+++ SPECIAL REPORT+++ via Martin & Norma Sarvis
At around 5:20 this morning (Monday) a long-range rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed over 50 miles away on a house in Mishmeret, a village in central Israel just north of Kfar Saba. The force of the blast destroyed the dwelling and injured at least seven people, including two children. This was the farthest attack from the Strip since a Grad rocket fell near Haifa in the 2014 Gaza war. The attack comes a little over a week after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, an attack which Hamas claimed to have been a “mistake.” After some 100 aerial attacks in retaliation, Israel agreed to a truce. Prime Minister Netanyahu is presently in Washington D.C. to attend the annual conference of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and to meet with President Trump. The prime minister was set to give a speech before the 18,000 person gathering on Tuesday, but in light of the attack in Israel he is cutting short his stay and, after a meeting with the President later today, will return to Israel. He is presently in contact with military leaders regarding what course to take.
For some time tensions have been escalating in Gaza with its de-facto leaders Hamas feuding not only with Israel, but with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. And as humanitarian conditions within the heavily crowded Strip have worsened, there have been protests and rioting by its citizens, some of which were brutally suppressed this past week by Hamas. Perhaps as a diversion from its own inner turmoil, Hamas is known to have been preparing a massive violent protest this coming weekend to mark the first anniversary of the weekly “March of Return” demonstrations, which have seen many young Gazans killed or wounded as they tried to breach the fence along the border with Israel.
An unprovoked attack so deep into sovereign Israeli territory, one which caused civilian injury and destroyed property cannot go unanswered. Is Israel to “go in” again to the Strip, as we did in 2014? Perhaps Hamas is desirous that we will…so as to divert attention away from its own domestic woes. And such an operation would no doubt result in many civilian deaths, given the way Hamas uses civilians as shields, which makes for good anti-Israel propaganda around the world.
It is a time of grave testing for PM Netanyahu. With Israeli elections just two weeks away, it seems a terrible time to have to call up reserves and launch a major incursion into the Strip. There is no solidly based unified leadership in place. Netanyahu’s chief opponents in the upcoming elections, a party with three former military generals among their leadership, are already using today’s attack to their advantage, accusing Netanyahu of weakness, of having pandered to Hamas, of being irresponsible in holding the portfolio of Minister of Defense himself, rather than giving it to someone else. Of course, the Prime Minister wants to appear strong. It is a very dangerous time.
As of this writing, it is reported that Israel has deployed two infantry and armored divisions to southern Israel and has begun a limited call-up of reservists in the intelligence and air defense corps.
* To YHVH Tzevaot—the LORD of Armies—for wisdom and counsel for Israel’s leaders, as to what should be Israel’s response to this attack on her citizens. That the nation will not be dragged into a trap. That any military response be executed surgically and quickly, with as little loss of innocent life as possible.
* That Prime Minister Netanyahu will seek the Lord, that he will be strong and courageous, that he will know what measures to take. That politics and concerns regarding the coming elections will not be major factors in his decisions.
* That the God of Israel will show us what is the decisive answer to the continual violent conflict with the Gaza Strip. Gaza was captured by Israel from Egypt in the 1967 War. We suspect that much can be traced back to Israel’s yielding to the tenets of the Oslo agreement which resulted in redeployment of most of her troops from the Strip in 1994. Pray that where we have as a nation sinned against God, we would be brought to a place of repentance.
* The Hebrew word mishmeret (the name of the stricken community) means “a watch”—a time and space over which a soldier is responsible to guard. It also means “watchman” or “guard.” Pray for believers in Israel, that we be alert and responsible during this hour in the “watch of the Lord.” over our land and people!
* For salvation for the Arab citizens of Gaza…that they would be able to throw off their Hamas persecutors, and to pursue a course of peace and prosperity. Pray for revelation of the life which only comes in Yasuah/Jesus. Currently, believers in Gaza are amongst the most persecuted in the world. Pray for dreams and visions and courage to proclaim the truth; for signs and wonders among the believing Arabs there. Zechariah 9:5-7 speaks of a time when the blood will be taken from her mouth [Gaza and all the area of the ancient Philistines], and she “shall be a remnant for our God…like a clan in Judah.”
- THE GOLAN HEIGHTS IS PART OF THE SOVEREIGN HERITAGE OF ISRAEL!
