According to Romans 11, the Church has been grafted into the Olive tree. (representing Israel) Thus, we "share in the nourishing sap from the olive root." (Romans 11:17) It is the root of this olive tree that supports us. This being the truth, would it not follow that when Israel is at war, the Church must also be at war? Ephesians 2:13-15, 18 explains: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace...For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit."
It is a fact that Satan hates what God loves. He stations demonic principalities over every region. Since Israel and the Church are one, what impacts one impacts the other.
As I awoke on Saturday morning, Holy Spirit placed a song on my mind" "Onward, Christian Soldiers." It was written by Sabine Baring-Gould, a Church of England minister who was inspired to write this song so that the children of his church could sing it while marching from village to village. He writes that the entire song came to him within 15 minutes. The text for this hymn became an inspiration to Christians around the world. It is one to use while taking on our responsibilities of advancing the cause of Christ. It is a battle cry for the Church and Israel.
Verse 1: "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see His banner go!"
Refrain: "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before!"
Verse 2: "Like a mighty army moves the Church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we—One in hope and doctrine, one in charity." (Refrain)
Verse 3: "Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng; blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King—This thru countless ages men and angels sing." (Refrain)
During this season, we must "Be alert and of sober mind. Our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because we know that the family of Believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of suffering." (1 Peter 5:8, 9) Our battle tools are two-fold: Prayer and Worship. Let us use them on behalf of Israel and the Church. Victory has already been won at the Cross of Christ. Our job is to manifest it.
A recent letter from Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries, touched my heart. Referring to the brutal attack on the Jews in Israel by Hamas, he expressed his desire to be thankful to God even though he is grieving deeply. I quote Mitch: "It is hard to believe we are entering the season of Thanksgiving. It seems so inappropriate to be thankful at this moment in time. I will admit I am having trouble thanking God in light of these last several weeks. I know the apostle Paul wrote, 'In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 - NKJ)
"These are my people," Mitch continues, "a nation called by the Sovereign and all-powerful God for His holy purposes." He asks some challenging questions: "How can we come to grips with what happened and be thankful? How can we keep ourselves from being consumed by hatred and a desire for vengeance? How can we be grateful during this season of Thanksgiving in light of these tragic events? The answers are all the more elusive because of the graphic nature of the crimes appearing so often on social media, the news, and websites replaying the horrors, not letting us forget...Yet, I know God wants me to be grateful—not for what happened, of course—but for His grace and mercy we find on the path of suffering."
As I reflect on the raw truths shared by Mitch, I recall the wisdom that is shared by Elisabeth Elliot in her book, A Path Through Suffering. She explains that the meaning of suffering can only be understood in the context of The Cross. We must pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. (Luke 14:27) We must look to Him for the next grace that we need in life. We can stand on the promises of God. Elisabeth encourages us: "We have our Father's promise, linking the pain to an unimaginable glory: 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.'" (2 Timothy 2:12)
God desires for us to become more Christlike. Suffering was a landmark of Christ's life. The Psalmist writes, "Show me Your ways, Lord. Teach me your paths." (Psalm 25:4) Our time on earth is designed to help us know Christ more so that we grow up like Him. When we share in His sufferings, we increase in our understanding of Him and our intimacy with Him. Willingness to praise the Lord in our sufferings makes us Kingdom partners with Him so that we demonstrate His life and love to those around us.
When we go back to Mitch's original questions about giving thanks while we suffer, we must look at our situations from both an earthly and heavenly perspective. Is it possible for us to look at suffering as a divine opportunity? Let us visit the foot of the Cross and remember the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. Here is the opening to thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and praise lead to worship. And, when worship is offered in our pain and suffering, it rises to the throne of God in heaven as sweet incense. Because it is offered sacrificially, this form of worship draws the Lord near to us. The intimacy we then have with Him is without comparison. Heaven is a place of peace and joy, so sacrificial worship can only take place on earth. Thus comes our opportunity!
God understands our suffering. He sent His Son as a Redeemer. Somehow the Lord will redeem our trials and afflictions so that His glory falls. Like Mitch, I am grieved and overwhelmed with sorrow for the agony of the Jews in this hour. However, God has not left us without a remedy. We have the gift of prayer so that we can lay our burdens at His feet. He is the one from whom we draw breath. As our Shepherd, He restores our souls and leads us on paths of righteousness for His name sake...He is with us. His rod and staff comfort us. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies...Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23 – NIV)
Benjamin was the only son of Jacob born in the Promised Land. He and his tribe were ninth in the marching order of Israel, and they marched with the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. (Joseph's sons) As an accomplished warrior, part of Benjamin's job was to help train the next generation in the skills of warfare. Their responsibilities included protecting the Holy Things from the Tabernacle while Israel was on the move. What an important assignment! The church could certainly use warriors like those from the tribe of Benjamin to defend our faith and holiness unto the Lord in the midst of our battles.
