Blessed is everyone who blesses you, [O Israel] ... (Numbers 24:9)

Jesus in the manger

Over Christmas I wonder how many people think about the reality of the Christmas Story. So often romanticised, we see the ‘little Lord Jesus’, but the reality of life isn’t like that is it? Life in a hot Middle Eastern country wouldn’t have been easy for humble working-class people living under Roman rule. Giving birth in a cave or stable and fleeing to Egypt for safety wouldn’t have been part of their plans.

When we look in the context of this essential part of Scripture – there are often general misunderstandings. One is the December setting – it’s most likely to have happened in September or October when sheep were still in the fields. Another is that of kings visiting a newborn – when the Gospels clearly tell us they visited the family when Jesus was no longer a baby.

A new version of the famous Christmas carol Away in a Manger starts “Away from the manger, they ran for their lives.” Focusing on the threat by Herold to kill all the male children in Bethlehem, the subtitle for the song is The Refugee King. So often we can see biblical images or themes adapted for political purposes, or their truths diluted.

Life in Israel was very different from the portrayals on our Christmas cards. The town of Bethlehem is now far from what it was when the shepherds saw that bright light in the sky and gave glory to God. Israel too is seen in many preconceived ways and it is these things that often keep believers and non-believers from looking deeper into biblical truths or appreciating the uniqueness of a land, people and culture that were chosen by God for very specific purposes.

Israel is a complex, diverse, beautiful, thriving country, rich in heritage and culture, but badly misrepresented in secular media, much as is the word of God. It’s been blessed by the Lord with innovative thinkers, superb archaeologists, great democracy, ancient cultures, beautiful and diverse eco systems. It’s also been blessed with a resilient people who value the sanctity of life, family and community, as well as a huge array of biblical sites and experiences to bring the Bible to life.

LET’S PRAY:

Jesus incarnate is the reason for the season

  • Pray that many will ponder this year on the true Christmas story and its effect on mankind and history itself.
  • Pray that Christmas has a huge impact on our communities – for all the right reasons – and that the media view of Israel isn’t as a political accident but as a relevant story, now and in the years to come before the Lord returns.
  • Pray for biblically sound believers in places of influence in TV and journalism, social media etc...

The Bible is uniquely valuable

  • Pray that the Bible isn’t diluted in any situation or context and that the Church recognises that Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed (Numbers 24:9).
  • Pray that a hunger for the word of God will arise, to develop mature believers who are full of faith in every word God gave us.
  • Pray for church leaders to have a true revelation of the Bible in context and develop a holy love for Israel.

God is awesome

  • Pray for a holy awe to fall on the church, our nation and our new government, in line with this scripture, so that more of us and more nations will be blessed; rather than what it says in the second part of the verse: ‘And whoever curses Israel will be cursed.’
  • Pray people will see that it’s not for Israel’s sake but for the honour of God’s name (Ezekiel 36:21).

Israel is widely misrepresented

  • Pray for those in Israel who are affected by the bad press that Israel often gets, and that, as the Lord said, the whole earth will be blessed through Israel (Genesis 22:18).
  • Pray that each of us will know exactly how we should be a friend of Israel and will experience God’s strength to obey that fully.

 

Julia Soakell

December 2019