Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name… (Jeremiah 7:12)
The Lord said to Abram… “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13: 14-17)
Pointers for prayer: Praise God for all His purposes for the nation of Israel ~ past, present and future. Proclaim His sovereignty over Israel’s capital city – Jerusalem – and stand against every principle and power seeking to come against His authority and thwart His purposes. As we focus in on the recent conference and tour – especially at Beit El and Shilo, pray that the Israeli government would not give in to the world’s demands, and would not give up Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem for a false promise of peace. Pray fervently for the Lord’s special protection over Jerusalem, both physically and spiritually, and for the safety of all living there.
Please pray that the Church world-wide would recognise the spiritual and eternal significance of the nation of Israel. Pray into the Political situation with Israel. Pray that all Israeli governmental decisions would be brought in line with the Word of God.
Pray also for great wisdom & discernment. We are living in days of uncertainty. However the LORD God has given us His written Word to enable us to know the times that we are living in. May all your intercession be based on the correct reading of the Scriptures.
A view from the Land
Having just returned back from the Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) 30th anniversary conference and tour (yet still managing to squeeze in a CFI conference at Cheadle in the UK three days after returning from Israel), I felt I should review some of the time spent in Israel and try and inter-weave it with current news relating to this.
As many of you know, the reconstitution of the nation of Israel in 1948 precipitated a flood of prophetic literature, from many perspectives dealing with the biblical and theological significance of this event. While this historic event was certainly a ‘beginning’ of the rebirth of Israel, it was also the culmination of historical forces which had been gathering strength throughout the nineteenth century. In many ways, for the nation of Britain, it was the culmination of nearly 300 years of leadership in the Churches ‘Restoration’ movement. In the years leading up to the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917 discussion on the restoration of the Jews to the land had been waged on several fronts in England, and one of England’s most influential non-conformist preachers and popular theologians in the last half of the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon (1834-92) added his considerable voice to the question of Jewish restoration to the Promised Land. According to Helmut Thielicke, while the political, economic and social issues involved in the restoration movement were varied and complex, Spurgeon “worked only through the power of the Word of God”[Helmut Thielicke. Encounter with Spurgeon. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1963)] and his views on this issue were driven by Spurgeon’s interpretation of Scripture. Oh that today’s church would look at the people and nation of Israel and come to the revelation that God is doing a faithful work in the Land. Oh that today’s preachers would work this out through the power of the Word of God.
As CFI posted on their Facebook page this week, Spurgeon was once quoted as stating, “I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough about it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this. You cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the Children of Israel. For when the Jews are restored, the fullness of the Gentiles shall be gathered in.” CH Spurgeon. And without doubt, anyone who goes to Israel with an open mind and Bible in hand can clearly see this actual restoration of ‘the Children of Israel’ taking place in our days. Much of these issues were covered as CFI had Christians from Australia, Austria, New Zealand, Singapore, Africa, Switzerland, Sweden, France, USA, Canada, China, Germany, UK, plus 11 other nations attend their conference and tour.
The CFI conference took place at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel on Mount Scopus, and some of the highlights of the conference were looking back over the past 30 years of faithful ministry by CFI. Worship was lead mainly by Rick and Patti Ridings, though one night was led by Barry and Batya Segal. We had special tributes from a variety of people, along with Israeli Dignitaries; Jewish and Christian Bible Scholars; Israeli dancing and so much more. The conference speakers included Peter Tsukahira, who spoke on Israel’s role in light of Bible prophesy; David Nekrutman (Jewish – Christian relations); Victor Kalisher (Listening for the midnight cry); Rick Ridings (Keepers of the Wall of Prayer), Boaz Michael (What was Torah and Tanach to Jesus?); Rabbi Yehuda Glick (survivor of a terrorist attack); CBN’s News Chief Chris Mitchell (Islamic Extremists & persecution of Christians); Father Nadaff (Nazareth’s Aramean Christians and the IDF); Avner Boskey (In the Valley of Decision) and CFI’s Sharon Sanders (Thy Kingdom Come). I also spoke on a very difficult issue of ‘Christian Anti-Semitism – Shall we remain silent?’
