Raising the Dead Ain’t Easy
By Eitan Shishkoff
I once tried to raise a man from the dead.
Michael was a kind, handsome, earnest, married believer in his 30s, with two lovely daughters. We had been fasting and praying for his inoperable brain tumor to dissolve. Gathered around his bed, calling on God and worshiping, we longed with all our hearts for our friend to live and not die.
Then he stopped breathing. His skin began turning an ashen gray. The room became very quiet. No one wanted to accept our friend’s departure. On the inside I began wrestling with a desperate thought. “Should I try to raise my friend from death? Yeshua told His disciples to raise the dead. Why shouldn’t I at least try. What’s there to lose?”
Milliseconds later I decided to take the radical step. Not knowing how to go about it, I remembered the biblical accounts of Elijah and Elisha stretching themselves out on dead children. So, I climbed onto my friend’s body and blew into his mouth. I blew hard, three times, but nothing happened. He was still dead.
Resurrection is God’s Business
What was my takeaway from the experience? Resurrection is God’s business. It was crystal clear as I climbed down off him, broken and dejected, that unless God shows up there’s no use trying to raise the dead.
“…We should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)
The empty tomb of Yeshua is a turning point in all human history. Being God in the flesh and conquering sin while subjected to every temptation we face (Hebrews 4:15), the Messiah swallowed death for us all (Hebrews 2:9). His victory over the grave signals a reversal of the curse pronounced on Adam in the Garden. Through Jesus, mankind can now overcome death itself.
That is why He is called “the first fruits of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20), a reference to the Feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10). Occurring on the day after the Shabbat of Passover week, this was the very day of Yeshua’s resurrection – Resurrection Sunday as many of us know it.
The Ultimate Hope
Death is forcing its way into our daily awareness – through pandemic, war, and terrorism. Thus, the promise of one’s own resurrection from the grave becomes more and more relevant. Life is finite. I will die. I don’t know when or how, but it is inevitable. Is there life after death? As a child raised by humanists, I was told that when you die that’s it, kaput!
Paul the Apostle and the Prophet Isaiah both proclaimed that death is swallowed up in victory (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54). But perhaps the ultimate statement, and the solid rock upon which our confidence of eternal life rests, comes from Yeshua himself. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
I didn’t bring Michael back to life. I longed to do so. More importantly, though, he IS alive on the other side of the grave. It sure will be good to see him.
You Need to Talk
By Hanna Tekle
Passover-telling, positive affirmation & proclaiming the Sh’ma,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
The iconic Jewish prayer proclamation, the Sh’ma, literally means “Hear.” In modern colloquial phrasing it would sound like, “Hey you, listen!” It is probably the most well-known prayer commonly associated with the Jewish people and religion. This summation of everything central and important in the Tanakh is proclaimed in morning, evening and nighttime prayers.
The Sh’ma is also traditionally said before dying – the last words on one’s lips. For secular Israelis, this has morphed into an exclamation “Sh’ma Israel” which is said in situations of actual or perceived danger, whether actually life-threatening or merely very scary. It is so deeply embedded in the linguistic fabric of the society that it can also be an irreverent and casual expression of shock or scared surprise.
No doubt rabbinical commentary has in-depth explanations for this passage. But, what is really fascinating to me is how it can be a connecting seam between those cut of traditional “cloth” and those cut of modern. When a random Israeli high school kid yells out, “Sh’ma Yisrael,” upon being startled by something unexpected, what does she or he mean? The passage is written to Israel from Moses by God, but when we say it, we are declaring it to one another and to ourselves.
What is it about this short proclamation that sets it apart from others and elevates it to the abbreviation of all of Judaism?
We find a hint in the verses that follow. “And these words which I command you this day shall be on your heart, and you shall repeat them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your home, and when you walk on the way…” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
While discussing the transition from Purim to Passover recently with my Shabbat school kids’ class, I stumbled upon an incredibly simple but profound answer to this question why this prayer became central to Judaism.
Prepping them for the next lesson, I asked what they thought the similarities and connection were between the two holidays. They gave me various answers; some were even insightful beyond their years. Both holidays celebrate God’s victory for the people of Israel in a difficult situation. Both have a brave protagonist that stands up to advocate on behalf of the people. The kids also gave some more light-hearted answers: we eat yummy food during both, we get a vacation from school for both. We joked about eating “Pharoah’s ears” cookies instead of “Haman’s ears” (the triangular cookie that we eat to commemorate villainous Haman’s demise). As we giggled, I pointed out a much more obvious and elementary similarity, which is that both holidays start with the letter P – in Hebrew the letter ‘peh.’
The Hebrew letter ‘peh’ is also the word for mouth, which is appropriate because both Purim and Passover are about telling. Mordecai telling Esther to be true to her destiny. Esther telling Ahasuerus that her people were in danger. God telling Moses that he is called to talk to Pharaoh. Moses telling Pharaoh to “let my people go – that they may Worship”.
The very manual we use to retell the story on the first night of Passover is called the Ha-ga-da – “the telling.” We use our mouth to talk – to voice the story of the Exodus.
The Desire and Need to Talk
In the garden of Eden, God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. We are made in God’s image. Is it any wonder that we deeply desire to communicate with one another? At least many of us do. We speak of everything from the mundane and superficial to the deep longings and thoughts of our heart and mind. A little five year old friend of ours, when hindered by her siblings from telling everything she had to say, yelled out emphatically “I NEED TO TALK!” a phrase which has become an inside joke our family uses whenever one of us really needs to be heard.
We are made in God’s image. He desires to tell us who He is and how he feels about us. He also desires to be told how we feel about Him – our worship.
