Tag Archives: judgment

Reflective Offerings

living-tabenacles

This is the tenth article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH [Yehovah].  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series. YHVH is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  A king reigns from his throne and also pronounces judgment from there. 

Our previous article discussed the altar of incense.  Closely connected with that altar is the altar of burnt offering, also called the brazen altar. This altar was reserved for sacrifices and was overlaid with bronze instead of gold.  Bronze is symbolic of judgment.  Without the temporary sacrifice of the burnt offerings and the permanent sacrifice of Yeshua, human prayers (symbolized by incense) would not be acceptable to YHVH.

Using acacia wood, construct a square altar 7 feet wide, 7 feet long, and 4 feet high. Make horns for each of its four corners so that the horns and altar are all one piece. Overlay the altar with bronze. Make ash buckets, shovels, basins, meat forks, and firepans, all of bronze. Make a bronze grating for it, and attach four bronze rings at its four corners. Install the grating halfway down the side of the altar, under the ledge. For carrying the altar, make poles from acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. Insert the poles through the rings on the two sides of the altar. The altar must be hollow, made from planks. Build it just as you were shown on the mountain (Ex 27:1-8).

The Hebrew word for altar is mizbeach (Strong’s Concordance Hebrew 4196). In Arabic, it means “place of slaughter”.  The bronze altar was placed in the courtyard of the tabernacle and was used for burning sacrifices.  There were several different types of sacrifices made on this altar which are listed below with a brief explanation of each[1].

Burnt Offering:  Sometimes called the whole burnt offering because the whole animal (except for its hide which was given to the priest) was consumed in the fire on the altar.  The Hebrew word is olah (meaning “ascending”).  This entire sacrifice was for YHVH alone and had to be made before other sacrifices would be accepted by YHVH. Burnt offerings dealt with the sinful nature of people and were offered twice daily (morning and evening) with additional offerings to be made on Sabbaths, new moons and feast days and other special occasions.  Burnt offerings were offered before other offerings could be made.

Grain Offering:  Flour and oil were offered to express gratitude to YHVH.  A small portion was burned on the altar and the rest was reserved for the priests.  A drink offering (wine) was poured out on top as a symbol of joy.

Peace Offering:  This offering was optional and ended in a meal that could be shared by the priests and the individuals offering it.  The sacrifices needed to be eaten within two days.  There were three main reasons for peace offerings:

  • Thanksgiving offering for a specific blessing from YHVH (Lev. 7:12-13)
  • Wave offering where the priest’s portion was waved before YHVH (Lev. 7:30-31)
  • Votive offering for a vow or a simple voluntary act of worship (Lev. 7:16-17)

Sin (or purification) Offering for unintentional sin (Lev 4:2-3) in order to cleanse the Tabernacle from human defilement.

Guilt (reparation) Offering:  A ram was offered after confession of the sin.  If YHVH’s sacred property was unintentionally damaged, reparation was to be made (plus an additional twenty percent) (Lev 5:16)

What can we learn from the offerings made in the Tabernacle?  How do they relate to Yeshua and to us?

  • Sin always results in death even if it is unintentional. Atonement is always necessary.  Yeshua is our Atonement.  Only through Yeshua can we approach YHVH and have a relationship with Him.
  • While some of the offerings were to atone for sin, others were voluntary gifts meant to bless YHVH, just as He blesses us abundantly.
  • The animals to be offered were young (usually one year old) and without blemish, thus representing Yeshua who was sacrificed in His prime and who was sinless. We are always to come to YHVH in Yeshua’s name and covered by His blood.
  • The best or the choicest of the herds or other offerings were to be used, for YHVH has offered to us nothing less than His own Son, Yeshua.
  • Burnt offerings were an abomination if the people did not forsake their sins (Is 1:11-15). We can ask for forgiveness and plead the blood of Yeshua over ourselves, but true repentance (teshuva meaning a complete turnaround) only is acceptable to YHVH.
  • Hosea 6:6 states “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice. And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  Our primary goal must be always to deepen our relationship with YHVH (Mic 6:6-8).
  •  Burnt offerings were not just for the Israelites, but for all humans. Burnt offerings started long before the time of Moses.  For example, upon exiting from the Ark, Noah offered burnt offerings to YHVH, using some of the clean animals he had taken with him (Gen 8:20).  The basis of YHVH’s covenant with Noah was not because of Noah’s goodness, but rather his sacrifice.
  • Abraham was commanded to offer Isaac as a whole burnt offering (Gen 22:2 NLT).  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his long-awaited only son if YHVH requested it even though Abraham had been promised many descendants through Isaac.   Man had sinned and only through the sacrificial death of a righteous man could mankind be saved.  YHVH did not allow Abraham to go through with the sacrifice of Isaac, but provided His own Son to be the sacrifice.