To highlight the best would be wrong – especially as all the speakers had their own special values, however I personally was really blessed by two of the speakers – the CEO of the Libi Fund and Chairman of the ‘IDF Paratroopers Heritage Association’ Brigadier General Yehiel Gozal, and Pastor Werner Oder. Brig. Gen. Yehiel Gozal spoke on his role within the IDF but made it clear how Israel truly appreciated Christian support. His fresh approach brought laughter and honesty, yet a realization that even though he knew Israel’s roots were from the Bible, there was a cost in being in the land – one that even his children had to pay by serving in the IDF.
From a completely different background however, Pastor Werner Oder also brought to life his subject with a fresh approach, laughter and honesty, yet a deep realization that he had been brought from a deep darkness to an amazing salvation through the blood of Jesus (Y’shua). Werner Oder had travelled with us to Israel and we had great fellowship with him during our time there. Werner spoke on his life as a son of a Nazi, and on how Y’shua had completely changed his life. Yes, being an internationally renowned Lecturer and Bible teacher Werner is a ‘well-oiled machine (putting it into his motorbike terms), yet he was truly inspiring and empowering people to receive hope through learning the lessons from history. He is also Senior Pastor of Tuckton Christian Centre and has been for over thirty years. His book ‘Battling with Nazi demons’ is available through CFI UK here: https://www.cfi.org.uk/battling-with-nazi-demons.html – it’s a must read!
The tour was also a packed agenda with the usual tour visits to various sections of Jerusalem, The Dead Sea, Masada, Qumran, Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum – a must for anyone visiting Israel – and then up to the north and the Sea of Galilee. Staying in Jerusalem for seven nights allowed the tour groups plenty of time to explore this amazing city. At Jerusalem’s heart is the Old City, surrounded by the walls of Jerusalem. Inside the walls however are amazing places such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. The Western Wall plaza is visited by millions of worshipers. Here, at the base of the massive wall that is a remnant of the Jewish Temple, prayers are offered and notes containing heartfelt prayers are wedged between the crevices.
Surrounding the Western Wall are other important Jewish sites – the Western Wall Tunnels, the unique Davidson Centre, the Jewish quarter with its magnificent Cardo and David’s Citadel, towering proudly in its beauty. South of the Old City is the City of David, from which the ancient Canaanite and Israeli Jerusalem grew. This is a fascinating site with amazing findings that provide an unforgettable experience. Outside the Walls of Jerusalem, those new to Israel, along with those who have been many times were blessed to walk through the Garden Tomb where Y’shua is believed to have been buried and from where He rose again. Here CFI UK’s CEO Jacob Vince led us in an act of remembrance through the breaking of bread.
The reality of living in Israel
As our conference was half way through the morning sessions on the first Tuesday, the reality of living in the land for every Israeli was once again brought to life as Israeli’s in Jerusalem ran for cover as the sirens sounded over the city. Thankfully we had been warned that this was only an exercise to prepare for when a real tzeva adom (Code Red) alert is sounded. However, within two hours, Operation Lifeshield was getting calls from community programs concerned about lack of public shelters. The sirens went off at 11.05 am and again at 19.05 in the evening. Just hearing the sound sent shudders through me as it reminded me of one of my many trips to the Gaza border. How quickly one can forget what the Israelis have to cope with living out here. Click here to view:
Thankfully, for the people on our tour, they had no need to feel the fear of rocket attack, however while we toured, two rockets were fired into south Israel from Gaza. Later, as we arrived home, the Tzeva Adom (Code Red) Sirens sounded in Ashkelon and many areas again in Southern Israel. My heart and prayers went out for all my friends in this area of Israel, as they had to seek shelter once again. Reports were coming in at the time stating that more than 10 rockets have been fired into Israel from Hamas in Gaza. And as I’m writing this report, sources state that Hamas terrorists are smuggling thousands of tons of cement into Gaza through Egypt to build more terror tunnels. Extended opening of the Rafah Border crossing allows the Islamic terrorist group to smuggle in some 4,000 tons of cement a day to rebuild underground tunnels. Hamas began rebuilding the attack tunnels that Israel destroyed during Operation Protective Edge only three months after the end of the war last summer. Israel is closely monitoring the latest development, but at this stage Israeli officials are holding back criticism of Egypt out of concern it would hurt the delicate ties between Jerusalem and Cairo, which have only recently improved with security cooperation between the two countries.
