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Where Were You That Morning, Sarah? (8)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 8    |    May 20, 2018, morning)

How can I express the depth and density of what God had taken us into that morning? We decided to extend our stay in Jordan for one more day, as we all felt the purpose of our coming had not yet been completed.

Chinese Song and Travail 

It started early that morning, with a deep and painful travail that Tian Jie was going through. The day before she heard for the first time of the pain the Arab people carry concerning the re-establishment of Israel. In the middle of the night God started showing her both sides and she started weeping. Her agony was so deep, that at a certain point she locked herself in the bathroom in order to not wake up her room mates. Around that same time, Rania dreamed about Tian Jie, who could not connect with her own son. There was some conflict between them, and Tian Jie could not find the way into his heart.

As our day progressed, these two events became our backdrop in prayer. I write this post with the outcome in mind, rather than describing what was spoken and prayed – line by line or in chronological order.

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Tian Jie, enjoying the wheat fields a few days earlier
(as not many pictures were taken on that intense morning)

During breakfast, while allowing the expansive valleys and curved hills outside the porch to enlarge our hearts, Tian Jie all of a sudden hushed us. She ran to one corner and tried to listen carefully.

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The gorgeous curves and hills of Gilead

“It’s a Chinese song,” she whispered and pointed to a spot in the horizon, “a very famous one.” Yes, there was obviously something in Chinese down there in the valley. We were lodging in a country side, with no building around us for miles. Where did the song come from? Who speaks Chinese in rural Jordan?

The song is about two lovers who conceived out of wedlock. The lad’s mother, a wealthy lady, did not want that simple girl to partake in the family’s rich inheritance. So she kidnapped the baby and made her son marry someone else. The biological mother looked for her baby for years. Eventually her longing turned into insanity. When the baby boy grew up, he studied medicine. One day, in one of the hospitals he worked at, he recognized his biological mom. She did not. He tried to break into her delusion but did not succeed – until he started singing a song they had sung together when he was about 4 years old: “a Mama is the best thing in the world, a child who has his mom is so treasured, sheltered in his mother’s arms, what an abundance of joy.”

It worked. The mother gradually snapped out of the land of illusion, where she had lived for decades, into reality. The voice of her own son, crying for her bosom, had brought about her healing.

Which Child Is Looking For His Mama?

Surprisingly, the song matched Rania’s dream. It was easy to see the strands of a tapestry that were being woven before our eyes. In light of the identity shift that had taken place the night before at the Jabok river, we knew that God was talking about a lost child, who was crying for his mama, and about a mother who had lost her right mind. A mother who was bereaved and grief-stricken for decades, and who will be healed when she hears the voice of her lost child and realizes how much he needed her.

We left the breakfast table, huddled into one of the cabins and started praying. Gradually God’s thoughts unfolded before us, until we hit a major root – maybe even the root – that the wound consists of.

Putting all these insights together, we realized that the spiritual and mental aspect of the Jordan rift-wound was birthed through rejection and partiality. Ishmael was rejected by Sarah, by Abraham and even by God (Gen. 21:12; Mal. 1:2-3). Good heavens, how devastating must that be! Add to that the rejection of Esau’s right as the first born, Rebekah’s preferring of Jacob and Isaac favoring Esau.

Back To The Chinese Boy

The story of the Chinese child opened a well within me. It connected in my spirit with Ishmael’s abandonment to to the merciless desert (Gen. 21:14-16). Tears started flooding, as for the first time I thought of young Ishmael, rejected by the adults he must have looked up to. It pierced my heart.

Expulsion of Ishmael and His Mother - Gustave Doré - Wikimedia Commons

“The expulsion of Ishmael and his mother” by Gustave Dore

Yes, I know that Ishmael had become a threat to the promise, and was probably bullying Isaac (Gen. 21:9-10), but at that moment I was just a mama. “Why send him to the desert alone?” I agonized. “Why didn’t Sarah and Abraham send a servant with them, some camels, a donkey, and more food? Why did they send them to their death?”

