Every year right after Passover, there is a somber week during which Israelis observe Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. This year, in light of the October 7th massacre, the ensuing war against Hamas and the dramatic rise of global antisemitism, Israelis are experiencing this week of memorials from fresh wounds of tragedy, loss, increasing antisemitism and global isolation.

In particular, we are seeing some haunting similarities between 1948 and 2024 through which we feel God challenging and encouraging us with meaningful lessons from the past.

The Context of Israel’s Declaration of Independence

To give some context to the developments leading up to the moment the fledgling Jewish settlement in their ancient homeland bravely announced their independence, it is important to know that from 1920 to 1948 the British controlled the area called “Palestine” after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI.

It is worth knowing the source of the name “Palestine”: it does not have roots in the identity of the local Arab tribes living in the area under Ottoman rule but rather in the Roman occupation of Judea in the 1st century. In 135 AD after the second Jewish revolt, the Romans replaced the name Judea with “Palestina” in order to erase Jewish connection to the Land and to spite the Jews by naming their homeland and namesake, Judea, after their ancient enemies, the Philistines. Interestingly, the Philistine’s core settlement was located in the area that encompasses today’s Gaza Strip.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved a plan that would partition British Mandate Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews accepted the plan but the Arabs rejected it out of hand and immediately began attacking Jewish Settlements. Caught in an increasingly violent conflict between the Jews and Arabs, the British were intent on ending their colonial responsibilities in Palestine and, in April 1948, announced that the official termination of British Mandate Palestine would happen on May 14th, 1948. It wasn’t the British withdrawal that made that date meaningful. The fame and importance of this day come from the fact that it was the date when Ben Gurion made the declaration of the Independent State of Israel. One day later, on Saturday May 15th 1948, five Arab armies invaded the day-old Israel.

 

David Ben-Gurion publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel.

 

The Declaration of Independence – An Act of Faith, Bravery or Insanity?

During their time ruling “Palestine”, the British were actively engaged in disarming Jewish militias up until the last day of their mandate on May 14, 1948. The Jewish paramilitary groups, which ultimately formed into the Israeli Defense Forces just two weeks after the Declaration of Independence, were highly motivated but poorly armed. While doing their best to find and seize Jewish weapons, the British were training and arming professional armies in Jordan and Egypt with modern armaments. The French Colonial powers were doing the same in Syria.

When the five Arab armies invaded the day-old State of Israel, these were armies that had been trained and armed by British and French colonial administrations. Of course it had not been their intent to train these forces in order that they would attack and prevail against the “illegal” Jewish State. However, the fact of the matter remains that when the British pulled out and the Arab armies attacked, the imbalance of firepower between the newly-formed IDF and the Arab armies was staggering: the Arab armies had much greater firepower with modern guns, tanks and even air forces. At the moment of the Declaration of Independence on May 14th, the Jewish State had guns and Molotov cocktails.  By May 18, the only heavy weaponry the IDF had were four old-fashioned howitzers used by the French army in the Franco-Prussian war.

 

A 1906 French cannon the IDF coined “The Little Napoleon” in the battle for Beer Sheba in 1948

 

Consequently, due to increasing violence and tensions in the Middle East, the United States, Britain and the United Nations enacted arms embargos against Israel and the Arab countries in Middle East. While the arms embargo was applied equally to the fledgling Jewish state and the Arab states, the Jewish state was in a woeful position as far as weapons while the Arab armies were fully armed. Over the course of Israel’s war of independence, Israel would be able to slowly procure weapons from Europe, much of which was World War I weaponry or even older. Czechoslovakia was the only government to flout the US, British and UN arms embargo to help Israel.

 

Israeli anti-aircraft battery attempting to shoot down Lebanese aircraft attacking the Galilee in 1948

 

Against All Odds – the place where miracles happen

Looking at the image of IDF warriors using a 48-year-old cannon to fight in the War of Independence, I am in awe. I know that they weren’t just fighting for their independence. They were fighting for their survival, even if it meant using forty-year-old cannons or Molotov cocktails. They knew that defeat at the hands of the Arab armies would mean a complete massacre of the Jewish settlement – October 7th- style. Today in Israel, we have the most advanced and cutting edge weaponry supplied by the US, and we can’t imagine facing the hostile Muslim armies around us without being armed to the teeth with it. On October 7th, Israel felt assured in its military, its state of the art border fence around the Gaza Strip and its first class intelligence gathering – and in that moment it was actually never weaker.

Threats of Embargos and International Pressure

On May 9th, US President Jo Biden announced that the US would halt the delivery of bombs and artillery shells to Israel if it invaded Rafa in the Gaza Strip, causing many in Israel to panic and Israel’s enemies, Iran included, to applaud with glee. For three months, the fighting against the Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip has been paused, and Israelis and pundits alike have been wondering, “What are we waiting for? When are we going to invade Rafa and finish the job?” When Israeli forces finally entered Rafa, the American threat of even a partial embargo frightened many in Israel.

It has become obvious that the Netanyahu government has been holding off invading Rafa, the last Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip, because of American pressure. The Biden government is being steamrolled by the extremist left and Free-Palestinian mobs in an election year. In Israel there is a sickening feeling that we are losing heart and losing momentum while Hamas gains support around the world and gets to play for time with never-ending sham hostage negations.

We of course know that God was involved in the miracle of the birth of the state of Israel in 1948 against all odds – a nation born out of the ashes of the Holocaust and a prevailing climate of deep-seated antisemitism in most countries and governments. Back in 1948, President Truman who was in support of the Jewish State, ultimately gave in to an anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic State Department and influential politicians who were interested in good relations with Arab oil states.

