Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Trilogy of Messiah

I was at a conference awhile back that had a bookstore on site.  One of the books featured was the "Jesus-Centered Bible."  I had to chuckle a little... aren't they all?

Maybe the publishers
 ran out of marketing ideas?

The Messiah is evident all throughout the scriptures, from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21.

One of my favorite places in the scriptures is the book of Psalms.  I have been hanging out there this month, just enjoying His presence there.

Did you know that the word salvation appears 63 times throughout the book?  And did you know that the Hebrew word for salvation is Yeshua, which also happens to be the name of the Messiah?  The name we English speakers know is Jesus, which is a transliteration of the Greek word Iesous.  (Note:  the letter J didn't show up until the 16th century.  The Hebrew letter is a yod, which sounds like a y).

Anyway, the grammar police in me digresses.  I want to visit a particular section in the psalms that gives us a complete picture of the Messiah.  Throughout history, the Jewish sages have been perplexed at the two very different portrayals of the Messiah.  Some concluded that there were two Messiahs.  Others thought that perhaps there was one Messiah, but He came twice.  These two pictures of the Messiah have names - Messiah ben Yosef (son of Joseph, the Suffering Servant), and Messiah ben David (son of David, the Reigning King).

He is the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah
In Psalm 22, He is portrayed as the Suffering Servant.  When you read it, you see such a clear picture of His death.  When Yeshua spoke the first line of this psalm while He was suffering on the tree, it was His way of calling our attention to the entire psalm.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?

The psalm describes the sort of death He would suffer... hundreds of years before crucifixion was even invented by the Romans as a form of execution. It also foretells the division of His garments.
I am poured out like water
And all My bones are out of joint
My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me
They pierced my hands and My feet
They divide My garments among them
And for My clothing they cast lots

During His first advent, the Messiah suffered, died, and rose again in order to atone for the sin which entered the world back in the garden.  He then went back to heaven so that the good news of salvation by His finished work could circle the globe.

Psalm 24 speaks of His glorious return as the King of Kings.  Scripture tells us that He will return to the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem.  Today, the Eastern Gate is sealed.  But the psalm tells us,
Lift up your heads, O you gates.
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of Glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD (YHVH), strong and mighty.

The Muslims sealed the gate and put a cemetery in front of it.
This will not stop the Messiah.
This King of Glory is indeed returning soon. 

But let's not forget one of the most famous of the psalms, Psalm 23.  Sandwiched between the Suffering Servant Psalm and the Returning King Psalm is a beautiful passage that comforts us and assures of of His presence while we wait for Him to return.  Additionally, we need our Good Shepherd because like sheep, we are restless, prone to wander, always searching for greener grass, and to often oblivious to danger.

Let the familiar words wash over you today as you read them.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
For You are with me
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

This beautiful psalm ends with the prophecy that leads right into His glorious return in Psalm 24.  Forever we will dwell with Him!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Armor of God

have had this subject floating around in my head for weeks now.  And the Lord keeps putting things in front of me to remind me to write it down!  Just this week, the kids and I were reading about the ancient Greeks and Cretans and how they were workers of iron to make weapons that were better than bronze.  And last Saturday, I heard a keynote speaker on the Armor of God.  Ok, ok, I get it, Lord.  So here goes...

Most believers are quite familiar with Ephesians 6:14-17, which speaks of the Armor of God.  For reminder's sake, here it is:

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

As I was studying the words, I realized that the first three pieces of armor are already in place. They were provided to us at the moment of redemption, when we are born again in Messiah. We are already armed with the truth (by which we realized Yeshua IS our savior), the breastplate of righteousness (Yeshua made us righteous), and our feet have been prepared with the good news of peace in Messiah. At the moment our justification, we were armed with good armor!

The Bible instructs us then, having been armed thus far, to take up the remaining pieces. We must arm ourselves with that shield of faith day by day, because those fiery darts are constantly aimed at us. The helmet of salvation is a picture of renewing our mind and taking every thought captive to Yeshua (Romans 2:12, 2 Corinthinans 10:5). And finally, the sword - the Word of God - is our spiritual bread that sustains and arms us. These three pieces are available to us as we are sanctified (a lifelong process), but we must actively take them up. We need them as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Notice that there is no armor for our backs. I believe it is because God does not want us to retreat from the battle, and also because He has got our back!

