THE MYSTERY OF ISRAEL

Rom 11:25  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.

Is 25:7  And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.  

Rev 7  And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.  And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God:  and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,   Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 

And I heard the number of them which were sealed:  and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.  Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Naphtali were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.   Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand.  Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. 

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;  And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.  And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,  Saying, Amen:  Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever.  Amen. 

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes?  and whence came they?  And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest.  And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them.  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.  For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters:  and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Rom 11:26  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Jer 31:7  For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O YHVH, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.

Dan 12:1  And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Zec 12:10-14  And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications:  and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.  In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.  And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;  The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;  All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.

OF GOD. . .OR OF MAN

Pr 21:30   There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against YHVH

Ps 51:4 (6 Heb)   Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight. . .that YOU may be found just when You speak, blameless when You judge.

Mk 11:25-33   –obligation to forgive
                     –by what authority do you do these things?
                        –by what authority does a government act? (Rom 13:1-7)
                        –by what authority do parents, church elders act?
–by what authority did Noah build the ark?
                     –by what authority was the baptism of John?  Of God, or of man?
                     –by what authority was/is the re-establishment of Israel as a nation in this land?
   —Of God, or of man?
                           –by the wisdom and understanding and sovereignty of YHVH God, both!
                              –God keeping covenant for His holy name’s sake
                              –Balfour Declaration in Nov 1917
                              –through a clear majority vote of the United Nations in Nov 1947

The sin of King David did not nullify YHVH’s covenant with him.

The sin of the Jewish people/Israel does not nullify God’s covenant with them. (Ezek 36; Rom 9 – 11)

The sin of human governments does not nullify their moral obligation to defend and protect its citizens.

Lk 7:28-30   the tax collectors justified God by being baptized by John, but the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

Even though the religious leaders and theologians knew that the issue of Jesus was surrounded by the question, “of God, or of man”, so, too, today with the issue of Israel.  Are we fighting God, or justifying Him?

If we are not sure, then let the fear of God keep us from being too certain to take a position in our hearts which judges God and those who have acted with faith to support His plan for His Holy Name’s sake.

 If we think we are sure, let us humbly and patiently allow the Holy Spirit to bring repentance and freedom in those who are resisting the will of God for themselves.  Like David, God will also bring Israel to confess their sin against Him only, with all its consequences, and all Israel will be saved. (Lev 26:40-46; Ezek 20:39-44; 36:16-29; Zech 12:7-14; Rom 11:25-36)

THE UNCHANGING MESSAGE: REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED!

Acts 2:22-41   Men of Israel, hear these words: . . .  

The apostle Peter preached to the Jewish people/the children of Israel, in the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Shavuot/Pentecost, a message that has not changed.  It is still the essence of any evangelism to the Jews, despite the history of the last 2000 years.  I want to bring out a few salient features which can not be altered.  

v.22 – this message was preached firstly to the people of Israel, both those within the Land, and those of the dispersion who were here for the celebration of Shavuot
       –Yeshua ha-Notzri/Jesus the Nazarene:  spiritual significance to this name of Messiah; chosen by God, rejected by man (Is 53 [see article, “What’s In A Name?”  http://streamsinthenegev.com/school-of-fish/what-is-in-a-name-yeshua-shall-be-called-a-nazarene/ ]

v. 23 – God’s plan from the creation to send Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to die for our sins – of Israel, of the nations, of all human beings
         –we Jewish people – as the ones whom God chose – just as He determined in advance to make Yeshua the ultimate and final sacrifice – are guilty of putting Messiah to death through lawless hands – both of Jews and of Romans/Gentiles  

v. 24 – But God raised up Yeshua from death, because death can not stop God from living, or from givng life to the Righteous One – and to those who are made righteous through faith in Him  

v. 32-33 – Peter and the other apostles, and 500 others, were eyewitnesses that truly Jesus rose from the dead, and that He ascended to Heaven to the right hand of God, from where He pours out and gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers.  

