by Tamar Afriat
As the Covid-19 makes its way across the world, this little virus is bringing the economies, industries, and the day to day lives of many nations to their knees. In one fell swoop, our lives have been radically simplified. Suddenly we all have had to cancel plans, meetings, trips, business, studies. The noise of our daily lives has been shut off.
For many the correlation is clear: this virus is forcing everyone into what the Bible calls in Hebrew Shabbat Shabbatone or a Sabbath of rest—a day that is not actually the Sabbath, but is treated as a Sabbath of solemn rest. “Solemn rest” means that we seek Him as our rest and honor it by not going our own way, doing as we please or speaking idle words (Isaiah 58:13-14). It is a rest in which we find our joy in the Lord, not in binging the latest series on Netflix.
As believers, we understand the meaning of this: many of us, particularly those who work in ministry, the significance of our daily activities, even activity done of service of the Lord, has evaporated in the light of standing alone in the presence of the only One who matters. And perhaps our activity looks sorely empty if we realize that we have long neglected this first Love, that we have not sat at His feet for a long time.
God is clearly calling His bride to a time of separation unto Him, to spend time at His feet, to go deeper into His presence while all the noise and distractions of our lives have mercifully been turned off. In that place He wants to purify us, fan the flames of our love for Him and to prepare us to be the holy priesthood He intended us to be.
Repentance and Sanctification
We have experienced something incredible from our members at Tiferet Yeshua in response to this crisis: a spiritual awakening! While our weekly prayer meetings had ten to twelve participants, now we are holding prayer meetings online with over thirty people attending; everyone’s prayers are of repentance, crying out to God to prepare and mature His bride, for unity in the Body, sanctification, calling for the Lord to use this crisis to bring people to a saving knowledge of Yeshua the Messiah. May we all continue in this place in His grace all over the world as the Lord causes us all together as His Body to reach the full measure of the fullness of Messiah! (Ephesians 4:13)
by Moti Cohen
Last week in Israel the government released new updates on stricter regulations for gatherings and businesses every day because of the massive spread of the corona virus. At the beginning of the week, only ten people could gather in one place. By mid week, the Ministry of Health had ordered all non-essential personnel into home quarantine.
Because of the restrictions, we could not use the soup kitchen space in south Tel Aviv for our regular Thursday Feed Tel Aviv meals for the needy. So, we decided to improvise and, with the help of my children, we made 80 sandwiches, and I headed to the streets with a couple volunteers to set up tables in different areas where drug addicts, refugees, and those caught in the sex industry live. The police were in the area, and I made sure that it was okay with them (the police are enforcing the quarantine regulations) that I set up tables with sandwiches so that people could come and take them on their own while we maintained the required two meter distance.
I was shocked at the condition of the people on the streets: it’s the worst I have ever seen in all the years I’ve been serving on the streets. Because of the risks of having people together in close quarters, almost all the homeless shelters have decided to close their doors rather than risk having a corona outbreak on their hands. So, in a week that has been unseasonably cold and rainy here in Israel, countless homeless wound up on the streets. It was a heartbreaking sight to see people trying to cover up with wet blankets. Many came to the tables we set up and all the sandwiches were quickly gone. It was hard to keep our two meter distance because people wanted prayer, they wanted the love and warmth they’re used to getting from us. But we just can’t get physically close right now in order to keep to the guidelines (people who are caught breaking them will be fined $1,000 at a minimum, jail time in extreme cases).
In times of national crisis, the poorest of the poor are the ones hardest hit because all the resources and energies are being focused elsewhere and the people who regularly serve the poor find themselves in the position of worrying about their health and well-being. I will be going out a couple times each week, bringing 100 sandwiches each time. Since all my five children are home with us, I will enlist their help in making the sandwiches again!
This is a critical time for all of us, and we tend to worry about our own well-being and the well-being of our loved ones. However, I encourage everyone to take time to pray for and consider helping the poor and vulnerable in your area. While everyone’s worrying about whether they have enough toilet paper stocked, I guarantee you that there are homeless people who have lost their safety net and will be sleeping on the streets tonight. I would also like to ask you to consider supporting us with our Feed Tel Aviv outreach. Thank you and God bless you and keep you in this challenging time!
