Category Archives: Middle East

Afghanistan and the Story of Purim

The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan last year brought conflicts to the surface that surprised most of us! We thought we had made more progress in our relationship with the Afghan people, but to our disappointment, we had not. Tribalism, radical Islam, and anti-Western sympathies were boiling below the surface of this nation of almost forty million people. The Taliban was waiting patiently for the United States to leave to make their next move and take over the country, which is similar to what happened in Iran some years previously. We once again learned not to underestimate the power of radical Islam over its adherents. Indeed, the only force powerful enough to break the hold of fierce Islamist belief and nationalism is the gospel.

Americans realized this disturbing reality for the first time in 2001 when four hijacked planes undertook a deadly mission to terrorize our country. Last fall, we honored the heroes and the fallen at our Chosen People Ministries-sponsored event in New York City, 9/11 and the New Middle East. I hope you will take some time to view the conference, which is available on our website, 911theconference.com.

Afghanistan in the Bible

People often ask me if the United States appears in the end times. I do not see any special mention of our nation in biblical prophecy. However, some of the more general statements about the absence of godliness in the last days and the events Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse apply to all people—especially the moral and spiritual decline intensifying as we approach the Second Coming. I am sorry to say we see this in our own country. One would have to don blinders not to see how our world is once again embracing the lifestyles prevalent during the days of Noah, which God’s judgment ultimately submerged.

We can also ask this same question about Afghanistan. Is this nation mentioned in the Bible, and what does the future hold for Afghanistan according to the Scriptures? Regarding this topic, we have more to say than we do about our own country, as Afghanistan is mentioned most intriguingly in the Bible and is part of a critical story describing Israel’s survival.

Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire from the sixth century to the fourth century ʙᴄ, although the Bible does not use the proper name for the modern nation. However, you can quickly identify the geographic region when you understand the geography and alignment of countries in the ancient world.

For example, Daniel’s vision in Daniel 2:31–45 predicts the Babylonian and Medo-Persian domination of Israel, ultimately giving way to Greece and Rome—a prophecy detailed in chapters two, ten, and eleven. Eventually, all these powerful ancient kingdoms who were hostile to the Jewish people, along with one future pagan nation, will be crushed by the stone cut without hands as Daniel predicted:

In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy. (Daniel 2:44–45)

Ultimately, all human governments, including Persia and Afghanistan, are temporary and will fall in weakness and humility at the feet of the One and only true Creator and King!

Afghanistan and the Persian Empire

This month, we are thinking quite a bit about Persia as we observe the Jewish holiday of Purim that was initiated in the book of Esther. Most Bible students know that the Persian Empire played a significant role in the history of Israel and appears many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Persia is mentioned 240 times in the Bible. The great Persian kings, including Cyrus, Darius, and Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes), are identified many times as well.1

However, what is not usually known is that the area comprising modern Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire for centuries during a critical period of the biblical story. Though Iran and Afghanistan are two distinct and unique modern nations, a few remaining historical ties still unite both countries. For example, the Persian dialect of Dari is one of Afghanistan’s official languages. Also, many Afghan people speak Farsi and celebrate the Persian New Year.

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 ʙᴄ)

The period when the region encompassing modern Afghanistan was part of the great Persian Empire spanned two hundred years—from the ascension of Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) in 550 ʙᴄ until Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 330 ʙᴄ. After Alexander’s death, the conquered kingdoms of the Macedonian leader were divided into four sections.

Most ancient historians would agree with this statement by the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding the scope of Alexander’s Empire: “The Achaemenid Persian empire was the largest that the ancient world had seen, extending from Anatolia and Egypt across western Asia to northern India and Central Asia.”2

Cyrus, the “anointed ruler,” created a vast empire including Israel and Afghanistan. The prophet Isaiah predicted his rise to power almost 150 years before he became king: “Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut” (Isa 45:1).

Cyrus the Great played a critical role in restoring Jerusalem as Jeremiah predicted (Jer 25:11, 29:10), and Daniel confirmed (Dan 9:24–27). He gave Zerubbabel permission to return from exile and rebuild the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:20–23; Ezra 1:1–11; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1–7). This move was consistent with Cyrus’ view on ruling disparate cultures with varying religious beliefs. He allowed diversity, unlike other ancient rulers. The Lord used Cyrus’ philosophy of inclusion and cultural expression for the good of the Israelites, whom the Babylonians had conquered. The Babylonians also destroyed the Temple, took many Israelites into exile, and forced them to adopt Babylonian religious practices, as the book of Daniel describes.

Esther might be the most significant book of the Bible written during this period of the great Persian Empire.

In Esther 1:1, the author details the geographic expanse of Ahasuerus’ kingdom. “Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces.”

Ahasuerus was mentioned in Ezra 4:6 because he ruled during this period, “Now in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” The context is that Israel’s local enemies were trying to stop the rebuilding of the Temple and were antagonizing Israel’s rebuilders from the reign of Cyrus until the reign of Darius (Ezra 4:4–5).

From the boundaries mentioned in Esther, the identification of Ahasuerus (thought to be Xerxes, 485–465 ʙᴄ), and the extent of his kingdom, the events of the book of Esther took place during the reign of this Persian king. Therefore, the nation of modern Afghanistan was a part of the extended Persian Empire.

So, when we think about biblical Afghanistan, we should consider that whatever we read of Persia is also true of what is now Afghanistan. Unlike Isaiah’s specific prophecies regarding Assyria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon (modern Iraq), Arabia, Edom, Philistia, the city of Damascus, and other identifiable nations or geographic areas, whatever the Bible tells us about Persia should include the country Afghanistan.

As a result, we learn quite a bit about the future of Persia and Afghanistan.

Lessons for Today for Afghanistan

As we know from the text, Haman tried to destroy the Jewish people and failed! As a result, the Jewish people were allowed to punish their enemies in Susa, the capital, and throughout the provinces of Persia, which would have included lands that are part of today’s modern Afghanistan.

Esther chapter nine mentions the results of Haman’s failure: “Thus the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they did what they pleased to those who hated them” (Esth 9:5). Additionally, the Jewish people killed 75,000 of their enemies throughout the provinces: “Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder” (Esth 9:16).

By God’s grace, the Jewish people and the promises of God remained alive because the Lord Himself intervened to save His people. As promised in the Abrahamic Covenant, those who cursed the Jewish people were cursed. The entire book of Esther should be viewed as the unfolding of God’s covenant with Abraham and His promises to bless those who bless Israel and to curse those who curse her. His plan to bless the world through the Jewish people was far from over at the time of Esther. The Bible was still to be completed, the Messiah was to come, and the future repentance of Israel that would initiate the Second Coming were all ahead. Therefore, no one could have destroyed the Jewish people (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37–39; Romans 11:25ff.).

New Hamans Arise in Every Generation

There are new Hamans on the world scene today seeking the destruction of the Jewish people. Israel is under attack, and antisemitism is on the rise worldwide. We understand that all forms of Islamic extremism seek the destruction of Israel. Indeed, almost every manifestation of Islam opposes the existence of the modern State of Israel, though various brands of Islam express this antipathy in different ways. Some are more violent than others. We see Hezbollah and Hamas nestled on the very borders of Israel, perched and ready to attack when they are able. This everyday threat is difficult for Israel and the Jewish people. In these instances, the threat to the Jewish people is more than a person—a modern-day Haman—it is in the ideology, nationalism, and religious fervor of many throughout the Middle East.

We hope and pray that the new Afghanistan will not tolerate terrorism against the West and Israel the way they have in the past. Indeed, those who perpetrated the events of 9/11 twenty years ago found safe harbor in Afghanistan.

