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Commentary

Sinking Sand

There is not one part of the world today that is not in some kind of turmoil and upheaval. Europe has literally gone bankrupt and thus one EU country after the other has descended into financial chaos. More will follow!

America is drowning in debt and embroiled in two wars.

The Arab world is engulfed in riots and public protests as millions of people attempt to finally break free from the shackles of totalitarian dictatorships.

And Africa continues to struggle with poverty, war, famine and inept governments that cannot do what is right for their people.

Then there are the alarming images of London burning, as lawless youths rampage through its streets, breaking and burning everything in sight.

Even Israel has been beset by protesters who have decided that enough is enough in terms of the outrageously high costs of basic food and housing.

We could go on and on! Add to this picture the seemingly out of control natural elements that are ravaging almost every part of the globe at regular intervals. The picture is not a good one.

More sobering is the fact that much of the above is man-made! It did not have to be this way, but misguided socialist policies promising entitlements to all on an unprecedented scale have brought nations to their knees.

And this is just the beginning. The age old ideas of hard work, discipline and faithfulness have gone. Now everyone is a victim of his environment and deserves a ‘free ride’ in this world. Politicians, hungry for power, have recklessly promised these entitlements without ever thinking about the consequences and manner in which they can be paid for. Truly we are on sinking sand!

The chaos is everywhere and with it comes great risks! The nation of Germany taught us that out of such chaos a strong man arose in the 1930s, through a democratic process, who promised order, hope, prosperity and peace. He turned out to be a tyrant, without equal in human history, and in the end he destroyed 53 million lives. Could the global chaos facing the world today produce a similar “Mr. Fix It” who would become “Mr. Trouble”?

It is worth noting that we arrived on these treacherous sands because of inept leaders who are mere politicians and not real statesmen! In short, the world is crying out for a leader who will extract it from its ever growing woes.

Economic chaos and meltdown threaten everyone. Without a stable economic order, there can be no future for the average citizen. Thus economic stability is the major issue facing the world. In response, economists and politicians are beginning to call for a one world currency and a tighter form of global government. Just last year, the Russian president presented a global currency coin to the international community! This is serious business and we must not underestimate it. He was not playing.

On the other hand, the Bible warns that days of great shaking will beset the world, to remove the flimsy foundations upon which humanity has built its plans and systems. These shakings will also involve the natural elements, and all of this combined will produce such fears that men’s hearts will fail them! The Bible also warns that fierce times will come of unprecedented lawlessness. All of this comes because the world is burdened down with the weight of sin and rebellion against the God of Israel.

Of course, the whole notion of being accountable to God for our sins is scoffed at today. God is considered a myth, we are the masters of our own destiny, and we will prevail. I think not!

This same Bible also warns that out of world chaos a global leader will emerge who initially will achieve great success and thereby gain the allegiance of the fearful but unsuspecting masses. He will bring the world to ruin just as Hitler did. We would do well to place our feet upon the foundation of God’s Word and a personal relationship with Him. Anything short of this will leave us standing on sinking sand!

Rev. Hedding is vice chairman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; int.icej.org/

No ordinary fiefdom

As ancient Israel’s last Judge, there are some important lessons from the life and ministry of Samuel which are extremely relevant today as world leaders take their respective stands regarding the current heated battle over the restored nation of Israel.

The prophet Samuel is a remarkable biblical figure who oversaw Israel’s transition from a council of elders or “judges” to a kingdom ruled by a hereditary monarch. Until then, wise and anointed leaders were entrusted with overseeing the nation, which was set apart and “not reckoned among the nations,” according to Numbers 23:9. This was because God Himself was their King! Beginning with Moses, God had provided for the Israelites in the wilderness and led them into the Land of Canaan through Judges who could hear His voice.

This system of governance ‘peaked’ under Samuel, who presided over an era when Israel had almost possessed the land, were prevailing over the Philistines and other enemies, enjoyed harmony in the ranks, and recognized the prophetic voice to the nation. But as the prophet grew old and his sons lapsed into corruption, the people cried out for a king, like the surrounding nations. Primarily, they cried out for a commander to lead them into battle.

Surprisingly, God instructed Samuel to “heed the voice of the people, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7)  Yet the prophet must also give the Israelites a stern warning of the abuses they will suffer under self-indulgent kings. And they are immediately given a merciless example in the very flawed character of King Saul.

Now I believe Israel was destined to transition to a kingship, when the time and personalities were right. The prophet Balaam has foretold that, “His [Israel’s] king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.” (Numbers 24:7)

Israel’s lack of a king is also presented as undesirable in the account of an internal war against the Benjamites for raping a woman to death. This sordid tale concludes with the words: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

But more importantly, a kingly line was to prove necessary in order to pave the way for the promised Messiah – a coming Prophet, Priest and King all wrapped into one. The emergence of David as Saul’s successor was to provide a proto-type of this future Messiah. Indeed, King David’s reign remains the pinnacle of the ancient commonwealth of Israel, and the model to which many Jews still aspire today in their national life.

