by Gil Afriat
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.”
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”
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.”
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.
by Victoria Trubeck
Several times in the Gospels, Yeshua used leaven symbolically in order to make a powerful point. In order to understand the deep spiritual ramifications of what He was teaching us, it is important that we first understand the nature of leaven.
Most understand more or less that leaven (yeast) is used to make dough rise. Leaven exists naturally in the environment around us, and, in ancient times, people discovered that allowing flower, water and sugar to ferment together for several days would produce a mixture which would cause dough to rise. What leaven actually does is change the chemical composition of the dough. One could say that when leaven is added to the dough mixture, the character of the dough changes. Yeshua was highlighting something that will change our hearts and our perceptions of God if we allow it into our lives.
The Leaven of the Pharisees
In Matthew 16:11, Yeshua warns His disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees. Since we already know the nature of leaven, we need to make sure we understand who Pharisees were. After the Babylonian exile, the sect of the Pharisees developed with the goal of advancing study of the Law (Torah). In contrast to the Sadducees (the Jewish sect associated with the elite temple priesthood) the Pharisees claimed authority from Moses and, as such, claimed Mosaic authority to interpret the law. They ultimately developed and codified the Oral Law (Torah Shebaal Peh) which has been the cornerstone of Rabbinic Judaism until today. Through the lens of Oral Law, the Pharisees had a very specific way of viewing and interpreting God and His written Word.
It is interesting to note that Yeshua warned his disciples about this leaven specifically after the Pharisees asked Him for “a sign from heaven” to prove He was the Messiah (Matthew 16:1). It seems strange they would ask for a sign when He was constantly performing miracles which they themselves witnessed. What the Pharisees were actually asking for was not a miracle of healing or casting out a demon but a visible demonstration of heavenly power like the people of Israel witnessed when Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai or Elijah calling for heavenly fire on Mt. Carmel.
The Pharisee Prism
When speaking to Orthodox or religious Jews today, you discover that they have a difficult time looking at the Word of God without the prism of the Rabbinic interpretations (the Oral Law). The leaven of the Pharisees is therefore viewing God and His Word through a specific, man-made religious lens.
The lens of the Pharisees focuses solely on carrying out the law in action, down to miniscule, obsessive and even mind-boggling details. Considering that leaven causes a change in the makeup of its host, how then does the leaven of the Pharisees change the makeup of our hearts? It hardens our hearts to God’s heart and puts self-righteousness in its center. Can New Testament believers be susceptible to this religious leaven? Absolutely! We are all human, capable of shutting out God’s love and turning His Word into a formulaic doctrine for good behavior and personal justification.
The Leaven of Herod
In Mark 8:15, Yeshua warns His disciples about a very different form of leaven: the leaven of Herod. Even though he was born in Judah and kept a certain measure of Jewish law, Herod was raised in Rome and embraced Greco-Roman culture. During Yeshua’s ministry, Herod openly lived a life of sin, having married his brother’s wife. But he also had many ritual purification baths (mikvaot) in his personal palaces and was interested in the teaching of John the Baptist. Herod represents a person who is living in both the world of traditional faith and the world of popular culture.
Herod’s leaven is mixing the philosophy of the world with the Word of God. Today we find ourselves surrounded by a popular culture that is post-postmodern where lines are blurred, there are no ultimate truths and every individual determines their reality, their identity, even their gender identity. Yeshua warns against this leaven because it also changes the way we view God and His truth: we start interpreting God’s Word to fit our personal preferences, to make it permissive of the world’s philosophies we have adopted, whether cultural or political, and end up shaping God into the image of who we want Him to be.
The Good Leaven
Yeshua also presented a positive leaven teaching. In Matthew 13, He taught that the kingdom of heaven is like leaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? God’s rule supreme. The good leaven, the rule of God in our hearts, changes us on the inside. The leavening process is a chemical reaction happening inside the dough: we don’t see the it, but we see the results. The kingdom of heaven is not something observable (Luke 17): it is a process of surrendering to God’s reign in our hearts, and His transforming us into something different, something new.
The One Ultimate Truth
In today’s culture, particularly among the youth, it is a battle to declare “There is only one truth.” In John 18 when He is being interrogated by Pilot, the Roman governor of Judea, Yeshua says, “For this reason I was born and have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” Pilot, who represents the world’s system, cynically retorts: “What is Truth?” That cynical question is resonating today, and the world’s answer is, “Whatever you want it to be.”