“There Was No Room For Us At The Table”

Priscilla grew up in a Jordanian family, and from a young age was taught to love and bless Israel. Connecting that morning with the pain that the Arabs carry towards the Jewish nation was not easy for her, but it hit her powerfully, as she realized how much anger and enmity the Arab nations carry in their core identity.

“There is no place for us in the house,” Priscilla echoed the mindset of her own people. She shared with raw and deep pain how they never felt wanted: “Only now, that you need us, you remember to invite us?”

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In that moment, it was as if the magnet of God’s heart had drawn us together with a force field we could no longer resist. We embraced, and clung to each other for dear life. We all continued to pray – but more than talking to God through that prayer, we were searching for the source of water that could quench an ancient thirst.

A Mangled Trunk

I saw Israel as a tree trunk that had cut out some of its branches, unaware that it was wounding itself. “As a mother,” I prayed, “I want to open the scar so that each branch can find its place again. It should not be a mangled tree, but a nurtured and nourished one.”

“For so long we have not been allowed there,” Priscilla wept. “Now you are asking us to come in. Earlier, there was enmity. I could feel it so strong. But now… there is a mother tone in you. One that has been fine tuned by the Lord. The sound of your heart cry went deep into a place in my spirit and soul that has never been comforted before. But today it has been. You are a mom, Orna.”

“I’m so sorry that it was not offered earlier, Priscilla,” I responded, and tried to explain: “Our bosom was a place of jealousy, enmity, insanity. It was either you or us. Father, create a bosom of safety and unity. Welcome, Jordan. Welcome, children of Ishmael and Esau, welcome to the table. Not as wood choppers or water cleaners, but as lost children.”

It was a sobering moment to realize that the descendants of Ishmael and Esau, even of Lot, wanted to be welcomed and desired. Not because we needed them, but because we missed them! Not just for the sake of our own sanity, but because they have a part in the Kingdom.

“Forgive us, Father, for all the children we had sent to the desert,” I begged. “We did not give Hagar enough water and bread, and she had to watch her son die. Forgive us for not wanting to bless them, Lord, and for driving them into madness.”

Israel needs the milk and the balsam of the nations in order to be restored. The nations need the sap, the vitamins and minerals that are restored in the soil of this specific land. These essentials can only get to the nations through the trunk. And the trunk cannot produce it on its own or outside the Land of promise. Only here it can absorb and drink all the needed ingredients, and then feed the nations who attach themselves to it. When a nation opposes the connection of the Jews to their Land, it cuts itself off from the very life it needs. Without the land we are a rootless trunk, an insane creature. In the land our sanity is restored, our roots go deep and the branches who choose to join us are well fed.

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“Israel, open your arms”

“I open what is blocked, wounded and hollow,” I declared, “in that ancient, dry wrinkled up tree. Open up your bosom! Open your arms and reach out to those who you have perceived as your enemies. Old tree, look up and set your face to the Son. Drink from the soil of promise, and get all the light, water and minerals you need. Arabs, Jordanians, the Far East and the Far West – come and together let’s create something glorious. Otherwise we are but a pathetic trunk and you are rootless branches.”

I Have So Many Questions to Sarah

“Where were you that morning, Sarah, when Abraham sent away your maid with her son? Did you stay in bed? Did you cover with the blanket your head? Did you go to the kitchen and made fresh bread?

“What did you see in Abraham’s eyes when you looked at him for the first time, after he sent Hagar and Ishmael away? Did you talk about it at all? Did he ever listen to you again? Did he ever forgive you? Did he have any hearing left?

“What changed in you? Did your heart stay exactly the same, or did something turn rigid? After all, you wanted Ishmael as a son for yourself (Gen. 16:2). Until Isaac was born, you raised Ishmael up to inherit from you. Can a woman send her son to die in the desert and totally forget him? You were the one who pushed Hagar into Abraham’s bosom. And you were most likely there when she gave birth.

“Bring me into your heart, Sarah”, I keep asking as I run all kinds of imaginary conversations with her. “Help me understand you, forgive you, forgive through you.”