Today, I believe that the horrific attack on October 7th, the success and scope of which is mind-boggling, was God’s judgment against us in Israel in order to wake us up to seek Him and to make us get our priorities straight. At the same time, whenever God brings judgement upon Israel, He is also testing the nations as well as to how they will treat Israel in that moment. Right now, open rage and hatred of Israel and Jews is being expressed in ways we never imagined seeing again.

1948 and 2024 – a calendar convergence

Israel observes its national and biblical holidays with the Hebrew lunar calendar which moves by several days from year to year, even more in leap years like this year. The solar Gregorian calendar does not move in the same way so that, for instance, the first night of Passover 2023 fell on April 5th, and in 2024 it fell on April 22nd. This year, the Day of Independence, which is on the 5th of Iyar of the Hebrew calendar, falls on May 14th of the Gregorian calendar. In 1948, the 5th of Iyar fell on May 14th as well. This calendar convergence is not going unnoticed in Israel at a times she finds herself after the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and in the greatest existential threat since the Yom Kippur war – the 50th anniversary of which fell on…October 7th of 2023.

So what does this convergence mean, if anything at all? For me, it is a stark reminder that our fate as a nation is in God’s hands, not our own and not in the amount or the quality of the weaponry we have. It is also a reminder that even if all our allies abandon us, God will not abandon us. When we realize that we are reliant on Him alone, the stress and anxiety of what the world is doing melts away. This Independence Day I am encouraged by the story of the victory God gave us in 1948 against all odds. We know that He did not return us to this land miraculously, in fulfilment of biblical prophecy, in order to destroy us. Though the nations will rage against us, it will get to the point where Messiah Himself will come and fight on our behalf.

A Great Need for Prayer

The starkest difference I see between Israel in 1948 and Israel today is the quality in her leadership. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, was an extraordinary, single-minded, hard-working, no-nonsense man devoted to the State of Israel. He lived simply and worked hard. It is rare that political leaders have that quality, and doubtless they are men for the hour, just like Winston Churchill was in WWII Europe. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government were beleaguered and compromised before October 7th, and now they are under immense pressure from within and without. Israelis know that Netanyahu has difficulty with making bold, critical decisions and withstanding international pressure. Please join us in prayer the God would guide and strengthen Prime Minister Netanyahu and his war cabinet to make bold decisions without fear and that their hearts would be instructed by the fear of the Lord instead!

As people of faith and a part of this nation, we are keenly aware that throughout our history God has used our enemies to bring judgement against us and return us to Him. The book of Judges is a template of how God used Israel’s enemies to chasten the fledgling nation dwelling in the Promised Land whenever they lost sight of their identity as His chosen people and began worshipping other gods, thus enacting the covenant curses He enumerated in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Today, the lines of this curse speak to new, deep wounds in our souls which they describe:

The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven…

You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it…

 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand…

The sights you see will drive you mad. -Deuteronomy 28:25, 30, 32, 34

In response to enemy attack, ancient Israel would repent and cry out to God to save them, and He would raise up a deliverer. Israel continued in this sad cycle throughout her ancient history until God began sending His prophets to warn and call the people to repent and return to God, lest He bring destruction and exile upon them. Finally, God sent the great Prophet, Yeshua Himself, who stood overlooking Jerusalem and sorrowfully declared her impending judgement that would result in an exile lasting nearly two-thousand years…until 1948.

THE CHASTENING OF MODERN ISRAEL

Since the establishment of the modern state of Israel (a miracle and fulfillment of biblical prophecy), Israel has experienced two main instances of God’s chastening through our enemies: the Yom Kippur War which began on October 6th, 1973 and again, fifty years later (according to the Gregorian calendar), on October 7th, 2023—a day which fell on another biblical holy day (according to the lunar calendar), the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles when we celebrate the Word of God given by Moses to the Israelites.

The surprise attacks Israel experienced in 1973 and 2023 have a number of elements in common. In both instances, Israel’s government and military were completely caught off guard. In the wake of each attack, the entire nation, including our leaders, was struck by the terror that this attack could be a third “chorban bait” which refers to the destruction of the two temples: in other words, national destruction.

In the months since October 7th and the years since the Yom Kippur War, it became apparent that pride and arrogance in the government and security agencies caused a great institutional blindness to the many warning signs of an attack. Indeed, the failures in each instance are so egregious that is clear God struck our leaders with blindness.

Finally, each of these terrible blows against modern Israel came on two of our most significant biblical holidays: Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles). Understanding that as a nation, we are in the template of blessings and curses God established in the Torah, today we must tune our ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us. The voices of the prophets who spoke to this nation in ancient days and foreshadowed our present regathered nation echo the same message time and again:

My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and they have dug their own cisterns—broken cisterns that cannot hold water. -Jeremiah 2:13

OCTOBER 7TH: A FIERCER JUDGEMENT

The attack we suffered on October 7th was far worse than what struck us fifty years earlier. On Yom Kippur 1973, Arab armies attacked us from vast open territory in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. Yom Kippur war battles were fought between the military forces outside of population centers. On the early morning of October 7th, a Sabbath and a holiday, Hamas terrorists crossed a matter of a few kilometers to attack defenseless farms, villages and cities where many were still asleep in their beds; they entered homes and perpetrated massacres that defy description. They massacred our people completely unhindered for most of the day because the army and security forces were in utter confusion and disarray.

JUDGEMENT OVER WHAT?

One of the greatest massacres on October 7th took place at Nova, the desert rave where terrorists paraglided into the middle of partygoers. In one of the news broadcasts, I saw in the central pavilion set up for the party, the partygoers had erected a giant statue of Buddha around which they danced all night. My heart broke when I saw that. Many in Israel who saw that blatant display of idolatry did the quick arithmetic of “God is judging the hedonistic, secular Israelis for the sin of idolatry.” On many social media sites, Israelis lamented “the sin of the golden calf” at the Nova festival. But what I saw at that party were the lost sheep of Israel.