David was naturally gifted with skills and positive character traits which suited him well for this role. But he also was able to quickly learn vital lessons from the mistakes of Saul. There are too many to mention here, but one was that being king of Israel is not like being the king of any other nation. This was not his personal fiefdom, where the people would be subject to his every whim and fancy.

We see this at play in David’s decision to pour out the water from the well of Bethlehem which his most valiant men had risked their lives to collect just so he could satisfy an old craving from his youth (2 Samuel 23).

No, Israel was different from other nations! It was set apart! God’s “special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

And the king of this people had to realize that, which we see David do when receiving the promise of the Messianic line: “who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people…” (2 Samuel 7:23)

Today, the restored nation of Israel is internally in great need of such leadership. David was also flawed and so we should not expect perfection. But, oh, to have leaders willing to pour themselves out of all personal ambition and pride for the sake of steering Israel towards its prophetic destiny in God.

Externally, the world is in great need of leadership that also recognizes Israel is different, set apart; that this is no ordinary fiefdom which the world can kick around according to its whims and fancies.

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Making deals with God

Every passing day, more and more Christians around the world are discovering within themselves a growing love for Israel and a greater appreciation of God’s enduring election over the Jewish people.

Yet many in the growing Christian Zionist movement are no longer comfortable with all the popular ‘end-time’ charts which portray Israel as just another piece of the prophetic puzzle. Many charts have the Church escaping to heaven while Israel goes through hell. This just seems too impersonal, detached and contrary to their burning, heart-felt passion for Israel.

So rather than speculative charts about future events, many Christian Zionists are looking for a more solid biblical foundation which better expresses their zeal for the Israel of today. And they are finding it in the scriptural tenets of Covenant theology.

While some Christians take a very fatalistic approach to Bible prophecy and often focus too heavily on its dark side, Covenant theology is an uplifting view rooted in the very nature and character of God as eternally faithful to his sworn promises to Israel. It sees the great divine covenants with Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant as telling the story of God’s salvation plan for all humanity, with the Jewish people playing a central role – both in the past and the future. Indeed, the covenants “belong to” Israel, the Apostle Paul says in Romans 9:4.

Covenant theology holds that Israel’s journey down through time, until she reaches her ultimate destiny, is steered by the promises which God delivered by solemn oath to Abraham, Moses and David, culminating with the New Covenant (Hebrews 6:13-20). These covenants set out the terms and conditions for Israel’s relationship with God as His primary vehicle for world salvation – which pivoted around her eventual birthing of Jesus, the promised Messiah (Romans 9:5).

The Hebrew prophets then come along as “servants” of the covenants. They cannot go outside the covenant promises and provisions which God has already set out by sworn oath. But their prophetic utterances do tell us something about how God will keep His covenant promises to Israel. Thus interpreting Bible prophecy first requires that we understand the purposes, terms and conditions of the successive covenants with Israel. This is where many Dispensational interpretations go wrong.

Thus the modern-day restoration of Israel can and must be understood, first and foremost, as God being faithful to his covenant promise to Abraham to deliver the Land of Canaan as “an everlasting possession” to his natural descendants (Genesis 17:8). Furthermore, this restoration process will continue until God also fulfills the promises of the Davidic covenant that the Messiah will one day sit on the throne of David and rule the earth from a Jewish Jerusalem and a redeemed nation of Israel.

Such an approach is refreshingly focused on the positive side of Bible prophecy and it is built on solid theological grounds. No wonder Covenant theology is finding so many new Evangelical adherents.

Yet there are some ‘prosperity preachers’ out there who are latching on to the concept of divine covenant and trying to twist it for carnal purposes. They speak of making “salt covenants” with their supporters, and promote three-way contracts between you, their ministry and God which guarantee financial blessings in return for donations. In short, they think it is possible to just make deals with God.

This ignores the fact that any divine covenant is first birthed in the very heart of God, and then He finds a suitable human partner to receive the promises. We see this reflected in the Lord’s covenant with Noah, which originated “in His heart” (Genesis 8:21). One does not just decide to enter a contract with God; He carefully chooses the vessel to be entrusted with His sure promises.

Each of the divine covenants with Israel also had a unique purpose in furthering the redemptive plan of God. Christians can be third-party beneficiaries of those covenants, but we cannot just make our own separate deals.

In addition, the divine covenants of the Bible are largely unilateral. That is, God usually makes promises that only He can and will perform. Some conditions of performance are placed on the human partner(s), but the core obligations He reserves unto Himself.

This does not mean one cannot make vows before God. But if we do, the Bible is clear we better pay those vows.

Parsons is Media Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Days of Testing

The so called “Arab Spring” has steadily turned into the “Arab Winter” as democratic movements in the Middle East stall and are “hi-jacked” by militant Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the matrix of AL Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel. All of this was of course foreseen by Christians Zionists with discernment but our Western politicians were again oblivious to the dangers inherent in this movement. This coupled with a resurgence in global anti-Semitism and the weak response of the United Nations and the European Union to militant Islam has left Israel isolated and now even President Obama has left Israel dangerously exposed by affirming a return to the pre-war 1967 borders! Accordingly, the Palestinians are emboldened and are moving toward a unilateral declaration of independence through the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Even if the USA vetoes this declaration the psychological victory of a majority UN vote to declare Palestinian Statehood will be immense.

