This will be my last post from the land of Israel; we fly back home tomorrow night. The two posts I sent from here previously were meant for your eyes only, so I ask that you not share what I've written on Facebook or other social venues, but rather keep them to ponder in your hearts and ask the Spirit to give understanding. We do not want to jeopardize any of the holy work of those who labor here in the Land.
This past week the Spirit has shown us many things we have not seen or understood before. He has a way of illustrating His word and causing one to literally walk it out when one is here on His holy ground.
Ezekiel 46:9: "...whoever enters by the way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall go out through the opposite gate."
Abba caused us to literally do this twice this week. We ended up going into Shiloh twice on two different days. Both times we entered on one road and left by a different road. And the roads were totally different on each of those days! Thus we entered by one "gate" and left by the opposite "gate" on two separate occasions, and by the second time we were gleaning the understanding. One cannot go in to worship the LORD and not be changed by the experience. If we go out the same way we came in, we have not worshiped; we have not entered into His Presence. To be in His Presence is to be changed more and more into the Image of His Son.
So, what does this "change" entail? It is almost always a burning of all the dross, the impurities, that reside within us. It is a cleansing fire. It is a willingness to receive the correction of a Righteous, loving Father, and to allow Him to make changes in us that are lasting. We cannot go out the same way we came in.
Each of our stops in Israel involved an experience with those who serve Elohim with clean hands and pure hearts. We spent two days in Netanya helping in our friend's soup kitchen ministry, where he feeds a good meal to the poor, distributes clothing, and puts hands and feet to the gospel of Yeshua. John and I shopped for all the groceries, cooked a meal of soup, pasta, salads and dessert for about 50 people, and then I sang Russian and Hebrew songs of praise as they ate.
I was profoundly touched by a woman who came to minister that night to the (mostly) Russian Jewish immigrants. She told us ahead of time that she had set up her "foot clinic"behind a curtain in the back, and would be looking for those with the most soiled, smelly feet, and the most tired, weary faces. These she invited back behind her curtain, and there I observed her washing their feet, then massaging them with oil. She clipped old, gnarled toenails and put sweet-smelling oils on the soles of worn-out feet. It was a ministry of love such as I've seldom seen! She was serving "the least of these" in the pure example of Yeshua.
While serving in this special ministry we were privileged to stay in the tiny tenement apartment of an Ethiopian woman and her five sons. She had left Ethiopia 24 years ago to make aliyah to Israel, knowing her Jewish heritage, and coming to raise her family in her true homeland. She did not speak any English, but we communicated through her sixteen-year-old son, and we had some very precious conversations of the heart.
We also met an incredible Rabbi who, together with his wife, directs a Children's Home (for abandoned children). His office was decorated all around with pictures of young brides and grooms, graduations, and new babies. As he spoke about how these children become "his" for all their lives, we marveled. He attends their graduations and weddings, and considers their children his "grandchildren." He and his wife pour out their lives unconditionally for the children given to his care, and he says that like any parent, this love and care does not end when they go off and get married - it is a lifelong commitment! John told him, "If you had not shared one word with us, the pictures on your wall would have told the beautiful story of what you do."
We did get into Hebron, and I was struck by a sense of holiness at Machpela, the caves where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca are buried. It is a place of the Covenant, a place where David first reigned as King of Israel for seven years, being trained for his future years in Jerusalem. It is a place where we have Scripture to prove that Abraham paid for a deed to the land, so that he might bury his family there (Genesis 23:9). Interestingly, I learned that there are three places where Scripture attests to a purchase of a deed to the land: Hebron, the Temple Mount area, and Shechem. Not surprisingly, these are the three mostly hotly contested areas of land in Israel today! How the enemies of YHVH still strive to steal the land that He gave to His chosen people, and how fiercely Satan is trying again to rid the world of every last Jew, hoping to wipe out all possibility of the Messiah! But the Land and the people are established, and God's Word and His promises will stand. Though we are told that almost a million Muslims live in the area in and around Hebron today, and the Islamic loudspeakers permeate the airwaves, the Voice of YHVH still speaks, and His Voice is eternal:
Genesis 13:14-18: And YHVH said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: 'Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are - northward, southward, eastward and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants FOREVER. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.' Then Abram moved his tent and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to YHVH."
Yesterday we had planned to go up on the top of Mt. Tabor for a picnic, and a time of prayer. Our hostess got up in the morning filled with joy and awe that she had read the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) portion of Scripture appointed for this Shabbat, and it was the story in Mark Chapter 9 of the transfiguration of Yeshua on the "Mount of Transfiguration," which is believed by most to be Mt. Tabor. What special delight there is in going up to a place written of in the Scriptures on the day it is appointed to be read! We actually read all three accounts of that story and marveled at what James, Peter and John must have experienced as they "saw the Kingdom of God present with power!" They were given a very unique and special foretaste of the Resurrection and the Kingdom Reign of Messiah Yeshua.