The Critical Question
“When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith in the earth?” (Luke 18:8) What time more than now can we feel how far humans are from belief in one ultimate truth, the Word of God? Being a person of faith is becoming controversial, and our faith is challenged on every side.
Now more than ever, we need the Word of God to be the double-edged sword, dividing between spirit and soul, God’s truth and the wisdom of the world, cutting away religious perceptions or theologies through which we want to interpret God and His Word.
I believe that it is important that we ask God to show us where we have let the leaven Herod, the leaven of the world, influence our faith and allegiance to God’s ultimate truth. We also need to ask God where we allow the leaven of the Pharisees, the theologies of man, to twist or skip over parts of God’s Word and focus us on being in the right and doing the right things instead of having a right heart before God.
Jews demand signs (demonstrations of power on par with the giving of the Law on Sinai) and Greeks look for wisdom (rational, human knowledge) 23 but we preach Messiah crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
-1 Corinthians 1:21
Over the summer we met some people from abroad who had come to Israel for the purpose of ministering to Israelis. I suggested that they join us for our weekly outreach to the homeless in south Tel Aviv. Their response to my invitation surprised me. They said that they used to minister to homeless drug addicts in their home country, but they found that there is very little “fruit” with that population. What it felt like I was hearing was: it’s not worth the time to serve the neediest of the needy because you don’t come away with many success stories.
Numbers-focused ministry can get our hearts off focus
Those of us who work in ministry know that raising funds for what we are doing can be a challenge, and it is easy to fall into a place where we begin to focus on what looks impressive, measuring the worth of what we are doing by the number of success stories. That is something that we all struggle with. There are also outreach and discipleship movements models that are highly focused on numbers and multiplication: while all efforts to share the gospel and disciple new believers are holy work, we all need to be reminded how important it is to keep our hearts focused on the Lord and the people we serve.
Never Giving up Hope
There is truth in what the people from abroad said about ministry to the homeless: it is not often that you see those who are willing to make the commitment to enter a drug rehabilitation program after being a long time on the streets. There are many reasons why this is so. This kind of service can also be very difficult and challenging emotionally, and sometimes you can become discouraged and drained. But, God in His grace always sends us encouragement and reminders when we need it!
The truth is that each time we are on the streets ministering with food, first aid and the love of Yeshua, there are always those who agree to have us pray for them. Some even pray and ask Yeshua into their hearts. Even if those people don’t end up getting off the streets, we know that we have sown seeds of God’s love and truth in the darkest places.
Each person is the whole world
We have a saying in Hebrew that says each person is the world entire. It basically means that saving one person is like saving the whole world. This last month we met a young woman in her twenties who is coming to the area to buy drugs. She is new to the streets and is living out of her car. Over the last several weeks, we have had many deep conversations with her; one of our regular lady volunteers made a special connection with her. In our conversations with her we shared about the hope in Yeshua and about getting into a drug rehabilitation program.
Last week this young woman arrived an hour before we start serving, while we were still setting up and preparing the food. The volunteer who has a good connection with her sat for over an hour with her, talking and praying. Afterwards she even joined us in preparing and serving the food. Two days ago, this young woman entered a Messianic drug rehabilitation program.
Saving just one person from the street is great fruit indeed!
I personally want to thank all of you who support this ministry and enable us to serve this marginalized and even despised population here in Israel. For us it is reason to rejoice when even just one person’s life is saved from the streets. Yeshua calls us to leave the ninety-nine for the one, and to rejoice when that one who is rescued. We hope that you celebrate with us over each precious person who is saved!
by Moti Cohen
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! She was also healed from complications she was experiencing due to a recent difficult glaucoma surgery.
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 used to work as 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)
by Gil Afriat
On September 21st, Tiferet Yeshua joined together with Fundacion HALEL ministry to erect an alter of worship and intercession on the Mount of Olives in preparation for the Day of Trumpeting (Rosh HaShanah). SInce 2017, Deborah Luquer, director of Fundacion Halel ministry, has been leading groups of worshippers and intercessors to erect alters of worship in strategic locations throughout the land of Israel to proclaim the Lord’s Kingdom before His return.