“If not for Ishmael’s sake, then what about Isaac?” I beg the Sarah that lives inside my heart. “I have a strong feeling that your precious baby adored his older brother,” I try to reason with her. “What did you tell Isaac when he woke up in the morning and found that his playmate was gone for good? Or maybe he was wide awake when the dramatic abandonment took place? Did he hear the screaming and heart-breaking cries of Ishmael? Did that scar your baby Sarah, the next time Isaac tried to find comfort in your bosom and saw a new harshness in your loving eyes?”

What About Abraham?

When I think about that awful day, I cannot find an echo to the patriarch’s soul and heart. I guess I’m not supposed to. I should probably leave that for men with the heart of an Abraham. As this mother’s heart towards the nations is being birthed in me, I am connecting not only with my personal identity as a daughter and a mom; I am trying to connect with older voices – those of bareness (Gen. 16:2), laughter and surprise (18:12) and fear. Of a mind-blowing promise and the responsibility to see it fulfilled.

I’m wondering what will happen to Sarah – to the Jewish nation, when we start listening to the voice of Ishmael, calling us back. Longing for a wholehearted embrace.

What will happen to Ishmael when he realizes he has a place around the table? That Mama Sarah regrets having sent him into the desert? That her heart was wounded too on that morning, even though she was the one who had cast them out?

And what would that do to God’s heart? To the wounded rift that had torn His chest?

And you… our precious Ruths, who have been following these posts so faithfully, how would that affect your prayers on behalf of our insane region? Please take another look at the picture of the wounded rift. Now check your hearts – on which bank do you feel most comfortable? Are you able to step off that bank, walk into the bleeding wound, and start watering it with your tears? Are you able to mingle them with some healing Balm – with scriptural promises that speak of healing for this pain-filled land and our surroundings?

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Most Christians tend to stand on one bank of the rift or the other.
During this journey we chose to stay inside it, inside the wound,
and to the best of our ability align with God’s heart for both sides.
After all, this rift is right inside His heart

Passing, Crossing and Wrestling (7)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 7    |    May 19, 2018, evening)

Passage of Jabok. Again this word that means “crossing over, passing” – ABR in Hebrew. “Jabok” means wrestling, and that adds a powerful meaning to what was about to take place. That region is a strategic site, as many Biblical stories took place there. The one I was fascinated with is Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel of the LORD.

Jacob arrives there while his identity and behavior are still much like the ones of a deceiver, who follows the heels of others (his brother, while still in the womb; his wives, when he planned to let them cross the passage before him, just in case…). But in that spot he wrestles with the Face of God, goes through a transformation and receives a new identity. No more a deceiver. Now he is someone who wrestled, yet prevailed. Thus the name “Israel” (Gen. 32:25-31. See also Hosea 12:3-5).

More than 400 years later, a few miles from there, his descendants were preparing to cross over again, this time as a young nation. The One Jacob wrestled with, they already started to reject. This Angel of God’s Faces is about to be hidden from the nation for centuries. That will lead to an ongoing national wrestling with God through a valley of tremendous sufferings, until we will embrace Him again for who He really is.

Our Own Wrestling as a Team

We arrived at the Jabok river late in the afternoon, which left us a short hour to do whatever the Lord wanted us to. It took us a while to find a suitable spot. As I reflect now on that evening, I realize we were wrestling ourselves. We could not find the right spot, or a stone to sit on; we were not sure how to pray, and battled to connect our hearts and spirits with His. When Rania asked Hermana if she gets anything in prayer, Hermana responded: “I’m struggling to connect.” She most likely expressed what all of us felt.

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We looked at each other scattered,
a bit confused, clueless as to what we should do next

I sat down, held my head between my hands, and tried to figure out what part of Israel’s widowhood or Jordan’s destiny should be prayed over at this location. Jacob wrestled during the night, so all of us asked God to show His Faces to both nations, on both sides of the Jordan river, this time in daylight.

I prayed that our wrestling as a nation will end; and for the ability to look into the Face of the Beautiful Man from Nazareth (a phrase Rania loves to use when she refers to Yeshua); and that we will see in Him the Lover of our soul and not the biggest enemy of our nation. I prayed against the limping in our national walk: “Touch our feet, O Balm of Gilead, with your healing hands.”

“Something is burning in my heart,” Rania said. “It has to do with the dependence of Israel on the arm of the flesh. Our military, our wisdom – as if these will rescue us. The change for Jacob happened when he yielded to the Angel and stopped wrestling.”

It stirred up something within me, so I responded: “I ask you, God, to help me wrestle with you on behalf of our national strength, wits and manipulation. Forgive us, forgive me, for relying on my own understanding, for not trusting you with all our hearts, for leaning unto our own understanding, for not acknowledging you in all our ways and letting you direct our paths. For being wise in our own eyes and not fearing you (see prov. 3:5-7).”

From the very first day of my walk with the Lord, He has been pointing to this horrible habit I have – to rely on my own wisdom and ability. What seems like a great strength can easily become a terrible weakness. At the passage of Jabok I realized that this is one more junction, where my personal wrestling with God’s standards runs parallel to Israel’s ongoing battle. The world commends the Jews for our talents and wisdom. Indeed, these are God’s given gifts to us, but unless they are redeemed and submitted to His ways, we will continue to limp. So once more I was battling for both myself and my nation.

A Unique Form of Exile

Rania started declaring: “Exile is being away from your mother’s heart, being a widow without your sons. Even being without The Son – Jesus, who hid His face from the nation. The womb of Israel birthed the Messiah, but she [Israel] rejected the Son of her own womb.

“Come back, come back to your place, Israel, and receive your mother’s heart again. The Arab Ruths are calling and saying: ‘Stand up and embrace us again. We will be nursed on your bosom and receive comfort when you will take your place. There will be safety when you arise to your place.’ ”

No Longer Widow, Not Yet a Bride

The team continued to pray with me and over me. In my absent mindedness I was hit mostly by a couple of phrases they were repeating: “No more a widow, you are a mother, Mama Naomi”. I have been wrestling to see a white bride emerging out of the black clothes of widowhood, but at the shore of Jabok I finally got it: my nation is no more a widow, not yet a bride. We are a mother nation.

It all of a sudden dawned on me that I need to make a choice. Will I let go of our national identity as a broken and bitter widow, who needs Ruths to show her the path to the Redeemer, to lend us their spiritual wombs and provide for our needs? Or will we choose to be resurrected, and against all odds, at an old age, start birthing, enlarge our wombs and become a mother nation? Can you imagine how that would affect the rest of the world?

It sounded beautiful, spiritual, right. But embracing it was not simple. This was a wrestling point. For me personally, and I could tell it would be so for my nation as well, as I have been carrying this Naomi-Mara identity for a long time.

Will she cross over? Will I? Will she stop wrestling with Him and start co-operating? Will she fulfill her identity as a Hebrew, as the one who dares to cross?

I had to ponder over that. And as darkness started covering us around, I finally said “yes.”

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Crossing back over in the dark

I chose to move across the river, into the promised land – emotionally, physically and spiritually. Not knowing what God was planning for us the next day, at Jabok I opened my heart to take on a new identity.

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Starting our prayers with salt, bread and wine

“Mama Naomi,” Tian Jie declared, “release comfort, healing, acceptance, forgiveness to Jordan. This land is full of anger and rejection, and it needs comfort.”

Rania opened her Bible and started proclaiming Isaiah 54 over Israel, and over me: “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed…”

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 26 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. We 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 Zechariah – 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 each other’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 rappelling 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.

It Is Being Produced Again (3)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 3    |    May 15-16, 2018)

Priscilla and Tian Jie arrived on the morning of May 15. The season of wheat harvest was at its peak, the sheaves ready to be harvested. Hermana picked them up from the airport and escorted them to one of the nearest fields. They could not resist it. As tired as they were, they had to stop and glean.

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The other team members joined us and we started praying. Five of us were going to cross into Jordan, each one with her own ideas and agenda. But what was God’s mind? Well, we had to learn to listen together, if we wanted to figure it out.

This was my first prophetic trip ever. I had no idea that every word spoken, every stressful moment, any misunderstanding – are all symbolic; that all sow their part to the advancement of the plot.

Finally, after two days of talking our heads off, praying, sharing back and forth, eating – of course – and learning to appreciate each other, we felt like we have a common rhythm, a shared heartbeat. That we are ready to hit the road.

Before leaving home we collected 12 stones, just in case we’ll find a resting place for them somewhere in Jordan. And there was one more thing we wanted to put our hands on as we step into the wound…

The Balm of Gilead

Several years ago, at the northern part of the Dead Sea, production of the Biblical Perssimon tree, known as Balsemon, from which the Balm of Gilead is produced, has begun. The Balm of Gilead is an expensive perfume that was produced in the Mountains of Gilead (modern day Northern Jordan).

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From Left: Priscilla, myself, Tian Jie and Hermana.
In the background: Balsemon bushes from which the Balm of Gilead is produced

We met with the guy who produces it, and heard a fascinating lecture about the process. The tree when scratched, produces tears of resin. And that weeping of the plant is not in vain – it produces oil that in Biblical days was used as a healing balm (see Jer. 46:11; 8:22). Apparently it takes more than 100 kgs of flowers, leaves or bark to produce just one cup of Balm. Crazily expensive!

We bought a few small bottles and headed north, to the crossing point. As we did that, we realized we are already driving in the wound, in the rift, starting at the southern point that I saw in the picture [see Crossing Over – A Hebrew], which is also the lowest point on planet earth. This was one more reminder that deep healing always starts with true humility of spirit. Anyway, this time we had some healing in our “wings” and a little better understanding of our mission.

Or at least that was what we thought…

You Look Like a Ruth (2)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 2    |    March 2018)

“You look like a Ruth!” Hermana shouted through her car’s open window to her Jordanian friend, who stood at the King Hussein crossing point with a sheaf of white wheat.

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Priscilla threw her gorgeous black curls back and laughed heartily, stating, “Your discernment is accurate. If only you knew why I was here.” Hermana’s comment had struck a chord, as Priscilla has been spending hours in the story of Ruth and Naomi, yearning to see a modern version of this co-operation.

She was born in Jordan and was taught by her father from a young age to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and bless the family of Abraham. Her heart was always full with love for the Hebrew nation, so she wanted the nations to realize that the Hebrew family is a part of theirs. Priscilla believes that Israel needs to see Jordan and the Arab peoples as family, and that we cannot be restored without each other’s help. But for now, she crossed the Rift in prayer for her people’s part.

Unknown to us at that point, the crossing over, the Hebrewism which I spoke of in my previous post, started that day, when Hermana picked her up.

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That visit to Israel (on March) was brief. Her goal: to wave sheaves of wheat over the fields of  Beit Lehem and pray for the old bread to be replaced with a fresh one

Hermana gave her a copy of my book – “His Faces” [see “His Faces” ]. I wrote it to recruit gentiles to their position as a modern Ruth on behalf of the modern Naomi, as she is making her way back to the House of Bread and to a renewed relationship with her Redeemer.

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Hermana with her constant big smile

Priscilla read a portion of the book, and knew we must meet before she leaves. A couple of days later we met. Sitting across the table from her felt like talking to my spiritual mirror. This was my first impression after spending a long morning with her. Some of the vocabulary and imagery she uses when speaking about God’s Kingdom is pretty similar to the one He uses with me – the Tabernacle, Ruth, Naomi, Altar, Table of Shewbread…

I was surprised and humbled when I heard some of the insights she gleaned from the book of Ruth. I thought I knew it so well, but listening to her made me realize I only understood Naomi’s side of the story. My Zionist bones are so full of sympathy towards Naomi’s exile and I have gained much understanding of her sorrow, estrangement from God, her bitterness and widowhood. However Priscilla brought a new angle to the table. She explained Ruth’s heart, the heart of a “foreign” daughter who is eager to serve her Israelite mother-in-law (even to the point of allowing her to “use” her womb) and feel welcomed in the House of Bread.

It only then occurred to me that had Ruth lived today, she would be a Jordanian. She would even look like Priscilla. Writing it now embarrasses me a bit, but up to that morning in the restaurant I never thought of the Arab Ruths. Whenever I talked or shared about her, she was always a Westerner.

