Philp 3: 3-11 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in the Messiah Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so. . . . But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Messiah. Yet indeed I also reckon all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as dung, that I may gain Christ. . . .
Tomorrow is Pentecost, the 50th day of counting the sheaves of wheat, according to the Law of Moses, which Jesus came to fulfill. The counting does not begin from the day after His death and burial – or even from the time He descended into the lower parts of the Earth to set free the captives – but rather from the day of His resurrection, from the day after the Sabbath. We who believe in Jesus as Lord and Messiah are a new creation. We begin with resurrection life in Messiah and then begin to learn what it is to suffer for His sake, to die with Him to ourselves, to live our lives unto God and His will.
The gospel is not something Jewish, since the Law makes no one righteous, and we can not be justified by the works of the Law. Neither is the gospel something Greek or gentile, because non-Jews were outside of God’s covenant with Israel, and, according to the Bible, the gentiles worshipped demons and not the one true God. So we see that the gospel is neither religion nor philosophy, not man’s wisdom or knowledge, not of demons or angels.
If our fellowship with God the Father and His Son Yeshua and with other believers is based upon any of these things esteemed by the world, then this is what Paul calls “having confidence in the flesh”. Yet Paul claims that to be a true Jew and a true Christian is just the opposite: “to have no confidence in the flesh”, concerning which he writes that he had more to boast in than others. Let’s look at his credentials from our passage and consider how they apply to our identity and hope as God’s children.
circumcised on the eighth day
of the race of Israel
of the tribe of Benjamin
a Hebrew of Hebrews
in regard to the Law, a Pharisee
as for zeal, persecuting the church
as for legalistic righteousness, blameless
Notice that all of Paul’s “confidence in the flesh” have to do with those things of natural birth, supposed keys to citizenship in God’s Kingdom either through no choice of their own, or either through confidence in choosing the right party. Everything here takes pride in one’s self, status, giftings, intellect, or else in one’s “team”.
Paul learned that these outward endowments and benefits are not ultimately those which count for eternity, for God is no respecter of persons. He is after people, like David, who have a heart for Him, whose relationship with Jesus is worth more than whatever else he or she thinks important, who live now with a vision of the everlasting Kingdom of God. All that is of now, Paul counts as rubbish, and he looks for the glory to come, which is all of God.
Have we learned. . .are we learning. . . to reckon all that makes us feel proud to be but refuse compared to the matchless beauty of the meek and lowly Holy One of Israel?
Let’s close with Paul from v. 12-21 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but one thing: forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect , be thus minded; and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk according to the pattern we gave you. . . . For our citizenship is in Heaven, from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our body of the humiliation, that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working of His ability even to subject all things to Himself.
8 Feb 2009
Shalom from a very dry Negev (which means ‘dry land’).
Despite the extremely dry weather for winter — the driest on record — the flu has been going around. It got to me, so I was laid up in bed for a few days a couple of weeks ago. I also have what must be a pinched nerve in my neck for about a 1/2 year now. For the last couple of months, I’ve been getting some physical therapy, but it hasn’t really released the pinch. I did it to myself while doing some exercises (at the loving concern of my family). Hoping it would go away by itself, I didn’t do anything about it for a couple of months, before going finally for an x-ray. It took more than another month to start some treatment. Anyway, the body ages, while the inner man is renewed day-by-day! Praise the Lord!
