Religious War? – 21 Nov 2014

The recent terrorist attack in a synagogue in West Jerusalem by Arab Muslims from East Jerusalem, in which rifles, knives, and meat cleavers were among the weapons used against Jewish men praying their morning prayers, has brought closer to home the reality that we are entering a religious war, and not only a nationalistic, political war here in Israel.   Among the dead and wounded Jews, a Druze policeman was also mortally wounded and killed as he responded to the terror within the Har Nof neighborhood synagogue.

There are those who remember what Dr. Baruch Goldstein did 20 years ago, when he entered a mosque in Hebron and massacred 29 Arab Muslim pray-ers during their morning prayers, and wounded many others.   As despicable as Goldstein’s act was, it is not comparable as a modus operandi to what took place in the synagogue:  apart from some fringe supporters, the government of Israel and the people as a whole repudiated such use of violence to achieve whatever the goal may be.  The then PM Yitchak Rabin said that he was ashamed to be a Jew.  Such an act taints all of us.  On the other hand, the Islamic terrorists are praised and celebrated, called martyrs, and others are encouraged to go out and wantonly murder Israeli Jews — and any others — in order to rid the land and the planet of particularly Jews and Christians — those who are the living witness of the one, true, living God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah.  This is done in the name of their God, who is not the same as YEHOVAH, God Most High.  The murderous attack by the Jewish terrorist and murderer, Jack Teitel, against Palestinian Arabs and against Jewish believers in Jesus was his act of war, thinking to do God’s will; yet he, too, was widely denounced for his thinking and for his actions.

While most wars seem to have be for economic and political reasons, there have been many religious wars in history; the Crusades come to mind fairly quickly.  The Islamic conquests after its beginnings in the 7th century were all religiously motivated.  There have been intra-faith wars between rival parties within religions; for example, the Jews led by the Maccabees against the Hellenizing Jews and Greeks; Sunni vs Shia Muslims; Catholic vs Protestant Christians.  Hindis have fought Buddhists.  When the Israelis first conquered the Land of Canaan in the 15th century BC, it is stated in what would be considered religious terms:  the iniquity/sin of the inhabitants of the land was full, and YHVH God was bringing His chosen people — the descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob — back into the land from Egypt in order to possess it as an everlasting possession, with the stipulation that should they also act as the Canaanites did, then they, too, would be removed from the land as a punishment under the terms of the covenant between YHVH and the Children of Israel.  The return of the Jewish people back to Palestine (the Land of Israel) in the 20th century was both pragmatic, political, and religious, and God in His sovereignty brought both His will and the will of man to coincide.   This return of the scattered Jews from out of nations all around the globe is itself a strategic act of war by the LORD of Hosts against those who seek to prevent Him from fulfilling His covenant promises and glorifying His name.  The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount — the place which God led King David to choose as the place for YHVH’s earthly Temple — and the Muslim efforts to eradicate the validity of Israeli and Jewish history there, is itself an affront and act of defiance to the historical record.

Yet, for the most part, most religions do not teach to engage in war in order to propagate their faith and culture.  Islam does, and there have been many who have written about that, using the Koran and Mohammed’s teachings as a proof.  The God of Israel also instructed His people to use force as needed, under His directions and guidelines, when taking possession, and then defending their natural and spiritual identity and heritage.  This use of force by Israel was not to extend beyond their borders.  Until today, this is generally the way Israel employs its military might and prowess.

The Word of God in the Bible tells us that war was declared already back in the Garden of Eden, when YHVH, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth — including the angels and human beings — let Satan (the devil; the fallen angel, Lucifer) know that his rebellion against God, and his active efforts to spread that rebellion among humanity, whom God created in His image and likeness, would not go unanswered.   The enmity between the seed of the serpent and between the Seed of the woman — this ‘state of war’ between the devil and Christ Jesus — has been the “mother of all wars” since, whether carried on in the heavenlies, or played out here on land, seas, and air.   “Just wars” are those which are perceived as being between good and evil.  While warfare is itself a result of sin and rebellion, it is nonetheless used by God to ultimately defeat all enemies of that which is godly and righteous and good, and to glorify His holy name in the process.  One of our problems is that we have not exercised our senses to discern both good and evil.