I find it interesting that spiritual armor was not just a clever idea made up by Paul in Ephesians. He was a Torah scholar, and was well familiar with the concept. Here is a passage from Isaiah 59, which is clearly foreshadowing the Messiah:

Then the Lord saw it [man's sinfulness] and it displeased Him
That there was no justice. He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,

And was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Isaiah clearly shows that our Intercessor - provided by the LORD'S own arm, was armed and clothed for the job that He was sent to do. I love that Isaiah included a piece of armor for both justification and sanctification in this passage, showing that salvation is not simply a one time deal, but an ongoing process that began the moment we were justified. Our salvation will be complete at the resurrection when we receive our new imperishable bodies.

Another piece of the Ephesians armor can be found in Isaiah 52:7:

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

In closing, let's go back to the beginning of Ephesians 6 and be reminded of just Who is in charge and who we are battling:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Burning the Bones and Tearing Down the High Places

God's timing makes me smile.  Again.

Last night, my daughter and I were having a conversation about cremation.  I shared with her that I don't believe it's God's first choice for us.  As an example, I talked about the bones of Joseph being carefully brought up from Egypt, and also the imagery of the dry bones in Ezekeil resurrecting and coming to life.  I also mentioned that the remains of King Saul were burned and that the connotation was negative.  Saul's body had been desecrated by the Philistines, and the valiant people of Jabesh Gilead came and burned the body of Saul and his sons because of what had been done to them.

Also, Jewish law requires that the body of a dead person be buried within 24 hours of death.  The remains of cremated individuals are not allowed to be interred in a Jewish cemetery.  Additionally, I was surprised to learn that the traditional Jewish laws of mourning are not observed in orthodoxy if a person's remains were cremated.

Finally, the Shoah (the Jewish term for the Holocaust).  Not only were the Jews tattooed with numbers- which was in itself an affront to what was written in the Torah - but also, the bodies of murdered Jews were burned in crematoriums.  I believe the cruel men who came up with this atrocity knew exactly what they were doing, and knew how this would be such an evil insult to the victims and their families.  Even if the Nazis didn't know it, the demonic beings working in the spiritual realm and influencing their actions certainly knew.

Let me just stop right now and say, if you are reading this and have different convictions on cremation, I am not condemning you.  My mother and stepfather were both cremated, and I believe that God can and will put them back together out of the dust of the earth at the resurrection.  After all, He formed man from the dust of the earth in the first place.  But it's never too late to learn what the Word of God has to say about any given subject.

So anyway, back to God's timing...

My reading today took me to 2 Kings 23, which recorded the major reforms of King Josiah.  He was one of only two kings of Judah who were willing to tear down the high places.  Many kings previous to Josiah had been good kings, but they left the high places alone, not wanting to stir up trouble among people who were so attached to their traditions.

The high places were generally up on hills, and in groves of green trees.  If you have ever studied what went on in these places, you know what an affront they were to the Lord God.  On the high places, all manner of fornication took place under green trees.  If you have ever been to Cesaerea Phillipi in Israel, you can still see remnants of where some of this pagan worship took place.  It is also the location of a giant cave, which in ancient days was known as the Gates of Hades.  How fitting it is that Yeshua was in that very place when Peter declared Him to be Messiah, and Yeshua declared that the Gates of Hades would not prevail against His ekklesia.

The former pagan grove of Banias, temple of Pan, home of the Gates of Hades in Caeserea Philippi

In 2 Kings 23, verse 7 speaks of how the king tore down the houses of the qadeshim that were in the house of the Lord - the temple!  Qadeshim were literally sodomites... male prostitutes.  So you get an idea of how depraved the pagan worship had become, and why Josiah was so diligent to eradicate it.

Verse 10 tells us that King Josiah also wrecked the places in the valley of Hinnom, which is a place in Jerusalem where people would actually sacrifice their children through burning them (known in Greek as Gehenna, which is also translated into the word hell in some versions of the New Covenant),  Perhaps this is another reason why the burning of bodies is such an affront to God.  Here is a link to another blog post in which the writer tells of the process a pagan worshipper had to go through to sacrifice their child to Molech.

The pagan practice of child sacrifice to Molech in the Valley of Hinnom
Josiah was so thorough in tearing down the high places that he even stepped out of his jurisdiction. He went to Samaria, where the first king of the divided kingdom of Israel -  Jeroboam - had established a high place of worship so that his people would not go down to Jerusalem to worship.

In verse 16, we see Josiah taking the bones of those idolaters out of their tombs and burning them on the altar there.  Suddenly, he came to a gravestone that made him stop.  Look at verses 17-18:

Then he said, “What gravestone is this that I see?” So the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”And he said, “Let him alone; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.

