Sandstorm ushering in High Holy Days

A sandstorm shrouds the outdoor Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem on Sept. 8, 2015.
A sandstorm shrouds the outdoor Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem on Sept. 8, 2015.

Tuesday morning Jerusalem — the whole of the Middle East — awoke to skies choked with sand. The sun was darkened and visibility was maybe a quarter of mile. After Wednesday when the air was hardly improved, we learned this storm may last through the weekend.

We are in the last week of the Hebrew month of Elul. Tishrei and new Jewish New Year begin Sunday night with the Feast of Trumpets, which is the call for repentance 10 days before Yom Kippur.

The timing of the sandstorm (or haboob) did make me wonder, but busyness delayed more thought and prayer. The BBC reported that the sandstorm came out of Iraq (ancient Babylon), and Reuters quoted a Cyprus weather official who said, “We have had sandstorms before, but not of this intensity. It’s very rare for this time of year too and it’s covering the entire region.”

A sandstorm obscures much of the Middle East in this satellite image from NASA.
A sandstorm obscures much of the Middle East in this satellite image from NASA.

So is there something the Earth is trying to tell us? Something aside from the 2,000 year old message from Romans 8 that “creation waits eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed … We know that until now, the whole creation has been groaning as with the pains of childbirth … as we continue waiting eagerly to be made sons — that is, to have our whole bodies redeemed and set free” (CJB)?

(What does that mean, to be made sons? That we would come into our full inheritance won by Jesus through the cross at the resurrection.)

There is a lot of expectation building as we await the last of four consecutive total lunar eclipses that fall on Jewish feast days (and the end of the shmitah or sabbatical year).

All I can repeat to you is be sober and vigilant. Cling to the LORD with mighty intensity. We are seemingly in the time of the wheat and tares, when both good and evil come to maturity.

I ran across two possible interpretations of the sandstorm. The Jewish sages wrote “that the Hebrew word ‘Elul’ can be expanded as an acronym for ‘Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li’ (I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine – Song of Solomon 6:3). Elul is seen as a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement and Day of Atonement.” (Wikipedia)

A friend serving here in Jerusalem said God is showing us how dirty we are, how our sin blocks out His Light and encumbers our walk. She said we need to wash and make ourselves clean (see Psalm 24).

The thought was complemented by a quote from an article by Bridges for Peace.

“It is as if the horror of Syria caused the earth itself to pass an evil wind. It has made Jerusalem look like a post-apocalyptic scene from Mad Max. But like the bloodbath to our north and east, this is not a movie set. What’s happening there, just a few miles away, is a perfect storm of atrocities that like this odd haboob are real. All too real.”

Go and make yourself clean and ready. A trumpet will sound in Zion soon calling us all to awake from our complacency, to consider our sin. The right reaction is humble repentance before the Creator, who tarries because He wishes none to perish but who will soon come to judge the living and dead.

US hedge of protection has been breached

“If God doesn’t soon bring judgment upon America, He’ll have to go back and apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!” That was said by Ruth Graham, late wife of Billy Graham, many years ago.

Friday, June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws outlawing homosexual marriage violated the 14th amendment to the constitution which safeguards the right to due process. So homosexual marriage is now legal in all 50 states of the United States.

Often when there’s big, paradigm-shifting news, I check to see the date on the Hebrew calendar and research its history. June 26, 2015 fell on Tammuz 9. Tammuz 9 is the date on which the Babylonian army laying siege to Jerusalem broke through the city wall in 423 B.C.

While the United States is not Israel, is not the Jewish people, the date is no mere coincidence. I feel strongly it is a signpost of where we are. The hedge of protection that the God of Israel has blessed the US with has been breached, dare I write, broken.

Ezekiel 22:30 has never been so relevant to the United States and those within who still fear God.

“I [the LORD] sought for a man among them who could build a barricade or stand in the break to oppose me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.”

Let us be found within the break in the wall, crying to God for mercy. Let us also shout in the street of God’s mercy of the cross. Yes, tribulation is coming. Isn’t that obvious by the horrific news of the past year? Let us shout “Mercy!” to our God and “There is mercy at the cross in repentance” to the lost.

Pastor warns UN to protect persecuted Christians

Screen capture of Jonathan Cahn addressing the United  Nations on April 17, 2015.
Screen capture of Jonathan Cahn addressing the United Nations on April 17, 2015.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus says He — the Son of Man, King — will judge the nations on how they treat His brothers. Jesus’ brothers in the flesh are the Jews and by adoption the Christians, those who have acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior.

This verse was the obvious subtext when Jonathan Cahn addressed the United Nations on April 17, 2015. Cahn is a Messianic pastor in New Jersey known for his prophetic words concerning the United States.

