Author: pcpc5

Here comes Jerusalem Day!

Jom_Jeruschalajim
Jerusalem Day Parade on Jaffa Street and at the corner with Ha-Rav Kook street. (Photo by  Daniel Baranek via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.0). 

Shalom from Jerusalem! May has been a good month here in the Land, and this coming month should prove to be exciting with what CFI is doing, as well as events in greater Israel.

This coming weekend is Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim. Historically, this day is a recognition of the reunification of Old City Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, which had been separated by Jordan after the 1948 War of Independence. More importantly, during this war Israeli troops regained for Israel control of the Temple Mount, giving access to for Jewish People to safely pray at the Western Wall—for the first time in nearly 2000 years. For more on Jerusalem Day, click here! For some great photos of the Six Day War, click here. Needless to say, this day is important to Israeli society, and in some quarters is considered even more important than the birth of the State of Israel itself.

israel soldiers at kotel 1967
Iconic photo of Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall in June 1967,
moments after securing the Temple Mount.

Before coming to Israel for the first time in 2006, I had never even heard of Jerusalem Day. But my first experience with it was quite a doozey, since the massive Jerusalem Day parade that winds its way down to the Western Wall came right by the hotel where my friends and I were staying. Here is a clip from that day (Note: the technology is 13 years old, so it is not as sharp at the HD 1080 stuff we’ve grown accustomed to, but it is still worth watching). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFFjVBjAXBg

It is simply just one of those things you have to experience personally to appreciate, and I encourage you to move your own “one-of-these-days trips to Israel” item up higher on your prayer list and see what happens.

Jerusalem Day & Ramadan

One interesting note, for the first time in 30 years, the Temple Mount holy site will be closed to Jewish visitors on Jerusalem Day for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Jerusalem authorities also are concerned since some of the routes taken by the Jewish celebrators go through the Muslim Quarter. So please pray for calm, and that people will behave themselves and that no one will be harmed. https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-first-time-in-decades-temple-mount-to-be-closed-to-jews-on-jerusalem-day/

Happy Birthday Israel… but we remember the price.

IMG_4592soldier at flag kotel

Tonight at sundown begins Israel’s Yom HaZicharon—Day of Remembrance: the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_HaZikaron

Last week we observed Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was followed by a massive rocket attack from our ‘friends’ in Gaza. As I am writing this, the one-minute sirens all over Israel have begun to sound, beginning this day of remembrance and mourning. It is different in Israel, as the ‘memorial day’ here is actually that.

In America, Memorial Day for most people is a day to cookout, relax or watch sports, and there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. Yet, to my own humiliation I have had to be reminded by my 85-year-old mother, who always attends the Memorial Day service at the local cemetery in High Point, NC. Two years ago I went with her, where a handful of other attendees numbering maybe 50 people showed, among whom were some biker guys who had served in Vietnam: they humbly thanked her for coming out.

“People don’t come out for this the way they used to,” she has said. Like the Vietnam vets, mom also remembers a high school friend who died in the Korean Conflict at the age of 19. His name was Vernon, and he is buried in that cemetery literally right across a creek from his own back yard that he played in as a child.

Since I came to Israel nearly two years ago 22 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists—men and women of all ages, rabbis, young soldiers, security guards, office workers, fathers, mothers, and one unborn child, plus the four who died in this past weekend’s rocket attacks. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/comprehensive-listing-of-terrorism-victims-in-israel

So, tonight in Israel begins a Memorial Day, with people who are remembering, and mourning the loss of their loved one(s). You can join your heart with Israel tonight by praying for those who are sorrowing and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 15:2), that somehow the Lord will comfort them.

A Visit to Jericho: The Tel tells the Tale

(Excerpted from “WHO’S LAND IS IT? ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR A JEWISH CLAIM TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL”

me at jericho
Me at Jericho. Behind me is Kenyon’s southern archaeological trench. Above my head are three UFO’s flying in formation… yikes! Oh, those are just cable cars going to the monastery on the mountain.

Jericho

The Scriptures tell us that God commanded Israel to completely annihilate the Canaanites, but only in a protracted campaign against specific people groups were they to “not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deut. 20:16-17). The ethical question “why were the Canaanites singled out for such severe treatment?” has perplexed scholars and laypersons for centuries. Yet, there is a reasonable answer that should satisfy anyone with a sober sense of justice and mercy.

