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Weekly Devotional: The God Who Makes the Axe Head Float

“They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh no, my lord!’ he cried out. ‘It was borrowed!’ The man of God asked, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it” (2 Kings 6:4-7 NIV).

Do you ever imagine that God is too big and that His responsibilities are too vast to care about the daily details of our lives? After all, He has the universe to run, right?

The man lost a borrowed axe-head in the water. That was his problem, nothing that God should concern Himself with. Yet He did.

The Bible never presents God as so transcendent that the common, everyday details of our lives do not move Him. Jesus stated, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30 NIV).

God is not distant from us even if it may seem like that at times. He cares deeply for us, and He is near to us. He cares enough to involve Himself in the issues of our daily lives.

The man in the story did not own the iron axe-head. It was borrowed. Its loss troubled him, as anyone could imagine it would. God caused the axe-head to float, permitting easy retrieval.

Many of the stories about Elisha describe miracles he performed for the common, daily life of the people: multiplied oil in a jar (2 Kings 4:1-7); revived the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37); purified a pot of stew (2 Kings 4:38-41); fed 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44). And he made an axe-head float. These stories demonstrate that the God of Israel was concerned about the daily needs and lives of the people. He is for us, too.

No issue is too small for His concern. He is a loving Father. Like any parent, He delights in taking care of His children.

He is the King of the universe, the all-powerful, the creator of everything. He is awesome and majestic. He is also the God who makes the axe-head float. Never forget that.

PRAYER

Father, show us today that even in the smallest details of our lives—those things that matter to us—You are near and they matter to You, too. Amen.

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Weekly Q&A: Why is it important to understand the cultural world of the Bible?

The Bible is God’s revelation in time, place, and culture. The Bible represents the cultural world and worldviews of its authors and their audiences. The cultural world of the Old Testament is that of ancient Israel within the broader context of the Ancient Near East. In the New Testament, it is the cultural world of ancient Judaism within the broader context of the Greco-Roman world. 

Thus, the Bible does not represent a single culture, but multiple cultures. Culture evolves through time. As events transpire within the history of a people, the culture changes and adapts; thus, the cultural world of the Old Testament is not that of the New Testament.

Modern students of the Bible often struggle reading the Bible within its cultural contexts. We tend to import our culture into the Bible rather than understanding the Bible within its cultures. 

Language represents one of the clearest communications of culture. Through language, people communicate their ideas, values, perceptions of reality and the world, hopes, and understanding. Language is culture. It is also the most sanative part of a culture to historical events and processes. The history of a people leaves its fingerprints within its language from period to period. Thus, when we read the Bible, even if we read it in our language, we must remember that words and the ideas they communicate likely did not mean the same thing to them as it did us. 

Culture also pertains to things like marriage, birth and child rearing, inheritance practices, death and burial, tribal and family structure, economic life, village life, shepherding and farming, laws, justice, and judgement, weapons and warfare. People express their beliefs, values, and worldviews through culture. Whenever we read the Bible, we must be cognizant of the cultures it contains. Often the authors do not explain culture and its nuances to us because they could assume their primary audience understood them. 

The two primary means we have to engage the cultural context of the Bible are ancient written sources contemporary with the Bible and archaeology. Ancient written sources provide windows into the cultural world of the Bible. They often explain cultural details or provide greater background than we find in the Bible. They offer a broader repository of language, vocabulary, and ideas, which help us understand the words of the Bible within their cultural context. 

Archaeology offers a window into the material cultural of the people who lived in the world of the Bible. It uncovers the daily existence and tools people used during their lives within the world of the Bible. It can illuminate passages within the Bible and enables us to touch the world of the Bible in a way which can aide our ability to read and understand the Bible.

If we want to understand what the writers of the Bible meant, to better understand what the Bible means for us today, then we must study the cultural world of the Bible.

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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Israel’s Ministry of Interior Faces Losses If It Denies Visas to Christian Ministries

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Although there has been some friction in the past over issuing visas to Christian organizations and clergy, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) and Israel’s Ministry of Interior have quietly settled those issues behind the scenes. However, the Interior Ministry’s recent surprising move to deny essential visas to ICEJ—a prominent international Christian organization home based in Israel—is now out in the open. 

ICEJ’s Vice President and senior spokesman, David Parsons, explained that the Interior Ministry refused to issue visas during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he’s concerned because the rejections have now expanded into three years. Parsons comments, “We finally had to go public, and they are saying now we are not a religious organization.”

