Tag Archives: kingdom

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.

Precious Reflections

This is the fourth 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.

In the first article in this series, Nancy studied the significance of the metals used in the Tabernacle.  In the second article she examined the items YHVH specified in Exodus 25:4-5 as materials to construct and cover the Tabernacle.  In my article last week, I discussed the oil and spices used for the anointing oil and incense in the Tabernacle (Ex 25:6).  This week I will cover the next verse (7) in Exodus 25, which specifies: “onyx stones and setting stones for the [priest’s] ephod and for the breastplate”.

In Exodus 25:7, Abba tells Moshe that he is to ask the people to gather special types of precious stones to be used for the high priest’s ephod and breastplate.  From Torah passages (Ex 28:4, 29:5, Lev 8:7) the ephod signifies a garment, which is part of the official dress of the high priest, and was to be made of threads of various colors.  What can be gleaned from these passages is that the ephod was held together by a girdle sewed on to it (Ex 28:8); it had two shoulder-straps, which were fastened to the front of the ephod by golden rings, to which the breastplate was attached by golden chains (Exodus 28:6-14) which were fastened to the ephod in front (Ex 28:27).

From this description, it appears that the ephod was some type of apron, with the two onyx stones fastened to the shoulder straps. The breastplate was then to be hung down from the ephod straps, and the 12 different types of precious stones were attached to the breastplate, one for each of the tribes of Israel, inscribed with the name of the corresponding tribe (Ex 28:21).  It is interesting to look at the prophecy of the “end times” New Jerusalem in Revelation 21.  We know from Verses 12 and 13 that will be 12 gates to the New Jerusalem, with one of the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on each of the gates.   Then from Verses 19 and 20, we see that there were 12 stones in the 12 foundations around the wall of the city, and the stones are very similar (and probably identical if we knew the Hebrew-Greek correlation) to the 12 stones in the breastplate in Exodus 28.

We know that the New Jerusalem is a direct reflection of the Holy City in Heaven (since it comes down from Heaven), so the foundations of the New Jerusalem are a reflection of the foundations of the City in heaven.   From this we can infer that YHVH plans to build His  earthly Kingdom according to His pattern in heaven, using the stones representing the 12 tribes as the foundation stones – thus He is building His new Kingdom on Earth on the foundations of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Somewhere near the heart of the high priest, among the stones of the tribes of Israel, the Urim and the Thummim were placed on the “breastplate of judgment”, to be used so that YHVH could guide the high priest in judging between right and wrong, especially in cases of deciding the guilt or innocence of the people.  This passage points to Yeshua as our High Priest, who is the Righteous One (as it says in I Cor 1:30: He became Righteousness for us).  While the high priest of Israel determined right from wrong in difficult cases of judgment by allowing YHVH to speak to him through the Urim and Thummim, Yeshua did not require this type of physical sign to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh).  The Ruach HaKodesh spoke directly through Yeshua, and because He has sent His Ruach to dwell inside us, we now have the same Ruach speaking to and through us.

Sha’ul (Paul) reminded us that we live on a spiritual battlefield, and that we must protect ourselves by putting on the whole armor of God.  One of the key elements of our armor is the breastplate of righteousness, but whose righteousness are we putting on?  This breastplate of righteousness refers to the righteousness purchased for us by Yeshua at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). The breastplate He gives us is specially designed by God to protect our heart and soul from evil and deception. Our own righteous acts are no match for Satan’s attacks (Isaiah 64:6). The breastplate of righteousness has Messiah’s name stamped on it, as though He said, “Your righteousness isn’t sufficient to protect you; here – wear mine”.  Yeshua offers us His breastplate of righteousness; it is up to us to accept it and wear it.

Although sometimes it would be comforting to have physical evidence of YHVH’s guidance in our lives when we make decisions, or discern between good and evil, we have something even better than the Urim and Thummim.  We have the Ruach of YHVH Father and Yeshua His Son living within us, guiding us in every part of our lives.  It is not always easy, but our part is to draw close to YHVH, so we are able to hear Him better and understand what is He is saying to us.  We do not need precious jewels and an intricately woven breastplate to hear Him as He guides us – His thoughts and insights are precious jewels to us.  What we need is to know the thoughts and intents of His heart as He knows ours, by sitting in His lap and leaning against His heart.  That way, we can truly call Him Abba Daddy and He can call us His beloved children.