I guess I could say that during these three weeks we have had some small foretastes of the great Restoration of all Israel, which Paul spoke about in Romans 11, and which most of the prophets wrote about continually. The disciples of Yeshua knew there was still a restoration yet to come as they asked Yeshua about it in their last earthly conversation. Acts 1:6: "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked him saying, 'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' (Acts 1:6). But Yeshua told them it was not for them to know the time or season for this - as it would be many, many years into the future. And so in these days, now many years into the future, we have had the unspeakable joy of arising and walking (or driving!) through this land, through its length and its width. And the most wondrous part of it all has been meeting its people. The Lord told us to "see the faces behind the doors." Finally there have been doors opened that we could walk through, and sit and talk with the Jewish people who are keeping His commands, walking in His ways, and believing in His promises. Though they are from many different nations, tribes and tongues, they are the House of Judah, and they have this in common, says YHVH through the prophet Jeremiah: "I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people" (Jer. 31:1).
Praise be to Him who has now allowed some of the House of Ephraim to come alongside our brother and extend our love to them, for it has given us a great hope in the future fulfillment of these wondrous prophecies: "Sing with gladness for Jacob and shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise and say, 'O YHVH save your people, the remnant of Israel!' Behold I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child, and the one who labors with child, together. A great throng shall return there. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble. For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn. Hear the word of YHVH, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off and say, 'HE WHO SCATTERED ISRAEL WILL GATHER HIM AND KEEP HIM AS A SHEPHERD DOES HIS FLOCK.'"
Tonight we will go back over to the Russells' home in the Galilee, where we also enjoyed worship and fellowship last weekend. If you are interested in a new, innovative way to learn the Hebrew language, visit his link at hebrew-lessons.com. We will stop on our way and pick up our dear friend Andras and his wife. If you can even imagine, he is the man who hosted us on our visit to Budapest, Hungary, and who arranged for me to be able to teach in a church there and to attend a Shabbat service in his Messianic congregation. Now he and his family have left Hungary and made aliyah to Israel, and God has caused our paths to cross again, as He continues to do His marvelous networking of people!
Tomorrow is our last day in Israel - for now. There is great sadness in leaving - but always the joy of knowing that one day we SHALL return!
Isaiah 60:5-7: And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner be your ploughmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be called 'Priests of YHVH,' 'Servants of our Elohim' shall be said of you. You shall consume the strength of the nations, and boast in their esteem. Instead of your shame and reproach, they rejoice a second time in their portion. Therefore they shall take possession a second time in their land, everlasting joy is theirs.
Throughout this past week these scriptures of Isaiah 60 have been spoken to us, both by the Jewish people who live in the hills of Samaria, and by the Spirit Himself. We have spent several days visiting in the homes, sheep camps, synagogues and schools of these bold, hard-working, tenacious Jews who take these words of the prophet Isaiah to their hearts and do not just read or speak them, but put their hands and feet to them!
One young couple came to start a community in the "West Bank" area, surrounded by the beautiful mountains of Ephraim, and they had only about ten lambs, the strength of their backs and their hands, and a great VISION. Today they have over a hundred lambs, a large olive grove producing fine oil, a thriving synagogue and over thirty families building homes, having Jewish babies to continue the generations of Jacob, and most amazing of all, receiving us "Ephraimites - who believe in Messiah Yeshua - into their hearts and their homes! We were invited into the sheep camp where the little lambs had just been weaned from their mamas and were bleating pitifully, their mamas responding in deep bass voices that made us laugh!
We sat at a table in the midst of all this noise and enjoyed delicious cups of hot tea with honey and mint, freshly-made goat cheese, slices of homemade bread, salads of tomato, cucumber, and eggplant, and wonderful hummus. Our conversation was nothing less than astonishing to me. Both husband and wife exclaimed, "We knew you were coming one day, but we cannot believe you are here!" We spoke about the two sticks in Ezekiel 37, who become ONE (echad) in the Hand of the Father and instead of rejecting us they clapped their hands and rejoiced!
Yesterday we were escorted throughout the ancient ruins of Shiloh and also the incredible facility for children, escorted by David Rubin, Mayor of Shiloh. Shiloh was the place where Eli served as High Priest and where Hannah took her young son Samuel - who would become Israel's great prophet - to live with Eli in the Tabernacle. Shiloh is the place where Joshua rebuilt the tabernacle unto YHVH, and it stood there for 369 years. Today Shiloh is a modern, thriving town, whose people carry the deep wounds of the loss of their children to murdering terrorists. David showed us one single street where no less than five families had had children killed standing near a bus stop or walking through the town. Now all this pain and sorrow has been turned into a great VISION for the healing of children, families, and a people who live daily under the threat of violence, war and death. It never ceases to amaze me how the Jewish people truly live by the principle spoken by their ancestor Joseph, who said to his brothers that sold him into slavery, "What you meant for harm God turned to the good." Please visit their website at www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org and consider donating to this very worthy cause.
