Friday, February 22, 2013

Fear Not!

 “Pharaoh and his army drew near...the sons of Israel looked up...they were filled with fear and cried out to YHVH”  (Ex,14:10).

Do you sometimes feel that the kingdom of “sin and death”, which ruled over you as a slave, is breathing down your neck again?  You may feel that the ruler of this world and his armies are drawing ever nearer to you. At times like these we may wonder: “Why did YHVH bother to take us out of Egypt in the first place? Were there no graves in Egypt?” (Ex. 14:11).

Are your personal situations and circumstances so trying that you wish YHVH would just remove you from this life?  “Oh God, just take me back to Egypt, spare me of this wilderness trial, or please just whisk me off to the promised land!” Times like these enable us to better identify with our forefathers. They too faced real-life situations, which were loaded with real needs and fears. YHVH’s Word records these examples for us, to learn from. They are a living blueprint and may serve as roadmaps for us as we learn to walk in faith. Even in life’s darkest valleys the still small voice of the Spirit is always with us. However, we too must be still, read the Word and pray - if we are to hear the word of YHVH: “DO NOT FEAR!  Stand by and see the salvation of YHVH which He will accomplish” (Ex. 14:13); and, “YHVH will fight for you while you keep silent” (v.14).
Oh yes, there are times for loud praises, crying out in prayer or for doing many exploits but there is also a time for the Holy One of Israel to speak these words from the mouth of the prophet: “In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Is.30:15). We simply have no choice; we cannot turn back, but can we hear the voice of YHVH saying to us: “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward” (Ex.14:15)!
The words, “fear not”, or “have no fear” occur over one hundred and seventy times in the scriptures. The only “fear” we are instructed to develop is the fear, or awe, of YHVH. With this perfect fear comes wisdom: “The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Pro. 9:10). To know Him is to know perfect love: “there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Ten of the twelve spies came back with an evil report, and all of Israel was infected. This resultant fear made it necessary for all of Israel to wander around in the desert for forty years. We must not let the spirit of fear deny us of our inheritance, nor to keep us out of YHVH’s will. Interestingly, the two leaders with the good report were Caleb of the Tribe of Judah and Joshua the Ephramite. Let us, who are inheritors of the covenant promises, be like Joshua and Caleb. Caleb, who served the Holy One for forty-five years, at the youthful age of eighty-five said the following: “I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me, as my strength was then so my strength is now for war and for going out and coming in. Now then give me this hill country about which YHVH spoke...” (Josh. 14:11-12)!

Let us also remember the words that were spoken to Joshua the Ephraimite: “Be strong and courageous! Do not fear, tremble or be dismayed, for YHVH your Elohim is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). Come let us be those watchmen on the hills of Ephraim who call out “Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to YHVH our Elohim” (Jer 31:6)!

Today we are obviously faced with new challenges, as the Spirit of Elohim is calling many from among the nations and restoring their identity as the ‘lost tribes’ of Israel.  Yes, the second stick/tree, or house, of Joseph in the hand of Ephraim is now being gathered into a great assembly, or nation, within the nations. This is a sovereign move of YHVH to fulfill His promises to all Israel.  But hand in hand with this restoration are also great shakings, in our lives personally and in the world in general.  Therefore we need to know that “YHVH has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7).      

We need to understand that the restoration of the lost tribes’ (generic name of “Ephraimites”) identity, and their ultimate return to the land is totally in the hand of the Spirit of YHVH.  We need the fear of YHVH like never before, so that we may have the wisdom from above. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy”  (James 3:17).  We also need discernment as to what YHVH is doing at this point in time. There are modern day self-proclaimed Moses or Joshua’s who want to bring the Two Houses of Israel back together under some religious or political organization.   I believe that we are only at the beginning of the restoration, and not at its conclusion.  The Spirit is turning the hearts of the children to their fathers, (the fathers in scripture being Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).   The Ephraimites had been orphaned and rejected, but now the Spirit is restoring to them their identity and acceptance.  If this is what YHVH is doing, then we should be in a position to confirm this to those whom the Spirit has already revealed it.  We should be writing, speaking and shouting from the roof tops the good news of this wonderful work that the Holy One is carrying out.

“These are the days of Elijah”, has become a very popular song.  A couple of months back two Elijah’s met in Jerusalem and argued as to which one of them was the real one.  The name “Elijah” means, “my Elohim is Yah”.  Perhaps this is why so many are beginning to use the name “Yah” instead of “God”.  However, who is the “my” of this title (which must be the other part of the equation, as “Yah” is also identifying Himself through the one who is claiming Him as his Elohim)?  The sum of the equation is presented in Yah’s own statement to Moses: “I am the Elohim of your fathers; I am the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob… Elohim is not the Elohim of the dead, but of the living" (Ex.3:6; Matt. 22:30), even in this generation.



