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The United States and Israel: Still Standing Together

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

As we look for light amid the darkness of world events, the U.S. Congress might seem a surprising place to find it. Yet the enduring cooperation between the people and governments of the United States and Israel—surely a beacon of promise and hope—survives despite turnovers in Congress and the presidency. 

The U.S. Congress votes in favor of Israel’s annual security aid, a necessity more urgent now than ever before. The Christian community’s mark among members of Congress to promote legislation that will strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship is significant and helps increase the safety of both allies. Although Congress may not base its decisions on Genesis 12:3, that “God will bless those who bless Israel,” politically active Christians are motivated by scripture and congress matches its decision-making about our staunch ally important for our own nation.  

The Islamic regime continues marching toward possessing and using nuclear weapons. Its surrogates surround Israel’s borders in Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria—geographic proximity that brings terror up close. However, when it comes to Israel, terror shatters the peace within Israel’s borders. It is up close and personal when a 21-year-old terrorist living in east Jerusalem arrives at Ateret Avraham synagogue on Shabbat and starts shooting. During that four-minute shooting spree last week, the terrorist shot and killed seven Israelis and wounded three others, all on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. When a second terror attack took place the following morning in the City of David, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) added three additional battalions and ramped up the security alert to its highest level. The murders are considered the worst terror outbreak in years. 

Meanwhile, government officials from two nations that are responsible for murdering their own populations recently met in Damascus to arrange a meeting between Iran’s president, Ebrahim Riasi, and Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. At this meeting, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and Syria’s foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, recapped their “challenges” with Western nations. Mekdad observed that they must “secure their national interests.” He named the United States and the “Zionist Regime” (Israel) and their “mercenaries” as threats. 

On another front, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog—the International Atomic Energy Agency—plans to travel back to Iran in his attempt to revive the 2015 Iran deal. Director Rafael Grossi reports that although Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon yet, it has “amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons, not one.” I believe this latest attempt at a deal with the Islamic regime will fail, since the ayatollahs are fixated on one goal: using nuclear bombs to establish a worldwide caliphate governed under tyrannical Islamic law. The Gulf Arab states, Israel, and the United States are their prime targets. 

Iran’s leaders view United Nations diplomacy as simply another forum for propaganda. The Iran regime’s dangers to its own population and the active terror from its surrogates in Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria are intensifying. 

But here’s one kind of message that is bound to get their attention. On January 26, the U.S. Central Command and Israel Defense Forces completed a massive military exercise called Juniper Oak 2023, the biggest joint drill on record. Its size and scope must have sent an unmistakable message to the ayatollahs. As U.S. General Michael “Erik” Kurilla observed on NBC, “It would not surprise me if Iran sees the scale and the nature of these activities and understands what the two of us are capable of doing.” 

The combined participation included 1,100 Israeli soldiers and 6,400 U.S. soldiers in the drill. The Times of Israel reported that 142 aircraft were involved: F-35, F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 fighter jets; AC-130 Hercules transports; B-52 heavy bombers; and AH-64 Apache helicopters. A U.S. Navy carrier strike group coordinated operations with six Israeli ships and a submarine that carried out maneuvers with the American aircraft carrier.

Israel provides unmatched efforts that help our own U.S. security, as Israel shares intelligence with the U.S. government and military. The advantages of this cooperation spill over into our civilian airline safety methods that were gleaned from Israeli resources. Another benefit is that Israel never asks for American boots on the ground. Their policy is to defend themselves by themselves. 

When it comes to Return on Investment (ROI), our relationship with Israel is quite favorable. Such benefits manifest themselves in our economy. Our U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the capital, reported in 2021 that bilateral trade resulted in nearly $50 billion in goods and services annually. Another example worth noting: Israelis themselves invested around $24 billion in the United States. Compare huge Israeli investments to our Congress’s Ten-Year Memorandum of Understanding with Israel. Renewed again in 2018, the memorandum commits $3.8 billion annually in U.S. funds for Israel’s security for the following decade. Seventy-five percent remains in the U.S.—in factories that manufacture some of Israel’s advanced weaponry and employ American citizens. We are surely on the winning end.

