The Word:  At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken-- that is, created things-- so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:26-29)

When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times to seek omens but he set his face toward the wilderness... "Blessed is everyone who blesses you, and cursed is everyone who curses you."… Balaam answered Balak, ‘Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the commandment of the Lord – and I must say only what the Lord says”? (Numbers 24:1, 9,12 & 13)

*      Pointers for prayer: What is the Lord God saying to us today regarding Israel and the nations? God certainly does appear to be “shaking the nations" (Haggai 2:7) ~ see report below. May we pray that the Church awakens to the days in which we live, especially regarding the Nation and future of the Jewish State of Israel. 

*      As we look this week into events around the world and the chaos and instability within the Middle East, please pray for discernment and spiritual guidance as to how we should be interceding over these events. Do continue to pray for protection around the borders of Israel, and pray for the current leaders in Israel, including the Prime Minister Netanyahu.

*      Pray too for the Arab people throughout the Middle East and those within the nation of Israel.  “Cause them Lord to be blessed, and to be a blessing to their ancient cousin.  May they desire to dwell peacefully with the Jewish nation and in reconciliation.”

What is God revealing today?   This past week, I’ve felt led to re-read from the Torah – Numbers 22 to 24.  If you get chance, do read the full chapters.  It’s the amazing story of Balaam and Balak.  Balaam appears to have the gift of prophecy, yet in reality Balaam wasn’t a Godly man. He is mentioned in conjunction with the five kings of Midian, and such was his reputation that when the Israeli’s were encamped in the plains of Moab, Balak, the king of Moab, sent for Balaam to curse them. Balaam at first was prohibited by God from going. He was again sent for by the king and again refused, but was at length allowed to go. He yielded to the temptations of riches and honour which Balak set before him; but God used Balaam to bless Israel – even though he was called to curse them by Balak.  Do these blessings still stand today for Israel? I believe they do.  So if God blesses those who will bless Israel (Genesis 12:3) what of those who curse Israel?  And what is the Lord God saying to us today regarding Israel and the nations? 

In the Scriptures, we can read many warnings of which could appear quite relevant at the moment.  An example is found in Haggai and repeated in the New Testament by the writer to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews): "This is what the Lord Almighty says: In a little while I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations... removing what can be shaken - that is, created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain." (Haggai 2.6 and Hebrews 12.26, 27).  Is this what we are beginning to see in the days we live in?

Speaking on the past nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union, Clifford Hill once said, “The significance of Chernobyl is often missed by political commentators. During World War II it was the scene of a Jewish pogrom. The Ukrainians murdered an unknown number of Jewish people. They dug a mass grave and threw the bodies into it. After the War the Russians built the nuclear power plant directly on top of the mass Jewish grave. It was here that the melt-down took place – as though the innocent blood was crying out from the ground.  A further significant event had taken place three years earlier. In 1983 Chernobyl had been declared a model Communist commune. This meant in effect that only paid-up members of the Communist Party were allowed to live in the town and surrounding area. An area of thirty kilometres around Chernobyl was cleared of all non-Communist Party members. This forced the removal of all those known to be Christians or Jews. When the explosion occurred in April 1986 and nuclear radiation poured down upon the local population bringing slow death to thousands ~ the Christians and Jews had left the region.”  When the Lord states that “those who bless Israel will be blessed, but those who curse Israel will be cursed”, do we take His words seriously? [Numbers 24:9; Genesis 12:3].

As a young Believer in the 80’s, I spent time with the Russian ‘Underground’ Churches as we smuggled Bibles into what was then the Soviet Union.  As my colleagues and I walked past the Russian armed guards at the Cosmos Hotel next door to the All-Russia Exhibition Centre and VDNKh Metro Station, little did I realise we were in the midst of change as we walked along the Moskva River near the famous Gorky Park.  Following the Chernobyl nuclear power station explosion, a series of dramatic events began which led to the collapse of the Communist empire.  The fall of the Berlin Wall quickly followed along with the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and the downfall of the USSR that had divided the world into East and West for most of the 20th century.   But is God really “shaking the nations" (Haggai 2:7)?  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union we have seen so much happening, such as many tsunamis, ferocious storms, earthquakes, volcano eruptions and the turning upside down of weather patterns… even the disruption to air travel over Europe at one point when clouds of dust and ashes were being quoted as "acts of God". 

