The perfect antidote to bitterness
Like a gas leak, bitterness can be barely discernible at first – perhaps there’s the slight whiff of something not quite right – but if you’re not wide awake and alert, it can be fatal. It is dangerous, and a spiritually deadly trap to fall into.
Bitterness is sneaky
Bitterness can creep up on us (or in us) like a cancer that grows undetected… but mercifully, God has given us a surefire method to deal with it.
Like me, I suspect, you may have friends who are full of righteous indignation about one cause or another. There have been times when I was reading various passionate outbursts online that I detected something that seemed vaguely ‘off’. Even though they were believers It didn’t feel clean somehow. I couldn’t understand why at first, because it is quite right to object to injustice and to be a voice for the voiceless. Righteous anger is good, isn’t it? What was it that I was picking up? It took me a while to realise: It was bitterness. A trap I have fallen into myself far too often.
It’s good to care about justice and righteousness, but when we take up a cause with anger that has degenerated into bitterness, we unwittingly become a weapon in the hand of the enemy.
Don’t let the enemy yank your chain
When the Assyrians carted the people of Israel off into exile, they were particularly cruel about it. They put hooks in the lips of the Israelites and then chained them one to another. As you might imagine, they did not have much choice about which direction they would go. They were compelled to follow whoever was yanking that hook.
So it is when we allow the hook of bitterness to take hold in our hearts.
Instead of partnering with God and his cause of righteousness and justice, bitterness opens up a foothold for the enemy, allowing Satan to manipulate us. When we are in bitterness, we are not free – we are beholden to the one holding that hook. Instead of being a clean and sterile scalpel in the hands of the Master Surgeon, we can make a terrible mess. We may be trying to help but falling prey to bitterness can render our efforts useless. Even worse, it can make us a pawn in the enemy’s games.
We have to be clean. We must be holy. Our anger has to be free of sin. This purity requires repentance from sinful anger, which pretty much always requires forgiveness.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26)
The knock-out antidote to bitterness: Forgiveness.
Bitterness is dissolved completely in the purifying fire of forgiveness. All the unrighteousness in our rage is purged by the power of forgiveness. We often think of forgiveness as something that only applies on a personal level, in our relationships, but let me tell you – it needs to go bigger and wider than that. If you find yourself incensed with frustration at a political party, a movement, a nation, an organisation, a company or a celebrity, it’s time to get on your knees and forgive.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
To my surprise, at one point in my life I found myself needing to forgive a certain politician. The thought that anger towards a public figure could be wrong simply hadn’t occurred to me. It took the convicting light of the Holy Spirit to shine in my heart for me to realise how ugly my unsanctified anger was to God. I had grieved the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness is like the radioactive rays of chemotherapy on the cancer of bitterness. It will kill it all off, and render your heart clean of unholy anger. Then we can ask God to share his own heart concerning the problem that’s bugging us, and we can replace our human anger and judgment with his loving perspective. Far from needing our help and plans to fix the problems in the world, God already has a trick or two up his sleeve. We can take part in his infinitely superior plans if we’re wiling to let go of our bitterness and partner with him.
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Surely God is looking for vessels that are clean as a whistle – holy and pleasing to him – sanctified and ready for use in his perfect purposes.
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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Inheriting Zion is perhaps the world’s biggest controversy, after the issue of Yeshua being God! The word ‘Zion’ refers to Jerusalem, but is also used to describe the entire land of Israel. Central to Zionism is God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises concerning Israel.
So, how big is Zion, who does it belong to and how should the land be conquered?
According to Genesis 15:18-21, the land covenanted to Abraham’s descendants was from the wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River, including Gaza, the West Bank and stretching eastwards far into present day Syria and Jordan – seriously controversial!
A fast-growing response to Zionism is anti-Zionism – opposition to Jewish political self-determination, the state of Israel and especially Jewish control of Jerusalem. In the West it is OK to be Jewish, but not for an undivided Jewish state to exist. The UN body UNESCO, went as far as effectively denying Jewish-Christian ties to the Temple mount in favour of Islamic ties, with even ‘civilised’ nations abstaining in the successful 2016 ‘Occupied Palestine Resolution’. In radical Islam, it is neither OK to be Jewish nor for the Jewish state to exist in land once occupied by Muslims (Ottoman Turks).
Nevertheless, God promised Abraham’s descendants, through Isaac, the physical land, and no Scripture says that the Church or Islam replaced Israel. Arab peoples wonderfully received a much larger inheritance elsewhere. However, the way in which God’s people possess the land is very important, both historically and today:
- When there was argument between Lot’s herdsmen and Abraham’s, to avoid dispute Abraham offered Lot his choice of grazing in the land.
