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Commentary

This Generation's Battle

Exodus 17 tells how Amalekites, descendants of Esau’s grandson, attacked the children of Israel in the desert of Sinai during their exodus from Egypt. This unprovoked attack was especially serious and the Israelites battled all day, only achieving victory at nightfall.

In response to this demonstration of cruelty, the Lord told Moses that he would blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. Moses later recounted: “the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16). Amalek’s attack on the children of Israel was now a perpetual war between him and the God of Israel.

Amalek was not just a foe, but a genocidal one, so in Jewish tradition the Amalekites came to represent the archetypal enemy of the Jews present in generation after generation. It is interesting to note that some one thousand years later, in the book of Esther, the arch villain Haman was an Amalekite who led the plot to kill the Jews.

The Longest Hatred

This evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, which is why historian Robert Wistrich calls anti-Semitism "the longest hatred." Every time this genocidal hatred seems to be dying out it reinvents itself with a different look and a different name. But the goal is always the same: to rid the world of the Jewish people.

In the ancient world, classical anti-Semitism was a clash between pagan rulers, who demanded obedient homage, and their Jewish subjects, who would only worship and obey the God of Israel. The Jewish people could not bow down to earthly leaders, and were bound by the Sinaitic Law to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart and incurred the wrath of their rulers.

Religious anti-Semitism

After the rise of Christianity the problem did not go away. It is a travesty that anti-Semitism was then found in the heart of Christian Europe. Indeed, in the annals of those who persecuted and hated the Jewish people are professing Christians. Space does not permit a full treatment of this sad story, but centuries of state and church-backed denigration, persecution, forced conversions, and expulsions actually paved the way for the Holocaust.

Proof of this is found in the fact that Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings were published and distributed by the Nazis in order to justify their anti-Jewish laws and eventually their extermination program. Hitler admitted as much when he told two Catholic Bishops who questioned his policy that “he was only putting into effect what Christianity had preached and practiced for 2000 years.”

Racial anti-Semitism

The form of anti-Semitism found in Nazi ideology was not based on religion, however, but on racial theories about the superiority of the Aryan race. Whereas Christianity had sought the conversion of the Jews, and state leaders had sought their expulsion, the Nazis sought the “final solution to the Jewish question,” the murder of all Jews and their eradication from the human race.

The good news is that these older forms of anti-Semitism are socially unacceptable in the 21st century. Religious bigotry and racism are frowned upon and are antithetical to the prevailing ideologies of globalism and secularism.

Political anti-Semitism

The bad news is that Israel, a Jewish nation-state, is also antithetical to both globalism and secularism. Therefore, the modern form of anti-Semitism that has found a stronghold and large-scale acceptance today is political. It is against the Jewish state and is called anti-Zionism.

There is still religious anti-Semitism, but this time it is found throughout the Muslim world and is responsible for the genocidal rhetoric emanating from Iran. Muslim anti-Semitism, however, is tolerated by anti-Zionist Western leaders who blame it on Israeli policies.

Not all criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic. However, criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic when it delegitimizes the state and questions its right to exist, when it uses anti-Jewish rhetoric and stereotypes or compares Israelis to Nazis, when it judges Israel by a different standard than for any other nation, and when it becomes an excuse to attack local Jewish individuals and institutions.

During the 2014 war in Gaza, a defensive war on Israel’s part to prevent further missile launches from Hamas, there were attacks on synagogues and Jewish citizens in France, refrains such as “Jews to the Gas” in Germany, the use of swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations, and anti-Semitic caricatures in newspapers and social media.

While America is a safe-haven today for Jews fleeing Europe, low levels of anti-Semitism here should not be taken for granted. As American Christians, we should take every opportunity to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, attending their Holocaust remembrance events, and teaching our children to recognize anti-Semitism and take a stand against it.

This generation’s battle is not so much with the Amalek of old, and its pagan, Christian or racial anti-Semitism, but with the Amalek of today—the rabid anti-Israel movement that demonizes the Jewish people and nation while excusing Muslim anti-Semitism.

This one is on our watch, and it is our responsibility to stand against it.


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 


The Big Lie

The “big lie” is an expression coined by Adolf Hitler to describe his propaganda technique of telling a lie so colossal that no one would believe someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” He first described this concept in Mein Kampf (German for "My Struggle"), the autobiographical manifesto outlining his plans for ruling Germany.

Hitler proposed that the big lie is credible because the broad masses are less likely to fall for a small lie. This is due to the fact that they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.

It would never come into their minds to fabricate colossal untruths, so they would not believe others had either. In other words, Hitler understood that the masses saw the world through rose-colored glasses tinted by their own basic honesty and their assumption of that same trait in others.

CONVINCING THE PEOPLE

Propaganda was the tool Hitler would use to convey the big lie and get the support of the masses. Successful propaganda would speak to their emotions more than to their intellect, be limited to a very few points, and would harp on slogans. He said that the repetition of simple slogans was necessary because the receptivity of the masses is very limited while their power of forgetfulness is enormous.