Why the Destruction?
The Canaanites had sunk to an unthinkable and incredibly low state of moral depravity to the point where they would burn their living children to death in honor of their gods (Lev. 18:21), as well as practicing sodomy, bestiality, and other assorted evil, repulsive acts (Lev. 18:23, 24, 20:3). The Scripture indicates that when the inhabitants corrupt themselves to an excessive degree, the land itself begins to “vomit” them out (Lev. 18:25, 27-30). Thus they were not only to be cut off as a punishment, but God was sending a message—to protect and prevent Israel and the rest of mankind from being further corrupted (Deut. 20:16-18)—and God would use Israel to accomplish the mission.

The story of Jericho is one of the most famous stories of the Old Testament:  Joshua and the Israelites marched around the city, blew the trumpets, and the walls came tumbling down. But did it really happen that way, and at the time the Bible indicates?

jericho
The ancient tel of Jericho viewed from the (alleged) Mount of Temptation Monastery. Kenyon’s western trench is seen in the middle.

John Garstang

In 1930 British archaeologist John Garstang launched an expedition to excavate Jericho. His team dug until 1936 and after WWII, he published an account of his final views on Jericho.[1]

Garstang excavated a collapsed double city wall on the summit of the tel—or man-made mound and archaeological site with several layers of civilizations—that he dated to the late-15th to early 14th-century B.C.E. (the Late Bronze Age). He also excavated a residential area which he named City IV, on the southeast slope of the mound, which he believed was part of the city fortified by a double wall—it had been completely destroyed in a violent, fiery conflagration. Garstang determined that Jericho came to an end about 1400 B.C.E., based on pottery found in the destruction debris. He ascribed the destruction to the invading Israelites:

In a word, in all material details and in date the fall of Jericho took place as described in the Biblical narrative. Our demonstration is limited, however, to material observations: the walls fell, shaken apparently by earthquake, and the city was destroyed by fire, about 1400 B.C. These are the basic facts resulting from our investigations. The link with Joshua and the Israelites is only circumstantial but it seems to be solid and without a flaw.[2]

Kathleen Kenyon

In the 1950’s another British archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon, led a dig at Jericho which employed a stratigraphic excavation technique, in which a series of vertical trenches were dug to analyze the soil layers and the relationship to the architecture at the site. Kenyon made some amazing discoveries, determining that Garstang’s City IV had an impressive fortification system, the type of which was not really understood until Kenyon’s careful work at Jericho. This system consisted first of all of a 15 foot high stone “revetment” wall at the base of the mound. At the northern end of the site, remnants of an 8 foot high mudbrick parapet wall, on top of the stone wall, was found. It is likely that this parapet wall originally extended all the way around the city.

The revetment wall held in place a massive packed-earth embankment or rampart with a plastered face that extended to the top of the tel. Atop this earthen embankment was yet another city wall. Unfortunately, the upper portion of the embankment on the rest of the tel has eroded away. Today, though the upper wall that surrounded City IV when it was finally destroyed does not survive, the lower revetment wall and most of the embankment still exist and can be seen.

Despite the fact that the area where the upper wall once stood is gone, there is amazing evidence from Kenyon’s own detailed report that this wall came tumbling down and, in the words of the Biblical account, “fell down flat”, or literally, “fell beneath itself” (Joshua 6:20). Kenyon made three cuts through the city’s ramparts—on the north, west and south. In all three cuts, she carried her excavation to the lower revetment wall; in the west cut, however, she went even beyond the revetment wall to the area outside the wall.

What Kenyon found outside the revetment wall in the west cut was astonishing. There, she found bricks from the city wall above that had collapsed. Kenyon describes how the upper wall was constructed out of red bricks, and that there was a “heavy fill of fallen red [mud]bricks piling nearly to the top of the revetment [wall]. These [red bricks] probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank [emphasis added].”[3]

It appears that a wall made of red mudbricks existed either on top of the tel, as Kenyon claims, or on the top of the revetment wall itself, or both, until the final destruction of City IV. The red mudbricks came tumbling down, falling over the outer revetment wall at the base of the tel. There the red mudbricks came to rest in a heap,[4] essentially creating a ramp around the city whereby, just as the Scripture states: “the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20b).

jericho bricks
Remains of red bricks and additional stonework near the north end of Jericho.

Remnants of the final phase of City IV were also found on the southeast slope, just above the spring, by both Garstang and Kenyon. They both concluded that City IV was massively destroyed in a violent conflagration[5] that left a layer of destruction debris a minimum of a yard thick across the entire excavation area.[6]Again, Kenyon describes the scene:

The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire.”[7]

The last observation in this quotation suggests that an earthquake preceded the destruction by fire, which again coincides with the Biblical account: “They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it” (Joshua 6:24).