In Hebrews 10:12 Paul states, “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand”.  Since the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD the sacrificial system has been suspended.  However, several passages of Scripture indicate that sacrifices will be resumed during Yeshua’s millennial reign (Is 56:6-8, Zech 14:16, Jer 33:15-18, Mal 3:3-4).  Why?  There are numerous proposed explanations and much speculation.  We know that YHVH will dwell with us during this time. Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord  “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people.  I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you (Zech 2:10-13). We also know that YHVH’s throne is surrounded by fire (Dan 7:9) and that not even the slightest impurity can be in His presence.  The millennial kingdom will be a time of refinement and perfection until we are ready for the new heaven and new earth.  At that time speculation will die away as the mystery of the renewed sacrifices unfolds.  We will then more fully understand how the sacrificial offerings enable us to reflect YHVH’s glory back to Him.

[1] OFFERINGS IN LEVITICUS–WHAT THEY WERE AND WHY THEY MATTERED.  Wayne Stiles, https://www.waynestiles.com/offerings-in-leviticus-what-they-were-and-why-they-mattered/.

Covenant Reflections

This is the sixth article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH.  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series.

YHVH is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  A king reigns from his throne and also pronounces judgment from there.  The Ark of the Covenant was designed to be the throne of YHVH on earth.  There are two carved cherubim on the lid of the ark, just as there are live cherubim who protect the throne of YHVH in heaven.  The Ark of the Covenant is one phase of the continuing saga of YHVH building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  We see this clearly by examining two other “arks” mentioned in Scripture.  Let us first examine two words that are translated as “ark” in the Bible.

The word that is translated as “ark” for the Ark of the Covenant is aron (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew #727).  It is most often used in Scripture (194 times) to refer to the Ark of the Covenant.  It is used six times in Scripture to refer to a chest (for money offerings, for example) and one time to refer to Joseph’s coffin (Gen 50:26).  Another word that is translated as ark is tebah or tevah (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew #8392).  It means a box or a chest and is used in reference to Noah’s ark and the ark (basket) where Moshe was placed as an infant.  Both words are of uncertain origin but since both Noah’s ark and the Ark of the Covenant were personally designed by YHVH, we can speculate on the origin of those words.

There are numerous striking similarities with the three arks.  We will cover several in this article, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.  As we study the three arks we find recurring themes as YHVH continues with His kingdom building plan.

Noah’s ark was used as a sanctuary to protect and preserve the tiny remnant of people and animals that it housed.  From those people would eventually come the Messiah.  Moses’ ark sheltered the infant until he was rescued.  Moses later became the leader of the Israelites and brought them out of Egyptian slavery.  Messiah Yeshua is a descendant of the Israelites.  The Ark of the Covenant was YHVH’s earthly throne, but was also referred to as the “mercy seat”, a sanctuary for the Israelites and, by extension, all those who choose to be part of His kingdom.  We are spiritual descendants of YHVH.

There is a covenant associated with each of the three arks.  YHVH made a covenant with Noah and his descendants to never again destroy the earth by flood.  YHVH made a covenant with Moses and the Israelites to be their God and they would be His people.  YHVH makes a covenant with us to be a part of His kingdom.

Water also plays a significant role in each of these stories.  The inhabitants of Noah’s ark were surrounded by water for many days.  Moses was drawn from the waters of the Nile.  The water of the Nile would later be turned into blood.  He and the Israelites would miraculously cross through the waters of the Red (Reed) Sea.  The walls of water then collapsed and destroyed their enemies.  The waters of the Jordan River parted as the Ark of the Covenant and the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land (Joshua 3).  We are immersed in water at baptism and are filled with the living waters of the Holy Spirit.

Noah’s ark was covered with tar or pitch, a covering to keep it watertight and to protect the humans and animals inside.  Moshe’s ark (basket) was covered with tar or pitch to keep out the waters of the Nile and to protect the infant inside.  The blood of sacrificed animals was sprinkled on the mercy seat once a year (on Yom Kippur or the day of covering) to protect the Israelites from judgment.  Yeshua is the Savior who covers and protects us with His blood.

The ark Noah built did not have any oars.  The ark’s inhabitants were totally dependent on YHVH for their salvation, and could not rely on navigational skills.  Moses’ ark was also at the mercy of YHVH to stay protected in the Nile until Moses was discovered and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. The Ark of the Covenant had poles attached through gold rings, but the Ark was to be moved only at the direct order of YHVH.  We are helpless to save ourselves and must rely totally on YHVH for our salvation.  We even rely on His gift of faith to receive our salvation (Eph 2:8).

The Ark of the Covenant was made of acacia wood and covered with gold. Yeshua was sacrificed on a wooden cross.  He has now exchanged His crown of thorns for a crown of gold (Rev 14:14).

Let us examine now the contents of the Ark of the Covenant:

  • Manna, the bread from heaven. Yeshua is the Living Bread that came down from heaven.
  • Aaron’s budding rod showed “who is holy (set apart), who is His and who He chooses to come near to Him (Numbers 16 and 17). Yeshua is our High Priest and King, worthy, able and appointed by YHVH to be our representative and leader.
  • The stone tablets with the Ten Commandments which are a summary of the Torah. Yeshua, our Rock, is the Living Torah.