Those who believe in Yeshua as Lord and Messiah are also called to engage in what is called spiritual warfare:  this is the war against lies, against the works of the devil, against unrighteousness, against the truth of the true God and Savior.  We are called to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth to all nations and people groups, to deliver people from the lies and darkness of Satan and to bring them into the truth and light of Jesus Christ.  This is effected through preaching, not by carnal weapons or through lying, intimidation, or force of arms.  It is a war for the hearts and minds of men, women, and children — to know and believe the Word of the God who alone forgives sins, and who has power and authority to not only kill the body, but also to send both soul and body to hell.  In His love, and to win this war, God the Father sent Yeshua His only-begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but inherit eternal life.

Jesus won the war on the cross, in His death, and subsequent burial and resurrection!  The sad news is that many people have not heard, or have not believed what they have heard concerning this good news.  The good news is that the Holy Spirit is still at work to bring the many who do repent and believe to saving faith.  The peace which Jesus gives is not the peace which the world gives.   The day is nearing when the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return from Heaven to put an end to all rebellion and unrighteousness, and to establish the true God’s kingdom over Israel, and over the entire Earth and universe!  He alone forgives sin.  “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

ANTI-BOYCOTT LAW – 13 July 2011

Two days ago a bill against boycotting Israeli products and services originating from within the ‘territories’ — Judea and Samaria — was passed into law by Israel’s Knesset (Parliament).  The new law allows citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural, or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions, or regions under Israeli control.  It also prevents the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.  Anyone who considers himself harmed economically by such a boycott is entitled to sue for civil damages.  Israel has no formal constitution.

The individual freedom to not support or to sustain certain products, or to visit certain countries, or to belong to certain political or religious groups is allowed; to impose by law or through intimidation my personal choices upon others is not.  The national interest in upholding laws binding upon all its citizenry and residents for the general welfare and the security of the nation-state is allowed; the elimination of free, public expression of those laws is not.  Israel’s own efforts and might to defend itself from its enemies can not be solved by either economic, political, or military means.  Nor can she save herself by depending on another nation to protect her.  Nor can he be who God called and chose him to be by closing in on himself.  What light is that to the nations?!  Israelis and the Jewish people have long wanted to be ‘like the Gentiles’, and asked for a king like the Gentiles have.  God gave them what they asked for in Saul, whose name means just that:  asked for!  But YHVH has other ideas about what His people are to be, and He admonishes them strongly that what they want — to be like the heathen (in this sense of ‘gentile’) — “shall never be!” (Ezek 20:32-33)

God gave His ‘constitution’ to Israel at Mt. Sinai before they became a nation-state.  Of course, Israel broke this covenantal foundation for governance, and it was also impossible for human beings and nations to live up to. (Acts 15:10)  The Lord is good at “catch-22’s”, in order that we would seek HIS righteousness rather than continuing to try to establish our own.  The need for any nation to defend its ‘values’ is clear.  HOW to do that in a democratic, pluralistic setting — and with religion and peoplehood as integral components of those values — continues to defy civil libertarians as well as pursuers of peace.  Those on the ‘right’ and those on the ‘left’ both have their own, often compromised, justifications to merit consideration of their viewpoint.  Yet from on high, the Word of YHVH comes to tell us that “ALL our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”.

