The Word: Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths [Tabernacles] for seven days to the LORD. ‘On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind… ‘Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. ‘You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. ‘You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'” (Leviticus 23:33-43)
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. (Zechariah 14:16, 17)
Pointers for prayer: As you read through this week’s report, please pray in line with the Word of God over these issues. God promises to bless the people of Israel if they live according to His Word (but thank God for His grace and mercy, for without, we as Christians would struggle! -Lamentations 3:22-23). We can see God’s blessing upon much of the Land of Israel today ~ we need only look at how the dessert has blossomed this past 68 years and the way Israel has done amazing things throughout their short history of being back in the Land. However, there are many areas within Israel that we know need prayer (as indeed there are within the body of the church). The enemy also wants to deny Israel their right (both Biblically and legally to the Land of Israel – as you will see in this week’s report). As the Jewish nation celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, may they know the Lord’s hand upon them. “He will hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5) Pray for freedom, pray for Truth, and ask the Lord to bless in abundance His people Israel (Numbers 6:22-27).
Walking through God’s Tabernacle of Autumn leaves
[Above photo taken by David Soakell]
This week in Israel, the nation is celebrating the special festival of Sukkot. As the Feast of Tabernacles began, my wife and I went for a walk through the avenue of trees near to where we live. Often, when dealing with issues related to Israel and the Middle East, one needs to stop and contemplate life. Stress can cause so many problems to one’s body that I often wonder if it was God’s design to allow autumn to fill one’s senses with colour and autumnal smells – after all – what’s better for dealing with stress than walking through country woods kicking the leaves? And what better way to rejoice in the LORD than walk through His beautiful canopy of autumn colours?
Did you know however that in the book of Zechariah, the prophet speaks of a time when non-Jews will come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot with Israel during the Millennium rule? Zechariah 14:16 reads: “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.” So are you ready? This seven-day harvest festival, during which the Jewish people are told to live in “booths,” or temporary shelters, is a reminder to future generations of how the Israeli’s had to live in booths when God delivered them out of Egypt, at the time of the Exodus.
I guess it would be rather strange to hear Christmas carols at this time of year, however it might not be as crazy as it sounds, as a number of Christians actually believe that this is the date of Christ’s birth, when He came to “tabernacle among us” (remember, Immanuel means “God with us”, Matthew 1:23; Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14-15). So should not the church also look forward expectantly to the Feast of Tabernacles, just as we look forward to the coming of the Messiah to bring His government, His Kingdom, and His laws? As it says in Micah 4:1-2 “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains… Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
As mentioned, the Feast of Tabernacles was introduced at the time of the Exodus. It was one of the annual “Pilgrimage” festivals for which the people journeyed from all over the nation of Israel to keep the feast in Jerusalem. It was to be a joyous celebration. All of the annual Holy Days are rich with meaning and symbolism. Taken together they reveal the progressive fulfilment of God’s Plan for mankind. However, I believe, the Feast of Tabernacles (also referred to as the Feast of Booths, Feast of the Ingathering, and Succoth) represents the following: At its most basic level, it is a celebration of the abundance of God’s blessings in connection with the ingathering of the Autumn Harvests. As mentioned, it is also a memorial to the Exodus, when the Israeli’s wandered in the wilderness, living in tabernacles or booths (i.e. temporary dwelling places) en route to the Promised Land. Could this remind us that we are in a temporary dwelling (i.e. 2 Corinthians 4:18-5:2, “Fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling…”)?
Historically, Succoth (or Sukkot) commemorates the days in the wilderness of Sinai after Israel came out of Egypt. According to all natural laws, they (the Israeli’s) should have perished, but were instead divinely protected by God. Since the rebirth of the State of Israel, the Jewish people have experienced many attacks and wars in the attempts of the enemy to destroy Israel – yet the Lord has continually provided His divine protection. Tabernacles is therefore a representation of Faith in God’s protection and promises. However, as we monitor the days in which we live, Israel is once again needing the Divine protection of God, and not just from the forces of evil dressed up in Islamic religion, but also from a far more subtle attack – a denial of truth from the nations of the world!
