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ICEJ challenging UN abuse of Israel

The United Nations has a long record of abusing Israel, and this happened again recently when the UN Human Rights Council passed five resolutions condemning the Jewish state on various trumped-up charges. Yet there are positive signs that key Western democracies are starting to challenge this deplorable UN fixation with Israel, and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is reaching out to them to encourage this shift in attitude towards Israel.

In March, the UNHRC vilified Israel for daring to defend its citizens from violence and terror. It also wrongly described as “peaceful” the Gaza border protests of the past year. Emboldened by the friendly message coming from Geneva, Hamas immediately stepped up the violent protests and launched rockets deeper into Israel.

It has become far too easy for the Palestinians to manipulate UN forums to go along with their agenda, which aims to deny Israel its right of self-defence and ultimately its right to exist. Yet thankfully, some moral, sane countries are waking up to this twisted reality, and decided not to support any resolutions submitted under Agenda Item 7, the UNHRC’s annual session which permanently singles out Israel for abuse. They realise this undermines the cause of peace and the credibility of the UN.

The next big test at the UNHRC will be over its plans to publish a blacklist of companies doing business in Israeli settlements. The HRC was founded to deal with human rights violations by sovereign states, so this would mark the first time it has sought to sanction private actors. By singling out Israel, it is also violating its mandate to protect human rights on a universal basis “for all people”.

In response, the Christian Embassy has written to the heads of the UNHRC and also activated our national branches in key member states of the Council to press for a halt to this UN blacklisting effort. We are approaching officials in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Hungary, Italy, Philippines, Slovakia, South Africa and Ukraine. We are hopeful these democratic nations will persuade the Human Rights Council to abandon this misguided anti-Israel initiative.

The Breach: Where the Church Parted Ways with Israel

I will never forget a visit I made several years ago with a group of home church leaders in Whenchou, a city of ten million people in China. These pastors represented some one million local believers, I was told. What a privilege this was, especially when they said I was the first person to come to them from Israel. I started explaining why Israel is important to us and quickly found out this was nothing new to them. After the service I asked the leader: “Who taught you about Israel?” I still remember the puzzled look on his face. “It’s all in the Bible”, he replied.

This begs the question: What happened in the Church for it to move so far away from this simple truth to becoming the primary force for antisemitism over the past 1500 years. Hateful preaching of contempt against the Jews, pogroms, forced conversions, Inquisitions and finally the Holocaust – all made Christianity the archenemy of the Jews, even more so than Islam.

Paul’s Doctrine on Israel
This is even more startling when the Apostle Paul could not have been more clear in his teaching about Israel, to whom “pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.” (Romans 9:4-5)

Paul recognised that while most Jews had failed to accept Yeshua as their Messiah, they nevertheless remain “beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Romans 11:28). Paul saw their rejection of Jesus as a temporary state which the Hebrew prophets foretold (for example, Isaiah 6); yet he also believed eventually the time would come when “… all Israel will be saved, ….” (Romans 11:26). He thus admonished Gentile believers not to be arrogant against the Jews (Romans 11:18) and to consider their own origins: “… remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Yet now by grace they have been brought near and share in God’s promises.

Developing Cracks
The answer of why and where the Church parted ways with Israel is complex and cannot be fully covered just in this short article. In part we can blame Roman policy for it, but far more importantly we should hold the Church itself responsible for the decisions its leaders took in councils and synods in the early centuries after Christ.

Even before the first ecumenical councils, the Church already started drifting away from Israel and its Hebraic, biblical roots. After the very first Church council recorded in the Book of Acts, chapter 15, things started changing. First, the demographics of the Church steadily changed. While it started out in Jerusalem as a 100% Jewish church, within a century or so Gentiles became the majority. Jerusalem remained the spiritual center of the faith, but the Roman wars dramatically changed the Church’s connection to Jerusalem and Israel. In 70 AD, Titus destroyed the Temple, and a few decades later Hadrian expelled virtually all Jews from Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. The early Church’s unique spiritual connection to the Land and the Jewish people was significantly weakened. A further blow came in 136 AD when Marcus became the first non-Jewish bishop of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the spiritual center of gravity began gradually moving towards Rome and Constantinople.

Nicea and the Jews
The final blow, however, took place in 325 AD in Nicea, a city whose ruins can still be found in Iznik, in northwest Turkey. This became the place of arguably the most impactful council in Church history.

The Nicean Council was significant for many reasons. It was the first council to take place when the Christians were no longer a persecuted minority. Rather, Constantine had embraced Christianity as the official religion for the entire empire. And it was the emperor, and not the clergy, who convened this council to consolidate the Church as a unified force within his realm.