- When Sarah died, Abraham insisted on buying her burial site from a Hittite, even though it was offered as a gift.
- Similarly, David insisted on purchasing the threshing floor of Araunah, a Jebusite, to make a sacrifice in the location of the present-day temple mount, Mount Moriah, where also Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac.
- When Yeshua was asked if he was going to, “Restore the Kingdom to Israel”, he pointed to another priority, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
- In 1917 Chaim Wieizmann accepted British Lord Balfour’s promise to the Jewish people of a homeland in the Middle East, after Weizmann helped Britain to victory in World War 1.
- In 1948 Jewish leaders established a state in response to a League of Nations vote.
- Many early pioneering Jews bought land from Arab, often absentee, landlords. Some land was considered stolen, despite being taken in war, but afterwards restitution was usually made through legal process.
- When Israel took back Jerusalem in 1967, it was not stolen from Palestine because the concept of modern-day Arab Palestine barely existed at the time. Rather it was won in a defensive war from Jordan, who had joined Egypt and Syria in attacking Israel.
- Israel is almost unique in returning land won in defensive wars.
- Israel seeks to be fair to all Arab citizens and especially protects Arab Christians.
Here we see a humble, peaceful, legal, timely and Godly approach to possessing the land. In addition to peaceful acquisition of land, God, however, also clearly commanded the seizing of land, but ONLY under very specific conditions:
Abram was told that his descendants would enter the land, but only generations later because, “The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure”. God authorized the physical conquering of the land only after the extreme and unrepentant sin of the local tribes fully manifested. Such sin included bestiality, sodomy, incest, witchcraft and child sacrifice (Exodus 23:24, 34:12-13, Numbers 33:52, Deuteronomy 7:5; 18:9-12, Leviticus 18:2-25) – all a sober warning for our generation! Later, after Egyptian slavery, Joshua (same root name as Yeshua), was finally authorized by God to conquer the land.
Should Israel attempt to conquer the full promised land today? Certainly NOT unless God says so, but He may cause more territory to fall into Israeli hands through more defensive wars.
Should Israel or the nations seek to divide the land, creating a two-state solution? Absolutely NOT – they will be judged by God for attempting to do so. The situation of Palestinians is clearly not good and many suffer through unjust local government, but neither terrorism nor two states are the solution. Rather Arabs in Israel need to trust in Yeshua and contribute to the Jewish state, just as Obed Edom, the Edomite, did in the time of David, and many do today – something requiring a revival amongst local Muslims.
One thing is for sure, Yeshua is coming back soon and will conquer the land, seizing it from the anti-Christ and the nations he leads, reigning over the world from Jerusalem eternally.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, May 8, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Joni has worked in education and management and has been a writer for Kehila News Israel since 2016. He holds an MBA, as well as teaching qualifications. He lives in Israel with his family.
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Gen 4: Crime and punishment, with redemptive hope
We may not realize that sin is a crime against God. Sin is lawlessness (1Jn 3:4); that is, it does not accept or live by any law that governs society, or that establishes what is good and what is evil. It is disobedience and rebellion against God and His Word. (Is 1:18-20) It began with Lucifer, now the Devil, and he brought it into Eve and Adam. Sin separates us from God our Father. (Is 59:2) Yeshua came to destroy the works of the devil, and to restore us to a relationship with God, knowing His holiness and righteousness, His goodness, His love. (1Jn 3:8)
Adam and Eve together sewed fig leaves to cover their shame of being naked. God did not accept man’s imperfect and inadequate attempt to hide their shame and guilt. God provided both of them skins of an animal – blood was apparently shed by an innocent substitute, whose life was given – as a covering to keep His eternal righteous judgment ‘on hold’, while in mercy He provided temporal redemption. Man, in our imperfection, does not want fellowship with the perfect and holy God.
When Adam sinned by disobeying God in eating the forbidden fruit, both he and his wife knew that something was wrong: there was now a knowledge of good and evil, which they had not known before. There had been only good. Sin was awakened in Man, and redemption becomes necessary. YHVH did know what evil would be, and how it would show itself. God is good.
Knowing evil is not what we want to know! We want to know what is pleasing to God. (1Cor 14:20) We are always tempted to choose what is not God’s will, to choose not to listen to and obey the LORD. God does not allow man with his sinful tendency to live forever in that state. God cast out Adam and Eve from His garden. When we recognize that God does judge sin, then it will put in us a desire to seek God’s mercy and redemption – even if our hearts are still hardened against Him, like we will see in Cain.