v. 36Again, Peter, the apostle to the Israelis/Jews, declares plainly our responsibility and guilt for the crucifixion of this Yeshua, whom God has made both Lord and Messiah.
            –Yeshua is the netzer (the shoot from the root), chosen and precious to God, despised and rejected by Man
            –Yeshua is the one to whom the Throne of David belongs, and He is Lord of lords and King of kings; High Priest, who always lives to make intercession for us; the Prophet, who spoke and is the Word of God  

v. 37 – The preaching of the truth through Peter cut the hearers to the heart, and they said, “What must we do?!
           — It may be noteworthy that there is no altar call here, but rather that the Holy Spirit convicted the crowd of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to the point that they cried out and sought God’s mercy.   

v. 38Repent, and be baptized each one in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!
           –baptism in the name of the Lord, which is the example of all the baptisms in water recorded (Yeshua’s instructions to His disciples at the end of the gospel of Matthew does not refer to water baptism, but rather to discipleship into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – into the fullness of who the triune YHVH God is.)
           –our hearts convicted and broken, leading to repentance from our sin of unbelief and unfaithfulness to our God (Lev 26:38-42; Zech 12:10-14 

This message of grace and truth to the Jewish people still remains.  The righteousness of God and of His sovereign plan of salvation for all is still the issue for us all, for those who believe and to those who still do not.  We preach Christ Jesus, and not ourselves.  God indeed knows what is in our hearts.

THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST

1Thes 1:2-10   We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of God our Fatherknowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.  Evidenced by their change of worldview and lifestyle; their endurance through suffering for the sake of faith in Jesus, with joy of the Holy Spirit; and their hopeful expectation of the return of the Lord to deliver them from the wrath of God to come.  

Heb 6:1-2   Therefore leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Messiah, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms; of laying on of hands; of resurrection of the dead; and of eternal judgment.
      –from being mere ‘children’ to becoming ‘sons’
      —Dan 12:2   And many of those who sleep in the dust shall awakesome to everlasting life; some to shame and everlasting contempt
      —1Cor 15:13-19; Jn 11:23-24   without the resurrection, our faith, teaching, and lives are vain, futile  

Acts 24:14-16; 23:6; 26:6-7   But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and the Prophets.  I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.  This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and man.
   –the hope of the resurrection is the promise of God to His people; at least as far back as Job we have a record of living hope in the resurrection
   –personal responsibility to live as a righteous person, to live in a manner that proves we believe in the resurrection of the just
   –God raised Jesus – not Moses, not Buddha, not Mohammed, not Gandhi – from among the dead (Mk 9:9-10)
      –proof of being the Son of God; of God’s satisfaction with Him; of His being the Just One
      –first-born of many brethren: in Him we, too, will be raised up from among the dead on the last day!
         –Do you believe the love of the truth 

2Tim 4:8   Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who love His appearing.
   –everlasting crown, not a temporary or fading one (‘icing on the cake’; ‘to top it all off’; ‘the best of it all’)
   –the resurrection of the just (Dan 12:2; Jn 5:26-29;Acts 24:15; Phlp 3:11; Rev 20:6)
   –if our conscience is clear, we are neither afraid or embarrassed to see someone who knows  us
   —1Jn 4:17-19   where there is love, there is no fear of judgment
      –The Holy Spirit works in us to prepare us for the Day of Judgment.  Part of the Lord’s prayer which He teaches us is that we be delivered from the evil (day; one).  

   –all the trials of life are intended to prove, strengthen, perfect our faith in Him who has demonstrated  his everlasting love for us.
   –humility: conformity to the image of the Son of God
      –the tension in life between the sovereignty of God and man’s free will
      –confidence in God; no confidence in the flesh, in me, in my credentials
         –I do not do very well in many things.  My faith, hope, and love are in Jesus, who died for sinners to make us righteous in God’s sight.  

2Tim 1:8-12   Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.  For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

OVERCOMING HATRED FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

(Delivered at NEM Conference at the Baptist Village in Israel, April 23, 2006)

Mt 5:9-11   Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  

I tell people who ask me what it’s like to live as a believer in Israel that Israel is a great place to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, because it’s difficult to be lukewarm about our faith.  We have many first-hand experiences related to the passage we read from Matthew.  The Middle East provides us with many opportunities to be “blessed, happy, satisfied” if we are motivated by the love and purposes of God.  

Rom 12:17-21   There is no guarantee of success in our pursuit of peace or in our peace-making with others, but we are to live in the power of the Holy Spirit in us to demonstrate the truth – the reality – of our faith in Jesus and of His being our Savior and Lord.  

