Since coming out of our covid lockdown in the end of May here in Israel, we felt the Lord calling us back out onto the streets to witness. God put it on the heart of Kosta, who recently joined our team, to lead a weekly street outreach in Tel Aviv. We know that people are feeling anxious, uncertain and isolated right now because of the covid-19 crisis; the question is, will they be more or less open to the gospel? As a congregation, we encourage a lifestyle of witnessing to our friends, families, coworkers and people we come across in our everyday lives. However, there is a special calling and anointing for evangelists who go out onto the streets to share the gospel.
This week Kosta and David, one of Tiferet Yeshua’s most faithful evangelists, went out on the streets of Tel Aviv; with them they had New Testaments and “Who is the Messiah of Israel?” booklets which outline in detail all the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah. Both Kosta and David have much experience witnessing on the street, and they were both surprised by people’s reactions to them on the street. Kosta and David felt that people were more open than they have ever before to discuss God and the Messiah of Israel.
Over all they handed out over fifteen prophecy booklets, and five people were willing to take New Testaments – which is amazing. Jewish people have ingrained in them that the New Testament is an anti-Semitic, Christian book and that it is forbidden to even touch it. When we witness to people, we share with them that it is a Jewish book, written by Jews, and that is has the gospel of life which was intended to the Jews first and to the whole world. More and more Jews are willing to find out for themselves whether this New Testament is a Jewish book or not.
Kosta and David were especially struck by the last person they witnessed to: it was a young man who had grown up in an orthodox family but had become secular. He told David and Kosta: “You are Messianic Jews? I have been following your teachings and videos! Just yesterday I was watching a teaching by Messianic Jews.” This man took a New Testament and the booklet with the prophetic messianic scriptures. God is moving and people are open to the gospel like never before. Please pray for us! Just as the Apostle Paul requested prayer to be able to effectively preach the gospel, we need your prayers as well:
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel… Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20
“Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread quickly. Pray that others will honor it just as you did.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
by Gil Afriat
It is starting to look like the corona virus pandemic is the most significant shaking the world has seen in the past few decades, if not the most significant since the Second World War. In Israel, the infection rate is again soaring and the government is re-imposing temporary lock-downs in areas with high infection rates and rolling back restrictions it loosened only a month ago. Experts are saying this could be our reality for the foreseeable future. The economic fallout could be disastrous and long-lasting. The destabilizing effects on governments is clear to see already: which politicians and leaders will rise because of corona, which will fall?
Since it all began, I have heard different voices saying that God would never cause something like this to happen. Others have said that the corona virus is a plan of Satan. In all times, but especially in times like these, we look to the Word of God to guide and speak to us. To the question, “Who is doing the shaking?” Hebrews 12:26-27 tells us:
…but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Looking to the Bible for direction, it is clear that God is doing the shaking, not the enemy. There is no instance in the Word in which Satan causes plagues to hit the earth. Quite the contrary—we see time and again in the Word that it is God who sometimes sends plagues and pestilences as a judgement on the earth:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:13, 14
But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength.
Leviticus 26: 14-16
However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you… The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured.
Deuteronomy 28:15, 27
There are other instances in the Word in which God sends a plague as a judgment of sin: Numbers 17:6-15, 2 Samuel 24, 1 Samuel 5, Numbers 16: 47-50 The pages of the book of Revelation are filled with plagues sent by God as judgement.
Why would God use a plague to judge the earth? First and foremost, because of the flawed nature of the human heart: people tend to seek God more readily when they find themselves in trial and tribulation. When people are able to continue peacefully in their day to day lives of abundance and comfort without God, they may never know that they are on the fast track to destruction.
Trial and tribulation are a tool that God sometimes uses to wake people up, to cause them to seek Him. Looking at the present sufferings in that light, this pandemic can be seen expression of God’s grace and love in that He is shaking the very things that may be hindering many from seeking Him. God is more concerned about our eternal destiny with Him rather than keeping us comfortable in our temporary lives here on earth.
Is every plague a judgment from God? Not necessarily. However, an event on the scale we are currently witnessing in which every government and economy around the world has been brought to its knees, it is clear that God is doing something.
I do not want to minimize the real struggle many are experiencing right now. People are going through real and painful difficulties right now, some of which I have experienced in my own family. At Tiferet Yeshua congregation we are counseling and supporting people who have fallen into very difficult financial difficulties because of this crisis. But in all this, God is our very present help in trouble, and we can have confidence that He will carry us through if we cling to Him. We also want to partner with Him in what He is doing by praying for and witnessing to the lost, being a help to those who are in need, and cleansing our own lives from the things that hinder His love in us.
by Mordechai Cohen
Every week, we prepare three hundred hot meals and distribute them in south Tel Aviv – a haven for illegal immigrants and a hotbed of drugs and crime. When Israel went into a stay-at-home quarantine in March, we immediately began seeing the devastating effects it caused here on the rough streets of south Tel Aviv.
We know the faces of those who end up here, those pushed into to a life of poverty, prostitution, homelessness and crime by drug addiction. The situation in the area grows worse every year, and the corona virus, which closed most all of the soup kitchens and halfway houses during the general quarantine in April and May, made the situation even more dire.
The New Face of Need
Since Israel eased corona restrictions at the end of May, we have been seeing new faces at our weekly meal outreaches: these people are not criminals or drug addicted. They are not even homeless. They have simply lost jobs and income due to the corona crisis and find themselves on the edge each week, having to choose between paying their bills and buying food. It is heartbreaking to see an increasing number of people in this situation, but we are thankful that God is giving us the opportunity to serve and minister to them.
More New Faces: Workers for the Harvest!
One of the most exciting things that has been happening recently is the fact that the Lord is sending workers into the harvest. For the last several weeks, more volunteers have been joining us to hand out meals on the street. In particular, a devoted group from an Ethiopian congregation in Jerusalem of on-fire, young professionals has been coming down to Tel Aviv every week to help distribute meals on the streets.
Long after the rest of us have gone to bed, this group that calls what they are doing “The Gospel of the Resurrection” is out on the streets until six in the morning, ministering to their Ethiopian brothers and sisters who have ended up on the streets (Ethiopian Jews have a harder time getting ahead in Israeli society due to persistent cultural stigmas and limitations), African migrants and anyone else who comes their way. They have been sending me pictures of people kneeling on the sidewalks in prayer. God is moving!
Please keep what we are doing in prayer! God is shaking our society and giving us the opportunity to be there to minister to those who are most dramatically affected. Thanks to your faithful support of this ministry, we are able to continue being the hands and feet of the Lord here on the streets in Tel Aviv.
On Our Way to a Second Wave?
On May 20th Israel announced it was loosening corona restrictions, allowing many to go back to work and allowing us at Tiferet Yeshua to hold weekly services of up to fifty people. A week after Israel began relaxing corona restrictions, the infection rate began climbing again, causing concern that we are on our way to a second wave of infections. This week alone Israel had its largest daily infection rate (288 cases) since April.
Everyone has experienced exhaustion with the social distancing and mask wearing in public. Once restrictions on restaurants and pubs were lifted, many young people threw off restraint and gathered for large parties. Possibly for that reason alone Tel Aviv has one of the highest infection rates in Israel at the moment. Schools were also reopened and, not surprisingly, they have been a source of virus outbreaks, with some shutting down not long after students returned. The word from teachers and students is that compliance with health guidelines in the schools is shoddy at best.
On June 8th the Prime Minister addressed the nation, warning that we would go back to a general lock-down if the numbers kept rising and re-emphasizing the three rules people must continue complying with: social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing. Some experts are pointing out that the higher number of infections that Israel is seeing right now is partially due to the fact that the state has dramatically increased corona virus testing which naturally leads to an increase in the statistical infection rate. Additionally, the vast majority (99.6%) of those who are testing positive for corona right now are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms.
Israel’s Corona Grade So Far
So how has Israel fared with its corona virus response overall? Looking at worldwide statistics, Israel has done fairly well handling the corona virus outbreak. Israel closed the skies early and quickly went into a general lock-down. The death rate from the corona virus in Israel has also been low ( 2% mortality rate) compared to other countries considered in good standing with their corona response, like Germany (5% mortality rate). Currently with the rising numbers of corona infections, the number of serious cases in Israel is still very low (1%) compared to Germany (6%), mainly due to the fact that those who are becoming infected in Israel tend to be younger.
On Our Way Back to Quarantine?