According to an article that the website Breaking Defense published in the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan:

Israeli officials are nervously watching the situation in Afghanistan, believing that the collapse of the government over the weekend will enable Al-Qaida to renew its efforts to perform terror attacks against both American and Israeli targets around the world. Defense sources here say that the feeling among the Taliban and Al-Qaida is that after defeating the US in Afghanistan, the “gate is wide open” to launch terror attacks from inside Afghanistan. One source added that the US should get ready [for] Al-Qaida [to] attempt to perform terror acts against American “interests” in the very near future. “There is no doubt that Al-Qaida will take advantage of the situation in Afghanistan to recruit more people and plan terror attacks” one of the sources said . . . . “The situation is bad, very bad,” [Mordechai Kedar, a senior Israeli analyst on Islamic issues] said, adding that while Iran and the Taliban are not allies, certain Islamic groups in both countries may find common ground in targeting non-Islamic nations.3

The rise of global antisemitism has begun to permeate our society and is often subtly wrapped in the guise of anti-Israelism. We see this virulent form of anti-Jewish behavior growing more prevalent on our campuses today. Unfortunately, an anti-Israel position is usually wed to an anti-Jewish sentiment in today’s world.

As followers of Jesus the Jewish Messiah, we should be sympathetic to the Jewish cause. Historically, most faithful Christians have been pro-Israel and pro-Jewish without being anti-anyone else. But today, the winds of change are in the air. Therefore, re-reading what the Bible says about Israel and the Jewish people is essential. Unfortunately, we see a growing disinterest in Israel within the church today that concerns us.

God Is Faithful to His Promises

The promises in Jeremiah 31:35–38 rest upon the foundational passage in Genesis in which God promised Abram that He would bless those who bless the Jewish people and curse those who curse the Jewish people and that through them He would bring blessings to the entire earth (Gen 12:3). God created the Jewish people to be a bridge of blessings and revelation to the nations.

The Lord will not allow anyone to destroy His chosen people—the Jewish people. He promised that the land of Israel would belong to the descendants of Jacob, and we can expect God to keep His promises and bring “curses” upon those that seek the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Future of Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s future is in the hands of new leadership. We know that individuals and nations who mistreat the Jewish people are touching the apple of God’s eye. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for this behavior. Attacks against Israel and the Jewish people will one day be met with God’s judgment. The book of Esther and the price Haman and his followers paid stand as witnesses through the ages of God’s desire to protect His chosen people.

Modern-day Iran has been hostile to modern Israel—we hope and pray that the new Afghanistan will not follow suit. Perhaps the example of Cyrus will inspire the leaders of both Iran and Afghanistan to cherish the freedom of religion once again and establish policies that show respect for the vast differences among their citizenry. It would be an excellent beginning for peace that we know only a relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus, can fully satisfy! Until then, we follow the words of the Prince of Peace, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Peace begins with prayer! It now appears that the new Middle East will not be as friendly to the nation of Israel as we previously hoped, as it is still only a minority of Arab nations that have joined in the Abraham Accords. Therefore, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for God’s shalom to reign in Afghanistan, Iran, and throughout the new Middle East. Let us also pray for our troops and their families, the Afghan people who are suffering under the Taliban, and the nation of Israel.

1 Our Daily Bread, “Iran in the Bible: The Forgotten Story,” January 24, 2020, documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mURWJfSpS7k. This excellent video on the biblical history of Persia is worth viewing.

2 Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, “The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 ʙᴄ),” October 2004, under “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,” https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acha/hd_acha.htm [accessed August 30, 2021].

3 Arie Egozi, “Israel Braces for Renewed Terrorism Coming from Taliban-Led Afghanistan,” Breaking Defense, August 16, 2021, under “Global,” https://breakingdefense.com/2021/08/israel-braces-for-renewed-terrorism-coming-from-taliban-led-afghanistan/ [accessed August 30, 2021].

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The Story of Hanukkah

Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the entire Chosen People Ministries global family! I hope you will be able to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal with your loved ones! If you lost a friend or family member during the last year or two, I also pray the Lord will fill your heart with heavenly comfort and peace.

I am very thankful to God for you and the ways you have stood with Your Mission to the Jewish People this year. Your prayers and support mean so much to us!

We have so much to be grateful for in spite of the circumstances, as our staff continues to reach Jewish people with the gospel both in person and online.

Our outreach has even increased this past year as so many Jewish people are looking heavenward for answers.

Our work among elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel has increased as the need has been overwhelming. Chosen People Ministries—Israel has provided love and company for the lonely, food for the hungry, and of course, the good news of Jesus to these precious Jewish souls. Many young Israelis also attend our online ministry events when we cannot meet in person. We need your prayers as we resume in-person outreaches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and throughout this country of almost seven million Jewish people.

In New York City, we recently commemorated the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 by honoring our heroes and reminding Americans of our unbreakable bond with Israel in combating terrorism. More than 40,000 people joined us for the event online and in person.

We thank God for all He has done in our 127th year of faithful ministry, and we are looking forward to the greater things He will do through you and our global staff in our 128th year (John 14:12). We are focusing on reaching Israelis in Israel and wherever they travel after the army with the gospel, expanding our outreach through videos, podcasts, and social media, and preparing our next generation for leadership in Jewish ministry through our Brooklyn-based and now online Charles L. Feinberg seminary program!

We have so much to be grateful for in Jesus, our Messiah. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The Story of Hanukkah

I also wish you an early Happy Hanukkah, which is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, I loved each day of this eight-day festival because my parents gave us presents every night as we lit the beautiful Hanukkah candles.

We also eat wonderful foods like potato pancakes (called latkes) smothered in applesauce or sour cream. In Israel, delicious jelly donuts are also a Hanukkah staple. OK… so it is not the healthiest of Jewish holidays! We make our Hanukkah foods with lots of oil as both oil and light illustrate two of the great themes of the holiday.

Let me explain.

The story of Hanukkah takes place during the biblical “silent years”—the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. In 168 BC, the Jewish people rebelled against the Syrian-Greek General, Antiochus the Fourth, whom the Jewish people called “Antiochus the Madman.” This evil Seleucid king took the name “Epiphanes,” which means “God manifest,” as he believed he was the manifestation of one of the Greek gods. Antiochus wanted the Jewish people to worship him rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was at the heart of the reason for Israel’s resistance.

A priestly family called the Maccabees led the rebellion. They lived in a town called Modi’in, which is just a few miles

from Jerusalem. As the story goes, the representative of Antiochus entered the village and demanded that the Jewish people in Modi’in bow down and worship a statue of Antiochus, upon pain of death. In doing so, they would affirm belief in the gods of the Greeks, loyalty to the madman, and rejection of the God of the Hebrews.

This godly family waged guerrilla warfare against the mighty Greek-Syrian army and managed to defeat Antiochus. This victory was a miracle as once again, Israel beat the odds and defeated a much larger and more powerful enemy. Jewish people traditionally view this as God’s blessing upon the Maccabees for their faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

After their victory, they traveled to the Holy City of Jerusalem to rededicate the Temple. The victorious band of priestly guerrillas was horrified as they entered the Temple.

They discovered that Antiochus had sacrificed a pig on the altar, signaling the Syrian Greeks’ contempt for the Jewish people. The Maccabees tore down the stones of the altar as it was deemed beyond cleansing. According to Jewish tradition found in the books of Maccabees (1 Macc 4:36–59; 2 Macc 10:1–8), the Maccabees set the defiled altar stones aside until “a prophet” comes, who would tell them what to do with the stones (1 Macc 4:45–46).

Then, according to tradition, they discovered the eternal light in the Temple had only enough oil to last for one day. So they immediately began to make fresh olive oil to keep the eternal light from being extinguished. According to tradition, even though it usually takes eight days to complete and cure the oil, the one day’s worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight!

