| Gaza and Gilad
©December 6, 2009 Asher Intrater
Gaza and Gilad
There were rumors this week on the streets of Gaza that the release of Gilad Shalit is close at hand. Maybe. Maybe not.
In the disengagement during the summer of 2005, Israel pulled all of its residents (9,000) and all of its soldiers totally out of Gaza. Immediately afterwards, Hamas took over control, and instead of using the new situation for peace, began arming the Gaza Strip to attack Israel.
On June 25, 2006 a group of terrorists crossed the border between Israel and Gaza killing several soldiers and kidnapping corporal Gilad Shalit. In October 2007, Rami Ayad, one of the leaders of the evangelical community in Gaza, was murdered by Muslim terrorists. During 2008, thousands of primitive rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel, aimed purposely toward civilian population centers.
At Hanukah in the winter of 2008-2009, Israel launched the "Cast Lead" operation to destroy Hamas military, logistic, and administrative capabilities.
The potential release of Gilad Shalit places Israel in a bizarre moral dilemma. The "deal" to get him back involves releasing almost 1,000 prisoners, all convicted criminals, many with "blood on their hands." Israel is willing to pay any cost to bring Gilad back alive. On the other hand, the release of so many terrorists could cause a much larger loss of life.
Hope for Gaza
The only hope for the Gazans, as well as for any other people, is salvation through Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. We are committed to help the gospel reach the lost of the Muslim and Arab world, just as we are for our own people, Israel.
However, we do not have the ability to reach them. Therefore we pray and give financial support to Arab Christians who are willing to risk their lives to share the gospel with Muslims. Recently we had the privilege of being part of sending to Gaza brother "V," a gifted Arab evangelist and apostle. Here is a note from "V" following his ministry there:
The Lord blessed greatly the ministry trip to Gaza from 26-30 Nov 2009. In all, four public meetings were held at the Gaza Baptist Church with some 175 in total attendance. Over the four days 45 men and women surrendered their lives to Christ. To God alone be all the Glory.
Following the martyrdom in Oct 2007 of brother Rami Ayad, 30, who served with the Bible Society in Gaza, the church went into some turmoil. For the six months that followed there were hardly any meetings. Several active Christian families including the church pastor decided to leave Gaza, due to genuine threats on their lives. The Church leaders decided to reconvene once a week only on Sunday. People started to come in very small numbers at first but slowly reached to a level of some 25-30 on a regular basis. These revival meetings were the first of its kind in two years.
Gazans need hope; they don't have any. They have no political, economic or religious hope. People live in one big prison called Gaza. On the surface life appears to be normal. This painful truth is otherwise. For brothers and sisters to know that they have not been forsaken meant the world for them. Many shared their tragic stories with me. A dear sister in her late forties lost both her son and home in the Gaza war of 2009. Many suffer from trauma. Thousands live in abject poverty as a staggering 75% of the work force are unemployed.
We also received a response from "F," leader of the church in Gaza with appreciation for V's ministry. (For the Christians in Gaza to know that Messianic Jews in Israel are standing with them was also a great encouragement.) They pray that the Lord will grant a great harvest.
Faithful unto Death
One of the themes of Chanukah (Feast of Dedication) is to be faithful unto death (John 10:15-18, 22). Yeshua Himself was faithful unto the death.
Philippians 2:8 – He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
Yeshua's death on the cross gave us forgiveness of sins. It also serves as an example for us to be faithful unto death as He was.
Philippians 2:5 – Let this mind be in you which was also in Messiah Yeshua…
The letter to the congregation in Smyrna exhorts us:
Revelation 2:10 – Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.
This verse being in the book of Revelation indicates that the exhortation is not only for a church 2,000 years ago, but for all of us who will stand in faith during the tribulations of the end times.
The central purpose of discipleship is "Christ-likeness" – to be conformed to the image of Yeshua. We are to be conformed to His personality of holiness and love; to the anointing power in the Holy Spirit; and also to suffering together with Him, even unto death.
Philippians 3:10 – That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.
Being conformed to His death is not only martyrdom, but the day to day obedience, of dying to selfishness, and overcoming pride, lust and worry.
The first martyr of the gospel was Stephan (Acts 6-7). His testimony was so powerful that it motivated Paul the apostle's ministry around the world. The first family to receive the gospel in Europe was named "Stephanus" (I Corinthians 1:16, 16:17), as if God were saying, "You are forgiven of your sin," and "the testimony of Stephan's life will continue to bear fruit after his death."
On this eve of Chanukah, in the remembrance of Gilad Shalit, Rami Ayad, the Christians in Gaza, and all those who are suffering from Islamic terrorism, let us lift up our prayers and re-"dedicate" ourselves to be faithful even unto death.
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