PRIESTS IN GOD’S TEMPLE

Rom 15:4; 1Cor 10:11  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we, through the patience and the comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope; our example at the end of the age  

Last week we looked at an overview of the Temple, from the days of the Tabernacle in the wilderness through the two temples in Jerusalem,  on to the present time of the persons who are born-again and the Body of Messiah as being God’s Temple in the Spirit, and on into the Millennial Kingdom when the Scriptures seem to indicate that there will be another physical temple in Jerusalem, and ultimately into eternity when the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are seen as being the Temple.  The whole new creation and all that is in it will be holiness!  

God gives us these visions of the future – He gives us these prophecies – to encourage us and ‘push us’ into going on to attain the goal and obtain the prize.  For the Lord, our growth is measured spiritually.  The Word of God and the Holy Spirit do reprove and correct us in the light of the future, so that in the present we would sanctify ourselves by His truth and righteousness, ceasing to do evil and learning to do good 

The last nine chapters of the book of Ezekiel describe in great detail what can only be understood as referring to the time when the Kingdom of God is restored to Israel once the Lord Jesus Christ has returned to save His people and to judge the nations.  In these chapters, there is also a section pertaining to the priesthood as YHVH God ordains it in accord with His righteousness and His grace.   

Ezek 44:10-14; 2Ki 23:8-9   And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity.  Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them.  Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them, says YHVH God, that they shall bear their iniquity.  And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near My holy things, nor into the Most Holy, but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committedBut I will let them keep charge of the temple, for all its service, and for all that has to be done in it.   

Ezek 44:15-16; 1Chr 29:22; 2Sam 8:17; 1Kg 1:34   But the priest, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood, says YHVH God.

We see here that the Levites, except for the family of Zadok, are appointed to keep guard and do the service of the Temple, but not to function as priests.  In God’s government, He has kept them out from this higher place because of their previous history, when they followed the people into idolatry, and were a stumbling block of iniquity instead of resisting the evil coming into the worship of the true God.  It had been their responsibility to instruct the people the laws of the covenant which established their relationship with YHVH.  God will take into account our past, and we will suffer loss if we depart from His revealed will, even though we are still personally safe in our salvation.  God’s grace does not set aside His righteousness and righteous judgment and evaluation of our spiritual character.  We reap what we sow.  

This lesson we see here in the case of the Levites.  They would ‘bear their iniquity and their shame’ as they fulfilled their service, and would be an example to the whole nation of their past sin, in which the Levites had participated.  At the same time, they would be thanking and praising the Lord for His grace and mercy shown to them!  Eli and King David examples:  to whom much is given, more is required.

This same principle of God’s righteous government is seen in the priests of Zadok’s descendants.  He (they) had remained faithful when Israel departed from YHVH, and now in the coming day of Messiah’s Kingdom, God gives them the nearest place.  Their past faithfulness receives its reward.  

The difference between the Levites and the Priests (Cohanim) is that the former stand before the people and minister to them under God’s authority, while the priests minister to YHVH, stand before Him, and enter the sanctuary.  This holy privilege of going into God’s presence and of fellowship with Him at His table is characteristic of the priestly role.  (In Israel, all cohanim are Levites; not all Levites are cohanim.  In Messiah, all are priests after the order of Melchizedek, not of Levi and Aaron.)  

The letters from the exalted and glorified Lord to His churches express the truth that believers will be judged for our works, whether good or evil.  Some use what talents and gifts God has given them more or less profitably than others.  Paul wrote to the Philippians that he wanted to so know Christ that he would have part in the [first] resurrection from among the dead.  Those who are ‘good and faithful servants’, like Zadok, serve in the presence of the Lord; those who are not, but are yet the Lord’s, will suffer loss of privilege.  

Ezek 44:20-31   God’s view of the priestly features during the Millennial Kingdom.  What do they have to do with us now as believers in Jesus and the New Covenant?  

Ezekiel was a priest, and also a prophet.  God gave Ezekiel to see all the sins and abominations which Israel – especially as represented by the priesthood – had committed against YHVH and His covenant.  Just as Paul wrote Timothy in order to bring correction and order into the local churches, so, too, did Ezekiel write to Israel and her leaders what the holy God requires and expects from His chosen people.  Both Israel and the Church are called to be a Kingdom of Priests.  

Habits and Relationships   

MODERATION regarding Hair

Ezek 44: 20; Ex 9:32 כסם spelt – wheat- with short ‘hair’; Lev 21:5; Dt 14:1; 2Sam 14:25-26 (Absalom); 2Kg 2:23 (Elisha);
Is 3:17,24; 15:2 (baldness a judgment upon women’s beauty; shame upon men); Num 6:5 (Nazirite); 1Cor 11:14-15;
1Pt 3:3-6; Rev 9:8a
‘They shall neither shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed.’  

I heard a radio interview recently with a famous hairdresser who was helping women who had lost their hair from chemotherapy recover their dignity and identity by making them wigs from real hair that people donated for the cause.  He said that a woman’s identity is in her hair.  I think if men are honest, we look in the mirror to see if our head/hair looks the way we want it, too!  

Hair has an important place in the Bible.  For one who was a Nazirite (not to be confused with Nazarene), his long hair signified lowly dependence upon God, which is the proper attitude of a ‘creature’, and separation and withdrawal from the things of the flesh and what stimulates it, such as wine. (Num 6)  Baldness was a sign of mourning the loss of a close relative, and also a form of judgment from God for sinfulness.  In the New Testament hair is used to show the relative place of man and woman in the divine order – the short hair of the man indicating his headship and responsibility to rule; the long hair of the woman that of her dependence, yet helpfulness, which completes the man.  So we can see that hair is a sign of separation in devotedness to God, a symbol that all that we are is brought into subjection to God’s will, and so of obedience to His order for us in whatever sphere of relation or influence we may be placed.  We know that there are examples of extreme asceticism, on the one hand, which dishonors the ‘creature’ of God, and, on the other hand, of turning the grace of God into being loose in morals, appearance, or behavior.  Neither of these extremes is of God.  This rule for the priests seems to be a guard to avoid these fleshly extremes.  (Grant/Bloor)
   –to look normal – not extreme; moderate, modest; male/masculine
   —not [intentionally] bald like pagan priests, such as in Buddhism, nor as an expression of mourning which would render the priest unclean to perform his priestly duties
   —not long, with pride in themselves, like Absalom, or like barbarians in war; neither as a vow that could prevent the priest from serving (a Nazirite vow was more severe than priestly restrictions)
   —Scriptures inspired by Holy Spiritcut the hair, not shave as is customary amongst mourners

*For sure, if the Holy Spirit says in the N.T. that long hair on a man is a dishonor to him, then those who would be priests/overseers – ‘nearest’ to God in service and held responsible for their spiritual faithfulness – would be instructed regarding their hair length and ‘style’.  It is also certain that neither would the Son of God have had ‘long hair’, for He always honored His Father and God.  

