THE CROSS

Mt 5:4/Lk 6:21   “Blessed are they who mourn/weep now, for they shall be comforted/laugh.”

Within the past month, members of this congregation have experienced mourning and weeping.  With the death of two family members, loved ones and friends had a personal and family experience of weeping and mourning.  And now this week, we have joined with the nation that weeps for her children, the 73 young men – soldiers – who died without warning or expectation; not at the hand of their enemies, but in a collision of two helicopters of our own.

Who among us did not cry before the Lord when we heard the news?  Who did not feel the pain of the families and close friends?  Who among the children of God the Father in Heaven does not pray from his heart, “Until when LORD?!; Thy Kingdom come!; Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHVH!; Come, Lord Jesus!”?

I heard that among some groups of the religious, there was rejoicing!  These are those who do not even recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel because their Messiah has not yet come.  YHVH’s Anointed One, Yeshua/Jesus, whom we know has come, and will come again, used the example of national tragedies to bring the people to repentance.  He proclaimed that those killed were not worse sinners than others, and that unless they repented, they, too, would likewise perish. (Lk 13:1-5)

Those who were rejoicing in their heart – whether they be Israelis or enemies of Israel – will not know the comfort which the Lord Jesus promises to those who mourn.  Let us look together at another passage from the prophet Ezekiel, and consider the mourning of which Messiah speaks:  Ezek 9:1-11 (esp. v. 4,9)  The city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel (Judah) are filled with blood, violence, iniquity because the people have no personal relationship with, nor faith in YHVH.  There is no genuine fear of God.  Instead, they say that the LORD has forsaken the land, and that He does not see.  Yet there were those within the city who sigh and groan over all the abominations done in Jerusalem, and by the religious priests in the sanctuary of YHVH.  Upon these mourners the Lord ordered His servants to write a  mark on their foreheads.

It is interesting that in ancient Hebrew the letter ת (tav) was written like a ‘t’.  The ‘mark‘ here in v. 4 is called a tav
(תו).  Brothers and Sisters, the mark of God, which He places on those whom He delivers and passes over from His wrath, is the cross!  It is at the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus/Yeshua that self is slain, and God alone is good and worthy.

The message of the cross is proof that the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek/Gentile:  The Jews do not accept it, and the Gentiles do not respect it. (1Cor 1:18-23)  Jewish people avoid any use of a cross design or symbol (even in arithmetic and at a cross-road intersection!), and Gentiles who know little or nothing of the true meaning of the cross have used it to terrorize Jews and others, and to blaspheme God and Christ.

The truth is that the cross, and its message of Messiah crucified, is, like the gospel, from God.  It is the New Covenant in Jesus which brings it to light.  Besides the ‘mark’ in Ezekiel, the cross appears in other significant places in Israel’s history by God’s plan and wisdom:
–the sprinkled blood on the door posts at the Passover in Egypt
–the formation of the tribes of Israel as they camped and moved on in the desert, with the Tabernacle in their midst at the center
–in the arrangement of the holy furnishings and vessels of the Tabernacle and the Temple, showing the way into God’s presence and glory

The cross is God’s mark upon His people, which represents the spiritual condition of the inner man.  To the carnal and unbelieving it is a mark of shame and dishonor; to the spiritual person in Christ, it is the mark of God’s glory in the person and character and atoning death of His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, and of God’s redeemed people, whose glory is our Head, even Christ Jesus Himself.  The cross is God’s mark to separate the world from His people, and His people from the world. (Gal 6:14), and it is by the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross, which we, as it were, sprinkle (1Pt 1:2) on our hearts and minds, that God will save us from the day of His judgment, which begins – today as in Ezekiel’s day – in the household of God. (1Pt 4:17)

The other night at the Bible study from the epistle to the Galatians, we discussed the matter of circumcision, which was and still is an issue in some groups, as a sign of keeping God’s covenant with Israel and with belonging to His people – even for Gentiles.  Foods also have an importance in similar arguments.  During the same time as our study, but without our knowledge, the helicopter collision occurred in which the 73 persons with names were killed without warning and, as far as we know, without Christ.  The nation mourns; we share in that grief.  God’s kingdom is not about circumcision and food (Heb 13:9), but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Peace is the fruit of righteousness, and especially that righteousness which comes from God.  Joy in the Kingdom of God is a holy joy, not a devilish delight in other people’s calamities or sin, but rather a joy in truth and righteousness and judgment (justice) and goodness.  Despite their significance, our righteousness before God does not depend upon such matters of circumcision and food, or even head coverings, and the Lord does not want contention (discord) and divisions over them, which can only quench and grieve the Holy Spirit.

A true Jew and a true Christian seeks God’s approval.  God approves of us when we believe in and obey His Son, our Lord Jesus.  Jesus acknowledges us as belonging to Him when we do the will of His Father in Heaven.  God is working both within Israel and within the Church to cleanse and to purify His people.  To be a disciple, Jesus says that we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Him.  Both baptism in water and the cross speak the same message:  death to the self-life; alive unto God in the Spirit through faith. 

This way which we travel, and which Israel is being required by her God and Savior to travel, is long and hard and narrow.  It is a well-traveled road, and many more will yet know suffering on it.  Yeshua/Jesus, the King whom Jewish people say they do not want to rule over them, but whom YHVH God intends that they will have, has walked this same way – the way of the cross.  He exposed Himself to the condemnation of man, and became a curse for us under God’s own Law, in order that we could receive God’s approval.  If we follow Jesus and His lead on this path, we will arrive safely home – our conscience cleansed, and with love out of a purified heart perfected.  Despite the sentence of death in ourselves, we go on in victory in Christ because God has forgiven us of our sin and our sins.  Praise the LORD!  Yeshua is no longer on the cross!

The Lord is calling us to intercede in mercy  — as His priests — for the Jewish and Arab peoples to repent and to believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is near.  Until they do, there will continue to be much sorrow and mourning.  Until we let God’s spiritual mark distinguish us, then we, too, stand in danger of suffering from God’s righteous judgments upon the world. (1Cor 11:31-32)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”  God intends to answer the prayer which the Lord has taught us to pray and which the Holy Spirit quickens as the birth pains increase.

Let’s be encouraged together, as we conclude from the truth of God’s prophetic word:  Rev 21:1-7; 22:1-9

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.

OUR BROTHER YESHUA

John 17:17-26  sanctify by truth; the Father’s love for us is as His love for Jesus
Heb. 2:10-12  Jesus (Yeshua) not ashamed to call us His brethren

God loves us!  Our Father in Heaven loves us, and He loves us as much as He loves His only-begotten Son Yeshua!  It’s understandable that we should know and believe that God the Father loves Yeshua the Son, because Yeshua always did what pleased His Father; He always –even from His youth– did what was good and right in His Father’s eyes.  He always lived and walked by faith according to the Spirit of Holiness.  He always trusted and obeyed His Father, and he honored His earthly mother and father.

It is more difficult for us to grasp the love of the truth that God our Father really loves us.  Our experiences, our feelings, our enemies (devil, world, self, iniquity) all conspire to tell us that God does not –even cannot– love someone like me or you or us or them.  And certainly if He does, it isn’t like His love for someone else:  I’m not worthy, or that person has advantages that make him or her easier to love; or, I’m not pretty or handsome –so many things which make us feel less love.  Of course, there are always those who think that they deserve all the love they have, and it’s not their concern if another feels a love deficit.

But what do we read here?:  the truth is that not only does God the Father and the Son love us, but also that the Father loves us as much as He loves Yeshua!  And Yeshua is glad about that!  He is not jealous or resentful that God should love us as much as Him.  In fact, He wants us to know this and to let this truth sanctify us and to cause us to love one another –especially those of the household of faith in Christ– in the same way.  Jesus gave His life for us who have become His brothers and sisters.