This week Israel Finance Minister Israel Katz told the media that Israel will put a break on the loosening of overall restrictions but it will not go back to a general shutdown. Instead of a general closure, the plan is to deal with outbreaks in “pinpoint manner with enforcement and quarantine”.
What about flying to and from Israel?
Currently anyone coming into Israel must go into a 14-day quarantine. Netanyahu and top government ministers met with their Greek and Cypriot counterparts this last week to discuss the possibility of removing the quarantine requirement between Israel, Greece and Cyprus on August 1st. The message for Israel’s tourism industry, which is large, is not a good one.
Increasingly experts are saying that the corona virus will most likely be with us for another year or two and that our societies must find ways of living with it in the meantime. The world has changed for good. As we continue our small meetings in Tiferet Yeshua, our prayer is that God would protect His people from the virus and that He would continue using us to be a light and blessing to our nation during this difficult time!
When Israel went into lockdown in mid-March, we started hearing about people in need who had lost jobs or income due to the crisis. As a congregation, we decided to reach out to help those in the community around us: we asked Tiferet Yeshua members to recommend people they knew who were in need, and each week we filled grocery bags for families with enough essentials to help get them through the week.
When we first started out in March, we were bringing groceries to around twelve families. Each week, we were hearing of more families in need so that in the end, we were providing weekly groceries to twenty-three families. Most of the recipients were non-believers, and all of them expressed sincere gratitude that a community of Messianic Jews wanted to bless them. Tiferet Yeshua Elder Moti Cohen who helped organize the grocery delivery shared that a Muslim woman who received groceries asked him what organization was supporting this outreach; when he explained to her that it was a congregation of Jewish believers in Yeshua that just wanted to bless her, her eyes filled with tears.
Miriam, a woman in our congregation who works with the Israeli pro-life organization, B’ad Chaim, recommended several single mothers for our grocery outreach. These were women whom Miriam had counseled through their decision to keep their babies and supported through their pregnancies. Because the corona lockdown closed all childcare facilities for over two months, forcing parents to stay at home to care for their children, these young mothers had fallen on hard times. Every week during the lockdown we brought them groceries and diapers. It was so special for Miriam to be able to be a part of supporting these single mothers, to see the babies whose lives she had a part in bringing into the world. For us it was an honor to be able to encourage and bless these single mothers who had chosen life for their children.
When we first started our outreach, we posted pictures of the teams of volunteers shopping and preparing the grocery bags on Tiferet Yeshua’s Hebrew Facebook page in order to share with our members that the congregation was still active despite the lockdown. A non-believer and single mother of a child with special needs saw our post on Facebook and sent us a message asking if she could be included in our grocery outreach because she also had to be quarantined at home caring for her child. Praise God we could help her!
Overall, we provided groceries for the two and a half months that Israel was in quarantine lockdown. It was a difficult and trying period for everyone. But, it was such a blessing for us to be able to help and support those in need around us during that time, to bring the groceries to their homes personally and to see how it touched and encouraged them.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
We would not be able to maintain our giving fund without the help from our friends around the world! Your support allows us to respond to immediate needs as they arise, like those that came to our attention during the corona crisis, and to be a blessing to the people of Israel. Thank you!
(Tzipi is a mature woman of God and has been an integral part of Tiferet Yeshua congregation for years. She shared this powerful testimony with us while we were still in quarantine, and it was a great encouragement to us. We pray it encourages you too.)
Dina (not her real name) and I have been friends over 15 years. We worked closely together in a kindergarten for a long time. When we first became friends, I never talked to her about my faith. At first it was because of the school setting where we worked. Being around the children and their parents made it difficult to have an open discussion about faith (in Israel it is illegal to knowingly “expose” anyone under the age of eighteen to the gospel). When you are building a relationship with someone, and you don’t share about your faith at the outset, it becomes harder to do it as time goes on. Fear creeps in. The fear of losing the friendship.
I told myself that I was waiting for the right moment to have the conversation with her, but the right moment never seemed to come. I wanted so much to share my faith with her, but fear was holding me back. Over the years, as our relationship grew, Dina and I became like sisters. We had family gatherings together. We celebrated holidays together. She became like family, which made the fact that I had never shared my faith with her so unbelievable: I knew my dear friend could not really know me because she did not know about Yeshua (Jesus), the most important part of my life. Beyond that, how could I not share the most precious gift I know of with my friend?
Cancer: a wake-up call!
About three years ago Dina got sick with cancer, which made the pressure to witness to her greater than ever. But I just wasn’t able to do it. During that time, my daughter kept telling me, “How will you be able to look yourself in the mirror if something happens to her? You have to share Yeshua with her. It’s wrong not to tell her, she’s your friend!” I knew she was right.
“Soon. I’ll do it soon,” I would tell her. But I never did.
Corona Changed Everything
A couple weeks into Israel’s quarantine lockdown, Dina called to tell me that she was having a hard time financially because of the situation. I had been volunteering at Tiferet Yeshua to help out with the grocery outreach for the needy that we organized every week during the corona lockdown. I told her that I was volunteering with a project that provided groceries to people in need during corona and that I would be happy to include her in the outreach.
That day when I was bringing the groceries to her house, I felt God saying, “This is it. This is the moment that you are going to witness to her.” The whole way there I was praying, asking Him to give me the words. It wasn’t going to be easy…I had been putting this off for fifteen years!
When I got to her house, I gave her the groceries and told her, “I know that all these years you have questions for me about what I believe.” She waved me off saying, “Yes, yes, I know, you are into the Reform thing (Reform Judaism).” I had always talked openly about God, about going to conferences, but I had never specifically mentioned Yeshua.
I told her, “No, it’s not that. Bring me the Bible (Hebrew scriptures)”. When I witness to people, I prefer that they bring their own bibles so that they don’t think I’m reading something to them out of a different Bible because everyone is always so surprised when they read the prophetic messianic scriptures for the first time.
Dina brought me her Bible and handed it to me. I don’t know how I did it—it was like strength from above was filling me. I started at the beginning, in Genesis. I showed her how it is written that God created man using the plural pronoun, saying, “…let us make man in our image and in our likeness”. Then I went to the story of Abraham and the three “angels”, one of whom is described as the LORD (YHVH). I wanted to show her that God reveals Himself to man in the Hebrew scriptures as a physical person.
Finally, I got to Yeshua. When I said His name, Dina just looked at me. After a moment she said, “Tzipi, I want to tell you something. When I was little, someone put a flier in our mailbox that offered these books. The information in the flier fascinated me, and I wanted to find out more about it. Without telling anyone, I returned the flier in the mail to get the books. The books came in the mail, without anyone noticing. I hid them in my room and started secretly reading them. One day my father caught me. What a beating he gave me over those books! He yelled at me, ‘Do you know what this is? It’s Christianity!'”
A Family Secret
Dina then told me something she had kept to herself for years. Dina’s mother had been sent into hiding in a Christian convent during the Second World War because her parents were afraid that the Nazis would take control of Algeria where they were living. All her life, Dina remembered her mother crossing herself. When she would do it, Dina would ask her, “Mom, what are you doing? We are Jews!” One day, Dina’s mother told her, “You don’t know this, but there are Christians who you think are Christians, but they’re actually Jews.”
I looked at Dina in shock and said, “Your mother knew about Messianic Jews!”
That day, we sat together for over four hours, going through the Word together and talking. I had no idea how the time was flying! In the end I told her, “I don’t want you to take my word for it. Search it out for yourself. It’s all here in our Bible.”
On my way home, I called my Mom to tell her. My Mom is a believer, and she was so happy to hear that I had finally witnessed to my dear friend. She and I both prayed for Dina there on the phone, that she would continue reading the Word and that Yeshua would reveal Himself to her.
That evening Dina called me: it was like our four-hour conversation from earlier that day hadn’t been enough. I told her, “Maybe it’s not the best idea for you to talk to your family about this right now. Search it out for yourself first before you share it with your family. They might get worried and start driving you crazy about it.”
“That’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you about!” Dina said. “I already told my brother. He’s intrigued and wants to find out more too.”
Since then, Dina and I talk every day. She is so hungry for God! It’s a miracle.
I told her that I never talked to her about my faith because I was afraid of losing her as a friend. Her answer to me was, “It’s a shame you didn’t tell me sooner.”
***Thanks to your support, we are able to continue special projects like our corona grocery bag outreach which became an open door for Tzipi to share the gospel with her friend***
We’d like you to get to know a very special person. Halel is one of the most amazing people we know, and we are incredibly blessed to have her leading Tiferet Yeshua’s youth group. She is on fire for the Lord, has boundless energy, a huge heart, and is devoted to helping those in need.
