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December 2011

What Rough Beast Slouches Towards Bethlehem to be Born?

By Gary Alley

Over the past year, we have watched the Middle East landscape blown and shaped by shifting political and populist winds.  This “Arab Spring” storm has toppled and continues to blow down autocrats, while tempering the arrogance of surviving regimes.  All are reminded that governance and power are not a cudgel, but a privilege—even for kings.

 

 

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs...
And what rough beast,
its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
excerpt from The Second Coming (1919), William Yeats

 

One of the latest “kings” to be dethroned was Muammar Gaddafi, who had controlled Libya since 1969.  Gaddafi was an eccentric, flamboyant demagogue, who fancied himself larger than life.  For example, in 2008 he convened a meeting of more than 200 African kings and tribal chiefs, where he had himself proclaimed “king of kings” as part of his pursuit for a united African continent.  Delusions of grandeur like these helped blind Gaddafi’s eyes to reality, ultimately bringing about his pitiful demise when he was lynched by a mob.  

The designation “king of kings” originated in the Ancient Near East, where one powerful king was proclaimed as a head of other subordinate, vassal kings who were forced into his alliance.  Some of our earliest references to the title, “king of kings” are found from the Assyrian Empire.  For example, Tiglath-pileser I is called

“… strong king, unrivaled king of the universe, king of the four quarters, king of all princes, lord of lords, chief herdsman, king of kings... (1114-1076 BC)”

As history progressed, a “king of kings” could weave together not just a handful of city-states, but a plethora of nations, tribes, and languages.  The Persians are one of the first examples of a sustained multinational, multicontinental empire.  According to Esther 1:1, the empire of Xerxes the Great (485-465 BC), included 127 provinces stretching from India to Africa.  Artaxerxes I (465-424 BC), who empowered both Ezra in repatriating the Jews to Israel, and Nehemiah in rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, is titled “king of kings” (Ezra 7:12), as were other Persian kings.

The Persian Empire was followed by Alexander the Great’s brief yet immense conquest, which quickly dissolved into four regions with his untimely death.  The chief remains of Alexander’s conquered territory were eventually consolidated under the expanding Roman Empire.  From there, a new “king of kings” arose—Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor who oversaw the beginning of the Pax Romana, or the “Roman peace,” that dominated the Mediterranean peoples during his reign (27 BC-14 AD).   To promote “peace,” Augustus enlisted vassal kings, or puppet rulers, who could implement and enforce a Roman agenda upon their homelands.  One such vassal king was Herod the Idumean, or Herod the Great.

The generation before Herod’s birth, his Idumean people were forcibly converted to Judaism (i.e. circumcised).  This paradox—violent, forced initiation into the covenant people of God—might epitomize Herod’s conflicted self-identity, where paranoiac moments of brutality mixed with his longings for acceptance and appreciation.  Though proclaimed “king of the Jews” by Caesar Augustus, the most powerful despot on earth, Herod’s royal legitimacy as a vassal king and his suspect Jewish pedigree were always questioned.  His Jewish subjects had never chosen or anointed him, and their love and adulation could never be feigned, bribed, or coerced.

As Herod lay dying around the age of 70, rotting from the inside out, his innards infested with worms, his physical body bore witness to his plagued legacy.  While his reign of more than 30 years had been a golden era for monumental construction, international trade, and cultural exchange, Herod had also strewn his path with corpses of “enemies”—both friend, family, and dissident.  Augustus rightfully observed, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son,” since Herod would not eat pork in observance of biblical dietary restrictions, but had no moral dilemma with eliminating any and all whispered rivals.  For like all tyrants who went before him, and those alive today, Herod desired uncontested glory.

Appropriately, Daniel 7 envisions world empires and their kings as ravenous and mutated beasts—a lion with eagle wings, a bear gnawing bones, a four headed, winged leopard, and most ominously, a ten horned, terrifying monstrosity with iron teeth, who crushes, devours, and tramples its victims. While some commentators have identified this last creature with the anti-Christ, all four of the monsters characterize anti-Christ tendencies.  For the lust of power, control, domination, and god-like grandeur drives every ambitious pretender to Bethlehem’s manger to eradicate the authentic.  Yet, the messianic womb becomes the monsters’ tomb.  Instead of being born in Bethlehem, Herod was buried there.  

Charity Report: 2011 Year in Review

Thank You

Jerusalem Cornerstone is not a large organization.  We are a handful of people that love God’s Word, His people, and His land.  While there are many other non-profit groups working in Israel and the Palestinian Territories with a greater financial support and human resource base, at JCF we believe that God has given us a special calling despite our limited assets.