How can we accomplish this?  It can only be if we (I) are secure in the knowledge that God does love us (me).  Yeshua knew the Father loved Him because He believed with all His heart in Him:  He trusted Him; He honored Him; He loved Him.  If we are living our lives before God in sincerity and truth, the Holy Spirit witnesses to our own spirit that we are children of God and so are loved by Him, and we also grow in humility and grace to not only love God’s other children –our brethren– but to rejoice and to encourage each other in our Father’s mutual love for each and all of us.

There is no reason for jealousy or for competition.  Rather, we are to be as little children in our attitude –not considering who is greater or who is more loved.  

Consider the examples of Abraham towardsIshmael and Isaac
                                         The LORD towards Jacob and Esau
                                         Jacob towards Joseph and his brothers
                                         Yeshua towards John and the other apostles (different personalities and occupations)
                                         Parable of prodigal son

In all of these cases, the fathers loved their children, but had a special love for one over another –or so it seems.  It was when the others became jealous or hateful that problems in the family erupted.  So even God the Father in Heaven loves all people, whom He has created in His own image and likeness, and for whom Yeshua came and died.  Yet He has a special love (preference) for Jesus above all.  Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit tells us through God’s own Word that we, who love Jesus and accept His exaltation above all others, are loved –we know— by His Father and our Father in Heaven just as much as Yeshua is –and, again, Yeshua is happy for us and for Himself.  This pleases the Father very much:  to see His family at peace and joyful, at rest in His righteousness and in His everlasting love for us all.  If we love God, we will do what our Brother and Lord Jesus commands us, for this is what the Father wants from us.

Take the opportunity to strengthen another brother or sister in both your love and the Father’s love for him or her.  If there is any jealousy or resentment or competition regarding Father’s love, then confess this sin to Him and repent of it, knowing that He forgives you for Messiah’s sake.  The truth will both sanctify and free you and others.

God loves us as much as He loves Jesus.  He can not love us any more than that, but we can always show Him that we want to love Him and our brethren more. 

OUR GUILT OFFERING

Recently I was walking down the street and singing the chorus to the song, “Peace Like A River” – ‘it is well with my soul’ – and the Lord by His Spirit had me rejoicing in my spirit and giving thanks to God that it is true:  it is well with my soul!  And yet, I considered how annoyed and impatient I can be; how I am not considered by others for good works particularly; how I have to fight so many unclean thoughts.  So what is it then that I can be singing in truth that it is well with my soul?!  It is because Jesus is my guilt (trespass) offering, and I have peace and security in my relationship to God as my Father through Messiah.  And if I know that I have acceptance with my Creator and Redeemer, then I can also relate to my brothers and sisters in the Lord, as well as to people still of this world, on the basis of that reality.  When my heart condemns me – which it does at times for those very things mentioned above – God is greater than my heart.

The sin offering is primarily for what I am:  a sinner by nature, and the Lamb of God has come to take away the sin of the world.  The guilt offering is primarily for what I do:  I sin and trespass; and the Son of God’s name is Yeshua, who will save His people from their sins.

The Son of God has set us free:  free to acknowledge our sins and confess them to God, and at times to one another, because He forgives us – and we are to do likewise to others.  There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1,33)  We are free to love others, to do unto them what we would like them to do unto us, even if they do not demonstrate that they love us!  If I know in my own spirit that I desire to love God and to be faithful to the New Covenant in Jesus, then my conscience is clear before both God and man, even though Satan accuses me, my wife and friends misunderstand me, and I myself wonder at the grace of God to die for someone as useless as me! (1Jn 3:18-24) 

Is there guilt then in the believer’s life?  Of course! – whenever we sin knowingly, or whenever the Holy Spirit shows us or reminds us of something we had done unknowingly or unintentionally which was, in fact, a sin – either against our relationship with the Lord directly, or indirectly through another person.  If we do not address the matter and either ask forgiveness, or perhaps grant forgiveness to another, then we honestly do our part to accept our responsibility as those who would be in Christ and walking by the Spirit, and not in the flesh.

Last week Lisa was baptized, which is the answer of a good conscience towards God (1Pet 3:21), in that it testifies to the personal belief that Jesus Christ died, and rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven, where He is both Lord over all and makes intercession for us as our great High Priest.  When we truly believe this and walk in this truth, we know that God has justified us through faith and by His Spirit.  Guilt and the bondage to fear of judgment are removed, and instead love is perfected. (1Jn 4:17-19)

At the Lord’s Supper we are each to examine and to judge ourselves.  If our participation depended on satisfying the demands of someone else’s conscience, or of keeping the commandments of Jesus as if we ourselves were Jesus, then no one could eat God’s own covenant meal that He has Himself invited us to!  But when our communion is in the holy and righteous and blessed truth that Jesus is Himself my guilt offering – and when I maintain my relationship with God and my brethren on that basis – then I can rejoice in His joy over someone like me, or like you.  Did you know that bread in Hebrew (lechem) has to do with warfare – a conflict and battle for survival, for justification in the eyes of others, for victory over our enemies – real or imagined?  In Greek the word for bread (artos) contains the thought of expiation — to lift off and to remove.  Is not this the truth of the New Testament fulfilling the hope and promise and struggle of the Old Testament?  Jesus has come to give peace  to all who put their trust in Him as having been sent from God the Father.  He removes the heavy load of our guilt before God and before our fellow man.  The victory is His on the cross; it is ours as we, too, deny ourselves each day, take up our cross which He has given to each of us, and follow Him.  Allow Him to righteously take away your guilt, and believe God when He says He has!

In Jesus we are NOT GUILTY, but FREE to live for Him!

Make Jesus your guilt offering (Is 53:10-12), and rejoice in the goodness of the LORD!  Amen.

REPENTANCE LEADS TO CONVERSION: LIFE-CHANGING/CHARACTER-CHANGING

(Eve of formal appointment as Elder)

Does anyone here tonight want to be changed from what you are and the way you now are – even as a believer – because of hearing the Word of God to you?

Is anyone here tonight a changed/different (hopefully better!) person since believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior than what you were before believing the gospel of God?

These two questions – with their positive answers – give a basis for continual hope and growth in the life of any person and Christian – old or young, male or female, wise or simple, Jew or Gentile, . . . .

Ps 19:8 (7 Eng)   The Law of YHVH is perfect, converting/returning/restoring the soul.
Acts 3:19   Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of 
refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
Rev 3:19-22   Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous, therefore, and repent!

God as Creator, Judge, Lawgiver, Savior:  It is the commandment of YHVH God throughout the whole of the Bible that all persons everywhere should repent (turn back) from evil and to do good, to repent and believe the good news of God that His Son Yeshua the Messiah is the Savior from sin and uncleanness and evil.  It is the promise of God that all who do so will be changed and walk in newness of life by the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit.  In the goodness and longsuffering of God towards us, He brings us to act with our own will to return (turn back; repent) to Him (Hos 12:7 [6 Eng]; Mt 3:2-3), and in continuing to walk in His way, He works with us to sanctify us, changing us into the likeness of His Son, who is the exact image of the invisible God.

In other words, true repentance leads to genuine Godliness.  We are converted!  True repentance is directed unto God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)  It includes a sorrow and a regret over our own sin first, and, afterwards, over the sins of our family or of our people. (Gen 6:7; 2Cor 7:10)  The Holy Spirit will bring us to see that sin of whatsoever kind is first of all against God Himself (Ps 51:5 [4 Eng]), and that in His love for us He sent Yeshua to die on the cross for our atonement and reconciliation (1Jn 4:9-10)There is brokenness of heart and contrition of spirit; then we are comforted by the Spirit of God. (Zec 12:10)  As we continue in faith that, in Messiah, God completely forgives us and justifies us and accepts into fellowship with Himself, we are free to love Him and to obey Him – even to confess our sins – with all our heart and soul.  We will become different persons(1Sam 10:6)our attitudes towards life and people will change; our motives will switch from self-interest and –honor to God’s interests and honor.

