Southeastern corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as viewed from across the Ben Hinnom Valley.
“But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.”
(Deuteronomy 12:5 – See This Week’s Torah Portion)
1. PRAYER FOR ANDREW BRUNSON
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested…” (Revelation 2:8-10)
“For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven the LORD viewed the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to release those appointed to death, to declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD” (Psalm 102:19-21).
Andrew Brunson, the American Evangelical pastor of a congregation in Izmir (ancient Smyrna) who has suffered in a Turkish prison since December 2016, was released just over a week ago to house-arrest. Even Israeli papers carried pictures of Andrew arriving home. He still faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted on charges of terror and espionage, charges of which he insists he is innocent. His hearing has been repeatedly postponed…the latest being put off until October 12th. US President Trump and Vice-President Pence have raised Andrew’s plight repeatedly with Turkish President Erdogan. Last week the Vice-President called Brunson “a victim of religious persecution;” and on behalf of the President, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared, “Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable. President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.” When he was not released, the US threatened sanctions. Erdogan responded with scorn, actually bringing Israel into the picture, “It is not possible for us to accept that America gets up, especially with an evangelist, Zionist mentality, and uses this kind of threat-filled language.” To which the US Treasury Department on August 1st made good on the President Trump’s threats, and issued sanctions against Turkey’s Minister of Justice and Minister of the Interior. The Turkish president has vowed not to back down.
* For physical protection for Pastor Andrew and his wife Norine and all in their house during the duration of his house arrest.
* For restoration in spirit, soul and body for Pastor Andrew. That he and his wife be strengthened and sustained in spirit and body by the presence of their Lord Jesus—the One sent to set captives free—until his release; and that that release may come soon. “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house” (Isaiah 42:6-7).
* That Pastor Andrew and Norine to be protected from depression and despair. Remember the ‘wearing down’ which occurred even to John the Baptizer (Matthew 11:2-3), who had announced the coming of the “Lamb of God who carries away the sin of the world!” That, as with Peter (Acts 12) and Paul and Silas (Acts 16), he would be granted Angel visitations and heavenly songs in the midst of the darkness.
* In the name of Jesus/Yeshua and in the protection of His blood against any witchcraft which is set against Pastor Andrew, his family, or his congregation (There is much active occult activity within the Islamic religion in Turkey).
* That the God whose throne is righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:14) will release confusion into the testimonies of those who are bringing false testimony against Andrew.
“Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. Do not deliver me to the souls of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence. What would have been my plight—unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait in Hope on the LORD, Be Strong–and He will infuse courage into your heart, Wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalm 27 11-14).
* That God will guide the United States, especially President Trump and Vice-President Pence in their actions and negotiations on behalf of release of this American citizen and his family from unjust incarceration in Turkey.
* That the Church and Prayer Room in Izmir over which Andrew is Pastor will be guided, strengthened and unified in a deep way during this experience. For close guidance by the Holy Spirit through any persecution released in their direction as a result of the national conflict being waged over their pastor. PRAY THAT THIS “MENORAH” WHICH HAS BEEN RESTORED TO ITS PLACE, WILL BURN BRIGHTLY—AND BEAR CLOSELY TO THEIR LORD, WHO WALKS AMONG THE CANDLESTICKS (Revelation 1:12-16; 2:8-11).
2. AN INFORMATIVE ARTICLE BY DR. MICHAEL BROWN
The following article by Messianic Jewish scholar Dr. Michael Brown appeared in the online August 2 issue of The Christian Post. In it, he draws attention to a steadily widening area of conflict within the heart of Israeli society, of which many are unaware. He also admirably synthesizes several aspects of Israel’s complicated governmental system, which are essential to have clarified if we are to understand much of what is happening in the news and be able to pray effectively.
The “war” Brown sees this conflict building towards, is itself part of a great and very real spiritual war, which finds both sides (ultra-Orthodox and liberal secular Israeli Jews) in bondage to powers of darkness battling to keep them from light, truth, and the righteousness which is the only thing that will establish and exalt their nation. That righteousness can come only through the righteousness of the Holy One of Israel; HE must provide it—which He has in Israel’s Messiah and Savior, Yeshua! This is made clear in this week’s Haftarah reading from the prophets, “In righteousness you will be established” (Isaiah 54:14a); “’This is the heritage of the servants of YHVH, and their righteousness is from ME,’ declares YHVH.” (Isaiah 54:17-18). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21).
The battle is fierce—this weekend found thousands of ultra-Orthodox lawlessly blocking entrances of the city in demonstration against the military draft law which requires their young people to serve, like every other Israeli. And on Thursday evening, around 20,000 secular Israelis turned out in Jerusalem to support the “Pride” march through her streets. Both of these sectors follow a law foreign to that God requires as what is good, true, and necessary for his people Israel, and all humankind.
We were encouraged as we worshiped in a Messianic Congregation in Jerusalem this past Shabbat, to witness the fire God has ignited in a remnant of His people to Praise and Worship Him – burning with a zeal to go out on the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem with the light of hope, life, power and freedom for all of Israel. They will see a Great Light—and Live!
