Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem?

Psalm 122:6 tells us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” – or does it?!  An Israeli ministry to widows and orphans shares that the more accurate translation is, “Ask how Jerusalem is doing.”  In this teaching article, we are challenged to inquire about how the people of Israel are doing, not just the political state.  “For their sake” – the house of the LORD in Israel – I will pray for your peace, Jerusalem.

This is a guest column by Orna Greenman of A Sign & A Wonder Ministry to orphans and widows in Israel. 

Throughout the ages, many Christians have been praying for peace in Jerusalem and for security within Israel’s borders, based mainly on Psalm 122:6. And yet, peace and security seem to be so far away.  Are we praying amiss?

A more accurate translation from the Hebrew is, "Ask how is Jerusalem doing."

Jeremiah uses the same phrase when he describes the fatal situation in Jerusalem, and then stops and cries out, "Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? Who will mourn for you? Who will stop to ask how you are doing?" (Jer. 15:5).

This last phrase - "Who will ask how you are doing?" - is the same as the one in Ps. 122:6. But for some reason, in Psalms it is wrongly translated as a command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, rather than inquire about her situation.

The text does not command us to pray automatically for peace, it does tell us to get involved, to develop a relationship with the land and the people, so we know how they are really doing and why is there no peace.

Is it possible that those of us who have been praying for peace within Jerusalem may be working against God's will? I know this is a radical statement, but you see, peaceful borders are not the core issue with God. It has never been the core issue throughout the Bible. Wars and swords and exile - all those horrors that He inflicted upon us - have been His way to attract our attention, to turn us back to Him. Our borders were never in the hands of men, no matter how powerful the leader was. Borders are always in the Hands of God alone. He is the only one who determines and establishes them.

Whenever God warned us of war and lack of peace, it was not because we gave away land. It was for two main reasons: 1) idolatry - looking elsewhere for help other than to Him; 2) Injustice and oppression of those who live in the margins: the needy, the aliens, the orphans and the widows.

So you see that our prayer focus has been in the wrong place. We have been praying about the results and forgetting the cause. We are asking God to fix the judgment instead of praying that the reason for the judgment would be rectified.

From day one the Israelites failed to inherit the entire Land and to drive out the local inhabitants (Jud. 1:27-33). God did not punish them for that, but for the influence these inhabitants had on the nation, for the idol worship that was brought in (Jud. 2:2-3). Israel should focus on returning to her Husband and on her moral condition, if she wants to enjoy secure borders.

As I traveled the States during the summer, I was surprised to find out that the very people who dedicate time to pray for Israel, do not really know how she is doing. Most people were only interested to hear about foreign affairs and the upcoming UN resolution concerning the statehood of the Palestinian authority. They did not have a clue that multitudes of Israelis, hundreds of thousands, were spending the entire impossibly humid summer months in tents all across the country, pleading for social justice, being fed up from the impossible living cost in the land.

Most of the Christians I met also did not know that the former president of Israel, the number one citizen, Mr. Moshe Katsav, was about to go to jail for raping his secretaries. They never heard of other Knesset members who are already in jail for corruption or for sexual harassment. Almost all prayer warriors I had met were clueless about all these matters. And those who knew about it, considered it as marginal. They did not pay much attention nor invested prayer into it. They knew a lot about border issues, about the Iranian nuclear system and about military issues concerning the Middle East, but very little, if anything, about the two main reasons for which God judges His nation with restless borders.

If Israel will settle these two issues, peace will be the automatic result. When we pray that there will be peace, and ignore the reasons for lack of peace, we are somewhat resisting God's method of pulling Israel back to Him.

How than shall we pray for Israel, so that she will eventually be able to enjoy peace?
Our prayers must focus on the root issue, on the pain of the widow and the needy in society, who is weeping for someone to manage them, someone to lean on. We need to pray that the leadership of Israel will develop jealousy for righteousness, to a loathing of all forms of corruption, and for the ability to trust God to fulfill His promises concerning the borders.

The word “widow” in the Old Testament does not refer only to a woman without a husband. It means a woman, a city or a nation who is in ruin, who has no provider and no one to manage her life.  The OT refers to Israel as a widow (e.g. Lam. 1:1; Isa. 54:4) not because her Husband died, but because she does not consider Him as her provider.
How typical of God's system.  Just like His blood can cleanse (where any other blood only defiles), and His death can give us life, so also do the weakest and seemingly most unnecessary members of the Body are the ones we need the most (I Cor. 12: 22). We consider them as shameful members, but God sees them as vessels of great glory (v. 23).