BROKEN CISTERNS

When Jews who have left orthodox Judaism seek spiritual meaning, they seek it in mysticism and eastern religions which they see as the only options open to them. Due to the legacy of Christian\western antisemitism which culminated in the holocaust and rabbinic teaching that the New Testament is a forbidden, dangerous Christian book a great barrier exists between even secular Israelis and the revelation of Yeshua as the Messiah.  While many, including many believers here in the Land, indeed saw October 7th as God’s judgment on the sins of secular Israel – abortion, immorality and materialism—I felt strongly that the judgement of the Lord was against the spiritual shepherds of Israel who had rejected Him, the source of living waters, hindering anyone else from Him:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds who tend My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away….” -Jeremiah 23:1-2

THE MESSAGE OF THE LAST DAY OF SUKKOT

In February we shared the prophetic word that our brother Oren received just weeks before the October 7th attack. In the word, the Lord said that He would bring great suffering on our people in order to break the shell of religion which is keeping them in spiritual exile and hindering them from coming to Yeshua, the source of living waters.

In the days and weeks after the attack, while we were processing everything that had happened in the light of the word that the Lord had graciously given us, we realized that there was a deep and important message in the fact that the attack came on the last day of Sukkot, traditionally called Simchat Torah when we celebrate the giving of the Word of God. We realized with awe that our Lord, the Word of God made flesh, stood in the Temple two thousand years ago on the very same day and cried out:

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” -John 7:37-38

We believe that Yeshua’s cry to come to Him, the source of living waters and the living Word of God, is going out to our people right now in a more powerful way than ever. Our people have been led to broken cisterns (rabbinic Judaism) or have been fleeing to other broken cisterns (secularism, mysticism), but we believe that through this great tragedy that God allowed to strike us, many are seeking for truth more earnestly than ever and, in His faithfulness and mercy, He is drawing them to Him. Please stand in prayer with the people of Israel in this hour of trial that the shell of religion would shatter and release the people of Israel to come to their Messiah, the source of living waters.

I was traveling in the US with my family when Hamas attacked Israel, and, because our flights were canceled, it took us several days to make it home. Miraculously, we all got onto an El-Al flight back to Israel. We were honored to fly with almost one hundred young Israeli reservists who had dropped everything to return home to fight: most of them would go straight to their bases from the airport. I am amazed because these are the exact same scenes my parents told me about during the Yom Kippur war.

Supporting Soldiers and Civilians on the Homefront

Once home, we realized how much better it felt to be here during this crisis – something which must sound strange. It was difficult being in the US where life was continuing as normal while a horrific massacre and war were happening at home. Once in Israel, we discovered an amazing solidarity and unity among the people unlike anything I have ever felt before. Everyone is sharing the same shock and sadness. And everyone is doing what they can to support the soldiers on the front and the southern communities that have been displaced: the blood banks are full, IDF units in the south fighting the terrorist incursion and preparing for a land invasion into Gaza have been overwhelmed with care packages to the point that they are saying, “Don’t bring anymore! We have all we need.”

A Call for Help

At the same time, we have been hearing of needs and shortages in army units called to the northern border, especially in reserve combat units which are lacking some basic essentials. We made a call to our supporters abroad that we want to prepare 400 care packages for these combat units experiencing shortages in basic essentials. Thanks to the support of many who answered the call, we were able to put together 200 care packages with help from volunteers at Tiferet Yeshua. In the same afternoon, a group of several young adult volunteers and I caravanned in our cars to the border with Lebanon in the Upper Galilee: our team had done some investigating through army channels and were connected with a paratroopers platoon that would be grateful for supplies.

A Surprise Welcome on the Lebanon Border

By the time we were ascending the Galilee, it was late in the day and a beautiful red sunset was flaming over the mountains. It was nearly dark when we made it to the paratroopers base at the top of the Galilee. At the main gate of the base, we were met by guards and expected to be told to unload the packages there at the gate so that the soldiers could bring them into the base. However, they warmly welcomed us and let us in – they said it was their first time allowing civilians onto their base! Once inside, we were welcomed by all the soldiers there. The army contact with whom we had coordinated the delivery had said that the platoon would be away at a training exercise until late into the night, so we were surprised then to find the whole platoon there when we arrived.

An Even Greater Surprise

When we began unloading the packages, suddenly I heard a booming voice call out, “Gil Afriat, is that you?” I turned around and saw a dear face I know well: Yehuda Bachana, a leader at Netivya congregation in Jerusalem. Seeing that we had a personal connection with one of their own made our visit with the soldiers of this platoon even warmer and more personable. But the surprises did not end there.

After unloading the packages, the soldiers invited us to sit with them for coffee. When one soldier heard that, in addition to serving at a Messianic Jewish congregation, I work part time as an engineer at Intel, he told me excitedly, “Hey, I work at Intel too!”. When I asked him what engineering group he worked in, it turns out he works in the same group I do, just in a different city, and that he sometimes comes up to our branch to work with our team! At that point, he yelled out to one of his friends, “Hey, get over here!” The friend he introduced me to I recognized: he is a young engineer who recently joined my group at Intel. We talked for a while: he shared their experiences fighting the terrorists in the south before they were transferred to the northern border. We talked about engineering and about God as well. “When this is over,” he said, “let’s have lunch in the cafeteria together.”

