By Joseph Shulam
Today is December 7, 2016 – 7:55 a.m. The Japanese “Zeros” attacked Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that day, “a day which will live in infamy.” Many of the young Americans is actually more interested on this day to put up the Christmas trees and decorate them and think about shopping. I am surprised also how much the churches are involved in the celebration of Christmas, and how many Jews have Hanukkah bushes (Converted Christmas trees) in their homes. I will say nothing and judge no one about the celebration of Christmas or Hanukkah with a decorated tree. The only thing that I want to say is to show people that the practice of cutting down a tree and decorating it with silver and gold (they didn’t have electricity and LED lights or Jeremiah would have mentioned those too).
See what Jeremiah the prophet who lived in the 8th Century B.C.E. said to the people of Israel. Note that this was not only happening in our neighboring cultures but it was happening in Israel: Jer. 10:1-3, “Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the LORD: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple.” I suppose that some will dismiss Jeremiah’s prophecy as not relevant to Christians because of the spirit of good will that prevails in this season of the year. It is o.k. as disciples of Yeshua we ought to have that spirit of good will all the days of the year and there are so many Tinny Tim’s that need the warmth and charity from both the Torah and the prophets and of course from the Prince of Life, charity, faith, and hope – Yeshua our Messiah.
Now about the Parasha this upcoming Shabbat. The reading of the Torah on this Shabbat is VaYetze – Genesis 28:1-31:3. The reading starts with Jacob running north to the Laban his uncle because his mother Rebecca warned him that Esau his brother is looking to kill him after the death of Isaac his father. On the run, all alone by his lonesome, Jacob reaches Beth-EL (that in former times was called “Luz”) he is tired and uses a rock for his pillow and falls to sleep. In a dream Jacob sees a ladder reaching from the Earth to the Heaven and the Angels of God are going up and coming down. The first thing that Jewish commentary tradition does is look at the immediate context. Dreams are an outcropping of a person’s reality and needs. They also have a prophetic angle. So, Jacob needs to be encouraged and his future is up in the air and so he needs to know that although he is leaving the Land of Promise. God is still with him and is going to stand by him and continue to protect and bless and keep HIS promises which he gave to Abraham and Isaac his ancestry. This is the essential meaning of the dream. The angels of God are mobile and they are going up from the Earth and coming down from heaven to serve God’s Children and in fact all of humanity. Note that the text presents Jacob as escaping the land of Canaan with almost nothing. He has to walk (travel) by himself near 1000 miles to Haran, which is right in the northern boarder of Syria, right next to the boarder with Turkey. The vision of this dream is like an assurance that although his circumstance is not good right now, God is going to continue serving Jacob. Does Jacob realize that he sinned against his brother Esua when he took advantage of his fatigue and hunger and sold allowed Jacob his brother to buy the birthright, the inheritance, for a bowl of red soup, may be Borsht, with red beets and cabbage! I believe that both Jacob and Rebecca understood that the deed was not so clean, and when Jacob return to the land of Canaan he was ready to pay Esua his brother a whole lot of money, sheep, goats, gold and silver, camels, donkeys, in order to pacify his brother Esua.
However, the most significant part of chapter 28 of Genesis is not the dream itself, but the action and result of that dream. Jacob realizes that he must do something for God and he makes a deal, if God will take care of his needs on this trip to Haran, upon his return to the Land of Promise, Canaan, he will build in this place a house of God. To seal this promise Jacob anoints a stone and makes a stella (a memorial) to commemorate the event and the promise. Here is a very short rendition of this teaching.
1. We receive from God! The normal thing is when you ask for something and you receive it – you have to show your gratitude by reciprocal action.
2. God has and still does, in my opinion, reveal HIMSELF in dreams and visions! The idea that some protestants inherited from the Catholic Church that the Holy Spirit and God’s revelation is imprisoned between the two covers of the Book (The Bible) is not found in the Scriptures and in fact is not a valid idea. God has always been the same and He has always given individuals dreams and visions and the text that Peter quotes from the prophet Joel stats this unequivocally. Let us not add or subtract from God’s revelation, and not judge those who claim to have seen a dream or heard a word from God. We can judge the dream and interpret it, and we must evaluate those who claim to be prophets and see if their WORD is standing in the standards of God’s Word and truth. But, God is God and HE is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is always faithful to His Word and His promises will all be fulfilled in reality.
Barry our son is in the hospital in Tennessee. Yesterday he had long and very serious surgery in his big intestine. It had a chronic infection for many months and needed a major surgery. The doctor said that it was a very difficult surgery. I know that many of you have prayed for Barry already several months. Now he is post surgery and in pain and with an infection, and I ask you all to pray that he will recover quickly and that the surgery will prove successful and that it will give Barry a better healthier life. It is important to us as a family, but I also believe that it is important to us as ministers of God’s Word.