The last-days weather patterns are certainly less predictable than just a few years ago. God’s covenant blessings of the right amount of rain at the right times were based on Israel’s obedience with faith in Him. Since this is still not the case, and since the times are nearing for God’s interventions in righteous judgments, then the lack of ‘good’ rain is a means by which He would want His people to repent and return to Him. (Dt 28:12, 23-24) Yet God has promised since the Flood that as long as this Earth remains, there would still be the four seasons (Gen 8:22). And He has further promised that as long as He is in control of our unique solar system within His universe, and that the size of the universe can not be determined, Israel would remain a nation before Him, and His covenants with David and with the Levites would not be broken (Jer 31:33-37; 33:19-26). So we can be assured that Yeshua is going to return at the appointed time to regenerate this Creation and make the Earth a very habitable place during His reign! (Ps 96; Mt 24:32-39; Rom 8:18-25)
Israel once again goes to national elections for Prime Minister and for Knesset (Parliament) seats. Once again, the elections are critical. It seems that every election here is a ‘fateful’ one. The security of the nation and its integrity is once again the major issue. The economy, which is also adversely affected along with the rest of the world’s countries, has not been discussed very much publicly, yet obviously will have a major impact on our lives. Two of the major candidates, Bibi Netanyahu (Likud) and Ehud Barak (Labor), have been PM before, and each had a major negative impact on the nation. Tzipi Livni, currently Foreign Minister, has risen to prominence through her earlier connection with Ariel Sharon and the formation of the new political party, Kadima. That party was formed out from the more right-wing party Likud, and with a platform to divide the country into two. A fourth major candidate this time is Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beiteinu – Israel Our Home) is running on a platform which essentially requires citizens to pledge allegiance to the State of Israel if they want to partake of its privileges. The Likud and all of the nationalist parties promote with worldly reason the necessity of Israel being a Jewish and ‘democratic’ country.
This sounds reasonable, but has been and will be used against Jews and Christians in other countries. When a Jew is required to pledge more loyalty to his ‘home’ country over Israel, what will he answer? (Ps 137:1-6) When a Christian is required to pledge more allegiance to his ‘home’ country over the Kingdom of God, what will you answer? (Acts 17:7; Jn 18:36; Ps 2; Rev 11:15-18) Will believers in Jesus also be required in Israel to pledge greater allegiance to a Jewish state — that is, a state where Judaism is the supreme religion — over the truth of Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of God, which Judaism rejects? Are we prepared for such a time as that?
1Pet 1:3-9 we rejoice greatly in Him whom we love for saving our souls
On the Day of Atonements last Shabbat, the Jewish believers amongst us then did a very significant thing (Neh 9:2): we accepted and confessed our sin and rebellion against YHVH our God (Lev 26:40) and against His Son, the Messiah Jesus (Mt 27:25).
As priests of God in Christ – and as sons of our fathers, whether in the time of Moses or whether in the days of Yeshua – we have a responsibility to accept our personal and collective guilt for our iniquity, transgressions, and sins against God and against our fellow man (Lev 16:11,15,17,21). We are connected to our people both in promises and in judgment, according to God’s covenants with us. God has an historic plan of redemption throughout the generations and history of man to bring about His purposes to live with all those who love His Son, Jesus Christ, and know Him as Savior and Lord.
All of the appointed times of YHVH – Sabbath, Passover, Shavuot, Succot – remind Jews (and Christians) that the Creator redeemed and delivered His people Israel from bondage in Egypt (Dt 16:6,12; Lev 23:43). They are also based upon sacrifices of blood, the blood of covenant with God and His people.
As I have mentioned times before, the Passover was a sacrifice and a deliverance by grace and power, apart from the reckoning of sin. But it did require faith and obedience on the part of the Israelis in Egypt to put the blood of the slaughtered lambs upon their door posts and remain inside their homes. From Shavuot, with the giving of the Law, the people became aware of the holiness and righteousness of the great God and Savior who had saved them and promised to give them the land which He promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob and to their descendants. The people of Israel “became” sinners, who had to offer all kinds of sacrifices in acknowledgement of his or her sin and guilt and defilement. The Day of Atonements was the national day of corporate cleansing by the Holy God through the sacrifice of the goat to YHVH and the sending away to live in the wilderness the other goat to Azazel, laden with all the sins of the children of Israel. This, too, is all of grace, but requiring the personal application of the Israeli to him-/herself, lest he/she disqualify himself from inclusion as a member of the family of God.
Now we come to the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated with great rejoicing (Dt 16:13-15), because not only is the final harvest of fruit gathered, but God Himself will dwell in the midst of His people! (Ezek 37:21-28; Lev 26:11-13). The sacrifice has been accepted, and the people rejoicing in the goodness and love of the Lord!
