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Can Israel Really Trust Friendly Christians?

Can Israel Really Trust Friendly Christians?

Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and aliens shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. ~Isaiah 61:5

By Christine DargJerusalem Channel

Truly a new day has dawned concerning friendly and genuine relationships between Jews and Christians, and I believe it’s so important to be a part of this End-time movement of God.

When we first went to Israel more than 40 years ago, relationships for the most part between Jews and Christians were cautiously cordial but nevertheless still strained due to nearly 2,000 years of bitterness, misunderstandings and persecutions.

However, we Christians who understand, love and support our elders in the faith are enjoying unprecedented dialogue, favour and camaraderie with Israelis, and I for one rejoice.

Jewish-Christian alliances are surely an End-time fulfilment of prophecy.

There’s never been a day quite like this one!

Given nearly two millennia of difficult relations between Jews and Christians, the rising tide of Christian support for Israel has many practicing religious Jews wondering if it’s permissible according to Torah law to accept this newfound friendship of Christians.

Recently Rabbi Tuly Weisz’s Breaking Israel News asked in a report…. should these Christians be trusted? Suppose they have an ulterior motive?

On the other hand, many in the churches decry a movement that they perceive as Judaizing of Christianity. The skepticism on both sides is understandable depending upon whose viewpoint you wish to take, but now many rabbis are saying that the new friendships and alliances between Jews and Christians are not only permissible, these initiatives are, in fact, a Torah imperative!

The Torah was not always interpreted this way, but something has happened. And I believe one of the many reasons for newfound friendships between Christians and Jews is external pressures. Both Islamic and secular persecutions against Bible-believing Christians and Zionist Jews are causing us to look up and realize that we worship the same God, and therefore we must protect, shelter and strengthen one another.

The number of social media groups springing up to support these frienships and alliances is truly phenomenal.

The spiritual leader of the community of Har Bracha in Biblical Samaria is Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who is an internationally respected authority on halacha (Torah law). I have been following his Hebrew newspaper columns translated into English for a number of years after learning about his ministry from my Orthodox Jewish friend Gidon Ariel. Rabbi Melamed has become an advocate of Jewish-Christian friendships, despite harsh criticisms among his co-religionists.

Whenever there is a move of God, there are always pioneers leading the way. And there are also neutral parties who are willing to watch events play out. For example, Rabbi Gamaliel was not an opponent. He remained neutral and his wisdom is quoted in the New Testament in Acts 5: 39,  “if [a movement is] from God, you won’t be able to stop it, and you may even discover that you are fighting against God if you try to stop it!”

Rabbi Melamed has been associating with Tommy Waller’s HaYovel Christian volunteers who work in the vineyards of Har Bracha, meaning Mount of Blessing. Har Bracha is an Israeli community located at the Biblical Mount Gerizim in what the world calls the West Bank but what the Bible calls Samaria.

Har Bracha is named after Mt. Gerizim, one of two mountains mentioned in the Torah in the Book of  Deuteronomy on which half of the twelve tribes of Israel ascended in order to pronounce blessings. (The other six tribes ascended Mt. Ebal to pronounce the curses of disobedience.) The Christians at the Mount of Blessings believe they are helping to fulfil a Biblical prophecy about replanting ancient vineyards as foretold in Isaiah 61:5 and Jeremiah Chapter 31.

The Christian non-profit organization brings volunteers who are firm Bible-believers from all over the world to serve the Jewish farmers of Israel. To these Christians, this is a holy mandate from the God of Israel. The community’s Rabbi Melamed is a forward-thinker, despite some objections voiced by his fellow Jews through social media, Jewish forums and Jewish sites on the internet.

The question of whether it is permissible to connect with Christians has been a complicated issue in Torah law. In 2011, Rabbi Melamed made an official ruling on the subject that was published, and he was careful to note the difficult history and the theological obstacles that stand in the way of Jews and Christians connecting together. The rabbi asked key questions such as: How should we relate to Christians who suddenly have become our friends? For nearly two thousand years, they persecuted the Jewish nation, murdered, plundered, expelled, coerced us to convert to Christianity, and suddenly they love us? Can we believe them? And what do we do with the words of the Rambam (the revered rabbi Maimonides)?

The Rambam wrote that Christianity has the status of idol worship. However, after carefully considering all of these difficult questions, Rabbi Melamed came to the conclusion that for him the deciding factor– in our day and not based upon past behavior—the deciding fact has been the more recent Christians’ positive attitude towards Israel.

Rabbi Melamed, in fact, described the love of Christian Zionists for Israel as “the litmus test in this world for morality, truth and faith.” That statement almost needs a selah (stop and meditate) moment. Why would Christian love for Israel be a litmus test for morality, truth and faith? It would seem that such love would reveal a true knowledge of the whole counsel of God, and especially the Word of God itself, especially concerning End-time events.