Gen 4:1 Adam intimately knew his wife, in obedience to God’s first commandment to be fruitful and multiply! It seems that while in the Garden of Eden, that they did not “know” each other; it also seems, because of that commandment, that they must not have been very long in the Garden before the serpent came to Eve. Eve understood that YHVH helped her acquire Cain, their son. God helps us when we obey Him.
v 2 Eve had another son, Abel. Cain worked in agriculture; Abel was a shepherd.
v 3-4 God’s ultimate redemption requires the blood of an acceptable sacrifice, which the sinner accepts. Man’s attempts to justify himself and to excuse our sins will not be accepted by God. Cain gave what he found near him of what was his and what was of his work: some plants, or fruit, or vegetables. Abel brought a select gift: he chose the best of what was his and of what held value to him, and it required the shedding of blood. God accepted (the Hebrew word is “yeesha”, similar to “save”) Abel and his offering. It is not written here if either of these offerings by Cain or Abel were for sin, or simply maybe what we call a tithe.
v 5 Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell (changed its appearance in anger), because God rejected (the Hebrew word has the same root as used for Abel’s acceptance) him and his offering. Cain had offered an imperfect and unacceptable sacrifice, like the fig leaves that Adam and Eve had used. Cain did not ask the LORD what he could offer that would satisfy Him.
v 6-7 God did not want to completely reject Cain, and offered him the chance to make good – to do what God wanted. But Cain stubbornly refused, which is idolatry. (1Sam 15:22-23) This is the “way of Cain”, which Jude writes about in his epistle. This “way” is characterized by those who know who God is, unjustly hate the ‘innocent’, refuse to feel any remorse over it, stubbornly do not repent when given the opportunities by God for acceptance by Him, seek their own righteousness by their works, and blame their suffering and punishment on those they envy, even on God.
Sin has a strong desire for us, even as does the woman for her man. We must rule over sin in our lives, if we want the blessing that comes with that; just as a wife must allow her husband to rule over her properly in order for God’s order and peace. (Gen 3:16; Rom 6) And the grace of God has come to help us! We need a blood sacrifice to appreciate the cost of our sin, but animals are not adequate to affect our conscience. We need the blood of the Son of God, Yeshua, and to apply His blood to our hearts, minds, eyes, ears, tongues. If we do not rule over sin in our lives, the enemy will rule over our life: sin will wait for us at our door, and one sin will lead to another sin, and so on, until and unless we confess our sin and repent of it, choosing instead to do what is good in God’s sight.
Am I/we going to be changed by the Word of God, or am I going to continue to do things my way? This question is always before us as we live in this body in this world.
v 8-9 Cain talked with his brother, very possibly about what God had said to him, and then he murdered his righteous brother. When God confronted Cain, Cain was still angry with God. He tried to justify himself and conceal his guilt. But YHVH knows everything, even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts! And we are our brother’s keeper, which fulfills our relationship in a family, and also that we must love our fellow man as ourselves (even though the Law had not yet come in).
v 10-16 God says to Cain that the blood of his brother Abel cries out to Him from the ground. It cries out vengeance, justice. This is similar to the cry of the saints under the altar asking God until when will He judge and avenge their blood on those who dwell upon the Earth?! (Rev 6:9-11) Praise God that the blood of Jesus cries out better things than the blood of Abel: it cries out forgiveness and salvation for all who repent and believe! (Heb 12:24) Remember: Genesis is the seed-bed and roots of all history afterwards, and of God’s plan and hope for the redemption of sinful people is built into His story.
Cain felt that his iniquity was too great to bear (or, to be taken away/forgiven) (v 13 in Hebrew). There is a weight of iniquity; and if we do not give it over to God in His manner, we will have to carry our own iniquity — and die with it. There is also a weight of glory, and Yeshua says that His burden is light. YHVH did not kill Cain for taking another’s life. (This law of retribution only came in after the Flood.) Cain was cast out into a wandering exile; outside the immediate presence of the LORD, which concerned Cain, even though he did not want to submit to His righteousness and grace; and he believed that whoever saw him would kill him. (There would have been other extended family members by that time, who may have wanted to avenge Abel’s murder.) Once again, it is Cain who is acting like the “poor victim”, although he is the unrepentant sinner and murderer! And, once again, God showed that He is merciful and does not delight in the death of the wicked. The first murder in history was a result of religious envy: God accepted Abel and his offering; God rejected Cain and his.