We do not know whether the story is true or not. However, I was raised in a very traditional Jewish home and taught to believe it was true! Either way, the victory of Hanukkah is one of the great stories of both Jewish heroism and God’s loyalty to His chosen people. For these reasons and more, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah.

The festival is far more than an opportunity to enjoy the

beauty of family gatherings, Hanukkah parties, or even giving presents. The holiday is more than a wonderful time of playing games with our families, like spinning little tops called dreidels and singing some of the most moving songs within our Jewish tradition.

Jesus & Hanukkah

My wife and children love the holiday as it beautifully connects to our Messiah Jesus in so many ways. After all, Yeshua, Jesus, is the Jewish Messiah. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), so there is nothing like the lights of the Hanukkah candles to remind us that Jesus the Messiah is the true light that illuminates mankind.

But there is more! Hanukkah is recorded as observed by the Jewish people in the New Testament—not in the Old! John wrote that Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication, a title that commemorates the rededication of the Temple after the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes.

In John 10:22–30, we read:

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give

eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

In the midst of this moment of intense and heated debate with the Jewish leaders of the day, Jesus makes one of the most remarkable declarations about His person found in the entire Bible.

He is not only the light of the world, but He is God in the flesh!

This message of His incarnation, light, and the deliverance He offers humanity through His death and resurrection is the message we hope to bring to every Jewish soul.

So please pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People—that the Lord will fill us with His Spirit, enabling us to continue our ministry to the Jewish people in Israel, the United States, and throughout the world.

The Future of the Middle East

I am also grateful for the Abraham Accords and other movements bringing peace and hope to a new and changing Middle East! But even more, I look forward to the reshaping of the Middle East when Jesus returns to reign as King!

We are grateful for your faithful partnership. Have a Jesus-centered and joyful Thanksgiving and a Happy Hanukkah!

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Thankful for Israel and the New Middle East!

We are living in exciting but not unexpected days. I am grateful for the ways in which God has demonstrated His power through the survival and restoration of the Jewish nation! Let me list a few specific reasons why I am grateful:

1. Israel is back in the land promised to the chosen people by God Himself in Genesis and throughout various passages in the Old Testament.

2. The Hebrew language has become an everyday modern language—a linguistic testimony to the faithfulness and power of our covenant-keeping God.

3. There are now almost seven million Jewish people living in Israel, out of a total population of nine million. With 14.7 million Jewish people in the world today, a shade less than 50 percent live in Israel.

4. Israel has survived four major wars and a multitude of smaller but deadly wars.

5. Israel is developing peaceful relations with former enemy states in the Middle East, which began in 1979 with Egypt, then Jordan in 1994, and more recently the Abraham Accords.

Imagine what our forefather Abraham would have thought had he known the above amazing achievements when God told Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation! The entire history of the Jewish people—from Abraham to the modern State of Israel—is a series of survival miracles testifying to the greatness of God who created the nation to be used for His holy purposes!

Remember the well-known but fundamental promise God made to Abraham and his descendants:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3)

A CONVERSATION WITH JOEL C. ROSENBERG

I recently had the joy of sitting down with Joel C. Rosenberg, my friend and a best-selling author. He has spent considerable time meeting with Arab and Israeli leaders while researching his new and excellent nonfiction book, Enemies and Allies. When I told Joel that I loved his thriller novels but was eager to read his nonfiction work, Joel said that I might find his new book as much of a thriller as his novels—and he was right! It is an incredible story, and you can see the hand of God on the alignment of nations in the Middle East, which is the subject of many biblical prophecies as well. The nations of the Middle East and even Africa were a favorite topic in the book of Isaiah! The prophet specifically mentions that one day there will be peace among the nations of the Middle East, but only when the Jewish king sits on His rightful throne in His promised capital city—Jerusalem!

Isaiah wrote, “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’” (Isa 19:24–25).

I find that passages and promises like the above give me hope and a vision for a brighter future. Perhaps some of what we are seeing today points to this peaceful future. Admittedly, we might see many challenges to peace in the days ahead, but at least Isaiah gives us an idea of what the Lord’s ultimate victory might look like, and we can have this in mind as we observe the shifting relationships of nations especially in the Middle East regarding Israel.

Here is a brief portion of my conversation with Joel that was part of our recent conference entitled “9/11 and the New Middle East” held in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the heroes who selflessly sacrificed themselves for our benefit.

We will be forever grateful for their heroism!

THE CONVERSATION WITH JOEL

DR. MITCH GLASER

Can you share a bit about your developing relationship with the King of Jordan?

JOEL C. ROSENBERG

I wrote a novel and decided to have ISIS capture a cache of chemical weapons in Syria and then try to cause attacks against multiple enemies over the next few books. The first objective is to assassinate King Abdullah, the king of Jordan.

King Abdullah in real life is a fascinating man. He is a direct descendant of Muhammad. He is a former special forces commando. He rose to be the head of all special forces in Jordan. He never thought he was going to be the king. His uncle was the crown prince. His father was the king, but three days before King Hussein died of cancer, he named Abdullah his heir. He was already an action hero and a moderate, so I thought, I am going to make him a character. I am going to make him the king that ISIS is trying to kill.

It turns out that King Abdullah read the novel. One of his advisors stumbled upon it in an airport, read it, brought it to the king, and said, “Your majesty, you have to read this.” The king said, “Why?” He said, “Because you are in it, you are a central character in the book.”

As it happens, the king read The Third Target. Rather than banning me from his kingdom forever, he invited me and my wife to come and visit him for five days, and we accepted.

The first day we were there, he sent a car, brought us to the palace, and he said, “Joel, it is nice to meet you. I was trying to think where it would be fun to meet you for the first time. I thought, well, you did blow up my palace. This is the palace. I thought you ought to see the actual palace that you fictionally blew up.” I said, “It is lovely, sir, your majesty. I did not mean any harm. I wanted to show people a worst-case scenario.” And he said, “If I thought you meant harm, I would not have invited you.”

Then he said, “I see that you made me a character, but my staff, my advisors, these are all fictional names, but I can see who is who. So, I bought copies of your book, and I gave them to my staff. I would say, ‘Here, this is you on page thirty-four. You do not make it through the terrorist attack. You might want to read that.’ Sense of humor.”

Over the next five days, we spent time with a person that very few people get to meet. At the end of it, he invited us to a private dinner at his private palace with just a few of his personal friends. Following a two- or two-and-a-half-hour evening, I said, “Your majesty, I hope you know that I had great respect for you when I wrote the series, but spending time with you, that has been deepened. I’m just curious. I think that other evangelicals would be fascinated to meet you—not someone like you—you. Very few people get a chance to meet a moderate Muslim monarch who is a descendant of Muhammad. Would you ever have any interest?”

He said, “Joel, why don’t we put a delegation together, and you bring over a group of leaders that you think would benefit from this.” That set into motion five meetings with him, five meetings with President el-Sisi in Egypt, two meetings with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, one meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and meetings with the leaders of Bahrain. Those meetings become the stories that I tell in Enemies and Allies.

DR. MITCH GLASER

This is almost as exciting as one of your fiction thrillers! But hopefully more fruitful, since one of Israel’s neighbors, with whom they are at peace today, might be open to learning more about what followers of Jesus believe. We are all praying for you, that God will give you wisdom and grace as you befriend various Arab leaders and encourage them to think more kindly about Israel and, of course, about the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.

There is a whole lot more to our discussion, and you can watch the full version of the interview at 911theconference.com.