For us now as believers in Jesus, we have a better sacrifice and already enjoy the pledge of the fullness of God’s presence with us. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and there is great joy in the love of the Father when we live with thanksgiving by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross when He died for our sins. There is great joy to know God’s power working on our behalf, and of His righteous ways. The blood of the Son of God cleanses our conscience, which all the blood of animals could not and will not accomplish.
The booth (succa) reminds us of our temporary life here, both in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, and in our actual lives as we anticipate the redemption of our bodies in the resurrection. Through it all, God keeps us and provides for us as we look up at His wondrous creation and consider the ultimate expression of love in giving us His Son for the propitiation of our sins. The Kingdom of God is presently within us, yet there is joy. How much more so when the Lord Yeshua returns to bring the Kingdom to Earth, and with it righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit! All the nations which survive along with the remnant of Israel will be blessed by the presence of the Lord in their midst. And to demonstrate this – and their understanding that this is all of the one true God – all the nations will come up to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles to worship the King, YHVH of Hosts!
As we celebrate today Succot, we also celebrate with the Lord’s Supper, which is a prophetic reminder that the Lamb who was slain, and for doing so has received all power and authority and blessing and honor and a Name above every name. . . this same Yeshua who ascended up into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father will Himself return to establish God’s Kingdom in Israel and over the whole Earth and universe!
Come, Lord Jesus!
Day of Atonements and Understanding the Centrality of Our Faith
For us who believe in Jesus and the New Covenant, understanding the Messianic roots through the Old Testament given to Israel helps us to see some of the details that are supplied to grasp more fully the fulfillment which is in Jesus and His sacrificial atoning death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.
Simply stated, the King of Glory (Ps 24) – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Gen 49:8-12; Rev 5:4-7), the Ram whom God supplied as a burnt offering (Gen 22:9-19), the Lamb slain who sits on the Throne (Rev 5) – humbled Himself by clothing (identifying) Himself in the likeness of sinful flesh – as a Goat! (Lev 16; Rom 8:3-4; Mt 25:31-46) – and willingly offered (sacrificed) Himself in purity and without blemish unto God as a sin and guilt offering, shedding His own blood, to the glory of God the Father, and taking upon Himself all of our iniquities, transgressions, and sins in order to be the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe, that we might live with the Holy Father – indeed, that God may live with and in us.
Lev 16: 29-34; Heb 10: 11-23 N.T. in Messiah our everlasting reality of annual Day of Atonements
Lev 23: 28-30; Rom 11: 25-27 anyone not appropriating the God-provided sacrifice personally, and so afflicting his own, is cut off from the people corporately. Jesus died for the whole world, but especially for those who believe. All Israel are those who, when they see Him whom they pierced, accept the covenant blood sacrifice.
Lev 16: 5-10; Jn 10: 17-18; 11: 49-50 Living scapegoat bearing all the iniquities, transgressions, sins of Israel, and Israel being atoned for on the basis of the accepted blood sacrifice of the first goat unto the LORD; two goats. . .one sin offering; atonement (reconciliation) and the effectual removal of guilt and uncleanness from the camp on the innocent goat — made sin for us – sent alive into the desert as a witness and testimony of the accepted sacrifice by God of the first goat slain.
We are to be with Jesus, outside the camp, willing to bear with Him His reproach, which falls on us who believe in Him. He is worthy! (Heb 13:12-14)
Lev 23:24; Num 29:1 YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the one of the month, you shall have a sabbath rest, a Memorial of Blowing of Trumpets, a holy convocation.
Mt 24:29-31,36 Immediately after the tribulation (see v.21) of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the Earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . .But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in Heaven, but My Father only.
1Cor 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1Thes 4:15-18 For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord: that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Ps 50:3-6 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all all around Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice. Let the Heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge.
Rev 10:6-7 But in the day of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God will be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.