At the beginning of the corona crisis here in Israel, Halel got a call from a young man, saying that there were many families of African migrants in south Tel Aviv who had lost their jobs due to the crisis – they had no food, no diapers for their children. Halel asked how on earth he got her number: it turns out this young man got to know believers at a conference here in Israel, and when he contacted them about getting immediate help for his community, they gave them Halel’s number.
“Hello, my name is Halel Goldman and I am twenty-two. At age sixteen when I started becoming more serious about relationship with God, I would go with two of my sisters to the only youth group we knew about in Tel Aviv (my family had started going to congregation Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv).
To get to these youth meetings we had a long way to go from where we lived at the time in Caesarea (a town in north-central Israel): we had to take a train, buses and then walk for about a mile from the central bus station in south Tel Aviv which is one of the worst areas not just in Tel Aviv, but in all Israel. Walking to youth group each week I ended up seeing many lost, suffering people. The poverty and suffering I saw deeply affected me, and I started to pray about what I could do to help. Sometimes I would bring food with me to give people I saw along the way. I would sit and talk with people and pray for them. God gave me a burden for the people I saw there, and over time it would continue to grow.
Over the years, I began finding different ways to reach out to the people of south Tel Aviv. When I was serving in the army, I decided to start a project that would allow youth from different congregations along with youth who weren’t believers to volunteer with me to go out and serve the homeless in south Tel Aviv. Youth groups from various congregations joined us to learn how to become involved in outreach in a way that would forever change the way they view the needs of those around them.
Last year my dad left his job in the tourism industry to take over leadership of a ministry here in Israel called “Hands of Mercy”. As a humanitarian outreach organization, we realized that it made sense for me to join him in their ministry by adding my project to reach people in desperate situations on the street. We also run a ministry house in Jerusalem that provides a place for disenfranchised youth who have left the ultra-orthodox background who need a warm meal and home atmosphere (this ministry home was continually attacked and vandalized by extreme ultra-orthodox groups at the beginning of this year).
I continue to go out on the streets two to three times a week. I still see very difficult things, and over time I have gotten to know and develop a relationship with most of the people on the streets in south Tel Aviv: those same alleyways filled with drugs that shocked me when I was sixteen now almost feel like home. My heart goes out to each and every person there. Today when the see us coming with our cart of food, hot drinks (in the winter months), and clothes, they all run up to us, sometimes just for food, sometimes to receive prayer.
Our vision is to help people get off the streets, and we have succeeded in getting scores of people into rehabilitation programs here in Israel. There is still a great need out there on the streets: one need in particular that has become apparent to me is that there is no Hebrew-speaking rehabilitation center for women run by believers here in Israel. It has been my hope and prayer that we will one day be able to open a rehabilitation center for Hebrew-speaking women from the street. Amazingly, through the crisis of the corona virus, God has opened the door for us to useour ministry house as a place for women in crisis, which is an amazing answer to prayer!
With God’s grace, we have been able to continue to provide food and support to many people in several cities in Israel while time training volunteers, believers and non-believers, to serve in love and patience. We also want our volunteers who go out on the street have first aid certification: so many people on the street needlessly suffer injuries from simple cuts and scrapes that become infected, so it is a great help when volunteers are professionally trained to know how to safely disinfect and dress simple wounds.
We would be so grateful for your prayers right now as we are still experiencing persecution and financial difficulties. We would be happy to have you join us sometime on one of our trips out to streets to see what God does when you follow Him to serve the poor and needy. Blessings from Israel!”
Because of your support, we are able to respond quickly to needs on the ground here in Israel, like supporting Halel’s project to help the Nigerian families in need in south Tel Aviv. Thank you for standing with us!
The Three-Fold Symbolism of Passover and Pentecost
By Gil Afriat
Passover is the first biblical holiday of the year: the biblical year starts on the 1st of Nissan (generally coincides with March-April) and Passover falls on 15th of Nissan. God gave us a total of seven holy days during the year—not a coincidental number at all—3 in the spring, and 4 in the fall. In biblical times, each holy day had a three-fold meaning: past, present and future. They provide a way to remember His wonders, love and grace toward us in the past, to celebrate His goodness and provision in the present, and to look forward to the holiday’s larger messianic fulfillment in the future. Let’s take a closer look at the deeper meaning of the spring holidays of Passover and The Festival of Weeks (Pentecost) which so beautifully point to the first coming of the Lord and His message of salvation.
1st day of Passover: Yeshua’s crucifixion
On the night of Passover, God visited the 10th plague on the Egyptians, killing all their first born. It was the same night that the Israelites had sacrificed a lamb at twilight and put its blood on the doorposts of their homes so that the angel of death would “pass over” them on his way through the land slaying the first born of every family. Furthermore, they had eaten this lamb along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread before being led by Moses out of Egypt and into freedom. Yeshua was crucified on Passover, and it is by His blood that we escape spiritual death—enslavement to sin— to enter into freedom led by the Spirit of God.
2nd Day of Passover: Baptism
Exodus 12 explains that after the first day of Passover, which is a holy day on which no work is done, everyone may return to their regular daylily activities for next five days (while continuing to abstain from leavened products). However, on the last day of the Passover week, God commanded Israel to observe another holy day on which no work is to be done. According to Jewish tradition, crossing of the Red Sea happened on the 7th day of Passover. Paul points out the symbolic significance of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea:
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. ~1 Cor 10:1-2
After accepting the sacrifice of the Messiah Yeshua as atonement for sins, the believer must “pass through the sea”, that is, immerse in water which is, as 1 Peter 3: 21 says, “…not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Water baptism is an essential step for every believer to state their surrender to Yeshua in identification with His death, burial and resurrection.
Festival of Weeks (Pentecost): Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Seven weeks after the 1st day of Passover, God commanded the people to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the temple in Jerusalem. Acts 2 tells us that it was during the Festival of Weeks that the Lord poured out the Holy Spirit on all the believers gathered in Jerrusalem to celebrate the festival. It was from that moment that the early believers began to witness in power and the gospel began to spread—the great harvest had begun.
Having been “clothed with power from on high” which the Lord prophesized in Luke 25, Peter stood in the temple and witnessed to the worshippers who were there from many nations. His message deeply convicted them and they asked him, “What shall we do?” Peter’s reply was:
Repent, be baptized…And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Repentance through His blood (1st holy day of Passover), surrendering to Him (2nd holy day of Passover) and empowerment by His Spirit (Festival of Weeks) compose the essential message of salvation which the three spring holidays so wonderfully illustrate in such a deep and meaningful way.
by Tamar Afriat
Today Israel’s 35th government was finally sworn in, officially bringing the worst political crisis in the country’s history to an end. Israelis have political fatigue, to put it lightly. Right before the corona virus exploded onto the world scene, Israelis went to the polls for a third time in a year only to see the major parties landing in the same exact same political deadlock as they were the two previous times. Political pundits were sending signals that the government was gearing up for the unthinkable: fourth elections. Then covid-19 hit Israel, and people of all political stripes felt exasperation by the re-run of petty political drama playing out before their eyes.
Then finally someone stepped up to the plate who is, for all intents and purposes, the real hero in this situation: retired army general Benny Ganz who heads the Blue and White Party. On March 26th this year, Gantz decided to split his own party after being unable to convince hardliners to join a unity government with Netanyahu (confirming that for some of them, their guiding principle was Anything but Bibi).
The Government that will take on covid-19 and make critical decisions for Israel, i.e. annexation of the Jordan River valley…
After two months of difficult and fraught negotiations, we ended up with a large, bloated government (they created positions by splitting ministerial roles so that party leaders could dole out enough positions to their members). Even though it will be an expensive government, it will cost far less than a fourth round of elections. This government is also unique in that it will be equal power-sharing, meaning they have split the ministerial positions equally between Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud. Another special feature of this government: Gantz and Netanyahu have agreed to share the role of prime minister (as strange as it sounds, and is, it is not unprecedented in Israeli politics). Netanyahu stays in the role of prime minister until November 17th, 2021, at which time Gantz will become prime minister. In the meantime, he will be Israel’s Defense Minister.