Friday, February 15, 2013

Knowing the Son of Elohim (Yeshua)

Shalom Fellow Israelite,

One of the most important scriptures that ought to impact our lives, concerning others and ourselves, is the following. “For the love of Messiah compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Messiah according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”  (2 Cor. 5:14-17).  Just imagine if we were to fully embrace this view about others and about our own selves, believing and allowing it to become our life and reality!  By the same token, the opposite is true too. If we keep relating to the flesh and the world, they will continue to be our reality and experience.  The scriptures tell us that “ we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal”  (2 Cor 4:18).

If we believe the above scriptures, that when Yeshua died all men died, we can no longer look at mankind after the flesh, or judge according to our senses and/or perceptions. How then are we to view mankind?  It seems the only logical conclusion is that it would have to be “after the spirit” or, according to that which is not seen. Having grown up in this world we have become knowledgeable about that which we can see.  But now after coming into the faith, our eyes are open (or should be) to the unseen spiritual world.  Ignorance of this realm is a source of grief and concern:  “My people perish for lack of knowledge”, laments the prophet Hosea in 4:6.  Is it the knowledge of the seen world that we lack? The answer is a resounding “no”!  

Yeshua, as YHVH’s only begotten Son, brought to this earthly realm a testimony of the nature of His Father, and as a result many were healed, delivered from unseen spirit entities  (demons), raised from the dead, while He preformed also many other miracles.  Yeshua also pointed out the spiritual cause of man’s sinful condition, as He came to destroy these works of the Devil.  Having accomplished His work in the flesh through His death and resurrection, He no longer lives in that same condition.  This is very important to understand, just as our opening scripture declares, that we know Him no longer after the flesh and must know Him now after the Spirit.  So many today are relegating Yeshua to being a mere anointed mortal, and not the Son of Elohim!  After Yeshua was baptized, and again during his earthly ministry, YHVH pronounced these words concerning Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5).

We received yet another letter this week from friends who are very concerned as to what is happening to those who are leaving the faith in Yeshua.  The following are excerpts from that letter: “We receive different newsletters and sometime ago we saw that there were a lot of notes warning brethren about those who are departing from Yahshua... We did not pay much attention [to that] other than to glance at the titles…  This didn't seem like something for us to be concerned with. Three weeks ago someone visited our Shabbat study, and on the margins of a conversation they mentioned they were receiving teachings … that are revelatory and convincing them that Yahshua was not divine. This was a seasoned believer, not someone young in faith. I quoted a scripture, and there was a twisted reply to it, and then simply the comment that we "must be open to all truth." This past week we received a call from a family… and they're studying (through expensive phone calls) with someone in Israel, and now they were saying that Yahshua was merely a "man" (Son of Man); yes he was the Messiah / "anointed" (just as King David was "anointed") and [they added:] "God cannot die" and so on. We tried to study some with them, and often they were hung up on a few verses such as John 10:34, where Yahshua quotes Psalm 87, that all are called elohim… it was actually confusing to us ... So all of sudden, what we didn't think would touch us, we are starting to run into at every turn.” (end of quote).

Our eyes would not have been open to spiritual realities had it not been for the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua.   Teachers, or others, who are introducing false doctrines, and those who are following them into the snare of the Devil, should review the whole second chapter of 2nd Peter, especially if they fall into the category of those whom Peter describes in verses 20-21: “For if, after they have escaped the [spiritual] pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Yeshua Messiah, they are again entangled in them and overcome, their latter end is worse for them than the beginning.   For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

If we leave the faith in the Son of Elohim and the gospel, through which we received our righteousness and our new life, and go back to working it out in the flesh, we have no power to overcome our spiritual enemies.  Yeshua warned that if those spirits have been cast out and go back to their dry places, they will return to check if one who is stronger than they is residing in the house (see Luke 11:21-22).  We know that there is only one stronger than the Devil, and that is Yeshua: “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world”  (1 John 4:4). Yeshua, however, is ‘only’ in us by faith; if we reject His spiritual place in us, we are left to the mercy of those returning demons, which are accompanied by seven spirits more evil than themselves.  Please note how those evil spirits (demons) that departed view our earthly house: "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'”  (Luke 11:24). Yes, they describe their vacated abode, which is our being, as “MY HOUSE”!   As believers we cannot afford to be ignorant of the spiritual realm of this evil world in which we happen to be residing.  Satan does not have to deceive non-believers, as they are already sons of disobedience living in communion with the spirits of that realm. It is we, who have tasted the power of the Spirit of Holiness and of the age to come, who must come into the full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Yeshua our Messiah and not be ignorant of the wiles of the Devil, for they are spiritually discerned: “These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:13-14).
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Messiah, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are in Messiah Yeshua, to the glory and praise of Elohim (Philippians 1:9-11).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Illusion and Solution

Illusion and Solution

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (Daniel 12). Since there are no punctuations in the Hebrew Bible, the second part of the verse may be read thus:  “Until the time of the end many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." This certainly is a very apt description of our day and age. Knowledge of the ages has been added on to new discoveries and is consolidated to form conclusions and far-reaching interpretations regarding YHVH’s Word. Because travel across the globe is available and every spot is accessible, many are becoming restless as various possibilities of future scenarios are impelling them to act or move in a number of directions, often with Israel, Jerusalem, or Zion being the focus. Crisscrossing the globe, going here and there, with visions of Restoration and Returning to the Land ahead of them (Jew and non-Jew), some are making their way to Israel from many places.