Since its founding in 1980, ICEJ has been registered as a religious organization. The hopes are that an upcoming hearing will expose a bureaucratic mistake, followed by a possible reversal. Israeli law clearly confirms that the decisions of the Ministry of Interior require that granting or denying visas must be based on correct, reasonable facts without bias.

Parsons described the results if the decision is not reversed: “We are slowly being squeezed out of existence by the Interior Ministry. We cannot continue our vital work to build global Christian support for Israel under these strict new rules.” No explanation is forthcoming yet to ICEJ. Moshe Arbel, interior minister in the Knesset, would do well to seriously reconsider several deeply troubling consequences of its damaging decision. Arbel must pay attention to the relational damage toward dedicated Christian staff and 600 million evangelicals worldwide who financially support a range of respected Christian ministries and media in the Holy Land. 

Using the concept of return on investment (ROI), the Shas religious party’s ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Arbel might consider an evaluation of the economic and humanitarian benefits to Israel from ICEJ and numerous other respected Christian organizations in Israel. One fact to note is explained in an article written by American Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman. He explores the concept, “Is It Permissible to Accept Charity from Christians?” He estimates that American Christians donate “hundreds of millions of dollars to both Christian and Jewish charities in Israel.”  

Here is what Interior Minister Arbel would discover about ICEJ if he were to examine its past actions:  

In 1980, ICEJ drove a stake in the ground through prayer and established a Christian embassy. The Knesset had officially declared Israel’s sovereignty over all of Jerusalem on July 30, 1980, enacting Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. Abandoning biblical history and Israel’s sovereign decision-making rights, nations (including the U.S.) reacted by relocating their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The minimally funded founders of ICEJ, who met in a small, cramped Jerusalem office, made the decision to stand with Israel in Jerusalem—Israel’s eternal capital. 

Now in its 43rd year, ICEJ has offices in 93 countries, and an immeasurable humanitarian imprint on the ground in Israel. Israel’s citizens—Jews, Arabs, Druze, Ethiopians, and more—benefit from ICEJ staff and volunteers in numerous outreaches throughout Israel. Aiding women in crisis, distributing food, and improving children’s homes, ICEJ’s merciful work with Holocaust survivors is also essential in the waning days of their lives.  

Sadly, a quarter of Israel’s 165,000 Holocaust survivors live in poverty. Ninety percent of survivors are above 80 years old. Illness and loneliness are rampant. ICEJ provides food and friendship with in-person visits—especially to those living alone. CBN Israel also carries out an active ministry to Holocaust survivors in need. In 2009 ICEJ—partnering with a local Jewish charity—founded the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors, which provides assisted living and a loving staff. ICEJ has also established an emergency call line for Holocaust survivors in crisis. 

Another lifesaving achievement implemented by ICEJ, with the financial commitment of churches and individuals worldwide, is the placement of more than 150 portable bomb shelters manufactured in Israel that protect Israeli civilians under fire from Gaza terrorists. ICEJ’s efforts have also resulted in more than 160,000 Jews immigrating (making Aliyah) to their ancestral homeland from all over the world. ICEJ works closely with the Jewish Agency for Israel and many other organizations in this massive effort. Isaiah 49:22 NIV captures the spirit of Aliyah—“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.” 

I daresay Rabbi Moshe Arbel, interior minister, would not want to slow down the arrival of Jews to their homeland based on God’s promises in Isaiah 49:22. But with visas presently denied, the number of staff and volunteers is reduced—and Israelis go wanting without the love and help that Christians provide. How will the Ministry of Interior overcome such a shortfall? 

Additionally, the Christian media presence inside and outside Israel is an important factor that Interior Minister Arbel hopefully will consider. As a Christian journalist, I have attended several Christian Media Summits hosted by Israel’s Government Press Office. At both summits, in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s keynotes, he praised Evangelicals and Christian media in glowing terms. He described Christian media as “Ambassadors of truth—you’re not merely the greatest ambassadors that Israel has around the world—you’re champions of truth.”

ICEJ is among respected Christian media worldwide that report news, educational resources, and truths about Israel. It also hosts tours, and annually implements the biggest tourist event in Israel, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Upwards of 5,000 evangelicals worldwide travel to Israel each year for weeklong celebrations. Their presence is not only an economic boon; it is an outflow of encouragement to Jewish families lining Jerusalem’s streets during Israel’s Parade of Nations. This year’s celebration, held September 29 through October 6, has the theme King of All the Earth.

