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Passover

Passover

“A Festival to the Lord”

 

This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.” – Exodus 12:11-14

 

Exodus, the second book of the Pentateuch, tells the story of deliverance from bondage and of restoration—the establishing of a special relationship between Jehovah and the children of Israel and the first Passover. It is the story of Moses and his birth, life, and sudden departure from Egypt after murdering an Egyptian overseer (see Exodus 2:11–12).

 

Moses fled to the desert of Midian where God hardened him to desert life in the place he would spend the second 40 years of his existence. The adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter learned meekness and humility and, at the same time, grew physically stronger for the task that, unbeknownst to him, lay ahead. At the end of 40 years on the backside of the desert, Moses was charged by Yahweh with storming into the throne room of Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the vast region, and demanding that his Israelite bond slaves be allowed to pack up and leave Goshen, the area to which they had been assigned.

 

As he returned to Egypt, Moses encountered Aaron, his older brother, in the desert. The two men made their way to the palace to challenge Pharaoh. With the ruler’s refusal to let the Israelites go, God began to visit ten plagues on the land. Rather than persuade the ruler, it achieved the opposite effect, and the burdens that had been placed on the children of Jacob were intensified. The last plague, the death of all of Egypt’s firstborn, was the final straw for the rebellious Pharaoh.

 

“Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the Lord does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.’ And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will go out.” Then he went out from Pharaoh in great anger (Exodus 11:4-8).

 

Moses was vitally aware of what was about to befall the Egyptian people. Remember, as a baby he was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter because of an edict that demanded the deaths of all babies born to the children of Israel. Because of that action and the king’s refusal to free God’s people, a dire penalty would be exacted—not only on Pharaoh’s household but also on each family in the land of Egypt. Harsh, yes, but Pharaoh had been given numerous opportunities to heed the warning.

 

God did not send His people out of Egypt empty-handed. He repaid their decades of unpaid labor on the night of the Passover. Years of deprivation and disfavor culminated in one night of provision and preferential treatment. Jacob’s descendants were set free bearing the blessings of Jehovah as they hurriedly followed Moses to the Red Sea. Psalm 105:37 recounts, “He also brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among His tribes.”

 

In the midst of their captivity, Jehovah-Mephalti—the Lord my Deliverer—blessed His people with both health and wealth. Moses discovered that the favor of Jehovah God opens doors that no man can shut! It provided material goods that would never have been offered to the suffering Israelites while in bondage to the Egyptians. Can you picture those who opened their doors to the knocks of their Hebrew neighbors? How they might have bowed and then hurried back inside to fulfill the requests of their hated, and now feared, enemies?

Was this abundance of wealth provided only to line the pockets of the Israelites—to pay them back for all the years of hard labor under the harsh reign of Pharaoh? No, it was also for a greater purpose: God would eventually ask that His people open their hearts and coffers to provide the materials needed to build and furnish the tabernacle. God had given Moses very specific instructions regarding the tenth and final plague that was to grip the land of Egypt.

 

With a lamb, God had provided a way of escape for His people—an exchange for the firstborn in each family. Obedience was all that was required for the death angel to pass over Israelite homes. Jehovah then instructed that as a reminder of His graciousness, the Israelites were to observe a memorial day annually and in perpetuity—Passover. God stated in precise detail how the event was to be observed:

 

  • The lamb was to be selected and carefully tended until the appointed time.
  • It was to be slaughtered and its blood collected in a basin. It was to be roasted and totally consumed—anything left over was to be burned with fire.
  • Its blood was to be brushed on the lintel and doorposts of the home with a branch of hyssop. Can you picture the care that must have been taken by the head of the household to be sure the lintel and doorposts were painstakingly covered with the blood of the lamb?
  • The unleavened bread is symbolic of the haste of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt—the lack of sufficient time for the dough to rise.
  • The bitter herbs represent the harsh treatment received at the hands of their cruel Egyptian taskmasters. Might this also be symbolic of the bitter tears shed by the children of Israel during their captivity? Or the cries of the mothers as their children were born and then immediately murdered by the midwives? It might have been indicative of the groanings as backs were lashed by whips or bent beneath the heavy load laid upon the Israelites. Such deep and abiding bitterness was the result of 400 years of pain and agony for the children of Israel.
  • The people were to be fully clothed while eating the meal. They needed to be ready for the trek before them…cloaks donned, sandals fastened, and staff in hand. God had already promised in Exodus 6:6-7, “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” God always keeps His promises!

 

THE SEDER CEREMONY

 

Today, as the Jewish people prepare for the feast, every vestige of yeast is removed from the home. In the days before the Passover observance, Jewish dwellings must be cleansed of anything containing chametz or leaven. Not only is it symbolic of the speed with which the Israelites were chased out of Egypt, Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that it is a “symbolic way of removing the ‘puffiness’ (arrogance, pride) from our souls.”

