The state of things here for the last years reminds me of the days when Joshua Ben-Nun led the Israelis after 40 years of desert wanderings to conquer the Promised Land of Canaan, which YHVH had/has covenantally promised to give them as an everlasting possession, which still awaits fulfillment when Israel finally repents as a people and nation and calls upon Yeshua to save them.
The conquest then took several years, and the Israelis did not finish the job, leaving Canaanites in the land, which God said would become a snare for them thereafter. Personally, humanly speaking, I think that the Israelis simply got tired of so much fighting and killing and being killed or maimed, and just wanted to make do with a status quo that seemingly gave them the advantage.
Today, with perpetual threats of warfare throughout her 70 years of nationhood, I think that for many of the Jewish people — not to mention on the part of ordinary people among the Arab population — they are worn out from all the fighting and killing, and, having lost their faith and way in the purpose of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, want a peace — a worldly peace, mind you — that will hopefully (wishfully thinking) put an end to the everlasting conflict. It is really uncanny how a carnal and spiritual enemy gains the upper hand. Look at how the LGBTQI agenda has flooded society and the political and even religious discourse.
NO WORLDLY PEACE AGREEMENT CAN ACCOMPLISH WHAT THE ONE TRUE GOD HAS PLANNED AND PURPOSED FOR HIS GLORY AND THE SANCTIFICATION OF HIS HOLY NAME. It might be like a band-aid or an aspirin — which we all appreciate for their temporary relief — but it can not, nor will not, cure the disease or prevent another and worse affliction.
When you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the peace that David wrote of by the Spirit of God is the peace that is from God, not from man. The coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ will bring THAT peace, based on GOD’s righteousness. There are covenantal issues involved here, and not merely political, economic, military, social considerations as in other war-torn regions among various people groups. To ignore this, or to reject it, is to miss the whole plot. As those who profess to believe in the God of Heaven and Earth, and also in what He says, we are called and expected to have a prophetic voice in this matter, which is the testimony of Yeshua/Jesus/Yasua, calling all people everywhere to repentance, and proclaiming the gospel of salvation and the Kingdom of God. Otherwise, we simply take on a humanistic approach and join ourselves with others who do not know or love the Lord.
Even the enactment of a new Nation-State Law, declaring that Israel is the Jewish nation of the Jewish people, is causing an uproar, not only among the non-Jews who are citizens and residents here, but also among Israeli Jews and Jews who live outside. This law is simply reiterating what has been accepted ever since the Balfour Declaration more than 100 years ago acknowledged, and every other legal ruling passed by the “international community”: the Jewish people were allowed to return to their ancestral land and reestablish their nation, while recognizing the civil rights and liberties of other people groups. There is democracy, but the Prime Minister will be a Jew. This is no different than when Israel was a kingdom, and there were other tribes of Israel, as well as other Gentiles living in the land. Yet, the King needed to be from the Tribe of Judah. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that the U.S. President must have been born in the United States. The Bible also distinguishes between those “strangers” living among the Israelis: there were those who wanted to be part of the nation as good citizens and part of helping the nation succeed; and there were those who were simply “foreigners”, who acted as a threat to the welfare of the nation — whether religiously, or politically. The Law gave those who were “friends” greater privileges and rights than to those who isolated themselves and remained a thorn in the side.
This controversy over Israel’s new law, and seeking to determine her identity, just shows how EVERYTHING here is conflicted. Until the salvation of “all Israel” there will be no resolution to all of the conflicts — both external and internal. I have written before, the more “Jewish” that Israel becomes, the more difficult it will be for those who believe in Jesus/Yeshua. They may even pass laws prohibiting evangelism, or to restrict our right to teach that Yeshua is the only way to be saved. We see this from the very beginning when the rulers of the Jewish people told the Apostles to stop teaching in His name, and that people were afraid to say that they believed in Yeshua for fear of being put out of the synagogue (excommunicated from the Jewish community). There is nothing new under the sun! We pray and need the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome these hindrances, not to necessarily work to get an unbelieving nation to overthrow their own religious sensibilities. More Gentiles are being saved as long as Israel remains an enemy of the gospel. This is the sovereign wisdom of God!
