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!

PAUL: BELOVED FOR THE SAKE OF THE FATHERS

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

Gen 17:1-8      YHVH made an everlasting covenant to Abram (Abraham) and to his descendants for an everlasting possession of all the Land of Canaan.

Gen 26:1-5       YHVH reaffirms to Isaac the oath He swore to Abraham.

Gen 28:10-15  YHVH, God of Abraham and Isaac, confirmed the covenant promises to Jacob.

Dt 4:32-39      Because God loved their fathers, He wants Israel to know that YHVH Himself is God in Heaven above and on the Earth.  He is involved with things on Earth.

Rom 11:28-32  Concerning  the election, Israel is beloved for the fathers’ sake, that God may have mercy on all who were committed to disobedience – both among Jews/Israelis and among gentiles.  He has committed Himself to His promises to A, to I, to J, even though it brings reproach.

Rom 11:26-27  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:  The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins. (Is 59: 20-21)   

Is 4:2-3           In that day the Branch (Plant/Tzemach) of YHVH shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped.  And it shall come to pass that the one left in Zion and the one remaining in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem.

Rom 9:6-7      But it is not that the Word of God has taken no effect.  For they are not all Israel who are of  Israel, nor all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ (Gen 21:12)    

Is 1:9     Unless the LORD of Hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah.

Is 19:18-25      In that day, Egypt, Assyria, and Israel will be saved and serve YHVH together as a blessing in the midst of the Earth.

Rev 7:2-8; 14:1-5  the sealed servants of God on their foreheads:  144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel. . . redeemed by Jesus from among men, first-fruits to God and to the Lamb

Ezek 47:13 – 48:35  the borders and division of the repossessed Land of Israel among the twelve tribes of Israel, for the native-born and for the strangers who sojourn among them and who bear children among them, during the millenial Kingdom of Messiah on and over the Earth

Rev 21:9-27   The bride, the Lamb’s wife, the new and holy Jerusalem descending out of Heaven from God; the gates are named after the twelve tribes of the children of Israel; the foundations named after the twelve apostles.  Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life can enter the city.  Certainly an expression of everlasting love and honor to have the gates and foundations named for you!

Jn 3:3-21      Only those in Israel and from other nations who are born again from above can see or enter the Kingdom of God.  Life is given only to those who have living faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.

In Adam all have sinned, yet God has His plan to redeem and to save all who hear, believe, and obey His way to repent/return to Him.  So Israel—a nation of “adams”—has sinned, and the same God over all has His plan to redeem and save a sinful nation personally chosen to be His inheritance.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Since Israel is given by God to be an example to the Church to learn from, it becomes evident that not all Germans, or Americans, or Egyptians will be saved, even though each nation has its own place and destiny in God’s purposes.

 If we are unfaithful to God, God remains faithful to Himself:  He cannot deny Himself.  Jesus’ death and resurrection secure for God everything that He has promised, both for blessing and for cursing; both for life and for death; both for justification of those who believe and for condemnation of those who do not.  This is all in accord with His word that He will be merciful to whom He will be merciful (Ex 33:19).

The gospel, of which the apostle Paul in particular received by revelation, is of grace, not of law; is received by faith, not by works or by wisdom.  The Lord Jesus commissioned Paul to speak to gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  Chapters 9-11 of Romans are the Isaiah 53 of the New Testament.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that every jot and tittle of the Law and the Prophets will be fulfilled by Him.  Until so, the whole counsel of God—the whole of the Bible—is living and relevant.  The redemption and salvation of Israel AS ISRAEL is necessary for the sanctity of God’s Name—YHVH, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

Israel has a special calling and destiny, which has not been fulfilled.  That Messiah came through her was not the whole of the covenant promises spoken and given her.  But to her belong the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service, and the promises; of whom are the fathers, and through whom is the Messiah, according to the flesh.  Paul also states plainly that they are not all Israel who are of Israel; neither because they are Abraham’s seed are they all children.  It is according to promise, not merely natural considerations.  By analogy, not all who are called Christian are in Christ, but only those who have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and know that their sins are forgiven. 

God is sovereign; no one can successfully oppose Him.  There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against YHVH (Prov 21:30).  We must all come to Him on His terms.  He came to us in His love to save all who would believe on the name of His only begotten Son Jesus, because no sinner can abide in His presence.  Yet this is God’s covenantal promise to Israel:  everlasting possession of the Land of Canaan, and an everlasting remembrance of the name Israel in the eternal Kingdom.  All the promises of God are “yes and amen” in Christ Jesus (2Cor 1:20).  No weapon formed against Israel will succeed, and as long as God controls the regularity of the solar system and universe, Israel will remain a nation before Him, and His covenant with David will remain in force.