A SIXTH POINT OF PRAISE

Lastly, I am so very thankful for the great work our staff is doing in Israel. Despite wars, missiles, pandemics, and political tensions, the Chosen People Ministries—Israel staff continues to reach Jewish Israelis for the Lord unswervingly! We are a national ministry in Israel, with work established throughout the country in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, the Galilee, and the Golan Heights. We continue to grow and expand as many Israelis are open to the Lord. Your partnership is strategic as we serve the Savior in the land of His birth and the place of His return!

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Interview with Joel C. Rosenberg

Shalom, dear friends.

We are living in sensational days! Along with our concerns about COVID-19, the economy, political division, social unrest, the aftermath (hopefully) of wildfires, hurricanes, and more, we also see the unfolding of a new day for Israel and her relationships with her neighbors in the Middle East.

Perhaps this is a reminder that God’s plan for our world marches on in the midst of it all! It reminds me of the verse I latched onto as my guide during these last eight months. The writer of Proverbs says to each of us, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Therefore, we always have hope, and no matter what happens, we know the Lord will fulfill His promises in Scripture. Those of us who know Him as our Savior and Messiah can count on His leading and caring for us throughout this life (Romans 8:28)! I take great comfort in knowing that He never loses control and that His Spirit is never locked down!

We can tangibly know this truth because tiny Israel remains at the very center of God’s prophetic plan. The events in the Middle East are unfolding quickly, and Israel is becoming even more established. I see this as the next phase of the fulfillment of end-times prophecies.

With everything else going on, I would not want us to miss the significant realignment of nations in the Middle East regarding Israel.

There is no one better to give us the backstory of these recent landmark events than our friend, Joel C. Rosenberg. Joel lives in Jerusalem, and we have partnered with him on more conferences than I can count. Joel agreed to let me interview him, so we dedicate the rest of this newsletter to the interview.

Joel is a best-selling author and founder of The Joshua Fund and the brand-new media outlet, Near East Media. I asked him to enlighten us on the importance of the recent Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

So, strap in, and off we go!

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, thank you for taking the time to tell us part of the backstory behind the recent peace agreements signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain on September 15, 2020.

First of all, can you clarify the different terminology used to describe the nature of the agreements recently signed?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

In effect, the Abraham Accords are peace treaties and full normalization treaties between the State of Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, with the United States as the broker and witness to the agreements. Those who criticize the accords, saying that these are not “real peace treaties,” are mistaken. It is narrow-minded to think, after a century of hostility in the Middle East, that two Arab states making real, warm peace treaties with Israel—the first two Arab countries to make peace with Israel in more than a quarter of a century—is somehow illegitimate or not serious. If you think about it, it is an offensive thought. I think it reflects more of the partisan nature of what is going on in Washington right now than the reality. Regardless of how one feels about President Trump, he deserves enormous credit for brokering these deals.

The most important element is that these agreements will lead to far warmer and far fuller peace relationships with Israel and these two Arab states than with the two previous peace treaty signers, Egypt and Jordan.

The one key difference is that Egypt and Jordan were in direct military conflict with Israel, and those peace treaties ended that. The 1979 and 1994 treaties kept those borders quiet for decades. While the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain never actually entered a military conflict, they were at war with Israel. They participated in the economic sanctions and embargoes against Israel. They constantly voted against Israel with the rest of the Arab world at the United Nations. They fully participated in the isolation and de-legitimization campaign against Israel for many years, though not recently. There has been real warming of those relationships in recent years, but they have decided to go public and make it formal. It is very exciting.

The flags of the United States, United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Bahrain flutter along a road in Netanya, Israel, September 14, 2020. REUTERS / Alamy Stock Phot

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

What practical differences do you think the treaties will make economically, politically, and even to tourism between the Gulf states and Israel?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Well, if you notice, the first set of memorandums of understanding and other legal documents signed in the days leading up to and following the signing of the Abraham Accords were very practical. They indicate how much benefit both sides will get—or all sides are going to get—from these agreements. There are agreements on civil aviation. For instance, there will be direct flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and Bahrain. Those are, by the way, going to go through Saudi airspace. The Saudis are not yet ready to make peace with Israel, but they have agreed to let Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini, and other planes fly through their airspace. This concession is a huge step forward.

The other agreements are regarding banking, private property rights, and setting up small business agreements. The United Arab Emirates has now required every hotel in the country to have kosher meals. That has not happened in Egypt; it has not happened in Jordan. We are talking about major financial deals already in motion.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Do you think that Oman and some of the other Gulf states are going to follow suit?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes, I think there is a list of countries that are actively considering this. Oman would certainly be near or at the top of the list. The Sultan of Oman invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit two years ago, and then publicized that trip with photos and video. That was very dramatic. That sultan has since passed away. There is a new sultan in power, but there is no reason to think that he disagrees with his predecessor. But, does he feel like he has solidified his leadership and is ready to make such a big decision? That is a good question. I do not have an answer for that yet; we will see.

If Sudan were now to make peace with Israel, that would be exciting. It would be dramatic, but I would note that Sudan also figures prominently in a prophecy of a future war against Israel—the conflict known in Ezekiel 38 and 39 as the War of Gog and Magog. I would not hold your breath for a full normalization, but maybe that prophetic war is many, many years off. No one knows for sure, of course.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

We do not know when these prophetic events will take place, right? So, we should take peace when we can get it!

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Exactly.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Have the UAE, Bahrain, or even some of the other countries you have mentioned considered Israel a place where they can invest funds? Such an investment would boost the Israeli economy.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes. In talking to officials from both countries over the last few weeks since the signing of the Abraham Accords, I know that there are numerous business deals and venture capital deals in the works. Again, this is the most significant transformation in Arab-Israeli relations, I think, in the history of the modern State of Israel. These treaties will surpass the peace deals of Egypt and Jordan in the sense that the Abraham Accords are going to set the new model of what peace and normalization can be and what they should be.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, I was privileged to follow your travels at times, as your friend, and was even invited to be part of one of those trips to visit some of the Middle Eastern countries. You brought several key evangelicals to visit, get to know, and extend goodwill to those countries. You were able to see the backstory unfolding in a lot of these nations. Can you tell us a little about what you have discovered?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

I would be happy to. It is extraordinary that evangelicals have had a front-row seat to what has been developing over the last several years. The Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, commonly known by his initials, MBZ, invited me to bring a delegation of evangelical leaders to visit him in the capital of Abu Dhabi in the fall of 2018. I took a group of about ten evangelical leaders with me. Among other meetings that we had in the country, we spent two hours in the palace in an off-the-record meeting with MBZ. There are many things, unfortunately, that I cannot share, but I can share this now:  We communicated to the crown prince that, when it came to the issue of peacemaking and Israel, there were three things we, as evangelicals, wanted him to know.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, acknowledge applause and wave to the crowd after delivering remarks at the Abraham Accords signing, September 15, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House, Washington, D.C. Geopix / Alamy Stock Photo

Number one, we love Israel, and we love the Jewish people, and, for evangelicals, this is a theological position, not a political position. He needed to know that we are deeply committed to Israel’s security, freedom, prosperity, and sovereignty. We wanted him to know that. Number two, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. We did not want him to think that, because we love Israel, we hate the Palestinians, or Arabs, or Muslims more broadly. Some evangelicals have struggled with language or even positions that are not reflective of Jesus’ command. We wanted to communicate to him that we are commanded to love our neighbors. We do not always know how. We find our way, but we wanted him to know that we do not see it as either/or, that we love both. And while we believe that Israel has a special and unique place in God’s plan and purpose in the region, we want there to be peace today, and we want to build better relations with the Arab and Muslim world.

