Jerusalem: A Cup of Reeling

Zech 12 2-3

We’re a week beyond President Trump’s historic recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Not since President Harry Truman became the first to recognize Israel as a newborn nation in 1948 has a President so solidly and profoundly declared America’s position regarding Israel.  Praise God for the stand taken by the American administration.

However, on Wednesday, Muslim leaders declared East Jerusalem the capital of “Palestine.”

Could it be that we have now stepped into a whole new dimension when it comes to God’s plan for the last days?  We are living in the time of the Gentiles…that time between the “cutting off of the Messiah” (Daniel 9:26), when God pressed the pause button on His plan for the Jewish people; and the rapture, when God will release that pause button to complete His plan for the Jews.  (See God’s Prophetic Pause, or check out Week 2 of the Bible Study, Looking for the Blessed Hope)

We are obviously talking about end times outlined in the Bible, and as we consider the ongoing battle over Jerusalem, particularly in light of announcements by President Trump, and then by Muslim leaders, we come face-to-face with Zechariah 12:2-3 (above).  The prophet Zechariah prophesied that, in the end:

  • Jerusalem will cause reeling (“stumbling” or “trembling” in other translations) to all the people around.
  • Jerusalem will become a heavy stone (“burdensome”) for all the people.
  • All who lift that heavy stone will be severely injured.
  • All the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

The end-time battle over Jerusalem is just beginning, and people (nations) are going to get injured!

But I’m reminded of something else.  We (followers of Jesus) are called to be watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem.  Isaiah 62 commands that we not be silent, but rather take no rest for ourselves, and give Him no rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth!  Jerusalem WILL ultimately become a praise in the earth when every knee bows and every tongue confesses and gives praise to the Lord!  (Philippians 2:9-11Romans 14:11)

Surely, we are approaching the time when Jerusalem will become more and more a burdensome, heavy stone which causes injury to those who try to move her.  That battle will last into and throughout the Tribulation…after Christ followers have been taken in the rapture!  So, believers, as long as we are on planet Earth, our job is to give the Lord no rest in our prayers on Israel’s behalf!

Now, a final thought.  Ezekiel 36-37 describes God’s preparation of the land and the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.  That prophecy, highlighted by Israel’s new birth as a nation in 1948, is happening PHYSICALLY, as Jews continue to return to their land.

However, Ezekiel 36:27 and Ezekiel 37:14 describe a SPIRITUAL rebirth.  With the exception of relatively few Jews who have met Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, that spiritual new birth is still  to come.  It will come after God resumes His plan for the Jews…during the Tribulation.

So, we’re seeing prophecy fulfilled right before our very eyes!  Jerusalem will become a larger and more burdensome cup of reeling, and people and nations will injure themselves messing with God’s people and the Holy City He gave them.  Our job, Christian friends, is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  Pray for the Prince of Peace to rule and reign in the hearts of those who will believe.  Our job is to take no rest, and give the Lord no rest, until He completes His work with His people and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

Then, and only then, have we fulfilled the responsibility we have been given!  Pray on, dear friends!

Hanukkah: Celebration of Light!

חנוכה שמח

Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown and Jews around the world will repeat that phrase, meaning “Happy Hanukkah!”  (Pronounced: Cha-nu-ka Sa-maech, with gutturals on the ‘ch’ sounds!)  Yesterday we talked about the meaning and significance of Hanukkah and today we’ll discover the focus of Hanukkah.

04 Menorah at Knesset (1)

7-branched Menorah near the Knesset

The focus of the Hanukkah celebration is the Hanukkah menorah, or the hanukiah.  Different than the 7-branched menorah we see symbolizing the Jewish state of Israel, the Hanukkah menorah has 9 branches, commemorating the 8 days in which the Temple menorah remained lit with a 1-day supply of oil.  (We’ll talk about that 9th branch shortly!)

Lighting of the Hanukkah menorah takes place in homes and publicly.  At home, it is customary (though not required) for Jews in Israel to place the Hanukkah menorah outside, facing the street in order to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah as publicly as possible.  Most in the diaspora (living outside Israel) place the menorah indoors to prevent antagonism, vandalism and harsh weather.  Because the mezuzah is placed on the right door post, the menorah is customarily stationed to the left of the door or entryway.  There are specific rules about the height of the menorah (usually low), but basically it should be easily seen by others.

ca7bd-menorah

Giant Hanukkah menorah, in preparation of lighting on the first night (Jerusalem 2015)

During the 8 days of Hanukkah, one additional light (or candle) is lit each evening.  The 9th branch of the menorah, which sits higher or offset from the other 8, is the shamash, the “servant candle” from which each of the other candles are lit.

At dusk on night 1 of Hanukkah, a light or candle is placed in the furthest right branch, Hanukkah blessings are recited, the candle is lit (using the shamash) and remains lit until 1/2 hour after sundown.  Each night, an additional candle is added until, on the eighth night, each branch of the menorah is aflame, giving testimony to the great miracle that occurred!  Know this, however: candles are added right-to-left, but are lit left-to-right, always with Hanukkah blessings pronounced in between!