But the promises are received through faith, and obedience with faith and thanksgiving.  It is all of grace—of a loving Father to His beloved child, of a loving husband to His beloved wife.  Israel has not believed this, but rather made the fact of being chosen its basis of righteousness, and of relegating the gentiles, whom the one true God also loves, to lesser status.  For even orthodox religious Jews do not obey all the requirements of the Law, so they begin to lower the standard or to rationalize and make relative their righteousness.  Self-righteousness is one of the worst sins.  Paul claimed himself blameless as touching the Law, but being so he persecuted the church and blasphemed the Lord Jesus, and so referred to himself as the chief of sinners.  But God justifies those who believe and trust Him for their worthiness, their significance, their identity.

The present election by grace of Jewish believers, and the present day return of Jewish people back to part of the very same Land of Israel—as the LORD spoke and promised through the prophet Ezekiel—is an on-going demonstration of God’s unchanging purposes.  Just as counting the sheaves each day between Passover and Shavuot was an indication of faith in the reality of the harvest to come – and as Jesus’ 40 days after His resurrection demonstrated that He was really alive and strengthened the faith of His disciples and of others — so God’s fairly recent intervention in the restoration of Israel as a nation gathered in its own land is an indication of the sure fulfillment to come.  Israel’s restoration is a sign to the world just as was the ark which Noah built:  the holy and righteous God is preparing to judge the world in righteousness and to save the remnant of His people and of the nations.   Again, not all Israelis/Jews will believe, but all Israel—the full remnant of Jacob’s descendants who turn from ungodliness —will be saved.  Like the apostle Thomas, these will believe the full love of the truth only after they have seen Him whom they pierced, and their individual and national soul will be afflicted, and God will fully cleanse and heal them from all their sin.

God’s wisdom deals with the pride of men and of nations, with envy and ridicule, with sin, righteousness, and judgment.  The gentiles have been brought in to God’s covenant relationship through Israel’s temporary fall and blindness.  But the promises of God remain sure for the sake of the name of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The root and tree are the Messianic promises and hope—realized in Messiah Jesus—which quickened the fathers Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and which their descendants are still learning through much struggle.  The good news rests in the goodness and faithfulness of God, and of His righteous ways.  As it is written, both gentiles and Israel have been disobedient so that salvation is of mercy to both Jew and non-Jew.  Israel’s salvation is assured, and her special calling to be forever memorialized in the new Jerusalem.  No other nation has such a promise which extends beyond time.  But Israel’s salvation and resurrection from the dead AS A NATION assures the CHURCH of her hopes and destiny, and assures Egypt and Assyria, for example, of theirs.

To Israel double judgment for all her sins as the first-born amongst the nations.  To Israel double honor as a holy kingdom of priests unto YHVH.  The name of Jerusalem shall be, YHVH our Righteousness is there!  

May it come speedily in our day!

Hallelu-Yah!  Amen.

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!

THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH

(Friends of Israel conference, Finland; 18-21 Mar 2002)

1. Jesus is LORD:  worship God in spirit and truth; no idolatry; God is one
–Jesus is the King of the Jews/Israel; Jesus is the Glory of Israel Mt 2:2; Jn 19:19; Lk 2:32; Jn 1:49
–Name above all names: YHVH Philp 2:9-11; Is 45:23; John 12:41
–Sanctity of God’s Name; Witnesses to the truth of YHVH Ex 3:14-15; Mt 6:9; Pr 30:4; Ezek 36:21; 1Jn 2:22-23; 4:2

–Trinity: based on revelation to Israel/Jews  Japheth brought into tents of Shem Gen 9:27
    –to be God’s Son is to be equal with God
    –the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth; glorifies Jesus and the Father
   –equal honor to the Son and to the Father, for Jesus is committed as Judge Jn 5:21-30
   –God’s Name being forgotten Jer 23:27

 2.  Millenial Kingdom:  the whole of this creation groans awaiting the full redemption Rom 8:18-23
–the devil will not win anything, now or in the world to come
–the nation of Israel gives significance, meaning, purpose to every other nation and people group
   –Adam and Eve:  individuals and their offspring given redemption and hope
   –nations and peoples after the Flood and the Tower of Babel
   –Abraham the father of many nations
      –promises still unrealized for the Promised Land and for the Earth
      –every jot and tittle to be fulfilled
      –all promises of God ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ in Christ Jesus
      –prophesies surrounding birth of Jesus by Zecharias, Mary, Simeon, Anna
–much more written in Bible about future condition of this Earth than of new Heaven and Earth
   –a spiritual battle 2Cor 10:4-6  spiritual weapons mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down everything which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought captive to obedience Messiah
      –God’s honor and faithfulness:  consider attitudes of Moses (Num 14:11-24) and Paul (Rom 9:1-3)
      –God’s holy Name of YHVH Ex 3:14-15; Acts 4:10-12 (Jesus: no other name under Heaven); Rom 10:9-14
      –Against the LORD and against His Anointed Ps 2
      –God’s Word is Truth; He cannot lie; callings and gifts without repentance
      –battle over Jerusalem and of the Land of Israel (not Palestine)
–all have disobeyed God so that He can have mercy on all Rom 11:32
If we do not believe what is written about the beginning and of earthly things, how can we believe what is written about the end and of spiritual, eternal things?

