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East vs. West

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The title of this article might conjure up thoughts of China versus the United States, capitalism versus communism, or individualism versus collectivism—all struggles associated with the differences between the East and West of today. However, this is not what I have in mind. I am thinking of the chasm between the East—Jerusalem—and the West—Tel Aviv—in the modern state of Israel, a divide that has grown deeper and deeper as we hear the footsteps of the Messiah drawing ever nearer—a divide I can see even from 6,995 miles away. 

There is a saying in Israel that if you want to work, you go to Haifa; if you want to play you go to Tel Aviv; but if you want to pray, you go to Jerusalem. How typical it is for us in our humanity to think this way—to assign places where certain things are to be done, to label and carefully put each activity in its proper place? It is good and orderly, clean and neat. But in many ways the Scriptures tell us a different story. 

It seems the God of the Bible is constantly expanding our horizons. Just as we think we have Him all figured out, just as we put Him in His proper place, like Samson escaping the traps of the Philistines once again (Jdg. 16:14), He bursts forth in strength and glory. Indeed, great is the LORD, and worthy to be praised (Ps. 18:3). The heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him (2 Chron. 2:6)! Yet, as believers in Yeshua He lives in us (2 Cor. 1:22). This is what I think the psalmist means when he said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it!” (Ps. 139:6). Yet, it is.

Today, in Israel, and indeed in the whole world, a line between good and evil is being drawn in the sand. On one side are those who openly call good “evil” and evil “good” (Isa. 5:20), and on the other are those who cling to the promises of God (Josh. 23:8; Ps. 119:31) and His marvelous grace as seen in the Holy Scriptures. Although we may wish to create artificial divides geographically or otherwise, there is no place one can go and escape the reach of our mighty God and His power to save (Ps. 139:7). From a gay bar in Tel Aviv to the heart of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, God desires that all be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). 

Torn between these two opposing poles, between East and West if you will, stands the growing Messianic community in Israel today. Our God has placed them there to be salt and light in a rotting and dark world, to bring the hope of God’s redemption for those who may think themselves too far gone, and to bring His grace to those who insist on earning their own way into the kingdom of God by what they do. 

Moses sought refuge in Midian (Ex. 2:15), and there God provided him a wife and taught him humility and service. David sought refuge among the Philistines for a time (1 Sam. 27:1) and there composed some of the psalms and learned how to serve well an unholy, earthly master. Peter in Joppa (Acts 9:43), in the house of a man considered to be unclean, was confronted with his lingering works-based thinking, only to find the Spirit of God in a most unlikely place: the heart of a Gentile centurion (Acts 10:44). 

I ask myself: What artificial barriers have I set up in my heart? What orderly, clean, and neat cubby holes have I placed people in—people made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)? Whom have I placed in the “west” of my mind, too lost to be found? And whom have I placed in the “east” of my mind, too righteous in their own eyes to see divine grace? I can tell you openly and to my shame that I have, at times, considered some to be too far gone and others too self-righteous to know God! Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner (Lk. 18:13)! 

So, what should we do (Acts 4:37)? How should we live? 

Devote yourself to good, solid teaching (Acts 2:42); much of it is available free of charge at the Ariel website. Stay in fellowship and do not forsake meeting together in a Bible believing church (Heb. 10:25). And pray, pray, and then pray some more (Lk. 18:1). Ask the Lord to soften your heart, empty your shelves, and open your eyes to what is near—to those whom He has placed in your life right now that are perhaps unnoticed as of yet. And please, pray for our brothers and sisters in Israel.

Support Ariel’s workers in the land of the Bible (http://ariel-israel.org.il/) by contacting our branch directly at gransl@smile.net.il.

They need your help and covet your prayers. Remember the saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:24)! And may the Lord our God bless you as you bless them (Gen. 12:3; 1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Pet. 1:11).

This article was first published by Ariel Ministries in the December 2019 edition of Ariel Magazine. It is published here with permission. The complete magazine may be read at https://www.ariel.org/pdfs/magazine/winter-2019.pdf.