In each story, there was threat of death, yet at least some people were spared so that YHVH could continue with His kingdom plan.  In His justice, YHVH must condemn the guilty, yet His desire is to show mercy.  We, as citizens of His kingdom, are condemned for our guilt, but are also redeemed by His loving sacrifice.  Our King is our true shelter in the storms of life.

Metal Reflections

living-tabenacles

This is the beginning of a new series (Living Tabernacles) where we will study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  However, it is more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, for each of us is now a tabernacle of YHVH.   There will be two posts each month for this series.

The building of the Tabernacle involved participation on the part of the Israelites from the beginning.  YHVH showed Moshe the building plans and a heavenly model so that he would understand exactly what needed to be done (Exodus 25:9, Heb 8:5).  Then YHVH gave Moshe a list of items needed for the Tabernacle.  Moshe was instructed to share the list with the Israelites.  They were to take from their possessions in order to have the necessary building materials.  Where did they get the materials in the first place?  From YHVH Himself.  Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow (James 1:17).   Since the Israelites gave of their own possessions and, later on, their time and talents, they had a significant stake in the Tabernacle and in the worship of YHVH.

The list that YHVH gave to the Israelites was as follows:

  • gold, silver, and bronze;
  • blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
  • fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
  • tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
  • acacia wood;
  • olive oil for the lamps;
  • spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;
  • onyx stones and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.

Every item on the list points not only to Yeshua, but to us who are seeking to become like Yeshua.  Each listed item symbolizes a characteristic of Yeshua and, by extension, should symbolize a characteristic of His followers.  What can we learn from this list?

In this first article we will examine gold, silver and bronze.  Gold and silver are precious metals and, for the Tabernacle, had to be “pure” (Exodus 25:11) and “refined” (1 Chronicles 28:18).  YHVH refines us through fiery trials so that we may be purified.  “Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand (Dan 12:10). Gold is symbolic of YHVH’s kingship, glory and holiness and we are meant to reflect His glory and holiness.  Gold is one of the least reactive chemical elements.  When the blood was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant (made of pure gold), the gold did not tarnish.  When we are sprinkled with adversity, it should not discolor or corrode us.

Silver signifies redemption, which means to purchase back at a cost. Yeshua paid the highest price to redeem us.  The Hebrew word for silver is ‘kesef,’ meaning a very strong desire. According to Strong’s Concordance, the root for this Hebrew word is:

H3700 – כּסף – kâsaph – kaw-saf’ – A primitive root; properly to become pale, that is, (by implication) to pine after; also to fear: – [have] desire, be greedy, long, sore.

Generally, when we purchase something at a steep cost, we expect to possess something of substantial value.  Yeshua “pined after” us so much that He was willing to lay down His life in order to get us back.  Do we pine after Yeshua to the extent that we are willing to lay down our lives in order to follow Him?

Many scripture passages tie bronze to sin and judgment.  The bronze Sea where the priests were to wash was constructed so that they could see their reflections in order to ensure that they did not miss any dirt.  Scripture and Yeshua (the living Torah) are our “bronze Sea” where we can examine ourselves in order to remove any stains or blemishes.  For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the Law who will be declared righteous (Rom 2:13). For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror— 24 for once he looks at himself and goes away, he immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect Torah, the Torah that gives freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts—he shall be blessed in what he does (James 1:23-25)

The bronze altar signifies that YHVH is willing to take our judgment upon Himself, but only if we are willing to repent of our sins.  In the case of King Zedekiah who was not willing to repent, we see that he was carried off to Babylon in bronze shackles (2 Kings 25:i7).  If we are not willing to repent of our sins, we will have to deal with YHVH’s judgment ourselves.

Just as the Israelites offered treasures, time and talent to build a Tabernacle for YHVH, each of us must do the same as we prepare ourselves as fitting tabernacles for YHVH.  We will continue our study of the significance of the elements in the next article in this series entitled Living Tabernacles.

Each of us is now a tabernacle for YHVH.  Yeshua replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them (John 14:23).  The materials for the Tabernacle were costly and of the finest quality.  What does your tabernacle look like?  How are the gold, silver, and bronze reflected in your tabernacle?

Gedi Star Teachings

gedi-the-goatToday we are going to explore another of the amazing signs that YHVH placed in our heavens from the beginning of Creation.  The sign is commonly known as Capricorn, which translated from Latin literally means a horned goat.  However, as I have mentioned in the past, we cannot trust modern Greek and Latin names of stars or constellations, as their names and meanings have been corrupted over the years from the original Hebrew meanings.  In Hebrew, this sign is called Gedi, which means kid goat, but is sometimes translated as sea goat, due to the strange half-goat/half-fish image portrayed in ancient drawings of the sign.

The image we see in Egyptian, Indian, and Phoenician drawings is of a fish that is weak and dying at the head, but alive as a healthy fish at its tail end.  The stars in this sign confirm the meaning associated with this image: ma’asad: the slaying; dabih: the sacrifice slain; and sa’ad al nashira: the cutting off.  As with many Hebrew words, gedi (kid goat) has a second meaning: to be cut off.  This sign, then, represents the sacrificial Goat of atonement, Yeshua, who was slain to redeem us from our sins, was “cut off” (crucified) to bring us salvation, healing and deliverance from evil.