 3.  Nations of Jacob/Israel and of Esau/Edom  (Gen 25:23)
–peace and reconciliation?
–former Muslims given new heart and new spirit; delivered from powers of darkness; seek signs
–harder for “natural born” Arab Christians to accept Israel because of replacement theology

 4.  The faith in Messiah Jesus different from all others:  the world turned upside down Acts 17:6
–new covenant not like the old Jer 31:31-32
      –God in us, not just for us or with us
     –Holy Spirit given to all believers, not only to Israelis, or men, or prophets, priests, kings
     –sons and daughters of God, not merely slaves or servants
     –food barriers broken down
     –priesthood of all believers – male and female — from any family
     –a better covenant with better promises Heb 7:20 – 8:6
–gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek Gal 1:12  not of man but by revelation from God
–the greater shall serve the younger Gen 25:23b; Mt 20:24-28
–to whom much is given (the birthright and blessing by sovereign will, wisdom, and grace), much is required:  double honor and doub judgment (Is 40:2; Rom 2:9-10)
        –for individuals and for nations
         –Jewish believers most accountable persons; people of Israel most accountable nation
            –Jesus came to serve; He washed His disciples’ feet; He made them breakfast; He will serve us at the great supper  Lk 12:37; God cannot deny Himself:  He is who He is

 5.  Why aren’t more Israeli Jews being saved?  Ezek 11:14-16; Zech 12:7; Rom 11:25-32  

 6.  Passover and the LORD’s appointed times
      –keep the Word of Jesus and hold on to what we have  Rev 3:8-10
–the day after the Sabbath  Lev 23:11,15,16 

VISION OF THE GLORY: THE PRESENCE AND KINGDOM OF GOD

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany:  “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)

Hebrews 9:27-28

Radicalism is sustained by a utopian spirit which believes and works toward the vision of a future qualitatively different than the present.  It will often look to the past for its inspiration, for example naive notions of the Garden of Eden or of a former “golden age”.  Or as in the case of the “utopia” of computerized virtual reality, radicals are escaping from reality to an unreality of their own making.  As the faith and hope fail and the vision is lost, a significant number of the people will cast off restraint and self-control (Prov. 29:18) and resort to unjust behavior and lawlessness–displaying unwarranted fear, hatred, and envy towards those not “with” them or “of” them in spirit.  In the history of this world, there have been many efforts–some quiet and others filled with blood–to “make a better world” in the image of someone’s imagination.  Most religions have described for its believers and followers a future state, which to them is described as being better than the present life.  But where is the King of Glory?!

The prophets of the LORD to Israel had a vision of the glory, of a world where the LORD would be King.  And Yeshua came proclaiming the Kingdom in Himself, and said that unless one is born again by the Spirit from above, you can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God.

Those of us here who have been blessed with a revelation from God the Father that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Mt. 16:16-17), have also been given to see by the Word and Spirit of God that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to come again, subduing evil and bringing in everlasting righteousness and peace.  The Apostle Peter carries us even beyond this when he says that we look for a new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13-14), where we live in eternity with God in the fullness of His glory.  God will be all in all (1Cor. 15:28)!

Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the prayer which the Lord taught His disciples and spiritual family to pray all speak of the future glory of God when the Lord Jesus returns to establish throughout His creation the Kingdom of God which shall not pass away.  All the redeemed who suffer for His sake now will also be glorified and reign with Him.  Perseverance in the faith, in hope, and in love till the end make the vision of the Kingdom of God sure to the believer.  Christ in us…the hope of glory!  Perhaps now we see like the blind man first saw when Yeshua began to give him sight. . .trees walking.  If we can admit this to the Lord, then He will give us clearer and fuller sight.

Our Lord admonishes us to always watch and pray so that we will not be deceived nor fall to temptation (Mt. 24:4; 26:41).  He wants us to be ready when the time of His return comes (Mt. 24:42), and He does not want us to grow weary and lose heart (Lk. 18:1-8; Heb. 12:1-13).  The Holy Spirit works within us that we will be found worthy to stand before the Son of Man at His coming (Lk. 21:36).