By Gil Afriat
We’re experiencing an almost incomprehensible reality today, and the events around us are changing at a dizzying pace. In a matter of a couple weeks, Israel, just like many nations, has come to a grinding halt: everyone, except those in critical services, is ordered to stay in their homes. We believe that God has been preparing believers for this time: a month ago a 40-day global fast (The Jesus Fast) was called by evangelist Lou Engle which many of us here in Israel, along with countless around the world, have joined. We are already in a posture of denying ourselves and seeking Him, and now with the current crisis, we are called to stand in the position that God has prepared for us in the face of a global pandemic.
Is God Sovereign?
Many are wondering, “What is going on here?” First of all, we know that God is sovereign; He is on His throne and nothing happens without His allowing it. The enemy cannot put together this plague behind God’s back, and God is allowing it while at the same time working multiple good objectives through it according to His perfect will. What good objectives might God be working through this crisis? I know that many of us recognize some of them, and I see several positive objectives God is working through this challenging time. In this article I would like to focus on one.
One important objective God is working through this crisis: In His mercy, God wants to wake up those who are walking in darkness without the knowledge of Him, those walking in apathy to the most basic and essential question of their lives: does God exist or not, and if He does, what does that mean for me? We know that God uses crises to wake up those who are living in apathy, who are living for an interminable future without considering their mortality and the meaning of their lives. One thing this pandemic has done is shatter the illusion that people’s day to day lives will continue without significant disruption. The pressure, worries, tasks and pleasures of day to day life keep people in the dim valley of life without the knowledge of God. In fact, the pressures and tasks of day to day life are an excellent tool which the enemy uses to keep people from being able to focus and ponder the deeper questions of their existence.
All Flesh is Grass
It is clear to see that God is working through this crisis to wake people up to the fact of how fragile their existence is, to the fact that our days on the earth are finite. More than that, God is giving everyone the time and the space to stop and ponder these questions, not for just a moment or two, but for a concerted period of time to meditate on these questions, to seek, and to ultimately find, by His grace, the truth—salvation through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
The Zechariah 12 Connection
Even though this chapter deals with the final battle for Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation before our Lord appears in the sky to all, I strongly believe that God is causing a foreshadow of this prophecy to happen today. Zechariah 12: 9-14 says:
It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations [today, all the viruses!] that come against Jerusalem. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves
Notice how what is written in this verse places special emphasis on the idea of each and every family being together by itself. Until today, I didn’t understand how or why this would happen, however this passage describes the situation today of families being quarantined in their homes together. Not only that, this passage points out that there, in their “quarantine”, God pours out His Spirit of grace and supplication. I believe that a special grace is available right now which God is pouring out on the people of Israel, and on all nations, to receive a revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. These verses In Zechariah 12 encourage and give us hope that in this difficult time we will see significant fruit of salvations among the people of Israel, in the Muslim world, and around the whole world.
Our Calling as Priests
God is always calling us to partner with Him, and especially in this situation: during this time of separation God is calling us to stand in our roles as priests unto God (2 Peter 2:5) to intercede for our nations, to petition the Mercy Seat for the lost. It is our prayer that God would use the pressures of this pandemic to draw people to him, to soften their hearts, and to give them ears to hear and eyes to see the great salvation He has prepared for them!
Are you getting tired of hearing about Israel’s elections? So are we.
We had hopes that this third election would be it! But those hopes began to fade as the final results came in the day after the elections: Even though Likud could claim a big win, it still could only pull together 58 mandates (three fewer than what they need to form a government), and the voices from the center-left parties were making clear that they are still entrenched in their positions. So, we are right back where we were last elections in September and the elections before that in April. It’s starting to feel like political trench warfare: everyone is digging in and no progress is made.
WHO ARE IN THE TRENCHES?
Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) – A centrist party that was formed by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Ganz over a year ago with defectors from the Likud, among others. It seems Netanyahu has stepped on the toes of his colleagues over the years and made some bitter enemies of his former political allies. Though they deny it, this party seems to be running on “Anything but Bibi (Netanyahu)”. Blue and White’s Trench: they will not be part of a government with a prime minister who has been indicted and has to stand trial (Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of breach of trust and corruption). Their slogan? We are for Israel, Netanyahu is for himself.