A Spiritual Perspective
The day Gantz announced that he was splitting his party in order to join a unity government with Netanyahu was also the last day of a 40-day fast that many believers here in Israel joined (the fast schedule in Israel differed from others around the world). The fast was called by evangelist Lou Engle over a year ago to take place in the beginning of 2020. The political crisis that hit Israel this last year was unprecedented, revealing devastating division in Israel’s political realm, and now we are facing an unprecedented crisis around the world with this pandemic which is challenging societies on every level. It is fair to say that we will not be back to what we knew as “normal”, at least for a long time. We will continue praying for our leaders as they navigate not only this tremendously challenging pandemic, but also the important political decisions they will have to make which have serious spiritual implications: bringing more of the biblical heartland under Israel’s control.
By Ari Sorko-Ram
God will do what He promised
Israel is ready for revival. Living in Israel since 1976, we can testify that we have started seeing the beginning signs of this revival in the past few years. I know what is evident today is no way near what God has promised for this generation – not only in Israel, but throughout the world; He has promised a worldwide outpouring of His Spirit on all flesh. So, what’s holding back this mighty move of God’s spirit?
Most of us know the general outline of God’s plan to bring salvation to as many people as will accept Him. We can read in the Bible numerous times that when the people of Israel truly call on the Name of the Lord, it will propel a worldwide revival. However, not all of us know that the nations, according to God’s plan, must play a major role in Israel’s salvation.
While the world is waiting on Israel to accept her Messiah, God is waiting for the nations to fulfill their critically important commission in order to bring His promises to pass in Israel.
Principle of God’s order
We must never forget that anything and everything that is happening on the face of this earth is about God. He has His plan and unchangeable will for His creation. He focuses on fulfilling His will which is revealed in the Bible, and it cannot be changed.
Therefore, as His servants and His family, it is important for us to know His heart. We have to be familiar with His Master Plan, and there is only one plan. There never was and never will be “Plan B.” Therefore we need to focus on Plan A – God’s original plan to redeem the human race conceived before creation.
One of the foundational truths of our faith is that without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore we have faith in Him and in His promises and in His plan.
All that God intended to happen will happen, and as for me and my house, we just want to go where God is going and be a part of what God is doing. If I am a farmer and I know that God is focusing on blessing potatoes this season, I am not going to plant cotton, hoping God will change His mind.
The Bible teaches us that God is not a respecter of persons. Nevertheless, He does honor what we do when it lines up with what He is doing.
Everything we do is documented in heaven, and is examined in light of whether we have been obedient to His will. Yes, He could redeem the world without us, but He wants us to work jointly with Him as co-heirs of His Kingdom – just because He loves us and loves doing things with us!
There really is nothing we can do for God except love Him, draw close to Him and be obedient to His Word. And when we act according to His Word – we please Him, regardless of who or what we are – whether man or woman, Jew or Gentile, one race or another.
And God treats the nations the same way. He does not love one nation more than another – He loves all nations equally.
But, He does have different purposes and direction for different nations. It’s the same for a husband and wife – God doesn’t prefer one over the other. But there are different things the husband can do that the wife can’t do, and vice versa. This is the way God created us – each for a unique purpose in His Master Plan.
Now, in God’s specific plan and purpose for you there are some things you have to do first –in order for you to fulfill your part in His plan. There is an order.
What I am ultimately talking about is God’s order and Israel’s position with the nations. If we want the purposes of God fulfilled in our nations, our cities and our families and lives, we have to understand God’s order. Again, I am not saying that Israel is better than any other nation. I am saying that Israel has a purpose and position unlike any other nation in God’s plan for salvation and establishing His Kingdom.
Chapter One: Order
We need to understand that it is of utmost importance that we follow God’s assigned order. If we don’t follow it – things will not line up. If a family is out of the God-designed order, the anointing and blessings cannot flow as God intends. If the authority structure is out of order, the anointing and blessings will not flow as God intends.
The example I like to use is an electric circuit. If the lights are turning on and off as they are supposed to, it means that the person who arranged the circuitry did it correctly. But if you put just one little wire in a wrong place, the lights will not function – no matter how much power is flowing up to the grid of the house. No electricity will flow because something is out of order. So, you face two choices. You can either decide that you don’t need the electricity and use candles instead. Or you can find out what is out of order, correct that one wire (put it in order), and you will have all the light you need. Order is a law of science and a law of the Spirit.
Years ago I played football. As does every other game, football has rules and order. The first thing that takes place is the center hikes the ball. The ball goes to the quarterback – except when the ball is punted. Now, if the quarterback decides to walk away from the field before the ball is hiked to him – the play will be dead. If the ball is not going to the quarterback, the game cannot continue. So, the quarterback has to get the ball first. I was a wide-receiver. I could run the entire field, but if the center did not hike the ball, I would be running for nothing. The linemen could block, and everyone else could do what they were supposed to do in the game, but if the quarterback did not get the ball first – there would be no play.
It is the same way in baseball. The umpire says, “Play ball,” but if the pitcher doesn’t step up to the mound, there will be no game. He has to pitch the ball.
Certain things have to happen first. Otherwise nothing happens.
During the Biblical year we encounter a very unique season called the “Counting of the Omer.” This season falls between the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost).
The Lord commanded the children of Israel to count the Omer for fifty days starting from Passover. On the fiftieth day they were to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost).
An Omer is a sheave. Counting the Omer is a very important principle and commandment in the Biblical calendar. Counting the Omer required fifty days of obedience. For fifty days the children of Israel were commanded by the Lord to do something. They were to do it every year. Obeying this law requires the longest continuous observance of any commandment in the Bible so we should take note of it. As I see it – if the Lord reminds us to do something every year for fifty days, there is surely something in this commandment very important for us to learn and experience.
It’s the season
The yearly counting of the Omer starts at Passover. The Passover is celebrated in the month of Nisan (March-April), the beginning of all months – the first Biblical month of the spring of the year. You might wonder why it is the first month – unlike January of the Gregorian calendar and September of the Orthodox Jewish calendar. The Bible calls Nisan the first month because it signifies the beginning of life as a free people. It was the month Israel gained her freedom and salvation out of Egypt physically.
Passover, when instituted, also foreshadowed the day when the Messiah would give His life on the cross and sacrifice Himself as the Passover Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. For the New Covenant believer, Nisan is the month when deliverance from spiritual Egypt was offered to “whomsoever will”.
Becoming a free person is the beginning of everything. Until we are free, we aren’t able to fulfill our destiny. So, every year the Lord reminds us through His Word of this important day when we’re to begin counting fifty days. At the end of this period we celebrate Shavuot, also known as Pentecost (meaning fifty) or the Feast of Weeks. It is at this time when we begin to prepare for the harvest, having brought forth the first fruits and having dedicated them to the Lord.
It’s about Counting
So what do we do during these fifty days of Omer? The Lord commands us to count. The Omer is a measure of wheat or barley, and according to tradition the farmers would go out into the field on the first day after Passover and tag the visible buds – the first fruit of the field. It is important to know that I’m not talking about ten percent of the buds – what we call a tithe, but rather every single bud they spotted that first day after Passover in their fields.
Then for the next fifty days they counted. And it didn’t just mean one, two, three, four, five… It meant going out to the field every day, watering these first buds, pulling the weeds around them, tending them carefully, making sure that in fifty days these buds would grow into ripe fruit or grains– the first fruits. Then the farmers would gather all of these marked buds and bring them to the Temple of the Lord – to present them as an offering unto the Lord at the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). God promised that if we brought these first fruits to Him as He said – He would then bless us with a bountiful harvest.
You may wonder where I am going with all this.
Let’s look at some Scriptures so that we can begin to understand the whole picture.
And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.
The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. (This is talking about those same buds that were carefully identified and tended.) You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
This commandment is written three times in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible)—twice relating how to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and once declaring this as an unholy practice.
The English language is not as clear as the Hebrew in this Scripture. The actual word in this Scripture is not “chalav” the Hebrew word for milk, but “chalev” – that is, the fat that surrounds the vital organs. If you read some of the studies of the sacrificial system in the book of Leviticus, you will find out that this fat belongs to the Lord. (Leviticus 3:16,17; Exodus 29:13) It is to be burned on the altar.
At the time when the Lord gave the Law to the children of Israel, pagans in the land would actually take a young kid goat and boil it in the fat that was around the vital organs of its mother. They would then eat it, believing that they would be more fertile and multiply as a result. No need to say – it was a pagan idolatrous practice.
So God commanded us not to keep these pagan practices. Instead we’re commanded to bring our first fruits to Him. In other words, we are to invest our efforts into what God has given us. We are to safeguard His gifts, making sure they produce fruit which we then dedicate to Him and present them before Him. Then He will multiply them and bring forth a harvest.
Where am I as an individual in this process?
