Spring is at the door, and both Passover and the Israeli elections are upon us. Time to remember Moses and Aaron, the dynamic duo who delivered the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage by signs, wonders and persistent obedience to YHVH the God of Israel. The most dramatic of God’s power manifestations in Egypt were the Ten Plagues (makkot, or ‘blows’ in Hebrew): blood, frogs, vermin, flies, cattle plague, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the slaying of the first-born.
Cattle plague and the finger of God
The phrase דֶּ֖בֶר כָּבֵ֥ד מְאֹֽד ‘dever kaved me’od’ – a very heavy pestilence/plague (a divinely catalyzed infectious bacteria, probably anthrax; Exodus 9:5) brought devastation to Egypt’s livestock. Horses, donkeys, camels, cattle and sheep/goats were all destroyed, though the plague somehow zoomed in on Egyptian herds, sparing the Jewish ones: “But YHVH will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 9:4; also Exodus 8:22-23). The Egyptian gods Apis/Re, Hathor and Khnum were powerless before the finger of YHVH, and the animals sacred to them (bulls, cows, rams) likewise perished.
This cattle plague (dever) is used in the Bible to describe a punishment sent by God (see Jeremiah 14:12; 29:17-18). The oft-quoted 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 tells us that YHVH can send such plagues against Israel or other nations (see Jeremiah 27:8, 13): “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
We have received many requests for our perspective on what is happening in Israel (especially) and in the nations concerning the virus which first reared its dragon-like head in China nearly a year and a half ago. Both political and medical communities have been overtaken by surprise regarding the nature, source, intensity and antidote to this problem. Everyone is scrambling to catch up. Those considered to be authorities have been extremely frustrated due to the time lag between fast-paced events and the accuracy of their official declarations. Fairness, accuracy, pastoral wisdom and humility are prerequisites for all of us at this juncture in time.
Luke 2:34-35 describes Yeshua as “a sign to be opposed . . . to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” In the same way, God speaks prophetically to the world “so that the secrets of men’s hearts are disclosed” (1 Corinthians 14:25). Both believers and secular folk are having ample opportunity to see the truth of Paul’s words as battle lines are drawn over these issues: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are . . . hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions” (Galatians 5:19-20). His exhortation to us all – “If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit as well. Let’s not become boastful, challenging one another” (Galatians 5:25).
Peering through the fog of war
Solomon shares two nuggets of wisdom with us:
- “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).
- “A lazy one sees himself as wise in his own eyes, more than seven who know how to give a discreet answer” (Proverbs 26:16). Someone has paraphrased this last proverb: “A fool can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer!”
The unprecedented speed and virulence of this recent plague has brought with it ‘the fog of war’ (German, Nebel des Krieges). “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth” (General Carl von Clausewitz). The intense pressure and scrutiny under which politicians, medical authorities and the media find themselves – “Solve the crisis yesterday!” – has resulted in some unfortunate rushes to judgment. These may well have skewed people’s ability to make sense of events.
The pedigree of this virus is shrouded in Asian fog. Churchill’s telling description of Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” seems to fit the puzzling Chinese origin of this coronavirus. According to the former head of the CIA, in the Fall of 2019 researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) laboratories fell ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Scientists there were working since 2015 with RaTG13, a bat coronavirus 96.2 % similar genetically to the virus that causes COVID. The lab has been doing research for the Chinese military since 2017. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Chinese government engaged in a cover-up, including the silencing or removal of on-site Chinese doctors who had tried to warn locals. Angus Dalgleish (Professor of Oncology, St Georges University, London) notes that “Chinese scientists who wished to share their knowledge have not been able to do so and indeed . . . it appears that preserved virus material and related information have been destroyed.” Access to on-site virus samples, lab records and personnel, eyewitnesses, and whistleblowers were blocked and are still mostly blocked by China. Simultaneously, Beijing has suggested that the virus’ origin may have come from a US virology lab, something which inadvertently acknowledges the possibility that the Covid-19 virus has a lab origin.
