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|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
I am thankful to the Lord for another successful pilgrimage to the Holy Land, FEBC’s 19th, 3–16 December 2017. A total of 48 pilgrims from four Bible-Presbyterian churches made it.
Peace and Safety
When we arrived in Israel, I asked our Jewish guide Leslie Eli, “How’s Jerusalem?” He assured me Jerusalem was peaceful. He also said Israel was doing very well, and tourist numbers had hit a record high. That was December 5. The next day, Trump spoke and all hell broke loose. This reminds us of what 1 Thessalonians 5:3 says, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” News on TV showed the protests and violence that erupted in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We were supposed to visit Jericho on December 8, but all buses were turned back because of rioting in Jericho. We visited Qumran instead, and then made our way to Jerusalem.
Thankfully, it was peaceful in Jerusalem. We were not in any danger at all and visited all the historical sites in our itinerary in the four days we were there. We had prayed for journey mercies claiming the promises of Psalm 121 and the Lord heard us and truly kept us safe. Although there was a travel advisory not to enter Bethlehem, we went in. We were going to worship with our Arab brethren at Baraka Bible-Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem as planned. We had a blessed time of worship and fellowship. Despite the threatening situation and dangers, we were not worried—the Lord gave us peace. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6–7).
Although we had a very safe and peaceful pilgrimage, we are reminded that Jerusalem is not yet a peaceful city, and there is still no peace in the world. We are reminded that peace will only come when the Prince of peace—the Lord Jesus Christ—returns. Christmas reminds us of what the Prince of peace has come to do: (1) to save us from sin and from judgement by His crucifixion and resurrection, and (2) to bring peace to the world when He returns to reign for a millennium.
The angels on Christmas day sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14). What is this peace? It is heavenly peace. It is peace with God through faith in Christ Jesus. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). It is also earthly peace which will happen when Jesus comes back as King of kings and Lord of lords. When He comes, “he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isa 2:4).
Love and Good Deeds
As Christians on a pilgrimage, we go with a mission to be a blessing to the people in the Holy Land. This time we brought 31 bags of brand new children’s clothes donated by a reputable clothing company. 30 bags went to the Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan through Baptist pastor Maher Nimri who was an FEBC student. The extra bag was given to the needy children of Baraka BPC’s childcare centre.
The Rev George Awad has just become a director of the House of Hope for the blind in Bethlehem. This house for the blind was founded by Helen Keller. Some of its residents worship at Baraka BPC. Two blind Arab youths—Jaffa and Hamuda—sang a Christmas carol for us during the worship service. Rev Awad shared with me that the House of Hope has fallen on hard times and is in financial need. We took a collection for them before we left Jerusalem. I told Rev Awad to get in touch with our friend Rev An Yohan (Blind Korean Pastor) who has a worldwide ministry to the blind.
I must not forget to tell the story of Kibbutz Yahel. We stayed in this Kibbutz on our first night in Israel. Kibbutz Yahel is literally a few steps away from the country of Jordan. The Jews in this Kibbutz in an effort to live peaceably with their Jordanian neighbours, share the pomelos they cultivate with their neighbours. Initially, crates of pomelos were placed on the dirt road separating the two countries. Israeli and Jordanian soldiers patrolling the border could help themselves freely to the pomelos. However, due to security reasons, a fence was eventually put up. This did not deter the Jews. They threw pomelos over the fence for their Arab neighbours. This is what Ron Bernstein the manager of Kibbutz Yahel called “Agriculture for Peace”. I told Ron that his pomelo diplomacy is in keeping with God’s command in Leviticus 19:18, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” This was also taught by the Lord Jesus Himself (Matt 22:39). It is amazing that Kibbutz Yahel situated in the Negev desert can make the desert so fruitful with pomelos, dates, and vegetables. Isaiah 35:1 says, “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” It’s God’s grace upon Kibbutz Yahel.
Jews and Sinim
“Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” (Isa 49:12). Sinim is China or the Chinese. There is an increasing number of tourists from Mainland China in Israel, 80,000 according to the Ministry of Tourism. There are direct flights now from Beijing and Shanghai. For the first time, we were greeted with “Ni Hao Ma?” The retailers eager to sell their wares were quick to learn Chinese in the hope of getting some business. One old lady at the marketplace asked if I was Sinim. I said, “No, I am Singaporim.”
Many of the Chinese tourists are not Christians. They visit Israel not for religion but for its history and culture. This is an evangelistic opportunity. Our FEBC Chinese graduates may want to pray about being missionaries in the Holy Land to evangelise the many Chinese tourists in Israel. If they do, they should work towards being a licensed tourist guide. I am sure there is a demand for Chinese-speaking guides in Israel.
Israeli and Singaporean
We were in Mechane Yehuda Market, and an elderly Jewish man approached me and asked, “Are you from Singapore?” I said, “Yes, how did you know?” He answered, “I saw your faces and heard your accent.” And then he said, “I am also Singaporean. I lived in Singapore for 40 years.” I didn’t quite believe it. I asked him, “Where were you born?” He replied immediately, “In KK.” I said I was born in KK too. He wished us well and then went on his way. Jews all over the world have been returning to Israel (making aliyah)—they see the Promised Land as their homeland.
Nation and Messiah
Israel is a nation once again. Since 1948, the Jews have been returning to the land God had given to them. This is according to the prophecy of Isaiah 11:11–12, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” The stage is set for Israel’s Messiah the Lord Jesus Christ to return, and it can happen any time.
Although Israel rejected their Messiah when He came the first time, the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:25–27 tells us that Israel will be saved when He comes the second time: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Rom 11:25–27).
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Ps 122:6). Next year Jerusalem? JK
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