Whereas in the past Christians traditionally targeted Jews for conversion while replacing the Jewish people and Israel with the church, Rabbi Melamed pointed out that there are many sincere Christians today who are striving to make what he called “great corrections” in their behavior. To his mind, they should be considered as righteous Gentiles, and he believes God himself will reward them. I want to say very carefully here–lest accusers and detractors would say that evangelicals have denied and betrayed their Saviour–this new attitude of Jewish acceptance towards Bible-believing Christians does not deny that evangelical Christians who support the Jewish state also believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. These evangelicals do not deny the Messiahship of Jesus nor do they deny the Jewish people’s need of Jesus like everybody else in the world, but rather, these Evangelical Christians are not proselytizers. In other words, they are attempting to correct the stereotypes of past proselytizers who either tried to force Jewish conversions or who even, more horribly, physically persecuted and killed the Jews in Inquisitions for not converting en mass to Christianity.

Learned men such as Rabbi Melamed are not naïve — they do realize that these evangelicals are genuine followers of Jesus, but in this new movement, the rabbi believes that the evangelicals who support God’s fulfilment of prophecies in the Holy Land are working primarily to strengthen Israel after nearly 2,000 years of pogroms and persecutions.

In the mind of Rabbi Melamed, all the severe issues about Christians in the past don’t apply to these new Christian workers who are behaving as servants to the Jewish people.

And I might venture to add, in some real and practical measure the Christians in the vineyards of Israel are indeed fulfilling the Gospel of Jesus by ministering kindly to his brethren. As Jesus said in Matthew 25: 40 when He returns, “The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, inasmuch as you have done unto the least of these my brethren you did it to Me.” Wow, that requires another selah moment in my estimation!

Can we see the bigger picture in all of this, or must we always be critical and suspicious of everybody’s motives?

Rabbi Riskin (WikiCommons)

Rabbi Melamed has been very brave to take head-on the criticisms from within the Jewish community that have targeted himself and various other rabbis who are cultivating the new positive relationship with evangelical Christians. Much of the criticism has targeted Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the founding Chief Rabbi of Efrat who is also the founder of the Center for Jewish–Christian Understanding and Cooperation. After looking into the matter of the various statements against Rabbi Riskin, Rabbi Melamed concluded that Jewish criticisms against him constituted slander. Slander, or the evil tongue in Hebrew, is considered to be a very grievous sin in Judaism, and I wish to God that slander was taken as seriously within the Christian communities.

Rabbi Riskin’s protégé David Nekrutman is part of the new generation of Israelis who are continuing to cultivate the sensitive relationship between Jews and Christians, and my husband and I have enjoyed his front-lines Bible study for Christians that takes place weekly at the Bible Museum in Jerusalem. The Bible studies are delightful: Nekrutman and his associates don’t preach down to participants but they’re very interactive, and willing for ideas to be expressed without any fear on anybody’s part. David Nekrutman told Israel Breaking News that such Bible studies and dialogue are in fact a Jewish imperative, and he cited Isaiah 49: 6 as a mandate:

It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the offspring of Israel; I will also give you for a light of the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the earth.

David Nekrutman says, “This is who we are as the Jewish people. We can’t be a light unto the nations without building a partnership with the nations. We have this mandate to work with others, and if they’re willing, we have an obligation to do so.” As a (non-Messianic Jew) Orthodox Jew, David Nekrutman has been a post-graduate student at Oral Roberts University, and these types of intellectual sharings are becoming much less uncommon.

Amazingly, due to the initiative of such men, many rabbis are now saying and admitting that Christianity, in fact, has had a special role to play in the prophetic process of taking the light of the Hebrew Scriptures to the nations. A statement signed by many rabbis went so far as to commend Christianity for being a light to the nations and even Jesus Himself for majestically upholding the Torah.

WikiCommons: Rabbi Kook

In his ruling concerning Jewish-Christian friendships, Rabbi Melamed cited Israel’s first chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, whose philosophy is still a major influence upon Jewish theology today. Rabbi Kook wrote that the main problem with Christianity and Islam was their “cancellation of the [Jewish] nation’s hope in relation to its complete revival.” To that statement I can say a hearty Amen! Indeed, tragically, one of the institutional church’s greatest mistakes has been to indulge in the error of replacement theology by stealing all of Israel’s covenants and promises without offering any hope, faith or belief that God would faithfully keep his covenant with the Jewish people. To deny Israel’s future restoration has been a blind spot that has caused untold suffering, misunderstanding and warfare.

Rabbi Melamed suggested that a connection with pro-Israel Christians borders on brotherhood. He wrote, quote, “These Christians are closer to us than the secular, liberal leftists in Western countries, both in their faith in the Bible, and their ethics.” What a statement!  God bless him!

Well, you might say to me, “Christine, this is all man’s opinions!”

But what does the Word of God say on these matters?

Jeremiah 31 begins…..“At that time,” declares the Lord, [At what time? The tone and worldwide scope of this chapter indicates that it concerns the End-time. This is a last days prophecy] “At that time declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.”

Verse 2…This is what the Lord says:

“The people who survived the sword. . . . [Who are the people who survived the sword? It’s the Jewish people! Jesus himself prophesied the nearly two-millenia-long Diaspora of the Jewish people. In his briefing on the Mt. of Olives, Jesus said in Luke 21: 24 that his people would fall by the sword and would be taken away as prisoners to all nations. And then, he said, Jerusalem would be under Gentile control until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.]

