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ICEJ Delivers Cyrus Award to Guatemala President Jimmy Morales

On Wednesday, 16 May, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem delivered its new Cyrus Award to President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala in honor of his nation’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its Embassy to the holy city. President Morales was in Jerusalem that day to officially open the new Embassy of Guatemala in the Malha neighborhood. The Christian Embassy has established the Cyrus Award as a special honor bestowed on those national leaders who distinguish themselves by officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and by moving their embassies to the city, out of respect for its historic status as the center of Jewish national, religious and cultural life and aspirations.

“We are thrilled that the nations are finally starting to come back up to Jerusalem, with the United States and Guatemala in the forefront”, said ICEJ President, Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “It is wholly appropriate that we give due respect to those national leaders who have shown courage and moral leadership by initiating this historic return to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The Cyrus Award was created following the historic declaration of U.S. President Donald Trump in December 2017 to grant de jure recognition to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the American Embassy to the holy city. This principled decision challenged the decades of unfair treatment of Israel by the international community as the only nation in the world denied the sovereign right to designate the city of its choice to serve as its capital and seat of government. The Cyrus Award also will be presented to President Trump in the near future.

In 1950, the newly reborn nation of Israel chose Jerusalem to be its capital, reflecting the deep attachment of the Jewish people to the city ever since King David made it the capital of his united Israelite kingdom over 3,000 years ago. In the ensuing millennia, Jerusalem gained universal spiritual significance and today is revered by billions of people of faith worldwide. Yet only the Jewish people have ever made Jerusalem the capital of their national life and central to their identity as a distinct people.

The Cyrus Award is named after Cyrus the Great, the founding monarch of the Persian Empire who is remembered today for his tolerant attitude and actions towards religious and ethnic minorities within his vast kingdom. His humane decrees toward these minority communities were exceptionally unique in the ancient world, and are preserved to this day on the renowned Cyrus Cylinder now proudly on display in the British Museum in London. This exceptional archaeological treasure, which was discovered in 1879 underneath the foundation of an ancient Babylonian temple in Iraq, contains the decree of King Cyrus to allow religious minorities within his realm to rebuild their temples and reclaim their religious heritage.

The Bible documents this noble legacy as well, and even presents Cyrus as a prophetic figure decades before his rise to power. His edict charging the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the “house” of the “God of heaven” is recorded in Second Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-8, among other passages. Indeed, Cyrus not only allowed the Jewish people to return from exile to rebuild Jerusalem and their holy Temple, but he also provided funds from the royal treasury to support these endeavors.

Thus, the Cyrus Award is a special distinction reserved for worthy leaders of nations who show solidarity with the Jewish people by respecting their eternal bond with Jerusalem through their official recognition of the city as the capital of Israel. The award itself is a replica in gold of the prized Cyrus Cylinder, specially crafted by noted Israeli artist Sam Philipe.

When the last thirteen national embassies left Jerusalem in 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was founded as a permanent expression of Christian solidarity with Israel and particularly with its capital of Jerusalem, in recognition of the ancient Jewish attachment to this city. From its headquarters in Jerusalem, the ICEJ now oversees a worldwide pro-Israel Christian movement with established branch offices in over 90 nations and a reach into more than 170 countries worldwide.

Building A Strong Base

What makes an army strong? The answer seems obvious: superior combat power that defeats the enemy. But how is that combat power generated? If tanks and kit can’t get to the front line, the IDF’s combat power is diminished. If wounded soldiers are not evacuated and treated with the best care possible, soldiers’ motivation to take risks is lowered, and they might not fully recover to fight another day.

The City of Bases is a recent desert bloom south of Beer Sheva. This huge complex houses schools for various combat service support functions, e.g. the IDF’s School for Medicine, School for Logistics, and the School for Military Police. At any given time 3,000 recruits and cadets are undergoing training and educational activities at this desert base.

Without these combat service support functions, an army will quickly suffer exhaustion and dysfunction. Yet, the City of Bases contains one more educational unit that lends essential strength to the young men and women protecting Israel, and which has always been part of the IDF’s fighting spirit.

Yad Vashem’s spiritual and ethical components
The moral fibre of an army, which is a combination of why and how it fights its battles, is indispensable. If an army cannot fight with honour and integrity, it loses the deeper underlying battle. This is why Yad Vashem so highly prioritises its moral contribution to military education.

