Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Romance of Israel

Because I love Zion,
I will not keep still.
Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem,
I cannot remain silent.
I will not stop praying for her
until her righteousness shines like the dawn,
and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
The nations will see your righteousness.
World leaders will be blinded by your glory.
And you will be given a new name
by the LORD’s own mouth.
The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see—
a splendid crown in the hand of God.
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City”
or “The Desolate Land.”
Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight”
and “The Bride of God,”
for the LORD delights in you
and will claim you as his bride.
[Isaiah 62:1-4 NLT]

From the moment I boarded the plane from Newark to Tel Aviv, I felt caught up in the “romance” of God’s heart for Israel. I first noticed it as I became aware of the numerous orthodox and Hasidic Jews lining up for extra pre-boarding security required for this flight.  As an American Christian, I’ve had a (not uncommon) desire to visit the Holy Land at least once in my lifetime – there’s a certain “romanticism” about visiting the land of the Bible, although my understanding of modern Israel was more limited.  But what I started to feel as I boarded flight UA90 on February 11, 2013, was a lot more than a check on my personal “bucket list”…

On the plane, I was fascinated to see so many families in orthodox clothing, rocking back and forth with their prayer books, and eating pre-arranged kosher meals in flight. My heart was caught somewhere between tears and delight, and I wasn’t sure why – the feelings intensified as we arrived in Tel Aviv, where the sight of still more black hats, coats and beards in security lines at Ben Gurion airport reminded me that these people were entering their “home country” - even those who were just visiting relatives or (like us) making a kind of pilgrimage to their spiritual and historical homeland.  Even as I write this, a subtle desire to weep washes over me again.

Of course, we enjoyed the Holy Land’s “tourist attractions” which are filled with significance for New Testament believers – kneeling to touch the spot where Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a sip of sweet wine at Cana, boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, baptism in the Jordan River, worshipping as we entered Jerusalem and in the Upper Room, praying at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Western wall, walking along the Via Dolorosa, sharing Communion at the Garden Tomb…

As a “Gentile Christian” who has read the Bible for many years, I found that touring Israel for the first time had a kind of magical or “romantic” quality, yet also quite a bit more… Searching for words to describe this experience, I considered these definitions from

1. a novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting. 2. the colorful world, life, or conditions depicted in such tales. 3. a medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory. 4. a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention. 5. a romantic spirit, sentiment, emotion, or desire.

1. of, pertaining to, or of the nature of romance; characteristic or suggestive of the world of romance: a romantic adventure. 2. fanciful; impractical; unrealistic: romantic ideas. 3. imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, chivalry, etc. 4. characterized by a preoccupation with love or by the idealizing of love or one's beloved. 5. displaying or expressing love or strong affection. 6. ardent; passionate; fervent.

Considering the troubled history of the region - and the very real cost in human lives over the centuries - I want to be sure that my understanding and love for Israel aren’t superficial, overly idealized, “full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.”  I want my heart for Jewish people and the nation of Israel – as well as my understanding of their history, current events, and prophetic destiny - to be rooted in God’s real love and truth.

As we crossed over the Israeli border from Bethlehem (on the Palestinian side), a member of our mission team played the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” (from a 19th-century Jewish poem called “Our Hope”) and reminded us that the very existence of modern Israel is a fulfillment of ancient Biblical prophecy and, in many ways, “miraculous.”

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.  [Isaiah 66:8 NIV]

The history and prophetic destiny of modern Israel is a fascinating subject - far beyond the scope of one blog posting!  When I got home from my trip, I began to look deeper into this “tale of adventure and romance,” a story as thrilling as any blockbuster novel or movie I’ve ever seen. For example, as I watched the documentary “Six Days in June” on DVD, I literally cried with joy at footage of the Israeli army reclaiming Jerusalem in 1967, when secular Jews who didn’t know how to pray stood weeping at the Western Wall and learned the Shema from fellow soldiers. (A few of my current favorite book and video titles are listed below.)

The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.  [Deuteronomy 28:7 NKJ]

We saw evidence of God’s blessing as our bus traveled south from Galilee to Jerusalem, passing through both Israeli and Palestinian territory. We praised God for answered prayer as our tour guide noted increased water levels in Galilee; and, while one could possibly explain flourishing Israeli farms with Jewish work ethic and irrigation, we wondered at uncultivated hillsides covered in green grass, which became barren dirt as those same hills crossed the Palestinian border…

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom… they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.  [Isaiah 35:1-2 NIV]

“I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”   [Genesis 12:3]

I don’t think I will ever forget standing in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, and looking across at the eastern gate to the old city of Jerusalem, through which the prophets saw heavenly streams of healing waters flowing (Ezekiel 47:1-12, Zechariah 14:4-9) and where the Messiah will one day return to His beloved land.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings… I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”   [Matthew 23:37, 39 NIV]

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem...Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.  [Zechariah 14:4-5 NIV]

As many of us are aware (to varying degrees), three major religions and multiple people groups claim Jerusalem as their spiritual home.  The photo below this article was taken at the Western Wall plaza, where my friend Dawn (the blonde) and I shared our joy and sense of “belonging” with a family of Orthodox Jews on their bi-annual trip to Israel from New York.  Dawn asked if she could give the women a hug, later commenting on my photo, “That guy [at left] is smiling.”  :)  What a picture of God’s desire for unity between Christian believers & the Jewish people!