Rev 11:15-19 Then the seventh angel sounded [the trumpet], and there were loud voices in Heaven saying, The kingdoms of this world have become of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O YHVH God of Hosts, the One Who Is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants – the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your Name, small and great – and should destroy those who destroy the Earth.” Then the Temple of God was opened in Heaven, and the Ark of His Covenant was seen in His Temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
Next week begins what the Jewish people call the New Year, but what the Bible calls the Memorial of Shouts, or of the Blowing [of Trumpets]. This is one of the appointed times of the LORD, and is the beginning of the final set of holy-days to bring Israel to confession of sin and repentance, unity as a people, to put away evil, bring in the harvest of the righteous, and to re-establish God’s Kingdom in Israel and over all the nations of the world (Ps 2). These times of the LORD to Israel help us as believers in Jesus and the New Covenant to understand God’s plan of redemption and salvation, and His calendar for when these things will be. The Mishna teaches the Jewish people that the time of the blowing of the trumpets through the Day of Atonements are the “days of awe”, days of judgment when all the inhabitants of the world pass before YHVH God, like flocks of sheep: They either are chosen to live or to die, depending on their righteousness.
Many Bible teachers connect the “Feast of Trumpets” as marking the time of the rapture of the Church, that this is the next event as far as believers are concerned. This is both right and wrong! It is right in that there is a connection between the two; it is wrong to say it marks the time it will happen. This can be said with certainty because of what is written in Lev 23:24—giving a specific day—and in Mt 24:36—saying that the day is unknown. Num 10: 1-10 instructs Israel that the blowing of trumpets is for a purpose and also as a memorial for them before God. They will remember their special covenantal relationship with the LORD, and He will remember them to deliver them from their enemies.
As Jesus has Himself, as the Savior, fulfilled the appointed times of Passover – Unleavened Bread – First Fruits – the beginning of Harvest in their sequence and times; if He is presently by the Holy Spirit fulfilling His work of grace and truth since Weeks/Pentecost; then we should expect that Trumpets – Atonements – the beginning of Booths/Tabernacles will be fulfilled by God in their sequence and times – a matter of days and weeks at the end of the age — as Yeshua is revealed to be the King of the Jews and of all the surviving nations.
As believers in Jesus we are not subject or bound to times and seasons (Acts 1:7; Gal 4:9-11; Col 2:16-17; 1Thes 5:1-10). Think about it a moment: if the Lord were to take up the believers to Himself at the time of the new moon of the seventh month, then satan would be waiting and watching on that day each year to guard his household, and believers would be waiting, too. And if the Lord did not take us up this year, for example, then we would not be expecting Him for at least another year, along with the devil! Yet we are plainly warned not to wait for a certain day or hour, because this is God’s secret, but rather to hope in faith and love and do His work until He comes, as a servant would His lord or as a bride would her groom. We can “hasten” the day by wanting Him to come while living in obedience with faith until then! (Heb 9:28)
Israel, though, does have a set time in her calendar given by YHVH Himself to remember a shout (תרועה) at the beginning of the seventh month and preceding the Day of Atonements. What shout is Israel to remember? It is here that I want to suggest that God is waking up Israel with this memorial,
- to acknowledge and recognize that YHVH God of Hosts has indeed entered the battle to deliver His saints – Jewish and gentile believers who hold faith in Yeshua without seeing — out of the hands of the enemy and of the great tribulation – at the sounding of the 7th trumpet;
- to prepare herself for coming judgment and wrath – and the hope of mercy – through repentance and fear for rejecting the truth of God spoken through Moses and the prophets, and especially by Jesus Himself (Jn 15:22), regarding the Messiah, who is none other than Jesus. (Zech 12:10; Lev 23:29; 26:40-42); and
- to call upon the name of YJVH, Yeshua the Messiah the Nazarene, for salvation and deliverance out of Jacob’s Trouble, the great tribulation. (Jer 30:7; Mt 24:21-22; Num 10:9; Mt 23:39)
As in the days of bondage in Egypt, the LORD will hear the heart cry of His people in their affliction, and will send the One greater than Moses – Messiah Yeshua – to save His people from their oppressors (Num 10:9) and from their sin and uncleanness on the Day of YHVH, the Day of Atonements.