Grain

Interestingly, the most abundant item found in the destruction, apart from pottery, was grain. Both Garstang and Kenyon found large quantities of charred grain stored in the ground-floor rooms of the houses.[8] In her limited excavation area—remember, rather than excavating a broad area, Kenyon’s expedition dug trenches—Kenyon recovered six bushels of grain in one season![9] This is unique in the history of what is called “Palestinian archaeology.” Perhaps a jar or two might be found, but to find such an extensive amount of grain is considered exceptional. Why?

In ancient times grain was considered very valuable, and even used as a medium of exchange. The presence of these grain stores in the destroyed city is entirely consistent with the Biblical account. Jericho did not fall as a result of a starvation siege, as was common in ancient times, but rather, the Bible tells us Jericho was destroyed in a single day (Joshua 6:15,20).

brick kiln or storage
I am not sure what this is: perhaps a well (long since filled in), or a kiln, or storage area, possibly for grain.

Normally, successful attackers would plunder a city after capture, including valuable grain, but this is not consistent with the grain found here. The Israelites were told that “the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction,” and they were commanded, “Keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction” (Joshua 6:17-18). So the Israelites were forbidden to take any plunder from Jericho, which could explain why so much grain was left to burn when Jericho met its end.

One other interesting note regarding the grain and the season of the event: the city fell shortly after the Spring harvest, just after Passover (Joshua 5:10). This is precisely when the Bible says the Israelites attacked Jericho: Rahab was drying freshly harvested flax on the roof of her house (Joshua 2:6); and the Israelites crossed the Jordan while it was in flood at harvest time (Joshua 3:15).

Yet with all of Kenyon’s amazing discoveries, her conclusions regarding the date of Jericho’s demise conflicted with Garstang’s. She concluded that the wall Garstang associated with the Israelite invasion should have been dated to the Early Bronze Age some 1,000 years earlier. Thus the destruction of Jericho, which Garstang had dated to about 1400 B.C.E., occurred, according to Kenyon, at about 1550 B.C.E., 150 years before the time of Joshua. [10]

Obviously this is a problem for Bible literalists. The Exodus occurred c. 1445 B.C.E., and with Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho would be placed c. 1405 B.C.E. If the destruction of Jericho occurred a thousand years earlier there would be no fortified city to be conquered, and the Bible story is just that: a bible story, a myth, and nothing more.

Kenyon’s view would endure for another 30 years, with academic consensus going against the biblical version. Because of Kenyon’s death in 1978, her research at Jericho was never fully published until the early 1980’s. However, after years of research Dr. Bryant Wood, an ancient-pottery expert then at the University of Toronto released his analysis of Kenyon’s data. In a Time magazine article from May 1990, Wood explains how Kenyon erred with the earlier date, and why he prefers Garstang’s date of 1400 B.C.E.:

Kenyon’s dating of Jericho’s destruction was based largely on the fact that she failed to find a type of decorative pottery imported from Cyprus, that was popular in the region around 1400 B.C. Its absence, she reasoned, meant that the city had long since become uninhabited. But Wood argues that Kenyon’s excavations were made in a poorer part of the city, where the expensive imported pottery would have been absent in any case. And he says that other pottery, dug up in Jericho in the 1930s, was common in 1400 B.C.[11]

Wood further explains:

Kenyon based her conclusions on a very limited excavation area—two 26-foot by 26-foot squares. An argument from silence is always problematic, but Kenyon’s argument is especially poorly founded. In other words, Kenyon’s analysis was based on what was not found at Jericho rather than what was found. According to Kenyon, City IV must have been destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.E.) because no imported Cypriote ware—diagnostic for the ensuing Late Bronze I period—was found at Jericho.

jericho.kenyons2digspots
Kenyon’s two 26-foot by 26-foot square excavation areas.

Dating habitation levels at Jericho on the absence of exotic imported wares – which were found primarily in tombs in large urban centers – is methodologically unsound and, indeed, unacceptable. Kenyon drew her comparative material from large cities like Megiddo situated on major trade routes far from Jericho. Jericho, by contrast, is a small site[12] well off the major trade routes of the day.[13]

So, was the destruction of Jericho at the hands of the Israelites? Let’s review the correlation between the archaeological evidence and the Biblical account:

  • The city was strongly fortified (Joshua 2:5,7,15, 6:5,20).
    • The attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Joshua 2:6, 3:15, 5:10).
    • The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodstuffs (Joshua 6:1).
    • The siege was short (Joshua 6:15).
    • The walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Joshua 6:20).
    • The city was not plundered (Joshua 6:17-18).
    • The city was burned (Joshua 6:20).

Although the debate over when the destruction of Jericho occurred continues to be hotly contested, from the overwhelming evidence it is undeniable that the destruction of Jericho occurred just as the Bible says. Additionally, two other towns were attacked and burned in a similar fashion as Jericho: Ai and Hazor (Joshua 8:28, 11:11): the archaeological evidence confirms that both towns were destroyed c. 1400, and burned to the ground.

