Gas Field Confirmed Off Coast of Israel-December 30, 2010

December 30, 2010

JERUSALEM — Exploratory drilling off Israel’s northern coast this week has confirmed the existence of a major natural gas field — one of the world’s largest offshore gas finds of the past decade — leading the country’s infrastructure minister to call it “the most important energy news since the founding of the state.”

Houston-based Noble Energy, which is working with several Israeli partner companies, said that the field, named Leviathan, whose existence was suspected months ago, has at least 16 trillion cubic feet of gas at a likely market value of tens of billions of dollars and should turn Israel into an energy exporter.

“If it acts correctly, levelheadedly and responsibly, Israel can enjoy not only the benefit of using the gas, but it can also turn into a gas supplier in the Mediterranean region,” the infrastructure minister, Uzi Landau, said in a statement. “The large reserves of natural gas will enable Israel’s citizens to enjoy the benefit of clean and inexpensive electricity, as well as the expected profits for the state.”

The find means that Israel, with a long history of dependence on foreign energy, and hostility and boycotts from many of the biggest energy powers, could find itself in a much more advantageous position in the coming decade.

But the find has been accompanied by a heated debate over how much in taxes and royalties Israel will charge. A state-appointed committee headed by an economist at Hebrew University, Eytan Sheshinski, is planning to recommend substantially increased profit taxes, opposed by the companies and some on the political right.

Gideon Tadmor, the chief executive of Delek Energy and Avner Oil Exploration, partners in this venture with Noble, said the taxes could make the project prohibitively expensive. “The gas may stay in the ground because we will not succeed in obtaining from banks around the world the tens of billions of shekels for developing the reservoir,” he said in an interview.

He said that this new find could impel neighboring countries, including Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria, to explore and possibly develop their potential gas fields, and warned that Israel needed to move quickly to be the first to export its gas. Delek estimates that if it moves aggressively, it could begin producing gas from Leviathan in five to six years.

This year, the United States Geological Survey estimated that more than 120 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas reserves, equivalent to 20 billion barrels of oil, lay beneath the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. That would put it in the same league as the Alaskan North Slope (about 22 billion barrels) but far short of Saudi Arabia, which has proven reserves of 262 billion barrels.

In reaction to the Israeli announcement, Lebanese politicians said they would move more quickly in exploring their country’s gas potential.

Professor Sheshinski said that Israel had among the very lowest energy tax rates anywhere and that it was time to update that.

“We have proposed a profit tax to be imposed after the firms earn an adequate return on their investment,” Professor Sheshinski said in an interview. “We have checked with the banks and we will be well within world averages. Anyone who knows the numbers can be assured of a proper return.”

Professor Sheshinski said that his report, due out on Monday, had already been endorsed by the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer; the International Monetary Fund; and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which Israel recently joined. He said that the profit tax rate recommended by his committee would be 55 to 60 percent and that the O.E.C.D. average was 62 percent.

The committee’s recommendations require government and parliamentary approval.

Sever Plocker, an economic columnist for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, said in a commentary on Thursday that it was far from clear that the new discovery could be developed profitably. Gas prices could fall, the techniques needed to extract the gas were likely to be complicated and expensive to develop, and exporting natural gas required enormous investment for pipelines or the means of transforming the gas into liquid to be moved on tankers, he said.

“Creative thinking is our great natural resource, not gas,” he wrote. “It is our obligation to guard it with utmost care.”


OBEDIENCE – begins with humility

2 Kings 5:
9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the or of  Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” 11 But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
 13 But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the
prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself  seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!
 15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
Naaman, a great hero, was used to getting respect, and he was outraged when Elisha treated him like an ordinary person.  To wash in a great river would be one thing, but the Jordan was small and dirty.  To wash in the Jordan, Naaman thought, was beneath a man of his position. 
But Naaman had to humble himself and obey Elisha’s commands in order to be healed.
Obedience to God begins with humility.
We must believe that his way is better than our own.  We may not always understand his ways of working, but by humbly obeying, we will receive his blessings. 
We must remember:
1. God’s ways are best.
2. God want’s our obedience more than anything else.
3. God can use anyhting to accomplish his purposes.

