“You shall have no other gods before me.”
The worship of Idols was the prevailing sin of ancient Israel. It is no different today if one sees idolatry as it really is—a substitute for the Living God.
Naturally, when homage to the true God is rejected or neglected, a substitute will arise in the vacuum. The substitute for the true God is an idol. And an idol is a fraud. And fraud involves trickery.
A voice on the bare heights is heard:
The plaintive weeping of Israel’s children,
Because they have perverted their way,
They have forgotten the Lord their God.”
- Jeremiah 3:21 (NRSV)
It is sad to see and know those who live their whole lives for their own material success; for when they leave this world, they are nothing, have nothing and leave nothing of worth to their posterity except money and material possessions.
Vanity of vanities…
MOURN WITH ME
Many American Jews today are not truly Jewish. They have not taken that narrow way of identifying with the Covenant People of the Law. They pick and choose the things they agree to in their observances.
Most of them have largely assimilated into the secular culture. They easily meld. Most do not talk at all about religious experience. They get nervous when discussing America's religious moorings. America has given them the option of disconnecting from their Judaism of the past and giving only a tip of the hat to the Judaism of today.
The Old Testament prophets bewailed such a situation:
Israel is swallowed up;
now they are among the nations
as a useless vessel…
-- Hosea 8:8 (NRSV)
American Jews today are increasingly saying “no” to Judaism and Jewishness. In a survey six years ago 32 percent of Jews born after 1980 defined themselves as “Jews of no religion,” compared with on only 7 percent born in 1914-27. Today, it would be even more.
SO MOURN WITH ME
Young American Jews have a 70 percent rate of intermarriage with Gentiles. And they care nothing about belonging to a Jewish community.
American Judaism has become much less God-centered and more people-centered, according to Rabbi Mark Golub.
Jewish scholars acknowledge this. Yossi Klein Halevi of Shalem Institute in Jerusalem predicts that “Fifty years from now, the Jews will either become a God-centered people again or Judaism will be a dying faith….The God-centered faith of the Jewish past has scarcely survived the combined onslaught of the European Enlightenment, the Holocaust, Americanization, Soviet Communism, and secular Zionism. Today Jewishness is about peoplehood, ritual observance, Torah study, Zionism, defense against anti-Semitism--everything but God. Each of those facets of contemporary Jewish life is worthy in itself. None of them…necessarily involves a conscious relationship with God.” (Commentary, November 2015, p. 35.) This is particularly true of American Jews.
Jonathan Sacks, well-known as the chief rabbi of the British Hebrew congregations: “Today Jews have overachieved in every field except Judaism.” Commentary, Nov. 2015, p. 61.
MOURN WITH ME
Is it wrong to accuse many of them of making Material Possessions their gods?.... houses, lands, automobiles, art, etc., and positions deserving of public respect? Are not political, educational and corporate positions a substitute for a covenant relationship with God?
Jews who only casually cling to their religion as a power that holds together and gives a bit of meaning to their existence—they will have to go deeper and ask themselves: “Is this belief and this ethical tradition (e. g. the Ten Commandments and Torah)—is this all just legendary, or is it based on solid ground?" They will have to take it seriously enough to study it.
Up to the present, most American Jews feel comfortable with secularism. They despise the constraints that they see in their Orthodox Jewish brethren and that which committed Christians live with….and they want nothing to do with them. Their comedians are amoral and many of their business people, too. They have an aversion to talk about prayer, faith and the religious life. I understand that and still feel compassion.
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I learned to know an older Jewish man in Sun City through a group fishing experience, and we became friends. At lunch one day he told me of his episodes with lymphoma. In one of his first episodes with the disease, he was lying in an Episcopalian hospital in Austin. The crucifix was on the opposite wall at which he stared all day. He finally blurted out his anguish (to Jesus) with the request: “Well, if you’re so good, why don’t you do something for me?”
There at lunch with scripture in front of me, I asked him, “Well, you did recover, didn’t you? Did you ever give thanks to Jesus for your renewed health?” He didn’t answer. I pressed him: “Didn’t you thank God?” (I wasn’t easy on him.) And he just laughed. He would revert to laughter or divert the discussion to other questions. He was funny. But he never gave thanks. His life was making money. Down to the very last days of his life he was working in real estate—buying and selling houses—buying, maintaining and selling. And then the lymphoma finally took him. AND I MOURNED.
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The prophet Isaiah speaks to Israel’s God:
“Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
In our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon your name--
Who rouses himself to take hold of you;
For you have hidden your face from us,
And have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.”
-- Isaiah 64:5-7 (ESV)
MOURN WITH ME
The life of Jesus occurred at a time of expectation: the Jews expected that soon God would free them from the rule of empires. “Free us from our enemies,” was the typical prayer.
So this was the expectation. But Jesus, instead of describing their freedom, forecasted a disaster. Jerusalem would be destroyed, and all Jews would have to escape on their own. And once again, they would be taken captive!
Said He: “They [the Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24 ESV)
Whoa! Not again!
The Jews were sick and tired of being under the heavy fist of foreign powers in their homeland.
But here Jesus was forecasting Jerusalem’s continuation under the heavy-handed rule of Rome and other Gentile nations.
And oh, another exile from their sacred land? Yes, yes, yes! “And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be held captive among all nations….” Yes, they would be expelled from Jerusalem and Judea and escape to other parts of the Middle East (Near East) and many eventually be scattered to all parts of the earth.
This came to pass--first in the complete and horrendous destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. and then in a final and extreme manner in 132 A. D.
