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Messianic Jewish music brings comfort in a time of need

(Photo: Screenshot/The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me)

“Therefore, the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion…”

Arriving in “Zion” from Canada in 1983, I had somehow braced myself to endure the minor keys and oom-pah rhythms that I expected to characterize all of the music of the land. How wrong I was! Instead, within months I was both surprised and astonished by a singular phenomenon. Local believers, followers of Yeshua, were writing their own hymns and praise and worship, to an extent that was far disproportionate to the embryonic size of the body of believers. As the music director for a daily Christian television broadcast, I thought I heard every genre of music. But something different here among Israel’s Messianic community captured my heart. It defied my categories. The lyrics are mostly Scripture put to melody, composed by a mixture of professionals and beginners.

One of the songs written in that fruitful decade of the 1980s has become an anthem since the October 7 attack by Hamas. It is simply the words read by Yeshua (Jesus) from Isaiah 61 and is titled, “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me.” All Israel News recently sponsored a live recording of the song in the city of Sderot, one of the many places in southern Israel that Hamas attacked on October 7. Filmed at the site of a former Israeli police station that Hamas targeted on the day of the attack, the event gathered believers from all over Israel to remember God’s promise to “proclaim liberty to the captives.” This song is an example of how the God of Israel is using music and lyrics to comfort, strengthen and encourage his people during these dark months, just as He has always done.

The body of believers in Israel has found many creative ways to develop and share the music that emerges from among their communities over the years since the reestablishment of the state of Israel. Beginning in 1979, national Messianic music gatherings emerged to teach Hebrew worship, present new songs, rejoice in the Lord, and enjoy fellowship. From 1979 until 1983 the gatherings were frequent and fruitful. First organized by David and Lisa Loden, and Arieh Bar David, there was a new sense of unity and collaboration among the congregations that existed at the time, and among the artists and musicians who came to participate and learn. Songbooks were produced and circulated, which further unified the country’s followers of Yeshua as they shared the same words of praise to the Lord. I had the privilege of attending the conference upon my arrival in the country in 1983, and I was hooked. My forty-plus years living in Israel have been shaped by my participation in Israel’s Messianic music community.

In the early 2000s, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel (MJAI), began to support and organize renewed opportunities for believers to “sing to the Lord a new song” by gathering together to share their new music. In 2004 the Lord allowed the fulfillment of a dream of faith that He’d given to our team at King of Kings Assembly - the beautiful Jerusalem Pavilion, a Messianic worship center and event hall, was completed in the city center. We invited MJAI’s director, Hanan Lukatz, to utilize this new facility for national worship events. Five concerts called “Praise to Our God” were held in Jerusalem between 2004 and 2014 with professional recordings recorded and circulated. They can be found here: 5 Concert Recordings MJAI.

Another unique gathering took place in 2015 when a collection of songs from the 1970s and 1980s was celebrated and recorded. This project was aptly named “Generation to Generation” as young people embraced the words and melodies of the generations that came before them. Many of these songs are still sung today in congregations all over Israel. Next, the “Praises of Israel” concert was held and recorded in June of 2019, sponsored by MJAI. The concert drew the wrath of some ultra-orthodox groups who gathered at the venue in order to shout obscenities, throw live frogs at attendees and attempt to block the entrance. Despite this outburst of persecution, those who gathered to praise the Lord found themselves brimming with hope and determined to continue. 

But of course, in 2020 something deeply sad and bewildering descended upon the world - the global COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, under unprecedented levels of stress, believers around the world fell prey to many traps: isolation, conflicting narratives, political and cultural polarization, marital failures, leadership crises, identity crises. The conflicts were magnified on the megaphone of social media. Discouragement dug in and many found it hard to regain a strong sense of corporate identity, let alone common kingdom goals. It was a time of shaking for many, including the small community of believers in Israel.

2021 arrived, and we Israelis were permitted to regather in person. There was an aching need for another national worship gathering. The question was, did anyone have the bandwidth to organize such an event? Hanan Lukatz, director of the MJAI and a real champion of the worship events, passed away suddenly in early 2022. It felt like the national flow of Messianic music in Israel had narrowed to a trickle.  But by early 2023 there were a collection of songs impressed on my heart that I felt we simply must sing together, as the body of Messiah in Israel. We had a deep need for songs of prayer and comfort, songs to help us refocus on our Savior, remembering and celebrating all that he has done for us.  I decided to go ahead and book the Jerusalem Pavilion by faith and start planning, but before going too far, to inform the new director of the MJAI and his board, as a courtesy. When they heard the vision and samples of the music, the enthusiastic answer came: “You organize it, and we will sponsor it”. 