Sadly, for many in the West the Arab/Israeli conflict has become a huge irritant as it constantly defies resolution and frequently outwits the best trained political minds. Tony Blair for instance has been “on the job” for many years, since leaving office in the United Kingdom, but his efforts have yielded little or no progress at all. The same could be said for George Bush, Sarkosy of France and many more. Then major international players like the European Union, the United States of America and the United Nations have equally failed after launching numerous initiatives in this regard. The story goes on and on and the question we have to ask is why? The answer is really quite simple; they all refuse to take into consideration the radical Islamic doctrine that renders any notion of a non-Islamic state existing on land that once belonged to Islam as totally and completely unacceptable. This is precisely why the Charter of Hamas and that of the PLO call for the complete and utter destruction of Israel. This is precisely why Arafat could never close a deal and this is why protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo call for democratic freedoms and the removal of Israel in the same breath and, this is why Ahmadinejad of Iran routinely calls for the removal of Israel from the face of the earth. Sadly the Western politicians don’t get it because they are by and large ignorant of Islamic theology and incapable of believing that people can be committed to the destruction of another people in this way.

All this has birthed two things: One, Israel fatigue and two, a heightened sense of need for resolution attainment without reference to truth, fact, history and justice. In the minds of many politicians Israel is small, insignificant, has little oil and should make compromises to once and for all finish this business! Thus we now hear calls from Western Leaders for Israel to sit down and talk with Hamas. New attempts are being made to “recast” Hezbollah as an enlightened movement that can be engaged with and leftist groups “in bed” with radical Muslims are launching new “Flotillas” in order to challenge Israel’s sovereignty. Once again the Jews are the problem and if they go away the world will be at peace!! I think that we have heard all this before in a book called “Mein Kamph”. The world is facing a huge moral test and this just sixty-eight years after the Holocaust.  Time is running out!

The Bible is therefore right when it says that great darkness will cover the earth but true light will arise over Israel. (Isaiah60:1-3) This darkness is not the loss of the light of the sun or the gathering of a real dark cloud. No, it is moral and spiritual darkness that arises in men’s hearts. Having a long time ago abandoned the Bible and having abandoned the Judeo/Christian value system they have no moral compass by which to pilot themselves through a broken and sinful world. Darkness is the consequence and decisions consistent with this darkness will prevail. Sadly a small nation, yet again, puts the world to the test and once again the language of compromise is selling out a people whose existence is supernatural but whose story is filled with great sorrows. God as ever is watching!

We live in testing times in that the God of the Bible is indeed watching and though He knows that an ungodly world will go the way of rebellion against His purpose for Israel He expects His church to stand firm and support, bless and pray for Israel. Sadly, this is not a given today but there are many churches throughout the world and organizations like the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem which constitute a shining light of hope in this regard. May the Lord watch over us all and keep us near to His heart and may we pass the test before us in these dangerous times. He remains the guardian of Israel as He watches over her but He calls us into His purpose with Him. Who will hear the call?

The War Against the Jews

The war against the Jews has been waged from the dawn of history and is relentless to this very day. It is a saga of great significance though many fail to appreciate it. It has one goal in mind and that is the liquidation of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Many in the world have wanted a new world order that is Judenrein (free of Jews).

The attempt to murder the Jews has taken many forms, including open hostility and wickedness as witnessed in the Second World War. Unable to achieve this end by conventional war, in recent years this assault against the Jews has been political and very often couched in the language of peace.

It is waged according to a false narrative, but one that is accepted in most circles as truth. Just the idea of “Israeli occupation” is totally untrue yet accepted everywhere. How can a people “occupy” their own homeland? Further, the Palestinians never had a state and the ground they claim was in fact occupied for centuries by the Ottoman Turks and then illegally by the Jordanians from 1948 to 1967. Of course, these facts mean nothing to those who seek the destruction of the Jewish state.

Today Hamas, Hizbullah, Fatah and all their fellow travelers are fully committed to the liquidation of Israel. This fact is not hearsay or rumor. No, it is enshrined in their charters and their repeated statements in Arabic. Their school books and TV programs for children constantly demonize the Jewish people and thereby incite impressionable minds to hatred of Israel. The Jews are likened to apes and pigs, while suicide attacks against them are glorified as the ultimate goal in life! Those who carry out such carnage are honored by having streets and squares named after them in Palestinian towns and cities.

 

 

 Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the annual Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony at Yad Vashem, May 2011 (GPO)  

 

This same radical Islamic menace collaborated with Hitler in the hope that his triumph would bring about the complete annihilation of the Jews. He came close but, thankfully, he was defeated. Yet today, the world community expects Israel to sit down and make peace with people who fully embrace Hitler’s vision.