The third point we made to him was that we are commanded in the Scriptures to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Sixty million evangelicals in the United States alone are praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and we are looking at who will be the next Arab leader to make peace with Israel. As the leader of the delegation, I was the one that made these three points and stressed a little on the third one, “We would love it to be you.” He shocked us by saying, “Joel, I’m ready. I am ready to make peace with Israel, and I believe that the time is coming very soon.” That shocked us because—and I am not saying that we would say these three things in some pro forma way—we did not expect anyone to say back to us what MBZ said. We have said this to numerous Arab leaders in the region; he was the first to say that he was ready.

The question we began to discuss with him is, “How did you get to that point, and where do you go from here?” In these last two years, I have stayed in very close communication with the inner circle around the crown prince. Even up through the summer, I was in direct communications with them because I am writing a non-fiction book that will come out in the fall of 2021, timed with the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Twenty years after 9/11, the book looks at who the bad guys were, who the good guys were, and how our fight with radical Islam is going. It also looks at which Arab countries are fighting radical Islam very actively, and which countries want a much closer relationship with the United States and are even trending toward peace with Israel. The third section will address, “What is the state of the Church and religious freedom in the Middle East?”

I have been working on this book with a lot of exclusive material from these six delegations that I have led. All that to say, it became clear in July, when I was here in Washington meeting with the UAE ambassador, that they were ready, that they had actually put an offer on the table for Netanyahu, through the White House, and that those negotiations were in motion. I said to myself, “You have got to be kidding me.” I knew they were heading in that direction, but it was dramatic.

I will say that I was surprised by how quickly things accelerated this summer, especially when the big topic in Israel was whether Netanyahu would annex or apply Israeli sovereign law over large swaths of Judea and Samaria, which the world commonly knows as the West Bank. That was Netanyahu’s objective all summer, and that seemed to preclude any possibility of peace with the Arab states.

I was making the argument that, while I support the expansion of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria—the biblical heartland—over time, I believed that a peace treaty with one of the Gulf states was a higher objective for Israel in the near term. And I was making that case publicly and in quite a lonely fashion. It is in part because I knew it was possible, but it still stunned me. It is like when you have been praying, as Christians, as Messianic Jews, for decades for the peace of Jerusalem. It is a little like praying for Peter to be released from prison, then he knocked on your front door, and you cannot even believe that he is standing there.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

You are a bit stunned by it all.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yeah. We know that God can answer these prayers, but we do not always expect the answer to come so quickly! This summer was a game-changing moment.

The flags of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the United States light up the Old City Walls of Jerusalem to celebrate the signing of the historic peace treaties in Washington, D.C. Nir Alon / Alamy Stock Photo

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

How are the Palestinians reacting to all of this? Then, if you could also tell us, how is the person-on-the-street, the average Israeli, responding to these new events?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

I have not seen any polling yet. Remember, and actually, it is hard to remember at times, that the Palestinian territories are not free societies. They really do not have the freedom to say whatever they want. It does not mean that you will not find Palestinians who tell you, but there, in Gaza, Hamas—the terrorist organization—is in charge. It is very hard to get somebody’s real, direct opinion. In the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, this is tyranny. Mahmoud Abbas is now serving, I think, the fifteenth year of his four-year elected term. There is no freedom there.

I think we are beginning to see fissures inside Palestinian society. And so, we need to pray, as Christians and as Messianic Jews, for the Palestinian people.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Could you take one minute and tell us all about All Arab News and All Israel News, and your role as President and CEO of Near East Media?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes, I am continuing my work to advance the Joshua Fund, which is essentially a mutual fund to invest in the growth and the strength of the Church and the Messianic body in Israel and throughout five neighboring Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian territories. We also believe that the media bias against Israel, against peace, against the values that we hold dear—anti-Christian media—is so bad that I decided to launch two new websites. One is called All Israel News, and the other is All Arab News. All Israel News is allisrael.com, and the Arab news is allarab.news.

We will provide links to all the really good and credible coverage in the Israeli press, Arab press, and American and other media. There is good reporting out there, but most Christians and Messianic Jews do not have the time to go sifting through dozens of websites to figure out what is real, what is important, what is credible. These sites will become what I call one-stop shopping. We link to all the most important stories in the region. We are also providing original reporting, exclusive interviews, and analysis: what is happening, why is it important, and how do we fit it into the larger picture as evangelicals. We are very distinctly and specifically focused on communicating to the world’s 600 million evangelicals what is happening in Israel and the region and why it matters.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, thank you so much. I appreciate it, and we pray God’s blessings on All Israel News and All Arab News, and we thank you for your time, so shalom and blessings.

I am grateful for the time you were willing to speak with me. I know that those who read The Chosen People newsletter will appreciate this insightful information and pray for Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East, and you.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

My pleasure.

I hope you enjoyed the interview! I hope it will help you continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And please remember to pray for our staff who are bringing the gospel to Jewish people worldwide, including Israel.

We are so grateful for you!

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch Glaser

P.S. There is much more to this conversation! To hear the full interview, visit ourhopepodcast.com.

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A Christian Responds to the UNESCO Resolution on the Temple Mount

I asked my friend Dr. Randall Price to comment on the recent resolution by UNESCO which attempts to make a case for the Temple Mount having never been in Jewish hands.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, and this is why we have prepared a petition which I hope you will sign and pass along to others.  Please read Randall’s article as it provides some excellent basic information to counter resolution by UNESCO.

– Dr. Mitch Glaser


A Christian Responds to the UNESCO Resolution on the Temple Mount

Randall Price, Ph.D.

On October 12, a resolution was passed by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), which comprises representatives from 58 states. While not explicitly denying Jewish or Christian claims to the Temple Mount, the wording of the document used exclusively the Muslim term for the site while criticizing Israel of violations and affirming its Palestinian accusers. However, the resolution did state the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City for the three monotheistic religions. Nevertheless, the perception was that UNESCO had sought to change history by denying the claims of other religions to the Temple Mount and a firestorm of protests ensued, resulting in another vote being cast on the resolution on October 26. This vote, however, was the same as the former vote, referring to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defined it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship.” But there was one glaring omission from the previous document. It removed the statement mentioning the importance of Jerusalem for any religion but Islam!

For the Jewish People, the Temple Mount is the most sacred site in both ancient and modern times. The First Temple housing the Ark of the Covenant, was built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. A Second Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the return from exile in Babylon and enlarged and refurbished by Herod the Great. It was subsequently destroyed by the Roman Tenth Legion in A.D. 70. However, the site has remained the focal point of Jewish daily prayers ever since, with a hope of its rebuilding uniting the Jewish People in every age.

For Muslims, the site is known as Al-Haram al-Sharif (“the Noble Sanctuary”), or more recently as simply Al-Aqsa (“the Far Mosque”). It is recognized as the place where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, though not, as popularly thought, the place where, according to Islamic tradition, Ibrahim intended to offer his son Ishmael. That place is agreed by Muslims as being in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).

Christendom has also universally recognized the site as essential to its faith.  Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein reminded Cardinal Parolin of this saying, the resolutions are “an assault on history and is deeply offensive to both Christianity and Judaism.”[1] In the New Testament, Christ was found in the Temple from His dedication as an infant to His final week teaching in its courts. Like every male Jew, He would have made several annual pilgrimages to the Temple, one of which is recorded for His 12th year. The adjacent Mt. of Olives was the place both of Christ’s arrest and ascension. In the Byzantine period, a church was erected on the Temple Mount, and later the Crusaders turned the Muslim Dome of the Rock into a church known as Templum Domini (“the Temple of the Lord”).

Since at the center of UNESCO are the words “Education” and “Science,” it would be fitting to bring some education on the history of the Temple Mount and from the science of the archaeology that evidences that history.

