My dear readers, when I published my monthly post in October (the post that had been written and prepared before the war), I thought, it was impossible to write about this horror while it was still going on. That is why I decided to publish my pre-prepared post. I had no words – and I thought then that next month, when the war would be over (so I thought) I would be able to find the words to reflect on the war; to analyze it from a biblical perspective; to write about it.
Well, we are in the next month, and the war continues – and, as our leadership says, “we are just in the beginning” …and I still have no words. I keep reminding myself that I am a writer, that I wrote several books about God’s love for Israel and God’s faithfulness to Israel. That I have to write something deep and spiritual on the subject—but I still have no words.
Thankfully, when we have no words, there is always His Word. Psalm 83 has become the most prominent Scripture for me these days. It turned out to be a great comfort to see that everything that is now happening was already prophesied and written thousands of years ago, and that the first half of this Psalm, with the names of Israel’s enemies, sounds almost like the lines from the news broadcast:
1 Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
2 For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
3 They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
4 They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”
5 For they have consulted together with one consent;
They form a confederacy against You:
6 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites;
Moab and the Hagrites;
7 Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek;
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8 Assyria also has joined with them;
They have helped the children of Lot. Selah
Indeed, He is the one who is “declaring the end from the beginning”; and this is the reason why the second half of this Psalm provides even greater comfort – it teaches us that God Himself will deal with His enemies:
13 O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
Like the chaff before the wind!
14 As the fire burns the woods,
And as the flame sets the mountains on fire,
15 So pursue them with Your tempest,
And frighten them with Your storm.
16 Fill their faces with shame,
That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
17 Let them be confounded and dismayed forever;
Yes, let them be put to shame and perish,
18 That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord,
Are the Most High over all the earth.
I Will Give You Rest
I have indeed written a lot over the years. So, I decided to allow some of these texts to speak to you here. I want you to contemplate the truth about God’s love for Israel: today, when Israel is under fire, and bleeding, and being judged and hated by millions around the world, proclaiming and hearing this truth seems to me more important than ever.
There is a startling story in the Ki Tissa weekly Torah portion (Exodus 30:11- 34:35) that has been speaking to my heart for years. The 33rd chapter of Exodus describes events that happened right after the terrible sin of Israel, right after the Golden Calf incident and the tablets broken by Moshe. At the end of the previous chapter, we saw Moshe interceding for the people and managing to convince God to forgive Israel. Already, at the beginning of this chapter, Moshe receives God’s confirmation: Yes, He will allow Moshe to continue his mission of leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land, the Land flowing with milk and honey. However, in His words we can still hear the echo of His recent wrath. While commanding Moshe and Israel to depart for the Land, He says, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
Well, this seems to be a definitive statement, totally clear and expected; completely just after the terrible sin the people of Israel had committed. Actually, this is the very subject of this Torah portion—it is all about God’s holiness, and about how He and His presence cannot, by any means, dwell with a sinful people: I will not go up in your midst …
How great must be the reader’s surprise, however, when only several verses later we read, And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” How could it possibly be? We know that He is not a man that He should change his mind, so what can explain this seemingly contradictory and sudden change of His decision?
This is the profound mystery of God’s love: suddenly we realize that this entire Torah portion is not only about God’s holiness, but also about God’s mercy. Yes, His holiness is such that He cannot dwell, nor go, with sinful and sinning people, and yet He still chooses to dwell and walk with His people, for such is His mercy. Yes, Israel is stiff-necked – but who isn’t? Do you ever wonder how can God still be patient with you and merciful to you, when you would have given up on yourself long ago? Do you ever think of yourself as not deserving of God’s fellowship? Just think of it: each one of us knows a myriad of reasons why the Lord could, and should, tell us: I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are … stiff-necked. Each one of us fully deserves these words, each one of us fully deserves God’s refusal to walk with us – and each one of us is fully aware of that. Yet, more than anything in the world, each of us longs to hear from Him: My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest – and the amazing thing is that this is indeed what He is saying to us! This is His astounding promise to each one of us—the incomprehensible mystery of His mercy. We are stiff-necked, we do not deserve His love and His mercy, and yet, He goes with us and gives us rest.
This is His mercy that each one of us can experience – however, there in the wilderness, the amazing promise of His mercy was given to Israel, in the first place. Unfortunately, not many people remember that. Too often, not only our enemies, but also our friends, sometimes even we ourselves, see our people as being completely left and abandoned by God; as walking alone through the vast wilderness of trials and sorrows; as the ones to whom God said: I will not go up in your midst… And these, indeed, were His words to us – but it was also to us that He said: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” – and that is the most important part! Ever since then, His Presence has remained with Israel everywhere, and do you realize what that really means? Throughout all these centuries, through all the pain and suffering we have endured: in pogroms, in ghettos, in concentration camps, in all those horrible moments (weeks, months, years) of complete loneliness and misery, when to everybody, including ourselves, we seemed to be utterly abandoned – in reality, we were not alone. The Lord has been walking with us! And His Presence is still with us now. In all their affliction, He was afflicted. And this is precisely the message I feel myself called to deliver today: For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest – and I will not get tired of proclaiming His mercy, love and faithfulness to my people.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
When the tumult was stilled across the land,
Silent tears the only trace of her wails,
Your walls, forever engraved on My hand,
Prepared to be pierced by the nails.
Muffled cries break through the morning calm:
Blood streamed down that Passover Eve;
And the nail that was thrust into My living palm
An eternal imprint would leave…
In the sun’s blackened glare, sightless man could not see,
To the blind to perceive was not given,
That in pounding that nail to the cross through Me,
Into your walls it was driven.
* * *
Having now risen, I still bear the stain
Of those marks bestowed then by mankind;
On the palms of My hands your walls yet remain:
With those old rusty scars you’re aligned.
Full of hatred and spite, and indifferent to them,
No wounds the blind world recalls,
Driving those same ancient nails, O Jerusalem,
Fearlessly into your walls.
Once again, they know not what they do
To Me, Who sees all whence I stand:
Every time they target your walls, they thrust
Nails into the palms of My hand.
 Isa 46:10
 Exodus 33:3
 Exodus 33:14
 1 Samuel 15:29
 Isaiah 63:9
 Isaiah 62:1
If you are interested in discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insights, I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for the new students) regarding eTeacher courses (firstname.lastname@example.org) .