Monthly Archives: February 2016

Who Is in Control?

who is in controlIn my last blog we looked at the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel to examine how people rely on themselves and their own devices instead of trusting YHVH. The Bible is packed with such illustrations for good reason. There is one true stronghold (YHVH) and one false stronghold (self) and for each person there is a lifelong battle between the two.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, evil has infested our planet and now many people agree that we are in or near the end times when evil increases (2 Tim 3:1-17). Although Yeshua clearly stated that no one knows the hour of His return except the Father, predictions and rumors (often conflicting) are more rampant than ever. Many of us feel the need to be informed and prepared, and so we should. However, we should not be concerned with the predictions and the rumors, but rather with Scripture. YHVH admonishes us to be ever vigilant (1 Peter 5:8). This verse applies to us and all the generations after Peter regardless of when the end comes. Our focus should be on the spiritual realm, not the physical realm. If we are obeying YHVH’s commands, keeping ourselves focused on Him, and doing the work that Abba has assigned us in the harvest, then we need not live in fear even if the end comes in our lifetime (Luke 12:36-48)

Many of us are racing around to prepare for any type of disaster that may befall us. We are buying up silver and gold, hoarding food and water and other necessities, and watching every move and speech in the political scenario. Why? There is no biblical mandate to do these things. In fact, the Bible clearly tells us that hoarding is wrong (Prov 11:24, Eccl 5:13, Luke 12:34, 1 Tim 6:7). We may justify our actions by saying that when things get bad, we will share with others. Right now, things are really bad for some people, so why not give to them now? Our Father has promised to take care of us and has put it in writing (Matt 6:25-34). Do we really believe what Yeshua tells us? Our actions very clearly reflect what we believe.

It is true that the Israelites left Egypt well-stocked with silver and gold and clothing. This may have been compensation for all the hard work they had done for the Egyptians. It may have been a necessity for buying what they needed from other countries as they passed through. At any rate, the gold became a god for them. If you feel that the Ruach is prompting you to collect silver or gold or to store food, just be very careful that it is the Ruach’s voice you are hearing and not some other voice. And be very careful that your hoard does not become your god.

What about the political scenario? What about human leaders? What does Scripture say about that? Insofar as we are able to without violating YHVH’s laws, we are to obey whoever YIHVH has put in charge (1 Pet 2:130-14, Mark 12:17, Col 3:22-25). When human laws would force us to violate YHVH’s laws and commands, then we must follow YHVH (Acts 5:29).

Over the years, most of us have gotten used to taking charge of ourselves and our situations. In the United States, we live in a culture that values such attitudes. We vote for our leaders and we express our opinions freely. We do what we think is best to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. These are the values of our culture, but are they the actions our Father wants us to learn? The story of the Israelites in Exodus answers our questions graphically. YHVH was teaching the Israelites how to live according to His ways. They were in a wilderness where conditions were tough and sometimes life-threatening. The Israelites had two choices. Either they could go to YHVH with their requests and rely on Him or they could grumble and complain and take matters into their own hands. Read through Exodus carefully and note when YHVH blessed the Israelites for their choices and when He punished them. We, too, are living in a wilderness of some sort especially as evil increases, and we have the same choices.

YHVH is teaching us, as He taught the Israelites, that He is in control. Can we influence His decisions at times? Moses did, but then Moses was close to YHVH because Moses was obedient to YHVH and willing to follow orders, no matter how tough the situation. We may not be leaders of people, but we can be obedient and trusting toward YHVH. We can take our concerns to YHVH and try to persuade Him through our prayers. However, we are not to take matters into our own hands and determine our outcome. This will lead to a disastrous outcome for us as it did for those who worshiped the golden calf.

What is our best course of action in these times? The same course of action that YHVH gave to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. When we meditate and pray through His words, we begin to understand His perspective. If we do not stay focused on His word, we can easily slip into a worldly perspective. The Israelites were sojourners and foreigners in other lands, just as we must be sojourners and foreigners on the earth until Yeshua’s return. We are citizens of the kingdom of YHVH and our King must be our first priority, not the happenings in this foreign land. We are answerable to Him and what a blessing that is, for He is ultimately in control and He is the only one we can truly trust.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

Lion of JudahJudah is a lion’s whelp…and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Gen 49:9-10

As I mentioned in a previous blog on YHVH’s Gospel message written in the stars (Messiah’s First Coming Foretold in the Stars), we can identify the beginning and ending of the story written in the star pictures, as it is confirmed in all the ancient Zodiac drawings. For instance, the great sky painting found in the Temple of Esneh in Egypt shows the whole image of the Zodiac with all of its constellations. Virgo (the virgin) is shown as the first sign of the Zodiac. Between Virgo and Leo (the Lion), there is a carved figure of the sphinx with the head of a woman and the body of a lion. The woman’s face is looking at Virgo and the lion’s tail is pointing at Leo, telling us where the Zodiac Gospel story begins and ends.