If the heart and the will are sincere, then there will be fruits of repentance (Mt 3:8): –conviction of our own sinfulness, and hence humility before God and man –the fear of YHVH, recognizing that it is God who forgives and who has power and authority to both kill our bodies and to cast our souls into hell (Mt 10:28) –repentance from dead works, i.e., works apart from faith in, and fear of, God (Acts 26:30; Heb 6:1; 1Thes 1:9) –a heart, and passionate love, for Jesus, and for all who do the will of God His Father (SS 1:2-4; Mt 10:37-38; 12:50)

For us living in Israel among Jews and Moslems, it is a reproach to be considered as converting to another religion —  meaning to believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized in His Name.  They want us to feel guilty or ashamed for changing our faith and religion.  But, brothers and sisters, anyone who has previously not personally believed that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah/Christ and the Son of the Living God the Father has changed his faith and, necessarily, his religion, too – that is, his way and conduct of life now based upon his/her personal faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross for our redemption and salvation!  We have turned back to the one true God in His way, and not to simply another faith or religion of this world.

It is also true that God loves us and accepts us as we are when we come to Him in faith, and trust in His mercy towards us; yet He continually calls us to repentance and to change our ways of thinking and doing, even when we think our intentions have been good. (Rev 2:3; Is 55:7-9; Mt 7:21)  Ought not each husband and wife, father and mother want to let God, by His word and Spirit, work with us through living faith to make us more like His own pattern to us in these tremendous positions of responsibility and privilege? (1Jn 3:2)  Ought not children want to know God the Father in such a way that they would want to truly and righteously honor their fathers and mothers, and all others in authority over them in the Lord?  Ought not every believer want to become worshippers of God in Spirit and truth, freed from all forms of idolatry and offenses?  Ought not our own congregation – which properly belongs to Yeshua – repent in all areas not in accord with the Spirit and the Word and the blood, that together we can indeed both give and leave a testimony of the Presence of God in our midst, and of much good fruit unto Him in His name?

Let’s consider briefly together several changes both required of us and also promised to us by the Lord, and which are impossible for man to do naturally or by his own efforts only, but which, in cooperation with God, are possible and worthy of our attention:
Jn 3:3  We all must be born again by the Holy Spirit form Heaven!

Mt 18:3-4; 11:25-30  We all must humble ourselves and become like a child  – “a lamb of the first year” —  
in order to hear and receive from God, and also to know Him.
Mt 5:3-12; Gal 5:22-23; Rom 8:29; 2Cor 3:18; 1Jn 3:2  the character and the fruit of God formed in us, and being expressed outwardly: 
from glory to glory Ezek 36:26  God gives us a new heart and a new Spirit.
Lev 16:16,30; Is 1:18; Ezek 36:25; Jn 3:11  God makes us clean from all our defilement from sin and sins, and baptizes us in holiness and purifying fire
.
2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Col 3:9-10  We become a new creation in Messiah, who makes all things new, and must put off the old man and put on the new man created in the image of God
.
Mt 7:17; 12:33  We must become a good tree which will produce good fruit
.
2Cor 11:2; Lev 21:13  We must become a chaste virgin
to marry our great High Priest and King of Glory.
Gal 2:20  Not I, but Christ lives in me
!
Mt 13:11-17; Ps 32:2-6a (Heb)  Jesus will heal
us – physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.
–He forgives.
–He does not condemn.
–The love of God draws out our loving obedience and trust.

Let each of us individually, and all of us together, allow God to be glorified in Himself through us His people and children.  May the Holy Spirit help us to know that repentance is a good thing – not bitter for long – and that we would learn to rejoice in repentance, for it transforms us and sanctifies us, bringing us closer to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and to one another:  joy is fulfilled!  Amen.

PEACE AND RECONCILIATION BETWEEN THE NATIONS OF JACOB AND ESAU – Aug 1995

(Delivered in Lempala, Finland, at Israel Conference)

Summarize:
Gen. 25:21-34    birth of Esau and Jacob, fathers of two nations; birthright sold by Esau to Jacob; Isaac loved Esau (Edom); Rebecca loved Jacob
27:1,20-22   Isaac’s poor eyesight in his old age; voice of Jacob vs. hands of Esau; Isaac’s carnal love for Esau
27:28-41    the blessings; the deceit of Jacob; the hatred (grudge) of Esau
32:28   Jacob’s name changed to Israel by God, indicating new character (person) and position (status)
33:1-20   unresolved reconciliation between Jacob/Israel and Esau/Edom over the issue of the land

1Cor. 10:11    the Bible and its examples written for us living at the end of the age
Read:   Col. 1:19-23    Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness, is our peace

The Bible is very clear that the covenant of God with Abraham (Abram) extended through Isaac and to Jacob and his descendants.  Under the Old Covenant, YHVH was in personal relationship with the people of Israel as a nation, excluding the gentile nations.  Individually, the Lord has always had His witnesses amongst all peoples.  (Eph. 2:12; Amos 3:2; Deut. 4:32-39; Acts 14:17)

Esau and Jacob were born to the same father and mother – in fact were fraternal twins – yet one is the father of Israel and is thought of as “Jewish”, while the other is not in covenant relationship to the LORD, and so is considered not Jewish, but rather, in other words, gentile. (1Cor. 10:32)

From God’s viewpoint, the Land of Canaan was to belong to Israel.  The Arabs and other Gentiles have had no sovereign claim to it once God gave it to the children of Israel through the leadership of Joshua.  Gentiles, including Arabs – both Ishmaelites and Edomites – could live in the land but not possess it.  The LORD conditioned Israel’s possession upon their faith and obedience to Him and His law, which, as we know, they failed to do, as would any other people in the same position as God’s chosen people (Acts 15:10).  All blessing to Israel has been ultimately connected to the promised Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ, whom God would bring into the world through the Jewish people, but who was to be the same promised Seed of the woman that was to deliver all humanity from the seed of the serpent.  God is faithful to His Word even if we are not, and He is presently dealing with the Jewish people (and with all the tribes of Israel which He alone can recognize) back again in the land which He promised and which He refers to still as the Land of Israel, despite peoples’ uncertainty regarding the name, and their rebellion against YHVH and His Anointed. (2Tim. 2:13; Josh. 5:13-15; Ezek. 36–39; Ps. 2; 83; Mt 2:20-21)

Under the New Covenant, which Israel as a nation has not yet accepted or entered into, although it was first (and still) offered to her, God is offering to both Jews/Israelis and Arabs/Palestinians far more than what they each are struggling over now:  eternal life with the Lord Himself in the New Heavens and New Earth He will create, rather than a portion of land which is not even all that was promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  When Yeshua returns, He will bring to fulfillment His word and promises regarding the land, its boundaries, and where the different peoples will live during the millenial kingdom.  Messiah Yeshua/Christ Jesus will bring righteousness and peace – even to the animals!

