Shalom in our Messiah Jesus.
My heart breaks for Israel and the ultra-religious Jewish community worldwide! These two Jewish communities, one localized and the other spanning the breadth of countries and cities where Jewish people are concentrated, live under life-threatening circumstances.
Israel keeps trying to fight its way back to national normalcy but the coronavirus continues to immobilize the country. Unemployment in Israel is also at an all-time high, and the economy is suffering terribly. The country recently experienced a lockdown that extended through the Jewish high holiday season and beyond.1
The infection, hospitalization rate, and death toll is massive for “little Israel!” The mortality rate per capita surpasses that of the United States. The death toll is highest among the Arab population of Israel and the ultra-religious Jewish community in Israel and worldwide.
The ultra-Orthodox segment of the Jewish population are called Haredim, which in Hebrew means “the ones that fear,” and the One they fear is God. This name expresses the character of the community. These beloved Jewish people dress differently, live their lives according to the most Orthodox version of the Jewish faith, and maintain that gathering for prayer, synagogue services, holidays, and religious events—like the Jewish high holidays—are more important to them than life itself. Followers of Jesus can learn a lot from their dedication.
The impact on the whole population of Israel during this “second wave” lockdown is still fresh, and we may not know if the country will successfully pass the danger point until next month. We hope and pray it will!
You can read more about the numbers of Israelis affected by the disease by visiting https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/region/israel.
A SPIRITUAL SLANT TO THE PRESENT CRISIS
We should remember two great Bible passages penned by King David that are calls for prayer to every believer in Jesus!
King David wrote, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you’” (Psalm 122:6). This is a biblical mandate for all of us—to pray for God’s peace to fall upon Israel and the Jewish people. And Israel needs our prayers desperately at this very moment.
The second issue is very sensitive! Due to the pandemic, the divisions between the ultra-Orthodox and secular Israelis have grown wider and have become like open wounds.
Would you join me in praying for Israel’s national unity? I believe this unity, which builds bridges between the religious and secular in Israel, will be pleasing to God and good for the nation. The psalmist declares, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Let us pray for the healing of the nation and the people of Israel. Ultimately, this vision for unity will only come about when the Jewish people— secular, Haredim, and in between—cry out to God in repentance and turn to Jesus the Messiah (Romans 11:25; Zechariah 12:10).
Many Haredim and even some secular Israelis recognize the spiritual side of the current crisis. A recent survey of Israelis reported that one-third of the prime minister’s voters believe God sent COVID-19! Most of the Haredim in Israel fall into this group.2 Recently, we have seen God move among Israelis, Haredim, and Jewish people across the globe. Hard times draw people to the Lord, and this season of darkness and difficulty is no different.
May I share some stories illustrating this fruitful season of ministry and how the gospel is breaking through to Jewish people’s hearts?
One of our staff members in the southwest recently had the opportunity to teach on the subject, “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.” This class was in person, following all COVID-19 protocols, of course! A friend of our staff member had invited a Jewish woman. After the first class, our worker met with this Jewish woman and asked her what she thinks of Jesus. She said, “I believe He’s the Messiah, the Son of God!”
On the other side of the world, the severe restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic caused just about all the ministries of Celebrate Messiah, our ministry partner in Australia, to go online. Celebrate Messiah has been hosting special seminars on YouTube and Facebook that have reached thousands of people. Online ministry so far is reaching more people than would typically walk through the doors of our services.
And in the north of Israel, a Jewish woman regularly attended the online services of the congregation led by one of our staff. She actively participated in the meetings, and came to faith in Messiah. Our Israeli worker wrote about the encounter: “She came up to our apartment, and we chatted for about forty minutes, maintaining social distance and wearing masks. The conversation was pleasant and most welcomed. I felt an urgency to ask her about her spiritual life and if she understood that Yeshua is the Messiah, the one who died for our sins and gives the gift of eternal life. She heartily agreed, and in our living room, socially distant, she prayed to receive Yeshua.”
All I can say is, “Hallelujah!” You cannot lock down the Holy Spirit from working powerfully in the lives of those who need salvation! God is moving among ultra-religious and secular Israelis, Jewish people in America, and Haredi enclaves in Brooklyn and across the globe.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You can pray for our ministry!
Please pray for the Lord to touch the lives of Israelis, Haredim, and Jewish people around the globe who need the Lord. If you have a Jewish friend and want us to pray for them, please go to chosenpeople.com/pray, write in their name, and we will pray for them. If you wish, we can also send them a free copy of our book Isaiah 53 Explained.
God’s work is not locked down!
I would even say that our ministry has expanded during this season. For example, we held online high holiday services, which were attended by more than 20,000 people worldwide. We have also begun a series of virtual small group discipleship Bible studies across the United States. We have Jewish people who are not yet believers attending these studies. We have never done this before!
We are continuing our digital ad campaigns, which have introduced us to thousands of Jewish people. We are following up through personal emails, Zoom calls, new websites, online Bible studies, virtual discipleship, and more. You can see from the fantastic reports I just shared that this has also led to in-person contact and decisions for the Lord.
Additionally, we have spent $500 per day purchasing Facebook ads in the United States, Israel, and other countries. Again, this has led to interaction with thousands of Jewish people for the Lord.
Online ministries are also incredibly powerful in reaching the Haredim. They do not want their family and friends to know they are considering the gospel. We place Facebook ads in Yiddish—the language commonly spoken by most Haredim. In partnership with the Jesus Film, we also translated the movie about the life of the Messiah into Yiddish. We use geographic-specific advertising in ultra-Orthodox areas to offer an opportunity to view a small clip of the film in Yiddish, which leads them to the full movie.
Am I encouraged? Absolutely!
I do not need convincing that the lockdowns of society, or hearts usually resistant toward the gospel, cannot be opened by the power of God.
Please help us take advantage of these opportunities by praying as we reach Jewish people and anyone else who will listen to the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.
In HOPE through the Messiah,
1 “Government Resolution: 14 Day Total National Lockdown Effective This Friday with Optional Extension,” gov.il, September 24, 2020, https://www.gov.il/en/departments/news/24092020_01.
2 Ben Sales, “One-Third of Netanyahu’s Voters Believe Covid-19 Was Sent by God – Survey,” Jerusalem Post, September 17, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/one-third-ofnetanyahus-voters-believe-covid-19-was-sent-by-god-642703.