The fish portion of the goat’s body represents us: the people for whom the sacrifice was made.  Other star names in this sign also point to Gedi as being the goat who was sent into the wilderness for remission of our sins (so that they would be sent away as far as the east is from the west).  We know that Yeshua fulfilled both of these goat sacrifices!

To complete this awesome picture story, the three constellations associated with this sign give more of the details. The 1st constellation is Sagitta, means “the arrow of Elohim sent forth” – this connects with Psalm 38:2 where it says “Your arrows have struck deep, and Your blows are crushing Me”; and also Isaiah 53:4-5: “He was stricken, smitten of God & afflicted; He was wounded for our transgressions”.  Aquila (the eagle) is the 2nd constellation in Gedi – the stars in this constellation convey the meaning of “the smitten One falling”, “the One who comes in the Shekinah glory of God to shed His blood as a sacrifice”; and “the One who was wounded in the heel” (Gen 3:15).

The third and final constellation in Gedi is Delphinus, the original name meaning “the dead One rising”.  It is shown in ancient Zodiacs as a fish full of life, always with his head pointing upwards.  This represents Yeshua’s resurrection as “the first-fruits of them that sleep” (I Cor 15:20).  The Hebrew name is Dalaphin, which means Dolphin and also “pouring out of water”.  We see from this word picture that Yeshua fulfilled the prophecy to pour out the Holy Spirit on all flesh, symbolized in Scripture as the “fountains of living waters”.

The brightest star in Gedi is actually a double star named Deneb Al Giedi – “the Judge who is the sacrifice.”  When we think about Yeshua’s dual role as our Messiah, we know that He came to save us from our sins in His first coming to Earth, but that He will be our ultimate Judge in His second coming. As Yeshua says in John 3:36: “Whoever trusts in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but will remain under God’s judgment”.  Draw close to Yeshua and He will draw close to you; get to know Him intimately and your greatest desire will be to trust Him with your life, walk in His way and lovingly obey all of His commandments.

What would you do if you were God (Part 5)

LORD is good“Throughout the earth the story is the same— only a remnant is left, like the stray olives left on the tree or the few grapes left on the vine after harvest.” Isaiah 24:13 [NLT]

In the previous installments of this series on God’s ways, I discussed why YHVH does things the way He does and why His plan seems so odd to us sometimes but is actually the perfect plan for our lives.  In this final blog of the series I want to look into the future and see why He has prophesied and planned out such a seemingly bizarre sequence of events for the end of this age.

From our limited human perspective, it may seem odd that the Creator of this universe would aim to judge His creation by destroying a large portion of it through catastrophic events.  Let us look in more detail at a sampling of His end-time prophecies which are spread across many of the minor and major prophets in addition to the book of Revelation.  When researching a news story, we try to answer the four “w” questions: who, what, when, why.  The “How” question is not so important to us when it comes to Abba‘s future plan, as we do not really need to know how He will perform His will, but rather how we fit into it and what we should do to prepare ourselves.

The “When” question is also not critical to us, as we have no control over it anyway, and we need to be spiritually prepared, whether the events start to play out over the next few years, further into the future, or beyond our earthly lifetime.  Yeshua said that no person would know the day or hour of the end time, not even the angels in Heaven, so we should not waste time speculating about the timing of these events (Matt 24:36).  The explanation of “What” is going to happen in the final days is somewhat more important to us, but mainly from the perspective of discerning the signs of the end times, as Yeshua outlined in Matthew 24-25.  If we get too concerned with answering the “When” and “What” questions (such as being drawn into the pre-Trib Rapture belief), then we can easily miss the more crucial truths of Yeshua’s message.

In Luke 18:8, He asks “when the Son of man returns, will He find faith in the Earth?”  Why is our Creator and Savior questioning the faith of His saints?  In Matthew 24:12, He goes on to say that “iniquity will abound and the love of many will grow cold”.  This agrees with statements in 2 Thessalonians and Daniel that speak of the Tribulation period and the 3 ½ year reign of the anti-messiah, when there will be a great falling away and the “antichrist” [anti-messiah] will be revealed.  Daniel says in his end-times prophecies that the anti-messiah will “wear out the saints of the Most High” (Dan 7:25) and “scatter the power of the holy people” (Dan 12:7).  In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Sha’ul says “that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed”.

So how can we as Abba’s children keep our faith and not grow weary from the enemy?  I believe Revelation 12:11 provides us a good answer, as this passage explains how the saints persevered to the end during the Tribulation: “And they overcame him [HaSatan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death”.  YHVH wants our love and devotion to Him more than anything else – we need to walk with Him constantly and keep trusting Him every step of the way in our lives.