At the City of Bases, Yad Vashem has a small but innovative teaching space for Holocaust education. However, the Holocaust itself is only part of the context. The main purpose is to equip and build Israel’s young men and women at arms into morally and ethically excellent soldiers and individuals. The school’s dictum: “The Image of Man in the Shadow of Death” testifies to this. One might see this as denoting a dark sentiment, but it is an effort meant to maintain human dignity and identity, both in oneself and in one’s perception of the enemy. Educational activities focus on core ethical questions related to power and ethics, empathy and basic humanity, which alert students to the pitfalls and dangers of wielding power over others. Studying the Nazis’ decision-making process and acts of dehumanisation helps students understand the need for empathy, even with enemies.

Widening the reach – increasing the impact

To better teach and accommodate the many thousands of students that pass through the City of Bases, Yad Vashem hopes to construct a new building. This new, expanded and enhanced learning centre will help ensure that the IDF continues to excel as the moral and ethical army that has won all Israel’s victories since 1948. This is why the ICEJ and the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem wholly support the project to expand and enhance Yad Vashem’s educational centre at the City of Bases.

Build a strong ethical base for young Israeli soldiers and maintain the IDF’s call to moral excellence by investing in Yad Vashem’s new educational centre.

Visit https://int.icej.org/yvs_school to give your vital donation.

Coping with PTSD

“The Boat is Sailing” is a unique programme that helps people with PTSD by using sailing as a rehabilitative and therapeutic tool. It was developed by Yoav Ben David, a former POW from 1973, who personally dealt with PTSD. For many years Ben David searched for a way to cope, and he discovered that sailing in a team can boost the rehabilitation process. “The participants come to know that their disability need not deny them exhilarating new experiences in unfamiliar settings, such as in the open sea,” Ben David says. “They learn to take responsibility for others and to deal with challenging situations as well as working in a team. They are also encouraged to share their traumatic experience among programme participants.”

A research study conducted by the Ministry of Defence in 2009 showed that this programme rehabilitates individuals with PTSD much better than any other traditional treatment. “The participants find a reason to live, wake up in the morning, engage in work and interact with other people. It also gives them the motivation to integrate into life and society again,” says Ben David. Sixty participants meet once a week in six small groups for sailing sessions to learn about the sea, symptoms of PTSD, and sailing skills. Participants can later become counsellors and guide new members in this activity.

One of the participants, Yotam, experienced a terrorist attack that killed many soldiers at the bus stop where he was waiting with many others to return to his base. Yotam doesn’t recall much, except that someone stopped him when he walked down the road drenched in blood. Shock and trauma affected him so deeply that he withdrew from all social contact and was unable to cope with daily life. Very slowly, through the "Boat is Sailing" programme, he began to find a way to deal with his PTSD. His small group gives him the strength to carry on despite the ongoing emotional challenges that he continues to face every day.

An Israel On The Rise

It has been 70 years now since Israel was miraculously reborn as a nation back in her ancient homeland. In that time, the Jewish state has faced many wars, terror attacks, rocket barrages, economic boycotts and other attempts to strangle the young nation. She also had to absorb several million new immigrants, many penniless refugees of conflicts and forced expulsions. Yet despite all these challenges, Israel is a nation on the rise.

Israel remains on an ever upward trajectory because of God’s favour, and the resiliency and determination of her people. Yet, some still expect the Jewish state to go through one last dark period of divine judgment and annihilation during the ‘Great Tribulation’ before they are finally reconciled to God.

However, the Bible assures us that Israel has already been through the worst of God’s dealings with them during their times of uprooting and exile, while their future back in the land is now bright and full of hope (Isaiah 60). No doubt, Israel will face more troubles ahead, but the Lord will deliver her out of them all (Isaiah 31:5; Joel 2:32; Zechariah 14:3). Rather, the troubles and tribulation still to come are all about God’s humbling and judging of the nations to prepare the way for Jesus to come take up the throne of his father David in Jerusalem. This was the teaching of Jesus himself in his Mount of Olives discourse, found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

The Eschatology of Jesus
The context of these parallel passages is that Jesus has just predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. His closest followers ask him when this will occur, and what is the sign of his coming and of the end of the age? Now we think they are asking about what we now refer to as the “Second Coming”. But they had no idea yet about the return of the Lord after many long centuries in heaven. They did not even know about his Ascension yet. Rather, the disciples wanted to know when and how he would present to the entire nation the proof of his divine authority and credentials as the promised Messiah. And they expected this to trigger the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom within their lifetime.

