THE FIRST PARABLE: KEY TO ALL THE PARABLES – 27 Aug 2005

Last week we spoke about vision and seeing the Kingdom of God and His call and purpose for this congregation, Nachalat Yeshua.  It was brought out that, according to Messiah Himself, knowing and understanding the first of His parables is crucial to understanding all the rest of His parables.  It is the privilege of His disciples to know them, whereas the multitude does not.  The parables of Jesus help us understand the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven as God works in the world today.

There are three series of parables which the Lord gives over the course of His ministry.  They seem to have reference to three different stages of Pharasaic opposition and popular feeling.  The Pharisees were accusing Jesus of being of the devil, whereas popular opinion was divided, with some wanting to make Him King already.  Jesus would speak in parables when those who were following Him – both believers and unbelievers – were not receptive to what He was saying, for example, when they expected the Kingdom to be then rather than include gentiles and be established in the future.  The parables helped conceptualize otherwise blanket statements hard to imagine, especially being that the subject matter required spiritual understanding of the things of God.  For those who wanted to understand, the Lord would explain His parabolic teaching; for those who did not, even the parable became a further proof of their hardened hearts and self-interest.

The first series of parables (Mt 13) reveal the elementary truths concerning the planting of the Kingdom of God, its development, reality, value, and final vindication.  The second series (Lk 10-16; 18) also concern the Kingdom of God, and while they are still characteristically evangelical, they also exhibit a controversial tone as the opposition to Jesus intensified.  The third series (Mt 18; 20-22; 24-25; Lk 19) are primarily judicial, with some evangelical elements included. (God is always extending mercy and hope if people would repent and believe.)

In order to help us be on the foundation upon which to understand the parables and the ways of God’s rule in our lives and in the world, I want to go through the very first of these parables, reading from Mk 4:1-20

Some key points:
Everyone hears the Word of the Voice of God:  Ps 19 1-4a (5a Heb); Rom 1:18-23; 10:14-18

–Not all who hear receive, accept, believe, obey:  Is 53:1; James 1:22-24; 2:18-19; Is 29:10-13; Heb 3:14-15

–there is eternal security for the believerPs 16:8-11; Rom 10:9-13; Heb 3:14-15

–the Lord knows His own, and all who call upon His name will depart from iniquity:  2Tim 2:19

The parables of Jesus help us understand the way of God with His people – both Israel and the Body of Messiah.  When Jesus gave the apostle John His letters to the seven churches that are in the Book of Revelation, He evaluates the condition of the believers based partly on what He taught His disciples in His parables.  Let us in the fear of YHVH gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom for the times in which we live so that we are walking in the Spirit of Truth with our God and Savior.  God has a plan and is carrying it out by His Spirit according to His Word and covenants.

Study the Bible at home; participate in the Bible studies and house groups of the congregation.  The Kingdom of Heaven governs our lives.  Our attitudes and relationship to it and to the Word of the Lord determine the quality of our life – both in this world and in the world to come.

The Holocaust and Knowing God

Is 5:11-16, 21-24  Israel does not regard the activity of YHVH or the works of His hands.  God’s people in captivity [physical and spiritual] because of  lack of knowledge.  YHVH of Hosts will be exalted in judgment, hallowed in righteousness.  God’s people have rejected Law of YHVH of Hosts and despised the Word of the Holy One of Israel.

Tomorrow night begins Holocaust Remembrance Day, the remembrance of the worst calamity so far upon the Jewish people/the children of Jacob in our history.  The subject of the Holocaust always brings with it many questions:  Where was God, whom Jews and Christians claim is everywhere, all-powerful, and all-knowing?    Why did our God not intervene to stop or even prevent such unspeakable horror and sufferings and acts of wickedness?    If Messiah has come, as Christians say, and He has not forsaken His covenanted people, how could so many – including children, nursing mothers, religious Jews – be killed?    How could this happen in a “Christian” nation — Germany?    What kind of God is this who could see and allow such a thing?    Answers are not so easily offered.

Jewish persons and the people of Israel are witnesses of YHVH God, who created and chose us. (Is 43:10)  We are witnesses of who He is, and we are witnesses of what man is. (1Cor 10:6-11)  The lesson of Scripture is that a nation collectively, and individuals personally, are responsible before God for their own sin and consequent judgment, and for their own righteousness and consequent justification.(Ezek 18; Joel 3:5 Heb (2:32 Eng) )  The same God who made His Son Jesus a whole burnt offering for sin to die for our transgressions is the same God who brought a destruction upon His chosen people — whom He has called as a nation His first-born son — in judgment for our continuing unbelief and sin, in accord with the testimony of God’s covenants and written Word.  Our God is a Jealous God, who knows what is wise and good!

