The Word: Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah… he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them…. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” Then Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” (2 Chronicles 20: 14-17, 20) [Bold italics added – DS]
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: Israel is constantly faced with huge battles, but as I read from 2 Chronicles this week (above), I felt we needed to believe for a miracle. Let us pray that the nation of Israel would position themselves to be able to ‘stand still and see the salvation of the Lord’; that they would not fear or be dismayed; and that they would ‘believe in the Lord their God and believe in His prophets’ and prosper.
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. 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.
Israel reels from further Terrorist attacks
As I was putting this report together, news was breaking of yet further terrorist attacks in Israel. On Tuesday, multiple terror attacks took place in various areas of Israel. In the worst incident, a Palestinian went on a stabbing spree in Jaffa, killing an American tourist and wounding several others. Two border policemen were injured in a shooting attack near Jerusalem’s Old City, while another Israeli was injured in a stabbing in Petah Tikva, a city in the Central District of Israel, 7 miles east of Tel Aviv. Sadly, some of the international media appeared more concerned about the Palestinian terrorists than their victims, and in the UK both the BBC and ITV did give coverage, but it was very brief. USA Vice President Joe Biden denounced those in the international community and in the Palestinian Authority who have failed to condemn Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel. “Let me say in no uncertain terms the US condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Biden said in Jerusalem on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He spoke just one day after a Palestinian terrorist went on a stabbing spree in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, killing a Vanderbilt graduate student, Taylor Force, 29, and wounding 12 others. Taylor Force was a USA veteran who had served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan only to be killed on the Jaffa water front by the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday evening. The attack occurred just a short distance away from where Biden was meeting former president Shimon Peres. Netanyahu thanked Biden for his strong support and denounced the Palestinian Authority (PA) for failing to condemn his people’s terror attacks against Israelis, including the one in which Force was killed. Netanyahu stated, “Unfortunately President Abbas has not only refused to condemn these terrorism attacks, his Fatah party actually portrays the murderer of this American citizens as a Palestinian martyr and a hero. This is wrong. This failure to condemn terrorism should be condemned itself by everyone in the international community.”
Following another terrorist attack on March 4, 2016 carried out by Amani Hosni Jawad Al-Sabatin after she carried out a car-ramming attack against a group of Israeli soldiers at Gush Etzion junction, PA President Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter of condolence to her family in the town of Husan. In it, he praised Al-Sabatin as “a martyr who quenched the land of Palestine with her pure soul.” For reasons that are unclear, the letter was on the official letterhead of the Palestinian Embassy in Jordan. The letter was then tweeted by the Fatah Recruitment and Organization Commission (@fateha1965). The Independent Media Review & Analysis translated the letter which read, “Embassy of the State of Palestine, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, March 6, 2016. In the name of Allah the merciful and beloved, and never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision. Distinguished residents of Husan, Distinguished Al-Sabatin family, with great sorrow and deep anguish we received the news of the death of the martyr Amani Hosni Jawad Al-Sabatin. We consider her to be someone who is with Allah… as a martyr who quenched the land of Palestine with her pure soul. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine.” At the same the Hamas Press stated, “The Palestinian woman is a man at a time when real men are hard to find.” The Facebook page of the Hamas website shared a poster with her face against the backdrop of the Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem and details of her death in the ‘operation against the Israeli soldiers’. It read, “The 35-year-old martyr Amani Al-Sabatin, killed by the occupation’s bullets near the ‘Gush-Etzyon’ settlement in Bethlehem, after carrying out a car-ramming operation against the occupation’s soldiers, on the morning of Friday, March 4, 2016.”
According to data compiled by the Israeli Shin Bet Security Agency, 2015 was the deadliest year for terrorism since 2008. Twenty-eight people were killed in terror attacks on Israel during 2015, and 2016 has already had a high number of attacks from Arab Palestinians on Jewish Israeli’s. Without doubt Israeli’s are in despair as to when these attacks are going to end, so please do remain watchful and constant in prayer, and continue to pray that the LORD God would place His Wall of Fire around the Nation and people of Israel (Zechariah 2:5).
Standing in awe, not in despair
As I mention above in the ‘Pointers to prayer’, Israel is constantly faced with these huge battles and we can indeed start to despair as to when these hideous terrorist attacks would stop. However, as I read from 2 Chronicles this week, I really feel we need to believe for a miracle. I’m once again currently reading through (cover to cover – or at least attempting to) a translation of the Bible called ‘The One New Man Bible’. It claims on the cover that it ‘reveals Jewish roots and power’. Well without doubt Rev. William J. Morford has uncovered things that do enable ones understanding of the Scriptures to go to a deeper level. In a similar way to the Complete Jewish Bible by David Stern (which I have read cover to cover numerous times and love) Morford does a good job as he recaptures the Jewish roots. One word however keeps leaping off the pages, and that word is ‘Awe’.
Did you know that fear is the opposite of faith? We are not to have any trace of fear, so God commands us frequently in the Hebrew text, ‘Do not fear!’ More often though it is “Do not be in Awe!” In the Hebrew this apparently is a very strong command that has no direct English translation. We should not entertain fear, and we overcome fear by staying closer to God, worshipping, reading Scripture, making the good confession, and not dwelling on negative consequences. However, we must be ‘in awe’ of the creator of Heaven and Earth – the LORD God Himself.