Words have power. For good and for bad.
How and what we say to ourselves and to others matters.
The Psalms are full of positive declaration about who God is and What He has done.
“I will TELL of your goodness; all day long I will speak of your salvation, though it is more than I can understand.” (Psalm 71:15)
“I will TELL of all your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1)
Self-Talk and Modern Trends
The current secular mental health trend is focused on what we tell ourselves. Our narrative. Self-talk. Positive declaration. Relationship counsellors advise us that this is true also about what we tell each other – spouses, children, friends, bosses, co-workers. When we call out the positive in one another, giving each other affirmations and not depredations, it affects not only the atmosphere but the outcome.
So, getting back to the Sh’ma: more than any psychological exercise we can do to rearrange our self-narrative, when we are stuck in a mental rut (or preferably before we are stuck in a mental rut) let’s enlist the wisdom of the Passover “telling” and the Sh’ma proclamation and tell ourselves and those around us who and what God is and what He has done.
Has Judgment Begun?
By Guy Cohen
“He is coming to judge the Earth.
He will judge the world with justice.
He will judge the nations in truth.” (Psalm 98:9 as sung by Lamb)
Current world events cause many to ask if what we are seeing is God’s judgement. In the Hebrew scripture, we see Israel in the desert, having sinned and received God’s sentence of forty years. During that time, the nation was purified. A new generation emerged from the desert into the Land of Promise.
Where are we today? Has His sentence begun?
We read in 1 Peter 4:17, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Those are sobering words as we look at what is going on around us near and far.
There is something about the character of man, which responds in a certain way to God. When things are going well for us we forget Him, but when things go badly we remember Him – all too often only to blame Him. Can you explain why we react this way?
Part of a Birth Timeline
I believe the recent events are part of a process we are going through in the birth of something greater. If you go through pregnancy and then there is no birth; you would ask, “Why all this pain?” However when there is a birth, a fruit of sorts, it is worth it. We see the reason for persevering through the challenge. I believe we are in a birth timeline. Look at Yeshua. His timeline was unto a worthy outcome – not “… to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (1 John 3:17). Yeshua did not come to condemn or judge but to save, to redeem from sin and death, to birth humanity anew.
How can we turn the instinct for blaming into an instinct for praising, even in difficult times, even in the midst of judgment? I once thought that the Holocaust was the darkest possible hour in history, and it was. However, in reading the story of Corrie ten Boom, I realized something that can change how we pass through the darkest times – our point of view. Corrie did as Yeshua instructed; she came as a little child; no matter what evil was happening around her, she sought to find God in the midst of it.
As I listen to the news reports and see the faces of frightened and displaced Ukrainians, I feel their pain and sorrow. Surely God is at work in both judgment and redemption. How can we respond? Some have flown to the Ukrainian border to help refugees. Each must move according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. For us in Israel, we see that multiplied thousands of Ukrainian Jews are being brought out of exile and war, home to Israel. This is one of the good things coming out of the situation.
God knows who belongs to Him and who is part of the plan to bring His people home. God made a covenant with Abraham, which includes Abraham’s redeemed descendants being in a first-fruits-redeemed portion of earth, to which God will bring His seed from the four corners of the earth; and to which Messiah Yeshua will return. No government or army can prevent nor even accomplish this, only God.
Let us remain alert as we follow the leading of the Spirit of God, standing where God would have us, being ready to move according to His timing, in the midst of His redemption and His judgments.
By Leon Mazin
In early spring, we celebrated Esther’s Purim victory over Haman and evil. But even as we commemorate that victory, we are surrounded by war, slaughter, ambition, uncertainty, and fear – fulfilling the prophecy of Yeshua in Matthew 24 of wars and rumors of war, etc.
Regarding Zelensky and Putin, there is no need to persuade you who is good and who is bad, and why suspicion and deceit are poor character traits for rulers! But why are they fighting, and who pushed them to this? If we ignore the pain of people, we can see how “one big gas station replaces another.” Russia is losing sources of income, but the market continues to need oil and gas, and there will always be nations to supply those things. Nations use their resources variously – to cover the cost of weapons, to restore ruins and to assist refugees. But who will be there to undo the deaths and repair the ruined lives of millions of people?
Increasingly, verses from the book of Daniel come to mind:
“Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron – for iron breaks and smashes everything – and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others… this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.” (Daniel 2:40-43 NIV)
This is very reminiscent of the modern steel and iron world we live in. Skyscrapers are made of concrete, iron and glass. Iron is in our cars, planes and even guns. But people cannot and will not become united and “people-group will rise against people-group.” (Luke 21:7)
Daniel gives one consolation: the Kingdom of Yeshua, the Kingdom of the Son of Man, is being built and will bring the world into harmony (Daniel 2:44). But right now, what are we believers to do?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)
Seek wealth in God and do not rely on the values of this world!
Don’t be afraid; follow Yeshua.
Give a good example to the world. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NIV)
Blessings and Shalom of God to you, dear brothers, and sisters. I encourage you to take part in our ministry, as we serve and help many in this difficult time.
Events in Ukraine are closely connected to people in our community. We have many from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus – please pray that we would all put Unity before God above other preferences.
Congregational home groups are an important place for fellowship and spirituality – please pray for continued, peaceful, safe gatherings.
Congregational youth group – please pray for spiritual growth in the youth.
We are expecting many refugees as well as returning Jewish immigrants, and the ability to serve others is important – please pray for strength for our volunteers that they may joyfully welcome all who come to our door.
We are still replacing the sound and broadcast equipment that was recently stolen – please pray for sufficient funds for replacements.