Israel 2016: Picking Up Where We Left Off – A Report on the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress

A remarkable thing happened seventeen months ago, when the First B’ney Yosef National Congress convened in Ariel, Israel.  At that time a people who had not existed as a people for over 2,700 years came back from the ash heap of history.  The people of the House of Joseph (Yosef) – Ephraim, those “Lost Tribes” of Israel’s northern kingdom – assembled in Samaria, the territory of their ancient ancestors, and acknowledged their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to accomplish His Word to bring their people back as a nation and join them with the Jewish part of Israel (the House of Judah) in fulfillment of His covenant.

Delegates gather at the Second B'ney Yosef National Congress, October 26, 2016.
Delegates gather at the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress, October 26, 2016.

It was a modest beginning; only a little over 130 people attended, representing 12 countries.  We made no bold declarations, but humbly whispered to one another and to the world that we were ready to answer the Father’s call and walk out the return of the Prodigal.  Humble indeed, but astounding nevertheless.  Certainly no less astounding than the reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 after 1,900 years of dissolution.

The momentum of that First Congress has carried into the Second B’ney Yosef Congress, which is now in its third day.  The Congress convened on the evening of October 26, 2016, and will continue until Monday, October 31.  The venue once again is the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel.  The numbers of delegates are about the same, but this time there are some significant differences. 

For one thing, the number of nations has grown to 15.  Not surprisingly, the United States has the largest number of delegates, comprising about half of the total.  What is surprising is that the second largest contingent is from one of the world’s smallest countries:  the Netherlands.  Over 20 Dutch Ephraimites are here, imparting a beautiful Dutch accent to all the proceedings.  Also represented are Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland.  A central feature of the Congress has been reports from each of these countries, as well as video and proxy reports from Finland, Pakistan, Uganda, and India. 

These reports build a mosaic of the Hebrew Awakening happening across the globe.  In Pakistan, for example, Pastor Qaiser Ilyas shared by video his work in building Hebrew language and Torah teaching programs in Urdu for children and adults.  Valerie Bulkunu, representing the Aboriginal people of Australia, shared the revival that is beginning among the youth of her people, and the awakening among Aboriginals to their Hebrew roots and Israelite identity.  A similar phenomenon is happening among the Mizo people of northeast India, as Margot Crossing related in her report about the descendants of exiled Israelites who migrated across the Silk Road into South Asia.  These developments are happening simultaneously with the better-known Torah awakenings in Europe and North America, and in time will have an even more significant impact as tens of millions of Ephraimites come into the understanding of their covenant identity.

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Connecting the Tribulation Dots: A Review of The Cooper Chronicles, by Daniel Holdings

BFB160530 Daniel HoldingsWhat happens when an author combines the mega-conspiracy theories of Thomas Horn, the spiritual warfare depictions of Frank Peretti, and the science fiction apocalyptic vision of Larry Niven?  The result is The Cooper Chronicles, Daniel Holdings’ End of Days trilogy recounting the adventures of physicist and inter-dimensional globetrotter Dr. Bryce Cooper. 

Apocalyptic literature is fascinating to say the least, but such works are not necessarily encouraging or fun.  If done with the appropriate touch of realism – as, for instance, Nevil Shute’s post-nuclear war drama On the Beach – the work is depressing and scary.  The subject, after all, is the complete eradication of human life on planet earth.  On the other hand, a Terra-über-Alles yarn like Footfall (co-authored by Niven and Jerry Pournelle) makes the human cost merely the backdrop of an adventure story featuring mankind’s technological prowess and luck in overcoming an invasion by a fantastic foe from deep space.  The loss of all of India, for example, registers little to a reader certain that somehow the story will have a happy ending. 

The challenge of balancing realism with readability takes on an added dimension in spiritual subjects.  A writer of Christian fiction must remain true to the Bible, or at least to his or her interpretation thereof.  The result can be dismally flat, contrived, and divorced from real life – which is why it takes a special gift to write such a work.  C.S. Lewis comes to mind as the pioneer and first master of modern Christian apocalyptic fiction, a genre which Peretti further develops.  Yet when it comes to End Times novels which try to tell the tale of the Great Tribulation from a realistic viewpoint, no one has done quite so well as Daniel Holdings.

It helps that Holdings approaches his subject with the understanding that no one is exempt from the trials and devastations prophesied to come upon the earth according to the Bible.  This gives him an advantage over Christian authors who write from the belief that there is a “pre-Tribulation rapture” which will remove Christians to some heavenly safe haven.  To such authors, the real prize is not being on earth when bad things happen, which means their interest is not really in figuring out how the bad things are going to happen. 

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Who Wins When Siblings Fight?

On January 8, 1815, an odd assortment of U.S. Soldiers, French and Spanish Creoles, African slaves and free men, Kentucky frontiersmen, and French pirates set aside their differences to fight as comrades against an invading British army at New Orleans.  The peril they shared transformed these disparate residents of the western frontier into Americans - a single people who shared a common identity regardless of their past and future differences.  (Image: The Battle of New Orleans January 8th 1815 / drawn by Oliver Pelton ; engraved by Hammat Billings,1882. Accessed from the Library of Congress.)
On January 8, 1815, an odd assortment of U.S. Soldiers, French and Spanish Creoles, African slaves and free men, Kentucky frontiersmen, and French pirates set aside their differences to fight as comrades against an invading British army at New Orleans. The peril they shared transformed these disparate residents of the western frontier into Americans – a single people who shared a common identity regardless of their past and future differences. (Image: The Battle of New Orleans January 8th 1815 / drawn by Oliver Pelton ; engraved by Hammat Billings,1882. Accessed from the Library of Congress.)