YHVH is a God of covenant, and He is faithful.  He does not change.  The God of the Tenach (O.T.) is the same as the God of the N.T.  The God of Israel is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many of us believe that the words and teaching of Yeshua recorded in Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 21, Rev refer in large part to events still to take place – regarding Israel, the nations, and the Church – and that these things are not far off now.  What is spoken of in these places is something not yet experienced in human history, and the only deliverance can come from God Himself:  the God who has prophesied judgments is the God who promises deliverance and mercy to those who turn to Him for salvation.

When speaking about the Holocaust and its lessons, God is usually left out as being active in it.  It is always good and edifying to read stories like Corrie Ten Boom’s, because we see the works and ways of God in mercies towards innocent victims, and towards those who repent of their sins.  But even a Corrie Ten Boom needed to learn the ways of God in Messiah:  to forgive those who did such despicable things, not only to Jews, but also to her own Dutch family who tried to save Jews from being sent to Germany.  We Jews, who know that our own sins – both personal and as part of a nation – are forgiven, can offer comfort to Germans, especially to those who have saving faith in Jesus, to free them from a lingering sense of guilt and shame over their sins and those of their nation. 

When we leave God out of the discussion as to what happened and why, it is further proof that we do not regard His Law, or His Word, or His acts and righteous judgments, the very things by which He can and will be known and sanctified!  Those who would deny that God could allow such a thing become those who deny that He can send sinners, who refuse His terms of salvation, to hell forever.  The passage we read from Isaiah is consistent with the Words of YHVH through Moses in chapters like Lev 26; Dt 28; 32.

Read them to know better the great God whom we serve and in whom we have entrusted our souls for life.

It is evident that Holocaust museums, education on racism and antisemitism will not be enough to prevent what is cried aloud, “Never again!”  The same living Word of God written thousands of years ago still abides.  Judgments against sin and sinners come from the Holy and Righteous Judge of the whole Earth, firstly against those of His own people who refuse to walk in His ways and so receive all His benefits.

Even today, when the gospel is going out in Israel and believers in Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah and Lord are greater in number than ever before, our religious and political leaders still oppose the truth of God our Father in Heaven.  The government is making its own plans for peace and security, refusing God’s, which is the only one which will succeed.  The believers in Arad are suffering threats and curses from those who claim to know God, just as happened in the days of Jesus and the apostles. 

How can we know God’s grace and mercy?:  Through His judgments, just as Adam and Eve; just as we who know the reason why Jesus came to die on the cross; just as Israel and the nations will learn as God brings every knee to bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD (YHVH).  It is at the cross that we know God—both in His righteous judgment against all sin and sinners, and in His mercy and love for anyone who repents and believes in their heart that He is just in all His ways.

Jn 3:16-19  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

If we love our people, if we love the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, we will bring the truth of God and His Word to them, that the Holy Spirit would convict them of their sin of unbelief, so that they might seek God for His mercy to forgive.  As we remember the Holocaust, let us remember, too, the honor of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ whom He sent.

GOSPEL FOR JEWS AND GENTILES

(C&MA Great Commission Fund tour from Feb 27 – Mar 10, 2004, in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Richmond, Virginia)

1Cor 11:23-26   we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes

The heart and foundation of the gospel and of the New Testament and of our faith as Christians is Jesus the Messiah and Him crucified, risen from the dead, ascended to glory, and coming again to judge and rule.  Our sins are forgiven through faith in the once-for-all sacrificial and atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.  We have fellowship with God our Father and with His Son, and with one another through the Holy Spirit indwelling all who are born again by the Word and the Spirit of God.

God is not partisan or sectarian.  His choosing of one people to His “peculiar treasure” is not at the expense of His love and ultimate purposes for other people(s).  God so loved the world that  He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but inherit eternal life.  That’s about as broad , and as restrictive, as can be.  Christians are bearers of good news.  Our only legitimate message is the good news of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. 

Israel and most of the Arabic speaking countries are located in the 10/40 window.  Most of those Arab-speaking countries are Islamic.  Not all Arabic-speaking people are Arabs, for example, Egyptians and  Iranians.  Nor are all Islamic nations Arabs, such as Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and many of the former Soviet states.  About half of the Jewish people live in Israel.  Most of the other half live in the U.S.

Israel’s salvation is connected to the fullness of the gentiles comeing in.  This gives you incentive to continue taking the gospel to the Arab and Islamic peoples, who are gentiles, i.e., not Israeli or Jewish.  God wants to give them a new heart and a new spirit, so that they will know Him and Jesus Christ His Son.  The gentile Christians have a specific calling as such to provoke Israel to jealousy and to show them mercy – for the gospel’s sake, and in response to the mercy shown them by the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. 