In Israel there is a danger of being too Israel-minded at the expense of losing sight and heart for the soon coming of the Lord Yeshua.  Yet we are to look for and love His appearing (2Tim 4:8).  There is a set time that nothing can change, and God knows how to see to it that the great commission is fulfilled beforehand (Mt. 24:14,36)!  Jesus wants to return.  He told the Jews who would not receive Him who came in the Name of His Father that they would receive another who comes in his own name  (John 5:43), who will be the anti-christ.  Yet God is working out His plan of redemption and salvation in such a way as to bring the Jewish people to cry out from the depths of their beings–out of a deep sense of need and desperation–Blessed is He who comes in the Name of YEHOVAH!  For Christians who know who it is that will answer such a heart cry, the last prayer of the Bible is, Even so, come Lord Jesus!   Is that your groan of the Holy Spirit in you, that the Bridegroom should come for His Bride who has made herself ready?

Our Father in Heaven is seeking those who worship Him in Spirit and truth.  God is love and His Kingdom is ruled by love.  Our Father loves everyone and has no delight that even the wicked should have to die and spend eternity existing in hell, the place where God is not there (Ezek. 18:23; Mt. 25:41).  When we see Him as He is, we are changed into His likeness (2Cor. 3:18).  Stephen saw the Lord Yeshua in His exaltation and so was able to ask forgiveness for those who hated Messiah in him and stoned him to death.

The Church in Israel–and throughout the world–needs a Holy Spirit revival:  a revival which brings God’s people back to the doctrines of the apostles; a revival which reveals to us the Lord Jesus in His glory; a revival which unites the whole and true Body of Messiah as the people of God; a revival in which the joy of the LORD is our strength, even to confess and repent of sin; a revival in which our hearts are circumcised and our souls afflicted for our sins and transgressions and iniquities as saved and justified believers; a revival whereby we bless and thank God for His goodness despite our sense of unworthiness to be called His children; a revival in which we know the value of the blood of the Son of God shed for us and whereby our boast is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; a revival which brings forth much good fruit to the glory and praise of the Holy Name of our great God and Savior.      

Our unity together in Christ is not only a testimony of who Jesus is–that He was indeed sent by God His Father–but also that God loves us even as He loved Jesus!  Remember that Jewish people do not think that God sent or loved Jesus. . .for after all, He was crucified (Is. 53:4; Mt. 27:35-49).  Yet this Holy Spirit  unity and love for one another by the members of God’s household is the crowning proof of the truth that  Jesus is our Lord, and not someone else (Ps. 133; John 13:34-35; 17:20-26; Eph. 4:21).  We are to fear God and to love Jesus more than we fear rejection by our own kinsmen in the flesh.  In this unity with Christ and the Father is the manifest presence of God reigning in the hearts of His redeemed people and adopted children.  The LORD is there!  This is eternal life. . .to know God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.

Jude 24-25    Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless before the presence of His Glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever!  Amen.  

SUFFERING OUTSIDE THE CAMP

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany:  “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)

Mark 8:34-38; Hebrews 11:24-26; 13:13-14

In Israel the Supreme Court has determined that Jews who believe in Jesus/Yeshua as Lord and Savior are not entitled to immigrate to the State of Israel under the Law of Return.  Our faith in Jesus places us outside the Jewish camp of this world.

In Israel, what are we going to do as rulers and principalities in the nation-state of Israel increasingly persecute believers in Yeshua and those who would protect our well-being (Mt. 25:31-40)?  What are we believers going to do as the world–including perhaps Germany–increasingly comes against the purposes of God regarding Jerusalem and the regathering of His people back to the Land of Promise (Is. 62:6-7; Ezek. 36:19-29)?. . . We are to do good to all persons, but especially to those in the household of faith, that is, those outside the camps of this present world.

Jewish believers are caught in a dilemma:  The LORD Himself has separated Israel from the rest of the nations (Num. 23:9), and within the people of God, the LORD has further separated unto Himself a priesthood of those who whole-heartedly are to serve Him and represent the whole of the people (Num. 1:49; 3:12).  Unrepentant and unbelieving Israel has cast Yeshua outside the vineyard (Mt. 21:38-39), so it ought not amaze us when classical Judaism does not embrace Jewish believers in Jesus (Mt. 10:24-25).  Many churches, too, have put Jesus outside the sanctuary of worship and life, and He stands knocking on the door to be let in by whoever hears what the Spirit is saying (Rev. 3:14-22).

Fears and ignorance amongst the Jewish people have bred many superstitions.  The LORD says to Israel (and to Christians) through the prophet Isaiah,  Your iniquities have caused a separation between you and Me (Is. 59:2).  Evidence of sin is seen in broken personal relationships and fellowship (communion).  Our God grieves that false prophets cause His people to forget His Name because of the baalim (Ps. 44:20-21; Jer. 23:26-27).  Jewish people do not pronounce YHWH, but instead speak generally of God, Lord, Messiah.  The orthodox will even just say “HaShem”– The Name– or distort the Hebrew and refer to “Elokim”, all supposedly to avoid taking the name YEHOVAH in vain (Ex. 20:7), but really proof of having no personal knowledge or relationship with Him (Hos. 2:16-17). Isn’t  it an insult to someone when you keep calling him by any name other than what he prefers to be called?   The God of  Israel  has become as the Unknown God of the Athenians (Acts 17:23).

