This article is the first of three articles in a series entitled “Living Kingdom”. We will examine the importance of choosing to abide by YHVH’s commands as we consider the choices of individuals in Scripture. The Good News (Gospel) is about YHVH’s kingdom. Salvation is necessary for Kingdom Living, but it is a part of the process, not the goal. We face the same challenges as the Israelites: recognizing and obeying our King.
Since the time of Martin Luther, much emphasis has been put on salvation through Yeshua as a gift of YHVH’s grace and not something we merit. This is true, but it is only a part of the truth. Yeshua taught about salvation and stressed that reunification with YHVH was possible only through Yeshua Himself. However, the majority of Yeshua’s teaching focused on how to live in the Kingdom of YHVH (Matt 5-7; 16:19, 18:3, 29-30, 19:23). Salvation supplies us citizenship in YHVH’s kingdom, but as citizens we must abide by the rules and regulations of our King. Citizens and visitors in all countries on earth are required to obey the rules of the country where they reside or visit. What are the consequences of ignoring YHVH’s teaching and commandments? What are the rewards? Two books of Scripture (Judges and Ruth) present vivid pictures of the two choices and their consequences. As we review the stories in these two books, let us look for insights into kingdom living and see how the Body of Messiah measures up.
The Book of Judges provides examples of those who made it to the Promised Land but who failed to follow YHVH’s explicit commands (Judges 2:10). Let us begin with the story of Micah (chapter 17). Micah stole 1100 silver pieces from his mother (violating Ex 20: 12, 15). He overheard his mother putting a curse on the thief. Micah confessed his sin and returned the money. His mother used part of the money to “honor” YHVH by creating some idols. Mixing pagan with sacred and is strictly forbidden by YHVH (Ex 20:3-5). Micah hired a Levite to serve as a priest in his home. Levites were to serve YHVH in the Tabernacle, not in individual homes (Num 18:1-2). How do these choices compare to the development of the Body of Messiah? The church early on mixed pagan with sacred (Christmas and Easter replacing the seven feasts of YHVH), misappropriated funds (selling indulgences and relics), provided idols (statues), and created roles for “priests” that YHVH never authorized. These practices continue today. Corruption spreads quickly but is not easily eradicated. Over time, the Israelites’ disobedience led to their expulsion from the land. What will be the consequence of our continued disobedience in the kingdom of YHVH?
Next, the tribe of Dan discovered Micah’s evil setup (Judges 18). They not only failed to root out the evil, but they stole the idols and the Levite “priest” from Micah thus spreading evil throughout an entire tribe. Even though YHVH raised up various judges to lead the people, their influence was short-lived. Strong godly leaders have arisen throughout the history of Christianity. Revivals have come and gone. Leaders can inspire, exhort and teach, but we make our own choices. Each person is responsible for establishing and maintaining a relationship with YHVH by loving Him and obeying Him. We are also responsible for exhorting each other in the Body of Messiah (Col 3:12-17) and rooting out evil from our midst. Each of us will appear before the Judge (Matt 7:21-23).
Finally, there is the tragic tale of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19). The Levite not only failed to protect his concubine, but he used her as a human shield to protect himself. At that time travel in the Promised Land was no safer than in foreign lands (Judges 19:12). Israel finally addressed the situation by almost eliminating an entire tribe, not to mention the loss of life in the other tribes. The first two days Israel fought with the tribe of Benjamin (where the rape and murder had taken place), the other tribes suffered heavy losses. Was this perhaps punishment for not purging evil from their midst earlier? On the third day, the tribe of Benjamin was defeated and almost totally destroyed. A lot of people were killed, but was the evil eradicated? Being a member of a particular congregation or denomination in the Body of Messiah does not guarantee that we will be righteous before the Judge. The many incidences of corruption, immorality, etc. within the Body of Messiah today bear witness to our failure to purge evil from our midst. How many people have sought to know Yeshua and His Father within the Body of Messiah only to be discouraged or even destroyed? What are we doing to purge evil from our midst?
The book of Ruth provides strong examples of Kingdom of heaven living. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz lived during the same time period as the book of Judges, but their choices brought blessings to themselves and others. They represent the remnant, those in each generation who truly follow YHVH’s ways, the few chosen from among the many who are called (Matt 22:14). The climax of the story takes place in the springtime during the barley harvest, the time of Pesach. Boaz not only followed Torah (Lev 23:22) by allowing Ruth, a poor foreigner, to glean from his fields, but he provided protection and advice for her, unlike the Levite did for his concubine. We are to welcome the “foreigners” to our faith who seek to know, love and serve YHVH. We are called to make disciples of them, providing advice, mentoring and protection, not bias and judgment. Ruth wholeheartedly sought to serve YHVH and her new family. She was willing to follow the advice of both Naomi and Boaz. We have much to learn from each other. Are we proud and obstinate or humble and yielding? Boaz followed the commandments of YHVH in offering to the kinsman redeemer first in line the opportunity to do his duty. When the first kinsman redeemer refused, Boaz assumed his assigned duty. Ruth and Boaz were harvesting barley; we are to harvest souls. (John 4:35-36). While bloodlines are important and respected by YHVH, they are no guarantee for eternity. Neither is the fact that we claim to accept Yeshua as our Savior. The litmus test for all of us is faithfulness to YHVH and His Torah.
The prevailing excuse given in Judges is that Israel had no king. Actually, they did have a King who is Spirit, but they failed to recognize Him. He later came to earth as a human and many still failed to recognize Him. Our King, who is both YHVH and human resides in heaven, but also in our hearts. Do we recognize Him as King? Do we follow His commands?