So Jesus is confronted with a serious challenge. He must completely reset their prophetic timetable while preparing them for the tough times just ahead. He knows that the Temple will soon be destroyed and that many long centuries of exile await the Jewish people. The Luke version, in particular, sets out two very clear and distinct times of tribulation and judgement – one for Israel in the days when the Second Temple was destroyed and the Jews were forced into exile; and a second one for the nations at the end of the Gentile age. The first would begin in their lifetime, while the latter would only occur after Israel’s judgment and exile is over. After all, judgment begins in God’s house first, among His people, before the unrighteous nations are judged. (1 Peter 4:17)

Judgment on Israel
The first period of judgment foreseen by Jesus involves God’s wrath upon Israel, which began in the lifetimes of his earliest followers and led to the sacking of the Temple and the scattering of Israel. Jesus is speaking straight from the “curse” spelled out by Moses – in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 – should Israel turn their backs on God. He knew that the Father had prescribed exactly how He would punish Israel for her sins, and it is through sieges on their cities that get so bad the Jewish people turn to cannibalism, and it ends in their exile among the nations. In his farewell message to the Israelites, Moses also warned that “many evils and troubles” would surely befall the people due to their rebellious nature (Deuteronomy 31:17, 21), resulting in long and painful exiles from the Promised Land. He added that this was not a matter of “if” but “when”.

This manner of divine judgment then becomes a common thread throughout the Hebrew prophets. For instance, it appears in Jeremiah chapters 30 to 33, in Ezekiel chapters 5 and 37, and in Zechariah 13.

The Lord describes the severity of the judgment which would come upon Israel in the first century by saying, “I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again...” (Ezekiel 5:9) This prompts Jesus to warn, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21) The Apostle Paul later proclaims that “wrath has come upon them to the uttermost”. (1 Thessalonians 2:16) Again, these passages describe the worst that God would ever do to the Jewish people, and they all pivot around the violent expulsion and long exile of the Jews from their land beginning in the first century.

Yet it all finally ends in a national restoration of Israel back in the land that ultimately gives way to her spiritual restoration as well. History testifies that all this has taken place over the past 2,000 years of Israel’s violent uprooting and scattering to all nations. And the firm promise of God is that we are now in a time of His great favour and restoration for Zion. This is an irreversible process, and nothing can stop or interrupt it. (Jeremiah 24:6, 31:28, 32:41; Amos 9:15)

Judgment on the Nations
The second period of judgment involves God’s humbling and correction of the nations. Here again, Jesus knew that God prescribes in Scripture exactly how He will finally judge the nations at the end of the age. And he points to the Flood of Noah as the model for this, saying, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37) Yet this global judgment will not be by water but by fire this time! The New Testament is clear that Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as examples of the fiery judgment that awaits the world at the end of the age. (see, for example, Luke 17:28-30; 2 Peter 2:5-6; Jude 7).

Conclusion
When we read the prophetic teachings of Jesus in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, there is a tendency to cram every bad thing spoken of in these chapters into the end times. But we can actually check off the worst things predicted there for Israel, since they have already been fulfilled in their long and difficult uprooting and exile from the land. Instead, the focus of God’s wrath still to come will be on the growing rebellion among the rest of humanity, and Jesus instructed us to look to the “Days of Noah” as the paradigm for what lies ahead. For in it lies the key to unlocking the timing of “the coming of the Son of Man”. (Matthew 24:37-39)


You can read an in-depth explanation on the Flood model in David Parsons’ new book Floodgates. Order your copy today!
 

The Christian Role in Israel

As the people of Israel celebrate the 70th anniversary of the nation’s modern rebirth in 1948, they are looking back with great respect for all those who worked to establish the state and then fought bravely to secure victory in the War of Independence. This includes a number of Christian figures who played key roles in Israel’s founding seven decades ago.

Christians impact the UN Partition Plan
The passage of the UN’s Partition Plan for Palestine on 29 November 1947 paved the way for Israel’s independence, with the help of some unheralded Christian friends.

With Arab-Jewish clashes mounting in Mandatory Palestine, the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was sent in summer 1947 to conduct an inquiry and propose a solution. The committee members were impressed with Jewish advances in the land. But they refused to meet with the 250,000 Jewish refugees in displacement camps across Europe, until the saga of the refugee ship Exodus ’47 unfolded. The vessel was packed with 4,500 desperate Holocaust survivors, and was attacked by British forces as it approached the coastline.

Rev John Grauel, a Christian sympathiser with the Zionist cause, volunteered as the only non-Jewish crew member and witnessed the British assaults on the Exodus off Haifa. He rushed to Jerusalem and gave compelling testimony before the committee; how the ship was rammed seven times, then boarded by armed sailors who shot and clubbed to death defenseless boys.