When it comes to the U.S. Congress, although Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and several other members of the House of Representatives are anti-Semitic (as evidenced by their comments and votes), both Democrats and Republicans are staunch pro-Israel votes on important legislation and resolutions to continue strengthening the US-Israel relationship. 

Last week, on January 25, 2023, a recent bipartisan resolution—House Resolution 7—roundly won approval, passing in a 420-1 vote. Republican House member Thomas Massie (R-KY) cast the only NO vote. The resolution condemned the “violent suppression” of women-led protesters in Iran for the last five months. Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-NY) described the protests as the “most significant popular protest” in Iran since the 1979 takeover by the Islamic regime. 

The 24/7 news cycle thrives on bad news. However, focusing on good news, some that I have mentioned above, provides motivation to do what we can, where we can. Prayer is our foundation, and putting feet on our prayers is faith in action. Three hundred and sixty-five times in Scripture, God says, “Fear not.” He assures us in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 

Please join CBN Israel this week in praying for Israel and the Middle East:

  • Pray for citizens in the Islamic Republic who are demonstrating, imprisoned, and killed by the regime.
  • Pray for Israelis who are once again on high alert for terror, including Hamas rockets launched into Israeli civilian areas.
  • Pray that world leaders will pressure Israel’s enemies, not Israel—which defends its citizens from terrorists. 
  • Pray for hundreds of thousands of Syrian families who have fled Syria as well as those left amid the Iranian presence in their nation. 


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 an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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Biblical Israel: Capernaum

By Marc Turnage

Mentioned more than any other location in the Gospels, apart from Jerusalem, Capernaum sits on the northern shore of the lake of Galilee. The Gospels indicate it served as an important base during Jesus’ ministry around the lake, with Matthew referring to it as “his own city” (9:1). He performed miracles in the village casting out a demon in its synagogue on the Sabbath, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, and caring for many who suffered. Jesus taught in the synagogue built by a centurion (Luke 7:5). 

Capernaum does not appear in ancient sources prior to the first century where both the Gospels and the first century historian Josephus mention it. Its name means the “village of Nahum,” although no indication of who Nahum was is known. Archaeological excavations indicate that some settlement at the site existed as early as the third millennium B.C.; however, the village that Jesus knew began around 330 B.C. and continued until the Arab conquest in A.D. 640, when the layout of the village was significantly altered. Archaeological excavations indicate a population shift and growth took place in the first century B.C., in which the population became markedly Jewish. 

The site of Capernaum today consists of two sites, one controlled by the Franciscans, which contains some houses, the synagogue, and the Christian shrine, and the other site belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. Excavations on the Greek Orthodox property have been limited. Most of what they excavated dates to the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries A.D.). They did discover a bathhouse (2nd-3rd century A.D.), a tomb, which dates to the 1st century, and some suggest that the sea wall of the harbor goes back to the first century as well. The more popular and developed side of Capernaum belongs to the Franciscans; however, most of the remains that visitors see date to the Byzantine period.

The synagogue that stands in the site today was constructed out of limestone, which had to be brought to the village since the local stone is the black, volcanic basalt. Certain architectural elements of the structure suggest a 3rd-4th century date; however, pottery discovered under the floor indicates that the current building was constructed in the 5th-6th century. The limestone building rests upon a basalt wall. While visitors to the site are shown this wall and told it dates to the first century, the time of Jesus, this simply does not seem to be the case. The wall supports the limestone structure above it. It is possible that they built this structure on top of the earlier, first century synagogue, but the synagogue of Jesus would have been much smaller, as excavations under the floor of the Byzantine period synagogue have revealed houses in use during the first century. 

The excavated houses date primarily to the Byzantine period; however, excavators uncovered a large courtyard to a house, which dates to the first century. The homes in Capernaum reflect a style of home popular within the ancient world known as the insula. These homes surrounded a central courtyard in which much of the domestic life of the family took place. This style of home illustrates many stories in the Gospels. 

Visitors to Capernaum encounter a large modern church built over a series of ancient ruins, which consist of three phases. The earliest phase consists of an insula home (200 B.C.-A.D. 135). The second phase reflects an insula sacra in which a certain portion of the house became a shrine (2nd-4th century A.D.). The final phase (5th-6th century A.D.) preserves a Byzantine shrine with three concentric octagonal walls with mosaic floors. This structure architecturally reflects a Byzantine shrine, built over a sacred site, but it is not a church. The excavators explained these three phrases as evidence of this site being the “House of Saint Peter.” 