Behind the Scenes

praise-to-yhvh-my-rockIn our book, What’s Missing, we discussed how the story of the Israelites in Exodus is symbolic of the redemption that Yeshua, the true Passover Lamb, brings to all of us.  The story of YHVH actively intervening on behalf of the Israelites to set them free from slavery to the Egyptians and leading them out of Egypt in a miraculous way is an account of real events.  However, these events are a type or shadow of an even greater story of YHVH working on behalf of all humanity to free us from our spiritual enemies.   A phrase or even a single word in Exodus paints a graphic picture of the ongoing battle between YHVH and His adversary.  We must keep in mind that behind the scenes of our daily dramas, YHVH is carrying out His plan to establish His kingdom on earth while His adversary is trying to do the same.  It is the greatest drama of all.

After the tenth and final plague, we find that the Israelites left Rameses, which means “born of Ra”.    Who is Ra?  Ra was the primary name for the sun god in Egypt.  We get a clear picture that those who partake of the Passover Lamb are leaving the kingdom of darkness (ruled by the sun god) and going to Succoth (ruled by the one true God, YHVH).  Succoth is derived from the Hebrew word sakah and carries several different meanings.  Let us examine these meanings to see how our “behind the scenes” picture develops.

One of the meanings of sakah is “covering” as used in 1 Kings 8:7.  Just as the cherubim provided a covering for the ark of the covenant,  YHVH provides a covering for His sheep.  In Ezekiel 28:13, we see the description of YHVH’s archenemy before his rebellion.  He was covered (derived from sakah) in precious gems just as we are covered with Yeshua’s robes of righteousness.  In 2 Kings 16:18, the word is used for the Shabbat canopy.  YHVH stands beside us and is our protective covering (Ps. 121:5 NLT).  Isaiah 1:8 uses the word sukka as a watchman’s hut.  In 2 Samuel 11:11 the same word is used to denote a protective booth for soldiers.  Leviticus 23:41-42 and Deuteronomy 16:13 require all Israelites to construct temporary shelters (sukkot) for themselves for a week each year to commemorate YHVH dwelling among them.

All those who have left the kingdom of darkness for YHVH’s kingdom of light are protected by YHVH Himself.  However, all of us are also called to be soldiers in YHVH’s campaign to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.   YHVH is fully capable of eradicating His enemies and establishing His kingdom by Himself.  However, He purposely gave dominion of the earth to humans and expects each of  us to participate in the great spiritual battle for the earth.  We are not left to fight the battle alone for YHVH Himself is our leader and protector.  It is imperative for us to get off the spiritual milk and onto meat (1 Cor 3:2) as soon as we are able so that we can fully participate in the role that YHVH has assigned for each of us.

The word selected in Exodus 12:41, 51 (tsaba) refers to the Israelites and those who joined them in the flight from Egypt as armies or hosts.  In most other places the people are referred to as Israelites or the children of Israel (b’nei yisrael). In Exodus, 13:17-18, the picture becomes crystal clear.  YHVH takes the Israelites on a detour because they are not yet ready to do battle with their Egyptian enemies.  However, YHVH still has them leave Egypt “like an army ready for battle”.  A short time later they would have the opportunity to do battle for the land promised to them.  They were still not ready and thus the nation of Israel spent 40 years wandering in the desert.  The battle must and will be fought at some point.

The children of Israel would have to fight their enemies in order to take over the land that YHVH promised them.  The children of YHVH will have to fight our enemies to reclaim the earth for YHVH.  In both cases it is YHVH who will go ahead of us and be our covering.  What role are you called to play in this great drama?

How Can We Live?

The key to your lifeIn last week’s blog we examined why Torah is still valid.  This week, I would like to add some additional thoughts and clarification on this subject.  Understanding what YHVH expects of us is important.  Some may argue that YHVH loves us no matter what.  That is true, but just as parents love their children, they still have household rules and expectations.  It is more than just obeying YHVH; it is about becoming all that He intends for us.

Peter and I became aware of our Hebrew roots and Torah about twelve years ago.  At the time, we were in our late forties and our children were all grown.  We attended church regularly, were involved in Bible study, and participated in various outreach programs.  We considered ourselves to be mature Christians.  When we began seriously looking into our Hebrew roots and Torah, we realized that we were finally at the grownups’ table.  It was an epiphany for us.  We were finally off the milk and into the meat (1 Cor 3:21).

Faulty translation and unclear terminology can confuse us and distort our perception of the truth.  Peter will expound more fully on these topics in next week’s blog.  For now, however, it is important that we know that YHVH’s purpose in establishing His kingdom on earth is to have relationship with us.  Torah is more than just law; it is instruction and guidelines as well.  YHVH’s desire is to have relationship with us and His Torah shows us how to draw ever closer to Him.  Those who think there is no need for law, ignore it and drift away from YHVH.  Those who try to keep the law “perfectly” do not understand that the Torah is meant to “perfect” us; that is, to make us whole and complete.  They focus on the letter of the law and also drift from YHVH.   The word “perfect” in Hebrew is shalom shalomShalom means wholeness and completeness, reaching full potential.

YHVH calls us to be holy, just as He is holy (Lev 20:26).  To be holy means to be set apart from those who do not follow YHVH.  Ultimately, we are to be set apart from demons and anyone else who is adamant about operating in the kingdom of darkness.  The Israelites were called to be set apart.  They were to follow Torah and be a light to the nations.  For the past 2,000 years, people from other nations have been called to follow Yeshua (the living Torah) and have been grafted in to the olive tree known as Israel.  They, too, are to be set apart and learn how to live in YHVH’s kingdom.

Romans 11:17 can be a touchy subject for Jews and non-Jews alike. We are all called to follow and obey YHVH, regardless of our ethnicity (Gal 3, Col 3 CJB).  YHVH keeps His promises.  If He has made promises that are specifically for physical members of the twelve tribes of Israel, He will keep them.  If He has made promises to anyone else, He will keep those promises also.  It is helpful to remember that we are spirit-beings who reside in a physical body (James 2:26, 1 Thess 5:23).  Galatians 3:26-29 CJB points out that our trust and obedience are what matters; not our ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status.

It is crucial that we always keep in mind the big picture.  YHVH is working through the process of salvation and kingdom building on earth that began either before or at creation (Rev. 13:8).  Everything in Scripture is about that process.  YHVH reveals only what is necessary at each phase of the process since YHVH’s enemy, hasatan, is ever vigilant about destroying or interrupting YHVH’s work (John 10:10, 1 Pet 5:8).  YHVH’s kingdom is already established in heaven and hasatan was exiled from YHVH’s heavenly kingdom for trying to take it over.  Now hasatan is trying to do the same with YHVH’s kingdom on earth.

YHVH created the earth and its inhabitants to be a reflection of His heavenly kingdom.   It has always been about establishing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Humans are created in YHVH’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26).  However, we are fallen since the sin of Adam and Eve.  Therefore, YHVH often has to work through and around our ignorance and stubbornness.  We, in our limitedness, tend to lose sight of the big picture and focus only on the latest phase of YHVH’s plan.  As more of His plan and process are revealed, we tend to think that anything that came before is automatically obsolete.  If we are capable of taking one verse of Scripture out of context, then we are certainly capable of taking one action of YHVH’s out of context.  YHVH is not doing away with former phases; rather, He is building on to former phases.

In summary, our focus is to be on loving and obeying YHVH, so that we can become all that YHVH intends for us to be in His kingdom.  YHVH is in control and will keep all His promises.  As always with YHVH, He will exceed even our wildest expectations.  Dayenu!  Now that is truly living!

How Can We Sin?

YHVH's Kingdom

Sometimes we forget that the physical world was created to reflect the spiritual world.  For example, do you realize that the earthly Tabernacle was a copy of the heavenly Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-5 NLT)?   Likewise, YHVH shared his Torah on earth so that earth’s inhabitants could reflect heaven’s inhabitants.  Torah has not been replaced either in heaven or on earth.  Yeshua Himself stated that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the Torah will pass away (Matt. 5:18).  Yeshua’s earthly kingdom will be a reflection of the heavenly kingdom.