My study Bible led me back to 1 Kings 13, where we read of a righteous and unnamed prophet foretelling this very incident, 300 years earlier, even naming King Josiah by name!  This is what it says:

And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’” 

So the bones that Josiah refused to burn were the bones of the very prophet who had prophesied that all the other bones would be burned by someone from the line of David named Josiah!  

Is that mind boggling, or what?

In closing, I just want to say one more thing about the high places, and this one will definitely step on toes.  Consider the connection of pagan worship to the green trees, and all that was associated with that worship.  As I mentioned earlier, only two kings were willing to tear down high places... most were not.  They didn't want to upset the proverbial apple cart among their people.  But consider the words of Jeremiah 10 and ask the Lord if this might be a high place that needs tearing down in your life.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Solomon's Temple

The Lord's timing never ceases to amaze me.

My scripture reading has had me in 1 Kings 8 this week. For a few weeks, I have been reading about the time leading up to the building of God's holy temple in Jerusalem. Today, I read Solomon's prayer of dedication over the temple, and it spoke to me in ways like never before.

It is interesting to note that right now, the Jews are in a time of mourning that leads up to Tisha b'Av (9th of Av) on the Hebrew calendar. The three-week mourning period began on the 17th of Tammuz. This year, the corresponding dates on the Gregorian calendar are July 24 to August 14. So what does this have to do with Solomon dedicating the temple?

The 9th of Av was the very day that Solomon's temple was destroyed by Babylon, and the very day that the second temple was destroyed by Rome.  The temple destructions are the main reason of mourning for the Jewish people

Sadly, throughout history, many other terrible things have happened to the Jewish people on Tisha (9th) b'Av. For example:
  • The spies returned from Canaan on the 8th of Av. By the 9th, all Israel was mourning.
  • The Bar Kochba revolt in Israel was crushed on this day by Rome in 135.
  • The Jews of England were expelled on this day in 1290.
  • The Jews of Spain were expelled on this day in 1492.
  • World War I broke out on the 9th of Av, which of course led to World War 2 and the Holocaust.
  • Deportations began on this day from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka in 1942.
No wonder it is a day of mourning for the Jewish people.

A few things jumped out at me today while reading 1 Kings 8.

About 11 months after the temple was completed, the Ark of the Covenant was placed into the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles... the feast that commemorates Yehovah dwelling with His people. As soon as the ark was established, the glory of the LORD filled the place and the priests were so overwhelmed that they could not continue ministering. What an awesome moment that must have been!

In his prayer of dedication, Solomon acknowledged the vastness of Yehovah. The king declared that He is too vast even to be contained in the heavens and the earth, but then he humbly asked the LORD to come and dwell in the temple that he built for His holy name.

Over and over again, Solomon pleaded for the righteousness of the people of Israel. He acknowledged that they would continue to fall into sin and begged the Lord to be merciful.

Solomon then prayed for the foreigners in verses 41-43:
Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.

Even though I have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel through Yeshua the Messiah, I came to Him as a foreigner.

Ephesians 2:12-13 says this:
...that at that time you were without Messiah, 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 Messiah Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.

Hallelujah!  I am forever grateful to God's people Israel, and yearn for the day that Israel is fully restored to the Kingdom of the LORD.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Musings From 2 Samuel

I have read 2 Samuel numerous times, but this time the Lord has seen fit to give me glimpses of the Messiah and of insights that I had not seen before.

It is a very colorful book.  It begins the reign of King David.  He conquers Jerusalem from the Jebusites and dwells in the City of David.

It is interesting to note the Hebrew letter shin created by the three Jerusalem valleys.
A shin is the letter on every mezuzah, and denotes the protection of Almighty God.

The King brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and dances with all his might before the Lord, much to the chagrin of his wife Michal, who is made barren because of her scorn of him.

Immediately after that, the Lord God makes a covenant with David; the covenant that promises no end to King David's reign, through his progeny.  (The human kingship of Israel ended.  This can only mean the everlasting reign of Messiah... a son of David).

It is not long before trouble enters for David.  Most people know the story of Bathsheba and how it causes turmoil to enter David's family.  It leads to the uprising, attempted usurption, and eventual death of his son Absalom.

David's indiscretion had far-reaching consequences.
In the midst of the battle with Absalom is a sweet little account of a man named Ittai. Ittai is a Gittite; a foreign man from Gath who has attached himself to King David.  The king reminds him that he is a foreigner and questions why he is there supporting him.  David goes so far as to tell Ittai to go home, back to his own people.