Democracy is the last great bastion of sinful humanity to govern itself without a king to rule over them, or a priest to uphold the true religious faith, or a prophet to call all to repentance back to the ultimate Judge of what is righteous and good.  For those who truly seek righteousness, peace, and truth, the short-comings and failures which all face — whether believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, or whether believers in anything or anyone else, even in nothing and no-one — as we seek to govern others and to be governed by others (while Jesus is excluded for political correctness and to appease false prophets), should lead us towards repentance in the hope that the one true God of both Jews and Gentiles would again intervene to bring to an end all the wanna-be kingdoms of the world, and to establish His glorious kingdom — not of this world — which will never end.

We do need GOD’s anointed King-Priest to rule both within and over us.  The New Covenant promises a new heart and a new spirit — not for Israel only, but for all mankind who come into that covenant through the shed blood of God’s Son.  Then will Israel, YHVH’s  first-born nation, be enabled to be and do what God has created and redeemed her for.

“. . .for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people!’  For what great nation is there that has God near to it, as YHVH our God is to us, for whatever we may call upon Him?  And what great nation is there that has statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this Law which I set before you this day?  Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.  And teach them to your children and your grandchildren. . . .” (Dt 4:6-9

“…Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance!” (Ps 33:10-12)

 Even so, Come, Adon Yeshua/Lord Jesus!

The Gospel, The New Covenant, and The Messianic Faith Are Neither Jewish Nor Greek – 19 Dec 1998

Jude 3 – contend earnestly for the faith which was once-for-all delivered to the saints
[Lk 22:19-20]; 1Cor 11:23-26 – remember Yeshua and His death until He comes again

The heart and foundation of the gospel and of the New Testament and of our faith as Christians is Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified, risen from the dead, ascended to glory, and coming again.  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 (communion) 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.

Does this sound like the religious teaching of Judaism?  Does it sound like the wisdom of the world’s great thinkers and philosophers?  NO!  For the cross is an offence to the one born with natural honor and privilege before God, such as to the Jews being the chosen  people, and  a  rock of stumbling to our fleshly pride and ambitions.   For the wise of this world, the cross – the means of a sure and shameful death for the transgressor – is foolishness, simplistic.  Yet for the one who believes, whether Jew or Gentile, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God is the power of God unto salvation!

The gospel breaks down the wall of hostility between God and mankind, and also between Jews and gentiles, men and women, free and slave – in such a new way that it was a mystery known only to God until He revealed it in His own time to the Apostle Paul, in particular, who then made it known to the gentiles (nations), to kings, and to the children of Israel.

From the beginning in the Garden of Eden, the LORD God promised a Deliverer – a Savior – from the devil and evil to humankind through the Seed of the woman.  We learn in Romans how this deliverance extends to the whole creation.  To Abram the gospel was preached in that God told him that through him all the families of the earth shall be blessed.  It is faith such as Abraham showed which characterizes the faith of the true Messianic:  he believed the LORD; he believed what God said; he believed and trusted in the LORD that God Almighty could and would fulfill His promises, even if He had to raise the dead to do it!  The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob is the living God of the living, the God whose power raises the dead to life eternal!  The Creator of the heavens and the earth is the one God of both the Jews and the Gentiles!

Is this what Judaism or any other of the world’s religions teaches?  Yet it is this good news and covenant of grace through repentance and faith in God which Yeshua came to bring and to fulfill.  He came to fulfill all that is written in the Law and the Prophets; He came to fulfill the word of God His Father – not the words or interpretations of anyone else.  The Jews and the nation of Israel as a whole rejected Him; so have too the gentile nations and peoples once the gospel is brought to them.  For the gospel allows no flesh to glory in itself or to approach God and live:  we must all – both  Jews and  gentiles from whatever nation or culture – be born again.  When we are baptized, we acknowledge not only Jesus’ death for us and His resurrection, but also our own death in His death, and our own resurrection in His, that we may no longer live unto ourselves but rather unto God in holiness and righteousness.  Therefore, there is continuity with our past life as unbelievers in that the Law and the prophecies are still being worked out fully; yet there is discontinuity in that we are alive in the reality of resurrection life, eternal life by the indwelling Holy Spirit –no longer under law but under grace.  The Holy Spirit will fulfill in us the righteousness of the Law, which we establish by faith.