It was new for me to do this on my own, and I quickly gathered around me some young, talented artists who helped fine-tune the repertoire, and the name of the event, and assisted with the planning. Welcoming their input, I surged forward, with only two months to put everything together. As musicians and singers were recruited, it was clear that everyone we talked to was eager to take part. People were hungry to gather again for a large national worship event. Well-qualified people came forward volunteering to provide technical help. Doors kept opening. When we began rehearsals, many were wiping tears from their eyes, so moved and comforted to be singing these songs of faith and consolation. We felt the wind of the Spirit at our back.

The concert was to be held twice in one night and in the end over 800 people gathered to worship together. As we prepared to begin, large numbers of protesters came from some radical Jewish groups. They blocked the entrance, pushing and shoving participants, blowing loud whistles and yelling rude slogans. Only with the help of the police could people enter through the side doors into the auditorium. Rioting went on outside the hall for more than two hours. But inside we lifted our voices and instruments in worship and praise.

The event began with a familiar song of love for the Lord:

To Him who purified us from our transgressions
We sing a song of love
He repaired our ways, healed our souls
Revealed to us the face of the Father

And now, come to Him, lifting our voices
Let us worship the Lord, eternal king
He is our redeemer, he came down to us from on high
And He is now at the right hand of the Father
Yeshua is the spotless Lamb, the Alef and Tav

Then came the song that gave the evening its name and definition, “One Voice”:

One voice (one accord) we cry out to You, cry out to You, cry out to you….
Immanuel, welcome! Blessed is He who comes.
And open our eyes, and take our lives, purify Your bride today.
And on the throne of our hearts, take Your place

The following lyric sampler will give you an idea of how the flow of songs opened our hearts. 

Look upon Him… the Lamb of God  . . that you will not stumble, but be healed..
Yeshua . . Worthy is the sacrificed Lamb, of blessing, honor, glory and strength. 
How great is His compassion, His arms are open wide
Father of Mercies! Who hears our prayers…

All we like sheep have strayed…turned to our own way
But You, You, You are faithful!
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases…it is new every morning, Yes, You, You, You are faithful, Your mercies are eternal.
Unto You Oh LORD, I lift up my soul, in You I trust…
For You, You, You are faithful!

Abba, Abba, Your children are hungry…call us to your table, and we will come running.
You’ve called us to Your table in the midst of chaos.
You’ve said, “Come, sit, eat, drink, and rest…”

We sang the old hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus” which was beautifully translated into Hebrew decades ago. The modern hymn “In Christ Alone” came next, sung with zeal and conviction in Hebrew. Then there was a wonderful new Hebrew rendition of The Lord’s Prayer followed by “Elohei HaShamayim”, a song declaring that we will build and work together. Two old standards “Hu Yimloch” (He Shall Reign) and “Bracha Vechavod” (Blessing and Honour) brought the evening to a triumphant climax. 

Yes, we were comforted, unified, and encouraged that night in June 2023. But little did we know how much every one of those songs would speak to us during the dark and tragic days that we are experiencing here and now in Israel, less than four months later! After the events of October 7, the truth of the message of these songs is steadying us, reminding us Who’s in control. Now we are in a new season, one in which we must be strong, fit, and ready. How perfect God’s timing is!

The prophet Amos (8:11) wrote: “Behold the days are coming, says the LORD God, when I will send a great hunger in the land, not a hunger for bread, nor a thirst for water, but a thirst for hearing the words of the LORD.” My prayer is that as this music is now available on music platforms, it will be like the savor and fragrance of good food and the sound of cool thirst-quenching water. May it be used to bring comfort, hope, and healing for every soul who hears! 

And may it fulfill the words of Psalm 40:4:

“And He has put a new song in my mouth, praise to our God; many shall see it, and fear, and shall put their trust in the Lord.”

Ann is a pastor's wife who has lived in Israel for 40 years, raising a family, and helping to produce Hebrew worship music.

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