   WHY?
Lev 21:5-6   They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for they offer the offerings of YHVH made by fire, food of their God; therefore they shall be holy.
             –What MESSAGE do we give to those who ‘read’ us by our hair, face, clothing  

Heb 13:12-16   Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp [of any other religion or culture] bearing His reproach [of being despised and rejected, of being made a scapegoat].  For here [in the world] we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.  Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well  pleased.  

Rom 12:1-2   I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrificeholy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service;  to know God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will Paul is beseeching us by God’s mercies!  Do we realize the sinful condition not only out of which He saved us, but, with Israel as our example, the terrible state to which the Church has descended in maintaining God’s honor and His character that He wants in His people, and especially in those who are His priests, serving Him in His Temple?!  

Rom 11:33-36   God’s purpose for us is first this:  We are to glorify God by our faith and obedience to the Son of God, of whom and through whom and to whom are all things 

God’s thoughts are clearly not like ours!

What does our hair say about who we are in our relationship to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ?

SOBRIETY

Ezek 44: 21; Lev 10:8-11; Eph 5:17-18; 1Tim 3:2-3; Tit 1:7
‘No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.’
   –not to drink alcohol before performing service to God or to teach His statutes
   –to have control over one’s faculties to honor God and to know what is acceptable and what is not
   —priests are to exercise clear discernment of what is or is not according to the mind and nature of God
   –our judgment of things needs to be sobered by the reality of God’s holy sanctuary and not by what seems to determine success or suitability outside (Ps 73 

PURITY in Marriage

Ezek 44: 22; Lev 21:7-9, 13-15; Mal 2:16; 1Cor 7:8-16, 39; Mt 5:31-32; 19: 3-9; Mk 10:2-9; 1Tim 3:2-5; Tit 1:6
‘They shall not take as wife a widow or a divorced woman, but take virgins of the descendants of the house of Israel, or widows of priests.’
   –divorce a result of a hard heart, and God hates it, even if He ‘allows’ it
      –marry a believer (in Christ all are priests) and honor the Lord’s admonitions regarding divorce and remarriage
   –a guard for those who serve the Lord against giving in to mere passion or in being unconcerned in forming the most sacred and important of all human relationships
   –Children, honor your mother and your father by not having sexual relationships before marriage!
      –Our father’s reputation is affected
      –To be eligible under the Law and under the New Covenant Law for the Millennial, only virgin women are suitable for marriage to a priest
      —(Rev 14:3-4)  God is going to seal 144,000 virgin men, those who have not defiled themselves with women
   –Under the grace of the present age, if we have sinned in ignorance and afterwards confess the sin as sin, then God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us! (1Jn 1:9-10 

Those who grow up in a priestly family — that is, a household where especially both parents are believers in Yeshua as the Messiah and the Son of God – have a calling on their life from early on.  If it is in your heart to serve the one true God in truth, then you will take to heart His requirements of personal and practical holiness.  

Priests are to show by their habits and life a good witness for God on the basis of the holiness of the blood sacrifice which allows us access into His presence.  Having our own life ‘in order’, we are better equipped to fill our priestly responsibility of serving others in the work of teaching and judgment.  How can we be godly examples to the flock and have moral authority to instruct them in the holy things of God if we are like those described in Rom 1:28, 32?: 

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. . ., who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”  

SERVICE TOWARDS THE PEOPLE FOR GOD: Teaching

Ezek 44: 23; Lev 10:3, 8-11; Neh 8:7-8; Mt 28: 18-20; Eph 4:11-15; Acts 17:11; Rev 3:8
‘And they shall teach My people between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to know between the unclean and the clean.’  Discipleship is bringing believers to know for themselves how to live in accordance with the teachings of the Lord and His apostles, given to us in the Scriptures.
   –doctrine and hypocrisy of the religious/political authorities:  Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Herodians
        Mt 16:1-12; 21 – 23; Mk 8:11-15; Lk 11:28-53; 12:1   have keys kingdom, but keep themselves and others out   

Judging, Oversight

v. 24; Ex 18:19-23; Dt 16:19; Ex 20:8-11; Lev 23; Mt 7:1-5; Jn 7:24; 1Cor 5:9-13; 6:1-6
‘In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge according to My judgments.  They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed times, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths.’
   —Judge with righteous judgment, not with partiality, nor taking a bribe to pervert justice, nor by appearances.   Judgment is to be based upon God’s authority:  His will be done.
   –who is competent/sufficient for these things! 2Cor 2:16
   —Observe and care for each of the appointed times with their own regulations to be followed for worship Lev 16; 23; Dt 12:12-15; 16:1-15
       –the Lord’s Supper (1Cor 11:23-32) – maintaining God’s holiness and the Father’s grace
   —the Sabbath a covenant sign between YHVH God and Israel (Ex 31:13-17)
       –the first day of the week/ the day after the Sabbath (Lev 23:11,15; Mt 28:1; Mk 16:9; Jn 20:19-23; Acts 20:7; 1Cor 16:2)

SEPARATION FROM DEFILEMENT as to the Dead, their Inheritance, their Food 

Ezek 44: 25-27; Lev 11:31; 21:1-4; Mt 22:9-13; Lk 10:30-32; 2Cor 6:14-18; 7:1; Gal 2:19; 1Pt 1:13-16; Rev 21:22-27
‘They shall not defile themselves by coming near a dead person.  Only for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister may they defile themselves.  After he is cleansed, they shall count seven days for him.  And on the day that he goes to the sanctuary to minister in the sanctuary, he must offer his sin offering in the inner court, says YHVH God.’

   –Even in cases where being connected with death was permitted, cleansing was required.  Death is the remedy for the defilement which death brings in as the penalty of sin!  The wages of sin is death.
     –The Law makes no one righteous: it only requires duty and condemns us for sin and for sins.  The Levite in the story of the ‘good Samaritan’ may have obeyed the letter of the Law for priests not to come near a [possibly] dead body, and so become defiled/unclean; but the Spirit of the Law is “love your neighbor as yourself”, and had the priest acted with that overriding concern, the Law provided a sacrifice to restore him to his holy and religious duties cleansed from his [potential] defilement.

   –We can only come into God’s presence with liferesurrection life after the accepted death of the acceptable sacrifice which paid the penalty for sin.
   –Be holy, for YHVH is holy!
   –do not be defiled by bonding with those – apart from close relatives – who are spiritually dead or unclean
     –a sister marries into the family of her husband (consider also Ps 45:10-11 [11-12 Heb])
   –No one and no thing that is defiled with death will enter the holy city of the New Jerusalem!   

GOD IS OUR INHERITANCE!

Ezek 44: 28-30; Gen 15:1; Lev 7:28-36; Num 18:8-14, 20-32; 1Cor 9:13-14; 1Tim 5:17-18
‘It shall be, in regard to their inheritance, I am their inheritance.  You shall give them no possession in Israel, for I am their possession.  They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; every dedicated thing [to YHVH] in Israel shall be theirs.  The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priests’; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.’
   –the priests received the best of all things:  YHVH Himself and all that is His
   –those who minister the holy things of the Temple – those who preach the gospel – should live from the offerings of the people.  The laborer is worthy of his wages.
   –living by faith:  Yeshua is our portion and inheritance!  We are joint heirs together with Him!  