Sadly, a world without a moral compass is unable to identify evil and is therefore pressurizing Israel to make what would be a suicide pact with a new version of Nazism! Many of the nations pushing for this would not do it themselves, but somehow it is good enough for the Jews! One has to wonder why all this is happening? Are these people stupid, just ignorant, or is there another agenda being followed? Or, maybe still there is a spiritual reality behind the War against the Jews!

Given that the very essence of sin is rebellion against God, it is not surprising that anything which reminds a rebellious world of God will also be assailed. This is the true nature of sin that lurks in the heart of every human being. If this God then calls into existence a people to take His name and reflect His character, one can expect them to be the target of that rebellion. From the very day God called and identified Himself with Israel, this war has never stopped. It is a desperate war and, if not for the faithfulness of God, the Jews would have vanished a long time ago. Psalm 83 gives voice to these truths in that it clearly states that humankind’s War against the Jews is in fact a war against God Himself! Note the first four verses:

“Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; And those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

It is to be noted that the enemies of God strike out against Him by making war against the Jews!  This war will not stop until the evil in human hearts has been overcome by redeeming love or else destroyed by divine judgment! Needless to say, the honor and existence of the only true God is at stake in this war and thus Israel will never be destroyed because God has vouched for her survival!


Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the outgoing Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. This article first appeared in the June 2011 issue of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, published in partnership with ICEJ.

The new Middle East steps backward

There is a new Middle East taking shape, but its character and contours are still emerging. The unprecedented political turmoil in Arab countries remains rudderless, with no clear direction yet. The prevailing military dictatorships of decades past will either survive in weakened versions, slowly yield to true democratic reforms, or regress towards Islamism.

The old Middle East was notoriously unpredictable – even the uprisings of recent months took everyone by complete surprise. But there were certain truisms about the old order that gave the region some measure of consistency. One such maxim was: “If you do not come to the Middle East, the Middle East will come to you.” Indeed, its unresolved problems came to the West far too often in various haunting forms, from airplane hijackings and long gas lines in the 1970s to the mass terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Sadly, that is not likely to change.

Another proven adage of the old Middle East held that: “The Arabs cannot make peace with Israel without Syria, but cannot make war with Israel without Egypt.” Damascus always championed the rejectionist camp, blocking any comprehensive acceptance of Israel in the region, while Cairo’s peace treaty with Israel (albeit a cold peace) stymied any hope of pan-Arab defeat of the IDF in battle. This equation will undoubtedly be impacted by the current unrest.

Egypt is already showing worrisome signs of renewed hostility towards Israel. The Supreme Military Council now running the country is bowing to the will of the Tahrir Square crowds by announcing their intent to reconsider the natural gas deals made with Israel pursuant to the 1979 peace treaty. Deposed president Hosni Mubarak and his sons are being accused of corruption stemming, in part, from the natural gas contracts with Israel.

If those agreements can be legally assailed and undone, the Israel-Egypt peace treaty cannot be far behind. Indeed, all the major players jockeying for seats in the parliamentary elections this autumn have pledged to “review” the treaty with Israel, a position widely backed by public opinion polls. Leading presidential contender Amr Moussa, the Arab League chieftain who has built his popularity by shamelessly bashing Israel, insisted recently that the Camp David Accords had “expired” and that Israel has failed to prove it is a “friend” of Egypt.

Meantime, Egypt’s interim foreign minister has promised to reopen the Rafah crossing into Gaza, allowing Hamas to ferry in-and-out far more weapons and terrorists than through its cross-border smuggling tunnels. Cairo also just brokered the Fatah-Hamas unity pact, taking the Palestinians a major step away from peace with Israel.

Finally, Egypt has announced plans to “open a new page” with its long-time adversary Iran.

Meanwhile, the Assad dynasty in Syria has launched a brutal crackdown on opposition protests that have resulted in more than 800 civilian deaths so far, with another 10,000 imprisoned. The struggle pits the minority Alawite rulers against an 85% Sunni majority. But dictator Bashar Assad is the most heavily entrenched ruler in the Arab world, with layers of loyalists in command of the all-powerful security services, ensuring he will not go easily.

Yet even if the Syrian uprising succeeds in dislodging the Assad regime, there is little reason to think its Sunni replacement will be any less hostile towards Israel. The Sunni majority likely will not be as pro-Iran, which could have a huge impact on Tehran’s aspirations to build a Shi’ite crescent that reaches the Mediterranean shores and encircles Israel. But – like in Egypt – the Syrian masses have already been spoon-fed so much anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic invective, it will assuredly be reflected even in a democratically-elected government. Some analysts go so far as to suggest that the West’s tepid response to Syria’s harsh crackdown is out of fear that something worse could actually replace Assad.

So I am left very pessimistic that the regional upheaval will mean positive changes for Israel. At the least, Egypt and Syria will follow the Turkish model, where an Islamist party has played the Israel card to gain votes and then asserted an aggressively independent line against Israel and the US in matters of foreign policy.

And all the while, Iran is quietly exploiting the distractions caused by the “Arab Spring” to continue its relentless pursuit of nuclear capabilities.