ICEJ—and many other fine Christian ministries in Israel, worldwide Christian media, and Evangelicals—are what I call “information armies of facts.” We stand as a bulwark—with God’s help, strength, and wisdom—to oppose the poisonous propaganda of Israel’s enemies. 

May Rabbi Moshe Arbel and Israel’s Interior Ministry view us all as friends who will continue to exert prayers and actions on behalf of Israel’s diverse population. 

CBN Israel staff welcome you to join us in prayer this week: 

  • Pray for ICEJ and all Christian ministries in Israel for visa approvals. 
  • Pray that Rabbi Moshe Arbel will accept the sincere friendship of Christians and restored cooperation.
  • Pray that we as Christians will react to these challenges in a way that honors our Lord. 
  • Pray for Christian ministry personnel, their strength, shalom, and blessings. 

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 and has 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 her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Biblical Israel: Mount Nebo

By Marc Turnage

Mount Nebo is in the Transjordan (the modern Kingdom of Jordan) in the biblical territory of Moab. From here, Moses viewed the promised land, which he was not permitted to enter due to his disobedience in the Wilderness of Zin (Numbers 20).

God also buried him on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1-8). The two and a half tribes that remained east of the Jordan River (Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh) name Mount Nebo as part of the territory they requested from Moses. Its situation near to the southern end of Gilead (see Deuteronomy 34:1) and within Moab meant that, like other locations along this border, at times it came under the control of Israel and at others the Moabites laid claim to it.

Near to the mountain was a village also named Nebo (Numbers 32:3; 32:38; Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 48:1). The preservation of the name of the city aided later travelers and pilgrims in identifying Mount Nebo, which has been identified as such since the 4th century A.D. Byzantine pilgrims routinely visited Mount Nebo and left descriptions as to its location.

Mount Nebo is demarcated by two wadis on the north (Wadi Ayoun Mousa) and south (Wadi Afrit), and the Jordan Valley to the west. It’s highest peak stands at over 2500 feet above sea level, and none of its peaks are lower than 2100 feet above sea level.

The two most important peaks are Siyagha in the north (2130 feet) and Mukhayyat (2370 feet). Both yield evidence of human presence for thousands of years. From both locations, one has a dramatic view of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley and Jericho, and the wilderness of Tekoa to Jerusalem.

Excavations on Siyagha revealed a basilica with mosaics and a monastery that developed around it. So too, excavations on Mukhayyat revealed several Byzantine churches as well.

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: Displeased with God

God’s mercy offends us. When God forgives our sins and we do not receive the reward of our disobedience, we revel in His mercy toward us, and we may even desire such for those like us. But what about those we don’t like, or even our enemies? That is more problematic.

God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the brutal kingdom of Assyria. Jonah went the opposite way. God tracked Jonah down. As a result, Jonah found himself inside a fish. Jonah then cried out to God for mercy, and God heard him and gave him a second chance.

Jonah went to Nineveh and preached its impending doom in forty days. At least, he’d now be able to see the destruction of this wicked city of the Assyrians. But the people believed in God, and they repented.

And when they did, so did God. Then God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10 HCSB).

You would think Jonah would be elated. The people listened to his message, and the city was safe. Shouldn’t Jonah, who recently tasted God’s mercy in his life, welcome God’s mercy to others? He didn’t. God’s mercy displeased him greatly.

We want God to be “merciful and compassionate … slow to become angry, rich in faithful love” (4:2) to us. But we want to keep those blessings for ourselves and those we deem worthy of receiving it. You would imagine that by this point, God would have reached the end of His patience with Jonah, but He hadn’t.

He provided shade for Jonah in the form of a plant, as the prophet awaited the destruction of the city. God still wanted to teach Jonah a lesson. He also appointed a worm that caused the plant to die. Once again, Jonah complained to God, “I’d rather be dead than alive!” (4:3 NLT). God now had Jonah where He could teach him.

“You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?” (4:10-11 HCSB).

Too often we think of ourselves as special and as more deserving of God’s mercy than others. To Him, we are special, but so is everyone else, even those we don’t like or agree with—even our enemies.

We find ourselves displeased and offended when God shows His mercy to those we deem unworthy of it.