 

This picture of puffiness might also be labeled “self-righteousness.” The Message has an excellent interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:6–8: “Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that. Yeast, too, is a ‘small thing,’ but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this ‘yeast.’”

 

Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the feast. So let’s live out our part in the feast—not as raised bread, swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread…simple, genuine, unpretentious.

 

When leaven is added to flour, a chemical reaction causes the bread to increase in volume. Could it be that Jehovah was presenting yet another picture with the unleavened bread? God wanted His people to understand that He alone was the Redeemer, and there was no cause for them to be “puffed up.” He was the miracle maker, the rescuer of His people from the bondage of Pharaoh. There was no place in His plan for haughtiness or vanity, just a total reliance on Jehovah-Mephalti—the Lord my Deliverer.

 

The grains that must be swept from the home are wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt, a type of hulled wheat. Some Orthodox Jews also include rice, corn, peanuts, and legumes.

 

These items are not to be eaten or even possessed by the homeowner during Passover. The housecleaning undertaken during the pre-Pesach days is a massive assignment. Every crumb, every speck, and every iota of anything that contains leaven is to be scrubbed away. A few pieces of bread are left behind for the children to discover. These are burned outside the home to rid it of the symbol of sin that pervades daily life. Now the home is ready for the observance.

 

The Passover Seder, or ceremonial dinner to celebrate the exodus from Egypt, is to be practiced by Jews as an observance—a reminder—of Jehovah’s mercy, grace, and deliverance centuries before in Egypt. Individuals seated at the table are to see themselves as being the recipient of God’s deliverance and His promises recorded in Exodus 6:6–8: “Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. [The first three promises speak of redemption. The next three promises speak of relationship.] I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. [The last two promises speak of provision.] And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’”

 

As family members gather around the table to celebrate the Seder, the woman of the home lights candles to mark the beginning of the hallowed event. A Seder plate has been readied for the ceremony. It contains the following:

 

  • Karpas from the Greek means “fresh vegetable.” It may be a boiled potato, parsley, or celery.
  • The roasted shank bone of a lamb, a reminder of the Paschal lamb. Paschal means “He [God] skipped over” the houses of the children of Israel.
  • Beitzah, or a hard-boiled egg. The egg is symbolic of mourning and is a reminder of the loss of Solomon’s and Herod’s temples in Jewish history.
  • Charoset, a paste made of apples, nuts, wine, and spices. It comes from the Hebrew word cheres, or clay. It is representative of the mortar for buildings that the Egyptian overseers compelled the Hebrews to craft.
  • Maror, or bitter herbs. This is a reminder of the brutal slavery the Israelites endured under Pharaoh.
  • In some homes, a small bowl of salt water is placed on the plate as a reminder of the tears shed by the Jews and of the Red Sea through which God led the Israelites.

 

After the last candle has been lighted, the person seated at the head of the table raises the first of four cups of wine—this one representing sanctification—and blesses it before partaking. The guests seated at the table recline, or lean to the left, to signify freedom. (In ancient times, only those people who enjoyed freedom reclined as they partook of a meal.) The leader of the Seder ceremonially washes his hands and then passes a vessel containing salted water around the table. The salt is indicative of the cries of the children of Israel while in captivity. Each person then dips a piece of parsley or lettuce, signifying a new beginning, into the water.

 

Three matzot are placed into a special bag designed with three separate compartments. (In the matzah prepared today, even centuries after the death of and resurrection of Christ, this symbolism—the piercings and stripes—remain as the picture of Jehovah’s perfect plan of salvation.) One matzah is broken, and half is wrapped in linen and hidden away. A whole matzah is placed in the first and second compartments, and in the third, the Afikomen, or part of the broken matzah. It is eaten at the conclusion of the meal as dessert.

 

The second cup of wine—representative of the plagues—is raised and blessed but not drunk at that moment. A child is selected to ask the age-old question with answers in four parts: “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

 

  1. On all other nights, we may eat chametz and matzah, but on this night only matzah.
  2. On all other nights, we eat any vegetables, but on this night, we eat maror [bitter herbs].
  3. On all other nights, we do not dip even once, but on this night twice.
  4. On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night, we all recline.

 

The meal begins with a hard-boiled egg. The story is told of a rabbi who was asked about the inclusion of an egg: “Because eggs symbolize the Jew,” the rabbi answered. “The more an egg is burned or boiled, the harder it gets.”

 

At the end of the meal, the Afikomen is removed from the pouch and consumed. It is symbolic of the Pascal Lamb. No other food is eaten for the remainder of the night. The third cup of wine—the cup of redemption—is then drunk. Those at the table sing the second part of the Hallel (a song of praise)—Psalms 115–118—after which the fourth cup of wine, the cup of praise, is consumed. It signifies the end of the Seder, after which point some families add, “Le-shanah ha-ba’ah bi-Yerushalayim,” or “Next year in Jerusalem.”