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

The House that Fell

According to Islamic theology the world is divided into two spheres – the “House of Peace” (or Dar al-Salaam) and the “House of War” (the Dar al-Harb). Those living under Islamic shari’a law belong to the House of Peace, wherein they are told they enjoy the most advanced civilization anywhere and thus live in paradise on earth! Theirs is a superior religion and culture and those outside of it are inferior and infidels who have to be brought into submission to Islam and shari’a by jihad (holy war).

There is just one small problem – those living in the House of Peace are now everywhere in revolt. They are tired of its oppression and brutality and would prefer to live like those in the House of War, who are supposedly inferior in every way. Revolution is in the air because those living in this supposed paradise discovered that it meant the removal of their freedoms and human rights and their subjugation under the heel of hereditary despots, murderers and thugs who, in the name of Islam, have robbed them of their human dignity.

To put in bluntly, there is no ‘bright shining city on a hill’ in the Islamic world giving credibility to their utopian claims. The house has fallen! It has split open and thereby laid bare the truth for all to see. No wonder the Islamic bloc has been desperately trying to get a resolution passed in the United Nations that will effectively make it against the law globally to criticize Islam. They knew all along how bad things were and wanted to cover it all up. Too bad that Twitter, Face Book and text messaging came along in the “nick of time” to reveal the truth!

Many had tried to blame the brewing troubles in paradise on Israel! There was the Mossad’s top secret shark menacing tourists at Red Sea resorts and its vulture flying high over the Arabian desert and sending back highly sensitive images to Jerusalem.

The real truth is that many peoples of the region are tired of the theocratic rule of Islam that has only kept them poor, enslaved, illiterate and subjugated even though the region enjoys fabulous oil wealth.

By the way, where has all this wealth gone? The answer is simple; into the pockets of the ruling elites and for buying up the West! Is it not incredible that Israel’s national economic output exceeds that of most nations in the region combined! Could this have something to do with democracy and freedom?

Another thing that has emerged from this spreading revolution in the region is that Israel is not the real Apartheid state of the Middle East – it is the Arab nations! In this House of Peace there has been no democracy, no freedom of religion, no equality under the law for minorities, no freedom of the press, no equal rights for women, no independent judiciary, and no freedom of speech.

I grew up in a country like this; it was called South Africa! Thank God this house also fell because a house built on oppression and human rights abuses must eventually implode. South Africa did just this, as the House of Islam is doing today. For sure, the only shining city on a hill in the region is Israel! Of course all this is definitely not politically correct to say!

Yet the truth is finally out, and not because of the West or the United Nations or the European Union. They were too busy kissing Moammar Gaddafi in his tent. Rather, it was because men and women, mostly the young, took to the streets of the Islamic world and insisted enough was enough. Their revolution has surprised everyone, especially those with sophisticated intelligence services. But it underlines the fact that, in the end truth will prevail and shine like a great light in the darkness. We only hope that, once the dust settles, the “house” that emerges will be a kind, compassionate and peaceful one where all are free and protected. Actually, much like Israel!

Viva the revolution!

 

The Significance of Jerusalem to Christians

Jerusalem has always been significant to Christians because of the places there where Jesus ministered and, most importantly, where he died and rose again.  This is the obvious and simple significance of Jerusalem to the Christian world.  This is why Helen, mother of Constantine, built churches there in the 4th century that commemorated these events in the life of Jesus and is why Christians from every denomination on earth visit Jerusalem and these very churches and sites.

Unfortunately, throughout a lot of church history, while the Church held the Holy sites in Jerusalem to be sacred, they did not regard the Jewishness of Jerusalem to be revered.  In fact, they had little regard for anything Jewish because they saw themselves as having replaced the Jewish people as the Chosen People - they were the spiritual Israel and they focused instead on the heavenly Jerusalem.  

But, today, there is a historic shift taking place in the Christian world in the growth of a more Bible-based Christianity.  This segment of Christianity has its roots back in the 16th century when the Bible began to be translated into the vernacular languages.  For the first time, Christian laypeople could read the scriptures for themselves and study it in depth.  

This, of course, challenged the power of the state churches over the people and so these early Bible-believers were highly persecuted.  Just the translation of the Bible into English alone brought about a revolution in England and of course, the establishment of America as believers fled and sought freedom of worship.  

As soon as Christians began reading their own Bibles they learned of the Jewish roots of Christianity and of God’s promises to gather the Jewish people back in their homeland.  Now, some 500 years later, Bible-believing or what we also call Evangelical Christianity is the fastest growing, and soon-to-be the largest, segment of Christianity worldwide.  But what does this have to do with the city of Jerusalem?

Because there is now a much stronger connection in the Christian world to the historical and earthly city of Jerusalem, which we read about in our Bibles every day, we are not only interested in going there to visit the Churches built over Holy sites, but we want to go see the city.  

The city where many believe Abraham brought Isaac up Mt. Moriah and passed God’s test of faith.

The city where King David established his kingdom, made it a center of worship, besought generations to “Pray for the peace” of this city, and wrote his Psalms declaring the beauty and significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.