This year we joined Deborah’s international team, along with Israeli worshippers, to raise up an alter of praise and intercession on the Mount of Olives which the prophet Zechariah describes as the place where Yeshua will make His triumphant entry into Jerusalem after defeating the armies of the antichrist:
Then the LORD will go out to fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem…
This is the third year that we have joined Deborah and Fundacion HALEL during the fall Feasts, and each year has been powerful and special. This year, however, was an extraordinarily powerful time. First of all and most importantly, there was a deep sense of love and unity among all of us, believers from different congregations in Israel and believers from the nations.
As the sun began setting over the Temple Mount behind us, we started praying and worshipping, proclaiming Yeshua as Lord, Savior and righteous Judge. Right below us, groups of ultra orthodox Jews were gathering to pray at the graves of important rabbis: because the prophets are clear that the dead will be resurrected when the Messiah arrives, starting at the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is basically a giant ancient cemetery, covered with graves down into the Kidron valley below and up the side of Moriah to the eastern gate of the Old City.
An outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we worshipped and blew the shofars (trumpets)
As we were worshipping and blowing the shofar, the Holy Spirit fell on us in a powerful way. One of the worship team members who was feeling sick and feverish when she arrived for the rehearsal was completely healed. Two young new believers from Tiferet Yeshua joined us and both experienced a dramatic baptism in the Holy Spirit. One of them even heard the audible voice of God speak to him about his future and calling: needless to say, he was on His face weeping for the rest of the evening. The moment we starting singing a song in Hebrew, the chorus of which says “Yeshua is light, Yeshua is the light of the world”, the setting sun broke through the clouds, flooding us in an intense golden light.
We sang, prayed and proclaimed Yeshua’s return for a spotless bride in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Russian. We wish that we could share with you all how powerful our encounter with the Lord was at the moment, standing on the ground Yeshua will stand upon when He returns and feeling how much He loves us and wants to purify and perfect us, His Body and Bride, to be ready to meet Him under the wedding canopy.
As we fast and seek the Lord’s face during this Yom Kippur fast here in Israel, we at Tiferet Yeshua are crying out to the Lord in repentance, asking Him to purify and prepare us, His Bride, in love and holiness. He is coming soon! Let’s get our hearts ready for Him.
When lining up the end-time events described in the book of Revelation with the description of end time events in the book of Joel, it becomes clear that the first two fall feasts, the Day of Trumpeting and the Day of Atonement mirror the progression of the great and terrible day of the Lord just before His return, when the armies of the antichrist descend upon the land of Israel and surround Jerusalem:
Day of Trumpeting (Joel 2: 1-11)
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand—
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
In the above passage of Joel, the sounding of the trumpet is an alarm to assemble the people together because a horrible and fierce enemy has invaded the Land—it is the “last” Day of Trumpeting. It is also the moment that the Lord Yeshua appears in the sky with the voice of the trumpet and the those who are in the Lord are raptured:
Rapture at the Last Trumpet (Matt. 24:30-31)
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His [elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Day of Atonement (Joel 2:12-17 )
Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly
In this passage, the prophet Joel is calling all the people to declare a holy fast, to weep, mourn and cry out to the Lord to save them—a description which sounds like the Day of Atonement. While this passage clearly speaks about the Day of Atonement, it also calls for a trumpet to be blown in Zion, which makes one think that it might be referring to the Day of Trumpeting since no trumpets blown on the Day of Atonement. Well, yes and no: there are no trumpets blown on the Day of Atonement except for once every fifty years during the Jubilee year:
Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you.’”
If the last “Day of Atonement” at the Lord’s return takes place in the Jubilee Year (which we believe it will!) it adds another powerful dimension of prophetic meaning to this “last” Day of Atonement when a trumpet will sound declaring salvation, liberation and restoration.
All Israel Will Be Saved
Joel 2 describes a fierce and mighty army attacking the Land of Israel — the great and terrible day of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah describes the same day when all the nations of the earth are gathered against Judah and Jerusalem: at that critical moment when Israel is surrounded by enemies, God tells the prophet Zechariah:
I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves…
Here Zechariah describes the moment when Paul’s Romans 11:26 prophetic declaration that all Israel shall be saved comes to pass. Israel will go through terrible tribulation and suffering, but Israel will also be the only nation in the earth that collectively accepts the Messiah and is saved. Joel 2 describes that final moment: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So, if the Day of Trumpeting marks the Lord’s appearing in the sky and the rapture, and the Day of Atonement marks Israel’s calling a fast and solemn assembly to weep and mourn over “the one they have pierced”, then the Feast of Tabernacles can be none other than Yeshua’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem where He will tabernacle with His people!
by Tamar Afriat
Originally published October 1st, 2020
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.