A scholarly article was published November 9, 2015, ‘A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence.’ The authors (which include scientists from the Key Laboratory of Special Pathogens and Biosafety, Wuhan Institute of Virology) discussed (four years before the current pandemic) their research and laboratory modification of bat coronavirus. They homed in on “the threat of cross-species transmission events leading to outbreaks in humans. Here we examine the disease potential of a SARS-like virus . . . Using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system, we generated and characterized a chimeric virus expressing the spike of bat coronavirus . . . Our work suggests a potential risk of SARS-CoV re-emergence from viruses currently circulating in bat populations.”
Another scholarly article submitted on January 29, 2019 to MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. a publisher of open access scientific journals) by the Wuhan Institute of Virology discussed ‘Bat Coronaviruses in China.’ The publication stated that over the past two decades, three coronaviruses have been identified as the cause of large-scale disease outbreaks – SARS, MERS and SADS. Two of these originated in China, and caused a worldwide pandemic claiming thousands of lives. “It is highly likely that future . . . coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China. Therefore, the investigation of bat coronaviruses becomes an urgent issue for the detection of early warning signs, which in turn minimizes the impact of such future outbreaks in China.”
A research article submitted for publication to the Chinese Journal of Biosafety and Biosecurity on October 26, 2018 by scientists at both the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Library and Intelligence Center, already expressed scholarly concern regarding safety issues at Chinese biological research/warfare labs: “The biosafety laboratory is a double-edged sword; it can be used for the benefit of humanity but can also lead to a ‘disaster.’ With increasing numbers of high-level biosafety laboratories constructed in China, it is urgent to establish and implement standardized management measures for biosafety laboratories.” Immediate problems included a lack of “operational technical support, professional instructions” and “feasible standards for the safety requirements of different protection zones and for the inoculation of microbiological animals and equipment.”
Sir Richard Dearlove or ‘C’, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) between 1999 and 2004, has said on The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast (June 4, 2020; 18:20-22:30) that recent reports point to Chinese scientists at the WIV carrying out clandestine gene-splicing experiments on bat coronaviruses when the virus escaped due to biosecurity flaws. “I do think that this started as an accident . . . It’s a risky business if you make a mistake. Look at the stories . . . of the attempts by the leadership to lock down any debate about the origins of the pandemic and the way that people have been arrested or silenced. I mean, we shouldn’t really have any doubt any longer about what we’re dealing with.”
The report Dearlove referenced was at one point rejected by several journals, including Nature and the Journal of Virology, which deemed the research “unsuitable for publication.” The report was then rewritten a number of times to remove accusatory claims about China before being published in the Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery. One of their previous versions suggested the novel respiratory disease should be dubbed the ‘Wuhan virus,’ and claimed to have proven “beyond reasonable doubt that the COVID-19 virus is engineered.” The authors originally wrote that “we are aware that these findings could have political significance and raise troubling questions.” Dearlove concludes, “It raises the issue, if China ever were to admit responsibility, does it pay reparations? I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership.”
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” (attributed to Mark Twain)
The push for leaders to access and present accurate analyses of the disease pandemic has resulted in a measure of haste and inaccuracy in some public declarations.
One of these concerns the ‘infection fatality rate’ (IFR) – what percentage of people die after catching the disease. In early March, the World Health Organization announced that “about 3.4% of reported Covid-19 cases have died” and that “by comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.” This 3.4% figure was widely reported. Former President Trump disagreed, saying , “I think the 3.4% is really a false number,” and “I would say the number is way under 1%.” The Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford now estimates that the infection fatality rate for Covid-19 is “somewhere between 0.1% and 0.41%.” This is well below 1% and within range of the flu’s infection fatality rate of 0.15%.
The present pandemic has led to millions of deaths and much suffering. At the same time, it is important for people get an accurate read on what the dangers and fatality rates are, in order to be able to assess the threats without unnecessary panic. It is sobering to consider that one recent survey revealed that “31% of Americans say they believe the number of Americans dying is lower than the number reported.” One of the factors which has influenced countries around the world to grind to a halt economically and socially, has been what may well be a somewhat exaggerated read of the dangers.