“The Exodus had no arms,” Rev Grauel insisted. “All they fought with were potatoes, canned goods, and their bare fists.” The refugees eventually were returned to Germany. The tragedy stretched out several months before a worldwide audience, fuelling the committee’s growing sense of its humanitarian mission.

Rev William Hull also impacted UNSCOP that summer, especially the Canadian delegate, Justice Ivan Rand. Also from Canada, Rev Hull had ministered in Jerusalem since 1935 and knew first-hand of the injustices visited upon the Yishuv by British and Arab alike. Over dinner one evening, Justice Rand listened to Hull’s views and later admitted their encounter clarified his understanding of the dispute and gave him new appreciation for Zionist endeavours. Justice Rand was a respected member of the committee and, since Canada was part of the Commonwealth, his anti-British leanings held great sway. He took a firm position that Britain had unfairly restricted Jewish immigration and land purchases.

Guatemalan Ambassador Jorge Garcia-Granados, a revered Christian diplomat on UNSCOP, understood the real meaning of the Jewish return. In The Birth of Israel, Granados writes of UNSCOP’s enthusiastic welcome in Tel Aviv that summer, “I contemplated the enormous mass of humanity filling the square and overflowing into the streets… still applauding, still cheering… It was then that I first really realised what the coming of our committee meant to the Jewish people. We held in our hands life or death.”

The majority of UNSCOP recommended ending Britain’s role in Palestine, partitioning it into separate Jewish and Arab states with economic ties, and placing Jerusalem under an international trusteeship. The UN Partition Plan (Resolution 181) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 29 November 1947 by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.

The Jewish Agency accepted this decision, but the Arabs launched an armed resistance to the plan. By the time the British Mandate ended on 14 May 1948, Arab-Jewish fighting had resulted in a de facto partition of Eretz Israel and the Jewish people were poised to declare the rebirth of their ancient nation.

At 4:00 pm on May 14th, Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion addressed the crowd gathered inside the Tel Aviv Art Museum. In declaring the new state of Israel, he proclaimed that its moral and legal foundations had been laid by “the Balfour Declaration, the UN Partition Resolution, the sacrifice of the Zionist pioneers, and the torment suffered by Jews in recent years”.

Later that day, the UN met in New York to consider last-minute Arab proposals designed to avert impending Jewish statehood. In the midst of the debate, the US delegate went to the rostrum to officially confirm that President Harry Truman had just given de facto recognition to the new State of Israel at 6:11 pm. Despite stiff opposition from both his Secretary of State and Defense, Truman was steeped in the Bible and swayed by compassion for a beleaguered minority people. Moments later, Ambassador Garcia-Granados, once a member of UNSCOP, arose to announce Guatemala as the second country to recognise the new state.

Christians defend the new state
The outnumbered Jewish forces under Ben-Gurion’s command now awaited the expected invasion of armies from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. The leaders of the Haganah, or Jewish Underground, had been trained to fight by British officer Orde Wingate during the Arab uprising of the late 1930s. A staunch Christian Zionist, Wingate had taught his officers to always command from the front, not the rear – a doctrine still followed by the IDF to this day!

During the ensuing War of Independence, the Jewish forces in the land were joined by some 4,700 volunteers from 59 countries who came to help defend Israel. Most were Jewish veterans of World War II, but there were also around 200 Christians who joined them, including many of the pilots in Israel’s fledgling air force. These courageous volunteers came to be known as “Machalniks”, and they brought invaluable fighting skills and experience to the newly-formed Israel Defense Forces.

One of the most notable Christian Machalniks in 1948 was Tom Derek Bowden, also known as Capt David Appel to his Jewish troops. Bowden had begun his military career as a cavalry officer in Mandate Palestine, serving under Wingate in a counterterror unit. Then in World War II, he was back in the region fighting with Allied forces in Syria, where he was badly wounded in the same battle in which his sergeant, Moshe Dayan, lost his eye. During these times in the Land, the affable Bowden made many Jewish friends and even dated a local Jewish girl. This would later cost him when fighting near the end of the war in Holland.

Switching over to a paratrooper brigade, Bowden took part in the battle of Arnhem, where he was wounded once more and captured by German troops. After a daring escape, he was recaptured and searched by SS guards, who found letters on Bowden from Jewish friends in Palestine. So he was sent to the Bergen-Belsen death camp for a month, where he was forced to carry Jewish corpses for burial in open pits.

Bowden later recalled that the experience changed his life. As the war ended, he left the British army. But when he heard about the Arab threats against Israel in May 1948, he rushed by boat and plane to Haifa to join the battle. Because of what he had witnessed at Bergen-Belsen, Bowden said he simply felt compelled to come defend the Jews from another attempt at annihilation.