In the time we spent on the base with the soldiers, we had wonderful conversations, and many wanted to talk to us about our faith. I am still in awe at the amazing grace God poured out on our visit. One soldier who lives in Tel Aviv told me, “When the war is over, I’m coming to visit you all.” We were invited to stay for dinner (what an honor!), but, because it was late and we still had a long drive back, first making it down the small winding Galilee roads in the dark, we decided it would be best to be on our way.

I am in awe at how God surprised me in so many ways during our trip! We are so honored to be able to serve these amazing soldiers who are giving their all to serve Israel. God also blessed me with so many special personal connections during our visit. Yehuda told me that the soldiers love the things we put into the care packages (protein bars, energy bars, caffeine gel packs, among other items) which are perfect for long strenuous training and days on end combat. I told Yehuda that he will probably have a lot of great opportunities to answer questions about his faith after our visit (each soldier got a care package with a blessing from “Tiferet Yeshua, a Messianic Jewish congregation in Tel Aviv”). We let them know that we want to prepare another 200 packages for them and asked them to update us about their needs.

Sincerest thanks to all those who supported this project “Supporting Our Soldiers”!

Please help us continue to bless and show God’s love to these dear soldiers

 

 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.

-John 1:5

We are living in unprecedented times in Israel: the gospel in Hebrew is more widely available than ever through numerous online platforms and digital outreach. Beginning in the covid crisis, we witnessed a dramatic increase of Israelis reaching out to us for information about the New Testament and Yeshua, surprisingly, mostly young men. That trend of seekers reaching out to us and to other outreach ministries continues today. We also see that God is using different societal pressures today to draw Israelis to seek the truth. Instead of the confusion, fear and disconnection experienced during the covid epidemic, Israelis today are facing a highly polarized and divided country, the likes of which modern Israel has not experienced in its 75 years of existence, to the extent that many are talking about the real possibility of a civil war or a separation between secular, pluralist Israeli society and religious, traditional Israeli society.

Seeing the Light

More Israelis than ever before are reading the New Testament and finding themselves drawn to the person of Yeshua and His teachings. When confronted with the powerful Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, most see almost immediately that they clearly point to Yeshua. For years, I have shared openly with my family, friends and co-workers about my faith. Numerous times, I have seen the revelation from the Messianic prophecies hit them with the realization that Yeshua was indeed the Messiah. But it almost always stops there: most people understand immediately that accepting this truth and following it to its logical conclusion (denying themselves and following Him), would radically change the status quo of their lives and maybe even cost them dearly in terms of family, social relationships and social status.

For the last five years, our discipleship team has led an increasing number of seekers and new believers through studying the foundations of the faith: going through the Messianic prophecies pointing to Yeshua and understanding what a New Covenant relationship with God means. However, the reality is that a high percentage of those who reach out to us and want to learn about Yeshua ultimately ends up falling away. This dynamic, however discouraging it may be for our discipleship team, is not surprising. Even in Yeshua’s time, there were many, even among the elite religious leadership, who believed that He was the Messiah. But when it came down to it, the follow-through of following Him cost too much:

“Nevertheless, many of the leaders believed in Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” -John 12:42-43

Walking in the Light

The reality for those Jews who chose to follow Yeshua as the Messiah two-thousand years ago and those who choose to follow Him today is very much the same: believing in Him is one thing but choosing to follow Him another. The obstacles facing those who choose to follow Him are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it makes their decision harder. On the other hand, their ultimate decision to follow Yeshua requires coming to terms with the real cost. In fact, Jewish believers who choose to follow Yeshua today are overcoming an even greater obstacle than those who made that choice in Yeshua’s day: a two-thousand-year legacy of persecution in the Name of Yeshua by the historic church and an inherited cultural paradigm that the New Testament is a forbidden, anti-Semitic book stand as a great obstacle between every Jew and the message of the New Covenant.

While the numbers of seekers and new believers who ultimately remain steadfast and committed is less than those who fall away, the transformation that we witness in the lives of those who choose to follow Yeshua is amazing. At the same time, we are indeed seeing a steady increase in the number of Israelis committing their lives to Yeshua from all ages and backgrounds: secular, atheist and religious. It is a small foretaste of what we know is ultimately coming when God fulfills His promise to pour out His Spirit on the whole house of Israel:

“Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, when I regather them to their own land, not leaving any of them behind after their exile among the nations. And I will no longer hide My face from them, for I will pour out My Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.” -Ezekiel 39:28-29

Until then, we will continue steadfastly praying for that day. At the same time, we are also keeping in prayer all of those who have already received the revelation that Yeshua is Messiah: may God cause all the seeds of truth in their hearts to sprout unto a harvest of salvation!

 

 

 

 

 

Tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on highLk. 24:49

As Jewish believers in Messiah, when we think of the Festival of Weeks (called Pentecost in the Church) we primarily think of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit two thousand years ago on the first Jewish believers gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this biblical first fruits holiday. This day nearly two-thousand years ago was indeed the beginning of the Holy Spirit ministry in the New Testament context which jump started the gospel from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

When considering the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we tend to first think of the gifts, the power and anointing which the Holy Spirit imparts. While that is an incredibly exciting and important element of Holy Spirit’s ministry, I believe that the Spirit is asking us to first spend time meditating on the word that defines the Spirit – Holy.

Be Holy for I am Holy (1 Peter 1:15-16)

It is natural that our attention tends to stay on the dramatic and outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, but the ministry of Holy Spirit should first and foremost empower us to live holy lives. We all discover sooner or later that when someone operates in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, it does not mean that the person’s personal walk with God is in good standing. In fact, someone can be living in egregious sin and still minister in the power of the Holy Spirit. If that minister does not repent, eventually the sin will be revealed, and it brings shame on the name of Messiah and places a stumbling block before young and immature believers. Therefore, to focus on ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit without living a life of holiness through the Holy Spirit is damaging and dangerous.