First, it should be understood that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have all historically recognized the site as that of the Jewish Temple(s). Judaism’s history is well-known, and archaeological excavations since 1967 from below the Temple Mount to a Sifting Project of remains from the Temple Mount have revealed countless evidence of the Jewish claim. Among these are inscriptions, such as the Soreg Inscription, that warned (in Greek) Gentiles lest they pass beyond the separation fence between the Court of the Gentiles (outside the Temple) and the Court of the Women (inside the Temple) and bring ritual defilement to the site and death to themselves. The best-preserved copy of this inscription, found just outside the Lion (St. Stephen’s) Gate in the 1800’s, is housed today in the Istanbul Museum in Turkey, an Islamic country. The museum description on the artifact states it came from “the Jerusalem Temple.” Josephus Favius, the first-century Jewish historian for the Romans, gave an account of these warning inscriptions as he did for another stone found in excavations at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. This stone, pushed down from the pinnacle of the wall when the Romans destroyed the Temple, bears an inscription that says “To the Place of Trumpeting.” This connects with Josephus statement of the practice of the Temple priests in blowing a trumpet from this high point to signal the beginning and ending of the Shabbat. And the discoveries continue. In recent weeks, the revelation of a First Temple period (7th century BC) Hebrew papyrus mentioning “Jerusalem” and an assemblage of floor tiles and Hebrew inscriptions from the Second Temple, further affirm that the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount is undeniable. The same may be said for Christianity since the New Testament unambiguously records a Jewish Temple and its history is tied into that of the late Second Temple period from which these evidences have come.

In Islam, according to unbiased researchers, the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik originally had the Dome of the Rock built as a shrine for the Jews. Its octagonal structure in Byzantine Christian style was built in AD 691 by an architect named Yazid Ibn Salam, who was either Jewish or used Jewish assistants. They constructed the building around the Foundation Stone in the same manner as the Jewish Temple(s). In this early period, the Dome of the Rock also served as the site of Islamic worship services influenced by the Temple ceremonies such as ritual cleansing, offering incense, anointing the Foundation Stone with oil and enclosing it with curtains (as was done for the Holy of Holies).

As modern testimony to this lost history among Muslims, archaeologists recently discovered a 10th century Arabic inscription located above a mihrab-prayer niche inside an active mosque in the village of Nuba, located seven miles north-west of Hebron.[2] It confirms that the original name of the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah), was Beit al Maqdis (Arabic بيت المقدس ) = Hebrew Beit Hamikdash (the [Jewish] Temple, during the early Muslim era.[3] Research of the inscription’s provenance reveals that the Jewish tradition concerning the sanctity of the Temple Mount influenced Muslim perceptions leading them to adopt and re-label Jerusalem as a city holy to Muslims. Asaf Avraham and Peretz Reuven who conducted the research found numerous 8th century Arabic documents and inscriptions, some from the founding of the Islamic faith, naming the Dome of the rock “Solomon’s Temple” Islamic coins of that period coming from the Temple Mount and other parts of Jerusalem contain the image of the Jewish Temple’s seven-branched Menorah. There seems to have been no dispute within Islam about these facts until after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the 1967 Six day War in which the area of East Jerusalem (containing the Temple Mount) returned to Israeli control. As an example we can read the statement of the Supreme Muslim Council in their publication of a Guide to the Al-Haram al-Sharif: “This site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the Temple of Solomon is beyond dispute.” This statement in the Guide remained the same from the 1930’s-1950’s. Today, however, the same Islamic Authority has its official position that there was never a Jewish Jerusalem and that the Temple(s) never existed.

So why would UNESCO cast their vote to sever millennia-old Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount and declare it to be exclusively an Islamic site? This is the era of narratives, on display in this election year where fact-checking can be as tiresome as it is unwanted by the masses. In the Middle East, it has never been about personal conviction of right or wrong (what facts say), but about how one is affected by what others perceive as right or wrong (what facts do). Therefore, it can be understood that this decision had nothing to do with the facts of history or the rights of religions, but with the political bias based on propaganda and pressure from the Palestinian Authority and the Muslim world. However, for those who are still concerned with the facts, the facts are that the Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years and the Temple Mount the site of its Jewish Temple(s). No resolution passed by UNESCO or any other men can counter that decreed by the Almighty, as recorded in Psalm 132:13: “For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: ‘This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.”’


[1] “Pope Francis: God Promised the Holy Land to the Jews” (October 27, 2016). Accessed at: http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/77605/pope-francis-god-promised-holy-land-jews/?utm_source=Breaking+Israel+News&utm_campaign=2751e5b2fd-BIN_evening_10_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b6d3627f72-2751e5b2fd-86892777&mc_cid=2751e5b2fd&mc_eid=a0a5ab280a

[2] “Muslim 9th C inscription names Jerusalem as Solomon’s Temple site,” DEBKAfile October 28, 2016.

[3] David Israel, “Ancient Muslim Inscription Confirms Dome of the Rock’s Jewish Temple Origin

(October 28th, 2016) accessed at: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ancient-muslim-inscription-confirms-dome-of-the-rocks-jewish-temple-origin/2016/10/28/

 

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A Cease-Fire in Israel

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:6-9)

The Hebrew word Shalom, which is commonly translated “peace,” is used about 250 times in the Old Testament. The King James Bible translates Shalom as peace almost two hundred times, and the remaining usages are translated in different ways. Any good Bible dictionary will provide quite a bit of information on the use of Shalom in the Bible; it is a significant term for those who love the Word of God.

I find the basic meaning of Shalom to be fascinating. The term speaks of completion, wholeness, unity and of restored relationships. The word actually presumes that something was previously fractured, divided and broken – and then, for one reason or another, put back together. This gives me a better understanding of Shalom – the repairing or fusing together of that which was broken apart.

Aside from the above Psalm, one of the classic uses of Shalom in the Hebrew Scriptures is found in the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24- 26) where God commanded Moses to pronounce a blessing on Aaron and his sons – the final blessing invoking Shalom.

The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.

I must admit, though, that my favorite use of the Hebrew word Shalom in the Old Testament is found in Isaiah chapter 9:6-7, where the promised Messiah and Son of David is given a litany of prophetic names: wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father and the Prince of Peace (Shalom). Additionally, the prophet adds the following statement, which clearly identifies this individual as the Messianic son of David:

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

I love this passage because it speaks of the very nature of our Messiah – that He is the Prince of Peace. This promise, encapsulated in a name, also reminds me that God’s ultimate goal for our very fractured, broken, divided and sinful world is Shalom.

We are a microcosmic example of God’s ultimate goal for the world. The Shalom He creates in our hearts gives us hope for the greater Peace to come.

I still remember waking up the morning after I received Jesus as my Messiah. Like many people, I thought that the day I accepted Jesus that there would be trumpets and the sun would burst through the clouds (I was in North California!) And I also imagined that from that moment on, I would have complete rest and peace in my heart; that I would no longer be tempted by sin and my new life would be glorious! But that was not quite the case.

I quickly realized that though I had been forgiven and saved from sin, that perfect peace would elude me all the days of my life – until the Lord returns and establishes His kingdom. Yet I did sense a tremendous difference in my soul. I knew that God loved me and my sins were forgiven through the death and resurrection of my Jewish Messiah – the Prince of Peace. I was filled with joy and strength to live righteously as never before.

I know that using words like peace, joy, love and others of this nature might seem trite and pedantic. It is hard to describe what happens when we receive the Lord. But Jesus saved me completely and transformed my life, and I am still at a loss for words to adequately describe what He has done for me.

I know that Shalom I have in my soul today is just a taste of the true Shalom that our loving God has prepared for this fractured world. I know this ultimate Shalom is coming, but today we can experience His Shalom to a limited degree today by receiving Jesus as our Messiah and Lord. This partial Shalom we experience when we accept Yeshua points us to something greater.

