ICEJ USA

"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40
  1. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was founded in September 1980 with a clear calling from Scripture to be a ministry of comfort and blessing to the restored nation of Israel and the Jewish people. This biblical mandate is drawn from the book of Isaiah.

    “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1–2)

    After their many long centuries of exile among the nations, the Jewish people have finally returned to their ancient homeland, just as the Hebrew prophets foretold. These same prophets also foresaw gentile believers one day assisting the Jews in this time of restoration. This is a recurring theme, especially in Isaiah (e.g., Isaiah 40:1–2, 49:22–23, and 60:10–11).

    The Bible contains many other prophetic passages on this future restoration of Israel with gentile assistance, including the inspiring book of Ruth.

    The Kindness of Ruth

    The book of Ruth opens with an Israelite woman, Naomi, who left her home in Bethlehem with her family to escape a famine. They found refuge in Moab, but life was hard over time as she lost her husband and two sons. When the famine finally lifted, Naomi returned home in poverty. But her daughter-in-law, Ruth, a Moabite, nevertheless decided to journey alongside Naomi, declaring: “Wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16–17a).

    In this prophetic story, Naomi is a picture of Israel returning from exile with few possessions left. She had nothing to offer her daughter-in-law Ruth, as she now had no male heir left to reclaim her family property. But Ruth saw something great in the God whom Naomi served, and thus refused to leave her side.

    God soon led them to the fields of Boaz, a close relative of Naomi whom she realized could help her regain her family’s lands. As Ruth labored during the barley harvest to provide for her mother-in-law, Boaz noticed all her kindnesses to Naomi and blessed her with gifts of extra grain. Boaz eventually married Ruth, which restored Naomi’s land inheritance. The newlyweds then gave birth to Obed, King David’s grandfather, thus making Ruth part of Jesus’ lineage (Matthew 1:5).

    Ruth is a prophetic depiction of a gentile church that fully identifies with the wearied people of Israel returning from exile because they are in awe of the God of Israel. Ruth wins the notice and favor of Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, because of her caring heart for Naomi. Boaz even told her: “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before” (Ruth 2:11).

    The beauty of the story is how Naomi and Ruth each sought something precious to them, but journeyed together. Naomi wanted her land back, while Ruth wanted a husband, and they both received the desire of their heart in one person—Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer and type of Messiah.

    So Israel and the “Ruth church” are on a journey together that will end with them gloriously reconciled together in the Messiah. Until that day, the story of Ruth teaches us that gentiles can gain the attention and blessing of God by comforting and caring for Israel in real, practical ways—just as God promised Abraham: “I will bless those who bless thee” (Genesis 12:3).

    A Firm Commitment

    For the past 40 years, the ICEJ has been blessing and comforting Israel based on the inspiration of Ruth and other biblical passages that encourage gentiles to show mercy and kindness to the Jewish people. The Christian Embassy made a firm commitment four decades ago to come alongside Israel and help this nation no matter what it might go through along the way. Israel’s journey home has not been easy, and even though the nation is restored and prospering, it still faces many threats and challenges. And the ICEJ is determined to continue standing by the people of Israel until they reach their redemptive destiny in God, restored to their full land inheritance and safe in the arms of their kinsman redeemer.

  2. Giving a Future and a Hope

    ICEJ AID helps needy Israeli youth and families reach for a brighter future by providing educational enrichment, vocational training, and other practical assistance to improve the long-term quality of life for Israelis. This benevolent outreach is making a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged, children from broken families, at-risk youth, women in crisis, and minority communities, among others.

    Caring for Holocaust Survivors

    The ICEJ’s Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors has housed and lovingly cared for almost 100 elderly Survivors since its founding over ten years ago. In addition, many Survivors living throughough the Haifa area come to the Home to participate in special events with their peers. The Haifa Home provides a warm, loving family in a secure place of residence. Daily hot meals, medical care, and activities are provided for these precious souls who have known great tragedy and loneliness in their lives.