The main focus of the Nicean Council dealt with the nature of Jesus as both human and divine. On this point the early Church was riven with controversy. After lengthy and heated discussions, they finally reached a consensus on the ‘Jesus question’. For most participants, questions related to ‘Jewish’ matters were of secondary importance.

Yet beginning at Nicea and continuing at the councils and synods that followed, the largely gentile Church began separating from its Jewish origins. This shift occurred in three main areas: First, a change in calendar and religious holidays; second, a change in Church attitude towards the Jews; and third, strict rules against Christians engaging with Jews.

A Change in Holy Days
Until the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the churches were divided on how to celebrate Easter (Passover), and Sunday was never considered a holy day. The church in Rome and other Western regions decided to tie the observance of Easter to the biblical accounts of Christ being resurrected on the first day of the week, while going by the Julian calendar rather than the Hebrew. Any link to the biblical feast of Passover was ignored. The churches of the East, however, maintained the tradition of affixing the Passion week to Passover, which kept them more in line to the Old Testament and the traditions of Jesus and his disciples.

But at Nicea, Constantine demanded a unified Christian calendar for his empire. In a synodal letter to all churches, the Council wrote: “We declare good news to you! … As of now we do not anymore celebrate Easter according to the tradition of the Jews!”

And the emperor himself wrote to the churches in the East: “It was declared to be particularly unworthy for, the holiest of all festivals (Easter), to follow the custom of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded.”

Known for his hostility towards the Jews, Constantine continued: “We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, … [but] to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast.”

“At the same time” he added ”it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord.”

His reasoning was twofold: first, since the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, they must also be wrong in their traditions; and second, most Christians at the time simply did not follow the Jewish calendar. Thus, it was a decision based on a democratic consensus which lacked any theological basis.

Constantine’s radical approach totally ignored the multiple parallels of the last days of Jesus Christ to the biblical Passover feast. Jesus instructed his disciples to prepare a Passover meal (Luke 22:7-8) and declared “with fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…” (Luke 22:15). He kept it in many ways like Jews do until today: Jesus took the cup after the meal and blessed it. (1 Corinthians 11:25). To this day, Jews consider this third cup to be the ‘cup of messianic redemption’. Then after the ‘Hallel’, the traditional reading of Psalms 115-118, he went to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). Paul also declares that Jesus is our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). But all this was ignored.

In the same manner, a new weekly holiday was established – Sunday. Until then, Sunday was not kept at all, save for some Christians who held a time of prayers and scripture readings on Sunday mornings before going to work, remembering that the Lord was risen on the first day of the week. But Constantine’s aim was to separate the Church completely from any Jewish customs. So to keep Christians from observing Shabbat, he invented the new holy day of Sunday. A number of Christians struggled to agree. But the follow-up Synod of Laodicea settled the matter. Christians who still kept the Jewish Sabbath were to be basically excommunicated.

A Change in Attitude
Paul’s love for his people was immense. He offered, if possible, to be accursed from Christ to save some of his Jewish brethren (Romans 9:3). But these later Church councils were totally devoid of the Apostles’ passionate love for the Jewish people. Anything Jewish was unwelcome, including Jews themselves. Instead of Paul’s gospel being “to the Jews first”, the new attitude was to make it as difficult as possible for Jews to join the Church. Only if they “pronounced faith according to Nicean doctrine”, could they become members. Jews who kept Shabbat were refused baptism.

At Nicea, the bishops also asked Jewish converts to give up their Jewish names and adopt Christian ones. This completely ignored the fact that the Apostles all had Jewish names and that Mary called Jesus by the name Yeshua, Hebrew for “saviour”, rather than the Greek parallel of Isesos. And his mother was not really ‘Mary’ but the Jewish name Miriyam.

For the New Testament apostles, the world consisted of ‘the household of Israel’ and of Gentiles. Only by the grace of God could Gentiles be grafted into the natural olive tree of God’s covenant people Israel. Paul considered his Jewish ancestry as a privilege (Romans 3:1; Galatians 2:15) - though not a privilege that would save him. But for the Nicean church this biblical worldview was reversed. Paul’s question, “what advantage has the Jew” was no longer answered “much in every way”, but the opposite, only with vicious hatred. Instead of Jews being “beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Romans 11:28), they were now the “murderers of Christ”. In various council records, the list of the damned included “heretics, heathens and Jews”. In the eyes of the gentile Church, they were all the same. In Paul’s world, it was Gentiles who were without God and without hope (Ephesians 2:12), but now this applied to the Jewish people – a doctrine that ran contrary to all the New Testament taught.