Israel Beytenu (Israel our Home) – A right-wing, nationalist party headed by former Netanyahu ally Avigdor Lieberman who can personally take the credit for forcing the first elections last year when he left the government in a huff (seems he has a Bibi ax to grind as well). Israel Beytenu’s trench: No government with ultra-orthodox parties. Their slogan? No government with the ultra-orthodox unless they agree to: civil marriages, public transportation on the Sabbath, and universal conscription for all ultra orthodox (who are currently exempt). When will the ultra-orthodox agree to that? Never.
PLANNING AN AMBUSH
It came out yesterday evening (March 4th) that the centrist-left parties (including Blue and White and Israel Our Home) are planning an ambush for Netanyahu: they want to pass a law in the Knesset (61 Knesset members—which they have—can pass any law they want) that would prevent an indicted Knesset Member (that would be Netanyahu) from forming a government. If this law passes, the courts may get involved to determine if it is even lawful to pass a law against a candidate right after he has won the majority of the voter’s confidence (the Likud is calling it an assault on democracy). Finally, it is anyone’s guess how long any of this might take to play out. Despite our hopes that this election would end it, Israel continues to be in political paralysis. The prospects are looking grimmer as each day passes: the different sides are taking off their gloves, ramping up the attacks, and digging into their positions.
LOOKING TO GOD, NOT MEN
All of this instability and uncertainty only strengthens us in our understanding that our faith is not in man but in God; only God will save us, not a politician or any other man. As political instability continues in our country, while countries around the world, including Israel, are hit with outbreaks of the corona virus, causing many to fear, we look to God for direction and encouragement while standing in the gap and crying out for his mercy on behalf of our nations and our people!
by Tamar Afriat
Since the beginning of 2020, the news cycle has been dominated by constant attention-grabbing headlines which put last week’s news far from the mind. However, during the first couple months of 2020, there were two unprecedented and highly significant events for Israel and the region—events which, for better or worse, have had surprisingly little coverage in the media or had coverage that greatly misinterpreted their impact and significance. This article will take a look at the first significant event which happened in 2020.
THE US ASSASSINATES IRANIAN MILITARY CHIEF AND CHECKMATES IRAN
On January 3, 2020, US President Donald Trump authorized the targeted assassination of Major General Qassem Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and mastermind of Iran’s military operations outside Iran. With Suleimani at the helm, Iran’s military tentacles have been sewing terror and chaos across the Middle East, all the way from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza to Yemen. The US State Department said that it killed the Iranian general because he was actively planning attacks against US troops in Iraq and the region, but the significance of his removal goes far beyond American interests. It is hard to overstate the importance of Suleimani in Iran (the only more powerful man in Iran was the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah himself), and the huge blow to Iran’s ability to carry out its proxy militia strategy across the Middle East—supporting the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and propping up the Assad regime in Syria, all which bear the hallmarks of Iranian involvement: chaos, violence, radicalization and active aggression against Israel.
Internationally Trump’s action called a “reckless act of war”
As soon as the news of Suleimani’s assassination broke, the international media exploded in one accord, calling Trump’s move tantamount to an act of war and a dangerous escalation of tensions between the US and Iran. As the world watched the funeral procession of Suleimani in Baghdad where mourners draped his grave in the red flag—a call for revenge of the “martyr’s” death—and listened to top Iranian leaders vow harsh retaliation, pundits and politicians around the world began warning that the Iranians would hit back hard, leading to more violence and destabilization.
The Israeli pundits were saying something else
Across the board, from left to right, experts and government officials in Israel called Trump’s move a brave decision—a deterrent to war, not an act of war—a move which showed leadership and sent a powerful message to all terrorist leaders in the region: your heads are on the line. Suleimani’s assassination put Iran into a quandary; they understand that President Trump will not hesitate to put action behind his words, and, if they react by attacking American interests or allies, the US has promised to destroy fifty-two strategic sites in Iran, the destruction of which would put Iran back twenty years. So, how did Iran ultimately respond to Suleimani’s assassination? It attacked a US military base in Iraq which inflicted minor causalities on US military servicemen, a symbolic act which showed that they are not interested in further escalation of hostilities with the US.
Iran’s Situation Today: Iran is finding itself limited and crippled. Firstly, the Trump administration’s sanctions are having the desired effect—everyday Iranians are unhappy with their government’s spending their resources on outside military escapades while the economic situation at home continues to worsen. Iran’s profile in the Middle East is beginning to tarnish on the Arab street as well; for all its brash military actions, the everyday people are left with the violence, death, refugees, chaos and economic collapse Iran’s policies leave in their wake.
