FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN ISRAEL – 18 Nov 2006

Almost eight years ago, our congregation was attacked by up to 1000 religious Jews, in which they succeeded to prevent us from worshipping God together on that Shabbat.  Nearly one year ago, on the day before Christmas and Hanukkah, we were attacked again by up to 500 religious Jews, who prevented us from conducting two baptisms but could not stop us from eventually worshipping the Lord together, even it was three hours later.  When I say “religious” Jews, let us remember our teaching on “k’ilu” (as IF) and on the fear of YHVH God.  It’s written in James that if anyone thinks himself to be religious but does not bridle his own tongue, he deceives his own heart and his religion is useless.

There is a law in the State of Israel granting all persons full liberty of conscience and the free exercise of their forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals.  Many provisions of Israeli law are intended to protect holy places and sites that serve for prayers and other religious purposes.  It is an offense under penal law to cause damage to any place of worship or sacred objects of any religion with the purpose of affronting the religion, or offend the religious sentiments, of any class of persons.  There are penal sanctions for trespass on places of worship.  This property where we meet should fall into that category, and has been recognized de facto, at least, for close to a century.

Ex 5:1-2   …Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharoah, “Thus says YHVH God of Israel, ‘Let My people go, that they may celebrate Me in the wilderness’.”  And Pharoah said, “Who is YHVH, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?!  I do not know YHVH, nor will I let Israel go!”

Lk  1:68-75   Blessed is YHVH God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the lovingkindness to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham:  to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

Just this week (Thursday) I saw a notice by Messianic believers that they will go to the Israeli Supreme Court next month.  The issue is over the right to citizenship by the husband of an Israeli-born believer.  For over four years, the husband has been denied citizenship because he is a believer.  The Ministry of Interior received information about him through Yad L’Achim, the anti-missionary group which is also active in the troubles inAradand in the activities against the congregation last year and earlier.

Last year I went to listen to the head of Yad L’Achim and to the chief Sephardic rabbi of Beer Sheva as they spoke to a crowd in a synagogue in one of the Beer Sheva neighborhoods.  They consider Christian money “defiled” and that every motive of believers in Yeshua is to convert the Jew and so, to their darkened mind, condemn the Jews to judgment.

They consider us as Amalek, and therefore even YHVH God Himself is against us, to wipe out our name and memory forever.  This is exactly what the Jews say about Jesus – even if not consciously aware of it – when they call Yeshua “Yeshu”.  These groups of Jews call us worse than Hamas, Hizbollah, or even the Nazis:  they can only kill our bodies, but we take their souls.

It is important for us to know and to remember that Jesus and the apostles warned us that these things would be for those who live godly in Christ.  For the sake of the salvation of the gentiles and their nations, Israel and the Jewish people are presently enemies of the gospel.  This is the sovereign wisdom of God in His perfect plan of redeeming and saving sinners from every nation, including Israel.  The Creator of the Heavens and Earth is allowing evil to be clearly shown to be evil, for sin to be clearly exposed as sinful, so that salvation is clearly seen to be of His grace and mercy, and His judgments altogether righteous against sin and workers of iniquity.  God is seeking from us patience and long-suffering until He completes His plan, and for us to be willing to suffer for His sake and the gospel’s, that others will see that there is a God – invisible in the heavens – who lives within us.

Our battle is not against these people themselves, but against the enemy of their souls who is blinding their hearts and has darkened their understanding against the truth.  They have been taught from birth not to believe in Jesus, and to consider Him the enemy of His own people!  But when the religious leaders, who profess to know God and to be the guardians of the faith, deliberately keep the Word of God from the common people, then they come under the two-edged sword of the Holy Spirit which calls them hypocrites.  Those who profess the keys to the Kingdom neither enter in themselves nor allow others to come through the only way given by the YHVH God of Israel. 

We are truly in a battle for truth and righteousness in this world.  Evolution is put forward as truth against the sure Word of God; a world without Israel is put forth as a means to achieve peace against the sure Word of God; salvation by any means except through the only way which God Himself has declared is sought for against the sure Word of God, who alone justifies the ungodly through faith in the only righteous Man who ever lived and gave His life for unrighteous people.

This war has already been won by Jesus on the cross by His death.  It’s just that most people don’t realize it and are still fighting the old war!  As we are all called into this battle for the glory of God, not all serve in the same units.  Just as in a regular military, there are many units and soldiers serving in varying capacities.  A law was established in Israelby David, and therefore transferable to the Church with Jesus in authority, that gave to all who participated in the battle the spoils of victory.  All includes those on the front lines as well as those taking care of the supplies.  So, too, we may be participating in different units or positions, but if we are giving ourselves to the fight, then we can share in the care for the wounded as well as rejoice in beating back the forces of darkness and evil. 

Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth.  Salt retards corruption and decay, and also helps to heal wounds.  He also says that we should have salt in ourselves and be at peace with one another, as much as is possible with us.  Salt that has lost its saltiness is good for nothing but to be thrown out.  The Lord also calls us the light of the world.  The manner in which we care even for those who are opposed to us should reflect positively upon the goodness of our Father in Heaven because of our faith in Jesus, God’s unique Son.  Our ultimate victory is not going to be seen until the resurrection of the just at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to judge all who oppose Him and His Kingdom.  But even now, we can overcome the world by our faith in Him.