At first he joined the 7th Brigade in the battle for Latrun. He was in charge of a unit of Polish Jews who had just arrived from the refugee camps in Europe, and without knowing their language he taught them how to handle rifles by hand gestures. He also took part in the forging of the Burma Road to Jerusalem and continued with the brigade as it battled its way through the Galilee.

With the armistice of 1949, Bowden was asked to start a parachute school. As company commander and chief instructor of Israel’s first parachute regiment, the 72nd Battalion, Bowden brought army surplus parachutes from England and made four jumps “before breakfast every day”. He also wrote Israel’s first training manual for the paratrooper brigade, which went on to fame in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the 1967 Six-Day War.

Today, Derek Bowden is 96 years old and resides near Norfolk, England, with his wife Eva. He is the last-known living Christian Machalnik from the 1948 war and remains proud that he was the first Christian commander in the IDF. During a recent courtesy visit by ICEJ-UK national director Rev David Elms, Bowden also affirmed that it was his Christian faith and compassion which motivated him to go defend the new nation of Israel at its rebirth.

Restored for Destruction?

“Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.” (Jeremiah 30:7)

A few years ago, I listened to the sermon of a well-known Bible teacher who basically stated: “The Jewish people did not learn the lesson of the Holocaust, so they need to go through more suffering that will make the Holocaust look small in comparison.” A similar thought we frequently hear is: “Two-thirds of the Jews will die in the Great Tribulation.” In other words, the worst chapter in Jewish history is still ahead of us. Or to put it more bluntly, God is returning the Jewish people back to their homeland of Israel in order to kill two-thirds of them in a massive conflagration. These views are usually linked to ominous quotes from the Old Testament prophets which seem to underline their point. One such passage is the above verse from Jeremiah, which speaks about the “the times of Jacob’s trouble”. Other passages used to bolster this teaching are Zechariah 13:8-9 and Ezekiel chapter 5, which both speak about a time when two-thirds of those in the land will be wiped out.

The prophetic context
I personally have strong reservations with subscribing to this kind of interpretation, because I believe that it takes these passages out of context and, even more importantly, they misrepresent the character of God and His present purposes for Israel. At the same time, Scripture indicates that “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and the time when two-thirds of Israel are to be cut off, refer to two different events in Jewish history. Allow me to explain.

A. Jeremiah and Jacob’s trouble
The prophet Jeremiah introduces in chapter 30 a great succession of passages (30-33) that foresee the restoration of Israel, culminating in a “new covenant” of changed hearts and the rule of the “the Righteous Branch”. God makes sure that these prophecies will not be lost for future generations, as He explicitly tells Jeremiah to “write down” the words, because “I will restore the fortunes of My people… and I will bring them back to their land…” (30:2-3)

Then God begins to lay out, from verse 4 onward, the sequence for how He is going to accomplish this redemptive work. He first sees a picture of despair and calamity: “Cries of terror and panic!” Concluding with the call: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble…” (30:7). Immediately following these verses, God’s restoration programme starts to play out. The Lord announces that change is coming as He breaks off the yoke of oppression (30:8), until Israel will finally serve God and His Messiah. He continues:

“Therefore, do not fear, O My servant Jacob … For behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid.” (30:10)

A similar sequence of events is found in the following chapter of Jeremiah 31, where the prophet declares: “Thus says the LORD, ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness …’” (31:2) Israel escaped the sword and God saved them. This declaration again is followed by the promise of return from exile: “Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, … A great throng shall return there.” (31:8)
This indicates that the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’ represents an unprecedented catastrophe (‘none is like it’) at a time when Israel is still exiled. Out of this crisis, God is restoring them back to their land.

This is what we see fulfilled in the modern history of Israel. A nation that barely escaped complete annihilation in the Holocaust, with six million dead, yet they arose from the ashes of that great tragedy and returned to their homeland to re-establish the nation of Israel, just as the prophet Ezekiel foretold:

“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!”’ “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”’” (Ezekiel 37:11–12)

The Holocaust indeed was one of the darkest chapters of Jewish history. It was a time of Jacob’s trouble and all historians agree that it was a singularly unique tragedy in human history. Yet out of this season of devastation and hopelessness, God saved His people and restored them to their land.

