Monthly Archives: November 2015

Lessons in Thanksgiving from the Hebrew Bible

Lessons in Thanksgiving from the Hebrew Bible

Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving!

1511NLW_Hand-Pear_TS487018409During this season of Thanksgiving I want you to know that I am very grateful for you! May the Lord continue to bless you for blessing the Jewish people. Thank you so much for your faithful prayers and financial support—we could not do the work of bringing the Gospel to Jewish people across the globe without your partnership.

The Sabbatical (Shemitah) Year

As you know, the Jewish calendar is quite different from the non-Jewish calendar. The Jewish year is a lunar year with 30-day months, and the Julian calendar is solar with both 30- and 31-day months. This makes it a little confusing when you are trying to align the Jewish calendar with the Gregorian calendar. We are now just a few months into the new Jewish year of 5776, based upon the traditional rabbinic date for creation.

The Jewish calendar has received a lot of attention over the past 12 months because of the many books and articles telling us that the year 5775 was a Sabbatical year, also known by the Hebrew term shemitah, or in English, “release.”

The primary rule of thumb for observing the Sabbatical year, which occurs every seventh year, was that the Israelites were supposed to leave the land fallow so that it could rest. They were to refrain from planting crops in that particular year and to trust God to provide for them.

You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove (Ex. 23:10-11).

A second, and very important part of the Sabbatical year was the forgiveness of loans. The Scripture continues,

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission:  every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed (Deut. 15:1-2).

Again, during the Sabbatical year, the Israelites were to show special mercy and grace towards the poor. This was to be done in a few different ways. First of all, the “successful” Israelite was commanded to help fellow Israelites who were impoverished by loaning them what was needed for their survival.

If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks (Deut. 15:7-8).

Secondly, they were to release those who indentured themselves because they had probably fallen on hard times for some reason—perhaps health, bad crops or whatever caused them to “lose the farm.” The only way for them to survive was to become enslaved to one of their fellow countrymen.

If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.  When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed (Deut. 15:12-13; see also 15:14-18).

Therefore, the “release” of the Sabbatical year meant that the Israelites could not plant crops in their fields, collect payments on loans, and keep all of what they produced and stored for themselves rather than giving generously to the poor. At the heart of the “release” was the opportunity to trust God for all of their needs.

Unfortunately the Sabbatical year was rarely followed and became the basis for God’s judgment during the 70 years of captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:11).

Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete (2 Chron. 36:20-21).

The Year of Jubilee

The Sabbatical year was, of course, to be observed every seventh year, but then in the 50th year—seven sabbatical years—a year of Jubilee was to be celebrated by the Israelites. You might view this as a super Sabbatical year! The word jubilee is a transliteration of the Hebrew word yovale literally meaning “with a rushing noise” (Ex. 19:13, Josh. 6:5).

Whereas the Sabbatical year helped alleviate the immediate needs of the poor, the Jubilee year was designed to give the poor in Israel a chance to start all over again. Leviticus 25:8-12 provides us with a full description of the laws for the Jubilee year.

You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family (Lev. 25:10).

God Himself was also the original distributor of the Land to the twelve tribes of Israel, and again, He simply allowed His land to be used by the Israelites (Num. 32, Josh. 19)—as the giving of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people was always portrayed in Scripture as a gift from God (Gen. 12, 15, 17, etc.).

Moses also promises Israel that if the Jubilee year is faithfully observed, the Lord will miraculously cause the crops to grow during the years that the ground was fallow (Lev. 25:18-22). The God who demands that the land remain unplanted is the same God who promised to provide in abundance.

It is also interesting to note that the Jubilee year began on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 25:9) as the spiritual cleansing of the land began with the spiritual renewal of the chosen people.

As one Old Testament commentary describes,

This year of grace was proclaimed to begin with the Day of Atonement of every seventh sabbatical year to show that it was only with the full forgiveness of sins that the blessed liberty of the children of God could possibly commence. 

