LOVING YOUR ENEMIES – 27 Oct 2011

On Sunday Turkey suffered a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake, killing hundreds, injuring over a thousand, destroying more than 2000 buildings, leaving thousands homeless and struggling.

Israel offered immediate rescue assistance to Turkey, but the Turkish government refused the initial request, saying they could manage without Israel’s expertise.  With the suffering and emotions rising, the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan changed his mind, and asked Israel for help with pre-fabricated temporary housing units, which Israel was quick to dispatch.

Turkey, as leader of the Islamic Ottoman Empire for 400 years in Palestine, until defeated in 1917 by the British allied forces, had in recent years been an ally of Israel in the region.  More recently, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Turkey has reverted to its hostility towards the sovereign Jewish nation, and has acted as a provocateur and an enemy.

Despite this, the God of Israel has instilled in His people an ethic that makes little logical sense, yet calls for a higher standard than other nations with other gods.  Christians as individuals are called to this standard in a more knowledgeable way, with the example of the Lord Jesus Christ not only teaching, but also demonstrating the way:

Mt 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Pr 25:21-22

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; 
      And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 
       For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,
      And YHVH will reward you.”

Rom 12:17-21

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Therefore,
      “ If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
      If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
      For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

VISION: MESSIAH AND HIS KINGDOM

A leader is responsible to carry and direct those under his authority towards a goal.  It may be to win a battle in a war; or to build a winning team; or to govern a country to preserve its freedoms and values.

An elder or overseer or pastor in a church is responsible to rule the household of God and to bring God’s children to maturity, to function as ‘adults’, and for them to carry on the integrity of the process.  

What is the goal, though?  A leader can not lead beyond what he himself knows or understands to be the purpose.  There may be different ways of reaching the same goal, but these all need to conform to the character of the one who has set the goal.  

There is much in what I, as pastor/elder of Nachalat Yeshua Cong., am limited.  But we are a body that is supposed to build itself up in love towards the goal which God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ has set before us.  

There is spiritual power from the Holy Spirit when we are seeing what God’s purpose is, and have the willingness to obey Him with persevering faith and love until we get there.  To God be the glory!  

Heb 11:8-10,13-16   Abraham saw City of God; dwelt in Land of Promise as in a foreign land; dwelt in tents  

Gen 13:9   Abram and Lot:  go wherever you (Lot) see and want; the whole land was given by YHVH to Abram  

Rev 1:7  revelation of Jesus Christ coming in great power and glory, and all shall see Him and mourn  

Phlp 3:3-8   to know Messiah, Son of Man/Son of God  

Num 9:15-23; Ex 40:34-38   In the wilderness, the cloud would move – sit – move at different intervals, leading the people onward through the wilderness to the Promised Land — not to settle down too much in the wilderness, since the goal was/is the Promised Land.   

The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth – and throughout this universe – for 1000 years.  His coming is that towards which all history and current events are converging.  This, too, is God’s work to bring about the ultimate purpose of this creation and His redemption through the cross:  the new heavens and new earth, with the heavenly New Jerusalem, the city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God, planned for all those who love the Father and His Son:  that which is perfect to come.

A TIME OF REJOICING – 19 Oct 2011

Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive for more than five years by Hamas in Gaza, came back home yesterday, October 18.  It was a day of much anticipation and emotion throughout the nation.  When we saw Gilad walking out from the car which took him out of Hamas’ hands into those of the Egyptians — meaning that he had been freed — it was a moment of tears of joy and thanksgiving.

Israel’s history is full of mourning turned to joy, even if only temporal and temporary.  It looks forward to the day when the Israeli Jewish people will look upon Him whom they have pierced — upon Yeshua who is the greater Son of Israel — and the mourning throughout the millennia will be healed and bring unspeakable joy everlasting.  Jesus will be welcomed and blessed back home to His natural born family.  War will end, and righteousness and peace will reign, and the enemy will be subdued.

Israel is a family:  when one member suffers, all suffer with it; when one is honored, all rejoice wth him.  Yesterday, many are still suffering from the pain of being victims of terrible violent acts against them and their loved ones.  Yet yesterday, ‘all’ Israel rejoiced for Gilad Shalit and his family — and for being Israeli.

Our God is an awesome God!  He is the God of individual persons personally — the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.  He is the God of a people, of a nation, of a family — the God of Israel.  He is a Father to His children — the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is not the God of a religion, and is never called the God of Judaism, or the God of Christianity.  He is the one true living God who is in personal and corporate relationship with those in covenant union with Him.

Yesterday, Israel and Israelis celebrated life.  There was the sound of joy and laughter ‘in the hills of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem’ around the country.  It was a day of dignity and honor, in contrast to those who prefer the sword and cruelty.  Praise the Lord!  “For who is God, except YEHOVAH!  And who is a Rock, except our God!”

