Weekly Devotional: Why Have You Been Sent

“As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:16-19 HCSB).

At the outset of His ministry, Jesus framed His mission as doing the work of Isaiah 61 and 58: the proclamation of the good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, setting at liberty the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord.

That’s how He defined His mission. And this is exactly what we see Him doing all throughout His public ministry.

When John the Baptist asked Jesus whether or not He was truly the Lord’s anointed, Jesus assured John that He was carrying out His mission: “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news” (Matthew 11:4-5).

In other words, yes, I am the Lord’s anointed, and look at what’s happening: I’m carrying out my mission. That’s my proof.

Jesus was indeed God’s anointed. And as His followers, we are called to continue His mission here on earth. In other words, the reason He was sent is also why He sends us.

The proclamation of the Gospel did not merely address people’s eternal destiny for Jesus. It impacted all of their being, in this life and the next. Their health. Their socioeconomic status. Their position as one oppressed. All of this, for Jesus, proclaimed the year of God’s favor.

Being His disciples means that we have been likewise sent to meet people in these same ways. In doing so, we actually testify to the messiahship of Jesus before a watching world.

If we are going to be Jesus’ disciples, then our mission, activity, and focus must mirror His. He laid out the reason He was sent in the synagogue of Nazareth, and He never drifted from His mission.

Do your focus, actions, and mission align with Jesus’?


Father, thank you for sending Jesus. Lord, please enable us every day to align our purpose and mission with His and proclaim the year of Your favor. Amen.

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Torah Reading Commentary: Thanksgiving

By Mark Gerson

In Leviticus 10, the elder sons of Aaron (the high priest who was the older brother of Moses) bring before God a “strange fire that He had not commanded them.” This act, which seems like an ancient display of religious extremism, earns these two young men a penalty. God sends a fire that consumes them.

Aaron, of course, is extremely heartbroken. Moses tries to comfort his brother by quoting God: “I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me, and I will be honored before the entire people.”

Aaron, we are told, “was silent.” Moses’ attempts at comforting his brother fail. From Aaron’s response, Jews derive a primary rule of mourning: Do not initiate a conversation with a mourner. The risk of one’s well-intentioned words being misunderstood, imprecisely communicated, or just not responsive to the complicated and tender feelings of the mourner is too great. A Jew must go to the home of a mourner but wait for the mourner to start the conversation. Sometimes, even often, the best service one can provide for a mourner is one’s simple presence.

Moses, being an imperfect person like each of us, made a mistake—and he learned from it. His words may have been inefficiently and inappropriately timed, but (as Rabbi Norman Lamm showed in a 1971 sermon) they were profound and brilliant. There are, he was telling his brother, two types of ways to relate to God and the institutions that serve Him. For instance, one can go to a house of prayer and have a meaningful experience in prayer and fellowship. One may leave enriched, enlightened, fulfilled, and looking forward to the next experience. But there is a deeper kind of religious experience. One can get nearer to God and in the process be sanctified. This is not an experience of enrichment. It is one of transformation. The experience becomes a part of the individual, and in so doing fundamentally makes him or her different—someone newer, deeper, and better.

The Torah, always the complete educator, provides the comprehensive example of this kind of sanctification. In Genesis 29, the Bible’s greatest love story happens when Jacob sees Rachel across a field. Rachel, we are soon told, is “beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance”—and Jacob, upon seeing her, develops superhuman strength, and upon actually meeting her, he cries. He tells Rachel’s father, Laban, that he will work for seven years in order to marry her. Laban agrees, but at the end of the term tricks Jacob into marrying his other daughter, Leah, who is less attractive and older.

Jacob loves (or at least likes) Leah, but Leah does not receive his affection that way. She is well aware that his heart is with her sister and that makes her feel “hated.” She wants to change that and resorts to a technique that will become familiar through human history: She gets pregnant. She names her son “Reuben,” declaring: “Because God has seen my humiliation, for now my husband will love me.” That doesn’t work.

So, she gets pregnant again and names her son “Simeon,” declaring: “Because God has heard that I am hated, He has given me this one also.” That doesn’t work.

So, she gets pregnant again and names her son “Levi,” declaring: “Now this time my husband will become attached to me for I have borne him three sons.” She has given up on love and is ready to settle for “attachment.” But it doesn’t work.

So, she gets pregnant again and declares: “This time I will thank God.” She names her fourth son “Judah,” a name deriving from the Hebrew word lehodot, which means “to thank.” This is the son—“to thank” even, as Rabbi Shai Held has written, when we are disappointed—that we Jews are named after and should aspire to be. This is the son from whom, the Bible tells us in many places, the Messiah will descend.

The naming of this child, in that circumstance, speaks to a religious transformation. By her fourth child, Leah realizes that she will not be able to achieve her greatest hope, which should not be too much to ask for: the love of her husband. Moreover, he won’t even become attached to her. There is no way to change that or her situation more broadly.

This realization would be enough to send anyone into despondency and depression. But not Leah. She chooses to react in a very different way. She decides to focus on the gift of her children, especially her youngest child. And she feels grateful—so grateful that she names her youngest child after her gratitude. Every parent has—or should have—a great dream for her child. Leah’s is that her baby will go through life awash in gratitude.

It is a coincidence—unless, as I believe, nothing important is—that we within the Jewish community read this Torah portion around the same time as the American Thanksgiving. As we contemplate “thanksgiving,” we can contemplate what it really means to be named after Leah’s youngest son.

