Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Event that Set Paul on the Road to Jerusalem 5 23 2007 Draft


I did tinker with this 2007 draft just a tiny bit - a bit of editing and clarifying - but 95% is just as I wrote it in 2007 when I pulled it from my 2001 writings on the subject. I got this revelation in the early 1990’s and it has been the guiding force behind my labors for the believers in Israel since 2001.


by Donna Diorio

The event that awakened Paul to the need of the Gentile Church to minister to the material needs of the Messianic brethren, started at Antioch. The consecration to God’s purposes took place after Paul and Barnabas’ returned from Jerusalem where they had carried provision for the Israeli brethren for a prophesied famine that was coming on the whole world. Their arrival in Jerusalem had also coincided with great persecution of the believing community and Herod’s execution of the apostle James (brother of John). Herod also arrested Peter.

After the stoning of Stephen, many of the disciples fled from Jerusalem to surrounding countries, where they continued to preach the gospel to Jews only. However, some of them who went to Antioch also preached to Gentiles and “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.”

News of their effective ministry came back to the believers in Jerusalem, so Barnabas was sent to Antioch. When he saw the grace of God, he “encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.”

Saul had been in Arabia and also at Damascus for about thirteen years when Barnabas sought him out for the ministry work at Antioch. When Barnabas found him, they returned to minister to the Gentiles for one year. Then events began to unfold that would send Saul, now known as Paul, back to Jerusalem for the second time since his conversion on the road to Damascus.

What happened there could only be the leading of God to bring Paul into recognition of the mission He was preparing the apostle to carry out.

After Barnabas and Paul had returned together to minister in Antioch: After one year, a prophet from Jerusalem, Agabus, “stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout the world.”

I want to draw special attention to the fact that the prophesied famine was not only to affect Israel, but would be throughout the known world. Scripture notes that the famine did indeed occur according to the prophetic utterance during the days of Claudius Caesar.

In response to Agabus’ prophecy, we are told, “Then the disciples, each according to his own ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they did by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

Even though the famine would affect the whole known world, the prophetic utterance stirred Gentile believers at Antioch to be especially concerned for the welfare of Jewish believers in Israel.

Why? Not because the Jewish brethren were considered “special” in themselves, but because there was recognition that they lived and ministered in a more gospel-hostile environment than most Gentile believers did. I have come to learn that the ability of the body in Israel to thrive through the help of the believers in the nations is just as - maybe even more important and significant in our day than - in the early days of the faith.

From that day to our day, the situation for Messianic Jews in Israel has been much the same - except for this important difference. There is still religious persecution of the faith, but NOW is the time that the veil is being removed from the eyes and hearts of Jews so they can received the Messiah Yeshua.

Now the believers at Antioch had understood that even though a famine would have impact throughout the world—including where they were—that there was a special need to send relief to the brethren living in Judea. There was a special need to supply relief for those believing Jews living among unbelieving Jews. It was true in those days and remains true to this day.

Special care from the Gentile churches is required to keep the Jewish brethren from suffering excessively for the sake of the gospel and for them to be able to minister effectively to all Israel.

There are many believers worldwide who suffer the effects of persecution, and we do not discourage any assistance directed toward any of them. However, we must point out that there is greater significance to the Antioch believers’ recognition of the special circumstance that Israeli believers labor under. That significance, “To the Jew first, and also to the Gentiles,” is a principle that must be applied in our ministry support and missions giving.

As Paul told the church at Corinth in direct reference to their collection of funds earmarked for the Jewish brethren, “And in this I give my advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there may also be a completion out of what you have.” 2 Cor. 8:10-11

It is to OUR advantage in this day also! "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" Romans 11:15

There is also significance in the timing of Paul and Barnabas’ arrival in Jerusalem to deliver famine-provision for the Jewish believers. The timing is significant in two ways: First, it was during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is observed immediately after Passover and also within days of the observance of Shavuot.

And secondly because, “about that time Herod stretched out his hand to harass some” of the Messianic Jewish body. Then he killed the apostle James, brother of the apostle John, with the sword and “because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also.” Acts 11:26-12:3

We must believe in Divine timing when we see it! Here Paul looked plainly into the eye of both the spiritual indebtedness of the Gentile believers to the Jewish believers (Romans 15:27) and also to the persecution of believing Jews by unbelieving Jews: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” Romans 11:28

How could Paul escape what God was speaking to him in the timing of these events?
Surely as these events unfolded before his eyes, Paul recognized the clear call and leading of God in his ministry! Could it be that as these events played out during the Days of Unleavened Bread (when Jesus became the sheaf offering of the first ripe grain), that God began to reveal to Paul what the meaning was of the Shavuot offering?

Paul was experiencing first hand how the Jewish brethren in Israel were suffering without any assistance from believers outside of their borders. He had come to deliver the first Holy-Spirit inspired contribution from the Antioch Christians, and he witnessed how great the persecution was!

He had been a persecutor of Jewish believers, and now he is witness to how the zeal he had carried in his own bosom against Yeshua’s faithful, had multiplied and jeopardized the top leadership among the apostles of the Lord! One apostle had already been killed and another thrown in prison.