We usually focus upon one aspect of Jonah’s story—him inside the fish. When we do, we miss the point of the book—God’s mercy comes in ways that may displease us, to those we do not like because God is gracious and merciful and cares for everyone.

PRAYER

Father, may we walk more like You showing mercy to those we may not like, those who have hurt us, but those You care about. May we be more like You in every way. Amen.

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Weekly Q&A: Why is it essential to know the historical context of the Bible?

The Bible is God’s revelation in time, space, and culture. History is humanity’s reflection upon its past. The Bible is not one book; it is a collection of books composed by different authors, in different literary genres, written at different times. And, while the Bible contains history, it is not a history book per se. It also frames its literature within various historical periods.

The biblical writers include historical empires, kings, and figures without providing much detail about these historical characters. They often assume our familiarity with historical details, figures, and empires on the macro and micro levels. They set their narratives against the backdrop of these historical contexts.

For example, the book of Kings frames many of its narratives against the backdrop of Assyrian expansion, the turbulence this caused among the regional kingdoms of the Levant, and the varied responses of those kingdoms to the Assyrian threat. So too, the Gospels assume the historical incursion and annexation of the land of Israel by Rome, the collapse of the Hasmonean State, and the rise of the Herodian family, which began in the first century B.C.

Because the Bible spans periods of time, we must keep this in mind. Between Abraham and David stands one thousand years. Between David and Jesus stand a thousand years. We would never seek to understand a person living today by studying those who lived a thousand years ago; neither should we treat David and Jesus as belonging to the same worldview or world.

The period between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament spans roughly four hundred years. Within this period, Judaism underwent events which profoundly impacted and transformed it. Historical events, empires, wars, and rebellions shaped the world of ancient Judaism making it a different world from that of the Old Testament.

In other words, Jesus stepped into a different world from that of any of the Old Testament figures. When we study the New Testament, we should be aware of this history and the history of the land of Israel within the first century, because it forms the backdrop to the New Testament accounts (see Luke 3:1-3).

The biblical writers most often had a firsthand or at least a secondhand connection to the historical events within their world. Their writings often assume our knowledge of these historical events as they serve as background to their narratives, prophecies, visions, and letters.

If we want to understand what the writers of the Bible meant, to better understand what the Bible means for us today, then we must study the historical contexts of the world of the Bible.

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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United Nations Human Rights Council Is Inhumane Toward Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

The United Nations General Assembly is prepping for its annual meeting, which opens on September 5. Israel remains high on its agenda—expressly in meetings conducted by the Human Rights Council and their star pupil, the Commission of Inquiry. Although the UN purports to be fair, the Human Rights Council has exhibited a clear pattern of singling out and targeting the world’s only Jewish state.

Israel receives “special” treatment from the Human Rights Council, since it is the only nation where a human rights inquiry lasts forever! Now with 193 members, the United Nations has undergone an unwelcome transformation—distorting truth with artificial “facts”—ever since it voted favorably for the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947. Six months later, this resolution resulted in votes for Israel’s modern statehood on May 14, 1948—which took place 75 years ago. History tells us that Israel’s leaders accepted the partition plan while Arab leaders rejected it. It is indeed unfortunate that Arabs rejected statehood for their population and instead chose hatred and war as a substitute. 

On the two dates mentioned above—November 29, 1947, and May 14, 1948—the United Nations played a critical role in helping to fulfill prophecy, voting to return their ancestral homeland to the Jews, its indigenous people. The UN had no idea that God in His sovereignty enlisted the Jewish people as vessels to enact Isaiah 66:8 NIV—“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.” 

Let’s take a look at how the Commission of Inquiry (COI) was formed. On May 27, 2021, a Palestinian and Pakistani delegation requested a special session about “the Grave Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” The delegation represented a coalition of Islamic states—the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—with a membership of 57 countries on four continents. 

Heading up the COI is South African Judge Navi Pillay, who lugs her anti-Israel biases into Commission meetings. She has frequently slandered Israel, calling it an “apartheid state,” and lobbied governments to “sanction apartheid Israel.” One of Pillay’s most glaring actions occurred when she convened the 2009 Durban II conference in Geneva, Switzerland. She welcomed former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to spew his anti-Israel poison. Thankfully most democracies boycotted the Durban II. Ms. Pillay saw apartheid firsthand in her home country, which was itself cruelly apartheid. 