Many of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Malachi, etc.) speak of the believing remnant that will be preserved by YHVH in the latter days to dwell with Him in the Millennial Kingdom.  One of the key underlying themes of Isaiah (e.g. Isa 10:20-22, 11:11-16, 24:13, 27:32, 66:20) is that of the judgment of Israel overall as a nation and people, but the protection and restoration of a small remnant of YHVH’s faithful children (both Jew and non-Jew) to dwell with Him in His eternal Kingdom.  A particularly meaningful passage is located in Malachi:16-18.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and honored His name. They will be My people, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. On the day when I act in judgment, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

This passage provides us a window into YHVH’s own heart, which is what we desire as His people in relationship with Him.  It shows us that He loves us all, but He especially desires to keep track of the names of those who truly love Him with all their hearts (fear Him & honor His Name).  He wants to draw them near to Him as His special treasure, and preserve them for the last days, when He will reign on the Earth in the person of Yeshua HaMashiach.  When we look at YHVH’s heart from His perspective, we see His overwhelming love for His children, keeping us safe until He can bring us home into His eternal Kingdom.  How could we ever desire or ask for anything more than that – I give thanks and praise to our omnipotent Father who has wisdom and compassion beyond anything we could ever imagine!

 

What would you do if you were God (Part 4)

Rom 1133 - how unserachable“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” Romans 11:33 [NLT]

In the previous installments of this series on God’s ways, I discussed why He does things the way He does and whether we could do any better if we had supreme control of the universe.  Now I want to focus on something a little more personal.  Putting yourself in God’s place for a moment, think about what you would do if your creatures turned away from you to the point where your relationship with them seemed irreparable.

You had designed humans so that their most primal need was to have a deep personal relationship with you, but they had chosen to abandon and deny their need for that intimate relationship.  In human terms, this seems like an impossible situation.  One party (the human being) has gone against the wishes and desires of the other party (God) by disobeying His instructions, speaking against His perfect character, and hurting Him deeply.  The first party will not admit their wrongs and refuses to apologize (repent) for their sins against the second party.

If both of these parties were human, it would be difficult if not impossible to reconcile and restore their close relationship.  The first (wronged) party would have to unilaterally forgive the other one, which requires Godlike humility and unconditional love.  Considering the extreme nature of the sins of people against God, this forgiveness would be on the level of Corrie TenBoom’s forgiveness of the concentration camp guard who brutally and mercilessly beat her sister.  However, as we know, with God “all things are possible”.  From the Romans 11:33 Scripture above, we also know that it is “impossible for us to understand God’s decisions and ways”.

So how did God choose to reconcile us back to Himself from the depths of our sin and disobedience?  Did He shout down to us in His Earth-shattering voice, speaking anger and judgment on us and our sins?  Did He accuse us of turning against Him, shaming us into such a state of humiliation and disgrace that we felt compelled to seek His forgiveness?  Did He come down to Earth, seeking retribution and justice for every sin we had committed against Him and His children?

Or did Abba draw us back to Himself (and to Yeshua) by loving us unconditionally?  It is sometimes hard to even fathom the depth of Abba’s love for us.  Think of a particularly painful time in your life, when someone has hurt you so deeply you cannot even imagine forgiving them.  Then imagine sacrificing your own child for people who despised and cruelly hurt you.  Multiply this a million or billion times and you can start to feel what our Father in heaven feels when we turn away from Him and pierce His heart to the core with our sins.

Yeshua told us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us and do good to those who hate us.  He also told us that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for your friends”. (John 15:13)  But what if God told you to lay down your life (or your child’s life) for your enemies?  Would you be angry and resentful that He would ask you to do something so unfair?  Well that is exactly what Yeshua did for us – His Father asked Him to lay down His life for those who hated, mocked and abused Him, and He willingly consented to His Father’s will.  If Yehovah could do this for us, can we not forgive those who hurt and abuse us?

Instead of criticizing Abba for the ways He deals with people’s disobedience, try praising Him for his love and forgiveness which are more infinite than all the universe!

 

What would You do if You were God (Part 1)?

Judgment and mercyOh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!” Romans 11:33 [NLT]

One of the most common questions I hear from people (both believers and non-believers), is “why is God so angry, or so harsh when He judges or punishes His children”?  Of course, as an inquisitive believer myself, I have asked similar questions over the years. I certainly do not claim to be an expert on answering these questions, but through our times of Scripture study, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we have been able to discern some insights from Yehovah that we thought might be helpful to others.

First, I want to dispel the false notion that Yehovah Elohim (the Creator God of the universe) is an angry God by nature.  From years of spiritual conversations with people, I believe this comes from ignorance (or misunderstanding) of the “Old Testament” [Tanach].  The way we hear Scriptural teachings tends to be from preachers, and from polls of Christians, it is quite evident that for the majority of believers, 95% of what they know about the Bible is what they hear from the pastors/teachers in their congregations.  Unfortunately, when we hear excerpts of God’s word, taken out of the full context surrounding the Biblical account, it can be very misleading to our understanding.

