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22
SE Asia #6 - God Is Faithful to Israel - Ben Volman
January 22, 2018

By Ben Volman, Toronto Ministry Team Leader and Messianic Rabbi of Kehillat Eytz Chaim / Tree of Life Congregation

(Ben was kindly invited to travel to Thailand and speak to a group of local pastors and evangelists about a Messianic perspective of the Gospel.  And, since he will be "in the area," he'll also visit the Philippines to visit some pastors there.)

It’s Monday night and, although I’m sitting in the lounge of Guangzhou’s Baiyun Airport, I’m still recovering from the relentless humidity of Manila and its tortured traffic. 

On Friday, we travelled north of Manila to a quiet village with rice paddies and tight laneways that reminded me of the back alleys of Kensington Market in Toronto, but with a lot more motorbikes.  I spoke in an open square in front of a school.  A few hundred people came out, far more than Pastor Joe anticipated. 

The name of the school was “Gardenersfield” and was surrounded by interesting shrubs and trees. One had thin, long branches that hung like a woman’s long tresses out of branches I couldn't see in the twilight.  One of my companions asked me if we had this in Canada.  It’s called “Hair of Esther.” 

After I spoke (translated into Tagalog by Queen, a former politician), a very sweet older lady, Polly, came up to ask, “Sir. What is your religion? You sound like my father who has no religion. My mother is Catholic, so I am Catholic.” 

We chatted for a few minutes.  I spoke about my faith in Yeshua and she responded, “I like what you say. I am glad you are here.”  Later, she said, “Now, please come to home. Visit my husband and children.”

I deferred.  Perhaps the next time I visit. It was a very long evening and the house where we stayed afterwards didn’t provide much quiet.  The owners had an internet gaming site business.  I collapsed on a bed at 10 pm to a sound not unlike the pinball games I used to play in college (and you thought I never played sports), but woke after restlessly turning in the humid dark.

I was up until 2 am, then turned out the light again. Then a cat started mewling at the window, inches away from my pillow, and was soon joined by a chorus of dogs. The door of the room opened and it was apparent that the group was moving out – at 4:30 am.

I was, as you can imagine, exhausted. I had two more days in Manila. I hadn’t had a proper shower since I arrived (there’s no hot water in the condo where I was staying) and I’d accumulated enough laundry to start wondering what I would wear on the next stage of my journey in New York.  I decided that, since we were returning to Manila, I could check into a hotel. And that’s where I relaxed, blessedly alone, blessedly in peace until Sunday, when I was to speak again.

Sunday morning, after a nice breakfast, I began jotting down notes for a new message that I’d started putting together on PowerPoint.  With my head clear, the words were coming with a dynamic focus.  Forget the PowerPoint. I wanted to talk to these people, not show pictures.  Here’s the message I prepared for them:

Shalom.  Read with me in Ezekiel 36:9ff.

Wherever I go in South East Asia, people always ask me two questions:

1) Why do we need a Messianic Jewish movement?

2) Many believe we are in the end times.  What will God do next?

These two questions are closely related.  Because four times at least, during the past century, the very existence of Israel or the Jewish people has been under severe threat. The threats haven’t gone away.  Iran’s ayatollahs never cease to promise that they are about to erase Israel out of existence.  This was a regular promise of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, Hezbollah in Lebanon has, according to numerous sources, replaced the missiles they used to devastate Israel a decade ago.

Each time Israel has faced such a threat, the evangelical churches—the churches where believers promise to live holding fast to the Word God—have done little or nothing.  They have largely been spectators to the events, even if they wished Israel well.

This is why I don’t fit in to the denominations that have welcomed me as a brother, a teacher and even an elder.  They have been silent and invisible when Israel’s existence was on the line.

That’s why we raised up a Messianic Jewish movement that took hold in the 70s and 80s among the thousands of Jewish young people who were coming to the Lord and didn’t want to disappear into churches and lose their Jewish identity.

For a few years, I saw it myself and heard the same from others in churches—during the toughest, early years of the Second Intifada (2000-2005), when Jewish believers would listen each Sunday morning for the news that Jewish blood was running in the streets of Jerusalem, and saw their own churches weren’t praying for Israel—not even for the “peace of Jerusalem.”

And this is because those churches have conformed to the world around us. The existence of Israel is the greatest confrontation for the world’s lack of faith in God.  Because if Israel really did come into existence in accord with the Biblical promises and prophecies as we read here in Ezekiel, then God has shown Himself faithful to Israel and Israel is still His chosen people.