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.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Comforted by God

“I will give thanks to You, O Lord; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me” (Isaiah 12:1 NASB).

As children, we made mistakes. Sometimes a lot of mistakes. And, yes, sometimes our mistakes roused our parents’ anger. If we had good and loving parents, nothing was more comforting than when they looked past their anger and disappointment with us, saw our sorrow and sadness, and comforted us. We still make mistakes. And we still seek comfort.

We may not have comprehended it all as children, but somehow, we understood that in those moments when our parents chose to comfort us instead of acting on their righteous anger, we gained a genuine sense of awe for our parents. We knew that they had the right to their anger; we had fallen short. But they chose to comfort us instead.

The psalmist said, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). It’s God’s mercy, His ability to turn from His anger and comfort us, that ought to draw us closer to Him. That He desires and is willing to do so is incredible. 

Do we allow Him to comfort us? We seek His comfort when we are hurting from life’s circumstances, but do we allow Him to comfort us when we have failed Him? Do we recognize that He desires to comfort us, even when He’s been angry at us?

God often forgives us more quickly than we forgive ourselves. God’s comfort in our lives, however, brings us to a place without fear: “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). It enables us to trust Him. 

When our parents sought to comfort us, despite our mistakes, it played an important role in building our trust with them. We most likely came to see that their love for us did not depend upon circumstances but instead was rooted deeply in their relationship with us.

We can trust God because He turns aside His anger with us to comfort us. He is for us. We need to allow Him to comfort us today.

PRAYER

Father, I thank You, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away and You comforted me. Amen.

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Help Redeem the Past on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

“May this archive, which serves as restitution for the victims and their families, be a warning to all future generations to never again allow such a horror to afflict humanity.” 

Since 1952, this phrase has been embedded into a wall in the main building at the Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution in Bad Arolsen, Germany. And it is fitting to remember it this week, the 78th anniversary of the Allies’ liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This day in history will bypass the attention of most communities worldwide. Yet Friday, January 27, is deeply engraved in the minds and hearts of Holocaust survivors, their descendants, and the nation of Israel. It marks the day when the Nazis’ genocidal machinery was finally exposed for the world to see. It is a date in Jewish history that lives in infamy.

Seventy-eight years ago, on January 27, 1945, soldiers from Russia—then one of the allied powers determined to stop Hitler—liberated more than 7,000 Jewish survivors from Auschwitz-Birkenau. The United Nations General Assembly later designated this date as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to commemorate all victims of the Holocaust. The theme this year is “Home and Belonging.”

Today, I’m compelled to convey a solemn history about the Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution in Bad Arolsen, Germany. It was established to track millions of displaced, deported, and murdered Jews and other communities. As you read, you will discover a simple yet powerful way to help redeem the past and highlight the “Home and Belonging” theme—as part of an international team of more than 60,000 volunteers with more needed. By joining in on the “Every Name Counts” project, volunteers add names to the largest digital database in the world. We become part of remembering and honoring six million Jewish men, women, and children who perished. This link explains how it works: https://everynamecounts.arolsen-archives.org/en

Each year, more Holocaust survivors fade into history. Their passing is an irreplaceable loss to families and friends. In April 2022, Israel reported that some 161,000 survivors were living within its borders. In the U.S., approximately 50,000 Holocaust victims survive. Estimates in 2020 indicated that only 400,000 remain worldwide. Moreover, Holocaust survivors are living proof that genocides remain as an evil presence in our world. Among them are the governments of Nigeria, China, Syria, and Iraq, governments that perpetuate cruelty toward Christians and other minorities. 

The heartache of Holocaust survivors only continued in the immediate post-World War II years. The traumas linger even amid making a new life. History reveals that there could have been more possibilities for Jewish families to connect and reunite. When Jewish survivors desperately searched for relatives and friends in the Holocaust’s grim aftermath, trying to categorize and answer requests about family members was an impossibility. Factors on the ground in Europe coalesced into an intractable deadlock of numbers, confusion, and devastation. In 1943, the British Red Cross set up the Central Tracing Bureau, and later the International Red Cross took over these daunting tasks. 

