JERUSALEM 2.0, AND A LETTER TO TANTAWI . .
Hey, we're headed back to Israel! We should be on the ground in Amman, Jordan by April 23, 2017. We will visit Petra and stay in a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum for a couple of nights. We should be in Jerusalem on April 30, just in time for Independence Day on May 1.
I met a young Palestinian man 2 years ago, a block below the Arab Hotel in the old part of Amman. We talked briefly about Christ and exchanged a few emails after I was back home. We still exchange letters and phone calls.
Part of our time in Israel will be spent with him and his family in Nablus, Israel.
He will be our transportation to Tel Dan when we go North, and will also take us South to Jericho, Bethel and Shiloh. Here is a copy of a letter I recently sent.
My dear brother in Christ, Tantawi-
How good to hear your voice again! I am so excited and looking forward to our meeting in a few months. Some of the places we discussed seeing with you are (South of Nablus) SHILOH, BETHEL, the Hebrew altars on Mt. Gerazim and Ebal there at Nablus. Joseph's Tomb, Tel Dan, or Tell el-Qadi, which is very close to a ruined Muslim fortress called Nimrod's castle that we may want to visit. We have to make some plans, of course, but are trusting God to guide us and prepare the way. He alone knows what we need to see, and whom we need to meet.
Tell el-Qadi is North of Nazareth, 142 km from Nablus, roughly an hour and a half drive. I mentioned Jericho to you too, 63 km South from Nablus. The other two cities we wanted to see were Shiloh and Beit-El. They are so close that we could probably spend one day (a very busy day) going South to see Jericho and see Beit-el and Shiloh on the way back to Nablus. So one day North to Tel Dan and wherever, and one day South to Jericho and wherever.
We will get a hotel in Nablus for our temporary home, and see the local sights, Joseph's well, Mt. Ebal and Gerazim, along with your suggestions. I am certain you know a few secret places that are not on the map! But the best part of all will be sharing time with you.
The ways of God are "past finding out" the Bible says. He alone knows our purpose and destiny. The last thing on my list of exciting things to do was to become a Christian. I did not want to become a Christian, I did not want to serve God or to know Him. And all the while I mocked Christians I came in contact with, my own heart was betraying me! All the while I ran away from God my heart was running toward God, for I was made for Him!
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us every blessing of the Spirit in the heavens in Christ:
Even as he made selection of us in him from the first, so that we might be holy and free from all evil before him in love:
As we were designed before by him for the position of sons to himself, through Jesus Christ, in the good pleasure of his purpose,
To the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely gave to us in the Loved One:
In whom we have salvation through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, through the wealth of his grace,
Which he gave us in full measure in all wisdom and care;
Having made clear to us the secret of his purpose, in agreement with the design which he had in mind, to put into his hands
The ordering of the times when they are complete, so that all things might come to a head in Christ, the things in heaven and the things on the earth; in him, I say
In whom we have a heritage, being marked out from the first in his purpose who does all things in agreement with his designs;
So that his glory might have praise through us who first had hope in Christ:
In whom you, having been given the true word, the good news of your salvation, and through your faith in him, were given the sign of the Holy Spirit of hope,
Which is the first-fruit of our heritage, till God gets back that which is his, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:3-14 The Bible in Basic English)
"To you it is given" says the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Phillippian believers. It is not given to everyone Tony. As the famous American singer Johnny Cash once sang, "everyone won't be treated all the same". The faith to trust and believe in Jesus is a gift from God, and is only given to those He intends and has chosen to save.
"He (Jesus) answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given" (Matthew 13:11). What an amazing thing! The disciples of Jesus had no clue what the future held for them when Jesus warned they would "be hated of all men for my name's sake" (Matthew 10:22). Just like us, they were unable to grasp all the implications of what it meant to be called by God. They, like us, were caught in the grip of something they could neither understand nor control. It was above, it was beyond them - it was GOD. There are no accidents in God's economy. Our meeting below the Arab hotel was no accident! It was planned from eternity past by our all-wise and loving Father in heaven. What a blessing you are to me! Praise God!