Hitler’s words ring with a chilling truth. In spite of how evil his plan was, he knew how to get it past the people. When he became the Head of State in Germany, Hitler implemented his strategy precisely. He fabricated the “big lie” of the evil Jew causing Germany’s troubles, and he used propaganda to prepare the way for their final extermination. It worked.

TIMELESS STRATEGY

Hitler’s strategy is still working today, just not in Germany. It is the Arab masses that are now being sold the big lie and worked up into a propaganda-fed frenzy. Mein Kampf was translated into Arabic back in the 1930s and has been one of the all-time best sellers throughout the Muslim world since.

It is no coincidence that Muslim leaders, such as Iran’s Supreme Leader, have adopted Hitler’s strategy. They are propagating the “big lie” of the evil Jews (particularly Israelis), using emotionally charged slogans and anti-Semitic cartoons to get the support of the people, and preparing the way for the final annihilation of Israel.

Anti-Semitism is now at epic proportions throughout the Muslim world where conspiracy theories run rampant and all types of lies are believed about Israel and the Jewish people. There is no better example of this than in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian leaders can be heard rejecting any historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel (as chronicled in the Bible and backed up by archeology), denying there was ever a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, and claiming Moses and Abraham were Muslims while Jesus was a Palestinian.

THE APARTHEID FABRICATION

One of the most effective campaigns based on complete fabrication is that Israel is an Apartheid State. The accusation is a serious one, claiming that the world’s one and only Jewish state is racist, with institutional discrimination and military occupation of non-Jews. The proponents call for the international community to impose boycotts and divestment in order to pressure the evil Israelis.

The inspiration for this campaign comes from the dismantling of South Africa’s Apartheid regime in 1994 after several years of protests and the imposition of international sanctions. So the goal of the campaign against Israel is the same: that one day she too will be dismantled.

The only problem is that in this case the accusation is just not true. Admittedly, the Arab minority in Israel has special challenges over and above the usual minority difficulties due to the security situation. However, Israeli Arabs study in universities with Jewish students, shop in the same malls, take the same buses, run their own political parties with members in the Israeli Knesset, have become famous athletes, have won Miss Israel competitions and even served as a Supreme Court Judges.
Israeli Arab, Salim Joubran, served on the Supreme Court panel that upheld the rape conviction for President Moshe Katzav. He also served as Chairman of the Central Election Committee, overseeing the hotly contested 2015 national elections that resulted in Netanyahu’s Likud party victory.

Clearly, this is not an apartheid state. Nevertheless, many university students around the world are being taught this slogan as though it were fact.

The problem is that what comes after the “big lie,” catchy slogans and anti-Semitic cartoons will be attempts at extermination—whether on a small scale or mass one, such as Iran threatens to do to Israel. This is why the lies must stop.


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

Celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles

For 35 years some 5,000-8,000 Christians have travelled from over 100 nations to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. The biblical holiday, which lasts for seven days, commemorates God’s supernatural provision for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings and celebrates God’s provision. Why do Christians come to Jerusalem to celebrate this Jewish feast?

 

 

 

The feast of Passover was the most familiar one that commemorated the Jewish people’s freedom from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and the deliverance of their firstborn from death through the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts. Since Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sins of the world occurred during Passover, this is a Jewish feast which has a Christian fulfillment and broad general awareness within Christian circles.

The second feast is that of Shavuot or Pentecost. Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew. It is seven weeks or 50 days after the first day of Passover and was translated to “Pentecost” in Greek. It was during this festival some 2,000 years ago that God poured out the Holy Spirit upon the believers gathered in prayer. Many churches celebrate Pentecost Sunday, however with minimal understanding of the Jewish feast of Shavuot that the early believers were celebrating when the Holy Spirit fell.

A feast with future fulfillment
 

The third great feast is the Feast of Tabernacles, which is known even less by churches because it does not have a corresponding Christian event as its fulfillment. The problem is that the Feast of Tabernacles is a forward looking feast with a future fulfillment. It is the only one of the three feasts that will be celebrated during the Messianic era, and by the gentiles as well, according to Zechariah 14.

The Watsons and their colleagues felt that it was time for Christians to understand this third great feast and what it meant. So in 1980 the first international Christian Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles took place in Jerusalem and was attended by some 1,000 Christians from a number of countries. It was at this Feast that the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)was launched.

For 35 years the ICEJ’s celebration has annually drawn some 5,000-8,000 Christians and they have come from over 100 nations. This celebration is now expected to grow even larger thanks to a new, larger arena in Jerusalem that can accommodate thousands more. While this annual celebration is not a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy, it is clearly an indication that the days of Zechariah are approaching.

 


Celebrating God’s provision



The word “Tabernacles” in Hebrew is Sukkoth, which means “booths” and refers to the temporary dwellings that the Jewish people lived in during the wilderness wanderings and are commanded to live in during this holiday. The biblical holiday lasts for seven days and has dual significance: commemorating God’s supernatural provision for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings and celebrating the current year’s harvest—another sign of God’s provision. As a result, it is the one feast of the year when the Jewish people are commanded to rejoice! There is also rich symbolism in Feast traditions that indicate God’s beckoning of the nations.