Rules of Engagement
All this led to strict laws which forbade any positive engagement with Jews. Nicea and subsequent Church councils taught that Christians should have nothing to do with Jews. Leaders who visited and prayed in synagogues were to be removed from office, and ordinary Christians who did so should be “put off”. The synod of Laodicea forbade any participation in their feasts, nor were Christians to take their unleavened bread during Passover. You could not even allow a Jewish physician to treat your illness, one synod ruled. Celebrating Jewish feasts and keeping Shabbat, according to the bishops, was like “mocking Christ”.

Nicea’s Impact on Church History
All these new approaches not only created a rift between the Church and the Jews, but it also set the Church on a path which eventually led to the atrocities of the Crusades, where the killing of Jews was considered pleasing to God. It later paved the way to the Inquisition and eventually the Holocaust, when Hitler could quote the German reformer Luther to justify his hatred of the Jews.

What was even more tragic about Nicea is that it was only the second universal council of the Church. Whereas in Acts 15, the Jewish church went beyond their traditions and feelings to welcome and embrace Gentile believers, the Gentile church at Nicea shamelessly rejected the Jews from all church life and generated hatred towards them for generations to come. Only a few Christian movements – such as the Waldense revivalists in Italy and the Puritans in England – ever dared to challenge this hostile attitude towards the Jews.

A Modern-Day Miracle
With the rebirth of the nation of Israel and the emergence of a new stream of Christianity known as Evangelicalism, we have finally started to witness a sea-change in Church-Israel relations since the second half of the past century. While the historic churches are still struggling with their antisemitic attitudes, much has changed due to the ever-expanding Evangelical movement.

The rift between Jews and Christians seems to be healing perhaps faster than many expected. After such a horrible history between us, it is nothing short of a miracle to hear Israel’s prime minister refer to evangelical Christians as “Israel’s best friends”. Many Jewish organisations today have a “Christian friends” department, including the previously unthinkable Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, a revered institution which commemorates the darkest chapter of Jewish-Christian relations – the Holocaust. This required moving beyond many historic obstacles and deep emotional wounds, but even Yad Vashem has opened its doors to Christians.

On the Christian side, much has changed as well. Many Christians today take it for granted to participate in a Passover Seder meal, to visit their local synagogue or even to help rebuild historic synagogues. Christians from around the world support countless projects not only in Israel but also in many Jewish communities in their own countries. Most amazing to me is the fact that Chinese Christians today adopt biblical, Jewish names. Remember that Nicea called for converted Jews to adopt Christian names, yet now the opposite is happening. And every year thousands of Christians visit Messianic fellowships in Israel to experience and learn from their ancient biblical traditions.

It is indeed a new prophetic season for both Israel and the Church. At the ICEJ, we are privileged and blessed to be part of healing the historic rift between us and paving the way for reconciliation in these last days. We live in truly exciting times.

This year’s Feast of Tabernacles theme is “Beginnings”. Many speakers will give a fresh perspective on how God is taking the Church back to its beginnings – in a Jewish Jerusalem. Join us in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem and find out how together we can play a role in the divine restoration of Israel even as the Church reconnected with its roots in Israel.

Finally, please prayerfully consider what you can contribute towards our efforts to heal the rift between Israel and Christianity, which has been such a stain on the Church for so long. This is your opportunity to make a difference in Church history!

Source materials on the Nicea Council available upon request at media@icej.org

Passover: The Bread & the Cup

In Leviticus 23:4, it reads, “These are the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them” (NASB). The Hebrew word here for “convocations” (or “assembly”) is Miqra. The word, Miqra, means rehearsal or recital. Wayne Blank explains it as “to ‘re-hear’ what has been taught, but the modern-day accepted meaning of rehearsal, a practice session for a later event.” The Miqra referenced in Leviticus 23 when referring to the Mow-’ed or feasts in their appointed seasons, are understood as both a looking back to an event as well as a rehearsal, or looking forward, to what the Lord will do during these appointed times. Thus, we as followers of Jesus (Yeshua) bear a responsibility to declare the truth of God’s Word during the Lord’s festivals at their appointed times.

In regards to Passover, Jesus declares in Luke 22:14-16, “with fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (NKJV). Jesus was about to reveal himself through the elements of this festival they had been partaking in for centuries. We understand the Passover as a looking back on the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt and God’s provision for them. When Jesus arrives and partakes of the Passover with his disciples, he fulfills the Law established by God with the Israelites when they left Egypt which is represented in the ceremonial traditions of the Passover Seder, the traditional Passover meal. 