The last verses of Ps. 122 speak about our brothers and companions, about the house of the Lord. "For their sake", the psalmist says, "I will pray for your peace". This brings up another important point to focus on in prayer, a focus that many Christians neglect.

Do you know how your Israeli brothers and sisters in the Lord are doing? Or how are the 150+ houses of the Lord across the land are managing? Are you aware of the persecution that goes on here, or our daily struggle to establish righteousness and to survive? Do your prayers focus on the wellbeing and needs of your family in the Lord in the land, or on mainly on our borders?

The former Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meier, once said that Israel is easy to love from afar, that is to say, uninvolved. To truly love Israel, like loving anyone, even a country, one must be familiar with her goings on and the issues she must deal with.

My prayer is that this update will encourage you to love truly, to become familiar with our real issues. I hope it will refocus your prayers for us, so that we will truly be able to enjoy peace and prosperity within our walls.

Teaching widows to establish the borders of the Land

In a couple of weeks our team will join hands with another ministry in the south of Israel, in an attempt to see how this fresh understanding of Scripture can be best applied.  We invited a group of widows and broken women to join us, and we plan to teach them how quickly God hears their cry and about the amazing effect their prayers can have, if they will learn to bless those in authority, versus constantly complaining about them.

We covet your prayers for that weekend (March 23-24). If you feel led to pray for us as we prepare and run this weekend, please email me back. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Disconnections from Rightly Connecting

by Donna Diorio 

from whom the whole body, joined and knit together
by what 
every joint supplies,
according to the effective working
which every
 part does its share,
causes growth of the body
for the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:16

One of the greatest blessings of my connectedness with the Israeli Body of Messiah  is that many meanings in the Bible that I unconsciously skipped over because I didn't understand, or just adopted a misconstrued, non-Hebrew-thinker conclusion about, does not happen so readily anymore.

Now I listen to those who understand the Hebrew mindset behind the writings of the Bible.  The result is that the scripture has been broken open by my Hebrew-thinking friends like a loaf of bread shared among family members sitting around a table.  The fuller meaning and texture has been freely given and it is a great gift that I treasure from the Jewish Body of Messiah.

I believe, this is why the New Testament book of Hebrews tell us we are not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together."  All of us have something to contribute to the betterment of the rest.  Every part of the Body of Christ contributes to the whole well-being of the Body - including the vital Jewish part.

My mother used to warn against not 'cutting off your nose to spite your face.'  This is how much of the Church has been in refusing what the Jewish believers in Jesus have to bring to the table as we break bread and share the Word of the LORD.

I don't understand why anyone would be content to run with an assumed meaning instead of being teachable and open to learn what God has given Jewish believers to bless the rest of the Body.
 Christians encourage each other all the time that God has given each of us a unique gift with which to bless the rest of the Body. Rightly so. Then how is it that so many willingly dismiss one of the greatest gifts the Jewish believers have to share with us? 
Accurate context is not just another among many potential considerations, it established the primary intent of the writer. How can we ignore the writer's intent and content ourselves with our own conceptions?  Our assumed applications might have a valid secondary meaning, but why would we willingly ignore the main purpose for a Spirit-inspired statement in the Word of God?
With the exception of Luke, the whole rest of the Bible was written by Jews steeped in Hebrew thinking and using Hebrew idioms that were not known or understood by non-Jewish translators or theologians. Why would we purposely refuse knowledge of context, meaning and intent?  Pride, maybe?  Not wanting to admit that we don't have it all already?

Almost the whole New Testament was written by the apostle Paul who was not one of the untrained apostles. He was not a fisherman but was a religious scholar, highly trained in the scripture. 

This should give us a clue that Paul was able to connect-the-dots of the deep mysteries of God the Holy Spirit gave him because he was trained in a foundational knowledge of God's Word.  The Holy Spirit can reveal mysteries to us, but even prophets understand that the fullness of God's mysteries require familiarity with scriptural facts.

The foundations of God are laid in the Hebrew Old Testament. This foundation is what the apostle Paul used to connected the dots from the revelations 
that he received from the Holy Spirit.  Paul understood the prophetic revelation like Daniel before him: "I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet."  

The apostle Peter drew attention to Paul's wisdom that came from training in the scripture combined with revelation, in  2 Peter 3:15-16 saying Paul's wisdom excelled in "things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."  Untaught people and unstable people.  Not untaught, unstable people - but two categories.  The untaught refers to those who were untaught in the Old Testament scriptures.

