The week preceding Israel’s “Independence Day” (next Tuesday May 2nd) is a somber and sobering one for many in Israel. Today (24 April) is Yom haSho’ah—“Holocaust Remembrance Day” (Full title, “Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day”). A week from today (May 1st) will be Yom haZi’kharon—“Remembrance Day”—commemorating Israelis slain in war or as victims of terror during the 69 years of Israel’s modern existence. A large percentage of Israeli families have suffered loss from at least one of these evils, and the fear of any or all of them recurring is never far away.
“‘O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted…All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you. Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me, Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake…No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me,’ says the LORD”
PLEASE PRAY: For revelation to and through Israelis of the One who is their Saviour, their Comforter, their Righteousness, their Captain and Protection. Pray for light, for grace to return to the God of “their heritage,” who is their Shelter from the Storm.
Today (Monday) is Yom haSho’ah—Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. Ceremonies began at sundown yesterday, and at 10:00 the morning was broken by the cry of a siren throughout the land. \Traffic came to a halt; in city streets and out on the highways Jews emerged from their cars to stand silently. It lasts for two minutes, calling to remembrance the horror which fewer than 80 years ago arose, seeking, not for the first time, the extermination of the Jewish race.
A euphemism for a Jewish survivor is Ude Mutzal me’Esh—“A Brand Plucked from the Fire” (Zechariah 3:2). Of the estimated 300,000 of those plucked from Hitler’s fires still alive today, an estimated 160,000 reside in Israel. Ten years ago, one might occasionally notice in the check-out line of a grocery a man or woman with a tattooed number on their forearm, the identification number used in Nazi concentration camps. It is a much-rarer occurrence today. It is estimated that 14,500 of these dear people pass away each year–around 50 a day, and of course, as the years pass the rate is accelerating.
The Hebrew word for “Holocaust” is Sho’ah (capitalized, when transliterated). It means catastrophe, calamity, cataclysm, desolation. The word appears several times in the Scriptures; in Psalms 35:8 and 63:9 it is the destruction which the Psalmist’s enemies wish to bring upon his soul, but into which, as he trusts in the LORD, they themselves will fall. In Zephaniah 1:15 it describes a “great day” of the LORD’s judgment, a “day of devastation and desolation”
The birth of Israel as a “Jewish State” provided a haven for the survivors of the Sho’ah— a home and bastion for their descendants, against such an evil rising ever again. Indeed, the slogan “Never again!” has been passed from generation to generation since then. Much has been done with the establishment of museums, with books and films and programs in the belief that “education” and ‘being informed” is the best defense against its recurrence. Yet, we feel compelled to point out that those nations most at the heart of the ideology which spawned the Holocaust in the 1930’s, had for over 400 years been considered the center of Western civilized education, culture (and for much of that time, the Christian religion). One thing we should have learned from this is that secular Education will never, in and of itself, stem a rising tide of evil.
Might there be another Sho’ah? Certainly the evil one would like for there to be. He realizes, with the establishment and growth of this nation, perhaps especially now that there is an awakened and growing Messianic remnant in the Land, that God’s not-yet completed holy purposes for His ancient people are still on course. He knows his time is short. And so we see again a rising anti-Semitism—although one now more often finding its focus on the existence of the nation itself, cloaked behind the repeated assurance that it is not “anti-Jew”—only “anti-Zionist.”
It is sobering to find this same word sho’ah (there translated, ‘storm’) in Ezekiel 38:9, “You will ascend [an alliance led by Gog, the Prince of Rosh], coming like a storm, covering the land [of Israel] like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you” (NKJV). In that ultimate battle, the LORD will Himself intervene in wrath against the aggressors. Meanwhile, today we see armies to Israel’s north and east (Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iran) arraying, positioning themselves, proposing alliances (perhaps precedent to the one above?). We hear national and religious leaders denying the Holocaust, and (as was verbalized again this month by the supreme religious leader in Iran) calling for her Israel’s annihilation.