Six million is the general figure used to document Jewish murders in concentration camps, but it does not take into account “shooting operations” and other atrocities in Poland, Italy, Romania, and Russia. Nor does it include the number of gypsies, disabled people, gays, and prisoners—which could total three times more. In addition, not a single World War II master list exists. Approximately 250,000 Jewish people displaced between 1945 and 1952 are an example of just one numerical challenge the International Red Cross faced. 

Later, in 1948, a coalition of nine nations was tasked to oversee the Bad Arolsen archives. More than 15 miles of document shelving was stashed in a former Nazi SS barracks and a castle in the small, wooded German town located in the American Occupation Zone. The archives contain 50 million index cards for about 17.5 million people. Originally, nine countries served on an International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS): Belgium, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States, with Greece and Poland joining later. 

Until late 2007, the ITS in Bad Arolsen was the largest unopened Holocaust archive in the world. For decades, survivors, families, and historians pleaded for answers to their inquiries. After the war, Holocaust-related documents dumped into the buildings in Bad Arolsen grew into battlegrounds in diplomacy and differing opinions between the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and European allies. 

A system failure to connect survivors intensified as the 11-country commission sank into a bureaucratic tangle. Infighting over policies, tasks, and a myriad of other issues delayed their purpose of reunification, placement, and searches for missing persons. Disagreements over privacy questions about victims’ personal data clogged the process, as did the  advancing Cold War era, which slowed down the archival work. 

Lack of adequate funding and staff problems intensified within the International Tracing Service and with it, the compounded victimization of the European Jewish community. Charles-Claude Biedermann, the International Red Cross official in charge of the archive for two decades, seemed to embody the spirit of this frustrating impasse. He enforced a policy of restricted access even to certain buildings, keeping to a very narrow definition of who could be helped. Tracing work languished with 400,000 requests. 

After an internal investigation in 2006, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) approved and released a document on April 27 asserting, “This failure is aggravated by the fact that the ICRC did not do everything in its power to put an end to the persecutions and help the victims. The organization remained a prisoner of its traditional procedures and of the overly narrow legal framework in which it operated.” Biedermann defied a 2006 U.S. push to open the archives. Finally, he was fired. 

In 2008, the ITS at long last opened its archives. In 2012, the ICRC withdrew from management and the German Federal Archives took over. The facility name changed to the Arolsen Archives–International Center on Nazi Persecution. 

Given the mountains of paper—some written on scraps of cigarette cartons—technology has added a welcome improvement on World War II era record-keeping. In 2019, the Associated Press released an important announcement from Bad Arolsen. The archive released over 13 million digitized records on 2.2 million victims. These records, which had been meticulously documented by Nazis, included death and prisoner notices. The Arolsen Archives records are now online, with search improvements increasing. Search for documents in the Arolsen Archives (arolsen-archives.org) Arolsen Archives belongs to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Memory of the World. 

The archive should—and will—remain in its preeminent place as a source of knowledge and help. Nevertheless, 78 years of missing persons sorrowfully prevents the possibility of reunions even with technology. In the aftermath of World War II, a 12-year-old looking for a parent, a mother searching for her toddler hidden in a convent, or a grandfather desperate to know if he has a grandchild—none has any answers.

While technology has improved the Arolsen Archives’ institutional health, it is the organization’s collaboration with Yad Vashem, Israel’s World Holocaust Remembrance Center, that has created a powerful united force. Together, these organizations facilitate and accelerate locating every single Holocaust survivor so that they may be interviewed, honored, and remembered. Indeed, Yad Vashem’s technology is a tremendous asset, and Arolsen Archives now process around 20,000 requests a year. 

The 11 member states on the International Commission of the ITS and more than 200 archive employees operate in a more effective way. Arolsen Archives are funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. While I have attempted to synthesize some of the history of the Arolsen Archives, I highly recommend an excellent, detailed article written in 2013 by Jean-Marc Dreyfus: “Opening the Nazi archives at Bad Arolsen.”

Please join us in prayer this week as the world remembers the Holocaust on January 27th:

  • Pray that Christians will bless Holocaust victims through CBN Israel’s ministry to survivors in Israel.
  • Pray that volunteers will increase to complete the “Every Name Counts” project.
  • Pray that all believers will choose one way to support a Holocaust survivor in Israel, U.S, or another nation.  
  • Pray that rising anti-Semitism will be met with advocacy from Christians on behalf of Jewish communities everywhere. 