Two studies in the past five years are illustrative. In 2016, the company Merci Chocolates conducted a study that concluded Americans say “thank you” five times a day, but only mean it around half the time. Two years later, a British study showed that people ask for assistance all the time—on average, every 90 seconds. English language speakers, followed closely by Italian speakers, were the most likely to express their appreciation by saying “thank you.” Other languages, the study reported, barely have a way of saying “thank you.” Does this mean people in cultures without an easy way to say “thank you” are unappreciative or don’t express it? No. It just means they do so in actions—which are, of course, ultimately the point of words.

God could have created the world in any way—He could have proverbially snapped His fingers, winked His eye, or just thought about it. Instead, He created it with words, as is evidenced in the “God saids” that are ubiquitous throughout early Genesis. Following God, we Jews educate and construct our feelings through words.

The first thing an observant Jew says in the morning is “modeh ani.” This means: “Grateful am I.” The structure “grateful am I” instead of “I am grateful” is as seemingly distorted in the Hebrew as it is in the English. But the structure is required by the meaning. We Jews acknowledge the existence of gratitude before the existence of ourselves. This sentiment defines how we experience the day, as there are a hundred regular times when a Jew must express his or her gratitude to God.

We Jews call ourselves the “Children of Israel” after our forefather (and Judah’s actual father), Jacob, whose name was changed to “Israel” following his all-night wrestling match with an angel. This is, perhaps, the seminal moment in the Jewish story. When the night concluded, the Torah reads: “the sun rose for him.” Why, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg asks, does the text say, “for him”? One would think that the text would say only, “the sun rose.” Moreover, the sun, we might presume, does not rise for one person—it rises for everyone and perhaps no one; its rising is not a personal experience. Unless, as the text is guiding us, it is. The first thing we learn from our forefather Israel is to regard the sun—and everything else in our natural world—as if it were created just for each of us. And if we did that—if we internalized the “for him”—our gratitude would, appropriately, be boundless and defining.

As we consider the holiday of Thanksgiving, the naming of Judah (and the story of his parents) just might yield a lesson. In a 1961 sermon, Rabbi Norman Lamm made a distinction between thanksgiving and thankfulness. If we “give” thanks, we are participating in a transaction. You did something for me—which, as the aforementioned studies show, happens with great frequency—and so I owe you this in return. Or we can be thankful. This, Rabbi Lamm said, “is a state of mind in which a man is so devoted to the Almighty, so dedicated to transcendent values … that he feels himself grasped by a pervasive gratefulness even when he has not received some special favor in advance, even when not bribed into an expression of gratitude.”

It is thankfulness that Leah felt when she named her son Judah, it is thankfulness that Jacob experienced when he regarded the sun as having risen for him, it is thankfulness that we express in a meaningful “modeh ani” declaration, and it is thankfulness that we are all able to deploy as our defining and guiding disposition. 

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

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Mike Pompeo: the 70th United States Secretary of State and True Friend of Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

When Mike Pompeo stepped onto the soil of the Binyamin region in Israel’s biblical heartland last week, the importance of that event generated a dramatic course correction. Pompeo’s visit was a diplomatic earthquake. It is the first time a U.S. Secretary of State had ever visited Judea and Samaria.

The eruption that ensued comes after a bitter, decades-long tug-of-war over Palestinian claims and Israel’s rightful property. The United Nations, Palestinians, and European Union—all possessing a strong anti-Israel bias—were outraged by the visit. Most of the world calls the region the “disputed territories,” “occupied territories,” or the politically correct “West Bank,” since it lies west of the Jordan River.

To better understand the hostility—and what the dispute is about—let’s consider the history of the region. The heartland issue has been a source of relentless conflict since 1967, when Israel won the Six-Day War against Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In the aftermath, Israel reclaimed Judea and Samaria, which had been under Jordanian rule since 1948—when Arab armies seized these lands right after Prime Minister Ben Gurion declared Israel’s statehood. And in November 2019, a foreshadowing of last week’s upheaval occurred when Mike Pompeo announced the stunning reversal of U.S. policy under the Trump administration regarding the Jewish heartland (“settlements”): “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not perceived per se as inconsistent with international law.”

Indeed, the focus of anger is wrapped around the “two-state solution,” which has served as the holy grail of Middle East diplomacy since 1993. The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict envisages an Independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River. At that time, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed to the Oslo Accords, under which the PLO finally recognized Israel’s right to exist. The slogan of the two-state solution—“two states for two people living side by side in peace”—has echoed emptily through the decades with more failures at the Wye River meetings, the Camp David Summit, and the Saudi Peace Plan, among other exasperating, dead-end efforts.

The two-state solution, originally called the Partition Plan, was agreed upon by the United Nations on November 29, 1947. Israel accepted the plan, and the modern Jewish state became a reality on May 14, 1948. The Arabs rejected the plan outright and they are still stateless. (Inflexibility has been their hallmark over the years.) The United Nations readily joined in with one of its many wayward resolutions, in concert with its International Court of Justice, in 2004 pronouncing the “settlements” illegal. Like other nations, Israel relies on its own judiciary, which—as Secretary Pompeo noted—“confirmed the legality of certain settlement activities.” Fifteen judges—among them Arabs, Jews, and Muslims—receive appointments to Israel’s Supreme Court.

