Sarah Liberman




FROM SARAH, OUR SABRA
ON THE GROUND IN ISRAEL

Greetings from the Holy Land,

As I write to you from our family home in Israel, I wonder if you’re aware that our nation underwent a second lockdown recently. It was a very different experience compared to the first lockdown back in April.

Israelis have somehow become less afraid of the virus and, therefore, are now less inclined to obey government guidelines. Unlike the first lockdown, when the entire country palpably ground to a halt, this time more people looked for loopholes in order to carry out large events and gatherings.

Crossing the Jordan, engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794–1872) for Die Bibel in Bildern (1860)

The second lockdown led to a decrease in COVID-19 cases, but not as quickly as everyone had hoped. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was adamant about seeing a slower “back to normal” return from the lockdown, hoping to avoid a repeat of the pattern we saw in April and May. After the first lockdown, people were desperate that everything should open at once. Consequently, the increase in cases occurred soon thereafter.

Though hopes are high for a vaccine to be approved ASAP, by the time it arrives, our children may have been out of school for nearly a year. Concerned for them academically, I can report that on a personal level, our family has enjoyed spending time together and also the slower pace of life.

I haven’t been able to travel for ministry for over six months, so my Ascend team (comprising young Israeli worshipers) and I created a project called iAscend. This online program conveys insight and life-transforming truth about worship, prayer, leadership, management, and creativity. We filmed content from many Bible teachers, a Believing tour guide, and different professionals — all from here in Israel.

THE JORDAN RIVER

As I was journeying again through the Land to create this educational program, I felt the Lord highlight some of the locations we were visiting. These places have special and specific meaning for the times we live in now. One of the places we visited was the River Jordan.

The Jordan runs from Mt. Hermon at the northern tip of Israel in the east, along the border with the country of Jordan, and south to the Dead Sea. The source of the Jordan is in Dan, tucked right under Mt. Hermon. Several small springs come together to feed into the Sea of Galilee and from there the Jordan flows down through the Jordan Valley.

Bible References to the Jordan River

The Jordan River is mentioned over 180 times in the Bible. Lot chose to settle in this area when his and Abraham’s shepherds were fighting over resources. Lot looked at the landscape, saw that this area was plentiful, and so chose it (Genesis 13:10).

If you visit this area today, you need a fairly vivid imagination to glimpse what Lot saw. The area today no longer resembles its Genesis description. Sodom and G’morah, where Lot and his family resided, is now in a dry valley — brown, dusty, and desolate.

In 2 Kings 10, we read the account of Naaman, the Syrian commander who did as the prophet Elisha told him (but not without complaint). Dipping himself seven times in the river, he was miraculously healed of an incurable disease (leprosy).

In 2 Kings 6:1–7, Elisha made an ax head float in the Jordan. The prophet had a special relationship with the River Jordan. After crossing that river (2 Kings 2), he had watched his mentor Elijah taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire. Picking up Elijah’s mantle as a sign of the double blessing that he was to receive, Elisha, through a miracle of God, was able to part the Jordan and cross to the other side on dry land. This parting of the waters harkened back to a major event that occurred in that very same place: the people of Israel crossing into the Promised Land in the days of Joshua.

Detail of Joshua Passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant, oil on wood by Benjamin West (1738–1820), Art Gallery of New South Wales

The Book of Joshua (3:14–17) tells how the people of Israel crossed over the River Jordan. God stopped the water and the people walked across on dry ground in the same way in which they had walked over the Sea of Reeds 40 years earlier, when they had come out of Egypt (Ex. 14:15–31).

The spot where the Israelites crossed the Jordan is the same geographical location where Yeshua was eventually immersed. It’s also the same area where Elijah’s fiery chariot flew to Heaven, the same place where Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, and where God parted the water for the people of Israel. Each time, ahead of fulfilling His promise, God made the impossible happen.