It is the peace of GOD that we have which we are to communicate and strive to obtain with others.  It is a peace which surpasses understanding.  Any other peace will be only temporary at best; only Jesus gives what is true peace:  it is a fruit of God’s righteousness; the price has been paid to secure it; it gives rest to the whole person, and nothing can take it away.  It begins when we return to God through the atonement of Jesus and know that our sins have been forgiven and we have received the Holy Spirit and eternal life.  

In our local congregation, Yeshua’s Inheritance/Nachalat Yeshua, we are each and all there because Jesus has placed us there.  We must learn to accept whom He has accepted, to love one another despite great differences of background and personalities; to forgive each other because we are disciples of Jesus.  In Israeli churches, we have a training ground to overcome natural prejudices towards other nations since so many of us have come from countries that were hostile or jealous of each other!  

The Christians – whether Jewish or gentile – live in not only a non-Christian country, but an anti-Christian country.  Both Judaism and Islam are opposed to the truth of Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God.  Even secularized Jews and Muslims are naturally inclined to resist the gospel.  Our congregation has twice been targets of angry irrational mobs, who were incited by false rumors started and spread by their religious leaders.  This is no different than in the days of Jesus, Stephen, Paul.  Jesus tell His disciples that if hate and persecute us, it is because they first did so to Him.  This is a proof that they do not know God the Father who sent Yeshua His only begotten Son.  To be anti-Semitic and anti-Christian is to be, first of all, anti-YHVH God and His sovereignty.  We are chosen and saved by His grace to glorify Him.  

A simple act of “giving a cup of cold water” to an enemy of the gospel can demonstrate our goodwill and desire to be at peace with him.  After all, Jesus commands us to even love our enemies, which we can only do for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  This is a clear demonstration that we are willing to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  

In Jewish/Arab, Israeli/Palestinian, missionary ministries in the Middle East, which strive to reconcile people to God and to one another, it is the Word of God to which we must all be reconciled and bring forth with humility in our efforts to be right with God and to have His grace working through us.  In such a region of conflict, which is firstly spiritual in nature, we have a moral responsibility to be in agreement with God on any issue, and then humbly seek to persuade others of the righteousness of God.  This way results in joy in the Holy Spirit, when we acknowledge that it is God who has done it!

Questions:   

1.  How does our understanding of what the Bible teaches about the “end-times”, the “last days”, affect our ministry and message of reconciliation, of pursuing peace?  When is “in that day” referring to in Isaiah 19:23-25?  

2.  Does our expectation of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth make a difference in our efforts at peace-making?
   –What if the Master “delays” His coming?
   –What if nothing seems to indicate signs of His coming?
   –Do we believe and know that Jesus will come again?  

3.  If the Lord Jesus is coming to judge the nations, how does this affect our ministry?
   –Calling anyone and everyone to repentance and to believe the good news
   –Being light and salt  

4.  If believers are commanded to love one another as Jesus has loved us, how does this affect our relationships with believers from unfriendly or enemy nations or people groups?  

5.  Would having a personal experience of suffering hatred and persecution for our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ make a difference in our approach to unbelievers who oppose the gospel?  

6.  Jesus said that His peace is not like the peace which the world gives.  What are some of the differences? 

PHINEAS, AND GOD’S COVENANT OF PEACE

YHVH God makes and keeps covenants.  He is righteous and faithful to keep them all until they be completely fulfilled.  This makes them everlasting:  until He fulfills them, no matter how long it takes; and, until the end of history.  It is the New Covenant – a better covenant – which not only finds fulfillment in time – through the coming Millenial Kingdom of Messiah – but, even more so, seals the promise of eternity, when time is no more, and will be the foundation of the new heavens and new Earth which God will create for all those who love the Father and His Son.

One of the most interesting covenants which YHVH has made is often overlooked.  He made it while Israel was still in the desert before they entered the promised land of Canaan, around 1400 BC.  This covenant preceded the Davidic covenant by several hundred years, yet is just as significant regarding the Levitical priesthood as David’s is pertaining to the throne. (Jer 33:19-22)

Num 25:1-13
Phineas (Pinchas in Hebrew), son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the High Priest, was zealous for the honor of YHVH his God at a time when Israel was unfaithful to God and His holiness.  This was reckoned to Pinchas as righteousness (Ps 106:28-31; Ja 2:14-24).  The LORD promised to Pinchas, and to his descendants after him, an everlasting priesthood – a covenant of peace, in which the one true God would forever show His favor upon the family line of Pinchas.  We see the beginning of this in Judges 20:27-28 where Pinchas is honored by serving God before the Ark of the Covenant in the Land of Israel (about 1380 BC).

