Let’s All Now Go Up!
Sharing the Joy of Aliyah with the Jewish People
During the twentieth century, literally millions of Jews from around the world risked their personal financial security and even their lives to undertake the trek that their heart strings virtually demanded that they make. Many, if not most, seemed driven by their DNA to answer God’s prophetic call to go up to their ancestral home, making aliyah to the small sliver of land where the God of the universe placed his name—Israel, the Holy Land; Israel, the Promised Land; Israel, the land deeded to Abraham and his lineal descendants forever by God himself; Israel, the magnet for those who are drawn to be a part of the only nation on earth that bears God’s name, El (El Shaddai): IsraEL.
The term aliyah has become a universally recognized term that identifies the Jews who have returned and continue to return to the land of Israel. Literally meaning, “Go up,” aliyah bespeaks a divine principle by which Jews have lived their lives for millennia and by which they continue to live their lives to this day.
The application of aliyah to the return of the Jewish people to their land is taken from the imperial decree that Cyrus, the king of Persia, made to the Jews who had been held in Babylonian captivity for some seventy years prior to the time when he conquered Babylon. Here are the words of that decree: “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!” (2 Chronicles 36:23). It is not insignificant that this imperial decree concluded with these words: “Let him go up.” In Hebrew this phrase reads thus: וְיָֽעַל—v-ya’al, which is a jussive verb form that is derived from the same root as the word עֲלִיָּה—aliyah. In essence, then, the proclamation that Cyrus made in the name of God centuries ago has continued to echo into the ears and hearts of Jews around the world ever since that time, prompting them to “go up” to Israel in order to fulfill their prophetic destiny.
The prophet Isaiah poetically and poignantly described this spirit that has possessed millions of Jews and Christians as well: “Come, let us go up (aliyah) to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, so that he may teach us about his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For the Torah will go out from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). God’s dwelling place is in Zion and, therefore, his Word issues forth from Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, Jerusalem is the place where God chose literally to place his name (2 Chronicles 6:6). The very topography of the city of Jerusalem displays the Hebrew letter ש—shin, which universally stands for God’s name El Shaddai. The valleys that circumscribe and intersect Jerusalem form a perfect shin, demonstrating that God has placed his seal in the land of Israel.
The God of the Mountains
It is no secret that the God of Scripture is a God of the mountains. Mount Sinai was the place from which God thundered the Ten Commandments to the Israelites whom he had summoned out of Egypt to enter into a covenant with him to be his people. “God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise,” the prophet Habakkuk said (Habakkuk 3:3). Teman was the mountain range that included Mount Paran, which was also called Sinai.
After the universal flood, God saw to it that Noah’s ark landed on the top of the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4). Abraham was commanded by God to climb the mountain that is now called Mount Zion and there on Mount Moriah, the mountain that God “showed” him, to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering to the Lord (Genesis 22:2). Moses was instructed by God to climb the mountain and there to meet with God. When he was 85 years old, Caleb exclaimed, “Give me my mountain” (Joshua 14:12–14). Elijah went to Mount Carmel to engage the prophets of Baal in a contest that would prove whose God was God (1 Kings 18:20–40). Later, the same prophet retired to Sinai where the Lord encountered him in a small voice (1 Kings 19:11–13). Deborah the prophetess and judge of Israel held her court under a palm tree on Mount Tabor (Judges 4:4ff). The transfiguration of Jesus occurred on this same Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:1–3). Jesus often went to the mountain top to pray. He also delivered his most powerful and comprehensive sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, on Mount Arbel in northwest Galilee (Matthew 5:1–2). It seems that God was always calling his people to go higher!
Going Up to Engage God
Ancient Israel was instructed to “go up (עֲלֹֽתְךָ֗ from עֲלֹֽת—alah) three times in the year to appear before the Lord” (Exodus 34:24). God used the word alah, the root of aliyah, to teach Israel that his established festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles were times for his people to “go up” and commune with him. It was not a mistake that both the Word and the Spirit came to the people of God when they were in or near the mountain of the Lord. In parallel events separated by fifteen centuries, the Torah was given at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20) while the Holy Spirit was given on Mount Zion (Acts 2:1–4).
Jews practice aliyah in their synagogues every Sabbath day when people from the congregation “go up” to the bema (platform near the Aron Kodesh [the Holy Ark] where the Torah scrolls are stored) to read from and explicate the Torah. The Torah is God’s Word; therefore, it is to be respected, even revered. It is proper that when one approaches the Torah, he “goes up” like Moses did at Mount Sinai when he received the Torah in the first place.
The “going up” experience need not, however, be always confined to a literal mountain. All believers can “go up,” making aliyah into the very presence of God, by lifting up their spirits to commune with the Holy One of Israel. A physical aid to the lifting up of the heart is the lifting up of “holy hands” to the Lord while engaging God in prayer (1 Timothy 2:8). In doing so, believers acknowledge that the God they worship is “above” in heaven and not in some object or person below “on” the earth or some chthonic deity “under” the earth. Believers in God are invited to “come boldly before the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) because they have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous (1 John 2:1), who can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities (Hebrews 4:15) and is faithful and just to forgive their sins (1 John 1:9).