Truth is nowhere to be found
[Above photo: The Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel taken by David Soakell]
In Isaiah 59:12-15, we read, ‘For our offences are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us… rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.’ In the Benson Commentary, it states regarding Isaiah 59:14-15 that this speaks of “the sentences in courts of judicature, which were contrary to right and justice; as if he had said, God denies you justice, as you have denied it to others… justice and judges are at a great distance from each other; Truth therefore is cast to the ground, and justice trampled underfoot.” Oh how this is the case for the United Nations!
As you may have seen on a few websites of late (though no mention within the National TV News channels) – the 58-member Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted last Thursday to approve a resolution tabled by no other than Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, declaring that the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City has no historic ties to Judaism. Other areas such as Rachael’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarch’s in Hebron have also been labelled, ‘irrelevant to Jewish history’. This vote by UNESCO erasing the Jewish identity of the Western Wall – the remaining outer wall of Solomon’s Temple, along with other areas of Israel – needs to be denounced by all who stand with Israel, and all who stand for truth. The vote was led by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan – ALL Islamic countries – with 24 countries voting in favour of the resolution, 6 countries against and 28 abstaining.
[Above photo: Jews worshiping the LORD and praying at The Western Wall (the remaining outer wall of Solomon’s Temple) at Tabernacles 2016]
What is even more vexing to the soul is that the truth is the opposite – The Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City has everything to do with Judaism and Israel’s history, though very little to do with Islam! Contrary to Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a very weak connection to Jerusalem. Of course the Iman’s would be up in arms if confronted with this, and no doubt many within Islam would be demanding death for such ‘outrage from an infidel like me’. Even many people of other faiths would ask, “But what about Islam’s holy sites… the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem – these represent Islam’s third most holy sites.” Yet in truth, the Koran says nothing about Jerusalem… not a jot. Yes, the Koran mentions Mecca hundreds of times. It mentions Medina countless times, but it never mentions Jerusalem once. And with good reason: There is no historical evidence to suggest Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem. So how did Jerusalem become the third holiest site of Islam?
Well, according to an Arab journalist, Joseph Farrah, who now lives in America, he states, “Muslims today cite a very vague passage in the Koran, the seventeenth Sura, entitled “The Night Journey.” It relates that in a dream or a vision, Mohammed was carried by night “from the sacred temple to the temple that is most remote, whose precinct we have blessed, that we might show him our signs. …” In the seventh century, some Muslims identified the two temples mentioned in this verse as being in Mecca and Jerusalem. And that’s as close as Islam’s connection with Jerusalem gets – nothing but myth, fantasy, and wishful thinking. Meanwhile, Jews can trace their roots in Jerusalem back to the days of Abraham.” Can you imagine the outcry from the Muslim world if the UN suggested that Mecca and Medina had no historic ties to Islam?
In response, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “The UNESCO theatre of the absurd continues. Today that organization adopted another delusional decision stating that the Jewish People have no connection to the Temple Mount or the Western Wall. Even if they do not read the Bible, I would suggest that UNESCO members visit the Arch of Titus in Rome. On it one can see what the Romans brought back to Rome after they destroyed and looted the Second Temple on the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago. There, engraved on the Arch of Titus, is the seven-branched menorah that is the symbol of the Jewish People and, I remind you, is also the symbol of the Jewish state today. Soon, UNESCO will say that the Emperor Titus engaged in Zionist propaganda. To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids. By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it had left. But I believe that historical truth is stronger and that truth will prevail. And today we are dealing with the truth.”
[Above two photos: Arch of Titus in Rome & The Arch of Titus,with the seven-branched menorah]
Since these blatant lies from the UNESCO vote became public information, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, made a statement on the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Irina Bokova stated in Paris, 14 October, “As I have stated on many occasions, and most recently during the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee, Jerusalem is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is in recognition of this exceptional diversity, and this cultural and religious coexistence, that it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.” Bokova went on to state, “In the Torah, Jerusalem is the capital of King David, where Solomon built the Temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant. In the Bible, Jerusalem is the city of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Koran, Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, where Muhammad arrived after his night journey from Al Haram Mosq (Mecca) to Al Aqsa” [Though as mentioned, there is no historical evidence that Muhammad ever went to Jerusalem]. Bokova stated, “When these divisions carry over into UNESCO, an Organization dedicated to dialogue and peace, they prevent us from carrying out our mission. UNESCO’s responsibility is to foster this spirit of tolerance and respect for history, and this is my absolute daily determination as Director-General, with all Member States.”