Do not many Christians do the same?  We can be more concerned with offending the sensitivities of those who do not believe with us that there is only one true Messiah, who is the very Son of God, than we are with offending the Lord Jesus Himself!  Perhaps we feel embarrassed or ashamed that we or our ancestors have not lived and spoken in a manner worthy of His Holy Name.  But we give credibility to the names of all the false gods and antichrists as we ourselves forsake the full and authoritative Word of God for all kinds of traditions and philosophies of men and of demons.  Perhaps we are uncertain that it is Jesus alone who is Lord and Christ!  We display a lack of fear of God and risk denying Him who has bought us with the price of His own blood.  Too many believers who love Israel and the Jewish people distinguish between the Jew Yeshua and the Greek Jesus, between the Jewish Messiah and the gentile Christ.  All of this indicates that the glory is departed, is not amongst us, is gone into exile (1Sam. 4:21), for God’s dwelling place is in the midst of His unified people.  The question is not, Whose side is the Lord on?, but, Whose camp are we in? (Josh. 5:13-15).  To side with YEHOVAH  is to place loyalty to Him over the partisan interests of our own camps.

In Israeli society, the word notzri (Heb.) or Christian is a negative term, much like Jew has been amongst Christians historically.  It is a name which is blasphemed amongst men, but a sweet smelling savor to God (1Pet. 4:14; James 2:7).  The word notzri or Christian simply means belonging to and a follower of Christ (Messiah), who is Jesus (Yeshua), the “netzer” or branch from out of the roots of Jesse (Is. 11:1).  Therefore, the term is messianic as a reference, amongst other things, to the Son of David.  While both Jews and Christians have made the name of God a reproach (Ezek. 36:19-20), yet Jesus identifies with both when He bore the verdict against Him on the cross, Yeshua haNotzri, Melech haYehudim (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews)(John 19:19).  So we must humbly sanctify and honor His name upon us, and not be ashamed to be called Christian because of what has been done sinfully in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Similarly, for many centuries Jewish people wanted to conceal their identities because of shame or fears of rejection and hatred).  In Israel we are called to honor the name of YEHOVAH God and of the Lord Jesus Christ–in whatever language.

The New Testament calls each believer to examine and judge him/herself (1Cor. 11:28-32) and to be accountable for my own  sins and the sins of my fathers (Acts 7:50-53), as well as to our sins as a people and the sins of the fathers of our nations and cultures against the Creator and Redeemer God (Lev. 26:39-45).  The Bible is clear that there is personal and collective accountability for our histories and a need to repent of sins.  This is true for me as a human being in Adam, for me as a Jew in whose rulers and fathers we are guilty as a nation for the crucifixion of the Son of God, for you as Germans with respect to the Holocaust.  We all have received forgiveness through our confession of sin and faith in the blood of Jesus who bore all our guilt and shame and curses in His body on the tree.  God delivers us from the death sin works in us into the freedom to serve Him with a clean conscience in the joy of being accepted by Him in Jesus!

Today as we look back at and judge the bleak record of church history–often overlooking the many blessings by God’s own faithfulness to keep the covenants–we need to take heed, lest thinking we stand, we fall (Rom. 11:21; 1Cor. 10:12).  Jewish believers especially ought to be the last to condemn and the first to forgive and to show mercy and comfort to our Christian brothers and sisters, for we rejected and killed Jesus before there even was a gentile church history; not to mention that over this history Jesus was Lord and within the Body of Christ the Holy Spirit exalted Him.  Our sin will be the greater because we say that we see (John 9:40-41).  This too puts us outside the camp as we forgive those who have sinned against our people because of our Father forgiving me for my sin against Him and His Son.  When Jewish and Arab, or even Jewish and German believers can testify of the reconciliation we have through our common faith in Christ as our Savior and Lord, this will be a witness that peace agreements from within this world are unsatisfactory and unsatisfying, that we must find our peace in the righteousness of God.  His terms of peace are signed with the blood of His cross.

To be outside the camp is to suffer misunderstanding and rejection with Jesus and with all others who are outside with Him, willing to be scapegoats who also make intercession for those still inside.  Only as we grow in appreciation for the enormity of our own sinfulness which God in His love and righteousness forgave, and let our love for Jesus increase, can we guard against a hardening of our own hearts towards those who refuse the message of reconciliation.  It is outside the camp where we meet with God and worship Him in Spirit and truth (Ex. 33:7).  Pharoah wanted Moses to compromise and set his conditions for the Israelis to worship their God.  Flee from idolatry, my brothers and sisters.  God is a Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, looking to the New Jerusalem above, outside the camps of this world.