The temple was destroyed in the first war with the Romans in 70 A. D., after which the city was completely cleared of all Jews in the second war.
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Then came “the times of the Gentiles.” Jerusalem and its environs would be trampled underfoot by the Gentile nations, as Jesus put it. And Jerusalem, for most of that time, would be a “nothing city.”
REPEAT: During this “times of the Gentiles,”—for 2,000 years--the Jews would be captive, living in all parts of the world-- “captive among all nations.” Plus, the Gentile nations would be controlling Jerusalem.
And that’s been the situation from 70 A. D. until recently. (There were exceptions to being held “captive.” In modern Europe and America, some Jews were given “emancipation.”
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Then the transition: that exile and that captivity and that Gentile control of Jerusalem would continue “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Dear reader: that is the time that we are entering in these day….NOW! The times of the Gentiles are in the process are being fulfilled. Gentile empires are now releasing control of the Promised Land.
-- Great Britain released control in 1947-1948.
-- At the present time, being the friends of Israel, America has indirect control. Note what nation in the United Nations votes on the side of Israel—America. Sometimes the ONLY nation that votes NO on the Security Council’s moves to blame Israel, is America--vetoing resolutions that are unfairly critical of Israel.
But increasingly, the Israelis realize that they cannot rely upon the U. S. forever, because lately part of the American electorate does not view Israel as a good ally. Thus, Israel knows that it may soon have to stand alone among the nations.
-- Thus…thus my dear readers, we are now living in the times when the “times of the Gentiles” are just about over. Israel may soon be on her own. The Gentile powers will release their authority (what Great Britain had) and control (what America has had and is releasing; for…the times of the Gentiles are close to being at their end.
-- For now, Israel has it good: the Trump Administration now recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the other hand, the Trump Administration is bent upon getting out of the messy Middle East.
-- But reading reports of Israel’s military readiness, I believe that Israel is almost on a par now with the United States in the development of advanced weaponry and defensive warfare.
The Jews do not control all their land yet. But….note this:
It hasn’t been but a year or so, since the two-state solution was the ONLY solution being talked about by most diplomats and interested people. EVERYONE with few exceptions believed that in the peace talks, Israel would have to give up a considerable amount of land. That is no longer the case.
NOW we hear that Prime Minister Netanyahu is consulting with his cabinet about how to proceed with annexing sections of Judea and Galilee.
WHO OWNS JUDEA AND SAMARIA NOW? These areas are called “Israeli-Occupied Territories,” or “disputed territories,” even though the League of Nations Palestine Mandate designated this as the homeland of the Jews, later to be assumed by the United Nations in 1948.
Today, most land in Judea and Samaria is not privately owned, but is unsurveyed and without proven ownership. But for settlement purposes, there are three areas—A, B, and C, and only Area C is opened by the Israeli government for Jewish residences.
SO NOTE: Two statements summarize the modern fulfillment of this prophecy:
I. SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE HOLY LAND IS STEP-BY-STEP BEING TRANSFERRED BACK TO ITS ANCIENT OWNERS—THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
II. THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES ARE WANING.
Europe’s empires have had their day. And what about America? America is declining, not in real obvious ways, but in culture, in religion and in law we are going the way of Europe. We are becoming increasingly decadent and self-absorbed. That does not bode well for world leadership. And America is vulnerable.
It seems like the “Times of the Gentiles” has neared its end. Jerusalem is the city of the future-- not Rome, or Brussels, or Washington, D. C. or Moscow.
Jerusalem, once encircled by the Roman army and destroyed by it, is now a magnet to which Jews and righteous people are drawn.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May they prosper who love you.” (Ps. 122:6)
And…it is the earthly Jerusalem that betokens the heavenly Jerusalem where lives the “assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” and Jesus “the mediator of a new covenant.” (Hebrews 12) Believe it! And believe Him!
ONE MORE THING: Further down in Chapter 21 of Luke’s Gospel, we read this statement of Jesus’ prophecy:
“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (21:28 ESV)
The Trump Administration Peace Plan: “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People.”
The newest and best of all Middle East plans is out. It’s different.
It outlines the details of a program to facilitate the inauguration of a new “State of Palestine,” a title referred to a total of 1397 times in the 180 page document.
It pledges all kind of benefits to the Palestinians, monetary and new development.
Some “Peace to Prosperity” Vision Particulars:
1. Estimates that its participation could double the Gross Domestic Product of the Palestinians State to “double in 10 years, create over 1 million new jobs, reduce the unemployment rate below 10 per cent and reduce the poverty rate by 50 per cent.
2. The plan calls for the establishment of a “Dead Sea Resort Area,’ demanding that Israel allow Palestine to develop it to the north of the Dead Sea.
3. We are familiar with such benefits. They have been offered in other forms in other offers. They are outlined in all the Peace Process offers and in some of those that have become signed agreements. Those benefits are made up of land, economic incentives--over $50 billion in new investment over ten years.
To receive the benefits, the Palestinians “shall have implemented a governing system with a constitution or another system for establishing the rule of law that provides for the freedom of the press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights, protections for religious freedom….due process under the law and an independent judiciary….”
If only the Palestinians will behave themselves….if they become de-militarized, renounce ownership in and refrain from developing military, paramilitary or electronic warfare capabilities, this plan can be put in place. Though the police force will be armed, Hamas in Gaza and militias in Gaza must be disarmed and fully de-militarized. Likewise, the population shall be fully de-militarized.