The old covenant was replaced, not because the laws were faulty, but because the people were faulty (Hebrews 8:9).  The first covenant did not work out because the people did not keep their side of the bargain.  In other words, they did not obey YHVH’s laws.  If the law was faulty or obsolete, why would YHVH want to put it on our minds and write it on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10)?  YHVH was not teaching the people a set of random laws just for the earth, but was teaching the people how His kingdom operates in heaven.

Yeshua taught us much about the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5-7).  The gospel of Matthew depicts Yeshua as King just as the gospel of Mark depicts Yeshua as servant.  He came the first time to serve us; He will return to reign as our King.  Yeshua made mention of the new covenant (Luke 22:20), but the point was that His shed blood is the payment for our sins.  We can be forgiven and restored to YHVH, if we ask.

After being exiled in Babylon, Jewish leaders and teachers determined that people were unable to keep Torah and set about making a “fence” around it, to ensure that Torah would not be broken.  They were attempting to fix something only YHVH can fix.  The “fence” focused on the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.  The “fence” consisted of man-made laws that added to and subtracted from Torah in direct violation of YHVH’s command (Deut 4:2, 12:32).  In fact, by the time Yeshua came to earth the first time, there was more than one “fence” in place.  Each additional fence drew people further from the Torah, and consequently further from YHVH.  Yeshua argued with the Pharisees about the “fences,” not about the TorahYeshua violated the “fences” but He never violated TorahYeshua is the living Torah and He is not divided against Himself.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about the new covenant, not the new Torah.  The Torah is still in place; it is the guilt and condemnation that have been removed through the shed blood of Yeshua.  The law is no longer just written on stone, but is written on hearts and minds.  Perhaps the stone represents the stony hearts that kept turning away from YHVH.  Now that we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, our hearts need no longer be stony, but instead be yielded to YHVH.

There are many Christians today who firmly believe that the Torah is no longer relevant.  However, if they are not following YHVH’s law, then what are they doing?  Where there is no law, people will create a law for themselves, for there is an inherent need for order and structure.  We are created in the image of YHVH, Who is the epitome of order.  Do we truly think we can improve on YHVH’s law?

Dear Brothers and Sisters who insist that Torah is no longer in effect, how is it that we are still capable of sin?  The definition of sin is “a transgression of the law of God” (Merriam-Webster).  If Torah is not God’s law, then what is?  If there is no law, then there can be no sin.  If there is no law, then there will be no order or structure, only chaos.

Romans 7:4-6 (NLT) states:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.  When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

We are dead to the law only in the fact that we no longer bear the punishment for our transgressions because Yeshua bore our punishment for us.  In that way, our focus can be on obeying the Spirit of the law.  When we sin, we can ask YHVH for forgiveness and receive forgiveness through the blood of Yeshua.  Those who sin and do not ask forgiveness are still held accountable for their sins.  So, the difference is not in the law, but in who bears the penalty for transgressing the law.

On our own, we are not able to keep the law perfectly.  However, we are no longer on our own.  We have access to the fullness of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to obey the law as YHVH requires.  When we stray from the Spirit and sin, our guilt and condemnation are covered by the blood of Yeshua.  When we are born again, our spirit is regenerated, sealed and perfectly able to understand and follow Torah.  Where we still need Yeshua’s atonement is for our souls (minds) which need to be renewed (Rom 12:2).

YHVH is still King in heaven and His laws are still intact in heaven.  Those who reside in heaven obey YHVH’s every command in the spiritual realm.  In the physical realm, that is, the earth, citizens of YHVH’s kingdom are still working to fully reflect the Kingdom of Heaven.  Even in our imperfections, we can, through Yeshua’s atoning blood, stay connected to YHVH as we “work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12 NLT).  One day, earth will be the perfect reflection of heaven as YHVH has always intended.

Living Torah

Torah on HeartOn this feast of Shavuot (“weeks” in Hebrew), we celebrate both the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and the re-issuing of the Torah in human hearts as the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Yeshua.  I am writing this blog on Shavuot and will post it today rather than on Friday.  Hopefully this article will clear up misunderstandings about the work that YHVH has planned from the beginning of creation.

The English word for the feast of Shavuot is Pentecost which means “fifty”.   YHVH told the Israelites to count seven weeks (Shavuot) and one day to remember the time He dwelled with them while they were in the wilderness.

