Uncovering the Unexpected: Dr. Seth Postell and The Joshua Fund

- Well, I'm here with Dr. Seth Postell from One for Israel Bible College. Seth, it's so great to have you with us. You're a longtime friend of the Joshua Fund and the ministries of Joel Rosenberg and just so many great stories that we could begin to talk about, but maybe, Seth, you could just share us a little bit about what One for Israel is really all about as Bible College.

- Yeah, well it's great to be here, Carl, and, indeed, it's just a blessing to be here with the Joshua Fund and just an amazing privilege. So, you know, if I could think about, if I could try to summarize what we're about at One for Israel, I would say bringing the Gospel back to Israel and equipping the church in Israel to reach the world. And I think that that's really- would summarize we, you know, we- to bring the gospel in such a way that's it's contextually relevant, that Israelis can understand. Also, Arabs. We have actually Arab outreach and Arab videos, Arabic videos that we do, and a passion to reach and bless our neighbors, right. And then a desire to equip the church. And so we have, at the Bible College and Seminary, we have programs that are specifically designed to give Israeli believers tools they need to serve in churches, to serve in Christian organizations and to go out into the world with their faith.

- Well, it's been such a privilege for us at the Joshua Fund to partner with you over the years and to be able to see how God is really using One for Israel to do that very thing and to kind of embody the "both and" philosophy of ministry that we have, where, you know, we bless Israel and the neighbors and you teach the Bible to Israelis, Arabs, and, you know, Jewish-background believers. It's really fantastic. So tell me a little bit about your story. How did you get to become academic dean at this really rather unique Bible College?

- So that's actually- I would never have imagined my life being an academic dean. It was something God did. So I grew up with Bugs Bunny and Football, Bugs Bunny and Baseball, and I just was never a student. But when I came to faith, the Bible just kind of swallowed me up alive. I had a conversation with my uncle who was on his deathbed. And he said to me, "Seth," he said, "if only you knew Hebrew well, you would realize that Jesus can't be the Jewish Messiah. You're relying on a Christian translation." And it was kind of a- It was a wake up call for me, 'cause I realized, wait, maybe I really can't defend my faith. And so that got me on a long journey to starting to study the Hebrew Bible and modern Hebrew. And so, back in 2002, no, actually 2000, I had finished the Israeli army, I had served in the Israeli army and I was involved with the discipleship program and I was asked to do a survey of the Torah, like for- for young Israeli believers. I started to read books and read commentaries, and I had this kind of a crisis. And the crisis was, I know that Jesus said in John 5, that if you believe Moses, you'd believe me, because he wrote about me. So I believed that Jesus- I trusted Jesus' words, but I couldn't defend it by carefully reading the Torah. Because I was reading through all these scholarly commentaries and they weren't talking about the Messiah. Somebody put in my hands a book that kind of set the course of my life. A book by John John Sailhamer, "The Pentateuch as Narrative" where suddenly, as I was reading it, I realized that a careful reading of the Torah actually does in fact lead you to the New Testament. Started my master's, doctorate with John Sailhamer, and while I was in the States, I'd left Israel for a period of time, the president of One for Israel contacted me, Erez Soref, he said, "Maybe you'd like to come and teach for us." And so, in January, 2011, I arrived back in Israel after I'd finished my doctorate and started down this path, first as a lecturer and then the academic dean. But it was never something- It, you know, it was never something I imagined for myself. But the Bible, like I said, the the Bible swallowed me alive. And particularly showing how a careful reading of the Hebrew Bible does in fact lead us to Jesus.

- Yeah, amen. Well, we have a lot more to talk about that. I think we might have mentioned this before, but I also took "Pentateuch as Narrative" from John Sailhamer at Trinity Divinity School when I went to seminary there.

- Oh, wow.

- And it was- I've told people dozens of times, if you read one book about the Hebrew Bible, it's "The Pentateuch as Narrative". And he was a great, great man, a great professor, and I'm glad we share that common lineage of theological framework.

- Amazing. And you know, interestingly enough, he really had a heart, like I think when I came there from Israel, there was, we had a very special relationship, because I think he realized that his- The way that he read the Hebrew Bible would have great value for the Jewish people and for Israel. So he was always incredibly supportive. And we had many meals together where we talked about, you know, the relevance of his teachings in the land of Israel. And so yeah, it's a great heritage.

- That's so great.

- I remember you mentioning that and it just- I just remembered that now.

- Me too. We'll get back to that one, I'm sure, another time. But another thing that we have in common, and you know, perhaps it's of no interest to anyone else, is New Jersey. But, so you were born in the US.