Another example of the need for accurate communication involves the confusion resulting from public health guidelines being reversed. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in a March 8, 2020 interview stated that “right now in the United States, people [who are not infected] should not be walking around with masks,” but “if you want to do it, that’s fine.” On April 3, the Center for Disease Control (and Fauci) reversed course and advocated for wearing non-surgical masks to reduce community transmission. Reversals of this nature weaken the credibility of these authorities.
A third example involves governmental agencies being less than transparent regarding the numbers of fatalities, whether undercounting or overcounting them. In a December 31, 2020 article entitled “Covid-19: Russia admits to understating deaths by more than two thirds,” the reporter states: “Russia’s true death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic is not about 57,000, as official figures claim, but more than 180,000, the country’s deputy prime minister, Tatiana Golikova, conceded at a press conference.”
The need for clarity, accuracy and non-fear-based reporting is summed up in the following quote from The Hill: “How the data on coronavirus is presented and discussed is a serious problem, as efforts to contain the pandemic . . . are based on the math of transmission. Far-reaching public policy decisions are made based not only on data but on public demands as shaped by the data presented to the public. The public needs to know the truth to have confidence in those policy decisions, even if the truth means that there is a great deal of uncertainty which will not be resolved for some time. Fundamentally, the problem is that people – and the news media – don’t like uncertainty and demand exact answers even when there are none to be had. The result too often is bad numbers, bad reporting and a disillusioned public when the numbers turn out to be off-base.”
Is haste always a bad thing?
There is a traditional Arabic proverb which states that “haste is satan’s creation” (‘al-ajaleh min ash-shaytan’). This novel pandemic has rushed into the world like a lion, and the response of the medical community has been to create an antidote as quickly as possible. Working under immense pressure, top vaccinologists and epidemiologists have applied cutting-edge technology using active principles and mechanisms which are different from the standard ‘killed vaccine’ inoculations. Standard vaccines inject people with a dose of inactivated or killed virus particles, bacteria or other pathogens that have been grown in culture and then killed to destroy disease-producing capacity. The immune system of each inoculated person then produces broad-spectrum antibodies with NK (natural killer) T-cells in reaction to the killed virus. This gives the vaccinated individual a resistance to the disease which lasts for a certain period of time.
The newly developed coronavirus vaccine uses a different technology called mRNA, causing the inoculated person’s immune system to be able to recognize and destroy the unique spike protein barbs typically studded across the surface of each coronavirus cell.
This vaccine is the ‘new kid on the block.’ The speed of its development was directly connected to the crisis of the pandemic-related emergency. Traditional lab tests (which usually last over 5 years) were thus compressed into an intensive three-month laboratory dash. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency approval to this vaccine based on limited but strenuous tests. However, it is certainly true that normal procedures have been hot-wired in order to quickly get a vaccine out into the world. The goal here is to save lives and to reduce collateral damage from coronavirus and its often accompanying side-effects, like the cytokine storm.
Testing positive or negative?
Now we are dealing with both a new virus and a new vaccine – and both are too new to have much of a track record. Since the medical world has little experience in dealing with this coronavirus, and since there is precious little information on what might or what might not be the side-effects of this vaccine, the playing field of debate is wide open. Anyone can suggest what might be the potentially damaging side effects here, and they could be right – or wrong. Anyone can champion the vaccine and declare that there will never be negative side effects, and they could be right – or wrong. Most of the debate is presently arguing over possibilities and likelihoods. But little productive water has gone under the bridge here regarding verifiable results.
The propagandistic nature of the debates I have seen underscores the need to think and speak clearly. Arguments are never won by attacking people’s character, intelligence or motives. It would not be fair to compare the best of one side’s arguments with the worst arguments of the other side. Accuracy is not served by simply ‘filling in the blanks’ when sufficient information is lacking in defense of one’s own position. There is much left to discover and uncover in these matters. Let us not lose our souls in the journey or our love in the process.
Some of the negative possibilities being voiced (again, without available proof) include issues regarding weakening the effectiveness of one’s immune system, the future possibility of overreaction to new variants or viruses as a result of the effects of the mRNA vaccine, and effects on human fertility. On the other hand, those who raise these above issues are often summarily discounted as being part of a far-right or alt-right conspiracy theory group/cult. In Israel right now, the majority of the media and politicians characterize any hesitancy or concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine to be fake news or an indication of irrational fears.