Iran’s Spiritual Awakening? More than anything else, the most important change of all is what seems to be happening inside Iran. According to some sources, Iran has the fastest-growing church in the world as disenfranchised Iranians leaving Islam are coming to faith in the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua, and worshiping the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What’s more, these believers who are coming to faith are doing so outside of the established, denominational church (which in the Middle East tends to be anti-Semitic\anti-Israel), and Iranian believers are expressing love for Israel and Jews whom they see as the brothers of their Savior. This is the most meaningful development for Iran, Israel and the Middle East by far.
Why was I so happy to plant a tree in Israel with my son David?
In Israel, in the middle of the winter, we have a special holiday call Tu Bishvat. It’s called the New Year of the Trees or the Birthday of the Trees. It means literally the 15th of the Hebrew month Shevat, and it’s a holiday when school students are happy to get out of their classrooms for an afternoon in order to plant trees in coordinated efforts to increase forest land in Israel. This year the holiday falls on February 10th.
It’s simply amazing to me that little more than a hundred years ago this land was bare and barren. A quote from Mark Twain’s account of travelling the Holy Land in 1867, just a couple decades before the first waves of Jewish settlers began to arrive, describes what the Land then called Palestine looked like:
“…a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, bit is given over wholly to weeds—a silent mournful expanse…A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… We never saw a human being on the whole route… There was hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those hast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” ~Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
Back then, it seemed nothing was able to grow here and, as Twain himself pointed out, it seemed that the land itself was cursed. Furthermore, the Turks who then controlled Palestine taxed land according to the number of trees it had on it, an incentive to remove trees from the land. When the first Jewish settlers began arriving to the Sharon area (north end of Tel Aviv today) the land was bogs and swamps.
Those who first came to start working the land (the first Zionist settlers were driven by an agricultural vision) had to first drain vast swampland, and many of them died of malaria and yellow fever. But the first Jewish pioneers who arrived with in what is called the First Aliah (the first immigration) refused to give up. They dried up the swamps though various methods, including planting huge Eucalyptus tree groves (the Arabs learned to call them Jewish Trees) which require large amounts of water to thrive.
Today, those vast areas of what were once swampland have become some of the most fertile and productive agricultural lands in Israel today, including the great Jezreel and Hulda valleys. Also, the areas that were once swampland were so disease-infested that there were hardly any animals that were able to live there. After the swamps were drained and the land rehabilitated from all the salts, animals—especially birds—began populating those areas, bringing with them the sound of birdsong—something that wasn’t heard in these areas for hundreds of years!
In the area of the Sharon today there is the forest of Petach Tikvah (Hebrew = A Door of Hope), a city which started as a little settlement which was nicknamed “The mother of settlements”. Because of the success of Petach Tikvah, many other settlements began springing up, which were also established on agriculture-especially citrus plantations of oranges, lemons and clementines.
The cursed land has become a blessed land! It’s amazing that, after hundreds of years of desolation, all the land where the Jewish pioneers arrived has turned into rich, productive land, agriculturally and industrially.
I still have strong memories from when I was a little boy in school and went to plant trees and plants on Tu Bishvat with my classmates. We felt that it was part of our responsibility to our precious homeland—we knew well how important and special it is for us to have our own homeland where we can be Jews without the fear of persecution—and to take care of and to invest in the land. So, when my oldest son was born, it was important for me to take him out on his fist Tu Bishvat to plant a tree together, which we did! David’s first tree was planted in an area that is planned to be another forest in hills of Jerusalem.
Just planting a tree that will be part of a forest in Israel: one of the ways that we can be active participants in this miracle called “The Establishment of the Jewish State”. It is a living memorial to God’s faithfulness to His promises and fulfillment of prophecy before our eyes:
“‘But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will cause many people to live on you—yes, all of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of people and animals living on you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” ~Ezekiel 36:8-11
Happy Tu Bishvat!
…we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
This past year at Tiferet Yeshua we were able to help and support dozens of families and individuals who were in need with both spiritual and financial help. When serving in ministry, it can be easy to fall into “religious” activity while neglecting the most basic principles of faith which the Apostle James speaks about: pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Therefore, we make sure that one of the most basic foundations of who we are as a congregation is the ability to help those in need by making our giving fund one of our highest priorities. There will always be people experiencing difficulties in their lives. However, God wants to use us precisely in these situations in order to grow and mature us in Him. So, in times of crisis in peoples’ lives, praise God that we can be there as a congregation to help and support them through it!
