Watching over Zion - August 24th 2017

The Word:  Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? …He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2: 1-6)

I will stand at my watch-post; I will station myself on the rampart. I will look to see what God will say through me and what I will answer when I am reproved… (Habakkuk 2:1-3)

*   Pointers for prayer:  How many times have we used the above Scriptures?  Yet oh that the nation of Israel, along with the true church would sit up and take on board these awesome words from the Word of God.  Many times throughout history the nations have raged, and the people still plot a vain thing.  They try to oppose the Lord God Himself by opposing His people.  The enemy mocks, lies and plots to oppose the Lord, along with Israel and the Jewish people – and even against the church, so let us stand at our watch-post; let us pray, and having prayed, let us take action. As you read through this week’s report please pray in line with the Word of God over these issues. 

*   Please pray for the Christian Friends of Israel UK Tour (details below) and the annual CFI conference due to take place on Saturday 22nd & 23rd September at Victoria Baptist Church, Eastbourne. Pray for travelling mercies and a good response by all attending.

*   As mentioned in my last report, having returned from the New Wine 2017 festival, many people of various ages were reached through our Twitter and Facebook feeds, along with our YouTube page. Later in this report I’ll go into the statistics, but do continue to pray that we will be led by the Lord in new ways and that He will enable us to use Social Media in even greater ways for His nation and people Israel; for this ministry, and ultimately, for His glory. 

The nations rage, but let’s stand firm at our watch.   Twelve months ago, I wrote an article regarding the then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who at the time stated that if he was not elected America’s next president, it would spell doom for Israel.   At the time Trump warned, “The Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama Administration “is going to destroy Israel — unless I get elected. This was stated on Trump’s campaign trail in Cleveland, USA.  At the time, the majority of Israelis still had fond memories of Bill Clinton, and therefore supported Hillary Clinton, but many also feared the democratic candidate would push Israel to make dangerous concessions to her enemies. There was certainly little hope that had Hillary Clinton become President, she’d get along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  But how do Israelis feel now?  Trump has made many promises to Israel, including moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital Jerusalem, yet this among many other promises remain unfulfilled.

Then there is all the discord and violence in America with white ultra-right-wing, neo-Nazi groups, and there is still huge opposition to Trump.  We still have Iran quietly smouldering like a potential giant volcano, and of course, we have North Korea!  But are we not missing something here?  I realise God often uses the most unlikely candidates to achieve His purposes, but 12 months ago, the then Republican presidential candidate, who has since become US President, Donald Trump, appeared to be emotionally blackmailing the potential Jewish American vote by stating that "if he was not elected America’s president, it would spell doom for Israel."  So, 12 months on, how do we perceive the situation?

Regarding Iran – they certainly appear to be getting prepared for some kind of war.  Sources state that Iran has been scrutinizing both America and Israel’s military movements.  Without doubt, Iran are stock-piling their weapons.  In a report from the Mehr News Agency, they state that the reasons for this is “to fight terrorism”.  But who does Iran deem as terrorists? America? Certainly Israel has been described as a ‘terrorist nation’ by Iran.  Just ten days ago, the Iranian government allocated $307 million to the Quds Force, a Special Forces unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards responsible for their extraterritorial operations, to allegedly “fight against terrorism.”  Iran also approved a plan requiring the Ministry of Defence and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force, in coordination with the General Staff of the Armed Forces to provide the executive plan for improving the country's defence capability and deterrence in the missile area along with their recommendations for the equipment and necessities.  Now one might argue that Iran is just doing what most nations’ armed forces are doing in defending their own country.  However we must also remember that unlike Israel, Iran is not a democracy and is viewed as a huge threat to world peace – specifically in the Middle East.

And then of course, there is another very dangerous non-democratic nation – North Korea.  You will have seen their frequent testing of potential nuclear rockets on national news channels, so I don’t need to go into much detail here.  You will have also heard the threats of both President Trump to North Korea, and the equally threatening retaliation from North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.  One week ago, it appeared that Kim Jong Un had backed away from a threat to fire missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam, opting instead to wait and see what the "foolish Yankees" - as Kim Jong Un described them - would do next.  State media KCNA said Kim had reviewed a previously announced plan to fire four missiles on a trajectory over western Japan, but had decided not to go ahead with the proposal for now.  The comments came after US Secretary of Defence James Mattis warned that if North Korea fired on US territory it would be "game on."

However, on Tuesday this week, a UK national newspaper published a report quoting a US official stating North Korea’s missile programme poses a threat to the “entire world”.  The article in The Express stated, “As North Korea and the US moved closer to all-out war today, Washington warned the hermit state Donald Trump is considering all of his options. US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said today a non-violent conclusion “still remains an option” but only if North Korea reels in its sabre-rattling rhetoric. And he said the chaos on the peninsula puts the “entire world” in danger, not just the United States.”  So according to US disarmament Ambassador Wood, North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes pose grave threats to the entire world.  So now let’s bring in the “moderate” politician, as the world’s media describes him, and see what the Palestinian Authorities Mahmoud Abbas has to say on the whole issue.

On Tuesday, Abbas made no secret of his affinity for the North Korean regime in Pyongyang by issuing a statement congratulating Kim Jong Un on the occasion of North Korea's "Liberation Day."  The holiday marks the fall of North Korea to what is today one of the most repressive regimes on planet earth.  Mahmoud Abbas stated, “The North Korean people offered the most precious sacrifices for their freedom and dignity,” stated Abbas, ignoring the enormous suffering and oppression of the citizens of North Korea.  Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett stated that he was not surprised by Abbas' position, noting that it’s not the first time the Palestinian leadership has aligned itself with history's most villainous regimes.  In a tweet on Twitter, Bennett stated, “First Hitler, then S. Hussein, now Kim Jong-un. If you want to take a moral stand, check who the Palestinians support and do the opposite.”

So, should Israel be worried by North Korea?  Should they be worried by Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority?  Should they be worried by Iran?  And since being voted US President, should Israel be relying upon Donald Trump? Should they take his promises seriously?   It would be too easy to suggest that they dismissed all these threats and simply studied what the Hebrew Scriptures states.  However, without doubt, the people and nation do need to put their trust in the Word of God, and trust in the Lord God of Israel for their protection.  After all, Psalm 2 does declare, "Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? God terrifies them in his wrath, He rebukes them in his anger and The LORD scoffs at them. The One enthroned in heaven laughs...”! 

The Scriptures at the top of this report states, “I will climb my watchtower,” or as the Kings James Bible puts it in Habakkuk 2:1, "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch..."  This was the conclusion of Habakkuk after asking questions of the most painful and distressing kind.  Here is a lesson for all of us who read with interest news items relating to the Middle East and who intercede for Israel.  A strong-headed man like Habakkuk, whose very name suggests "strong embrace of God", has his questions.  He is puzzled and perplexed by the whole play of things ~ the tragedy he sees seems to have no beginnings, no key, no meaning, and no end.  Standing in the gap, supporting, watching and praying for Israel can be painful and distressing.  Habakkuk therefore puts his question to God and asks, "Art thou not from everlasting?" He wrestles with many questions of why his people are suffering, and why does the enemy triumph.  These are questions I’ve asked God over the past few years.  Eventually, Habakkuk and his questions, come to an end. Habakkuk makes up his mind to stop questioning and even stop complaining… and gets on with the task of trusting in God and states, "I will stand, I will watch, I will wait." He will stand as a servant, making sure no breach is made while others sleep. 

I remember reading a profound African Proverb a few years ago that has remained with me.  It states, “The lion does not turn around when a small dog barks.”  We must not get distracted by the threats of these world leaders, nor the critics, or the bumps in the road and temporary setbacks, or by things that we don’t understand or don’t have any control over.  And Israel must not get distracted by the threats and demands of the PLO in their demands for yet another Islamic state, or attempts to rob Israel of their capital - Jerusalem.  Hassan Rouhani (Iran), Kim Jong Un (North Korea) and Mahmoud Abbas (PLO) might bark loud; Those who oppose Israel like the BDS campaigners and even the Jeremy Corbyn’s of this world might bark loud too. But Israel has the Lion of Judah within.  And His roar will deal with those who mock His Word.

So how do we stand as servants and look out for any breach?  Habakkuk would sit through the darkness and watch.  This is where I believe we need to be.  We need to be men and women of God without compromise but with servant hearts.  When the world demands an answer, they should be challenged by the answer we give and not appeased.  When the Church demands an answer regarding Israel, they should be challenged by the answer and again not appeased.  As we continue to stand with Israel ~ keeping watch and serving the Jewish nation, we may not be welcomed by many.  We will even be hated by some, yet we must stand with Israel as the true and faithful people that God has called us to be. 

Anti-Semitism – still a huge problem   According to Israel’s Channel 2 news and the Jerusalem Post, anti-Semitism is alive and kicking in many European countries.  However, a hotel in the Swiss tourist town of Arosa made a shocking declaration towards its Jewish guests.  Upon arrival, an Israeli family told Channel 2 News that they encountered several signs they considered anti-Semitic.  The discovered signs stating, “To our Jewish Guests: Please take a shower before you go swimming and after swimming. If you break the rules, I'm forced to close the swimming pool for you. Thank you for understanding: Ruth Thomann.”   Another sign said, “To our Jewish guests: You are allowed to approach the fridge between the hours: 10.00-11.00 in the morning and 16.30-17.30 in the evening. I hope you understand that our team does not like to be disturbed every time.”  In an interview with Channel 2 News, the father of the family said, “No one addressed her because we didn't want to start a confrontation.”  He noted that there were several Jewish guests staying at the hotel, mostly from the UK, US and Belgium. 

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the signs an "ugly display of anti-Semitism." She issued a statement saying she had spoken to the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland, who told her that the signs have now been taken down, but that she requested that the envoy demand a formal condemnation by the Swiss government.  "Unfortunately, anti-Semitism in Europe is still a reality, and we must make sure that the punishment for incidents such as these will serve as deterrents for those who still harbour the germ of anti-Semitism," she said.  However, it’s not just Europe where anti-Semitisms black cloud still hangs menacingly.  In American, pop star Billy Joel, who is Jewish, went to great lengths to wear a yellow Star of David during his concert at Madison Square Garden in New York on Monday evening, in protest at the rise in American anti-Semitism.  While some welcomed this gesture, others criticized Joel for politicizing anti-Semitism.  A screen Joel put up at his concert flashed pictures of fired White House staffers Stephen Bannon, Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci to the despair of those who argued that none of these individuals are anti-Semitic, and pointed out that Scaramucci’s two children by his second wife are Jewish. 

Good stats on Social Media   Following my report two weeks ago on New Wine, I thought I’d let you have some encouraging news relating to the value of Social Media at the recent New Wine Festival.  As I reported previously, the CFI team concentrated some time on social media interaction with the delegates and through CFI’s feeds.  Visitors had their photos taken with a Twitter Frame (see photo).  The engagement with this type of media is important for us to reach new and potential supporters.  

According to the statics, we had 18,800 impressions, which actually mean that through interaction on Twitter our pictures and comments reached 18,800 viewings over one week. That means that over 2000 people per day were reached, as well as 48 retweets and 79 likes.  Many, probably more than you think of the CFI supporters, were using Facebook and Twitter and we also showed them the new promotional film for social media We are CFI  to share with their churches and friends. We received great reactions and comments from enthusiastic delegates new to the relevance of Israel, and many stated that it gave a completely difference perspective of Israel than they recognised from the western media shows.  I personally thought these comments and statistics were most encouraging.  All being well, we will be using the ‘Twitter Frame’ at this year’s CFI conference and see if we can’t get more interaction going.

A Season to Shine on Jerusalem    Prayers and support would be really appreciated for the upcoming UK Tour of the CFI Jerusalem Directors, Stacey & Kevin Howard as we tour and speak in many areas of the UK.  Stacey Howard is the International and Executive Director of Christian Friends of Israel – Jerusalem.  Having raised 3 children over 20 years of marriage, and laying down her own bookkeeping company, Stacey and her husband Kevin entered back into study at Christ for the Nations in Dallas Texas, where they completed degrees in Theology and receiving their ordination in 2007.  While always connected to the nation of Israel through biblical study as well as through her parents Ray and Sharon Sanders, co-founders of CFI – Jerusalem, God had now laid the calling of Israel upon her directly.  Often times, following a calling can be costly. Stacey and Kevin left behind their careers, home and family to move to Jerusalem to begin the journey that God had prepared for them.  Kevin Howard is also an ordained minister and graduate of Christ for the Nations.  Kevin left a 25-year career in broadcast television production to follow the call of God on their lives.  Kevin is the Director of Technology for Christian Friends of Israel Jerusalem with oversight of its Radio and TV programming, IT Development, Social Media, Graphics production and so much more.  Stacey and Kevin have spoken worldwide, teaching the church of its responsibility to Israel and the Jewish people.   Come and hear Stacey and Kevin on the following UK dates, speaking on just how this ministry in Israel is seen as ‘salt and light’ and why they feel today is a ‘season to shine on Jerusalem’.  

Friday 15th September: St Hugh’s Church Hall, Emerald Road, Luton, LU4 0ND. 7:00pm.                 Saturday 16th September: Hasbury Methodist Church, Hasbury, Halesowen, B63 4SL. 7:30 pm.        Sunday 17th September:  Dewsbury Revival Centre, West Park Street, Dewsbury, WF13 4LA. 6:30pm.  Tuesday 19th September: New Life Family Centre, Low Grange Avenue, Billingham, Stockton on Tees, TS23 3DP. 7:30 pm                                                                                                                             Wednesday 20th September: National Christian Outreach Centre, Riggs Road, Perth, PH1 1PR. Scotland.  (Doors open 6:30pm – meeting starting 7:15pm).                                                                                       Friday 22nd September & Saturday 23rd September: CFI Annual Conference, Victoria Baptist Church, Eastbourne, BN21 1UE.  Details: https://www.cfi.org.uk/events.php                                                                                                                           Sunday 24th September: New Life Church, High Street, Old Woking, Surrey GU22 9BX. 10:00am.             Monday 25th September: West End Christian Action Centre, West End, Eastleigh SO30 3HN. 7:30pm.          Tuesday 26th September: The Vine, Mill Farm, Stanford in the Vale, Faringdon SN7 8NP. 7pm.            Wednesday 27th September: River of Life Church, Hartcliffe, Bristol, BS13 0PT. 7:30pm.

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, The Jerusalem Post, i24news.tv/en/ 

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