My mind instantly went to one of my all-time favorites, the Book of Ruth.  See if 2 Samuel 15:21 rings a bell:

Ittai answered the king and said, "As the LORD lives, and as the lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also your servant will be."

The response from David is thus:

So David said to Ittai, "Go, and cross over."  Then Ittai the Gittite and all his men and all the little ones who were with him crossed over.

Let me interject a couple of Hebrew meanings for you to ponder.
  • Absalom - My Father is Peace
  • Ittai - With Me
  • Eber - Cross Over.  The word for Hebrew - Ivri - comes from this root word... one who has crossed over.

In the same way, we also attach ourselves to God's people Israel when we cross over via the cross and receive the sacrifice of Messiah.  He grafts us into the household of faith.

Moving on... in chapter 16, a man named Shimei begins cursing King David.  What does David do?  Nothing.  He tells the men with him to leave the man be; the LORD'S will shall be carried out.  Shimei then disappears until chapter 19, at which time he comes to King David and bows at his feet and begs forgiveness.  David's nephew Abishai reminds David that the man should be put to death because he cursed the LORD'S anointed.  

David instead forgives Shimei completely, swearing that he shall not die. What an incredible picture of Messiah Yeshua forgiving us our own trespasses against the King of Kings, as we move from death to life!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

That Other Kinsman with the Shoe

As I return from the land of Israel, I am marveling at how my daily Bible reading has been matching up with what I just experienced while in the land.

Two things jump out.

First, a visit to Shiloh coincided with my reading of the account of Hannah, Samuel, and Eli the priest.  Having now seen Shiloh - the place where the miskhan (tabernacle) stood for 369 years, the passage has become much more vivid in my mind.  The rise of the prophet Samuel marks the end of the Shiloh tabernacle.

I just want to mention one thing about Shiloh before moving on to the second thing.  The spot where the tabernacle rested is surrounded by low mountains.  Pilgrims would offer their sacrifice and then eat their portion of the sacrifice on one of these hills, while looking at the mishkan.  Their pottery plates, oily from the meal, would then be broken on the site.  If millions of people broke pottery here every year for 369 years, you would expect to see evidence of pottery shards.  

And can we?  Yes!  They were EVERYWHERE on those hills... pottery shards from the time of the Judges.  I only had to stoop down and pick them up.  The crazy thing is, those shards could only be found on the side of the hills that were facing the mishkan.  The back side of those hills?  Not a single shard to be found.

Ancient pottery shards lying on the ground at Shiloh

The second thing to jump out for me is the story of Ruth, which is read in synagogues at Shavuot (which also coincided with our visit and with my own reading of Ruth).  Ruth is one of my favorite books of the Bible, so I happen to write about her often.  You can re-read my first post about Ruth here if you'd like.

There is one thing that has always stumped me in the story of Ruth.  What was with that other kinsman redeemer that was closer to Naomi's line than Boaz?  I had never given it too much thought before, but I was curious this time and asked the Lord to give me wisdom as I read through it.  The Lord did not disappoint... here is what He showed me.  It's quite simple, actually.

Someone else had a legal right to Naomi's family land and to Ruth.  Boaz was willing to be a redeemer, but he had to go through proper channels to ensure that his redemption of Ruth was legal.  

In the same way, all the earth is legally under the rule of the evil one, ever since the Garden of Eden.  The devil is the default.  Our Redeemer Yeshua, however, came and redeemed the world from sin and death legally, in a way that satisfied God's holy law.  He shed His blood for us to fulfill what is written. Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22 show us that God's legal way of redemption for us is the blood of atonement.

It is interesting to note the custom of the shoe.  The close relative gave Boaz his sandal to confirm that he was giving up his rights to Ruth and to the land.  There is a custom in the Middle Eastern world regarding shoes.  To throw a shoe at someone is considered the WORST. POSSIBLE. INSULT. EVER. The bottom of the shoe is covered in dirt, and throwing a shoe at someone is like throwing dirt at them.  It is the ultimate in uncleanness.  Is there a connection somehow to that other kinsman?

Shoe-wielding protesters
We really don't relate to the shoe/insult custom here in the West.  But I find it interesting that there is another reference to the shoe in the scriptures.  Note the words of the Lord in Psalm 60 verse 8:
Moab is My washpot;
Over Edom I will cast My shoe.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kiss the Son

As I prepare for another trip to the land of Israel, Psalm 2 keeps running through my mind.

