Jerusalem: The Eternal Capital of Israel

Argument abounds regarding the legitimacy of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Though David established Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom about 1,000 years before Christ, parts of the Old City, including Temple Mount, fell into Muslim control during modern history.

In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel recaptured Temple Mount and reunited Jerusalem. Despite that victory, Israel (in the interest of peace) allowed Temple Mount to remain under Jordanian control, and a very large Muslim quarter is still entrenched inside the walls of the Old City.

Regardless, there has been Jewish presence in Jerusalem for 3,000 years and every logical sign points to the fact that Jerusalem was and is a Jewish city…the eternal capital of the Jewish state, Israel.

Consider these facts, then decide for yourself whether or not Jerusalem is indeed the capital of the Jewish homeland:

Happy Hanukkah 2018

The Jewish festival of lights, known as Hanukkah, begins this evening at sundown and lasts for 8 days.  I’ll share a bit more about what Hanukkah is all about in the next few days, but today I want to focus on the celebratory nature of our Jewish friends!

I have often mentioned the Jews’ zest for life and their ability to go on enjoying life regardless of what hand they are dealt.  For example, even during times of exile and the Holocaust, Jews managed to find ways to sing, dance and find joy amidst the chaos.  I find it intriguing and admirable.

Hanukkah is one of the most celebratory occasions on the Jewish calendar, and for 8 days they make the most of it!  Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC.  Because the Temple was the center of Jewish life, you can imagine the joy of regaining their holy place of worship.  Furthermore, Jesus Himself celebrated Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication) with His family, and later asserted His deity during that special celebration (John 10:22).  Thus, though it is not one of the 7 major feasts of Israel, we know it was an actual event during Jesus’ day, and that He found it important enough to observe.

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So, being the fun-loving people they are, Jews celebrate big!  They gather together, light the menorah, cook special foods, eat jelly donuts, sing, dance and make merry!  I as blessed to be in Jerusalem during Hanukkah 2015, and made a special trip to the Old City just to catch the celebration there.  It was very festive as lights danced on the city walls, festive music blared, a huge menorah was lit, and young people danced the night away!

Jews in the diaspora (living outside of Israel) celebrate as well.  A few years ago Daley Plaza in Chicago was the scene of a well-planned flash mob celebrating Hanukkah in a unique way.  Enjoy!

PS: Stay tuned…more fun facts about Hanukkah to come in days ahead!

A “Must See” when You Visit Israel

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Hi everyone!  On my last trip to Israel I finally got a chance to take in the Night Spectacular at David’s Tower.  This is a “must see” in the Old City and I found myself asking, “What took me so long to finally do this!?!”

The Night Spectacular is an unbelievable laser light show, projected on to the walls of David’s Citadel.  Through incredible technology, historic events are splashed literally all over the gigantic walls.  Photography is not allowed during the Night Spectacular, but the Tower of David Museum has posted a video that provides a very brief glimpse of what you will see.  Take a look:

 

If you visit Israel, put this on your “must do” list!  David’s Citadel sits just inside Jaffa Gate of the Old City, and shows are held several times a week (depending upon time of year).

On a different note, I just found a really cool website celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary by posting a video per day of “off the beaten path” sites in Israel!  Come back tomorrow when I’ll share much more information about that!

Romans 10: Salvation is for All

Welcome back, Bible students!  I hope you are enjoying digging into God’s Word as much as I am!  Romans 9-11 are chalked full of instruction when it comes to understanding our Jewish roots and rightly relating to our Jewish heritage.

It is my belief that, in order to most fully understand and appreciate our salvation in Jesus, the Messiah, we must understand who the Messiah is (Jew!), and recognize that we (Christians) have a debt we cannot pay.  What glorious grace our God has shown to us in offering a way of salvation!

Yesterday we focused on Romans 9 and today we’ll move ahead one chapter.  If you have not already done so, please stop right now and read Romans 10 in its entirety.

It is important to understand the context.  The apostle Paul is speaking to Gentiles, as that is where God directed his ministry.  Thus, though he was a Jew, he refers to Jews as “them” in these chapters.  In verses 1-4, Paul is expressing his desire that his kinsmen be saved.  He references their zeal for God, yet their ignorance of God’s righteousness, leaving them to strive to establish their own righteousness apart from Him.

Image result for western wallOne of the most bittersweet places I have ever been is the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Sweet because I have never seen a group of people more fervent in their longing for God.  Not all Jews are “practicing” Jews (religiously), but many who are make their way to the Western Wall to pray (sometimes daily).  I have seen them with their prayer books, faithfully and fervently reciting the Word of God and seeking His face.  They are full of zeal and long to know their God.

It is bitter, however, in that they are “so close, yet so far” from a personal relationship with the Living God.  Jesus (Yeshua, in Hebrew) is God, and came in the flesh to dwell among them (John 1:1, 14), yet they knew Him not.and did not receive Him (John 1:10-11).  Indeed, they missed the day of His visitation (Luke 19:41-44).  However, the bitter will one day become sweet when they see their Messiah and all Israel is saved!  (Romans 11:26…but that is for tomorrow’s lesson!)

Thus, I can only imagine Paul’s agony as he longed for his people to cease their striving and simply receive the righteousness of God that is offered.  Yes, Jesus Christ is the end of the law (verse 4), and law of Moses is fulfilled in Him.

Now, focus on verses 9-13. Salvation is so simple…no matter if you are Jew or Gentile!  God’s Word says we simply must believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and we will be saved!  (BTW, if you are reading this and have not believed in your heart and confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (or if you’re not sure), do it!  Not only is this your “ticket to heaven,” but it also opens up the opportunity to experience peace with God while here on this earth!  Click here to learn more.)

Now hit the “wow” button…read verses 12-13 once again.  Friends, there is no distinction (spiritually) between Jews and Gentiles!  In other words, the Jewish Messiah who brought salvation to the Jews, also offers it from the Jews to the Gentiles (John 4:22)!  ALL who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved…Jews and Gentiles!  Christians, that is the best news ever!  Without the Jews, we would have no salvation!

Believers, verses 14-17 describe our call!  How can anyone (Jew or Gentile) believe if they have not heard?  We must tell them!  We are the “beautiful feet” that bring good news…the Gospel of Salvation…to all who will hear!  Will we be found faithful when our Lord returns?

Paul closes chapter 10 by turning his focus squarely on his fellow kinsmen, the Jews.  He is setting us up for chapter 11, so follow closely, then come back again tomorrow as we put those pieces together.

In verse 18, Paul confirms that the Jews have indeed heard.  In fact, their own voices have gone out to all the earth!  Huh…?  They have heard the Gospel and their voices have gone out, yet somehow they have “missed it” when it comes to the Messiah?  Yes!  Remember, Genesis 12:3 tells us that all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham and his descendents! They have blessed us throughout history, though they themselves have been blinded to the truth!

In their lack of understanding, they become jealous (verse 19)!  (We’ll learn in Romans 11 that that will ultimately play in their favor!  Come back tomorrow as we study Romans 11.)  Then, in verse 20 Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah:

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

Oh dear friends, that is you and I!  He has made Himself known to those of us who did not seek Him and did not ask for Him.  He revealed Himself to us and, at some point in time, we (Christians) received Him as Savior!  Glorious!  The Jewish Messiah made Himself known to us!  But not without responsibility!

Romans 11 will lay out that responsibility, but take special note of how Paul closes Romans 10:

But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
~Verse 21

To be continued…