“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.”(Psalm 133:1-2)
The Psalmist tells us that it is both “good” and “pleasant” when “brethren… dwell together in unity." (Psalm 133:1) However, the political situation in Israel today is anything but unified as the people have been struggling for more than a year now to elect a new government.
Currently, Israel is in the midst of its third election campaign in the past year, with voting to take place again on March 2nd. Israeli voters are highly frustrated with the current stalemate and yet most seem to be sticking with their old parties. Meantime, their leaders are refusing to make compromises which could produce a governing coalition. At the heart of the current impasse is a battle over whether long-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu should stay on as head of the government.
The various parties had to file their lists of candidates this week, and while there were a few hurried mergers and joints lists, there were no big surprises. The latest polls indicate that little has changed in the left/right balance which might break the political deadlock. Most of the surveys have the Blue & White faction up on Netanyahu’s Likud party by a few Knesset seats, but they also were slightly ahead before the elections in April and September, only for Likud to make last-minute comebacks each time. Russian strongman Avigdor Liberman appears to still be the swing vote and it would be in his power once again to break the impasse should he choose to do so.
Things could begin to shift in the coming weeks, however, as Netanyahu is on the brink of losing his battle for parliamentary immunity from prosecution in the three criminal cases being brought against him. Should that happen, he could already be sitting in a courtroom facing trial in the closing days of the campaign, which would not be a good image for Likud [which, by the way, means “union” or “consolidation” in Hebrew].
Given how long this has taken and the unprecedented nature of the electoral logjam, one cannot help but sense that Israel is actually locked in a spiritual battle over its future. And they could certainly use our prayers for some “unity” among the brethren.
The Psalmist likens this unity to the precious anointing oil which ran down Aaron’s beard and clothing when he was installed as High Priest over Israel. And while this imagery may be appealing, it was actually a very difficult and painful moment for Aaron.
After his brother Moses had received all the Lord’s instructions on the priestly duties, it was now time for Aaron to be set in place as High Priest and begin offering ritual sacrifices to God. Leviticus chapters 8 to 10 describe these events in detail.
We read that Aaron put on the special garments, breastplate and turban of his office, and Moses poured the anointing oil over his head. Then he was told to stay outside the tent of meeting for seven days to perform sacrifices to purify himself and his sons for service. In the end, the Lord was pleased and sent holy fire to consume the offerings on the altar, causing the people to shout and fall on their faces in awe (Leviticus 9:24).
But then Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons, offered “strange fire” before the Lord. Bible scholars differ on exactly what this meant, but the Lord was very displeased and slew the two sons of Aaron. Yet Moses insisted to Aaron that the consecration process was not finished, and thus he could not tear his garments or mourn the loss of his sons – “for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you” (Leviticus 10:7).
So Aaron had to stand, stiff-lipped, outside the tent of meeting with the anointing oil still dripping down his beard and garments, and continue his priestly duties for the sake of the nation. No tears or sign of grief! It was a very painful moment for Aaron, but as they watched the fear of the Lord came upon the people, bonding them to the Lord’s chosen leadership. It also further cemented the relationship between Moses as the senior leader and his brother Aaron in a subservient role as High Priest.
That is what the Psalmist praised as both “good” and “pleasant,” when “brethren dwell together in unity.” At that moment, Israel was a nation which feared the Lord and respected His chosen leaders. And those leaders earned that respect due to the personal price they paid in the sight of all the people to serve in leadership positions.
Israel today could surely use some sort of unmistakable confirmation from heaven over their leaders, so that the people might fear the Lord and respect His choice. And those vying for leadership over Israel should consider that being a ruler over this chosen nation may require personal sacrifices which few are willing to make.
May our prayers somehow help them all along the path to national unity, self-less leadership and godly fear.
“‘Up, up! Flee from the land of the north,’ says the Lord; ‘for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven,’ says the Lord.” (Zechariah 2:6)
ICEJ’s Aliyah Director Howard Flower shared this verse with ICEJ Homecare and said, “The Aliyah from the North began to increase some 10 years ago. It has continued to increase and now it’s most active. The winds of Aliyah from the East, South and West have grown calm for now. But the Aliyah from the North is what God is doing today.”
Homecare is privileged to have ongoing contact with many of these immigrants from the North, and throughout 2019 it brought both blessings and challenges in our work.
One challenge was witnessing the suffering of one dear lady each week. In the Former Soviet Union, she was involved in scientific research, but in her senior years she was bedbound and very lonely. She often said to ICEJ Homecare nurse Corrie Van Maanen, “My week goes from Wednesday to Wednesday because then you are coming.” Just after she turned 90, she passed away.
A blessing we were able to participate in was the Bar Mitzvah of the grandson of a lady who has enjoyed the help of Homecare for many years. “The fact that I was invited was very special, because the lady’s son and grandchildren have embraced the ultra-orthodox lifestyle,” explained Corrie. The ultra-orthodox is a sector of Judaism not usually accepting of Christians. However, this family welcomed Corrie with love to their family gathering because of the relationships built over the years.