“To the “Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manaseh, Joshua said, ‘Remember the word which Moses the servant of YHVH commanded you, saying, “YHVH your God gives you rest and will give you this land.”’” (Joshua 1:12-13)
“A day for the building of your walls! In that day the boundary shall be far extended…Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, who dwell alone in a forest in the midst of Carmel; let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.” (Micah 7:11,14)
This past Thursday, as the Jewish world was celebrating Purim, U.S. President Donald Trump posted a message, “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
The Golan Heights are a high plateau-like land rising east and north-east of the Sea of Galilee, and spanning some 700 square miles, with Mount Hermon in the north. In Biblical times, this area was known as Bashan. It was once the domain of a giant being named Og, one of two Amorite kings defeated by Israel before they crossed into Canaan. The land of the other king Sihon to the south, was bequeathed by God to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, while the land of Bashan was given to the half-tribe of Manashe [Manassah]. Golan, from which the entire area takes its name today, was a community in Bashan designated a “city of refuge” by Moses (Deuteronomy 4:43). Jews lived in the area until it was conquered in the Arab invasion of 636 A.D. The Ottomans then took control from the 16th century until 1918, when the Golan came under French oversight at the end of WW I. When the French mandate ended in 1946, the area became part of the newly-formed Syrian Republic. For the next 21 years, it was often used as a launching site for attacks on Jewish settlements in the Galilee below. Towards the end of the Six Day War in 1967, Israel stormed and captured the Heights; most of the Syrian occupants fled or were driven out, and Israel has occupied and administered 2/3rds of the territory ever since. In 1973 Syria in conjunction with Egypt launched a war to take it back, but was defeated. Israel in 1981 extended law and administration throughout the territory, effectively annexing it—a move which has never until now been recognized by any other nation and which was strongly condemned by the United Nations Security Council.
Syria has chosen to remain officially in a state of war with Israel to the present day. During the 90’s, then-Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin actively worked towards a peace agreement with Syria which would have relinquished at least part of the Heights back into their hands. But these and other overtures did not succeed. With the dissolution of Syria into sectarian violence over the past ten years, the possibility of Israel ceding the area faded. Now, with the recent resurgence of President Assad as leader with the help of Russia and Iran, Israel more than ever sees the necessity for security reasons of maintaining its sovereignty. There are currently over 20,000 Israeli Jews living in the Heights, with a similar number of Druze in the northeastern corner. There are no Palestinian Arabs, as in Judea and Samaria.
Last Thursday President Trump became the first foreign leader to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. He is expected to sign an order in Washington formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty later today. We believe that the return of the Heights, along with Samaria, Judea and Jerusalem, to the custodianship of his returned people Israel is an instance of God’s faithfulness in watching His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12). It was the YHVH the LORD who first gave these lands to Israel as a heritage. And it is He who promised one day to return them all to her. Some of that area yet remains for the future, but some has been returned in our day.
In making his announcement about the Golan Heights, we see Mr Trump continuing, as last year when he declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital, to guide his nation into alignment with God’s purposes for the land and people of Abraham…and with that, he is bringing America into alignment to receive the blessings promised to those who bless them.
* God’s blessing and protection over the decision which Mr Trump has made regarding the Golan Heights.
* That other nations will break with the U.N. resolutions condemning Israel’s right to the region of Bashan (Golan), and acknowledge her right in wresting this area from a power which, like Og in ancient times, used it as a base for attacking her. Pray that other nations will align with her sovereign right to it as a part of restored Israel.
* That Israel will never again allow herself into a place of considering the possibility of relinquishing the Golan Heights.
* That God’s “Kingdom Come!” on the Golan Heights. We know of houses of prayer which have been established there. Pray that Jewish and Druze people living there will be granted revelation of the Messiah Yeshua!
* Psalm 133:3 uses the “dew of Hermon” (the mountain rising in the midst of the Golan) as a metaphor for brothers dwelling together in unity, a unity in which the LORD commands a blessing—life forevermore! Pray for the peoples within all of Israel to be drawn into that unity of spirit which can only come in the harmony of the Holy Spirit!
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. All texts are those of English translations of the Scriptures.