For instance, consider the Biblical Flood story and how all the people on the Earth (except for Noah and his family) were destroyed by the vengeance of God.  Even “innocent” women and children were drowned by the floodwaters.  Remembering that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22), we know that because of Adam’s sin all people will ultimately die.  At the time of Noah, though, we know from Scripture that people throughout the Earth were disobedient to God and living sinful lives: “…the LORD saw that the wickedness of people was great on the Earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

So, what was God’s response to His rebellious children – did He condemn them and bring immediate judgment on them?  Often we hear that Yehovah was an angry, vindictive God in the “Old Testament” whereas He became a God of infinite mercy and grace in the “New Testament”.  But we know that God never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so something does not add up here.  Getting back to the story, God decides that He will destroy every living creature He has created.  But then Yehovah notices that there is one person (Noah) who has remained faithful to Him and “…Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord [Yehovah]”. (Gen 6:33)  Yehovah then tells Noah to build an ark and promises to preserve his family (and enough creatures to re-populate the Earth) even though He plans to destroy all other life (Gen 6:14-22).  So was Yehovah unjust to all the other people on the Earth?  No, because in 2 Peter 2:5 we read that: “Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment”.  Noah warned people to repent because he recognized that God was being merciful to them and giving them another opportunity to turn from their wicked ways.  If Noah had ignored YHVH, then YHVH would have had to start from scratch.  On the other hand, if some of the people had listened to Noah, then there would have been more than eight people delivered on the ark.

We see another clear example of Yehovah’s grace in the midst of His judgment in the story of Sodom & Gomorrah.  I will not go into the details of the story here, but this was another case where almost every person in those cities were wicked and sinful.  But for His friend Abraham’s sake, God would have relented from destroying them if at least 10 righteous people could be found there (Gen 18:20-33).  Since Lot and his family (even including the two angel visitors) still equaled less than 10, God delivered their family out of the judgment but still destroyed the cities.  Once again, because God is a righteous God, He cannot allow sin and evil to continue unchecked throughout His people.

Yehovah is a righteous and just God, and He cannot tolerate continual sin and evil because that would violate His spiritual laws and destroy everything that He has created.  This universe is founded on His truth and goodness (righteousness), and anyone who violates those founding principles is an enemy of God and must eventually be destroyed or brought into alignment with His righteous justice.  We find that it is very inspiring to meditate on the goodness and righteousness of Yehovah, and that when we follow His spiritual laws of truth and justice we have joy and peace in our lives beyond measure.  This is the first in a series of posts where I would like to explore Yehovah’s character, and how He interacts with His creation from the perspective of the people He has created to have dominion over the Earth.

My essential question to you is a hypothetical one: if you were God – Creator, Master and Lord of the universe, how would you handle things differently?  What would you do with your people if they disobeyed the instructions you had given them to help them live a peaceful, joy-filled life on this Earth?  If they rebelled against your spiritual laws, cursed you, and killed or committed evil acts against your children, would you simply slap their hands and tell them to try harder next time?  [Remember that this is what our loving God had already done many times over when He sent His prophets and told them He would forgive them if they would repent – He has unconditional love for His children].

Follow the World or YHVH?

do not worship their godsIn this second blog of our series on Chanukah and the Maccabbees, we show the distinction between the people of Israel who were staying faithful to YHVH’s appointed times and commandments, and those who were following the pagan ways of the Greeks and Romans. In our previous blog (The Mighty Power of YHVH), we saw that Onias, the high priest of the Jews, stayed faithful to YHVH’s Laws, even when Simon, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin plotted with the king to confiscate money from the Temple treasury that was designated for widows and orphans. When the Israelites prayed fervently, YHVH showed great signs and thwarted the intentions of the pagan government to keep the Temple from being defiled.

In II Maccabees 4, Onias’ brother Jason betrayed Onias by telling lies about him and even claiming that he had plotted against the government. He then became the High Priest deceitfully by offering large sums of silver and gold to the king.  He even offered additional silver to build a gymnasium beneath the Temple, and convinced the people to use this pagan facility for nude games in the style of the Greeks. He encouraged the people to follow Greek customs that were contrary to the Law [Torah] and even the priests lost interest in Temple services and sacrifices and would rush off to participate in the games that were forbidden by the Law (II Maccabees 4:14). The people stopped keeping the Feasts and Sabbaths and kept Greek celebrations instead.

Jason was so corrupt that he sent men to the “games” in Tyre with a large amount of silver for a sacrifice to the pagan god Hercules (II Maccabees 4:18-19). Once the Jews moved into actively participating in the ways of the world instead of YHVH’s ways, things went downhill for them very quickly. As recounted in Maccabees 6, There was dissension and jealously among the priests and Jewish leaders, and they killed and bore false testimony to the king about each other, until finally the king decided to become more vindictive about having the Jews abandon their Feasts and Sabbaths, and he defiled the Temple by dedicating it to their chief god, Zeus.

Jason had started the downward spiral of the Jews into the abominations that were committed in the following months. The verse in II Maccabees 4:17 gives the reason for the serious judgments against the Jews that followed their disobedience: “It is a serious thing to disregard God’s Law”. Persecution increased greatly from this time forward, and the Greeks defiled the Temple by holding drinking parties and conducting their immoral sexual rituals with prostitutes there. The altar was filed with unclean animal sacrifices. King Antiochus then prohibited the Jews from keeping their Sabbaths and Feasts, and forced them to eat unclean meats that were sacrificed to the false gods. “Then, during the festival in honor of the wine god Dionysus, they were required to wear ivy wreaths on their heads and march in procession” (II Maccabees 6:7). From this time on, as described in II Maccabees 6:9, the Greek leaders “were told to put to death every Jew who refused to adopt the Greek way of life”.