Just as Israel’s history seemed to collapse, God knew His way to restore us as a nation and will fulfill all His covenantal promises to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob. . .and to Phineas.

Let’s trace this out:
1Sam 2:12, 34-35  Eli the priest had two corrupt sons who did not know YHVH; God will replace them with a faithful priest after His own heart and mind, and will walk before His anointed forever.

The rebellion against the heir of the throne of David, first by Absalom, then by Adonijah:
2Sam 15:24-36: 1Kg 2:26-27  Solomon removed Abiathar from being priest to YHVH in fulfillment of YHVH’s word concerning the house of Eli.

1Chr 29:22; 2Sam 8:17; 1Kg 1:34  Zadok was established instead of the son of Abiathar as priest to YHVH by Solomon when he became King of Israel, and Zadok was the priest who anointed Solomon as king after his father David.  

Who was Zadok?
1Chr 5:27-41 [6:1-15 Eng.]  Zadok was a descendant of Pinchas!

Who was Jozadak’s son?
Ezra 3:1-2  Jeshua (Yeshua in Heb.) the priest is Jozadak’s son, and is, therefore a descendant of Zadok and Phineas.

Who was Ezra?
Ezra 7:1-6,10  Ezra the priest, who loved the LORD and His Law, was a descendant of Zadok and of Phineas!

God was keeping His promise to Pinchas over 850 years later when some of the Jews returned to the Land of Israel after the Babylonian captivity.

Who is Jeshua (Joshua/Yeshua) the priest?
Zech 6:11-13 (Hag 1:1; 2:2)  The BRANCH (Tzemach in Heb.), who will build the Temple of YHVH and be a king and priest on YHVH’s throne! “And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

This is a clear reference to Yeshua the Messiah, whose right to the priesthood transcends the promise to Pinchas – fulfilling it and going beyond – and is fulfilling the promise of God to Messiah, Son of David, the Branch (netzer, shoot, from out of the roots of Jesse) (Is 4:2; Jer 23:5-6), that He would be a priest forever [not after Aaron and the tribe of Levi, but]according to the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4; Heb 5 & 7), and also King on the throne of David, of the tribe of Judah.  This carries us beyond time and also manifests God’s kingdom of priests over Israel and the nations in time.  Yeshua is Lord of Heaven and Earth!

Ezek 37:21-28; 40:46; 44:15; 48:11-12 (2Sam 15:24-36; 1Kg 1:8,34)  during the Millennial Kingdom on this Earth – fulfilling the promises of God which He has made in His covenants for Israel, for the nations, for the animal kingdom, for all nature and the created order – it will be the sons of Zadok, the descendant of Phineas, who was a faithful priest to serve YHVH, who will have the honor of the priesthood.  Our God is faithful and able to fulfill His promise made over 3400 years ago to Pinchas, who acted with holy zeal for the glory and honor of his God.  God has staked His holy name and the entire created order on His promise and ability to faithfully fulfill to the family of David (the kingship) and to the family of Levi (the priesthood) His covenantal promises. (Jer 33:14-26)

God our Father knows each of us.  The lists of genealogies in the Bible prove His power and love and His personal interest in His people and His Kingdom.  They help us to know the history and to have confidence in God’s promises.  Even if we are unfaithful or unable, He is not.  YHVH our God knows how to fulfill His word to each of us, too, even when it seems all has collapsed or that others have somehow ‘gotten in the way’.

Through our faith in Jesus, we have each and all together received exceedingly great and precious promises, including God’s peace, a peace which surpasses understanding. 

2Pet 1:2-4  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Yeshua our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.     

We are called to be salt and light in the Earth.  There are times we must “confront the issues rather than adjust to them” (Francis Frangipane, 20.1.06), and to “care enough to act” with God’s jealousy, like Phineas, to put the fear of God in our society, and to protect and give the possibility of liberty to those under the influence of evil.  Jesus says He will be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father and the holy angels, of whoever is ashamed of Him and His words in this adulterous and sinful generation (Mk 8:38).

