The Word:   On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud shofar blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the shofar grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (Exodus 19: 16-19)

The festival of Shavuot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole House where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. (Acts 2:1-3)

*      Pointers for prayer:  Although later than normal, Shavuot/Pentecost is almost upon us.  Please cry out to the LORD God that Israel would experience a mighty move of the power of the Ruach ha Kodesh throughout her Land over this period and beyond. (I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Ezekiel 37:14; I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:27). 

*      In Israel, Shavuot is both a practical, agricultural holiday celebrating the first harvest and a spiritual holiday remembering the giving of the Torah (Law) on Mount Sinai. It reminds us to be thankful for God’s Word and to delight in it. As the Word of God is read, it should bring joy, sweetness and happiness. This is why we eat sweet dairy things like cheesecake or blintzes (crepes or pancakes with a sweet cheese filling inside) on Shavuot. These foods help us remember that “honey and milk (God’s Word) are under your tongue” (Song of Solomon 4:11).  Often the news from Israel is full of troubles. Even so, may we all find the time to be thankful for all that God has done for both Israel and the church. 

Shavuot 2016 (part two)    As mentioned last week, and in the pointers to prayer above, Shavuot is just around the corner, which brings with it a good opportunity for those of us who stand with Israel to pray for the nation as a whole.   Shavuot originally commemorated the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the ‘Ten Commandments’ are read in synagogues, just as they were in the desert on Mount Sinai over 3,300 years ago.  As mentioned last week, it was at Shavuot that the Ruach ha Kodesh (the Holy Spirit) came down upon the Temple (known as the House – or the House of the LORD –Acts 2:2) in Jerusalem during the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–4) hence the church also celebrating Pentecost. 

In the above Scripture from Exodus 19: 16-19, we read that when the Torah was given there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud shofar blast. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the shofar grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. Wow… that’s one mighty encounter with the Creator of Heaven and Earth!   In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word ‘shofar’ first occurs in Exodus 19:16 during this occasion when the Torah was first given to Israel during Shavuot.  Can any of us fully appreciate what that encounter with God was like for Moses and the Israelis during those days, or for the early church in Acts 2? 

Shavuot is partly the celebration of God blessing Israel with His Word, the Torah.  As you might expect, I believe in God's Word, the Bible.  I believe the Word of God is everlasting, and I believe the Word (which includes the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures or Old[er] Testament, and the New Testament) is the definitive Word of God.  I also believe that if we have doubts over this, our very foundations are in danger of collapsing.  On top of this, I don’t believe for one moment that if God promises through an oath, one thing, that He could get it wrong and so change His mind.  God promises us everlasting life through the shedding of the blood of Yeshua (Jesus), and we (the church) declare He will never go back on His word. So on that evaluation - I would say His everlasting covenant to Israel regarding their Land promise is what it says - EVERLASTING.   For if it wasn’t, if God could change His mind about His promises to Israel, then what hope do we have about His promise to us as Christians? 

We are supposed to understand the times and seasons according to I Thessalonians 5, where Paul states “Therefore let us not sleep ...” etc.   God intends us to understand the signs of the times. As we monitor the events throughout the world, and especially within the Middle East, events in the world are now coming so in line with the prophetic scriptures, that clearly the climax of the age and the return of the Messiah can't be too far off, as is also the restoration (in fullness) of Israel (Zechariah 12 & 13).  It is within this framework that I believe we should expect great things at Shavuot.

As mentioned, this celebration is a festival of God blessing Israel with His Torah – His Word, and the events of Acts 2 must be understood in light of this. Because it was God’s intention to bring the Jewish New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34) to the Jewish people in a Jewish way, God made maximum use of the Jewish festivals to convey new truths in ways that emphasized their connection with old truths. Thus God promised through Jeremiah, "I will write my Torah on their hearts." This He does as He gives His Holy Spirit. The same One God gives both Torah and Spirit (which thus are in a sense - one) on the same one holiday, Shavuot/Pentecost, to the same one people, stretching through history from the fire on Mount Sinai to the tongues of fire at Jerusalem. Yes, we the Church should hunger for the power of the Holy Spirit and be activated by the power of this, but I also believe we need to be praying for the people God first revealed His word to. And so, for this very reason, it is my belief, that Satan wants to thwart God’s purposes, and this is what really lies behind today’s Middle East conflict. 