So until then, what do Isaac’s prophetic blessings to his sons, and the characters of and relationship between Jacob and Esau have to instruct us as Christians in the Church of God?  (Heb. 11:20)  Let’s look together at. . .
Gen. 27:28-29,33   blessing to Jacob in disguise. . .and he shall be blessed (much as Balaam had to concede hundreds of years later)
Rom. 9:7-8; Gal. 4:28   Isaac as child of promise (grace vs. works of flesh, custom, or law) a picture of believers and the Church
Gen. 27:39-40   “blessing” to Esau, but without fruitfulness and divine presence and protection
Rom. 9:13; Mal. 1:2-3; Heb. 12:14-17   character of Esau, and God’s attitude and sovereign election
cp. Mt. 10:37   love for Jesus vs. love of family and self

         Gen. 27:40   “intifada”:  shaking off (uprising), growing restless, gaining dominion (upper hand); the undoing of Jacob’s security and assurance

Much of the Body of Messiah today is similar to Isaac and Rebecca in their attitudes and action towards both the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs:  whether as pictured in Isaac or in Rebecca, God’s ways and will are being distorted.   Jacob’s hope is not in his father Isaac, who in his rightful annoyance at being deceived – though a consequence of his own paternal carnal love (Praise God for it though!) for Esau – undid Jacob’s confidence by giving to Esau the hope of “getting even”; Jacob’s hope is not in himself nor in Israel the people, nor in Christians and the Church; Jacob’s hope is not in an unresolved “reconciliation” with his brother Esau or the Palestinian Arabs, who at heart hold a murderous grudge against him and developed a bitter root (the seed of Islam) as witnessed in the whole after-history of this long-standing family feud (Ezek. 35:5; Obadiah).

Jacob has no hope – nor do the Arabs – under the terms of the O.T. because of his own and Israel’s unrighteousness.  Jacob’s hope – and of the Arabs – is the Hope of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ.  God will fulfill His purposes, but in His way and in truth and righteousness.  As it is written in Rom. 11:25-32:    “From out of Zion shall come the Deliverer, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them – when I take away their sins,” and all Israel shall be saved. (Ezek 36:27)
And again, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD.”  And, “. . .They shall look on Me whom they have pierced.”  (Ps. 118:25-26; Zech. 12:10)

Jacob’s/Israel’s attitude as God’s chosen people towards Gentiles in general and towards Arabs and Palestinians in particular is similar to that often displayed by Christians and the Church toward Israel and Jews.  Both have presumed an unmerited arrogance or wisdom in themselves in a manner contrary to the truth and character of our God as revealed in the Scriptures (Rom. 11:25).  God loves all persons, desiring that none should perish but rather receive forgiveness of sins and inherit eternal life (Ezek. 18; John 3:16), and the Lord is also faithful to His covenant promises to and through Israel for all nations.  The Church’s pre-eminent place before God is not at the expense of His word and promises regarding Israel or the other nations.

We as believers ought to humbly marvel and worship God as we realize more and more Who and What He is!  As believers we are exhorted to examine and to judge ourselves, for those of the world – which today includes Israel and the Arab nations and peoples – are already condemned in their unbelief on the Name of the only-begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor. 11:28-32; 2Cor. 13:5).  To us has been given the message of reconciliation – the good news of God to all peoples and nations – until the Lord takes us up to Himself and He finishes the work of putting away evil and workers of iniquity through His righteous and true judgments upon the nations – including Israel and the harlot church – as mankind’s Redeemer (Is. 26:9-10; Rev. 19:2).

Let us seek God’s grace and mercy and long-suffering to remain faithful to our own election in Christ, maintaining the salt of the covenant, even as we carry the gospel of peace to the children of Jacob and of Esau.  The blood of Yeshua the Messiah, which He shed on the cross for our sins, is God the Father’s signature on His peace treaty.  Hallelu-Yah!  Amen.

SABBATH: THE 7TH DAY AND THE 1ST DAY OF THE WEEK – 25 Aug 1995

(Friday evening dinner teaching to Lutheran, Pentecostal, and Free Church Christians in Kangasala, Finland)

Revised 5 Mar 2017

Gen 1:1    In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.
       1:31  And God saw every thing that He had made, and , behold, it was very good.  And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Gen 2:1-3; Heb 4:10  Thus the Heavens and the Earth were finished, and all the hosts of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He ceased ( שבת) on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.  And God blessed the seventh day sanctified it because that in it He had ceased from all His work which God created and made.

Ex 20:9-11; 23;12  Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is the Sabbath of YHVH your God. . . . For in six days YHVH made Heaven and Earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and He rested (ינח) on the seventh day; wherefore YHVH blessed the Sabbath and sanctified it.
                We remember the Creator for His creation, and His rest.

Ex 31:12-17; Ezek 20:12,20  The Sabbath is a sign between YHVH and Israel to know that it is YHVH who sanctifies us; He ceased (שבת) and was refreshed (ינפש ) after His six days of creation.

Lev 23:1-3   And YHVH spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them concerning the appointed times of YHVH, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My appointed times (seasons; feasts). . . . The seventh day is the Sabbath of rest (cessation שבת )

       23:39   [Feast of Booths]. . . on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and the eighth day shall be a Sabbath.
God begins and ends with rest (שבת ).

Dt 5:12-15   . . . and remember that thou was a slave in the land of Egypt, and that YHVH your God brought thee out from there by a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm; wherefore YHVH thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.
             We remember the Redeemer and Deliverer for our redemption, and our rest.

Is 58:13-14   the Sabbath to called a delight (עונג)

Heb 3:7 – 4:11  There remains therefore a rest (cessation) to the people of God:  the gospel message of rest to those who believe (Heb 4:2), as we cease from our own works as God did from His.

Mk 2:27-28   The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Shabbat; therefore, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath also.

Jn 4:34; 5:17-18; 9:4   Yeshua/Jesus answered them, My Father works till now, and I work.  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He had not only broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
God’s present on-going work is that of redemption and salvation.

Good works of grace (lovingkindness) and truth are lawful on/for/during the Sabbath, Shavuot (Weeks; Pentecostal present dispensation), Jubilee (the present acceptable year of YHVH which Yeshua the Messiah proclaimed, the Millennial Kingdom to come:

Mt 12:7,10,12   to show mercy; healing; to do well (good)
Mk 3:4   to do good; to save life
Lk 13:16   to circumcise
Jn 6:29; 7:23   to circumcise; the work of God is to believe on Jesus Christ, whom God sent  

Yeshua, the Son of God and the Son of Man, fulfills the Sabbath:  in Him God finds rest and refreshment, and in Christ believers enter into God’s rest and liberty. (Is 11:1-2; Mt 3:16-17; Jn 1:31-34; Is 28:11-12; Mt 11:27-30; Is 66:1-2; Act 7:49)  The Lord Yeshua was in the grave and Sheol (Hades) on the seventh day Sabbath between His crucifixion and His resurrection on the day after the Sabbath (the first day of the new week; the “eighth” day):  death to the self-life as representing Man and Mankind (“putting off the old man”); alive unto God through faith (“putting on the new man”). (Col 3:9-10; Rom 6; 1Cor 15:45)

This is the life and the way of the cross for the disciple of Jesus.  We are to bear our own burden of responsibility, and help others carry their over-burden, so fulfilling the Law of Messiah.  The Sabbath looks on to the Millennial Kingdom – the 7th 1000-year day with YHVH – when all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest, and when the Kingdom of God/Heaven rules over all the Earth – and throughout the Universe – never to be yielded up again forever! (Jer 31:33-34; Ps 8; 92)

Yet, the Shabbat itself requires consummation or fulfillment (filling full), an answer to sin and death, burial and hopelessness in man’s own experience and expectation apart from truly knowing and believing in the one true living God.  Praise God for the day YHVH has made:  the day Yeshua rose from among the dead on the day after Shabbat; the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first-fruits of believers; the first day of a new creation in the power of the God of resurrection; the day when God spoke, and there was Light and Life – even life after death! (Gen 1:3; 2Cor 4:6)

God is creating a new eternal day of the New Heavens and New Earth, where there is no darkness, no sin or suffering or curse or death; where, and when, all things are made new, and that which is perfect is come; the hope and promise of the new and better covenant in and by and through Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father!