Crossing the Jordan

In preaching repentance to the religious leaders of his day, John the Baptist referred to the stones that Joshua placed in the Jordan. John told the Pharisees and Sadducees, “God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:9). He wasn’t talking about random stones around him. He was referring to the very stones that Joshua had set as a memorial to the Israelites’ crossing.

Detail of Saint John Baptizing in the River Jordan, oil on canvas by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), Getty Center

The word in the Hebrew language for “a Hebrew” is ivri, which literally means to cross over. It comes from the root alef, vet, resh. Abraham crossed over from false idols and many gods to faith in the one true God. He crossed over the Jordan when he left his homeland and entered the land that God promised to him and his descendants.

The Hebrews crossed over from slavery to the Promised Land to take hold of their inheritance. We, too, cross over from our slavery to the prince of this world to the perfect freedom gained for us by the Prince of Peace.

The Bible tells us that when the people of Israel crossed over into the Promised Land, it was at the time of annual flooding, which means that the river was at its widest. The water stopped flowing at a town called Adam and built into a massive lake.

When the Israelites passed over directly across from Jericho, they crossed while the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant (God’s sign of His covenant with His people) stood in the water. Note: They had to step into the water first — before the miracle happened and the water started to part.

Because of the topography, the people of Jericho would have been able to watch this event occur from the city walls. They had heard about God parting the Sea of Reeds for these Hebrews 40 years earlier. They also knew that the army of Egypt, the greatest empire at the time, had been destroyed.

When God parted the waters a second time, it signaled that He was with His people and that the time had come to enter a new phase. This generation would not fall into the same trap of disbelief as did their parents.

The new generation would take the land of their inheritance. They had waited a long time, walking around for 40 years in the desert. They circled and recircled until God considered them strong enough and mature enough to take hold of the promise.

Today’s Crossing

The key we mortals need to “cross over” in our lives today is found in Hebrews 6:12 — “So that you may not be lazy, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” We need faith and we need patience — or as another translation puts it, we need faith and endurance — to inherit all the promises that God has assured over our lives.

By holding back the waters in the Jordan, God showed the people of Israel that He was the same God from ancient times — now, then, and forever. He never changes, and He remains committed to the promises He made to us. God always keeps His Word. We Believers (“Believers” is short for “believers in Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah”) today need faith and endurance in our own difficult season.

Regardless of how long it takes you to see God’s promises unfold in your life, don’t shrink back! Step into the river. Cross over. Take hold of the new land that God has for you.

Im tirdefu lada-at oto
“Press on to know HIM!”
(Hosea 6:3 NLT),

Sarah Liberman

P.S. The Jordan River location is not just a place of crossing. It’s also the site of remarkable miracles: Miracles of dry land, chariots of fire, and the blessing of a double portion. Do you have a story about how you were able to “cross over Jordan” while seeing the impossible happen? Write to me and tell me your story. I’d love to hear it! *

Zola Tours: We’re Ready

Our hearts long to enter into the Promised Land just as the Hebrews did thousands of years ago. When Israel gives the green light to tourists again, we will be certain to go … and hope that you will join us. What a glorious adventure it will be to journey again with fellow Zola Tours pilgrims to the land of our Savior!

Zola Tours Manager Sandra has been working since last March to ensure that pilgrims with our tours don’t lose their payments and that they remain on standby for the official word from Israel. Feel free to contact Sandra at 214-696-9760 or travel@levitt.com and get more information at levitt.com/tours. More than ever, Israelis anticipate welcoming tour groups into the Land.

Spring Tour 2021 options
Prices include tips, taxes, & fuel surcharge (subject to change).
Deluxe (Israel only)Mar. 8–18$5,288
Grand Petra (Israel & Petra)Mar. 8–21$6,488

A Note from David and Kirsten Hart

Sarah Liberman, you are a gifted communicator. We enjoy reading your monthly Personal Letter message. And we love leading Zola Tours pilgrims to the headwaters of the Jordan River and witnessing God’s faithfulness as we traverse the trails and bridges of Tel Dan Nature Preserve. The various natural springs that feed into the Dan and Jordan rivers reveal Jehovah’s steadfastness: Their water is truly a source of chai (life) for all Israel — and also for neighboring Jordan.