Yet, modern scholarship has attempted to deny that Joshua led a military campaign into Canaan. Rather, they have opted to craft a myth that the indigenous Canaanites joined the “Yahweh cult” and eventually became the Israelites, conveniently doing away with the Biblical account. But the evidence of Jericho, Ai and Hazor speaks to the contrary, and testifies that Joshua did fight the battle of Jericho and other towns in Canaan. Thus by 1405 B.C.E., the Jewish people were back from Egypt, and were present in the Land.

For the complete paper on WHO’S LAND IS IT?: ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR A JEWISH CLAIM TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL, click here: Whos Land is It: Archaeological Evidence

For more about Jericho from Dr. Bryant Wood, click here: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/bookstore/product.aspx?id=107

and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5Fjth9T12U

Notes:

                [1] John Garstang, and J.B.E. Garstang, The Story of Jericho, John Garstang and J.B.E. Garstang, The Story of Jericho. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, Rev. ed. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, rev. ed., 1948.

                [2] John Garstang, “Jericho, and the Biblical Story”, p. 1222.

[3] Kathleen Kenyon, “Jericho 3,” 110.

[4] John Garstang, “Jericho: Sir Charles Marston’s Expedition,” 128.

[5] John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition,” p. 192; “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 21, pp. 122-123; “The Fall of Bronze Age Jericho,” p. 68; “Jericho and the Biblical Story,” p. 1220; Garstang and Garstang, The Story of Jericho, p. 123. Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, p. 232; Archaeology in the Holy Land, pp. 171, 181-182; Jericho 3, pp. 368- 370.

[6] It is clear that the destruction continued beyond the excavation area, since erosion debris from upslope was colored brown, black and red by the burnt material it contained (Kenyon, Archaeology In the Holy Land, p. 182).

[7] Kenyon, Jericho 3, p. 370.

[8] John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition,” pp. 193-194; “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 21, 123, 128, 129; “The Fall of Bronze Age Jericho,” p. 66; “Jericho and the Biblical Story,” p. 1218. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, p. 171; Jericho 3, pp. 369-370.

[9] Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, p. 230.

[10] Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho (London: Ernest Benn, 1957), p. 262; “Jericho,” in Archaeology and Old Testament Study (AOTS) ed. D. Winton Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967), pp. 265- 267; “Jericho,” in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (EAEHL), vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), pp. 551, 564; The Bible in Recent Archaeology (Atlanta: John Knox, 1978), pp. 33-37.

[11] Michael D. Lemonick;Katherine L. Mihok,  Science: Score One for the Bible, Time Magazine; NEW YORK, Monday, Mar. 05, 1990

[12] The area inside the city wall was originally about 5-6 acres (John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition of 1931,” PEFQS 1931, p. 186; “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 19, p. 3), while the total area, including the fortification system, was approximately twice that, or 10-12 acres (John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho,” p. 187, and “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 19, p. 3; Kenyon, “Jericho,” EAEHL, p. 550 [4 hectares = 9.9 acres]). Magen Broshi and Ram Gophna list the size of the site as 1.5 ha (3.7 acres; Broshi and Gophna, “Middle Bronze Age II Palestine: Its Settlements and Population,” BASOR 261 [1986], Table 4), but this is no doubt the estimated size of the site as it is today. A considerable portion of the tell was removed in the construction of the reservoir and the modern road.

[13] Bryant G. Wood PhD, Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence; May 01, 2008. website: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/01/Did-the-Israelites-Conquer-Jericho-A-New-Look-at-the-Archaeological-Evidence.aspx

Hanukkah Light for the World!

IMG_2780
Hanukkiah outside the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem at sunset: ready to be lit!
(Across the street is the new train station and the Bridge of Strings symbolizing King David’s harp, in the distance).

Shalom from Jerusalem! Tonight begins the first night of the eight-day festival known as Hanukkah. I hope you are ready to celebrate!

This week I have watched the Hanukkah menorahs set up all over town, and it is kind of exciting! Actually, the nine branch menorahs are called “hanukkiahs”, and differ from the temple menorah in that it only has seven. This is to accommodate the eight days of Hanukkah.

I’ll forego an in-depth explanation on the history of Hanukkah (that’s what the internet is for), although it is worth the effort to search out and discover this amazing event in the history of G-d’s people.

Known by two names—the Festival of Lights, and the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah is mentioned only once in the Bible, the New Testament/Covenant book of John: “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.” (10:22-23).