As believers, we can continue to pray for God to reveal the truth about Yeshua now to the Jews (and Arabs and other gentiles), so that as many as possible can have their part in the first resurrection.
As believers, we do not wait for holidays to direct our lives but rather by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us each and every day, that we, too, will be ready and not ashamed when the Son of Man comes.
Jn 17: 11-26
The Scroll of Ruth is read in the synagogues this holiday. It is a story of love and mercy: of someone “outside” – even poor and a stranger (זר) – who was brought “inside”. She was chosen, but she also chose: to belong to the treasured people of YHVH God, and to place all her future and hopes in their God. About 1970 years ago, more than 3000 persons who were separated from God because of their unbelief and sins were brought into His Kingdom of light and love.
Our being here today from around the Negev, and even including Jerusalem and Ashkelon, is no mere circumstance. As believers in Yeshua we were born again when we repented and believed in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, now seated at the right hand of the Father. We come into the faith of Messiah who has already come, and who will come again at the time God has set to fix and restore all things (Acts 3:21). We are joined with those from nearly 2000 years ago – and even before – to God through Messiah.
Just as Jesus had to die, like a grain of wheat must in order not to be alone but to bear much fruit to bless many, so too are we who believe and been baptized, baptized into His death so that we can walk in newness of life, being a blessing to many for the sake of the name of our Lord and Savior. For this God has given us the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the church – the Body of Messiah: you, me, all from out of every nation, tribe, language who have received the same precious faith by the righteousness of God. Just as Yeshua rose from the dead, so we have this living hope, and it is the Spirit of Christ in us that is a baptism unto life eternal! We join ourselves to all who are called by the name of Messiah and all our hopes are in Him who is Head over the church in all things and lives amongst us through His Spirit.
There is no Pentecost – and no Holy Spirit – no life in Messiah Jesus apart from faith in His death on the cross for our sins and in His resurrection. By grace the Father has given us the Spirit to sanctify for His Son a beautiful, spotless, blameless Bride…full of love and peace and joy for our Lord and Husband. . .and full of love and peace and joy for each one whom Jesus chooses to be part of His body, His bride.
So we are here today, brothers and sisters in Messiah, to demonstrate our unity by our love. Let Israelis know; let Palestinians know; let anyone/everyone else know that Jesus, the only begotten Son of God sent to us as Savior, He is Lord of lords and King of kings!
Let us pray for a fresh and double outpouring of the Holy Spirit now near the end of the age, as we humble ourselves and repent for all our sins which bring reproach to the Name of our Father in Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ. As He Himself prayed, let us show our unity by love for each other, and so fulfill His joy and ours.
John 1:1-5,10-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
This past and coming week the whole world is reminded that Jesus Christ was born. Not only did millions—perhaps billions—celebrate that this most unique person came into the world, but in a few days time, all will also acknowledge His influence when this year 2003 ends and the next 12-month period begins. Modern history and global culture revolve around this Man—Jesus Christ.
On Wednesday I went up to Bethlehem with some of the medical students and my two sons. As you remember, the congregational offering from a few weeks ago was set aside to help provide toys for children living in the Bethlehem area. That was done, and there was a sense of joy and satisfaction in doing that in the name of the Lord Jesus. I was able to visit the homes of some Palestinian Arab Christian friends who live in Beit Jala. They were blessed and encouraged that someone “from the other side” would come during these times of troubles, and also be of one spirit with them to celebrate Jesus at this special time for believers. With your permission, I was pleased to give them a gift from the congregation here to their children’s center, Beit Halika, to bless them in the work they do as believers.