Walking through the classrooms of the Israel Children's Fund Center we delighted to hear little boys singing the verses of Torah as they learned the Scriptures through music. I hope to send you the little video of this when I get back home! We saw the pens full of animals and horses, used as healing therapy for the children, and visited the small room with the gentle sounds of music and moving water, and big, cuddly stuffed animals to hold onto, for those whose trauma is too intense to learn yet. The Father used this experience to begin to help us understand just how deep the pain of these people really is, and to write it on our prayer-hearts.
David then took us into the excavations being done in the area of the Tabernacle, and we were so amazed to climb down a very steep, slippery slope into a cave below where he believes Eli and his family lived! He showed us the two "rooms" adjacent to where we were standing, and then as we climbed back up, we could see the upper level where the family would also have dwelt. Moving on over to the holy ground of the Tabernacle site, David offered us a time to pray there. Spontaneously all six of us turned toward Jerusalem and sang the Sh'ma in Hebrew. There was an expression of awe and surprise on his face! Then he lowered his voice and confessed to us, "I have been trying to tell my people about you. Some of you wear tzit tzits, some don't; some of you wear kippas, some don't. You know our dances and our songs, you study our Torah. They wonder, 'who are these people?' But I know who you are...and I am so glad you are here!"
My spirit has been overwhelmed with these confessions from Judah, welcoming Ephraim! I have been so discouraged in the past two years because I have increasingly wondered why I've been studying Torah, why I've been learning to sing in Hebrew, why I've been praying under a tallit and why my heart and spirit have been SO deeply connected to the Jewish people and the true roots of my faith! Finally the Father is showing me in earnest what this walk has been all about! The people we have met are talking about HaYovel, and the Wallers' ministry of harvesting and pruning the vines in Samaria. They are speaking to one another about their amazement that "foreigners would come help us harvest the crops!" It is prophecy being fulfilled. It is the SET TIME. "Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner be your ploughmen and your vinedressers." Because of this prophecy, they are finally understanding who we are! Nevertheless, they still stand in awe that anyone would come to help them build their homes and harvest their crops, and bless them with finances, and just give them LOVE.
At last I have my boots on the ground in Israel, in the homes of the people, sharing Messiah without using words! Using only love. Love is the fulfillment of the Torah (Romans 13:9-10).
After our time in Shiloh we moved on to the wonderful community of Itamar, at the top of the hills of Samaria. We spent an incredible time of great blessing in the home of a local Rabbi and his wife. She showed us the view from her back window of Mt. Gerazim (mountain of blessing) and Mt. Ebal (mountain of cursing). "Each day," she said, "we look out the window and are reminded that we can make a choice today!" We drove around their community slogging through the huge puddles and slimy mud (it has rained for days here in Israel, praise Yah!) We marveled at the beautiful, immense new synagogue they are just finishing and delighted in the fresh yogurt and cheese at the goat farm. This young couple moved to Israel from New York many years ago and persevered against great odds to plant and to build. They raised their children here, and now have a grandson running and giggling through their home!
The Rabbi was excited to take us deep down into an ancient wine cellar and after being caked with mud from foot to toe as we made our way down, we got to the warm, dry, circular room at the bottom and found a large djembe drum down there. James began to play a wildly Middle-Eastern rhythm and spontaneously JOY broke out in that old underground cellar and we grabbed hands and began dancing mayim steps in a circle, whooping and rejoicing! Restoration! Judah and Ephraim! One in the Father's hand!
Then we returned to their home to enjoy hot tea, refraining from food since yesterday was the Esther Fast; and we all talked together about the Restoration we see happening in front of our eyes. They are an Orthodox Jewish family -- but they welcomed us into their home and shared with us the pieces of their journey. And they told us, "you came here on Highway 60 because that is the highway you are walking on - Isaiah 60!"
I am humbled beyond words, my friends. So all these years of visiting Israel, walking the walls of Jerusalem and praying over the people, learning the deep truths of the Torah and immersing myself into the ways of the Hebrew people were the Father's training ground for this set time! The Hebrew wedding that John and I had under the chuppa was truly a foreshadow of all that is to come. We are bringing these Israeli people a message, that "instead of their shame and reproach, they shall rejoice a second time in their portion." One day soon, together we shall "take possession a second time in the Land, and everlasting joy will be ours!"
Kelly Ferrari Mills