It begins like this.

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, (Messiah) saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
We surely see this being fulfilled in the world today.  One place in particular that stands out in my mind is the Dome of the Rock, which sits on or near the site of the Temple Mount, where the Temple of Yehovah once (actually, twice) stood.

Built in the early days of Islam, it is an impressive structure.  I have been right up to its tiled walls, but I was shooed away by an Arab man, because only Muslims are now allowed inside.  On close examination, one can see Arabic writing on the tiles along the top perimeter of the structure.

What most people don't know is what it says.  Does it praise Allah, the god of Islam?  No.  This is what it says:  "Jesus, son of Mary was only a messenger of Allah.  Allah has no son.  It is blasphemy to say he has taken a son."

Psalm 2 continues.  

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:

 “Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”

 “I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

 Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

Today, as you walk about the Temple Mount plaza (if you is able to get up there in the first place), one can hear the chanting refrains of the Muslim women who are paid to yell "Allahu akbar" over and over again during visiting hours.  It does not just mean allah is great.  It means allah is greater.  They are trying to proclaim that their god is greater than the One True God.  Methinks they protesteth too much.

So what are we to do about this Son, spoken of in Psalm 2?

The psalm continues.  It tells us exactly what to do:

Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Without the Son, you perish.  With the Son, you are blessed.  Trust in the Son!  

Even Islam can't help but focus on the Son.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Afikomen, The Hidden Bread

This year's Passover has come and gone and is now part of history, but I still have thoughts in my head that are rattling around, and I feel like they won't be history until I put them in writing.

First of all, I love the Feasts of the Lord.  I am stating this fact for anyone who might be new to my blog.  If you've been around awhile, you know this.  The word for "feast" means appointed time.  In the scriptures, the Lord God has  made an appointment with His people.   And rightfully so, because like everything written in the scriptures, they point clearly and dramatically to the Messiah.

One of the highlights of the Passover meal (called a Seder, which means order) is the presentation, breaking, and hiding of the Afikomen (ah fee KO men). How did this traditional part of the Seder arise?  If you asked Tevye, he might say "I don't know.  But it's tradition!"

Here's the story.  The word Afikomen is Greek, and has the meaning of "He has come, or that which is yet to come."  During the Seder, Jewish people all over the world take three pieces of matzah (unleavened bread which has been striped and pierced), and place them in a three compartment linen cover called a Matzah tosh -  one piece in each section.

(I asked a Jewish person once what the three pieces stood for, and he wasn't completely sure.  He guessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.)

At one point in the Seder, the leader removes the middle piece of matzah and breaks it in half.  One of the broken pieces gets wrapped in linen and hidden.  The other piece remains hidden in the middle slot of the Matzah tosh.  After dinner, the children seek the piece hidden by the leader, and the winner returns the piece to the leader to redeem it for a prize.

The clear picture of Yeshua in the Afikomen is astounding to one who knows Him.  He is our unleavened bread - striped and pierced for us - wrapped in linen, and hidden in the ground.  (Note:  leaven in scripture represents sin.  Our Bread of Life, Yeshua, is sinless).  That which was hidden was found and redemption occurs.

This year, however, a friend who joined us for our Seder asked me why the other half remains hidden in the Matzah tosh.  I didn't have a ready answer for her.  However, the next day, as I was researching something else completely, the answer to that question fell into my lap via Google!

Yeshua is still hidden, for the most part, from the Jewish people.  Romans 11:25-27 has this astonishing message:  For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  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.”

How awesome will that day be when He reveals Himself to them and "uncovers the hidden part" of the Afikomen for them, so to speak.

If some of the Jewish people today believe that the three pieces represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I find it interesting that the broken piece would be representative of Isaac, who himself is a foreshadow of Yeshua when nearly sacrificed by his father Abraham.

It seems that the tradition of the Afikomen contains mysteries for both Jew and Gentile.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Crossing the Jordan and Passing the Torch

I know... it's a month later and part two of my previous post is just coming out now.  Passover is over, and the whole time I had blog post material floating around in my head!  Additionally, I just finished the book of Deuteronomy this morning and am about to start Joshua. Time to cross the Jordan for a new beginning!

So anyway, this post is a follow-up to my last post on John the Baptist.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

We are going to go back in history and look at the significance of the Jordan River, and the passing of the torch from Moses to Joshua.

Moses had led his people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and to the edge of the Jordan River.  Because Moses had not carefully followed the Lord's instructions in the wilderness -  striking the rock instead of speaking to it - he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.  Was God being unfair?