After 1967, Jews began increasing their population in their biblical heartland, where today Israeli residents number more than 600,000. The thriving Israeli towns are called “settlements” by most. If you have not been there, the word might bring up images of tents, simple homes, and a very basic lifestyle. I’m guessing that when Secretary Pompeo visited Binyamin, a town of 5,000—with its boutique wineries, bike trails, restaurants, and orchards—he came away with a very different impression. I’ve visited the so-called “settlements.” They are bustling, robust towns filled with schools, synagogues, small businesses, manufacturing, sports teams, and lovely homes with red-tiled roofs and gracious gardens. Ariel, called the “capital of Samaria,” is one of the largest towns in the Binyamin region, with a population of 20,000. Ariel University is attended by 16,000 Palestinian and Israeli students. Many of the towns sit on land populated by Jewish villages in ancient times 2,000-3,000 years ago. Samaria is geographically north of Jerusalem, and Judea lies to the south.

The modern Jewish towns of Judea and Samaria provide an attractive lifestyle. And like scattered puzzle pieces, Palestinian towns dot the biblical heartland with a population of around 2 million Arabs. Many thousands of Palestinians enjoy the advantage of having good jobs at hundreds of Jewish-owned manufacturing plants in the region. Yet the Jewish enclaves are forced to maintain a strong security presence with an ever-vigilant citizenry to prevent terror attacks and the destruction of property. On the occasions I’ve visited towns in the region, I entered through a security gate with armed citizens posted. Why? Palestinian terrorists have breached community security fences, invaded homes, and killed families.

Despite the Jews’ long presence in the Middle East—and the many modern-day benefits to those who live within its borders—anti-Israel bias is profound and seems to be nearly ubiquitous. Human Rights Watch (HRW), founded in 1978, investigates dictatorial governments oppressing their people and aids refugees and populations in crisis worldwide. The 450-member staff from 70 nations performs enormously valuable work. They have called out Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority for torture practices and for curtailing dissent against their own people. But in a contradiction both to realities on the ground in Israel and to biblical history, when it comes to Israel their position is extreme: “Israel should cease its violation of international humanitarian law by removing its citizens from the West Bank.”

Israel’s policies are not perfect, but the Palestinian adherence to hating Jews, paying terrorists’ families, and refusing direct negotiations with Israel for the last ten years makes peace in the region elusive. Israel has no partner for peace.

Removing the Jewish population from Judea and Samaria—as HRW and others demand—goes against Israel’s ancient history, the Bible, and the countrywide archaeological proof of Israel’s deed given by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For example, the Binyamin region that Secretary Pompeo visited is of huge significance, as it is the location of ancient Shiloh—the first capital of the Israelites 3,000 years ago. Although Mr. Pompeo didn’t go to Shiloh, 120,000 pilgrims visit the historic city annually. God explicitly comments in Jeremiah 7:12, “Go now to My place that is in Shiloh, where I caused My name to rest at first…” The Ark was placed in the Tabernacle and remained there for 369 years. It was here that Eli the priest lived, Hannah prayed for a son, and Samuel served as the legendary prophet. Today, a Jewish community of 4,000 people lives in Shiloh, where they run businesses, host pilgrims at their museum and educational center, and send their children to school.

Throughout the Bible, God’s deed to the Jews is repeatedly emphasized in no uncertain terms. The Jews are Israel’s native people, living in their ancestral homeland then and now—codified in a sacred, eternal deed. In Genesis 15:18-21, God announced to Abraham: “I will assign this land to your offspring.” God outlined His plan clearly and made a permanent agreement with Abraham and his son of promise, Isaac. God also made it clear in Genesis 17:20-21 that He planned to bless Ishmael, the father of Arab peoples. God has kept His covenant with Jews and His promises to Arabs.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agrees with the Bible. You may not be aware that he and his wife Susan are devoted followers of our Lord Jesus. His resume includes sterling qualifications for his current position, yet his spiritual resume guides his life. He encountered the Lord at West Point when two of his classmates shared Jesus’ life-changing message with Cadet Pompeo. Like many young people, he grew up going to church but had not grasped the depth of a relationship with the Lord.

Pompeo was Valedictorian in his class at West Point, then served as a U.S. Army Captain patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall, as his bio states. Afterwards, he earned a Harvard law degree and was editor of the Harvard Law Review. He owned several businesses, and then Kansans elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives. President Trump first named him CIA Director and then, in 2018, Secretary of State.

His representation of the Trump Administration’s policies has vaulted him into even loftier achievements. He has interacted with the North Korean leader and most recently was deeply involved in the negotiations for the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement, which has reshaped the Middle East in a miraculous way. He convened the Commission on Unalienable Rights to advise him on human rights issues. In a first, he also organized an all-day conference on religious freedom that was attended by 80 foreign dignitaries. Focusing on persecution of all religious minorities, the conference resulted in several practical remedies to address religious liberty violations.

Pompeo has drawn condemnation for his faith-based comments and his conservative principles. In speeches, he’s been forthright about his values, saying, “As a Kansan, I hold a deep reverence for the sanctity of life, the solidarity of family, and the solemnity of marriage. … I am, and always will be, pro-life and will defend life from conception to natural death. I will continue to oppose any taxpayer funding for abortion. I also fully support the traditional institution of marriage.”