I do not know if Ms. Pillay has visited Israel. If so, has she met with any of the thousands of Ethiopian Jews airlifted to freedom by Israel? Has she met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly to question his policy of establishing hate filled anti-Israel media? Has she visited factories in Israel’s Barkan Industrial Park to see thousands of Palestinians working alongside Jews, all who receive equal pay—and some holding management positions?

The COI’s latest report in a June 2023 session of the UN Human Rights Council reveals that not one Palestinian terrorist or terrorist organization was mentioned. Not one. Months later, after a contentious COI meeting in November, during an interview with Israel’s i24 News Ms. Pillay claimed, “I’m 81 years old and this is the first time I’ve been accused of anti-Semitism.” Her comment was aimed in part at Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, who vigorously questioned her impartiality and accused Pillay and the COI of “Jew hatred,” blatant anti-Semitism, and being part of a “terror-supporting Commission.” 

In meetings, Pillay seemed shocked that Erdan and 18 member states spoke out in a debate describing the Commission of Inquiry as biased against Israel after a COI Report. It was the first time in decades that such bias was leveled—a much-needed change! The United States weighed in, stating that it remained “deeply concerned about the creation of the Commission of Inquiry … [and its] unwieldy scope. We also reaffirm our condemnation of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias.” 

Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to hold the United Nations accountable to its founding principles. Appearing before the U.S. Congress last June, Neuer highlighted proofs of anti-Semitism. During that appearance, he eloquently pointed out: “While dictators are honored, a democracy is scapegoated. The only country in the world with a standing agenda item at the Council is not China, which denies basic human rights to 1.5 billion people, nor is it Iran which beats, blinds, and poisons women and girls for protesting. It is Israel.”

UN Watch is a valuable news source for those who want to learn more about the UN’s outright bias against the world’s only Jewish state. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was established in 2006 and its anti-Israel record is statistically revealing. As examples, they have passed 14 resolutions on Iran, 16 on North Korea, 42 on Syria, and fewer resolutions on other countries. Yet they denounced Israel in 103 resolutions—more than Iran, North Korea, and Syria combined.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) defines the COI as “wanting to launch a global dragnet for the guardians, builders, and defenders of the Jewish state.” Now more than ever, Israel needs its evangelical guardians and defenders at the United Nations. 

With facts provided by UN Watch, Christians have an opportunity to advocate for Israel. Using this link, Sign up | CiviCRM (unwatch.org), you will know what is happening and can act by signing important petitions disseminated by UN Watch from time to time. We cannot underestimate the small steps when thousands of us are united to oppose the Jew hatred rampant in the United Nations! 

Ultimately, we are often assured in the Bible that Israel rests in the sovereign Hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Nevertheless, we honor Him by acting on behalf of Israel—a land and a people that He chose to transmit the Old and New Testaments and come to earth through Jewish lineage. Let us stand with Israel, our spiritual homeland, in prayer, facts, and actions.  

Our CBN Israel team welcomes you to join us this week to pray for Israel with hope by reading God’s promises in Ezekiel 37:21-22 (NIV): “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.” 

Prayer Points: 

  • Pray for the current 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council, which includes China, Cuba, and Pakistan.  
  • Pray for COI’s chairperson, Navi Pillay, to have a change of heart toward Israel. 
  • Pray for Christians to actively pursue education on how to advocate for Israel, including UN Watch.  

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 and has 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 her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Helping Orphans Cope with Trauma and Loss

Nearly 35,000 children in Israel have experienced the death of a parent—heightened in recent years by COVID-19 and terror attacks. Tragically, the toll of such a loss puts them at tremendous risk in the future, and many end up in poverty. Without effective care and support, orphans are much more likely to drop out of school, suffer from eating disorders, turn to drug and alcohol addiction, become trapped in prostitution, or be convicted of a crime. 

“I lost my mother at the age of eight,” said a 15-year-old girl named Sarah.* “I did not have someone to tell me that I was beautiful and perfect the way I am, even if I was not thin. I starved myself, I vomited, I felt like I was fat, I felt ugly, all because I’m an orphan.” 

Depending on how their parent died, these kids may wrestle with trauma, loss of identity, and bullying. And surviving parents can often feel helpless and alone.

Where can they turn in these difficult times? 

You are offering them a lifeline through CBN Israel as we partner with the organization Hamaniot (“sunflowers”). You are providing children and single parents with professional bereavement counseling and group therapy—along with mentoring, interacting with peers who know their pain, and guidance in qualifying for financial resources. 