The gospel and new covenant are so contrary and transcendent  to the natural man’s religion and intellect.  Let’s consider just a few points regarding Israel, since God gave Israel as an example for the Church and to the world:

  1. The religious and political leaders (in whom the people were represented) claimed that Yeshua consistently  broke the Sabbath regulations, even as He was manifesting the grace and mercies and compassion of God the Father towards others .  (Mt 12:2,10; Mk 3:2; Lk 23:14; John 7:23; Is. 58)
  2. They claimed that He was demon-possessed and cast out demons by the power of Satan, even as He was bringing the reality of the Kingdom of God into their midst.  (Mt 12:24; John 7:20; 10:19-20)
  3. They called Jesus a blasphemer because He claimed to be  God’s Son, or that God was His Father, thus making  Himself equal with God;  they accused Him of blasphemy because He, as a man, forgave sins.  (Mk 2:7; John 5:28; 10:31-39;  cp. 1 Chron. 22:9-10)
  4. The meek shall inherit the earth, rather than the rich and mighty who trust in their wealth and power and wisdom.  (Mt 5:5; 19:23-26; Jer 9:23)
  5. Many of the disciples themselves stopped following (walking with) Jesus when He spoke about eating His flesh and drinking His blood – a thought contrary to Israel’s law received from God.  (John 6:66; Lev. 17:11-12; Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:18-20)
  6. The apostles themselves were scattered when the Shepherd was crucified.  (Mt 26:31; Zech 13:7)
  7. Before knowing the Lord, did we see any beauty in Him that we desired Him?  Did we not, each in our own way perhaps, despise and reject Him?  Did we not consent to His death, assuming that there must have been some justification for it because of some sin of His own rather than for ours?  Paul, as Saul, was a blasphemer and a persecutor of Yeshua (who was already exalted back in Heaven) through the believers, the Body of Messiah, while being himself a zealous and God-fearing  Israeli!  (Is 53; 1Tim 1:13; Gal 1:13; Acts 9:4-5)
  8. A new commandment has been given God’s elect:  to love on the level of God’s love to us as shown and demonstrated through Jesus.  (Mt 5:43-48; John 15:12)

Brothers and sisters, the Christian testimony of Jesus being the Messiah and the Son of God the Father is confessed by both Jews and Gentiles who have believed and obeyed this revelation.  The gospel crosses every nation, culture, and language; the gospel brings Heaven’s rule and authority into the midst of the rule of the prince of this world’s power.  Jesus came to bring a sword into the world and to give His peace to the believer.  The church of the first-born includes all from Adam and Eve onward who have put their faith for salvation in the Creator God Almighty, who later revealed Himself as YEHOVAH, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and still later as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The equality of Jews and Gentiles before God under the New Covenant in Christ is still difficult for both to accept and be reconciled to.  The Jews wanted to stone Yeshua and, later, Paul  when they spoke of their mission including gentiles.  For about 15 years after the death and resurrection of the Lord and after Pentecost (Shavuot), the early church was Jewish in character.  The Jews thought that all gentile believers had to become Jewish.  The Holy Spirit and the council at Jerusalem declared otherwise in the wisdom of God.  Later in Church history the opposite occurred:  the non-Jewish believers thought that all Jewish believers had to become gentile, fitting the cultural norm wherever they were living.

The truth is that in Messiah God has made of the two one new man – one loaf representing Christ’s one body in unity.  Today there is still a spiritual battle being fought to bring the Body of Christ to full maturity of the faith of the Son of God – comprised of both Jews and Gentile believers, but not being either quite Jewish or ethnic in character.  Our unity in Messiah and our love for one another is our testimony in and to the world that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus and that God sent Him and loves us as our Father, even as He loved Jesus.

The gospel is God’s good news – offering peace on earth, goodwill towards mankind.  Give thanks and  praise His Name!