For evangelicals who care about Israel and hold to conservative biblical principles, Mike Pompeo is a highly favored and respected official. His part in helping enact the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem, Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights, the development of the Abraham Accords, and his visit to the biblical heartland amount to a treasure trove of benefits for the United States, Israel, religious minorities, the Middle East, and beyond.

Pompeo and his wife also visited the Golan Heights, which the Trump administration had recognized as being under Israeli sovereignty—not Syrian. It’s another course correction, one that’s rooted in the Bible in Deuteronomy 4:43. It’s called Golan in Bashan and is assigned to the tribe of Manasseh. In the Golan, Pompeo observed, “This is a part of Israel and central part of Israel.”

In an earlier press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Pompeo heralded an additional policy. “The State Department will declare as anti-Semitic the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.” (By definition, BDS is economic warfare against Israel.) In practical terms, this course correction means that products from Judea and Samaria can now be labeled as “Made in Israel,” “Product of Israel,” or “Israel.” It’s a major change from the past since, for example, last November, the top court in the European Union ruled that they would not accept a “Made in Israel” tag. The U.S. administration’s policy will now apply to Israeli goods that are under Israeli civil and military control. Those who decry the “settlements” condemn the U.S. decision since for years they have viewed this as infringing on the rights of Palestinians.

From his faith and his comments, it is easy to believe Mike Pompeo when he remarks, “Israel is our closest friend in the Middle East. My evangelical faith shapes my work.”

Please join CBN Israel this week in fervent prayer for the Jewish State:

  • Pray for an attitude change among Palestinians toward Jews.
  • Pray that Palestinian Authority President Abbas will finally prohibit anti-Semitic hate speech and programming in Palestinian media and school textbooks.
  • Pray for safety for the Jewish population living in Judea and Samaria.
  • Pray with thanksgiving for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his faith, and his leadership.

May we continue to remember and be encouraged by God’s promise:

“I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession” (Genesis 13:15).

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. By invitation, she has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times. She hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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Single Mother: Shlomit’s Story

She is a single mother of four young children—ages 2, 4, 5, and 7. And living in Israel, Shlomit worked hard at her job as a caretaker for the elderly… until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“People are very scared of the virus, so they are taking care of their aging parents themselves,” Shlomit explained. “Now I have no work, no income, and no way to put bread on the table.” She went to sleep each night in tears, praying, “Please, Lord… just help us get through the next day. Help us to survive!” And then, you provided an answer to her prayers.

A friend told Shlomit about CBN Israel, and now, we bring her groceries and essentials, including diapers for her toddler. We also provide her with her gift cards to buy other necessities. Thanks to friends like you, her little ones have plenty to eat—and she knows someone cares.

“This help means everything to me and my children,” Shlomit exclaims. “We are experiencing God’s love through you. I don’t feel like I’m alone in this anymore. In spite of everything, I have hope!” She added, “It fills my heart with joy, knowing that even in this pandemic, you didn’t forget us in Israel. All I can say is a very big thank you.”

And CBN Israel is letting so many others in the Holy Land know they are not forgotten—including lonely refugees, aging Holocaust survivors, and terror victims. We are offering them food and vital supplies, now and beyond the pandemic.

Your support can offer compassionate relief to Israel’s most vulnerable citizens—while reporting headline stories through CBN News in Jerusalem, and producing documentaries that share Israel’s stories.

Please consider joining us with a gift to help those living in this special land!


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Biblical Israel: Elah Valley

By Marc Turnage

The biblical writers often assume their readers knew the geographic and regional dynamics of the land of Israel. Sites and locations offer more than simply places on a map; they provide the living landscape that shaped and formed the biblical stories. In addition, the authors of Scripture assume we understand the geographical and regional dynamics that played important roles within their stories. A great example of this phenomenon is the Elah Valley. This valley serves as the setting for one of the most famous stories in the Bible: the confrontation between David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). If the story simply boils down to us as “man kills giant,” we miss the geographic tension created by the author and understood by his audience. Let me explain.

The biblical land of Israel, west of the Jordan River, looks like a loaf of French bread: flat on the sides and puffy in the middle. The puffy middle represents the Hill Country that runs north-south through the land, forming its spine. On the western side of the French loaf along the Mediterranean sits the Coastal Plain. The Philistines lived there. The Israelites lived in the Hill Country, and between these two geographic zones lay a buffer area known in the Bible as the Shephelah of Judah. Low rolling hills with broad valleys characterize the Shephelah. These valleys created west-east corridors for movement between the Coastal Plain and the Hill Country. Many places mentioned in the Bible lie in and along these valleys through the Shephelah; the Bible mentions them because of their situation in connection to these valleys and routes of travel. The Elah Valley provides one of these corridors between the Coastal Plain (and the Philistines) and the Hill Country (and the Israelites). 

Located at the western mouth of the Elah Valley as it opens into the Coastal Plain sits Gath, Goliath’s hometown. At the eastern end of this valley—in the Hill Country—lies Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Is it any wonder that Goliath of Gath and David of Bethlehem met in the Elah Valley? But there’s more. 

The author of Samuel described the Philistines’ movement into the Elah Valley from the west: “Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah” (1 Samuel 17:1 NIV). Their movement into the Elah Valley—as well as its regional dynamics, with Bethlehem situated at its eastern end—indicate that the end goal for the Philistines was Bethlehem. Acquiring Bethlehem provided entry into Judah, and it put them along the main north-south artery in the Central Hill Country. Their actions were not haphazard; they were strategic. And in the midst of these regional dynamics and the struggles between Israel and the Philistines, the author tells of the confrontation between David and Goliath. 