May many Muslims be provoked to jealousy and seek the Father who does love them.  May many Jewish people take heart at the truth of the one Man, Yeshua Messiah/Jesus Christ, giving Himself as a sacrifice revealing the grace of God and the gift by that grace of the forgiveness of sins — removing the warfare from off us, and giving us peace — not as the world gives, and which surpasses understanding.

This evening marks the end of Succot/the Feast of Booths, and the Joy of the Law/Simchat Torah is celebrated.  May the Jewish people all over the world return back to the God of their fathers, and rejoice in Him!

THE FEASTS OF YHVH AND THE FINAL HARVEST

The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross was the fulfillment of all the sacrifices:  sin, transgression (guilt), peace, etc.  His death in history fulfilled what God had already ‘done’ before time:  the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8)  Therefore, all of the sacrifices given to Israel in the Torah were based upon that eternally ‘efficacious’ once-for-all sacrifice to be.

Since our salvation is of grace through faith in that sacrifice of Yeshua (Lev 16:30; 23:28-29; Rom 5:1-11), so has this been the lesson to be learned by the Jewish people through the Law and the Prophets, and by Christians through the Gospels and Apostles. Passover was a ‘grace thing’.  NOTHING was spoken about sin.  It was simply a matter of believing and obeying YHVH God, trusting Him to carry out what He was saying to deliver them from a real and felt bondage.  All who simply repent and believe the gospel are saved:  it is all of grace.  Sinners are justified through faith in the Word of God concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The sacrifice of Jesus differs from, and is greater than, the Passover in that it was also a sin and trespass offering, thus fulfilling the Day of Atonements for all who believe.  The Passover occurs during the time of the barley harvest. (Ex 9:31-32)

After Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea, the Law of Moses was then given around Shavuot, the season of the wheat harvest (Ex 34:22).  The blood of the covenant was sprinkled upon the whole people, bringing them into their relationship with YHVH.  The law for sinners was given on external tablets of stone to bring us to know we are in need of God’s grace to forgive us if we are going to have rest and peace within ourselves, and to demonstrate this to others through love of God and of our fellow-man.

After the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was given to the born-again Jewish people at Shavuot/Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit filled and dwelled within the believers, bringing them/us into a more personal and intimate covenant relationship with God, as members of the Body of Messiah.  The law of Messiah on the ground of His death, and His resurrection from among the dead, becomes the basis for our living.

NOW (that is, after knowing the laws and regulations by which to live), Israeland the Church — have been given lots of time to figure out that they are not living up to the standard which we have been given, whether under the Old Covenant, or under the New.  We have all been disobedient, needing God’s mercies.  (Those outside God’s covenants are just that — outside — and are called to come inside.  This includes Jewish people too, since the New Covenant was, and still is, for them.  (Jer 31:31-37; Rom 9:4; 11:27) 

SO, what did the prophets do?  What did John the Baptizer do?  What did Yeshua do?  What do the apostles who wrote most of the N.T. still do, since the Scriptures are written for us living at the end of the age?  They called — and still call — firstly the people of God, i.e., Jewish people and Christians to repent – and come back home to the Father — for the Kingdom of God/Heaven is near — for the coming of the Lord [to judge and to establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth] is near!  Based on what? . . .on the Law and the Prophets; on the Sermon on the Mount and the Epistles.

The New Covenant, first offered to Israel, but rejected in the sovereign wisdom of God in order to take the offer to all peoples, brings both Jews and Gentiles to accountability to the one true living God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob/Israel, who is Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, and the Redeemer through His Son, Yeshua the Nazarene.

Gentiles being brought into the Commonwealth of Israel through faith in the King of the Jews (but not becoming Jews or Israelis), both Israelis (Jewish people) and Christians (whether Jewish or Gentile) are being called to get ready through repentance and sanctification as the Memorial of the Blowing of Trumpets is nearing its fulfillment.  While God begins His judgment within His own household first, He is still working through the Great Commission to bring ever more people into His household.  Many more Gentiles will be saved before ‘all Israel’ will be. (Rom 11:25-27)                                                             

BEING SAVED BY GRACE (Passover) IS NOT TO BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED.  THE LAW, THE INDWELLING HOLY SPIRIT, AND THE WHOLE WORD OF GOD, TELL US PLAINLY THAT WE ARE SINNERS WHO NEED TO EXPRESS HEART-FELT THANKS FOR SUCH GRACE AND MERCY (Day of Atonements), AND LIVE OUR LIVES OUT OF LOVE FOR GOD AND JESUS, AND BECAUSE OF THAT, WE LOVE THE BRETHREN ALSO, AND EVEN OUR ENEMIES. 

