“Am Yisrael Chai!” (The people of Israel live!)
Katharine and I had a fruitful early summer as privileged hosts of the Zola Tour. We led 29 wonderful pilgrims in the Holy Land. The feeling was apparently mutual, as they repeatedly expressed appreciation for the quality of our accommodations and the depth of the teaching.
A highlight of the summer tour is an archaeological “dig” in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority (www.antiquities.org.il). They are currently sifting through rubble at the Temple Mount that was illegally dumped under the “watchful eye” of the Waqf (the Arab Temple Mount police). Groups like ours help to recover and analyze keepsakes under the authority of archaeologists and trained museum docents.
What a thrill when one of our pilgrims, Chris, uncovered a coin from the Maccabean era in the 2nd century B.C.! We all cheered at the triumphant blow against those who rewrite history and claim that the Jewish people have no history in the Land! Chris wrote about his experience on page 15 of the August Levitt Letter.
This “heavenly hug” as the Lord blessed Chris and his pilgrimage to Israel reminded me of Katharine’s signature phrase for our tours, from Psalm 84:
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion.
Something significant happens in the hearts of pilgrims. God has a way of increasing their understanding of the Word and their love for Israel, the lost, and the Church. It is a joy to watch this transformation in them.
Collectively, we worked, toured, and learned as a beautiful example of the “one new man” of Ephesians 2:15. Jews and gentiles are serving together for the King and His chosen natural brothers. We embodied the olive tree, full of the oil and fruit that satisfies the heart of God.
Of the “seven species” noted in Deuteronomy 8, the olive may be the most awesome in its natural and spiritual reality. No doubt each food has much to teach us, but the olive is so strongly identified with Israel that it bears further investigation.
On the natural plane, the olive tree’s fruit provides nutritious food, lamp oil, anointing oil, and even soap and skincare products. On the spiritual level, the olive tree is a picture of Israel; the fruitful olive tree becomes an expression of the Messianic remnant, comprising Jews and gentiles. This is a profound illustration of the heart of God.
On a 2009 Israel tour, I hosted 40 pastors from 20 different denominations. These leaders from such diverse dogmas and backgrounds traveling together to learn of the Church’s connection to Israel were a miraculous sight. In the course of the tour, many of them became convicted of the debt that Christians owe to the Jewish fathers of faith. Seeing these key men humbly and sincerely recognize that the children of Abraham are still God’s chosen filled me with satisfaction. What a joy to see them acknowledge the “chosen-ness” of the Jewish people by a God who keeps His covenants. Thus, they added themselves to the equation, understanding that as “children of Abraham by faith” they too are chosen, and part of Messiah’s bride!
The tour became an exercise in olive-tree theology: each event, biblical site, and indigenous speaker unveiled the “grafts.” Let me explain.
The ancient, spiritual olive tree—Israel—like the natural olive tree, goes through transformation with age. As a natural tree grows old, it becomes hollow and loses strength. Praise God, tiny shoots sprout from the roots and gently wrap themselves around the trunk of the tree. This support brings life-giving power to the old trunk and allows it to withstand adverse winds and inclement weather.
What an amazing picture of the nation of Israel and the arising Body of Messiah! God intends to use the “shoots” (in Hebrew, the notzrim) to support the tree. How uncanny it is that the word for shoots, notzrim, is the plural form of netzer, the origin of our word for Nazareth and Nazarene.
The “shoots” who identify with THE Nazarene—Yeshua of Nazareth—are called to gently embrace the ancient, spiritual tree and help it weather the harsh spiritual winds currently blowing through the Middle East.
I walk through the streets of Israel, smiling as I listen to the locals grumble, “Ha notzrim po”… “the Christians are here.” Although typically uttered in a pejorative tone, it is evolving. The Sabras—native-born Israelis—emit a muted (but it’s there!) gratitude and respect aimed at these foreigners who dare to love, to risk, and to spend their shekels on a journey to this troubled and beautiful land that belongs to God. Sabras especially acknowledge that Christians from around the world are recognizing their kinship with the beleaguered Jewish people and the tiny, reborn State of Israel.
If you had told me decades ago that Christians would one day be proclaiming their love for the Jews, I would have called you meshugganah … crazy! Yet we are living in that day, and the shared destiny of Jews and Christians in the face of Islam and humanism is being revealed. The olive tree of Israel is being strengthened by the shoots at its roots.
The olive tree symbolizes the eternal continuity of the Promised Land and its transformation into resurrected Modern Israel. In the natural realm, the gnarled bark of the ancient olive trees may live 1,000 years on Israel’s terraced hillsides. Some claim that it can survive 4,000 years. Its power as a health-giving, nutrient-dense substance continues to receive medical and scientific affirmation. That it lowers cholesterol makes olive oil even more popular.