Let’s bring this down to a personal level. I think that if we can understand it personally, we can then understand it corporately and nationally. Every physical example has a spiritual and personal significance for our lives – how we plant, how we sow and how we harvest.
Psalm 139, verses 13-14 are some of the most encouraging verses in the entire Bible, because they tell me that I am not a mistake. None of us or any other human being on earth throughout history was born by accident. As humans we, of course, make mistakes in relationships not always walking in Godly order. Sometimes children were not planned, but your birth was never a mistake.
In verses 13 and 14 King David is speaking to the Lord about this truth:
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
Let me paraphrase it in today’s language. What David basically says is,
“Lord, you met me in my mother’s womb, and you did an awesome job! You didn’t make a jalopy, you made a Mercedes Benz, a capable creation. So now I have great confidence that I have a purpose and a destiny. But you didn’t stop there. You have imparted to me all the gifts that I need to fulfill my destiny. Furthermore, no one can take these gifts from me nor keep me from fulfilling my destiny that You gave to me, except me.
In verse 15 David continues,
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
What it says is – your birth is between you and the Lord. This is monumental! God the Father has met each one of us personally in our mother’s womb. What God essentially says is, “I’m dealing with you personally and secretly. It is between you and Me.”
Still, more is to come in verse 16:
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written…
God recorded it all in a book so that heaven and earth would not forget, and that the Devil would also know. Every detail about you is recorded in this book – His book. All of your giftings, your talent – everything you have going for you. It is there, before you had problems and failures, before there were mistakes, before you were sick or whatever has happened to you. Your destiny has already been prepared and set before you by God Himself and you can attain it. So be encouraged!
The second part of verse 16 says,
…The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
Here is the dynamic situation. The Lord says, “I did this before you were born. I’ve already given you all the first fruit that you need – every talent.”
And then, from the day you were born God gives us a reminder every year, saying, “In the first month, on Passover, I want you to remember something – the great salvation I have given you.” And immediately after we remember our salvation and celebrate it, the very first day after Passover, God says, “Start counting your Omer. Tag every bud.”
What is a bud on a personal level? It is a gift that God has given you that has not yet developed. All the gifts that you receive from God are like the little buds. You have to take care of every gift and you have to nurture them to maturity. These gifts are like seeds that the Lord has planted in you, but it is your responsibility to tend to them, develop them, water them and pull weeds around them so they can grow.
It’s about character
What are the weeds in our life? Nothing will hinder the gifts God has given us more than a bad character or a bad attitude. Every year the Lord gives us fifty days to focus and work on these things. Of course, we want to be growing every day of our lives, but God puts an emphasis on developing our lives these fifty days a year. One of the ways to pull out the weeds of our character is to develop integrity in the smallest details of our lives and to study and focus on the fruit of the Spirit. If you will spend fifty days at the beginning of the Biblical year to renew development of your character, you will probably do well the rest of the year and see a harvest.
Jack Hayford, a well known Pastor, when teaching on leadership, says, “When I look for somebody to work with or for me, I look for three things. The first thing is integrity. The second thing is integrity, and the third thing is integrity.”
We need to develop integrity so that the plans and purposes of God can work in our life. Then we need to water this virtue with prayer and develop it in practice with every test and opportunity that God allows to come our way.
Lord of the harvest
Taking care of the buds is just the first step. The Lord says that after the fifty days we are to collect all these gifts together with the effort we have put into them and dedicate them to Him. In return, if we do this every year, God promises us a harvest. All we have to do is what He tells us to do and invest what He has already given to us and we will be fruitful.
Our God, the Lord, is the Lord of the harvest. But who is the lord of the first fruits? You are! What you do with your first fruits will determine what God does with the harvest in your life. If you ignore your first fruit, God will ignore your harvest. You and I can influence God’s harvest in our lives. God will not meet our needs merely according to our needs. He will meet our needs according to His Word.
Remember the principle: the Lord is the Lord of the harvest, but you are lord of your first fruits. The Lord is the Lord of the harvest, but you determine what God will do with the harvest.
Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover], at the Feast of Weeks
[Pentecost], and at the Feast of Tabernacles [Succoth]; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.
The Lord specifically says that we need to have something in our hands to present before the Lord in order for His purposes to take root and blossom in our lives.
Verse 17 continues:
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.
Where did the Lord give you this blessing? In the womb. God is not asking you to bring something you don’t have. You don’t have to give what somebody else has. It is not even about how much you give. It is about what you give, relative to what God has given you.
Grateful heart and more
What can I possibly give to God that He would want? First and foremost I offer Him gratitude for my salvation. A heart of gratefulness and thanksgiving is my first offering of sacrifice.
Every time I come to the House of the Lord to worship I experience my own “Passover” all over again. And what I bring before the Lord is the awe I feel when I think about how great my God is! How unfathomable is His love. Before I even knew Him, He dealt with my sin.
But this is not all. At least once a year I need to come before the Lord with the first fruits in my life.
The Lord gives me a period of fifty days during which I am to concentrate on what He has given me in order to realize His purpose for my life. I am to develop His gifts and dedicate them to Him. Until I dedicate what I have to God, He can’t do much with them. But as soon as I give Him my gifts and talents, the harvest begins. It’s not by power, nor by might, but by the Lord’s Spirit.
Then, when the last holiday of the yearly cycle – Succoth – the Feast of Tabernacles arrives in the fall, I will celebrate the harvest. But how can I have a harvest if I don’t bring my first fruits to the Lord? And obviously I can’t properly develop my first fruits if I am not walking in God’s free gift of salvation.
So, if you are walking in salvation, if you are grateful, if you invest your labor in your first fruits and if you dedicate them to the Lord, you will have a harvest.
You don’t have to be a theologian to be a good evangelist. You don’t have to be an agricultural genius to be a good farmer. To harvest souls – just as a farmer harvests his crops – you need a basic understanding of the principles of the Kingdom, one of which is – if you do what God asks, He will do what He promised. We give him our first fruits as a sign of our obedience—a gift that surely pleases the heart of our Heavenly Father. So on the first day after Passover, let’s start counting our own special and unique sheaves—our talents, gifts and skills—and watch the harvest come!
CHAPTER THREE: THE BIGGER PICTURE
The Order: To the Jew First
Let’s go a step further now and see the principle of first fruits in the national scope. The Lord says in the book of Exodus, “You are my first born Israel. You are the first fruit.”
Israel is My son, My firstborn…
It is important for the Body of Messiah today to recognize Israel’s position in the body as the first fruits.
Remember, what we do with the first fruit determines what God will do with the harvest.
Today many people look at Israel and say, “I love Israel, but God will save Israel during the Great Tribulation, or at the end of the age. God Himself will do something.” They even quote the Scriptures, saying, “They [Israel] will look upon Me, whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son.” And on this one Scripture they base an entire theology, believing sometime in the end of times Israel shall be saved.
As is true of many prophetic Scriptures, there are successive fulfillments of this Scripture. In John’s Gospel, chapter 19, verse 37, he proclaims that this verse was fulfilled on the cross. At the end of this age, there will be a further fulfillment. But that in no way voids the many other Scriptures that promise a last day revival in Israel which then parallels world revival. And it certainly doesn’t free the nations from their obligation to pray and work for Israel’s salvation.
Whoever bases their doctrine of Israel’s redemption on this one Scripture, simply does not understand the whole Gospel in its fullness.
In fact, the Bible says the Gospel is “to the Jew first;” that is God’s order. Not that Jews are better than any other people, but God planned it that way and, again, He does not have a “Plan B.”
The Scripture in its entirety supports the statement “to the Jew first,” and never contradicts it. Let’s examine some of these verses.
Zechariah 3:2 The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem…
Isaiah 44:1 Israel whom I have chosen… [For a cause and a purpose]
Isaiah 41:8-9 But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob
whom I have chosen… …You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away.
Jeremiah 31:9b For I am a Father to Israel,
And Ephraim is My firstborn.
God chose Israel to be first in His plan, and He is not going to change His mind.
Israel’s failure to walk righteously before God in the past does not change God’s plan for Israel today and in the future.
Jeremiah 31:35-37 Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for a light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The Lord of hosts is His name):
“If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease
From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord:
“If heaven above can be measured,
And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will cast off the seed of Israel
For all that they have done,” says the Lord.
It’s not about Israel being worthy; it’s about God being faithful.
God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Nothing God says in one place in His Word contradicts another part of His Word. And if God said something is going to happen in His Word
– it will happen.