In another Hebrew word, a cloud/heavy cloud or darkness is called ‘araphel’ (deep darkness, gloom, gloomy, thick cloud, thick darkness, thick gloom – Strong’s Concordance 6205). I know I have shared this some time ago, but feel compelled to look at this again. 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 through the Red Sea, the Israeli’s were to follow a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And at Shavuot (Pentecost), 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). I often hear people within the church preach about an ‘end time’ environment in which the world will be in gross darkness (as in Isaiah 60), 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 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 plotting yet more attacks on Israel; The PA Fatah group encouraging their people to ‘stab Israeli’s’; Hezbollah prepared for war in the north and Iran still with their nuclear plans – we might well feel like giving up and being oppressed by the thick darkness. Regarding Iran, two more test-launches of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles were fired on Wednesday. Iranian IRGC Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told reporters, “The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2000 km is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime (Israel) from a safe distance.” The US has said it intends to raise the issue of Iran’s missiles at an upcoming UN Security Council meeting. And so, as mentioned, we might indeed feel like giving up and feel oppressed by the thick darkness. And yet, God is light, so surely His light must shine upon the only democracy within the Middle East – Israel?
Again let this be brought to God in prayer, that 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. With the BDS wagon losing one of its wheels this past week, we may allow ourselves a brief moment of rejoicing (quoting Sir Winston Churchill), but there is still a massive battle ahead. So let us not fear, but trust in the God Who went before and still goes before the Nation of Israel today, and pray that they too (Israel) would put their hope in Him.
Christ at the Checkpoint
As you may have seen in Fiona’s CFI Intercessors letter, the most recent Christ at the Checkpoint Conference is currently being held in Bethlehem. Keren Hannah Pryor sent an article by a freelance journalist Richard Mather who quotes Stephen Sizer as saying “There is no evidence that the apostles (of Jesus) believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to the land or that Jewish possession of the land would be important, let alone that Jerusalem would remain a central aspect of God’s purposes for the world.” You can read the blog here. Initially I had no desire to include anything on this Christ at the Checkpoint conference, and just to make it clear – I am not in favour of criticizing fellow Christians, however I do believe this conference is not of the Lord, and certainly does not build bridges between the Church, Israel and the Jewish people, and only encourages division between Arabs, Arab Christians, Jews and Gentile Christians.
This year there had even been threats from Isis that they would ‘intervene’ with this conference. Many sources have stated that the threats had been raised after Arab Christian concerns following last year’s (2015) threat when the Palestinian Authority ignored a detailed threat by an Isis affiliate in Jerusalem to “purify” the city of Christians. The ISIS announcement was posted in the eastern part of Jerusalem, and in it the ISIS affiliate threatened to murder all Christians in the Muslim Arab neighbourhoods during the month of Ramadan, starting with Shuafat and on to the Muslim sections of the Old City. This, thankfully never materialised, and so far from what my sources have stated, there has been no incidents in Bethlehem at this time. However Israel is on alert regarding ISIS. The PA security organizations did go on heightened alert in and around Bethlehem over the Christmas period, fearing Isis could launch terrorist attacks targeting Christian tourists or sites (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4744249,00.html).
[Above: David Soakell with Pastor Naim Khoury (with a poster welcoming us to a country that doesn’t exist!)]
Last year after I spoke at CFI’s International conference in Jerusalem, our tour guide refused to take the group into Bethlehem (as she was Jewish, and would have faced a hard time). With our CEO being at the CFI Trustees meeting, the job fell to Julia and me to lead the people through the barrier into Bethlehem and escort them around. We didn’t feel threatened at all, apart from the usual demands from the Arabs wanting to sell us items. However we did come across an Arab Christian Minister who openly supported Israel and spoke out against the Christ at the Checkpoint conference – Naim Khoury, Director of Holy Land Missions and Pastor of First Baptist Church in Bethlehem. We visited his church in Bethlehem – and he states “There are Palestinians Arabs who love Israel. When you try to blame Israel for everything, it doesn’t work. This is not the way to plant the seed of peace. This is not how Christians should act. Christians need to plant the seed of peace and love and harmony in the hearts and minds of the people. Let’s change the mentality.” When the issue of the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint conference hosted by Bethlehem Bible College’ came up, Pastor Naim Khoury stated, “They are free to think and say what they want. I do not participate in that conference and I am against it because the premise is not biblical… As an Evangelical Bible-believing Christian standing with the whole Word of God, I don’t believe that I should be involved – the Bible, the whole Bible, meaning the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the real answer to our situation. Those at Christ at the Checkpoint go up to the checkpoint and rally against Israel, but that’s not the way to deal with the situation. We need to change the subject. There is no need to say ‘Christ at the Checkpoint.’ That’s just politics, it’s not biblical… Every Christian from abroad that I meet that supports Israel builds their position regarding Israel upon the Word and covenants of God. The other side builds its position on Replacement Theology. A few years ago, I did a study and discovered that most of the Palestinian Christians and churches are basing their positions on Replacement Theology. And this is because they are involving themselves in Palestinian politics. Israel is not perfect. No nation is. But that does not mean I should deny the basic tenets of my faith concerning the Word of God.” You can view his website here: http://www.fbcbethlehem.com/
Finally… are you on Facebook?
If you do use one of the many Social Media sites, then do join CFI on Facebook. Recently, we posted the ‘Prophetic Warning to Britain’ that is on the CFI UK website http://cfi.org.uk/news.php?article=136 and this was shared on the CFI Facebook page. It has now been seen by 11,550 people, with 66 ‘Likes’; 142 shares and over 9 comments. This is the largest response to date. Also, the overall CFI Facebook page has 3,477 likes with 22 joining us this week. So do join us and tell your praying friends and supporters to join too at: https://www.facebook.com/CFIUK
(Middle East News Correspondent) Tweet me @David_CFI
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio