'Israel' was our Sunday School subject yesterday and, like every topic with a prophetic element, the children were very interested. By the end of the lesson they knew a lot and could answer questions like: 'Where will Jesus come back? What city? What hill will split in two? What gate will blow open?' That very morning the Israeli Air Force had destroyed Syrian missiles bound for Lebanon, so our lesson could not have been more topical.*
In Sunday School we usually start with a song, and this time it was a glorious song based on Psalm 96 which I found on the web. I told the children about Israeli circle dancing and one boy aged five, a real boy's boy, piped up: 'I'm not dancing!' and plonked himself down on a chair. He is so funny.
I told them Israeli dancing was not 'girly' at all, and how the men danced, so energetically, and how the young Jewish men in Jerusalem sometimes dance fast down the street towards the Wailing Wall, arms linked, singing from the Psalms. Wonderful! Also some spontaneous circle dancing at the Wall, with old men, little kids, teens, all joining hands, dancing and singing the Lord's music, from the Psalms, the songbook of the Bible. At least I hope that was what they were singing in Hebrew. Who would want to sing anything less?
So we listened to the song, which is from Psalm 96, and then we had a go at Israeli dancing...sort of. I love this song; it just fills me with joy every time I hear it, even on a bad day. We started just by walking in a circle to it, then I told them to put one foot behind another, put a little hop into it, etc.
Here are the words, from Psalm 96:
Sing to the Lord all the earth
His salvation proclaim day to day
His wonderful deeds and His glory
Are made known among all the earth
For great is He
In strength and majesty
For the Lord He reigns
You can hear the song on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41UCDcYDa1g
Then I had prepared a Powerpoint slide selection about Israel, so we launched into that. They learned about the Israeli flag, blue lines top and bottom with the shield of David in the middle**, and learned that Israeli Independence Day is in April. To celebrate that day, each school child in Israel prepares a gift box of treats - coffee, tea, chocolate, dried fruit, cereal, cookies, perhaps a bar of soap, toothpaste, a pair of socks etc - for a soldier. That just chokes me up. And then the kids all go into the military themselves at 18 or 19. That chokes me up even more. We also learned that the military is called the IDF, Israel Defence Force.
We touched on a lot, ancient and modern: Abraham, God's gift of the land to the Jews, God's promise to bless those who bless the Jews, and yet how so many people even in the churches still hate the Jews and Israel. They were really interested! We talked about the poster at the entrance to our church which says: 'We are Christians who stand with Israel.' When our Israeli son-in-law he visited our church and saw that poster, he found it very moving.
We talked about the many wars Israel was forced to fight, and we looked at a picture of the Zion Gate, full of rifle pockmarks from the fierce fighting in 1967 when the Jews captured the Old City. And we took a look at the Eastern Gate (Golden Gate), now blocked to keep the Messiah out, and a pic of Nehemiah's gate beneath it, shot by archeologist James Fleming before officials could cover up a huge hole that suddenly opened up.***
We learned why God had chosen Abraham and formed the Jews into a nation - to prepare a people to receive the Messiah, a people who would know Him, who had been enlightened about God and the things of God, who should have known the prophecies about Jesus and should have known the mind of God. The tragedy of the nation was that the leaders rejected God's Son, and so we, the gentiles, were grafted in. But we also noted that according to Romans 11, ALL Israel will turn to Jesus and be saved! What a future!
We talked about the geography of Jerusalem, with the modern city sprawled out around the Old City, with its high wall and eight gates - an ancient city within a modern one. We tried to imagine the Mount of Olives on the east, sloping down to the Kidron Valley, and up again to the Eastern Gate of the Old City. I have pictures of this, but couldn't manage to get them on my laptop.
We talked a lot about Jesus coming back to that very spot, the Mount of Olives splitting in two, and the gate being blasted open. Wow, what a day; what a spectacle! We talked about when He was here the first time and His triumphal entry through the Eastern Gate and how all the children shouted His praise, and no one could shut them up. A teenage boy who was helping out in the Sunday School said now the kids just shout for silly pop stars; how far we have fallen!
We also remarked on how fortunate we are to KNOW all this!
One boy, aged 5, said: 'I'm the only one in reception class who believes in God. I'm trying to tell them, and it is really hard.'
They all drew Israeli flags; one little girl's flag was particularly beautiful. She put a lot of glitter on it!
I would put my Powerpoint document on here, if anyone is interested, but can't figure out how to get it off my laptop. How I hope this will help some readers to understand more about Israel and that we had better get our hearts right, because Jesus was a Jew, Mary was Jew, the apostles were all Jews, and Israel is the place where Jesus will come back! Like our daughter Annie in Israel has written, many Christians are going to be full of shame when they see Jesus and realize that they should have tried to help the Jews and Israel, yet never had a kind word to say! Of course Jesus broke down that wall between Jew and gentile, and all believers in Him are now 'one new man', Ephesians 2.
Time to get ready, folks!
* For the real story on what is going on please look at Marvin Kramer's newsletter on this link http://www.twtw.co.il/ Marvin is a brilliant lawyer, originally from New York, who lives in Haifa.
** There is a controversy about the Israeli flag. The blue lines top and bottom are criticized by some people who claim that they represent two rivers, the Nile and the Euphrates, and that Israel has plans to expand its borders to those rivers. Israel, of course, has no such plans. But God does! He sets the boundaries of the nations! And at least twice He declares Israel's boundaries to be 'from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates'. I've heard excellent Bible teachers say that the 'river of Egypt' is a wadi, not the Nile. But a wadi is a dry bed which fills up in the rainy season. It is not a river. So I suspect that it really is the river Nile.
The flags we did in Sunday School were just sheets of white paper. The children colored in two blue lines top and bottom and did the star in the middle by drawing a triangle, and over it another, upside down, triangle. They would have had a go at drawing the Eastern Gate, but time ran out. They all love doing any kind of art or craft work and it is so good because then they are happily sitting down doing it, and we can keep talking about the lesson. I use this time to review what we learned by asking them questions. For this lesson some of the questions were: 'What have we learned today? Where is Jesus coming back? What city? What gate is He going to enter? What hill is going to split in half? What does IDF stand for?
*** For an exciting half hour TV program about the Eastern Gate and the amazing hole that opened in front of it, here is the link http://lamblion.com/television/programs_archaeology3.php
A good prayer: Dear Father, Lord God of Israel , please protect the IDF today. Please open the eyes of more Jewish and muslim people that they might know Your Son Jesus.