Marcia and I are here with Barry and Beth in the Hospital, and we are praying and watching. I know that prayer helps and healing comes quicker to those who pray for themselves but also to those who pray for others. I was actually very happy to see the latest National Geographic Magazine that has a major article on how faith helps healing and how valuable faith is around the whole Earth in the past and in the present in promoting healing and strength. In fact the Biblical paradigm is that faith heals! So, your praying for others with faith for healing and for blessing is actually bringing healing to you and blessing you and those who are the objects of your prayer.
Pray for Israel! Israel has taken several very bold steps in the last few days this week. It has bombed several secret storage spaces that had very sophisticated and dangerous weapons that would compromise the balance of power in the Middle East if they reached the hands of the Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon. These storage spaces where in the heart of Damascus. Isreal could not do this without at least a tacit approval by the USA and without the approval of Russia. So, this is a kind of secret miracle and we as Disciples of God who know that all good things come from HIM and are blessed by HIM, must rejoice and pray both thanking God and blessing God to keep blessing Israel.
There are so many challenges that Jewish Disciples of Yeshua in Israel face, they are spiritual, and organizational and financial, and for the next generation of leaders. I ask you to pray and stand with the Jewish Disciples of Yeshua in Israel. Our situation in Israel is much better than in other places, but it is still not where it ought to be. I pray for unity, networking, cooperation, sharing burdens, standing in prayer, for each other and helping each other. WE have recently finished a major project of blessing the Body of the Messiah in Israel. This project was based on a love gift that Dr. Fritz May and Christians for Israel, gave the equivalent of 1 million dollars to three very different local leaders. The three of us came from different backgrounds and different ministries and we learned to work together and brought other brothers together to work with us and distribute the million dollars and the fruit from the investment and finish in10 years. It was a blessing that helped bring brothers from different ministries and theological backgrounds together. I pray that other Christian organizations would look at the whole picture and do things that will support and bring more unity and greater cooperation among Jewish and Arab ministries in God’s Land of Israel. Please pray for the unity and cooperation of the local Jewish Disciples of Yeshua in this land.
Pray for my health and Marcia’s health and for the great need for energy and stamina to continue doing what we are doing for Kingdom of God in Israel and around the world.
We have a special request from brothers in Africa to pray for the following brothers and sisters in Kenya: Catherine Karungu – breast cancer, Mary Wavomba – first breast cancer and now spread to lungs and kidney, Rosemary Mutua – leukemia, Jane Munyao – breast cancer. I know that the God of Israel hears the prayers of His righteous children, let us lift these prayer request and lay them at the feet of Yeshua.
WE must continue to pray for Kol HaYeshua Radio has been broadcasting the Good News in Hebrew and Russian to the whole Middle East.
Please keep praying for the sick brothers and sisters from all around the World. I would like to ask you to pray for some friends who have a need for God’s blessing on their work: Chung and Sister Lee. I have special concern for our dear brother Goh and his family, and for Sister Christy, Sister Laurel, and for Brother Michael Kenzevic. These are brothers who have needs in their work and God is gracious to bless and help those who have concern to bless others.
Please don’t forget to especial pray for healing and strength for our dear brother Tom from Murfreesboro. Please keep Tom B. in your prayers. His health is not improving in these days. I pray for Tom and his whole family to have strength and for their faith in God and in Yeshua will serve as example and give strength to others. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, we have other brothers and sisters who need your prayers. Especially, Bobby, and Emet, and Joe, and Gloria D., these are all very precious brothers and friends are battling serious health issues.
We continue to pray for Gary in Jerusalem, Aharon (Don and Nancy’s Son) is still struggling with a tumor in his brain keep him in your prayers please! Also keep his family in your prayers. Yuri Marianenko is fighting a prostate cancer. Our wonderful older brothers and sisters need our prayers: Ahuvah Ben Meir, David Stern, Marcia Shulam, Sarit, Miriam, Ilana, and Leah. This week I am adding to this prayer list our dear sister Lydia – lift her up in your prayers and ask for special encouragement for her from the Lord Himself.
We lift up our dear brothers and sisters Ruby, Clara, Paulo, Naomi, Tim Tucker, Anna, Anne-Mirijami, Satu-Maria, Anna-Majia, Sinni Tuuli, Erki and Sirpa, and Evelina, Eva H., Liz in Georgia, and Horace and June Marcia’s parents.
We especially lift up before your throne of mercy Marcelo’s father and mother in Belo-Horizonte. We pray for the following dear brothers and sisters: Pastor Curita in Tokyo, Toru San, and the husband of Yumi, Sadako San, Shoko San, Takeo Sensei and Tomoko San all in Japan.
May the Lord bless you all and give you Peace on this Shabbat and carry you on HIS promises and blessings and give you the opportunity to be a blessing to those around you.
God bless the USA as this country prays and prepares for a new president. Pray that this new president be wise and kind and a blessing to the people of the USA and also to the WORLD and especially that He will stand with Israel and bless Israel as he promised to do.