Naturally, most Christians focus strictly upon the bread and the wine during Jesus’ Last Supper and acknowledge it in the ceremony of Communion. This is the most important element of the Last Supper as it is a representation of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. However, when we consider the declaration Jesus makes and the point at which he makes it in the Seder, the significance of this sacrifice takes on an even deeper meaning. Jesus does not take just any bread after the meal but rather he takes the Afikomen. Within a Passover Seder, in the element of the Afikomen, there are three pieces of Matzah (plural: Matzot). There are a variety of different interpretations as to why there are three pieces. Some believe them to represent the Levites, priests, and the people of Israel. Others believe them to represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. While still others believe them to represent the Triune character of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The latter fits the following interpretation and understanding of the Seder in terms of what it means for Jesus when he takes the bread and breaks it. 

At this point in the meal, the Seder leader takes the piece of Matzah from the centerfold of the Matzah Tosh, a white bag containing three pieces of Matzah. This piece of Matzah is then broken in half and the larger piece is wrapped in a white cloth and hidden away until the end of the meal as the Afikomen. When it is finally pulled out at the end of the meal, oftentimes considered the dessert of the meal, it is broken and shared among the Seder’s participants. Thus, according to the narrative in each of the four gospels, at the end of the meal, Jesus took the bread, the bread of affliction, wrapped in cloth and stowed it away until the time had come for the bread to be distributed among everyone. It was at this appointed time that Jesus takes the bread and breaks it saying, “This is MY body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Just as Jesus’ body was broken, wrapped, and stowed away in a tomb for three days, so too was the Afikomen, the “bread of affliction”, he chose to illustrate as his body being sacrificed for the sin of the world. 

In the same way, when Jesus took the cup, he took it after the meal (Luke 22:20). In a traditional Passover Seder, there are four specific cups. These cups represent the four acts of God that he declares concerning the deliverance of his people from Egypt. In Exodus 6:6-7, it is written, “I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…” (NIV). Thus, we have the four cups, the cup of deliverance, the cup of freedom, the cup of redemption and the cup of restoration. Just as Jesus took the bread after the meal, so too he took the wine. This specific cup was the cup of redemption. When Jesus took the cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, ...” (NIV), he was referring to the Lord’s declaration of redemption in Exodus of redeeming the people with an outstretched arm and with the Blood of the Lamb. His death shortly after the Last Supper provides eternal redemption for the people of the world through His blood. Furthermore, He follows this statement with, “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God” (NIV). Here, he refers to the fourth cup which is the cup of restoration. In Matthew, he says he will not drink of it again until he drinks it again with us in the kingdom of Heaven, referring to when we are reunited and restored with him in the kingdom (Matthew 26:29). 

In light of these traditions and the representation of the Passover elements, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and the redemption we receive through the breaking of his body and the pouring out of His blood takes on even greater significance. We see Jesus fulfilling this festival when we look back to the promise of redemption in Exodus 6 and recognize how Jesus pointed to the redemption of his blood as well as his body broken, wrapped in linen, and hidden away until the appointed time or the Mow-’ed

Let us, therefore, remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and his perfect fulfillment of the Torah as a first century Jewish man doing the work of His Father in eating the bread of affliction and drinking the cup of redemption. Thank you, Jesus, for pointing back to the narrative of the forefathers of our faith, sacrificing yourself for our redemption, and looking forward to being reunited with us in eternity. Let us never neglect your Miqra and your perfect fulfillment of the Torah.

Passover & Easter - Part Two

*Photo credit: Spiritualdirection.com*

“Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah”… “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Luke 9:28-30, 35)

In Part 1 (Click here if you missed Part 1) of this teaching series, we began exploring the inseparable links between Passover and Easter (or “Resurrection Sunday”) by comparing the central figures of each holiday – Moses and Jesus. Previously, we covered Moses as a model for the promised Messiah, including as a Deliverer, a Lawgiver, and as a chosen Leader who faced rejection by his own people. The parallels with Jesus also can be seen in Moses as a Mediator and as an Intercessor.

Moses the Mediator
Moses was the chosen mediator of a divine covenant which God made with Israel in the wilderness. Having been delivered from bondage in Egypt, the Israelites came to the foot of Mount Sinai, where they entered a special covenant relationship with God as a nation. This covenant was initiated when Moses ascended the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments on their behalf, thereby acting as the intermediary between God and His people. Moses also presided over the ceremonies needed to seal this covenant and served as the repository of the divine promises which God made to Israel under its terms. Thus, he became mediator of the Sinaitic covenant, which appointed an earthly priesthood to perform rituals and animal sacrifices as a means to cover Israel’s sins.