 

 

This phrase is also infused with hope for the coming of the Messiah. Author Sam Nadler wrote: “This cup calls us to praise God as we remember all that He has done for us. In remembering, let us also proclaim and rejoice in the true meaning of Passover. The head of the house sits opposite an empty seat traditionally left for Elijah the Prophet. Traditionally, Elijah is expected to arrive at Passover preceding and proclaiming the Coming One, that is, the Messiah Himself. 

 

This tradition is taken from the book of Malachi.

 

In Malachi 3:1, we read, ‘Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming’.”

 

Hebrew scholar Gilad Barach also offered this insight into this cry of hope: “Although Jews pray each day for their immediate redemption, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ signifies something more—their longing for the return of the holiday sacrifices. Yom Kippur and Passover are unique in the Jewish calendar because, more than any other holiday, their fundamental identities are inherently and integrally bound to the Temple service . . . . Though not despondent as we conclude this festive night, we admit that the highlight of the Seder night is missing in the Temple’s absence . . . . Next year, we will observe the day properly, in a rebuilt Jerusalem, with a rebuilt Temple and a reenacted sacrificial service.”

 

It is impossible to separate Judaism and Christianity. Judaism is the seed that falls onto the ground from which a tree grows. From the seed of Abraham and David came the Messiah, the One “sent” from the Father. Jesus was born to Mary, a Jewess from Nazareth. He closely identified with God’s Chosen People. He studied with them, walked among them, and ministered to His kinsmen, all the while preaching a universal message of His Father’s love and grace.

 

Thirty-three years after His miraculous birth, 1,500 years after the celebration of the very first Passover, Jesus had His disciples prepare a place to celebrate the symbolic meal on the night before His crucifixion. In Luke 22:15–16, we read: “Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’” This Passover meal was the fulcrum point of His earthly ministry, His last before being betrayed into the hands of the Sanhedrin and, ultimately, the Romans. Each Passover is a reminder to us that the Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world, and His blood is our salvation.    
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Yom Hashoah: A Day to Remember, A Day to Mourn

Yom Hashoah: A Day to Remember, A Day to Mourn

At sundown on May 5th, the nation of Israel will come to a halt.  Sirens will wail across the country.  People will stop driving, stop walking, and simply stand silently.  It is Yom HaShoah—the day when Israel renews the holy vow “Never Again.”  The demonic evil of anti-Semitism did not go away when the Holocaust ended…it is still alive and active in our world today.

And it must be confronted…

 The only reason Auschwitz continued in operation until very near the end of the war is that those who could have stopped it did nothing.  The United States refused to bomb the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz, with boxcars transporting innocent Jews to their deaths in the ovens there. Alan Dulles, a U.S. diplomat assigned to monitor Nazi intelligence furnished the U.S. government with a multitude of Nazi documents marked “top secret.” None of the approximately 300 documents provided specifically remarked on the killing of Jews, nor did any reveal the seriousness of Hitler’s “final solution.” Neither was there any indication that the railroad tracks to Auschwitz should be bombed.

Why did America and its allies look away?  The answer is anti-Semitism; as with a cancer, it mutates and takes on many forms. Today, anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. To understand this, one only need look at the #1 country on which the UN vents its spleen over human rights and promotes the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement: Israel.

Anti-Semitism is the reason the U.S. and Great Britain, and indeed, much of the world, closed their borders to Jewish refugees. A “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was implemented in the 1930s when the events in Germany were uncovered.

The British and the Americans combined dropped some 2.7 million tons of bombs on Germany. American planes were also used to drop supplies to Polish fighters. Such missions were commonplace during World War II. Perhaps it is not difficult, then, to understand why one of the most damning charges brought against Roosevelt and his administration was the failure to acquiesce to bombing the railroad lines that carried boxcars to Auschwitz. They were filled with Jews destined for the gas chambers inside its compound.

It was possible that by the spring of 1944 such an action would have been practicable, yet it was rejected with the official explanation that it would have taken necessary men and airplanes away from definitive operations in other areas. That was seen as a smokescreen, especially since the Allies had already marked for destruction industrial complexes near the death camp.  

Historians believe that had American bombers been sent to target the railroads, thousands of Jews from Hungary and Slovakia might have lived. Sadly, polls taken during the late 1930s and early 1940s revealed more than 50 percent of the U.S. public surveyed asserted that Jews were avaricious and unscrupulous. In response to U.S. refusal to aid Jews fleeing the Holocaust, Benjamin Netanyahu’s father Ben-Zion said, “The spirit of the Swastika hovers over the Stars and Stripes.”

The German company Ig Farben actually operated its own dedicated concentration camp!  As the Second World War erupted, the company was the leading manufacturer in operation in Europe and fourth on the list of worldwide corporations. An Ig Farben’s subsidiary distributed Zyklon B to Auschwitz. That was the poison gas utilized to kill over one million Jews in the gas chambers there.

