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.

 

FOR SO THEY DID UNTO THE PROPHETS BEFORE US

Feb 2011

Published in Messianic Times June/July 2011 Issue 

Persecution of believers in Yeshua as Lord and Messiah, the Son of God, is not a new thing in Israel.  Rather, it is a phenomenon that has returned to Israel, for opposition to the gospel and persecution against those who believe the good news began in Israel already from the days since Yeshua was born.  (Mt 2)  Following this attempt to destroy the messianic hope in Israel at its inception, it surfaced again during the days of Yeshua’s ministry, threatening to excommunicate from the Jewish community (the synagogue) all those who would follow the Lamb of God. (Jn 9:22)  This persecution of the saints continued after the Holy Spirit was given to the first church. (Acts 4:17; 7:51-60)

As Stephen agreed with the words of Yeshua in that this opposition and irrational hatred began long before against the Holy Spirit, yet Stephen’s words as he was being stoned to death also demonstrate the power and the love of God within those who are so badly treated:  “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

Throughout the last four decades, attempts by Jewish believers in Yeshua have failed to convince the “guardians of the religious identity of Israel” that one can believe in Yeshua, the Son of David, Son of Abraham, and still remain a Jew.  Jewishness has become defined as accepting historical rabbinic Judaism as the essence of what makes one ‘Jewish’.  Several court cases have been fought at the Supreme Court level, and never yet has a Jewish person (born of a Jewish mother) won a case for identity as it relates to Israel’s Law of Return for Jewish people to immigrate to Israel and receive entitlements as a Jew.

More recently, a case has been adjudicated by an Israeli Jewish believer, Penina Conforti, seeking a kosher certificate for operating a food business in Ashdod.  Although initially won at the Supreme Court level, the rabbinic authorities vehemently protested, saying that the issue is a religious matter and not one to be decided by civil authorities.  The Supreme Court then refused to grant the license unless the believer complied with regulations set by the rabbis.  This is fair enough, but the requirements placed on this believer in Yeshua to operate her bakery were more stringent than those applied elsewhere, thus not making one law for all.

Another recent case involved Nachalat Yeshua Messianic congregation in Beer Sheva, which sought a measure of legal justice in a civil court against the Chief Rabbi of their city, and against the national antimessianic organization, Yad L’Achim, which has set itself up as a vigilante protector of Jewishness.  The two defendants were involved in organizing a demonstration against the congregation – the second time such a large-scale protest had taken place against this group of believers by these same two parties.  The illegal demonstration of about 600 religious Jews resulted in a riot and aggravated trespass against the privately owned Christian property and against the believers there who had gathered for their regular worship service.  The civil court and secular judge ruled against the believers, stating that the two defendants acted responsibly to exercise their right and responsibility to protect Jewish souls (pikuach nefesh), and that neither was responsible for any of the illegal acts that occurred.  The congregation was ordered to pay the defendants a heavy penalty for having brought them to court.

There is still, at this time, the criminal case pending from an attempted murder in 2008 of a family of believers in Ariel.  Their teenage son, Ami, was very seriously injured from a bomb placed in what had looked like a Purim gift package left at their front door.  As of this writing, the courts have not determined whether the “Jewish terrorist”, as he has been described by the Israeli media, is mentally fit to stand trial and be held responsible for his crimes, despite his own admission of carrying out the murder attempt, plus other murders of two Palestinians that he did accomplish over the previous 12 years.  He claims that “God is pleased with what I have done”, as he acts out of his own worldview of what a Jewish Zionist state should be.  (Jn 16:2-4)  Democracy, in its normal understanding, is not a part of that vision, and neither are Palestinians or faith in Yeshua.

In Arad, the community of believers there have undergone seven years of constant harassment and trouble, with the help of the police and the mayors during those years.  Despite many totally false or exaggerated claims against the believers, the authorities continue to allow the sect of religious Jews, again assisted by Yad L’Achim, to persecute the believers in Yeshua.  (It is important to remember that scripturally, persecution begins with prejudiced antagonism against those who trust in the one true God.)

In nearly every case, media coverage of the Messianic faith and community is always mixed in the presentation of facts, and not necessarily representative of most of the Body of Messiah.  This need not be too surprising, since most of these journalists and reporters are not interested in making the faith in Yeshua attractive for Jewish people to seriously consider.

These are just a few samples of many instances to hinder the freedom of believers in Yeshua in Israel, along with many others denying or restricting visas to evangelical volunteers; turning back certain black-listed Jewish believers from entering the country; vandalizing property of believers and churches, even to the extent of burning and destroying; refusing to rent apartments to certain believers or to hire them for jobs.

A few points to keep in mind with respect to Jewish opposition to Yeshua and those who love Him:

1.  “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for [the Gentiles] sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). (Rom 11:28)  This remains true, and Israel demonstrates this in many ways, and, thankfully, so does God.

2.  Some of the persecution against the believers is done by God-fearing Jews (such as Saul/Paul was), and whether consciously or not, they are acting in accord with Dt 13, which speaks of how to treat  those who would lead Israelis away from YHVH God.  Since Yeshua was accused and crucified on the false charges that He was a false prophet and a blasphemer, then any of us who believe in and follow Him are worthy of condemnation as well, in their understanding.  It is a case of calling good evil; holy profane; the truth a lie.

3.  Denying a kashrut certificate to a believer is similar to forbidding a Gentile from coming into contact    with grapes once they are in the process of being made into wine.  This Talmudic/Rabbinic law would be based on Hag 2:13-14, which, in their determination is also applied to any Gentile or to an apostate from Judaism:  any [food] handled would be unclean and not considered acceptable (kosher).