 

Celebrating the Kingdom of God

 

 

It has been said that redemptive history has three segments. There is a Passover segment from Moses to Jesus. There is a Pentecost segment in which we are now living when the Spirit of God is being poured out and the harvest is being gathered from every nation of the world.

The final great segment of human history will be the Tabernacles segment. After the Messiah’s feet stand on the Mount of Olives, His visible kingdom will break in on the world. This will be the age of Tabernacles, and it will be an age of unparalleled joy over the largest harvest of souls the world has ever seen, their deliverance from the power of evil, and the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Christians now understand that the Feast of Tabernacles is an opportunity to celebrate the Kingdom which is in individual hearts now while looking forward to the joyous time spoken of in Revelation 21:3 when God will “tabernacle with men.”


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 


The Rest of the Hanukkah Story

The story of Hanukkah takes place during the period in-between the Old and New Testaments, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the King of the Hellenistic Seleucid empire. While the Hellenization of the region, including Judea, already threatened the survival of the Jewish religion, Antiochus seemed obsessed with ensuring the demise of the Jewish faith and thereby, the future of the Jewish people.

He not only murdered the High Priest, Onias III, but he slaughtered 40,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem. All sacrifices, the service of the Temple, and the observance of the Sabbath and feast days were prohibited. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus, the Holy Scriptures were destroyed, and the Jews were forced to take part in heathen rites.

In his attempt to destroy every trace of the Jewish religion, the final assault was the slaughter of a pig on the sacrificial altar of the Temple, thereby desecrating it. The Maccabean family, from the priestly line of Aaron, led a revolt against this evil ruler and miraculously experienced victory after victory over the mighty Greek forces, until at last the Temple could be purified and its services restored.

As I noted in my article “What Jesus Understood About Hanukkah,” the revolt against the forces of Hellenization actually saved the Jewish people from extinction because they would have assimilated into the pagan culture around them. This preservation of Judaism and the rededication of the Temple helped set the stage for the birth of Jesus into a traditional orthodox Jewish home in Judea. It is no surprise that He went to the Temple for Hanukkah - the Feast of Dedication - in John 10. 

The End of Antiochus and His Empire

But wait, there is more to the story. The rededication of the Temple took place on the 25th day of Kislev, which was December 14, 164BC. Within weeks, if not days, the evil Antiochus IV Epiphanes died suddenly. The Greek historian Polybius said that Antiochus was on an expedition to the eastern part of the empire to rob another temple when he died of a sudden illness and “certain manifestations of divine displeasure.”

Polybius hints at the very real possibility that the King suffered judgment by God. Whether he understood it to be the God of the Jews we do not know. The non-canonical book of 2nd Maccabees claims that he did. But, his sudden death is just one example out of many of the demise of those who have come against the Jewish people. Upon the king’s death, the Seleucid kingdom began to weaken and fell into irreparable decline. 

The Israel Test

The Bible is clear that God will judge the nations over their treatment of the Jewish people. Both Old and New Testaments teach this, and the principal has been played out over and over throughout history.

The most obvious explanation is the Jewish people are very special to Him. He did not just choose them, but created them through Sarah who was past child-bearing years, and He takes their treatment by others very seriously.

More than this, God uses Israel to test the hearts of the nations, thereby exposing either their goodness, which leads to blessing, or their evil intent, which leads to judgement. Some have likened Israel to litmus paper that when dipped into water shows whether the water is acidic or alkaline. Israel exposes what is in the heart of people.

George Gilder, a venture-capitalist businessman, proposes in his book The Israel Test that Israel presents a moral and ethical challenge to the world and therefore has become the ultimate fault line. At the root of the Israel Test is the knowledge that Israel is contributing more to the human cause through its scientific, technological and financial advances than any other country in the world, except the US. He predicts that over the next two decades, Israel will grow into the dominant economy in the Middle East and one of the most productive economies in the world.

This is the test that Israel presents to the world: what is your attitude towards people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishments? Do you aspire to their excellence, or do you seethe at it? Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement, or do you impugn it and seek to tear it down?

God is using Israel to test the hearts of the nations and their future will be determined by how they respond. Could it be that the same test is at operation within the Church?

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul addresses the attitude of the Roman church towards the Jewish people. He warned the believers to make sure their attitude was humble and honoring of the Jewish people. He even cautioned them about possible judgment by God if their attitude was not right. A church that honors its Hebraic roots, as wild branches that are grafted into the olive tree, receives great strength and nourishment. To dishonor the very root that supports our faith brings spiritual decline and even death.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes failed the Israel Test and his kingdom is long gone. Others throughout history have also fallen short on the test and experienced decline and extinction. My prayer is that our nation and our churches pass the Israel Test, exhibiting good hearts, and experience the many blessings God has promised.


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

The Passover Lamb

Passover is known as the Festival of Redemption, because it commemorates the children of Israel’s freedom from slavery in Egypt some 3,500 years ago.