When Onias was high priest, the people kept the Torah. However, our suspicion is that they were more into following the leaders than they were truly seeking YHVH and His ways. When Jason unjustly replaced Onias, many of the Jews were all too ready to follow him into every type of evil and apostasy. When we look at our modern times, we see that most people (Christian, Messianic or otherwise) tend to follow the ways and customs of the world’s culture, rather than seeking to follow God’s ways and keep His appointed times.

Many today do not realize that they are fighting a battle. Even those who do often fail to recognize that the battle is spiritual. Many followers of Yeshua do not understand the spiritual realm and do not operate in the spirit. However, there is no excuse for ignorance since we have ready access to many versions of Scripture and study tools. We also have the Holy Spirit to guide us.   We must not blindly follow human leaders, but must realize that we as individuals are accountable to YHVH for our choices.

The most glaring examples of this relate to the holidays of Christmas and Easter. Our ancestors celebrated these holidays and many continue to follow suit. When we look at the ancient pagan celebrations, the birth of their chief gods was always celebrated on December 25th. These gods include Zeus/Jupiter, Dionysus/Bacchus, Hercules, Tammuz, Apollo, Mithras, Sol Invictus and others. Birthday celebrations for these pagan gods date back to the time of Nimrod, who was alleged to be Tammuz’ father. Note that Zeus, Dionysus, and Hercules were all being worshiped by the Greeks, and then were adopted by the Jews as part of their apostasy. YHVH established seven feasts to point to the work of His Son. We sin against YHVH when we seek to “honor” Him by celebrating holidays that have always been an abomination to Him. Many try to justify celebrating Yeshua during these pagan holidays, but to mix the pagan and the sacred is an even worse abomination to YHVH. We must not yield to the predominating culture any more than the Jews should have yielded to the predominating Greek culture of their day.

We know that HaSatan attracts followers by counterfeiting the true God. From pagan beliefs, we see a counterfeit parallel between the Greek god Dionysus (Roman god Bacchus) and Yeshua. Dionysus was purported to have been born of a virgin (Ishtar/Isis), son of the heavenly father (Zeus), performed miracles such as turning water into wine (he is the god of wine), died and was raised again on the 3rd day (on March 25th), was identified with the lamb, and given titles such as: “only begotten son“, “king of kings”, “god of gods”, “sin bearer”, “redeemer“,  “anointed one” and “the alpha and omega“.

We do not have space for full discussion here, but many of the other rituals and symbols of Christmas and Easter (whose name comes from Ishtar) originated from pagan rituals and symbols. The wreath comes from the wreath worn at pagan sports celebrations, the tree comes from a pagan ceremony at the time of Nimrod, which claimed that the resurrected Nimrod returned each year to leave gifts under a decorated tree. Read Jeremiah 10 if you want to find out what YHVH says about cutting down and decorating trees for pagan celebrations, and Jeremiah 44:17-19 to read God’s admonition against worshiping the Queen of Heaven (Ishtar in pagan lore).

Armed with this knowledge, how does this affect your view of the main Christian holidays, and more importantly, what does it say to your heart about keeping YHVH’s Feasts and Sabbaths and not the festival celebrations of the world? As we read the story of the Maccabees, it is easy to condemn the Jews who strayed from Yehovah’s commands. Are we guilty of the same thing?

”You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD [YHVH] hates they have done for their gods…” (Deut 12:31).

Reflections

beholding as in a mirror

Evil is increasing and many are falling away from YHVH’s commands.  Corruption, violence and immorality are becoming more the norm than the exception.  The time for judgment is fast approaching for this world.   What is our attitude towards the evil and the sinful people around us? What should our response be as we await YHVH’s impending judgment?

In Genesis 19:16:33, YHVH reveals to Abraham His concerns about two particularly sinful cities.  Abraham’s response was not to become self-righteous because he did not live in either of those cities, nor did he point an accusing finger and judge the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He does not ask YHVH to change His commandments.  Abraham instead pleads for mercy on behalf of those who are righteous in the midst of so much evil.  YHVH agrees that if ten men can be found who are righteous, then He will reconsider His course of action towards Sodom and Gomorrah.

What is our attitude toward those who engage in corruption, violence or immorality today?  Do we recall that from YHVH’s perspective all sin is an abomination?  Does that include us?  “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  We should never condone or excuse sin.  However, our first priority is to check ourselves for sin (Matt 7:5).  We may not be engaged in violent acts or dishonest dealings with others, but do we fail to forgive others?  Do we reach out to others to warn them in love to turn back to YHVH or do we shun those who might be saved?  Do we reach out to the poor and needy around us or do we shut ourselves away from their misery?