Come, Let Us Go Up
Aliyah bespeaks immediacy, the need to act with faith and fearlessness. Such was the case with Joshua and Caleb who said, “Let us go up (alah) at once and possess the land” (Numbers 13:30). Aliyah also bespeaks faith in God to do what seems impossible to men. Going with God sometimes requires utterly fearless faith, knowing that God will deliver in the face of adversity. Joshua and Caleb believed God’s promise when the Almighty ceded the land of Canaan to their ancestor Abraham and reaffirmed the promise to Isaac and Jacob and finally to the entire community of Israel when he said, “Unto you will I give this land” (Genesis 13:15; 17:8). So what if there are giant warriors and impregnable walled cities there? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Of all the twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel who reconnoitered the land of Canaan, only two said, “We are well able,” and it is their names—Joshua and Caleb—that live on in history. At the same time, the ten other leaders are remembered by no one even though their names are also recorded in Scripture. There must be truth in the aphorism attributed to Paul Harvey: “Every pessimist in history is buried in an unmarked grave.”
A God on the Move
The God of Israel is forever on the move, and he is always moving higher and higher, taking his people from one level of faith to another (Romans 1:17). God is bidding his people to share the same aliyah spirit that worked the miracle of the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple over two millennia ago and has also worked one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world with the twentieth-century restoration of the nation of Israel. God’s grace is always sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) to equip those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6) so that they can go up into higher dimensions of service and blessing. Believers today share in a high calling of God in Christ Jesus, a goal to which they press, always pursuing God’s upward call (Philippians 3:14).
God is dynamic, never static. He is moving on with those who will move with him, looking on high and following the cloud of glory (Numbers 9:17). “Go,” El Shaddai instructed Abraham, “go for yourself (lech l’chah)” (Genesis 12:1). “Move on!” Yhwh commanded the Israelites at the Red Sea immediately after he had asked them, “why are you crying out to me?” (Exodus 14:15). God moves, and when he does, he expects his people to move with him. If they are recalcitrant, he continues to move—and in this case, he moves on. The annals of history are littered with the desiccated carcasses of those who “never knew” simply because they did not “follow in to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). Those who did not follow the cloud in the wilderness died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (Hebrews 4:2). This is why it is important not “to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12). Those who move with God find themselves “working out their own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), knowing that “they who endure to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
These are they who always strive to “grow up in God.” They strive for perfection, which is the spirit of constant improvement. In so doing, they seek to “come to the unity of the faith, to the full knowledge of the Son of God unto the maturity of the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).They are determined to know the width and length and the height and depth of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18).
Look Up, Go Up
The Psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains. From which comes my help? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:12). Jesus said that even when the most difficult of times come upon the earth, believers should “stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). David said, “In the morning, O Lord, you will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to you and I will look up” (Psalm 5:3).
In order to “go up,” one must first “look up.” If one looks in the right direction at the right time, he will see a little cloud like a man’s hand rising out of the sea that portends to an abundance of rain (1 Kings 18:43–45).
The Call to Join the Jewish Aliyah
The prophet Jeremiah made this proclamation regarding what God would do in the earth: “There will be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim call out, ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God’” (Jeremiah 31:6). Isaiah echoed this prophetic promise: “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen [who] will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord shall take no rest for yourselves and give him no rest until he establishes and makes Jerusalem an object of praise on the earth” (Isaiah 62:6–7). God is calling both Jew and Gentile to join in aliyah just as Isaiah predicted in Yhwh’s name: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. . . . All the flocks of Kedar and the rams of Nebaioth [Gentiles] will be accepted on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple” (Isaiah 60:1, 7).
The spiritual sukkah of David that has fallen into disarray will be “raised up” in the time of Messiah, and when that occurs, “all the Gentiles upon whom [God’s] name is called” (Amos 9:11) will join with the Jewish people in the divine blessings of being raised up in the presence of God to do his bidding. Zechariah even predicts that ten Gentiles will lay hold on the tallit of the greatest Jew who ever lived, Yeshua the Messiah, saying “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23). Gentiles are, therefore, prophetically foreordained to join in the aliyah.
The Final Aliyah
In the end of days, a final aliyah will bring those who have their eyes fixed on the Lord into the ultimate blessing of life everlasting. This aliyah will be for all the righteous of the earth, Jew and Gentile, who will be summoned by the voice of the archangel and the last of the seven shofars to come forth from their entombment in the earth to stand before the Almighty in the resurrection of the dead.
This will be the final and greatest aliyah, the going up to meet the descending Lord in the heavenlies in order to accompany him to the inauguration of the kingdom of God upon this very earth. The refrain of the old hymn, “I’m Going Higher Someday,” will resonate in the ears of the believers of all ages as they see the risen Savior and are beckoned by him to go up into the kingdom of shalom, and stand together with him on Mount Zion! (Zechariah 14:5).
Who are the people who “may ascend into the mountain of the Lord to stand in his holy place?” It is those who “have clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3–4). Therefore, “keep your garments clean,” and wait for the “up calling” of God, the resurrection and eternal life. “Let’s all go up!”