The God of Israel told the Jewish people that they were to be good citizens in other countries, seeking the peace of wherever He scattered them. This is also what He tells believers in Jesus wherever we live: that we are to pray for those in authority, seeking a quiet and peaceable life, and also the repentance and salvation of those leaders and peoples. The god of Islam, though, for example, has another agenda wherever Muslims are, and he calls upon them to forcefully (whether through terror or through the political process) take over a society and impose Sharia law upon all: the means may change, but the objective remains the same.) It is a spiritual battle between our God, who is good, and against the Devil, who is bad. Simplistic, and simple. People are mostly ignorant of the core issue, because we have been deceived into thinking that maybe it isn’t so cut and dry, or that our God isn’t the only one who has the right to determine and carry out His will. We have been saved by His grace and mercy! And He loves all, and gave His Son to die for all, wanting that they be saved and not condemned eternally.
This article originally on Streams in the Negev, August 11, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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The authority of the Hebrew Bible
Questioning the Value of the Old Testament
Today, we are dealing with a significant problem in theology. Much of the theology is being taught to believers by preaching media stars and church leaders whom I would call low information preachers. They may have charisma, and they can hold a crowd well, but sometimes they say outlandish and even heretical things. Some of the most glaring examples are statements claiming that the “Old Testament” no longer applies to us or that it is irrelevant for New Covenant Christians. One such preacher even said that he put a sword through the Old Testament to be free from it. The error is even more glaring in the light of the numerous assertions in the New Testament of the authority and value of the Hebrew Bible. One has to ask if these preachers ever had one course helping them to understand the Hebrew Bible and its application to the New Covenant era. I doubt it. Of course, gaining insight into the Torah and the ritual system of the Tabernacle is much more challenging than gaining insight into the love chapter of I Corinthians 13. Yet these writings can be understood and applied. It is important to do so.
THE NEW TESTAMENT’S TEACHING ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE HEBREW BIBLE
The Teaching of Yeshua
In Matthew 5:17-18 we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Yeshua then goes on in the rest of the chapter to show how the Torah is applied in the New Covenant.
The Teaching of Paul
Speaking of the Hebrew Scriptures, Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16-17 that all Scripture is “God breathed,” and is “profitable for doctrine, reproof and for training in righteousness.” He urges Timothy (and us) to study these Scriptures in order to demonstrate that we are proper workmen who can rightly handle the word of God (2:15). What sort of a workman starts by throwing more than two-thirds of the “materials” away? I wouldn’t want to live in a house built by such a workman!
In Romans 15:4, Paul tells us that the Hebrew Bible was written to “teach us so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” In 16:26 we read that what has been revealed to us now has been “made known by the prophetic writings by the eternal command of God so that all nations might believe in him.”
Peter echoes this and says that the Scriptures came not by the will of men, but that men spoke as they were carried along by the Spirit (II Peter 1:20).
And we can go on and on. We really cannot understand the New Testament without the Hebrew Scriptures. Indeed, much of the New Testament is interpretation and re-application of the Hebrew Bible. So much of God’s future plan for world redemption and peace is in the Hebrew Bible. When the Apostles were teaching, there was no New Testament; they relied on the Hebrew Bible. In fact, the entire Early Church was made up of “Old Testament Only” Christians!
The current statements against the Old Testament are reminiscent of a false teaching in the 2nd century A.D. called Marcionism which was condemned in Church History. It is again time to correct this false teaching and restore the authority of the Hebrew Bible.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, August 2, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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The Israeli connection: The relationship between Gentile and Jew
From the perspective of Elsa Koppell, Jerusalem Encounter Participant:
Before we, as Gentile Christians, can step up to our role in the Jews’ restoration, we must understand our relationship with them.
In Romans 11, Paul the apostle explains the relationship of Jews and Gentiles as an olive tree. Israel stands as the enduring root and Gentile believers are ingrafted branches. For the Gentiles to be grafted into God’s family, the Jews had to be blinded for a time. Their blindness is not to their discredit, or something for Gentile Christians to mock, but an occurrence we are indebted to.
Paul put it this way, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
He gives a warning to any branches with a prideful spirit saying, “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast against those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you” (vv. 17-18).
