Israel as God’s Sword and Bow – 9 Aug 2014

Once again, Hamas broke an agreed upon cease-fire, this one intended for at least 72 hours brokered by Egypt and the UN, breaking it yesterday (Friday) morning in the continuing war of Hamas against Israel, which has necessitated Israel’s heavy, yet restricted response.

Last night at our service, a siren went off during the time of the teaching on the whole-hearted commitment that Yeshua insists upon for those who would follow Him.  The congregation had to calmly go off to three locations on the property that we consider to be ‘safe’, even though we have no actual protected shelter from rocket/missile fire that might get through.  In this case, the Iron Dome intercepted two rockets in the air, which was visible from where we were.

A few members of the congregation have suffered from nervousness and anxiety during the month of rocket attacks and disrupted lives.  Some have been afraid to go anywhere with their children without some nearby shelter.  Many children have been confined to their homes, or just outside them.  Persons accustomed to go for walks have seen that curtailed, never knowing if and when a wailing siren may go off and a rocket/missile, or its shrapnel debris, may come down.  Some of the summer camps were canceled.  Many tour groups to Israel have canceled their plans to come.  Many thanks to those of you who have come over during this time despite the insecurity of the situation.

Also last night, V, young man and soldier who was in Gaza, and who came out last week, was able to come to the service, and let us know something of what he faced:  the death of three Israeli soldiers in a booby-trapped house 30 meters from him that Hamas blew up; many houses with tunnel openings, weapons, booby traps.  We are all so thankful for God’s protection over him.

It seems more and more clear that God is drawing some lines in the sand for people to choose on which side to stand.  Hamas, and other jihadi Islamic terrorists groups, are relentless in their drive and determination to “wear out the saints of the Most High” (Dan 8:25), and “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev 13:7).  I believe that the Lord is giving us a taste and a glimpse of things to come, and for which we need to become spiritually prepared.  The things going on here, and, for now, even worse in Iraq and Syria, Egypt and Nigeria, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, are acts of God’s long-suffering towards the repentance unto salvation of many before YESHUA HIMSELF directly intervenes for judgment on behalf of His covenant people and His Holy name. (Rev 6:12-17)  He is calling on us to persevere through to the end, and not give up on faith and hope in His coming, while learning all the more to love and to be forgiving.  (Lk 18:1-8)  Who is competent for these things?!  Thank God for the Holy Spirit within us to help us be overcomers by faith in the blood of Jesus and in the confession of who He is!

The modern State of Israel is the Israel of God in the making.  It seems that God is using Israel, the natural brethren of Yeshua/Jesus and the nation through whom He came in the flesh, as a sword, and as a battle bow (Zech 10:4-5), to bring division within the household and among the nations, just as Jesus Himself came to bring division within households and family relationships.  (Mt 10: 30-39)  Who is on the Lord’s side?

The question of whether the present re-established homeland for the Jewish people is of God, or merely of man, is not dissimilar to the question put to Yeshua/Jesus:  Tell us plainly whether you be the Messiah, the Son of God!?  One’s response and answer to that question will pierce even to the division of soul and spirit, and will have its consequences affecting our relationship with the God of Israel, our personal and church relationships, and of sifting between sheep and goat nations.

There is an important point here:  Yeshua is GOD’s Anointed One/Messiah/Christ. (Ps 2)  He is not Israel’s; He is not ours.  For the believer now in Yeshua, God’s Anointed One has become ours; yet He is still GOD’s chosen and appointed one.  Israel will accept another coming in his own name. (Jn 5:39-47)  The antichrist will be Israel’s choice of ‘Messiah’, before the remnant that is “all Israel” finally accepts Jesus to be the true Savior and King.

The Holy Spirit is working to bring to pass all that is written in the Law and the Prophets, and in the New Testament, too.

There is an abundance of information, both written and visual, ‘out there’ about what is supposedly going on over here.  At the end of the day, each person is going to have to decide for himself who he/she is going to listen to, and where and with whom they/we are going to stand.

The Valor and The Folly of War – 4 Aug 2014

Today were two terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, and there is a danger of other break-outs of violence in the wake of the terrorist war against Israel, and Israel’s response in defense.  If Israel is so powerful and its destructive force known, then shouldn’t Hamas consider the cost before drawing Israel into a war?  It’s like a featherweight boxer picking on a heavyweight, knowing that the heavyweight can not use all his strength to keep the annoying attacker to stop, lest he be accused of using lethal force on a smaller, weaker opponent.

With this in mind, Hamas is claiming a tako (tie), if not a victory, because it is neutralizing Israel from putting away the ‘messenger from Satan’ for good, as Hamas continues to fire rockets, even at times to Beer Sheva, despite all of Israel’s fire-power.  As I have written before, war is unfortunately necessary in this present evil world, but it can never solve the problem of sin, the father and mother of war. And, God has built in frustration and futility into the affairs of men — including those who are chosen by Him and who also believe in Him — so that all will need to acknowledge Him as God, and Yeshua/Jesus as the only Savior.  The horrors and despair of war should move us not only to have mercy and compassion on account of the human devastation, but also to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus to  be glorified.  The whole creation has been subjected to this futility, with hope.