Similarly, Christ was the Mediator of the New Covenant sealed in his own blood. The writer of Hebrews actually invites us to make this direct comparison between Moses and Jesus, spending much time laying out their respective roles as mediators of two distinct covenants.

For instance, Hebrews speaks of how Jesus “was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.” (Hebrews 3:2) Such parallels run throughout the letter (see e.g., Hebrews 3:5-6; 4:14-5:11; 9:1-15). The recurring rituals of the Mosaic covenant are described as earthly “copies” or “shadows” of the eternal salvation secured for us by Christ’s atoning blood offered once and for all in the heavenlies (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23; 10:1). And Hebrews concludes that Christ is Mediator of a “better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6). How so?

First, because the New Covenant has a better mediator. Whereas Moses had his flaws and the Aaronic priests were “weak” and needed to atone for their own sins first, Christ our High Priest “is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens…” (Hebrews 7:26).

Second, because it “was established on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6b) To begin with, the Lord swore by an oath that the Messiah would be a High Priest forever (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:17-28). Further, the Lord promised this New Covenant would provide for the absolute forgiveness of sins.

As the prophet Jeremiah explained it, the first covenant given through Moses provided a means for God to temporarily overlook Israel’s sins from year-to-year, as the various ritual sacrifices were offered by the changing, earthly priesthood. But because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the Cross, God is now able to totally forgive and to even forget about our sins forever (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:7-12). That is a huge difference! And it gives us much reason to celebrate this Passover/Resurrection season.

Moses the Intercessor
Finally, Moses was an intercessor for his people, sparing them on several occasions from the consuming wrath of God (Exodus 32:11-14; Exodus 14:11-20). When the Israelites sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf, God in His anger was poised to destroy them, but Moses pleaded with the Lord to spare them. His last line of defense was to offer his own salvation if necessary, saying “blot me out of Your book…” (Exodus 32:32). Again, when the ten spies delivered a bad report, God was ready to wipe them out for a second time, but Moses interceded and the Lord relented once more. Here, Moses implores the Lord to “pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy.” (Numbers 14:19) So in many ways, intercessor was the most important role Moses would ever play.

In a similar manner, Christ is our Intercessor and we would be completely lost without him.

In his compelling passage on the suffering Messiah, the prophet Isaiah foretold: “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

In the New Testament, Jesus is presented over and over again as having taken our sins upon himself and that he remains our great Intercessor, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Romans 8:34). For surely, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

There was no greater example of Jesus in his role as Intercessor than when he pleads for his own people from the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Conclusion
These are just some of the parallels between Passover and Easter, as seen through a comparison of the figures of Moses and Jesus. We see their closeness as well in the words of Jesus on that fateful Passover 2000 years ago. The Last Supper was a model Passover seder, and Jesus used the occasion to speak words of betrothal to his disciples, just as Moses led the Israelites in marital vows at Sinai (Exodus 19:3-9; 24:3-8).

Jesus said: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

These are traditional words of betrothal in Hebraic culture. And they remain the great hope of all believers who await the return of our Bridegroom, Saviour, Deliverer, Lawgiver, Mediator, Intercessor, and High Priest forever!
 

Join us in making this Passover an impactful one by sending your best gift to provide food for families in need during this Passover holiday!

Passover and Easter - Moses and Messiah

*Photo credit: Google Images*

There is much we could say about the inseparable connection between the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian celebration of Easter, or what I prefer to call “Resurrection Day.”

In the most basic terms, the physical deliverance of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt was a foreshadowing of the spiritual deliverance we have in Christ, whose atoning death has set us free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:17-18; Galatians 5:1; Colossians 1:13-14). Just as God spared the Israelites from the “destroyer” when He saw the blood of a lamb sprinkled on their doorposts, the shed blood of Jesus the Messiah allows God to “pass over” our sins completely (Romans 3:25; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

The figure of Moses is so central to the Passover story, and he also serves as a type or foreshadow of the promised Messiah. Moses himself even said that one day “the Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Indeed, the parallels between Moses and Jesus are quite remarkable, and the first similarity is brought out in this very prophetic passage: that both would suffer rejection by their own people.

Moses and the Rejection of Messiah
Christians often look to Joseph or David as models of the coming Messiah because they were both scorned by their brothers. But when Stephen the Martyr is confronting his fellow Israelites in Acts chapter 7 concerning their rejection of Jesus, he uses Moses as his primary archetype for their repudiation of Messiah. This cut to the quick, because Moses was the most revered figure in the eyes of those he was addressing. Yet Stephen rightly pointed out that the Hebrew children had refused to accept his leadership over and over again.