Back to Our First Meeting in the Restaurant

When we started speaking about travelling to Jordan together, Priscilla could already envision how that could create a platform for healing – not only at a personal level but also between the two people groups. But I was still in the “Marah” mode, focusing on the symbolic healing I wanted to carry on behalf of my wounded nation, by going into “exile” and journeying back. I could not even see how Jordan would benefit from that.

Priscilla wanted a few more prophetic sisters to join us. I didn’t care how many Ruths will be there to hold my hand or pray with me, as long as this journey would be launched. So this is how Rania (from Nazareth), Jesura (Jerusalem), Tian Jie (China) and Hermana (Migdal) joined and formed the team.

We started working on the details. We knew there aren’t any specific locations mentioned in the book of Ruth, besides the fields of Moab and the final destination – Beit Lehem. Checking what the Bible teaches about the region, it became clear that we have to include Jacob’s journey to Canaan on his way back from Laban. Thus we added Gilead, the passage of Jabok and Peniel to our list.

Mount Nebo, Aman, Medaba, Tishbi – these too were must see locations. Petra? Na, not on this trip, we decided.

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A map of Israel and Jordan with which we made our plans.

In black are the Biblical names of the sites; red is the modern ones.

It took a few weeks to figure out the dates. Priscilla was to fly in from TX, Tian Jie from China. Finally the trip was settled for May 15-22.

“We are in a God moment”, said Priscilla, and everyone involved understood this.


Other Than That…

This journey was so deep and multi layered, that it will take a few posts to cover. I don’t really think I can cover it all, but I will certainly try to share with you some of the depth of this experience, and the meaningful change it brings into my life.

In the meantime, I continue with the usual ministry: teaching, ministering in small groups, planning another Tabernacle Seminar to English speaking tourists, working with holocaust survivors, etc.

This Monday I will join the youth ministry of Streams in the Desert, who work among broken families in the southern region of Israel. About 50 teenagers (most of them from Messianic homes, although not all are born again. Majority come from broken homes) will attend a 4 days’ camp, where I will be teaching the team and kids to forgive.

The title this year is “Secret Weapon”. The program includes a lot of fun, but also two short slots for teaching each day. I am not just going to teach it, but hopefully equip them with this Secret Weapon. We want them to see how God uses suffering to mold us, and that their battles are a language that carries a spiritual message from the Throne Room. We pray that they will be doers, not just hearers. That they will choose to repent and forgive, versus remain victims of someone else’s choices.

Before the kids arrive on Wednesday I will have two days with the team, and in between all the many preparations each one of them has to do, I will train the (almost 40!!!) team members to use this great weapon, so they can testify later to the kids about the breakthroughs they saw once they chose to forgive.

We have a great prayer support throughout this program. There will be at least 10 intercessors with us, praying over every child and team member, every detail and need. This is my 3rd year with this youth camp, and I have seen the clear difference the prayer team creates. I am excited to see God’s hand again moving before our own eyes.

More about their ministry and the coming camp:

 https://www.facebook.com/pg/afikimbanegev/photos/?ref=page_internal

Crossing Over – A Hebrewism (1)

(“Back to Beit Lehem”    |    The Jordan Journey, part 1    |    May 10, 2018)

We were about to break bread together, when God impressed me with this picture, that shows a piece of His heart.

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“A wound inside His heart?” I wondered. Yes, apparently. Inside His heart I saw the map of Israel and Jordan, with a deep wound in the middle. The Jordan valley, the Rift.

This happened at the end of a Jewish-Arab conference I attended. After listening to stories and testimonies for two full days, I realized how most of us deepen the wound. Not because we fight with one another. The conference was full of mutual respect and sincerity. But many times we think we sow healing, while in reality we scratch the wound, tearing more layers apart.

And it is not only Arabs and Jews who cause it. Most Christians who are involved with this region or live in Israel tend to take sides, thus making the wound bleed even more, not realizing this Rift is right in the heart of God.

I also saw that the wound will be healed with tears shed from the north, filling the water reservoirs along the rift, and eventually turning the Sea of Salt into a sweet resource.

Ruth and Naomi Journey Together

When I saw that picture, I was already planning to travel along this wounded rift a few days later. The idea to take that journey was birthed in a surprising encounter with a Jordanian “Ruth”, who popped into my life as if straight out of my book’s pages (see “His Faces” – new book now available), or rather, out of the Bible.

My plan was to cross the border with her into Jordan. I wanted to symbolically go into “exile” as a Naomi, in order to “collect” myself, my people, and cross back into Beth Lehem – into the house of bread.

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My first meeting with my two Arab Ruths – Priscilla and Rania, in Jerusalem 

We first met a few weeks earlier, at the beginning season of the harvest of barley, right before Passover. So Pentecost sounded like the best timing for our journey. After all, the book of Ruth takes place between these two season (see Ruth 1: 22), so delighted about the perfect timing, we decided to relive the story of Ruth and Naomi.

I also had a personal agenda. I connected this journey to my personal healing process in the Tabernacle [see I Will Tabernacle Inside You], and was looking forward to touch my alienation from myself from a fresh angle. I figured that this journey is not only prophetic, but also a personal return from my emotional exile. No more standing on Mt. Nebo, looking at what is happening as if it takes place outside myself, and sharing it only after I process it.

I had no idea I was going to leave a part of my heart there and return home with deep insights concerning the wound, or that I will be carrying it inside my heart. I did not know it was going to affect my routine, my understanding, my passions. To the point I could not even write much about it until now. I couldn’t find the right words to describe this precious experience. No, this was not an experience; It was a journey, a passing over the wound back and forth.

A Hebrew 

In Hebrew, “crossing over” means exactly that – to be a Hebrew.  The words cross, pass and a true Hebrew are derived from the same root: ABR.

Abraham was a Hebrew because he crossed over from a culture of idol worshipers into monotheism, from Ur of the Chaldeans into a promised land. The children of Israel are called Hebrews (see for example Gen 43:32; Ex. 2:6, 13; and others). Back than we were not Jews yet. Jews are the descendants of the kingdom of Judah, and that comes into the picture much later. The first time an actual reference is made to the Hebrews as Jews (YEHUDIM) is in 2 Kings.

So I was ready to practice my Hebrewism, to cross over the rift, the wound, and see how God will lead us and use us.

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Ruth and Naomi – Priscilla and myself in a wheat field in Jordan

Be on the lookout for my next post, in which I will start sharing about the richness of that journey.

Ears, Eyes, Heart

“It is time, Lord”, I declared this morning, as I meditated on Isaiah’s cry: “How long, Lord? Until when?”

Isaiah just wanted to tell everyone of the Glory he had witnessed, but instead was commanded to proclaim a severe punishment upon our nation, the punishment called “Hidden Faces” (Isa. 6:9-10).

How can one ignore an ultimate Truth when it is right in front of their eyes? How can we not hear and see the real thing, even when miracles are happening? I tended to think it is impossible – to be that deaf and blind… until I checked my own heart and realized how common this phenomenon is.

I have been battling an ear infection this past week. The pain started going up towards my right eye and down towards my jaw. Since I was preparing for an adventurous journey to Jordan that starts today (will share more with you when I come back next week), I wanted to get my health restored quickly. So I begged the doctor to prescribe some antibiotics. But he would not agree. “I can’t find anything wrong. Both your ears and throat are clear, so I cannot prescribe anything!” Ouch!

This morning I finally got the point. It’s my spiritual ear that is battling with infection, not the physical one. No wonder the doctor could not find anything.

I realized that God was pointing towards my own spiritual deafness, and also using the pain to recruit me to pray for the eyes and ears and heart of my nation. This week is a powerful and exciting one for Israel. We are 70 years old (plus a few thousands), we dealt so professionally with an Iranian threat from Syria, America just moved its embassy to Jerusalem, and we even won the Eurovision contest.

The line seems to tend in our favor in many other fronts, but does it transform our hearts? Does it put an end to our dulled ears and closed eyes? I would love to believe it does, but I think I should better recruit your prayers specifically for that.

Enzo Montano: I manichini di Monaco – Sylvia Plath

In face of everything that is happening now, it is time, I believe, for the heart and eyes and ears of the Jewish nation to soften, to look at the real reality, to see His mighty hand pulling the strings and to listen to His heartbeat.

Answering Isaiah’s painful cry, God gave him a historic time line, that explains when we will see and hear and understand:

“Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land” (v. 11-13).

Indeed, our land laid in ruin for centuries, her children were in exile, she was like a widow – forsaken and in waste. Now this old oak tree is being revived as the holy seed is being restored. This is the time we live in.

I am choosing to turn a soft, listening ear, to the Beloved of my soul. To align my heartbeat with His, and not to focus on my own beat and plans. “What is it that you are saying now, and I am struggling to hear?” I asked.

I think He is saying: “It is time!”

Will you pray with me? The Feast of Pentecost will be celebrated this coming weekend. In the synagogues they will be reading the book of Ruth, so once more let me use a couple of images and symbols of this timely account, as I recruit you to pray…

  • That the wrinkled, old, bitter widow – Israel – will soften her heart and will incline her ears and eyes to see the Redeemer in the story.

And in preparation for the journey I am about to start, I would ask you to pray for the relationship between Israel and her surrounding neighbors:

titled "Buck Up Buttercup"

  • That we will reconcile with the various Ruths around us.
  • That these nations will wake up to their true calling, and choose to be a part of the Big Story of Restoration.
  • That they would not insist to remain an “Orpah” – the one who turned her neck towards the destiny of Naomi and went back to her comfort zone, but out of the story.

 

I Will Tabernacle Inside You

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Tabernacling? Is this even a legitimate word? My automatic proofreader does not seem to like it. “Dwelling” or “Abiding” is probably the term you are more familiar with. But the Hebrew noun and verb, used in verses like Zec. 2:14-15 and plenty of others, mean something so much more tangible and powerful than “dwelling in our midst”. It means the same structure Moses and his craftsman erected in the desert, God will build inside each one of us. Our part? To provide Him the right materials (spoiler, these would not be our wits and strengths) and put each piece of furnishing in its right location. He will then descend with His glory and fill up the very shameful spots in our personality and conduct, all those weaknesses we work so hard to hide.

I witnessed that happening time and again, as people present to God their broken and thorny “acacia woods” (various areas of major struggles in their lives), versus covering them with layers of deeds and works.

Last week we (Dana and I) did it with a small group of tourists, who came to Israel almost entirely for this purpose: to learn how they can turn their brokenness into a Sign and Example of God’s glory. For nearly 9 intensive days we coached them through each piece, pressing in and walking through, burning what ought to be burned, washing our understanding to align with His Word, allowing His light to clarify our chaos and darkness, devouring His truth to replace our lies, etc.

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At the Lampstand God’s light sheds into the dark roots of our battles, exposing our core lies

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Some touching glorious moments of worshiping together

Dana (my partner in this project) and I built Tabernacles inside our own hearts, alongside our participants. As I was preparing for the seminar, I realized God was pinpointing gently towards my tendency to alienate myself from myself, and mostly to bypass my feelings. I always knew I am not easily connecting to my emotions, but only last week I realized how estranged I am from them, and what is the root for that.

I approached the Bronze Altar with much repentance and forgiveness, and when I got to the Basin, I did a thorough study of  key words that translate into “alienation” – all of them from the book of Ruth. Studying these verses in their context started washing my understanding with the water of His Word, and the result was many challenging questions that came up within me.

At the Lampstand, some hidden lies and inner vows were exposed. The one that surprised me the most, the one I was clueless about although now – that it is in the light – I realize what a corner stone this has been in the way I handle almost everything in my life, was: “People can get to know me through my deeds, thoughts, wisdom. Not through my feelings. My feelings are not who I am, and they are very uncomfortable”.

Once this was exposed I rushed back to the Bronze Altar and repented of believing it. I am now heading towards the Table of Shewbread, where I will be looking for a great contradicting truth, a piece of divine bread that will feed my hunger and take over the lie, something that will become a solid rock inside me and will give me the assurance that feelings are good, and that they are a definite part of who I am.

Would you like to join one of our next Tabernacle Seminars? Email me and we’ll send you more details.