Monday, April 23, 2012
Everyone likes to have the last word. In most human conversational traditions speaking last is the position of most respect, reserved for the one with greater or final authority. It was precisely in this tradition that Jacob (Israel) gathered his family around him to speak his last words. On his deathbed at age 147, he called his twelve sons by their given names and blessed or cursed each one.
His fourth son Judah (Yehudah) was not only blessed by his father, he was given the prophetic name “Gur Aryeh,” a "Young Lion" and told “Judah will rule until Shiloh (The Messiah) comes, and the nations will obey him.” To this day, the lion remains as the symbol of Judah and the emblem of Jerusalem and the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament).
On a trip to Kenya, Africa our group stopped next to a family of lions. Just outside our van window sat a huge male lion; two small lion cubs clumsily played nearby. What a contrast: the powerful adult male with a noble mane framing his face and the two, much smaller cubs. My wife Sharon, on a subsequent visit to South Africa was permitted to pet a lion cub in a protected sanctuary. She noted that although he was much smaller than the adult males, he was already powerful, strong and dominating.
Long ago, under King David, Israel grew into an adult lion, a powerful kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. The modern nation of Israel is more like a young lion, a descendent of a prodigious past. Greatness is present now, but it must be given time to develop. It can at times seem clumsy and messy; maturity is always a bit chaotic. But if given opportunity, modern Israel will grow into a true world leader. Already, it produces amazing technology, leading-edge medical and scientific breakthroughs and so many other world renowned accomplishments. Constantly under threat and defending its very right to exist makes its accomplishments even more profound. It should not be, it cannot be chopped into pieces and divided as so much spoil. No, the young lion must be allowed to develop.
In the final analysis, mankind must realize that God will have the last word. His promises to a nation will not be thwarted. The lion will roar.
So, until Shiloh, “The Peaceful One” comes, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Nothing is more shocking than when a mother purposely harms her own child. In the biblical story in 1 Kings where two mothers claim the same child, King Solomon proposed a simple solution: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” Only the one with questionable motives would want to bring disastrous harm by agreeing: “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” Not only a teachable moment for the people of God in that generation, this story sheds light on difficult decisions for this generation.
At this very moment there are those who propose to divide the Holy City in two. Jerusalem is a bustling metroplex that serves as a focal point for billions of religious people around the globe. It is the historic and contemporary capital of Israel, a tourist destination for millions of visitors and a place where over a million residents carry forth their daily lives. In other words, it is a city full of life.
Like a precious child of this planet, Jerusalem must be protected, nurtured and helped, but never divided. While it is complicated to gather such diversity and conflict into one united city, it actually does work. The Old City is a microcosm of the modern metro area of Greater Jerusalem. There, crammed into ancient walls, people from significantly different religious persuasions and cultures find a way to live, be civil, do business, raise families, laugh, play, work…they do life… together.
A house divided cannot stand, nor can a city. While blissful unity seems like an impossible dream, Jerusalem must remain united as one city forever. We cannot cut the baby in two.
So again we arrive to the only real hope of success, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
At sundown today “Holocaust Remembrance Day” begins. While there are many “Remembrance Days” kept in memorial of the Holocaust, none is as poignant as “Yom HaShoah,” the official day of observance in Israel. Flags fly at half-mast, prayers are offered, candles burn, sirens sound across Zion for two minutes, people stand at attention, cars stop where they are; silent tribute to the dead is offered. Throughout the day speeches from the dwindling survivors recall the pain, the pride and the motivation for a motto that leaves no doubt for the future of a nation promised by God Himself: “NEVER AGAIN.”
A few years ago as we exited from a private meeting at the Knesset, the large hall at the entrance of Israel’s parliamentary building was filled with Holocaust survivors. It was Yom HaShoah. I have no words to describe the feelings I experienced as we quietly slipped through the crowded room. As I returned to my hotel I could not get their faces out of my mind. They are now in their 70’s and 80’s; in a few short years they will all be gone. No one will be left who heard the cries. The Holocaust deniers will be emboldened as these living memorials slip away. A void will be left on this planet that never could nor ever should be again filled.
