If You Will It, It is No Fable
by Eitan Shiskoff, Executive Director, Tents of Mercy Network
Theodore Herzl was an Austrian Jewish journalist who lived from 1860 to 1904 - only forty-four years. Yet in his relatively short life, he impacted history in ways that are still reverberating throughout Israel and the world, over one hundred years later.
More than anyone else, Herzl was the original human architect of the State of Israel. He was gripped by this vision when there were yet a very few Jews living in "the Holy Land". In fact, his first instinct, as a secular Jew, was to imagine the Jewish people of every society remaining where they were and strengthening those nations. As the direct result of the overt anti-Semitic humiliation dealt to Captain Alfred Dreyfus in France, Herzl realized that the Jewish people needed their own country, in which to live and worship freely.
"Im Tirtzu ..."
His courage, drive, determination, and capacity to impart vision, galvanized Jewish leaders and organizations from across Europe and beyond. The First Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland in August, 1897. Herzl is famous for many of his forthright statements, but one of them strikes me as especially relevant to us today, as Israeli Messianic Jews. "Im tirtzu, aiyn zo agada ... If you will it, it is no fable."
Over twenty years ago, before I arrived in Israel, we began this publication. The first article I wrote was entitled "Spiritual Pioneers". In it I drew a parallel between the early Zionists and our generation of Messianic Jewish "pioneers". They faced numerous obstacles in order to establish the modern State of Israel. We have the challenge of restoring the Hebrew-speaking community of Yeshua followers in the state they sacrificed so much to build. Both the physical and the spiritual restoration are miracles that have waited nearly twenty centuries for fulfillment.
With two decades of hindsight, I now see that the spiritual process of reviving our people will require even more years of dedicated sacrifice and visionary perseverance than I could have then imagined. To gain inspiration in order to "run the race" to the finish line, we can look at numerous "marathoners" in the Tanakh. One of them is the archetypal rebuilder, Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was simply a hero - a hero of the Bible and a hero of Israel's history. He accomplished what was virtually impossible, recreating Jerusalem's defense in just fifty-two days! You've probably read the account. It opens with a scene of Jerusalem's wall and its gates in burned rubble, in the year 446 BCE. His dismay and grief turn to intercession, inspiring one of the Bible's greatest intercessory prayers (Nehemiah 1:5-11). Securing the favor of Persia's pagan king, the restorer rallied those remaining in Jerusalem, saying "Let us rise up and build ... [for] the God of heaven Himself will prosper us" (Nehemiah 2:17, 20).
This confident faith in God and His plan carried Nehemiah through frequent harassment from enemies, scattered workers who were not easily unified, and the immensity of the task. What a man of faith and action. He decided to make himself fully available, to be used by the Almighty to draw the people of Israel together in a daring step of rebirth in the homeland from which they had been exiled.
Nehemiah (whose name means "The comfort of God") inspired a spirit of community and of collective sacrifice that broke through long-standing barriers. He not only rebuilt a wall, he rebuilt a people for the sake of God's covenant with them. This is our assignment too. History and the Spirit of the Lord have positioned us to be restorers. I find the exhortations of both Herzl and Nehemiah ringing in my heart. "If you will it, it is no fable". And "Arise and build".
We are so like Bilbo
There is something about inertia and comfort that work against stepping out into the uncertain territory of pioneering. It reminds me a lot of Bilbo Baggins, the central character in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tale, The Hobbit. Bilbo was comfortable in his hobbit hole. He took frequent meals and snacks, had plenty of good books to read, and a lovely garden to tend. It's not that those things were wrong; it's just that there was a larger destiny awaiting him. The "adventure" he got caught up in was all about redemption - helping another, exiled people, return to their homeland, assisting them in their restoration.
When I encounter Bilbo's ordinariness, and his sense of not really being qualified to enter the realm of epic battles and dark danger, I'm reminded of myself and maybe of you. Few of us are naturally fitted for heroic deeds. Yet we have been called by the great King to participate in a real life adventure of far greater significance than Bilbo's journey. We have been drawn into the return of the exiles to the land of Israel, and to the restoration of faith in King Yeshua. This faithful remnant must be resident in that land in order to see Him reclaim His rightful throne.
What an honor! What a privilege. What an opportunity to give ourselves to a quest that requires the very best we can give, and promises the highest, unending reward granted by the King of Israel - the King of all Kings.
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