Stephen said that even though Moses was the “one who received the living oracles to give to us” at Sinai, he was still the one “whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt …” (Acts 7:38-39).

This should not have been the case. Moses was the one who had warned them to put the blood over their doors, and every Israelite family who escaped the destroyer that night and made it out of Egypt did so because they had listened to him. They owed their lives to Moses, and yet they kept questioning his leadership and ability to hear from the Lord. In fact, it happened “ten times” and actually reflected their “testing” and rejection of God (Numbers 14:22). And eventually, Moses declared that another prophet would arise one day and this time they better listen to him. “And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:19).

Now we know that the Jewish rejection of Jesus was for a redemptive reason – first it was necessary so that Christ might make it to the Cross, and secondly, so that the Gospel would go out to the nations (Acts 3:14-18, 13:46). Thus, we do not condemn them for it. This partial hardness of heart also was only for a season, and will lift one day once the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). Yet the point here is that the Moses of the Passover story suffered rejection even though He was chosen and used mightily by God, and he foretold that the Messiah would experience the same from his own people – which also occurred at Passover.

Moses the Deliverer
Moses was raised up by God to be a Deliverer for the Hebrew children from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. He spent 40 years in the courts of Pharaoh and then 40 years in the wilderness being prepared by God for this special mission. The Israelites also anticipated his coming because God had promised Abraham long before that after 400 years He would bring them out from hard service and affliction in a strange land (Genesis 15:13-14).

Likewise, Christ was a promised Deliverer from the bondage of sin and death for all who call upon his name (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13, 11:26). The Angel of the Lord told Joseph to name his son “Jesus” – meaning “salvation” – “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Jewish people in his day knew it was time for the Messiah to arrive (Daniel 9:24-26; Galatians 4:4); and they even knew where he was to be born (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6). Jesus also spent 40 days in the wilderness being prepared for his ministry of deliverance ahead.

Moses the Lawgiver
Moses was the great Lawgiver, because he gave both Israel and the world the Ten Commandments. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them’” (Exodus 24:12). Even the five Books of Moses are called the “Torah”, which means the “law” or “teachings.”

Likewise, Christ was a great Lawgiver. Indeed, Jesus beautifully proclaimed the laws and virtues of his Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5). In referring to the Lord Jesus, the Apostle James said: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).

The Apostle John said: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 - NIV). This actually means, “the law of grace and truth” came through Jesus.

The great difference between these two great Lawgivers in the Bible is that Moses delivered to us a law which was written on tablets of stone, while Christ writes the law of God on hearts of flesh (2 Corinthians 3:3). Indeed, the prophet Jeremiah cites this as one of the great distinguishing characteristics of the promised new covenant, when the Lord said: “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts …” (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10, 10:16).

Click here to read part two!

Join us in making this Passover an impactful one by sending your best gift to provide food for families in need during this Passover holiday.

ICEJ Prague & ICEJ Tanzania

Jerusalem Conference in Prague

In January, the Czech Parliament hosted an international seminar on the legal status of Jerusalem under international law and the future of the two-state solution. Organized by the ICEJ with local Czech partners and The Hague Initiative for International Cooperation, this event brought together an impressive lineup of renowned international speakers, including ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman David Parsons, legal counsel Andrew Tucker, Israeli analyst Yitzhak Sokoloff, chairman of the European Coalition for Israel, Tomas Sandell, and others to the Czech capital. More than 60 participants from 13 nations, along with ICEJ directors from four European countries, were greeted by Czech MPs and the Israeli ambassador, Daniel Meron.

Since the 1970s, the idea has developed that international law requires resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict by creating a State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and borders based on the “1967 lines”; the so-called “two-state solution”. Conference speakers challenged this concept and pointed out the difference between legal facts under international law and political proclamations, such as non-binding UN resolutions. In practice, however, the international legal system is at risk of being manipulated by coalitions of nations in order to achieve their ideological ends. Denying the Jewish people the right to determine where their capital is located falls into this category of “lawfare”.

With the evident collapse of the Oslo Accords, it is time to revisit this prevailing legal paradigm to resolve the conflict. The goal of the seminar was to provide a legal framework for the exploration of alternative policy solutions to balance the rights of the Jewish State of Israel with the rights of Palestinian Arabs to political autonomy, and economic and social advancement.

Our hope is that, in at least a few European nations, insights gained from the seminar will inspire policy makers to adopt a more realistic approach to the conflict, which could help make life better for people in the region. ICEJ has a network of branches in Europe with people who will certainly assist them in working towards this goal.