All Israeli captives and remains must be returned. The State of Palestine must refrain from attempting to join any international organization without the consent of the State of Israel. The State of Palestine must take no action against the State of Israel or the United States before the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice.
The day following the release of the Trump Administration Peace Plan, the Palestinians responded by rejecting it as "The Apartheid Peace Plan."
* * * * * * * * *
Time after time during the during the Madrid and Oslo Peace Process talks, there were great expectations; and the great one was this: that Yassir Arafat would tone down his rhetoric and encourage his henchmen to cooperate to co-exist with Israel. Time after time, Arafat disappointed them.
In all of this, officials from America and Europe and from the liberal/Labour parties in Israel believed. Yes, they firmly believed that the talks, especially Oslo, would be successful….that the incentives would be gladly received by the Palestinians and Arabs for their economic benefits.
The agreements would improve relations and lead to peaceful coexistence…and then that peace would allay Israel’s fears—fears that required a fence and defensible borders. Improving the economic conditions of the Palestinians would then encourage them to come to reject their terrorist activities and gradually become partners in constructive regional projects. Ah yes! How fine these hopes! In the 1990’s, it was Shimon Peres, Israel’s President (not prime minister) who authored the book The New Middle East. The reconciliation between Israel and all her neighbors and the Palestinians was a sure thing, wrote Perez. It was “the irresistible direction of history.” (Levin, The Oslo Syndrome, p. 334)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It is often true that when human plans come to nothing, it is God Himself Who is conspiring to bring about the failure. He is there, botching things up.
Let’s examine that.
We may be trying to make friends out of enemies—a noble thing, especially when Jesus gives us the command to “love your enemies.” But is this applicable in this instance?
God is in a covenant/marriage with His Chosen People. How can this covenant be renewed? The Chosen must become aware of and acknowledge their unfaithfulness to their husband-God. If these Chosen Ones become too close to other peoples, God, the husband-God, will lose them before the covenant is even renewed. His Chosen will become intertwined with other peoples and intermarry. And literally, that is what is happening to American Jews. They have forgotten God; and their numbers are being reduced through intermarriage. That must not happen in Zion with the Jews who have returned. The warmth of friendship must not develop between the Jews and the Muslim Arabs. So…I, Quinton Everest, believe this:
A stubborn, evil attitude has been inserted into the hearts of the neighbors of Israel—an enmity strong and fierce as well as long lasting--an enmity which will not be removed by angling concrete benefits in front of them. Think. Think of Israel's past: the hardening of Pharoah's heart is just one example.
Most people will ask: “How can Israel continue to exist while having to tolerate such hateful neighbors--neighbors who use “Jew” as a curse word and train their children to believe that Jews are direct descendants of pigs and apes and train them to become suicide bombers?”
But, I now ask: “HOW COULD ISRAEL CONTINUE TO EXIST IF THEIR NEIGHBORS WERE FAIR AND FRIENDLY?" With the exception of the Orthodox Jews, there would come…INTERMINGLING AND INTERMARRIAGE and—the loss of separateness, distinctiveness and devotion to the Torah!
When the ancient Hebrews went into the Promised Land, they were commanded to renounce the ways of the peoples around them, to break down their altars, make no treaty with them and not intermarry (Deuteronomy 7:5). I posit then that the enmity of Israel's enemies is doing a service to Israel and to her covenant with God the Lord. Israel's enemies are one force among others making Israel to eventually be separated unto the Lord, preventing them from taking on the ways of their neighbors and from marrying the beautiful women of the Arab lands.
What do you think?
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.
The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people
for his treasured possession.” (Deut. 7:6 ESV)
What is BDS?
Boycotting Israeli goods actually predates the establishment of the State of Israel. On December 2, 1945 the new Arab League Council decreed thus: “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.” All Arab institutions, institutions, organizations, merchants, commission agents and individuals were instructed “to refuse to deal in, distribute or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods.”
That wasn’t all. The League declared a boycott of all goods produced by nations that did business with Israel. That included Coca Cola. It was sold in Israel; so….the Arab countries boycotted the company.
And that, too, wasn’t all. The League declared the blacklisting of firms that traded with other countries that did business with Israel!
Selling off stocks and bonds and other investment funds which make growth possible in Israeli business and industry. BDS demonstrators advance this method.
A ban on trade. It can cripple a nation’s economy, especially if it is a complete set of sanctions. At the present time, American sanctions on Iran are squeezing the life’s blood out of Iran’s economy. That is what the BDS Movement wants to do to Israel.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Two lies that BDS propagates: first, that Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank—Judea and Samaria; and secondly, that Israel is brutally treating the Palestinians.
Israel is presented as a selfish colonialist power. The BDS people castigate Israel with buzz words like settler-colonialism, genocide and apartheid. None of these fit.
BDS never, never refers to the wars and harassment that Israel has endured from her Arab neighbors.
BDS blames Israel, and only Israel, for the tension in the Middle East.
BDS blames Israel for Arab suffering and brutally treats the Palestinians.
However, the BDS movement fails to show any interest in Arab suffering unless they can fix the blame on the Jews.
It fails to acknowledge that Israeli Arabs have far more human rights and a far greater standard of living than other Arabs in the Middle East. It fails to acknowledge that even the Palestinians have far greater opportunities in gainful employment in Israel than they ever have had—that access to education and health care is greater, life expectancy is longer, infant mortality is greatly reduced, illiteracy rates are lower and that life expectancy rose from 48 years old in 1967 to 72 in the year 2000. (See more in my book Israel the Chosen, pp. 174-190
Yet, the BDS voices take upon themselves the image of virtue and compassion.