I am sure you have heard it said that there will be No Peace in the Middle East – or anywhere else on earth – until Jesus, the Prince of Peace returns to rule on his rightful throne. I believe this with all my heart, and I know it is true because in part this is what happened in my life. I am only one person among billions and one Jewish person among almost 14,000,000 – so I am well aware of my own personal insignificance. But this only makes what Jesus did for me so much more magnificent and beautiful.

Although I am small and insignificant and certainly unworthy of His mercy in every aspect of my life, the Prince of Peace came to this broken world and died for me (and for you, too!) Today He sits at the right hand of the Father, waiting for just the right moment to return, visibly and physically and in all His heavenly glory, to reclaim His sin-cursed creation.

The Current Israel/Gaza Cease-Fire

The current cease-fire between Israel and Gaza will of course be imperfect. It may or may not last. And peace will never bring back the lives that were lost, nor undo the damage that was done to families, properties, businesses and to individual relationships between Jews and Palestinians (see stats from the war). It is certainly going to be a long road to what will hopefully be a more lasting peace, and the cease-fire is perhaps just the beginning.

We do need to be realistic about the prospects for an enduring peace. And we do need to do what the Psalmist declared, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

May I offer two suggestions about how to do this?

First of all, let’s try not to be cynical about these first baby steps towards a cessation of hostilities. We all understand that there are deeper underlying issues that might never be solved in our lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime – but we must still pray for peace. Every Palestinian mother and every Jewish mother wants the same thing for their children: a good life, family, education, prosperity and so much more. Try not to let the insidious agendas of Hamas and other radical, militant jihadists discourage you from praying for peace – and, where possible, to work towards it.

Secondly, pray that both Israelis and Palestinians and even the most radical members of Hamas might find spiritual peace by receiving Jesus as their Messiah. It is only when we accept the Prince of Peace as Lord of our lives that we understand that true and lasting Shalom is possible.

This is a peace that begins one person at a time, and it not political, but rather spiritual. We need to pray for and support the efforts of those sharing the good news of Jesus the Messiah in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, and throughout the war-torn trouble spots in the Middle East – especially at this time in history.

It is only when we know the peace of the Messiah in our hearts that we have faith to believe that greater peace is possible. We understand that lasting peace will never come through the hand of man, and we can learn to live with this. But knowing that one day we will live in a world absolutely filled with Shalom might encourage us to try and make the peace man provides last just a little longer.

Shalom, as elusive as it seems right now, is our divine destiny.

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Another Look at Zionism

It is not often I offer an article from a newspaper as a blog. But, I want as many people as possible to read this piece by Michael Oren that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The piece is a passionate, reasonable and well-articulated appeal to those who might find themselves swayed by the current war with Hamas to either question or even denounce the fundamental validity of the Zionist movement.

I usually try to “stick” with the more biblical aspects of the issue but this time, I simply had to send this out. I was personally moved by Oren’s recounting of the rationale for Zionism and his basic theory that the best argument for Zionism is that it has worked! And he does an excellent job of explaining why.

Today many will say they support Israel but try as much as possible to separate support for the modern state of Israel with the term and “philosophy” of Zionism. Even some Christians and Messianic Jews who believe Israel has a divine right to the Land sometimes want to distance themselves today from the term Zionism. Over the years the term Zionism has been battered about and linked with racism in United Nations statements , which was later revoked by UMN resolution 46/86 in 1991. It has become a synonym for Middle East imperialism, racial intolerance and hatred for all Palestinians. Oren will convince you to reconsider if for some reason you are beginning to believe these things.

Unfortunately the problem has deepened, especially in parts of Europe and the Middle East as the line between anti-Zionism and anti anti-Semitism has been blurred leading to anti Jewish violence. Dr. Michael Brown develops this abhorrent shift from politics to racism in an excellent opinion piece written a few days ago. I suggest you read this as well.

So, for once I am not going to develop a line of theological argumentation that establishes the fundamental and biblical “right to the Land of Israel”, though I believe this is part of the overall story of Scripture. I understand that godly believers interpret the Bible differently and choose to respect and love one another and we do need to constantly learn how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Though this is easier for us to say living safely in the US than for those of our brethren suffering in the midst of the conflict in Israel and other parts of the Middle East – like Mosul!

As you will read in Oren’s article there are some very sound “non-biblical reasons” for people, especially Christians in the West (allow me to be self centered for a moment!) to wince when confronted with the array of Zionist negativity so passionately argued today. I believe Oren provides provides critical information to help us stay balanced in the midst of the current anti Zionist onslaught that is beginning to seriously impact the viewpoint and actions of followers of Jesus.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/in-defense-of-zionism-1406918952?KEYWORDS=zionism

Pass the article along as well and remember that when you pray for the peace of Jerusalem we are praying for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land. (Psalm 122:6)

See: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted on November 10, 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35.
And: http://www.wnd.com/2014/07/the-fine-line-between-anti-zionism-and-anti-semitism/

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The Ground War Has Begun

The ground war in Israel is raging! We were of course hoping and praying that it would not happen, but Israel had little choice but to “move in” to Gaza and destroy the maze of Hamas tunnels and remaining rocket launch sites. Already thirteen Israeli soldier has been killed, and more will likely follow – the longer the war continues.

There are many news sites that you can utilize to get information, and one that I personally appreciate is JPost, the online version of the Jerusalem Post.

Another little-known source for news on Israel is www.dailyalert.org. This is a site that gathers information from many news sources.

We have also asked our Chosen People Ministries staff to keep us informed of all that is happening in Israel from an insider’s perspective and to make sure we have current prayer requests so that we can uphold the Chosen People Ministries team and various ministries in Israel during this difficult time. We will provide regular updates to keep you posted and praying! Just click here to see the latest news.

You can also listen to the recording of the teleconference we held this week with our leaders in Israel. I am sure you will learn a lot and be better able to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the work of Chosen People Ministries during this time – especially among some of the elderly Holocaust survivors who live in Sderot and other towns in the South that have been under incredible duress.

Click here to listen to the recording of the teleconference.

Please feel free to tweet the link so that others can learn more about what is happening in Israel today, and listen to our recent teleconference with our Chosen People Ministries staff on the ground in Israel.

Thanks for praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

Mitch

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A Response to the Murder of Three Israeli Teenagers

It is hard to think about the usual matters of ministry after hearing about the three Israelis Yeshiva students who were mercilessly slain by terrorists. It is a reminder of how sinful and cruel our world can be and how our Jewish people continue to be subjected to such fierce hatred. These terrible circumstances also remind us that the is little time left for our work of preaching the Gospel.

I received the following note from one of our dear friends and supporters which also reminds me of just how much some Christians are moved by Gods love for the Jewish people.

This brother and friend writes,

Bro. Mitch,

When we learned of the news about the three kidnapped boys, we were deeply moved as we had been following this story daily in the online Israeli newspapers. I am privileged to teach an adult SS class each week and they enjoy being kept up to date on news from Israel. I use Powerpoint to show map locations, headlines, and had shown pictures of the boys with their names. I know people were praying for them.

What an opportunity to support Israel wholeheartedly when the circumstances are so clear. So I can only shake my head and realize that we are seeing prophecy unfold in my lifetime. Soon, Israel will be hated by every nation.

Thanks for your tireless efforts to reach God’s Chosen People with the Gospel about their Messiah.
——————

I am grateful for those who stand with the Jewish people and rejoice with the victories of the Jewish people and who and mourn for our people during the very dark times as we have experienced this week.

Please remember to pray for the families of those who lost their sons and for the people of Israel that they might be encouraged and kept safe during these trying times. As we know, Israel will not simply accept these murders and so times will certainly get tougher and more tense over the next few weeks…so pray fervently.