Testimony of a Single Mom in Need
I would like to share one special testimony about Eden (not her real name), a single mom at Tiferet Yeshua. Eden immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia; her parents were not able to make the journey to Israel. Finding herself completely alone in Israel without family, Eden soon ended up in a relationship with a man whom she hoped would marry her. She became pregnant, but, after the baby was born, it became clear that the baby’s father had no intention of marrying Eden or helping support her and the baby. All at once Eden found herself alone in a very difficult situation. When Eden was pregnant, she started attending Tiferet Yeshua, and, when it became clear that she had no one to help her out in her difficult situation, we were there for her as her spiritual family.
Judith, a sister at Tiferet Yeshua, and I have been supporting Eden for over two years—visiting her at home, listening to her, praying with her and providing her with emotional and practical support, as well as connecting her with financial and job counseling. When we first started visiting Eden, she was living in a small, dark basement apartment (with no windows) in a very rough area in south Tel Aviv where there is a high level of poverty and violent crime—certainly not an ideal place to be raising a child. With the help of God, Eden was able to move to a better area of Tel Aviv where she is renting a much nicer apartment.
When we visited her in her new apartment, Judith and I noticed that she did not have a good kitchen table (she was using a plastic outdoor table and chairs) or any storage closets. Praise God that congregation Tiferet Yeshua was able to buy her a new kitchen table and chairs and two wardrobes for storage. This week Judith and I took Eden shopping so that she could choose the kitchen dinette and wardrobes herself. What a blessing to Eden to make a new start in 2020 in with a new apartment and new furniture! And what a blessing to us to be able to help our dear sister in the Lord, just as it is written: it more blessed to give than to receive.
Remembering the Poor Brethren in Israel
One of the most central and basic messages of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is giving help to the weakest and most vulnerable in our societies. In Galatians 2, the Apostle Paul writes about visiting the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem and receiving the blessing of the Apostles Simon Peter, John and James, the Lord’s brother, who exhort him to continue remembering the poor and needy of the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem, even while they serve among the Gentiles.
Likewise, we want to thank you for remembering the poor and needy Jewish brethren here in Tel Aviv: your faithful support of Tiferet Yeshua Congregation allows us to continue taking care of the poor and needy in our midst here in Tel Aviv. On behalf of all those we’ve been able to help here in Tel Aviv, thank you for your generous and faithful support!
2019 was a year of FAITH and GRACE for us at Tiferet Yeshua: God strengthened our faith in His provision for the vision He had given us to update and expand our sanctuary. When the remaining funds we needed finally came through in the spring, He gave us grace in abundance to manage a complex renovation project while continuing our congregational life as usual. Near the end of the year, we faced some daunting challenges, but, at the last minute, God brought us help and support in surprising and unexpected ways!
Now with the incredible blessing of our new and expanded sanctuary, our new media capabilities which will allow us to live-stream our Hebrew services, with new seekers visiting every week, and with our congregation continuing to grow in love and spiritual maturity, we can only marvel at how good and faithful He is!
As we face 2020, we feel this is a year of HEARING HIS VOICE. There is so much noise around us: our smartphones and social media platforms are continually inundating us with notifications and messages which seem so important at the moment. With so much “noisy content” flooding our lives, we can become easily distracted from the voice of the One—the Lover of our Souls—who wants to lead us onward. As believers we have access to every kind of worship or the latest message from our favorite preachers, which is not negative in itself. However, hearing about Him is not the same as spending time with Him. When all we do is “hear about Him” from others, we will not know Him or His voice.
How can we hear His voice? It is rather simple. By spending time with Him each day—in prayer and meditation on His Word—we will learn to hear His voice more clearly. The more time we spend with Him, his voice will soon be the one we hear above all others. Also, spending time with Him causes us to hunger for Him more and to hunger for the world less.
The path before us may seem clear, but we might be continuing on it without listening for direction from Him: He may be calling us off the “main highway” to something we never imagined. As we embark on this New Year of 2020, may we all devote more time to Him and be able to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd leading us onward and upward to our higher calling in Him!