The Manger Square, where the festivities of Christmas Eve take place, was full of people, but not as in earlier years before the intifada. Despite being warned not to identify myself as an Israeli, God provided opportunities to do so, even to a policeman from Hebron with whom I had a conversation about the weather! I could also testify of the birth of Jesus as the reason we came, when asked at the checkpoints. They wouldn’t let me in as an Israeli, but as an American. Praise God! Even the apostle Paul found it helpful to have dual citizenships!
What was very evident at Manger Square was the political exploitation of the celebration of the Savior of the world to express anti-Israel slogans, whether hanging on banners from the roof and walls of buildings, or from the Christian patriarch at the midnight Church service, which was broadcast around the world. Just as Israel did not receive her King Messiah when He was born until this day, so do many of those in the Church today still not know Him, who was born and died to be the King of the Jews. The apostle John expressed it well: The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it. It is truly saddening to see the Glory of God being “darkened” by the false prophets of this world. The Lord Jesus told us that His Kingdom is not of this world. The Holy Spirit expressly says through the Scriptures that such would be the situation in these last days.
We who believe are called – not to be lukewarm, not to be nationalistic and militant, but rather to be witnesses of Jesus as Lord and Messiah, the Son of God who is Heir of all things.
It is not certain what will come upon us during 2004. We do know that the time will come for the one to be called the antichrist, and it is written of him that he will change the times and law (Dan 7:25). Who knows, the day may come when the year will not be marked by the birth of Jesus by those in authority. And even now, laws are proposed and passed to change laws in western Christian nations to make it illegal to publicly express or display faith in the one true God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
As we look ahead to the next year and wish for others and ourselves a “happy and good year”, let us bear in mind that what is happy and good according to the world or to our flesh is not necessarily what will make for a blessed year according to God our Savior. He wants more people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. If you were to say that to unbelievers as you wish for them a happy and good year, they would not understand it that way! The Lord wants us to grow more mature in the faith, and often that comes only through suffering – trials and tribulations – of some sort or other. That is not what we usually consider as we wish each other, and ourselves, a good and happy year!
But God has a plan to bring honor and glory and praise to His Anointed One—Jesus—by whom all things were made, including us. I do pray and wish for each one of you, and for all of us together, a good and blessed year for the sake of the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace be upon Israel in our days!
(Modified Dec 15, 2017)
Jude 3 – contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints
Mt 5:14-16 we are light to be seen, and to honor the true Light source
–light to be seen publicly
–draws attention for friend and foe
The Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) reminds us of the battle within Israel amongst the Jewish people over the worship of God in the Temple. This was about 160 years before Jesus was born. The LORD helped the Maccabees win the victory to re-establish the worship of God according to the truth as understood under the Law and the Prophets. And the LORD was with them in the victory! But the Maccabees, too, were but men like us, and before long, the decline reached to the point of no return. There remained a remnant that sought true freedom, not only from the Roman powers which the Maccabees invited into Israel, but freedom to worship God with all their hearts, soul, mind, and strength, and to see Israel redeemed from all her unrighteousness.
A greater than the Maccabees has come, and He is also greater than the Temple. Jesus came into Israel, and into the world which He made, in order to re-dedicate the true worship of the one true God, and to establish the Kingdom of God in the hearts of any who would believe. It required His death and resurrection and ascension to make this reality in those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit. Yet the same battle rages today within the Church, the Body of Messiah, as in the days of the Maccabees.
Jesus confessed before Pilate that He was indeed a king — the King of a kingdom not of this world. And Jesus said that for this He came into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Pilate did not believe in absolute truth. (Jn 18:36-38) As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we are to be faithful witnesses of our King — both in speaking of Him and in our life for Him.
This year we continue to experience an assault on essential truths of the faith which we have received through the Scriptures. Our Father in Heaven is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth, and the enemy is seeking to deceive believers – the elect – if it were possible.