Religious Holiness

At the same time, some believers emphasize holiness without the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit. A holiness emphasis without the power of the Holy Spirit is equally damaging and dangerous because it can lead people into a religious mindset and an attempt to struggle against sin without the help of the Holy Spirit. We also cannot experience God’s love for us without the Holy Spirit. In fact, we cannot truly know God and have an intimate relationship with Him without the Holy Spirit because God reveals Himself to us through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

What does it mean to live holy lives?

Like many basic spiritual truths, there is quite a bit of misunderstanding about what it means to live a holy life. Most would describe living “holy” as hardly ever stumbling in sin. That definition makes “living holy” seem like a near impossibility. But the fact is, that is not what it means to live holy! Living holy is first and foremost the mere desire to do what is right in God’s eyes, repenting when we fail, and continuing to desire to do God’s will. That is the standard of holiness for us. The more we desire to do God’s will, the more the Holy Spirit fills our souls with grace, strength and conviction to choose the good and reject the evil. Over time, we will experience more victory in our struggles with sin. But it doesn’t mean we become immune to sin and live perfect lives. There is only One Righteous Man who did that!

The End-Time Bride: holy and endowed with Power from on high

This year as we celebrate the Festival of Weeks, I am filled with the urgency for the need of the Body of Messiah to step into the full calling God has given us – to live holy lives and to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not one on the account of the other. In these end times, the Spirit is calling all of us to desire to experience God’s love poured out in our hearts, to live lives of holiness, and to earnestly desire and operate in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. ” -Luke 22:14-16

 

Right before His suffering and crucifixion, Yeshua expressed something extraordinary to His disciples: He told them that He fervently desired to eat that last Passover with them.

Just thinking that Yeshua expressed fervent desire for that moment is amazing to me. He knew full well what was waiting for him—the shame and ridicule, the pain and torture—and He was not indifferent to it. Quite the opposite. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He tells His disciples that His “soul is consumed with sorrow to the point of death” and, falling facedown, He pleads with the Father to let the cup of His suffering pass from Him (Matt. 26:38-39). Despite that, Yeshua expressed His fervent desire for that Passover meal, and the question is What is it? What is it that the Lord desired so much that dwarfed even the terrible darkness that was about to come immediately after this Passover meal?

Jeremiah’s prophecy of a New Covenant realized (Jer. 31:31-34)

The first part of the answer is explained by the Lord: “For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”. Yeshua knows that this is His last Passover meal, after which He will serve as the complete and eternal Passover sacrifice which will usher His followers into the new covenant that Jeremiah prophesied over 500 years earlier. The moment He has so fervently desired is the beginning of this new covenant which will allow all His followers to have a close, intimate relationship with God the Father through Him. But His fervent desire is for even more than that: Yeshua tells His disciples that He has fervently desired to eat His last Passover specifically with them. Something special and unprecedented happened between Yeshua and His disciples during that extraordinary Passover meal.

Messiah’s Extraordinary Last Passover

During His last Passover meal, Yeshua forges a deep, intimate connection with His disciples on the highest level. This amazing and unprecedented fellowship is described in the Gospel of John in chapters 13-17. After Judah Iscariot, who was about to betray the Lord, left the meal, Yeshua shared with His loyal disciples some of the deepest, most amazing revelations found in Scripture, revelations which are given to us from a heart of profound intimacy. After finishing their meal, Yeshua told His disciples that He no longer considered them servants but  “friends” and that He loved them with the love which the Father loves Him –perfect, all-powerful, absolute love. When I pause to ponder what these revelations mean, I realize that they are beyond my understanding: we need divine revelation to begin to comprehend the breadth, length, depth, and height of this divine love, just as the Apostle Paul prays in Ephesians 5:18-21.

Entering into the Holy of Holies – John 17

In chapter 17, Yeshua takes His disciples into the Holy of Holies by allowing them to be witnesses of His intimate, personal prayer to the Father. By doing so, He essentially brings them into the perfect, holy relationship between the Father and the Son, allowing them to witness the deep, personal connection they have as the One God. Yeshua loved His disciples so completely (He loved them to the end) that He allowed them to be in the most intimate place of love and connection between Him and the Father:

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. -John 13:1

As Yeshua said, there is no greater love than laying one’s life down for another, and that is the expression of God’s complete love through Yeshua’s ultimate sacrifice. The goal of that love, however, is His fervent desire: allowing His disciples and all of us to come into the intimate place of communion of the Father and the Son, to come into God’s house. We understand then that when Yeshua expressed His fervent desire, it was the desire to include us and bring us into the intimate relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This inclusion, this special relationship, happens only within the context of the New Covenant. We are adopted as God’s own sons and daughters (Rm. 8:14-15) and not as “second class” children: The Father loves us with the same love He has for His Son:

I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. -John 17:23

Not only are we now in God’s family, but the Father is also preparing us to be a bride for His Son (Eph. 5:22-33) – the marriage relationship being the pinnacle of intimacy and partnership. Furthermore, Yeshua loves us in the same way the Father loves Him:

As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. -John. 15:9

God has not withheld anything from us. He loved us until the end (perfectly), He has brought us into His house, into his family, into the special, intimate relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are united in perfect love which flows from the Father to us through the Son. He has filled us with the Holy Spirit. Yeshua, who is forever God and forever human, is the connection point between us and God. Through our communion with Yeshua as the Son of Man, we are able to be in a relationship with the perfect God. We are able to enter God’s house and family.

So much of this is hard to fathom, and may we never let ourselves take for granted the fact that the holy, majestic God of the universe has opened His house to us, where everything is perfect, pure love, and invited us in to be a part of His family – with all our sin and darkness—through the purification and sanctification in Yeshua the Messiah.