Statistics reveal that more than one of six Jews slaughtered in Europe was slain in Auschwitz. Woefully, the life expectancy of the Jewish workers at Buna Werke was only three to four months. For those working in the mines, it was barely one month. Those deemed unfit to work at the facility were gassed.

Ig Farben’s massive factory near Auschwitz was built to exploit the workforce imprisoned there. That concentration camp was, from its inception, an Ig Farben undertaking. The plant supplied both synthetic rubber and liquid fuel.  It also manufactured synthetic, high-performance fuels including aviation gasoline, an extremely crude version of bunker oil for ships, plastic synthetic fibers, stabilizers, and pharmaceuticals.

Before the war, Germany had been forced to import 95 percent of its rubber, but due to Ig Farben, that number soon shrank to 7 percent. Ig Farben also ran the mines that provided two million tons of coal needed each year for both its factories. They were able to do this due to the more than two million inmates that passed through Auschwitz Camp #1 to meet Farben’s labor demands.

There are numerous questions surrounding Roosevelt and his refusal to at least allow the quota of 200,000 Jews to enter the U.S. Why were those places left unfilled? Why did the pleas of Jews trying to escape Hitler’s “final solution” fall on deaf ears? Why were those aboard the St. Louis denied entry into the U.S.? Why were the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz not bombed? Why did the U.S. not bomb the Ig Farben plants? Why? Why? Why?

The question is not historical.  The Western world, including America is once again failing to take action to defend Israel.  In fact, many are trying to tie Israel’s hands as it defends itself against the worst attack since the miracle rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948.  

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Courage & Faith in Action

Courage & Faith in Action

She was just an ordinary girl.  Esther had no famous or well-connected relatives.  In fact, she and her people were living as a minority in a foreign land where they had been taken by a conquering enemy army; yet, today her name is synonymous with faith and courage.  The short book that bears her name tells a story of divine deliverance—a message that is very much relevant to our day when once again a plot has been hatched in Persia to destroy the Jewish people.

Esther became queen of the Persian Empire without the king or anyone in authority knowing that she was Jewish.  This was on the wise advice of her guardian Mordecai, who instructed her to hide her ancestry for the sake of her future.  Not long after Esther became queen, an evil man in a high government position named Haman, motivated by his hatred of Mordecai (who refused to bow before Haman because he would only bow before God), devised a scheme to destroy the Jewish people.

Haman presented the king with a distorted picture of God’s Chosen People.  He falsely accused them of disobeying the laws of the Persian Empire and suggested that destroying them would promote order and stability throughout the realm.  To further sweeten the deal, Haman offered to pay a large sum of money to the royal treasury to cover the expenses of exterminating the Jewish people.  The king went along with the plan, setting a date for the destruction of the Jewish exiles living in the 127 provinces that made up his kingdom.

When Mordecai received this news, he began fasting in sackcloth and ashes, along with Jewish people throughout the Persian realm.  There seemed to be no hope for them, but God was at work behind the scenes.  Mordecai sent word to Esther that the time to reveal her heritage had come and that she should use her position as queen to plead for the Jewish people to be spared.

When she pointed out that entering the king’s presence without an invitation was a capital offense, Mordecai made his famous declaration that God had put Esther where she was “for such a time as this.”  Esther courageously went before the king, and God granted her favor in his eyes, and he spared her life.

Esther asked the king and Haman to come to a private meeting.  Then she asked them to return a second time, and finally revealed to the king the evil that he had unknowingly agreed to support.  The king’s wrath was kindled against Haman, and he ordered the evil plotter to be hung on the very gallows that Haman had constructed to have Mordecai executed on—and provided the Jewish people the opportunity for self defense.  The Jewish people were spared from destruction.  Even to this day, this wonderful miracle of deliverance is celebrated as the Feast of Purim.  Esther remains a wonderful example of what we can do when we fully rely on God.

As I read this story again recently, I was struck by something that doesn’t often receive a great deal of attention.  Esther did not face her moment of crisis alone.  Here was her response:  Spiritual battles are not meant to be fought alone.  Before Esther entered the king’s presence, risking her life to plead for her people, there was a massive campaign of prayer and fasting on her behalf.  The deliverance of Israel depended on the power of God, and the people of God sought His face and His help together.  That is a perfect description of the work of the Jerusalem Prayer Team. 

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Daniel’s Battle

Daniel’s Battle

Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands.  And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.  Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.  But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.” —Daniel 10:10-13

In the book of Daniel, we find the great prophet and man of faith praying and fasting and seeking answers from God about the visions he had been given regarding the future.  After three weeks, Daniel was visited by an angel who brought him the answer to his prayer.  But the angel also revealed to Daniel a spiritual battle that had been taken place in the unseen realm.