And the Jews! Yes, the Zionists have behaved badly. They have sinned - just like you and I. But you and I are clean. "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11) because of our faith in Jesus. The Jews (for the most part) do not believe. The Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, just like many Muslims, are very religious and consider themselves Moses' disciples. But just as we spoke on the phone, Moses is not enough. When Jesus' disciple Phillip meets Jesus he runs to tell Nathanael "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:45). Here are very devout Israelites looking for someone Moses spoke of. Who is this figure? When Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets) appear, speaking to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) the astounded disciples hear a voice comes from heaven saying "This is my beloved son; hear Him". So Allah does not beget? Allah does not have a son? Really? Then what does the scripture mean in the second Psalm, when the LORD (Jehova the Creator) says not only has He set His king (God has a King?) on his holy hill of Zion (Jerusalem), but adds: "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee". God does not beget? Really? For sure God does not have sex, for He is a spirit. But yes, God certainly does beget, or produce a son, the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:8), our Lord (master) and Savior Jesus, the Son of God.
Hebrews 3:3 says that Jesus "has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses".
What? The Jews and Muslims both cry "Heresy!" or "sacrilege!". It is a blasphemy to them that anyone can be worthy of more honor than Moses, that anything could be of more value than God's Law. Listen to the Jews talk of God's Law holding the universe together and creating beauty and order out of the chaos of sin. And they are right! The Law must be upheld or the universe will dissolve. Yet the Law says "cursed is he that continueth not in ALL things written in the Book of the Law" (Galatians 3:10). Paul, the great Jewish lawyer quotes Moses himself from Deuteronomy 27:26, who after reading God's Law to the people (who are expected to say "so be it" after every sentence, somberly finishes with the final curse: "cursed is he who confirmeth not the words of this Law to do them". And the Jews cursed themselves with their final "amen", as do all who attempt to please God by their own behavior, for all fail. Every single human - with the exception of One - fail to confirm the words of The Law. "It is not the hearers of the Law who are justified" Paul admonishes, but "The Doers".
When the Jews angrily gathered around Jesus he said "Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” (John 17:9). They revered Moses but did not obey Moses. They did not obey God. After Moses gives the Law he sprinkles the people with blood (Exodus 24:8). Read Hebrews 19:20-24 Tony. What is greater than the Law? The blood that pays the price for every Man who has defiled God's house with his vile presence. When Moses comes down from Jabal al Laws and finds the Israelites in a wicked orgy of worshipping Egyptian gods he breaks the table of the Law and immediately goes back up the mountain to receive the instructions for ritual sacrifice, the tabernacle and how God's people must approach him. And when the Israelites had built the tabernacle and its furnishings, as glorious as they were, they were worthless and could not be used without the sprinkling of blood which set them apart as holy vessels, to be used only in God's service.
Yes, Paul says, "the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good" (Romans 7:12) and must be kept at all costs, or a price must be paid, blood must be shed, but the blood of a perfect offering, one that would never be repeated again. The blood of GOD. "The Word was GOD" John tells us. Jesus was and is, God in human form, come down to pay himself the perfect price for sin. Praise God!
Religious Jews and Arabs are in the same boat. They both lay claim to Moses - and both disobey Moses and God, and neither have any sin covering. At least the Samaritans in Nablus go up once a year to Mt. Gerazim and sacrifice animals. But what good is it when you do not understand the meaning of those sacrifices? They all pointed to something greater, something perfect and eternal. Jesus reminded the Pharisees of King David entering the Jewish Temple to eat the shewbread, the bread set apart for God, when he was running from his enemies, and finished his comments by saying "but I say to you, that in this place is one greater than the Temple" (Matthew 12:6). Indeed. The author of the Book of Hebrews reminds us:
"For by one offering He (Christ) hath perfected forever those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). We who have trusted The Meshiach, Jesus, are washed and perfected forever Tony! Forever! It never needs to be repeated. We need only to confess our sin and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
The Jews go on and on about the Temple and they are working to have it rebuilt, so they can continue where they left off 2000 years ago. And yet all this is foretold.
I have more to tell you but this is enough for now. I am so looking forward to seeing you and your people. It will be like a party! A holy and righteous party. God is so good.
Love you brother-
Eternally Yours in Him-
Steve from Oregon, USA
So . . please pray for our upcoming trip, and for Tantawi!