Throughout 2019, there were answers to prayer from the God of Israel who does the impossible. The voice of a single mother, living in an impoverished area of Tel Aviv whom Homecare is helping monthly, was filled with disappointment and despair. She works hard but cannot make ends meet and had been eagerly waiting for a ‘subsidized living’ apartment. She was told there would be further delays. “When she stopped talking,” said Corrie, “I simply said that we will pray. Two weeks later, she excitedly said that it wasn’t possible, but God had done it. She has a new ‘subsidized living’ apartment!”
Thanks to your faithful giving and prayers, Homecare had a great year in 2019 and we look forward to this new year of 2020 to continue caring for those who have made Israel their home!
To donate to this important and heartfelt work, visit: int.icej.org/homecare
Happy New Year! Beginning each year with a renewed commitment to prayer is a pattern laid out by the Lord in Exodus 40. As the chapter opens, the Lord commands Moses to set up the Tabernacle of meeting on the first day of the first month, as a place of prayer and communion with God. The tent was to be a place of ministry, where the High Priest and Levites would perform the required sacrifices and stand in the gap for the People of Israel.
Here at the ICEJ we hold prayer in a very high regard. Through prayer, God’s people rise up to be His instrument to shift nations, cities, and our personal lives. Over the past six months we have seen the Lord use prayer at the ICEJ to cause shifts in nations at the highest level.
During a time of prayer, the Lord gave ICEJ leadership Psalm 2:8 as an invitation, “Ask of Me, and I will give you nations as your inheritance.” Soon after, the doors opened for a meeting with the royal family of Serbia, to share with them the Father’s heart for Israel. Months later the Lord positioned ICEJ to bring a delegation of Egyptian believers to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. In response, God released a deluge of rain over Egypt filling the once-low aquifers.
Lastly, during the Feast the Lord released His word through our leadership, proclaiming a shift was coming for the nation of Bolivia. Returning home, the Bolivians witnessed the Lord uproot their president and establish new leadership who boldly declared, “The Bible is very important to us. Our strength is God.”
Prayer is the engine that empowers the ICEJ to accomplish all the Lord has called us to do. As 2020 begins, will you commit to partner with us in prayer? More than 5,000 people from 120 countries have already committed to join our monthly Isaiah 62 prayer initiative and almost 650 committed intercessors have joined the ICEJ PrayerWave Initiative. Come and be a part of what the Lord will do in 2020.
After one year of preparation, we were thrilled to officially open a branch of the ICEJ in Ukraine. Although Ukraine continues to grapple with the legacy of its Communist and Fascist past and is torn by war in the east, the more than 3.5 million Evangelical believers in the country offer great potential for future growth and support for Israel. The main task of this new branch will be to educate the church about Israel and the connection between the Jewish people and the nations.
Branch leadership will continue the work which Ukrainian Christians started more than ten years ago. Repentance meetings for antisemitism were held in different cities where Jews had been persecuted, and in Kiev, the capital city, a National Day of Prayer for the peace of Jerusalem was held for several years, with up to 1,000 people from different denominations coming together. It has been resolved that the new branch will renew the prayer initiative under the banner of the ICEJ.
From the beginning, the Kiev Jewish Messianic Community has been a key player in all these activities, and the Community’s leader, Pastor Boris Grisenko, joined the Board of ICEJ-Ukraine, together with representatives of other large Evangelical denominations. At the branch opening, Pastor Grisenko spoke on the subject of “Israel and the Church”, together with Vitaliy Kozubovskiy, senior pastor of the largest Baptist church, and Mojmir Kallus, ICEJ VP for International Affairs.
Please pray for ICEJ-Ukraine's National Director Valeriy Alymov and his team. The fields in Ukraine are ready for harvest, so may the Lord send the laborers.
New Favor for Israel in Tanzania
On a two-week speaking tour in East Africa, ICEJ Vice President David Parsons was received by the President of Tanzania, the honorable John Pombe Magufuli, in his hometown of Chato, on Lake Victoria.
Parsons thanked President Magufuli for restoring his nation’s relations with Israel and for voting with Israel more at the United Nations. He also directed the President’s attention to Isaiah 60:10 and encouraged him to show additional favor to Israel by moving Tanzania’s new embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, adding that the Lord was promising “ten years of the fatted calf” if he would do so.
President Magufuli thanked Rev. Parsons for his visit to his country and hometown, gave a personal offering for Israel to the ICEJ, and asked Parsons to pray for his elderly mother Susanna (pictured in wheelchair).
ICEJ-Finland blesses Israel once again
Throughout the years, ICEJ-Finland has played a key role in ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts, and at ICEJ’s recent conference, in Oulu, Northern Finland, this country blessed Israel in a new way: Through music!
At this conference near the Arctic Circle, co-producers Pekka Simojokki and Vesna Bühler launched “Nordic Praise”, their latest Hebrew worship CD, as a special gift from ICEJ-Finland to bless believers in Israel.
Pekka, one of Finland’s most popular worship leaders, has been writing, composing and producing Gospel songs for over 30 years. “Nordic Praise” was originally translated and produced in many languages including English, Arabic, Persian, and Russian, but his dream was to finally produce it in Hebrew to bless believers in Israel.
Led by ICEJ-Finland and National Director, Jani Salokangas, Finnish believers supported this vision, praying for years and raising financial support for the Hebrew production.
This new CD will soon be available through ICEJstore.com
"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40