At the first BDS conference in Ramallah the conferees sought to link BDS to the South African racial segregation system. At that meeting, the goal was stated: to bring down the State of Israel.
The proponents of BDS press upon their hearers one set of principles and focus entirely on Israel as the world’s great evil with outrageous accusations not mentioned here.
This obsession with Israel’s imperfections blinds them to the actual crimes of other nations such as China’s imprisonment of a million Muslims in order to “re-educate” them, the stateless situation of the Kurds. It also distorts history with the reasons for homelessness of the Jewish people following World War II—the holocaust in Europe and the expulsions of the Mizrahi Jews in the North African nations—expelled under unusually horrid conditions with their money and property expropriated.
Key Figures in the BDS Movement
Most of the professors in Middle East Study departments in the major universities of America line up with the BDS Movement. Many of these departments have within them student groups that demonstrate on behalf of this movement.
Arab Nations’ Grants to American Universities
One reason for the anti-Israel sentiment in American universities is that over the past few decades large sums of money from Arab countries have supported the Middle East Study programs through grants, chairs and fellowships. Their literature educates but also advances the Muslim/Arab viewpoint. Seldom is this made known. But universities will accept such gifts to grow their departments. It fits in with the “viewpoint diversity” standard required under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
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The world of neighbors around Israel-- indeed many peoples throughout the world, including the United Nations, want to see the position of the State of Israel to be lowered; for Israel puts them to shame. They are envious; and Israel’s success angers them. It especially angers those ancient nations which are descendants of ancient biblical nations—Persia (Iran), Babylon (Iraq), Jordan (Moabites, Ammonites, etc.), Gaza (the Philistines), Egypt. The word “Jew” is used in at least some parts of those populations as a curse word… the only time it is used their societies.
But the Lord of heaven and earth now desires Israel to be elevated. That is evident from many strange twists and turns of modern international affairs in modern history. Israel is to be set on high—having leaped up from their lowered position in the world.
Those nations are but sparrows; Israel is an eagle which grows stronger in spite of opposition by the little birds.
Israel’s opposition is unusually harsh. Nevertheless, Israel’s help in the times of natural disaster is well known and is unprecedented for a small nation. So the State of Israel is an anomaly.
QUESTION: Is the BDS Movement succeeding?
ANSWER: No, not at all. In fact, Israel’s success in spite of opposition is phenomenal and proceeding apace. During the life of the BDS Movement, foreign investment in Israel has grown by 42%. Israel’s GDP has risen by more than 64%. And Israel has experienced unprecedented growth and is more secure economically and militarily. In these times, no nation of note would dare ignore Israel or boycott their products. The BDS Movement while active in American, Europe and the Middle East, is a failure.
This is the work of the Lord.
As Robert Jenson says in his Commentary on Ezekiel: “This God simply is the God who reverses the judgments and outcomes of this age.” (p. 143)
“This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to behold.”
And then there is God’s promise to Abraham which should be remembered:
“I will bless those who bless you,
And curse those who curse you….”
“Al-Quds” is the Arabic word for “Jerusalem.”
Islam has Mecca and Medina as holy cities, but they have added Jerusalem.
The Quds Force is one of the eight branches of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) This force is the only one which was directly responsible to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khameine.
The Quds Force represents the Muslim Arabs who are bent on the destruction of not only the State of Israel, but all Jews.
Soleimani and the Jews
When he was appointed commander of the Quds Force in 1998, Soleimani increased the scope of the Quds Force to the killing of not only Israelis but also to Jews throughout the world. That included Israeli diplomats in many foreign embassies.
A Few Examples of Soleimani’s Quds Force Terrorism:
NOTE: The mission of the Quds Force was to fulfill Ayatollah Khomeini”s goal of spreading its revolutionary efforts to “free” Jerusalem and, in order to do that, to train thousands of operatives from Hizbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Also, the Quds Force wants what all serious-minded Muslims want, and that is a world-wide caliphate. They want to rule the world. They want to hear the five daily calls to prayer to Allah from every main street corner in the world. Islam is not merely a missionary religion, it wants to be a conquering religion just as they were in the 7th century A. D. And when their forces are ineffective, many of them conclude that they aren’t strict enough in their Islamic behavior.
Islam wants to glorify Hagar and not Sarah, Ishmael and not Isaac and pretend that Jerusalem was a Muslim city from where Mohammed flew his horse to heaven.
* * * * * * * * * * *
According to reports, Soleimani has, over the years, seized control over Tehran’s foreign policy in some foreign countries, and his group operates banks, shipping lines and jetties in some Iranian ports. Daily Alert reports that “hundreds of Iranian and Arab militants have enrolled in Western universities with scholarships from the Quds Force. Uh-oh!
His work was very close to Israel in the north as he worked to establish Hizbollah in Lebanon as well as in Syria. Recently his group has been teaching Hizbollah to produce its own advanced precision-guided missiles.
The Palestinian response to the assassination of Soleimani
The Palestinians mourn his loss. Hamas and Jihad mourned his death as a “martyr,” and erected a “mourning tent” in Gaza. They will miss him as a military mentor, aiding them in their missile barrages into Israel.
Would God permit this Quds Force—Jerusalem Force—to keep going unhindered?
Might God have used President Donald Trump to inhibit the work of this Quds Force? It would seem so to me.