Hamas is the elected government of Gazans, who, by and large, support Hamas’ agenda against the existence of Israel.  Gaza is defacto a state, with an elected government and an army.  As long as Israel tries to separate Hamas as a terror organization from the general population, it can never ‘win’.  And the ‘world’ will never let it win anyway:  Israel is expected to still supply food, electricity, and medicine to its perpetual enemy, even as that enemy seeks Israel’s demise.  Yet the Israelis have no desire to utterly destroy its neighbors.  And neither is it God’s time for Israel to ‘win’; and that will not be until the Isaeli Jewish people and nation return to YHVH their God through Yeshua His Son, blessing Him who alone comes in the name of the Father.  Then Gaza will be part of the Tribe of Judah’s inheritance.   War has a way to bring out heroics in otherwise ordinary people, and we are emotionally moved by those ‘heroes’ risking their lives to defend their homes and nation.  We thank God for them, and pray that they would come to know the Father in Heaven.

Sadly, this war has once again shown the raw divisions within the Body as a whole, meaning between the Jewish and Arab believers.  Our prayer meeting on July 13 to try to arise above that — given that Yeshua is in full authority, and He has told us that there will be wars till the end — in order that we may have a public voice to our people, is still just that:  a prayer meeting.  It is my opinion that we must do it again after this war comes to an end, despite pronouncements coming from some Jewish Messianic leaders, and from some Arab brothers and institutions.

Christians who liken Israel to Satan should at the least be careful in what they say and do, just as Gamliel admonished the Jews who were persecuting the Jewish believers to be careful in their attitudes, words, and actions, lest they find themselves fighting against God.  The Jewish leaders said that Jesus acted by the power of the devil.  There are many people who believe with good reason that Israel today is a work of God in keeping His covenant promises towards restoring His kingdom to Israel and on Earth.  Some of our Arab brothers are very loud and vocal when it comes to their outcry against the destruction and deaths in Gaza, and in their support of the ‘resistance against the occupation’, but are very quiet when it comes to all the atrocities being committed by Arabs against Arabs in Gaza and in the Arabic Muslim countries just across our borders and in North Africa and elsewhere.  Maybe God will allow an Islamic Palestinian state just to let them know what it is like, if that is really what they want.  We need to be very careful indeed.

Now some good news:  Anthony and Irene Chapman have composed a new song, “I Will Sing to You”, dedicated to the Israeli soldiers.  You can hear it here (in Hebrew):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIu4IWntT6w&feature=youtu.be

And earlier song written and sung by the Chapmans, “Prayer Under Fire”, during the first war in Gaza in December, 2008 – January, 2009, can be heard here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7K5lpcLFO6g

Peace upon Israel, and upon all nations,

War Against Terror Evil Helps Sharpen Reality – 2 Aug 2014

Ex 3:7-10  And the LORD (YHVH) said:  “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.  So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey. . . Now, therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me. . . .

Ezek 20:33-36  As I live, says the Lord GOD (YHVH), surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you.  I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face.  Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you, says the Lord GOD (YHVH).

Is 53:3  He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  And He hid, as it were, His face from us; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Shabbat shalom,

Another broken cease-fire, which this time included the temporary capture of a mortally wounded Israeli soldier, whose status at this time is uncertain.  Fewer rockets fired at Beer Sheva, but we were wakened this morning at 6:00.  A brother in the Lord has been among the soldiers killed in this war. Shai Kushnir, who was part of the Tents of Mercy congregation, was among a group of soldiers killed by a mortar on Thursday.  His funeral was yesterday.

I don’t know how long, once the Israelis in Egypt began to feel that they were really slaves being worked to death by their taskmasters once the Pharoah who did not ‘know Joseph’ began to rule, that they began to moan and groan.  Until then, their lives weren’t really so bad, and they did not think to return to their homeland.  But the time came that they began to feel the pressure, and the suspicions, and the dislike of the Egyptian rulers towards them as Hebrews. Only then did they begin to cry out for deliverance, and at some point the crescendo reached God’s ears.  And He called to Moses in the desert that the time had come to act to bring His people out of Egypt and their enslavement, and to bring them into His land which He promised to their fathers to give to them. Things got worse, much worse, before they became better; but the deliverer and the deliverance were ‘activated’ and on the way.

Israel today is again being encountered by YHVH their God face-to-face in His controversy with Zion.  He will not allow them to fully become idolaters like the Gentiles that they so much emulate.  He WILL rule over them, and He will purge out the rebels as He does so.  The despite of the world towards Israel and her leaders is increasingly evident as leeway is given towards terrorists dedicated to Israel’s and the Christianized world’s destruction, and pressure is constantly put upon Israel and upon God-fearing Christians to yield ground/territory/principles and integrity in the name of ‘peace and social order’.