The angel said that the answer had been sent immediately, but it had been delayed because a demonic power that he referred to as the “prince of Persia” had blocked it from being delivered.  It was not until the archangel Michael, who is seen in Scripture as a great fighter for God’s people, arrived and helped win the battle that the angel with Daniel’s answer was able to come to the prophet and deliver it to him.

The Bible teaches that there are different levels of authority in the spirit realm.  Paul wrote, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. —Ephesians 6:12

One of the most important truths I have ever learned is that no battle can be won in the physical realm unless it has first been fought and won in the spiritual realm.  If Daniel had not been faithful to continue praying even though his answer was delayed, I do not believe that the spiritual battle would have been won.  We are not observers in spiritual warfare—we are on the frontlines of the battle.  Our prayers matter a great deal, and they are powerful.  The great hymn writer William Cowper said, “Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.”

We have a responsibility to be active participants in spiritual warfare.  We must take this seriously, because these spiritual powers—both demonic and angelic—are actively at work in our world today.  This is one of the vital lessons of this story from the book of Daniel.  Each of us is facing battles against differing levels or layers of authority in the spiritual realm.

This is not just true on an individual basis; it is true on a national level as well.  The demonic being referred to as “prince of Persia” had power and authority over one of the greatest empires of history.  And this is not an isolated or special case.  Other nations have demonic powers assigned to them.  After talking with Daniel, the angel revealed that there was another evil spirit involved. 

Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come.” —Daniel 10:20

This tells us that just as Persia had a demonic power working in authority over its empire, there was a “prince of Greece” as well.  And it was only after the demonic power behind the kingdom of Persia had been defeated by the archangel Michael that the Greeks, under Alexander the Great were able to defeat them on the field of battle.  Previous to that time the Greeks and Persians had fought a series of battles, but there was no decisive victory until the demonic power dynamic was first changed. 

This matters a great deal to us today because Persia—modern day Iran—is once again involved heavily in potential conflict with the nation of Israel.  We do not know whether the same “prince of Persia” that was active in Daniel’s day is the same one behind the rulers of Iran today, but there is no doubt that there is a demonic power behind the throne.  Satan has hated God’s Chosen People throughout all of human history, and his demonic powers have turned many governments against them.  From Pharaoh in Egypt to Hitler in Germany to Iran today, the same evil forces are at work to try to destroy the Jewish people.

The reality of spiritual warfare is that Israel cannot be defended just with tanks and planes and soldiers and intelligence services or any other weapons.  The Jewish state must first and most importantly be defended in prayer.  That is why the Jerusalem Prayer Team exists—to gather believers from around the world together to fight and win the most important spiritual battle of our lifetime. 

As Daniel did, we must be faithful to pray until the victory is won.  Only when the “prince of Persia” is defeated in the heavenlies will Israel have victory over the great threat posed against her today by Iran.  And that victory will not happen unless and until we do our part to win it.  That is why Operation Esther is so vitally important.   

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The United States is foolishly turning its back on Israel

The United States is foolishly turning its back on Israel

President Joe Biden is more focused on winning his election with the support of Israel-hating progressives and Muslims than Israel winning its 9/11 war on terror.

On April 1, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini proclaimed, “The first day of God’s government in Iran.” Few people know that Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution would have never succeeded without the help of a liberal American president who was hellbent on overthrowing the shah of Iran to install a cleric, all in the name of human rights.

I wrote a major book on this subject, Jimmy Carter: The Liberal Left and World Chaos, in 2009 after interviewing more than 100 primary leaders who were aware of the plot. I met with empress Farah Pahlavi in Georgetown at her home. She had read my book and told me it was 100% true.

She said that on New Year’s Eve 1977, when Carter visited with her and her husband and signed the guestbook, he told the shah, “You will release political prisoners [and] give freedom of the press and freedom of religion. If you don’t, I will not be giving you any replacement parts for your helicopters or your planes. I can do this under a new law that suspends foreign aid over human rights.”

The shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, said to the empress when he left, “If I do what he is asking, the Russians will invade Afghanistan. Iraq will attack Iran. There’ll be an Islamic revolution in Iran with Khomeini taking over the country. And who knows what horror will come upon the earth?”

Everything that the shah predicted came to pass.

I met with the late French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who told me that Carter called for a summit on the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean with him, West German chancellor Helmut Kohl Schmidt, and British prime minister James Callaghan. D’Estaing told me that it was there that Carter shared his plan to overthrow the shah and put Khomeini in power. He said Carter believed that because Khomeini was a cleric, he would be a Ghandi-like figure. He told Carter in French, “You’re a bastard of conscience. You betrayed an ally.”

Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) founder and former Mossad chief Isser Harel told me on September 23, 1980, at his home with a senior adviser to prime minister Menachem Begin, “When Ronald Reagan puts his hand on the Bible, the hostages will be released.” He also said, “The first terrorist attack would be in New York City and your tallest building, because America is developing a tolerance for terror.”