In Messiah, we have received even greater promises than Pinchas.  Let us, like him, be zealous for the Name of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who for the zeal of His Father’s house, died on the cross for God’s righteousness to make atonement for the sins of His people.

God honors those who honor Him.  (1Sam 2:30)

THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID

Amos 9:11-12   On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may inherit the remnant of Edom and all the gentiles who are called by My Name, sys YHVH who does this thing.  

Acts 15:16-17   After this I will return and will rebuild. . .so that the rest of mankind may seek YHVH. . ..  

2 Sam 23:34,37,39; 1 Chron 11:46   Tselek the Ammonite, Uriah the Hittite, Itmah the Moabite – some of the Gentiles with David — and also Eliam, the father of Batsheva and son of Ahitophel  

–one Shepherd, one King over Israel and the rest of the world
–those who gathered around David included gentiles – even those excluded from entering the assembly of YHVH (Dt 23:3) and from those whose territory would be conquered for Israel’s promised possession (Josh 1:4)
–These mighty men of David strengthened themselves with him in his kingdom, with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of YHVH concerning Israel (1Chron 11:10).
   –They loved David.
   –They knew that he was the one chosen by God for His purposes of establishing the Messianic Kingdom.
   –They were willing to sacrifice their own personal interests and security for the protection of David and his kingship.  They were personally committed and corporately committed (2Sam 21: 15-17; 23:13-17).  They helped to establish Israel under David’s rule, and to preserve his kingdom against those who sought to undermine it.  

–The restoration of the tabernacle of David – a unified kingdom in Israel of both native-born and the strangers who joined themselves to it – follows harsh trials and judgments upon Israel (Amos 9:8-10) and upon the House of David, and following the present age of the gospel to all peoples (Acts 15:16-17) 

–The ultimate fulfillment of all the “jots and tittles” in Amos and in Acts 15 will be only after the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom over all Israel, the remnant of Edom, and all the rest of mankind and the Earth.  

–With the establishment of God’s righteous kingdom, then serving and the worship of YHVH without fear (Lk 1:70-75) will be enjoyed by all those who have loved and trusted Him for salvation and for God’s purposes.

THE CROSS

Mt 5:4/Lk 6:21   “Blessed are they who mourn/weep now, for they shall be comforted/laugh.”

Within the past month, members of this congregation have experienced mourning and weeping.  With the death of two family members, loved ones and friends had a personal and family experience of weeping and mourning.  And now this week, we have joined with the nation that weeps for her children, the 73 young men – soldiers – who died without warning or expectation; not at the hand of their enemies, but in a collision of two helicopters of our own.

Who among us did not cry before the Lord when we heard the news?  Who did not feel the pain of the families and close friends?  Who among the children of God the Father in Heaven does not pray from his heart, “Until when LORD?!; Thy Kingdom come!; Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHVH!; Come, Lord Jesus!”?

I heard that among some groups of the religious, there was rejoicing!  These are those who do not even recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel because their Messiah has not yet come.  YHVH’s Anointed One, Yeshua/Jesus, whom we know has come, and will come again, used the example of national tragedies to bring the people to repentance.  He proclaimed that those killed were not worse sinners than others, and that unless they repented, they, too, would likewise perish. (Lk 13:1-5)

Those who were rejoicing in their heart – whether they be Israelis or enemies of Israel – will not know the comfort which the Lord Jesus promises to those who mourn.  Let us look together at another passage from the prophet Ezekiel, and consider the mourning of which Messiah speaks:  Ezek 9:1-11 (esp. v. 4,9)  The city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel (Judah) are filled with blood, violence, iniquity because the people have no personal relationship with, nor faith in YHVH.  There is no genuine fear of God.  Instead, they say that the LORD has forsaken the land, and that He does not see.  Yet there were those within the city who sigh and groan over all the abominations done in Jerusalem, and by the religious priests in the sanctuary of YHVH.  Upon these mourners the Lord ordered His servants to write a  mark on their foreheads.

It is interesting that in ancient Hebrew the letter ת (tav) was written like a ‘t’.  The ‘mark‘ here in v. 4 is called a tav
(תו).  Brothers and Sisters, the mark of God, which He places on those whom He delivers and passes over from His wrath, is the cross!  It is at the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus/Yeshua that self is slain, and God alone is good and worthy.