The ‘world’ is more prone to listen to the lies of the evil one, and to fall as prey to his schemes, than to give, at least, the benefit of the doubt to the information and explanations of those who are God’s instruments in this world — whether it is Israel in the continuous war against terror and terrorists, or whether it is Bible-believing disciples of Jesus who seek to maintain the salt of the covenants and the light of the truth of the gospel and of Messiah being Jesus in an increasingly antichristian (read, anti-YHVH God-and-His-Son) and ungodly, unholy world, which lies under the power of the evil one.  The ‘world’ is one thing, but allies and believers should be giving greater weight towards Israel for what is the ‘story behind the story’, and not to terrorists and their allies.  Don’t we as believers want unbelievers, and even other believers, to believe our side of things as it relates to ‘suffering and life’ in the world, and not listen to those who simply oppose any explanation given by Christians?  Here is a parody that shows the pressure of ‘group think’ against what we know to be true:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTezdMLJoyE

For those of you who love and support Israel and the Jewish people, make no mistake:  both rabbinic Judaism and Islam are against the truth of who the true God and Yeshua/Jesus/Yasu is.  The time will come that that lying and antichrist spirit will agree to direct their despite and hostility towards those who identify with Jesus, whether we are Jewish, Arab, or any other national and ethnic group.

This current outbreak of war in Gaza of Hamas against Israel has again brought to the surface all of the natural and partisan feelings by believers within the Body of Messiah here (and elsewhere).  There are plenty of words and analyses (including by yours truly) from all ‘parties’, and some of you may receive much of them.   God’s moralism is not like ours; nor does He force it upon anyone, but He will eventually require every one to acknowledge that His way and His thoughts alone are right, good, and holy — and His judgments are all righteous and true. There is no moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel; but neither is there any moral equivalence between Israel’s own justification to fight against her enemies, and between God’s righteousness in bringing the Jewish people to submit to His case with them regarding Jesus.  And as long as we, as those justified through our faith in the resurrection of Jesus, are unable to express with one voice the sovereign wisdom and righteousness of God in times of severe crisis, then it can also be said of us in a practical way that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags when compared with God’s purity.

In Romans, Paul writes that we are saved by God’s mercy because we, even as believers, have all been disobedient to Him, in whatever degree or measure.  I pray and wonder whether believers in the Ukraine are seeking to express their unity in Christ, or are they mostly defining themselves by being either pro-Ukraine or pro-Russia?  What about Christians in Ireland?  Whatever those cases are, there is the unique element in the battle for minds and hearts in Israel and the Middle East because of the COVENANT of God with Israel among the children in the flesh of Abraham, that is not so with any other nation or people (in the flesh) on the Earth.

If wanting to re-vote in the UN to eradicate Israel as a legal nation-state, which was intended and determined through post-WW1 decisions by the victorious powers, then all the Arab states established through those same victors’ decisions and agreements also need to be nullified.  This is what the Islamic caliphate aims to do as it seeks to restore the Muslim empire, at least over the entire Middle East, if not throughout the world. Hamas, with its underground evil empire war factory, reminds me of the Orcs in Lord of the Rings, as they, empowered by evil, planned their war to the death and destruction of all that represents what is good.  Satan works in the dark; Jesus is Light, and in the light.

There is plenty of impurity and uncleanness still in us, and we must find a way here for the Jewish and Arab believers to overcome our natural tendencies, and demonstrate and proclaim our unity in Christ/Messiah; to put all of our words and thoughts at the cross, and let the Lord do His will and have His way.  We have to trust Him, be willing scapegoats with Him, be called bad names with Jesus, be despised and rejected with Him.  Without the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit, we surely will not be capable of doing so in true and spiritual worship.

This Tuesday is the ninth of Av, a day of historic tragedy in the Jewish people’s annals.  We, as believers in Yeshua, are not mourning the destruction of the Temple, which was destroyed because of Israel’s sin.  We should focus, maybe, on the sins within the Body of Christ, the living corporate Temple of God, which are weakening our own witness and testimony to the world for the gospel, and of the holiness and righteousness of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are having a prayer and fast day in Beer Sheva at the Bible House.

Our challenge in living in tension:  love the brethren; love our enemies (we do pray for the salvation of even terrorists); bless those who curse us; pray for those  who  persecute us; but the natural nation of Israel, or any other country and government, is not born-again to be living by such supernaturallly, Holy Spirit enpowered standards of God’s sons and daughters in Messiah.   To expect that of them is both hypocritical and unrealistic.

Is God hearing the voice of the Bride for her Bridegroom?

War of Hearts – 24 July 2014

Israel’s 10th President, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin has just been consecrated and sworn in at the Knesset (Parliament), succeeding Shimon Peres after seven years in that office.  During the much subdued ceremony compared to normal times (due to the current military operation/war in Gaza against the Hamas terrorist regime), sirens were heard in Beer Sheva and all around the Jewish towns and kibbutzes around Gaza. Both the out-going President, and the in-coming, expressed confidence of defeating the terrorist threat, both against Israel and her citizenry, and also against ordinary Gazans suffering by their elected government.

War on Earth first manifested when Cain killed his innocent and righteous brother, Abel, and then rejected personal responsibility and to come back to God on His terms. Yet, for all this, YHVH let Cain know that He would avenge him against whoever might kill him , and would even s descendant, married two women, got hurt by a boy, killed him, and threatened anyone to challenge him, and promised to avenge himself 77 times! Does any of this sound familiar as individuals grew to become nations and history unfolds before our eyes?

