The great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem authored a trilogy dealing with Tevye the Milkman (Tevye der milchiker, known today as ‘Fiddler on the Roof’), his relative Menakhem Mendel and his wife Sheyne-Sheyndl (The Letters of Menakhem-Mendl and Sheyne-Sheyndl), and Motel the Cantor’s son (Motel Peysi dem Khazns). In the second book, Sheyne-Sheyndl humorously declares her faltering faith in the God of Israel: “God will provide, but how will He provide until He provides?”
As we peer into the gray fog of the onrushing future, we sometimes ask ourselves that same exact question – “But who can endure the day of His coming?” (Malachi 3:2).
- Rabbi ‘Ulla said, “Let him [the Messiah] come, but let me not see him.”
- Rabbah said likewise, “Let him come, but let me not see him” . . . Abaye inquired of Rabbah: “What is your reason [for not wishing to see him]? Shall we say, because of the birth pangs [preceding the advent] of the Messiah?”
- Rabbi Yohanan said likewise, “Let him come, and let me not see him.” Resh Lakish said to him: “Why so?” . . . But [his unwillingness to want see the Messiah] is because it is written [in Jeremiah 30:6]: ‘Ask now, and see whether a man can travail with child? Why therefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?’
Returning to the front pages of history
Life in Israel is spicy – never a dull moment here. Our very existence is lived smack in the middle of a swirling butter churn. Apocalyptic and ‘mostly apocalyptic’ events are a daily occurrence. This is the warp and the woof of prophecy: God is returning His dry bones to the Land of Promise – yet we as a nation are without the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Ezekiel 37:8-9). Our malevolent neighbors (see Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35:10-15) and those who balefully share the Land with us (see Ezekiel 36:2-7) are like thorns and briars to us (see Numbers 33:55). These resulting conflicts continue to trigger international anti-Semitic sympathies for our enemies. This process will hit its zenith in a military invasion by the united nations of the world and the subsequent superpower division of the Jewish homeland (see Joel 3:1-2; Zechariah 14:1-2). The return of Messiah Yeshua – the Second Coming – then ensues with a vengeance (see Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 79:10; 149:7; Isaiah 34:8; 63:4; Jeremiah 50:28; 51:11). Yeshua’s two-edged sword will be stretched out against all the nations who hate Zion (see Isaiah 34:1-8; 66:10-16).
We are beholding the restoration of the Jewish people to their land (mostly in unbelief). This is a central part of YHVH’s strategy. The God of Jacob is returning Israel to the front pages of history, and the world for the most part does not like it. An old Yiddish proverb notes that “If God lived on Earth, people would break his windows.” Since it is considered in bad taste (and a trifle dangerous) to break God’s windows, the nations have come to the conclusion that their second-best choice is to vent their anger on God’s chosen people the Jews. Therefore we should not be surprised by current events.
Restoration is a process
The majority of Israelis consider that Israel’s survival, health and flowering rest on the following three pillars: a Western form of democracy, some sort of expression of Judaism/Jewishness, and a robust military/intelligence community with a universal draft.
Yet not all of these pillars have characterized history. Western democracy was unknown to Abraham, Moses, David and the Maccabees. The sons of Asaph and the prophets Isaiah and Malachi would be shocked at modern Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism, and would have strongly objected to major tenets of today’s Orthodox Judaism. On the other hand, Joshua, David and Joab would have been familiar with and supportive of Jewish military prowess and the accurate intelligence needed to run those models.
Today, many in Israel would not want to see the re-establishment of a Davidic dynasty, or the growth of a Jewish faith expression rooted in the biblical covenants. A growing number of Israeli citizens on the Left side of the political aisle are actively questioning or even opposing the value of strengthening and defending a Jewish state. One stream of recent anti-government demonstrations calls for the weakening or dissolving of universal draft as a national value.
It is worth remembering that God’s restoration of His people does not envision the triumph of an ‘Athens on the Gihon’ (1 Kings 1:38, 45). Isaiah 2:3 prophesies the flowering of the New Covenant in Jerusalem (‘Ki mi-Tziyon tetzeh Torah’ – from out of Zion will come the New Covenant teaching). For that to become a reality, there will have to be many changes made. Many secular and religious Jewish Israelis (as well as non-Jewish citizens of the Jewish state) are not prepared for or excited about such coming changes.
- The field is wide open for us to pray for the realization of God’s prophetic words over this people and this land.
The coconut shell game – praying for Israel’s leaders
There is a time-honored confidence game – a swindle – known as the shell game or coconut shell game. A ball or an object is hidden underneath one of three coconut shells as they are quickly shuffled back and forth on a flat surface. The victim is invited to bet money, attempting to correctly choose the shell which conceals the object. In most cases the victim ends up ruefully forking over his money, as he was unable to keep track of the sleight-of-hand.
Israel’s political mosaic has much in common with the coconut shell game. Three basic coconut shells exist – Right, Left and Religious. But again, these three blocs are amazingly fragmented and have shattered into many sub-groups – sometimes due to political worldviews or theology, but often due to personal ambition. Due to the bitter and broken relationships between most party leaders and their rivals in opposing parties, sometimes two parties may agree to ‘work together’ – to hide under one coconut shell, appearing to be a new ‘unity party’ but in fact are anything but that. At one point in Israel’s chequered political history, nearly every political party has entered into marriages of convenience with their sworn enemies. Today’s coalition and opposition also bear testimony to this reality.