Even Peter was teachable when it came to receiving understanding from Paul. Peter who had walked side-by-side with Jesus, understood that Paul's foundation in understanding the Bible is what opened up the mysteries of the kingdom to him, when combined with what the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul.  Peter and the other common folk Yeshua chose as disciples and raised up as apostles could astound the Pharisees with their command of the kingdom of God, yet it was the apostle Paul, religiously-trained in the scripture who excelled above even the apostles in expounding the deepest mysteries of the kingdom of God.  Selah.

I have never undertood Christians who dismissed the whole of the Old Testament as something that was not necessary to their understanding of their faith.  Crazy. It is the foundation of their faith!  In Ephesians 2, Paul says that Jews and Gentiles in Messiah are being built as a Holy Temple together in Him "on the foundation of the apostles and prophets."  We can't build on anything but the foundation for a lasting structure.

As someone who has spent the last couple of decades diving into trying to understand what's what and who's who among the Jews, I can tell you that as a Christian, if you refuse what the Jewish believers have to add to your comprehension of the whole Word of God, then you are seriously out of the loop of understanding what God is doing and where all this is heading.

That "forsake not" verse I referred to earlier is not just about going to church - it is about all of the parts being rightly connected with the other parts of the Body of Christ. Selah

Excuses for remaining disconnected

And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
1Cr 12:21

Some Christians have told me that they refused to get involved with Messianic believers because they have seen people fall off the deep end into legalism, and what I have to say to that is, BALONEY.

All we have to do is hold EVERYTHING up to the Word of God and use our God-given gift of discernment. Don’t cut off the gifts that God has given through the Jewish parts of the Body to share with the Church just because someone else was led astray.  There are false prophets and false shepherds everywhere - including in the 'cutting edge' prophetic circles that reject the Messianic movement as a valid expression of faith (and especially in those that reject that Israel has any ongoing significance in the purposes and plan of God!)  

One Christian marketplace minister told me that he watched what happened to Reggie White when White got led into a Torah-focus that began to ruin him, so the marketplace minister let that incident and example become a blanket condemnation of the whole of the Messianic movement.  That is just wrong and more reflective of prejudice than of 'Berean' vigilance.

Recently I found out that the Messianic Jew that led Reggie White down the wrong path was rabbi Ralph Messer - the guy who caused such an uproar among Jews (saved AND unsaved) in the past few weeks by wrapping a Torah around Eddie Long.  He had previously done the same with Paula White.

Do you see a pattern here? If we are spiritually unguarded - and perhaps full of secret sins - then we don't have protection in detecting the false prophets or false shepherds that are everywhere. 

There are those in the Messianic movement that I would not follow and do not endorse, but the vast majority of those that I do know are a wonderful blessing to me.  The Messianic Jews I'm most familiar with are in the Israeli Messianic community because that is where my exclusive focus has been in the past decade.  Whether charismatic or not, I find the majority of them to be Biblically stable and spiritually sound in faith. The bread they break each week in their prayer letters and teachings are heaping blessing upon blessing of understanding the Word to me.

This is an aside, but personally I look to the Israeli Messianic Jews as those who have been freed from many of the Jewish-identity issues that plague Messianic Jews in the Diaspora because of the rejection from the Jewish community.  There is such an alienation from family, friends and community that happens to many Jews who come to faith in Yeshua/Jesus, that it would be good if the Church demonstrated more empathy.   However, when a Messianic is a citizen residing in the Jewish state the need to prove they are 'still Jewish' is not as great a personal issue. A Messianic Jew in the Jewish state of Israel is confirmed in the continuing identity that they are still very much "real Jews."

Some Christians say that the problem with Messianic Judiasm is that they preach Israel, not Jesus. I think I know what they mean about this and among some ministers, that may be so. however it is hard to ignore GOD'S focus today because His purposes organically include Israel.
It is impossible for Messianic Jewish ministers NOT to break open the Word of God concerning Israel precisely because the Jewish State is key to God's plan and that has put it in an existential fight for life seemingly against the whole world. Those who do not grasp GOD'S plan and purposes for Israel would tend to downgrade the need to teach out of the WORD OF GOD regarding ISRAEL. That's another "selah" point.

While it is true that the enemy cannot completely destroy Israel because God has purpose for Israel in these last days, it is also true that without the Body of Christ standing up WITH Israel that the enemy WILL be able to cut off many Jews from the land of the living before they can receive Messiah into their lives.  We must stand with Israel to limit the death toll that the demonic opposition CAN achieve.  The enemy may not achieve wiping Israel off the map, but demonic-inspired opposition can kill many Jews before they come to the knowledge of their own Messiah.