So I must repeatedly walk the hallowed grounds of Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem). I must soak in the noble presence and quiet pain of those survivors still among us. I must contemplate the connections between the Christian faith I hold so dear to the tragedies before, during and after the dark days of the Nazi regime. I must listen to the lessons of Jewish and Christian history and work for understanding between Christians and Jews today. I must stand with the Jewish people and take as my own the commitment to NEVER AGAIN.
In Exodus 3:7 we read: ” The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” God does not ignore nor forget the cries. He will also enlighten those with a listening ear.
So I will remember…and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
No moment in life is more difficult than the moment in which we must confront the one we love. Proverbs 27:4 states: ” Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” So, I must respectfully disagree with an official of the government of a nation I love as much as my own who has declared that Israel will prevent the entry of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from Europe and North America this weekend. Public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch said: "The provocateurs will be dealt with in a determined and quick way." "If they arrive to Israel they will be identified, removed from the plane, their entry into Israel will be prevented and they will be moved to a detention facility until they are flown out of Israel."
Do I understand their reluctance to let these protestors on their soil? Absolutely! The intentionally provocative attempt by foreign activists to enter Gaza by an illegal flotilla in May of 2010 ended in bloodshed. Another forced black eye for a country rarely treated fairly in the international press. Yet, this blessed nation of divine promise must stay true to its own moralistic democratic ideals; not an easy task while surrounded by avowed enemies and constantly misrepresented even by its few supporters. My concern? That Israel not fall victim to the hatred and antics of its rivals. Political expediency at the cost of a piece of the nation’s soul would not serve its best interests.
In the final analysis, the opinion of any of us who are not in the daily struggle for life in Israel matters little. So, I pray. I pray that truth will prevail. I pray that no weapon formed against the Land of Promise will succeed. I pray that the leaders of Israel will choose morality over fear. I pray that the forces of darkness will be exposed and defeated. I pray, as always, for the peace and well-being of Jerusalem.
Friday, April 6, 2012
It is Good Friday for western Christianity and the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown. Passover, or Pesach as the Hebrews call it, celebrates the deliverance from captivity from the Egyptians; four hundred years of hard labor and the indignity of slavery broken by the intervention of God.
Now after years of peace between modern Israel and Egypt, the threat against Israel continues as a rocket was fired yesterday into the resort town of Eilat on the shores of the Red Sea. Thousands of Israeli and foreign tourists had swelled Eilat’s population when an explosion occurred in the usually safe vacation destination. A total of three blasts were heard in the night but debris from only one rocket was found. The rocket was fired from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which is a continuation of an ominous trend of attacks from Egypt’s territory.
Again, the hand of God protected His people from Egyptian threat at the Red Sea, the rocket landing a mere three hundred yards from a neighborhood, falling into an uninhabited construction site. The Jewish people must never again be made slaves or taken into captivity. NEVER AGAIN.
On this holy day, please pray for those who are on holiday in Eilat (We have Israeli friends there that my wife Sharon and I dearly love) and for the residents of the resort town. Pray for families across Israel whose fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and adult children must leave their holiday family time and go on military alert at Passover. And above all, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
On Palm Sunday I walked the Via Dolorosa through the streets of Jerusalem; a city where religious cultures collide and hats and head coverings are political statements as much as they are symbols of spiritual commitments. Nested atop Judean mountains the “City of Peace” knows little of it. My heart is moved with compassion for all of the peoples and cultures pressed together in the Holy Land and disturbed by the complexity of workable solutions for peace in Jerusalem and in Israel as a whole.
Much talk is made about Biblical Promises made by God to the Jews, and rightly so since it is an undeniable fact. Many believe that the Bible is simply not true and should be ignored. Others believe that it may serve as a guide for moral insight, but should not be accepted as factual evidence of God’s will. But if one accepts that the Bible is the revealed Word of God, then it must be taken seriously and followed to the best of our ability.
We live in a political climate of mantras of “Land for Peace,” and “Two State Solution.” Considering the plight of Muslim and Christian Palestinians, there are plenty of legitimate ways to explain why one must choose peace over holy territory. But for the person who believes the Bible is the Word of God, no matter how complex or uncomfortable the matter becomes, we cannot choose geopolitical expediency over covenant promise. So I am left with little choice: I must compassionately work for the good of all Israel’s inhabitants and stand firm for the right of the Jewish people to live in and govern the Land of Promise.
As Passover, Goody Friday and Resurrection Sunday approach, Lord I earnestly pray for the peace of Jerusalem.