While Jewish traditions can be fun to enact, they serve no purpose for Christians other than to symbolize Biblical principles.  (ie – Observing Jewish feasts and celebrations does not make us more spiritual, nor does it determine our salvation, righteousness or anything else.)  For example, let’s go to God’s Word to see how Jesus is the Light of the World, on display in the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
~John 1:1-5, 14 [Emphasis mine]

Jesus is Light…and He shines in the darkness!  Need more?  Check this out:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
~2 Corinthians 4:6 [Emphasis mine]

I find it fascinating that, when Jesus observed the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22), he had already proclaimed Himself to be the Light!  He had done so in John 1 (above), and he does so again in John 8:

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
~John 8:12

You see, Jesus knew what His purpose on earth was, and He was teaching His followers about Himself.  When He proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the world, the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) was a mere hours away, and He knew those followers would recall His statement when the lights of Hanukkah were lit.  (Want to dig deeper?  Read John 8-10!)

Today we have God’s written Word to tell us the same thing that Jesus said verbally!  He is indeed the Light of the World who gives us light.  Isn’t it interesting that, even in secular celebration of Christmas, we hang Christmas lights!  As Christians, if we choose to celebrate Hanukkah, we honor the historical significance it holds for our Jewish brothers and sisters, but we also know it is God’s written Word coming to life symbolically as we light the candles of Hanukkah!

Here is a very short video tutorial if you wish to properly light a menorah!  Happy Hanukkah!

Hook in the Jaw?

Hook in the jaw? Another step toward the War of Gog and Magog?  (Ezekiel 38:4, 13; Ezekiel 39:1-2)

The build up to this has been happening for years, and we discussed it in detail in January 2015.  Take a look at Signs of the Times: Oil, Gas and the Hook in the Jaw.  God’s Word is forever true, faithful, and accurate!  Those signs are coming to pass right before our very eyes!

Wake up church!  Be ready believers!  King Jesus could come for us at any time!

The Gog and Magog Coalition Takes Another Step Forward

Well, we seem to keep coming back to the same Biblical prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39.  It is most definitely not the only end time prophecy showing signs of imminent fulfillment, though it seems to be one in which today’s news is almost always relevant.  We focused on an Iranian commander’s threat this morning, and we’ll stay on that theme this afternoon.

If you are not aware, Ezekiel 38-39 describe a coalition of nations/people groups who will invade Israel, only to be totally destroyed on the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 39:4).  I encourage you to read those two chapters of Ezekiel if you are not familiar with them.  I believe you will see that today’s headlines seem to be ripped from those very pages of Scripture.

For example…

Ezekiel 38:2-3, 5-6 names the groups of people (sometimes nations) that will form that coalition.  Remember, that passage was written a few thousand years ago, so the modern country names and boundaries must be determined through study of ancient lands.  Most scholars believe Rosh, Meshech and Tubal are likely parts of Russia or surrounding territory today.  Gog is a person.  In fact, he will be the “czar” of Magog.  Though Russian President Vladimir Putin is very “Gog-like,” it is too early to state unequivocally that he is Gog.  Whoever Gog turns out to be, Ezekiel seems to indicate that he will be the leader of that invading coalition.

Persia is most definitely Iran.  Gomer and Beth-Togarmah are a bit more difficult to identify, but there is strong evidence these regions are modern-day Turkey.

As you know, if you have followed current news at all, the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey have been in cahoots for quite some time, and indeed, met together in Sochi Russia just days ago to discuss Syria.  Of course, civil war is going on in Syria and everyone involved has vested interest there.  For that northern coalition, one vested interest is that Syria shares a border with Israel…thus providing a gateway for that coalition to invade Israel, just as Ezekiel says!

However, there are other coalition partners named in Ezekiel 38:5-6.  Along with Russia, Iran and Turkey, people groups from north Africa will join the invasion.  Here’s where we plug into very recent news!  Bloomberg reported just yesterday that Russia has now welcomed Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir into official relations!  One of their first orders of business was the signing of cooperation agreements including in agriculture, nuclear power and mining.  (That guy is trouble!  Read the article for additional detail!)

Ez 38 NationsSo, why is that important news?  Because when Ezekiel 38:5-6 mentions “Ethiopia,” most scholars who have studied the historical locations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 believe “Ethiopia” may well encompass the lands we know today as Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.  (“Put,” by the way, definitely includes at least parts of Libya and perhaps part of Algeria.)

Keep in mind, Egypt and Jordan have treaties with Israel, and Saudi Arabia is becoming more and more friendly with the Jewish state, in attempts to fend off Iranian threats.  Thus, Israel (the tiny nation sandwiched in between Egypt and Jordan) is directly exposed only to the north…on the Syrian border.  Not surprisingly, Ezekiel tells us the invasion will happen from the north!

So, with yesterday’s news, we find one other coalition partner (Sudan) officially joining hands with Russia to become an active member of the coalition!

Events are happening at rapid pace, and every day’s news seems to connect one more piece of the puzzle together.  When will the last piece be snapped into place?  We don’t know…but it could be soon.  Will God the Father send His Son to snatch us away (rapture!) before that invasion occurs?  We don’t know for certain.  But what we DO know is that God has not destined us for wrath. (1 Thessalonians 5:9)  Thus, we could be taken soon!

The real question is: are you ready?