For the first time in a long time, the EU has understood that Israel is fighting against terrorists, who need to be disarmed.  They hatefully and inhumanely hide behind and under innocent men, women, and children in the line of fire.  At the same time, though, UN organizations such UNRWA, UNESCO, UNHRC are accusing Israel of war crimes and considering taking her to the international criminal court!  Despite all the evidence and proof of Hamas’ reign of terror both within and without its territory, they are NOT being either rebuked or investigated, and are given ‘equal’ status to a legitimate government.  As the elected government of Gaza, Israel COULD legally go to war against GAZA, and not only against terrorists in Gaza.  The world’s unwarranted hatred of Israel and favor towards the likes of Hamas is reminiscent of those who wildly cried out to release the rebel, robber, and murderer Barabbas, and to crucify Yeshua.

Some thoughts to consider:
1.  Each time that Hamas refused to accept cease-fire arrangements, or broke the two humanitarian ones early, Israel discovered and recognized the extent and seriousness of the massive tunnel network and underground city which Hamas has expertly built over many years with the billions of dollars it receives from the U.S., the EU, and Qatar.  Did the western nations not notice that virtually no building was going on above ground to develop the Gaza Strip as a functioning society?!

Yet, for all that, Israel is censured and deligitimized while terrorists bully and intimidate and threaten anyone who challenges them and withholds from them ‘payment’.  Such is the hardness of the sinful heart that sets itself against the righteousness, truth, and love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Pharoah was an example of this, but listen to the Word of God of things to come:

In Rev 13:5-9, the Holy Spirit has this to say about the christ to come and believers then:

“And a mouth speaking great things was given to it, and blasphemies. And authority was given to it to continue forty-two months.
And it opened its mouth in blasphemy toward God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, and those dwelling in Heaven.
And it was given to it to war with the saints and to overcome them.  And authority was given to it over every tribe and tongue and nation.
And all dwelling on the earth will worship it, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world.
If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”

In Rev 9:20-21, John is given to write of those who will survive the plagues associated with the sixth trumpet:

“And the rest of the men who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and golden, and silver, and bronze, and stone, and wooden idols (which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk).
And they did not repent of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”

2.  A strong Israel remains more resistant to the message of the gospel, since the nation will continue to think that they can handle their own affairs and determine its own destiny, and that God is with them and blessing them without believing in Yeshua/Jesus, who alone has protected them throughout our history, and has provided the only way which will secure true peace and tranquility, not for her only, but for the entire world.

Israel remains the enemy of the gospel so that more Gentiles can still be saved through faith in God’s Messiah — Yeshua/Jesus — before “all Israel” — the full remnant from among all the tribes — will be saved.   Meanwhile, individual Jewish people inside and outside of Israel are being saved, but many more Gentiles, including those who are Muslims and enemies now of Israel and her God, are being brought into God’s Kingdom and household.  This continuing negative side of the Israeli people’s stubbornness and stiff-neckedness, and their continuing successes against all odds, will also bring forth the increasing rise, which we already can see, of anti-semitism and violence against the Jews, against Israel, and also against Christians.

God has built in frustration and futility in all the affairs of man, so that people might seek Him, in whom alone is perfection, and that believers will anticipate with a lively hope the return of the Lord.  No matter what the outcome of this present warfare, there will not be complete satisfaction on the part of Israel’s government, or among all her people, or among those who sympathize with the Palestinian narrative.  The cancelling of air flights to and out from Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport is a blow to Israel’s economy in many ways for a long time; the soldier who is missing, whom Hamas claims is in their custody (whether dead or alive is not known), plays on the strongest human emotions as to what to do about that; the kidnaping and murder of the three Israeli teens still remains a mystery as to the whereabouts of those who carried out the event which started the events leading to the eruption of the latest conflict.

Rom 11:32-36   “For God has shut up all in unbelief, so that He might show mercy to all.  O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
Or who first gave to Him, and it will be repaid to him?
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things; to Him be glory forever! Amen.”

Meanwhile, some members of our congregation have been making visits to the hospital to encourage, support, give food to the families and friends who are there because of their loved ones hospitalized from injuries.

God bless you, and thank-you for  your support in good times and bad.

The God of Armies – 21 July 2014

Yesterday we had five siren alerts of rockets and missiles still being fired from Gaza towards Beer Sheva.  Our weekly congregational services on Friday evenings are greatly reduced in the number of those coming since the place of meeting is old enough not to have any real protected area.

Soroka Medical Center, the university hospital located just down the street from us, is on emergency status now, as more Israeli soldiers are being wounded or killed in the hard fighting going on in the Gaza Strip.  While people are fighting and risking their lives, God is still bringing more children into the world:  a young medical student couple just gave birth on Saturday to a healthy boy!

The grandson of the remaing founding elder of Yeshua’s Inheritance Cong. is on the Israel-Gaza border, waiting for the probable call to go into the defensive war turned offensive, as is necessary in any war to stop the enemy from continuing to require the nation to defend itself.  His family is an example of Gentiles whom the God of Israel has made a place and a name for them among His people in their re-establishment back in the Land which He has promised to [eventually] give them as an everlasting possession and inheritance (as long as these Heavens and Earth remain).