Well, one might ask: “Why does God permit the Israelis to be scorned and terrorized? Why doesn’t the Lord rid Israel of all her enemies?” In reply I would first quickly say that I don’t pretend to know for certain what the Lord is doing; but I do see that in modern times the persecution of the Jews (anti-Semitism) has brought them closer together. Only suffering could do that.
For eons Israel has been fragmented. And for the past hundred years or so, many European Jews have even given up their identity just to fit in with Gentile polite society. Others have simply played down their Jewishness. The waves of persecution have stopped that.
But now, it seems that, though Israel has been scorned especially in the halls of the United Nations, she is seen as phenomenal--continually making great strides in research, development and service to other poorer and struggling nations.
“The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the outcasts of Israel…
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion….
He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
They do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord.”
-- from Psalm 147
We know that God has severely disciplined the Jewish people. If He had not done so, they would not have been gathered together in the land which is the Lord God’s gift.
For the future, watch and wait. See Jerusalem and the nation of Israel continue to be transformed. And know that some day--some glad day in God's future, Israel will acknowledge her Lord, Messiah and Redeemer.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem;
May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
And security within your towers.”
-- Psalms 122:6-7
586 B. C. – Jewish Exile No. 1.
When the Jewish people were taken into exile by the Babylonians in 586 B. C. almost all of them were led by the nose to Babylonia.
70 years later when they were held by the Persians (who had defeated Babylon), Cyrus, the Persian Monarch was moved by Almighty God to assist them in returning to their homeland.
Only a portion of them chose to return when offered the opportunity. Many of them stayed in Mesopotamia and other more developed countries. They had become acclimated to a life more affluent and permissive.
Those who did return to Palestine had much of which to repent and much to learn. After that 70-year absence from God’s land, they had to learn:
(1) That their return must involve a return to holy living, renouncing other gods and shunning the people who had settled that land in their absence. Why? Because these other people worshipped other gods. For example, those young Jews who married young pagan, Gentile women were castigated and had to cast out those wives! Nehemiah: “Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign!”
(2) They had to learn as did their forbears that they are a “distinctive people”—set apart to demonstrate God’s glory, righteousness and love.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Also, after they arrived back in their land, they had fierce opposition from non-Jewish settlers who had drifted in and settled there. These were termed “the people of the land.” Recognize that? That’s what the Palestinians are, so they claim, though that is highly suspect as authentic studies will indicate. (See: Joan Peters: From Time Immemorial, JKAP)
These non-natives of God’s land in about 490 B. C. discouraged the returning Jews, just as the Palestinians/Arabs have done ever since the early 1900’s. They reported to the empire’s authorities that the Jews were big trouble. So, the Jews were forced to interrupt the building of the temple.
Ezra 4:4 – “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them….”
And so, the temple under construction stood unfinished for 17 years before the work resumed. They had to learn that this return had to mean a return to obedience to the Mosaic Law and to the God who had called them into being under Abraham. They also had to settle for a much smaller and more modest temple in Jerusalem. This helped lessen their pride.
WHAT THEY WERE LEARNING: The restoration of the land and people doesn’t come easily. But….
“The hand of the Lord our God was upon us…” – Ezra 8:31-32a
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Jewish Exile No. 2 – 1900 A. D. to the present.
Modern Israel is a nation of returned Jews--back from their exile after two millennia! But….
Not all Jews have returned to the land from their exile. Six million Jews remain in America. But they don’t consider themselves as in exile. And furthermore, they are disappearing through intermarriage!
And now, a strange spirit of anti-Semitism is increasing in America. There is widespread hostility towards them especially in the New York Area and on university campuses, places that used to be Jewish turf. American Jews, just within the past few months, are feeling noticeably less secure because of anti-Semitic terrorism and hateful demonstrations against the policies of the State of Israel.
* * * * * * * * *
However, for their part, the Israeli Jews constitute an immigrant country.
These, like their ancient brothers and sisters, do not officially have the whole land that they possessed before their exile. Under the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate, all the designated land would be theirs in which to settle. But the same British who provided this land later took the largest part of it and gave it to the Arabs.
From a biblical point of view, modern Israelis have shown timidity and lack of faith in God. Aren't I blunt? But true, they were magnificently brave during the 6-Day War; but then, brave Israelis tip-toed into the forbidden territory following that war. Their enemy wouldn’t negotiate with them nor would they recognize Israel as a nation. Israel had subdued her enemies on every side in just six days! And yet, the Israeli leaders decided they would forbid their own Israeli citizens from ENTERING this conquered land. And so, Judea and Samaria would not be opened up the slightest bit (at first) to any Jews!
Nevertheless, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) came to be occupied by an increasing number of determined Jewish “settlers”. How did that happen? Because little by little, those few religious Jews went in and put up housing, defying their own Jewish/Israeli government. The trickle became larger until it was quite a phenomenon; and the government had to give in. The building of infrastructure in the West Bank began.
Here we are—a half century later, and they are still tiptoeing, still guarded and still checking with America and the U. N. In fact, the liberals among them are guided by the European outlook: Judea and Samaria should be given back to the Arabs; and the Jewish “settlements” on that “West Bank” area must be abandoned in response to Palestinian demands.
To them, the basic parameters of the State of Israel are and should be presently determined not by the will of God, (laughable to many of them) but by human declarations, for example: The British Mandate, The Fourth Geneva Convention, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, other international laws, and by coordination with America’s State Department and President.
NOTE THIS: They do NOT have a motto like America’s “In God we trust.” And so, they lean upon a nation that DOES have this motto!