We are a small congregation.  In all Israel, the number of born-again believers is a small minority.  Salvation is the Lord’s and so is the battle!  Jesus was put outside the camp as a false prophet and blasphemer.  Do we love Him for saving us from God’s wrath?  Are we really willing to be persecuted for our faith in Him?  Let us examine our own motives for why we believe, and ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts as well, so that in the day of trouble and evil, we will do wonders in the Name of our great God and Savior!

We are standing in the faith of the saints before us who strove for their liberty to worship the true God, and especially within Israel, God’s chosen people and land, in this city of the fathers, to whom YHVH swore that we would worship Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness. 

2Thes 1

ISSUE OF THE HEART: COVETOUSNESS

Dt 5:21[18 Heb]; Ex 20:17 [14 Heb]  Thou shalt not covet anything that is someone else’s
Col 3:5; 1Tim 6:6-10   covetousness is idolatry; with godliness, be content with what you have
Mt 19:16-23   covetousness and the deceitfulness of riches makes it hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven
1Cor 12:31   covet earnestly the greater gifts  

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Why would we want to be rich after hearing Jesus tell us that it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom?

We’ve been speaking about “k’ilu”, “as IF”, between true and false obedience to the Word and Spirit of God.  We have seen that it is an issue of the heart, of the inner man.  Outwardly, all may seem okay, but inwardly, there is unbelief, insincerity, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, all manner of evil thoughts and intentions.  

Have we seen HIM – the Son of God – whom we have pierced?  Are we sensitive to the sin within us, still too much of our character and personality?  The New Covenant promise is that God has forgiven us of our sins, which Jesus took away through His sacrificial death for us on the cross, and we have been born again through our faith in Him.  God has given us a new heart and a new Spirit within us.  Obviously, the original ones were sick and dead regarding God and His Kingdom.  He has not just fixed or healed or even revived the old, but rather has given us new ones!  This truth alone tells us that it is not true evangelization to tell a sinner to “just ask or receive Jesus into your heart and be saved and born again”.  God does not want to enter our old heart, but wants us to realize that we need a new one.  

Yet we still find ourselves struggling in this body and in the flesh against the Spirit of God within us, who is working to conform us to the image of God’s Son.  The fear of YHVH, who is our Judge and always with us wherever we may go, is KEY to our sensitivity to the great difference between God’s holiness and our version of it in our own lives!  

Let’s look at the 10th commandment:  Thou shalt not covet. . . .What does this mean in our daily life?  It forbids us to envy or to regret the prosperity of our neighbor (read, fellowman), nor are we to want anything improper from him/her.  It also requires that we are satisfied with our own material possessions or status when good things come to our fellowman.  

The commandment, “Do not covet anything that belongs to our neighbor”, does not bother us so much if we think and feel that things are going well with us, and something of ‘lesser’ value comes into our neighbor’s life.  But this commandment applies at all times.  If our ‘neighbor’ gets a job and you don’t, are you happy for him or her?  If your neighbor gets a new car, and you can’t even sell your old one, do you envy them?  If your  husband or wife has a bad temper, and your friend’s wife or husband is kind, do you feel bitter?     Do you remember the story of wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel regarding the vineyard of Naboth their neighbor?  Because Naboth would neither trade his vineyard for a ‘better’ one nor sell it, since it was his family inheritance (1Kg 21), Jezebel had him murdered and Ahab took the vineyard for himself.  Covetousness led Ahab to depression and to accept murder of an innocent man, and he still took the vineyard!  

Are you feeling a bit like Paul did when the commandment came to him, and caused him all kinds of evil desire once he knew from the Law what covetousness was? (Rom 7:7-12 

The 10th commandment gets to the heart of the matter:  sin dwells within us, within the core of our being, and without knowing and living the truth of that, we will try to ‘save ourselves’; we will try all kinds of ways to ‘just do better, try harder’.  The remedy is not in ourselves, but in Jesus, who died on the cross, and with Him, so did we.  Our old man is crucified with Messiah.  In the present battle, we must “guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of our life.” (Prov 4:23)

It is Christ alone who can solve our heart problems.  Covetousness is a heart problem.  If Jesus were truly our all-in-all; if we were truly content with what we have from God; if we truly believed in Jesus’s sovereignty and of God’s perfect love for us as our Father; if we truly loved our neighbor as ourself, then we would overcome the sin in us to covet what another person, or even another nation, has.  

Remember that the general call in our lives as believers is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son.  Unless we recognize and confess our own deep sinfulness, we will not be asking the Lord or others for forgiveness or for God’s righteousness in our lives.  Without the fear of the Lord we will not obey God from the heart with thanksgiving.  If we as children and young men and women do not honor our mother and father even when we are not with them, then we are not living in the fear of God.  When we do not believe that there is a higher authority over us for GOOD, our hearts will act evilly:  what is the standard for morality?; who sets that standard?; who says so!?  Everyone will do what is right in his own eyes under the circumstances, and much evil will occur.  Jesus asks if He will find the faith on the Earth when He returns.  He asks if He will find people still praying and crying out to God for His righteous judgments and for His salvation and deliverance.  He tells us that, except that He does return, no one would be left alive on the Earth.  Such is the deceit and evil of our hearts!  

Only Christ can cure the new heart which we have received when we were born again.  We must learn each day to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus.  As we keep our heart and focus on Him, and know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, our lustful desires will lose their power in our lives.  Our treasure will be in Heaven, and so will our heart.