Of course not.  Every act of God has meaning and purpose.  God used the situation for His own illustrative purposes - for us!

Moses, just like so many other figures in the Hebrew scriptures, is a foreshadow of Messiah.  In fact, Deuteronomy 18:15 promises:  The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.

 Look at this list and see if  indeed Yeshua is a prophet like Moses:

  • Moses was the first mediator.  Yeshua was the final mediator.
  • Both were born as Hebrews
  • Both were chosen by God as leaders
  • Both were born while Israel was suffering under cruel leaders
  • Both were hidden in Egypt as babies from those who wanted to kill them
  • Both performed supernatural acts
  • Moses turned water into blood.  Yeshua turned water into wine.
  • Both communicated directly with God
  • Both instituted a new covenant between God and the people
  • Both performed miracles
  • Moses told the people about the Passover Lamb.  Yeshua became the Passover Lamb.
  • Both were hated by the ruling parties
  • Both had siblings who misunderstood them
  • Both were lawgivers, one on Mt. Sinai, one on the Mount of Beatitudes
  • Moses sent out twelve spies; Yeshua sent out twelve disciples
  • Moses chose seventy leaders; Yeshua sent out seventy disciples
  • Both had followers who strayed from their teachings
  • Both fasted 40 days and faced a spiritual crisis on a mountain
  • People picked up stones to stone each of them; and in neither case succeeded
  • Moses brought living water out of the rock; Yeshua is the Rock, our Living Water
  • Moses controlled the Red Sea; Yeshua controlled the Sea of Galilee
  • Both faces shone with glory on a mountain
  • Moses lifted the serpent up to bring healing; Yeshua was lifted up to bring healing
  • Moses was a shepherd; Yeshua is the Good Shepherd
  • Both underwent warfare with arms raised and surrounded by two people
  • Both fed thousands of people supernaturally with bread
  • Each of them were preceded by 400 years of biblical silence before starting their ministry
  • Both showed compassion to women at wells
  • Both redeemed people from slavery - Slavery in Egypt, slavery to sin
  • Both were loved and supported by women named Miriam
  • Both chose humble lives of servanthood
  • Moses offered his life after the sin of the golden calf.  Yeshua offered His life for the sin of the world.
  • Both died on a hill
  • Moses was cut off from the Promised Land, Yeshua was cut off from His father
  • Both delivered their people with mighty hands and outstretched arms
  • Both died so that there could be a new beginning for their people

Moses died and was buried on Mt. Nebo, just across the Jordan River from Jericho.  The torch was passed to Yahoshua (Joshua) son of Nun, and the people prepared to enter the Promised Land. (There are many similarities between Joshua and Yeshua as well... but we will save that for another post). 

What time of year did they cross the Jordan?  

Just before PASSOVER.  

The priests lead the way crossing the Jordan River
At the beginning of the first month of the year, Nisan, the Jordan River parted and the people of Israel walked through on dry land, led by the priests.  For a number of days, they camped just east of Jericho.  At this time, the Israelites were circumcised as they prepared for the new beginning.  Passover began on the 14th of Nissan, and the very next day - the first day of Unleavened Bread - the Israelites began to eat of the produce of the land and the manna stopped.  

It was also the day they began to march around Jericho.  On the final day of Unleavened Bread, the walls of Jericho toppled by the hand of the Lord, and Israel officially entered the Promised Land.

Crossing the Jordan was very significant.  It is a throwback to the Red Sea.  It is a foreshadow of spiritual deliverance by the Messiah.  This is why our high priest Yeshua was immersed in the Jordan before beginning His ministry.  It is the start of something new!

Peter confirms that Yeshua is the prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18 when he says in Acts 3:22, For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.

Yeshua wipes away sin and gives new life to those who will trust in Him. Have you crossed the Jordan yet to meet Him?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Priesthood of John

John the Baptist.  It doesn't sound like a very Jewish name... he sounds more like a Presbyterian.  But who was he, and what did he represent?  I was listening to a recent message by Jonathan Cahn and wanted to share some of his amazing insights.

First, let's go back a bit.

In Genesis 22, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac.  It was a test, which Abraham passed. Scripture records Abraham declaring that the Lord would provide Himself a lamb.  At the time, the Lord provided a ram (notice, not a lamb - yet).  The ram was caught by its horns in a thicket of thorns.  On that day, one ram was substituted for one man.