When we are born-again we become children of the resurrection and children of light.  The Sabbath reminds us that God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, and rested on the seventh.  As we remember that, on the first day He formed the light to push back the darkness that He created.  He did not need to create light, for God is light!  Yeshua is the uncreated Light, and we are brought into God’s light.  The first day of the week (the “one of the week” in Hebrew and in Greek) is also holy!  Praise the Lord!

The Sabbath of the 7th day has abiding value through to the end of history and time. (Ezek 43:26-27)  The 8th day (the day after the 7th; the 8th year following the Sabbatical; the Jubilee after 7×7 years) is founded upon the fulfillment of the previous seven, and looks on prophetically for the believer to eternity, when time is no more, and God is all and in all. (1Cor 15:19-28; Rev 21 – 22) 

In the New Testament we read that the believers met on the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7; 1Cor 16:1-2)  This is in fulfillment of the Word of YHVH through Moses to Israel. (Lev 23:11,15-16,36)  The Apostles to the Circumcision — Peter, John, and James — make no specific reference to the Sabbath Day.  Yeshua, in His letters to the churches through John in the Revelation, makes no reference to the Shabbat.  Let each of us be convinced in his own mind, and be servants for the gospel’s sake.  The Sabbath remains for now YHVH’s sign of the covenant with Israel; believers in Israel normally worship together on the Shabbat, since it naturally fits into the Israeli Jewish culture within which — and among whom — we live.  Yet the Shabbat cannot nullify the significance of the day after, nor can the first day of the week nullify the still on-going significance of the seventh-day Sabbath.  We are God’s witnesses to both! 

Hold fast to our inheritance and testimony, even while thanking and praising and worshipping our great God and Savior for the liberty He presently allows for in His wisdom when believers can assemble and worship together.  May the Holy Spirit enable us to worship God our Father, and the Lamb who sits upon the Throne, in Spirit and Truth.  Amen.

ISRAEL OF GOD AND COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL: NOT ALL ISRAEL IS ISRAEL; NEITHER IS THE CHURCH – 24 Aug 1995

(Message at Salaam Church to Friends of Israel in Forssa, Finland)

Gal 6:15-16  For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but rather a new creation.  And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Eph 2:11-13  Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by them who are called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth  of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world; but now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Messiah.

Rom 9:4-8  . . .Israelis, to whom pertain the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever.  Amen.  Not as though the Word of God has not taken effect, for they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children:  but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called.  That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but, rather, the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

The Jewish believers (Messianic Jews; Hebrew Christians, whatever) are presently the Israel of God, part of the whole Church of God, which includes Israelis and Gentiles from all time who have believed in the promises concerning God’s Son, the Savior of all persons, especially of those who believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who sincerely want to bless Israel as the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, can do this particularly by blessing Jewish Israeli believers – and especially those who walk by the rule set by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul.  But not Jewish believers only, but all genuine Christians through faith and new birth are called the seed of Abraham through his ultimate promised Seed, Yeshua the Messiah. 

The nation of Israel (the preserved remnant being the “seed bed”) will fulfill all YHVH God’s word regarding her during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ Jesus, following her national repentance (which includes both a new and different orientation, and also regret over sin) and conversion (transformation; transfiguration) at the coming and presence of the Lord of lords and King of kings to save the remnant, comprising “all Israel” – the Israel of God — and to judge the nations – preserving also the sheep among the Gentiles.

God has always considered Israel as a nation (Jer 31:35-36), even when we were scattered throughout the sea of nations of the world, away from the Promised Land.  The Church is not Israel, but rather a new creation, made up of blood-bought (redeemed) persons – both Jews and Gentiles – with saving and living faith from out of every nation, tribe, language, culture.  (YHVH God creates:  the present Universe Gen 1:1; Adam and Eve (man and woman) Gen 1:27; Israel, the people Is 43:15; the Church (Body of Messiah/Christ) Eph 4:24; the regenerated Millennial heavens and Earth Is 65:17; the new universe Rev 21:1)

There is only one God and Savior, and one Lord and Messiah; and only one Bible, which YHVH God the Holy Spirit has given to and through Israel to the whole world through the Church.

Through the Old and New Testament Scriptures, written primarily by Jewish prophets and apostles (not to mention the Lord Yeshua Himself), the Israel of God is presently a light to the Gentile peoples; and the Gentiles, through the spread of the gospel and the use of the Bible, are brought near to the Commonwealth of Israel by their relationship to the God of covenant, who is YHVH, God of Israel.  Gentile Christians, whether walking in faith or not, are brought to accountability before the God of the Bible – YHVH, God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; to the Messiah and King of the Jews – Yeshua the Nazarene; to the historic and traditional and prophetic ‘holidays’ spoken of by YHVH through Moses to Israel, including what is popularly called Easter (Firstfruits), and Pentecost/Shavuot, as well as Hanukkah, Purim, and Christmas (the birth of the Lord).  All of these were first celebrated by Israeli Jews in Israel who worshipped God, their Creator and Redeemer, in holiness and fear with a thankful heart.  Jewish believers are also brought back, and carried onward through faith, to all that the Lord has spoken regarding all things.

Gentile believers are told that they have a debt to Israel.  Jewish believers also have a debt to the historic Church – and even to barbarians! (Rom 1:14; 15:26-27; Acts 28:2)  We have all entered into the labor of others.  Those who sow and those who reap are one.  God is no respecter of persons.  He is on His own side, and is faithful to the finished work of His Son on the cross. (Josh 5:13-14)  The Holy Spirit fulfills the righteousness of the Law through the Body of Christ, and Jesus, whom the Spirit glorifies, is Head over all things to the Church, to the glory of the Father.

Israel is the most accountable nation  before God on the Earth, because of her special relationship and covenantal responsibilities with the Lord. (Amos 3:2)  To her belongs double honor, but also double judgment.  To the Church has been granted greater and fuller revelation and privileges by the grace and mercy of God, rather than by mere legal rights and obligations.  We have been bought by the precious blood of the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man, and our responsibility as a people is therefore greater thanIsrael’s at this time to show forth the wisdom and praises of God and of His Anointed One.  The love of God has been revealed to and bestowed upon us, that we are called sons of God!

Let us pray that the Lord would help us to maintain a faithful witness and testimony to the light of the New Covenant revelation, while recognizing both our link and relationship to Israel – because of our faithful God – and also our distinction and distinctiveness from Israel – because of Messiah our Passover.  We – both the present Israel of God and also the rest of the Body of Messiah – are justified through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is the King of Israel.  Amen.