He assumed his audience understood the tension created by the geography of the story. The Philistines’ target: Bethlehem. Jessie and David from Bethlehem were concerned with how the battle fared. Where would David from Bethlehem and Goliath from Gath eventually meet? The author provides such a clear description of the valley, its villages, and even the brook that runs through it that one can stand in the Elah Valley identifying the lines of battle, the location of Saul’s forces and the Philistines, and the flight of the Philistines after David’s triumph. When we understand the physical settings of the land of the Bible, a depth of understanding and insight into the stories of the Bible opens before us, and we begin to read the Bible as its first readers did and its authors intended. 

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Sufficient for the Day

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11 NASB).

Jesus often alluded to passages from the Old Testament in His teachings. When He taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This image would have drawn to the minds of His disciples the story of the manna in the wilderness.

God provided manna in the wilderness to feed the children of Israel after they left Egypt (Exodus 16:11-36). They were permitted to gather only enough for that day. They could not gather more than a day’s sufficiency—except on the sixth day. On that day, they gathered a double portion to keep them for the Sabbath.

Prior to Israel’s entry into the promised land, Moses reminded them how God kept them in the wilderness: “He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3 HCSB).

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to ask only for their “daily bread.” Just like those wandering in the wilderness, He expected His disciples to understand their need and reliance upon God for His provision.

The emphasis on looking to God for the sufficiency of the day also reminds us of Jesus’ instruction to His followers to not worry about what they will eat or wear because God knows what they need (see Matthew 6:25-34).

That sounds great, right? Don’t worry. Trust God.

Have you ever wondered whether the Israelites in the wilderness ever went to sleep at night worrying that the manna wouldn’t be there when they woke up?

Spiritual slogans often wither in the heat of life’s cruel realities. That’s why our faith cannot rest upon motivational words, but on a genuine encounter with the living God, who provides our daily bread. He is trustworthy, even when our momentary circumstances seem to scream otherwise.

He does provide our daily bread. And we must look to Him and trust Him. He, however, doesn’t give us what we need tomorrow, today. We have to trust that today’s sufficiency is enough for today, and tomorrow’s will be there tomorrow.

Jesus called upon His disciples to trust God, even in the midst of hardship, trials, and difficulties—to not let the cares of life choke our trust in God. Do we have faith enough to see God so intimately involved in our daily lives providing our daily bread?


Father, give us this day our daily bread. Amen.

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Torah Reading Commentary: Parenting

By Mark Gerson

One of the wonderful things about studying the Torah results from its premise: Every word matters. The importance of every word, and sometimes every letter, leads to a fundamental question: What does it mean when every word matters? It is not that every word is crucial to understanding what happens in a story or what a law requires. It is that every word or combination of words has something to teach us. A single passage that contains multiple words is frequently able to teach us many lessons. And these lessons may be about the most important subjects in our lives—for instance, parenting.

In synagogues all over the world this week, we will read Parshat Toldot. The primary (but by no means only) story in Toldot is that of the birth and early life of Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. The first thing we learn about these twins we learn from God, the most authoritative source. God tells Rebecca (interestingly, only Rebecca—not her and her husband): “Two nations are in your womb, two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.”

In other words, these two boys are going to be different.

Then we come to Genesis 25:27—“And the boys grew up…” The conclusion of that passage reports that Esau loved hunting and Jacob dwelled in tents. But Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the great 19th-century founder of Modern Orthodox Judaism, focused on those seemingly prosaic words, which seem to be an introductory sentence to something more important. 

Rabbi Hirsch saw in this phrase severe criticism of Isaac and Rebecca. He interprets the phrase, “when the boys grew up,” to imply that they were brought up in the same way. Citing ancient “rabbinic commentators,” Rabbi Hirsch writes, “While it was prophesied and known to Rebecca that the boys would be quite different, she and Isaac nevertheless raised them in precisely the same environment and with the same methodology. This was their mistake.”

And their mistake has consequences. As they develop, Esau and Jacob both begin to reveal character flaws that result in a catastrophic and nearly fratricidal clash between them. The family will be destroyed forever, with reverberations that resonate through the Torah—even to the end of Deuteronomy—and quite possibly beyond. 

One of the purposes of the Torah is to help us learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. Indeed, this lesson became perhaps the most important principle of Jewish parenting. We see this during our greatest holiday, Pesach, when we relive and retell the Jewish freedom narrative (the Exodus) at the Seder through the Haggadah. The main function of Seder night is the education of our children. It is the evening when we bring our children into Jewish memory by teaching them the Jewish freedom narrative, broadly defined. 

One of the most important and memorable parts of the Haggadah is the Four Sons—each of whom asks a very different question to the parent who is leading the Seder and receives a different answer that is responsive to the specific question. It would seem reasonable to have one son who asks a question or questions through which his parent can provide the Jewish answer. It would even be comprehensible to have two sons who articulate (perhaps) a right and a wrong. But that is not what the authors of the Haggadah, understanding their obligation to produce a night of Jewish education, chose. They chose four children—not because there are only four types of children, but it is logistically impossible to have an infinite number of children appear. Four is about as many as is reasonable. And it illustrates the point made by King Solomon in Proverbs 22: “Educate the child according to his way.” His way—not “the” way. 