Our prayer is that more Israelis and more Gazans would turn to the one true God, and fear His holy Name, which He often gives as YHVH of Hosts (Armies), since their is war in the heavenlies ever since Lucifer rebelled and took a third of the other angels with him to his side against the triune God; and that war has been brought earth-ward ever since Eve was deceived and Adam disobeyed in the Garden of Eden about 6000 years ago.  This war has not effectively ended yet, despite the truth that Jesus has already won it — both in the natural and in the spiritual as the Son of God and Son of Man — on the cross, and He is not going to now ‘lose’ it.  We may win some battles and lose the war; Yeshua only wins, despite appearances to the contrary!

Here is an example of an Israeli military commander who understands the spiritual dimension of this war against enemies such as Hamas:  http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/24759/Default.aspx
Let us pray that God would give him more light, and bring him, and many others, all the way back home through knowing Yeshua.

Also, you can read a Biblical thread which shows the true nature and purpose of the historic and cosmic war:  http://streamsinthenegev.com/messianic-judaism/praise-to-him-who-sits-upon-the-throne-and-to-the-lamb/

I was considering some of the ways that Israel is reflecting the nature of her God in these wars, even though she is unaware of it:

1.  God is using Israel to bless the world by taking a small, embattled, squeezed-in nation of people who have known unparalleled suffering, yet ‘stubbornly and stiff-neckedly’ kept going, to stand up to an implacable enemy which not only threatens her own existence (as if YHVH was not involved or else not capable), but also threatens, intimidates, bullies, terrorizes the entire Judeo-Christian civilization and its beneficent influences, the very environment in which the Jewish people have both suffered and thrived.

2.  Israel’s government and people turned the other cheek thousands of times over the years as Hamas sent thousands of missiles fired at it’s next-door neighbor (the Bible tells us to be ‘good neighbors’), before it finally took it on the chin enough to try to get the foolishness out of the neighborhood bully, who doesn’t allow even their own people to question their bad behavior, and the horrible consequences it brings upon them all.

3.  YHVH (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is stronger and mightier than all the forces of His creation combined, yet He is kind and gentle with us so that we don’t crumple at His touch.  But when He does let us taste a sample of His power, it is that we might truly fear Him and worship Him as God, and cease from our own folly that we are potential gods.  Jesus could wipe us out with a breath of air!  Even believers do much to bring reproach to His name!  Many ‘innocent’ people die in earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, bad accidents, etc. etc. etc.  And, sad but true, people will blame God, even blaspheme him.

So, Israel, is indeed a mighty army to be reckoned with, beyond any normal standard.  She could, if unleashed without any scruples, destroy all of Gaza and its people.  Yet, by the Spirit of her God, whom she still refuses to accept to rule over them, she demonstrates restraint and does what is possible to reduce loss of life, while unavoidably and inadvertently also contributing to loss of life and property.  And, many blame Israel as the convenient scapegoat.

4.  Both in Proverbs and in Romans, the Word of God tell us:  “not avenging yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath, for it hath been written, `Vengeance [is] Mine, I will recompense again, saith the Lord;’ if, then, thine enemy doth hunger, feed him; if he doth thirst, give him drink; for this doing, coals of fire thou shalt heap upon his head; Be not overcome by the evil, but overcome, in the good, the evil.”

Israel, in the midst of war, has not only agreed to three humanitarian cease-fire arrangements which Hamas has either refused, or agreed to and broken (and Israel should not agree to one without ensuring Hamas gains no benefit), but she has opened up a field hospital on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, in order to help Palestinian wounded; Soroka Hospital is providing medical treatment to some wounded Gazans.  Israel, for some reason, provides (yes, with some restrictions), water, medicine, electricity, food, construction materials to Gaza (read, Hamas), which is not only not appreciated, but even used to worsen the lives of the general population by the terrorist leadership, and used to build many (15 already located as of now) elaborate tunnels to protect Hamas leaders, and to try to infiltrate into Israel to kill, maim, kidnap.

As believers in Jesus, let us give glory to God, who, behind the scenes, is bringing people and nations to account, saving many who repent and believe the gospel, and bringing glory to His Name, and to His Son’s name.

May God have mercy on us all!

Israel Again at War in Gaza Against Hamas – 18 July 2014

Israel sent in ground troops into Gaza last night at 10:30, following a long day which included a ‘game changer’, or which showed the situation for what it is regarding the perpetual murderous grudge of Hamas towards Israel and the Jewish people (in particular, but also against their own population, which they hatefully use as human ‘shields’ in order to deter Israel’s military efforts, and also to turn public opinion against Israel when civilians are killed in the war).

In Operation Protective Edge, we see the effectiveness of the vast sums of money spent by Israel to protect her citizens and borders, at the same time as seeing the extent of the vast sums of money spent by Hamas in its efforts to politically gain from seeking to terrorize and kill as many Israelis as possible with its vast arsenal of missiles able to reach anywhere in Israel, and its tunnels to enable terrorists to come underground under the Gaza-Israel border in order to carry out attacks on innocent civilians.

It was just such a tunnel that turned the tide yesterday whereby the Israeli government decided that a ground offensive is necessary if they are going to locate and destroy the many well-constructed tunnels which Hamas has somehow managed to build over the years. Yesterday, pre-dawn, Israeli intelligence picked up information of an imminent attack of terrorists seen running towards a tunnel entrance, which would have led them to a kibbutz on the Israeli side of the border.  The airforce pinpointed the target of several men running into the tunnel entrance and blew up the entrance.  It is not certain if all of the terrorists were killed or injured.  This planned attack was done at the beginning of the day in which Israel agreed to a 5-hour cease-fire for humanitarian reasons to allow for Gazans to get medical aid and groceries.