God put a mark on Cain to protect him from being killed, and God promised to avenge Cain seven times should he be killed for his murder of Abel. God prefers forgiveness and redemption over vengeance and death. What a great God we have! Then Cain went out from the presence of YHVH, and settled in Nod, east of Eden. Sin separates us from God.
v 17-22 Cain knew his wife, and they gave birth to Enoch. Cain built a city and named it after the name of his son. God is also building a city, the New Jerusalem, which is only for the children of God in Christ to live in forever. (Heb 11:8-10; Rev 21) Cain’s wife would have been one of his sisters, or cousins, or nieces. We do not know their ages. Until the Law (Torah) of Moses about 2600 years later, this was permissible. In these very early years of humanity, there was civilization: we have not only murder, but also agriculture; the beginning of nomadic life in tents and tending of livestock; musical instruments; mining and craftmanship of bronze and iron. We also have bigamy (polygamy). These all came through Cain and through his descendants – both the evil and the good.
v 23-24 Lamech, a descendant of Cain, is the first man to take more than one woman as his wife. Although there was not any law against it, nonetheless it was not the example or pattern which God established in the beginning of one man and one wife. (Gen 2:18-25; Mk 10:6-8;Eph 5:31-33) Lamech also calls his two wives together to inform them that he has killed a boy who injured him. Was this self-defense; or was it an excessive reaction of a grown man towards a younger person who somehow hurt him? In any event, Lamech is aware that YHVH had promised to avenge Cain seven times if anyone sought to avenge Abel’s murder against him. Yet Lamech presumptuously and intimidatingly claims for himself that he would be avenged 70×7 (or maybe 77) times if anyone sought to retaliate against him! Jesus tells us to forgive anyone 70×7 times if we have been sinned against. (Mt 18:21-22) The New Covenant brings in a higher realm of justice: love your enemy; and vengeance belongs to YHVH. (Dt 32:35-36; Rom 12:17-21)
v 25-26 Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, after Abel’s death by Cain. Then Seth had a son, named Enosh, which means “mortal man; frail”. Then people began to call upon the name of YHVH. In the fear of the true God and Judge, mortal man began to worship Him by name. Moses gives us many names of people in Gen 4 – 5. God, who created the heavens and the Earth and the seas, and all that is in them, also has a name: YEHOVAH. God continues His plan of redemption, which He purposed before time began, in the reality of sin and death. Praise God that He has become our Father through knowing Him personally because we know Jesus! And God knows us!
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
There is sin/crime; there is punishment. And there is the hope of redemption — in the way of YHVH, not in the way of Cain, nor of Lamech.
We have in ch 4 of the first book of the Bible the core essence of the religious spirits which motivate and distinguish those who profess to know God (there is nothing new under the sun):
–New Testament Christianity: knowing God the Father and His Son; faith based upon the shed blood of Yeshua’s sacrificial death on the cross to satisfy God’s righteous wrath and His love, forgiving our sins and accepting us fully as sons in Messiah’s death and resurrection. God justifies us by our faith in Yeshua/Jesus and His sacrifice for us and our sins. (Heb 11:4)
–Islam: denies the Father and the Son; self-righteousness; multiple wives; knows that God has shown mercy to the Jews and to Christians; yet a vengeful spirit based on rejection, which is used to kill, and to intimidate others not to challenge their beliefs and actions
“Surely I am coming quickly”. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah be with you all”.
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, May 10, 2019, 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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Continents stream through the gates of Jerusalem,
converging rivers of faces pumping life’s blood
through chambers of this heart of all cities,
pilgrim faces black as Sudan and white as Sweden,
bronzed as Ishmael and Isaac regathered,
yellow as China and Japan and red as Jeronimo
stepping the ancient stones of Jeremiah,
ethereal as Jacob’s angel and fierce as Cain,
naïve as Eve swerving the mysterious
narrow passageways of pulsing antiquity,
tides gushing through the gates of Damascus
and Jaffa and Zion in flowing currents
of curious quest for the most elusive Source,
the Amazon and Euphrates and Columbia
and Nile join here in holy confluence,
not a face among them the same in wonder,
mine one in the churning global heartbeat!
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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The need to make a dent in the universe
Do you feel the need to make a dent in the universe? I think we all do. But what about our other needs, like food, water, shelter, money, love? Which needs are more important than others? Can we really make a dent in the universe if we have nothing in the bank account? Maybe we can at least make a dent in making a dent in the universe…