Where might Isaac and Rebecca have gone wrong? The silences of the Torah are often as instructive as its enunciations. They leave room for our imagination, which can help to invigorate and illustrate the text for us. Following Rabbi Hirsch, we can imagine Isaac and Rebecca deciding to raise their children the same way despite their sacred uniqueness. More importantly, we can consider the lessons embedded in Rabbi Hirsch’s interpretation of the clause “and the boys grew up.” The Torah is, after all, our great guidebook. 

The most apparent lessons of this clause regard parenting. They are a reminder that our parental responsibility is to educate, as commanded by King Solomon, in accordance with the specific gifts of each child. We might have a vision, perhaps deriving from our youth, of our child becoming a scholar, an athlete, a musician, or whatever. In comes Jewish tradition and says: Get rid of it! Your child is not created in your image—she is created in God’s image. And it is your job—your exhilarating, privileged job—to see how she was created in God’s image and to be God’s partner in helping her to manifest it.

God, who wants us to be His partner, does not make it hard to figure out how we can do so. Judaism has a general moral ambition, stated very clearly in Exodus and Isaiah (among other places): We are to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, en route to being a light unto the nations. Correspondingly, as parents/educators, we must teach our children the universal qualities that qualify everyone to help contribute toward this end—from loving the stranger to honoring our parents. But that is just where the education process begins. 

Each child has a unique role in contributing to our becoming a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, and it may or may not be what the parent envisioned. From a very young age, the way in which the child is created in the image of God emerges. It could be through qualities commonly considered good: patience, kindness, and compassion. It could be through qualities commonly considered more complicated: impatience, physicality, and pushing boundaries. It could be through music, mechanics, study, prayer, sports, or a thousand other things, in an infinite array of combinations. 

The message, from Rabbi Hirsch’s reading of Genesis 25:27, through King Solomon, the Haggadah, and to us is clear: Your children will reveal to you how they are specifically created in God’s image. Your responsibility is to identify and cultivate it in them. 

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

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Iran, the Palestinians, and the Future of U.S. Middle East Policy

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Most Americans are unaware that the nation of Iran has the United States in its crosshairs. They’re oblivious to the chilling truth that this trigger-happy Middle Eastern country considers us the “Great Satan” and wishes us harm. 

Israel, however, is all too aware of this ongoing threat. They are forced to be hyper-vigilant, based on an exceptionally unpleasant history with Iran. In the 41 years since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran’s Imams have threatened Israel—and the United States—with a long series of Shiite Muslim intimidations. The Imams view their role as clearing a path for Iran to rule the world once again, in a modern version of the ancient Persian Empire—which centuries ago encompassed the areas of modern-day Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. At its height, it ruled 44 percent of the world’s population—more than any other empire in history. Beginning in about 550 B.C., the ancient Persians conquered three continents with swords, horses, and chariots. Today, the ruling Imams and their Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) want to revive Persian dominance with a religious Islamist caliphate (governance)—and include the menace of an Iranian nuke. 

American administrations, whether Democratic or Republican, must remain alert to Iran since we don’t have to guess at Iran’s intentions. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei always uses the annual Quds Day (Quds is Arabic for “Jerusalem”) at the end of Ramadan to defame Israel, Zionism, and the U.S. while stridently proclaiming his support for Palestinians. Here is part of Khamenei’s May 2020 speech.

“The virus of Zionism won’t last long and will be eliminated. It’s the worst human evil, it will be uprooted from the Middle East despite being supported by the United States … in the not-too-distant future.” Khamenei went on to say, “The cancerous tumor continuing this historical oppression for decades uses the most horrifying forms of murder, crime, destruction of farmlands, and genocide—this is indeed a new record in brutality and wickedness. The main agents and criminals behind this tragedy are the western governments and their satanic policies.” Khamenei and his Imams often refer to the U.S. as the “Big Satan” or “Great Satan” and Israel as the “Little Satan.”

Iran’s continuing quest for nuclear weapons has, in part, motivated some of the Arabian Gulf states to forge alliances with Israel in the Abraham Accords—which is a bulwark against Iran’s leaders who have not relented in their goals of dominance in that region and the world.

Deemed the world’s most prolific terror-sponsoring nation, Iran supplies two of its terror proxies—Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon—with money and weapons. For the last nine years, during Syria’s horrific civil war, Iran’s long alliance with Syria expanded. The IRGC’s elite Quds Force, manned by several thousand soldiers and supplied by weapons depots, has been stationed just miles away from Israel’s border. The IRGC has suffered losses due to Israel’s Air Force efforts to contain the Iran threat in Syria. Iran’s threats cannot come true and as Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly stated, “We will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weaponry. We will continue to fight those who would kill us.” Israel’s uncompromising resolve was evident when it destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in a 1981 clandestine air attack and again in 2007, when Israel discovered Syria’s nascent nuclear program. 

Iran has not confined its bellicose meddling to the Middle East. For decades they have allied themselves with North Korea with their mutual interest in developing nuclear weapons. They have pointedly increased their influence in Latin America, building Iranian embassies, numerous cultural centers, and mosques in such nations as Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The IRGC has troops based in Venezuela to help that nation prop up its destructive dictator, Maduro, while the Venezuelan national airline ferries weapons, gold, and people between the two countries weekly.