The phrase “Arise, shine, for thy light has come” (Isaiah 60:1) exemplifies the spiritual power of the Believing Community—the Church—and connects it to the light-giving property of the olive as a spiritual and natural gift from the Almighty. If the seven foods of Deuteronomy 8:8 are the notable foods of God, the olive is the premier fruit of God’s creation.
Another amazing set of verses helps us understand this connection: the Apostle Paul’s treatise from Romans 9 through 11. The Holy Spirit used Paul to speak to the Roman church and down through the Ages to us. As Americans, we suffered the pain and indignity of the enemy’s 9/11… but God is revealing His 9–11—the hidden truth of Romans chapters 9 through 11—in our day.
After Constantine’s cloak of religiosity in 325 A. D., the Church entered the Dark Ages as it cut itself off from the life-giving “Jewishness” of the Gospel. The Christian community went into decline and became an institutionalized relic because it no longer acknowledged the Hebrew roots of the “olive tree.” Yet God reached for His own and for those who would knit themselves to His Chosen People. Paul wrote poetically of the olive tree as a natural phenomenon that is a perfect picture of Israel.
God had a provision. In the Jewish national rejection of Jesus, the Gospel opened up to the gentile world and the “whosoevers” through the past two millennia. This has been a beautiful gift to the nations. The nations (the “wild olive branches”) grafted into the old tree results in strength and health. An Israeli guide told one of my groups that the grafting is done by making an “X”—a cross!— in the natural branch and fitting in the wild, thereby creating more fruit and health for the tree.
So it is with the Body of Messiah: the gentiles are grafted in and the result is greater fruit and mutual strength—a picture of the unity we are meant to manifest in the Body: Jews and gentiles together in Messiah! (For more on this, see my booklet, An Epic Love Story, available from http://store.levitt.com/ELS).
God does not even stop there. Natural branches that were previously cut off can also be grafted back in, providing further strength and health. This is what we are seeing today: the worldwide revival among the Jewish people. More Jews follow Yeshua today than in any era since the Book of Acts. In the Western world, “apostolic” giants like Moishe Rosen (founder of Jews for Jesus) and Zola Levitt awakened my Jewish people to our natural kinship with Jesus.
This sequence of events is all preparation for the return of Yeshua, who told His Jewish disciples that we would see Him when we cry out “Baruch Haba B’Shem Adonai: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39). We are beginning to cry this in record numbers. The King will return to a Jewish Jerusalem, made holier by the first fruits of the Messianic remnant.
By the way, “notzrim” also means “watchmen”—those “on the walls” of Zion. Thank you for being an olive tree watchman!
This month, we are re-broadcasting one of the greatest examples of “olive tree ministry” in history: the story of Ruth. Ruth’s tale is a paean (a song of praise or triumph) to God’s grace in grafting-in the gentiles and reversing the curse of an entire people group. When the Moabitess Ruth married Boaz, she became the ancestor of David and of Yeshua Ha Mashiach: Jesus the anointed One! That is a fruitful olive-tree lineage!
The Ruth television programs will encourage you and challenge you to stand with Israel and with our ministry. Please watch these episodes in August:
- Virtuous Woman.
- On location in Israel, Myles and Katharine tell how Naomi makes a dramatic move that defies cultural norms and sends Ruth to Boaz’s threshing floor where he promises to take care of her. Sasha and Anya’s music provides the perfect backdrop for this exciting story.
- Kinsman Redeemer.
- Boaz has feelings for Ruth and desires to be her husband and provider. However, as a man of honor, he reveals that there is a closer relative who must be consulted in accordance with the Mosaic law of the day. Arie Bar David describes the homes of this time period.
- Myles and Katharine tell how God is open to including a gentile like Ruth into the family of Israel and the lineage of the Messiah. Ruth’s story is a picture of the full restoration available to us because of the blood of Yeshua. Sasha and Anya bless us with their music.
- Future of Hope.
- Ruth and Boaz get married and raise a family. Naomi’s life was changed from tragedy and bitterness to one of restoration and hope. Yeshua wants to do the same for each of us.
My prayer is that the story of Ruth will awaken in you a fresh love for that which God loves. Please continue to help us “get the word out.” The Word both reconciles and warns; it is a trumpet call to turn to Him who is our redemption.
As is typical, our funds have declined during the summer, so please consider an extra measure of grace this month. We are committed to bringing on-location teaching, music, drama, and interviews … and we cannot do it without your partnership.
Bless you and your house in the days ahead. Until then, please Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim—Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem! (Psalm 122:6)
P.S. Marcus and Joni Lamb invited Katharine and me as guests on their Celebration TV program. Marcus and Joni founded and lead Daystar, a Christian network that carries Zola Levitt Presents on Wednesday evenings at 10:00 CT and Friday afternoons at 5:00 CT. Our discussion with them went well, and I think you’ll enjoy seeing it. One pastor friend commented after viewing it, “Myles, when you married Katharine, you married UP!” I couldn’t agree more!
Each of your Bible lessons reveals more of God’s wisdom and humor. Imagine prospering an olive tree to illustrate His relationship with us!