When Reagan put his hand on the Bible during his inauguration, my phone rang. It was Reuben Hecht, Begin’s senior adviser, saying, “Harel’s a prophet. It’s happening exactly as he told us.”

What I found out later was that Carter had used Cyrus Vance, the former US secretary of state, to negotiate through the Algerians to buy back hostages. The Iranians were holding back because they were using it to try to keep Carter from being reelected. On the morning of the inauguration at 4:21, Carter wire-transferred $7.9 billion from the Federal Reserve to the Bank of England to buy back the hostages.

The Biden administration is doing precisely the same thing as Carter foolishly did 44 years ago, putting enormous pressure on the State of Israel to agree to a ceasefire and not launch a military operation against Hamas in Rafah.

Israel’s crossroads with the Biden administration

THE PROBLEM is twofold if Israel agrees to the Biden administration’s demands. First, the war on terror against the Iranian proxy Hamas will be lost. Second, the hostages will die. A high-level credible source in Jerusalem told me during my recent visit to Israel that the majority of the Israeli hostages are in Rafah.

Instead of supporting Israel’s efforts to defeat terror and rescue the some 130 hostages, the US abstained in a UN Security Council vote on March 25 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza that was unanimously passed without the precondition of a release of hostages held by Hamas.

President Joe Biden is more focused on winning his election with the support of Israel-hating progressives and Muslims than Israel winning its 9/11 war on terror.

When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 22, the Israeli leader told him that he appreciated the Biden administration’s support for five months, but there is no way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah and eliminating the battalions to get the hostages back. “And I told him that I hope we will do it with the support of the US, but if we have to – we will do it alone,” the prime minister said.

Imagine the pain of Israelis who watched their loved ones being raped, burned alive, and beheaded, and seeing protesters screaming in the streets of America and on university campuses “From the river to the sea,” supporting Hamas on the university campuses and in the streets of America. The United States is foolishly turning its back on Israel.

Biden had better read God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “Bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Throughout history, those who have lifted their hands against Israel have been cursed by God. The last thing America needs is to lose God’s blessings.

By MIKE EVANS

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Persia Then and Now

Persia Then and Now

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.  I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.  Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are  with you.’” Ezekiel 38:1-6, NKJV

One of the greatest empires of ancient history, the Persian Empire, played a key role in the Old Testament story of God’s Chosen People.  A careful study of Scripture makes it clear that Persia (modern-day Iran) has a key role to play in future prophetic events as well.  To better understand what the Word of God teaches about these coming events, we first need to look at the storied past of this often victorious and powerful nation.

The beginnings of what would become the Persian Empire can be traced back in Iran hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.  Two major tribes that became known as the Medes and Persians grew to become powerful groups in their own right.  They were first under the control of the Assyrian Empire and later the Babylonians.  At first, the Medes were the dominant partners in the pair, but after a period of struggle, Cyrus the Great supplanted the Medes and established himself as ruler over all of Persia. 

It was the Persian army that was encamped around the famed city of Babylon the night that Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall of his palace as he celebrated a drunken feast.  Belshazzar made a fatal mistake when he called for the vessels of silver and gold that had been looted from the Temple in Jerusalem to be brought in for use in their celebration.  That very hour the judgment of Babylon was written on the wall.  It is no coincidence that the disrespect shown by Belshazzar to the God of the Jewish people was the final act that brought his reign to an end.

The prophet Daniel was called when none of the wise men of the kingdom could interpret what had been written.  He delivered the message that the words MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN meant that God had numbered and weighed Belshazzar and was about to judge him by taking his kingdom from him.  Just as Daniel foretold, the city was taken that very night by the invading Persian army.

Cyrus was very kindly disposed toward the Jewish people and issued the Edict of Restoration, which called for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.  This act was foretold by the prophet Isaiah more than 150 years before it happened, including naming Cyrus as the leader who would allow the Jews to return to their homeland.  Skeptics scoff at the notion that the prophet could have identified by name a future pagan king who would return God’s Chosen People to their ancient capital of Jerusalem, but it is yet one more indication that whatever the Word of God says will surely come to pass.  The God who knows all things has given us glimpses into the future, and when we rightly study the Word, we can learn the things He wishes for us to know to prepare for the future.

The Persian Empire expanded even more under Cyrus’ successors, the most famous of whom was Darius the Great.  (This is not the same Darius as the ruler named in Daniel 6 who was deceived into signing the decree that ended with Daniel being thrown into the den of lions, but a later king with the same name.)  Under Darius the reach of Persia stretched across from Europe and North Africa across the Middle East and into Asia.

As foretold by Daniel, the Persian Empire lasted until it was conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great some 300 years before the birth of Christ.  From that time forward, the land we know as Iran passed from one hand to the next.  Among the empires who ruled Iran were the Parthians and the Sassanids.  Not long after the foundation of Islam, Iran was invaded and conquered, and it became part of the Islamic Caliphate.