This was well into the third year of Jesus’ ministry and after developing quite a national following, His popularity was beginning to wane while the controversy around Him increased. And on this occasion, the conversation ended in a not-too-friendly exchange, about a mile from where I am sitting writing this.

The spiritual leaders of Israel—here noted as “The Jews” which, since they were all Jews, can be interpreted as “the Judeans” (as opposed to “the Galileans”) or “Jewish leaders”—were challenging Jesus’ claim to Messiahship: “The Jewish [leaders] then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (v. 24). To which He answered in the affirmative, citing His works and role as the Shepherd of Israel as His credentials. He then answered their question and took it up a notch: “I and the Father are one.” (v.30). Not only is He the Messiah, but He is equal with the Father.

Recently I had a discussion with an alleged believer in Jesus, but he denies the Deity of Yeshua, that is, that Jesus is God. He gave some lengthy explanations with quite a few supporting Scriptures, but He could never address what Jesus said in John 8:58, 8:24, and here in John 10:30. And just to be clear, Jesus’ audience understood exactly what He was saying: “Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ 33 The Jewish [leaders] answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’”

And that is who He is.

Light of the World, Hanukkah and Christmas?

A lot of things are going on during this season, not the least of which is Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is fairly certain that Jesus was not born in December, but more likely in the late summer or early fall. There are a few reasons for this, a couple of which I will sketch out quickly and you can do your own study.

As King David approached the end of his life, he was busy preparing the Temple to be built by his son Solomon, as well as setting up admin duties for the Kingdom of Israel. One thing he did was to have the sons of Levi (the temple priests) divided into 24 groups and set up a schedule where they would serve in the Temple twice a year (see 2 Chronicles 24:20-31).

Fast forward about one thousand years and we find that “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah…. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:5-9). On this occasion Zacharias is told by and angel that he and his wife (both of whom were beyond natural child bearing age), would have a son, and name him John. This would be John the Baptist.

About six months later an angel visits Mary, a young woman engaged to be married and tells her that she will miraculously conceive and bear a child, and “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:26-38).

So we have Jesus evidently conceived about six months after that of John the Baptist. With John conceived probably around June or July (according to the schedule), he would have been born according to the natural manner of life nine months later, around Passover. This is interesting in that according to Jewish tradition Elijah is believed to return at Passover and herald the coming of the Messiah (see Isaiah 40:3-5/Luke 3:4-6), and John came in the Spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17; John 11:14).

Now fast forward six months and this brings us to the Fall Feasts of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot/Tabernacles. This would be the time that Jesus is born, and perhaps John the Apostle gives us a subtle hint when he writes, “And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us” (1:14).

So, where does Hanukkah fit into all of this? Well, back up from Tabernacles about nine months, and you arrive around the latter part of December, or Kislev on the Jewish calendar. With Hanukkah beginning on the 25 of Kislev the question has to be asked: Is it possible that the announcement for the Birth of the Messiah—the Light of the World—occurred during the Festival of Lights? Could it be that G-d would dedicate Himself in His Son to mankind as our redeemer on Hanukkah?

I don’t know for sure, but yes, it is very possible!

So whether or not Jesus/Yeshua was born in December, the overriding issue is not so much when He came, but why He came: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

In this—that a great miracle happened here in Israel—we can rejoice!  How great is the love of our God toward us! Tonight, light a candle in His Name! And may you meditate on these great and mysterious truths this holiday season, and during the Festival of Lights, let your light shine before all—people need to know Who the Light really is.

Happy Hanukkah!

PC

 

Pittsburgh, Darkness, and a Call to Prayer

Pittsburgh, Darkness, and a Call to Prayer

Darkness in Pittsburgh
By now you are well apprised of the tragedy that has occurred in Pittsburgh. The rise of anti-Semitism around the world is real—across Europe, South America and in the US and Canada. Where this is leading our world is something most people would just rather not think about, and not to place blame on anyone, but this was the very thought expressed by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the Rabbi of Tree of Life in Pittsburgh: “I never thought it would happen here.”

To no one’s surprise the blame game has begun, and some are trying to politicize the whole thing to their advantage: it is shameful. President Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh is entirely appropriate—for the worst mass murder in the Jewish community in US history, it is appropriate, if not incumbent that the President pay his respects. In case anyone has forgotten, despite his personal flaws, Donald J. Trump has demonstrated on several occasions that he is the most pro-Israel President since Harry S. Truman, and arguably the most pro-Israel President in US history.

Trumps-Pittsburg-640x480
President Trump and First Lady Melania place memorial stones on victims’ Stars of David.