According to latest reports, at least 63 percent of children in the southern Israeli town of Sderot suffer from post-traumatic stress, mostly due to the intense rounds of violence that have occurred between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Tuesday. The figures were compiled in a new study by Professor Mooli Lahad, who specialises in psychotrauma. And as the summer vacation approaches in Israel this week, the children of Sderot and other communities surrounding Gaza related memories of last summer’s violent conflict with Gaza terrorists. There is still much to intercede for here!
The name of the Lord
Meanwhile, back to my tour report, and once again, from a personal point of view, I found three sections of the tour most moving. Following a great night at the Western Wall at the beginning of Shabbat on the Friday night, we had an excellent Shabbat meal with Jews and Christians from Israel, Switzerland, Sweden, France, USA, Canada, China, UK and many other nations – in downtown Jerusalem. We listened to a son of a Holocaust survivor who shared that his Father had questioned that if the Jews are God’s chosen people how could He have let the Shoah happen. He then went on to say that his father would have been amazed that Jews and Christians could possibly share a love for each other over a Shabbat meal. He thanked CFI for all that we have done for the Jewish people and Israel over the past 30 years.
Then from Jerusalem, we went to what is probably my favourite place in Israel – the Shomron (Samaria) – the name for the mountainous, central region of Israel which is the biblical area of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. In this area are two very important Biblical places that we visited – Beit El (where Jacob encountered God in Genesis 28:10-22) and Shilo -the place of significant beginnings for the Jewish People and one of the most dramatic sites in the country. Here, the Israeli’s brought the Tabernacle (Joshua 18:1) making Shiloh a holy place even before Jerusalem. The path to the mound where the Tabernacle would have stood has a beautiful view of the valley where one of the most colourful stories in the Bible took place – the summer grape-harvest festival when the daughters of Shiloh came out dancing and the men of Benjamin sought brides from among them (Judges 21:15-23). Today, Shiloh’s hills are once again producing wine – some of the best in the world – thus fulfilling Amos 9 where we read in verse 13 – 15: ‘New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” And there we stood, at the exact place on Tel Shiloh where the Tabernacle stood. This would also be the spot where Hannah came to pray for a son. Later, she dedicated that son, Samuel, to serve in the Tabernacle. Today Shiloh has a visitor centre with an excellent engaging audiovisual presentation.
The name ‘Samaria’ derives from the ancient city of Samaria, what was the capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel in the 9th and 8th centuries BC. In modern times, the territory is generally and almost universally known as part of the misnamed ‘West Bank’. After Israel had been attacked by five Arab nations intent on wiping Israel off the map in 1967, Israel miraculously won the six-day-war and took back this area. However, in 1994, control of Areas ‘A’ (full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority) and ‘B’ (Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control) were transferred by Israel to the Palestinian Authority. Needless to say, the Palestinian Authority do not recognize the term Samaria within its domain. Yet as our wonderful guide Rachel from Keshet Educational Tours informed the tour group, this place is where God Himself has stamped His Name and ownership.
In Exodus 32:15-17 it states: ‘And Moses turned and went down from the mountain [Sinai], and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.’ During the Holocaust, six million Jews died in gas chambers simply because they were Jews. I have ministered to many Holocaust survivors through CFI’s work through Project Forsake Them Not, and they all show me the numbers that were engraved on their arms by the Nazi’s. Could this be why the Jewish people cry out, as Isaiah 49:14-16 states: ‘But Zion [Israel/Jewish people] said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.” But God’s answer to Israel is this: “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands”’. Israel’s name has been inscribed, written on the palm of God’s hand. It’s impossible for Him to forget His Jewish people Israel. Yet along with that, God is concerned for His Nation Israel, so much so that He has written His Name – YHVH in the Land there.
It is at Beit El (Bethel) that from space one can see God’s name written in the topography of the land. The name never appears complete in written form; only the four consonant letters, יהוה (YHVH – Yod Heh Vav Heh, read right to left) – Yahweh or Yahveh. In modern Judaism, this is commonly referred to as “HaShem,” meaning, “The Name”. In the Christian Bible, this is written in capitals “LORD”. There are some places that one can’t adequately put into words. There are some places that need to be seen, yet to remain silent and stand in awe of God. This is such a place – Beit El – the House of God.
(Middle East News Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio