A New Season for Israeli Unity
| Eitan Shishkoff |
"Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all ..." Ezekiel 37:21,22
Here is the heart of God. Yet what sounds idyllic and obvious in the phrasing of Ezekiel looks unrealistic and uninformed when viewed through the lens of modern Israel. The fragmentation of our nation is well known. We are divided over the issue of withdrawal from the Gaza strip, governed by an array of political parties at each other's throats, and we swing compulsively between the extremes of religious fervour and secular scepticism. No wonder the Almighty said "I will make them one nation." Only He can do it.
As Israeli followers of Messiah Yeshua, this is our cue. Was it not our Rabbi who prayed "that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me ..." (John 17:23)? In the midst of a reassembled, yet fractured nation, a Messianic community united in its obvious variety will speak volumes about our Messiah. In this issue there is no doubt about the will of God. It is His design to unite us, here in Israel, with all of our differences in national origin, theological background and worship style.
WHY AREN'T ISRAELI LEADERS MORE UNFIFIED?
If it's so clearly God's plan and if we share a common persecution for our faith in Yeshua, "then why aren't the Israeli Messianic leaders more unified?" is a question I am frequently asked. I am glad to answer this question in the form of an encouraging and inspiring update on relationships among believers across the nation of Israel.
Before describing these developments, it is important to keep one fact in mind. Israel is a small, new country, even though we are thousands of years old as a God-ordained nation. The presence of an active body of local believers in Yeshua is even newer. In the mid-1950's there were only several Messianic meetings in all of Israel. Furthermore, there is a vast difference between Israel and other nations in which there are city-wide or national efforts to bring together leaders from many streams of faith in Jesus. Such efforts are, at best, successful in uniting only a fraction of all those who proclaim Yeshua as Lord. Yet here in Israel, at our regional and national gatherings of Messianic leaders we are seeing a remarkably wide spectrum of congregations and ministries represented. A proportional comparison in North American terms would be a meeting of some 400,000 pastors across every conceivable denominational line.
It is true that Israeli Messianic leaders have had their challenges getting together. I can remember an effort at unity that took place almost 12 years ago, when we first arrived in the land. At that time there were several believing families who were at risk of being expelled from Israel because of their faith. In response to the crisis leaders came together a few times, yet much tension was still in evidence.
Since then, many initiatives have born fruit in bringing us together. One can now participate in multi-congregational projects ranging from evangelism to music composition to humanitarian aid to leadership training. By now there are precious relationships among pioneers in the faith that stretch back over the decades. Bar Mitzvahs, circumcisions, weddings and funerals have a way of bringing believers together from all over the land - both to celebrate and to mourn the major turning points in our lives. Israel's compact borders create intense feelings of belonging to one another in Messiah.
TOGETHER WITH BROTHERS at the FEET OF YESHUA
"Sitting at Yeshua's Feet" is the name of one initiative that began several years ago, to bring together leaders of congregations and ministries from across the land. We gather twice annually in the Negev Desert and the hills of the Galilee to worship and pray corporately, to experience much-needed spiritual refreshing in solitude, and to "wash each others' feet" through prayer for personal needs. These are stretched, weary servants of the Lord, each of them aiming high---giving his all in the gospel resistant environments of Jewish and Arab society. Involved are ministry heads and pastors of Jewish, Arab, Russian-speaking, and Ethiopian congregations. One senses God's pleasure in the breadth of His sons praying and breaking bread together. A national community of shepherds is forming.
At the opening evening of our fall gathering we were invited to prepare for the Messiah's Supper (a.k.a. communion) by examining our hearts toward one another. I was reflecting contentedly on harmonious thoughts of love and affection for other leaders in Israel, nearly 65 in the room. Suddenly my reverie was interrupted by different thoughts' from "above." God began showing me relationships in which I had subtly judged a brother and withheld full "favor" (as if it was mine to give---Lord, forgive me!). When we were invited to approach men with whom we needed to work something out, I approached those God pointed out to me. In confessing the partiality of my heart, something inside broke and I began weeping repentantly. I was "nailed" in the very area I thought I was "OK." He gave me new love for the guys I saw all around the room. We received the wine and the matzah ... better knowing His mercy.
Genuine friendships and commitments to support one another "in the trenches" are arising from sitting together at the feet of the Master. It's a new season for Israeli unity. Lately I have been drawn into a growing number of gatherings devoted to prayer with brothers and sisters nationally and regionally. There are now literally too many to attend! In addition to "Sitting at Yeshua's Feet" I am excited about the Haifa Bay Area congregational leaders' monthly prayer time. Another prayer initiative, guided by Reuven Berger, is causing us to take hold of our calling to be a prophetic priesthood, interceding as Moses, Nehemiah, Daniel and Paul did for our people. In the Galilee, fellowship times joining Arab and Jewish pastors have come to be known as "One Shepherd, One Flock."
HaKATZIR: UNITING THE YOUTH OF ISRAEL
This new season of unity is also expressing itself in a national conference of Messianic youth. Called "HaKatzir-The Harvest," it began when a small group of us inherited the challenge of raising up an indigenous Israeli national youth conference ministry. Since our first Chanukah conference four years ago we have made many mistakes and often felt frustration. But at this year's Chanukah conference we saw the fruit of these years of working together. A new generation of leaders is functioning naturally in Hebrew with a concentration of love and commitment to the youth of our nation, equipping them to be used of God in their generation.
The end-time revival foretold by the prophets of Israel will demand of us all pure hearts and clean hands. This call to purity and tenderness toward other leaders provokes spiritual opposition. The enemy resists true unity among shepherds, because he knows the authority we gain from being one. There is inspiration, however, from powerful examples of city-wide revival springing from leaders united---on their knees. A video called "Transformations" documented such revivals during the 90's in distant points on the globe. There are men and women serving Yeshua in Israel today whose hearts yearn for such revival born of true union in God's Spirit. Please join us in interceding that we will be "one nation under one King."
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