QUESTION: So, is the nation of Israel--the nation of former exiles--timid or brave?
ANSWER: They are strong militarily, but they are weak in relation to their relation to the Most High God and the strength that only HE can give.
This generation of Jewish exiles from all over the world is WEAK in spirit. They have a high degree of intelligence and they have produced technological “miracles,” but there is a huge vacuum in the soul of the nation.
And therefore, the long delay in claiming the land.
NOTE: Those who settled in the land in Ezra’s day did so in spite of virulent opposition. The opposition came from people of mixed or other races who knew not the true God. The strength of the returning Jews came from the Lord.
“When the…Arabs and Ammonites….heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward, they were very angry, and all plotted to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it…So I (the man Ezra) stationed the people…and said to them: ‘Do not be afraid of them. (Nehemiah 4:7-10 NRSV)
" Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.” (Nehemiah 4:14 NRSV)
What can the Spirit of God effect in human/Jewish lives?
QUESTION: Can the human heart be softened? Can stiffnecked pride be transformed into humility and stubbornness become pliable?
ANSWER: Yes. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
In Christian conversation that would be a “conversion” or being “born again.”
And in terms of a movement, it would be “a spiritual awakening,” or “a revival.”
In American history, we term that sort of national event “A Great Awakening,” when the whole nation is caught up in an awareness of God’s power and love. When that happens, people are bold to speak of spiritual reality. We have had three of those “Great Awakenings” in American history when most of the nation is caught up in it, the first being in the 1730’s. Many lives are changed for the better. Individuals become convinced of their sinfulness and rejoice when they experience God’s grace. Hardened hearts become tender. In the churches, worship styles become less starchy and more meaningful.
The Spirit has moved and does move among us.
But the Spirit cannot be maneuvered, nor is He altogether predictable. Just as Jesus said to the Jewish leader, Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3)
QUESTION: Could there possibly be a spiritual awakening in Israel—and among all among the Jewish People?
ANSWER: “Well, that’s a stretch,” you might be thinking.
QUESTION: But don’t they need it?
ANSWER: Yes, and here is what I’ve read from various American rabbinical leaders as they evaluate their people’s religious condition:
1) Many of their people do not value Jewish traditions (their feasts, Sabbaths, etc.)
2) Most modern Jews would be embarrassed to have conversations about God and religious experience.
3) In the synagogues and temples there is much more talk of social justice and social service than of religious experience.
4) Their common watchwords are “inclusiveness” and “choice.”
5) They are ignorant of the Torah teachings.
6) In America, 70% of their non-Orthodox young people are marrying Gentiles, making their numbers fall precipitously.
7) They are spiritually malnourished.
(For more detail, see my book, Israel the Chosen, Chapter 11, “The Crisis of Judaism.”)
This is true of a very large portion of modern Jews, especially in America. Do they need a revival? They surely do.
THE TESTIMONY OF THEIR PROPHETS
Their ancient prophets scorched the ears of their hearers, writes the late Abraham Joshua Heschel, himself a Jew. Hear him: “They [the prophets] speak and act as if the sky were about to collapse because Israel has become unfaithful to God….The prophet’s words are outbursts of violent emotions.” (Heschel: The Prophets)
“Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
Who have eyes and do not see,
Who have ears but do not hear.
Do you not fear me, says the Lord,
Do you not tremble before me?..
But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart.”
-- Jeremiah 5:21-23 (NRSV)
Does this apply to modern Jews? Yes. They need a revival.
* * * * * * * * *
But the prophets also say that in the latter days the Spirit will become very active in the house of Israel.
In my opinion and from reading these prophecies, I believe we are in the preliminary stage of this revival in Israel. (more of this in a later blog).
NOW GIVE HEED TO THESE PROPHECIES
The Prophet Ezekiel: The Lord speaking-- “I will take you from the nations….A new heart I will give to you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; and I will put my spirit within you…. And you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.” (Ezekiel 36:26, 31)
“Oh dry bones, hear the word of the Lord….And the breath came into them…” (Ezekiel 37:4,10)
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy…”“…so that when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him [their Messiah]…” (Zechariah 12:10) Yes, a true revival involves Yeshua: He is recognized and gladly accepted.
What a glorious revival that will be!
This will occur when most Jewish people will be in Israel; and Jerusalem will be the center of this spiritual activity.
“The nations shall see your righteousness,
And all the kings your glory,
And you shall be called by a new name
That the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord.”
(Isaiah 62:2-3 (ESV)
“Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David, their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:4-5
“I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I will display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you - from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.” – Ezekiel 36:23-24 (NRSV)
“Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (36:28)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Look at this.
As of 2018, the Jewish population in the U. S. was 6,925,475. The Jewish population in Israel was 6,744,000.
So, what will motivate American Jews to return to their land—the place where the Lord wants to deal with them? ["I will take you - from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.” – Ezekiel 36:23-24 (NRSV)]
AGAIN, THE QUESTION: What might excite or stimulate them to go? Would it be the beauty of the Judean hills… the beautiful cities including Jerusalem…the ancient archeological findings…the feeling that one is tracing the steps of the patriarchs and kings of Israel? Would it be the longing to be close to their rich tradition and the delights of living with their own people—the descendants of Abraham?
ANSWER: Presently, those attractions are of insufficient appeal to the American Jews.
ANSWER: Because they are in love with America!
(I am not blaming the American Jew. I am searching their minds.)
EXPANDED ANSWER-- these reasons:
The Jewish people have felt safe living in America.
The Jewish people have felt accepted in America.