Branches who think they can live without roots will die. The idea that we, as the Church, have replaced Israel is arrogant and dangerous for us.
The Church needs Israel and we must approach our relationship with a posture of humility and gratitude.
The Jews’ loss meant riches for us, their transgression meant riches for the world (Romans 11:12). In turn, verse 15 implores us to understand, “what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
In Romans 11:26 Paul declares “All Israel will be Saved” and quotes prophesy from the Old Testament: “The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (v. 27).
Paul continues saying, “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God and have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you” (vv. 30-31).
In essence, the Jews were struck with a blindness meant to be lifted. Their blindness was not a done deal or even a fully conscious decision on their part, but God’s mysterious way of setting a time for the rest of the world to see and receive Him.
The gospel of Jesus Christ went out from Jerusalem, circled the world, and is now coming back to Jerusalem as was always intended. This is the restoration God invites His followers to join Him in.
As branches we are called to soak up the light of the Messiah and bring Him back to our Jewish roots, the enduring foundation who supports and sustains us that they may see Jesus too.
What greatness will the full inclusion of God’s people mean for the whole world (Romans 11:12). To have a love for the things of God, is to have a love for Israel.
This article originally appeared on FIRM and is reposted with permission.
FIRM (Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries) is a global fellowship of Biblically-grounded believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that bless the inhabitants of Israel—Jews, Arabs, and others—and the Jewish community around the world.
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Can you really “travel through time” in Israel?
Sure you can, and especially on the Sabbath Day!
A traditional Jewish saying goes, “More than Israel has kept the Sabbath; it is the Sabbath that has kept Israel.” And while technically it is the nation and the people of Israel who were the ones keeping the seventh day holy and separate from all other days, still this old proverb points to a deep and powerful truth regarding the worth and importance of the Sabbath.
As it is written in Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done, then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
Anyone who has ever visited Israel during the Sabbath knows what I am writing about. It seems that the entire nation enters a different realm during this 24-hour period beginning Friday evening and ending Saturday evening. Commerce shuts down to a minimal including retail, shopping malls and grocery stores, public transportation stops completely, most folks spend the day relaxing, worshipping, or with family, and even El Al, Israel’s national airline, does not fly. Naturally, the Orthodox Jewish residents of Israel observe the Sabbath with great dedication and attention to rabbinical instruction and tradition. However, the non-observant Israelis, including the nation’s many non-Jewish minorities, are as grateful and committed to enjoying their Sabbaths as their Jewish orthodox neighbors are.
So, how exactly do I “time travel” during the Sabbath Day?
While the term “Seventh Day” appears in the Bible many times starting with the creation account in Genesis chapter two, the actual name “Sabbath” (“Shabbat” in the Hebrew) appears for the first time in Exodus chapter 16 in the story of the miraculous Manna provision and God’s instructions on how to collect and enjoy it. Here, for the first time, the seventh day is given its unique and special name, Shabbat. This name will appear nearly 130 times from that point on throughout our bibles with dozens of mentions in the gospels (chiefly relating to Jesus’ ministry in the Galilean synagogues), with the last mention in the book of Acts chapter 18 when Paul ministered in the Corinthian Synagogue.
Church history also indicates that many streams of Christianity throughout the ages adhered to and observed the Sabbath Day as THE day to rest and worship according to the biblical mandate. The Sunday emphasis entered Christendom mostly as a byproduct of anti-Semitic sentiments seeking to distance the Church from her Hebraic and biblical roots. By now, any effort to observe the biblical Sabbath in the West is seriously counter-cultural and challenging, and the answer might be in the approach of leaders such as the righteous Count Zinzendorf of the Moravian Movement who embraced both Sabbath and Sunday as days to be observed and celebrated by God’s children everywhere. Concerning keeping the Sabbath, he wrote in 1738, “That I have employed the Sabbath for rest for many years already, and our Sunday for the proclamation of the Gospel.”