However, as soon as Irina Bokova made this statement, she received “death threats” after expressing reservations about Arab-backed resolutions on the holy sites in Jerusalem. As I write, the two resolutions are due to be put to the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Tuesday, which generally votes with the line taken by committees. However, Michael Worbs, who chairs UNESCO’s executive board, said he “hoped a final vote would be postponed to allow time for a compromise to be worked out.” A compromise? There does not need to be any compromise, the whole idea that the Jewish people have nothing to do with Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and Western Wall is ludicrous and this vote should be made illegal. UNESCO will hold a new vote on a draft resolution that failed to acknowledge the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall because of a request by Mexico that is set to reopen discussions on it, but it is expected to pass again regardless. Do pray into this.
Only Muslims have the right to the Temple Mount and Western Wall?
Following on from the UNESCO farce, a Friday sermon in presence of PA Chairman Abbas was aired on official Palestinian Authority TV, on October 14, 2016. What we need to remember here of course is that Fatah – the Palestinian Authority (PA) is regarded by the West (both media and politicians) as the ‘moderate’ party. With this in mind, Palestinian Media Watch recorded the sermon and put it on their website to prove just how wrong this ‘moderate’ label is.
In the report, Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habbash is seen venting his anti-Israel slur stating, “Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian land. Jerusalem is the property of the Palestinians. The UNESCO resolution is a victory for the truth. It is a victory for justice. It is a victory for the true history of this land and for all of humanity. UNESCO’s resolution confirms what we think and believe in, that Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, and the Al-Buraq Wall [he means the Western Wall] and the Al-Buraq [Wall] plaza are all purely Islamic and Palestinian assets and no one has the right to be our partner in that. No one has the right. We are the owners and we have the right to it. Only the Muslims have the right to the Al-Aqsa [Mosque] and the Al-Buraq [Wall] and the Al-Buraq [Wall] plaza which is purely Islamic waqf property… This is a message to Israel from us (i.e., the Palestinian Arabs) that we have the right and from all of the international community. The message from us is that we will not renounce our right as long as we live. And even if we die, future generations will follow us from our sons and grandchildren who will adhere to this right.” In addition to being Abbas’ advisor, Mahmoud Al-Habbash also serves as the PA’s Supreme Sharia’s Judge and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Sharia’s Justice (or should that be injustice?) You can view the video should you wish here.
And finally… some closing thoughts
In a nutshell, the Feast of Tabernacles, commemorates the transition of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt to sovereignty in the Land of Israel; from nomadic life in the desert to permanence in the Promised Land, and from oblivion to deliverance and fulfilment in God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 28:13,14. Gen.35:11,12 & Psalm 105:8-11). And yet, one day before Israel started to celebrate Tabernacles 2016, the Arab Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held an official reception at his headquarters in Ramallah (on Saturday) for the family of a terrorist who died last month of a heart attack, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Sunday. According to the report, Abbas warmly embraced the family members of Yasser Hamdouni, who murdered an Israeli ,13 years ago, and was serving a life sentence in the Rimon Prison. Abbas told them, “Your son was a hero… the blood of the martyrs and victims was not spilled in vain. They will be part of our path to an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem.” And here lies the problem. Like in the report above, both Mahmoud Abbas and his ‘Advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs’, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, are constantly feeding this lie to their people. I sincerely believe prayer changes things (Psalm 107:28-30; Matthew 7:7; John 14:13-14.) However, we need the Prayer Warriors. Do pray that we would see many more believers wanting to intercede for the people and nation of Israel.
(Middle East News Correspondent)
Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ & Israel National Radio