposition.
Hearing the shofar call
As I wrote in my report on the 16th April this year, the spring months of April and May within the Jewish calendar appear to be full of feasts, festivals and memorial days. Passover now seems an age away even if the weather in the UK is still the same with hailstones, thunder and lightning filling our garden as I write. However Shavuot (what the church calls Pentecost) is approaching on May 24 -25th and with it, hopefully some warmer weather.
Shavuot 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 (known as the House – or the House of the LORD –Acts 2:2) in Jerusalem during the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–4) hence the church also celebrating Pentecost. Israel has also celebrated or commemorated four modern memorial dates (Yom HaShoah on April 16; Yom HaZikaron on April 22; Yom HaAtzma’ut on April 23 and last Sunday – Yom Yerushalayim on May 17 (Jerusalem Day) – more on that later.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word ‘shofar’ first occurs in Exodus 19:16 when the Torah was first given to Israel during Shavuot. We read in the above Scripture that ‘on the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud shofar blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.’ Apart from the fact that as I am writing these very words, we are in the midst of a thunder and lightning storm, none of us can fully appreciate what that encounter with God was like for Moses and the Israelis during those days. Again, as we read of these encounters with God in 1 Kings 8 and Acts 2, has the nation of Israel or the worldwide church truly experienced such awesome wonders of God since?
As you might expect, I believe in God’s Word, the Bible. Shavuot is partly the celebration of God blessing Israel with His Word, the Torah. I believe the Word of God is everlasting, and I believe the Word (which includes the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures or Old[er] Testament, and the New Testament) is the definitive Word of God. I also believe that if we have doubts over this, our very foundations are in danger of collapsing. On top of this, I don’t believe for one moment that if God promises through an oath, one thing, that He could get it wrong and so change His mind. If He promises us everlasting life through the shedding of the blood of Yeshua (Jesus), then He’s not going to change His mind later! Is that a fair comment? So on that evaluation, I would say His everlasting covenant to Israel – the Jewish people – is what it says – EVERLASTING. For if it wasn’t, if God could change His mind about His promises to Israel, then what hope do we have about His promise to us as Christians?
We are supposed to understand the times and seasons according to I Thessalonians 5, where Paul states “Therefore let us not sleep …” etc… God intends us to understand the signs of the times. As we monitor the events throughout the world, and especially within the Middle East, events in the world are now coming so in line with the prophetic scriptures, that clearly the climax of the age and the return of the Messiah can’t be too far off, as is also the restoration (in fullness) of Israel and her turning to the Messiah (Zechariah 12 & 13). It is within this framework that I believe we should expect great things at Shavuot.
As mentioned, this celebration is a festival of God blessing Israel with His Torah – His Word, and the events of Acts 2 must be understood in light of this. Because it was God’s intention to bring the Jewish New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34) to the Jewish people in a Jewish way, God made maximum use of the Jewish festivals to convey new truths in ways that emphasized their connection with old truths. Thus God promised through Jeremiah, “I will write my Torah on their hearts.” This He does as He gives His Holy Spirit. The same One God gives both Torah and Spirit (which thus are in a sense – one) on the same one holiday, Shavuot/Pentecost, to the same one people, stretching through history from the fire on Mount Sinai to the tongues of fire at Jerusalem. Yes, we the Church should hunger for the power of the Holy Spirit and be activated by the power of this, but I also believe we need to be praying for the people God first revealed His word to. And so, for this very reason, it is my belief, that Satan wants to thwart God’s purposes, and this is what really lies behind today’s Middle East conflict. It is also my belief that, if Satan can deceive the Church first, then the rest of the world will easily swallow his lies. In a similar way as to how the Jewish people didn’t understand the times in Jesus’ day…much of the church today doesn’t appear to understand the days that we are living in regarding Israel being restored.
The great revivalist Duncan Campbell once wrote, “How is it that while we make such great claims for the power of the Gospel, we see so little of the supernatural in operation? Is there any reason why the Church today cannot everywhere equal the Church at Pentecost? I feel this is a question we ought to face with an open mind and an honest heart. What did the early Church have that we do not possess today? Nothing but the Holy Spirit, nothing but the power of God. Here I would suggest that one of the main secrets of success in the early Church lay in the fact that the early believers believed in unction (act of anointing) from on high and not entertainment from men.” Is there yet hope for us today? The battle for Israel is raging. Our workers in the field need much prayer. Let us pray that the church will not desire entertainment, but hunger and desire for a mighty move of God through His Holy Spirit – both in the body of Messiah (the Church) and in the nation and people of Israel.
Throughout Shavuot, there is a Jewish practice of learning from the Scriptures all night. Although it may not have been Shavuot, we do read of an incident regarding this practice in Acts 20, where a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sank into a deep sleep… and as Sha’ul (Paul) kept on talking, the poor chap fell down from the third floor and died. Yet when Paul went down and prayed, the chap was brought back to life. And then what happened? When he had gone back up and had broken bread, he kept on teaching them until daybreak! In Judaism, this is actually a custom, rather than a commandment, but it is an expression of their desire to draw closer to God. This, I believe is another area that we need to be praying into. Imagine how the nation of Israel would be if there was another ‘Pentecost’ during these all-nighters! Along with this being a desire to draw closer to God, it is also carried out to counter the behaviour of the Jews who slept at Mount Sinai instead of waiting for the giving of the Torah. By staying up the entire night and studying, their descendants strive to rectify the slight caused to the honour of the Torah. As always, prayers will be held throughout the night at the Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem, and come Shavuot the Jerusalem hotels will be packed to capacity as tourists wait with anticipation for the event. Do pray for Israel at this strategic time. Pray that they would hear the blast of God’s Shofar call and pray that both Israel and the Church would desire a move of the Lord God in these days.