The totality of human activity is governed by a few cycles of time that are common to all people groups, nations and cultures. The DAY is the basic 24 hour period during which the earth makes a full turn around its own axis, giving us the day and night periods that order our constant and regular activities. The MONTH is the time it takes for the moon to complete a full orbit around the earth, averaging between 29-30 days depending on the calendar used. The YEAR measures the time it takes the earth to complete one full orbit around the sun, 365 to 366 days according to the Gregorian calendar; giving us the four seasons of the year and a measuring tool for long term human activities. The seven-day WEEK, however, is unique and different from these previous time cycles since it does not depend on any of the celestial bodies or astronomical movements in the heavens for its existence or repetitions.
The seven-day week and the Sabbath as its crowning day stands alone by divine decree. It is not hinging on cosmic schedules of celestial bodies, nor does it influence the annual seasons of growth and harvest on earth. The week was given and it exists for two simple and profound reasons; 1- to commemorate God’s original work of creating the universe, and 2- to celebrate the Sabbath day as God’s gift to His children; a time set apart to rest, to pause from the labors and frantic activities of life, and to worship Him alone in total peace and joy. For those who have eyes to see, the Sabbath is a 24-hour period when the hectic tyranny of the world stops, and heaven kisses earth for a moment every seven days.
So how do we “time travel?” All of God’s appointed feasts, fasts and observances are meant to draw the heart of the believer to Him, to higher realms, since they all provide a glimpse into Kingdom realities. The Passover shows us the purpose and purity of the Lamb of God, Pentecost invites us to the well of Living Spirit Waters we so badly need in this parched life. Tabernacles brings us into the coming Kingdom of Messiah returning to reign on earth. However, the Sabbath Day of rest, repeating its magnificent visit every seventh day, speaks to the deepest longings in the heart of humankind. Peace, Shalom.
Each time a person of faith observes or celebrates any of God’s appointed times, he or she is spiritually inspired to taste and experience a little bit of heaven. By the spirit, awakened through the new birth to God’s presence and purpose, the believer can temporarily “transcend” to a different realm, to God’s Kingdom where He alone is sovereign, and there experience firsthand a taste of God’s marvelous reality spoken of in His Word. In this sense, the spiritual person “travels” to a different place and time other than the here and now, fulfilling the ancient directive, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8.
In my opinion, the Sabbath provides all of us the best “launching pad” for these spiritual experiences of refreshment and inspiration. It comes often, every seven days; it is not subject to change or modification according to the different celestial calendars; it is simple to observe (if you adhere to the Word of God rather than to man’s traditions); and it embodies God’s greatest promise and our deepest longing. Peace, Shalom.
Jesus, when confronted by religious hypocrites about the disciples chewing on grain they had collected in the fields during the Sabbath replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28. No wonder traditional Judaism refers to the Sabbath Day as the Queen of days, the crown of the weekly cycle, a welcomed and needed reminder of the greater truths that govern our lives.
As it is written, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it… for we who have believed do enter that rest … For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works’… Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest…” Hebrews 4:1-11.
The fact is that nowhere on earth will you experience the Sabbath in its absolute beauty, transcending grace and ability to “take us to that different place and time” as you will when visiting Israel.
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God chose Abraham to know him
Gen. 18:16-19 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And YHVH said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of YHVH, to do righteousness and judgment; that YHVH may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
The Creator of the Heavens and the Earth cut (made) a covenant with Abram (Abraham) in order to preserve a holy seed, and to provide salvation to mankind, and to give an inheritance of a land and a kingdom to the children of Abraham, and of his promised son Isaac, and of his chosen grandson Jacob/Israel. We read in the New Testament that Mary, when she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit with Yeshua, understood that the promise of that covenant had to do with the Son who would be born to her, as did the priest Zecharia, the father of John the Baptizer. (Luke 1:54-55, 67-79)
Despite the knowledge of the true God in the world since the Garden of Eden, and also again from the time of the Flood, the devil and human beings turned away from the truth and made their own gods, including seeking themselves to be God. This humanism with satanic influence has not disappeared, but continues until the Antichrist claims to be as God and above every God.
YHVH God chose a man – Abram – to enter into a covenantal relationship with him in order to preserve the knowledge of the true and everlasting Sovereign God Most High, and to have a family and a people and a nation through whom the Creator would come into the world as the Redeemer and Savior from sin and death and separation from the living God of Life and of the living. YHVH will glorify His holy name in and through His chosen people Israel, and in and through the believers in Yeshua, the Body of Christ: they will be His people, and He will be their God and Father, inheriting the Kingdom of God and eternal life. Glory to God and to the Lamb upon the Throne!