You might say, “Well, you’re just quoting the Old Testament.” Let’s look at some of the New Covenant Scriptures – the one infallible commentary on the rest of the Bible! In the ninth chapter of the book of Romans we clearly see that Paul understood the principle I’m writing about.
Paul was a rabbi who studied under the great Rabbi Gamliel himself. He also sat in the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court. He persecuted believers. He knew the Law. From years of studying the Scriptures, he knew the plan and purposes of God for Israel. They were clear to him. The only thing Paul did not understand (until his encounter with Messiah) is how everything was going to happen.
Paul received a call to the Gentiles. He was called to the nations and was always proud of this calling. But listen to what he says in Romans 9:1-5:
“I am speaking the truth – as one who belongs to the Messiah, I do not lie; and also bearing witness is my conscience, governed by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit): my grief is so great, the pain in my heart so constant, that I could wish myself actually under God’s curse and separated from the Messiah, if it would help my brothers, my own flesh and blood, the people of Israel! They were made God’s children, the Sh’khinah (The Glory) has been with them, the covenants are theirs, likewise the giving of the Torah (The Law), the Temple service and the promises; the Patriarchs are theirs; and from them, as far as his physical descent is concerned, came the Messiah, who is over all. Praised be Adonai (The Lord) for ever!”
What Paul is saying is that even though he’s called to the Gentiles, he would give up his own salvation so that Israel would come back to God and into God’s order. Paul not only loved his people, but also understood that until Israel was in right Biblical order before God, and in a right covenant relationship, his ministry to the Gentiles would be limited. (Romans 11:12) He understood that if Israel – the first fruits – is not presented properly before God, His plan for the entire harvest would be affected. So Paul says, “I would give up my salvation to see Israel regain her position with God.”
Why was Paul the one who was called to the Gentiles? In my opinion he was called because of his deep understanding of the Scripture – because he was a rabbi. Why wasn’t Peter or others like him called to the Gentiles? Peter was a fisherman, not a learned rabbi. He did not have the same upbringing and background in the Scriptures and did not have the same understanding of Israel’s place in God’s overall plan. Possibly, had Peter been called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, he might not have seen the continued importance of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan.
Paul, on the other hand, knew God’s plan from his knowledge of Moses and the prophets. Paul would not forget God’s plan, nor would he lose sight of His vision and God’s purposes for Israel. Paul had an understanding of God’s order.
While Paul brought the Gospel to the nations, he did not abandon or lose sight of God’s order in the bigger picture.
Not Ashamed of the Gospel
Israel was chosen to be first – not because it was better or bigger than others, but because God had a plan.
Paul had a deep understanding of this, and therefore he wrote what he did to the Romans:
For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God’s powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, [in Him]… (CJB)
Do we still believe this Scripture today even though it was written 2,000 years ago? Is this still true today? Of course we do. Now let’s continue to the end of the verse:
…to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile. (CJB)
The apostle Paul understood the principle of “to the Jew first”. No matter where he went in the world to share the gospel – he would go to the Jewish synagogues first:
And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.
Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. (NKJV)
And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.
Paul was even willing to give up his own salvation to see his Jewish brethren saved.
…that I could wish myself actually under God’s curse and separated from the Messiah, if it would help my brothers, my own flesh and blood, the people of Israel! (CJB)
Just as it was 2,000 years ago, it is still true today – to the Jew first. Regardless of whether we follow this principle or not, it has always been to the Jew first. This does not mean instead of the Gentile – just to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
So, people who today keep saying, “It’s not time to witness to the Jewish people” and “God will deal with Israel separately,” are very wrong! It is always a good and acceptable time for Israel to hear the Gospel! It has always been the time to witness to the Gentiles – why is it not a good time to witness to the Jews? We cannot pick and choose who to minister to – Yeshua commanded us to go from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria and to the whole world from there – but Jerusalem first. It is time to witness to both – until the ends of the earth – but always to the Jew first.
You see, strategy is important and when you understand the strategy, you can accomplish the task. The enemy will always attempt to spoil God’s strategy – separate Jew and Gentile and take Israel out of the picture.
Much of the world is against Israel. When we listen to the reports of many news networks, such as CNN and BBC, we are incredulous at their extreme bias against Israel. To them Israel is always fundamentally wrong. The Jewish people – so rationalize the media – are occupying a land that does not belong to them. While nations are killing a hundred thousand here and a hundred thousand there (look at the multiple genocides in various nations in Africa, for example), the media often ignores it. But as soon as Israel retaliates against terrorist attacks, and in defending herself civilians are accidentally killed – they say that just proves Israel is an evil aggressor. Events are portrayed without perspective and blown out of proportion.
I believe all this is happening because the devil understands that as soon as Israel gets in right Biblical order, world harvest will take place, Messiah will return, and for him it will all be over.
God’s Plan of Salvation
Romans 11:11 [speaking of Israel]
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
Why did salvation come to Israel? Not just for Israel’s sake but for the nations’ sake! Why did the Messiah come through Israel? Not just for Israel, but for the salvation of whosoever will!
God promised in Genesis 3:15 that through the seed of the woman will come the One who will crush the head of the serpent, thereby making salvation available to those who seek it. Also, in Genesis 12:3 God promises Abraham that in him all the families of the earth will be blessed.
God fulfilled His promise of salvation to Israel so that the nations of the world would be blessed through it. So, salvation came to Israel for the nations’ sake, but in turn it came to the nations for Israel’s sake. The nations – or the Gentiles [the same Hebrew word “goyim” is translated either as “nations” or as “Gentiles”] received the gift of salvation so they would bring that message to Israel, and bring Israel back into its right order. When this happens, Jew and Gentile together can get the Word out for world evangelism so that the harvest can take place as God intended.
Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
If Israel, who brought the Gospel to the nations, and then fell away as a nation, has been such a blessing to the world, what is going to happen when the whole nation of Israel comes back to their faith? Israel’s destiny is to be a nation of evangelists, a light to the nations – to teach the Word of God and proclaim the One True God and His Messiah Yeshua.
God has gifted Israel with gifts and skills that will enable her to fulfill her purpose of evangelizing the world.
The primary challenge to the people who are called to serve in foreign lands today is language. For the most part, people who work with ministries in other countries must spend long years to learn the foreign language of the nation where they wish to serve. Workers in many outreach ministries don’t really speak the languages of the nations where they serve.
Israel, however, is the only nation where a great number of languages in the world are a native tongue to many of Israel’s citizens. An average Israeli family speaks at least two languages. Many speak three or more different languages.
Why is Israel able to maintain a top secret service all over the world?
Israelis can speak their languages like natives!
But that is not all. Every student in school studies about his or her nation and forefathers. In Israel children learn about the father of their nation – Abraham. High school graduates in Israel have to have an elementary knowledge of the Bible. They are not required to believe the Bible, but they have to know it. In order to graduate a child has to study the order in which the kings of Israel reigned, who were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, where they lived, and what happened to them. Once Israel comes into the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) and receives a new heart and a new spirit, then the Holy Spirit will use this Jewish educational background to quicken and anoint for evangelism. Again, remember how the Spirit of God used Paul’s upbringing to reach the Gentiles.
Imagine when Israel accepts her Messiah! Suddenly there will be hundreds of thousands of people who know the Bible, can speak almost any major language on earth, and are ready to bring the Gospel to the nations!
Israel, as a nation, is waiting to be born again, and its citizens will be natural evangelists. They have the language. They have the culture. They have the knowledge… and all they need now is to be born again and quickened by the Holy Spirit.
Israel didn’t ask for this. Israel didn’t do anything to be chosen, but this is what God planned all along! This is Plan A! God has engineered this plan and when salvation comes to Israel, the nations will see the depth of the riches and the richness of the olive tree – the foundations of the eternal truth.
The New Covenant
Let’s look at additional Scriptures which discuss God’s plan to save Israel and guide her into her intended calling. You see, God knew all along what Israel would do – that she would fail miserably to become righteous through righteous deeds – but He still chose this nation to fulfill His plan. This is why the Old Testament speaks so much about the New Covenant of God with Israel. God is sovereign and He sticks to what He planned regardless of what we, His creation do.
Ezekiel 37 speaks about the establishment of the State of Israel physically and spiritually – breathing life into the dry bones.