THREAT TO THE STATUS QUO: RADICAL NEW COVENANT CULTURE-CRUCIFIXION

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany:  “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)

Galatians 6:14-16; 1Corinthians 9:19-23

As light is different from darkness, so is the Kingdom of God different from this present world order.  The present world order is opposed to and separated from God’s Kingdom.  It does not recognize the Lordship of His Son Yeshua the Messiah.  The people of this world are separated from God because of sin, though they may not realize it.  Yet they are proud to be independent of God.  Separation from God and opposition to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the status quo on the earth today.

But through Yeshua, God has been calling everyone to come out from the world into the Kingdom of Light.
“…the world  has been crucified to me and  I to the world.”  Has the world been crucified to you?  Have you been crucified to the world? 

The world is made up of many different cultures.  It’s not a natural thing to think of ourselves being crucified to our culture.  We tend to think of culture in terms of something we have a natural affinity for.   The cultures of the world, wherever we are, form the present world order or the status quo.   Paul is explaining that he has experienced a culture-crucifixion. This is something that is a threat to the status quo.  We have another King, the risen Lord Jesus! God wants to free us from the status quo, from the kingdom of darkness.  He wants to free us… 

from the culture of  Sodom which symbolizes immorality,
from the culture of Egypt which symbolizes bondage,
from the culture of  Babylon which symbolizes vain glory.

God Himself is a threat to the status quo.  When the Lord frees us to serve and worship Him, to be holy unto Him, He brings us out from the culture of this world.  And so it is that living for Him and letting Him live in us threatens the status quo.  God threatens the status quo of being separated from Him and opposed to Him when He offers an atonement for sin once and for all, removing our guilt against Him and His wrath towards us.

Whatever culture or society we are part of, the message of the New Testament is that we must come out from our status quo.   Accepting the gospel, moving from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light, is a life-changing and radical action that will separate you from the cultural norm.

One thing the gospel does is show us our origins or our natural culture from a new perspective.  Being drawn out of our culture is a process.  As revelation increases we see the truth of what Paul says.

Crucifixion is the key to being called out.   When we accept Yeshua, it is Messiah crucified that changes our lives.  Our old lives are crucified with Him.  Our old culture is crucified to ourselves and we ‘reckon it as dead’.

Here are some things that we are being called out from, each call threatening the status quo of this present world order and even threatening our own selves:
a)    All believers are called out from the idolatry of  heathenism and paganism,  and instead called to  serve the living God in all holiness and purity (Acts 15: 19-20, 28-29; 1 Thes. 1:9);

b)    We are all called out from seeking man’s approval through the keeping of customs (Mk. 7:9); instead we are called to seek God’s approval through faith and a personal relationship with Him (John 5:37-47; Rom. 2:29);

c)    We are called out of inequality to equality:  In the Messiah  gentiles are not above or below Jews;  in the Messiah men are not above or below women;  in Messiah the poor are with the  rich before God:  we are called  to be one body and co-heirs.  For this amazing truth of the gospel, the Chosen People sought to kill Paul (Acts 22:22; 1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 6:8);

d)    We are called out of  using wealth as a proof of approval from God (Mt. 19:23-26); it is the formation of God’s character in us which blesses us (Mt. 5:1; Lk. 6:20; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:10-14);

e)    We are called out of letting food be a cultural and social barrier.  Under Yeshua, all foods are acceptable by prayer and thanksgiving and  the Word of God (Mk. 7:13-23; 1Tim. 4:3-5);

f)     We are called out from hating our enemies.  We are called to bless our enemies and to do good towards them; we are called to pray for them and to forgive them (Mt.5:44; 6:12; Rom. 12:20);

g)    We are called out of the old priesthood and Law into a  new priesthood and change of  lifestyle based on the New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31-32; Rom. 3:20-22; Philp. 3:8-9; Heb. 7:11-12);

h)    We are called to understand that the 7th day Sabbath is prophetically fulfilled in the life and death of Messiah, and the first day of the [new] week looks on to the “new creation”  (Gen.1:31; 1Cor. 13:10; 2Pet. 3:13).

The apostle Paul, through his faith in Yeshua , is a  prime example of one being called out . He was called out in priestly separation.  He was called to depart from iniquity and to live by the faith of the Son of God.  In these two aspects Paul was outside the mainstream of his culture and society as he strove to know Yeshua the Messiah and have part in the [first] resurrection (Philp. 3:2-11).

Yet through the gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul was able to be all things to all people for the sake of their salvation (Prov.11:30; 1Cor.9:19-23).  Paul embodies the truth that through the seed of Abraham (specifically the Messiah) all the families of the earth would be blessed.  Paul, and his life of being called for the gospel’s sake, fulfills the word that Israel would be a light to the nations (the gentiles).  In breaking with the cultural norms of his society, Paul, the Jew and Israeli,  in the Way  of Yeshua, became a blessing to the nations, as was prophesied of Israel.