This word is prophetic — in that it warns — and heavy, especially in light of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps and the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. Continue reading Pastor warns UN to protect persecuted Christians

What kind of city of this?

Smoke rises from Wadi Joz in east Jerusalem. The author could not find a media report to explain the event.
Smoke rises from Wadi Joz in east Jerusalem. The author could not find a media report to explain the event.

I love Jerusalem. As a friend reminds me, the city is sealed on my heart. I ache when I am not here. Still, sometimes, I marvel at its idiosyncrasies. That’s almost too mild a word.

This place can be weird. It’s a city of conflict and coexistence. That’s just one paradox. Most of times, I can smile, shrug and say, “That’s Jerusalem.”  Not today.

Continue reading What kind of city of this?

Awake, O Israel. Shana tovah

The Jewish New Year is upon us. Now begins a time of reflection and repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

There is a lot of shofar blowing in the weeks before Rosh Hashana (head of the year). Biblically, this time is known as the Day of the Shofar Blast. You can read more about how these holidays are related at The video below is a cool shofar-blowing montage by IKAR Los Angeles.

Continue reading Awake, O Israel. Shana tovah

Re-Drawing the Middle East Map

A map of the territory that the Islamic State has claimed from Syria and Iraq as of June. Click on map to see larger.
A map of the territory that the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) has claimed from Syria and Iraq as of June. Click on map to see larger.

I recently had a vision of a new season in the Middle East defined by the re-drawing of its borders. I saw angels being released who had sashes over their shoulders on which were written the phrase “Border angel”. They were being sent forth to reset borders according to their original ethnic calling.

Continue reading Re-Drawing the Middle East Map

The Islamic State is no joke

There is so much news in Israel and beyond, but I am not in a place to keep up with it as I once had. Still, the new caliphate is something to which we MUST pay attention. They are not playing.

Christians in Mosul (ancient Ninevah) were given less than three days to leave the region or then face three options. As Reuters reported:

In the statement, Isis said Christians who wanted to remain in the “caliphate” declared earlier this month in parts of Iraq and Syria must agree to abide by terms of a “dhimma” contract – a historic practice under which non-Muslims were protected in Muslim lands in return for a special levy known as “jizya“. “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement said.

Continue reading The Islamic State is no joke

Enemies & friends at time of war

The unofficial state of war spreads as Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza continue to strike Israeli cities, hitting Jewish civilians (and occasionally Arab citizens of Israel). These jihadi rocket attacks are shot from launchers deliberately positioned by Hamas among Gaza’s civilian population – a war crime by legal and ethical definitions. Thursady 192 rockets were fired by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Some were even co-fired by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah commandos. Of these, 44 were intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket defenses. Friday morning three rockets were fired from within Lebanon into Israel by an independent as-yet-unnamed jihadi group there.

How are the hostilities developing? What seem to be the next steps? What guidance can the Scriptures gives us regarding understanding and prayer?

Continue reading Enemies & friends at time of war

Pray for Gaza, too

I’ve deferred to brother Avner Boskey to recap the week and give biblical analysis. Instead, I want to just share personal thoughts, maybe process on digital paper.

This is my first time living with the threat of bombing. It’s hard to say how I feel. To me, it is very much just a fact of life because of where I am. Then again, I’m in Jerusalem. We’ve had three sirens in a week. Tel Aviv has had sirens daily. I cannot imagine what life in the south of Israel near Gaza would be like. They get rockets all the time.

Right now, though, my heart hurts for the people of Gaza. They are people imprisoned by those among them who are power hungry and driven by a murderous hate for Israel.

Continue reading Pray for Gaza, too

Don’t be ostrich on battlefield

An Iron Dome missile flies to intercept a Gaza-fired rocket over Tel Aviv on July 9, 2014. (Credit: IDF via Flickr)
An Iron Dome missile flies to intercept a Gaza-fired rocket over Tel Aviv on July 9, 2014. (Credit: IDF via Flickr)

Believers who are called to love Israel should also have a heart for the Arab world. It is heart-breaking to watch war and not peace break out again in Israel. Yet Isaiah calls us all in Isaiah 40:2 to “speak over the heart of Jerusalem.” Truth and love must blend in our heart and our message to Israel. Rodney King-type appeals (“Why can’t we all just get along?”) are not the need of the moment, and have an unreal kumbaya quality to them. This is a time for war, not a time for peace.

Unity and love between Jews and Arabs is a prime value and a deep necessity. But God is not about the business of creating ‘one new ostrich.’ When concerted efforts to destroy the Jewish people arise, Messianic Jews and believing Arabs need to look unflinchingly upon murderous Islamist violence and destructive strategies, call them for what they are, reject them and take a bold and public stand against them. Anything less than that will not carry the day.

Continue reading Don’t be ostrich on battlefield