Our protection is and can only be from the God who has chosen Israel. Against the Amalek spirit which continues to call for and plot the annihilation of God’s covenant peoples (both Jew and Christian), we hold up the Banner raised by Moses in Exodus 17:14-16—
“YHVH has sworn, He will Himself wage war against that spirit until its memory is blotted out from under Heaven.”
And for Israel, the LORD’s promise in Jeremiah 31:35-36—
“Thus says YHVH, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar, YHVH of Armies is His name:
‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares YHVH, ‘then the seed of Israel also will cease from being a nation before me forever.’”
THIS WEEK—as Israel pauses to ponder a great darkness which singled out her most recent ancestors for destruction, at the same time raising an uneasy eye towards what appears to be a stormy future:
*For revelation that the Word of the LORD in Jeremiah 29:11 is still alive and ringing, specifically and first of all for His people Israel— “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
*For a massive awakening of desire in Israel to seek her God—to place her trust beyond her allies, her leaders, or her perceived military strength, and in her LORD (Psalm 118:8-9; 33:16-17).
*For the estimated 160,000 elderly Holocaust survivors living in Israel today. Because of what they have experienced and seen, these dear people are often bound by the Accuser in a hardened, cynical world of darkness. Pray that the true Light which pierces the deepest darkness (John 1:5, 9) will shine into their hearts, drawing them in love to a Life in which they have long since ceased to believe. Pray for revelation and blessing to come to them after Holocaust Memorial Day, the only day of the year in which many of them feel they are remembered at all.
*For a breaking in Israel of any ‘identity’ related to the extent of our persecution in the past. Pray that, while learning what we can from the past, we will begin to focus more on the future and what God’s Word tells us about it.
*That the lands which God has promised will awaken and open up to receive his returning people (Ezekiel 36) would do so. That the Jews remaining in the nations would return to the Land—be planted in it. That revelation of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) in the blood of Messiah would be released and flow like a river among those who return.
*Psalm 25:22: “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.”
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets. We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world. The references for all texts are those found in English translations of the Scriptures.
“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath. From the day that you brought the omer (sheaf) of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:15-16).
The Parashah for this week 23-29 April 2017 is a “double reading”:
I. Thazria—“Quicken with Seed”
TORAH: Leviticus 12:1—13:59
* HAFTARAH: II Kings 4:42—5:19
II. Metzora—“Skin Disease, Leprosy”
TORAH: Leviticus 14:1—15:33
HAFTARAH: II Kings 7:3-20
* On weeks in which a “double reading” occurs, only the haftarah of the second reading is generally used.
After last week’s focus on the importance of Israel’s being ‘set apart’, of her distinguishing between the holy and unholy, the unclean and clean (Lev. 10:10)—this week’s portion continues in instruction of how this was to be worked out in everyday life. There needed to be purification and atonement made for a mother when bringing forth children; there must be measures of isolation and testing taken for outbreaks of surface diseases or blights (both on physical bodies and on dwellings), and for contaminating discharges from the body. And there was the way prescribed for restoration once healing had occurred.
When Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus) came to be born in a stable, his mother Miriam (Mary) submitted to these same instructions for purification (Luke 2:22), and when it was time for the sacrifice, she and Joseph could only afford the humble offering mentioned here (Lev 12:8; Luke 2:24). Yeshua’s coming was to “undo the works of the devil” manifest in all of these diseases, to bring atonement, redemption healing and cleansing. It is very significant that among his healing miracles, special mention is made of those involving lepers and a woman with an ‘issue of blood’. PLEASE PRAY: as those in synagogues this coming weekend hear these words which so graphically picture the presence and result of sin in our midst and man’s need for healing and being pronounced clean—that the Holy Spirit will convict of sin and righteousness and judgment, and draw Jews to seek cleansing through the One who washes white as snow!
Martin & Norma Sarvis
[The Torah and Haftarah portions for next week 30 April—6 May 2017 is also a “double reading”: I. Torah: Leviticus 16:1—18:30; Haftarah: Ezekiel 22:1-19. II. Torah: Leviticus 19:1—20:27; Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15]