    Israel in Crisis

    Israel is often forced to deal with sudden crises, when war or natural disaster strike. ICEJ AID steps in to help vulnerable communities in such times of turmoil. This includes providing emergency bomb shelters, firefighting equipment, subsidies for trauma treatment, and professional training for first responders. During the recent arson attacks coming out of Gaza, the ICEJ equipped every municipality throughout the region with firefighting vehicles and trailers. Due to ongoing rocket attacks in the area, the ICEJ has placed some 110 bomb shelters protecting playgrounds, schools, synagogues, and community centers. When emergencies arise, it is a tremendous testimony when Christians are the first to arrive with help.

    Aliyah and Integration

    The ICEJ has answered the call for Christians to partner with God in the Jewish people’s great prophetic ingathering in modern times. We believe it is the hand of God, in keeping with His promises, to restore Israel after their long exile. For example, the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed: “For I will set my eyes on them for good, and I bring them back to this land; I will build them and not tear them down, and I will plant them and not uproot them” (Jeremiah 24:6). The ICEJ has now assisted nearly 160,000 Jews from around the world to make Aliyah (return) to Israel. ICEJ AID has also helped tens of thousands of new Jewish immigrants adjust to their new lives once back in their forefathers’ land. The ICEJ Homecare program also sponsors Christian nurses who provide in-home hospice care to elderly or disabled Jewish immigrants. 

    Your gift today will help us continue these ministries to the people of Israel.

  3. “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1–2)

    When the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was founded in 1980 by visionary leaders like Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Johann Lückhoff, Timothy King, Merv and Merla Watson, Lance Lambert, and others, there was one passage from the Bible that inspired and guided them more than any other. This was from the Hebrew prophet Isaiah: “‘Comfort, yes comfort My people!’ says your God.”

    That heavenly mandate continues to motivate the Christian Embassy to this day. It is a scriptural command to stand in love, kindness, and hope with God’s people. It was ignored for far too long by too many churches. Yet it rings forth today and is more relevant and timelier than ever. And it still inspires the vision of the ICEJ, as we seek to connect Christians from every nation with every segment of Israeli society through acts of genuine love and concern for their welfare and destiny.

    The Gentile Role in Israel's Redemption

    The first verse of Isaiah 40 is like a God-given headline for a momentous salvation plan that is unveiled throughout the entire chapter. Here, God heralds a new season of restoration for Israel, a time when “her warfare has ended.” It announces the coming of a “voice in the wilderness,” a preparer of the way for Messiah. The chapter then announces the coming of the Shepherd-Messiah, who will tend His flock. At the same time, God rebukes the nations’ folly to worship their man-made idols rather than the Creator of the heavens and the earth. The chapter concludes with the groundless complaint that God has forgotten His people.

    It is in the context of the coming redemption of Israel—and the world—that Isaiah commands us to comfort God’s people. Please note that God is not telling Israel “to comfort themselves.” It is not a message for Israel’s people to grit their teeth and hope for better times. Rather, God commands another people who know the Lord “to comfort My people.” And because of this gentile mercy, a people crushed by 2,000 years of exile, pogroms, and anti-Semitism will “lift up their heads,” even as we proclaim: “Behold your God.” Indeed, a new season of restoration has started for Israel. And it is an end-time mission for the true church, before the second coming of Jesus, to stand with his people and to instill hope in them by declaring “the time to favor Zion has come” (Psalm 102:13).

    God commands us to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” The original Hebrew text says to “speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” It is not a theological or intellectual discussion that is needed but a message that touches the heart and directs them upward to God. Here we desperately need the Holy Spirit, and we need to demonstrate it through love in action, which speaks louder than words. More than our statements of solidarity and remorse, we need to pursue practical acts of kindness, like when the ICEJ helped build a synagogue in Ma’ale Adumin on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht. As former ICEJ chairman Leif Wellerop always said: “Our love has to have hands and feet.”