FOOD SANCTIFIED UNTO YHVH GOD

Ezek 44: 31; Lev 11:39-40; 17:15-16; 22:8; Acts 15:29; 1Tim 4:3-5
 ‘The priests shall not eat anything, bird or beast, that died naturally or was torn.’  
     —The Lord has sanctified us to keep His ordinances.  We are not to eat (also in spiritual sense) that which has no life – no freshness or which may carry disease or other decay – nor which has been mauled, or treated without dignity – its innards exposed and contaminated.
       –This applies to all of God’s people, not only to the Levites and Priests    

     –The food of the priests was that which was offered to YHVH by the people:  His portion became the priests.  The people were to give healthy animals for sacrifices to God, and the priests received their portion from this.  

     –Yeshua said that He is our food.  He is our Life.  

     –He was killed on the cross, but not left there to be torn by birds or beasts, and lovingly carried away to be buried in a clean place (a new grave).  

To love the Lord is to obey Him with a willing heart to honor HIM over receiving the approval of men.

ADAM: HIS FALL AND RISING

I’ve heard some Christian preachers say they are going to show their sore displeasure to Adam when they see him because he did not obey God in the Garden of Eden and so brought suffering and death into the world for all the rest of mankind. (Rom 5:12-19; 1Cor 15:22)  This attitude does not at all understand that whoever Adam would have been, he would have done the same thing:  God already planned before the creation that the Son of God – the Word become flesh – would come into the world in the fullness of time to redeem every person, for all have sinned. . . .there is none righteous. . . .except for God Himself.  In Adam all die; in Messiah all live.

Adam is the human father of us all:  we are all children of Adam (bnei Adam).  It will help us to know him better so that we can identify with him rather than condemn him.  He is one of the great cloud of witnesses whom God has given us in the Bible to encourage us in our faith and in our works of faith.

YHVH God created Adam as an adult male who was nonetheless at a maturity level of ‘innocence’. (Gen 1:26-27; 2:7-8; Is 7:16)  He didn’t really know a whole lot spiritually, but somehow he could give names to all the animals from the information His Creator put into him;  There was no one else to talk to or to ask questions.  Only God was there to let the man know anything.  Remember that God has subjected the creation to futility (Rom 8:20), and here at the very beginning we see and hear God commanding the man not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a tree with fruit that was very appealing, lest he die. (Gen 2:9, 15-18; 3:6)

Why not? (in the light of Messiah and God’s full revelation)
      –Our Father in Heaven knows the consequences of sin, and wants to cut it off at the root.
      –To obey God’s voice, to trust Him completely to do His will, is our security and peace in life.
      –God the Father knew that Adam and Eve, in their innocence, would not know what to do with the knowledge of    good and evil (Gen 3:5,22).  Even the devil knows that there is good and evil.  God is good.  Maturity is knowing to discern good and evil, and to choose the good. (Heb 5:14)  This qualifies us to train others in godliness.
   –In disobeying God, Adam proved that he was not in perfect relationship within himself or with God.
Very good is not perfect!
   –In the wisdom of God, man through wisdom can not know God.
   –‘Lead us not unto temptation, but deliver us from evil’:  we can not be confident in our own capacity to stand  victorious in the face of temptation; therefore, we do not pray or ask God to lead us into situations where we would be tempted into sinning, but rather into ways of peace.

Gen 3:6-10   transgression of God’s command (Job 31:33) and consequent guilt, shame, and fear:  separation from fellowship

Was this a lack of proper faith, or simply a lack of comprehension?  What made it sin?

   –Disobedience:  Adam did not understand what it meant when God told him “You will surely die!”, but he did know that God had commanded him not to eat from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Sin is not believing and not obeying the Word of YHVH God, the Creator of all.

   –He listened to the voice of his wife (3:17) – who listened to the devil and not to her husband – rather than to God the Creator.

   –As a consequence of Adam’s sin, all are born in sin (we have inherited sin as human beings), and die.  In this willful and knowledgeable disobedience, Adam is not a type of Christ, but of the antichrist! (Rom 5:12-19; 1Jn 3:4; 1Tim 2:14; Hos 6:7)

Knowing good and evil is not wrong or evil; in fact, it is necessary for those created in God’s image and likeness.  Disbelieving and disobeying God is wrong and evil, and disobeying those who have godly authority over us is not good.  If we are deceived, we can be led into transgression.
–It is better to obey than to sacrifice.
–This is a very basic principle that, if learned, produces good fruit in life and society and in personal relationships (Heb 12:7-13)

Gen 3:11-19   confession mixed with self-defense (Job 31:33), self-justification; and the consequences to the serpent, the man and the woman, and to the ground (Gen 5:28-29)
      –Our sins are not private and personal only; they can have devastating and long-lasting effects upon others, especially our families and those over whom we have authority and influence
       –Until we confess our sin/s against God without excuse or rationalization, we are still not fully aware of what sin is, of what holiness is, of what humility is, of what God’s love is, of what perfect is….    

Along with the chastening and the punishment, YHVH God gave the Word of promise, which gave (and still gives) hope and a sanctifying effect upon the life (2Pt 1:3-4)
            –to know God, both His goodness and severity (Rom 11:22)
            –to be correctable, teachable
            –to learn righteousness and to discern good from evil

Gen 3:20; 4:1,2,25; 5:4   Adam called his wife’s name Eve, and they had sons and daughters, even in the face of death and disappointment.
      –Cain, Abel, Seth, other sons and daughters   

Adam and Eve now believed God and the Word of Promise from Him, and acted with faith, hope, and love.

In Christ Jesus — the Seed of the woman and the Son of Man — all humans (sons and daughters of Adam and Eve) have the hope of YHVH’s promise, through the forgiveness of sins, transgressions, and iniquity.

Israel as a nation (and similarly a remnant from every people group on Earth) has been given the same promise and hope of God’s redeeming love in holiness and truth. (Ex 34:5-8; Hos 6:7; Rom 11:25-36)

Do you think it ‘unfair’ that we should all be made to suffer and die because of one man’s sin?  Does this seem harsh?

Is it ‘fair’ that because of one Man’s righteousness all who believe in Him should have their sins forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life?  The goodness of God leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4), to turn from our selfish and sinful ways to Him who loves us with such a love to pay the price for our sin.  He died to deliver the children of Adam and Eve from death and to enable all who believe in Jesus to become sons and daughters of God.

Lk 2:33-35   The second and last Adam (Man) was born destined for the fall and rising of many in Israeland for a sign spoken against.  

Fear YHVH, who alone forgives sin.