Who’s on first?
Years ago the comedy duo Abbott and Costello had a routine called “Who’s on first?” involving a long string of word plays and double entendres. Today in Israel the term may have some less humorous meanings, connected to issues regarding the Israeli government’s drive to require Israeli residents to present proof of vaccination as a laissez-passer in order to attend public social events (concerts, cinemas, swimming pools, restaurants, bars, discothèques and synagogue or congregational gatherings). The government’s concern here revolves around the possibility that close social contact could end up spreading coronavirus infections (‘super-spreader events’). Those inoculated can receive a ‘green passport’ allowing them access to events temporarily off-limits to unvaccinated Israeli residents.
The problems with this step are multi-faceted:
- So far over one million adults and under three million children have not been vaccinated. Some are considered medically unsuitable for vaccination; others have not yet been able to get to the vaccination sites, and others do not feel comfortable with this vaccine or possibly have personal reasons against being vaccinated. The green passport effectively removes them from participation in significant aspects of social life in Israel, even though they are most probably not sick with coronavirus. There is also deep discussion about under what circumstances unvaccinated workers who interface with the public could be let go from their jobs.
- These new limitations are at odds with various Israeli laws protecting personal and individual civil rights, including the right not to have the government force medical procedures against a citizen’s will. The recent government decision to divulge information about non-inoculated citizens to municipal authorities has also created unease in some quarters, as well as the use of cell phone tracking of potentially or truly infected residents by the GSS (Israel Security Services – equivalent to the FBI). It’s worth remembering (though most people are not aware) that for many years America’s NSA and the UK’s GCHQ already have access to every cell phone and personal computer communication on the planet, with the Chinese catching up quickly. The famous American economist Milton Friedman once noted that “nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” There is concern about a slippery slope and a potentially dangerous precedent in the deterioration of civil liberties here.
- The history of the Jewish people (especially the persecutions of the Nazi period) casts a shadow on some of these steps, and causes echoes among a significant amount of Israelis who still remember those days.
- There is significant social and media pressure on those who are not inoculated to follow the crowd on this one and ‘get the jab.’ Some feel that these pressures are manipulative and anti-democratic.
Here is a quote from the current Israeli Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein who himself was once a prisoner of conscience in Russia and suffered due to his desire to immigrate to Israel: “Getting vaccinated is a moral duty. It is part of our mutual responsibility . . . Whoever does not get vaccinated will be left behind.”
Among Israeli Messianic Jews and Gentiles, these matters have led to a measure of debate and argument. These tensions are challenging to average believers as well as to Messianic leadership. Some believers are declaring that the days of the mark of the beast are upon us, and a handful have stated that anyone who gets vaccinated has ended up siding with the enemy or even has lost his ability to be considered a real human. On the other side, there has been scorn and paternalistic intolerance toward other believers whose conscience or spirit will not permit them to receive the vaccine. Some congregations continue to meet by ZOOM, while others are subdividing their meetings by making room for vaccinated individuals in ‘green areas’ and also for unvaccinated individuals in ‘purple areas’.
The body of Messiah in Israel, like other places on the planet, is being tested through these events regarding its own spiritual unity and its love for the brethren (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11,16).
A good name is to be chosen over great riches (Proverbs 22:1)
Hollywood knows how to recognize a good story. Many blockbuster films have zeroed in on the themes of industrial sin and greed – how large companies have attempted to destroy competition or whistleblowers in their ambition to corner the market. In 2000 Julia Roberts played the role of Erin Brockovitch in a movie about Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)’s cover-up of the Hinkley, CA groundwater contamination incident. Al Pacino and Russell Crowe starred in The Insider (1999), based on whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand’s fight to give testimony against wrongdoing in the tobacco industry.