The Christians’ full redemption at the first resurrection is linked to the salvation of “all Israel” – that full remnant of all the tribes of the children of Jacob, who turn from ungodliness and have their sins forgiven when they look upon Him whom they have pierced.  Then will the fountain of grace and supplication be poured out upon the nation of Israel.

God is working to unite Abraham’s family through the good news of Jesus Christ, the beloved Son who brings all who love Him home to our heavenly Father.  There will be peace in the family only when the children accept the will of the Father and His love for Jesus.  Whoever loves Jesus as their Lord and Savior will also know that the Father loves us just as much as He loves Him.

YHVH God is working from both the Jewish and gentile sides to fulfill His redemptive history and purposes for eternity.  He has given us an active part in that, once we have been joined to the Lord Jesus through new birth.  We become co-laborers with one another as we serve Him.  But, thank God, He will do it!  That is our security and hope.  YHVH has done it!  Jesus lived and died and rose from the dead and lives forevermore!  Nothing is too great for Him to do!

 “Blessed is He who comes in the name of YEHOVAH”!   “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”

THE MYSTERY OF MESSIAH

Eph 3:4-11

v. 4   Paul received a revelation from God which gave him insight and understanding of the mystery of Messiah beyond what others received. (Even Peter and the other apostles acknowledged Paul’s special wisdom).

v. 5   This mystery now revealed to him was something new and different than what had ever been revealed before.  It had been a secret with God alone until then, which no one could even think or imagine about; even the clues fall short of the actual revelation of the church.
         –Through Paul, the other apostles and prophets (2:20; Acts 15:32) –disciples– understood by faith (Heb. 11:3) the personal revelation given to Paul of the mysteries which distinguish the Christian faith.  They are not known or understood by people at large in the world at this  present time.

v. 6   There are three elements of this mystery of Messiah:
         1. that gentile believers should be joint heirs on equal terms with Jewish believers
             –in O.T. there are blessings for nations and the world, but only secondarily compared to the Jews and to Israel; there is no joint and equal inheritance, but rather a head-and-tail analogy
             –the inheritance for believers is also different in that we are heirs in and with Christ.  We share an inheritance above and beyond what the O.T. promises to its saints –or at least to what was revealed to them to be understood in their time– yet is theirs also with us whose faith has been in God the Creator’s word and promise regarding His Redeemer and Savior.

          2. that gentile believers should be a joint body (2:16) with Jewish believers
             –in O.T. there were native Israelis, and strangers who joined themselves to the people and the God of Israel –but who nonetheless remained of lesser status (God-fearers; keepers of the Noachic commandments)
             –a living body, not just a pluralistic nation, joined to its Head based upon new birth and an exalted Son of Man in Heaven        

         3. that gentiles and Jews are joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus by the gospel
             –under O.T. expectations, Messiah to be King and Lord of His people, who otherwise have no part in Christ
             –not identified with Him previously as Messianics/Christians as we now are who believe (Is. 65:14-15)
                –this promise in Christ was therefore not revealed before –not to Israel and certainly not to Jews and gentiles equally
               –a promise in that its fulfillment is still future, though now it is apprehended by faith in God’s Word

v. 7   Of this gospel Paul became a minister by the effective working of God’s power according to the gift of the grace of God given to him
         –power of God needed to be a faithful servant of Christ –a prisoner– for such a revelation of this mystery to be taught and lived and demonstrated so as to bring true believers together in love in Christ, to the praise of His glory
         –this gospel is still not fully apprehended today by believers, and is under continuous attack

v. 8   the unsearchable riches of Christ preached amongst the gentiles by the grace of God
         —unsearchable: that which can not be understood; known, but surpassing all comprehension

v. 9   fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of time has been hid in God (Col. 1:25-27)

v. 10 now made known unto principalities and powers in the heavenlies –both angelic and powers of darkness (1 Pet. 1:12; Eph. 6:12)
         –through the church, the Bride of Messiah, is revealed the manifold wisdom of God (Rom.11:33)

v. 11 eternal purpose of God in Jesus displayed here on the Earth from Jerusalem, Israel (1:4,11)

The Holocaust and the Salvation of Israel: “Be Reconciled to YHVH GOD”

Lev. 26: 40-45   Israel and Jewish people confessing personal and historic collective guilt for breaking YHVH’s covenants

There is a biblical principle whereby God holds the heads of a people accountable for the blessing or punishment of the people.  We see this with Pharaoh and the Egyptians with respect to the children of Israel at the time of the Passover and Exodus from Egypt.  We see it again with King David and his census of Israel, bringing the LORD’s judgment upon the people and the near destruction of Jerusalem (2Sam. 24).