Thus says the Lord God to these [dry] bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you, and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”
Many people interpret this only as the physical restoration. But notice, after restoring the physical body representing physical Israel, He breathed His spirit into the lifeless body, signifying the spiritual restoration of Israel. This is further strengthened in verses 12-14:
Therefore prophesy and say to them [bones], ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’
It is worth noting that even though Israel as a nation was conquered and lead away captive to Babylon, and Israel continued to reject the multiple pleas of the Lord to return to Him, He still calls them His people. This passage in Ezekiel corresponds with the much earlier promise in Deuteronomy 30, that believing Jews would one day be coming back to the Land of Israel:
Deuteronomy 30:1, 2, 5-6
Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you… …and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice… Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Again, God knew all along what would happen to Israel, His chosen nation, and He even revealed it in His Word, assuring His people that though they would reject Him, He would take them back when they called on His Name.
In the 36th chapter of Ezekiel the Lord clearly states the reason for keeping His covenant:
‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake… …And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.”
The nations will know who God is because of His faithfulness to Israel to return them to their land! God then continues with a promise of spiritual renewal for Israel:
I will give you [Israel] a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.
What I’m wanting to convey is that God has already said what He will do – His plan is not hidden from us. In this plan He promises Israel that when she is obedient to His Word and Covenant, she will become a nation of priests.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Most of God’s covenants are conditional – if we do what God says, He will do what He promised.
Now, to understand this Scripture, we first need to realize that under the Mosaic Covenant [given to Israel through Moses], only one tribe of Israel – the Levites – were authorized for priesthood. So then, the intent of this Scripture is not to say that if Israel would have kept the Torah perfectly (in the framework of the Mosaic Covenant) they would have immediately become a nation of priests. Only the New Covenant authorizes a national priesthood, and Israel is the only physical nation prophesied to be a nation of priests. (Of course, the worldwide Body of believers who have been grafted into the Jewish olive tree also receives this promise of being a holy priesthood.)
Messiah is Coming Back
I believe that we are very close to Messiah’s return. The signs of the times are obvious, and Yeshua told His disciples not to be ignorant about these signs. One of the most significant and clear signs concerns the spiritual rebirth of Israel.
I will return again to My place
Till they [Israel] acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face;
In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.[Emphasis mine]
Messiah is not coming back to New York City, Tokyo, or London. He is coming back to His royal city, Jerusalem, to His Jewish people who say, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Not just one or two stragglers, but an entire nation of priests will welcome Him, a nation who has been waiting for Him.
…so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him. (CJB)
Since Israel is an integral part of the big picture, we have to deal with this reality. It is like tithing: if you want God’s blessing on your life, you need to return to Him what belongs to Him – ten percent (Malachi 3:10). We do this and in return He blesses us, helping us to be effective and fruitful stewards.
Always in the Picture
So, we need to be aware of how to relate to Israel, especially in these last days. We cannot ignore her. However, understand that our relationship with Israel is not to replace our own individual and specific calling, nor does our calling replace our relationship with Israel.
You might be called to another nation – Africa, China, India, America
– these are all magnificent callings that God uses to help fulfill his Master Plan. But these callings do not mean you can ignore Israel. And I believe if you maintain your relationship with Israel, your calling to other nations will be blessed far beyond your imagination.
A man I highly respect, Reinhard Bonnke, is a German evangelist who was called to Africa many years ago and has done an awesome work for the Lord there.
A few years ago we were together at a campaign in Mombassa, Kenya.
One morning at breakfast he told me this story:
I was praying one morning and the Lord spoke to me: “Reinhard,” and I responded, “Yes, Lord.” The Lord said, “Pray for Israel!” So I thought – “I’m going to Israel!” The Lord responded, “No.” So I said, “Lord, if I am not going to Israel, why pray for Israel?” The Lord said, “Reinhard, pray for Israel.” And I said, “But Lord, I am not going to Israel…” and I got really quiet for a moment and heard the Lord again saying, “Reinhard, pray for Israel.” Again I said, “Lord, if I am not going to Israel, why pray for Israel?” Finally the Lord responded saying, “Reinhard, if you pray for Israel, I will give you Africa!”
Reinhard says this greatly influenced his life in regard to Israel, because he then understood God’s heart for Israel. Reinhard Bonnke is not called to Israel. Nevertheless, he is called to stand for Israel and with Israel, to do whatever he can do. God did not replace his call to Africa, but rather revealed to Reinhard that Israel is a key to Africa! Israel is always a part of God’s plan. It does not replace your calling, but it is part of your calling. If we have a heart for the nations, we must have a heart for Israel because Israel is in the heart of God.
CHAPTER FOUR: ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS
My son, Ayal, and my daughter, Shani, are now both adults. But when Ayal and Shani were small – he was five and she was three, one day I said to Ayal, “Ayal, would you like to go to the store with Abba?” (Abba means daddy in Hebrew.) Ayal was in a bad mood that day and he said, “I don’t want to go!” I said, “Okay.”
So I went to my daughter and said, “Shani, would you like to go to the store with Abba?” She said, “Yes, Abba!” I knew Ayal was within hearing and so I said, “By the way, it’s an ice cream store.” But Ayal was now caught up in his pride and said, “I don’t care. I don’t want to go!”
But Shani loved her brother. She said, “But Ayal, you love ice cream.” He responded, “I don’t care. Leave me alone!” Shani didn’t let up, “But it is going to be reeeeal gooood, Ayal!” Ayal, still caught up in his pride said, “I don’t want to go. Leave me alone!” But Shani loved her brother, so she went up to him and said, “Ayaaal, I bet if you tell Abba you’re sorry, he will let you go!”
About two minutes later I felt a little tug on my pants and I looked down and there he was. “Abba,” he said with a tear in his eye, “I am sorry. Can I go?” “Sure, son,” I said. “I forgive you, son.”
So we all went and had a great time together. You see, I went to Ayal and he said, “No!” So I went to Shani and she said, “Yes!” But Shani loved Ayal. And she went back and provoked him to jealousy.
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
Salvation has come to the Gentiles because of Israel’s fall. But God clearly tells the nations that they are to provoke Israel to jealousy and bring them back into their rightful position.
You see, both of my children and I enjoyed ice cream as a complete family. Sure, I would have enjoyed the trip with just Shani. But I enjoyed it more with both of them.
And this is exactly what the Lord says – He enjoys fellowship with all believers. But He is going to enjoy our fellowship more with Israel and the nations together.
I will pour out My Spirit
Let’s look at the book of Joel and put this verse in its Biblical context.
And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
Many of us pray this Scripture often, but there is something very significant we often miss.
The verse opens with “It shall come to pass AFTERWARD.” What does it mean? After what? The answer is, when the prophecies in the previous chapters and verses have come to pass. So when will all these wonderful things be fulfilled?
We know that the Spirit has been poured out in various times and places – here in Israel on the Day of Pentecost, and in different places around the world, such as Brownsville, Azusa Street, Africa, South America, China and multitudes of other nations. It has happened a little here and a little there, but not yet on all flesh, as the Scripture promises.
To find out when the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh, let’s back up just a few verses in the book of Joel.
Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the Lord your God;
For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you – The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.
Now if you recall, Passover, the time of deliverance from Egypt, happens in the month of Nisan, the first month of the Biblical calendar. But the day is coming when Passover will also signify the time that Israel is delivered from spiritual Egypt – because Joel’s prophecy came long after the physical exodus. This is the feast on which Yeshua was crucified to deliver the human race out of the bondage of sin. Therefore, when Israel comes into her spiritual Passover (the first month) – her exodus from spiritual Egypt – at that time God will pour out on cities and villages of Israel the former rain and the latter rain.
God gave the “former” or the “early” rain to Israel when her prophets and holy men and women of God were sowing the Gospel into the world. This time he is going to give both the early and the latter rain!
In Israel there are different rainy seasons. One is for sowing, and one is for the harvest. So, essentially, what God is saying to Israel is “I am going to give you rain to sow and rain to harvest, the anointing to sow and the anointing to harvest – when you come into your Passover.” And what follows this promise is the key:
The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the Name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
God will saturate Israel with not just wine, but with a NEW wine, new anointing. He will restore all the centuries and the times of judgment and curses that Israel has had… and then Israel will praise the Lord! Sounds like a Spiritual Revival to me!
Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the Lord your God
And there is no other
My people shall never be put to shame.
Israel has been put to shame throughout history. Europe deported and cursed Jewry over and over again – the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Holocaust. Many nations have tried to destroy Israel more than once. Multiple political scandals in the past few years have destroyed much of Israel’s reputation. The Jewish people have been put to shame over and over again.
But God promises that there will come a day when Israel will never be put to shame again. He promises that it will become a nation of priests and walk in a New Covenant. Only then, the Scripture says, “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour My Spirit upon all flesh.”