Here are three examples: Israel’s most decorated soldier, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak (whose party barely crossed the electoral threshold in recent elections) has been meeting and planning mass civil disturbances as well as organizing mass resistance to military service – all in an effort to take down PM Bibi Netanyahu, his hated opponent. Right wing former Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman is accusing his own Right wing and all religious parties of being wild-eyed crazed zealots, labelling them as ‘Messianists’ (Meshichistim) – with that term being used as an extreme insult. Itamar Ben-Gvir, Minister of National Security in Israel’s present government, was a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane (this man was blacklisted as a terrorist by U.S. authorities). He was much involved with the Kach organization in times past, and is now in charge of overseeing and arresting pro-Leftist demonstrators who are regularly blocking Tel Aviv’s freeways and lighting bonfires on its asphalt roads.
Due to a highly successful campaign of disinformation and propaganda, most non-Israelis (and many Israelis as well) are simply unable to tell what object is hiding under what coconut shell. They drink the soup which is being spoon-fed to them by national Main Stream Media, thinking that they fully understand current events in Israel.
- For those of us who want pray for these leaders, some investigative reporting must be done. We must petition God for revelation and discernment regarding what lies below the surface of the swiftly flowing river of Israeli politics. Not every Israeli news source (or even every Israeli Messianic newsletter) is a clear stream in this regard.
When did ‘Messianism’ become a dirty word in Hebrew?
The use of the term ‘Messianist’ has been morphing lately in Israel. A recent anti-government demonstration displayed signs attacking Bibi’s coalition, declaring ‘Atem meshichei hurban’ – ‘You are the Messianists of the Destruction’ (referring to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D.). A screaming front-page headline of October 2, 2018 in Israel’s premier newspaper Yediot Aharonot, quoted politician Avigdor Lieberman declaring that Member of Knesset (MK and later Prime Minister) Naftali Bennett “is a Messianic and zealot Rightist.” Bennett later was PM, presiding over a coalition that included Lieberman. On July 9, 2023 anti-government activists plastered posters all over the residence of MK Ariel Kallner which declared in red and black bold fonts ‘Boosha la-Likud – kan gar Meshichist’ (Shame on the Likud – here lives a Messianist!). A Facebook post by Ehud Barak declares that PM Netanyahu “is being dragged along by a Messianic stream, is standing next to the abyss and is insisting on striding forward!” And two more: a TikTok meme asks a rhetorical question: “Is the Messianist Religious Zionism movement seizing control of Israel?” And a last example: “Government Minister Rafi Peretz, recently a progressive, an IAF pilot and a rabbi, has been recently involved in the Religious Zionism movement – which is in fact a delusional Messianist cult, darkness from Medieval times.”
These selected examples reveal cracks of division and extremist rhetoric and behavior growing among Israeli citizens. Those seeking to overthrow the present government have no qualms about classifying all religious Jews as being dangerous ‘enemies of the people’ and as crazy ‘Messianists.’
- At the same time, there are real and valid concerns regarding the thuggish nature and goals of some of individuals and parties on the Religious/Right wing – just as there are real and valid concerns regarding the woke, anti-biblical and revolutionary nature and goals of some on the Left side of the political spectrum. Much prayer is needed in every direction.
McDonald’s and the Second Coming
Sometimes our minds play out certain scenarios: we imagine that when Yeshua returns to set up His Jerusalem-centered kingdom on earth, we will be able to watch the entire event on CNN or FOX, and then go out and grab a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder with Cheese at McDonald’s. We may embrace the sovereign reality of these coming apocalyptic events, but we forget how many changes will be involved as these birth pangs get ushered in.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that God whispers in our pleasure and shouts in our pains; they are his megaphone to raise a deaf world. The Return of Messiah Yeshua will not only be glorious; it will also be dramatic and literally earth-shaking. As Haggai 2:1-9, 21-22 explains, everything created will be shaken, and only that which is unshakeable will remain standing. Hebrews 12:26-27 sums up this dynamic: “And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken – as of created things – so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.”
Stuck in the moment
Bono, U2’s famous vocalist, wrote a remorseful song for a friend of his who took his own life. He elegized him, regretting that his friend had gotten “stuck in the moment” and couldn’t get out or break free of the deception in time.
- We do not want to marry the spirit of the age – the popular worldview or weltanschauung, as is said in German. Israel’s salvation will not come through establishing a stronger Western democracy, or through a national embrace of the broken cistern of Orthodox Judaism and its varied permutations, or through a misplaced national trust in our ultimate ability to defend ourselves, to defeat all our enemies and to neutralize their evil strategies.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for believers around the globe to receive deeper understanding and revelation of God’s strategies in restoring His people to the Land and to Himself
- Pray for lovers of Israel to receive clarity and strategic guidance on how to pray for the Jewish people’s leaders
- Pray for the nation of Israel to receive God’s heart and perspectives on how He will change and transform our nation through Messiah Yeshua
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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