Since Benjamin marched ninth with Israel, he is associated with the ninth month called Kislev. This year Kislev begins tomorrow at sundown. When we look back to the history of Kislev, we can glean wisdom on how to live during this month. Benjamin is an example for us. He had two seemingly contradictory words spoken over him, but, in God's economy, they work together. Benjamin's father, Jacob, saw the warrior in him. He prophesied: "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours his prey; in the evening he divides the plunder." (Genesis 49:27) Moses saw a different side of Benjamin. "Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders." (Deuteronomy 33:12)
Through God, peace and rest can come upon us even in the midst of warfare. I believe that the war being fought by the Israelis is necessary. Hamas has violated Israel's peace, and it will not be restored until the enemy is destroyed. Israel must be on the offensive. Their peace comes in knowing that their mission is a necessity, God is with them, and once their objectives are met their future will be more secure. Praise God that other nations are supporting Israel and assisting them with resources for the battle.
Is it not fitting that even the constellation in the sky during this month of Kislev is the archer Sagittarius? Benjamin's descendants were skilled archers as it tells us in 1 Chronicles 8:40 and 12:2. They were adept warriors ready for battle. Some of the members of this warrior tribe included Saul and Jonathan, Mordecai and Esther, and the apostle Paul.
According to what took place during the month of Kislev, how can we live to fulfill our own destinies? First, we must realize that our God-given destinies will always be challenged. The enemy does not want us to succeed and has developed strategies to keep us from prospering. We must look at the ways the devil has tried to trip us up and developed a war strategy to overcome him. There is power in the Word of God. Let us stand on His promises and declare them for all to hear. Let us remember the Lord's faithfulness. Praise is also a powerful weapon that we need to use.
Below you will find verses from Psalm 89. (Verses 8, 14, 15, 20-24, 33-36) Let us use them to declare victory in our battles against the enemy: "Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and Your faithfulness surrounds You...Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; love and faithfulness go before You. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You...For You are their glory and strength...I have found David My servant; with My sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely My arm will strengthen him. The enemy will not get the better of him; the wicked will not oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him and through My name his horn will be exalted...I will not take My love from him, nor will I ever betray My faithfulness. I will not violate My covenant or alter what My lips have uttered. Once for all, I have sworn by My holiness--and I will not lie to David--that his line will continue forever, and his throne endure before Me like the sun." God wants to see us live in victory. Make this Scripture personal, and declare it!
The Bible tells us that without a watchman a city was in in big trouble. The watchman's responsibility included watching over a city to protect it and to sound the alarm when danger came near. A watchman today looks much different from one 2,000 years ago, but his most important watch remains the same—during hours of darkness. What does that tell us about today?
We have just seen a complete disaster in Israel because someone was not watching at their post. While I know that watching the movements of the enemy today is much more complicated than it was in the days of the Bible, cities and states and countries need to maintain a network of individuals who have their ears to the ground to ascertain the plans of enemies and terror groups who want to destroy peace. It appears like the Israelis had a sense of false peace that led them to neglect their duties as watchmen. How else could Hamas have moved into the quiet villages on the Gazan border in such force to torture and kill families and destroy their homes on the Sabbath?
Two places in the book of Ezekiel say that this prophet was "appointed as a watchman for the people of Israel." (Ezekiel 3:17 and Ezekiel 33:7) God said to Ezekiel, "...When you hear me speak a warning, give them my warning." (Ezekiel 33:7 - TPT) There was no room for error in Ezekiel's call. God said to him, "If I bring war to your nation, you must select a man and post him as a watchman. When he sees the enemy coming to attack, he must sound the shofar to warn the people. If the people hear the warning but pay no attention and the sword overtakes them and kills them, they will bear the responsibility for their own deaths...If, however, the watchman sees the enemy approaching but has not blown the shofar to warn the people and the sword overtakes them and kills a single one of them, even though that person was a sinner, I will still hold the watchman responsible for that person's death." (Ezekiel 33:2-6 - TPT)
As Christians, we have promises from God to watch over us. Here are a few of them: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8) "The Lord watches over all who love him..." (Psalm 145:20) "...He who scattered Israel will gather them and watch over His flock like a shepherd." (Jeremiah 31:10)
Those who know the Lord are expected to respond by watching for Him. "My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises." (Psalm 119:148) "But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord; I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." (Micah 7:7) "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) "What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:37)
The prophet Isaiah warns of a time when darkness will cover the earth: "See darkness covers the earth and thick darkness over the peoples..." (Isaiah 60:2) In our day we see dark agendas in government, education, business, and even in some churches. This is the hour for us to take on the mantel of the watchman on the wall. As it says in Colossians 4:2, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." We must be vigilant in prayer, in the Word, and in righteousness. This is our hour to sound the alarm to those who need to hear the truth. Our call is to stay alert to God's promptings and to respond according to His instructions.
Joan E. Mathias