LIGHT DISPELS DARKNESS – 21 Dec 2007

This Sunday some of us are going to Bethlehem to worship with Arab brothers and sisters in the joy of our God.  Next weekend our congregation (actually the Lord Yeshua’s congregation) will be host to over 40 teenagers from that same area.  Today happens to be the shortest day of the year, when the light of day in the darkest of seasons is at its briefest in this part of the globe.  A little light can dispel even more darkness; how much more the sun the blackness of night; how much more even does the Light which is the Word of God, and who is Himself the Lord Jesus Christ, dispel the darkness of lies!

Recently, at this very time of year when Jesus Christ is remembered by nearly the entire world, there has been an exposure of some rather remarkable indications of a falling away from the truth which has been entrusted to those who say they know God – or rather that they are known by God:  a book by the well-known preacher and Israel supporter, John Hagee, with the strange view that Yeshua did not come to be Israel’s Messiah and therefore was not rejected as Messiah by them!; we’ve already had those even within the Messianic community deny the deity of Yeshua, or that Jews do not necessarily have to believe in Jesus in order to be saved.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, the supposed spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, went on record just this week on a BBC radio interview that downplayed the importance of believing that Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a virgin.  Besides undermining the veracity of the written word as given us in the Scriptures, it also, of course, raises the question:  who then was the father of Jesus.  If not God, then there is another Jesus the right reverend (or, maybe, wrong reverend, or simply not reverent) archbishop must be referring to!

I don’t know how many of you have seen the recent documents put out by Muslim leaders from around the Islamic world, and the response by Christian leaders.  The Muslim letter is called, “A Common Word Between Us and You” (http://www.acommonword.com ), and the Christian response is titled, “Loving God and Neighbor Together” (http://www.yale.edu/faith/abou-commonword.htm).

The resolution of conflict in areas of mutual social welfare is not and can not be treated as being of the same kind alongside with “theologically based” peace.  Our relationship and fellowship through the blood of Yeshua and our common salvation in Him are essential factors as a basis for other areas of reconciliation amongst believers.   The Holy Spirit is speaking plainly when the Scripture says that  between unbelievers and believers (with respect to the true God)  there can be no genuine reconciliation between nations or peoples!  (2Cor 6:14-18).  

To seek to be at peace, as far as possible, with all persons is one thing, but quite another to do this in such a way which compromises in any way the confession of who the one true God is.   To the Muslims, the name Allah is not the same one God as YHVH God, who has revealed Himself especially to and through the Jews – even if Arab Christians use that term with their own tacit understanding of it.  So those who are blessed as peacemakers or pursuers of peace in being called “sons of God” will be those who pursue and make peace based on YHVH GOD’S covenantal truth regarding peace. As it is written, even the demons know that there is one God . . . and tremble.  When Muslims hear and say “Allah” they are not referring to YHVH God, the Father God who revealed himself through His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, who is one with the Father. (Ps 83:16-18 Eng)  The Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not all share the faith of Abraham, for they do not all believe in the God of Abraham!  (Dec 31:  Check this current extremely relevant story for an Islamic view on the use of the name ‘Allah.  Is Allah a personal name?http://www.christianpost.com/article/20071228/30662_Malaysia_Christians_Challenge_Ban_on_’Allah’.htm )

By the way, YHVH/Yehovah/Yahweh does not mean ‘God’ or ‘LORD’, but is the Name by which He will be known forever, the Everlasting God, the One who was, and is, and is to come – and who came to us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose name alone is given under Heaven for salvation unto eternal life.  YHVH is the Most High God — God of gods, and Lord of lords (Ps 136:1-3) — over the god of the Muslims,  the Hindus, the humanists, even of the atheists!  There is no God like YHVH our God, and no other is to be compared with Him.

The document, “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’ “, which in fact was a Muslim initiative to “define peace and hope in this world only, presents a position, with its language of accommodation, that gives the implicit impression that the God of the Bible is the same as that of the Koran.  Concurrently it then implies that Jesus Christ is no different, higher, or greater than Mohammed, and that reconciliation between the two faith communities is essential for world peace.

The following quote is taken from the “Christian Response”:

“What is common between us lies not in something marginal nor in something merely important to each.  It lies, rather, in something absolutely central to both:  love of God and love of neighbor.  Surprisingly for many Christians, your letter considers the dual command of love to be the foundational principle not just of the Christian faith, but of Islam, as well. That so much common ground exists – common ground in some of the fundamentals of faith – gives hope that undeniable differences and even the very real external pressures that bear down upon us can not overshadow the common ground upon which we stand together.  That this common ground consists in love of God and of neighbor gives hope that deep cooperation between us can be a hallmark of the relations between our two communities.”

Neither Judaism nor Islam accepts that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  Yet it is precisely upon this confession that He builds His church, of which we profess to be.  Islam teaches that their God is not a father, and therefore, he has no need of a son, which expressly refers to Jesus, but also includes Israel as first-born son amongst the nations by YHVH’s own declaration.  The Muslim nations’ hope lies in being reconciled to THIS God and to HIS Word, which is no different than that to Israel and the Jews, or to any other people. Peace in this world is of HIM and not of ourselves, however well-meaning.

In the Christian response to the Muslim leaders , the one true God is blurred and too much is left to each person and side to define for themselves what the different terms refer to.  This, of course, will never succeed to accomplish anything genuine, and is clearly the wiles of the devil who is seeking to deceive even the elect, if he can.

The Lord Jesus says that we are the light of the world, and that our light is to shine so before men that they may see our good works done in His Name and glorify our Father in Heaven.  To the Muslim, this makes no sense, since they do not believe in the same Lord and Savior as we do; nor is our Father in Heaven theirs.  We are called to be stewards of the mysteries of the Kingdomof God and of the uniqueness of our God, of His Son, and of the faith once delivered unto the saints.

Some say that speaking of Yeshua’s life and teaching is understood to include also that He died and rose again.  By whom?  The Muslims do not believe that He died, and therefore He did not rise again.  The Jews believe that He died, and no more than that.  As believers our salt will become more tasteless and less effective if we allow ourselves to be brought down to the lowest common denominator in the pursuit to find ‘common ground’, which will be found to be nothing but sinking sand!

The “Christian Response” to the Muslim appeal promotes neither inner nor political peace, not now nor for eternity.  Yes, we all would like to see even temporary relief from all the suffering and injustices we face in the world, just as from headaches and other illnesses.  But our actual calling is to bring those in darkness into the Light where there is true and lasting hope, not for this age only (which is in any case subjected to futility), but especially for the world to come.

At the very time and season that many believers around the world are celebrating the birth of Him who is the true Light who came into the world, His enemy is at work to bring in confusion, and using those called by the name of the Lord and of His Christ to either show themselves to be hypocrites who don’t really believe what they have written, or else afraid through unbelief in the love of the truth.  “By this we know love, because [Yeshua] laid down His life for us.”

We live in sobering times, and are to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.  The time is 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?!  May God our Father have mercy on all His children.