The sign of Leo the Lion (or Aryeh in Hebrew – אַרְיֵה) is not only the last of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, but it tells the end of the Gospel story if you are following it in the Scriptures. Taking the ancient star names from this sign and compiling them together, the meaning that emerges can be paraphrased as “Messiah’s final triumph”. Leo (Aryeh) represents Messiah Yeshua, returning to Earth as King of kings and LORD of lords at the end of the age as revealed in the Word of YHVH.  Aryeh is always shown and named as a lion in the drawings and languages of all the ancient Zodiac depictions.

He is sometimes shown to be treading on a serpent (Hydra), as confirmed by the ancient star name Regulus, which literally means “treading under foot”. Based on some of the other star names in this sign, Aryeh also means “a lion hunting down His prey”, or (from the Arabic star-names) “coming forth as a flame”.

The Egyptian name (Pi Mentekeon) means “the pouring out”, which symbolizes the pouring out of Divine wrath on the Old Serpent. The name of the Serpent constellation associated with this sign, Hydra, literally means “he is the abhorred” – Yeshua is the only One who is able to destroy the evil one (HaSatan). The star names in Aryeh tell the rest of the story without further explanation: “the Judge or Lord who comes”; “the exaltation”; and “the shining forth” (see Revelation 5:5-14).

The second constellation in Aryeh is Crater (the Cup, which represents the cup of Divine wrath poured out upon the Serpent. This syncs up with Scripture as “the cup of His indignation” (Rev 14:10) and “the cup of the fierceness of His wrath” (Rev 16:19). The final constellation in Aryeh is Corvus (the Raven), whose star-names in the ancient languages refer to the birds of prey devouring the Serpent. Its Arabic name is Minchir al Gorab, meaning “the Raven’s tearing to pieces”. The brightest star is Al Chiba, which means “the curse inflicted” – which refers to the birds of prey who took part in the final avenging of God’s curse on the evil forces of the world (Rev 19:17,18,21).

We can see confirmation of the Lion being used as a symbol for YHVH coming in judgment to defeat His enemies in Isaiah 42:13: “The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, He shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; He shall cry, yea, roar; He shall prevail against His enemies”. Just as with the other “strongman” signs in the stars, Aryeh is a Lion in this case which symbolizes Yeshua as El Gibbor, “a mighty man” who is also YHVH God.

Out of all the universe, the Lion of Judah alone is worthy to judge and to reign over the Earth. In Revelation 5:5-6, after John starts weeping because no one is found worthy to open the scroll and read the final words proclaiming the end of the world, John says:

“…one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’  And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…”

This is our Messiah Yeshua, a Mighty Man, God incarnate, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Even quoting His names and titles from the Scriptures sends supernatural joy and power surging through my veins. Speak His names out loud, bask in His glory, tell Him how worthy He is and how much you love and worship Him. For we know that someday, all people will bow down and worship Him, the Lion of Judah, “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). I am going to start now instead of waiting until the end of the world – how about you?

Strongholds

Strongholds2What do you do when faced with a crisis or a difficult situation? Do you try different strategies, talk it over with friends, search online, or seek the advice of experts? Do you take it to YHVH in prayer? Going to YHVH in prayer should be our first reaction, but often it isn’t. If we aren’t turning to YHVH first, we need to ask ourselves if we have developed a false stronghold. In truth, YHVH is our only true stronghold. [YHVH] is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Ps. 18:2 NLT).

The story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel provides some important lessons on the importance of turning to YHVH first. Let us closely examine Genesis 29:16-30:24. Jacob desires Rachel from the start. When Laban offers him wages for his work, Jacob strikes a bargain to work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage.   There is no mention at any time that Jacob sought YHVH’s guidance as to his marriage partner. Rachel was attractive and that was enough for Jacob.

Leah is pawned off onto Jacob through Laban’s dishonesty. Jacob confronts Laban, but does not take the matter to YHVH. Leah, on the other hand, is in a most awkward and painful position. She is married to a man who is disgusted with her and with being tricked into marrying her. A week later, Jacob gets his beloved Rachel as his wife and Leah is pushed into the background.

YHVH sees Leah’s distress and comforts her with four sons. Each time she is grateful to YHVH and names her sons to reflect her gratitude and praise. Leah wants to be loved by Jacob, as is evidenced by her comments on each successive son’s birth.

Rachel sees that Leah is bearing and she is not. Rachel does not go to YHVH, but confronts Jacob. Jacob tells her that he is not God. He does not offer to pray for her. Rachel ignores the possibility of going to YHVH and seeking help. She comes up with her own solution. She will give her maid to Jacob and have sons through her maid. The firstborn, Dan, will father a tribe of Israel, but in the end this tribe will no longer be recognized as part of Israel (Rev 7). The tribe of Dan was the first of the twelve tribes to fall into idolatry (Judges 18:1-31).

When Dan is born, Rachel says that YHVH has judged her case and heard her voice. It is unclear whether she sought YHVH or she came to that conclusion on her own. When Naphtali is born through her maid, Rachel is concerned about competition with her sister and that she is gaining on Leah.