- I was.

- And so you made Aliyah eventually. Tell me a little bit about your journey from New Jersey in those days, and then, you know, go forward to where we, you know, picked up with you leaving the IDF.

- Yeah, so, I grew up in a very secular Jewish family, right, I- You know, Hebrew school and, you know, Bar Mitzvah and getting ready for the Bar Mitzvah and- My sister, back in the early, mid seventies, we've got a bit of an age gap, she's 15 years older than I am, but she lived in Israel for some time. And so I remember growing up and hearing about her experiences in Israel, but never actually thought that I would live in Israel. Never, for a moment, that I ever imagined that. And, you know, I went on with my life and after college- Ah, the Gulf War, it was, I think 1990, '91.

- '91, yeah.

- '91 and I remember- I was in Chicago and I remember watching the news and seeing the scuds falling in the land of Israel and everything in me wanted to just pack my bags, go to Israel and do everything I can to help. I just, it just- Thankfully the war ended very quickly, right? So in 1993 I was accepted to Hebrew University for a one-year program. And I went there thinking I was gonna do a master's in Jewish studies, Jewish history, and go back to the United States. And I get there and I'm 22 years old, and I see the Israeli soldiers, the young Israeli soldiers, 18 years old, 19 years old, guys and girls. And something in me said, you know, I felt like I needed to do more. I needed to, I needed to help any way I could. And so I ended up making Aliyah a year later, you know, I- A year later, with very bad Hebrew, I went into the IDF. I actually- My commanders would scream at me and yell at me to do things and I didn't understand a word they were saying. I mean, literally, I made some really-

- Yell as loud as you like, I got no clue.

- I just smiled and did, you know, and I tried to follow what other people, the guy in front of me, was doing. But that really was, you know, just- Something awoke in me. And interestingly enough, we come from a family that most of, on my mom's side of the family, we lost dozens of people in the Holocaust. My mom's- My grandfather was from Warsaw, Poland, 13 brothers and sisters. And most of them, you know, most of them had stayed in Poland in the early '20's, 1920s. My grandfather, his mother and, I think, two of his siblings, or three of his siblings left. The rest stayed in Poland. And they were all killed. They were all murdered, all the cousins and second cousins, and so I remember, the day before I enlisted in the IDF, I saw Schindler's List, and there was just this sense of- You know, I remember putting on the uniform, you know, and just feeling like, "Wow, I can't, I can't believe this." It was special. And I ended up becoming a medic. And because I also, at the same time, had this conviction that I wanted to save lives. I didn't, you know- I wanted to protect lives and it didn't matter whose life. And so, you know, one of the beautiful things about the IDF and particularly, you know, learning to be a medic, is that you learn to save lives and you learn not to distinguish. And so I was probably the IDF's worst medic in the history of the nation, because I did the course only understanding about half the things my instructors were saying. So, you know, I assume that I know CPR. I assume I know where to put the tourniquet. But I served, you know, I served in the IDF as a medic and it was just, you know, for me it was an honor. So that's how I ended up in Israel. I didn't- Never thought, you know, never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I'd live in Israel. And never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I'd be in academia, that I'd ever serve as the academic dean. At a Bible College. And so, yeah.

- Here you are.

- Here I am.

- So, when did you come to faith in Yeshua?

- Yeah, so the first in my family was my mother. My mother was the first to come to faith. And she, back in the late 1970s, she started to search and look and read. And she came home after a period of time with the horrific news that Jesus is the Messiah.

- Horrific to your family.

- Yeah. For the family, my dad cried. My sisters were very upset. And I, you know, I just remember that my mom did something really, really terrible, because my dad, you know- Suddenly there were whispers and, you know, something that my mom couldn't ever talk about. And so she started to pray for the family. And several years later, my father finally got to the point where he got in this conversation with my mother and he said, "I see that you're still Jewish. I see that you're still Jewish. Why do you believe in Jesus? But I don't want to see the New Testament, please." You know, we grew up thinking that the New Testament was an anti-Semitic book. And so she read to him Isaiah 53, and when she finished reading Isaiah 53, he got really angry. He said, "Lorraine, I told you I didn't wanna hear the New Testament." Yeah. She looked at him and she said, "Murray, this is our side of the book. This was written long before Jesus was ever born." It was as if my dad had been slapped and he said, "Listen, I can't believe in Jesus, even if it's true, I can't believe it, I'm Jewish." Couple months later, he went to a service, a church service, and he was sitting on a row with my mom and the Jewish lady who led my mother to the Lord, and a Jewish lady that my mom had led to the Lord. My father was an artist. He'd actually worked as a comic artist in Marvel and other- he was an artist, very much an artistic personality. So he was sitting in the service and a gospel singer, an African American gospel singer, got up and started to sing. And as the story goes, I wasn't there, my father broke, and he started to cry so loudly. He started to howl, like a wolf. Like, everything broke in him, he was howling.