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR BELIEVERS IN YESHUA

Rom 8:26-30  The Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. . .
                       And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

What is our purpose in life?  For what are we preparing ourselves?  When a university student chooses a major field of study, or when someone chooses a career or profession based on skill, ability, knowledge, what do they do?. . . . . they prepare themselves for the goal of passing the course; of being accepted for the job;  of advancing to receive better conditions, salary, status, authority.  These are all normal pursuits in most of our lives, or as parents how we want to encourage our children.  There is the honorable way of pursuing one’s goals, and there are dishonorable ways to attain our objectives.  All of this is good and acceptable (not the dishonorable ways, of course!), and, in general, applies to all persons everywhere within their own culture. 

But what of those – also living in the same world with everyone else – what of those who have been born again from above by the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ?  As we know, this can happen potentially at almost any age and at different stages of people’s lives and for all kinds of people.

As we saw last week, all things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.  Unless we have a purpose in our lives – and this can change or become more defined as we mature – unless we have a purpose, we can not prepare properly, and we will simply drift through life as circumstances blow.  God, who not only created all things and all humanity, but who Himself has redeemed and saved those who have put their hope and trust in Jesus, has given to each believer a calling and a purpose:  firstly, to be conformed to the image of His Son.  A true son honors his father, and as sons of God, we are to declare the greatness of our Father in Heaven.  Among other relationships we have in Christ, one is that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus:  we have the same Father and the same Spirit.  Jesus is the first-born, signifying that there are [many] others after-born.  We are called by the Father to partake in His business – now of redemption; after, of reigning with Messiah in righteousness and justice over the nations.

Yeshua is called the Holy One of God (Mk 1:24 – by demons; Lk 1:35 – by angel announcing His conception and birth).  We have received the Holy Spirit (Spirit of Holiness; Spirit of the Holy One; Spirit of Messiah) to work with us in our lives to be holy – separated unto God for His praise and glory where He alone is our all-in-all.  Without holiness no one will see the Lord, and he who calls upon the name of Jesus must depart from iniquity.(2Tim 2:19)  “Be holy, for I am holy!”  We are called to dignity, witnesses of YHVH God’s holy name:  of our Father’s holy name, which we profane when we act contrary to His character.

Jesus says of Himself that He is meek and lowly in heart (Mt 11:29).  These are qualities of character which  the Holy Spirit works in us through the trials, circumstances, and experiences of our lives.  It is a character that serves others and does not seek its own recognition and honor.  Jesus emptied Himself of glory, to become poor that we could become ‘rich’; to become human; to become a servant, not of the rich and powerful, but of servants.

Jesus was zealous for His Father’s house, that it is to be a place of honor and glory to the Holy and Righteous God. (Ps 69:9 [10 Heb]; Jn 2:17)It mattered to Jesus what was going on in the House of Prayer; it mattered to Him that the older ones set a good example for the younger ones; it mattered to Him how those in authority exercised their power over people’s lives; it mattered to Yeshua that God’s people worship Him in an acceptable way, without any idolatry, whether external or internal.

Jesus loved His Father in Heaven, and as His Son, as being God’s sent one, Jesus loves all of us.  For God so loved us that He sent Jesus, His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but inherit eternal life.  In this love of the Father, our “Older Brother” commands us to love one another as He has loved us.  It is a love not based on merit, but a love given to others in appreciation for being loved by God.  God has set His love on me because, by His mercy and grace, I love Jesus, the Beloved Son of God, His Father and my Father.  We do not deserve such love; Jesus does.

 God is working all things together for good in our lives towards accomplishing His purposes.  The more we know and commit ourselves to Jesus and His purposes, the greater will be His joy and ours; the more peace; the less fear; the more fruit which will remain proving the Messiah lives in us and is our life.  It is knowing God as our Father and Jesus as our Savior and Lord which gives us hope and the power to let the Holy Spirit sanctify us until the time of glory – sharing in the glory that belongs to the children of the living God!  Praise be to His Name!

OVERCOMING HATRED FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions:   

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHINEAS, AND GOD’S COVENANT OF PEACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!”

FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS AND THE GOSPEL

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

Mk 10:28-31 (Mt 19:29; Lk 18:29-30)  Then Peter began to say to [Jesus], ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’  So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and  mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’ 

Peter here is responding in amazement to what the Lord Jesus had just spoken before as to how difficult it is for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God.  Because rather than giving up all for the reality of God and His Kingdom, they are trusting in themselves and in their own wealth or wisdom or power.  Jesus answers that anyone – not only the apostles, but anyone – who forsakes those things most valued in their lives or in the estimation of the world for His sake and the gospel’s will be rewarded both now and forever, with persecution between now and then along the way! 

A missionary is a “sent out person”.  Therefore, it is a calling; it is obedience to the Lord’s call upon your life to go wherever He chooses to send you.  All believers are called to be witnesses of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but not all are sent out with the specific purpose of taking the gospel to people outside of our own lands and culture, and to establish in the faith those who obey the gospel.  The answer of Jesus to His disciples gives equal status to anyone who forsakes home, family, or lands for the Kingdom of God’s sake.  Leaving all does not necessarily imply rejection or condemnation by either side.  Persecution, which all believers who live godly in Christ Jesus will experience, does mean being rejected, even hated and despised, because of believing in and belonging to Jesus the Messiah.

Still the challenge to take the gospel to all peoples remains:  For whosoever shall call upon the name of [the Lord Jesus Christ] shall be saved.  How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach except they be sent?  (Rom 10:13-15a) 

Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, is the penultimate “sent out one”:  sent by God the Father (Is 48:16; Jn 17:23) to gather the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and whosoever else will repent and believe the good news.  The first missionaries were Israelis and Jews – the apostles of the Lord Jesus sent out by Him.  We could go even further back and say that Jonah the prophet was the first missionary, being sent by YHVH to Nineveh to call them to repentance from evil towards the true God, in order that they be blessed and not destroyed.

Being called by God – and that is really the essence of the matter – to go to other lands and peoples with HIS message of salvation is not a call to lukewarmness.  The Christian life is grounded upon absolutes, upon truth.  Who is Jesus Christ?  We must know Him for who He is to bear God’s good news and to withstand the attacks of the enemy against the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He sent.  It is a continual dying to self that we may live unto God –even more, that God would manifest His life in and through us.  Is this not the exhortation to offer our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God?  To be God’s person to go for Him to tell the people about His Son is a call to persevering faith.  Therefore it must be obedience mixed with faith in GOD’s Word to you, or else the missionary will not endure the hardship associated with such a high calling away from his or her “safe” environment.  Our Father in Heaven knows us, and will not give us more than we can bear, but He will mature us and perfect us through giving us more than what we thought we could do!