Of course, not everyone in the region feels the same peace, joy, and beauty we experienced – an Armenian shopkeeper we encountered as we exited the old city ranted, “City of Peace?!  No, no city of peace – city of devils!  Jerusalem is full of devils!”  Oddly, he seemed more confused and deceived than “hateful,” which reminded me that confusion and deception affect many who struggle with understanding or accepting God’s spiritual purposes in and through Israel.

“I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves…”   [Zechariah 12:2-3 NIV]

This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name: “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.”   [Jeremiah 31:35-36 NIV]

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  [I Corinthians 2:13-14 NKJ]

Returning to the airport in Tel Aviv on February 19 – it was so hard to leave!  I purchased one last round of souvenirs at the gift shop – a few postcards of Jerusalem, a small silver-plated menorah – to bring home along with those I’d already packed: a shofar (ram’s horn), tallit (prayer shawl), little bottles of anointing oil and Jordan River water, and a couple of scarves I’d bought at a Messianic shop in the Old City, which (I found out later) were labeled in Hebrew, “100% Polyester, Made in Korea.”  :)   (I was happy to support Messianic Jews in Jerusalem, so the label just made me laugh.)  As I sat in Ben Gurion airport (across from my team-mate Mary Cate, pictured here) waiting to (reluctantly) board flight UA85, I sensed God saying to me that I would be unpacking this trip for years to come...

If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
[Psalm 137:5-6 NIV]

Back in the U.S., my suitcases and souvenirs were indeed unpacked and sorted long before my thoughts and feelings about this trip… Compelled by a strangely “homesick” longing to understand and experience more of Israel’s beauty, history, and prophetic destiny, I embarked on a further journey of love, learning, and intercession for this beautiful land and its people.  A month or two after our return, one of my teammates told me she had a vivid dream of me joyfully sharing salvation with a young Middle Eastern woman.  I listened again (several times) to a CD message on Israel & the End Times by Randy Martinez of Fredericksburg Prayer Furnace (from Awaken the Dawn 2010), and read all 600+ pages of O Jerusalem! (a riveting history of the birth of modern Israel), along with other resources listed below.  A local church hosted Paul Wilbur, Asher Intrater, and Ron Cantor in June and July (it's surprising how many Messianic leaders began their ministries in the DC area - Intrater and Cantor are among those who now live in Israel); and, in August, I attended Aglow International’s “Watchmen on the Wall” seminar about praying for Israel & the Middle East…

Most Christians I know have some desire to visit and/or honor the Holy Land - hopefully we are continuing to grow in our depth of understanding and sharing God’s heart in these areas.  To sum up what I’ve learned so far, both during and since my travels in February 2013:  understanding and partnering with God’s end-time purposes for Israel is not optional for those of us who say we love Jesus.  The salvation of Israel [Romans 11:25-27] is as important to God in these “last days” as the preaching of His good news to all nations [Matthew 23:37-39, 24:14].  One day, Jesus – Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah – will set His actual feet on the Mount of Olives again, and then He will rule the earth from Jerusalem [Psalm 110:1-4, Micah 4:1-8, Zechariah 14:4-5].   May we all be found standing with Him in His Love and purposes for Israel and for all nations.

“The sleeping Bride of Christ needs to wake up and assume her rightful place of intercession and cooperation with the Son of God. Her awakening concerns the priority of Israel in the last days and the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached and demonstrated to the ends of the earth, preparing the way for the Messiah’s return. She will awaken to the place of the Jewish people in the Word of God, in the heart of God and in the move of God.”
-- James Goll, The Coming Israel Awakening

O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls;
they will pray day and night, continually.
Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD.
Give the LORD no rest until he completes his work,
until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth.
The LORD has sworn to Jerusalem by his own strength:
“I will never again hand you over to your enemies.
Never again will foreign warriors come
and take away your grain and new wine.
You raised the grain, and you will eat it,
praising the LORD.
Within the courtyards of the Temple,
you yourselves will drink the wine you have pressed.”
Go out through the gates!
Prepare the highway for my people to return!
Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders;
raise a flag for all the nations to see.
The LORD has sent this message to every land:
“Tell the people of Israel,
‘Look, your Savior is coming.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’”
They will be called “The Holy People”
and “The People Redeemed by the LORD.”
And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place”
and “The City No Longer Forsaken.”
[Isaiah 62:6-9, 10-12 NLT]

Recommended for further study:
Derek Prince, Promised Land; Derek Prince Ministries, 2003
James Goll, The Coming Israel Awakening; Chosen, 2001 & 2009
Don Finto, Your People Shall Be My People; Regal Books, 2001
L. Collins & D. LaPierre, O Jerusalem!  Simon & Schuster, 1972
Stan Telchin, Abandoned! Chosen Books, 1997
Ron Cantor, Identity Theft; Destiny Image, 2013
Asher Intrater, "Israel & the Church in the End Times" (4-CD series available at
DVD “Six Days in June” released in August 2007 (available at

Additional resources for intercessory prayer:


Interested in joining Global Celebration’s 2014 mission team to Israel?

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