Jerusalem Day and the battle for truth
Sadly, once again clashes erupted on Sunday between Jews and Arab Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City, as Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day. Dozens of Palestinians threw rocks at policemen, injuring officers – one of the officers sustained head injuries. In the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan (Biblically David’s City), firemen were pelted with rocks. Approximately 30,000 people, many of them teenagers and young adults participated in the annual Jerusalem Day march through the Old City. Sources state that there were also around 3,000 Israel Police personnel present to secure the event. The participants flocked down to the entrance of the Damascus Gate where they sang and danced before entering the Old City and walking across the breadth of the citadel towards the Western Wall. Marchers also entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.
At the Western Wall Plaza, a carnival atmosphere prevailed with live music, dancing and speeches. Several Knesset politicians were present, including new Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) and former interior ministers Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Gideon Sa’ar. Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) is a national holiday in Israel commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the re-establishment of Israel’s control over the Old City in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War. Jerusalem was divided from the War of Independence in 1948 until 1967. The western part of the city was in Israeli hands, and the eastern part – excluding an Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus – was under the control of the Jordanian kingdom after Jordan had forced the Jewish people out who were living there. After the eastern part of the city was liberated, the walls dividing the city were torn down and three weeks later the Knesset enacted legislation unifying the city and extending Israeli sovereignty over the eastern part.
Of course the history of Jerusalem did not start in 1967. Thousands of years of Jewish history took place in what is now called “Arab East Jerusalem.” But as Honest Reporting explain, only when the Jewish residents were driven from their homes in 1948 was the city divided between East and West. This video shows the reality of Jerusalem today and includes interviews from survivors of the fall of Jerusalem.
In related news, I had to smile at this short film clip which shows a TV host giving an Islamic leader a history lesson: Jerusalem has never been a Muslim capital.
Indeed, any call for a Palestinian state is quite ridiculous. Israel, one of the smallest nations in the world (about the size of Wales) is really too small to do anymore so-called ‘land for peace deals’. If Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as the ‘West Bank’ were to be given to the Arab Palestinians, Israel would be only 9 miles wide at the area above Tel Aviv. And, as mentioned in previous reports, a Palestinian state already exists – it is called Jordan. Is there really a need for another Arab Palestinian state? After all, there are 22 Arab states already. Must we have another Arab state to be carved out of the heart of Israel with Jerusalem as its capital? There has never been an Arab Palestinian state in all of history. And yet in the world of football, ‘Palestine’, which has been a FIFA member since 1998, wants world football’s governing body to bar Israel from international competition. How can this be if in reality, a state of Palestine doesn’t exist? Read the full story here. But what is more vexing is that Hamas – a recognised Terrorist group have gone on record this past week to state that Britain should pay Palestinians compensation money and aid Hamas in terrorizing Israel, Hamas officials claim.
According to Israel National News, the coordinator of the Palestinian Arab world’s “Nakba Day” events has blamed Britain for Israel’s existence and amazingly charging it with “theft of natural resources and property” and calling for the country to assist in Palestinian terror groups’ retaking of Israel and to pay reparations to “avenge” the “injustice.” Hamas official Essam Adwan stated that Britain “paved the way” for a “Zionist takeover” by preventing Palestinians from establishing an armed resistance against Jews in 1947 and by weakening the local economy and education system. He also accused the British policy of forced expulsion imposed on the Palestinian Arabs of allowing Jews to “massacre” Arabs by fighting back against those who were launching terror attacks and their own massacres against Jews living in Israel. I think if he looked at the historical records, Adwan would soon discover that it was the direct opposite and that Britain would not allow the Jewish people arms, yet happily allowed the Arabs to use their weapons. Read the full story here.
Finally… The 34th Government of Israel speaks
Having formed his new government (albeit with a struggle) Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ministers of the 34th Government of Israel arrived at the President’s Residence for the traditional photograph with the President. At the beginning of the event, the President and Prime Minister delivered brief statements, and toasted, with the ministers, the success of the new government. President Rivlin began by referring to the great challenges that face the new government, “There are governments that receive a grace period of one hundred days. However, there are great challenges that this government must deal with from the outset, without a 100 day grace period. Previous governments did not face such challenges in the same way or with the same intensity,” Rivlan stated.
Prime Minster Netanyahu said, “This government has been established at a time of great challenges and opportunities. Our first challenge is to ensure the security of Israel in the face of accumulating threats around us. Radical Islam is lapping at all our borders, nearly all in the form of factions and forces led by Iran and other radical elements. At the same time, aided by the agreement proposed to it, Iran is making progress in achieving a nuclear weapon. All the enemies of Israel know that in the face of these threats, we have red lines.” Netanyahu went on to state, “Until today, we have been successful in keeping Israel out of the turmoil and atrocities affecting the region. We will continue to guard the security of Israel. The threats in the region also create opportunities. Many states around us have common interests with us, they see eye to eye with us on the dangers, and they see Israel as central partner in fending them off. We will make every effort to translate this cooperation into processes for stability and peace, including attempts to reach a responsible political settlement with the Palestinians, which will safeguard Israel’s essential interests… The People of Israel returned to its land, and established here the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state, a state which preserves the rule of law and respects every human being. Here in our eternal capital of Jerusalem, the Prophets of Israel embedded the eternal values of humanity, but also embedded the eternal values of our people – to which we are committed in each generation. I am proud to be the Prime Minister of Israel, and I will do all in my power, together with my ministers, to honour the mandate we have been given by the citizens of Israel. There is nothing more valuable than that.”
(Middle East News Report Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio