Falling in Love with a Region (6)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 6    |    May 19, 2018)

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Gilead – good Heavens! The curves, the colors. Jordan turned out to be so much more than I expected. As we headed up north, crossed Aman and traveled through the mountains of Gilead, I fell in love. With the people, the view, the geography. It resembles the northern part of Israel, but so much more dramatic. And it is surprisingly green and flourishing. In many ways it felt like home.

Wild wheat fields everywhere reminded us the season we were at – the eve of Shavuot, Pentecost. And that modern Naomi is still trying to find her ancient path back.

Come Here, There Is Room For All Of You

Majd (alias), a 28 year old Moslim, who manages the hotel where we stayed, exemplified the true heart of loving hospitality.

When he found out I’m an Israeli Jew, he expressed his love with such gentle care. “I listen to the news,” he told me, “and I hear how often you fight over land there. Come here,” he exclaimed as he stretched out his hand through the open door, pointing towards the barren hills of Gilead, “there is enough room for all of us.”

When Majd found out about our journey through wheat fields, he wanted to show us the traditional methods of grinding and baking. Since we had no time left for that in our schedule, he brought me a large bag of freshly ground flour.

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Magd’s gift of flour made it all the way across the border and into Israel.
My usual sensitivity to gluten did not apply in Jordan.
I enjoyed their bread, made of wild wheat, without reacting to it 

Ruth Broke the Curse

On their way into the Promised Land, the Israelites planned to cross Moab, but were not allowed, which lengthened their wondering in the desert. As a result, God declared a punishment over Moab (modern Jordan):

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. Even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever, because they met you not with bread and with water in the way when you came forth out of Egypt…” (Deut. 23:3-4).

Majd had no idea that he was a “sign” of the braking of the curse pronounced over Jordan thousands of years ago. But we did. He welcomed us, me, with bread and fruit and a bonfire in the evening, and much tender care.

Ruth, in her tender care of Naomi, reversed that curse when she provided grain and bread to her mother in law. Majd was another confirmation of that.

Jordan On a Tray

Some of the local believers we met have gone straight into my heart. The simple, humble, warm attitude knocked on a door deep inside me, a door that longs for a family embrace. At one point, after opening one more bag of gifts (I was showered with gifts all along the way), I could not contain it anymore. The only thing I could do was cry.

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I felt like Jordan was given to me on a tray. “What am I supposed to do about it?” I wondered. I traveled to Jordan to find the ancient path for Naomi, for Mara, so she can heal from her bitterness and return to the House of Bread as a pleasant bride. And on the way I realized I am recruited to a task that have never crossed my mind before.

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“Orna, you are welcome to Jordan,” said the local couples who met us for lunch, and probably had no idea how deep every word of that common blessing went inside me.

Rima (alias) did not know much about the purpose of our journey and the mission God has given us. Thus, her impression of our first meeting served as one more confirmation for what was already taking place inside me. She later told Priscilla: “I felt that Orna would become a strong mother for Arab women. Many Arab women will come to her chest and will cry and she will cry with them. She may not have anything in her hands, but she will pray with them and love them… When they will cry with her, they will be healed. She is a very good mother for our nation.”

Her husband commented later: “I felt like she brought healing with her for our land and for the two nations. She is a woman of authority. She will make a breakthrough in the land because of what she is carrying in her spirit for both nations.”

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As the afternoon sun was moving towards the west, we said our goodbyes, wishing we had more time to get to know each other better. So we said our goodbyes, and hopped on the van, heading towards the site I was so looking forward to see: the Passage of Jabok.

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Looking Over From Mount Nebo (5)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 5    |    May 18, 2018, afternoon)

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Stunning! This was our first impression when we looked from Mount Nebo in the direction of Israel and started recalling the stories that took place in that region.

Moses died there, after he prepared the nation to cross the river into the land of promise. He also warned them to not play the harlot with foreign gods, or else, the very Angel who led them in a pillar of cloud and fire, would be hidden from them.

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A statue of copper snake on Mt. Nebo

Balak, king of Moab, was terrified by a possible invasion of the Israelites, so he hired Balaam to curse them (Num. 22). When that didn’t work, he introduced Israel to the worship of Baal (Num. 25).

The Results

1. The very thing Israel had been warned against – to not bow down to idols – happened right there. And so, the punishment of the Hidden Faces went into motion (Deut.
31:16-18).

2. A plague killed 24,000 Israelis that day (Num. 25:9).

3. Moab was cursed for ten generations, for hiring Balaam and for not welcoming Israel (Deut. 23:3-4).

It was quite powerful to stand where both the announcement of the judgment took place, and where the promise was given, and look from exile into the promised land. We found an isolated spot on one of the mountain tops, and started praying.

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From left to right: Rania, Hermana, Orna, Priscilla and Tian Jie

Rania started to pray and decree, “LORD, come and show your Faces again. We invite the Angel of the LORD back into the land.”

“Could it be,” she asked, “that God would want to reverse this verdict today, at the very location where this punishment was pronounced, by another Jewish person?”

We asked God to forgive us, since we turned the Angel of His Faces from being our Lover into our enemy (Isa. 63:9-11). We then asked Him to divorce Israel (and us) from the Baals that we had embraced – all the false husbands and masters that we have bowed to. We repented and divorced ourselves from them as well. I pleaded on behalf of Naomi, and my companions (my Ruths) did the same as they stood alongside me.

I tried to look into God’s eyes, but realized that I could not see His Faces. So I started declaring Numbers 6:24-27: “The LORD bless you and keep you. The LORD make His Faces shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The LORD lift up His Faces and give you peace.” 

As you listen to the prayer, look at the necklace I am wearing…

“LORD, just about the time you were to give us the gift of marriage to you, we embraced Baal, another husband. Forgive us for taking another yoke. We nursed on foreign breasts. We gave in to our curiosity for foreign gods and worship methods. Show me your Face.”

Hermana had brought a colorful necklace on the trip, thinking one of us would like to wear this decorative jewelry. But at that moment it seemed as if it would serve better as a symbol of what I was repenting of. Treating it as an item of harlotry, witchcraft and defilement, I cut it to pieces. We decided to burn the destroyed necklace, while proclaiming  our turning away from idolatry, false lovers and masters.

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Priscilla prayed: “I realize that the Lord has already taken care of this on the cross. But as an outward sign of agreement with the cross, of my love for the Lord, for Orna and her people and for my land (Jordan), I declare that the ancient earth, abused by those who worshiped other gods, would not continue to have a hold on the feet of the children of Israel. Be free – in the name of the Lord. Come away from false gods and follow your Messiah – the One who awaits you.”

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Priscilla anointed my feet while praying

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Speaking to the Heart of Moab and Amon

Modern Jordan lies in the region where a few Biblical kingdoms and nations resided: Edom, Moab, Amon, just to name a few.

When I opened my eyes again, I did not see the land of Israel or our wound. This time I saw Jordan. “I want to speak to that place in the heart of Jordan, where you feel like you do not belong, that you are not His, that you do not have a Father. I want to speak to the Moab and Amon in you. And to the older brother that gave up his birth right (Esau – Edom). I speak to you and open ancient doors, and say: you are welcome… be comforted and receive the mercy of the Lord.”

Up the Mountains to Medaba

After more prayer along these lines, we (especially I) were exhausted and emotionally spent at the end of the day. From sharing the heart of bitter Naomi with my Ruths… to weeping the dry tears of Israel and myself… to having China come alongside me. Then repenting on Mt. Nebo and renouncing the practices that brought about the provocation and estrangement from our God in the first place – that was pretty intense.

Our hostesses took us to a charming old Arab House restaurant, and treated us with some beautiful Jordanian crafts and traditional foods. 

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!We were ready to call it a day



Other Than That…

For more than 20 years I ran a publishing business. I have loved most of the projects I worked on, and I am still passionate about seeing great materials becoming available to the Hebrew reader. We are the People of the Book, and we love reading.

However, it is almost impossible to combine publishing with a full time ministry. So in past years I hardly took on any publishing project, unless they served the vision God had laid on my heart.

One of the projects I said yes to is the Narrated Bible (a combined effort of Maoz Israel and the Bible Society). Just wanted to share with you some of the things I do, that even if indirectly, sow into the restoration of our people.

Sitting on the advisory board and screening through the text
to make is accessible to the Hebrew reader 

A Womb, a Crib and the Dead Sea (4)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 4    |    May 17, 2018)

Zigzagging – this is what we did on our first day on the road. “Hebrewism” – as I started calling it, trying to start feeling comfortable with this word in my mouth. Crossing over the wounded rift again and again. South to north on the Israeli side, than north to south on the Jordanian side, all the way to our first stop at the dead sea.

May 17th turned out to be one of the hottest days I have experienced in our area! When we exited the van at our first overnight location, it felt like somebody had left an oven door open. A scorching desert wind was burning our eyes as we hurried into the hotel in the territory of ancient Moab.

A leaking refrigerator in one of our rooms required us to call maintenance. After a few strangely futile attempts to fix the simple problem, we gave up and went out for dinner. Later we found out that maintenance did show up, but not in order to fix the leak. The man left us a surprise in the room.

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Yes, a baby crib! 

He probably had the wrong room number, and most likely left another guest with an unnecessary fixed refrigerator and a much needed crib. But the crib confirmed what God has been already forming in our spirits: that He is about to birth something in or through us, and that He is preparing the necessary space for us to nurse and nurture it.

The next morning we escaped the heat by hiding in the hotel room, planning, praying, gleaning precious truths from the Word, still figuring out the details of our mission. And weeping…

Many of our prayers and conversations were recorded. Some of them are so profound and multi-layered. I can sum it up for you in a paragraph, but than it will not carry the same weight. This journey was not about bottom lines, but about a process. And the process is what I would like to take you through, especially if you have Israel and this region on your heart. Understanding what happened to us during that short week should impact your prayers on our behalf and your stand in the gap.

Excerpts From These Recording

Rania gently asked if Naomi (meaning Israel) fears approaching God directly, if she really still needs a Ruth to do that. If there is fear and lack of trust in our national being. After all, according to Naomi’s perception, God is the one who made her life bitter (Ruth 1:13, 20). All throughout the book of Ruth there is no direct communication between her and Boaz. It is always done through Ruth. Why? What was there in Naomi’s soul concerning God? Rania also asked how do I think our relationship with God (as a nation) can be restored.

I believe that such restoration can take place only with the assistance of all kinds of Ruths, who see us through the process. Israeli Jews are so used to one of two common dynamics with Gentile believers. They either love and pamper us because of our horrific history, even to the point of worshiping us for our glorious destiny; Or they compare our wounds to those we inflict on others (especially on the Palestinians), and expect us to take the lower path and constantly repent. Both dynamics are not serving God’s purpose. They only deepen the wounded rift and make it bleed even harder.

That morning, in the hotel room, I could see a third option for the first time. In the Biblical story, Ruth is accompanying Naomi through her progressive transformation. Her identity changes from a bereaved and bitter widow to a restored woman, who can nurse and nurture the next generation (Ruth 4:16). Ruth also shows her that men can be trusted, especially men in authority.

Priscilla then asked me to connect with my own journey (remember, this trip to Jordan was not just prophetic. It was also a peak of my own healing process [see I Will Tabernacle Inside You]. I paused to look inside my heart: how do I feel about crossing over into the unknown?

I found loneliness there, a familiar yet unpleasant feeling, that has been accompanying me for many years. It has already been touched by God in many ways, and through the years lost its sharp sting, but it was still there, especially in face of the unfamiliar. I wondered if Naomi also felt lonely on her way back from Moab. Yes, she had her companion, but in her brokenness, was she waiting for Ruth to also turn her back on her? She was used to it. They all left her one way or another, right? Yes, Ruth made a fabulous declaration of faithfulness, but Naomi was still testing her. Ruth is the one who promised to cleave to Naomi. Naomi, on the other hand, made no promises.

I was crossing over back and forth, north to south and south to north inside my soul, looking for cross points where my heart echoes with the heart of my widowed nation. The team listened, enabling me to reach deep, into places I could not see and touch without trustworthy listeners around me. There were moments I knew I was talking only about myself, but there were moments when my identification with Israel was so deep, that I could feel its heart beat. The girls asked for the details of the wound, in order to understand it better and take it to the next level.

What Do You Need From Us?

“What do you need from us in order to go deeper?” Priscilla asked.

“I need to know that my companions will be there even when the wound is in the open”, I shared what was in my heart. Even though our relationship as a team only started, I had a lot of trust in all four of these Ruths. I had no idea what I will find deep inside once we go back into prayer, but I wanted to touch that “something”.

Tian Jie was weeping quietly, at first. Then it turned into a bitter, deep, painful travail. I tried to connect in my spirit, but felt so dry. As a nation, I thought, our tears of true repentance have dried up. Hermana reminded Jeremiah’s cry about the absence of Balm in Gilead – the absence of the Tears, Flesh and Blood the Messiah offered us for healing (Jer. 8:22). The prophet does this just before he summons women to wail skillfully over Zion, in order to help her start reproducing tears again. Apparently, this was necessary since the Nation’s source had dried up  (9:17-18).

I listened to Tian Jie’s travail, allowing the Spirit to move. Only as I write it I realize she was doing exactly that: wailing skillfully to arouse something dry within me. She was doing what I saw before the journey started – the wounded rift will be watered by tears coming from the north. O, dear China, you have a bounty of them.

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Israel cries, and a lot. Hard and loud at times, but this is not yet the bitter grief described by Zecariah – a cry birthed by a spirit of grace and supplication (Zec. 12:10). Once we will be able to weep that way, our mourning will be over.

I wondered why is it that I myself cannot cry a bitter cry. “Because it is too intimate”, I realized. It involves opening our deepest wound, being extremely vulnerable, and we / I don’t trust Him enough to do that. What if He will use it to break our heart again?

That is why we need the nations, including the Arab Ruths. We need them to push through for us. To show us that one can cry bitterly before Him and come out alive, restored, healthier.

Our national attitude towards grief is typical to the one of a bereaved woman, not the one of a Bride who can lean on her Beloved’s chest and draw from His bank of strength. We are not sure if He will be there to dry our tears and ease our pain. We have not seen His compassionate Face for so long, so we no longer approach Him as a Husband or as the Lover of our soul. That part of Him needs to be re-birthed in us.

Rania then mentioned that Israel is the one who divorced herself from God when she married the Baal. But God is still working towards the restoration of that marriage, until His Faces can shine again over the nation.

Hitting The Road Again

Late in the afternoon we finally left the hotel and drove to Mount Nebo. Summing up the riches and depths God had taken us into that morning, there were four major points we felt led to address on the mountain:

1. We wanted to see the Promised Land from its peak, just like Moses did. We wanted to have his eyes, as he says his final words to the nation.

2. This is where Moses warned the nation from the severe punishment of Hidden Faces (Deut. 31:16-18). We wanted to pray into it and make some declarations.

3. After Balaam’s failed attempt to curse Israel, he introduced them to the Baal worship. This happens immediately after God’s clear warning mentioned above. The proclaimed punishment was getting into motion as the true identity of the Angel of God was about to be hidden from our nation for centuries.

4. Moab was cursed there for not welcoming the children of Israel (Deut. 23:4). Ruth, as a Moabite, broke into that curse when she chose to embrace the God, the people and the destiny of Israel. We knew there must be a way out, a path of redemption, for all Moabites who would make the same choice.

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The sight from Nebo is breathtaking. Standing on its peak you
can see many parts of Israel, even when visibility is not that good

We found a spot away from tourists, that overlooks the rift, and allowed the soil, the view, the history it carries, to sink into our souls and spirits and connect with what God wanted us to carry there.

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Other Than That…

The youth activity of “Streams in the Desert”, which I shared about [see You Look Like a Ruth] was an intense and touching experience.

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Before the camp even started, God kept speaking about entering the Land and eating its fruit. Only after it started, did it occur to us that for the first time, many of the leaders grew up in this ministry. And now they are coaching others, showing them how their own brokenness had turned into a beautiful service. We were all so pleased.

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Sudanese refugees with one of their leaders

These Sudanese refugees did not allow us to touch them last year, or separate them one from another. Life as refugees taught them they must watch eachother’s back at all times, especially at night. This year they came trusting, able to enjoy, mingle with others and receive.

They approached me after I taught forgiveness, and were so thankful. I could tell that at least some of them embraced the message and started using this weapon.

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“Young Life” assists “Streams in the Desert” with fun and sports activities.
This year they brought rappeling equipment,
which encouraged many of these precious kids to face some of their fears and insecurities and leave with a sense of achievement

Hearts were softened, kids surrendered to God, the Holy Spirit was welcomed and worked gently and powerfully in many hearts. We were saturated and deeply satisfied.