WHAT IS IN A NAME?: “[YESHUA] SHALL BE CALLED A NAZARENE”

(Updated 18 May 2017)

Ps. 138:1-6     “. . .for You have magnified Your word [saying] above all Your Name” (v. 2)
–recognition of God’s Name brings forth songs of praise (psalms included musical  instrumentation);
–songs of YHVH and of His ways;
–the names of God a progressive revelation of Himself to His people–in fact to the world–finding fulfillment under Heaven and in this present creation in the Name above all names, Yeshua (Jesus), our Savior God;
–names are significant throughout Bible, both prophetically and in reference to character of a person, sometimes becoming forever associated with good or with evil, e.g., Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Samuel, Daniel, Delilah, Jezebel
–in eternity, both the Lord Yeshua/Jesus and we will have new names–an eternal testimony from God our Father of  who and what we are (Rev. 2:17; 3:12; 19:12)
–The YHVH’s  name is praised for His lovingkindness (grace) and truth:  we come to know Him as He has revealed Himself through His names which He has made known to us, e.g., El Shaddai (God Almighty or Nurturer);     God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob; I AM; YEHOVAH; YHVH our Righteousness, our Healer, our Peace; YHVH of Hosts; Wonderful Counselor; Father of Eternity; Immanuel. . .
–We, as the people of the Living God, are called by His Name–that which gives us identity and identifies us with YEHOVAH GOD of Israel and with His Son Yeshua whom He sent.  (Num 6:23-27)
–the LORD tells Israel that He would call His servants by a new name (Is. 65:13-16; Jn 15:14-17; Gal 4:4-7)
–in the N.T. the Holy Spirit says that Yeshua would be called a Nazarene, according to the prophets  (Mt. 2:23)

Is. 11:1       (also read the added segment from Tree and Shrub in Our Biblical Heritage about the “shoot”, the netzer)
The netzer is specially chosen from among many offshoots from the roots of the olive tree.  It is by all appearances small and insignificant, yet, in truth, it is the one in which is contained the life and hope of future generations.  Yeshua is God’s Twig; He is the Netzer–the Nazarene.  God in His wisdom chose a small, lowly regarded town called Nazareth (נצרת ) as the place in which His Son would grow up “in order that” Yeshua  should be called “Notzri“.  Not Bethlehem, and so perhaps a Yehudi or Beitlachmi; not Jerusalem, and so Yerushalmi; but Nazareth and Notzri (“my netzer” / “נצר שלי”).

In the eyes of Israel, Jesus is insignificant, of low esteem, not the Hope of Israel in Whom is her life.  He is the Stone which the builders rejected, but whom the Father, the Husbandman and Vinedresser, has made the rock of offense and the head of the corner (cornerstone and foundation stone). (Ps 118:22-23; Is 8:14; 28:16; 1Pet 2:6-8)

God chooses the foolish and the weak things in the eyes of the world to confound the wise (Ps 119:141; 1 Cor. 1:23-31).  YHVH chose Isaac, and his half-brother Ishmael mocked him;  God chose the children of Israel, the fewest in number, because He loves them; God chose David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, but a man after God’s own heart; the LORD chose Jerusalem to be His city, yet it has no natural resources of the great capital cities of the world; Jesus emptied Himself of all glory to become not the rightful King, but rather the servant of servants — meek and lowly in heart.  The meek shall inherit the earth; those who fear God and do righteousness will see His favor.  To the world foolishness and weakness–“friars”; to God wisdom and salvation, life from death.

[Other examples of God’s foolishness being wiser than man’s wisdom are His choices of the Seed of the Woman; Jacob; Bethlehem; Ruth the Moabitess;  Solomon, the son of David and Batsheva; Mary; the Lamb.]

God will fulfill His Word.  In Mt. 2:23 the Word of God says that through the prophets (plural) Yeshua would be called a Nazarene (this is not the same word as nazirite).  Even today in Israel, the Jewish people call Yeshua/Jesus, “Yeshu haNotzri” (Jesus the Nazarene, in a completely derogatory sense), fulfilling the Word of God! (also fulfilling Is 8:20-21, giving deeper meaning to Yeshua telling His city and people that they will not see Him again until they bless Him and His name – Mt 23:37-39)

A few examples from the Scriptures of the use of the Hebrew word netzer and its root derivations are:
Ex. 34:6-7        in connection with the Name of God, who keeps lovingkindness for thousands
Deut. 33:9    Levites (esp. Pinhas) kept covenant with YHVH in preference over his family and kinsmen
Is. 49:6         the preserved of Israel by the Servant of YEHOVAH
Jer. 4:16       the watchers sent by God against Jerusalem and Judah
Ps. 25:10       the paths of YHVH are grace and truth for the keepers of the LORD’s covenant and testimonies
                      Ps. 119:2      blessedness ( inner-man happiness, satisfaction) of those who keep the LORD’s testimonies
                       Ps 119:22    supplicating God to remove reproach and despite on account of keeping His testimonies
                      Prov. 4:23    keeping of one’s heart essential to the issues of life

Yeshua fulfills all these, and we are called to do so as believers in Him; Israel is also called to be notzrim in truth, both morally and spiritually.  Yeshua is YHVH’s Tzemach (Branch; Plant; Sprout – Is 4:2; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8; 6:12).

From the Greek texts, we find the following applications of the Messianic use of the name Notzri/Nazarene:
Lk. 18:37-38     Associated with the Son of David, Messiah
Lk. 24:19          Known by His disciples (on way to Emmaus after resurrection of Yeshua)
Rom. 2:28-3:4   An issue of the heart, both to be a Jew and a Christian (whether Jewish or Gentile by birth)
–seeking God’s approval
–suffering indignity for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ the Nazarene (not merely Jesus of/from Nazareth, though this has its own proper use as well) (Jn 1:45-46; Acts 5:41-42)
Mk. 16:6     The angels refer to Jesus the Nazarene as the One the women are seeking at His tomb
Acts 22:8   Yeshua calls Himself the Nazarene (הנצרי ) after His ascension when He appears to Saul (Paul) and identifies Himself to him.

The apostles and disciples are identified with Jesus as Christians (משיחיים ) or as of the Nazarenes (נצרים).
Acts 11:26        first called Christians (meaning belonging to Messiah/Christ, or followers of Messiah/Christ, whether Gentile of Jewish)
Acts 24:5          scornfully referred to as Nazarenes; Paul takes the opportunity to declare his faith and hope
Acts 26:28        Jewish King Agrippa referred to Paul’s persuasiveness to make him a Christian; Paul had borne testimony to the sufferings of Messiah and of His resurrection
1 Pet. 4:14-16   apostle to Jewish believers refers to suffering as Christians for the Name of Messiah (the Greek word for Christian which Peter used for the Messianic Jews is the same as used for the disciples in Antioch, and by King Agrippa — Christianos)
Acts 6:14           a name of contempt by false witnesses
Acts 3:6; 4:10    healings and miracles done in the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene (Yeshua ha-Mashiach ha-Notzri)
Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:34  demons, evil and unclean spirits, knew Yeshua as the Nazarene, the Holy One of God

The devil always desires to make God’s people ashamed or afraid of being known by the names God uses.  Both Jews and Christians have done much which has brought reproach and dishonor to our own people and so to our God and Savior.  Yet if we pay notice only to the ways in which the seed of the serpent has abused the Name of YHVH or of His Anointed One, then we will not hear the voice of our Shepherd, whose Name is honorable to God, and He has placed His Name upon us.

Just as Jews in the diaspora often times want(ed) to dissociate themselves from their God-given identity (also oft used in derision), so many Christians do the same–some due to rebellious unbelief or to a bitter root, others due to a sense of shame or of guilt, still others from fear of ridicule or of disapproval.  Nonetheless, even as the name of Israel and of Jews remain to this day, so too has YHVH preserved the name (Hebraically- and English-wise today) of Notzri/Christian.  If we look to Yeshua/Jesus and suffer with Him for His Name’s sake, then we will be glorified together with Him.  The cross of our Lord does not permit us to find our comfort by seeking to save our own lives and names (reputations), but rather by losing our life for Yeshua’s  sake. (Heb 13:13-15)  Then His promise is that we will indeed find life.  We are hidden with Messiah in God.

As we see through faith God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit reveals and enlightens through the Scriptures, then the sayings ( (אמרים of God–not His words (דברים) only, but what He is saying with His words — are magnified, enlarged, are seen more fully and clearly:  great is the glory of YHVH, our pride of self is exposed and abased — grace and truth come through Jesus Christ the Nazarene.  We have no boast but in the cross of our Lord.

Through believing on the Name of the Son of God, the Spirit of God opens up the whole of Scripture to lead us and confront us with liberating and sanctifying truth and love, as He magnifies all that comes forth from the mouth of God and fulfills in us and through us all that His Name means.  Do you know this in your own life, and do we know this together as a congregation gathered together in His Name?