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 an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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Biblical Israel: Qumran

By Marc Turnage

Located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about seven miles south of Jericho and twenty miles north of Ein Gedi, sits the ruins of Qumran. Eleven caves around Qumran yielded, arguably, the most important archaeological discovery of the twentieth century: the Dead Sea Scrolls. The current name, Qumran, comes from the Arabic word qamar (“moon”), so it was not its ancient name, which remains unknown. Some have suggested that it may be Secacah (Joshua 15:61-62). 

In 1947, in a cave just north of the ruins of Qumran, Bedouin shepherds discovered seven leather scrolls hidden inside. This set off the frantic search by scholars and Bedouin alike to discover more caves and scrolls. Around Qumran, eleven caves were discovered between 1952-1956 that contained scrolls. The discovery of scrolls in the caves around Qumran led archaeologists to excavate the ruins of Qumran in 1951 and from 1953-1956. 

The library of scrolls discovered in the eleven caves yielded approximately 30,000 fragments of scrolls, comprising about 1,000 manuscripts written on leather, papyrus, and one on copper, in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The library proves incredibly important for our understanding of the text of the Old Testament, as well as ancient Judaism, the Judaism of the first century. 

Every book of the Old Testament, except for Esther, was discovered among the Qumran library. The most copied books were Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah, which are also the three Old Testament books most frequently quoted in the New Testament. The library also contained non-biblical works written by Jews from the second century B.C. to the first century A.D., with a unique collection of writings belonging to the Jewish sect that lived at Qumran, a group most scholars identify as the Essenes, which are mentioned by several ancient writers. 

Most scholars identify the ruins of Qumran as belonging to a group of Essenes. The site consists of rooms, which have been identified as a scriptorium, where the community members copied the scrolls, a dining room, which is the longest room at the site and had a pantry filled with bowls, plates, and cups. The site also contains pottery kilns, water reservoirs, as well as several large communal Jewish ritual immersion baths. 

The site, which sits in a dry, desert climate, used a series of dams and water channels to bring water from the nearby wadi, which flooded during the winter rains. The dams and channels ensured that water flowed into the settlement and filled the water installations. 

The discovery of the scrolls significantly advanced our understanding of the text of the Old Testament, as well as the world of ancient Judaism, which is the world of the New Testament.  

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.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: The Fruits of Repentance

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. … Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. … Don’t collect any more than you are required to. … Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:8, 11, 13, 14 NIV).

Repentance is usually seen as something between God and us. We sin and disobey; we come to Him in repentance. John the Baptist led a spiritual revival calling people to repent and return to God. For him, the people needed to show that their repentance was genuine by bearing the fruits of repentance. 

While John called the people to return to God—“Prepare the way of the Lord”—when they inquired what they should do to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” he gave them rather practical actions. Perhaps even more significant than their practicality is that the actions John advised all pertained to how they related with others instead of God: Give clothes and food to those who are without, don’t extort, don’t rob. 

As Christians, we often compartmentalize our spirituality from our everyday life. When I’m spiritual, that pertains mainly to my relationship with God. How I behave as I go through my day, well, that’s just life. Yet the biblical view does not accept such segregation. 

The way to God is through others. In other words, the true evidence of my spirituality and relationship with God is manifested in how I treat others, including practical issues like caring for the poor and hungry and conducting business relationships and interactions. 

John not only called the people to repent, preparing the way of the Lord; he also instructed them to bear the fruits of repentance. And what were those? How they treated one another. How they cared for the poor and hungry. How they behaved in business dealings with others. 

Too often we proclaim our love for God, yet our treatment of those around us, those we encounter in our daily lives, does not bear the fruit of the relationship we claim. John expected those who embraced his movement to show in their treatment of others the fruit born from their repentance.

PRAYER

Father, as we turn to You today, may we bear the fruit of our repentance in our daily lives and relationships, with family, friends, and strangers. Amen.

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Weekly Q&A: How did we get the Bible?

This history of how we got the Bible is fascinating. When we hold our Bibles in our hands, we rarely consider how the Bible came to us. So, how did we get the Bible?