The Goal of Creation Realized

I believe that this was the goal of creation: God created us to become part of His family. Therefore, when Yeshua says, “I have fervently desired” this moment, He is expressing the deep desire of God from creation culminating at that point. Yeshua’s intimate fellowship with His disciples during that last Passover meal is the moment that the goal of creation began to be realized. It will be fully realized when the Body of Messiah attains to the full stature of Messiah and ultimately connects to God in the perfect way He desires. (Eph. 4:13, Rev. 21:3-4)

John 17 – Invitation into the Holy of Holies

During this Passover season, I would like to encourage all of us to devote time to the immensely powerful chapters of John 13 through 17, most especially John 17. When you spend time reading these chapters, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the power and depth of what Yeshua so fervently desires for us. If this is indeed the goal of creation, that means that this is our ultimate and highest identity and destiny. Today Yeshua is saying to all of us: “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you”. This is also the end-time invitation to all of us: in Revelation Yeshua makes this same desire known to us – although we do not usually hear the fervent desire in His voice the way we hear it in the gospel of John, the same passion is there when He says to us:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me. -Revelation 3:20

 

 

 

 

 

My country is facing an internal crisis, the likes of which I have never seen. On Wednesday evening, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog delivered a serious address to the nation in which he soberly warned about the possibility of civil war. For two months, demonstrations across Israel have been increasing in frequency and intensity, and the rhetoric on both sides of the divide is becoming extreme. We all have said or heard someone say, “Our nation is being torn apart.”

Civil war over what?

In February, the far-right government led by Benjamin Netanyahu has been furiously pushing a sweeping judicial reform though the government: it seeks to reform the power of Israel’s Supreme Court and High Court of Justice which have become increasingly liberal and activist over the last decades.

Everyone agrees that there needs to be judicial reform which will restore the balance of power between the judiciary and legislative (lawmaking) branches of government. However, the ruling government’s reform proposal includes an element which will allow the ruling party lawmakers to pass laws that will be “immune” from Supreme Court review or revoke.

What this means is: any ruling party could pass laws that limit the civil rights of minorities in Israel. Minority rights in Israel are protected by Israel’s Basic Laws (like a Bill of Rights). If this extreme clause in the Netanyahu government judicial reform passes, minorities in Israel, including religious minorities like Messianic Jews, could have their basic rights taken away.

Civil rights of Israel’s minorities at serious risk

Right now there are religious parties in Netanyahu’s coalition who would love to pass laws seriously limiting the ability of Jewish believers to share their faith. Last week when associate pastor Moti Cohen was opening our service with prayer, he said, “We do not take for granted that we are able to gather here and openly declare our faith in Yeshua. There may come a time when we are no longer able to do it.”

How do we pray in this situation?

This situation does not surprise us. In fact, Yeshua prepared us for this situation already:

They will put you out of the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.

-John 16:2

On the fast of Esther, we held a prayer and worship evening at Tiferet Yeshua during which we interceded for our nation at this critical moment. We sang and declared God’s prophetic promises for Israel and prayed that He would have mercy on His people, that He would use the current crisis to cause many to seek Him, that He would pour out His Spirit on this nation so that many from all walks of life would experience powerful revelations of God’s love and truth.

Yes, we hope that our civil rights will not be taken away so that we can continue declaring Messiah’s message to His people. Democracy is the best form of human government, but it is not our savior. In fact, we know that the gospel is spreading like fire in places like Iran despite the repressive religious dictatorship there.

Dear friends, during this time, we ask that you join us in lifting the nation of Israel in prayer that all of God’s plans and purposes for this nation would be done and that He would be glorified in the eyes of all nations as the Keeper of covenants!

(In 2021, Tiferet Yeshua won a victory in the Supreme Court against political religious oppression. You can read all about it here.)

As we begin 2023, this is the perfect time to revisit our congregational vision, to see where we have been, how much we have grown in God’s grace, and where He is leading us in this coming new year.

About ten years ago, the congregational leadership sat together to put down our vision as a congregation. After prayer and discussion, our elders came up with a three essential points which encapsulate who we are as a ministry.

 LOVING GOD, LOVING EACH OTHER, LOVING OUR CITY

Loving God – we desire to be a congregation filled with the love of God, seeking His face and His presence. There are several ways we express our love of God.

I. Fear of the Lord and Holiness

The fear of the Lord (the Hebrew term is most accurately translated as trembling awe\respect) is the first essential step in loving God. Growing in holiness is an expression of our love for God. Love is our motivator to change and choose the good:

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

-John 14:15

When we are born again, our spirits are sanctified (made holy) and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. But that’s just the beginning: we then embark on a life-long journey to bring God’s holiness to our souls (thoughts, words and actions). The essential expression of love for God is the desire for real change in ourselves in order to please Him, which then results in a closer relationship with Him! It is also not based on success: God sees our heart’s desire for change and our attempts, even failed ones, are very precious to Him.   

II. Seeking His Presence

The first thing we seek in every service and meeting here at Tiferet Yeshua is God and His presence, especially in worship. God blesses corporate worship with a special anointing of His love and presence. We see one of the most powerful biblical illustrations of this when King Solomon and the children of Israel gathered together to worship God in one accord at the dedication of the Temple and the glory cloud of the Lord filled the Temple so powerfully that no one could stand as a result (2 Chron. 5:13-14).

III. Prayer and Intercession

“Pray without ceasing”

-Thessalonians 5:17

Prayer is our communication with God: you could say that our relationship with Him is based on spending time in His Word and time in prayer. This is our spiritual fuel—the oil in our lamps—for all that He calls us to do in His name.

