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  • Hannah Nesher

Are we Willing?

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and stone those sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your children together like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing! “ (Matthew 23:37)

The Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem

WINTER STORMS IN ISRAEL

This past week in Israel, we experienced a winter storm of tremendous proportions! The gale-force winds howled through our windows, the rain pelted down like hail upon our roof, even pouring into the kitchen from underneath the front door. The torrential rains caused massive flooding which resulted in twelve hundred children being trapped at the regional school (Ein Harim). After several hours, they were finally saved by Israeli rescue teams arriving in huge vehicles, carrying a few children out at a time and delivering them all (including two of my grandchildren, Peleh & Yoah, to their home safely - much to the relief of us all!

Flooding at entrance of Ein Harim school

In the midst of this storm, our landlord’s dog came to our patio door, soaking wet, shivering - obviously chilled to the bone - her eyes pleading and her little tail wagging furiously, hoping against all hope to come into our nice, warm, dry home and find shelter from the storm. How could I say no?

I wonder sometimes how some israelis can seem so heartless when it comes to their animals? This is not the first time that we have dealt with people in Israel neglecting or abusing their animals (see Charlie & the Rabbi in ‘Devotionals for the Animal Lovers’ Heart’ www.voiceforisrael.net/shop). Of course not all Israelis neglect or mistreat their animals; but some have a different mentality than mine. It is an example of Canadian culture clashing with Middle Eastern culture - the culture shock can cause great distress for all concerned.

Itzik, our landlord, has informed us that his dogs have a doghouse outside, as well as food and water which, he believes, should be sufficient for them, even in the winter. ‘Does he not understand about a dog’s need also for warmth, love & affection?’ I wondered. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to have to suffer out there in this cold, stormy weather, let alone my dog! Obviously, from the dog’s miserable condition, this outdoor dog house was not sufficient shelter at all.

We named the little mutt Louisa Ruth: Louisa for the female form of Louie who was our last landlord’s little doggie who they left outside all day and night in the cold winter - without a dog house or even a blanket or sweater for warmth. We finally couldn’t stand watching him shiver & told the landlords what we thought about their inhumane treatment of Louie. We added Ruth to Louisa’s name because she was obviously saying, “Don’t ask me to leave you! Wherever you stay I will stay…” lol

Louisa Ruth sleeping on our couch

As much as the dog begged & pleaded to come into our home; the cat was a different story. Half-wild and apparently abandoned here by the previous tenants, ‘Tuna’, clearly was not accustomed to being inside and definitely not in favor of trying it on for size. She would come to our window & cry for food; but then (despite our invitations to come inside where she would find refuge) she would eat as quickly as possible; and then scurry back to wherever she hid herself in some outside den.

I thought about the contrast between Louisa Ruth and Tuna. Both were invited to come inside to find a warm, safe, dry shelter from the storm; but one was willing (even eager!) and the other was not. Now I could better understand Yeshua’s heart for the people of Jerusalem when he wept over them, knowing the destruction that would surely come upon them because of their unwillingness to come under the shelter of His wings. (Matthew 23:37)

We have been going through our own personal storm of gigantic proportions since returning to the Land of Israel. One month after moving in to this rented home, high atop a mountain in the Judean Hills, thieves broke in and stole everything of value: all our laptops (which we need for work & ministry, my daughter’s expensive camera equipment (which she needs for work & ministry), her mac book, our ‘aliyah fund’ of cash, silver coins my Dad had given the kids before we left; and even our shoes & boots! It makes me mad every time I have to walk with socks & sandals in the winter!

My teenage daughter, Liat, was infuriated that they took her whole stash of makeup from Canada! My son’s favorite knapsack and new best shoes (also from canada) and his new Chromebook which he needs for his on-line studies were also stolen. Oye vey!

Besides the material loss (which was bad enough), there was also the loss of our sense of safety and security. Being told that it was likely the thieves would return, we began to live in constant fear - waking up over every noise in the middle of the night. Running outside to check if our car was still there if we heard the dogs barking excessively…. taking everything of value with us in knapsacks every time we left the house. The worst was this feeling of dread every time we walked up the stairs to the house - what would we find when we got home? A ransacked house again? Would the windows & doors be intact or not? It began to wear on our health and both kids got sick. I began to limp again as the stress caused my arthritis to worsen. Although we loved the amazing view from high atop the Judean Hills, we began to wonder if we had made the right decision.

Like the ancient Israelites, we began to wonder if this was such a good idea after all - leaving Egypt (ie Canada). Would it have been better to stay where we were - miserable in bondage of exile but at least safe, comfortable & secure?? We knew that God had called us; but after all we had been through in the past year - the death of my firstborn son, a hip replacement surgery I nearly died from, and then a broken elbow from falling down the stairs just 2 weeks before our departure - and now this?! Really God??!! I was beginning to lose heart even though I knew I needed to be strong and of good courage if we were going to make it here.

HIDE ME UNDER THE SHELTER OF YOUR WINGS

I teach about faith and encourage others to stand in faith ; but now mine was being sorely tested. Would I still trust God through all these trials and tribulations? It was at this point that God began to speak to me about how I needed to come into His presence and find shelter from the storm. The question was, “Are you willing?” I believe this is a question we could all ask ourselves. Are we more like Louisa Ruth? Or Tuna?

My answer was a desperate, “Yes, Lord! Hide me under the shelter of Your wings until all these calamities have passed me by!”

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy, for in You my soul takes refuge. In the shadow of Your wings I will take shelter until the danger has passed. (Psalm 57:1)

It seems to me that, all too often, we are more like Tuna, hesitating to enter in, remaining on the fringes, content with just a few crumbs. Yes, we may even come for food - we read the Bread of Life - and yet we never really enter into the presence of the living God.

The Bible speaks of having, ‘a willing heart’. The people of Israel were invited to give towards the building of the Tabernacle where they could meet with God: “Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord.” (Exodus 35:5) In Hebrew, the word used is ‘nadiv’ which, besides the connotation of willingness, also means to be generous or ‘noble’. Our heart needs to be wide open and generous in our willingness to come in to God’s presence.

What is it that stops Tuna from accepting our invitation to come in? Fear. Perhaps fear of the unknown; but it seems that her worst fear is that she would be trapped inside with no way of escape. Maybe it is this same fear that stops us from truly entering into the Holy of Holies with Adonai as well - a vague fear that if we do enter in, we will never be able to leave.

The Hebrew language shows us that this fear is totally unfounded. One of the ways that we represent God in Hebrew is with a certain letter called ‘hey’. It looks like this:

As you can see, it looks like a door with a small opening at the top left. I like to think that this a message from God’s heart to tell us that the way is always open to us.

Yeshua said, “I am the way, the truth & the life and no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)

God is a good, good father who stands ever ready to receive us with open arms; but the way is through Yeshua, His Son. When he died on the cross, the veil walling the people off from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. This signified that a way has been opened to us; access has been granted through the sacrificial atonement of our Messiah, Yeshua. This is a ‘new and living way’ that Yeshua opened to us through his flesh; so that we may now come boldly to the Throne of Grace any time 24/7.