B. Ezekiel and the scattered hairs
Ezekiel was the first prophet to foresee the calamity of two-thirds of the people of Israel perishing. (Ezekiel 5:1-4) He prophesied these things during the Babylonian Exile and was asked to carry out a strange act to demonstrate what was coming: to take a razor blade and cut off all the hair on his head and beard! Then “you shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, … then you shall take one-third and strike it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind….” (5:2) “This is Jerusalem,” explains the Lord. A two-thirds majority will be wiped out in famine, judgement and war, while the remaining one-third are not redeemed but scattered around the world, with harsh persecution following them even in exile. (5:2-4)

C. Zechariah and the shepherd
Zechariah lived in the time when Israel was returning from Babylon. Chapters 12-14 speak about the end-time struggle and restoration of Jerusalem, climaxing in the redemption of Israel as the “spirit of grace and supplication” is being poured out upon them. Yet right in the midst of these passages, the prophet inserts a vision about the Messiah…

“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the man who is My Companion,” says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” (Zechariah 13:7)

Jesus himself quotes this scripture (Mark 14:27), referring to its fulfilment in the Garden of Gethsemane, as his disciples fled leaving him to suffer alone. In a broader sense, it is also a picture of the entire nation of Israel being scattered three decades after Christ, who is the great Shepherd who was “struck” and died. In this context, Zechariah foresees tragic times for all of Israel: “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the LORD, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it.” (Zechariah 13:8)

The accounts of the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius tell us that during the first Jewish uprising, prior to the destruction of the Temple, some 1.1 million Jews lost their lives in the land of Israel. Just a few decades later, during the Bar Kochba revolt, the Roman historian Cassius Dio tallies another 580,000 Jewish casualties, with the surviving remnant being exiled. This would bring the total number of casualties in both revolts to over 1.7 million people.

Moreover, the Jewish historian Salo Wittmayer Baron estimated the population of Israel at 2.3 million at the time of the Roman emperor Claudius (41-54 AD). Two-thirds of this number would represent some 1.5 million people. So, there is amazing accord between these secular histories and the words of the Hebrew prophets foretold some 500 years earlier. Both the history books and the prophetic context of the ‘stricken shepherd’ compel us to place these events in the past and not in the future.

Jesus himself foresaw this calamity over Israel when he wept over Jerusalem. “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations.” (Luke 21:24) Zechariah likewise foresees an extended period of judgement for Israel, with two-thirds perishing while the one-third remnant is placed through the “fire” of exile, followed by their eventual redemption.

Thus, there is a common thread that can be followed throughout these prophetic writings in Jeremiah 30-33, Ezekiel 5 and Zechariah 13. The process of Israel’s redemption starts with the rejection and striking of the Shepherd. This is followed by a huge upheaval in the land of Israel where two-thirds are “cut off” with the remaining one-third scattered to all the nations. This exile is accompanied by the refining fire of ongoing persecution and culminates in a final calamity outside the land known as “Jacob’s trouble”. Finally, it ends with a national restoration of Israel that ultimately gives way to her spiritual restoration as well.

This very same sequence also can be found in the great chapters of Ezekiel 36-37, while Psalm 102 also forsees a Holocaust-type ordeal after which God declares that “the time to favour Zion has come!”

The new paradigm of favouring Zion
The prophets indicate that once God’s restoration purposes with Israel set in, nothing can stop or interrupt it anymore. Zechariah tells us that Jerusalem will become a “cup of drunkenness” for the world and that the nations will eventually gather against Jerusalem. Although, the same prophet also declares that it is the nations who will be judged, while Israel is delivered and comes out victorious.

The restoration of Israel represents a paradigm shift in how God is dealing with the Jewish people. The prophet Isaiah starts his restoration-chapters (40-48) with the call to “Comfort My people” and to cry out to her, “that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2) This expression “her iniquity is pardoned” could be better translated from the Hebrew as “her debt has been settled”, or “she has paid for her sin”. Rather than pardon or forgiveness, it reflects the idea that God has completed His season of judgment with Israel and He is no longer dealing with her anymore according to her sins. God is telling the world to cry out to Israel saying that her warfare and time of judgement has ended, and a new season of restoration lies ahead of her!