The Jewish people have had the opportunity to strive for affluence in America.
The Jewish people have had religious liberty here. Those who are turned off by their traditions of Judaism can, in America, not worry about it. They don’t feel bound by “Halekhah”—the collection of Jewish Law.
The United States has accepted them. In contrast, Israel’s immigration policy is NOT inclusive. It is controlled by the Orthodox rabbis. This generation of American Jews look askew at that.
The difference: openness and diversity in America versus restriction in Israel.
Proof of this preference for America is this:
In November of 2013, Commentary Magazine (a Jewish periodical) reported the Pew Research Center’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.” That portrait revealed that most American Jews “are now choosing not to live as Jews in any real sense.” Just one example: intermarriage rates are now at 70 per cent. The article’s title: “Loving Us To Death: How America’s Embrace Is Imperiling American Jewry.” Author: Jonathan S. Tobin.
* * * * * * * * * * *
THE NEXT QUESTION: What would it take for the American Jews to move to Israel? Since the prophets of the Old Testament—The Tenakh—prophecied that God will call them from the far corners of the earth, what would it take for the American Jews to immigrate to the land—“their land”—in biblical terms. They may not say to themselves that it is their land. But we speak here from the perspective of the Bible.
QUESTION: To put it crudely, God wants them in the land. What is He going to do to get them back there?
PLEASE: Do not think that I, Quinton Everest, need to see them go from us. I am a lover of the Jewish people and try to increase my encounters with them.
ANOTHER QUESTION: What prompted most of the Jews to go there in the 20th century? What caused those “alijah’s” to occur? (Alijah—literally “to go up”) --the great movements to that land in the 20th century?
ANSWER? FEAR! The threats, persecution, pogroms, waves of terrorism and the holocaust of the late 19th and 20th centuries in Europe. That was the motivation for the largest surge.
* * * * * * * * * *
ANNOUNCEMENT: Anti-Semitic acts are on the increase in America. Terror against the Jews. Just last Sunday a man using a machete entered the home of a rabbi in a home just north of New York City and knifed five Hasidic Jews celebrating Hanukkah.
Many Jewish publications both on-line and in periodicals are asking why the upsurge of anti-Semitism in America. Many of them are truly alarmed. For example, in a dialogue between Rabbi Mark Golam and David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, Harris stated that the attacks against Jews in New York is now an epidemic. Jews are singled out for terrorist acts. Most people in America have been unaware of harassment, especially in New York City, unless it involves multiple victims; but these physical acts against Jewish residents are worse than ever according to reports.
The sources of this Jew hatred are many: neo-Nazis, white supremacy, black anti-Semitism, Islamist anti-Semitism are just some of the groups. In addition, on university campuses across our nation, the Palestinian-Israeli tension is blamed on the Israelis, and those demonstrating often express their opposition to Israel with vehemence and sometimes violence. Those doing this are most always ignorant of history and usually misrepresent international law.
What if this phenomenon continues to increase in our nation? How will our Jewish friends react? For instance, will the millennial Jews stay in America, or will they eventually, along with other ages of Jews, elect to pack their bags for Tel Aviv?
Be watchful and prayerful.
The Lord says………….
“Do not fear, for I am with you,
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And from the west I will gather you:
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up,’
And to the south, ‘Do not withhold;’
Bring my sons from far away--
And my daughters from the end of the earth.”
-- Isaiah 43:5-6
Jerusalem has often been in the news this year.
After prolonged waiting, America has placed its embassy in it. It was appropriate given the fact that it is Israel’s capital. We had waited and waited for the Palestinians to agree to negotiations that would settle the “Jerusalem question.” We needn’t have.
The Jewish people have now been returning for over a century. Jerusalem is their center.
In this Christmas Season, those who are familiar with the oratorio, “The Messiah,” know these phrases:
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people says your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.”
That was in the time of Jewish exile.
The following prayer has been in the Jewish prayer book for centuries….and it remains there (from The Koren Siddur, Prayer Book, 2015)
LEADER: “Reveal Yourself from your place, O Our King, and reign over us, for we are waiting for You. When will You reign in Zion? May it be soon in our days, and may You dwell there forever and all time. May You be exalted and sanctified in the midst of Jerusalem, Your city, for generation to generation forevermore. May our eyes see Your Kingdom, as is said in the songs of Your splendor, written by David Your righteous anointed one.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Let’s go to late 19th century Russia where persecution of the large Jewish population was merciless. In that environment where the longing for Jerusalem was deep and strong, a movement sprang up in many cities. It was known as--get this: “Chibbath Zion,”—“LOVE OF ZION.” Jewish authors began issuing the call with the slogan “Oh house of Jacob, let us go forth.”
Fast forward just a couple of decades to Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist Movement in Eastern Europe and then beyond. Early on as head of this movement, Herzl the European travelled to Jerusalem, hoping to meet the German Kaiser, hoping to get support for a Jewish land company there.
Herzl was shocked and disheartened!
The Condition of Jerusalem Just Before the Modern Return
Herzl wrote in his diary:
‘Shouts, smells, tawdry colors,’ he wrote in his diary, ‘people in rags crowding the narrow, airless streets, beggars, cripples, starving children, screaming women, bellowing shopkeepers. The once royal city had indeed sunk to the lowest depths.’
Yes, it was in the lowest depths of squalor and tyranny.
* * * * * * * *
But the wars of the 20th century brought about the opportunity for….