In 2015, in response to Iran’s decades-long history of destructive influence and actions worldwide, the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany—known as the P5+1—finalized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. The Obama administration attempted a deal that would contain or prevent Iran’s nuclear quest. Based on faulty principles giving Iran too much too soon without first locking in active, proven concessions, it resulted in an Iran that enjoyed premature offers and compromises and then found ways to continue their smiling, clever chess game—of hidden centrifuges, nuclear missile development, and terror—while still supplying its surrogates in the Middle East: Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria. 

The Obama administration and P5+1 mistakenly overlooked Iran’s bullying nature and treated it like a democracy rather than an apocalyptic Islamic regime intent on dominating the world. It resulted in the flawed Iran deal still reverberating today on the world’s stage. Their underground nuclear facilities are scattered throughout the country. Iran’s nuclear goals include adding more centrifuges that spin at 1,500 revolutions per second to enrich uranium. And with its missile systems, with effective ranges between 700 to 1,500 miles, possibilities exist that Iran—by transforming missiles into nuclear-tipped warheads—could threaten not only Israel and the Persian Gulf states, but also Europe. The leaders of France, Germany and the U.K., expressing their concerns to the United Nations Security Council, believe Iran has already achieved nuclear-capable missiles. And it’s not far-fetched to think that Iran could take aim at the U.S. East Coast using a nuclear-tipped missile loaded onto a ship setting sail for the Atlantic Ocean. 

Another ignored issue in the Iran negotiations was Iran’s theocracy and its deep allegiance to their Shiite religion and its largest branch, Twelver Shiism. According to their beliefs, the 12th Imam—or Mahdi, “the awaited one”—is considered an Islamic savior. Shia Muslims believe the Imam Mahdi has been alive since 869 A.D. but remains hidden until a chaotic time on earth when he will appear and rescue mankind.

In William Wagner’s book, How Islam Plans to Change the World, the author and Christian professor observes that “a critical part of Islam is taking control in the world and thus ushering in the Mahdi. They think one of the major blocking points is Israel, and that is one reason why they feel like they must destroy Israel.” Wagner states that Islam wants the entire world to become Muslims. 

Israeli geopolitical analyst Jonathan Spyer observes, “Iran will do all in their power to preserve the regime by all means. Why? Three main reasons: the Mahdi and the necessary upheaval, the Mahdi and Iran as a facilitator for his reappearance, and the Mahdi and Tehran’s visceral hatred of Israel.” 

The P5+1’s lack of understanding about the role of apocalyptic Islamism, along with their demonstrated naivete, led them to think that Iran, the world’s most prolific purveyor of terror, would magically morph into an honest partner and abandon its nuclear goals and threats.

When it comes to American policy toward Israel under differing administrations, history is the best proof by looking at the two most recent Presidents: Obama, then Trump.  

Obama supported Israel’s annual security aid during his two terms. His relationship with Netanyahu, though, was riven with policy disagreements. Several of Obama’s decisions left many Israelis with deep distrust. 

First and foremost, Obama’s push for the Iran deal created damaging divisions between Israel and the United States. Israelis and pro-Israel American evangelicals knew the deal was ill-conceived and based on an anemic American strategy. Secondly, Obama viewed Palestinian leadership as victims instead of corrupt officials, a kleptocracy that did not invest in its population’s well-being. One of the final insults happened in December 2016, when the United States did not veto a U.N. resolution that condemned Israeli “settlements” in Israel’s biblical heartland—Judea and Samaria. Obama then finished off what Israelis perceived as a betrayal by releasing $221 million to the Palestinians on Trump’s inauguration day. Republicans had held it up due to Palestinian corruption, concerned that the money would remain only in the pockets of its leaders.    

President Trump’s outstanding policies, on the other hand, have led both Israelis and pro-Israel Christians alike to compare him to Cyrus the Great, the benevolent military conqueror who freed the Jews from the Babylonian captivity in 538 B.C., enabling them to return to their capital, Jerusalem. In an analogous way, President Trump “freed” the U.S. Embassy located in Tel Aviv to move to Jerusalem, Israel’s ancestral capital, after 25 years of delay from Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Trump’s administration has also supported Israel’s annual security aid. Significantly, he kept his promise to pull out of the defective Iran deal and increase Iran sanctions. President Trump gave $5 million to Palestinians to help fight COVID-19, but he cut significant aid to the Palestinians in 2018 and 2019 due to their corrupt leadership, refusals to negotiate with Israel, and their payments to terrorist’s families. 

Supporting Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and brokering the historic Abraham Accords have also won the hearts of Israelis and pro-Israel evangelicals. Israel even named a train stop near the Western Wall in honor of Trump and named a new Golan Heights community “Trump Village.” Had Israelis and their millions of Christian friends been in charge of bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize, President Trump would have been the deserving winner. 

The controversial “settlements” were also recognized in a declaration signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.” In another correction, Pompeo recently signed a long-awaited declaration allowing Israeli citizens born in Jerusalem to add “Israel” as their country of birth. It’s been clear in the last four years that Trump and Netanyahu have enjoyed a warm, collegial relationship.

At this writing, the Electoral College has not yet certified the winner of the 2020 presidential election. If Mr. Biden is officially designated as President-elect, we can expect a change in policies toward Iran and the Palestinians. Biden has said he will rejoin the JCPOA with Iran. This alone would be a source of alarm for Israelis. We could expect Biden to be much more sympathetic to Palestinian leadership, try to broker a deal between Palestinians and Israelis, and likely lean hard on Israel to make useless concessions with no cooperation from Palestinian leadership. Although Biden said he would not move the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv, his policies would undo many of the blessings and security guarantees that President Trump has rightly given Israel.