Do you see the big picture? Before the revival you and I are praying for, Israel has to be brought back to its rightful place, because Israel is the first fruit! And the only way it will get back is when the nations start provoking Israel to jealousy through their love and passion to turn her back to her God.
If we reject and neglect the first fruit, we will hinder the Lord from bringing the harvest to the nations!
This principle is so important to understand – the entire harvest depends on it!
Only after the promises in Joel 2:23-27 are accomplished, can we expect the fulfillment of verse 28. First, Israel needs to get into her rightful position with her Creator, and then the Lord will bring the harvest and pour out His Spirit as He promised.
What we do with our first fruits will determine what the Lord does with the harvest.
A Word for the Nations
The reason I am bringing this message is not to tell you to ignore or do less in your individual calling. I only suggest that you always keep the big picture in mind. If you have a call to something or somewhere, you of course must never sacrifice the call. But make Israel a part of your life so that your opportunities and successes will be according to God’s standards and intentions.
The Kingdom of God is not about doing less. It’s about doing more
of what God wants us to do!
When I was praying a few years ago, I asked the Lord to give me a word of encouragement to the nations concerning Israel. I was earnestly seeking God with fasting and prayer, and finally the Lord gave me this Scripture:
Thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I will lift up My hand in an oath to the nations, And set up My standard for the peoples;
They shall bring your sons [Israel] in their arms,
And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders; Kings [mature believers in the nations] shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
They [the nations] shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick up the dust of your feet.
Then you [Israel] will know that I am the Lord, For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”
I was somewhat embarrassed to bring these Scriptures to believers among the nations as a Jew. So I said, “Lord, give me another Scripture!” In my eyes this was not a nice thing to say to my fellow brothers and sisters among the nations. So I prayed and fasted more, “Oh God, give me another Scripture!” But this was the only Scripture He gave me. As I continued to pray I was troubled and said, “I am not going to the nations to give this word.” But I realized that the Lord was trying to tell me something that I was not yet grasping.
Then the Lord reminded me of an incident that happened with my son, Ayal, when he was about six months old. We were about to go to a meeting one Shabbat morning. I was dressed up for the service, wearing a nice shirt and tie. My wife Shira was not yet ready, and asked me if I could change the baby’s diaper while she was finishing up. I said, “Sure, sweetheart,” and put Ayal on the bed to change him.
Ayal was lying there, just looking up at me, smiling, and I was smiling down at him saying, “That’s my boy!” I was just so proud of him – my boy was already six months old. So I took the diaper off, washed him and powdered him, and as I got ready to put the clean diaper on, he tinkled all over my tie. And all the while he was just smiling up at me and I was still smiling down at him. I wasn’t offended. I was just glad everything was working! I took my tie off, and I washed him and powdered him again, and when I was finished I kissed Ayal on his toe.
I realized that what I was doing all this time was bowing down with my face to the ground – because that’s how you minister to a baby. You don’t minister to an infant while standing up proudly. No, you humble yourself before your child. You bow down with your face to the ground because the child can’t get up. It doesn’t matter if you are the queen or the king of a nation, you will bow down with your face to the ground when you minister to a baby.
And why did I kiss Ayal’s toe? I kissed his toe because he couldn’t come up any higher by himself. If he could have stood up, I would have kissed him on his forehead. But I kissed him on his toe. I did it because I love him – that’s my baby, that’s my boy! I was proud of him. I wasn’t ashamed to meet his needs. It was the time for me to serve him.
Now Ayal is 6’6’’ tall. He can pick me up in his arms. My hug is underneath his arm now! He wants to minister to me and bless me because I ministered to him when he was a child. So Israel has now been rebirthed as a nation but is still a spiritual child with all that includes.
This is God’s plan and way. This is why he said, “The nations will lift up your sons in their arms. They will carry your daughters upon their shoulders.” The kings and queens are the people who know who they are in God and are not ashamed to humble themselves and minister to a child.
You are kings and queens of the Kingdom! You are the mighty ones in God! Only those who have real authority and power in God can show mercy to those who are in need of mercy.
The Lord continues to say the kings will be as foster fathers and queens as nursing mothers to Israel. What do foster fathers do? They are there to help the children find their way, their destiny. The nursing mothers give the nourishment that babies need, bowing down with their faces to the ground. They change diapers. They kiss babies on their toes.
What is the result of this service? “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
When kings and queens do this, Israel will know why they do it – because the nations are not ashamed to wait for the Lord. The nations know that God has a plan – Plan A. They know that God has a purpose for Israel as a nation, and joyfully obey as kings and queens in God’s service. They take the authority they have been given. They take the inheritance they received and invest in Israel, lifting it up to return it to its place in God’s plan.
God has an order, and it is “to the Jew first.” Not just for the Jewish people’s sake, but for the nations’ sake.
Salvation came to the Jews for the nations’ sake. Salvation came to the nations to bring Israel back into order so that the purposes and plans of God can be fulfilled.
This is the heart of God – Israel and the nations, together. This is what the Lord wants in our hearts.
God calls Israel His firstborn. She is the first fruits. What we do with the first fruits will determine what God will do with our harvest in our nation and in the world.
Pray for Israel. Support missions that labor to bring the Gospel to Israel – today! When we all do our part – God will fulfill His promises!
Please join me in this prayer:
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thank you that you are our God who can be trusted. Thank you that Your ways never change. We seek Your wisdom and knowledge so we can know Your ways and walk in them. Our desire is to please You. Lord, we want to be faithful lords of the first fruits. We want to do all we can so that we may present them to You and You will make the difference. You will bring the increase. You will bring the harvest.
Lord, on that great and mighty day, we want to hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” On that great and mighty day we want to stand with our hands full of fruit. Help us stand with wise strategy in this battle for eternity, so we can make an impact for eternity. We thank You, Father, in the Name of Your precious Son, Yeshua. Amen.
About the author—Ari Sorko-Ram
A man of varied backgrounds, Ari was a professional rugby player in France and played for the French National Rugby team and then signed as a professional football player in the NFL for the St. Louis Cardinals. He went to undergraduate and graduate school at the University of Southern California, studying psychology. He worked in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department until he became a film actor. He has appeared in over 100 films and TV shows in Israel and the United States, such as Hawaii 5-0, Entebbe, The Finest Hour, and was a lead actor in TV series such as Chips and Sweating Bullets. He left Hollywood to return to Israel, the land of his forefathers, and become an Israeli citizen in 1976.
Ari and Shira married in 1977, and have been ministering together since that time. Shira is the daughter of the late Gordon Lindsay, who, with his wife, Freda, founded the Voice of Healing in 1948, and Christ for the Nations Institute in 1970.
Ari and Shira write a monthly newsletter, MAOZ ISRAEL REPORT, giving the prophetic, political, and spiritual perspective of current events in Israel.
As Messianic Jews, Ari and Shira direct the Maoz Israel Ministry. They have been pioneers of the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel, and currently lead a Messianic Jewish congregation in the Tel Aviv area. They have sponsored many national conferences for the Israeli leaders and believers.
Their main thrust now is leadership development and evangelism— the full message of the Gospel—spiritual, emotional, and physical salvation through Yeshua, the Messiah.
They also encourage and sponsor born-again Jews returning to the land of Israel. They have helped Israeli believers set up small businesses, helped Messianic Jewish immigrants, and aggressively help both Arab and Jewish believers to improve their status in the land through sponsoring vocational and language training.
They are translating and publishing a number of discipleship and gospel books in Hebrew for the growth of the body in Israel—books by Rick Warren, Jack Hayford, Joyce Meyer, Joy Dawson, Tommy Tenney, Oswald Chambers, Josh McDowell, James Dobson, John Maxwell, and numerous others.
In 2002, they established a benevolent outreach for widows, orphans, and economically depressed believers in the land, as well as terror victims…istandwithisrael.com, which has distributed over $2,000,000 in the last five years.
Evangelism is a strong emphasis. They have staged drama presentations of the Gospel in the streets of Tel Aviv and Haifa, where they saw hundreds show interest in knowing more about Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah.
Maoz’s ministry headquarters are in Tel Aviv, Israel. Their USA administrative office is located in Grand Prairie, Texas. They also have offices in Canada, Germany, England and Brazil. They are endorsed as a Jewish Ministry to Israel by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, the Messianic Jewish Alliance, and many churches and organizations around the world. They are members of ECFA.
Ari and Shira reside in Ramat Hasharon, Israel. They have two sabra (born in Israel) children, and two granddaughters.
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