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
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.”…
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.
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.
- Desire to change.
- Seek the Lord’s grace and mercy each day to change
- 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
We have a simple motto at congregation Tiferet Yeshua: Love God. Love each other. Love our city (Matt. 22:38-40) When our leadership team was discussing the best way to “love our city”, God reminded me of a powerful and convicting passage in the book of James:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
James 2:14-16 ESV
I then felt God tell me: put your cooking skills and pastoral training together and hit the streets. I didn’t need to look very far for a place to start: just a few city blocks away from our congregation is Israel’s skid row, the worst area in all Israel for drugs, homelessness and prostitution. That is how Feed Tel Aviv ministry was born.
Love is an Action…
Each week, we prepare 450 healthy, home-cooked meals, the majority of which we serve out of a soup kitchen facility in the worst area of south Tel Aviv. After we finish serving warm meals at the facility, we bring sandwiches and drinks to the back alleyways where the hard-core drug addicts live who are too weak and sick to make it to our facility.
We are always asked, “Who are you? Why are you here?” That is our cue to share about the love that has brought us to the streets to serve them. We offer prayer and the word of hope to whomever is open. Whoever is willing, we offer to bring directly to a drug rehab center run by believers.
Last Minute Hope – A matter of life and death
Many of the people who volunteer with us for the first time are shocked by the squalor and suffering on the streets. It is a very difficult and dark place to serve, and the lives of the people we minister to are in constant danger from drug overdose, violence, or illness attacking their weakened bodies. Rarely are people able to commit to going to drug rehabilitation we offer them– it is a frightening and challenging step for them, if they are clear-headed enough to make that decision, and those who do usually have a spouse or a child for whom they want to turn their lives around.
I can’t tell you how many people we have prayed with and shared the gospel with. When we do, I know that it might be their last opportunity to hear life-saving truth. Several years ago, we were praying with a woman who was horribly addicted to street drugs: she broke down weeping when we prayed for her, and I will never forget her prayer asking the Lord to save her and inviting Him into her life. The next day, someone informed me that she was found on a park bench the following morning: she had died during the night. Our hearts were broken, but we also knew that that precious woman had cried out to God the night before and invited the Him into her life.
A young woman caught in drug addiction and prostitution…
Nicole showed up at our outreach every week. She would have a warm meal and the ladies who volunteer with us would always talk to her and prayed with her often. Nicole was very young and found herself caught in a vicious prostitution ring run by a powerful criminal gang that kept her enslaved through her relentless drug addiction. We shared the gospel with Nicole, and she prayed with us, but she always ended up going back out onto the street. Two weeks ago, someone who comes to our outreach center shared the sad news with us: Nicole had died of a drug overdose. Her death was reported in a small local paper.
As much as this ministry is an outreach to the neediest of the needy, the people on whom our society has given up, it is also an essential learning experience for us.
When we minister to these precious people, we touch the essence of what it means to follow Yeshua: humbling ourselves to be open to and to serve those who are in the most desperate need of His love. That is indeed what He did for us.
I think that these dark, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless live is not very different from how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.
Thank you for supporting this important outreach! When you do, you are with us serving food and sharing the words of life to the neediest of the needy here in Israel.
by Moti Cohen
Director of Feed Tel Aviv
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh…
-Song of Songs 4:6
A spiritual challenge: when asking, seeking and knocking don’t seem to work
This last year, I found myself feeling far from the the Lord, and I began longing for His presence. When I prayed about it, God showed me that one of the reasons I was feeling so far from Him was because I had pulled away after going through a period of suffering which began in March of 2020 when Israel went into covid lockdown. At the time, my husband and I had been seriously seeking the Lord, (we had just finished participating in a 40-day global Jesus Fast), we were moving forward in our ministry, and things were good! When the lockdown hit, I thought it might be an opportunity to have some “time off” from our busy routine. God, however, had something completely different in store for me.