(Isaac was probably older than this)

Fast forward to the children of Israel, enslaved in Egypt.  On the night of their escape, we see the sacrificed lambs providing salvation for each family through the blood on the doorpost.  On that night, one lamb provided for one family.

Fast forwarding again, we see the rise of the Levitical priesthood and the tabernacle and temple worship.  The  Levite priests would sacrifice the Passover lamb (and also the Yom Kippur goat, as well as other sacrifices througout the year) on behalf the entire nation.  At Passover, the lamb had to be examined and declared to be an acceptable sacrifice by the priest. On that day every year, one lamb was sacrificed for the nation.

Levites at work in the chamber of lambs

Do you see the progression so far?  So what does John the Baptist have to do with any of this?

John was the miracle child of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Zechariah, as we know, was a Levite and a priest.  His wife was also of the tribe of Levi.  Any son of theirs would also be a priest according to the law of Moses.

The two of them remained barren for many years, so that the hand of the Lord would be clearly evident when the time came.  Zechariah was visited by Gabriel while offering incense in the temple.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime event for a priest, to be called upon to enter the Holy Place and burn incense, and this was Zechariah's time.  It is no surprise that the Lord used Zechariah's time of major significance to announce another event of major significance.

Zechariah means The Lord Remembers.  Elizabeth means The Oath of the Lord.

The son's name would be Yochanan (John).  It means The Lord is Gracious.

There had been about 400 years of silence from the Lord, and now His hand was moving.   Yehovah had not forgotten His people.  Their names tell the story:  The Lord remembers His oath.  How gracious He is!

Baby John is the first to celebrate the Messiah.  Remember how he leapt in Elizabeth's womb when newly-pregnant Miriam (Mary) arrived at her home?  A prophetic moment for sure.  Yeshua's forerunner - announcing Him even from the womb!

Fast forward many years.  John is immersing repentant people in the Jordan River.

Side note:  Baptism (a Greek word) was nothing new.  Jews had been immersing for years.  It was an outward sign of cleansing, of new birth (and emerging like a newborn), of the start of something new.  Each time they worshipped at the temple, they would first visit a mikveh.  (Hundreds of these mikvot have been excavated all over Israel, including around the Temple Mount and also where the Essenes lived by the Dead Sea, and it is thought that John lived as an Essene for awhile).

So anyway, John the Immerser is going about his business, preparing people for something new. Malachi 3:1 speaks of him:   I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

Suddenly, Yeshua appears at the Jordan River, and what does John say?    John 1:29 records it: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

John, fulfilling his priestly role, declares the acceptable and final sacrifice.  Not just for one man, not just for one family, and not even just for one nation.  For. The. World.

The oath of the Lord, made in Genesis 3:15, is about to take place.  The head of the serpent is about to be crushed.

There is also great significance to the Jordan River.  But that is another post, coming soon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Blessing the Brethren, Part 2

If you have not yet read part one, you may click here for it.

This second post will explore the church's responsibility toward Israel - the Jewish people - according to the scriptures.  Are we to be indifferent, judgmental, or even hostile?  By no means! 

According to Romans 11, the Jews as a nation were blinded in part so that we, the gentiles (the rest of the nations), could be grafted into the faith.  Romans 11 goes on to promise that someday, Israel as a nation will finally be redeemed by the Messiah when the fullness of the gentiles has come in.  God will keep the promises that He had made to Israel through the Abrahamic covenant, which is everlasting and unconditional (see Genesis 17:7).  Romans 11 says that we are not to be arrogant against the broken-off natural branches.  In fact, the opposite is true.

God has ordained through the Word that His people, today’s believers under the New Covenant, are to do the following in regard to Israel:
Bless Israel
Genesis 12:1-3 says, 
Now the Lord had said to Abram:  “Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will *curse him who *curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This is repeated (narrowed down) to Isaac in Genesis 26 and Jacob in Genesis 28.  Jacob’s name was changed to Israel.  Again, the Abrahamic covenant (see Genesis 17) is an everlasting covenant.

*It is very important to note that there are two different Hebrew words translated curse.  The first actually means curse, and the second means to treat as unimportant, ignore, lightly esteem.  A more accurate reading would be “I will curse him who treats you as unimportant.”

Comfort Israel
Isaiah 40:1-2 says
Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.  (Think of the pronouns here; He is talking to believers about Israel)
 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”

Matt 25:37-40
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.  (The Greek word for brethren means close kinsmen)

Make Israel Envious
Deuteronomy 32:21, Romans 10:19
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; (yep - us)
I will move them to anger by a foolish nation. 