I want to look at a few of the issues that we must earnestly contend for in faithfulness to the New Covenant and the revelation of Jesus Christ:
Ex 20:6; Mt 10:37-39; 22:36-40 the Deity of Jesus: we must love Him with all our heart; He is LORD
Rom 10:13-14; Mt 10:28-33 Evangelism: we must confess His holy and blessed name to others that they may be saved
Mt 16:15-17; 1Jn 2:20-26,28 Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God
1Jn 4:1-6; Jn 5:18-20; Lk 3:38; Mt 1:1 ; Jn 5:22-27 Jesus Christ came in the flesh: He is the Son of God; He is the Son of Man: He is the Judge (God is the Judge)
Acts 1:9-11; Lk 9:26 The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again in the body
Jn 14:6; 1Jn 5: 4-5,9-13 Jesus is the only way to God the Father
Heb 6:2; Rev 20:10-15; Mt 25:41-46; Mk 9:42-48; Dan 12:1-2; Is 66:22-24 Everlasting judgment and condemnation for those who will not to believe
To love God is to honor and obey Him as our Father. To love others is to keep the commandments of God. For us to worship God the Father in spirit and truth, and to love others as we love ourselves, we must uphold these truths of the faith once delivered unto the saints. The Lord’s Supper is a constant reminder of the shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins until He comes again.
Lev. 10:3 By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy, and before all the people I must be honored.
Eph 2:11-12 As we continue to let the Tabernacle in the Desert instruct us of God’s pattern for us to approach Him in prayer, the passage from Ephesians notes “the middle wall of separation”, which separated Israel from the other nations. God in His wisdom separated the people He had chosen and called to Himself from the surrounding heathen peoples of the world in which they lived. In spiritual reality, the gentiles then were without Messiah, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Israel/the Jewish people are in a similar spiritual condition as the gentiles then, but there is a difference: Israel is still the nation chosen by God, even if there is a willful collective amnesia regarding that and its significance.
But we remember (Memorial of Blowing of Trumpets) that YHVH spoke the gospel to Abraham when He promised him that, through him, ALL the families of the Earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3).
v. 13-15 But NOW in Messiah Jesus, those who were once far off – spiritually and physically – have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, having broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His FLESH the enmity, the law of commandments in ordinances, so as to create in Him ONE NEW MAN from the two, making peace.
NOW, both Jews and all other peoples have access into the court of God’s people, since Jesus died for ALL, and God’s salvation through the forgiveness of sins is offered to ALL (Day of Atonements).
v. 16-17 Jesus came to die that He might reconcile them both to God in ONE BODY through the cross (the altar), thereby putting to death the enmity. Jesus came and preached peace both to those far and near.
How can born-again redeemed Jews be hostile towards the gentiles when once we realize and appreciate that Messiah, the Son of God, died for my and our sins! How can the gentile Christians remain hostile to Israel and the Jewish people when once they realize and appreciate that, in God’s sovereignty and grace, Israel’s promised Messiah has been shown to be the Savior of the whole world, and given gentiles access to the true living God!
v. 18-19 Through Jesus we both have access by one Spirit to the Father – both in our relationship as sons and daughters, and also in our prayers. Both Jewish and gentile believers are fellow citizens of God’s Kingdom and members of His family, His household. All persons, whether or not believers, have been redeemed to God by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this speaks to the reality of the broken down wall of separation.
As we have noted before, entry into the Holy of Holies –representing symbolically the spiritual reality of Heaven, God’s dwelling place – brings us to God the Father, which Jesus opened up for all believers through the veil, that is, His flesh – firstly by His birth, but foremost by His death on the cross.
v. 20-22 We are being built together as a holy temple in the Lord for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Inwardly, this speaks of the cross and the crucified life being grasped hold of in the life of the born-again believer, in the power of the resurrection, of an endless life unto God, who has cut for us each the New Covenant by forgiving us our sins. In these things there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, free nor slave, rich nor poor, but rather a new creation.
1Cor 10:17 one bread; one body; priestly intercession for all the Body of Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile
Lev 23:17 two loaves; with leaven. Shavuot (Weeks) looks ahead to the day when the middle wall of separation and the enmity between God and man, and between Israel and the nations, was broken down by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and God’s Spirit being given to all who believe on Him.