And then of course there is the Middle East!  As was painfully aware as I wandered around the stands of Christian ministries at the recent New Wine Festival at just how hopeless our efforts appear to be to bring some sort of answer to the issues such as ISIS, and to bring some relief and much needed aid to the horrific scenes in Syria.  One particular ministry was focusing on getting signatures to present to the UK government in 2017, as a way of demanding our government did more for Syria.  I told the people that for the past five and a half years I had been reporting on Syria in my CFI reports, yet the nations appear blind to most of what is happening, but did they really believe their campaign would work?  And how many more Syrian civilians would be dead by 2017?  It might have sounded really negative from me, but I was merely being honest and trying to challenge them to think what else could we achieve.

In a recent report in the Guardian Newspaper, it declared, “World heading for catastrophe over natural disasters, risk expert warns.”  The report stated that during 2015 alone, earthquakes, floods, heatwaves and landslides left 22,773 people dead, and it affected 98.6 million others and caused $66.5 billion (£47bn) of economic damage.   Robert Glasser, the special representative of the secretary general for disaster risk reduction, said that with the world already “falling short” in its response to humanitarian emergencies, things would only get worse as climate change adds to the pressure.  Glasser stated, “As the odds of any one event go up, the odds of two happening at the same time are more likely. We’ll see many more examples of cascading crises, where one event triggers another event, which triggers another event.”  And Robert Glasser pointed to Syria, where years of protracted drought led to a massive migration of people from rural areas to cities in the run-up to the country’s civil war. While he stressed that the drought was by no means the only driver of the conflict, he said droughts around the world could have similarly destabilising effects – especially when it came to conflicts in Africa.  “It’s inconceivably bad, actually, if we don’t get a handle on it, and there’s a huge sense of urgency to get this right,” he said. “I think country leaders will become more receptive to this agenda simply because the disasters are going to make that obvious. The real question in my mind is: can we act before that’s obvious and before the costs have gone up so tremendously? And that’s the challenge.”

So what is the answer?  And is there any link between what we read in the Scriptures about blessings and curses?  Now of course we can’t just glibly state, “Oh well, if you don’t bless Israel, then all these disasters are bound to happen.”  However, if we don’t take God’s Word serious, and if large sections of the Church dismiss Israel as having nothing to do with God, then are we not in danger of ‘poking the apple of God’s eye’ (Zechariah 2:8).  Take the United States of America as an example.  The US has always been a supporter of the nation of Israel, until the current Obama administration. Never, in its short modern history has Israel and its leaders been treated with such disrespect; such outright contempt, by a “friend.”  With Mr Trump getting so close to potentially being the US President in November, are we seeing the Lord’s hand of blessing being removed from America?  Certainly a large majority of Jewish Americans are worried.  Many of the US Jewish communities state that Trump has tolerated support from far right groups, where white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations have rallied behind his campaign. Scores of their members have taken to social media to express illiberal and bigoted views of Jews, Muslims, blacks and Hispanics, among other minorities, allegedly under the banner of the Trump movement.   And as I write, 30 Louisiana parishes in America are to be declared disasters.  The U.S. Coast Guard and other first responders rescued more than 20,000 people over the weekend.

And then there is Russia/Iran – still potentially preparing to play out the final scenes of history.  Am I being too defeatist or negative?  I certainly have no desire to be some extreme ‘apocalyptic voice’, however with news just in that the Russian Defence Ministry have announced that it has deployed strategic bombers to Iranian airfields for the alleged purpose of carrying out strikes in Syria, one should question why the sudden close relations between Iran and Russia?  On Monday this week, Russian warships also began large-scale exercises off the Syrian coast.  Along with this, earlier in the week, US Republican Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was ousted last month from her position in the Democratic Party and who is currently fighting to hold onto her House seat, went on record to state that she couldn’t guarantee that the money from the nuclear deal Obama made with Iran wouldn’t end up in hands of terrorists.  When asked by a CBS interviewer, “Can you guarantee that money, the $1.8 billion that’s part of the Iran deal, won’t be used to finance Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban terror groups against Israel? Can you guarantee it?”  Wasserman Schultz answered, “You can never guarantee anything.”

Needless to state, I haven’t even mentioned the huge rise in anti-Semitism throughout Europe and other parts of the world; I’ve not mentioned the hatred and threats that are an everyday occurrence from within the Islamic Middle East towards Israel, nor the fact that this week King Abdullah of Jordan suddenly became very vocal against Israel and has accused Israel of attempting to "violate the sanctity and compromise al-Aksa Mosque," and added that, "Our responsibility towards the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem is our top priority in the international arena, and we use all means necessary to defend al-Aksa Mosque."  That certainly sounds like a threat towards Israel from what has been a largely quiet nation of late.   