I am a Jew who believes in Jesus.  After that, you can call me what you want.  To the Synagogue I am saying that I am still a Jew, even though I believe in Jesus.  To the Church I am saying that I am still a Jew, even though I believe in Jesus.  Being  a Messianic Jew, a Christian, or a traitor does not alter that declaration of identity.  The main thing is that I belong to and follow Jesus/Yeshua — both Lord and Messiah/Christ.

To whomever has an ear to hear, let him/her hear what the Spirit is saying.  God is faithful to His own Name (He is not unknown or anonymous, and it is our duty and our privilege to make known and honorable His Name–especially here in Israel where they have forgotten it or show their broken relationship with Him through much vain superstitions), and to the name He has sovereignly chosen to bestow upon His beloved Son – hated without cause — who died upon the cross for our sins (John 19:19):

                         Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews                   ישוע הנצרי המלך היהודים

 Netzer – נצר

(from Tree and Shrub in Our Biblical Heritage; pages 82-88; written by Nogah Hareuveni)

“Frequently the olive tree is surrounded by offshoots, the strongest of which are kept by the farmer for transplanting.  In this context it is easy to understand the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘And a shoot (hoter) shall grow out of the trunk of Jesse, and a twig (netzer) shall sprout from his roots.’  (Is. 11:1)

The offshoots that surround an olive tree grow both from the roots and the trunk of the tree.  When a trunk offshoot grows into a sturdy “branch”, it is sometimes cut out from the trunk, together with a thick knob at its head–the hoter, or shepherd’s staff.  It serves the shepherd both as a weapon and as a tool for directing the flock.

Unlike the hoter,  worked from the offshoot that grows from the trunk of the olive tree, the netzer is an offshoot that grows from the roots of the tree.  The olive grower destroys most of these offshoots, leaving only one or two of the sturdiest to develop into new saplings for transplant.  This is the guarded offshoot [the word netzer being derived from the Hebrew word natzor, to guard], selected from among all the others to propagate the new generation of olive trees. . . .

These characteristics of the olive offshoots help explain the words of Isaiah (in 11:1) which describe the Messiah, a descendant of David, son of Jesse, who will be a leader of his flock (represented by the hoter, the shepherd’s staff with which he leads his flock) and who will grow as the guarded sapling (the netzer) from the roots of the stock of Jesse.  Though that ancient stock was chopped down during the destruction of the Temple, the roots did not lose their ability to put forth the new growth of a fruitful tree. . . .  After being planted, the olive tree offshoot grows into an olive tree of great age. . . .

Moreover, the olive offshoot can survive for days after being severed from the parent tree, even without soil or water.”

“. . .מסביב לגזע הזית גרופיות-גרופיות, אשר החזקות בהן תישמרנה בידי האיכר כ”נצרים” לנטיעת עצים חדשים

 בקשר זה אפשר להבין את דברי הנביא:  “ויצא חוטר מגזע ישי ונצר משורשיו יפרה” (ישעיה י”א: א’).  הגרפיות, אשר מסביב לעץ זית, יוצאות בחלקן מן הגזע ואחרות עולות מן השורשים.  כאשר גדלה ומתעבה גרופית שצמיחתה מן הגזע, יש המנתקים אותה ממנו, עם האזור המעובה אשר במקום הניתוק.  לאחר מכן מחליקים אותה ומעבדים אותה למקל, אשר בראשו גולה, או “חוטרת”.  זהו מקל הרועים – החוטר – המשמש את הרועה ככלי נשק וגם ההנחיית העדר. . . .

 שלא כמו החוטר, המעובד מגרופית הגדלה מן הגזע, מתפתח הנצר מגרופית העולה מן השורשים.  הכורמים נוהגים להשמיד את מרבית הגרופיות הללו, ולהשאיר רק אחד או אחדות מהן ברצותם לטפח שתילים חדשים.  אלו הם הנצרים:  הגרופיות אשר נצרו אותן מבין כל אלה שהושמדו, כדי להעמיד מהן דור חדש של עצי זית. . . .

 בתכונות אלו של גרפיות הזית מוסברים יפה דברי ישעיה על המלך לעתיד-לבוא מבני בניו של דוד בן-ישי, שיהיו בו תכונות של מנהיג (המסומלות בחוטר, הוא מכשיר הנחיית העדר שבידי הרועה), ואשר יצמח כנצר

משורשי גזע-ישי, הוא הגזע העתיק שנכרת עם החורבן, אך שורשיו לא איבדו את חיוניותם להצמיח מחדש אילן פורה (“יפרה“). . .לאחר נטיעתה גרופית של זית, היא מצמיחה עץ רב-שנים.  יתר על כן:  גרופית הזית עשוייה לשמור על חיוניותה גם ימים רבים לאחר תלישתה מאילן האם – וזאת גם אם לא תינטע באדמה ואף לא תקבל אספקת מים . . . .”    (שיח ועץ במורשת ישראל, כתב: נגה בראובני, עמ’ 88-82)

SOVEREIGNTY AND WISDOM OF GOD – 8 Apr 1989

It is joy to speak of Him who is perfect and harmless, and also of His Kingdom.  It is amazing, given the state of the world, the rampant unbelief in any particular god (or belief in every kind of god), and the widespread rejection, in truth, of the LORD God and His Anointed, that most people, when asked, think that God is too good to send people to hell at all, not to mention forever!  So we heard last week from Olavi.  This only confirms the Scripture that says even God’s enemies will praise Him.  What sovereign wisdom He has o accomplish this!

As a Jew growing up, my own concept of God – if there were One – was that there was only one, and that He was (is) all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise, and that He had to be good.  After coming to faith in the truth of Jesus Christ, I only began to see the truth and wonderfulness of these vague and abstract concepts, and also in learning repentance to see the wisdom of sin being sin – not only that God declares it sin or sinful, but also His wisdom as to why it is necessarily so.

We (speaking of my wife Randi and myself) have been astounded in our relatively brief Christian lives (which, until you enter into the Kingdom of God, one doesn’t even notice) at the number and variety of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, yet say and do things completely contrary to the teachings of Scripture concerning such faith.  We have met professing believers who say that they hate God, who place their circumstances outside the instruction and wisdom of Scripture, who question everything which the Bible teaches or which the Lord does, presuming themselves in His place and doing – can you hear the serpent? – things differently or better!  The antichrist spirit in the old nature is present in every fallen man, and except for God’s mercy and grace towards us who are redeemed in Christ, we would remain His adversaries.

Apart from knowing in both our minds and hearts that Jesus is not only the Savior, but that He is also the Son of God, THE Messiah or Christ (which is to say The Anointed Prophet, High Priest, and King, whom God the Father has appointed, that He is the LORD and Lord of lords, etc., then our commitment and devotion to Him will certainly be less than single-eyed.  God has called each one of us to be His witnesses of the risen Savior and Lord, who was crucified on account of our sin, and who is waiting to come back.  We proclaim this, in fact, every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper.  His word abides forever and all the promises of God – from both the Old and New Covenants – are “yea” and “amen” in Christ Jesus.  We are each charged by God to be ambassadors not of Israel or of the United States or of Rumania or even of any particular church affiliation, but rather to be ambassadors of Christ and of His Kingdom, which is both heavenly and earthly, and which is both present and future.

How can we be effective and faithful ambassadors and missionaries when so apparently uncertain about God’s sovereignty and wisdom in each and every matter of what we call life and living – whatever the pursuit or vocation or culture, and in the reconciliation God has made Jesus Christ to be in His death and resurrection between persons who are otherwise unlike or inconsistent?  Brothers, sisters, friends, we have a God who is worthy of the name!