Romans 11:11 - I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.

Romans 11:14 (Paul) if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.

Intercede for Israel:
Psalm 122:6 –  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.

Is 62:6-7 - I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, (that’s us!) do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

Support Israel
Acts 11:27-29
And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

Romans 14:27
For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they (we) owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings

Romans 15:25-27
But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.  It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

1 Cor 16:1-3
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.  And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.

Share the Gospel with Israel
Romans 1:16
 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

The Apostle Paul, apostle to the gentiles, always followed this model by preaching to the Jews in the synagogues first.  Even when the Jews rejected him at Antioch in Acts 13 and Paul declared he would then go to the gentiles, he specifically meant the gentiles at Antioch.  In the very next chapter, he headed to Iconium and went straight to the synagogue.

We are not called to:
Judge Israel
Boycott Israel
Highlight Israel’s failures
Lightly esteem (ignore) Israel

There is a warning in Zechariah 2:8-9
For thus says the Lord of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you (Israel); for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me.

The "apple of the eye" is the pupil.  Have you ever been poked in the eye?  It is one of our most sensitive parts.  God does not wish to be poked in the eye.

I will end with this.  About a year and a half ago, I sent this information to the missions committee at the church I have been attending.  (I did this because the sanctuary was FILLED with flags of the countries where missionaries were being supported, and there was NO Israel flag.)  To the great credit of the committee, and the pastoral leadership, they acknowledged the truth of this oversight.  They have since added mission support to (and the flag of) Israel.  Since that time, the congregation has seen tremendous growth, not only in numbers but in faith as well.  

This pouring out of blessing is NOT a coincidence!  Genesis 12:3 is a faithful promise from the Lord!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Blessing the Brethren, part 1

In Genesis 12:3, the Lord says to Abraham, I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses (a separate word, meaning to lightly esteem, ignore, treat as unimportant) you.

Scripture goes on to include other promises, which include the land (of Israel), the seed (of Messiah), and the blessing (of salvation) to the whole world.  The promises were narrowed down to Isaac and then to Jacob, also known as Israel.

This promise has not changed.  Blessings come to those who obey this command to bless Israel.

Recently, the Lord gave me an 'aha' moment.  I had been meditating on the letter to the sixth congregation in Revelation 3, the congregation of Philadelphia.  This particular assembly received only praise and no rebuke.  What was it about this congregation that set it apart?

I began to think about the meaning of the name Philadelphia.  It means Brotherly Love.  Phileo and Adelphos.  Loving the brethren.  Where else had I heard this concept of loving the brethren?

Immediately, Matthew 25 came to my mind.  Yeshua says, "inasmuch as you did to one of these the least of these MY BRETHREN, you did it to me."  The word used there, adelphos, literally means close kinsmen.  The context of the passage is the last days, and many would agree we are in those days now.  How you treat Israel matters!

Philadelphia is a blessed congregation.  Philadelphia holds the KEY OF DAVID.  They are definitely connected to their Jewish roots!

 The Key of David reference in Revelation takes us back to Isaiah 22.  In that passage, the keys to the kingdom had been in possession of Shebna - a foreigner - but they were taken from him and given to Eliakim, a Jewish man.

Similarly, in the fourth century,  the keys to the kingdom came under the authority of gentile Rome after Constantine declared Christianity to be the new legal religion of the empire. The Jewishness of the faith was virtually eradicated.  Today, this is changing as the roots of our faith are slowly being restored.

The letter goes on to say I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.  There is much speculation as to the meaning of the synagogue of Satan, but I see a major connection to Replacement Theology... that evil doctrinal thread that runs through many churches which says that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan.

Philadelphia is also told this:  Since you have kept my command to persevere, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world, to test those who dwell on earth.

The Greek word for persevere carries the meaning of remaining steadfast, undergoing, to bear a heavy load as an animal of burden. As one who is burdened for Israel, I can truly relate to this definition. Also, the Greek word for kept means to be protected within a sphere of danger (NOT raptured away, as many would believe).  Philadelphia is blessed with this promise.

There are not many in the world who bless Israel.  It can be difficult to find a congregation that actively blesses Israel.  Just as Philadelphia is only one congregation in the seven, could it be that only one in seven churches today understands their role in regard to Israel?

So what exactly is the church's role in regard to Israel?  I will write about it in my next post.  In the meantime, you can click here for a previous post on how to be like Ruth.

Update:  Part 2 is now available.  Click here to read it.