 

ICEJ-Tanzania Becomes A Full-Fledged Branch

In December 2018, I visited Tanzania. The short trip took me to Arusha, a modern city located within sight of the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro, and then to Dar es-Salaam, a bustling metropolis on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The purpose for this trip was simple: I wanted to visit what has been our most productive branch in Africa over recent years and understand the reasons for its success.

In just a few short years, our energetic National Director, Stanton Newton, managed to mobilize thousands of Tanzanian Christians to support Israel. Coached by David Parsons, who has been tirelessly traveling to the country over the past three years, Newton drafted the constitution of the Tanzanian branch and appointed the first board members. During my trip, an important milestone was achieved: The board signed their constitution which will be submitted to the authorities for registration. 

This development opens the way for further growth of the Tanzanian branch. The local team translated and designed a special version of the Word from Jerusalem in Swahili – the common language of East Africa, spoken by approximately 100 million people. We also planned to hold an ICEJ regional conference for East Africa this year in the city of Mwanza, on the shores of Lake Victoria. 

ICEJ Tanzania exemplifies that with the right people and motivation, ICEJ can thrive in every culture and connect all peoples, tribes and languages with Israel.

The Afflictions of the Scattered

“Worldwide, the situation for Jews is unstable now, but Aliyah is strong,” writes ICEJ’s Aliyah Director, Howard Flower, commenting on the sharp rise in Aliyah last year. This boost illustrates a unique pattern in the different countries from which Jews are immigrating: Jewish communities face numerous challenges, whether financial crisis, refugee living situation, threat of war, Antisemitic acts and hate speech, or other threatening circumstances.

Living in Instability
A significant region for Aliyah activity is the former Soviet Union, including Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. In Russia, the fall of the Ruble triggered a major financial crisis, forcing a large majority of people below the poverty line. Others live in consumer risk zones, which often suffer food shortages and lack of other essentials, exposing residents to health risks and malnutrition.

Aliyah Grows Rapidly
Spurred by heavy oppression, Jews are seeking refuge in their homeland of Israel. The hand of God is demonstrated in the process of Aliyah. His people are taking refuge in Israel, as they adapt to the culture, learn the language, receive training, get a job, and build a new life here. God is rescuing His people not just from exile, but also from the harsh living conditions in their current countries. 

God is preserving His people and Christians help make this financially possible. With the support of Christians worldwide, the ICEJ assists more than ten percent of all Jews making Aliyah to Israel each year. In 2018, we helped 2,539, and are on track to assist over 3,500 this year. 

Barry Denison, VP of Operations, oversees ICEJ’s Aliyah assistance. Digging through the Scriptures recently, he uncovered more truths about Aliyah from the prophet Isaiah which he shared at ICEJ’s Envision Pastors and Leaders Conference this year. 

“O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news…” (Isaiah 40:9 NASB) In many translations, this passage is translated as a command to bring good news to Zion. However, the original Hebrew indicates Zion itself is the bearer of good news. Therefore, as it relates to Aliyah, Zion bears good news to those Jews living in desolate circumstances as they return to the homeland the Lord intended for them. 

Denison continued with Isaiah 52:9-10 which reads, “Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God.” (NASB) Aliyah is a comfort to the Jewish people, especially now, as they suffer under persecution, poverty, and many other life-threatening circumstances. Aliyah is strong because God is laying bare His strength and drawing His people home. 

As believers, God establishes a responsibility for us regarding Aliyah. Again in Isaiah, the Lord declares, “‘The time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come to see My glory… and they will declare My glory among the nations. Then they [the nations] shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horse, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:18-20 NASB) As we – the Church – help the Jewish people return to their homeland of Israel, God honors it as a grain offering, holy and pleasing before the Lord.
Thus, let us continue to lift up our offering before the Lord, giving glory to Him as Jerusalem continues to be a bearer of good news to her scattered ones. 

The door is open and our opportunity is now. Become a Partner in Aliyah today, and shape Israel’s tomorrow: www.icej.org/aliyah

No Ordinary Arrival!

A very special flight from Addis Ababa landed at Ben Gurion airport in early February 2019. On this flight were 83 Ethiopian Jews finally cleared to make Aliyah. Some had been waiting their entire lives to return to their ancestral homeland and reunite with family members. This was no ordinary arrival.

While ICEJ staff members waited with the local families for the Olim (new immigrants) to arrive, we heard numerous stories of family members waiting to meet a mother, brother, or grandmother they had not seen in 12, 18, or even 38 years! Their longing was palpable.