The message of the cross is proof that the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek/Gentile:  The Jews do not accept it, and the Gentiles do not respect it. (1Cor 1:18-23)  Jewish people avoid any use of a cross design or symbol (even in arithmetic and at a cross-road intersection!), and Gentiles who know little or nothing of the true meaning of the cross have used it to terrorize Jews and others, and to blaspheme God and Christ.

The truth is that the cross, and its message of Messiah crucified, is, like the gospel, from God.  It is the New Covenant in Jesus which brings it to light.  Besides the ‘mark’ in Ezekiel, the cross appears in other significant places in Israel’s history by God’s plan and wisdom:
–the sprinkled blood on the door posts at the Passover in Egypt
–the formation of the tribes of Israel as they camped and moved on in the desert, with the Tabernacle in their midst at the center
–in the arrangement of the holy furnishings and vessels of the Tabernacle and the Temple, showing the way into God’s presence and glory

The cross is God’s mark upon His people, which represents the spiritual condition of the inner man.  To the carnal and unbelieving it is a mark of shame and dishonor; to the spiritual person in Christ, it is the mark of God’s glory in the person and character and atoning death of His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, and of God’s redeemed people, whose glory is our Head, even Christ Jesus Himself.  The cross is God’s mark to separate the world from His people, and His people from the world. (Gal 6:14), and it is by the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross, which we, as it were, sprinkle (1Pt 1:2) on our hearts and minds, that God will save us from the day of His judgment, which begins – today as in Ezekiel’s day – in the household of God. (1Pt 4:17)

The other night at the Bible study from the epistle to the Galatians, we discussed the matter of circumcision, which was and still is an issue in some groups, as a sign of keeping God’s covenant with Israel and with belonging to His people – even for Gentiles.  Foods also have an importance in similar arguments.  During the same time as our study, but without our knowledge, the helicopter collision occurred in which the 73 persons with names were killed without warning and, as far as we know, without Christ.  The nation mourns; we share in that grief.  God’s kingdom is not about circumcision and food (Heb 13:9), but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Peace is the fruit of righteousness, and especially that righteousness which comes from God.  Joy in the Kingdom of God is a holy joy, not a devilish delight in other people’s calamities or sin, but rather a joy in truth and righteousness and judgment (justice) and goodness.  Despite their significance, our righteousness before God does not depend upon such matters of circumcision and food, or even head coverings, and the Lord does not want contention (discord) and divisions over them, which can only quench and grieve the Holy Spirit.

A true Jew and a true Christian seeks God’s approval.  God approves of us when we believe in and obey His Son, our Lord Jesus.  Jesus acknowledges us as belonging to Him when we do the will of His Father in Heaven.  God is working both within Israel and within the Church to cleanse and to purify His people.  To be a disciple, Jesus says that we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Him.  Both baptism in water and the cross speak the same message:  death to the self-life; alive unto God in the Spirit through faith. 

This way which we travel, and which Israel is being required by her God and Savior to travel, is long and hard and narrow.  It is a well-traveled road, and many more will yet know suffering on it.  Yeshua/Jesus, the King whom Jewish people say they do not want to rule over them, but whom YHVH God intends that they will have, has walked this same way – the way of the cross.  He exposed Himself to the condemnation of man, and became a curse for us under God’s own Law, in order that we could receive God’s approval.  If we follow Jesus and His lead on this path, we will arrive safely home – our conscience cleansed, and with love out of a purified heart perfected.  Despite the sentence of death in ourselves, we go on in victory in Christ because God has forgiven us of our sin and our sins.  Praise the LORD!  Yeshua is no longer on the cross!

The Lord is calling us to intercede in mercy  — as His priests — for the Jewish and Arab peoples to repent and to believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is near.  Until they do, there will continue to be much sorrow and mourning.  Until we let God’s spiritual mark distinguish us, then we, too, stand in danger of suffering from God’s righteous judgments upon the world. (1Cor 11:31-32)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”  God intends to answer the prayer which the Lord has taught us to pray and which the Holy Spirit quickens as the birth pains increase.

Let’s be encouraged together, as we conclude from the truth of God’s prophetic word:  Rev 21:1-7; 22:1-9

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.