We know the story in Exodus well: God chooses Moses and sends him to tell Pharaoh to “let My people go.” Pharaoh refuses and Egypt is visited with ten different plagues that practically destroy the nation. The last plague is the death of the firstborn male of every family.

The Lord uses this plague to teach the children of Israel the principal of redemption through a substitute. He instructs them to choose a young male lamb or goat on the tenth day of the month of Nisan and observe their lambs for three days to ensure they are without blemish. Then, on the fourteenth day of the month they were to slay the lamb and place the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. That evening, when God saw the blood, the plague would pass over those dwellings and would not strike that home.

On the night of that first Passover, all the firstborn in Egypt were under the sentence of death. However, if the Israelites followed God’s instructions, the lambs became their substitutes. God said “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exod. 12:13).

He also instructed them to roast the meat of the lamb in fire and to eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The Passover Seder meal enjoyed by Jews today takes those original elements, and a number of others, transforming the meal from a somber time of dread into a joyous celebration of that great deliverance.

A LAMB WITHOUT BLEMISH

Passover became one of three major feasts during which the men of Israel were to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem for its celebration. There they would present their lamb to the priests in the Temple on the 10th of Nisan for inspection and approval. The lamb was then taken home and observed for the next three days to be sure it was perfect, without defect.

Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover, as did thousands of others, even though He knew what awaited Him there. His Palm Sunday triumphal entry to Jerusalem, followed by His appearance in the Temple, may have, quite prophetically, been on that day of inspection of the Passover lambs.

John the Baptist, a Levite, had already declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God at His baptism when he said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The Apostle Paul later wrote that we are redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Peter 1:19), and in I Corinthians he said “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7-8).

A SACRIFICIAL LAMB

When the 14th day of Nisan arrived, it was time to observe Passover, so Jesus instructed the disciples how to find the place where they would eat the Passover meal together. They were told to go into the city and find a man carrying a pitcher of water and follow him to his master’s house where there would be a large upper room for them to use. They were to prepare the Passover meal there. Scripture does not tell us what was involved in the preparation of the Passover meal and assumes we know that in addition to preparing the unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs, there was the task of killing a sacrificial lamb at the Temple (Mark 14:12).

On that day, the Temple would have been filled with worshippers, each bringing their family’s lamb. At the threefold blast of the priests’ trumpets, the lambs were slain and their blood spilled into a golden bowl and passed up to the great altar. While this was being carried out, the Levites chanted the “Hallel” which is Psalm 113-118. The Hallel ended with the crowd of worshippers proclaiming the last two verses aloud, Psalm 118:25-26.

Hosanna,” or “Save now,” was what the throngs had also cried out earlier when the Lamb of God, who would be slain for the sins of the world, had passed by them on His way to the Temple.

[“Hosanna”] Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
(Psalm 118:25-26)

A SUBMISSIVE LAMB

The prophet Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be like a lamb: submissive even while being led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus did suffer silently before the religious and civil authorities and gave no defense for Himself as they interrogated Him (Matt. 27:12-14).

Jesus fulfilled all of the requirements of the perfect Passover Lamb of God. No wonder the Apostle John saw in his vision of heaven the angels crying out: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).  

- by Susan Michael, US Director

Passover appeal


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

Say to the South, “Do not keep them back!”

Numerous prophecies have been fulfilled over the last century, but one of the most exciting is Isaiah 43: 5-6. In that passage, the Lord is speaking through the prophet Isaiah, declaring that He will bring the descendants of Israel from the east, the west, the north, and the south.

5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—

(Isaiah 43:5-6, NKJV)

The partial return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland after the first exile took place under the Persian Empire and was largely from the northeast. We read about it in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. However, Isaiah 43 describes perfectly the second return of the Jews to their homeland which took place after being dispersed to the ends of the earth over a period of 2,000 years. This return to the land, known today as Aliyah, has taken place over the last 150 years and includes several waves of immigration.

The earliest waves of Aliyah back in the 19th century emanated from Russia. But, once the modern State of Israel was founded in 1948, a large wave of immigrants came to Israel from the Muslim world. They were called Mizrahi, or “Eastern,” Jews. Almost overnight the majority of Israel’s population was from “the East.”

Then, in 1989-1990, the world witnessed the amazing moment when the Iron Curtain fell and the Jews of Russia were allowed to immigrate to Israel. After years of persecution, and even imprisonment for wanting to move to Israel, it was as if the Lord said to the land of the North: “Give them up!” Over the next decade a wave of some one million Jews left the land of the North for Israel. Today, one in five Israelis are Russian speaking.

This brings us to the wave of Aliyah from the South. The very existence of Ethiopian Jews is extraordinary, but the story of their journey to Israel is nothing short of a miracle. In spite of poverty, civil war, and dictatorial governments, some 100,000 Ethiopian Jews, claiming descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, have now come home to Israel.
 

Now is the Time
 

The final wave of Ethiopian Aliyah is now in progress following the Israeli government’s approval for the absorption of the last 9,000 Jews from Ethiopia. But the process will take years and they face increasing danger as escalating conflicts in the region put them at great risk.