- From the depth of his soul.

- From the depths, because he, you know, he grew up, he told me a story, when he was seven years old, I'm going back, but seven years old, he was surrounded by, in Brooklyn, by kids who beat him bloody, calling him "Christ Killer." And so he came home to my grandmother and said, you know, "Who's Christ, did we kill him?" And so my dad, you know, when my dad- Whenever he was really angry, the worst curse word he could possibly use was "Jesus Christ." It was like the worst curse word in my family, growing up. So my dad had a- after seeing some of the changes in my mom, and then reading Isaiah 53 and sitting in this service and hearing this song, and he just broke, he started to weep and cry. And so the lady that my mom had led to the Lord, and the lady that led my mom to the Lord, grabbed my dad both on each arms, and they started running up to the front with him, like an altar call. And the pastor, out of excitement, he starts to scream, like, loving, he loves the Jewish people, but he starts to scream to the church. "We got another Jew! We got another Jew!"

- Oh, no.

- Yeah! I mean, you know, but it was not, he didn't mean it in a bad way. He was so excited that one- A son of Abraham had come home. And so my dad became a believer in Yeshua, in Jesus, and all that hatred of the name of Jesus- You know, every time he started to hear the name of Jesus, he would start to weep. And in fact, tomorrow when I share, he's an artist, I'm gonna show you his painting of Jesus after, as a brand new believer, he wanted to draw Jesus. Now, that's typically not a Jewish thing. But he just wanted to do a Jesus that he could relate to as a Jew. And so, I'm gonna show you the picture tomorrow in the meeting.

- I can't wait.

- So anyway, you know, for me it was, it was a bit of a different tale. And I, you know, I guess in a- You know, at an earlier age, I started to, at least in my head, understand that Jesus is the Messiah. But I had some really dark years. I had some real troubling years, and I went down some very dark paths that brought me to a place of self-loathing. I loathed myself, and I was convinced that God could never love me. I felt like a creature. And I remember sitting in a service and the speaker kept looking at me. 500 people in an auditorium and he kept looking at me. And then he started telling all my dark secrets. Like, it was just the craziest thing. And he gave an invitation, and, I cry every time I think of it, and I remember standing up and walking forward. And up until then I always thought that God hated me. And I didn't have a vision or anything, but the only way I can explain what happened to me is, like, through a picture. And I don't, I didn't see anything, but this is- But to me, it was as if I looked forward and Jesus was waiting for me, and His arms were open. And up until then, I always saw arms extended, ready to strike me down. And he was just waiting for me to come to get a hug. And I understood that- It finally made sense to me that Jesus was a friend of sinners. That that's why Jesus came. And I was engulfed. I was engulfed in love that has motivated me ever since. And it's a love that's changed my life and given me purpose. And, you know, never, like I said, in my wildest imagination did I ever think that I'd be serving and loving Arabs in Jesus' name and loving Jewish people in Jesus' name and traveling and, you know, let alone being here and being on a venue here and speaking and sharing. So it was the love of God. And then, again, as I shared, with my uncle challenging me, my uncle really did me a favor. He- It was the last conversation we'd ever had, he died of cancer shortly after, but it was probably one of the most important conversations I had, because he was then the one that challenged me, as a Jewish person, to say, "Okay, if I really do believe that the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, points to Jesus, then I need to put my money where my mouth is." And that got me on a course of a lifetime of study.

- That's amazing. That's so- It's so touching and so moving and so- In a very healthy way it's so like God to use such powerful conversions and questions to bring us to Him. I'm so glad you shared that with me. Now, one thing about One for Israel that many people listening may not know, is that it's very committed to seeing the religious Jewish community exposed to Jesus as Messiah. And, again, toxic conversation in much of Israel. How does one for Israel, as a visible entity, you know, engage in this conversation and how do you guys continue to stand the heat?