The believers in Jerusalem were terrified of what would happen to Peter, and surely also of what it would mean to all believers in Israel. There was intercessory prayer going on day and night on Peter’s behalf by all the believers in Jerusalem! This is the scenario that Paul and Barnabas walked into upon arrival in Jerusalem. How it must have impacted them!

What unfolded before Paul’s eyes was in the perfect timing of God. For we know how by His Word and through the events of our lives, God directs our paths. He set Paul on a specific path in the same way by these very events that were unfolding.

After Peter’s Divine release from prison, Acts tells us that Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch and only then were the two men set apart by God to their callings. Having “fulfilled their ministry” to Jerusalem, and in a season of fasting and prayer with prophets and teachers in Antioch, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate (consecrate) Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:13

In the past we have understood these passages to be only the singling out of Paul and Barnabas to be sent out as missionaries. We must reconsider the consecration as an even fuller calling on Paul to prophetically model the support of the church to the body in Israel to insure those ministers who are living in this very day would be able to minister to the Israeli people the Good News of the Messiah Yeshua.

Certainly, as the years of evangelization among the Gentiles, Paul increasingly acts on his calling to establish giving in the churches toward the material needs of the Jewish brethren. By the latter part of Paul’s second missionary trip, he has made this a priority focus in his in-person ministry and also by letters to the churches.

Near the end of his second missionary journey at Cenchrea, the eastern port of Corinth, Paul consecrated himself under a Nazarite vow for God’s favor. The passage does not tell us why but it is only in Acts 21:23-24 in Jerusalem that he ends the vow because his mission is accomplished. That Nazarite vow was fulfilled in his last trip to Jerusalem When he was delivering the donations from all the Christian churches he had oversight of.

From the time he took his vow until he embarked on his last trip to Jerusalem, his letters urged the churches to take up a collection for the “saints,” the “poor in Judea” (2 Cor 8, Ro 15:26-27, 2 Cor 9:12-13, Gal 2:9-10, 1 Cor 16:1) . Not just poor in general, but the poor in specific - the believers in Israel.

I believe that Paul understood his calling to do this was not just for the Jewish believers in the time he was living, but it was for the time such as this. He fulfilled his prophetic modeling to the church bringing their donations to the body in Israel. He knew his freedom was at stake and there were prophecies all along his journey to Jerusalem that it would end with him in chains. His closest friends and followers cried, not wanting him to personally escort the donations to Jerusalem, but Paul had already decided to fulfill God’s calling on his life to set the standard of giving to the ministers in Israel so they could fulfill their calling.

He was arrested in Jerusalem, imprisoned and eventually died in Rome. He is no doubt in Heaven now rooting for the understanding of what he prophetically modeled for our sakes in such a time as this, to begin to break loose throughout the whole Christian world. It is a revelation of God’s purposes in such a time as this.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Vision for Peace | Arrows from Zion


President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu Meeting at the White House Jan 28, 2020


I'm going to break from the naysayers decrying this Trump initiated "Vision for Peace" deal by highlighting some of the more positive views that are being expressed by Jewish commentators — both Messianic and traditional conservative Jews. My starting point is that we know there is no true peace for Israel until Yeshua returns, but that does not mean that Israel should not take advantage of how this deal moves the ball forward on Israel's behalf. 
One idea I reject outright is that this is an "Antichrist" peace deal. 
(Published first as the cover story 1/29/20 in Arrows from Zion)

Vision for Peace
A roundup of assessments 1/29/20 by Donna Diorio

The "Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People" is 181 pages long, but you can read it for yourself. It is posted on the White House website and is downloadable in pdf format.

As soon as the plan was shared yesterday, the first opinion I saw was from one whose views I often find compatible with my own, from traditional Jewish, but the American Conservative editor of JNS.org, Jonathan S. Tobin. Haaretz ran Tobin's take in Trump's peace plan means settlements are permanent. Democrats, get used to it.

Tobin wrote, "Any assumption that Trump's plan has no long-term significance is almost certainly wrong." 

"Even when Democrats hold the White House again, they won't be able to reverse the core terms of Trump's Middle East peace plan, and U.S. leverage over Israel will have diminished."

“There is no going back to a diplomatic universe in which there's an assumption that Israel will bow to US demands for territorial withdrawals—involving the mass eviction of settlers—once framed as a necessary basis for peace.” Tobin wrote.

From the statement by Jared Kushner, that is very much the point. He ought to know because Kushner is the president's Jewish son-in-law and was one of those involved in crafting the plan. 

Kushner has said, "I'm not  looking at the world as it existed in 1967. I'm looking at the world as it exists in 2020."

That simply means this plan takes off the table any fantasy negotiation that envisions Israel returning to 1967 border lines. It is a point that is always pressed that has now been permanently taken off the table. That is reason enough for the favorable reception the plan apparently received from both Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz.

The headline at Israeli Messianic Israel Today magazine read, Trump Deal Flips Peace Process on Its Head. "After more than 20 years of failure despite intensive diplomatic efforts," they write, "US President Donald Trump’s 'Deal of the Century' finally proposes a different approach." 
"For the past two decades," Israel Today notes, "the formula underlying the Middle East peace process was to accept the Palestinian positions, turn a blind eye to their transgressions (because they were the “oppressed”), and require painful concessions of Israel."

Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human rights attorney and journalist called Trump's Vision for Peace plan "the most pro-peace, pro-Israel proposal to date!"
Ostrovsky also tweeted, "That the #Palestinians were going to reject the #DealOfTheCentury was a given. Most interesting for me, is seeing the reactions coming from the Arab / Gulf world. This is BIG. Palestinians increasingly on their own."
He cites the Jerusalem Post report that "Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE on Tuesday issued statements welcoming the Trump administration's peace plan, and called on both sides to begin negotiations."
Jonathan Schanzer, a counterterrorism expert and a VP at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says that the Trump plan changes the dynamic that past administrations were locked into by recognizing both sides as equals. This produced Palestinian recalcitrance leading to deadlock in peace talks for decades.

“The Palestinians are often granted more power than they actually have; the Israelis are asked to relinquish power and it’s ended in disaster,” Schanzer says. “This is an attempt to shift the dynamic to give the Israelis more power and the Palestinians less in a way that affects the actual dynamic.”
Ron Cantor of Messiah's Mandate notes, "Understand, I am not 100% opposed to a Palestinian state. I recognize that there are 3,000,000 Arabs within Israel in the disputed territories—people who deserve more. But until they change their leadership, there will be no peace and no state. The PLO was born in the blood of terror—not war. They are the fathers of martyrs and suicide bombers. ...[To this day] The PLO pays out some $360 million a year to the families of suicide bombers and martyrs."
American Messianic Jew Dr Michael L. Brown makes a difference between many of the Palestinian people and their terrorist leaders, "if the Palestinian populace as a whole could see a way forward to peace and prosperity, wouldn’t they want to achieve it? And what if the surrounding Muslim nations said, 'Yes, do this and we will help you prosper as well!' What then?....Frankly, without massive pressure from the populace as a whole, joined by other Muslim nations, I do not see this happening. And that is the crux of the problem."

Most of the Jews making comment recognize that there is no way the Palestinians will live up to their side of the deal to bring it to pass. In essence the US plan insists that for the Palestinians to reap the benefits of the plan they have to first accept the plan, then the Palestinian Authority must stop paying terrorists and inciting terrorism. Hamas and Islamic Jihad must put down their weapons. Both the PA and Hamas governed territories must give up corruption, respect human rights, freedom of religion and a free press. This is according to the Jerusalem Post summary of conditions. Few see that happening.

Which may be why US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman urged Israelis to "apply Israeli law to the settlements and to the territory" in an "on-the-record press call on the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Ambassador Friedman said, "Israel does not have to wait — does not have to wait at all. The waiting period would be the time it takes for them to obtain internal approvals and to obviously create the documentation, the calibration, the mapping that would enable us to evaluate and make sure it’s consistent with conceptual map."

The Ambassador says that the plan provides "certain benefits to Israel up front in exchange for Israel keeping the option open to the Palestinians for a very lengthy period of time.”

Today it was reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu will ask the cabinet in its next meeting to vote on applying Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

In news breaking in the past hour (at this writing 1/29), Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz has announced that he will bring the US peace plan to the Knesset for an up or down vote next week. "This is a historic opportunity to draw Israel's future borders," Gantz told participants today at a national security conference.

As PA President Abbas appears to threaten Netanyahu with breaking Oslo agreements related to security coordination, Israel news is also reporting that the IDF is bolstering its West Bank troops as Palestinians riot and is conducting ongoing assessments of the situation.

Jared Kushner said the plan is "rooted in the principle that a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians must be based on an agreement that satisfies the basic aspirations of the two peoples – in a manner that guarantees security, dignity and opportunity for all."

"The question comes down to, what will the Palestinian leadership do?" Kushner asked.

He told Al-Arabia, "wholehearted rejections will show the world that they are not interested in peace, they have never been interested in peace. And, quite frankly, in the Palestinian areas, you have a lot of people that are very vested in the status quo."

If nothing is done with the deal on the Palestinian side, the situation, Kusher says, will only get worse for Palestinians who are living in great poverty as it stands not. There is a $50 billion economic plan and refugee compensation fund that will help with the Palestinians reabsorbing Palestinian refugees.  

Kushner does not see potential for a better deal if Palestinians let this opportunity die.

"This is a great deal for them, he says. "If they come to the table and negotiate, I think they can get something excellent."

"It’s difficult to come up with a construct where you have a continuous Palestinian state, where you can drive from one end to the bottom through bridges, tunnels, roads, Kushner continued. "We figured it out, it was not easy. And then we were able to sit with Israel and get them to agree to freeze settlement for four years. That has never been done before. And get them to agree to a Palestinian state, and get them to agree to a map."

Many will try to dismiss President Trump's plan as merely an ego-driven deal. That would be a great disservice to the heart that has been put into this plan to benefit both sides, but at last from a position that places Israel's needs in proper priority. 

Yet again, President Trump has shown himself to be the hands down best friend in an American president that Israel has ever had.