    This passage also conveys the message: Tell Israel that “her warfare has ended, and her sins are pardoned” (ESV). This and many other Scripture passages reveal that Israel’s restoration to their homeland means God has moved from judgment to redemption. A more fitting translation of the Hebrew phrase “your sins are pardoned” would be, “Your sins have been completed” or “God is not dealing with you any more according to your sins.” Our message should be that Israel has already “received double for her sins.” Undoubtedly, no other nation has suffered more than the Jews. But now God asks the church to proclaim in love that the greatest chapter in their entire history is about to unfold. This command to declare salvation to Israel is echoed in Isaiah 62:11:

    “Indeed the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the world: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.’”

    God wants to mobilize even the ends of the earth to speak to Israel about her salvation. That is why the ICEJ has a very clear vision: to connect Christians from every nation of the world with every segment of Israeli society. Thus, we are grateful for a growing network of over 90 national branches around the world and for supporters in over 170 nations. At every Feast of Tabernacles, one of the highlights is when the Pacific Island nations come from “the ends of the earth” to show their love and friendship to Israel. It is a time of tears flowing down happy faces.

    Reaching All of Israel Today

    After 40 years of faithfully pursuing this call to comfort God’s people, we know this mandate has to be passed to a new generation. In 1980, the Jewish people were still not that far removed from the Holocaust in Christian Europe. Back then, many Israelis identified Christianity with Germany—the country of Martin Luther and the Reformation that had just set Europe ablaze with a maelstrom of anti-Semitism that cost the lives of six million Jews.

    Therefore, the Christian Embassy’s early pioneers’ task required not only patience but also determination to go on—even when their love for God’s people was not reciprocated. But by building synagogues, swimming pools for the handicapped, and absorption centers for new immigrants, and by helping tens of thousands of Jews to make Aliyah to Israel, the suspicions toward Christians slowly gave way to an understanding that evangelical Christians are Israel’s best friends today—as has been repeatedly affirmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many other Israeli leaders. From Knesset members to ordinary folks at the shouk, one of the most common refrains we have heard from Israelis over the past 40 years is that “now we know we are not alone!”

    Today, our ministry of comfort to Israel has many facets and seeks to touch all the diverse segments of Israeli society. Modern Israelis are both young hi-tech innovators in Tel Aviv and traditional farmers and factory owners in Judea and Samaria, who show tremendous courage and vision by building industrial hubs to employ their Palestinian Arab neighbors. We are reaching out to the remaining 180,000 Holocaust Survivors still living in Israel. We are helping the Jewish Agency bring more Jews back to the land of their forefathers. We also are assisting the various minorities in Israel—whether Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze, or Bedouin. And while in the past this work was mainly a one-way street, today we increasingly see our love is more appreciated and our friendship is now reciprocated through greater cooperation and partnerships with the Knesset, the Jewish Agency, Yad Vashem, and many other institutions in Israel.

    Another important aspect of our work is our stand with the growing Messianic body here in Israel. Often ostracized in the past, this group is now more accepted in mainstream Israeli society. They serve in the Israeli army’s top combat units, in leading law firms, as research professors, and even in government offices. They represent a vital connection for us to Israel, going back to our Christian faith’s roots. After 2,000 years, there is once again today a dynamic body of Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) here in Israel. Their Jewish forebearers in the faith left Jerusalem in the days of the apostles and brought the good news of their Messiah to every corner of the world. Today they are back in the Land waiting for Israel’s promised hope, and it is our privilege to stand with them.

    This means our ministry is here for all of Israel. Whether Jews or non-Jews, we bless them, support them, and show them the love of Christ in practical ways on behalf of born-again believers from around the world. I invite you to join us in this exciting redemptive journey. God is not only opening a new chapter for the people of Israel, but He also invites us to be part of writing this incredible story. What a privilege to be alive today and see with our eyes His salvation plan unfolding!

  4.  

    There is an excitement in the air and greetings of “Shana Tova” can be heard everywhere! On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, there is new hope and optimism after a very trying year.

    At Hineni, a soup kitchen in downtown Jerusalem, there is loads of activity happening as the holiday rapidly approaches. The aroma of nourishing food is cooking in the kitchen and ICEJ staff together with other helpers, are preparing take-away meal boxes and packing Rosh Hashanah gift parcels, to be given to those living below the poverty line.