Anti-government demonstrations, ethnic conflict in the northern part of Ethiopia where the Jewish Ethiopians live, and fighting in nearby South Sudan where some Ethiopian Jewish refugees are stranded is causing instability and limiting options.  There is also a severe drought which some predict may be followed by severe floods this fall.

Because of the worsening security situation, the Jews waiting in transit camps for their departure to Israel are in what some have called “mortal danger.”
 

Bring Them Home!
 

Christians today have the privilege of not just watching prophecy being fulfilled, but of being a part of it! In Isaiah 43, the Lord says that He is the one who will bring the Jews back from around the world. Then, in verse 6, He commands us to, “Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.”

That verse is a clear directive to bring the exiles back to their homeland! In response, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is helping to bring these precious Ethiopian Jews home to Israel.
 




Susan M. Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  The ICEJ has helped over 120,000 Jews to make Aliyah. For information on how you can help go to www.icejusa.org/ethiopia.


 

When Jesus Attended the Feast of Tabernacles

For centuries Christian churches had little appreciation for the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. They understood Passover was the foundation for Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, and they understood Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, was a Jewish feast on which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church. But, there was no Christian fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles for them to celebrate.

This is because the Feast of Tabernacles is a forward looking Feast with a yet future fulfillment. The founders of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) understood this and how that the prophet Zechariah had foretold of a day when all the nations of the world would celebrate the fulfillment of this Feast. Therefore, they began an annual Christian celebration in Jerusalem in 1980. Some thirty-six years later churches all around the world now celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in anticipation of its ultimate fulfillment when Jesus returns and the Kingdom of God is established in our midst.

Jesus also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles and we read about that in John 7 – 9. While there, He used the special ceremonies taking place around Him to point the people to Himself as the ultimate fulfillment.

He Offered Living Waters

Each day of the seven-day Feast began with a water-drawing ritual which was a great time of rejoicing over God’s provision of water for the crops that year and of the Holy Spirit which would provide personal refreshment. A priest would take a golden pitcher and lead a musical procession to the pool of Siloam where he plunged the pitcher into the waters while reciting “Therefore, with joy you shall draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

Jerusalem’s sole water supply was from this pool and the Gihon Spring that feeds it. Therefore, water was precious. Yet, the priest returned to the Temple with the golden pitcher of water and began to pour it out over the altar while reciting “Hosanna, I pray, O Lord… send now prosperity!” (Psalm 118:25). The pouring of the water symbolized the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and was followed by a great silence that descended on the sanctuary as the people reflected upon the Holy Spirit–the only true refreshment for their thirsty souls.

This ritual took place every day but on the seventh day it took on an intensity filled with excitement and anticipation. It was on that day that Jesus “stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me, and drink’” (John 7:37). In this context it was clear to the people that He was inviting them to accept Him as the one who would give them the “living waters” of salvation (John 4:10).

He Proclaimed Eternal Light

Another fascinating ceremony associated with the Feast of Tabernacles involved lights. Each afternoon four huge menorahs illuminated the court of the Temple and the pious men would dance before the lamps with burning torches in their hands. It is said that the light from these menorahs was so bright it penetrated every courtyard in Jerusalem. This festivity would last all night until dawn.

The light of the menorahs had two meanings: the first was symbolizing the Glory of God that had filled the first Temple (I Kings 8:10-11). The second was anticipating the “Great Light” who would soon come and bring light to those who were spiritually dead and dwelling in darkness (Isaiah 9:2).

Perhaps it was during the light celebration, or when the lights were extinguished on the eighth day, that Jesus said for all to hear, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). The crowd understood that Jesus was proclaiming that He is the Great Light who Isaiah said would come, and is God in the flesh–the Glory of the Temple (John 1:14).

He Affirmed Who He Was

The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles was called the “Last Good Day.” It was a Sabbath day, designed for rest and reflection on all that had been celebrated during the previous seven-day festival. On this day Jesus came to the Temple and healed a blind man by anointing his eyes with clay and then sending him to the pool of Siloam to wash (John 9:7).

With this miracle Jesus validated everything He had said and done during the Feast. By doing the impossible, He proved He was God in the flesh–the true dispenser of the Holy Spirit and the only source of light and life.


Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
 

Your Invitation

I want to share with you something very important for the days in which we live and that I believe will be a blessing to you.

American Christians are in great need of encouragement. Many are fearful, some are angry, and most are distraught over the direction our world is taking. As dire as some things may look, we need to understand God is doing great things in the world today, and that should not only give us great hope but cause us to want to get involved!

God is busy fulfilling His Word and He invites you to be part of it. To recognize God’s hand at work we only have to visit Israel where we quickly learn from visiting the biblical sites and viewing archaeological remains that the history and stories of the Bible are absolutely accurate. Archaeological finds only affirm the Bible and have never contradicted it.

Prophecy Is Being Fulfilled!