Likewise, Zechariah declares: “‘But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ says the LORD of hosts… ‘Just as I determined to punish you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘And I would not relent, so again in these days I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear.’” (Zechariah 8:11-15) This means that God has started an unwavering restoration process representing a radical shift in how He deals with Israel. This does not mean He will never again correct Israel, like a loving father would his son, but it will be done “with measure”. (Jeremiah 30:11)

The way to redemption
Finally, the teaching that Israel will only receive her Messiah through yet another period of great judgement misrepresents the character of God and even mankind. In general, great human catastrophe does not lead to repentance but rather to the contrary. Pharaoh, after the severest plagues, only hardened his heart even further. The book of Revelation parallels this by describing humanity as hopelessly in rebellion against God, even after His great wrath unfolds in the last days: “And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 16:11)

Catastrophic judgments like that which occurred to Israel in 70 AD were not God’s way to call His people back to Him; rather, they expressed His sense that their measure of sin was full and demanded divine justice. Jesus declared “your house is left to you desolate…” (Matthew 23:38)

Similarly, the great tragedy of the Holocaust left most Jews not seeking God but rather asking “Where was God?”, and many even lost their faith in Him. As one Holocaust survivor once told me: “For me, God died in Auschwitz.” The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, declares that “the goodness of God leads you to repentance”. (Romans 2:4)

God’s way of redeeming His people is a story of His covenant faithfulness and eternal love restoring them. (Jeremiah 31:2) In contrast, the message of God to the nations in our day is not that more judgement is waiting for Israel, but: “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’” (Jeremiah 31:10) This can surely include measured discipline by the corrective staff of the good shepherd, yet it will lead to green pastures.

This is the call we are committed to at the Christian Embassy: declaring God’s mercy and faithfulness to Israel and to the nations. We are declaring that a new season of restoration has started, and we are challenging the Church to join God in this great restoration work with Israel. Our call is to “Comfort My people” and to declare to Israel that a new chapter has started which will lead not to further judgement but to all of Israel being saved!

Available in PDF

The Soler Family

Through the storms of life, God teaches us to keep our eyes on Him as we continue to dance with Him in this journey of faith. The Soler Family endured two hurricane storms that wreaked havoc on their city in Puerto Rico, and caused severe damages to the Christian dance studio they own and operate. The second hurricane hit their city only days before they were planning to fly to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles, to serve as leaders for the Feast’s Dance Company.

For 11 hours straight, the Soler family prayed to our God who saves as the hurricane raged on with winds blowing around their house at 185 miles per hour! The kids were sleeping, but the parents were up praying over each side of the house declaring God’s protection as water was pouring into their home.

In the midst of the storm, Mr. Soler received a message on his phone from someone from the Feast dance team asking, “How are you?” This deeply touched Mr. Soler as he knew God was reaching out to him saying, “How are you my son?” With great tenderness, Mr. Soler shared, “Even when we are right in the middle of the storm, God always wants to know, ‘How is my son?’ and ‘How is my daughter?’”

Throughout the seemingly impossible journey to get to Israel, the Lord performed miracle after miracle to help the Soler Family safely arrive in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles 2017! “Sometimes God will take you out of the storm and put you in another area to reveal something to you and encourage you, so that when you get back home you can share what God gave to you. You can rebuild, restore, and help others to lift their hands to start the restoration process,” expressed Mr. Soler.

Please continue to pray for the Soler Family and the island of Puerto Rico, as our God turns this land of devastation into one of restoration! We also want to encourage you that no matter what storm you find yourself in right now, remember that God is with you showing you how to dance upon the waters of the storm with your eyes fixed on Him!

Balfour Declaration

On 7 Nov. 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, thousands of Christians and Jews met to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration. Using the words spoken by Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary in the War Cabinet at the time, they named the event “Partners in this Great Enterprise.”

Balfour 100 Committee
The partners both then and now were primarily Christians and Jews. However, the Balfour celebration in the Albert Hall (London’s most prestigious venue) took place because Christian Zionist leaders put aside differences to work together to produce this magnificent pageant of praise and history. Later known as the Balfour 100 committee, this group brought Jewish and Christian leaders together in the British society, including royalty and the present Lord Balfour. However, the key organisation behind the scenes was the ICEJ UK. The president of the ICEJ, Jürgen Bühler, was a keynote speaker along with the ambassador for Israel Mark Regev.

A Nation of Destiny
Jürgen spoke about the UK being raised up as a Cyrus nation in the purposes and plans of God for his ancient people. Interestingly, the souvenir booklet carried the same theme. Nations, as well as individuals, are raised up to fulfil a destiny. During World War I when the Turkish Ottoman Empire fell and Jerusalem was freed, it was an amazing privilege, in spite of the appalling carnage amongst the nations, that the birth certificate for Israel was issued by the United Kingdom!