Throughout Shavuot, there is a Jewish practice of learning from the Scriptures all night. Although it may not have been Shavuot, we do read of an incident regarding this practice in Acts 20, where a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sank into a deep sleep... and as Sha'ul (Paul) kept on talking, the poor chap fell down from the third floor and died. Yet when Paul went down and prayed, the chap was brought back to life. And then what happened?  When he had gone back up and had broken bread, he kept on teaching them until daybreak!  In Judaism, this is actually a custom, rather than a commandment, but it is an expression of their desire to draw closer to God.  This, I believe is another area that we need to be praying into.  Imagine how the nation of Israel would be if there was another ‘Pentecost’ during these all-nighters! 

Today, the Nation of Israel is one of 'the' main nations of the world to be resourceful.  They created the computer, the mobile phones, much of the machinery in our hospitals… in fact, Israel’s creativity actually involves every area of everybody’s lives.  In essence, God is allowing the people of His nation Israel to make a mockery of those who oppose God’s people.  HOWEVER, Israel also needs the Power of God by His Holy Spirit to bring them into their rightful place before God. As it states in Zechariah 4:6 "It’s not by power, nor by strength, but by My Spirit say’s the LORD."  

In the book of Zechariah, we see that God wanted Zerubbabel to know that the Holy Spirit (Ruach ha Kodesh) would continually supply his need.  Just as the olive trees in the vision continually supplied oil to the lamps on the Menorah (Zechariah 4), God wants His supply and our reliance on the Holy Spirit to be continual.  Whatever the meaning is in this Scripture, this is for sure… whether it’s applicable to Israel as a nation rebirthed since 1948; or whether it’s applicable to the Church – we can do nothing without the Spirit of God within.  It’s not by might, nor by power! 

Although later than normal, Shavuot/Pentecost will start on Saturday, June 11 and ends in the evening of Monday, June 13. Please cry out to the LORD God that Israel would experience a mighty move of the power of the Ruach ha Kodesh throughout her Land over this period and beyond (see Ezekiel 37:14; Ezekiel 36:27).   Pray too that they would hear the blast of God’s Shofar call and pray that both Israel and the Church would desire a move of the Lord God in these days.

Celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem    In Israel last Sunday, the Jewish State celebrated what is known as ‘Jerusalem Day’ - the celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem during the miraculous Six Day War of 1967. As we all know, in any negotiations, Israel will be under tremendous pressure to give away parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority (PA), in the name of 'peace'.  We also know from what the Palestinian Authority publically state, that even if Israel gave half of Jerusalem away, there would be no peace, as Mahmoud Abbas (PA), nor Hamas, recognises Israel as a State.  Even so, this didn’t stop Israeli’s from celebrating ‘Jerusalem Day’, as thousands upon thousands of Israelis danced in Jerusalem, waved flags and sang songs to mark the 49th anniversary of the liberation of the city during the 1967 Six Days War.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “The idea of a divided, split, wounded city is one we will never return to. We will never abandon the Kotel [The Western Wall] and our ties to the Temple Mount will never be denied.”  He went on to state, “There was no peace for the three religions until Jerusalem was under Israeli sovereignty… Someone was always dispossessed. It is only when we watch over the city, under Israeli sovereignty, that there can be freedom for the three religions.”   According to the Jerusalem Post, 30,000 people flocked to the Old City for Jerusalem Day.  Many crowded onto King George Street in the mid-afternoon, to listen to speakers who reminded them about how paratroopers took back the city 49 years ago.  “We won’t bend to terrorism, we must fight for Jerusalem every day and not take it for granted,” intoned one speaker.

Most of the people came with songs about “Jerusalem of Gold” and “the eternal people do not fear a long journey.” As I listened to the news feeds on i24news and other Israeli channels, many were singing “Hatikvah” and “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people/nation of Israel live).  Gone were the racist chants of years past, and there were very few incidents of provocation from the Arabs living in Jerusalem.  However, as if to attempt to create violence and uprising, the Arab Palestinian Authority went on record to state that the Palestinians were the rightful owners of the land.  Once again promoting the great historical lie, Abbas’ advisor stated, “Jews are thieves who stole the land… we have been here for 5,000 years.” (See next article). To watch an exciting and uplifting historic short movie, highlighting the miraculous events of the Six Day War, and emphasizing the Divine hand orchestrating these remarkable events from behind the scenes click here:

