“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

Acts 2 illustrated, Image: screenshot Youtube

How appropriate that on the recent “Giving Tuesday” I awoke thinking about why the first century believers banded together, pooling their resources so everyone would have enough to live on as they were witnesses of the faith of Yeshua… and how there is a similar dynamic going on in Israel today.

I have long believed that from the time of Acts 12 when Herod executed James the brother of John, and then also arrested Peter because it pleased the unsaved Jews, that the apostle Paul purposely set himself to establish churches giving to help the community of faith in Israel. The reason I believe that is because it was exactly the reason Paul and Barnabus traveled to Jerusalem where they became witness to the events that saw James was killed by Herod and Peter imprisoned. (Acts 11:26-12:3)

Paul, a former extremely zealous religious persecutor of the followers of Yeshua, understood full well that this was not a problem that was going away any time soon. I believe Paul also understood that it was no coincidence that by prophetic direction of the Holy Spirit through Agabus in Antioch, they were moved to collect an offering to be taken up to Jerusalem prior to a worldwide famine to be taken to help out the believers in Israel. It was going to be a worldwide famine, yet they were taking special measures to insure that the community of faith in Israel had provision to deal with it. That is not about favoritism, it was about necessity. (Romans 11:28)

It was no coincidence then that Paul and Barnabas took the offering to give to the community of faith in Jerusalem right at the time that two major leaders of the community were targeted by authorities – one to death, one to imprisonment. We are talking about Divine timing, not coincidence. (Romans 15:27)

Paul left that scene, heading back to the churches they were establishing among the Gentiles and from that point on a major feature of his teaching was that they were to set aside donations specifically for the support of the community in Israel. (2 Corinthians 8; 16:1 & 3; Romans 15:26-27, 2 Corinthians 9:12-13; Acts 20:4). The apostle was urging the churches to continue in the giving not because of the famine, but because the faith would always have the believers in Israel in a bind. He was absolutely correct.

To this day the Israeli ministries are financially squeezed. Only a few are funded well and most struggle. What the international Church does not recognize is that the support dynamic that the apostle Paul sought to set in motion from them to the Israeli community of faith, was an absolute necessity. It was then and it is now today. (2 Cor. 8:10-11) He often referred to the community of faith in Israel as “the poor.”

That is one of the great challenges of the Israeli congregations and ministries, for there are many poor among them. Sometimes that is because of the high cost of living in Israel, sometimes because of such a great number of immigrants with limited earning power, and sometimes it is just because of persecutions – religious pressures applied to employers and landlords against the believers.

Few Israeli ministries are banded together in order that the living needs of all are met and so that the ministries can continue to advance as they were in the Acts of the Apostles. The modern mindset considers that kind of sharing resources “communist.” I have actually heard it called “communist” by an American pastor famous for preaching a Prosperity gospel. But this isn’t communist ideology, it is merely a necessity required to take care of a large network of ministers who desire to produce more fruit in Israel than they could in standalone ministries. Our friends at Tikkun Israel International practice this. It requires a deep commitment to the work of the ministry and a solid trust of each other, not dictatorial communism.

We cannot view ministry in Israel as we do in most parts of the developed world. The experiential wisdom of ministry life in the U.S., for example, is vastly different from ministry life in Israel. In America most church staff are paid good salaries, in Israel people in ministry have to raise their own individual support for the privilege of being in the ministry. There are sacrifices most church ministries have no clue their Israeli counterparts are making. The hard fast rules that apply outside of Israel, are not always so in Israel.

Some churches have a hard fast rule that they don’t donate to website ministries. Big mistake in Israel. Like our friends at Kehila News Israel who are providing a high value resource to the whole community of faith in Israel by making them known – large or small, regardless of charismatic or non – to the international churches…and interested as-yet-unsaved Israelis in their Hebrew KehilaNews.co.il.

The same goes for numerous website-ministries in Israel that are in the Hebrew language that allow interested as-yet-unsaved Israelis to investigate the faith and hear the testimonies of Israeli believers in the complete privacy of their own homes and computers. You may have no idea what a powerful tool this is for the Medabrim or One For Israel sites. Or the internet TV and Radio ministries like Yeshuachai TV (Yeshua is Alive or Yeshua Live) or Radio Hadashot mi Israel  (Good News from Israel).

The apostle Paul understood that the need for practical material support would be an ongoing situation, and that the solution would lie in the international churches recognizing this as their duty to support the community of faith in Israel. Is it any wonder that the devil is so dead set on keeping that understanding from dawning on the international saints that there are roadblocks to understanding thrown up everywhere  from the traditional denominational churches to the charismatic independents.

Just for starters, consider how many Christian ministries teach that the apostle Paul made a huge “mistake” when he finally travelled to Jerusalem in order to deliver the donations that he had collected from  all the churches that he was the apostle over. He was urging that collection for the community of faith in Israel for over 3 years and he intended to deliver it by the Feast of Shavuot, or Pentecost – a prophetic marker for the salvation of the Jewish people.

Yet many Christians preach and teach that Paul made a big mistake because he was warned every step of the way by prophets that it would end up with him imprisoned in chains. (Acts 20:23) That was no mistake in judgment! That was the measure of commitment that Paul had made to the cause of his journey to Jerusalem to deliver the contributions from the churches to the community of faith in Israel. Paul was committed to a Divine purpose, and I believe he had even consecrated himself to the purpose when he took a Nazarite vow in Cenchrea (Acts 18:18) and he fulfilled his vow in Jerusalem when delivering the church contributions to the Jerusalem ministry leaders. (Acts 21:20-26)

While in Israel, still en route to Jerusalem with representatives from the giving churches, listen to what Paul told the prophets and believers in Caesarea:

“After we had been there several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands, and said, “- The Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles.'” When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we fell silent and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” Acts 21:10-14 

It may be difficult to fathom, but we are seeing in Israel among many, similar high commitment, personal sacrifice and consecration in order to minister the Word of God and the life of Yeshua to Israelis. 

Every week for the past 16 years I have featured Israeli ministries in my Weekly Summary of Prayer Requests from Israeli Ministries & Arrows from Zion that are every bit as worthy of the support of the churches as they were in the first century when the apostle Paul carried church donations to Jerusalem exclusively for the community of faith in Yeshua.

I hope you see it, and if you don’t, please study for yourself the things I have scripture referenced here. It has been my great honor for two decades to have seen these things from God’s Word, and to act upon that knowledge to the best of my ability. I hope you will too and “Giving Tuesday” is an excellent place to start.

We are like the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are bearing gifts we traverse afar” to lay our gifts at the feet of the body of Messiah in Israel so that Yeshua may continue to raise up His kingdom throughout Israel by the irreplaceable witness of local Israeli ministries and believers.