Lessons in Thanksgiving

There are so many lessons to learn from the Sabbatical/Shemitah and Jubilee years. The most important lesson for us is to recognize that all that we have in this world comes from God. He owns everything! This means that every single one of our possessions, even the ones we worked so hard to earn, are ultimately gifts from a good God who loves His children.

The Israelites are also asked to recognize the special place given to the Levites who have a permanent right of redemption to their houses and whose crops could not be sold. They did not own land of their own, but were to be cared for materially as they cared for the Israelites spiritually (Lev. 25:32-34).

Clearly, one of the great lessons of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years is that God has called us to be stewards of all that He provides. His gifts are designed to be enjoyed, nurtured and, most importantly, shared.

We are to help provide for the poor, respect the poor, and warned not to take advantage of the poor (Lev. 25:35-43). This is one of the reasons why Your Mission to the Jewish People is doing so much to alleviate the pain of poverty in the lives of many, mostly elderly, Jewish people.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year as it reminds me of how generous the Lord has been to me, to my Jewish people and to Chosen People Ministries.

Again, thank you for your prayers, love and support. I believe you are going to be blessed by reading the following expanded ministry reports of all God is doing in the lives of Jewish people around the globe.

Happy Thanksgiving and may the Lord fill your heart and home with His joy!

Your brother,

Mitch

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Stories of God’s Grace to the Jewish People

Dear friend,

Shalom from New York City!

I am grateful for what the Lord has done through Your Mission to the Jewish People this year. May I share several first-hand stories of “divine appointments” our missionaries had with Jewish people in which they had significant conversations about the Messiah? Some have even accepted Jesus quite recently through these efforts!

I know you will be encouraged and blessed to read these stories and most of all I hope you will pray for the Jewish people mentioned!

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The first story comes from Joseph who serves in Brooklyn and is a part of the team planting a new congregation at our Feinberg Center. Joseph writes,

A couple months ago I met a young Yemenite Jewish man at my book table. Shmulik* was excited to receive a New Testament in Hebrew. It was as if I gave him a bar of gold the way he kept looking at it and skimming the pages! I showed Shmulik where to start reading in Matthew and as he read the opening words in Hebrew he grew very excited, “This is the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Shmulik was beaming from ear to ear yet pacing around a bit, telling me how he was taught to avoid the New Testament. He was scared and excited at the same time. I encouraged Shmulik to think for himself, that he will stand alone before HaShem (the Lord) one day and have to give an account. He agreed.

Kirill serves in Chicago with his wife Elena. They came to the U.S. from Germany, but are originally from Russia. God blessed their ministry in Germany but today they have started two congregations for Russian Jews in the Chicago area. Kirill reports,

We recently had a great baptismal service! The testimonies of the believers deeply touched the hearts of those at the service. The testimony of a Jewish sister was very important to me personally. This young woman visited our congregation for the first time three years ago. After that service, we prayed the sinner’s prayer together. Her new life after accepting Jesus was not easy.  After years of personal discipleship and ministry she was finally ready to be baptized. What she said before I baptized her touched my heart and life and is a great encouragement to my ministry. She publicly testified, “Coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah and understanding everything He did for me, I want to spend the rest of my life being in His service. What a blessing!”

Anna in Toronto tells this wonderful story…

Ronald,* his wife Sarah* and two kids, Samuel* (12) and Aren* (4),  recently immigrated to Canada from Israel. Vladimir and I befriended them, and invited them to our home. We spoke about the Lord, and they were very interested, but could not make a decision right away. Little by little, Ronald and Sarah opened up to the Messiah. Recently we gathered together for tea. The conversation about the Lord was long, and at last they made decisions to pray. At that moment the doorbell rang and their neighbor, Violetta,* dropped by. She began to ask questions too, and we explained to her the way of salvation. Then we offered Ronald, Sarah and Violetta the opportunity to pray; they agreed. Suddenly, Samuel got up from the sofa, came to the table and announced that he was going to pray with us also. We held hands and bowed our heads. So that day, these four souls became children of God. Praise the Lord!