“If Hamaniot were not here, I do not know how my story would have ended,” said Sarah, after receiving help for three years. “Thanks to Hamaniot, today I know who I am.” And her story is echoed by so many others you have helped. 

In fact, your gifts to CBN Israel are giving more children and teens intensive help to heal and succeed, while equipping their parents with vital support to carry on. This is only one of the ways you provide aid to the vulnerable who call Israel their home. Thank you for caring!

Will you reach out in kindness and compassion to those in need?

*Name changed for privacy.

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Southern Steps

By Marc Turnage

Pilgrims to Jerusalem in the first century A.D. approached the Temple Mount from the south. After ritually purifying themselves, either in the Pool of Siloam, at the southern end of the City of David, or in one of the ritual immersion baths located along the southern end of the Temple Mount, pilgrims ascended onto the Temple platform via the southern steps that led through two sets of gates referred to as the Huldah Gates. 

Entering through the Huldah Gates, one came into a double-vaulted entrance hall that led into an ascending tunnel that exited onto the Temple Mount platform. Upon exiting the tunnel, the pilgrim found him or herself standing on a pavement of colorful stones on the southern end of the Temple Mount platform facing the sacred precinct and the Temple itself.

Today visitors to the southern steps of the Temple Mount see remnants of the two sets of gates. The western most of the gates preserves the remains of a double gate, which served as the exit for pilgrims to the Temple. The eastern most set of gates is today a triple gate sealed, most likely, during the Crusader period. This gate was also originally a double gate, and through it, pilgrims entered the Temple. If a pilgrim was in mourning, they reversed their course, entering through the exit and exiting through the entrance, so that other pilgrims could comfort them saying, “May He that dwells in this house give you comfort!”

We hear of Jewish Sages sitting on these steps teaching their students and interacting with pilgrims entering and exiting the Temple. Today, most of the steps have been reconstructed, but a few of the original steps remain exposed. The steps leading up to the Huldah Gates follow a pattern of long, short, long, short. This arrangement makes it difficult for the pilgrim to ascend the steps either running or in great haste. Thus, one must approach the sacred Temple, the house of God, in a circumspect manner. 

South and east of the southern steps archaeologists uncovered a large and unique Jewish ritual immersion bath, a mikveh. Its proximity to the Temple, as well as its unique construction, have led some to suggest that this served the priests for their ritual purification. Other ritual immersion baths have been discovered along the southern end of the Temple Mount, which served Jewish pilgrims who immersed and purified themselves prior to entering the Temple (see Acts 21:24).

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 One Who Dwells with the Humble

“For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.’” (Isaiah 57:15 HCSB).

We live in a culture that frequently gravitates toward the cult of personality. Most often, we get star struck, either with our star or someone else’s. This is true even in the church.

How often are we more likely to position ourselves to be closer to the greatest among us rather than choosing to share life with the humble and lowly among us?   

The prophet described God, however, as “high and exalted,” inhabiting eternity. Yet He also dwells with the contrite and humble. God resides in both places—in the highest heaven and with the lowly and oppressed. If you’re looking for Him, that is where you’ll find Him.

The Bible describes God as the defender of the “fatherless and the widow” … and “the foreigner” (Deuteronomy 10:18). These were three classes of people that did not have an advocate within ancient Israelite society, yet God identified with them and continually came to their defense.

He dwells on high and with the contrite and humble. Amazing. He resides among the lowly and oppressed to revive them, to strengthen them, and to sustain them.

People in our world get caught up in their position, power, and press. But the God and Creator of the universe, who lives in a high and holy place, is never beyond the lowly, the humble, the widow, orphan, and foreigner.

Humility and contriteness are both characteristics that we can control. “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed” (Proverbs 3:34 NIV). We choose how we posture ourselves. Do we humble ourselves and make ourselves contrite? Or do we do the opposite and become arrogant and proud?

If God, who resides in the high and holy place, can stoop to dwell with the humble and lowly, then none of us has anything to be proud and haughty about.

God is our model. He not only commands us how to live; He behaves in that way, too.

We should resist the temptation of our cult-of-personality society and remember that the One who dwells in eternity resides with the lowly. And so must we.

PRAYER

Father, may we be where You are. May we always walk in humility and contriteness to experience Your presence. Amen.

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