Something very strange happens when people face an imminent threat to life and livelihood.  The strange thing is unity such as would never have been possible otherwise.  History provides countless examples, such as the defense of New Orleans in January 1815.  When a veteran British force attacked the city, an odd assortment of people turned out to defend their home.  They included Regular soldiers of the American army under Major General Andrew Jackson, as well as Creole gentlemen and their American merchant rivals, common laborers, farmers, militia men from far away states, black slaves and free men, and even pirates and smugglers affiliated with the infamous Jean Lafitte.  Once the threat was past, these disparate segments of society returned to their separate lives and the circumstances that divided them, but for one glorious moment they experienced the joy of being a people united in a common cause.

We might consider as well the example of our Jewish brethren in World War II.  Immediately before the war, an Arab revolt in British Palestine compelled His Majesty’s government to issue a White Paper in 1939 which closed the door on Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.  This was a political and military necessity for the British; another Arab revolt would threaten their hold on Egypt, their link to India and the Pacific, and the lifeline of the Empire.  When faced with war against Hitler’s Germany, Great Britain could not afford to lose that lifeline, and thus European Jews in peril of their lives in the Shoa (Holocaust) lost their last and best chance at escape from the death camps.

One might suppose the Jewish response to the White Paper – particularly among those living in the Land – would be violent rejection and revolt.  Some did respond that way, but the most memorable response was by David Ben Gurion, at that time among the most prominent leaders of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish settlers in the Land.  He expressed his position this way:

We will fight the war as if there were no White Paper, and we will fight the White Paper as if there were no war.

Ben Gurion’s pragmatism was instrumental in establishment of the Jewish Brigade, the only regular military unit of any Allied army in World War II comprised entirely of Jews.  The Jewish Brigade served with distinction in the British forces in Egypt, Italy, and Northwest Europe, and it also served as a training ground for Jewish warriors who carried the fight for Israel’s independence after the British Mandate over Palestine ended in 1948.

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The Most Interesting Thing I Have Learned This Month

Abraham and Isaac Anthony van Dyck
Abraham and Isaac
Anthony van Dyck

Having walked this path of faith for several decades, I have come to understand that the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not require His people to do anything that He Himself is not prepared to demonstrate by example.  In other words, whatever requirements He places on us in the form of commandments will have some corresponding requirement He has placed on Himself.  For example, in the famous Akedah, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19), YHVH calls on Abraham to take his only son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice.  Abraham obeys, and on the way to the place Isaac asks him where the lamb for the burnt offering is.  Abraham answers, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8).  Many centuries later, we find that Messiah Yeshua fulfills that role of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29-36, Revelation 5:1-14), just as prophesied in Isaiah 53.  The holy example is that God Himself gave the His very own Son, withholding nothing to redeem mankind, and therefore demonstrating that those who choose to follow Him must hold nothing back in their obedience to His will.

If this principle of “heavenly reciprocity” is true, then there should be some equivalent to the Lord’s requirement of His people to love Him and love one another.  Yeshua identified these as the two greatest commandments, and the authorities who questioned Him had no disagreement on that point:

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When Presidents Speak Prophecy

Mount McKinley, now named Denali, is the tallest peak in North America and is located in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo: Becky Bohrer, AP)
Mount McKinley, now named Denali, is the tallest peak in North America and is located in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo: Becky Bohrer, AP)

What does it matter to the world if the President of the United States decrees a change to the name of North America’s highest mountain peak?  Perhaps it is merely a tempest in a teapot, ultimately signifying nothing of importance.  Or perhaps it is far more significant than we may imagine.

For 98 years Americans have referred to the highest mountain on the continent as Mount McKinley.  It is not the original name of the mountain.  Since time immemorial the Athabaskan people of Alaska have named it Denali, which means Great One in their language.  In 1896, a gold prospector in Alaska attached the name McKinley to the mountain, thus declaring support for William McKinley of Ohio, the man who would be elected as the twenty-fifth President of the United States later that year.  Since then a controversy has bubbled along regarding the name of the peak, with native Alaskans asserting the original name, and most other Americans who bothered to think about it going along with McKinley.  In 1975, the Alaska Legislature officially requested that the United States Government change the name.  The name of the national park over which the mountain presides was renamed Denali in 1980, but the mountain itself retained the name of McKinley.

Until now, that is.  The administration of President Barrack Obama has announced that the President will use the occasion of his visit to Alaska to bring an end to the dispute and rename the mountain Denali.  Alaskans and many others applaud the change, but others have denounced it, particularly the Congressional delegation from McKinley’s home state.  Ironically, the entire Alaskan Congressional delegation and most of the Ohio delegation are Republicans, a fact that renders meaningless any charges that this is a political decision by President Obama, a Democrat.  Yet it is political, as is everything that a sitting president does.  And it is also prophetic.

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