I want to use my wife and myself as examples to hopefully help some of you to understand what I’ve been saying here:  As an unbelieving Jew, I went to Israel twice, but did not want to live there.  I did not consider the State of Israel my home, despite its importance to me as a Jew.  My first time I went as a tourist, and I liked the land and the history very much, but not the people!  But these were my people anyway!   The second time was in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, and I worked as a volunteer on a kibbutz.  This time I lived and worked with Israelis.  I began to understand why they were like they were, but I still could not condone what I considered a harsh approach to life.  I was still very much an American in my upbringing!

When I was saved seven years later and became a believer in Jesus as Lord and Christ, God changed my heart and spirit.  He TOLD me to go to Israel, and it immediately became home (on Earth).  I could not wait to get there despite my previous misgivings.  Everything had changed because of God and Jesus coming into my life and speaking His Word by the Holy Spirit.  In other words, I (we) are not living in Israel simply because I am Jewish, but rather as one sent by God back to the land — which He promised to give to the fathers and to their descendants — with the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Randi, my wife, is not Jewish; had never been to Israel or studied the Hebrew language.  She grew up in a church which relegates Israel to past history and Jewish people to Christ killers without hope of redemption, at least not as Jews.  Yet when she recognized that what happened to me was truly of God, she obeyed by faith the will of God to not only commit herself to me as her husband, but to live in Israel.  God also gave her to know that His purposes for me included her!  She will be rewarded more than me, for she has given up for Christ’s sake more than me.  At least I had a natural kinship with Israel and her people; whereas for her, it was completely foreign and strange.

Through obeying God, both Randi and I have been strengthened and encouraged by the Lord against the pulls of the natural bonds of family back here in the U.S. to tempt us to mind the things of man rather than of God.  And Jesus has proven His word true for us:  Randi’s oldest brother, a radiologist, disapproves of our living in Israel, where only the “bad Jews” live, and to demonstrate his disapproval, he once told her that he will not offer any financial assistance, as that would imply consenting to our decision.  So God gave to Randi (and me) another brother, also a Dr. David, a radiologist – a Jewish believer from N.C., who built a house in Beer Sheva because, he told us after we first spoke with him, God told him to.  We are living in it now for the past seven years at a very brotherly rate!  Randi’s father has expressed his own dislike and disapproval of our life of faith, by taking the ultimate step just last month of disowning and disinheriting his only daughter because we allowed our oldest daughter to enter the Israeli army as a civic obligation.  God, praise His Name, is our Father, and He does not forsake His children!

Giving up “all” for Jesus to be a missionary in a foreign land and culture, with foreign, strange, sometimes unfriendly and hostile people, in conflict zones, with antichristian religions and laws (e.g., against evangelism) is not an excuse for immoral living, as if the “going out” is sacrifice enough and outweighs every sin and shortcoming.  Your going is supposedly an act of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore only doing one’s duty – not even something for which He has to thank you.  Our lives as Christians, and so as witnesses of the Holy and Righteous Creator and Redeemer, is to grow and mature in that calling and setting God places us.  We are not to carry His name in vain, but to reflect His beauty of holiness in our lifestyle and in attitudes and motives of our hearts.

Not all are called to be sent out, but all believers can be partners in the great commission, perhaps through prayer, free-will giving above and beyond tithing, “adopting” a family serving abroad, volunteering to spend time abroad to help a busy family with housework or child-care, etc. etc.  Remember that King David established the custom in God’s army after the battle at Ziklag (1Sam 30:21-25):  that all who participated in the time of the battle shared in the spoils of victory – combat soldiers, supply personnel, kitchen help.  We, too, are in the Lord’s battle against Satan and evil.  The victory is already won on the cross:  Jesus is the Victor, and is willing to share all that is His with us who are joined with Him!

Some plant, others water, but God gives the increase and brings in the harvest by his holy angels.  Pioneers labor and break new ground; others follow and enter into their labors; fullness is at a predetermined end, praise God!  We are all one in Messiah Jesus, and the honor is His to receive.  We can receive nothing except that it is given us from Heaven.  Let us never forget and always remember that it is Jesus who is the Savior of all persons, especially of those who believe.  Not only are we called to labor for His sake and the gospel’s until He comes, but also we will not accomplish the incredible command to take the gospel to all nations within the prescibed time.  That does not phase God!  He will even send out angels to proclaim the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the Earth before the hour of judgment is come, so that as many as will will repent and believe unto salvation (Rev 14:6-7).

GOD WILL GET IT DONE!  EVERY KNEE WILL BOW AND TONGUE CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF THE FATHER!

EZEKIEL: A NEW HEART AND A NEW SPIRIT TO KNOW YHVH

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe:  “The Redemption of Israel According to Ezekiel and Paul”, Jan 8-11, 2004)

Ezek 20:41-44   I [YHVH] will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the gentiles.  Then you shall know that I am YHVH, when I bring you into the Land of Israel, into the country which I raised my right hand in an oath to give to your fathers.  And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils which you have committed.  Then you shall know that I am YHVH, when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O House of Israel, says the Lord GOD.

Twice in these four verses, we read and heard by the Spirit of God that the Word of YHVH says, ‘You shall know that I am YHVH’.  This expression occurs 61 times through 24 chapters, half of the book of Ezekiel! 

Ex 3:14-15  And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’.  And He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.  Moreover God said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, YHVH God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.  This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.    Ex 6:3-4  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by My name YHVH I was not known to them.  I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the Land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.    Ex 34:6-7,14  And YHVH passed before him and proclaimed, YHVH, YHVH God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the childrens’ children to the third and fourth generations, for you shall worship no other god, for YHVH, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous GodRev 4:8  Holy, Holy, Holy, YHVH God of Hosts, who was, is, and coming.

YHVH is the one true God. He is the Living One.   From the Old and the New Testament scriptures, it is evident to those who are born again from above that the one true God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It is also evident by revelation from the Father that Jesus Christ is LORD: He is YHVH.  Jesus is the Savior God of Israel, just as He is for you and for me.  We come to God our Father only through Jesus His Son, and this only by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us personally.  This is the redemption which God is going to accomplish for His inheritance, Israel, His priestly nation.

It is by God’s mercy, and not due to Israel’s initiative to repent and return back to Him.  God’s sovereign love will bring Israel back to Him, even as He has now been bringing Jewish people back to the land for over 120 years, in accord with His promises, despite Israel’s continuing unbelief and lack of repentance.  Thank God for the love of the Father! 

Ezekiel is God’s servant to bring forcefully Israel’s sin, and God’s necessary judgments, to the people.  The sin and uncleanness of Israel will be fully exposed in order for complete cleansing and healing.  Each person has to bear his own responsibility (Ezek 18).  This prepares the way for the glad tidings of restoration and forgiveness, and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of God to Israel.  (Remember the disciples’ question to Jesus?)  The gospel, too, must include the experience of the truth of judgment and repentance in order to receive the grace of forgiveness and restoration.  YHVH is God and does not change; it is we who must change, and be changed.  Both Ezekiel and Paul, with the other prophets, make it clear that only a remnant of the people will be saved.  Even should Noah, Daniel, and Job all pray and intercede, they could not change God’s righteous judgments against the nation (14:12-23).  God’s judgments cause suffering for both the wicked and the righteous:  for the wicked it is only judgment; for the righteous it is a refining fire (ch.21).