Leah now sinks to Rachel’s competitive level. She gives her maid to Jacob and has two sons through her maid. She does not mention YHVH when Gad is born, but instead says that “fortune has come”. When Asher is born, Lean talks of her happiness, but once again does not credit YHVH. Had Leah stopped bearing because she had fallen away from YHVH?

There is no mention of Jacob ever praying to YHVH for his wives, that the sisters might be reconciled or that either or both of them would bear children. Ignoring a problem or living in denial is a powerful stronghold. What would have happened if Jacob had sought YHVH concerning his wives?

Later, the two sisters bargain over some mandrakes (another false stronghold) that Reuben has gathered for his mother. Leah apparently was eager to bear more children. Rachel bargains for the mandrakes and says Leah can sleep with Jacob that night. Leah gets pregnant again and credits YHVH with rewarding her for sharing her maid. I believe that YHVH is clearly demonstrating that this is a matter He controls, and mandrakes have no power. If Rachel used the mandrakes and slept with Jacob, it did not avail, for she did not become pregnant.

We see that after Leah has borne six sons and a daughter, Rachel finally decides to cry out to YHVH (Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. (Gen 30:22 NKJV). Rachel names her son Joseph, hoping that YHVH will add to the number of sons she bears. She correctly prophesies that she will bear another son (Benjamin).

It is clear from this story, that when we cry out to YHVH and trust in Him, He hears and responds with love because we have opened ourselves to receive His blessing. When we turn to others means (false gods or false strongholds), YHVH does help us because we have closed the door to Him. How is YHVH teaching you to look to Him alone and trust Him? If we are looking to anything or anyone else, we are building a false stronghold. YHVH is our only true and ever faithful stronghold.

Is Persecution part of YHVH’s Plan?

persecuted for righteousnessRemember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…” (John 5:20)

What do you think of when you hear the word persecution? Do you think it is something God sanctions as part of His plan, or something He is working to eliminate? Listen to Sha’ul [Paul] when he is speaking to the Corinthians (II Cor 11:21-26):

“…But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too…I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles”.

This was part of a long passage where Sha’ul was boasting in what Yeshua was doing through him – not that he was boasting because of his own merit or abilities, but because YHVH had blessed Him to be able to survive and endure through trials and unjust persecution.

So what does YHVH Father say about persecution (speaking through Yeshua, since we know that Yeshua speaks only His Father’s words (John 12:50) and that He is One with Abba Father (John 10:30). In Matthew 5:10-12 He says:

“God blesses those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way”.

In the verse at the top of this blog (John 5:20), Yeshua says that persecution is a natural result of being His follower. Why would we not be persecuted, since He was persecuted so viciously, and as His servants we are no greater than our Master?

Sha’ul says he was persecuted by his own people, the Jews, as well as by the Gentiles (the Romans). This time period (64-68 AD) was also the beginning of the first government sponsored persecution of Christians. This was during the reign of Nero, and began a long succession of cruel and merciless tyrants who ruled the Roman Empire from the 1st – 3rd centuries AD. Nero was the last of the Caesar’s and was known for his hatred of the Christians. Tacitus the historian wrote that Nero was strongly suspected of setting the great fire in Rome (64 AD). He went on to lay the blame on the Christians, which justified his subsequent persecution of believers: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians” (Tacit. Annals XV).

By the mid-2nd century AD, mobs could be found willing to throw stones at Christians, and they might be mobilized by rival sects. The Persecution in Lyon in which Christians were mass-slaughtered by being thrown to wild beasts under the decree of Roman officials for reportedly refusing to renounce their faith (according to St. Irenaeus) was preceded by mob violence, including assaults, robberies and stonings.

The persecutions culminated with Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the third and beginning of the 4th century. The Great Persecution is considered the largest. Beginning with a series of four edicts banning Christian practices and ordering the imprisonment of Christian clergy, the persecution intensified until all Christians in the empire were commanded to sacrifice to the Roman gods or face immediate execution. Over 20,000 Christians are thought to have died during Diocletian’s reign. This persecution lasted until Constantine I came to power in 313 and legalized Christianity.

Over the last 1700 years, persecution against Jews has been rampant and widespread across the world, but persecution against Christians, although strong in Islamic nations and Godless nations such as China and India (and historically Russia) for many years, has greatly intensified in the Middle East over the past 10-15 years. Christians in America have not generally known true persecution, but we are now seeing the atrocities of it reported daily in places like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. We are seeing beheadings like we have never known in our lifetimes, and detestable acts of cruelty against men, women and children that are too horrible to even describe.

This could be a sign that the End Times are drawing closer, as Yeshua described in Matthew 24, but it could also be a warning to all believers that they will be persecuted: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will suffer persecution”. (II Tim 3:12) How will you prepare yourself to be stand firm in the face of persecution – will you be able to face the worst form of persecution, and will YHVH be able to say of you that you were one of the martyrs who: “… overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death”? (Rev 12:11) The best way to prepare yourself is by strengthening your relationship with YHVH.