Shalom, dear friend.
It is hard to believe that we are in the middle of January 2021! Time is moving forward so rapidly! Last January, I had such hope in the afterglow of celebrating Chosen People Ministries’ 125th year of ministry. We had a fabulous gala! The future looked so bright, the opportunities to serve the Lord and reach Jewish people with the gospel were electrifying, and the Chosen People Ministries staff was ready to go!
But then tragedy struck, and however you feel about the virus, it has impacted all of our lives in many ways. The effects of COVID-19 on our friends, families, and congregations have been severe. Our economy and the overall stability of our nation suffered as well.
My dear friend, 2020 was a challenging year!
But the Lord is ALWAYS in control. He is sovereign and loves us with an everlasting love. He created us, sent His Son to redeem us, and is coming back, so we are hopeful.
Job’s sentiments very well express how you and I might sometimes feel: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him” (Job 13:15).
When there is nothing else to hold onto, we can always cling to the nature and character of our God! He will never disappoint, though His ways, thoughts, and will are so mysterious to us at times (Isaiah 55:8–9).
But we know in the depth of our souls that the Lord is always worthy of our trust!
While I anguish with those who have lost loved ones, businesses, and more to the virus, I believe that 2021 will be a year of restoration. I also have an even greater sense of urgency than ever before to proclaim the gospel to the Jewish people. Your Mission to the Jewish People will move forward in hope, fulfilling the mission and vision God gave Rabbi Leopold Cohn in 1894 when he founded Chosen People Ministries.
The Messianic Jewish Apostle Paul expressed our vision at Chosen People Ministries when he wrote,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
I like to remind our staff and prayer partners of this verse every January. It is best to read this verse—and the entire Bible—as literally as possible. David L. Cooper, a missionary to the Jewish people who lived and ministered in the 40s and 50s in Los Angeles, said this about reading Scripture: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” He explained that, unless there is an obvious reason not to, we should apply Scripture literally.
A LITERAL APPROACH TO ROMANS 1:16
If we take Romans 1:16 literally, we see that we should not be ashamed of the gospel as it is the power of God for salvation. I know this is true, as I experienced God’s power when I was nineteen years old and accepted Jesus. He transformed my life!
This verse also teaches that we should not keep this glorious and powerful message to ourselves. It is the power of God for salvation, not just for us, but for everyone who believes. Our divinely appointed goal in life should be to present the gospel in ways that others might see the power of the good news and believe in Him as well.
Finally, the text tells us that the gospel should be proclaimed to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Here is where some people find it hard to take this verse literally.
The Greek word translated “first” is protos and does not need to be understood sequentially. I do not think Paul intended for the Roman believers to witness to all the Jewish people in Rome before sharing the gospel with non-Jews! Paul used a nonsequential application of the word first.
To the Jew first means that bringing the gospel to the Jewish people should be a heart priority for every believer in Jesus.
We must find a way to apply the plain truth of God’s Word to our lives. Whether through prayer, giving, or witnessing to Jewish people we know, we all need to be involved in sharing the good news with God’s chosen people.
REACHING THE HAREDIM IN THE UNITED STATES AND ISRAEL
We want to take Paul’s statement a little bit further in 2021.
We not only want to bring the gospel to the Jewish people first, but we also want to take the gospel to some of the most challenging and resistant Jewish people first. The group I have in mind is the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, usually called the Haredim. A literal translation of the Hebrew word Haredim is “those who fear the Lord.”
This Jewish community represents close to one million of the more than fifteen million Jewish people in the world.
They are viewed as “old style” in their keeping of Jewish tradition and dress. Haredim follow the Torah diligently, live under the rabbis’ authority, and share a vibrant community life that includes schools, jobs, and synagogue life, which is central to this Jewish community.
My heart breaks for the Haredim for many reasons. But the primary reason is biblical, as Paul wrote in Romans 10:1–3. He noted that these beloved Jewish people have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. The Greek word Paul used is epignosis, a composite term that implies full or complete knowledge. The Haredim understand God to a degree, but this knowledge is incomplete because it lacks an understanding of Jesus, who fulfills all that the Bible promises.
I live in Brooklyn. Outside of Jerusalem and a few other enclaves in Israel and the greater New York area, my hometown is the epicenter of Haredi life. However, you will find Haredim in every major city in North America.
We have developed tools designed to reach these dear people through the use of social media in the United States, Israel, and other strategic places where many Haredim live. We are using the Yiddish language, which combines Old German and some Slavic and Hebrew terms but is written in Hebrew letters.
We have the New Testament in Yiddish and the Jesus Film in Yiddish as well, which we are offering for online viewing.
HAREDI SAFE HOUSE INITIATIVE
We are also establishing a fund to purchase a property somewhere outside the New York area where the Haredim who are seeking the Lord can safely stay when their community persecutes them. We call this the “Haredi Safe House Initiative.”
God has given us a big vision and ambitious goals. We have already done a lot, but now we are prepared to move full steam ahead.
We expect to receive quite a bit of opposition, and we need to have the prayer support to press on.
We have not yet located the site, though we have a good idea of where we want to be. So stay tuned, and we will tell you more about this later on in 2021.
We are prepared and available to God for this monumental task, and we hope and pray that, in the days ahead, the Lord will use us in the lives of this exceptional part of the global Jewish community.
We are not stopping anything else that we are doing; we are adding to what we have done in past years. This includes a more extensive outreach to campuses, initiatives among children, and more.
The gospel is still powerful, and it is still for everyone; it is the only solution that works for you, me, and every other citizen on earth. But as we apply the preaching of the gospel, we need to take Paul’s words seriously and present the gospel to the Jew first.
Thank you so much for your prayers. I see God’s hand on the Jewish people and especially the state of Israel as part of the unfolding of the end times. I believe with my whole heart that the Jewish people will turn to Jesus before He returns at the end of days. This makes reaching the Jewish people for the Messiah Jesus so very important.
As Paul wrote,
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25–27).
Let us lift our eyes and hearts together and, by His grace, reach the Jewish people for the Lord. Thank you for caring and for helping us bring the gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles.
Your brother in the Messiah,