For this, God must give Israel—as to each of us—a new heart and a new spirit.  We need to be made new in order to see how unrighteous and unclean we have been in the sight of the Holy One of Israel.  To have everlasting possession of God’s blessings and promises we must first be restored to Him personally.  It is in the light of His glory that we see ourselves, and so can receive more fully the abundant grace and mercy of His forgiveness for ourselves and for our sins.  The New Covenant promise to the House of Israel of a new heart and a new spirit—God’s Spirit—is to enable us to keep His commandments:  LOVE of YHVH God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength; to love others as we love ourselves; to love fellow redeemed brothers and sisters as Jesus has loved each of us.  Love is keeping the commandments of God in Christ.  Israel and the redeemed of the nations will all know the LORD, from the least to the greatest.  The Creator who has not been recognized or accepted will be known by all through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the express image of the invisible God.

God has His appointed King—a Priest-King whom He has chosen and anointed to receive the Throne in Israel. (Ezek 21:25-27; Gen 49:10; Zech 6:12-13; Ps 2; Mt 23:37-39)  Until that day, God will overthrow every false ruler (Jn 10:7-16) until He comes whose right it is, and the Father will give it to His Son Jesus, the Son of David.

For Israel, as for Christians, to receive what God has promised to give, the people must come to God on His terms by His way.  Only by seeing her true condition and calling upon the Name of YHVH (Ezek 36:37will Israel receive all that she truly seeks for—and far more than she can even think or imagine (v.11).  Israel wants peace and security, to live life without fear of enemies.  God alone can provide that , but it is grounded in worshiping Him in spirit and truth.  God brought Israel out of Egypt by Moses to serve Him and so be free.  The present immigration from all the nations in which we were scattered, as Ezekiel was given to prophesy, is a greater exodus than that from out of Egypt (Jer 23:7-8)God makes it very clear (v.22-23) that it is not for Israel’s sake that He does this, but for the sake of His holy name.  He sill sanctify His great name, which we have profaned.  And the nations, Israel, and God’s enemies will all know that He is YHVH God, the Holy One of Israel.

When Jesus taught us how to pray, the first thought is the sanctification of the Father’s name.  God Himself says that the sanctity of His great name is connected with Israel’s redemption and His dwelling place being established in her midst in the Land of Israel, as promised to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob and to their descendants.  For this to happen Israel must be cleansed from all her uncleanness and ungodliness.  God can not dwell in the midst of a sinful and rebellious nation.  To help serve this purpose, YHVH God will stir up Israel’s lovers—those nations with whom she has prostituted herself unfaithfully against her God and husband—that they will turn against her, leaving her rejected and desperate (ch. 23). 

According to Ezekiel, Jesus, Paul, there will be much tribulation for Israel in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  Wars will come, but the victory is the LORD’s!  The coming of the Kingdom of God always implies destruction—condemnation and death–to His and His people’s enemies, including the antichrist, who is probably identified here as Gog (Ezek 38-39).  We see this at Sodom and Gomorrah, yet God knew how to save righteous Lot.  We have the examples of Pharoah and Egypt, when the true living God defeated all their gods, but He delivered the households marked with the blood of the lamb.  We see the same thing even within Israel after the incident of the golden calf, but the tribe of Levi was rewarded.  Again, when the Israelis entered the promised land, Jericho and all that it contained was destroyed, except for Rahab and her family.  In the New Testament we have Ananias and Saphira being judged and killed on the spot for lying and deceit soon after the Holy Spirit was given to the first believers.  At the end of the age, when Jesus comes to establish the Kingdom, we see the separation of the goats from the sheep.  And we see when the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Anointed One, He destroys those who destroyed the Earth.

God’s purposes for Israel include reconciling Ephraim and Judah (37:16-22).  Israel will be Israel and Israeli, not “Jewish” as we now think of it, but the Israel of God whose culture is reflective of that unity of all the tribes in a restored relation of brotherly love honoring to God their Father and to the King of Israel, Yeshua, the Son of God.  Israel’s salvation and redemption allowing her to enter her inheritance and destiny as a priestly nation is ultimately dependent upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to save His people from Gog and the nations—Turkey, Iran, Sudan, and Libya–joined together with him against Israel.  Jesus will then establish the Messianic Kingdom on Earth, with the full remnant of each of the tribes of Israel inheriting their allotment in the Land which God promised on oath to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob/Israel and their descendants.  All the other surviving nations will also inherit their lands whose boundaries have been set by YHVH God (Dt 32:8).  The name of the holy city Jerusalem will be from that day, YHVH Is There! (48:35)

Israel will no longer have malicious neighbors (28:24).  As both Mary and Simeon exclaimed and proclaimed surrounding the conception and birth of the Messiah Yeshua, God will scatter and put down the proud, and exalt the lowly; He will deliver Israel from the hand of our enemies that she will serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him forever. 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Summary of Ezekiel:  Ch. 1-32: Judgment and Horror; Ch. 33-48: Hope and Restoration

Ch. 1-3     Ezekiel sees the glory of YHVH and receives his call to the children of Israel, a rebellious nation

Ch. 4-24  Judgment upon Israel precedes that of other nations (cp. 1Pet 4:17-18).  Israel made the first-born from among the nations by the sovereign will of God, and to whom much is given more is required.
            –YHVH is departed! (11:33)

Ch. 25-32  Judgment of nations in near proximity who oppose Israel and her God.  Vessels of dishonor, of wrath, reserved for God’s righteous judgment for refusing the light of His covenant relations with Israel (and with the Church, for there is only one Mediator and one Savior).

Ch. 33   The Watchman for the House of Israel to warn them from the LORD
             –Jerusalem has been taken (v. 21)

Ch. 34   The false shepherds versus the true Shepherd

Ch. 35    The judgment upon Mount Seir and Edom because of their everlasting hatred against Israel

Ch. 36   –The land claimed by YHVH and given back to Israel
               –A new heart and new spirit given with increase, fruitfulness, prosperity
            –Israel will loathe herself (as did Job and Isaiah) when she sees herself in the reality of YHVH’s goodness and  holiness

Ch. 37   New and resurrection life given to body and nation.  Ephraim and Judah restored:  one nation/one people/one  family

Ch. 38-39  Overthrow of last enemy, Gog (overthrow of antichrist – Dan 11:21;2Thes 2:8)
                   –YHVH is glorified, and His name is hallowed

Ch. 40-48  –God’s Kingdom restored forevermore in Israel and the world:  Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as in Heaven
                —44:15-16 Israel’s establishment as a priestly kingdom:  blessed and sanctified; millennial Sabbath rest for  God’s creation
                –differences from Law of Moses, including “holidays”
                –YHVH is there! 