Just before the cease-fire, which began at 10:00 yesterday morning, Hamas launced multiple rockets into Israel; during the cease-fire, some rockets were fired; immediately after the cease-fire at 3:00, again a barrage of missiles were fired into all areas of Israel. Hamas has twice refused to accept a truce brokered by Egypt, while Israel had expressed a willingness.  Hamas is insisting on its own terms, which is like a bad boy causing trouble all the time, and then demanding to get concessions in his favor because he ‘agrees’ to ‘act good’ for a while. Now Hamas wants Turkey to act as broker, but Turkey’s PM has turned his government into an enemy of Israel, as he seeks to restore the Islamic empire.

While Hamas hopes and prays that every rocket and missile it launches will be successful, not only to frighten and disrupt the lives of Israel, but also to injure, kill, or damage as many civilians — and sometimes military — as possible, they insist on holding Israel to ‘playing by civilized rules’ when she at length chooses to retaliate in defending her people.  And the world listens to Hamas:  while saying that Israel has the right to defend herself, she must do whatever is possible to not kill those not involved in the fighting, even though they know that Hamas has embedded their arsenal among the population, and the Hamas leaders are safely hiding in well-protected underground facilities.  This double standard does not seem to apply to other nations which even now are wreaking havoc and destruction on each other.  Israel does have a conscience, and does care (sometimes too much) what others think, and does value life over death (with incongruous exceptions like abortion).

The Israeli military goes to great pains not to cause excessive civilian casualties, but war against an avowed enemy that does not care for even its own people is not going to be a movie or a video game, when at the end all the gore is only acting or virtual.  In most of Israel’s wars, the ‘powers-that-be’ usually have stopped Israel from attaining its objectives just at the (A SIREN IS GOING OFF JUST NOW IN BEER SHEVA.  BE BACK IN A MINUTE.) (BACK NOW, AFTER TWO CONSECUTIVE SIRENS, DURING WHICH WE WENT DOWN TO OUR BOMB SHELTER.) moment that she has gained the upper hand, and then concessions are required of Israel which perpetuates the necessity for so much money and energy to go into a seemingly never-ending war economy, even as Israel prospers at the same time.

God is with Israel in a unique way — in both goodness and severity — because of His covenantal relationship, and He is acting to bring His Chosen People to return back to Him, who alone gives true peace with eternal security, and will make wars to cease.  Meanwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ goes out to all that more Gentiles and Jews will be saved now and not have to endure the wrath of God to come.

God is working in many ways and in different levels — both natural and spiritual — as He brings to pass the fulfillment of every jot and tittle of the Law and the Prophets.

Thank-you for for standing with Israel for the sake of the name of the Lord.

Trumpet Call To Prayer – 9 July 2014

As I write this, the sounds of war are heard within our nation, and the blood of Abel cries out for vengeance and vindication.  Yet the blood of Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah/Yasu al Massih cries out better things:  salvation, and forgiveness of sin. (Heb 12:24)

There is a growing sense within and among the Israeli Messianic/Christian and Palestinian Christian communities that our united, collective voice needs to be heard as a prophetic voice to our people.  We, who believe in the name of the Son of God have, by grace, received the truth for solving the perpetual conflict between the Jewish and Arab peoples, and for all the other people groups in the world.  They do not know the Way of peace, but we do:  His name is Yeshua/Yasu/Jesus, who died and rose again!

We can seek our own righteousness, or else we can submit to the righteousness of God, who alone is wise and good.  The message which our Lord has given us to take to our people is the gospel, which alone God has blessed with power to save and to give peace to those who repent and believe, and who live in its truth.

With this purpose in mind, and after consultation with some of the Jewish and Arab leaders, we are calling a meeting to pray together this Sunday, July 13, from 15:00 – 17:30.  The location is accessible, and legally allows for Israelis and Palestinians to meet together.

At this critical time, the need to come together as believers in Yeshua/Jesus/Yasu, to humble ourselves, to pray and seek God’s face, and to turn from our own ungodly ways towards each other and towards our enemies — real and perceived — has never been greater.

For the sake of His Holy Name. . .

Vengeance and Redemption – 6 July 2014

Rockets have again hit Beer Sheva (yesterday, as of this writing), violence and rage are again venting, cries for vengeance are shrieking.  Yet, for all this, God is working out redemption, as witnessed by people repenting and believing the good news of God about salvation through living faith in Jesus throughout the country and region.  Today is still the day of salvation!  This is still the acceptable year of the LORD (YHVH)!  We, as believers in Yeshua/Jesus, cannot forget that.

The natural man either witdraws into isolation and seclusion, seeking ‘private’ peace for/with those who are ‘his/hers’; or else draws upon carnal weapons to defend, and to ‘kill before being killed’.  This is normative human response to existential threat.  Yet. . .the spiritual man — those born of the Spirit from Above — must exercise faith, hope, and love just in such times as these.  Even should we be engaged in military service, we must not rely upon, nor think, that such weapons will bring peace. They can not kill a spirit, nor will human weaponry gain the credit for bringing true righteousness and peace to the world and all that lives in it.