The Old and New Testaments preserve a library of books written by different authors, composed of different genres, and, in the case of the Old Testament, written over hundreds of years. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Jewish scribes translated it into Greek in the late third and second centuries B.C. The Greek translation of the Old Testament is known as the Septuagint.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek in less than a hundred years. The writers of the biblical books originally wrote their book by itself. Only later were individual books made part of collections for the community of faith. We refer to the original manuscript penned by the author as an autograph. We do not have any autographs of any books of the Bible.

So, how did we go from the autographs to our Bibles?

Ancient writers used several different materials to compose their books. They composed their works on scrolls. The scrolls were made from either animal skin—parchment (treated sheepskin or cowskin) or vellum (treated calfskin)—or papyrus, made from the reed papyrus plant. They could stich pieces of animal skin together to make a longer scroll.

Books, like 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, are one complete book. They did not fit onto one scroll and required two scrolls to contain their content. They used ink made from gall. Until the first century A.D., manuscripts were written on scrolls. In the first century, people began to use the codex—the stacking of pages upon each other to form books.

After the original author penned his autograph, scribes copied and transmitted these works. This transmission from one scribe to the next happened over hundreds and thousands of years. We have roughly 5,000 manuscripts which contain all or part of the New Testament.

The original author wrote his work without punctuation or paragraphing. In the case of the books in the Old Testament, the Hebrew was written without vowels. No manuscripts contained chapters or verses; these were added later. Evidence for verse divisions within the Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament date from the fifth-sixth centuries A.D., but we only have manuscript evidence for this practice from the ninth century A.D.

Stephen Langton established the chapter divisions of the Old Testament around 1204-1205 while he was lecturing at the University of Paris. The earliest manuscripts displaying his chapter divisions dates to the thirteenth century A.D. New Testament manuscripts show some chapter divisions (although not our modern divisions) by the fifth century A.D. Hugo de Sancto Caro first introduced chapter divisions into the Christian Bible, but Stephen Langton (1204-1205) created the chapter divisions used today.

These divisions were first inserted into the Greek text of the New Testament in the sixteenth century. The first use of verse divisions in an English translation of the Bible appeared in the translation of William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579) in 1557. The Geneva Bible (1560) used both chapter and verse divisions within an English translation of the Bible for the first time.

It took time for the Bible to come to us. Unnamed scribes, translators, and other figures along the way enabled us to have the Bibles we hold in our hands today.

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.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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A Small Christian Charity with a Big Impact in Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The word “compassion” beautifully describes an American charity named The Works of His Hands. Since 2007, this ministry of mercy—known in Hebrew as Maasay Yahdav—has enveloped thousands upon thousands of Israelis in a kaleidoscope of kindnesses and practical helps. Psalm 111:7 is the primary source for their name: “The works of His hands are verity and judgment; all His commandments are sure.”

The charity was established by Alice Long and Doris Billings Mintz, who took their first trip to Israel in 2007. They boarded their flight carrying a single bag of stuffed animals and hand puppets and visited patients in the only Israeli hospital that opened its doors to them. The women gathered information and met with leaders and organizations to explore future opportunities. Their modest beginnings in a 501(c)(3) humanitarian journey blossomed into partnerships with 38-plus organizations today. The exhortation in Zechariah 4:10—“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin”—surely applies to them.

The founders’ multifaceted professional backgrounds—Doris’s corporate position in the healthcare industry and Alice’s nursing and telecommunications career—helped equip them to launch the charity. From its inception, their ministry was built on Isaiah 40:1: “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Everyone active in Maasay Yahdav is a volunteer, including the founders and six-member board. No one receives a salary.

As Maasay Yahdav enters its 16th year, Doris reflects on their first trip. “Our hearts were deeply pierced by the stories of Holocaust survivors, at-risk children, new immigrants, and those suffering in hospitals.” She recounts an unforgettable conversation with Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar—serving in an elite IDF unit—was murdered on the Gaza border by terrorists during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. His body has yet to be returned. “We could feel her grieving heart and palpable grief,” Doris said. “It moved us to do something to memorialize their beautiful fallen sons and daughters.” Outreach to Israel Defense Forces, their families, lone soldiers, and Israeli civilians living under daily threats of rockets is carefully woven into their ministry.