Person to Person – Heart to Heart

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I hope these wonderful stories of God’s grace give you some idea of what He is doing among the Jewish people through our staff! I am thankful this Thanksgiving to work with such gifted and dedicated servants of the Lord who serve Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. We do all we can to help our missionaries by praying for them and providing the administrative support and guidance they need to fulfill their ministries. But, I realize that the core of our almost 122-year-old ministry among the Jewish people is what is done by the Lord through His people—person to person and heart to heart, one seeker at a time!

Robert and his wife, Joanna, serve the Lord in Brooklyn and are also part of the team planting a new congregation in the “other” Holy Land! Robert shares,

I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with a young Jewish man, David,* every week and to study the Bible together. After going through the story of the Exodus, I sensed it was a good time to make the clear connection to what God has accomplished for us through Jesus. We discussed how Jesus is our unblemished Passover Lamb, whose blood has been shed to set us free from slavery, to redeem us, and to bring us to God. The time was right so I asked David, “Do you believe this is true of Jesus?” David answered yes. So I followed up and asked, “Have you ever prayed to accept Jesus as your Savior and gone through the door from a slave to a free man?” He answered, “No…but I think that would be a good idea.” We then prayed, and he accepted the Messiah! 

Maxim, who serves in Israel, also shared with us a quick update and report about his incredible ministry among Holocaust survivors,

​One of our Holocaust survivors came to faith and got baptized recently. We were praying for his wife who used to say she was not ready for such a step. Nevertheless, she always asked for prayer that she might have the faith that her husband does. Praise the Lord! She said she is ready and received the Lord recently. She attends congregation with her husband and we are eagerly looking forward to her baptism.

Online and In Person
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As you know, we have initiated extensive online ministries during the last few years including our Isaiah 53 Campaign, as well as our newest endeavor—I Found Shalom. These websites utilize video testimonies of Jewish people who have placed their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) and are amazing tools to share the Gospel with Jewish people. We have received the contact information of Jewish seekers throughout the United States, Israel and many other countries with whom we are personally following up! May I share one quick testimony? A Jewish man who is married to a born-again woman watched some of the testimony videos we produced and accepted the Lord! The dialogue unfolds as follows,

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The Jewish man’s wife writes,
After watching some of your videos earlier in the week, he decided to pray and ask God to show him if Jesus is really the Messiah. I prayed too and ask the Lord to show him in any way possible His truth.

We found out that he lives near one of our staff and I asked our missionary to follow up. She writes a few days later,

Just heard from L. She conveyed how D. is growing and transforming in the Lord. They’ve already attended a Messianic congregation. D also now attends church and loves the pastor!

There are many other stories to tell you as our Isaiah 53 and I Found Shalom campaigns have introduced us to hundreds of Jewish people seeking the Lord and the follow up has almost been overwhelming…in a very good way!
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Thank You for Caring!
Will you commit to praying for our missionaries, as well as all the Jewish people (and Gentiles!) they are ministering to? Your prayers are a vital part of our ministry!

We deeply appreciate your prayers and faithful financial support of our missionaries. 

We established the “Daniel Fuchs Memorial Fund” for our under-supported missionaries who are still working on raising their full support (Dr. Fuchs was one of our former presidents who served Chosen People Ministries for many decades). Though we need your support in general, you might want to give a special gift this month to help one of our missionaries who have not yet raised their full support.

Your gifts keep Your Mission to the Jewish People moving forward for the Lord.

It takes a village to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world and to be able to follow up on individuals who want to know more about our Savior. So, your financial investment makes all the difference in the lives of our staff and, of course, in eternity for the Jewish people we reach for Jesus the Messiah.

​Happy Thanksgiving! I pray this season of the year will give you great joy for all He has done for us through His Son.

​Your brother,Mitch

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