God does say that there will be wars until the end, and that He will even glorify His holy name through war.  Jesus is, after all, YHVH (the LORD) of Hosts (Armies)!  But it is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit human hearts will be replaced, and thoughts and intentions renewed and transformed.  Only the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ will make wars to cease, and weapons turned into agricultural tools. War will not be learned anymore, and this will be in EVERY FACET of life! O, for that happy day!

Tonight we had a prayer meeting at ‘the Old House’ (Yeshua’s Inheritance Cong. home, thanks to God and to the CMA), and this time we invited other city pastors to join us, with anyone else that they wanted to bring.  The situation in the country and region is also a call for the believers in general, and the congregational/church leaders in particular, to come together in unity to beseech God on His Throne of Grace, as well as work together for the sake of the gospel and Yeshua’s name, by whom we are called and identify. This is a trying time for the Arab Israeli believers, who are being spiritually challenged, I know; they are caught between a rock and a hard place, and the cost of being a disciple of Yasu is weighing in on them.  But this is not less so for the Jewish Israeli believer vis a vis our own primary allegiance.

Pentecost – 8 June 2014

Today, Sonday, is Pentecost, the holiday marking 50 days from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 7 complete Sabbaths from that day after the Sabbath when He rose and showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs.  On that unique fulfillment of Shavuot/Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given from the Father in Yeshua’s name to His disciples.  Although the Lord Messiah is ascended in glory at the right hand of God, His presence is still with those who believe by the Spirit of God indwelling those born-again by the Spirit from above.

Oddly, Pentecost is not celebrated by most believers in Israel, certainly not by those associated with the Messianic Jewish sector.  There are reasons for that, but not biblically valid.  That more of the evangelical churches also do not make special notice of the ‘birthday of the Church’, or of the Holy Spirit coming into the world to Help the believers, and to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment is more of a mystery.  God couldn’t have made it any simpler to celebrate, at least in Western churches:  He made it on the normal day that believers gather together to worship!  In Israel, Sunday is a work day, which is one reason why most Messianic congregations come together on Saturdays.

Whatever the reasons, let us in rejoice together in the living God of the living who has granted us eternal life through repentance and faith in His Son, and has sealed us with the Holy Spirit as a pledge of the glory to come!

HEBREW — The Primary Language of Jesus in Israel in His Day – 2 June 2014

Why Jesus was a Hebrew-speaker

Hebrew, and not only Aramaic, was a spoken language at the time of Jesus, but PM Netanyahu’s exchange with the pope wasn’t only academic: It’s a debate with a clear religious and cultural subtext.

By | Jun. 2, 2014 | 10:28 AM  (HAARETZ)

Around the turn of the millennium, I received an email from a party looking to create a film script about a first century Jewish sage teaching in Aramaic. Since my PhD was in Aramaic, and Semitic languages are an area of expertise, would I be interested? It aroused my curiosity, so I wrote back with a question: Since Jewish teachers in the first century tended to use Hebrew, why would the filmmakers want an Aramaic script? I received a short response that this film script was about Jesus, as if that was enough said. I declined their offer.

Last week’s news controversy over Jesus’ language, sparked by the exchange between Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and the pope, brings to light how an Aramaic-only speaking Jesus has been enshrined within the academy and society at large. Elon Gilad’s Haaretz article “What language did Jesus speak?” is a prime example.

Gilad starts his case by quoting John 20:16 where Mary Magdalene addresses Jesus as Rabbouni, “my master, my teacher.” Since the Hebrew word rabbi is widely known by specialists and the common reader alike, the assumption is made that rabbouni cannot be Hebrew and must be Aramaic. But the gospel writer called the word Hebrew, not Aramaic, and he was correct. Rabbouni is, in fact, excellent Mishnaic Hebrew. It is attested in Codex Kaufmann of Mishna Ta`anit 3.8. Mistaken conclusions like Gilad’s are perpetuated by wrong assumptions which lead to wrong expectations. A century of Israeli Mishnaic Hebrew scholarship has laid the foundation for a different perspective.

Three backdrops to the language situation of Judea and the Galilee in the first century should actually reverse the expectations regarding Jesus and his languages: The colloquial nature of Mishnaic Hebrew, the anachronistic and foreign character of the Aramaic Targum translations, and the exclusivity of Hebrew in story parables.

A common fallacy presents Hebrew usage in first century Judea and the Galilee as a strictly sacred, literary language, comparable to Latin in Medieval Europe. The notion that both Hebrew and Latin were monolithic is erroneous. During the Second Temple period, Hebrew had developed into two social dialects. The high register was a literary dialect used for prestigious communication, known today as “Late Biblical Hebrew,” the language of books like Ezra and Nehemia and much of the Qumran writings. The low register can be seen in works like the Copper Scroll from Qumran Cave 3, and in various papyri, graffiti, and inscriptions from the Second Temple period, as well as the tannaitic and amoraic writings of rabbinic literature. Already in 1908, M.H. Segal had pointed out to the scholarly world that Mishnaic Hebrew showed the marks of the internal development of a colloquial language – it was definitely not an artificial usage by a scholarly elite.