During the group’s year-round operations in the United States, they prepare for ministry in Israel. Teams travel twice a year (spring and fall) with volunteers varying in number from five to 29. In the ministry’s early years, the mostly female volunteers wrestled with four huge duffel bags of handmade quilts, baby clothes, and stuffed animals at the airport. Those efforts grew into dragging 50 duffel bags to the airport! Thankfully, for six years Maasay Yahdav has partnered with First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tennessee, as well as Harvest of Israel, which has shipped more than 75 containers packed with humanitarian aid. Maasay Yahdav adds their contributions, and the shipments await them when the volunteers arrive in Israel to carry donations throughout the land.

In between their two annual trips, Maasay Yahdav is hard at work. They view each day as an opportunity to gather more aid to ensure that their next shipment and trip to Israel are a reality—not a dream. Doris and Alice make presentations in churches, synagogues, and businesses to raise funds for portable bomb shelters and to directly support children, babies, and Holocaust survivors. Many activities throughout the year involve church groups of talented women who fashion beautiful handmade quilts and caps for tiny babies in neonatal intensive care. One year, Doris and Alice delivered a quilt to a Holocaust survivor who lived alone in a small apartment. When they unfolded the quilt for his single bed, with tears in his eyes he said, “This is my first night sleeping under something where I know I am loved.” Stories of blessings abound.

The ministry is a little giant of ever-expanding compassionate help. They solicited more than $100,000 to help place four portable bomb shelters via the Israeli charity, Operation Lifeshield. Each shelter honors the memory of a life extinguished by terror: Lieutenant Hadar Goldin in 2015, Hallel Yaffa Ariel in 2016, Michael Levin in 2017, and Ari Fuld in 2018. In addition, Maasay Yahdav raised enough money to completely finance two permanent bomb shelters. A plaque is affixed on each shelter with the names of the individuals and/or organizations that donated them.

One permanent bomb shelter dedication took place at Makor Chaim High School in Gush Etzion, Israel’s biblical heartland. The plaque on the bomb shelter honors three teenagers murdered in 2014. Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel were kidnapped by terrorists on their walk home from school—a tragedy that made international headlines. Yossi Baumol, director of development at the world-famous Makor Chaim Institutions, remarked with gratitude: “The generous people of Maasay Yahdav stepped forward to fund a full-fledged permanent bomb shelter in the student dormitory.”

Baumol describes their precarious security situation amid building a newer donated campus in the isolated area. “To the west looms a hill topped with a hostile Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions project called the Tent of Nations. Many European anarchists visit regularly. Our security staff fears the possibility of armed attack or Molotov cocktails from the hill.” Indeed every inch, every Israeli, is at risk. Christians worldwide, following Maasay Yahdav’s example, have a role to play in prayer and help.

   

Another permanent bomb shelter was dedicated in honor of Doris’s husband, the late Dr. Steve Mintz, who supported his wife’s efforts. She remains dedicated to honoring his Jewish heritage. The bomb shelter is located at the Beit Singer boarding school for children from high-risk homes. It also serves as a classroom. Explains Assistant Executive Director Ariel Rascovsky, We have a very special chemistry with Maasay Yahdav that for years has resulted in significant efforts to improve the lives of at-risk children. Our children need them very much.” For three months, Alice stayed at Beit Singer where she “loved on them, listened in their loneliness, hurts and anger and experienced the joys and laughter of children from ages 6 to 18 years old. They are the future of tomorrow.”

Maasay Yahdav emphasizes lifesaving in Israel not only through bomb shelters. They also raise donations for a motorcycle ambulance (medicycle) to help Magen David Adom (Israel’s version of the Red Cross). These motorcycles can quickly navigate busy narrow streets to bring lifesaving equipment to ill or injured patients.

Israel is rarely far away from the hearts and minds of Maasay Yahdav’s founders. Although the organization can’t boast many volunteers or much wealth, with a vigorous commitment and a foundation of spirited prayers, the results are plentiful. Those they meet in Israel become family. Doris and Alice are full of gratitude for the love and kindness of donors and volunteers helping to carry out The Works of His Hands together.


