1. THE FORMER RAINS
“For after seven more days, I will cause it to rain on the earth…” (Genesis 7:4).
On Thursday it finally rained in Israel. There was flooding in the Negev to the south; in Jerusalem it showered, clarifying the atmosphere from the dust which had been sitting over us for several days. This came three days after Shemini Atzeret (the eighth day of Sukkot), when observant Jews traditionally pray for God to send rains. In this part of the Middle-East, from mid-May to late October there is virtually no precipitation at all. With Thursday’s showers, we have now entered into the season known Biblically as the “Former Rains”, whichcome in the fall and winter; the “Latter Rains” arrive in early spring.
Please pray with us for abundant rains to come to Israel during this season. Although we finally received a bit in Jerusalem last year, the northern Galilee area, the agricultural heart of the nation, got hardly any. In fact, that part of Israel has been in a drought for several years, and the Sea of Galilee is again reaching a dangerously low level. In recent years Israel has constructed several evaporators near the coast with which to desalinate the waters of the Mediterranean. These are a blessing, and now supply enough for Israel’s drinking needs. But the process depletes the water of valuable minerals found in lakes or aquafers replenished by rains. Nor does it supply nearly enough for the agricultural. Israel needs rain.
As is made clear in the verse printed above regarding the first rains ever to fall, it is God who causes it to rain on the earth. Often in Scripture, His withholding of rain is a sign that He is trying to get Israel’s attention. He loves this Land, He longs to return it to the place described in Deuteronomy 11:11-12: A land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which YHVH your God cares; the eyes of YHVH your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.
But He also loves the people Israel He is bringing back to continue tending it. Truly, we are a blind and sinful nation, which must hear and turn to our God. Isaiah 41:17-20 speaks of a time when Israel will cry out for water and be heard by her God—He will respond with creative works to release water in unexpected places to the end “that they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
Meanwhile, in the mercies of our God, there has awakened a growing remnant of believers here, who, together with you in the Nations, may stand in the gap on behalf of both the land and people! Please join us! We have that power! James 5:17 reminds us of Elijah, a man like us, who exercised faith in the timing of God, in a way which could both close and open the windows of Heaven. Zechariah 10:1 calls us to “Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain”—but right now, it is the time of the former rains—and Israel is thirsty.
* That Israelis would be inspired to call on God for mercy; that the Spirit which convicts of sin and righteousness, would convict people in our nation to know their need and to lift their eyes to heaven.
* That God would have mercy on Israel, and send abundant rains throughout the land during the seasons of Former and Latter rains. That the Sea of Galilee and the aquafers would be filled.
* That these mercies would extend to our neighbors, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. That Israel will be generous, even with those who are now her enemies (Prov. 25:22), that they may be convicted and be drawn to the God of Israel, the source of all Life.
2. POPE FRANCIS: “GOD PROMISED THE HOLY LAND TO THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL.”
This past Wednesday, even as UNESCO was passing still another resolution (see last week’s Update), essentially denying a historical relation between Israel and the holy sites of Jerusalem, Pope Francis, delivering a public address at the Vatican in Rome, spoke decisively of “the people of Israel, who from Egypt, where they were enslaved, walked through the desert for forty years until they reached the land promised by God.” Although Francis has not issued a statement directly addressing the UNESCO resolutions, these words were seen in Israel as being clearly directed in that direction.
We are grateful for this affirmation by the Pontiff regarding Israel’s divinely ordained relation to the Holy Land, which of course has Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as its center. On the same day as he made this statement, and UNESCO issued its newest resolution, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote a letter to Cardinal Parolin from Jerusalem, in which he urged the Holy See to “use its best offices to prevent the recurrence of developments of this sort.” Of the resolution, he said:
[It is an] assault on history and is deeply offensive to both Christianity and Judaism. The denial of the historicity of the two Jerusalem Temples and the Temple Mount as recounted in both the Old and New Testaments is a terrible indictment of the international community when repeatedly adopted by an important UN body. The outrageous repudiation of the millennia-old bond between Judaism and its holiest shrines in Jerusalem is a blatant attempt to rewrite history. The annals of both our religions cannot be erased by raised hands and counted votes.” (“Pope Francis: ‘God promised the land to the people of Israel’: The Jerusalem Post, 27 Oct 2016, 18:34 IST).
Edelstein went further, calling for the international community to pass a resolution reaffirming Jerusalem as the holy city for the three major monotheistic religions, “a city where the two Temples stood and from which the Word of God was first promulgated to humanity by our prophets.” (Ibid.)
One of those prophets, Zechariah, records the word of YHVH (the LORD) regarding the area in question:
For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst”, says the LORD. Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that YHVH of Armies has sent Me to you. And YHVH will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Hush! all flesh, before YHVH, for He is aroused from His holy habitation! (Zechariah 2:10b-13)
WE REPEAT THE PRAYER POINTS FROM LAST WEEK:
* That no “unity” of nations will be able to move events in Israel, Jerusalem or on the Mountain of God there outside of the timings of God.
* Psalm 2!!
* Thanksgiving for the voices [including Pope Francis’s!] heard round the world during the past week on behalf of recognizing Israel’s historical relationship to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For the courage of those nations which voted against the resolution.
* That nations which are “standing in the balance” will make their choices—knowing that in some issues, “abstaining” may be tantamount to voting against the purposes of God.
* For believers in the nations to be granted grace for strategy in praying, interceding and in some cases, making declarations over their governments.
* For courage for those believers whose nations are making bad or evil choices towards Jerusalem…that they will be lights in darkness, encouraged that God has a pathway for them and that they, like their brothers and sisters in Israel, may shine and lead many to righteousness (Daniel 12:3).
–Martin and Norma Sarvis