The readings for this week 24-30 March 2019 are called Shemini—“Eighth Day”:
TORAH: Leviticus 9:1—11:47
Shabbat Para: Numbers 19:1-22
HAFTARAH: Ezekiel 36:16-38
NOTE: This is one of two special Shabbats before Passover having additional Torah and replacement Haftarah readings. This one is called Parah (Cow) and recalls the ritual involving the ashes of a red heifer for purification from defilement by death. It contains an additional Torah reading (see above); and the usual Haftarah (II Samuel 6:1—7:17) is replaced by the reading from Ezekiel.
*Leviticus 9:4, 6, 23b-24. “…for today, the LORD will appear to you.” “…and the glory of the LORD will appear to you.” “Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”
It had been the LORD’s desire to dwell in the midst of His people, and, as we saw in Exodus 40:34, after they had done their part in preparing the way, the Glory of His presence came into and filled the Mishkan (dwelling place, tabernacle). But it was also His desire that his people be able to minister to Him personally through bringing their offerings, which would then be presented before Him by the priests—and that the glory of His presence and acceptance of these gifts and sacrifices be witnessed and experienced by all the congregation. Here it finally takes place—and as the holy Fire appears and consumes the sacrifices, the people can only respond with a shout and with falling down under the weight of His Glory (Interestingly, the root for this Hebrew word “glory” kavod is also the root for the word “weight”). And it is intriguing that the word for the “shout” the people release is quite often in Scripture (Job 38:7, Prov. 29:6; Isa. 35:6, I Chron 16:33…) translated “song”. When God’s glory falls on His people, they often can no longer remain standing—and sometimes its coming is accompanied by release of the Song of the Lord!
This week’s readings center upon the Holiness of Israel’s LORD—including the consequences to his children, especially those who minister on His behalf before the people, of not honouring that holiness:
*Leviticus 10:3b. “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honoured.”
*Leviticus 11:44-45: “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean…For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Aaron’s two eldest sons Nadav and Avihu had been granted a high and exalted “positioning” of ministry before the LORD, second only to Moses and to their father the High Priest. For them there was clothing and anointing (8:13, 24, 30) providing them special protection to minister in ways not granted to the other Levites. However, they were not commanded nor were they clothed and anointed to draw near to God in that specific ministry assigned to their father Aaron the High Priest.
Yet, discontented with the appointed “place” God had chosen for them, they presumed to operate in the ministry of their father’s office rather than being faithful to that of their own—they offered “strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.” In doing so, they dishonoured God in the eyes of the people who looked up to and depended upon them. They also stepped into a place where the unique protection provided for their assignment of ministry was no longer effective, and the very fire from God’s presence which showed his favour in devouring the sacrifices in 9:24, devours in judgment these two sons who had abandoned their appointed places. There is no reason to see in this passage a portrayal of severe judgment upon those who are novices and have accidentally slipped and made a mistake while attempting something new. James 3:16 and 1:13-15 shows how “where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is confusion and every evil thing”, and how “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed, Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” At this crucial time of testing, the darkness which had been growing in Nadav and Avihu was manifest and they were betrayed.
In the usual Haftarah for this Parashah (II Samuel 6:1—7:17) it appears not to have been a “growing darkness” in King David’s character which is manifest, but rather, what had become a “blind spot” in his discernment after presuming to rate certain of God’s words as worthy of more respect than others. He deeply loved the Torah (instruction) of the LORD, declaring it perfect, capable of “converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Yet when it came time to bring the ark of God into Jerusalem (the incredible holiness of such an endeavor is emphasized in the text, “the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name—YHVH of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim” (II Sam. 6:2)), he evidently allowed his logic to preempt the LORD’s repeated instructions in the Torah that it was to be transferred by the use of poles on the shoulders of the priests (Exodus 25:12-15, and other places). After all, that was almost 500 years ago; a cart with wheels was more modern and took fewer men (even the Philistines had realized that), and it was a “new” cart. His negligence in treating God’s whole Word as holy resulted in disaster, in this case to others. Whether or not Uza volunteered for guiding the cart, he was not protected as the priests would have been—he had been placed in a role which was not God’s “positioning,” and when he spontaneously touched the ark to keep it from falling, like Nadav and Avihu, he was slain.
Today our Lord has provided a way for us also to come into His presence safely, through the finished work of Yeshua. But we are to do so in reverence, not in presumption or disobedience. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Malachi 3:2-3 says that the coming LORD “is like a refiner’s fire” and will “purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness.”