Ignoring the golden rule     The Palestinian Media Watch once again did a great job of exposing more verbal nonsense from the Palestinian Authority by showing the evidence of what is being taught to the Arab people on their website and on YouTube.  In the video clip, which was taken from official PA TV, June 3, 2016, Mahmoud Abbas' advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habbash states, “They [the Jews] claim that there was a Temple here. Those are unfounded claims, myths, and rumours. However, the problem between us and them is not a problem of religious or historical narrative. The problem is that they are thieves. The problem is that they are thieves who stole the land, and who want to steal the history, but history cannot change and cannot be falsified. The facts bear witness to it. We have been here for the last 5,000 years, and have not left this land. We have not left this land. Our forefathers are the monotheist Canaanites and Jebusites. They are the ones who built Jerusalem, before Abraham was even here.” 

Now, a golden rule when speaking in public is that one should always check one’s facts.  But the Palestinian Authority, in their ridiculous attempts to pervert historical records regarding the fact that it is the Jewish people, NOT the Arab Palestinians that have been in the land for the past few thousand years, can’t even be bothered to check their own facts.  The classic error of Mahmoud Al-Habbash in his speech, apart from being historically wrong regarding the Jews and Israel, is when he declares “Our forefathers are the monotheist Canaanites and Jebusites…”  The definition of ‘Monotheism’ is of course the belief in one God – as in the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:4).  Polytheism on the other hand is the worship of or belief in multiple deities usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religions and rituals.

Now one does not need to be a professor of Middle Eastern history to know that the Canaanite religious beliefs were polytheistic, NOT monotheist with families typically focusing on Veneration of the dead in the form of household gods and goddesses, while acknowledging the existence of other deities such as Baal, Asherah and Astarte.   As for the Jebusites, these were a Canaanite tribe.  When God promised to give Abraham a land for his descendants, it was described as being inhabited by many tribes, including the Jebusites (Genesis 15:18–21).  According to the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, the Jebusites were descended from Noah’s son Ham, through his son Canaan. They were one of the Amorite tribes who were placed under judgment by God for their wickedness. God described their pagan worship as abominable practices (Deuteronomy 20:18), which may have included child sacrifice. As a result of that judgment, God told the Israelites to be rid of all of the Amorite tribes when they came into the land. The Israeli’s were also forbidden to intermarry with them, so the Jebusites would not pass on their pagan practices.

The second huge error in Mahmoud Al-Habbash’s speech is of course the fact that there never was an ancient Palestinian-Arab nation in what is today’s Israel. Arabs first arrived in the land of Israel/Judea with the Muslim invasion in 637 AD.  Arabs first identified themselves as "Palestinians" in the 20th century, after the creation of the State of Israel. Claiming a 5,000 year old Palestinian nation is total nonsense.  To view the speech by Mahmoud Al-Habbash, click here:

Syria unhappy about ‘enemy’ aid    Without doubt, the Syrian war’s death toll is absolutely staggering.  The start of the Syrian war, a conflict that began as a peaceful revolt, but gradually became a hideous bloodshed, continues on.  However, attempts to ascertain what has actually happened in half a decade of conflict and chaos is difficult due to the conflicting reports by both the Syrian government and the opposing rebel factions.  Five years into the brutal Syrian war, the exact death toll of the conflict is also unclear. At best, all we have are estimates.

Perhaps the most widely cited of those estimates come from the United Nations, who suggested that more than 250,000 people had been left dead by the war, however, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) could not offer a reliable figure for the death toll.  However, the figure given by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a group ran by Syrian activist Rami Abdulrahman from his home in Coventry, Britain (!) is much higher. SOHR has stated that the total number of people killed in the conflict is currently estimated at 370,000.  Whatever the number, any humanitarian help would surely be welcomed… well, actually it would depend it seems on who provides the help.

This week, the Syrian regime accused Israel of “supporting rebel factions fighting to topple President Bashar Assad”, the local council of Quenitra claimed.  They stated that Israel was supplying food aid to opposition-held areas in the southern governorate.  In a statement issued on Wednesday, Quneitra's local administration council said that it “strongly denounces the distribution of aid packages with Hebrew captions which were supplied by the Israeli enemy.”  Apparently Israel provides them with humanitarian aid, petrol and hospitalizes them in Israeli hospitals… and this is simply not acceptable according to the Syrian council.

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)  Tweet me @David_CFI

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, & Israel National Radio