Assembling the Outcasts: Ethiopian Jews Returning to Israel!

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The prophet Isaiah spoke of the remnant of dispersed outcasts who will be gathered from the four corners of the earth back to the land of Israel.  Over the years, droves of Russian and European Jews have made aliyah (return to the homeland), in fulfillment of Isaiah 11:12.

However, did you know that Jews from Ethiopia are returning as well?  In June, I wrote of a planeload that arrived in Israel, thanks in large part to the work and support of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Check out the jubilation here:

 

A few days ago I participated in a conference call with Nicole Yoder, Director of ICEJ Aid, who shared more about ICEJ’s part in bringing Ethiopian Jews home, and the challenges that must be overcome.

Consider this: Israel is a modern, high-tech society with a relatively high cost of living.  Ethiopia is one of the poorest third-world countries on earth, and most Ethiopians do not have the luxury of significant education.  They are often communal for the sake of survival.  Yet, when they enter Israel, they have no community (other than family members), they speak an entirely different language, they have no job skills commensurate with job opportunities in a new country, groceries and essential items are far beyond their ability to pay, and they find themselves in a culture almost diametrically opposed to what they know.

Thus, you get a sense of the challenges Ethiopian Jews face when they reach their homeland.  What is the answer to the dilemma?  In the US, we turn to government-funded welfare, but Israel has other ideas!

This is where caring organizations such as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem come in.  On our conference call Wednesday, Nicole revealed the lengths that ICEJ goes to help assimilate new immigrants.  Not only do they finance airfare to bring many of them home, they also provide assistance in very practical ways once they arrive.  In the early days of an Ethiopian family’s time in Israel, ICEJ and other organizations provide essentials such as housing and household items, and food.

However, they also begin right away helping those families plug in to language-learning and cultural immersion programs (called “ulpan”) to help them assimilate.  Recognizing the human need to “connect,” they also provide opportunities for them to meet and develop relationships with other immigrants.  But one of the most impressive services they provide is a mentor who helps bridge the cultural gaps.  Mentors are trained Israeli social workers who visit at least weekly to help families learn to grocery shop, find a school for children (or adults in some cases), prepare for a job, and just carry out everyday functions of life.

We were told this is routinely be a 5-10 year process.  Wow…can you imagine!  But throughout it all, ICEJ is there to lend assistance and support.  Thankfully, not every group has hurdles as difficult as the Ethiopian Jews.  But consider the “less needy.”  Russian Jews are often well-educated and may have specialized skills such as physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc.  But just think…if you are a doctor, you and your patient must be able to understand the same language!  You must also be licensed to practice in your new land.  There are significant hurdles, even in the “less difficult” aliyah situations.

Often, when we hear about Jews returning to their homeland, we underestimate the commitment necessary for those making aliyah AND for the Israeli government and social services that must integrate them.  It is a monumental undertaking…yet God’s Word promises that He will draw His people back to their land!

As you consider year-end giving, why not partner financially with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)?  Aliyah is actually only a tiny part of what ICEJ Aid does, and ICEJ Aid is only one of many functions of ICEJ!  However, I hope this tiny bit of information has given you an appreciation for what they do.  I personally know some of the staff at ICEJ (both in Jerusalem and in the US) and can attest to the diligence and commitment they have to Israel and the Jewish people.  Your gift is well-invested in the Kingdom of God!

Contribute to ICEJ

(Where allowed, gifts are tax-deductible if directed through the branch in your country.)

Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth.
~Isaiah 43:6

May God richly bless you this Christmas season!

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!

What do Hanukkah Blessings tell Us About Christ?

Hi everyone!  I hope you are enjoying a little bit of Hanukkah as we join with our Jewish friends in celebrating the miracle that happened!  We’re in the midst of a series of posts about Hanukkah, so if you don’t know what that miracle was, please review:

We know that lighting the candles of the Hanukkah menorah is the focus of the celebration.  It happens each evening for 8 days, and in between placing the candles and lighting the candles, blessings are pronounced.

There are three blessings.  One is given only on the first night, but the other two are repeated each night.  As with most Hebrew blessings, they are typically sung, not said, so I’ll share those blessings in audio!  (Each is only about 30 seconds long and I’ve transcribed them in English below!)

Blessing #1:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who made us holy through Your commandments
and commanded us
to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

Blessing #2:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors
in those ancient days
at this season.

Blessing #3 (given only on the first night):

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who has given us life and sustained us
and enabled us to reach this season.

Beautiful, aren’t they!  But what are the “take aways” for a Christian?  We talked yesterday about Jesus being the Light of the world, which these blessings allude to. (See that discussion in yesterday’s post.)

Secondly though, I think it is significant that each Hanukkah blessing begins with praise to God, and acknowledgement of Him as Ruler of the universe!

Though Hanukkah has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  I find it interesting that so many parallels exist between Hanukkah and Christmas!  For example: both are celebrated in close proximity timewise, light plays a significant part in each, both commemorate supernatural miracles, and many other similarities.  Not to mention the fact that Hanukkah celebrates the failed attempt to eliminate the Jews and their culture. No Hanukkah, no Christmas!

But back to the idea of Jesus being the Ruler of the universe, the Old Testament clearly prophesied of One who would come as a Ruler:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders.
~Isaiah 9:6a

And New Testament passages quoted and confirmed those prophesies:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.
~Matthew 2:6

Jesus, of course, was the fulfillment of those prophecies!  Jews acknowledge the Ruler of the universe in their Hanukkah celebration, while Christians celebrate the birth of the Ruler of the universe in our Christmas celebration!

Jesus is also the fulfillment of these truths expressed in the blessings as well:

Hanukkah blessings are steeped in truth about our Lord.  How many more can you find?

Happy Hanukkah!

 

For Zion’s Sake – December 2017

Isaiah 62 December 2017

Tomorrow is the first Wednesday of the month, which means time to pray!

Actually, I hope you pray often.  However, the first Wednesday of every month is designated as a day of prayer for Israel.  The International Christian Embassy’s Isaiah 62 Prayer Initiative is our guide and I hope you will find a local group to join with in prayer.

PRAISE: We praise the Name of the LORD, who seeks, redeems, sanctifies and saves. We praise You LORD for new names and new beginnings. We praise You for Your plan for Israel and for the nations, for it is glorious. Amen.

PROCLAIM: And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD: And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken  (Isaiah 62:12)

PONDER: New names are evocative of new beginnings, clean breaks, forgiven pasts, and a transcended future. We count four such names in this one wonderful passage: “The Holy People,” “Redeemed of the LORD,” “Sought Out” and “A City Not Forsaken.” In sum, the Jewish people shall be sanctified, delivered, pursued and favored! God will bring this to pass. We hold Him to His word to bring forth all He has promised, relentlessly reminding Him with our prayers.

PRAY: Find this month’s prayer points here.

Please be faithful in prayer today!  Blessings!