Today in Israel, the two main spiritual faiths of Judaism and Islam dominate the religious climate of the land and its people. Judaism rejects and denies the truth that the Messiah is in fact Yeshua; Islam denies that God is a Father, and therefore also that Yeshua is the Son of God (1John 2:22).  This rejection of Yeshua is a unifying element amongst the Jews and the Muslims.  You can understand how the Church, with its sure claim that God is Father and Yeshua is His Son, threatens the status quo throughout Israel and the Middle East.

Judaism, being the religion of the Jewish people, is law-based and culture-oriented.  It has varieties of laws, rituals, and ceremonies defined and determined as acceptable  (“kosher”) to the “traditions of the elders” (whether Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Ethiopian, etc.).  Much of Christianity is “Jewish” in a similar manner.  In Judaism adultery and divorce are being tolerated as a cultural norm.  Even agnostic and atheistic Jews will consider Judaism “theirs” as a way of validating their Jewishness and of belonging to the Jewish people, their customs and heritage.    What is true of Judaism is typical of every other religion and ethnic culture in that, in each one, things that have been taboo according to their law become–over time– tolerated and eventually legitimate.

Consequently, we all must look to what extent cultural norms become our norms as believers — in our personal lives and in the life of the Church.   Once norms of our society are tolerated in the Church the authority of the Word of God is undermined.  Obvious cultural norms that seek to enter the Church such as adultery, divorce, homosexuality will rob the Word of God of its full force and authority.  We will have no plumbline.   When this happens we will be robbing ourselves of life, by refusing to crucify our culture to the cross of our Lord, and ourselves to the present world order by the same cross.

With Judaism and Islam both vigorously claiming that Yeshua is not Lord, (and there are many who are called Christian who have turned away from the faith and deny the Lord who bought them), there is a clash of kingdoms.    The Christian assertion of Yeshua being the Messiah and of God being the Father is at the very foundation of  the Christian faith. Upon this rock Yeshua builds His church.  And so we see that believers and the testimony of Yeshua are a real threat to the status quo in Israel.  And the threat increases as the believers put off the old man and put on the new man in Messiah Yeshua.

We might ask what else is so threatening to the present world order?
What is so threatening about the culture of God’s kingdom?  It all has to do with the cross, doesn’t it?
We are a threat …
· when we die to ourselves, when we serve to please God rather than men;
· when we are not intimidated by our enemies;
· when we subdue pride and let God be honored;
· when we can accept the “shame” of believing in Yeshua;
· when we can be open with one another, confess sins to each other, pray for each other in brotherly love for Jesus’ sake.….

All this is a threat to the orientation of the present world order, because the crucified life is at the center of these actions.  The meek will inherit the earth.  It is the aim, naturally, of Jewish (and any other) radicalism to protect itself against these threats.

What are some of the attempts towards this end?  Here are a few that I see we are facing:
1)   Authorities will try to forbid the teaching or evangelizing in Yeshua’s name.
2)   There will be false accusations and incitement to violence against believers.
3)   Believers will be betrayed and suffer at the hands of family members.
4)   There will be intense effort to undermine faith through attacking the validity of the whole Bible and of the N.T. interpretation of the O.T.
5)   There will be general personal harassment, like standing at the entrance to meetings, personal threats, disturbing mail, phone tapping–all in an attempt to make us fearful in living out our faith.

This harassment and persecution may start through lawful means, but will degenerate to unrighteous means to justify the goal–of maintaining the status quo.  The cultures we are in want to keep their norms intact.  It can even sound good and righteous such as “guarding the sanctity of life, keeping the Shabbat, maintaining a prohibition against idolatry and blasphemy, preserving ethnic purity”, but can accelerate even to the point of killing in the belief that God will justify it.

Despite the seeming powerfulness of these measures, the challenge we have in Israel, for all the different congregations, is to keep our eyes on the Lord.  By His grace and the power of the blood we are to maintain our testimony in meekness despite the spirit of the age.

Closing:
So we see that there is an established world order wherever we go and that the kingdom of God with Yeshua as the Messiah is a living threat to this present darkness.

Once you trust Yeshua as God’s Anointed One though, you are being called out more and more from the world and the culture of the world, meaning even your own personal culture as we see with the apostle Paul. We are called as Paul to accept that the world has been crucified to us and we to the world.

We see that the Body of Messiah is challenged in resisting the cultural norms that are part of our surroundings.  It is necessary so that we will not be guilty of adding to or taking away from the plumbline of God.