This being pretty difficult (understatement) to live out, Israel (and also the Church through a corresponding spiritual awakening) has the fulfillment of the Day of Atonements coming (Zech 12:10-14), when they deeply know and are afflicted in soul, both personally and collectively, for their sin and rebellion against YHVH God and against Jesus (Lev 26:40-43), against His commandments and judgments. (Rom 1:28,32; Jude; Rev 2:18 – 3:22, for some examples)

Yom Kippur is the conviction and the confession that we are sinners, that it is only the grace of God through His own righteousness, demonstrated by the foundational Passover sacrifice to bring us into that relationship with Him through faith expressed through obedience, which grants us forgiveness and life. 

There is only one atonement for all — accomplished on the cross — but God in His love and wisdom has worked out His redemptive plan to bring us humans into a knowledge — no longer innocence — of Him and His ways so that we mature into sons and daughters — and even to being the Bride of the Lamb for those who “overcome [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death”. (Rev 12:11)

On this ground of a cleansed and forgiven people — not only as a matter of doctrine or covenant promise, but of living faith in God’s provision of His blood sacrifice — YHVH, whose name is Holy, can dwell in the midst of His chosen people, and they will be then a blessing to the other nations, glorifying Him who has done it!  This is the fulfillment of the Feast of Booths (a temporary, semi-enclosed covering; not really ‘tabernacles’, which is another word, and carries a different connotation) for Israel as the Israel of God during the Millennial Kingdom yet to come.  This final feast/appointed time of YHVH for Israel celebrates the joy of all the harvests with the final fruit ingathering, and the prosperity which God supplies to and through His people. (Dt 16:13-15)

For the Church, the Bride of Christ, it is possible to say that we are already a ‘tabernacle’ of the Holy Spirit — an enclosed dwelling place for God — and those who have that blessedness to have part in the first resurrection will truly have the fullness of the Spirit (rather than ‘mere’ firstfruits Rom 8:23), and will rule and reign with Messiah over Israel and the nations during that final Sabbath Day of history and time, to bring everything to its culmination of the final harvest of souls, either to live forever with Yeshua in the New Heavens and New Earth, and New Jerusalem, in the abundant life God has planned for all who love Him (1Cor 2:9; Is 64:4; Jn 10:10); or else to exist forever separated from God in outer darkness, where the worm does not die, and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.  These things I command you, that you love one another.” (Jn 15:16-17)

GILAD SHALIT AND THE FACE OF GOD – 13 Oct 2011

On the eve of the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles, which is a time of rejoicing for the children of Israel who have blessed the God of Israel for preserving and identifying with them as His people, the news has been full of the deal made with Hamas to release the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, after more than five years of being held captive without ANY visitations deemed lawful and ethical under conventions legislated by world bodies, such as by the Red Cross under the Geneva Convention.

For his release, Israel has agreed to release more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners who have been involved in terrorist attacks on Israel and her citizens and friends.  All are happy for Gilad and for his family; many are concerned at the price paid and the risks involved.

I am reminded of Jacob, who was reminded of his name being changed to Israel, when he was confronted with once again meeting his brother Esau/Edom, after about 20 years from their last encounter.  Jacob was rightly afraid of his brother’s intentions, and it took a wrestling match with the Angel YHVH, who crippled Jacob in his own strength, to enable Israel to go forward.  We read all this in Genesis chapters 32 and 33. 

When Jacob finally saw Esau, Jacob bowed down seven times.  Then the mothers and the children all bowed down before Esau.  For all the fear, Jacob saw in Esau’s face the Face of God — a human being created in the image of God, just as he was.  The LORD was teaching Jacob/Israel that it was not his own righteousness, nor Esau’s unrighteousness, which was at issue, but rather the righteousness of God to whom both needed to be reconciled.  Jacob was looking for favor in Esau’s eyes — to see God’s Face.

It is clear from the account at this meeting, and from the after-history of both peoples and nations, that Esau/Edom never accepted that the Land of Canaan — the Promised Land — belonged to Jacob/Israel by the sovereign choice of YHVH God as an integral part of the covenant promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob

The State of Israel today cares, in general, about the value of life.  Her heritage comes from the living God of the living, even in her unbelief and rebellion against Him.  Without normal common sense, she is risking her future peace and security by releasing murderers for a lone soldier who was captured and certainly mistreated — at the very least psycologically.

With fear and trembling — and a mixture of faith and bravado — the Israeli government and the Jewish people are once again ‘bowing down’ to their “brothers”, who are still not reconciled to the land being Israel’s, and who are still determined in their spirits to kill and wipe out Israel from being a nation.