The rulers of the people — whether kings or priests — represent the people before God, and by their example of faith and obedience — or the contrary — the nation is led.  Today, does not a nation of people go to war or make peace based upon the determinations of their leader(s)?  Are not nations judged in the eyes of others by their thoughts regarding the heads of government or of the religious authorities?  Do not Jews today insist that Germans living today confess their nation’s and their parents’ guilt for the Holocaust — that Germans and Germany are primarily responsible and guilty because of their evil leader who governed and represented them?; or to put it another way, in Hitler, the Germans living today — whether or not they were personally and directly involved — are reckoned as guilty and defiled by the Jewish people, even more than are Austrians and Poles who also bear their own iniquity.

Other Biblical examples of this living principle of divine justice covering generations for nations, tribes, and  peoples are:
1.      in Adam, all have sinned and all human beings inherit condemnation and death;

2.      in Abraham (Abram), Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek, signifying the preeminence of  the Priest Melchizedek over Aaron and the Levitical priesthood;

3.      in the Passover, Jews remember that we were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD brought us out;

4.      in Messiah, many are justified and made alive, inheriting righteousness and life.

 There are both  power in, and accountability for, our words which we speak or write, all the more so if we are in positions of authority (Mt. 12:36-37).

John 11:45-53    – Caiaphas the High Priest unknowingly prophesied that the one man Yeshua would die for the whole nation, and even for all the scattered children of God.

Mt. 27:25    – “all the people [of Israel] answered and said, ‘Let His [Yeshua’s] blood be on us and on our children’!

 Primary responsibility, with its guilt and historic consequences, is upon the leaders and people of Israel (John 19:11; Lev. 4:1-3, 13, 14, 22, 23; Acts 2; 4) — both before God and by our own words and agreement with our “fathers” — for the betrayal and death of Messiah.  Praise God that upon the cross, Yeshua/Jesus prayed that God His Father forgive us!

 YEHOVAH is the God of covenant, to which He is always faithful to fulfill His part, which includes His  promises to make the people of Israel a holy people for Himself.  Therefore He is working to remove from His people transgressions, sin, iniquity, and uncleanness — guilt and shame – – and to bring in everlasting righteousness.  The Holy Spirit is working to bring His people to an end of themselves, to stop trusting in themselves or in the arm of the flesh, so that they will call on the Name of Yeshua for salvation:  Blessed is He who comes in the Name YEHOVAH!  It is Yeshua whom God has given as a guilt offering (Is. 53:10), and His blood cleanses from all unrighteousness.

The Holocaust brings reproach to the Holy Name of the God of Israel and of the Lord Jesus Christ:
          –“These are the people chosen by God?!”

          –“Where was/is God?”

          –“How can a ‘good’ God allow such atrocities?”

          –“Maybe God is not strong enough to stop evil?!”

          –“God has forsaken and cast away the Jews!”

Remember Messianic brothers and sisters, Yeshua died a criminal’s death because of — and 
to take away — that evil unbelief and rebellion, the sin of the world!

Do we trust and love our God and Savior to honor His holy name in the face of such unbelief and mocking?  Many Christians risked, and even sacrificed their lives to save Jews from the death trains and camps.  In the unknowable ways of God, just as the crucifixion was necessary, so too was the Holocaust.  God’s judgments are past finding out!

 As many as are Jewish believers, we need to accept the truth of our primary responsibility for our history.  Let Gentile believers each examine and judge himself for their own personal and historic sins of your nations and churches against the Sovereign LORD and against the Jews and Christians.  Offenses there must necessarily be, but woe to those through whom they come!

The Lord Jesus says that the truth sets free and sanctifies.  Confession of our own and of our fathers’ sins is an act of humility, and it brings cleansing, freedom, blessedness — because by it we receive and know the righteousness of God who forgives us and accepts us.

The Lord promises to save His people from their sins.  The true gospel includes the cross of the Messiah and God’s righteous judgments against Israel, not to the exclusion of the other nations.  As has been spoken before, there is no glory for the Jewish people (or for any nominal Christian) apart from the faith in the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the Hope of Israel.  Let us who believe be sure of our own peace with God and acceptance of His ways and judgments so that we can speak the truth with love to the Jewish people, and to others.

2Cor. 5:11a, 18-21    in the fear of God, be reconciled to Him and be ministers of reconciliation

Amen!