Yeshua came to the earth the first time to pay the debt for our sinfulness and restore us to relationship to YHVH.  He has given us His Holy Spirit and the means to be freed from bondage to Satan.  He is restoring us to the dignity that humans once had before Adam and Eve sinned.  Adam and Eve were given dominion over the earth and were to be subject only to YHVH. Humans were created in YHVH’s image and are intended to reflect His glory.   If we are now free from the bonds of Satan and are restored to our former position as managers over the earth, then are we not to some degree accountable for its present condition?  It is true that other people have just as much right as we do to make their own decisions.  Nevertheless, it is our duty to reach out to others in love just as Yeshua reached out to us in our sinfulness.  In Matthew 28:18-19, Yeshua states, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”  These are the marching orders and first priority of those who have been accepted into YHVH’s kingdom.”  Where does this command fall in our personal list of priorities?

Some of us sin by making excuses about being a lowly sinner.  Many of us grew up or are currently in congregations that fostered this attitude of helplessness.  We are worms or larvae who never develop into butterflies, but are doomed to remain worms while we are on this earth.  We never seem to throw off our own sinfulness and allow ourselves to be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit just as a butterfly is formed in its chrysalis.  How can we expect to help others to throw off their mantles of sin and corruption if we won’t even help ourselves?

In Ezekiel 3:17-18, YHVH appoints Ezekiel as watchman over Israel.  If Ezekiel failed to warn others of their sins and the impending consequences, then he would be just as liable for their sins as they are.  Likewise, we are appointed to the same task today.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.  Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh (Jude 1:20-23).

On Judgment Day, will we be rewarded or punished for our attitude and behavior towards others?  Are we living up to Yeshua’s standards and expectations?  Are we a true reflection of YHVH’s glory?

Stand Fast to Your Convictions (Part 1)

stand firm“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11

Last week, Nancy and I were deeply convicted by a powerful teaching we heard at a local congregation. The pastor was focused on getting ourselves fit for the fire that is to come in the End Times (spoken of by Yeshua in Matthew 24).  Believers could interpret this fire that is coming in different ways, but in this context I am seeing it as persecution against the Body of Messiah. Sha’ul told us that we as the Body of Messiah are to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27).  We are also told to stand fast as individuals in our faith (I Cor 16:13).  This means that we are to hold to our convictions that there is one true God, Yehovah, and one clear standard of morality, which is the set of instructions YHVH has given us in His Torah.

The pastor went on to speak about the need to stand up for what we know is YHVH’s standard of morality in His Kingdom.  He said that as the moral fiber of our nation continues to crumble we will have plenty of opportunities to speak out about God’s stand on moral issues.  In our society today, we have an historic opportunity to stand fast in the face of the growing fires of immorality, and to speak out to others (both believers and non-believers) about God’s standard of morality.  The Supreme Court decision to require all states to conduct same-sex marriages has given us a golden opportunity to test the strength of our commitment to uphold YHVH’s standards in the face of cultural persecution. YHVH spoke often about the abomination of Homosexuality, and He judged it as harshly as any other sin (see Judges 19-20 and Gen 19 for examples). He saw this as a violation of the sin of idolatry, that people exchanged the glory YHVH gave them for a lie, and worshiped the creation instead of the Creator (Rom 1:25).

In our home worship time with Abba, the Ruach keeps bringing Nancy and I back to the passages in Ezekiel (3:16-21 and 33:1-9) where YHVH speaks to Ezekiel about being a watchman to warn God’s people about the upcoming judgment for their sins. I think YHVH is speaking to all of us when He says: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Eze 33:8). As God’s people, we are not only accountable for our own sins, but we are accountable for speaking YHVH’s truth to others and warning them about God’s righteous standard. As compassionate believers seeking to be like Yeshua, though, we must speak and act out of love and humility, seasoning our words with grace. We must not condemn or judge others out of our own self-righteousness, remembering that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of YHVH (including ourselves). See Part 2 of this Blog as we dig deeper into how we should we should act and speak graciously when we encounter unGodly attitudes, words or actions.

YHVH is a merciful Elohim who loves us with an unconditional love. However, YHVH is also a just and righteous God who cannot tolerate sin in His presence. Some see this as an irreconcilable contradiction, but in YHVH’s never-ending mercy, He chose to save His people from their sins by sending His Son to die in place of the death we deserve. This is the amazing miracle of the Good News, but we must do our part as well. In order to benefit from God’s plan of reconciliation with us, we must repent, turn from our sinful ways, and start walking on YHVH’s righteous path. We must not think that our own sin is somehow less offensive to God than the sins of others.

Yeshua told us that He would send fire on the earth. He said that He did not come to earth to bring peace, but division, and that even family members would be divided against each other in the same household (Luke 12:49-53). We know from experience that our families are the most difficult settings to speak out God’s truth, and sometimes are the places of greatest persecution. But we also know as believers that we are to “overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony” (Rev 12:11). And what does the rest of that passage say, that we are to “love not our lives even unto death”.

In the face of persecution from our families, friends and fellow believers, we need to stand fast to God’s standard, even when we are criticized, ridiculed, shunned by others, or face possibly even more severe consequences in future times. It is good to meditate on YHVH’s truth, knowing that nothing can separate us from His love, and that He will bless us with boundless spiritual fruit when we boldly share His truth with others.