The Spirit of the Lord comes to act through us and on our behalf when we are engaged in prayer. Doing anything in service for God without prayer, without asking for His grace, mercy and power through prayer, is at least a gamble and may even be arrogance.

Loving Each Other

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

-Philippians 2:4

I. Being a close-knit family community

We want to break the mind-set of coming to the congregation to get blessed by good worship and a good message and then going home. By striving to be close-knit, family community that looks out for one another, spends time with one another, helps one another, we are putting the focus on becoming the expression of God’s love. Beyond our main Friday service, congregation members meet during the week for prayer, worship and studying the Word together.

II. Service and gifts of the Holy Spirit

The vast majority of gifts of the Spirit are meant to serve and edify others, not to lift us up in prestige or position because we move in those gifts. 1 Corinthians 14:1exhorts us to actively go after love and to desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially to prophesy because it edifies the Body.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

-1 Peter 4:10

The local congregation should be a place people can serve in the gifts and callings that God has given them. And a healthy spiritual community is where everyone serves in one capacity or another. When new believers come to faith, an important part of their spiritual growth is to become connected in the congregation, to discover their God-given gifts and calling and to begin serving in then.

III. Strategic Giving Fund

Ten percent of our congregational budget is designated to a strategic giving fund from which we help believers in need in our congregation and in the Body of Messiah in Israel. Whether an expensive medical procedure, counseling for those who don’t have the finances, emergency financial help, grants for studies or supporting those who are going on outreach trips, our strategic giving fund is there to be immediate help for those in need. We also support other ministries in Israel from this fund, such as a drug rehabilitation center in Netanya, an outreach for prostitutes in Tel Aviv and a Messianic kindergarten in Jerusalem.

Loving our City 

FEED TEL AVIV

We have a calling to be in Tel Aviv –the secular center of Israel which also happens to be one of the most expensive cities in the world. So, renting a building and maintaining a congregation in this city is a calling indeed! In this place that is called Israel’s sin city, we are called to be light, to be witnesses, to share the gospel, and to draw people to Him.

When we asked ourselves, “How do we show love to Tel Aviv?” We didn’t have to look very far. Just a few blocks away from our congregation is Israel’s skid row, the worst area in Israel for drugs, homelessness and prostitution.  Each week, Associate Pastor Moti leads a team of volunteers who prepare 450 healthy, home-cooked meals for the homeless in south Tel Aviv.  In addition to a warm meal and first aid for those who need it, Moti and his team offer prayer and the Word of hope to whomever is open. Whomever is willing, they offer to bring directly to a drug rehab center run by believers. God is touching countless lives through this ministry!

STREET AND MEDIA OUTREACH

Active sharing of the gospel in an important aspect of who we are, and congregation members live a lifestyle of sharing their faith on a daily basis. Additionally, we lead organized street and city outreach with small groups from the congregation. On the digital front, we have an active media outreach in Hebrew through our weekly livestreams, Facebook page and Hebrew website. God has blessed these efforts greatly: most of the new believers at Tiferet Yeshua have come through these outreach efforts.

At our congregation, we see first-hand how important it is to be connected to a local body of believers. The story of Maya, a woman who went through discipleship with us over the summer, encapsulates how essential it is. During covid, Maya found us online and joined our online services. Over fifteen years earlier, she had come to faith after Christian friends from Europe had witnessed to her. However, she never got connected with other believers here in Israel and, as a result, never grew in her faith. Eventually, Maya returned to her life in the world.

When we finally resumed in-person services at Tiferet Yeshua in January of 2022, Maya began attending regularly. After hearing her story, we invited her to bible study meetings during the week, which she attended regularly, and to one on one discipleship. This last summer, she committed her life to the Lord in water immersion. The Lord touched Maya in a powerful way during her immersion: she prayed to be set free from a nicotine addiction she’s struggled with for years, and God set her free completely! 

Maya’s immersion this summer with the pastoral team Gil and Kosta

Coming Alive in the Body

We always stress to people how important it is to be connected to a local body of believers: unfortunately many believers in Israel, particularly young believers, do not belong to a congregation or small group. Not only is the local body the place where believers are discipled, supported, encouraged and strengthened in their faith, but it is also the place where they can begin serving in the gifts God has given them. That is exactly what has happened with Maya.

The Chef in the Streets

Several weeks ago, Maya started volunteering with Associate Pastor Moti Cohen at our weekly Feed Tel Aviv outreach to the homeless in the streets of south Tel Aviv. It turns out that Maya is a chef: according to Moti, Maya is doing wonders in the kitchen preparing the food for the street outreach and helping manage the food preparation and distribution.

Maya also has a special approach and connection with the women we minister to on the streets (women who are addicted to drugs and working in the sex industry to fund their addiction). Many people volunteer with us at Feed Tel Aviv, and Moti has come to recognize when someone has a special calling to minister to the homeless. Maya is one of them: she knows how to talk to them, to put them at ease and how to communicate the love of God to them in a genuine way. That ability is rare and special.

A Living Testimony

Maya is a testimony of God’s desires for all believers: Maya attends services and bible studies regularly and, within weeks of committing her life to the Lord, is on the streets sharing the love of God, sharing the wisdom He has given her through life experiences and through the gifts He has entrusted to her. Maya’s journey is a witness to all of us to continue in whole-hearted devotion to the Lord, to not forsake the gathering together as believers (Hebrews 10:25) and to serve in the gits that the Lord has entrusted to each of us! (I Timothy 4:14)

Sinai Covenant and New Covenant – what changed and what is the same?

For the last several weeks, I have been giving this series of messages at Tiferet Yeshua with the intention to explore the important elements of the Sinai Covenant and how they have changed, or not changed, in the framework of the New Covenant. Understanding both gives us a deeper understanding of God’s perfect plan for all of us – to dwell with us and bring us on a journey deeper into His heart and His presence. In this article I would like to share one of those messages.