Pretty quickly after going into quarantine, I started suffering from a debilitating physical condition. In addition to the practical steps one should take in such a situation, I took every right spiritual step: I sought the Lord in prayer. I spent more time in the Word. Instead of improvement, things got worse. So, I searched my heart. I repented. I prayed more. I declared the Word over my life. But then attacks started. And they kept coming. For a long time. Eventually, over time, things started to improve, little by little. But even after things had improved significantly, I still felt somehow traumatized, like I had been in a violent shipwreck at sea and was washed up on the shore still alive…but barely. I had climbed the mountain of myrrh through the night that Song of Songs 4:6 speaks about: myrrh, an ancient biblical spice used in the sacred anointing oil and in Yeshua’s burial, often speaks of suffering and death.
The Garden of Gethsemane – An invitation to suffering
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
The scene of Yeshua alone in the Garden of Gethsemane came to me often during my difficult period. That night in the garden, Yeshua had asked the disciples who were closest to Him, Peter, John and James, to stay with Him as He wrestled with the great suffering He was about to endure. Instead of watching with Him, Yeshua’s nearest and dearest fell asleep.
When His persecution and suffering began, all His disciples (with the exception of John) would abandon Him. We often think of the great physical pain our Lord endured on the cross, but we do not often contemplate how it was coupled with the emotional pain of being abandoned by nearly all His friends and, ultimately, being cut off from the presence of the Father, as Daniel 9:26 foretold: the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing. This is the Suffering Servant whom we are called to follow and emulate.
How popular culture has shaped our faith
Shallow secular culture has unfortunately influenced many in the church and trained us to think that God’s main desire for us is to be blessed, prosperous and happy. As a result, in the minds of many, any kind of suffering in the life of a believer must be the result of sin. A very mature woman of God at Tiferet Yeshua whose teenage son was killed fighting in one of Israel’s recent wars in Gaza shared with me the pain she experienced when fellow believers made her feel that her suffering and loss must be the result of sin.
Let me be clear: there is much needless suffering we experience which is a result of our bad choices, practicing sinful behavior and not investing time in our relationship with God. However, the New Testament makes clear, over and over, that there is indeed suffering which is according to God’s will (1 Peter 4:19) and that we are invited to participate in Messiah’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-17).
It’s all about love
I once thought participating in Yeshua’s suffering came only through direct persecution for the gospel. That is indeed part of it, but it is also more than that. When we understand that God’s main desire for us is to grow and mature in our love for Him and for others, we discover sooner or later that suffering is part of it.
Song of Songs 5 – The mature believer’s invitation to the Garden of Gethsemane
In Judaism, the Song of Songs is considered “The Holy of Holies”. In addition to its being a literal description of the love between King Solomon and his betrothed, the Shulamite maiden, on a spiritual level it is seen as a description of the sacred love journey between God and Israel. As followers of Messiah, we see it as the description of the bride of Messiah (Jew and gentile) growing in mature love for her Bridegroom King.
Chapter five of the Song of Songs describes the suffering and persecution of the mature bride. She is described as a garden, and others are blessed and strengthened by the fruit evident in her life (5:1). At that point, she must feel good, being right where she needs to be! But she is unaware that her Bridegroom is inviting her into a new and painful phase of growth, not unlike Yeshua in the Garden of Gethsemane asking us to keep watch with Him and to fellowship with some of His sufferings.
–She is asleep, but her heart is awake (5:2): when Yeshua finds the disciples asleep, He says, “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt.26:41)
–The Bridegroom, outside, alone in the night, is seeking her companionship (5:2): “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matt. 26:38)
-She is confused at this unexpected turn of events, but ultimately responds in obedience (5:3-5) – despite being scattered and confused, the disciple John and a company of women stay with Yeshua through His suffering (Jn. 19:25-26, Mrk. 15:40-41)
-She opens the door to Him, but He is not there. She seeks Him but cannot find Him (5:6): Yeshua is abandoned by the vast majority (Matt. 26:56) and suffers the ultimate separation from the Father on the cross (Matt. 27:46, Dan. 9:26)
-She is beaten and bruised by authorities over her and they strip her of her cloak (5:7): the Lord Yeshua was beaten, bruised and stripped of His clothing by the Jewish and Roman authorities (Matt. 26:67, Jn 19:1)
What is the response of the mature bride after all this ordeal? She cries out that she is lovesick for her Beloved and launches into highest praise of Him to the daughters of Jerusalem. What a powerful witness! In the next chapter, she declares “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine” from a place of personal experience knowing there is nothing that can separate her from His love. That is why her Beloved calls her “as awesome as an army with banners” in the next chapter (6:4).