4.  The two legislative restrictions regarding evangelism are reasonable:  no targeting of persons under the age of 18 (I would not want my own children targeted by what I perceived to be a false religion orcult.); no offering of material benefits for listening to or accepting the gospel message.  The efforts by extremists to forbid all forms of evangelism through legislation would be bad law, especially in what is supposed to be a democratic society.

5.  The Scriptures seem to clearly indicate that persecution will increase as the Day of the LORD nears. (Mt 24:9-14)

There is not one ‘opinion’ among the believers in Israel as to how best to react and respond to varying levels of persecution.  Each situation presents its own need to seek God’s will, for it is the honor of the name of Yeshua that is truly at stake. (Mt 5:11)  Yeshua is a  “sanctuary, but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel”, and is still “destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against.”  (Is 8:14; Lk 2:34)

But an attack on one part of the body is an attack on all.  How are we as members of that one body to respond to the suffering of another?  When is action (Acts 24:10-21; 25:9-12) called for, and when is it only a matter of praise and prayer for the faith and boldness to continue in the face of all of the risks and threats? (Acts 4:17-31)  Peter also warns us not to “suffer as a . . .meddler in other people’s matters.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.  For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God!” (1Pt 4:15-17)

Many still do not know what they are doing, and the heart of the Father continually cries out through us:  “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Rom 10:1-2)

Being Reconciled to God and to One Another

Matt. 23:16-21   The altar is greater than the gift

Matt. 5: 21-24   First be reconciled to your brother, and then offer your gift upon the altar

The calendar tells us that it is a new year,  a year which reminds us and the world that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh into the world which He made.  We can look back and consider how our God has watched over us and has kept us.  We can look ahead and know that our salvation and redemption are nearer this year than they were this past year.

The Lord is building up His church and showing Himself faithful, training us to trust Him fully to bring us through to glory at His coming.

God has shown us His way to be at peace with Him and with one another.  He had (has) a controversy with Israel and with mankind.  Our sins separated us from the LORD our God. What was God to do since it became clear that we were not going to do anything sufficient to get right with Him?   The reality is that we blame God for our problems and those in the world at large.  God’s altar is the place of sacrifice.  In Lev. 17:11 the LORD says that the life of the flesh is in the blood, and that He has given it to us upon the altar to make atonement for our souls.  The heart of God our Father came to us in the person of His Son Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself on the cross to make atonement, to make reconciliation, for those who have sinned against Him.  Yeshua satisfied God’s righteousness and justice so that the LORD can show grace and mercy and compassion to whomsoever He will.  He has reconciled Himself to man.  We have been given the ministry of reconciliation in that we are to be peace-makers, telling and showing others how they can be reconciled to God:  through repentance and faith in Him through Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin.  This is the love of God and the new commandment to love one another as Jesus has loved us:  if we know that someone has reason to have something against us, we are to humble ourselves and grant forgiveness based on the righteousness of  God.  Then we can come to the Lord’s table and supper; then we can offer our gifts and prayers and praise to God.  For we have acknowledged that the cross – the altar – of God is greater than any thing which we can offer.  It is the faith we have in, and the thankfulness for,  the sacrifice of God’s Son that sanctifies us and our gifts, both before God and before our brothers and sisters.

When Jesus came into the world, His whole life was consecrated to God His Father and to His Kingdom.  He knew that the spirit in the world was opposed to God.  He came to give honor and glory to His Father, whom He knew to be good.  Jesus brought light to expose the darkness in men’s souls, even in those who claimed to know and to serve the LORD.  Before the Holy One of Israel, many of the religious leaders were exposed as hypocrites, not really sincere in caring about God’s interests, but more concerned for their own honor and privileges.  Jesus did not sing their songs or dance to their tunes.

(Mt. 11: 16-19; Is. 22:12-13)    The Son of God listened to God’s voice and responded in a manner which showed that He loved His Father more than He wanted to prove that He was a man like others of His day.  He seeks the lost sheep of the House of Israel, those who want to be found and go back home.

There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecc. 3:4).  What “time” is it this year?  Certainly the Lord will give us much to know and enjoy the liberty that we have in Messiah.  Yet the Holy Spirit in us groans and mourns over the sin still acting within us, and the spirit in the world which still is separated from and in opposition to the LORD and to His Anointed One – to the sovereignty  of God and the truth that Jesus is LORD.  The people of this age are getting ready for a big party and celebration for the new millenium.  They have forgotten God, and, sadly, so have many who are called by His name.  It is written that the joy of the Lord is our strength; if our joy is truly in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will enable us to respond in a worthy way to show that we love our heavenly Father, that we are His children and servants.

Even so, the Lord Jesus says to His disciples that when we see these things beginning to happen, that we are to rejoice, for our redemption is near.  As God intervenes in the affairs of man – whether in grace or in judgement – the holy Father in Heaven so loves the world that the reconciliation which Jesus accomplished still abides:  the blood of the Lamb still speaks salvation and  peace to those who will repent from their unbelief and evil and, instead, believe the love of the truth:  God has forgiven sinners and Jesus rose from the dead to justify all who believe that with thanks.

This year the Lord wants to bring forth more fruit from us His  people.  He wants to give us His song to sing.  Jesus has given us His peace.  Let us desire to be at peace with one another for His sake.  He will make us glad in Him.