- Yeah. Well, I mean, the heat, obviously we- You know, there's a lot of heat in his Israel, I talked about that today, and Jeff talked about that and the spiritual warfare in Israel is just intense. I think the internet has been an incredible blessing, because, you know, you think about 20, 25 years ago, 30 years ago. Let's say that you had a calling, not to reach the secular Jews, you have a calling to reach the religious Jews, okay? What do you do? You go on a corner, you go on a street corner, a religious neighborhood, and you start handing out tracts. Right, I mean, what else do you do? How do you get in? You have to get by the gatekeepers. Right, the rabbis are the gatekeepers, and you're just- It's an impenetrable wall. You can't get through. The internet has really been a game changer for the Gospel in the Middle East. And so you present and you create materials where you can actually engage in a Jewish way, Jewish issues, Jewish issues that attract attention, and you discuss them and you deal with them, and you get past the gatekeepers. And so now you don't have to, you know, you don't have to get past the rabbis, you know, through the front door. People that are searching in the privacy of their own home, in the privacy with their cell phones, they can- All they have to do is click. And so, you know, we've created videos, we've created, you know, on YouTube, and you've got- We've got different websites that are really designed to engage both secular and religious Jews and it really has been phenomenal. And you hear, you know- One of the things we have every week we have a, you know, WhatsApp group for our staff. And every week we get these posts from the guy that answers the questions. And so he'll send these text messages from people writing in with amazing testimonies. "Wow, thank you so much, I finally understand." "It's finally clear to me that Jesus is the Messiah." "Wow, thank you so much, for the first time I realize I can read the New Testament." "Wow, thank you so much. I'm starting finally to realize that," you know, "that some of the traditions and the oral law contradicts the Scriptures." And so, again, I think the internet has been, really, a game changer. Also among the- Among the Arabs too.

- Oh, for sure.

- You know, we're creating Arabic contact too, that goes into the most closed areas in the Muslim world. And people are coming to faith. It's really spectacular. One of the guys that came to faith, his name is Jihad. Right, you could imagine, you know, a team of Israelis praying for Jihad. It was the craziest thing.

- There's a semantic problem here, but yes.

- It's a terrible semantic problem, but this is the guy that ended up not only coming to faith, but loving Israel. And I saw a picture of Jihad with an Israeli flag behind him. Why? Because he said, "Listen, I heard the gospel from Jewish people, from the land of Israel. Why shouldn't I love that country?"

- That's a really- That's beautiful. That's beautiful. Well, there's no picture in my mind of what the kingdom, when Jesus does return, will look like than to see that it- One for Israel, Arabs and Jews are sitting down together and under the banner of Jesus, coming together in fellowship. I mean, you spoke so eloquently about that, the miracle of the First Supper and all of that today, I just- So much of what the world wants to say about Israel and Arabs and Jews and Muslims and Palestinians and all of that turmoil and conflict, it's just beautiful to see how an organization like One for Israel and the Joshua Fund, by extension, are all committed to this, this "both and" picture of all of this ministry.

- You know, I heard somebody say once, and it kind of- It was such a brilliant statement. A friend of mine said to me, he- Actually, we were meeting with an Arab guy, an Arab believer, and he said something that really hit me. He said, you know, "If you really love the Jewish people, I mean really love the Jewish people, you need to be passionate about Muslim evangelism, Arab evangelism." I said, "What are you talking about?" He said, "Well, listen," he said, "according to Romans 11:11, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous, envious. Which people group do you think is poised and positioned to make the Jewish people most jealous?" Imagine for a moment a revival in Gaza, where people that were committed to the destruction of Israel suddenly start to send balloons with Hebrew New Testaments across the border with, "We Love Israel and we're praying for you." Imagine what that would do and how many Jewish people would be provoked to jealousy when they saw people that hated them, loving them in Jesus' name. And so I think that, you know, there's a crucial connection between Arab and Jewish ministry together, and plus, it's the most, I think, one of the most visual, concrete expressions or proofs, that the Gospel is the power of God. That the Gospel is true. That it can bring Jews and Arabs together in one church, in one body, loving one another in Jesus' name.

- Amen. Well, Dr. Seth Postell, how can we pray for you and pray for One for Israel?

- Yeah. Well, obviously, we continue to do the work in an area of the world, a neighborhood of the world that's very heated, and the battles are very fierce, you know? Over the last couple months we've seen some, just an increase of battles that- You know, Satan doesn't rest. He wants to stop what we do. And so you can just continue to pray for wisdom, for courage to continue to stay the course in the face of all sorts of opposition and all sorts of challenges. Pray that God will continue just to give us a passion for Jesus. You know, that Jesus and Jesus alone would be the superstar of everything we do.

- Amen. Doctor, thank you for joining us. Thank you for being here today, and God bless you.

- Thank you so much.

- Thanks.

- Hey, I'm Joel Rosenberg. On your left, you'll find some videos we've chosen specifically for you. We look forward to partnering with you to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.

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