At the gates of the Land, however, there are no big billboards announcing WELCOME HOME! The sidewalks, rather than being paved with gold are often lined with litter, which not only hits the eye, but also offends the nose trills. On the road from the airport, instead of shofars blowing, the ears are blasted by car horns. The pure language that the returnee expects to hear makes for a babble of sounds. And, although Isaiah 55:1 proclaims: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You without money, come, buy, and eat! Yes, come! Buy wine and milk without money- it's free!” at the marketplace the vendors and cashiers have not been informed of the above. The mansions that Yeshua promised are not available yet, and the comer to the land has to overpay his stay in, quite often, dumpy digs. Then, after having sacrificed all, having spent hard-earned resources that were allocated for this ascent to Zion, a less-than-kind or polite government official announces that the visa has expired and two weeks are given in order to leave the country.

Wow… the dream has just been dissolved and melted into a paddle right before the eyes (and wet feet) of the well-meaning, polite, and prayer-saturated trusting would-be Israelite. What went wrong?

A certain passage in Isaiah 51:17-52:15 unfurls a sequel which may throw some light on the complex predicament that was described above. Before we start to follow this sequel, let us point out that in the context of the passage it seems that “Jerusalem” and “Zion” are used in a more comprehensive way in reference to the people of Israel, and as such may be attached not only to the Jews, but also to Israelites of other backgrounds. The passage starts with a call, “Rouse yourself, rouse yourself…” (51:17 emphasis added), words that are echoed by 52:1, “Awake, awake! Put on your strength…” (emphasis added). Interestingly these verbs are from the same Hebrew root meaning, “to wake up.”  But what does this ‘waking up’ entail?

YHVH makes reference to the “cup” that He Himself has handed to Zion, calling it “a cup of poison” (51:22 literal translation). In the previous verse He says of her that she is, “drunk but not with wine.” Immediately after that (in 52:2).  He enjoins her to “shake [herself] off from the dust…”  The verb used for “shaking” is similar in sound to the other two, underscoring, all the more, the process of waking, rising, and shaking off the old and moving into a new reality. The “dust” mentioned, is “a’fah’r” – the very substance that natural man was created from (Gen. 2:7), and which the serpent was destined to consume (Gen. 3:14).  

To further elaborate on what “Zion” and “Jerusalem” are called to do in their process of waking, let us look at 52:1, 2 and 11: “For the uncircumcised and the unclean shall no longer come to you… Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter… Depart! Depart! Go out from there, touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her…”  What does the unclean consist of? What does it mean to come out of ‘her’? What is the drunkenness mentioned? Drunkenness, of course, is addiction, bondage to the glamour and promises of the ways of the world, to their methodologies, enticing security, rationale, goods, competition, intellect etc., all of which are subtly imbedded in the soul. YHVH continues to describe the sad condition of the addict: “You have sold yourselves for nothing… “(52:3), rendering the addict as worthless. However, He goes on to say, “but freely you will be redeemed” (literal translation). There is no payment for redemption. That cost has already been fully covered!

This now gives rise to the great exclamation and declaration: “Therefore My people shall know My name; Therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks: 'Behold, it is I.' "(v. 6). What is the “speaking” which YHVH is referring to? It is the Good News of Salvation (52:7,8). Upon its proclamation, which includes facing YHVH face to face (or “eye to eye,” v. 8), so that even the ruined places (us), still awaiting their restoration, are able to, “break forth, shout joyfully together…” (v. 9) because comfort and redemption have already been granted, though have not been fully made manifest yet. Along with the above-mentioned call to those who are coming out to be cleansed, they are tagged with a label – “You who carry the vessels of YHVH” (52:11).

Another group of people carrying the vessels of YHVH was the priests in the wilderness. They were warned repeatedly to be careful in the process of dismantling the holy vessels, and maintaining their own purification lest they die. Later on in history, David and his entourage brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. In addition to the Priests and Levites, David invited ‘all of Israel’ from ‘all over’ to join the procession (2nd Chron. 13:2). As the joyful group was making its way up to the city, with singing, playing of instruments and dancing, it seemed suddenly that the ark was about to fall over. A man by the name of Uzzah stretched forth his hand to support YHVH’s holy vessel, and for that he was smitten on the spot and died. In 13:11 it says that this was an “outbreak”“peretz” - against Uzzah.  In Exodus 19:22, before the giving of the Torah, with all of its preceding sanctification, YHVH warns the people not to dare come up the mountain lest He would have an “outbreak” (“peretz”) against them (Ex. 19:22).