ACCORDING TO THE LAW AND THE TESTIMONY – Isaiah 8:20

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe:  “The Redemption of Israel According to Ezekiel and Paul”, Jan 8-11, 2004)

Mt 5:17-19     Jesus came not to cancel or to break the Law and the Prophets, but rather to fulfill every jot and tittle of them
Ex 25:21-22     the Ark of the Testimony was set in the Holy of Holies; the blood of atonement was sprinkled on the Ark as a witness to the hope of redemption from the holy and righteous demands of the Law of Moses
Acts 24:14-15  Paul’s testimony about the hope of the fathers, as written in the Law and the Prophets, for the resurrection
Rom 8:18-25    the redemption of our bodies in the resurrection

The word redemption in English means to buy (purchase) back and restore what is rightfully mine but legally lost through forfeit (loss of privilege or honor through disqualification by breaking the rules or law).  The word ransom means the payment of a price for deliverance from some evil.  It could be a prisoner of war, a hostage, a slave, or one’s own life (Ex 21:29-30).  In the Bible, redemption requires two things:  the legally qualified person, and the willingness and ability of that person to pay the required price to buy back what was given up.  The year of Jubilee is all about redemption and restoration, both of people and of property.  A redeemed person or possession is restored to his or its intended purpose.  His dignity is regained.  And the honor given him is greater than before the loss.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, let us be clear from the beginning of these messages that the redemption of Israel is assured by the fact—by the truth—that Jesus Himself is her Redeemer.  Not only does He deliver prisoners, slaves, debtors, but by His very name, Yeshua is the Savior and Redeemer of sinners. If Israel could redeem herself from her bondages, then certainly the Holocaust would seem to be sufficient payment of her own sons and daughters.  But it clearly has not been so.  God wants the loss of intimate relationship with Him restored, so that Israel–and the rest of the world– can have rest and peace and joy.  Messiah Jesus is the uniquely qualified person who willingly paid the necessary price to buy back His own people and kinsmen according to the flesh, and the Land of Canaan, which YHVH, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, promised with an oath to give to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob and to their descendants forever.

Since Israel asked for a king like the heathen nations have, YHVH has not been Israel’s God in practice from their point of view.  Jesus came—and was also rejected for Caesar!—to restore God the Father’s Kingdom both to Israel and to the whole world, the gentiles already rejecting Him in Noah’s day, both before and after the Flood.   

Adam and Eve, through deceit and disobedience, lost the paradise and the authority that God provided and gave to them.  Both the people of Israel and the Land of Israel were forfeited by Israel through their breaking God’s covenant with them.  But Jesus was sent by God the Father to redeem His people, His land, even the whole of humanity and the whole Earth, even more—the whole universe of this creation, which has all been corrupted through sin and subjected to vanity, futility.  Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and the Savior of all, but especially for those who believe, for by faith we are saved through grace, not by law or through works or without condition.  Abiding in Jesus is the key to our faith and our love.  The Messianic/Christian faith is a relationship with the Father and the Son and with others who are born of God.

Jesus says that the whole of the Book is written about Him, and that He has come to fulfill all that is written in the Law and the Prophets. He says that Heaven and Earth will pass away, but not before God has fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Word of God with respect to this creation, which is set and limited by time and seasons.  So as we look at the subject of Israel’s redemption as presented by the priest/prophet Ezekiel and by the priest/apostle Paul, we do so as recognizing that all Scripture is inspired by the Spirit of God, and is given for our learning to make us wise unto salvation.  By them we can know not only God’s statutes, but also His ways regarding His people and the world at large.  This being so, then there will be essential agreement between Ezekiel and Paul, for the redemption is by YHVH God, who is the God of both Ezekiel and Paul.

Israel’s redemption—both of people and land—gives hope and significance to other nations.  God is interested in nations of people, a corporate collection of individual persons bound together by a language, law, customs, culture, boundaries.  He has given each a destiny, and within each of the families of the Earth, the Father is seeking those who will love Him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to worship Him in spirit and truth.

Christians are expected to be stewards of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  The Church—the Body of Christ—was a mystery which God revealed especially to Paul to explain.  And Paul also says that Israel’s salvation is a mystery, which again the Holy Spirit explains through Paul.  But without knowing the truth of who Jesus really is, we can not understand either the Church–which is a new creation not of this world–or Israel, which is distinguished from the other nations.   

YHVH is a covenant-making and -keeping God.  God is love, and so His covenants are expressions of His love and holiness.  Just as the Lord requires a husband and wife to remain faithful to each other, even more so is He faithful to His people—even His Bride—through the covenant relationship He has with us.  He cannot deny Himself.  Jesus’ death on the cross because of our sin–and His subsequent resurrection to justify Him in man’s sight, and to justify in God’s sight all who believe that God raised Him up from among the dead—is the costly ransom which God paid to redeem us from the “legal” claims of the devil—a price which Satan tried to subvert.  God is debtor to no one, and is not out to appease His enemy.  The New Covenant assures us that God will keep all His previous commitments, and on the basis of that ‘filling full’ of all His purposes regarding the world He made, He will create a new heavens and a new earth, also in accord with what is already written in the Holy Scriptures.

Therefore Israel’s redemption is assured, even though only a remnant from each of the tribes will be saved to constitute “all Israel”—those of Jacob who repent from ungodliness so that they can receive God’s forgiveness of all their sins, transgressions, and iniquity.  No weapon formed against Israel will succeed, just as the gates of Sheol will not prevail against the Church.  It is not by Israel’s or our own righteousness, but by God’s mercy we are saved through faith in Jesus, the beloved Son of God.  The redemption of both Israel and of the Church is connected with preaching the gospel to all nations—to the Jews and to the gentiles.  Israel’s partial blindness to the good news of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God is remaining until the fullness of the gentiles is brought in.  Gentile (i.e., non-Jewish) Christians have a calling and a responsibility to provoke Israel to jealousy over your own personal relationship with Israel’s own God and Father, while at the same time showing mercy to the Jewish people.  (It is evident that classic anti-semitism has no place in the heart and mind of a true Christian).  And just as God saves individuals through the forgiveness of sin by their repentance unto faith, so too with nations.  The same YHVH God, who speaks to Israel through His prophets whom He sent to them, also speaks to nations, not just about them, through these same prophets.

The whole of God’s purpose in creation and redemption is to make known that He alone is YHVH, the only true God, and that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of the Father.  God wants us to want Him to honor His holy name in the sight of all—even as Moses did when the Lord suggested wiping out the rebellious people whom He brought out of Egypt.  We, too, must call upon God to save His people Israel, for the sake of His own Name and His Word, and to establish His Kingdom of Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit on Earth, as it is in Heaven.  For as Paul says, How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’ (Rom 10:14-15; Is 52:7; Eph 6:15)

God is working from both sides – Jewish and gentile – to fulfill His redemptive history and purposes.  He has given us an active part in that, once we have been joined to the Lord through new birth, we become co-laborers with one another as we serve Him.  But, thank God, He will do it!  That is our and Israel’s 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!