So back to verse 2: The people who survived the sword, [the Jewish people] will “find favor in the wilderness.” So there will be a turning point in the fortunes of the Jewish people—after nearly 2,000 years of wandering, they will find favor again. God declares,

“I will come to give rest to Israel.” [So God is saying that the survivors of the Jewish people will again be favored by God in the wilderness to which they will return and make the wilderness land fruitful again.]

In verse 3, the prophet Jeremiah remembers God’s covenant relationship with the Jewish people. He recalls, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.

You will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful.”

The evangelical Christian workers in the vineyards believe they are fulfilling this verse 5: “Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; [Samaria is the Biblical heartland and belongs to the land of Israel yet the Arabs and the nations are still trying to wrestle this land from the Jews.]

The farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. [We are eyewitnesses of these things. We’ve enjoy this fruit every day in the Land of the Bible!]

Verse 6, There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’ ” Fascinating that the word watchman in this verse is not shomrim, which is the word used in Isaiah’s reference to watchmen on the walls, but the word for watchmen here in Jeremiah 31: 6 is notzrim, which happens to be the word in modern Hebrew for Christians. The root of Notzrim is natsar, meaning to watch, guard or keep.

Verse 7 continues: This is what the Lord says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations.

Make your praises heard, and say,

‘Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ And then in verse 8 we see God’s determination to bring back the Jewish people from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth.

Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. That’s exactly what happened after WW2 and the Holocaust–the blind, the lame, the weak, women in labor all came with weeping;

And verse 10 is a prophecy that I love to preach especially whenever I’m in an island nation such as the UK,

“Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in the islands afar off:

‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and keep them like a shepherd watches over his flock.’

(11) For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

(12), They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—

the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, [we just got this bottle of olive oil this week from one of the Jewish communities!]

They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.

God says…I will turn their mourning into gladness.

And in verse 15 is also the famous prophecy by Jeremiah about Rachel, the matriarch of Israel. This is what the Lord says:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping,

Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

But the Lord commands Rachel to stop weeping because there’s hope for her descendants…“Declares the Lord.–Your children will return to their own land.

Verse 21: “Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway,

Return, Virgin Israel, return to your towns.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: (verse 24)….People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 

27“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” says the Lord. 

31“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant

with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel

after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God, and they will be my people.

34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Then verse 35 describes what Bible teacher Derek Prince of blessed memory called the planetary covenant:

“This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day,

who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night,

(36) “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”

declares the Lord, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.”

The prophet Jeremiah made his predictions concerning the restoration of Israel to cheer up the Jewish exiles, and to vindicate the faithfulness of God. In a limited sense these prophecies were fulfilled by the restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel after their Babylonian captivity; but commentaries say the events of that period can hardly be said to have completely filled up the meaning of the emphatic End-time language of these prophecies. We need to look further into our end-times for the complete fulfilment of these glorious predictions.

In fact, the restoration of Israel is happening on a daily basis right in front of our eyes– the ingathering  to their own land again is happening from all the nations. It should be impossible to miss what God is so clearly bringing to pass. And the terrible anti-Semitism that’s happening even in the West is shaking the Jewish people out of the nations and warning them that it’s time to go home. The apostle Peter himself prophesied of these times that we’re living in. In Acts 3: 21 he said, “Jesus must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets.”

This move of God is not something the Church should fight.

The restoration of the people of Israel spells blessings for the entire world because it is God’s plan.

Let’s look at some of the blessings outlined in Jeremiah 31:

–Gladness and joy.  The prophet Jeremiah used the imagery of a festive dance. For centuries the vineyards on the hills of Samaria were ruined by mauraders; invasion after invasion had befallen “the planters.” But now, undisturbed and unmolested, they shall plant again, and enjoy the fruit of their vines—and the nations shall enjoy these vineyards as well.

–Now the watchmen, the Christians who are standing there, will arise and proclaim the Messianic feasts and festivals of God’s people in unity with them, crying out, “Arise, and let us go up to Zion.” This means Israel and Judah, Jews and Christians, shall go up together to worship the King in Zion. Not in discord but in blessed unity. The commentaries say that this passage is speaking of national revival for Israel and the nations. The going up to Zion shall be “to the Lord our God” and to King Messiah.

–At that time, Jeremiah 31:31 clearly predicts the new covenant that God made first with the house of Israel and the house of Judah will be understood and fully implemented. God’s laws will be written upon hearts and everybody will know the Lord. This is a prophecy of the millennial rule of King Messiah. How close are we to it now? Very close.

That’s why we are watchmen upon the walls of Jerusalem. And we watchers can stay in touch through social media and through our website where all our previous videos are available for viewing around the clock as well as an archive of spiritual articles on End-time topics. We invite you to download our free Jerusalem Channel App from your favorite App store so you can watch our videos on your mobile phones or tablets. Our app also offers daily Bible readings and details of our upcoming events. We post prayer points at our website to help you be an effective watchman.

And so, always contending for the faith and praying earnestly for the peace of Jerusalem, I’m Christine Darg, Maranatha and Shalom! (This message is a transcript from a video at this link.)

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