    Time is of the essence, as exactly at mid-day the doors open to a queue of people who have been gathering for an hour, so as not to miss out on their meals for the holidays. Each person who arrives at the door receives four packed meals to see them through the long Rosh Hashanah weekend, as well as a lovely gift parcel containing special holiday treats like a jar of honey, apple and honey cakes, dates, biscuits and tinned food.

    Hineni’s founder and director, Benjamin Philip, says that over 700 gift parcels were made up for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and around 400 of those are being delivered to Holocaust survivors living in protective care facilities, along with lone soldiers, as well as other underprivileged families throughout Jerusalem who have contacted the Social Welfare department for help. “Many of these people do not have family to visit them, and especially at this time of Coronavirus they are left without support”, says Benjamin.

    When the Coronavirus hit Israel last Spring, it was with much joy that the ICEJ stepped in to help Hineni continue to feed the less fortunate in society. With the closing of Israel’s borders, Hineni suddenly lost their many volunteer helpers who come from abroad. Without hesitation, the Christian Embassy saw the need and met it! From March until today, our staff have been assisting Hineni every day to feed those in need by packing approximately 400 take-away food boxes for distribution, and lovingly serving around 100 of those less fortunate who come into the restaurant in person to have their meal. Benjamin says that those coming to the restaurant “have the sense that they are being served by those who have a heart and love for them, which gives them strength.”

    The busy preparations for Rosh Hashanah ended with Benjamin thanking all the Hineni staff and volunteers for their hard work and support this past year. He reminded everyone of the story of how God delivered His people from Egypt, as well as the story of Esther and Mordechai and how God saved His people then as well. In these holy days of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, it is a time to reflect on the past year, ask for forgiveness, and look with hope to the year ahead. Everyone present celebrated by having a toast of grape juice and a sweet chocolate.

    Benjamin also expressed his gratitude to the ICEJ for physically helping in preparing tens of thousands of meal packages this year, which he assured is “saving many people in a very difficult time.”

    Thank you to everyone who has been a part of touching the lives of so many people living in need here in Israel. And please consider a generous gift towards our “Israel in Crisis” fund at this time, as we enter the new year still facing the challenge of Corona’s impact, especially on the poor.

  5. The Israeli government has just announced plans to bring at least 2,000 more Ethiopian Jews to Israel by the end of December 2020. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem immediately welcomed this decision to accelerate the Ethiopian Aliyah and reaffirmed our commitment to do all we can to assist with their successful immigration and absorption in Israel.

    While most of the Ethiopian Jewish community is now residing in Israel, some 8,000 Jews remain in transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar awaiting their chance to reunite with their families in the Promised Land. Most are living in impoverished conditions, but have refused to give up on their dream to re-join the Jewish people back in the Land of Israel.

    After years of delays, the Israeli cabinet decided in 2015 to resume the Ethiopian Aliyah by bringing this last remnant home to Israel and reuniting them with their families on humanitarian grounds. In response to a request from the Jewish Agency for Israel, the ICEJ agreed to begin sponsoring their flights to Israel. Since then, the Christian Embassy has funded Aliyah flights for over 2,200 Ethiopian olim, including 268 this year – despite the Corona travel bans. And we remain committed to helping bring home as many as we can from among this latest wave of Ethiopian Jews.

    Over the past forty years, we have assisted nearly 160,000 Jews to make the journey home to Israel, including 1,475 Jewish immigrants brought on ICEJ-funded flights so far this year, even amid the COVID-19 crisis. This is because Aliyah is clearly a biblical and historical mandate for the ICEJ.

    Yet many times, Aliyah also is an urgent humanitarian mission, which is so obvious in the case of the Ethiopian Jewish remnant still living in rundown transit camps after all these years. We now want to maximise our efforts to help Israel carry through with these renewed plans to accelerate and complete the Ethiopian return.

    Please pray about what you can do to help these very deserving people, many of whom have been waiting in transit camps for more than 20 years to re-join their families in Israel.
          

    Please give generously towards our Ethiopian Aliyah efforts at: int.icej.org/civicrm