OBEDIENCE – you’re not the only one obeying God


1 Kings 19:
 10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (New Living Translation)
Elijah thought he was the only one left who was still true to God. 
After experienceing great victory at Mount Carmel, he had to run for his life.  His resulting loneliness and discouragement made him feel sorry for himself. 
Elijah had seen both king’s court and the priesthood become corrupt.  In his discouragemnet, he forgot that others had remained faithful in the midst of the nations wickedness.   
When you are tempted to to feel you are the only one remaining faithful to a task, don’t stop to feel sorry for yourself – self-pity will dilute the good you are doing. 
Be assured, that even if you don’t know who they are, others are faithfully obeying God and carrying out their duties.

OBEDIENCE – can lead to miracles

1 Kings 17:
 13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”
 15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. (New Living Translation)
When the widow of Zarphath met Elijah, she thought she was preparing her last meal.  But a simple act of faith produced a miracle. 
Faith is the step between promise and assurance. 
Miracles seem so out of reach for our feeble faith.  But every miracle, large or small, begins with an act of obedience. 
We may not see the solution until we make the first step of faith.

OBEDIENCE – developing consistency in

1 Samual 31:
13 Then they took their bones and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.
2 Chronicles 26:
21 So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the Lord. His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land. (New Living Translation)
Saul’s death was also the death of an ideal – Israel could no longer believe that having a king like the other nations would solve all their problems.  The real problem was not the form of government, but the sinful king.  Saul tried to please God by spurts of religiosity, but real spirituality takes a lifetime of consistent obedience.
Heroic spiritual lives are built by stacking days of obedience one on top of the other.  Like a brick, each obedient act is small in itself, but in time the acts will pile up and a huge wall of strong chraracter will be built – a great defense against temptation.  We should strive for consistent obedience each day.
For much of his life, Uziah was “a good king in the Lord’s sight.”  But Uzziah turned away from God and died a leper.  He is remembered more for his arrogant act and subsequent punishment than for his great reforms.  God requires continuous obedience.  Spurts of obedience are not enough.  Be remembered for your consistent faith; otherwise you, too, may become more famous for the punishment you received than for the faith you lived by

OBEDIENCE – when you must decide between obeying God or man


1 Samual 31:
3 The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him severely.
4 Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.” But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it.
Acts 5:
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (New Living Translation)
The Philistines had well-earned reputation for torturing their captives.Saul no doubt knew about Samson’s fate and did not want to risk physical mutilation or other abuse.

When his armor bearer refused to kill him, he took his own life.

The apostles knew their priorities.

While we should try and keep peace with everyone, conflict with the world and its authorities is sometimes inevitable for a Christian. There will be situations where you cannot obey both God and man.

Then you must obey God and trust his Word.

Let Jesus’ words encourage you: “What happiness it is when others hate you and exclude you and insult you and smear your name because you are mine. When that happens, rejoice! Yes, leap for joy! For you will have a great reward awaiting you in heaven.” (Luke 6:22-23)

OBEDIENCE – better than sacrifice or ritual


1 Samuel 15:
22 But Samuel replied,
  What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.
Psalms 50:
16 But God says to the wicked:
Why bother reciting my decrees
and pretending to obey my covenant?
17 For you refuse my discipline
and treat my words like trash.
18 When you see thieves, you approve of them,
and you spend your time with adulterers.
19 Your mouth is filled with wickedness,
and your tongue is full of lies.
20 You sit around and slander your brother
your own mother’s son.
21 While you did all this, I remained silent,
and you thought I didn’t care.
But now I will rebuke you,
listing all my charges against you.
22 Repent, all of you who forget me,
or I will tear you apart,
and no one will help you.
Romans 12:
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (New Living Translation)
Was Samuel saying that sacrifice is unimportant? No, he was urging Saul to look at his reasons for making the sacrifice, rather than at the sacrifice itself.A sacrifice was a ritual transaction between God and man that physically demonstrated a relation between them. But if the persons heart was not truly repentant or if he did not truly love God, the sacrifice was a hollow ritual.Religious ceremonies and rituals are empty unless they are perofmed with an attitude of love and obedience.

“Being religious” is not enough if we do not act out of devotion and obedience to God.

Some people glibly recite God’s laws, but are filled with deceit and evil.

They claim his promises, refuse to obey his laws.

This is sin, and God will judge people for it.

We too are hypocrites when we do not live what we believe. To let this inconsistency remain, shows we are not true followers of God.

When sacrificing an animal according to God’s law, a priest killed the animal, cut it in pieces, and placed it on the altar.

Sacrifice was important, but even the Old Testament God made it clear that obedience from the heart was much more important.

God wants us to offer ourselves, not animals as living sacrifices – daily laying aside our own desires to follow him.

We do this out of gratitude that our sins have been forgiven.