The city where King Solomon built the magnificent Temple and made it a house of prayer for all nations.

The city Isaiah envisioned as the world’s center where the nations will be taught the Law of the Lord, and would beat their swords into plowshares, and learn war no more.

And the city Jesus wept over and foretold it would be ruled by Gentiles for a time.

We understand the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people because we read about it every day in our Bible.  We share in that history because the New Testament says we have been grafted into the people of faith who lived out that history.  Their national history has become our spiritual history.

And it is important to note here that whenever the Bible speaks of Jerusalem, it is speaking of what we know today as East Jerusalem.  None of these many verses of Scripture refer to western Jerusalem, because that portion of the modern city only arose within the past 100 years.  Just because East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, was ethnically cleansed of Jews during 19 years of Jordanian control, it does not negate the 3,000 years of Jewish history and connection to that part of the city.  

This is why, in 1980, when the Israeli Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law, and declared Jerusalem to be the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel, we understood and we stood with them.  It was a very traumatic moment during which the Arab countries threatened oil embargos and therefore the countries that had Embassies in Jerusalem packed them up and moved to Tel-Aviv.  

A group of Bible-believing Christians who were living in Jerusalem at the time seized the moment and declared “We do not support what the governments of the world have done and are therefore opening an International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem to represent millions of Bible believing Christians around the world who understand the significance of the Jewish people and stand with Israel in her claim to Jerusalem.”

ICEJ Headquarters in JerusalemThirty-two years later, we are still in Jerusalem, with branches in over 60 countries of the world, and a track record of assistance for the people of Israel, of support for the State of Israel, and still we are standing with Israel in her claim to Jerusalem.  In fact, we are still the only Embassy in Jerusalem.

The significance of Jerusalem to Christians cannot be separated from the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.  We are intertwined through our scriptures and spiritual bonds and we share this heritage in Jerusalem as our spiritual capital while Israel also claims it as her national capital.

It is unfair to say that the significance of Jerusalem to Christians is all about our Holy sites – as important as they are – for in reality, all of Jerusalem is a Holy Site.  Nevertheless, I do want to say one thing about the Christian Holy sites.  Israel has not only voiced a commitment to, but placed into law which they have observed for over 45 years now, a respect for the Holy sites of Christians and Muslims and has allowed freedom of access and freedom of worship.

There is considerable concern throughout the Christian world about what might happen should our Holy sites be turned over to Palestinian control.  Yes, there are churches throughout the Palestinian areas and I am sure that any Palestinian government will say that Christians will be given freedom of worship.  But will they conduct themselves as a government that will protect the Christian churches and worshipers against fellow Muslims should this be necessary?

Temple MountTheir lack of respect for the Jewish Temple Mount gives us great cause for concern.  Not only have there been incidents of Arab crowds on the Temple Mount throwing stones down on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall, but there has also been the wanton destruction of Jewish antiquities from the First and Second Temple periods by the Muslims as they excavate and build underground the Temple Mount.  

There is a growing Islamist movement throughout the Muslim world that is totally intolerant and they are attacking Christians and burning their churches.  There are many recent examples of this in Egypt and Iraq that show the growing danger to Christians in the region.

But we don’t have to look that far for warning signs.  The Palestinian Authority has just signed a unity pact with the Islamist group, Hamas, which did not protect the Christians in Gaza from attacks and bombings, such as the owner of a Christian bookstore who was murdered and thrown in the street.  

BethlehemIn fact, it was a joint Hamas-Fatah force of thirteen terrorists that took refuge in one of Christianity’s most holy sites, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002.   They held the clergy as hostages for 39 days, stole any icons or religious artifacts of value, used pages of the Bible for toilet paper and left the church filled with 40 booby trap explosive devices.

In short, one of Christianity’s holiest sites was thoroughly desecrated by adherents of the very same political parties that seek control over Jerusalem’s holy sites. Today, Muslims are building on top of the hill many believe is Golgotha.  And they are building a wall on top of the Garden Tomb that is illegal, and threatens the integrity of the site and endangers its visitors.  I am so glad that we have the Israeli authorities to turn to for help, and I plead with them to please stop this encroachment on the Protestant world’s most holy site.

Church leaders in Jerusalem and believers worldwide are worried.  Just think what it would be like if that site was under Palestinian control.  We want to maintain the status quo – Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.


To summarize, we stand with Israel and her claim to Jerusalem because:
 

  • We share the same biblical and historical connection,
  • We honor the unique national and spiritual connection that the Jewish people and the Jewish Nation have with the city of Jerusalem,
  • We trust Israel to maintain the safety and freedom of worship for everyone throughout Jerusalem and lastly,
  • We believe that just as you can not separate Christianity from its Jewish roots, you can not separate Jerusalem from its Jewish history.  It is an eternal, spiritual and historical reality.

Yes, Jerusalem is significant to Christians.  We also have a history and important religious sites in Jerusalem.  But only the Jewish people have the historical, national and legal connection to the city of Jerusalem that goes back some 3,000 years. 

The world needs to honor this and recognize Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel.