We believe that God has called us to help those who are struggling, those who have fallen through the cracks.  Everyday we come across people that have been rejected by the world, those forgotten by their families, friends, neighbors, and governments.

JCF does not have a brick and mortar building.  We have a simple staff in Israel that receives modest stipends.  Our workers embody your prayers and gifts.  

This year, 140 different people have given towards the work and staff of JCF, and we are honored to serve as God’s ministers of those funds entrusted to us.  Thank you for your faithfulness for the Lord’s work and His Word.

Some of Those Whom JCF Helped in 2011

House of Light is an Israeli Arab Christian ministry led by Anis and Nawal Barhoum that provides spiritual and social aid to both Jewish and Arab residents.  JCF specifically aids House of Light’s prison work, which visits and disciples current and former prisoners.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Club for the Blind is an Israeli social service to the blind residents of Tiberias which was dormant before JCF’s involvement.  The club has around 30 members and meets weekly for classes and trips.  Due to club’s increased activity, the Israeli government has approved funds to remodel their building.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Beit El is a Messianic Jewish Ethiopian Congregation in Jerusalem with more than 100 members.  They struggle to make ends meet, while standing as faithful witnesses for the Gospel within Israeli society.   JCF’s funds typically go towards their families’ needs.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

SOS Children’s Village Graduates Association are former graduates of a Palestinian Children’s Home in Bethlehem that has saved the lives and futures of countless orphaned children since 1968.   JCF partners with these SOS alumni by investing in their lives and education as they enter adulthood.  JCF’s average monthly support: $400

The Olive Branch Institute is a charity that promotes co-existence among the peoples in the Near East.  JCF gave $2670 from its Isaiah 18 fund specifically for vocational training for the many Sudanese refugees that have fled into Israel over the recent years.  The purpose of these classes is to enable the Sudanese to return to their newly birthed country, South Sudan, with technological skills.

SLA: Since the Israeli army’s withdrawl from Southern Lebanon in May, 2000, JCF has helped SLA (South Lebanon Army) refugees who fled into Israel.  Over the past decade, these families have struggled to acclimate to Israeli society while fighting to survive financially.  This year JCF gave $1822.50 towards their various needs.

Besides these main areas, JCF has responded to the needs of individuals, families, and children who have been in dire straits, helping with their bills, including medical, food, clothing, transportation, and shelter.

House of Light’s Hope for a Spiritual Farm

“Our family owns farming land, a 20 minute ride from House of Light. We have dedicated it to the Lord’s work.  Our heart’s desire is to have ex-prisoners and ex-addicts work there, with the supervision of a committed Christian couple to start a new path away from their old life.  There in a halfway house, they could learn how to live a Christian life, develop an agricultural field to grow their own food for themselves and also for others in need, and rejoice, reaping fruit not only from the land, but from their own lives.”

 

News: Jim and Betsy Gerrish in Israel

Jim and Betsy Gerrish, parents of JCF’s Israel Director, Yoni Gerrish, recently brought a study group of 28 participants to Israel (Nov 7-20).  Jim and Betsy first came to Israel in 1980 and since then, have off and on, spent 16 years working in the Holy Land.  The Gerrishs served at Bridges for Peace (BFP) from 1985-2002.  In 1989, Jim started Operation Ezra, a social assistance program for new immigrants at BFP.  Jim and Betsy also birthed the BFP Galilee Study Center in Migdal, Israel where they ministered from 1997-2002.  Besides leading study tours to Israel, they are currently living in Colorado Springs,CO, serving both family and community.  Jim continues to write and publish.  For more, see: churchisraelforum.com

 

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

Gary and Sharon Alley will be teaching and lecturing in Hong Kong and Macau, China during the first half of December.  They will be giving a brief introduction to Hebrew, and speaking on topics of the Torah and the Jewish-Hebraic background of the New Testament.

Chuck and Liz Kopp traveled to West Africa this November to visit their daughter, Julie, and son-in-law, Josh Korn, who are serving with CURE International in Niamey, Niger.  Liz was also invited as a guestspeaker at a Christian women’s conference while in Niger.

Randall and Margret Buth are returning to Israel on Dec 16th to begin preparations for the upcoming Greek Immersion Course, Jesus in Jerusalem (Dec 28-Jan 6).  During November, Randall presented four papers in total at the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. 

 

During October, Yoni Gerrish is guiding the Foursquare Church’s Global Leadership Training Network during their conference and visit to Israel. These leaders of the Foursquare denomination with more than 8 million members worldwide will be gathering in Israel to pursue strategic opportunities of training and consultation. There is no better place to gain both a local and a global perspective of Scripture than from within the land of the Bible and the Gospel.
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