Defilement in the Sinai Covenant

In the framework of the Sinai covenant the bible relates extensively to the subject of physical or bodily defilement. When reading through the somewhat exhausting verses on bodily defilements, particularly in the book of Leviticus, you may find yourself asking, “What is the point of all this?” Quite a bit, actually!

It is important that we first answer this question: what are these defilements that the Sinai Covenant speaks about? First of all, they are not sins. Defilements relate to situations in the human existence which connect to death. For instance: touching a corpse or a dead animal, illnesses (which are an expression of death), a flow of blood, even when semen leaves a man’s body, the potential of life has left the physical body causes defilement. Even birth causes a woman’s body to become “defiled”, something which at first seems very surprising, but it is because the life of her baby has “left” her body.

The Torah (the Law or first five books of Moses) reveals to us the basic spiritual principle that nothing which is connected to death can enter into the presence of God because:

  He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

-Matthew 22:32

Defilement Denies Access

In the framework of the Sinai Covenant, anyone who was in a state of “defilement” was not allowed to enter the Temple – the physical building which housed the presence of God. The life of the Jewish believer under the Sinai Covenant revolved around worship in the Temple, and being denied access into the Temple was a serious thing.

In order to be purified from “defilement”, a person had to go through a process which always involved cleansing with water and the passage of time:

But if a person who is unclean does not purify himself, he will be cut off from the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean

-Numbers 19:20

Defilement in the New Covenant Framework – different but the same

In the framework of the New Covenant, the Holy Temple, God’s physical sanctuary on earth, no longer exists. The sanctuary of God’s presence now resides in the spirits of all redeemed believers. In practice, the issue of defilement under the New Covenant is very different from the Sinai Covenant because we no longer enter into a physical earthly temple and therefore bodily defilement is no longer relevant.

However, the principle of “defilement” in the New Covenant is actually the same, but it is just expressed in a different way. Instead of physical defilement, now there is soul defilement. What is defilement of the soul? First of all, if we are talking about the soul, we have to clarify that we are talking about the realm of our thoughts, desires and emotions. Soul defilement in the context of the New Covenant relates to thoughts, emotions and desires in us which are not pleasing to God –in essence, they can be described as thoughts, emotions and desires which produce death instead of life.

When Yeshua first announced a change in the focus from bodily defilements to soul defilements, it was considered radical:

Yeshua called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen and understand. A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”…

Matthew 15:10

When the Pharisees heard this, they were shocked! And of course they were shocked: they knew that the Law taught that even touching an unclean animal would defile you, how much more defiling it would be to eat one. Yeshua clarified this further for those who were still open to hear about this groundbreaking shift:

 …the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. 20 These are what defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile him.

-Matthew 15:18-20

Soul Defilement in the New Covenant – a deeper level

In the framework of the Sinai Covenant, there was a physical Tabernacle (the Temple) and the Jewish believer would enter into it with his or her physical body. Therefore, they needed to be pure in the physical sense.

In the framework of the New Covenant, the Tabernacle of God is in the spirit of the redeemed believer and we enter into God’s presence with our souls. Therefore, New Covenant believers need purity in their souls in order to enter into the Tabernacle of God in the spirit. Why is that? Just as physical defilements limited the entry into the presence of God in the Holy Temple during the Sinai Covenant, so do soul defilements (evil thoughts, emotions and desires) limit our access to the Tabernacle of God’s presence in our spirits.

God calls us to purify ourselves from soul defilements because He wants us to be closer to Him, to enter deeper into His presence.

Purification – not an instant process

Of course, changing unhealthy ways of thinking, negative character traits or ungodly desires does not happen overnight. Our lives are essentially a journey the Lord takes us on, and the major point of that journey is internal change, i.e., the purification of our souls. God is drawing us on that process because He wants to take us to ever deeper and higher places in His Presence.

The Journey and the Process

Through life’s experiences, challenges and obstacles we face, God exposes or reveals our issues, unhealthy tendencies, emotions or ways of thinking. He then calls us to pay attention to them and to act in order to change and cleanse ourselves from them.

So how can we cleanse ourselves from soul defilements? It’s a process, but it’s not complicated. First, we must recognize the problem area (the defilement). Once we have recognized the problem, we must first desire to be purified from it—we have to want to change. Then we bring it before the Lord in prayer to ask Him to purify (change) us, because we cannot purify ourselves. Only God can do that work in our hearts.

  1. Desire to change.
  2. Seek the Lord’s grace and mercy each day to change
  3. God acts: He washes us with the water of the Holy Spirit (remember cleansing from defilement in the Sinai Covenant involved washing and sprinkling with special water).

Patience and Persistence

If I want to experience serious change within thoughts, desires and emotions, I can’t just pray one prayer and expect transformation. Just like being purified from bodily defilements in the Sinai covenant required a period of time, being purified from soul defilements in the New Covenant also takes time. Usually it is a process of weeks, months, and maybe even more than that, of bringing it before the Lord in prayer. But if I desire change, then I ask God sincerely in prayer to change me, and God acts.

There is nothing in us that God cannot change if we desire it and ask Him to change it!

A Lesson we can take from the Sinai Covenant to our New Covenant lives:

In the Sinai Covenant, there is also an element of being extremely careful and cautious about coming into contact with things that defile. In the same way, God wants us to exercise the same care and caution about the things that defile our souls. For example, listening to music or consuming entertainment with negative messages, listening to gossip or spending an abundance of time in the company of worldly people.

For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 17“Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”…

2 Corinthians 6:16-17

by Gil Afriat