This speech was delivered at the Jerusalem Day Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2011. The event was sponsored by the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation.

Susan Michael serves as US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and is based in Washington, DC.

Stop poking God in the eye

I Samuel 11 tells the fascinating story of how Israel came to be united under Saul’s kingship.  As with all Old Testament stories, God has given them to us so we can learn from them and apply the principles revealed therein. This story is no different, and even gives us invaluable insight into how the Lord views events happening in our own lifetime.

In this chapter, the Ammonites come up against Jabesh. The people of Jabesh seek terms of peace but are presented with a horrible proposition; in return for peace the Ammonites want the right to cut out the right eye of every man and bring a reproach on all Israel.

Apart from the stigma and shame attached with having a whole community’s eyesight disabled, it is also evident that the Ammonites sought to ensure that Jabesh remained immobilized, defenceless against future attacks. If the men of Jabesh could not defend themselves well with both eyes, removing the right eye would certainly ensure that even in the future they would not be able to rise to the challenge and the Ammonites could seek further sacrifices for “peace” whenever they desired.

On May 19th, 2011, the President of the USA announced a change in policy regarding his country’s position as peace broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Whereas previously no administration had outlined what it believed was the territorial starting position for negotiations, but had left that for the two parties to work out, President Obama stated that the pre-1967 borders should now be the basis for the renewal of talks. Areas that do not fall within these territories, such as many Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, along with historic Jerusalem (so-called East Jerusalem), could be resolved, the President said, via land swaps.

The Group of Eight leaders, representing the most economically powerful nations on earth, were swift to endorse Obama’s position in a statement released on May 27th, 2011.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s premier, was quick to reject this new approach since it would return Israel to a territorial position that is not defendable. Every American administration up until this one has understood that after all the wars Israel has fought to defend itself against the Arab plans for her annihilation, she requires defendable borders to live in peace and security.

Not only that, but if the pre-1967 borders are the starting point for peace, Israel faces again the shameful prospect of having to send in its own armed forces to forcibly uproot thousands of its citizens from their homes as the world watches on through the lenses of western media companies that have systematically reduced these people to dehumanized illegal settlers, and blamed them for the lack of peace in the entire region, if not the world.

Make no mistake, the Palestinians do not recognize Israel’s right to exist, and they have always sought an agreement with Israel that leaves the door open for further attacks on her sovereignty. Like the Ammonites, they offer peace in return for Israel’s shame. They will only come to an agreement if the Israelis cut out their right eye by removing their so-called settlements, and in so doing, also return to a situation where they are more vulnerable to further attacks. Unfortunately, the US President has led the way in adding considerable weight to their cause and the Israelis, like the people of Jabesh, find themselves isolated and outnumbered in this conflict.

Going back to I Samuel 11, we find that the people of Jabesh seek help and their messengers reach Saul. But, the Saul they find is not sitting in a kingly palace with thousands of troops at his command; he’s out in the field herding flocks. He had been crowned king already, but not all the people accepted his appointment and it seems as if life just went back to normal for Israel and Saul, up until this point that is.

When Saul hears the news, something remarkable happens. The Spirit of God comes upon him and he becomes extremely angry.  He hews a yoke of oxen into pieces, sends them throughout the land as warning of what will happen to the oxen of those who don’t come out to fight, and he manages to raise an army of 330,000 which goes on to demolish the Ammonites and save Jabesh. The people rally around Saul after this victory, gathering in Gilgal to renew the kingdom and make Saul king before God.

Saul clearly didn’t have the force of arms to back up his threat, but the fear of Lord fell on the people as Saul followed the Spirit’s leading and this brought forth salvation.

It’s not often that we associate the Holy Spirit with anger, or righteous indignation as some translations use. We are more accustomed to the Holy Spirit bringing peace or joy in the face of adversity. But God is clearly able to experience the emotions we humans know and when the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, He can even impart on us His very personal feelings regarding a situation.

In Zechariah 2: 8 it says of Zion, “he who touches you touches the apple of His eye”. Your eye is the most sensitive part of your body. When the Ammonites came to Jabesh with the intent of cutting out the men’s right eyes, they didn’t realize that they had poked God in the eye, in His most sensitive area, and aroused His anger. It’s a warning to all nations that would seek to come up against Israel to dispossess her of her God-given inheritance.

In these days when the nations are out repeating the mistake of the Ammonites, the question for us is how in tune are we to the Holy Spirit? How well are we connected with God’s feelings on the issue? Are we outraged? Are we speaking up to ensure that our nations are warned as to the consequence of their actions?

Like Saul, we have been anointed, but haven’t yet received a kingdom. I Peter 2: 9 says we are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”. We don’t have physical armies under our command, but our power is in the fear of the Lord. He will bring the victory.

Isaiah 41 confirms that the Lord will deliver Israel and will destroy those who come against her. Our mission at the ICEJ has always been to speak words of comfort to Zion, to let her know that her God will surely rescue her, while also speaking a word of warning to the nations about how they treat the people of the covenant. Never has there been a time when these messages are more important.