I want us to consider several passages of the Bible concerning God’s sovereignty and wisdom in four particulars, and to briefly elaborate on them:

Prov. 3:19-20 – Creation and Nature
There is order, stability, harmony of nature when God gives even relative peace; but confusion, unpredictability, disruption as man destroys his environs and as God intervenes with advancing judgments.

God is the true ecologist:  no waste, all things purposeful, each in its place and time.

What a wonderful thing to anticipate that day when the sons of God will be revealed and when Israel will receive her King, the Lord Jesus Christ, for then the curse upon creation since the entry of sin will be removed, and we shall see this present earth respond to the presence of her Maker!  All that is called ‘nature’ – plants, animals, inanimate things, people, seasons, the land and waters – will, shall we say, break forth in praise!  How amazing and powerful and delicate we find creation now.  What truths are spoken – some expressly, others concealed – in Scripture about God’s handiworks; how scientists continue to find only more marvelous discoveries of the eternal power and Godhead.  The Godhead speaks of the triune God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; therefore how much God has communicated concerning Himself through His creation!  It is tragic that we have allowed what is called ‘science’ to separate true knowledge from the God of all truth.  No wonder the educational system has reached the low level of today, or that our children suffer so much from being obliged to pursue the things of this world – a world and an age (generation) which reject the Father and the Son and the Spirit of Holiness.

In Messiah Jesus and the New Covenant we are a new creation, and indeed look forward to the new heavens and new earth, the Kingdom of the Father, where God will be all and in all.  It is good to give thanks unto the LORD, the Creator and Redeemer, and for all the works of His Hands and of His Spirit – the God of resurrection.

Rom. 11:25-36 – Israel’s Salvation
The re-establishment of Israel is a sign of God’s faithfulness to His Word, as well as of soon-coming judgement and the return of the Lord.  What is occurring today in Israel is also in accord with the Scriptures, and a furthering of prophetic history leading to these events and the end of the age, when satan, man, and the world will have had their day ended, and the everlasting Kingdom of God will begin.

Historians, politicians, diplomats, academics are unable to understand Israel or the Jews (or the Arabs and Palestinians either) when it comes to grappling not only with the current situation but also historically.  This is to be expected by us whose minds have been renewed, since we are taught that the natural mind can not nor will not subject itself to the law of God and His sovereign authority and wisdom.

Paul the apostle, at the close of his teaching concerning the Jews and Israel in this portion of his letter to the Roman believers, breaks out into a burst of praise and adoration at the wisdom and knowledge of God—not only that God will use Israel for the benefit of the gospel amongst Gentiles, and in due time (even now) return His attention to the Jewish people, but also for the manner in which He is going to bring it about.  Again I say, we are to be ambassadors of Christ and of the New Covenant.  The love and righteousness of God will not permit us to take a simplistic position when God desires that all should repent and believe and so be saved.  He tells Israel that is not for their righteousness – in fact Israel is unrighteous – but rather for His holy Name’s sake that He will fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He says to the Palestinian, “Esau I have hated.”  The Word of the Lord has been spoken concerning each people, and He will fulfill it at the coming of Jesus in great power and glory.

This brings us to the Assembly (Church)—Eph. 3: 3-12.
God’s wisdom in dealing with earthly and national issues is beyond our capacity to comprehend, and this humbles us.  Yet the spiritual realm is even further beyond our capacity to lay hold of.  And that God can reconcile each as well as maintain their distinctions, who can not just fall down and worship Him and the Lamb!?

God’s eternal purpose through Christ Jesus our Lord is the Church, where He takes out from each nation an elect people and priesthood, and making them one body.  It is a high calling, and higher than Israel as Israel is seeking after.  It is the Church where we who are in Messiah have our position and responsibility and into which, through the preaching of the gospel, we seek to both bring in others through saving faith and baptism, and to build up one another in love.  While we maybe either Jew or Gentile, or male or female as God has sovereignly and naturally made us, yet the Assembly itself – which is both the Body of

Messiah and the Bride of the Lamb (combining both male and female aspects) – is neither Jewish nor Greek but rather a new and spiritual man, which we are commanded to put on, having taken off the old which is but natural and carnal.  Our relationship and unity are based upon who and what we are in Messiah, not on what or who we were before.

How could anyone think of anything more wise or wonderful?!  For gentiles are brought near to God in the Church and enter into New Covenant promises, which are better than those of the former covenant, which is passing away.  And Jews in Messiah are carried beyond O.T. promises to the remnant nation of Israel and also inherit New Covenant hopes and blessings – even now through the Spirit by faith.

1 Cor. 1: 17-25 – the Gospel
A brief illustration to show the simple purity of the wisdom of God which is to the world foolishness, but to us the power of God, that while the world continues to do what seems right in its own eyes, but whose ways lead to death, we continue to preach the good news of the crucified Son of God/ Son of Man, whom death could not hold and who therefore rose in power from among the dead, and whose Name is exalted above every name – both now and forever – in the heavens, on the earth, or in Sheol and Hell!:

The other day in Jerusalem we were in the Old City, and most of the Arab shops were closed on strike.  A few stood outside their closed doors and invited likely tourists inside and closed the door behind them.  This happened to us, and while I remained outside with Evan, I asked the assistant who stayed at the door about the strike and for how long he thought it would continue.  Then I asked if he was Muslim or Christian, and he answered Muslim.  I said that I was a Jew.  After a moment’s hesitation (I think due to surprise), he said “very nice to meet you”, and we shook hands.  Then I said that I am also a Christian.  He expressed the usual wonder and confusion as to how I could be both.  I said that I was born a Jew just as he was born an Arab.  But when I realized that Jesus is the Messiah after growing up being taught that He isn’t, then I became a Christian by faith.  I explained that Jesus is the One God sent for peace and that when He returns, then there will come peace here.  Then he asked if I didn’t believe in the current negotiations.  I said, “As a human being, I appreciate the need to consider each side.  But God has shown that Jesus is His Way to true peace, that anything else that may come out of these current negotiations will be temporary at most, a false peace, and will only bring judgment because God has given His covenant.”  The man responded that Muslims have another way.  I told him that Jesus is the Son, and no one greater is coming after Him.  God gave the Land of Israel (Canaan) to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to their descendants, but only when they accept Jesus will this be fulfilled.  To Ishmael and to Esau, the LORD gave a lot of other land, again to be fully realized only when they come to terms with the Lord.  But in the New Covenant through Jesus Christ, God has given me more than a piece of land, and to him, this Muslim Arab, God also offers much more than a small piece of this land – and forever.  I said that Yassir Arafat is not going to give his life for him, and Itzhak Shamir is not going to die for me, but that Jesus Christ has died for both him and me, and is risen from the dead, offering us eternal life through the forgiveness of sins.  God does not take a sword and hold it over someone’s head and say, “Believe or die!”  This is neither free will nor love.  When the time came to go, I told him to consider these things.

The sovereign and wise God has made peace through the blood of the everlasting covenant, the blood of the Son of God, even of God Himself.  This is true for the nation of Israel as it is for each one of us individually who has received that peace which is not as the world gives, but is that peace with God and of God which surpasses all understanding.

God is working to remove every doubt concerning Himself which allows sin to separate us from Him and from our fellow man.  This will end for us in Christ at the first resurrection and following the judgments of our works as believers.  He will continue this more fully with those who, in His mercy, enter the millenial kingdom on earth, in preparation for the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells.

Who has believed our report?  Remarkably few, when looked at in its totality however many uncountable multitudes there will be, praise the LORD!  Yet for that one pearl of great price, our Lord Jesus Christ became poor and bought us with a price, and has enriched us immeasurably.  He has become wisdom and the Sovereign Lord to us.