It is interesting that the first thing that the LORD considers important to reveal to Abraham about what He was going to do had to do with the judgment and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. YHVH is holy and righteous, and He is the righteous Judge of all the Earth. Doing righteousness and judgment is His “way”, and is the foundation of His Throne. (Psa. 89:14; 97:2) The overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah has been given as an example to people who live against the way of holiness of God. (2 Peter 2:6-11) These are people who do not submit to the truth of the true God, and there is no fear of God in them. Abraham’s prayer of intercession before YHVH had to do with saving the righteous, and not to destroy them along with the wicked, and to preserve the city for the righteous to dwell in. YHVH knew, though, what He had come down to see, and to do.
YHVH tells His people through the Prophet Jeremiah that people who know Him have something to boast about: that they KNOW HIM! (Jer. 9:23-26) And the Apostle Paul tells us that even more significant is the fact that God KNOWS US who believe in Yeshua! (Gal. 4:9) And just as He chose Abraham out from his life of idolatry to know and to serve the living God, Paul rebukes those who have also been chosen by God to worship Him in spirit and truth who want to go back to live as we did before we knew Him, or before He knew us! (Gal. 4:8-11)
God chose Abraham, and us, to know us, that we will command our children and our grandchildren in the knowledge of Him and of His way. It is a matter of life and death! We are children of Abraham in the faith if we believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, who died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures. Abraham feared God Almighty, trusted Him, and obeyed Him with living faith and hope and love. He was willing to sacrifice Isaac (and Isaac amazingly was a willing sacrifice!), his only son [in covenant], whom he loved, in obedience to the word of YHVH, fully believing that God would raise up Isaac from the dead then and there, in order to fulfill what He had spoken and promised to Abraham through this son of promise. Because of such faith, demonstrated by such a work of faith, God blessed Abraham, his future descendants, and all the peoples of the Earth, and promised him victory over his enemies. (Gen. 22:11-19)
Do we know the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in such a way that we demonstrate that to our children and grandchildren by the manner in which we live, and speak of Him? Would we be willing to sacrifice our most beloved person (or even thing), if the Lord should command us to do so, testing our love for Him above all?
Remember that the New Covenant fulfills the promises of YHVH’s covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob/Israel, and to their descendants – both physical and spiritual. Physically applies to the whole House of Jacob/the House of Israel. Spiritually applies to all believers – both Jewish and Gentile – in Jesus Christ the Lord. The Law/Torah which came after, and which demands perfect obedience – does not annul those covenant promises based on faith in YHVH and in His Word. No one but God can perfectly keep His righteous commandments, and this Yeshua came and proved. With the New Covenant, God forgives the sinner who repents of their unbelief and self-righteousness in seeking their own salvation by their own standards and judgment. The believer is brought into the promises of blessing for those who believe in Jesus/Yeshua for who He Is, and in His sacrificial death on the cross for our sins and guilt.
Jesus’ resurrection confirms the promises made to the fathers, and for the sake of this one and only righteous Man, God the Father will fulfill all of His redemptive promises in His holy way, and preserve the righteous, a land, and the Earth. (Rom. 15:7-13) (Abraham had pleaded with God to save Sodom if there were even 10 righteous people there.) Knowing God, and being known by Him, calls us to love one another, and to clearly train up our children in the knowledge of the true God. And as He shared His intentions with His friend Abraham, God has also revealed to us that the Day of YHVH will come, when He will judge those who oppose Him and Jesus/Yeshua and the Holy Spirit – one God. But as with Lot, He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations to save us from His wrath. Parents must instruct their children and grandchildren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)
We are children of Abraham if we have the faith of Abraham. God chose us to know us, so that we will know Him, and be His children who honor our Father in Heaven and Lord Jesus Christ. Not all of us have money or property to leave our children’s children. But we can leave them something of even far more and eternal value: the knowledge of the only wise God and Savior. For those who love Him, the promised blessing is overcoming the world and death, inheriting the Kingdom of God with the Lord. Grace and peace to you in His name.
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, August 17, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.