This precedent in the Bible is easy to see:  We need only to look at all the Jewish babies who were killed in Moses’ and Herod's times as the devil sought to thwart the plan of God.

Or the contemporary examples of Haman:  Hitler and any of the other forerunners of those antichrist spirits that are all-out opposing the LORD's purposes toward His "Chosen People".   Iran now stands in that leading role.

Don't get in a huff, Christian, over the Jews being known as "the chosen" by God because it has put a target on their backs that demons seeks out.  Israel was singled out to be a blessing not only in providing the bloodline for the birth of Jesus, but also to be the key to the great last harvest of international souls. Like any individual who has been singled out by God to fulfill something for the kingdom of the LORD, the JEWS have paid a steep price for being "the Chosen People" of God.

One can see this clearly in the prophetic word of the LORD to Zechariah, (v.2) “The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers….(v.15) But I am very angry with the other nations that are now enjoying peace and security. I was only a little angry with My people, but the nations inflicted harm on them far beyond my intentions.

Zechariah's prophecy that has proven historically true and Isaiah 61:7 records the promise of God to Israel that is to come as a result:  "Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs."  

As a Christian, if you don’t know the history of the persecution Jews have endured all over the world, you should since a great deal of it has been at Christian hands.  A great book to bring you up to speed is Dr. Michael Brown’s classic, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood

Here is the caveat:
Many Christians who learn our shameful history of how Christians have dealt with the Jews over the past 2,000 years make the mistake of camping out in that place forever.   

That‘s what we do, isn’t it? We camp out in the place of the last downloaded understanding of God and fail to move on.  We have to repent of our shameful history and then move on to a productive connection with the Messianic parts of the Body. 

The Messianic community should not stop teaching about Israel, and it cannot stop enlightening Christians who are NEW to the discovery of Jews who believe in Jesus of the shameful history of Christian persecution of Jews.  What we cannot allow is indulging the so-called “Messianic Christians” to set up a permanent camp at being incensed over Christianity’s shameful past with the Jews.  

No! It is wrong to allow Christians joined to the Messianic movement to stay in that mode of righteous indignation over the shameful past because it turns into SELF-righteous indignation which destroys anything we have gained in learning the truth!  

This shared bitterness devoid of grace becomes a quicksand graveyard for many Christians to moving forward into more meaningful connection with the JEWISH MEMBERS of the BODY of MESSIAH. 

God wants to establish the coming together of the whole Body in a connectedness that works together from the instruction of its Head.  From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  Eph 4:16

What happens when the Christians who are stirred by God to care for the Jewish people or to join themselves to the Messianic community stay in a graceless bitterness over the past is that God’s purposes are thwarted. If we, as Christians associated with the Messianic movement, remain in the place of anger and unforgiveness, it will divert us from the purposes of God to connect with the other parts of the BODY of the LORD together under one Head - that is Yeshua/Jesus.   
Just moving into a connectedness with unsaved Israel is a booby-trap for Christians that will imprison us.   
When we have been hurt, human nature is such that we like it when others join into our offense.  It makes us feel vindicated.  To live in the kingdom of God, we have to put a halt to living in the place of offense.  We cannot allow ourselves to live there and cannot invite our spiritual relatives to move in to that place of bitterness where we continue to live in it vicariously through them.

If the Messianic leadership allows the Christians among them to remain in the place of bitter, unforgivness over Christian history with the Jewish people, instead of urging them to move on into a more productive relationship and connection with God’s purposes in raising up the believing Remnant in Israel, then we will continue to see the great numbers of Messianic Jews and Christians default from the faith, opting into traditional Judaism that excludes Jesus.  This is the high price we pay for not keeping the Messianic House in order. Selah.

And lastly, as much as it is a disconnect for the Church to ignore the Divine significance on the worldwide explosion of salvation among the Jews and of their existence as a impacting Remnant in Israel, IT IS ALSO A DISCONNECT for the Church to bypass the Body of Messiah in Israel in order to CONNECT with unsaved Israel.  Christian Zionists need to take this word to heart more urgently than ever before. 

There are many ways to leave the path of God’s purposes.  Those I’ve addressed here are a few that I see working in the Church and in the Messianic movement.  Both sides can be guilty of slowing down the LORD’s purposes to make “in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace.”