We also see prophecy fulfilled in Israel and realize how true the Bible is, because God has regathered His people back from the north, south, east and west, just as He promised He would (Isaiah 43:5–6). Though we look through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12) and do not always know how to interpret prophetic portions of Scripture, once they have been fulfilled—as in the life and ministry of Jesus and now in the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland—we see how accurate those prophecies are, down to the smallest detail.

The Bible is true! God is sovereign! And while we often shake our heads over current events, He sits on His throne and reigns over the nations (Psalm 47:8). Indeed, He laughs at the nations and understands they are powerless before Him (Psalm 2:4).

The Days in Which We Live

We actually live in some of the most exciting days in history. We have the privilege of not just watching ancient prophecies be fulfilled, but to participate in their fulfillment!

God has raised His hand a “second time” and regathered His people back to their homeland as Isaiah 11:11 predicted. To accomplish this, the last of the Islamic empires, the Ottoman Empire, had to be dissolved. For 1,400 years one Islamic empire after another had ruled the entire Middle East, North Africa, and Asia Minor. But, the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I and divided up, giving Great Britain control of the region known as Palestine.

A Christian Zionist, Lord Balfour, secured the backing of the British government for the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration became the policy of the British Mandate which was approved by the League of Nations and the San Remo Conference, paving the way for the legal establishment of Israel.

If you were living in the 19th century, would you have had the faith to believe that God could wrestle the little land of Israel out of the hands of the mighty Islamic empires that had ruled it for 1,400 years? What an amazing move of God in world events in order to fulfill His promises to Abraham and his descendants. When God is ready to move no earthly power can stop Him.

God Has Raised a Banner to the Nations

Many ask why, if God is behind the establishment of Israel, the nation has so many troubles? The media’s obsession with tiny Israel seems so unfair and brings much pressure on Israeli leaders to act contrary to the nation’s best interests. But this attention is also a fulfillment of Scripture.

Isaiah 11 goes on to say that in the regathering of the people to their homeland, God is raising a banner to the nations. God is using Israel to proclaim His faithfulness to the nations. He wants the world to know that His Word is true and He is faithful to fulfill it. That means there is a blessing for those who bless His people and support His choices and plans, but there is also judgment for those who oppose His people.

If the Jewish people had returned to a quiet existence as a tiny nation of less than seven million, on a small piece of property the size of New Jersey, how could they become a light to the nations? How could passages of Scripture like Isaiah 60 be fulfilled that predict kings will be drawn to the light over Israel, that the wealth of the Gentiles will be brought up to Jerusalem, and that the nation that will not serve her will suffer judgment?

The attention of the nations has to be upon Israel for them to see God’s banner proclaiming He is a faithful God and His Word is true. 

Jesus Predicted This Day

Jesus predicted this day would come in Luke 21:24 when he said that Jerusalem would be “trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Two thousand years after Jesus spoke those words, Gentiles no longer rule over Jerusalem and it is under Jewish sovereignty. For centuries the Jewish people prayed to return to Zion only to be faced with continued persecution and the impossibility of Jewish sovereignty over their ancient homeland.

When God is ready to move, however, nothing can hold Him back! The nations are just a drop of water in a bucket, or a small speck of dust, before Him (Isaiah 40:15). He moves them as He wishes. Thus, in 1980 when the nations stood against Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, God moved and sovereignly established an embassy in Jerusalem to represent those who support it! Let me tell you the story.

In the late ’70s, there were a number of Christians living in Jerusalem for various reasons who met regularly to pray for Israel. There were two different issues they prayed about and felt the Lord leading them to act upon.

First was the need to begin celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles. While the church worldwide was very aware of the first two feasts of Israel—Passover and Pentecost—they were largely unaware of the yet unfulfilled Feast of Tabernacles. That is because this feast was forward looking in that it celebrated the establishment of the rule of God on earth. It was also the only feast prophesied to be celebrated by Gentiles in the Messianic Era (Zechariah 14:16).

These visionary Christians visited with the Chief Rabbi of Israel to get his advice on how to celebrate the Feast. As they were leaving his office he called them back and said that because Gentiles were beginning to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles he could “hear the footsteps of Messiah coming!”

Taking God’s Banner to the Nations

As preparations were being made for that first International Christian Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles held in September of 1980 and attended by some 1,000 Christians from more than fifteen countries, something seemingly unrelated was brewing. The Israeli government had declared Jerusalem to be the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel and most of the embassies located in Jerusalem had packed up and moved out of the city in protest.

So, it was at the first Feast of Tabernacles celebration that these Christian leaders seized the moment and announced they did not support what their governments had just done and were, therefore, opening an International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem to represent the millions of Bible-believing Christians who understood the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people and stood with Israel at that moment.

While the founders may not have entirely understood the connection, in hindsight it is phenomenal to see that out of the first Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles an organization was born to go out into the nations and build an understanding of this feast and bring the nations up to Jerusalem to celebrate it. We do not claim to be the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy that the nations would celebrate the Feast, as that will be fulfilled in a future era, but we are practicing for it!

The ICEJ now has branches in 86 countries and reaches into more than 120 countries with the message of Christian support for Israel.