That is going through the refiner’s fire – an idea that used to frighten me. The longer we walk closely with our Beloved, the more we understand His heart for us and that sometimes He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death in order to bring us to a deeper level of maturity, love and knowing Him…which is the truest joy and pleasure we can ever know.
If you feel like you have never experienced a real relationship with God, I highly recommend to you my friend Monica’s testimony!
by Tamar Afriat
A Rude Awakening
In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would lose my husband while we were still young and had young children. I would have cried just imagining the possibility. When I lost my husband to covid, broken doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Grief was consuming me, and I knew that I would not be able to care for our nine children if I didn’t do something. I had to fight. So, I did the only thing that I knew for sure would save me, and I did it with a passion: I cried out to God.
Sitting in the Shadow of the Temple
As believers, we can spend many years in the courtyard of the Temple. I can honestly say that for twenty-four years, I was in the outer courtyard. My husband led me to the Lord when we first met, and, to some extent, I was following his lead for many years. The problem was that I considered myself a strong believer—a passionate believer even! Today I know that I was defining myself by a set of beliefs that I strongly agreed with. That is not the same as having a deep personal relationship with God. About a month before my husband got sick, I started to feel that maybe something wasn’t exactly right in my faith. Soon enough, I would discover what it was.
Today I know that God did not pay the ultimate price for us to sit outside the Temple. He wants us with Him, and He is calling each of us to enter into the Holy of Holies. We have worship songs about it, but entering into the Holy of Holies is not a special feeling we get during an anointed worship service. Entering into the Holy of Holies is a life journey. To embark on that journey, there are a few essential first steps we have to take. Without them, we will never make it.
The First Step into the Holy of Holies
Setting aside time with God every day has to be a priority. If we do not invest time in connecting with God, we will never enter into a real relationship with Him, and we will stay in the outer courtyard. Staying in the outer courtyard does not mean that you are not saved. But being in that place for a long time, where there is still a lot of the world and its distractions in you, makes it a lot easier to get up and walk away altogether.
You Come Alone
Like I said, for many years I was following my husband’s lead in my faith. I was fellowshipping in our congregation. I was listening to powerful messages and worship music. All of those things are absolutely important. But you can’t come into a personal relationship with God in a group. You have to come by yourself. Alone.
When I found myself completely alone, without anyone to lead me, that is when I found the way. When I was drowning in grief after losing my husband, I began crying out to God constantly. Every day. All day sometimes. Before I knew it, I was tasting something I had never known before: a real relationship with God! To be clear, it is only by His grace, not by my efforts. I just make the time to sit at His feet each day, something I had never done before. The more time I spend at His feet receiving from Him, the more grace He gives me to make time in my schedule to be there.
God desires us to be with Him so much and is jealous for our affections. It is extravagant love, and it is also dangerous love. What do I mean by dangerous? If we do not give Him our hearts now, in His great love for us, He may decide to take something from us that we have let take His place in our hearts. Anything that takes the number one place in our lives instead of God is called an idol. Sometimes they are so close and dear to us, we can’t even see them.
Removing the Idols
We can decide to remove the idols ourselves. When an idol is removed against our will, it hurts! If God in His grace and mercy decides to remove an idol from our lives, it is an act of love. Today, I am in a place where I can say that I am grateful He took my husband home to be with Him. Now, I know you are thinking, “That is extreme! Why would she say that?” I can say that because when I lost my husband, I truly found God. And I can say to you that truly finding God is more precious to me than any earthly love that I could experience, even more precious than the amazing relationship I had with my husband and having him in my life.
My husband and I were amazing together. Our relationship was so blessed, especially in the last few years: we had been through so much together, and we were in a season of our love that was just so blessed. Still, that amazing love we had does not compare to God’s love. I know that my love for my husband and our relationship were in a more important place than having a relationship with God. Nothing should take the place of this amazing love in our lives: not our children, not the love of our spouses, not work or success. Nothing compares to it. Remove the idols from your hearts now while there is still grace! For twenty-four years, I was a lukewarm believer. Now that I have truly tasted and seen that the Lord is good, I don’t ever want to be in that place again.
My prayer for you is that God would open your heart and draw you with cords of love to begin the journey to know Him in a deep way, that He would enlighten your spirit, that He would reveal Himself to you as a living, loving God who is jealous for you, that He would draw you by His Holy Spirit into the Holy of Holies where He will share His secrets to your heart through the revelation of His Word, in Yeshua’s holy name, amen!
by Monica Obreja