Secondly, it is argued that first century Judean and Galilean Jews needed a translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Aramaic Targums. The argument runs that the existence of the Aramaic Targums must mean that the people did not know Hebrew. However, the Targums served an interpretive interest beyond simple translation, a commentary that elucidated and expanded the plain text. Also, although many Aramaic writings are found among the Qumran community’s scrolls, except for the foreign (imported) Job and a potential text for a pilgrimage holiday, there is no Aramaic Bible. The Targum traditions that we have stem from the 2nd and 3rd century C.E. At this point in time, a widespread, first-century Aramaic Targum practice in Israel remains speculation and the evidence available, meager though it is, actually points away from such an assumption.

Parables are the third piece of the linguistic puzzle. Certain Jewish literary genres were always in Hebrew, one of which was the rabbinic story parable. In rabbinic literature, even within Aramaic contexts, the story parable was always given in Hebrew. The potential connection with Jesus is obvious, since Jesus, too, is frequently characterized as someone who taught the populace in parables. The parable genre was used for making a point that could be readily grasped by all levels of society. They were a popular literary genre, not “highbrow” or “elitist.”

Archaeology has also been heralded as decisive evidence in the Aramaic-only Jesus. According to Gilad: “In the Galilee, where Jesus lived, Aramaic had taken over by the time Jesus was born. In the south, in Judea, archaeological evidence shows that some pockets of Hebrew still remained during the first century C.E.” This is ironic. The real problem is that we have virtually no archaeological evidence for first century Semitic (Aramaic or Hebrew) languages in the Galilee. We do have Galilean names found in the south, and they are Hebrew!

All of the above is to point out that there are strong evidences that support the prime minister’s comments on Jesus. Yes, in all probability Jesus did teach in Hebrew. Contra Gilad, Bibi’s father, a historian, could be proud of his son. However, the pope countered that Jesus spoke Aramaic. He, too, is partially correct. The Gospel of Mark records at least two utterances in Aramaic, both in private healing accounts, Mark 5:41 and 7:34.

The problem arises when people try to push the issue into exclusivity, either one language or the other. This reaches the most problematic point on the words of the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34). It is probable that Matthew’s transliteration reflects the original form of the story, and that Mark is the one who has edited the sounds. Matthew appears to have Jesus referring to Psalm 22 either in Mishnaic Hebrew, or a mixed language, while Mark has Jesus speaking fully in Aramaic, similarly to the two healing accounts mentioned above. In any case, a few statements in Aramaic do not prove its exclusivity.

It is no longer questioned nor considered a viable option that only Aramaic was a colloquial language in the land in the first century. Hebrew was also a colloquial language and a candidate for any teaching with Jewish audiences throughout the land, and may be the primary candidate for such teaching. As for a mother tongue, we simply do not know enough to speak about any particular family situation anywhere in the country.

Why is there such an emphasis on an Aramaic-only Jesus? What is the sub-text that unifies many of those who suggest that Jesus taught in Aramaic? If Jewish teachers tended to use Hebrew in the first century, then a Jesus that teaches in Aramaic can be portrayed as “non-Jewish” or “less-Jewish.” Some will be comfortable with that. Historically, many Christians have wanted to emphasize a universal (and non-Jewish) orientation for the Church and an Aramaic-teaching Jesus fit that role model. Ironically, the same motive might have been comforting within a Jewish context: Jesus is not one of “our Jewish teachers” and incidentally, he did not even teach in our language. Both sides could miss the real Jesus.

A Hebrew and Aramaic-speaking Jesus challenges long-held misconceptions. And even if we disagree, Netanyahu and the pope demonstrated that we can begin discussing these issues amicably.

Randall Buth, PhD, is Director of the Biblical Language Center and a member of the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research, a consortium of Christian and Jewish scholars who collaborate in studying Jesus and the Gospels. He is a co-editor of the recent book, The Language Environment in First Century Judaea, (edited by Randall Buth and R. Steven Notley), Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, Volume Two (Brill, 2014).

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Thanks to Randall Buth for responding to the opportunity afforded by the exchange between the Pope and the Israeli PM, Bibi Netanyahu, to give scholarly support for what the Scriptures have long indicated.

I (Howard) have always thought that Jesus spoke Hebrew as the primary spoken language of the Jewish people in His day.  If Nehemiah pulled out the hair because the returning Jews from Babylonian exile were speaking the language of Babylon (which I assume was Aramaic), and not the language of the Jewish people, then surely the Messiah Himself would be speaking the language of the Hebrew man.  (At the same time, I also believe that the language of the original texts of the New Testament was Greek, with many Hebraisms, given that nearly all of the writers were Israeli Hebrew speakers who could also communicate in Greek, the universal language of the day.  There are lots of Americanisms in my own Hebrew!)

Erasing Hebrew as the language of Jesus and of the Israelis in His day is similar to referring to Him living in Palestine, rather than in the Land of Israel, as mentioned in Matthew when His mother and foster father returned with Him from Egypt.  This is, on the one hand a form of anti-semitism; and on the other hand the righteousness of God:  Israel wants to blot out the name and memory of Yeshua; the nations want to blot out Israel from being a nation anymore.  Thanks and praise to God for our Redeemer and Savior to deliver us from the wrath to come!