Representing You in Jerusalem

While this work amongst the nations is important, the ministry of the ICEJ is first and foremost a ministry of comfort and support to the people of Israel. We are the hands and feet of many praying Christians like yourself who want to bless Israel but are unable to do so on their own. We connect the global church to Israel and to God’s passion for Israel.

We do this in various ways. One is by helping the Jewish people return to their homeland—what is known as Aliyah. Isaiah 49:22 and 60:9 predict Gentiles would assist in this return and through the ICEJ you have the chance to be part of fulfilling those prophesies.

Isaiah 60 also predicts the wealth of the Gentiles will be brought up to Jerusalem. Remember that Isaiah wrote this prophecy at a devastating time for Israel when Gentile empires were in the process of taking over Israel and dragging their riches away. But, some 2,500 years later, the Jews are back in their land and Christians all around the world are blessing them and sending financial assistance. What a privilege to be part of the fulfillment of this prophecy!

The ICEJ also has an extensive humanitarian aid program throughout Israel where we bless the needy and care for those who have little hope. This ministry of practical assistance coupled with our partnerships with institutions throughout Israel are a way for Christians to help build up Zion just as Isaiah 60:10 indicates: “foreigners shall build up your walls.”

The ICEJ is here to partner with you in the work God is doing. He spoke thousands of years ago about the days in which we live. We read about them in the Bible and have very clear directives as to how we can be involved.

An Urgency in this Hour

I need to be honest with you. We cannot fulfill this great calling without your help.

Israel needs your support more than ever! As the United Nations is seeking to rewrite the Bible and deny any historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority government is planning to get the UN to support a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

Israel needs us to galvanize voices from many nations to stand against these types of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel maneuvers.

Anti-Semitism is rising all over the world and in Europe alone is at pre-WWII levels. The Jewish people need our help. We must sound the alarm about this evil ideology and stand against it.

Iran continues to threaten to wipe Israel off the map while they pursue the nuclear weapons capable of doing so. They are arming both Hezbollah in Lebanon with more than 100,000 missiles pointed at Israel, and Hamas in Gaza with more sophisticated and longer-range rockets than ever before.

In light of such evil threats, we need to make sure the people of Israel know that millions of Christians around the world love and support them. There are so many Israelis who are either unaware of this support, or have little understanding of it. In reality, our support is proof that God’s Word is true and He is faithful to fulfill it. Our love for the people of Israel renews their hope in God!

Our ministry to the people of Israel gives them strength to go on in the face of international pressure, growing worldwide anti-Semitism, and increasing threats of war from Iran. They need your encouragement more than you know.

Our Commitment to Israel and to You!

The ICEJ has been blessing Israel for some 36 years now and we plan to continue doing so until Jesus returns! We are an organization, not any one person’s ministry, and therefore we are already on our third generation of leaders and are here for the long-haul.

Our staff is also committed to serving the people of Israel no matter what. Not one staff member left Israel when Saddam Hussein launched thirty-nine scud missiles at Israel in 1991, nor during the wave of suicide bus bombings in 2000, nor during the recent knife attacks in the streets of Jerusalem. Even at risk of their life—and that of their children—they have stood in solidarity with the people of Israel.

Our commitment to you is to faithfully represent your love and support for the people of Israel and to bless them on your behalf. We are your hands and feet serving and loving the people of Israel.

We will also represent you with integrity and financial transparency. We are accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) proving that we are doctrinally sound, with an independent board, and operate with financial integrity and transparency. Our financial statements are available through our website, as well as Charity Navigator which has given us a three- out of four-star rating.

I say this because not every ministry operates with this level of integrity and transparency! So, we invite you to partner with us in confidence and be part of this great end-time work God has called us to.

Increasing Our Impact Around the World!

The ICEJ’s vision is to reach all of the world with the banner proclaiming the truth of God’s Word about Israel and His faithfulness to fulfill it. We do not want to reach just 86 nations, or 120 nations, but every nation on earth. And we need to have an even greater impact on the nations we are already operating in—including the USA.

We also need to reach all of Israel with the message of Christian support so Israelis are encouraged and filled with hope. To do this we need to increase all of our outreaches and partnerships in Israel so we are touching the lives of more Israeli people.

AND TO DO THIS WE NEED YOU…

We so appreciate your faithful partnership with us in prayer and financial support. Your gift this month of $50, $100, $200 or more will enable us to continue our important work for Israel on your behalf.

But I want to also ask you to consider a special year-end gift to undergird our work as we approach a new year. We are being asked to make commitments now to projects in Israel and for Israel that we do not have the funds for. While we trust God to provide for this ministry, we need your help to be able to say “yes” to these requests. We just hate saying “no.”

And, may I be so bold as to ask you to please make a commitment of increased support in 2017? If you are already a regular supporter, we ask you to increase your level of support and become a Covenant Partner (at least $360/year or $30/month), an Ambassadorial Partner (at least $1200/year or $100/month), or a Builder of Zion (at least $2500/year or $210/month).