I prayed this prayer;

Father in heaven, we live in disturbing times. The innocent have been murdered and we have again come face-to-face with the cruelty of mankind. Our world needs redemption through your promised Messiah more than ever. Our hearts grieve for parents and siblings who lost their sons and brothers and for the whole household of Israel. We pray for the perpetrators as you told us to pray for our enemies. We pray that your justice will prevail and that those who killed these three teenagers will be brought to trial and punished for their crimes. Most of all Lord, we pray for peace in the Middle East. Please give wisdom to Israel’s leaders and to our own elected officials as battle against terrorism in Israel, Syria, Iraq and throughout the world. Thank you that we know through the promises of Scripture that your holy purposes will ultimately prevail and that true justice will fill the earth when your Son returns and rules on his rightful throne. Until then, Lord, please be merciful to us and we beg you – help us to find a way to stop terrorism and this continued slaughter of our innocents.

AMEN

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The PCUSA’s Divestment Dilemma

The Presbyterian Church USA recently approved an initiative to divest stock holdings in companies allegedly profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.[1]

This decision, as well as others that were made at the 221st General Assembly held last week in Detroit,[2] demands a response from followers of Jesus and especially from Messianic Jews like myself – Jewish people who believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah for all.

However, one needs to look at the divestment vote of the PCUSA holistically. When this is viewed as one decision among many, it is easier to see what is at the heart of this vote.

Reasons for the PCUSA’s Divestment

Let’s start with some good points. The 310 delegates who voted in favor (303 voted against) of the PCUSA divesting their stock holdings in three companies – Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar – probably did so with noble intentions.

Most of the delegates probably believed this symbolic gesture; removing about 21 million dollars in invested funds might cause Israel to reconsider its approach to the current conflict.

The PCUSA delegates who voted for the divestment measures believed their vote is an expression of Christian ethics, affirming the dignity of all humanity created in the image of God, and that true Christians are called to support the oppressed and withstand the oppressors. The assumption of course is that Israelis are genuinely oppressing Palestinians – an assumption that may be heartfelt, but naïve.

I would also assume that those who voted for divestment did so out of a sincere heart of love and compassion for Palestinians whom they believe are victims of Israeli aggression. The PCUSA also affirmed Israel’s right to exist. However, this is especially challenging today because of the decision by the Palestinian Authority to unite with Hamas, who persistently deny Israeli’s right to exist. Unfortunately, the PCUSA statement ignored the linkage between the Palestinian Authority and this known terrorist group.

I speak in many PCUSA churches, and believe that there are many sincere and devoted believers among the 1.8 million members of this great historic church body. However, I question whether or not the pro-Israel PCUSA voice is being heard, as so many have simply given up and left the denomination.

Flaws in the Rationale for Divestment

Let me suggest a few reasons why the PCUSA’s decision to divest is faulty.

First of all, the delegates have chosen to believe the Palestinian narrative of the conflict and therefore – despite the PCUSA’s claim that they have not sided with either Israel or the Palestinians – they have. The PCUSA has decided to accept the charges against Israel by the Palestinian side and have acted upon them. This includes measures taken by Israel in Gaza and hotbed areas of the West Bank to prevent further acts of terrorism. The profound role of terrorism has not even been addressed in the PCUSA decision to divest.

The PCUSA has also “paraded” a few left-wing Israeli peace activists to demonstrate that there are Jewish Israelis who agree with their position. According to the Times article,

Of more influence was the presence at the church’s convention all week of Jewish activists, many of them young, in black T-shirts with the slogan “Another Jew Supporting Divestment.” Many of them were with Jewish Voice for Peace, a small but growing organization that promotes divestment and works with Palestinian and Christian groups on the left.[3]

This effort to show Jewish support is a tactic practiced by the Palestinian media machine and has now been evidently adopted the PCUSA as well. Israel is a free country and dissent may freely be expressed there, as in the United States. The PCUSA should have asked an Israeli government official to speak, or at least had had someone representing the mainstream views of average Israelis. The event must be seen as heavily orchestrated towards persuading delegates to pass the divestment measures.

I just returned from Israel, where Palestinian spokespersons for Hamas and other similar groups reported that the three Israeli boys who have recently disappeared were not kidnapped, but are merely missing – though the evidence is virtually decisive that they were kidnapped and may have already been killed. The Palestinian media machine claims that the Israelis are using this as an excuse to “crack down on” the Palestinians.

Most PCUSA delegates have been influenced by a booklet produced by the anti-Israel lobby of the PCUSA entitled “Zionism Unsettled,” which perpetuates the most radical political viewpoints of the Palestinian media machine.[4] This document has been disavowed by many within the PCUSA as much too one-sided, yet it has been the major influence and provided the essential political perspective for the divestment decision.

Ultimately, one of the main reasons the vote passed at this General Assembly, despite failing to be approved in the past, is because many of those who supported Israel have already left the denomination because of a variety of issues.

The PCUSA’s General Departure from Scripture

Other issues were also affirmed at this General Assembly, besides divestment from the three companies. For example, the New York Times reported the following:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its General Assembly on Thursday to change its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” and to allow its ministers to perform same-sex marriages where it is legal.

The vote giving discretion to ministers to marry gay couples takes effect on Sunday, at the close of the General Assembly.[5]

This issue has been more schismatic for the average PCUSA congregation than the divestment issue, but together these decisions speak to a trend. Viewing these decisions by the PCUSA General Assembly as aspects of one agenda will sober evangelicals who may have unwittingly embraced the divestment decision without understanding the underlying values moving the PCUSA leadership in this direction.

The PCUSA seems to be leaving its biblical moorings. Instead of allowing Holy Scripture to judge the trends and philosophies of our day, the opposite is happening – today’s trends and values are beginning to determine the ethical, moral and political decisions of the church.

Dangerous Results of the PCUSA’s Decision

As a Messianic Jew, I am also very concerned with the decisions of the PCUSA. I am very disturbed with the lack of understanding or commitment to the literal promises of God in the Old Testament to the Jewish people. In fact, a literal interpretation of the Old Testament would have caused the PCUSA to make a different decision on the issue of gay marriage as well.

Disregarding a more literal view of the Old Testament can easily lead God’s people along the path of moral relativity and spiritual decline, as when we spiritualize God’s commandments, we become rudderless boats navigating the turbulent rivers of discipleship in today’s world.

I grieve over the increment general turn of the PCUSA from a heartfelt concern for the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people to the current loss of evangelistic zeal for Jewish people. In fact, in the first half of the 20th century, the Presbyterians – which then included a number of more conservative groups that have since split from the larger body – were active in Jewish missions and believed that reaching Jewish people for Jesus was important. The Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church at the time supported dozens of workers among the Jewish people and Neighborhood Houses that were funded as Centers for Jewish outreach.

The PCUSA of today do not seem to care how these politically-driven decisions might impact the eternal fate of Jewish people. But perhaps the leaders of the PCUSA have stopped caring about this a long time ago?

The PCUSA must understand that even if a few liberal Rabbis or Jewish community leaders support their decision, the vast majority of Jewish people – my people – will view their divestment decision as one of a long list of Christian acts against the Jewish people. It makes me heartsick to see this happen again, as it will decrease the willingness of Jewish people to listen to the Gospel. Why should my people be interested in a faith that has made a politically-driven decision against the Jewish homeland?

I will have a lot of explaining to do. Dear PCUSA leaders, you could have handled this better!


Notes:

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/us/presbyterians-debating-israeli-occupation-vote-to-divest-holdings.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

[2] http://www.religionnews.com/2014/06/20/prebyteriansdivestment/

[3] IBID

[4] http://store.pcusa.org/2646614001

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/us/presbyterians-vote-to-change-definition-of-marriage-to-two-people.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Israel, Judaism, Middle East