With all that is going on in the Middle East; and with the connection to how we view the nation of Israel, along with the humongous amount of world disasters, what is the answer?  And how many within our churches are crying out to God in prayer?  Worse, how many are even aware?

Israel strengthening their deterrence & readiness for emergencies    Continuing on with this theme, as I’m writing this report (Wednesday August 17, 2016) Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman is visiting Israel's northern border and the Israeli Army northern command.  Lieberman told reporters, “We are strengthening our deterrence and readiness for emergencies.”' Four months after becoming Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman was accompanied by Israel Defence Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Northern Command Commander Gen. Aviv Kohavi and the Northern Corps Commander Gen. Mamir Hyman. During the visit Lieberman received a comprehensive review of the challenges and developments in the northern region and was given intelligence updates regarding Syria and Hezbollah. 

Lieberman met with the main authorities from the northern border, along with leaders of communities in the Golan Heights.  Israel remains on high alert in the Golan region.

Radical preacher jailed in UK; Hamas official arrested in Ramallah     As you may have seen on the National News channels on Tuesday this week, the UKs anti-terror laws are under scrutiny following the belated conviction of the Islamic ‘hate preacher’ Anjem Choudary almost 20 years after his terrorism links first emerged.  The Islamic extremist Choudary is finally behind bars as police revealed he has links to 500 British jihadists fighting with ISIS.  So the good news is that he is finally locked up in prison.  The bad news is UK tax payers will be keeping him there.  The 49-year-old, who has spent two decades radicalising a generation of would-be terrorists, was convicted after swearing an oath of allegiance to ISIS.  But there remain questions over why it took so long to bring a successful prosecution against Choudary after it emerged he has links to 15 terror plots since 2000.

Anjem Choudary famously once stated , “When Sharia law is implemented, maybe in 10 or 15 years’ time, she [the Queen] would be expected like all women in Britain to be covered from head to toe, only revealing her face and hands… By 2050, Britain will be a majority Muslim country. It will be the end of freedom of democracy and submission to Allah.”  He also stated, “We don’t believe in democracy, as soon as they have authority, Muslims should implement Sharia. This is what we’re trying to teach people.”  The father of five, who is a qualified solicitor, could be jailed for up to ten years when he is sentenced next month.

Meanwhile is Israel, the IDF, together with the Shabak (Israel’s Security Agency), arrested leading Hamas member Hussein Muhammed Abu Kawik, a member of the Palestinian election commission, in Ramallah on early Wednesday morning.  Kawik was arrested for “ongoing security activities which endanger regional security.”  Hamas has since issued a statement accusing Israel of interfering with election activities, which have been called for October.  The move comes as the latest in an IDF crackdown on terror, following mass arrests in terror hotbed Al-Fawwar and various disarming operations in Judea and Samaria.

UK charities funding Hamas?  As you may have seen over the past few days in various media reports, the UK charity ‘Save The Children’ have this week been accused of funding a Gaza Employee as allegedly working for Hamas Terrorist Group.  British Charity ‘Save the Children Fund’ said it was looking into Israeli claims that a Palestinian staff member in Gaza had been recruited by the Hamas Terrorist Group days after allegations against another international NGO. “We do take any allegations of this nature very seriously and are making inquiries into this matter,” the Britain-based charity said in a statement.

It comes after Israel charged the Gaza head of major international NGO World Vision Mohammed al-Halabi with diverting millions of dollars in foreign funding to Hamas and its military wing. Part of it was allegedly used to build attack tunnels from Gaza into Israel. According to the charge sheet, Halabi recruited a Palestinian aid worker from Save the Children to join Hamas's military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in 2014.  According to a UN tracking service, Save the Children has received more than $17 million from international donors since 2013 for its humanitarian aid activities in the Palestinian territories. Canada, Denmark, Japan and Norway are among its major donors. On Monday 8th August 2016 the United Nations expressed “serious concerns” over the allegations related to World Vision.  Israel has accused a manager working for U.S.-headquartered Christian charity World Vision of funnelling millions of dollars to Islamist militant group Hamas.  Mohammad El Halabi was arrested by Israel while crossing the border into Gaza. He had run the organization's Gaza operations since 2010. According to Israel's Shin Bet security service, El Halabi diverted around $7.2 million of World Vision money to Hamas each year. That is the equivalent of 60 percent of the charity's total annual funding for Gaza.

David Soakell  

(CFI Church Liaison Officer (UK) & WoZ News Report Correspondent)  Tweet me @David_CFI

Sources: Unless stated, personal sources throughout Israel, Christian Friends of Israel UK & Jerusalem, Israeli Embassy London, The Jerusalem Post, & Israel National Radio