Foundations
Jerusalem was liberated following the world changing battle of Beersheba that was won by the Australian and New Zealand forces known as the Anzacs. At the same time the Anzacs were defeating the Turks, the British war cabinets in London voted overwhelmingly for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. In 1920, the Balfour Declaration was internationally ratified at San Remo, Italy. All of this was foundational for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

A Night to Remember
The evening programme consisted of a wonderful cross-section of both Jewish and Christian artists honouring the historical narrative of the Balfour events. It included speeches given by such luminaries as Spurgeon, Bishop Ryle, Balfour and Theodore Herzl. The uplifting choir was from Holland, and the Adoramus orchestra was from London. Other participants included the redeemed Church of God choir, the Israeli Dance Institute and ICEJ’s very own Serguei Popov.

Souvenir Booklet
We have issued a souvenir booklet written by both Jews and Christians with a comprehensive history of Christian Zionism and knowledge about the emergence and legitimacy of Israel as a nation. There is also an excellent DVD of all the evening events. Both are available at a special discount for ICEJ supporters.

Please contact the UK office for more information: https://uk.icej.org/content/contact-icej-uk

God's Calling on Great Britain

ICEJ President, Dr Jürgen Bühler, gives Christian keynote address at the Balfour Centenary Celebration.

“My Lord, ladies and gentlemen, what a privilege and what a joy to be here today with you to celebrate 100 years of the Balfour Declaration. Looking at this evening’s program, I believe we all can come to the conclusion that God’s powerful hand is resting upon your nation. There is a special calling on Great Britain.

Many people say there is a Cyrus calling on your nation. Cyrus, the Persian King, who was foretold centuries before he was actually born, by the great Jewish prophet Isaiah who says, ‘Behold, Cyrus, my shepherd, my servant.’ He will say to Jerusalem, ‘Be rebuilt.’ He will speak to my temple and say, ‘Be rebuilt and your foundations shall be laid.’ 

The Balfour Declaration, indeed, was a declaration to the world to rebuild Zion and to rebuild Jerusalem. Out of the Balfour Declaration, the desert has become a green place. Out of the Balfour Declaration, Jewish people from the ends of the earth have returned back to their homeland and they rebuilt the ancient cities. 

Today, I was at the British museum and I looked at what is called the “Cyrus Cylinder.” You could read exactly what he was doing, calling forth the rebuilding of the Temple. Calling forth the restructuring of the nation and allowing the Jewish people to return to their homeland. Your nation did this in our modern days, and you should be proud of yourselves. 

This little cylinder also stated that the Cyrus declaration was maybe the first declaration of human rights. And I believe this is also true for your nation. Because the establishment of the state of Israel was also paralleled by the establishment of many other nations in that region. 

There are many people that say the Balfour Declaration is a colonial declaration, but the truth is exactly the opposite. It’s a declaration calling for freedom for the nations. And I know that my Bible tells me that he who blesses Israel shall be blessed. And looking at you here tonight, it makes me believe that God has a great future for your nation. The best days are still ahead of you. May God bless your nation. May God bless the nation of Israel. May God bless you all.”

Expanding and Uniting

In recent years, the number of ICEJ branches worldwide has been increasing at a constant rate. Currently, we have offices or representatives in 90 countries and contacts in 176 nations around the world. This blessing, however, also brings a great challenge: How can we work together in unity as a global team, learning from one another, and fulfilling our calling in each country to comfort the Jewish people and connect the churches to Israel?

To meet this challenge and strengthen the development of the international work, we envision bringing our branches together in regional meetings to provide the opportunity to get to know one another, spend time in prayer together, and share practical insights.

Belgrade Regional Conference
The Serbian capital, Belgrade, witnessed the first regional conference of this kind in October. Sixteen European nations were represented from East and West of the continent. The participants included national directors and members of staff from our strong and experienced branches like Germany, UK and Finland, and also from our new branches like Albania and Bulgaria. The ICEJ team of speakers was led by President, Jürgen Bühler, and VP International Affairs, Mojmir Kallus, as well as our US Branch director, Susan Michael, and Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, Susanna Kokkonen.

The three-day program kicked off with a reception for local, political, and church leaders. The impressive line-up of speakers included the deputy speaker of the Serbian parliament and the Chief Rabbi of Serbia. The organisers from the local Serbian branch, led by the national director, Rodoljub Oreščanin, proved they are already well-connected in their country.

Fellowship and Team Spirit
Jürgen Bühler presented the DNA of our organisation, which was a highly appreciated understanding of our identity. Other sessions addressed questions on how to grow a branch and the basics of fundraising, while providing tips for interesting projects. Many fresh ideas came from round-table discussions, but the most important element was the fellowship. A strong sense of unity and team spirit developed, which implanted a fresh dose of encouragement and inspiration to all.

The first regional conference confirmed the expectation and will be followed in the coming months by similar events in other parts of the world that will be adapted to local needs and cultures.

 

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