David is a born street evangelist: He’s outgoing, friendly, has a winning smile and a passion to share the Messiah with people—even in the face of physical attacks. Every week you can find him somewhere on the streets of Tel Aviv, witnessing and praying with people. Here’s his story!
Something is Missing
“I grew up in a traditional Jewish home, that is, we kept the religious traditions. For a while my older brother studied in a yeshiva (a religious school) and my mom highly revered the orthodox way of life. She would go to the rabbis for council and did her best to make sure we all went to the synagogue, particularly on high holidays. I would go, but inside I didn’t connect to anything there, and I felt that there must be something deeper than all this—I didn’t know what it was, whether it was God or not, but I knew that something was missing.
In 2002, after serving in a combat unit in the IDF for three years, I flew to the US and began selling Dead Sea products at a mall. I was making great money and living large: parties, drinking, drugs, all the pleasures that the world can offer. Despite living what I thought was the good life, I wasn’t experiencing real happiness. In my heart I felt something was missing, but I didn’t know what. Then one day at work, I met a Jewish customer who told me something every interesting; he said that he loved to feel God in his life every day. And then he asked me a very interesting question: “Have you ever felt God in your life?” My answer was no, but I wondered to myself, “How can you actually feel God?” When I went home that evening, his question kept nagging me. Finally, I said to God, “I want to know from You what the truth is!” I decided to do something about it: I started reading the Bible.
I was reading in Psalm 22 where it’s written, “My God my God why have You forsaken Me?” and “they pierce my hands and my feet” about someone who’s being tortured and mocked. The moment I read this, I was afraid that it was talking about Yeshu the Notzri (a derogatory name given Him by the rabbis). So, I did what any good son would do: I called my mom! She knows a lot about religion and tradition, and I thought if I read the verse to her she could help me understand it. When she heard what I read, she was as startled as I was and warned me, “That’s a gentile book. We are forbidden to read it.” She thought I was reading something to her from the New Testament! I told her, “Mom, this is from the Hebrew Bible, it’s Psalms!”
A Picture on the Internet
In my search for answers, I started reading and searching on the internet. I always had wondered about the all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, and, in particular, I had wondered why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. I’ll never forget this moment: one day while I was looking up information about the sacrifice of Isaac on the internet, I found a picture which showed Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice to God, and above it was a picture of Yeshua on the cross—God offering His Son as a sacrifice for us. When I saw this picture, I felt warmth all over my body, and I cried out to God. I felt that Yeshua was right there next to me. That was the moment that I can say that my whole journey with God truly began.
As soon as I accepted Yeshua into my heart, I began devouring the Word. One day I was reading in Isaiah 44 where it’s written in verse 6 that God says, “I am the first and the last.” Not long after that I was reading in Revelation where Yeshua says, “I am the first and the last”, and suddenly I realized that Yeshua is also God. No one had told me! It was a revelation that came straight from Him through His Word. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I was so amazed that I spent the rest of the evening just worshipping Yeshua.
The moment that you believe that Yeshua is God and you cling to Him as God and King, your connection with Him grows much deeper. He’s not just the Savior, the suffering servant Isaiah talks about. He is God and King. Here in Israel many people will say, “Ok, Yeshua is the Messiah. He’s Lord, but He’s not God.” It takes a revelation from God for Jews to get over the hurdle of accepting that the Messiah is also God. Like Yeshua said in John 8 when the Pharisees were challenging Him: I told you that you would die in your sins if you do not believe that I am he. Isaiah 43:10 says, “Understand that I am He…I, even I, am the LORD and Beside Me there is no savior”. Saying, “I am He” to a religious Jewish audience means one thing: I am God.
But, putting the New Testament aside for a moment—the Hebrew Bible itself says that the Messiah is God. Jeremiah 23 says, “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch…This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” In Zechariah 12 the LORD says, “They will look on Me whom they have pierced”. Isaiah 9:6 says that the child born to us will be called “Mighty God, Everlasting Father”. This revelation of Yeshua as God is so important. I have seen that those who have the full revelation of Yeshua as God experience a deeper relationship with Him because they have the fullness of who He really is.