The original “Peretz” is Judah’s son from Tamar (Gen. 38:29), from whom descended David (Ruth 4: 18-22) and Messiah Yeshua. It is no wonder then that in Micah (2:12,13) the “Poretz,” Breaker, is described as the King who goes ahead of His flock, hence the ‘holy vessel’ that we all carry within (Is. 52:11) – His Presence – cannot be handled contrary to His will or timing, or brought to its resting place prematurely.

Our original text in Isaiah 52, describes the flock (of “Zion”) and their return and restoration, after their rising, waking up from the stuper of drunkenness and addiction to captivity, shaking off their ‘dust,’ embracing the Good News, and cleansing themselves: “You shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; For YHVH  will go before you, and the Elohim of Israel will be you rear guard” (v. 12).   

YHVH’s promise to restore His people to Himself as a Nation, and bring them back to the Land, stands sure and secure. Contrary to many predictions, He assures us that it will not be done in “haste”“chipazon” – and as a “form of escape” – “menusah.”  The Poretz will not only make the way, but will also be the rearguard.  In the past, YHVH admonished His people:
"In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength" (Is. 30:15). However, YHVH reminded them that, “you would not.” May these words not be said of us!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Humility and Forgiveness Revisited

Shalom Fellow Israelite,

In chapter 10 of the Gospel of Mark, Yeshua's disciples James/Yacov and John/Yochanan, who had been assuming that He would be establishing again the Davidic kingdom, are expressing their desire to sit, respectively, one on His right side and the other on His left.  This exasperated the other disciples, as in their pride and jealousy the spirit of competition had immediately set in.  Yeshua sidestepped the issues that were preoccupying his disciples' minds, and simply told them that those places are reserved for (most likely the Father's choice) whom they are prepared for (verse 40).

 He then went on to explain to His hearers the difference between the rulers of the world, and those who are destined to rule in His kingdom.            
"You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave/servent of all" (verses 42-44). 

Matthew 18 records another example of a similar interaction between Yeshua and the disciples, who asked Him:  "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  Yeshua's answer is very important to all of us who are "seeking first His Kingdom."  But before Yeshua gives his response, He calls over a little child and only then replies: "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted (turn around from your pride) and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (verses 3-4).  

Yeshua goes on to caution them of the seriousness involved in teaching or influencing a child to sin, which actually makes all of us guilty.  We all have in some way offended or manifested the nature of sin towards children or adults.  Yeshua, knowing that man's heart is evil even from birth (ref. Mark 7:20-23), is making a comparison between the earthly approach to dealing with someone who has offended or sinned against us, to that of His judicial response. 

Here is the worldly approach:  If someone offends you or sins against you, you are to go to them and confront them.  If they do not listen, you take one or two witnesses with you. If they still are not willing to acknowledge then you go before the ‘assembly.’  But if they remain unrepentant you are to shun them altogether (ref. Matthew 18:15-17).  These words of Yeshua (paraphrased) sound quite reasonable to the natural mind.  However, Yeshua does not stop there. He continues and goes beyond the reaches of our 'commonsense  rationale,' introducing a kingdom rule:  "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.   Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:18-19). 

The above two verses have been so distorted by the religious system that they are no longer understood in their context.  Yeshua is explaining here a judicial principle of His kingdom according to which, “loosing” is to “remit offenses” and vice versa. After laying down this Torah law, He immediately adds another: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (verse 20).  Yeshua is telling us that when we go to the person who has offended us (and now we are ‘two’) - we are to remember who the true judge of the matter is. This continues to be so even if we take yet one more person with us (and now we are ‘three’).   

Peter brings this dialogue back into its context with his question, "Master, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (verse 21).  Yeshua leaves no doubt in anyone's mind as to the way to respond to an offense or a sin: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (verse 22).   After His response to Peter's question, He continues with a parable of a master who forgave his servant, but the latter turned around and demanded retribution from those who were indebted to him (ref verses 23-34).  The two verses quoted above (18 and 19), directly relate to this matter of forgiveness and should not be taken out of context.  The consequence to the servant that has been forgiven much, but did not forgive those who have trespassed against him, will be deprivation of the Father's kingdom of "righteousness, peace and joy."  We must take to heart Yeshua's last statement after the parable, which brings to light our heavenly Father’s views and perspective on this spiritual reality: "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses" (verse 35). 

"Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, (through forgiveness) and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24).

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:12, 13-14).