In the rough-and-tumble of free market capitalism, powerful companies often try to band together as cartels in order to crush and swallow smaller competitors. It is possible that a similar dynamic has occurred regarding attempts to suppress and downplay innovative medical solutions and alternative treatments for coronavirus. Every few weeks Israeli papers carry positive and encouraging articles about local testing of potential anti-coronavirus wonder drugs. Here are some of those links from local media – NONS, EXO-CD24, ALLOCETRA, BUDESONIDE, IVERMECTIN, BAMLANIVIMAD, Spirulina seaweed, MOLNUPIRAVIR, Vitamin D, etc.
The fear of man brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25)
There are some people who are strongly convinced that deep and dark Armageddon-like conspiracies are presently afoot. They believe that a handful of men are actively conspiring to bring about a reset of the entire planet, establishing a dictatorship which will both enslave mankind and turn the human race into a synthesis of robot and human. The result can often lead to a fear of government authority and social institutions, including among some here in Israel. Fear usually morphs into anger and then hatred.
There is no question that the Scriptures do speak about the Last Days, and part of that scenario is the temporary triumph of evil men and women, including the requirement for all mankind to receive mark of the beast:
- And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause all who do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, and he decrees that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:15-17)
In the Talmud (Ketubot 111 aleph) Jews are exhorted not to behave in such a way that the coming of Messiah will be delayed. The French rabbinic commentator Rashi added that God doesn’t want the Jewish people to push for the Last Days to come before their appointed time. That balance is helpful for us as we teetering on the edge of a global pandemic. Living in light of the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’ still means that we need to walk carefully and not give in to stampeding the process: “Woe, for that day is great! There is none like it. And it is the time of Jacob’s distress/narrowness. Yet he will be saved from it” (Jeremiah 30:7).
In light of the importance of this subject, I am going to do something I have never done up to this point. I am copying the last two sections from my previous newsletter. They are worth chewing on again, and are even more relevant in this context.
A pandemic of fear
A dear and departed prophetic friend spoke nearly ten years ago of a pandemic which would come upon the earth. He said that “the first one would prove to be little but fear,” but that a second one coming after that would be serious. There is all-too-evident fear spreading across the globe, and it is certainly doing great damage.
The current spread of the coronavirus has caught many unprepared and at a disadvantage. Proper awareness of the virus’ origins and design, proper emergency hospital treatment, proper evaluation of potentially promising anti-viral medicinal solutions, accurate appraisals of the effectiveness of masks and social distancing, accurate communications to the public regarding what the vaccine can and can’t do, and clear explanations about its development process – in so many cases medical, scientific and political authorities have been doggedly struggling to keep abreast of the fast-moving changes and developments. And their consumer audiences (both of media and of vaccines) have been shocked to discover that sometimes and in some venues the emperor has no clothes.
Do not give the devil a foothold
We are aware of how some dear friendships are breaking down, how other relationships are fracturing, and social media wars are being conducted by believers in full public view, with drawn and bloody swords – just over these issues. Fear, anger, mutual accusations of conspiracy theories – is this what we signed up for, dear brothers and sisters? What do we need to do to be able to stand in the evil day? Paul reminds us that “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love . . . (Ephesians 4:14-15).
In the midst of this media maelstrom, it is important to remember the humanity of those with whom one disagrees, on both sides of the aisle. All of us must honor each other’s right (both ethically and legally) to hold our own perspectives and opinions. Those who would suppress or suspend the civil rights of people who in good conscience cannot or will not receive vaccination, are potentially leading their people down a slippery slope, one which could easily lead into dark cellars.
I have always found encouragement from this apostolic command, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil a base of operations/ a foothold/ an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27). The Greek work here is topos (τόπος), and the language conveys the sense of a helipad, where a demonic helicopter can land an unload troops.
Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any god word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Ruach HaKodesh of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Messiah also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
How should we then pray?
- Pray for all those working on developing and applying medical solutions to receive God’s wisdom and strategies
- Pray for governmental leaders to receive divine revelation and courage how to best handle the challenges and make the wisest decisions
- Pray for all who are attempting to understand God’s ways and wisdom and obey His voice amidst the roaring storm of competing voices
- Pray for believers in Israel to receive a new outpouring of God’s love for the body and His deep desire for unity, especially in crisis
- Pray for the raising up of the Ezekiel 37 prophetic army among the Jewish people
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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