THE RETURN OF THE JEWS TO ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM
And the war of 1967 to exterminate Israel brought about the opportunity for…
THE FREEDOM AND UNIFICATION OF JERUSALEM
Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Jerusalem when the Jewish forces in the Six Day War of 1967 took the holy sites in East Jerusalem:
"Jerusalem, our hearts went out to you whenever we prayed, whenever we pondered the destiny of the world. For so many ages, we have been lovesick….In our own days the miracle has occurred. What happened on June 7, 1967? God’s compassion has prevailed. So many devastations. Thousands of communities wiped out. Synagogues burned, people asphyxiated. No tombstones, no graves… In its solitude, the Wall was forced into the role of an unreachable tombstone for the nameless dead.”
IN THAT WAR OF 1967, THE WALL WAS TAKEN BY THE ISRAELI ARMY
“Break forth together into singing,
You waste places of Jerusalem,
For the Lord has comforted his people.”
-- Isaiah 52:9
The Wall was redeemed, in a way of speaking. Jerusalem was one!
* * * * * * * * * * *
And now…. now the condition of Jerusalem? It is now ranked—get this--
Jerusalem, ranked as the fastest-growing tourist destination in the world!
And now, in our time, Jerusalem is becoming the world’s fastest-growing tourist attraction, according to the UK business intelligence company, Euromonitor International, reports. In the year 2018, the city entertained 3.93 million tourists from overseas. In 2019, it is expected to have a whopping 38 per cent growth to 4.8 million. (Michael Raz-Chaimovich)
The magnetic power of this city is now growing more and more powerful. We might reflect on the prophet Isaiah’s ancient but increasingly relevant portrayal of this magnetism:
It shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the house of the Lord
Shall be established as the highest of the mountains…
And all the nations shall flow to it,
And many peoples shall come and say
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may teach us of his ways
And that we may walk in his paths.
-- Isaiah 2:2-3 (ESV)
40,000 to 50,000 Jews from around the world recently converged on the site of Sarah’s burial place in Hebron and its sister city, Kiryat Arba, in honor of Israel’s matriarch. The Cave of Machpelah is the burial place, and on it is built the “Tomb of the Patriarchs.”
She passed away some 3800 years ago. Today her descendants still honor her.
She was a beautiful woman even in old age. And at age ninety she brought forth her son, Isaac. Why? Was that just a quirk of nature? No, her son was the long-promised one who bore the seed of the covenant.
These forty to fifty-thousand celebrators acted as though that was a real, historic event. Bless them! God is great!...and brought forth this son through a woman that had long ago had her menopause. They really believed the biblical record. And there are about 300,000 visitors to this tomb and cave annually….who believe. Bless them!
To these Jewish folks, I say: “How wonderful to know your ancestral relatives! In contrast, I know nothing even about my great grandmothers on either side.”
One benefit of the gathered Chosen Ones being in the Holy Land is that they can once again celebrate the people and events of biblical history, experiencing them as historical and not just legendary tales. Caves and tombs, of course, are not the only connections between then and now in Israel. Manuscripts, pots, coins, seals and so much more which are found all the time now in Israel corroborate biblical stories.
Israeli control of the land has been helpful to archeology. And archeology has been helpful to Israel.
A foremost scholar of Hebrew history, John Bright, in his most well-known book says this:
“The patriarchal age has been has been illumined in a manner unbelievable.” So much “material and inscriptional remains have come to light and have been analyzed. We now have texts by the literal tens of thousands contemporaneous with the period of Israel’s origins.” (John Bright: A History of Israel, 1981)
Unbelief in the biblical narrative used to be the accepted thing in some circles, Jews included. There is now a gradual reversal. With Jews in control, the belief factor as regards the Bible’s history, is growing stronger. Evidence of biblical history is increasing through the uncovering of the place names, people names geography and artifacts.
So….Israelis are living their past.
The Biblical Account
At the death of Sarah, Abraham went to purchase the field and cave from Ephron the Hittite. Ephron graciously offered the cave as a gift, but Abraham refused and insisted on giving the full market price of 400 shekels of silver for it. Thus, he insured that there would be no doubts about the ownership of that land.
That was the first piece of land that became Israel's.
Subsequently, Abraham himself, Rebekah and Isaac, and Jacob and Leah were buried there.
* * * * * * * * * * *
LET’S CHANGE DIRECTION HERE: QUESTION: What is the key spiritual principle of Abraham’s life?
ANSWER: It’s right there in the text of Genesis chapter 15. The Lord again appears to Abraham and repeats his promise of a son plus nations that will come after him. At first, Abraham questions the Lord. But then, after further explanation, it says this: “Abraham believed him [the Lord] and he [the Lord] counted it to him [Abraham] as righteousness.”
That is the key to being just before God—believing His Word. The Apostle Paul explains this in Romans 4 and Galatians 3.
That is the key.
The MESSAGE of the story of Abraham and Sarah is the MESSAGE of FAITH.
* * * * * * * * *
The Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs above the Cave was built by King Herod over 2,000 years ago. Despite its Jewish history and its three rooms named after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the tomb was declared a Palestinian World Heritage Site in 2017 by UNESCO. The largest of the three rooms is forbidden to Jews except for 10 days per year. Yet….
Hebron is mentioned 87 times in the Bible and is the world’s oldest Jewish community.
SO THIS BRIEF OBSERVATION:
The FAITH of Abraham was the key to his friendship with the Lord: HE BELIEVED GOD. But this property is now
largely controlled by Islamic officials whose religion is based upon the law, i. e. THEIR LAW—Sharia.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.