Israel’s Looming Civil War
There is a civil war looming in Israel, but very few are talking about it. I’m not referring to the potential of a civil war between Israelis and Palestinians, nor am I referring to a war with bombs and guns and knives. I’m referring to an ideological war that has the potential of tearing the nation in half. It is the war between ultra-Orthodox Jews and liberal Israelis. The rift is large and growing, and it was underscored by the conflict this week between LGBT activists and ultra-Orthodox rabbis.
But first, some important demographics.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews (called haredim) are the fastest growing segment in Israel, currently making up roughly 15 percent of the Jewish population (about 1 million out of 6 million). And based on current birth rates,(1) the haredim could make up more than one-third of the total Jewish population of Israel by mid-century. (Ultra-Orthodox Jews have very high birth rates coupled with very little assimilation into the secular culture.)
As explained in 2016,(2) “While haredim made up just 9.9% of the Israeli population in 2009, with 750,000out of 7,552,100, by 2014 that figure had risen to 11.1%, with 910,500 haredim out of a total Israeli population of 8, 183, 400. [These figures refer to the total population of Israel, including Arabs.] “By 2024, the study predicts, haredim will make up 14% of the Israeli population, rising to 19% by 2039, and 27% by 2059. At that point haredim will be a whopping 35% of the total Jewish population, outnumbering the secular, traditional, traditional-religious, and religious sectors.”
But there’s more to the story.
Israel is a very fragile democracy, by which I mean that it takes a coalition of various parties to lead the nation. It’s not as simple as electing President Trump or President Obama. Instead, Israelis vote for parties, which are led by individuals. Various parties then work together to get a total of 61 seats in the Knesset (Parliament). In the last election (2015), Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party, Likud, got the most seats. But in total, Likud only won 30 seats, meaning that it had to work together with other parties to reach the magic number of 61. (Overall, 10 different parties won seats; there were a total of 25 parties that competed.)
To put his coalition together, Netanyahu had to include two ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, both of which won just 6 seats. But they are major power brokers in the government with disproportionate influence, since Likud could not govern without them. Despite their small size, they can demand special benefits, including government support of more of their men can devote themselves to day and night Torah study, along with exemption from serving in the military. What makes this even more interesting is that many haredim are anti-Zionist. Their leaders opposed the modern state of Israel before 1948, feeling that: 1) it was up to the Messiah to regather the exiles and reestablish the nation; 2) a secular Jewish state would be an abomination in God’s sight; and 3) an Israel established by man rather than God would increase world anti-Semitism. To this day, most haredim do not celebrate Israel’s Independence Day; some actually mourn.
And remember: These are very traditional Jews, with no TV’s, limited internet access, and tightly controlled dress codes and sexual mores. Their religious traditionalism makes American Evangelicals look like worldly sinners.
Yet the rest of the Jewish Israeli population is quite “progressive” and liberal. As noted in Israel Today,(3) “As a nation, Israel prides itself on tolerance toward and acceptance of homosexuals. There are openly-gay members of Knesset; the IDF touts its integration of the LGBT community; Tel Aviv is advertised by the Israel Ministry of Tourism as a top gay travel destination; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently highlighted Israel’s homosexual credentials at the American Jewish Committee conference.”
And with LGBT activism getting bolder and louder, a conflict with ultra-Orthodox Jews becomes even more certain. This is especially true in Jerusalem, since it boasts a significant haredi population and is considered particularly holy in Jewish tradition.
Recently, however, to the consternation of liberal Israelis, “Netanyahu and his Likud Party…helped defeat a motion to include homosexuals in a new amendment to Israel’s surrogacy laws. The amendment enables single would-be mothers to now make use of surrogacy on the state’s dime. Homosexuals hoped to be included in the new regulations, and took to the streets of Tel Aviv in mass protest when the Knesset rejected their appeals.
“In response to the liberal outcry, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Aryeh Stern insisted that children born to gay couples would ‘enter a very strange and unnatural life,’ and that the government of Israel shouldn’t be part to such a ‘wretched’ state of affairs.” Stern’s remarks were widely vilified, as a result of which 200 ultra-Orthodox rabbis wrote a letter supporting him, ending with, “The media’s brainwashing that seeks to destroy the concept of family and turn perverts into heroes will not succeed, and nor will the attempt to silence rabbis and sane people an turn them into delusional extremists.”
Not surprisingly, this letter received even more severe backlash, “and a petition was started demanding that any of the 200 rabbis who draw a government salary should be fired immediately.” At the same time, with a gay pride march scheduled for Jerusalem this Thursday, August 2, the chief rabbi of the city “has called for the city to remove rainbow flags from the vicinity of the city’s major Synagogues.”
This is quite understandable. But in recent years, things got totally out of hand, and “16-year-old Shira Banki was killed at Jerusalem Pride in July 2015, when [the] ultra-Orthodox Jewish man Yishai Schlissel went on a stabbing spree.”
Tensions, then, are very high. And they could soon reach a boiling point as the secular population of Israel leans more and more to the left and the haredim lean more and more to the right, while they also continue to grow in numbers and power. For those who pray for the wellbeing of the nation, this is something to keep in prayer.
(1) “Haredi Population Tops One Million”: The Jerusalem Post, 1 January 2018 0130.
(2) “Haredim to surpass Arab population by 2015”: Arutz Sheva, 11 August 2016 09:21
(3) “Outrage in Israel After Rabbis Call LGBT Community ‘Perverts’”: Israel Today, 30 July 2018.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.