Just as the people of God crossed over Jordan into a new land, most everyone today feels as though we have journeyed into unknown territory with our present worldwide circumstances. No one predicted the pandemic’s repercussions that we are all enduring. The Hebrews, along with Joshua leading them, met unforeseen battles but ultimately gained victory in the land. We, too, will have victory. “Fear not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

Striving to bring the Scriptures to life, Zola Levitt Ministries helps Believers apply the Bible’s messages to our daily Spiritual walk. We pray that our weekly television program, Our Jewish Roots, not only inspires you to rejoice in the Lord but also encourages you to trust in the constancy of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Applying your financial gifts, we share the Good News of Messiah Yeshua through the eyes of the Jews. As 2020 closes, would you prayerfully consider a generous donation to help us budget for 2021? Thank you for your ongoing support and for joining us in this mission from God.

Our Jewish Roots TV programs in December

Despite the global health crisis, ZLM faithfully manages to bring you fresh, new weekly Bible teaching on television. With undeniable inspiration from above, our producer Ken Berg creatively ensures that our viewers continue receiving high quality and relevant Bible teaching. Thank you, Ken!

We always anticipate filming our year-in-review television programs that look back on the Bible lessons that Dr. Jeffrey Seif taught throughout the previous months. Plus, we give you a sneak peek into what our 2021 programs will bring. If you’re on social media, please ask your friends to watch OJR with you and follow us on Facebook. We have some superior television programs coming your way.

Thanksgiving and 2020 Year in Review
Dr. Jeffrey Seif with David & Kirsten Hart thank the Lord for protection through a tumultuous 2020 and then present highlights from our recent series Joshua: More than a Conqueror, In the Footsteps of the Rabbi from Tarsus, Kings and Kingdoms, and Revelation: Unveiling the Visions.

Jehovah’s Treasure — Who doesn’t love Biblical archaeological treasure hunts?! Watch this incredible three-part miniseries that follows the search for lost Temple treasures and the Ark of the Covenant. This is some solid, worthwhile content! Grab a snack and cozy up for our adventurous Bible teaching.

Part 1
Archaeologist Dr. Oren Gutfeld describes the construction of two extraordinary tunnels that were unearthed in the Judean desert. These tunnels were discovered after the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, indicated that Temple treasures were buried all over Israel.
Part 2
Archaeologist Ian Stern reveals ancient Philistine artifacts. Rabbi Uri Einhorn explains the “second circumcision” and the connection with Jericho. Journalist David Dolan provides a historical perspective on the Ark of the Covenant.
Part 3
John Zeligman from the Israel Antiquities Authority discusses the significance of the master stone of the Western Wall, while archaeologists use thermal imaging to see under the Dome of the Rock. Jeff Seif and David Dolan speculate on the possible location of the “lost Ark.”
2021: The Year Ahead
As we begin 2021, Dr. Jeffrey Seif with David and Kirsten Hart express hope for the new year. We look at upcoming series, like the eight-part Sar Shalom: Prince of Peace, in which Jesus’ principal teachings come to life through Jeff’s passage-by-passage exposition. The series opens with the Sermon on the Mount. Then it features on-location filming where Jesus taught and re-enactments performed in Israel by Israelis.

May you have blessed times with your family this season. As you gather with loved ones, please remember to
Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! — Psalm 122:6

David & Kirsten

P.S. During a Hebrew-Amalekite battle in the Book of Exodus (17:8–13), Moses held up the rod of God to maintain a victory. When his arms became tired, Aaron and Hur came alongside him to hold up his heavy arms. Would you be this ministry’s Aaron and Hur? We appreciate your financial support during our perennial spiritual and economic battles. Thanks for your help! *

Zola Levitt Ministries is ECFA approved

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