The Mongols under Genghis Khan conquered Iran as part of the westward expansion of his empire. The region was a major battle ground for centuries, until the establishment of the Safavid Dynasty some 1,500 years after the birth of Christ.  They settled the borders of what is now Iran and ruled into the 1700s when the Ottomans from the West and the Russians from the north took much of their land and held it until after the First World War.

In 1925, a military coup placed Reza Shah in power, and he and his son Mohammed Shah Pahlavi ruled the country for most of the next 50 years until the Iranian Revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.  This revolt, which was covertly and sometimes openly supported by many Western nations, including the United States under President Jimmy Carter, installed the radical Islamist regime that still holds power today as a bitter enemy of the nation of Israel.  This represented a radical change for Iran, which under the Shah had been very friendly toward the Jewish state.

This enmity is no surprise to students of prophecy.  In describing the participants who will take part in the great End-Time battle against the restored nation of Israel, Ezekiel lists Persia as one of the nations that will be drawn into the conflict in defiance of God and His Chosen People.  It is not hard to see the prophetic pieces being positioned when we read the news day after day. 

The leaders of Russia and Iran have had a series of recent meetings, and it is known that Russia has reaped billions of dollars in profits from the sale of nuclear and military technology to Iran.  These actions, taken in defiance of United Nations sanctions to prevent Iran from getting such advanced weaponry, are a clear indication that Russia is arming potential allies for a future war.  Iran has benefitted greatly from the technological know-how of Russian advisors and scientists during its current build-up.

No one knows the exact timing of the war to annihilate Israel foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, but we do know that it will certainly take place.  Those who oppose the Jewish state and wish to see the Jewish people destroyed have taken sides in the ancient enmity between Satan and God over the fate of His Chosen People, and their judgment for doing so is certain.

The Bible not only foretells this great battle, but it gives us the end result as well:

“And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.  Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 38:22-23).

Many people believe that the Bible foretells a nuclear strike against those who attempt to destroy Israel and the Holy City of Jerusalem.  For example, the prophet Zechariah described the results of the battle in terms that certainly match the effects of a nuclear blast:

“And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths” (Zechariah 14:12).

Whatever means are used to bring about their defeat, there is no doubt that the enemies of Israel, including Iran, will be destroyed for their attempt to touch the “apple of God’s eye”—the Jewish people.  This Bible prophecy is just as certain as the many that have already been fulfilled.  Though Iran certainly poses a grave threat to Israel, and its desire to see the Jewish state destroyed cannot be denied, ultimately Iran will fail in its evil purpose because God has declared that He will do battle to defend Israel and bring glory to His name.

 

Spirit Wars

 

“Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands.  And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.’ While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.  Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.  But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.’” Daniel 10:10-13

In the book of Daniel, we find the great prophet and man of faith praying and fasting and seeking answers from God about the visions he had been given regarding the future.  After three weeks Daniel was visited by an angel who brought him the answer to his prayer, but the angel also revealed to Daniel a spiritual battle that had been taking place in the unseen realm.

The angel said that the answer had been sent immediately, but it had been delayed because a demonic power that he referred to as the “prince of Persia” had blocked it from being delivered.  It was not until the archangel Michael, who is seen in Scripture as a great fighter for God’s people, arrived and helped win the battle that the angel with Daniel’s answer was able to come to the prophet and deliver it to him.

The Bible teaches that there are different levels of authority in the spirit realm.  Paul wrote,

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

One of the most important truths I have ever learned is that no battle can be won in the physical realm unless it has first been fought and won in the spiritual realm.  If Daniel had not been faithful to continue praying, even though his answer was delayed, I do not believe that the spiritual battle would have been won.  We are not observers in spiritual warfare; we are on the front lines of the battle.  Our prayers matter a great deal, and they are powerful.  The great hymn writer William Cowper said, “Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.”

We have a responsibility to be active participants in spiritual warfare.  We must take this seriously, because these spiritual powers—both demonic and angelic—are actively at work in our world today.  This is one of the vital lessons of this story from the book of Daniel.  Each of us is facing battles against differing levels or layers of authority in the spiritual realm.

This is not just true on an individual basis; it is true on a national level as well.  The demonic being referred to as “prince of Persia” had power and authority over one of the greatest empires of history.  This is not an isolated or special case.  Other nations have demonic powers assigned to them.  After talking with Daniel, the angel revealed that there was another evil spirit involved.  “Then he  said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come” (Daniel 10:20).

This tells us that just as Persia had a demonic power working in authority over its empire, there was a “prince of Greece” as well.  It was only after the demonic power behind the kingdom of Persia had been defeated by the archangel Michael that the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, were able to defeat them on the field of battle.  Previous to that time, the Greeks and Persians had fought a series of battles, but there was no decisive victory until the demonic power dynamic was changed. 