Yet, we are told by the media that Pittsburgh’s “Jewish leaders” have expressed their desire that the President not come to Pittsburgh, as has Pittsburgh’s mayor, a Democrat, and Pennsylvania’s governor, also a Democrat. The Washington Post ran this headline: “Thousands signed a letter saying Trump was not welcome in Pittsburgh. He plans to visit anyway”, which seems to paint DJT as a cavalier politician insensitive to a grieving community.

Of course, The Washing Post is regularly hostile to the President, so this comes as no surprise. What also comes as no surprise is what you will read in a moment further down in the article (I am a little surprised that they printed this info).

Who are these “Jewish Leaders”? Who are the “Thousands [who] signed a letter saying Trump was not welcome in Pittsburgh”? Do they speak for the Greater Jewish Community?

These ‘leaders’ are from an organization called Bend the Arc, whose mission statement reads:
“Bend the Arc is a movement of tens of thousands of progressive Jews all across the country. For years, we’ve worked to build a more just society. Now we’re rising up in solidarity with everyone threatened by the Trump agenda to fight for the soul of our nation.”

‘Progressive’, as in socio-politically liberal, embracing everything from partial-birth abortion, to homosexual special rights (which if ratified into law could levy a fine of $250,000 for an offender: Dr. Michael Brown tell us more here), to a nation without borders—which means you have no nation.

Here is a little more from WaPo about Bend the Arc: “Bend the Arc was founded in 2012 as an advocacy organization. Three years later, with the help of Alexander Soros, son of liberal philanthropist George Soros, the group launched the first Jewish political action committee focused on dealing solely with domestic issues.”

Ah, ‘Alexander Soros, son of liberal philanthropist George Soros.’ That name does seem to pop up a bit these days. And now you know, as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.”

Flashback to 2012

In 2012 I led several HOI (Hope of Israel Congregation) outreach teams onto the streets of Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention. Together we handed out more than 5,000 pieces of Good News literature entitled, “Top Ten Reasons The DNC Should Support Israel” to people including Fox News’ Juan Williams, and Tom Brokaw, and NY Jewish congressman Jerry Nadler.

It was a week of interesting discussions to say the least (not everybody was friendly), and since that time, the Democrat Party has all but turned away from any support of Israel, which is more than a bit strange considering the prominent number of Jewish politicians on the political left. For the upcoming 2020 Republican National Convention, Charlotte should be an interesting place; of course, a lot can happen between now and then.

One other thing about all this: while a large portion of the overall Jewish community in America is liberal (I have Orthodox friends in the US who are embarrassed and bewildered at the liberalism in the Jewish community), I believe that the Jewish community in general is warming up to…not just a conservative point of view, but to…the idea that maybe there is something different about these Christians who support Israel, and the Savior they worship. They know they have friends in true Believers in Jesus/Yeshua. So, don’t let liberal groups like Bend the Arc or J Street discourage you—they may have the power of the media, but they do not speak for all Jewish people.

Remember to Pray
Let me say that I am sorry to be so much about politics in this letter, but I—probably like many of you—believe the spiritual battle is truly raging for the life and soul of our nation. As the Book of Esther shows us, there are such things as ‘Deep State’ operations in governments—and make no mistake: the people of God are the target. But rather than completely immersing ourselves into conspiracy theories, we are called to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and against the darkness that is encroaching upon us. Our God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—is still in absolute control. He laughs at the schemes of the wicked and mourns with His people (Psalm 2:4; Isaiah 63:9).

I was naked, and you clothed me
Which brings me to something you are interested in: His people. Yesterday I was across the street from our headquarters at our Distribution Center, where we provide clothing for new immigrants (“olim”) in Israel.

It was a bit of a ‘mad-house’ as about 25 new Russian speaking olim were crammed into our clothing area, looking through some pretty nice stuff donated by Believers in the UK and the USA. I was thrilled to see young families with children, elderly people, and middle-aged people glad to find some help and to realize there are people who care: most of them are very poor.

It is also moving to see these people obtain their own copy of the Hebrew Scriptures in their own language—many for the very first time. Please pray that G-d will continue to reveal Himself to His people, that the spiritual blindness with be taken away (Romans 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:16).

Thank you for praying for the ministry of CFI Jerusalem, and for your prayers and support of my work here. It is all important, and Jewish (and Arab) lives are being touched with the love of God through his people.

Blessings in the King,

Pat

PS: If you would like to support my work, please click here.

PPS. Remember to vote next week. 🙂

A New Year, A New Covenant, and A Feast of Trumpets!

shofarguy

Today in Israel, and around the world, people are celebrating Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which also coincides with the Biblical Feast of Trumpets, hence the blowing of shofars in synagogues and homes world-wide.