The more I learned, the more Yeshua won my heart and I just fell in love with Him. When I came to faith in Yeshua, you could say that I was a typical Israeli “punk”: I smoked all the time, cigarettes, nargila (middle eastern water pipes), e-cigarettes. You name it, I smoked it. But as I grew in my faith, I would talk to Yeshua all the time. Once while I was talking to Him, I had an e-cigarette in my hand, and I suddenly I felt disgusted by it and threw it away from me. From then on, I gave it all up. I had been an impatient, hot-tempered person before I came to faith. I come from a Moroccan Jewish background, and Moroccans are known in Israel for their warm but explosive temperaments—that was me. You couldn’t have a normal conversation with me: I’d cut you off. I’d swear. I was prideful and impatient. All of that began to change as I grew in my relationship with Yeshua: He was what I was missing my whole life. His peace touched my heart and changed me for good.
You’ve Betrayed Your People and Your Heritage!
When I first told my parents about my faith in Yeshua, they did not take it well at all. They told me that I had betrayed my religion and my people. My mom, in particular, had a very difficult time. I told her about my new faith during a time when there had been some tragedies in my family, and this news that I had, in her eyes, betrayed my people and my faith, was very difficult for her. She even blamed my believing in Yeshua for the bad things that were happening in the family.
When I moved back to Israel, my parents began to see the changes that had taken place in me. They saw that I was suddenly a serious, responsible person whereas before I was just interested in having fun. They saw that I didn’t have the same bad temper as before, that I wasn’t smoking anymore—they knew how addicted I had been to smoking and drugs. It didn’t take long for them to realize that all these changes in me were because of what God had done for me through his Son. Praise God they now know that He’s not Yeshu the Notzri but Yeshua the Jew who came for all of us—first for the Jews and then for the rest of the world. It’s just that we, the Jewish nation, rejected Him when He came. It’s my heart’s cry that my people would discover their savior and King, Yeshua the Messiah!
The Calling of an Evangelist
When I first came to Tiferet Yeshua, there was a couple who would go out every week to witness on the streets who invited me to join them. We prayed together before we went out and then headed to the streets. At first, I was afaid, and I would let them approach people while I’d stand aside to see if it ended up in punches. After awhile, though, God gave me grace and it came more naturally to me. It’s not easy talking to people about Yeshua, and many Israelis don’t want to hear about Him. But, I feel called to bring the message of the Jewish Messiah to the people of Israel—to ask people, “Why are you here? What does God want from you? What does the Bible say about it?” It’s my prayer that what I share, the questions I ask them will have the same effect on them as that one question someone asked me all those years ago in America, and that they would open their hearts to God and say, “Show me who you are!”
The Two Seas
Ron Cantor, an elder at Tiferet Yeshua, has shared this analogy with us in the past: if you look at the Sea of Galilee, you see a lake that is full of life—there’s lush vegetation around the banks of the Sea, and, as the New Testament stories make clear, it is full of fish! It also serves as a source of fresh drinking water for Israel. About a hundred kilometers south of the Sea of Galilee is the Dead Sea: it is an extraordinary place but it is quite literally dead. What’s the difference between these two seas? The living thriving Sea of Galilee has streams of water feeding it and streams of water flowing out of it. The Dead Sea only has water flowing into it: nothing flows out. When a believer, or a congregation, for that matter, doesn’t have an “outflow”, it is in danger of becoming what the Dead Sea is. God fills us not so that we can stay put but in order that we can become literal rivers of living waters to those around us.
The Living Sea
One way a congregation can be living waters to its community is through evangelism. Every week we see new faces at Tiferet Yeshua, in no small part due to the fact that our members live a lifestyle of sharing the gospel in their day to day lives. Some of our members go out on the streets to pray for people and witness on a regular basis. The first Friday of December, one of our members brought a whole family she had witnessed to. The week before that, Dudu, a Tiferet Yeshua member who goes out to witness every week, brought several young Israelis to our Friday evening service whom he had shared the gospel with on the streets of Tel Aviv. That evening, they heard a powerful message from one of our deacons who finished his message with a call to anyone who hadn’t dedicated their lives to Yeshua. At that point, one of the young Israelis Dudu had brought that evening came forward.
We don’t often have alter calls at Tiferet Yeshua: the Lord called us to make disciples, a process that only begins with the so-called “sinner’s prayer”. However, the openness and sincerity of this young woman touched the whole congregation (she even asked that someone film the moment because she wanted “a record of this important step” she was taking). Please keep S. in your prayers, that the Lord would continue to touch and heal her heart in a powerful way and that she would commit herself to the path of discipleship and growing in the Lord!