Israel does not have a clear conscience, because deep inside they also know that they are not just in all their dealings, and even deeper inside, God has left His own wound for the Jewish people’s responsibility and guilt in the crucifixion of their brother — Yeshua/Jesus, the first-born Heir of God’s vineyard.

Could it be that the Holy Spirit, in God’s dealings with His people even in their blindness and hardness of heart, is working in Israel what Messiah Jesus is requiring from His Church/His Body with eyes open and from a willing heart?:   

Mt 5:21-26

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”

Israel is forever being blamed as a scapegoat, and unjustly required to apologize and to accept blame for so many of the world’s troubles.  These accusations come from those with a bitter root and a murderous grudge, envying what is not theirs, and threatening any one who would hold them to account.  Their hatred is so obsessive that manifests itself in this:  if we can not have it, neither will you.

For all this, the Holy One of Israel calls His people to a different standard as HIS witnesses.  If one in covenant with Him thinks that someone has something against them, it is for that one to go to the ‘possibly’ offended person and ask forgiveness.  Israel’s right to exist is from the one true God, but not in her own right:  it is CHRIST who died to confirm the promises of God, and He is long-suffering in His love to get them to return back to Him, even through their fear of losing all.  Such an unequal exchange — one for the many — may be a one-off event, and the war continues until the coming again of the Messiah Jesus, the LORD of Hosts.

The true Face of God is seen in the Person of Jesus Christ, and through His willing submission to the Father’s will, peace is obtained by all who believe.

 

THE TENTH OF THE SEVENTH MONTH – 8 Oct 2011

Today is the 10th day of the 7th month in the Biblical Hebrew calendar.  It is the holiest day in the Jewish year; it is the Sabbath of Sabbaths, and today is, in fact, also the Sabbath day.  This day is called the Day of Atonements (Yom Ha-Kippurim; Yom Kippur)  You can read its significance in chapters 16 and 23 of Leviticus in the Torah.

The streets of Beer Sheva are full of children laughing and playing in the streets, as cars are not being driven on the roads.  Synagogues of full of people seeking God’s forgiveness of their sins, with the hope that He would grant them another year of life.  The Book of Jonah is read in the synagogues on this most holy day:  the very sign which Messiah Yeshua gave to His people who are still rejecting Him for who He is — that of Jonah — has sovereignly been placed into the liturgy of this most sacred day for the Jewish people to read!

What is striking about YHVH God’s requirements for this day on behalf of the children of Israel is that the nation should afflict its soul.  The nation is made up of individuals, each one of whom is called to afflict his/her soul.  There is no specific commandment to fast from eating:  fasting in itself does not afflict one’s soul; but if one’s soul is afflicted, he will not want to eat.

The Biblical record in the Old and the New Testaments does not really give us an account of Israel observing the Day of Atonements.  Even in the book of Nehemiah, chapter 8, there is the account of the people observing the first day of the seventh month — the Memorial of the Blowing of Shofars/Trumpets — and then the celebration of Booths, which begins on the evening of the 14th of the month (the 15th day).  Yom Kippur is skipped over in the account.

Looking ahead, we read in Zechariah chapter 12 that that day is coming when all Israel — the full remnant which remains from all the tribes — who will look on Him — on Jesus/Yeshua — whom we have pierced.  And then there will be a great travail of soul within each Israeli as part of a national/corporate reality.  When Israel finally sees and accepts her sin against the Father and the Son — the very One who has preserved them, and who gave up His life for them that their sins would be forgiven and removed — there will be a great affliction of soul, and God will dwell in the midst of His people.

For the Christian — those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ — has your soul been afflicted for the sins of the Church against the truth of Jesus?  When we read the assessment of the Lord Jesus Himself concerning His churches in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and His call to each person within the churches to hear what the Spirit is saying, have you ever experienced an affliction of your soul for your own part in that?  Have we ever been broken to the point of weeping for our own sinfulness, not merely over some sins we may be committing?

Rom 7:12   For indeed the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.

Rom 7:13  Then has that which is good become death to me? Let it not be! But sin, that it might appear to be sin, working death in me by that which is good; in order that sin might become exceedingly sinful by the commandment.

Rom 7:14  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Rom 7:15  For that which I do, I know not. For what I desire, that I do not do; but what I hate, that I do.

Rom 7:16  If then I do that which I do not desire, I consent to the law that it is good.

Rom 7:17  But now it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Rom 7:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing. For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I do not find.

Rom 7:19  For I do not do the good that I desire; but the evil which I do not will, that I do.

Rom 7:20  But if I do what I do not desire, it is no more I working it out, but sin dwelling in me.

Rom 7:21  I find then a law: when I will to do the right, evil is present with me.

Rom 7:22  For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man;

Rom 7:23  but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin being in my members.

Rom 7:24  O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?! 

Rom 7:25  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.