ICEJ VP Barry Denison greeted the immigrants as they stepped off the plane. As soon as the first Olim entered the arrival hall, an entire mob of family members flooded to greet them. Frail old grandmothers in wheelchairs embraced grandchildren they were meeting for the first time. Almost instantly songs and drumming broke out in the room. At last, families were reunited in their true homeland.

The ICEJ has pledged to pay for the flights of all 1,000 Ethiopian Jews approved for 2019, and this was the first of many joyful reunions. Together we can bring them back home.

Become a partner today and shape Israel’s tomorrow: www.icej.org/aliyah

Stop the Nonsense Ireland!

One popular way to attack Israel these days is through BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction), whether in business, culture or via legislation.

A proposed law currently making its way through the Irish parliament would criminalize the trading of goods from Israeli settlements. As a native German and citizen of the European Union, I find this bill totally misguided, extremely unfair, counter-productive to peace, and – above all – morally outrageous. It is a clear example of why BDS will never bring peace and only harms the people it claims to help.

According to this bill, anyone found guilty of importing or selling any goods or services originating from “occupied territory” would face a fine of up to €250,000 or five years in jail. Yet the bill is deliberately worded to only apply to “Israeli settlements” in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and Golan Heights. Those pushing this Irish bill have proudly proclaimed it will lead Europe and the world out of the current impasse in negotiations and towards Middle East peace. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The international community has always approached the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a dispute which must be resolved by the parties involved. From Resolution 242 forward, every UN Security Council decision has been geared to offering the parties a suggested pathway to peace and encouraging them to sort out their differences in direct talks. This approach helped produce the Oslo Accords, witnessed by the EU, which left the fate of the settlements to a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, the Republic of Ireland is now trying to force the issue unilaterally. Yet how is putting someone in an Irish dungeon for buying a gold-medal winning bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Tura going to bring us closer to peace? A housewife making a salad with olive oil from Shiloh or a dessert with dates from the Jordan Valley could unknowingly bankrupt her family. Will some Jew-hating neighbour see such contraband in her kitchen and report the family to the Irish authorities? How can you ever fairly enforce such an absurd criminal law?

The bill is also counterproductive to peace, in that it rewards Palestinian intransigence. When all the blame is being placed on Israel, what incentives do the Palestinians have to make concessions? Are the Jews who have returned to the heart of their ancient homeland any more a threat to world peace than those Palestinian neighbours who have been violently attacking them for decades?

In practice, this criminal law would harm Palestinians the most. As the SodaStream episode made clear, many businesses and factories in the Israeli settlements employ Palestinian workers and pay them salaries four times higher on average than what ordinary Palestinians earn. These breadwinners often support large families, so tens of thousands of Palestinians could be impacted if, due to BDS pressure, Israeli businesses fire these workers and move elsewhere.

But the truly odious aspect of the Irish bill is its blatant anti-Semitism, as it viciously singles out Jewish ‘occupiers’, while ignoring all other occupying forces in the world. What about olive oil from the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, fish from Russian-occupied Crimea, or dates from Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara? All these products are free to enter the Euro zone, while it is the Jews who must be taught a lesson again. How can this truly be a righteous act, as the Irish sponsors claim, when it is so clearly discriminatory?

I cannot help but think these Irish do-gooders are taking us straight back to the racist laws of the 1930s in Germany. Kauft nicht bei Juden! “Don’t buy Jewish!” was the rule then and is precisely what this law tells Irish citizens today. It is legislated anti-Semitism dressed up in nicely polished legalese and mere lip service to promoting peace and “European values”

If we have truly learned the lessons of the Holocaust, Europe will reject this attempt to single out Jews for punishment.

So please stop the nonsense, Ireland!
 

New Year & New Home

This new year holds the promise of many new beginnings, and for the ICEJ one of those new beginnings involves a move to new offices. After much prayer, and four months of evaluating almost every available rental space in Jerusalem, we have finally found a new place to serve as our ICEJ Headquarters for at least the next two years. The new ‘home’ takes up an entire floor in a large office building in southern Jerusalem. 

Thank you for your prayers regarding this move. Please continue praying for grace, strength, protection and favour as our staff adjusts to the new working environment after 22 years at the property Rachel Imeinu. Once some necessary remodeling is completed in June, we will be ready to receive visitors. Watch for updates on our progress, when we will share the new address and instructions on arranging a tour of the new building! 

During this transitional season, we also invite you to continue praying for a more permanent home for the ICEJ, as we are convinced that the Lord would have us own and not just rent an office building here in Jerusalem. We are excited about the great plans God has to expand our work and ministry in Israel and around the world, and we look forward with faith and anticipation to seeing this unfold in this new year filled with new beginnings!

 

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