That’s why they don’t want to accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  They don’t accept the rule of the Jewish state over Jerusalem. And there are many churches that are equally ambivalent, even if this has fulfilled the words of Yeshua in Luke 21:23. And they don’t even want to accept that Jesus is Jewish.

We believers stand on God’s Word, and this is what Paul meant when he warned the believers not to grow arrogant because branches were broken off so that they could be grafted in. “God is able to graft them in again.” And the roots—the original covenantal roots of our faith affirm God’s irrevocable call on Israel—which is why Paul also says, “You don’t support the root. The root supports you.”  (See Romans 11.)

This should have been the lesson of the Holocaust to the churches.  Yes, a few outstanding theologians of the 20th Century realized that, when the church abandoned Israel, their witness against evil failed because they were no longer standing in the faith of Abraham.  But now, many are promoting a replacement view of Israel.  They are removing “the problem” of modern Israel by saying that Jesus is our new Israel and when He comes into history, Israel is irrelevant.  But He hasn’t yet come back into history. God is showing Himself faithful to the promises He made to Abraham as a sign that He truly is faithful to His word. 

Jesus has overcome the world, but I am still in the struggle of letting Jesus overcome the world in me, in my neighbour and all those who are seeking the higher spiritual life.  I’m not above it by saying, “Let’s live as if the battle is already won.”

The church’s ambivalence about modern Israel and their lack of belief that Israel stands because of the faithfulness of God has compromised and weakened our testimony to Jewish people and the world.  Not because Israel is perfect, but because Israel – not just in the nation, but among the Jewish people worldwide, but especially in the land itself – is where God is moving right now.  There are an estimated 15,000 Jewish believers in Israel, many of them involved in about 125 fellowships and congregations where the Lord is raising up thousands of young believers. 

I may not be able to say to you exactly, what God is about do.  But if you aren’t standing with God in what He’s doing now, how will you stand with Him in what He does next?

Now there are different reasons for wanting to know what God is about to do.  Some are just curious. Some want to know because they want to be able to say later, “I told you so.”

But Yeshua gave us the real reasons for wanting to be ready—because the work of the Bride of Messiah is to wait for the Bridegroom.  We are not just spiritual spectators, we are urgently waiting on Him. 

And, while some churches have lost touch with waiting and no longer even preach his coming, the Jewish people are very well aware of what their attitude ought to be. Many know the 13th Principle of Jewish Faith taught by the great 11th Century rabbi, Moses ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides:  “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Messiah and though he tarry,  I will wait for him.”

That’s the right attitude—except we’re waiting for Messiah’s return.  And I know that you do not want to stay on the sidelines—you want to be in the action. That’s an attitude we’ve already seen among Filipinos. We know that you have a heart for Israel.  During the Holocaust, your President offered refuge to more than a thousand Jewish people when other nations refused to let us in.  And in the years of the Second Intifada (2000-2005) I recall visiting one of the poorest areas of Tel Aviv where the Filipina ladies were preparing a free meal for anyone in the neighbourhood.  I know that, during those years, the Filipino workers were subject to terror attacks and some died when local buses were blown up and their cafeterias bombed.

Today, many of our Jewish elderly people are receiving extraordinary care from Filipino personal workers who lovingly share their faith in Yeshua. I know a Messianic Rabbi who spent years trying to tell his mother about the Lord.  One day, she turned to her Filipina caregiver and asked, “So does my son have the same faith in the Lord that we do?”

You are taking part in this sign of the Messianic movement that confirms the promises given by Yeshua and Paul – that when the “fullness” of the Gentiles comes in, then God will turn His attention back to Israel, just as we read in Ezekiel 36, both to bring them back to the land and to pour His Spirit on them.

You are part of what God is doing now and that is why you’re going to be part of what He does next.

Some of you know my testimony.  You know that the first great confirmation I experienced of God’s love for me was knowing His peace.  And, when you are praying for the “peace of Jerusalem,” you are praying for Israel to experience Yeshua’s peace when He reigns as Prince of Peace.

Together we’re united in that extraordinary hope, that faith and that vision.

May the Lord now equip each of us to do our part, as He is fulfilling His promises to Israel and in the days to come. 

Filed under: Israel, Jewish History, Ministry News

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