For the sake of our own nations, we must find our voice and tell our leaders to please stop poking God in the eye.

 

Daryl Hedding serves as Strategic Development Director for the ICEJ.

The Second Coming of Jesus

Even a brief glance at the New Testament will reveal that the Second Coming of Jesus was never far from the mind and hearts of those earliest Christian believers. The question we have to ask some two thousand years later is, “Were they wrong?” Did they have an expectation of the soon return of Jesus that was misguided? For instance, even Paul, when writing to the Corinthian church about marriage, stated that in view of the “impending distress” it is better not to marry. He felt that time was short and that therefore the believers needed to fix their hope fully on the soon coming of Jesus.

Progressive prophetic fulfilment

From Jesus’ Olivet discourse, the disciples recognised that certain signs in the region and in the world would indicate the soon coming of Jesus. These are: a temple would be standing in Jerusalem; a global world power would invade the city of Jerusalem; the Holy of holies would be desecrated; great distress would befall the region; and believers would have to flee and find shelter. Then, Jesus would come!

They saw all of these signs flashing and growing with each passing day. The “Day of the Lord” was surely upon them! They were therefore both right and wrong, since it is clear from Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 that the events about which Jesus spoke entailed two fulfilments. One occurred in AD 70 and another was yet in the future. Paul is clear, as is John, that the Anti-Christ who desecrates the Temple is destroyed by the visible real coming of Jesus a second time. We are dealing here with what Bible scholars refer to as “progressive prophetic fulfilment.” That is, one vision having two fulfilments over time! These same circumstances have not come together again until our day!

The signs of the end

While there have always been wars, rumours of wars, conflicts and natural upheavals, it was not until 1948 that the crucial building block of a Jewish return to Jerusalem fell into place again. Jesus cited this as the validating sign of the His near coming (Luke 21:24). Now today, as it was in AD 70, there is once again a growing global campaign against a Jewish Jerusalem and indeed a campaign to delegitimize Israel and dismantle her. Conflict and wars are everywhere and great earthquakes and natural upheavals are a familiar occurrence. It is the first time in 2000 years that these “signs” are manifesting again. Like the disciples of Paul’s day, we should look up because our “redemption draws nigh” (Luke 21:28). Jesus is coming and about this we should not have any doubts at all!

The miracle of Israel’s restoration is the validating sign heralding the return of our dear Lord. It is also true that the Word of God portrays Israel’s restoration as taking place amidst great international resistance to it. The nations will eventually mobilize, as they did in AD 70, against Jerusalem and they will try to remove it from Jewish hands (Zechariah 12). They will be thwarted and Jesus will return in glory and splendour to set up His throne in Jerusalem and from which He will rule the nations with a “rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15).

The hope of the Church

This glorious hope of Jesus’ return (Titus 2:11-13) serves to keep the Church pure and clean. It is when we lose this hope that we sleep spiritually and begin to get entangled in the worldly affairs. Jesus warned about this in His parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).

It is always fascinating to note that every time scripture refers to the Second Coming of Jesus, it invites us to embrace an appropriate spiritual response. So Jesus says, “watch and pray” (Mark 13:33-37).

John, in his first epistle, also tells us that if we hold the hope of Jesus’ return in our hearts, we should “purify ourselves” (1 John 3:1-3). That is, live clean and godly lives!

In his first epistle, Peter writes that because the “end of all things is at hand”, we should be loving, prayerful and engaged in the Lord’s business (1 Peter 4:7-10).

Finally, Paul not only greets his readers with the words Maranatha (“the Lord is coming” – 1 Corinthians 16:22), but he also exhorts believers, who have lost believing loved ones, to fix their hope on the Second Coming of Jesus when they will be resurrected to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Second Coming of Jesus thus keeps the Church spiritually healthy and when we ignore it we do the people of God a disservice. Now more than ever, Christians should be gazing into heaven and preparing their lives to welcome Jesus back.

“Behold He is coming and every eye will see Him.” These words greet us in the very first chapter of the book of Revelation. This passage goes on to say that “all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him” (Revelation 1:7). Why would they mourn over such a wonderful event? Because they never embraced Him or prepared their lives to welcome Him on the day of His return.

Jesus also warned in his Olivet discourse that the love of many would grow cold (Matthew 24:12). This can only be a reference to Christians who have taken their spiritual eyes off His soon return! May he not be talking about anyone of us!

The mode of His coming

Though many so-called theologians have tried to deny it in recent years, the Bible teaches that Jesus will come visibly and physically to the Mount of Olives. As He went, so He will come again and thus His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which is to the east of Jerusalem (Acts 1:9-11).

His visible coming will be with great glory and the whole world will see this glory as it flashes from the east to the west (Matthew 24:27). As He descends from Heaven in triumph to reign and rule over the nations, a great trumpet blast will take place and the dead in Christ and all believers then alive will rise to meet Him (Matthew 24:30-31; Revelation 2:27-28, 12:5). What a wonderful day this will be and so no wonder we are to get ready as we now see it approaching! (Hebrews 10:25)

 

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