This matters a great deal to us today because Persia—modern-day Iran—is once again involved heavily in potential conflict with the nation of Israel.  We do not know whether the same “prince of Persia” that was active in Daniel’s day is the same one behind the rulers of Iran today, but there is no doubt that there is a demonic power behind the throne.  Satan has hated God’s Chosen People throughout all of human history, and his demonic powers have turned many governments against them.  From Pharaoh in Egypt to Hitler in Germany to the leaders of Iran today, the same evil forces are at work to try to destroy the Jewish people.

I personally confronted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top Iranian political and religious leaders in New York City a few years ago.  I can tell you without any question that the demonic power in these men is real.  I could feel its presence when I walked into the room with them.  I immediately began to pray in my spirit that the Spirit of God would bind those demonic forces and give me His power.  God is greater than any power of the enemy!

The reality of spiritual warfare is that Israel cannot be defended just with tanks and planes and soldiers and intelligence services or any other weapons.  The Jewish state must first and most importantly be defended in prayer.  That is why the Jerusalem Prayer Team exists—to gather Believers from around the world to fight and win the most important spiritual battle of our lifetime. 

As Daniel did, we must be faithful to pray until the victory is won.  Only when the “prince of Persia” is defeated in the heavenlies will Israel have victory over the great threat posed against her today by Iran, and that victory will not happen unless and until we do our part to win it.

 

Shia vs. Sunni

 

There is a deep theological divide within Islam that dates back to the days just after the death of Mohammed. The great majority of Muslims in the world today follow the traditional Sunni sect.  The more radical Shia trace their roots back to Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, who they believe should have succeeded Mohammed as the head the religion.  Shia is a shortened version of Shiat Ali, the party of Ali. 

Most Muslim countries today are dominated by Sunni Muslims.  The most notable exception is Iran.  There, the Shia have held sway since the Islamic revolution in 1979 that overthrew the Shah and placed Ayatollah Khomeini in power.  For the past 36 years, Iran’s leaders have been attempting to export their theology by sponsoring terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.

The Shia hold a particular end-times prophecy that closely mimics the Christian doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ.  They are watching for the 12th Imam (because of this, they are often referred to as “twelvers”) to return and place the entire world under Islamic sharia law.  They believe that this descendant of Mohammed will only be revealed after a bloody and violent war—all the more reason not to trust Iran with nuclear weapons.

 

A Friend Betrayed

 

In the 1970s, the Shah of Iran was a great friend of both the United States and Israel.  Under his leadership, Iran was rapidly becoming part of the modern world, but during the disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter, the U.S. turned its back on a friend and paved the way for a wave of Islamic terrorism like nothing the world had seen before in the modern age.

I had the privilege of interviewing Shahbanu Farah Diba some years ago.  She recounted in detail the many ways in which the U.S. government worked to undermine her husband, and how billions of dollars were poured into the coffers of Ayatollah Khomeini to use for his revolution.

The sad reality is that most of the terrorism we are fighting around the world today traces its roots to the Carter Administration’s decision to support the Islamic revolution that took over Iran in 1979.  The lessons of America’s betrayal and the fate of Iran in the 1970s are not lost on Israel today.  There is no guarantee that the United States will stand with Israel with either the Iranian nuclear program or a potential United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood.

 

A Speech to the Nation of Israel

 

When I addressed the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, I talked about the four different ways of waging war in the modern era: 1) economic war, 2) media war, 3) proxy war, and 4) boots on the ground.  Much of modern conflict is aimed at achieving victory before step four is ever reached.  Then I said this: “I don’t need to tell you about winning military wars.  Israel has won wars against overwhelming odds time and again.  You have all the tools to fight and win conventional wars.  What Israel needs is help fighting the spirit war that motivates these attacks.”

The truth is that while Israel’s military is amazingly well trained and equipped, and it has been proven again and again in battle, it cannot win the war.  America’s military might cannot win the war.  The war—the war that matters most—can only be fought and won by Believers who are willing to wrestle against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places.   

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The Jerusalem Prayer Team with Dr. Michael D. Evans exists to build Friends of Zion to guard defend and protect the Jewish people and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We pray for peace in Jerusalem because the Scriptures tell us to in Psalm 122:6. The Jerusalem Prayer Team was inspired from the 100-year long prayer meeting for the restoration of Israel held in the ten Boom family home in Haarlem, Holland. We are committed to encouraging others to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and God's Chosen People. Jerusalem Prayer Team members are also members of Churches United with Israel, Corrie Ten Boom House, Friends of Zion Heritage Center and Jerusalem World News. The Jerusalem Prayer Team mailing address is PO BOX 30000 Phoenix, AZ 85046 or you can call us at 1-888-966-8472. The Jerusalem Prayer Team is a dba of the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship. The Corrie ten Boom Fellowship is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is registered with the IRS, Fed Tax ID# 75-2671293. All donations to CTBF (less the value of any products or services received) are tax-deductible as allowed by law. Donations made to the Jerusalem Prayer Team are put to work immediately and are not refundable.