You may be wondering about a New Year in the middle of the ‘regular’ year: how’s that work? A Jewish friend and I were talking about that recently, how the different calendars function, etc. Some folks may object that Rosh Hashana really is not a Biblical feast day, but is observed along with the Feast of Trumpets (see Lev. 23:23-24), which is true. The way Rosha Hashana came about was when the Jewish people who returned to Israel from Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BCE, they brought some cultural baggage with them, part of which is the adaptation of the Babylonian calendar.

According to Exodus 12 the actual Biblical calendar puts the beginning of the year in the Spring (an obviously logical place to begin new things). So, what do we do? Well, many people celebrate the modern civil Western New Year on January 1, which isn’t biblical either, but is based on the Gregorian calendar, the original goal of which was to change the date of Easter. In 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced his Gregorian calendar, Europe adhered to the Julian calendar, first implemented by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.E.

So, to interact with people in the world we live in today, some accommodations are regularly made. Suffice to say, every day is a new day, and as the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23). May we keep this in mind as we go through our days and years, whenever we may begin them.

A Trumpet… for you!

One significant aspect of the Feats of Trumpets is its prophetic meaning, but to explain that, a little back story is required here. A few years ago I wrote a research paper for a class at SES on this topic entitled A Case for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, which I have excerpted here. I hope you enjoy it, and if you would like a copy of the full paper click here.

What about The Last Trumpet?

The question regarding the last trumpet from 1 Corinthians 15:51 is often used to support the Post-Trib view: “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” Which trumpet is this ‘last trumpet’? There are seven trumpet judgments in Revelation (9:2-11:15), as well as other references to trumpets in the same book (1:10; 4:1). Often the reference is made to Revelation 11:15 as the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15. However, one must remember that at the time Paul wrote to the Corinthians, John would not receive and write the Revelation for another thirty or forty years, which would likely be a different generation. While it is possible that the Spirit of God could prophetically inspire Paul to write verse 51 for a future referent, Paul’s immediate audience in Corinth would have no way to interpret what it meant, which would not explain the very mystery he claimed to be revealing.

So, what is the last trumpet? The answer may be found in the mysterious, prophetic nature of the seven feasts that God gave to Israel in Leviticus 23. In the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul references Passover/Unleavened Bread, where he exhorts the Jewish and Gentile believers to celebrate Passover in light of the New Covenant, “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened, for Christ [Messiah] our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7); also First Fruits fulfilled in the Resurrection:

“Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Cor. 15:20-23).

The Corinthians were apparently familiar with the feast days God gave to Israel, thus a quick overview of the feasts will be helpful for us here.

In Leviticus 23 God lays out seven annual feasts that Israel was to keep perpetually: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles. Many recognize these as a framework for God’s overall program for the redemption of Israel, and the world. In the New Covenant we recognize that four of seven have already been fulfilled:

  • Passover, with the death of Messiah as the Passover Lamb without spot or blemish;
  • Unleavened Bread, with the sinless (unleavened) ‘Bread of Life’ placed in the ground;
  • Firstfruits, with the resurrection of Messiah as ‘the firstfruits of the resurrection’;
  • Pentecost, fifty days after Passover when God gave Israel the Law, fulfilled in the New Covenant by God giving Israel His Spirit.

Take special note that each of these feasts were fulfilled in the New Covenant on their exact day. This is no coincidence with a sovereign God. Is it presumptuous to expect that the remaining three feasts will also be fulfilled on their respective days? We shall let that question lie for now, since no man knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return. However, regarding the last trumpet, let us consider the next feast day on God’s prophetic calendar: The Feast of Trumpets.

There were several purposes for the trumpets to be sounded: a call to assembly or announcement, a call to mobilize, to war, or to judgment, and a call to worship and celebration.[1] In light of the overall prophetic scenario revealed for the last days, all of these purposes are fulfilled at the sounding of the trumpet and Messiah’s return: 1) He calls the assembly (ekklesia, or church) to mobilize and meet Him in the air; 2) the trumpet of war and judgment is sounded for the last battle between God and Satan revealed in Revelation 4 through 19; and 3) the trumpet of celebration and worship, as we will be reunited with loved ones and worship God as never before when we see Him face to face!

Also, bear in mind that at Pentecost, the giving of the Law was introduced with a series of trumpet blasts (see Ex. 19) similar to the Feast of Trumpets. Thus we see that the Feasts of Pentecost and Trumpets serve the church age as bookends—initiated and consummated with trumpet blasts, with a season of harvest between them (see Lev. 23:22). This idea the Corinthians would very likely have understood. It is also important to realize that during the Feast of Trumpets (known today as Rosh Hashana) there was not only one trumpet blast, but an entire series of trumpet blasts. It may well be that it is not just the literal final trumpet blast at Rosh Hashana that we are anticipating, but the last one at the moment of the Rapture that will matter to the believing remnant at that time. That remains to be seen.