Please join CBN Israel this week in praying for Israel and her people in need:

  • Pray for Maasay Yahdav in their continual ministry to Israelis as well as for Doris Mintz and Alice Long as they lead this wonderful charity.
  • Pray for underserved, low-income Israelis who need a helping hand.
  • Pray for Israel’s government to increase aid specifically for Holocaust survivors.
  • Pray for Christians to seek ways to bless Israel with mercy along with speaking up for them amid growing anti-Semitism.
  • Pray for CBN Israel in our ongoing ministry outreaches to aid those in desperate need—including Holocaust survivors, refugees, terror victims, impoverished families, and more.

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 an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

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Biblical Israel: Chorazin

By Marc Turnage

Located two and a half miles north of Capernaum, Chorazin sits in the hills overlooking the lake of Galilee at 45-46 meters above sea level and 267-273 meters above the lake. Although only mentioned once in the Gospels (Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 10:13-16), Jesus cursed the village for not repenting when seeing the miracles he worked in its midst. He cursed Chorazin, along with Capernaum and Bethsaida. Incidentally, the land between these three villages, on the north shore of the lake of Galilee, covers much of the territory of Jesus’ ministry recorded in the Gospels. 

The distance of Chorazin from the lake meant that it did not participate directly in the fishing industry on the lake. We learn from rabbinic literature that Chorazin produced exceptional wheat. Excavations of the site reveal that the village, which began in the first century A.D., was a Jewish village.

The majority of the ruins one sees when visiting Chorazin today date from after the first century, but they reflect Jewish village life in the Galilee. The central structure from the later village is the synagogue. Built perhaps as early as the third century A.D., the basalt structure resembles the Galilean style synagogues excavated at places like Capernaum, Bar’am, Meiron, and Arbel. 

The synagogue sits in the center of the village. Worshippers entered the hall through three entrances from a large staircase on the south, which faces towards Jerusalem. Two tiers of benches line the two long aisles and the short wall opposite the entrance in a “U” shape. Inside the synagogue, the basalt stone, which is hard to fashion, bears carvings and decorations. 

Excavators uncovered pieces of what appears to be a Torah Ark, where biblical scrolls read in the synagogue were kept. They also discovered a basalt stone seat, which was known as the Seat of Moses (see Matthew 23:1-2; Luke 4:20). The chair bears a dedicatory inscription in Aramaic, which reads, “Remember for good Yudan son of Ishmael, who made (or donated) this stoa, and its steps from his property. May he have a portion with the righteous.” Recent excavations in the floor of this synagogue indicate that it may stand on an earlier public building, perhaps the first century synagogue. 

Although the ruins of Chorazin that one sees today date to after the first century, the site contains a number of features in the homes, installations, like a covered Jewish ritual immersion bath, and details within the synagogue that help to illustrate stories from the Gospels and the life and ministry of Jesus.

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.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: How Do You Treat Your Enemies?

“Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the LORD will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him” (Proverbs 24:17-18 HCSB).

How we treat our enemies says a lot about our relationship with God. Society today takes great joy in the falling and stumbling of those seen as our adversaries or opponents. Such attitudes permeate our civil and political discourse. We rejoice whenever our enemies fail.

We grow up like this. How often, as kids, did we mock someone who physically fell or stumbled? It’s natural that as adults we rejoice in the falling of our enemies. Sometimes we even attach divine justice to their stumbling as proof that God prefers us and looks out for us against our enemies. Such sentiments, however, are evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Jesus commanded His followers, “I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28 NLT). He called upon His followers to love their enemies; in fact, for Him, this was the principal characteristic for those belonging to the kingdom of Heaven—love your enemies.

While rejoicing in our enemy’s failures and failings is simple human nature, love of our enemies requires our obedience to Jesus. In a world where the misfortune of our enemies provides cause for rejoicing, Jesus demands His followers to live differently, to love their enemies.

Even the misfortunes of those hostile to our faith and God we cannot celebrate, for God causes His rain and sun to come upon the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). God does not distinguish between friend and foe in His mercy, and neither can we (Luke 6:36).

The test of our faith is not how we treat those who think like us, act like us, or even like us. The test of whether we are true followers of Jesus is how we love those who don’t think like us, who are not like us, and who don’t even like us. “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.”

PRAYER

Father, may I walk in obedience to You today by loving my enemies and showing mercy to them, as You show mercy to them. Amen.

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