PLEASE PRAY: for a sense of the ‘holy’ in the Body of Messiah in Israel—that we will not be presumptuous in our worship and will not covet positions which God has granted to others, but be humbly thankful for the special responsibilities He chooses for us. Pray that we will at the same time yield ourselves to the refining purifying fire of God’s Spirit; and that the offerings which we offer up will be done in righteousness, in spirit and in truth.
*Leviticus 10:8-12. “Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: ‘Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.”
Perhaps intoxication was also a factor in the presumptuous sin of Nadav and Avihu. Although the Bible makes clear that God sanctions the drinking of wine or strong drink by His children (“before the LORD your God”— Deut. 14:22-26), Isaiah 28:7 just as clearly condemns its misuse, which can spoil our ministry, resulting in “erring in vision and stumbling in judgment”, not only in ourselves, but also in those who are looking up to us in seeking to follow His ways.
*Leviticus 10:10. “…that you may distinguish between holy and unholy.” An even better translation would be “distinguish between the holy and the common.” The opposite of “holiness” is not necessarily “sinful.” That which is holy is first of all that which is “set-apart from the ordinary.” So for the priests, certain things (such as drinking wine) which might be acceptable under ordinary circumstances were not allowed when they went into the Tent of Meeting to perform their duties there before the Lord.
Chapter Eleven lists ways in which the Hebrews were to be “holy” or “set apart” from other peoples by their diet.
*Leviticus 11:4, 46-47. “Nevertheless, these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or that have cloven hooves… This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” The Israelites were forbidden to eat these animals, not from “touching” them. As with Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:3), there would be those who might add such restrictions, but the LORD’s restrictions regarding touch were related to the carcasses of dead animals (11:8).
These were dietary guidelines for Israel—for the Hebrew race, which God chose to set apart in this way. There is nothing in Scripture to imply that God desires or requires all people to follow these guidelines. Following the Flood, when Noah and his family came forth from the Ark, God released a special blessing, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs”(Genesis 9:3; Emphasis ours.). All humankind were (and still are, Genesis 9:4; Acts 15:29) forbidden to eat blood. But Biblical restrictions regarding particular creatures applied only to the Hebrews.
TORAH: Numbers 19:1-22
HAFTARAH: Ezekiel 36:16-38
The additional Torah reading from Numbers 19 deals with the contamination taking place when one comes into contact with a dead human body. For cleansing, a red cow was burned and its ashes mixed with living (flowing) water which was then sprinkled upon the contaminated one, making him or her clean. Yeshua came as a holy sacrifice, and to in His own body defeat Death, cleansing us with a far holier sprinkling,
“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
THIS WEEK’S SPECIAL HAFTARAH, EZEKIEL 36:16-38, DEALS WITH THIS SAME HOLY SPRINKLING!
We find it especially useful in helping us to pray for Israel as regards the contested “territories” of Judea and Samaria, which she is being pressured to release to be converted permanently into a Muslim state in which no Jews would be allowed to dwell.
All of the prophecies in this reading are centered on an area called “The Mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 36:1), which exactly constitute this contested area.
FOR THOSE JEWISH SETTLERS CURRENTLY LIVING IN THESE AREAS, THAT THEY BE GRANTED REVELATION OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH COMES IN MESSIAH YESHUA. THIS PASSAGE STRONGLY IMPLIES THAT IT IS ONLY WHEN THEY RECEIVE THE CLEANSING WHICH HE OFFERS THAT THEY WILL BE ENABLED PERMANENTLY TO “DWELL IN THE LAND.”
Ezekiel 36:24. “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”
Ezekiel 36:31. “Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations…Thus says Adonai YHVH: ‘On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt.’”
Ezekiel 36:37. “Thus says Adonai YHVH: ‘I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am YHVH.”
PLEASE PRAY: For grace for Israelis to come to a place that they desire and enquire to be a healthy and increasing “flock” of God. That they will long for “the God of peace, who brought up our Lord Yeshua from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant (Hebrews 13:20). That they will come to know that Yeshua is the LORD (Yehovah)—that He and His Father are One.
Martin & Norma Sarvis
[The readings for next week (31 March—6 April 2019) are called Thazria—“Quicken with Seed/Conceive”: TORAH: Leviticus 12:1—13:59 + Shabbat haChodesh: Exodus 12:1-20; HAFTARAH: Ezekiel 45:16—46:18]