In Israel we see the opposition to Yeshua coming from the two main religions, Judaism and Islam, with both opposing the truth of who Jesus really is.   Both of these religions are in a  ‘kingdom clash’ with the Sovereign LORD/YHVH.  As radicalism increases to protect itself against the perceived threat of the Lord Yeshua, real threats to our lives may come.

Finally, we know that as believers in Yeshua, we must persevere in an attitude of love, recognizing that God is longsuffering and good.  He is reaching out to the lost, desiring that as many as possible be saved before He must bring judgement.  So that should be our desire too.   By His grace and the blood of Jesus we are to maintain our testimony in a spirit of meekness despite the arrogant spirit of the age.  In this way we will overcome the world with Yeshua by our faith in Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLOGGED WELLS: UNPAID TITHES AND OFFERINGS

Last week I spoke about digging up our stopped-up wells so that the spiritual life in Messiah can flow through us more freely.  We spoke of some of the “stones, dirt, and garbage” which can clog up our wells.  It had been my intention to speak today on another subject related to God’s purposes for us here in Beer Sheva, but during the week the Holy Spirit convicted me of another stone in both my life and in the congregation’s, which is limiting God in blessing us here as He would want.  It is a subject which is seen from the first pages of history down to these last days, as written for our instruction in the Bible.  

The Lord does not change:  He wants His people to give from their incomes and increases in order for Him to bless us.  From Cain and Abel (Gen 4:4) to Abraham and Melchizedek (Gen 14:20) to Jacob (Gen 28:20-22) to the people of Israel under the whole Tenach (the O.T.:  Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21-24; Dt 12:17-19; 14:22,28-29; 24:19-22; Pr 3:9; Mal 3:8), the believers who feared YHVH understood that all that they had belonged to God, and that they “owed” Him at least 10% (a tithe).  

Under the Law the LORD told Israel through Moses that 10% belonged to YHVH, and was holy to Him.  He instructed the children of Israel to give this 10% for Him to the Levites, who served Him as priests in the Tabernacle/Temple. (Num 18:23-24)  This corresponds to deacons and elders within local Messianic/Christian congregations.  The Levites were to give from this tithe their own tithe as an offering to YHVH, who was their inheritance, rather than a land possession with the other children of Israel.  

The tithes and offerings are God’s “taxes” upon the citizens of His Kingdom to help service the general welfare which His government provided (similar to Mt 22:15-22; Rom 13:1-7):  firstly, to pay the priests their “salaries”, who as a tribe worked every day of the year, while the rest of the tribes only worked 80% of the year, not having to work on Sabbaths and holidays. (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21; 1Tim 5:17-18)  This corresponds to elders who teach, and to other servants who serve regularly and faithfully the local churches on Sabbaths and Sundays.; secondly, to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle/Temple, and for feast days (Dt 12:17-19); thirdly, to care for the poor and the stranger, the widows and fatherless. (Dt 14:28-29)  The first amounted to the “whole tithe”, or 10%; the second and the third raised the total offering to 16%-17%.  The blessing which YHVH promised was based upon these extra donations, which were voluntary.  The tithe was obligatory, a necessary duty upon all.  

Mal 3:7-12   We rob God!  Instead of stealing from Him by not paying our tithes, He wants to give us at least 80%-90% of what is already His.  YHVH is saying to give Him even the minimum of 10%, and He will give us more than enough.  This is grace; He is asking from us the minimum under the Law, and He will bless us, although the Law does not require Him to!  

Give to the Lord, and He will bless in such a way that unbelievers will notice.
Give to God what is rightfully His, and He will increase our income to enable us to bless and help others, to His glory.

Tithing also provides a defense against greed and stinginess.  

So much for the O.T., but what about the New Testament?  Aren’t we under grace now and not the Law?
Mt 23:23-24   justice, mercy, and faith + tithing
Lk 11:42   justice and the love of God + tithing  

So speaks our Lord Jesus.  

If you read 2Cor 8 – 9, Paul instructs Christians regarding giving.  His teaching is based upon the words of the Lord Yeshua, who upholding the principles and commandments of the Word of God as written in the O.T. in this matter, just as He is concerning the promises made to the Fathers connected with the people and the land of Israel.  The apostle in particular praises those who gave more than his own expectation, despite their poverty and affliction, and says that they gave firstly unto the Lord and then to them by the will of God. (2Cor 8:1-5)

Many of us are having financial troubles.  Could it be that we are robbing God?  Many of us have not had a ‘new song’ in a long time.  Could it be that we are robbing God and rejecting His interests in the congregation?   

Mal 3:13-18   God makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve Him and those who do not; the Book of Remembrance is for those who fear YHVH and think of Him.  

2Cor 9:6-15   God will bless the whole-hearted giver, and many will give thanks to God.

May the Lord increase our faith to give more than mere duty – but at least our duty! – and unclog our wells.  Spring up, O well! (Num 21:17)