Just a few days ago I was rushing around the corridors of the back stage area of the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem looking for a man named Asher, telling myself not to worry and muttering urgent prayers. Out front in the main theatre and the overflow hall were about 3,500 people from scores of nations and this was the session where we were going to hear from the Jewish and Arab leaders. Asher was the spokesman for the Jewish leaders and was nowhere to be found.
My expectations for this session were very high because of what had happened a month earlier in a retreat centre a few miles away. But, without Asher we couldn’t publicly declare what a massive breakthrough had occurred those few weeks previously. “Had his courage deserted him?” I wondered. I thought he had been looking pretty nervous when I saw him in the preparation room a half hour earlier.
I began asking the sound engineers, video technicians, singers, dancers and stage hands if they had seen Asher and gradually concluded that he had suddenly begun to feel very unwell and left. “So,” I told myself, “perhaps the look I had seen on his face earlier was not nerves, but nausea.”
I was one of the leadership team for this event and we had met for two preparation meetings in Israel, one in May and another in September. At the first one we saw Arab and Jewish congregation leaders draw near to one another, but during the second one I saw and heard things that I never really thought I would see.
It began with one of the older and highly respected leaders of the Arab Christians. He stood in front of the 70 leaders gathered from many nations and began to speak in great humility about how God had been dealing with him. He said it reminded him of when he was in pre-marital counselling, except that he felt like this time he was preparing to be the bride. Then he turned to the Jewish (Messianic) Congregation leaders and said, “God has been dealing with me about submission and respect and I have to ask you a question. I have been talking with the other Arab leaders and we want to ask, ‘Will you marry us?’”
All of us began to weep and the Chinese leaders travailed in prayer. (They had been carrying this issue of unity between Arabs and Jews as a prayer burden for years, or even decades.) After many tears, Asher stepped forward to speak for the Messianic leaders and asked for forgiveness for not protecting the Arab leaders and for assuming racial superiority. As this unfolded over an hour or so, I had feelings I struggle to describe because I have been in and around meetings of reconciliation between Arabs and Jews for decades, but I had never seen anything that came close to being this deep. This could happen only by revelation from the Holy Spirit. I was convinced that the very deepest roots of distrust between these believers in Israel were being pulled up and destroyed by humility and forgiveness.
But why is this so important? Jesus said that all men would know that we are his followers when we have deep, unshakable love for one another. When there are divisions within the Body of Christ, we lose credibility in the eyes of the general population, but more importantly, we lose our spiritual authority to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Real and deep unity between Arab and Jewish believers is therefore very important to God’s purposes.
That’s why I was so concerned that Asher had gone missing. Eventually, I went back into the main theatre and found that worship was continuing and there was a very strong sense of God’s presence. The Arab and Jewish leaders did share some of their experiences of living as believers in the land of Israel where faith in Jesus is still despised by most of the population. It was all very good and it completely filled the time available for that session, but I still wondered, “Would we see a public declaration of what had happened those few weeks earlier?”
The next morning Asher was back and in good form and so were all the other Messianic leaders and the Arab congregation leaders. I don’t mean to imply that all the leaders in the land were there, because they weren’t. But those who were there were senior spokesmen for each of these two groups and were, therefore, representative of the believers.
The time had come. Arab and Jewish leaders were joined by many Chinese on the platform, along with leaders of several other nations. Then, in the presence of thousands, both in the Conference Centre and via webcast, the “two became one” as Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesians. Jews and Arabs made a covenant based upon Ruth’s declaration to Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
So, you might ask, “What will be the outcome of this?” All I can say is that the believers in Israel will have more authority, more of God’s Presence with them, more impact on the nation around them. For the specifics of that, we will have to wait and see, but Marti and I returned home knowing that we had witnessed an occasion of great significance and it had been a privilege!
Click here for the full report: JERUSALEM REPORT FULL