For the complete paper on this topic, click here.The PreTribulation Rapture[2018] You are free to download.

May G-d bless you on this Rosh Hashana with a sweetest New Year yet, and may we live expectantly as we await to meet our G-d and Savior! Chag Sameach!

PC

[1] Sam Nadler, Messiah in the Feasts of Israel: God’s Appointed Times in History and Prophecy (Charlotte, NC: Word of Messiah Ministries, 2002), 95.

A convergence of Holy Days, Politics, and A Cup of Trembling    

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As you are probably aware, tomorrow will be a big day here in Israel: not for Israel only, but for the whole world. I do believe that the official recognition by the USA of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city—and the subsequent embassy move—is a significant milestone in G-d’s plan and world history. (Click here for photos of new US Embassy site on my PCinIsrael FB page)
Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel

For the first time in 2,000 years—and then under Roman administration—and more than 2,600 years since under complete Israeli sovereignty, Jerusalem is recognized the historic and rightful capital of Israel by a foreign nation.

As exciting as this is, I believe if we look a little deeper we will see even more extraordinary events occurring. Tomorrow, not only will the US officially move its embassy, this will occur on the standard calendar date of May 14, when David Ben Gurion signed the Israel Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. But wait there’s more.

To add to the intrigue, Jerusalem Day (Hebrew: יום ירושלים, Yom Yerushalayim) begins tonight at sundown. This day (through sundown tomorrow) is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City during the Six Day War in June 1967, and recapture the Temple Mount as well.

Soldiers_Western_Wall_1967
The iconic 1967 photo of Israeli Paratroopers, just after they had captured the Western Wall and the Temple Mount– for the first time in 2000 years.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to thank God for victory in the Six-Day War and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem”.

However, this day is not celebrated on the Western/Gregorian calendar, which would place the date each year on June 7, but on the Hebrew calendar day of 29th of Iyyar, which this year falls on—you guessed it—May 14.

So, tomorrow we will celebrate the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with the US embassy move on Israel’s Independence Day, as well as the historic reunification and reclaiming of Jerusalem under Jewish control. Perhaps that is a coincidence, and I have not done an exhaustive study, but I don’t see where these two dates have occurred on the same day before now. (If you find more info let me know.)

The Nakba and Ramadan

More intrigue follows as the usual Palestinian propagandized day of rage, the “Nakba” or Catastrophe follows on Tuesday, May 15. Here it is claimed that the Jews ‘stole’ the land of the Arabs, which conveniently leaves out pretty significant details of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence/ Survival.

Add to that the ridiculous claims by Hamas leaders and their insanity to…”drive the Jews into the sea” (…again?) with the familiar slogan, “From the River (Jordan) to the Sea (Med) Palestine will be Free.” I will simply say about this and the rest of similar aspirations: sooner or later we have to grow up, and face the truth, which is actually what G-d calls each of us to, as Isaiah wrote,

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool”(1:18). Then true peace can be known by all parties.

On the heels of Tuesday’s Day of Rage/Nakba comes the Muslim feast of Ramadan on May 16, a month long observance of partial fasting and prayer, which is scheduled according to the Islamic calendar.

Wrapping up this coming week and beginning the following week is the Biblical Feast of Shavuot/Weeks, also known as Pentecost, where the Law of Moses was given on Mt. Sinai, and in Acts 2 the Body of Messiah was ‘birthed’ to essentially launch the New Covenant era.

A Cup of Trembling

It does seem that we are accelerating toward the end of this age seemingly with increased momentum and focus on Jerusalem, especially in light of Zechariah’s prophecy that G-d says “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about.”

There is still much left to occur according to the prophetic vision given in Scripture, but presently it does seem that against all odds and expectations, with some pretty unlikely players on the world stage, G-d is driving His plan to focus world attention on Jerusalem and ultimately on His Son, who one day will reign there in person.

It should be an interesting week, so please pray for calm, and the safety of the young men and women guarding Israel’s borders. One of my friends who we work with at CFI is an Ethiopian Jew. Right now she has three children serving in the IDF, one of them on the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border. So please pray for their safety and her peace (which she seems to be handling quite well).

Pray also that our Arab neighbors will reject the foolish and futile attempts by their political and religious leaders to thwart G-d’s plan as it advances, and to consider the way of peace that He has set forth for each and all of us (John 14:27).

And Chag Yom Yerushalayim Sameach, Happy Jerusalem Day!

Pat