Mr. Biden has known every Israeli Prime Minister, beginning with Golda Meir, and he and Prime Minister Netanyahu do have a long-term, cordial relationship. Biden is known to have joked to Netanyahu a few decades ago, “I don’t agree with a thing you say, but I love you.” In one of his 1980s speeches on the floor of the Senate, Biden declared, “If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect our interests in the region.” In the 2020 Democrat election debates, he clearly said that he would not threaten Israel with reduced security aid.    

Israelis, though, will not let up in their watchfulness toward Iran and or relax their well-founded policies to defend their homeland on three of their borders with Iran’s surrogates. We will likely hear more stories about Israel’s covert operations similar to Mossad’s 2018 stealthy raid on a Tehran warehouse in the dead of night. In a little over six hours, they confiscated a 100,000-document archive of Iran’s secret nuclear activities. Or another mysterious explosion like the one in 2020 at Natanz—a uranium enrichment site. 

Join us in praying for the nation and people of Israel as they potentially face significant threats in the days ahead: 

  • Pray that the outstanding cooperation and partnership between the U.S. and Israel will continue in the years and decades ahead.
  • Pray for success and protection for all branches of Israel’s military: ground forces, Air Force, Navy, submariners, police, Mossad, Shin Bet, and cybersecurity. 
  • Pray for protection and encouragement for the thousands of Iranians who are coming to faith in Jesus but fear for their safety and their families’ welfare. 
  • Pray that Iran’s Imams and IRGC will be stopped in every effort to destroy the Jewish state and Jewish communities worldwide. 

As we pray and advocate for Israel, may we continue to trust that “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. By invitation, she has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times. She hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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Aiding Terror Victims with Disabilities

The attacks were relentless. Living in the Israeli city of Sderot means near-constant bombardment from missiles launched by Gaza’s Hamas terrorists. Many individuals, families, and businesses that could leave the chaos have moved out, destroying the city’s life and economy.

Many of those with physical, emotional and mental disabilities have been left behind, however, trying to navigate life in such bewildering daily turmoil as best they can. Thankfully, some residents have chosen to stay and fight—nurturing the city and its people.

For the disabled, one strategic partner of CBN Israel is helping many of these people in need: the Gvanim Association. This remarkable outfit provides programs that advance independent living, offering the tools needed to empower individuals and help them reach their full potential.

Gvanim is responsible for over 2,000 people with various disabilities in Sderot and beyond, all victims of terrorism. After each bombing attack, these highly trained volunteers help every resident get to safety and deal with anxiety.

“Helping people with various disabilities deal with anxiety is a hundred times harder for our team, given their unique situations,” says Gvanim cofounder and head, Nitai Shreiber. CBN Israel is linking arms with outstanding partners like Gvanim to reach out to so many vulnerable people impacted by terror.

Through CBN Israel, you can provide trauma counseling and urgent assistance to those affected by terror as well as emergency response equipment and training for communities on the front lines.

You can be a tangible blessing to so many Israelis who face the ongoing threat and danger of terrorism.

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Weekly Devotional: The Best Laid Plans

Paul wanted to go to Rome. He said as much in his letter to the Romans. Paul wrote to them, having never been to Rome, but now he planned to go—after he delivered an offering from the saints in Greece for those in Judaea. He desired to visit Rome to impart spiritual gifts to local believers as well as receive their aid on his way to Spain.

He called on the Roman brethren to “strive together” with him in prayer, so that he could come to them by God’s will (Romans 15:30-32 NASB). Paul confidently stated, “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (15:29). But for all Paul’s desires, all his God-honoring plans, all his prayers and those of the Roman believers, things didn’t go the way he planned.

We learn from Acts 21–27:13 that his trip to Judaea resulted in him being arrested in Jerusalem and kept under house arrest in Caesarea for two-and-a-half years. He appealed to have his case heard before Caesar in Rome. En route to Rome, he was shipwrecked, bitten by a snake, and eventually arrived in Rome to await trial before Caesar—not as a free man, but in chains.

So, what happened? Were Paul’s desires and goals wrong? No. Did his prayers and those of the believers in Rome fail? No. Then what went wrong with his plans?

Quick question: Who wrote the majority of the New Testament? If you said Paul, you’d be wrong. It’s Luke. Luke–Acts together is longer than all of Paul’s letters combined. Luke tells us at the beginning of his Gospel that he relied upon eyewitness sources for his work.

Luke was with Paul in Israel when Paul was under house arrest for two-and-a-half years. This gave Luke the opportunity to meet the eyewitnesses who provided the material for his Gospel and the early part of Acts. Had Paul not been delayed, Luke would not have had that access—and we would not have the majority of the New Testament.

Do not despise the divine delays in your life. We are often so egocentric in our faith that we focus only upon how things impact us. As a result, we do not realize that perhaps God’s delay in our life enables His plan to unfold in someone else’s.

Paul, however, remained submitted to God’s will; therefore, He allowed God to do with him whatever He wanted. So, if Paul arrived in Rome in chains, he would walk obediently to God’s will regardless.

How do we respond when our plans go awry? Can God trust us with His delays to our plans?


Father, guide our steps today. Help us to accept whatever comes from Your hands, even Your delays in our lives. Amen.

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