This Thanksgiving we will be lifting up thanks to God for your faithful prayers and financial support. We value your partnership and know that we cannot do this important work without you. We are your representatives to the people of Israel, and they are so blessed when we tell them of your love, prayers and support for them.

Please give your best gift today! We have much to do together!

For Zion’s Sake,

Susan Michael

Susan M. Michael
US Director

A New Chapter in the Hanukkah Story

The story of Hanukkah is often told with an emphasis on the evil ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of the Hellenistic Seleucid empire, who was bent on the Hellenization of the Jewish people. Had he succeeded it would have meant the demise of the Jewish faith and thereby, the Jewish people. God’s plan to bring salvation to the world through their Messiah would have died with them.

In his attempt to force the Jews into compliance, Antiochus IV slaughtered 40,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem; murdered the High Priest; and prohibited sacrifices, the service of the Temple, and the observance of the Sabbath and feast days. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus, and then desecrated with the slaughter of a pig on the sacrificial altar.

The Maccabean family, from the priestly line of Aaron, led a revolt and miraculously experienced victory after victory over the mighty Greek forces until, at last, the Temple could be purified and its services restored. Hanukkah is known as the Feast of Dedication because it commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Temple to the God of Israel. Its symbol is the Temple Menorah which allegedly burned miraculously for eight days on just a small amount of oil.

Ancient Means of Control

This story, however, is about more than an evil ruler. He was imposing the ruling culture and ideologies of the empire upon the Jews, including paganism and an immoral pagan society; as well as the Greek language; culture; and ruling philosophies of reason, humanism and pursuit of knowledge. This is how kings subdued and controlled the people in their kingdoms.

In the ancient world, Jews often clashed with pagan rulers such as Antiochus Epiphanes, who demanded obedience to them and homage to their gods as a means of proving one’s loyalty. The Jewish people could not bow down to these pagan leaders, nor their gods, and were bound by the Mosaic Law to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart from other societies and brought upon them great persecution, exiles, and threats of extinction.

Modern Imposition of Ideologies

A new chapter in the Hanukkah story is being written today—godless world leaders are attempting to impose on all of us the ideologies of secularism, globalism, and moral relativism. Once these ideologies take hold, the masses can then be easily controlled, because they will have no loyalty to a religious creed, national identity, or moral code.

Israel, a Jewish nation-state, is antithetical to all three of these modern ideologies. Therefore, its Jewish national identity is accused of being racist by secular globalists. The very nation that gave to the world the Ten Commandments, on which Western civilization bases its legal code and definition of morality, is hated by those attempting to impose their ideology of moral relativism: the belief that there is no objective right or wrong, truth or falsehood, nor good or evil.

The seemingly contradictory part of this secular movement is that its proponents are not just tolerating but are assisting in the global dominance of Islam—a religion with a very strict legal and moral code that it seeks to impose on the world, especially upon the secularist “infidels!” There is only one explanation for this strange alliance and that is deep down, both movements share something in common: they are both anti-Christian and anti-Semitic at heart.

UNESCO Imposing Islamic Ideology

In this context, the recent attempt by the United Nations Educational, Science, and Cultural Committee (UNESCO) to deny the historical and biblical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and, indeed, all the land of Israel begins to make sense. The Arab voting block and their secular, globalist cohorts in the UN, ignore what is a written and historical record of ownership by the Jews.

Islam teaches that the Jewish and Christian Bibles are corrupted. Therefore, Muslims completely disregard biblical accounts proving Jewish ties to the land of Israel, including the city of Jerusalem, and most importantly, the Temple Mount.

This is in spite of the fact, the biblical record has been backed by one archaeological find after another proving not only the existence of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, but a 3,000 year history of Jews in the city of Jerusalem. Islamic groups bent on taking over Israel, therefore, prefer to destroy archaeological remains than allow them to prove a historical record that stands in their way.

This history, however, is not just found in the Bible, or in archaeological finds, but in historical Ottoman Empire decrees, and in many Muslim writings. The truth of the matter is, that to destroy all evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, they would also have to destroy Muslim artifacts such as the recently excavated central mosque in the village of Nuba near Hebron. Inside is a thousand-year-old Arabic inscription that calls the Dome of the Rock "Bait al-Maqdess," the Arabicized version of “Beit Hamikdash,” the Hebrew name for the Temple.

This is the new chapter in the Hanukkah story: leading world powers attempting to deny the Jewish people their Bible, history, faith, and holy sites. Because they won’t comply, they are demonized and threatened with extinction.

The Jewish Bible is Our Bible

Christians need to stand up on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people because their Bible and history of faith is also ours. If we do not speak up and stop these attempts to rewrite biblical and historical fact, we will one day wake up to the reality that Evangelical Christians are next on the list of undesirables.

The Hanukkah story is a reminder that when we stand up against the mighty powers of our day, we do so not in our own strength, but with God’s help. No matter how hard it may look, we can expect to take back lost territory and rededicate ourselves and our nations to the God of the Bible. He will give us the power to become a light—like a Hanukkah Menorah—shining forth into a dark world, bringing hope and truth to those with hearts to receive it. 


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

 

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