The word Pentecost originates from the Greek “pentēkostē and means fiftieth day.  Either way, it comes out to the same amount of time.  However, the similarity between Christian and Jewish perspective ends there.

As I browsed various websites discussing Pentecost, I discovered that many Christians believe that Pentecost was a brand new event totally unconnected to anything YHVH had done before.  There seems to be no awareness of a much older celebration known as Shavuot.  On the other hand, as I visited Jewish websites, there was no recognition of the work that YHVH continues to do in humans through His Holy Spirit.  This lack of knowledge and understanding has led to some grave errors in both Christianity and Judaism.

Let us examine the Christian perspective first.  Many Christians mistakenly believe that the “church” was born on Pentecost.  They do not understand the background that YHVH began His kingdom building long ago and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a continuation of this work, not a whole new idea.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the next step in the process YHVH started long ago.  In other words, YHVH was not “scrapping” His work with the Israelites (Jews) and starting over with other people.  This is evident by the fact that the Holy Spirit was first given to Jewish followers of Yeshua (Acts 2).  What was the purpose of this outpouring?  To empower and perfect us in keeping the Torah (instruction or “law” of YHVH).  We must be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:14-16).

There is confusion among Christians concerning the writings of Paul, especially his letter to the Romans.  Much confusion arises from faulty translation and lack of background knowledge.  In Romans 1:5, Paul tells us Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell [all people] everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name (NLT, emphasis mine).  How can we obey YHVH if there is no law to follow?  YHVH is building a kingdom, not a church (Dan 2:44, Matt 3:2, 4:17).  It is true that we are not saved by our own efforts (Eph 2:8), but it is also true that once we are admitted as citizens into YHVH’s kingdom, we are to obey His laws.  Romans 2:5 states, But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  Christians have mistakenly generalized YHVH’s mercy to mean that He not only did away with the guilt from our sin, but that He also did away with His Torah, thereby eliminating any possibility to transgress His law.   We no longer are subject to death when we sin (disobey YHVH’s Torah) if we repent.  In Hebrew, the word for repent is teshuvah which means turning back to YHVH.  We do not merely ask for forgiveness when we sin, and then keep on sinning, knowing we can ask forgiveness each time.  We are to literally turn ourselves away from sin and return to YHVH and His ways.  How can we do this?  That is where the Holy Spirit comes in to empower us to do what YHVH requires of us.  When we rely on the Holy Spirit, we have our own personal teacher, showing us how to be obedient, convicting us when we stray, and empowering us to follow YHVH’s ways (John 14:26, 16:13).

 On the other end of the spectrum, those who follow Judaism understand that the Torah was first given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai after YHVH delivered them from slavery to the Egyptians.  They celebrate this giving of Torah (instruction), because YHVH is teaching them how He intends for us to live.  Many Jews today are diligent about following Torah.  However, they are relying on themselves and their own efforts are enough to make them right with YHVH.  They do not realize that they need to first be reconciled to YHVH through Yeshua. 

 Jews who do not recognize that Yeshua is their long-awaited Messiah, believe that Yeshua did not keep Torah and taught others to do the same.  They are confusing Torah with the extra writings and teachings of generations of rabbis who have added to and subtracted from Torah in direct violation of YHVH’s command (Deut 4:2).  Yeshua refused to obey man-made traditions, especially when they went against the true intention of Torah (Matt 9:1-14, Luke 13:15-16).  The purpose of Sabbath is to put aside working for our own gain to spend quality time with YHVH.  Yeshua did His Father’s work of kingdom building.  Healing those who are broken is so important, that it can be done even on Shabbat.

 Messianic believers hopefully recognize that the Torah is still valid and that the Holy Spirit is very much needed in order to carry out our Father’s commands.  They recognize Yeshua as the embodiment of the true Torah and refer to Him as the living Torah.  In Matthew chapters 5-7, Yeshua not only reinforces the validity of Torah, but raises the bar.  Why would he raise the bar when people already had enough trouble in obeying Torah?  Yeshua knew that He would be sending the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us.  When Yeshua returns He will still require us to follow Torah.  We will have a new Temple so that we can fulfill all the requirements.  He will rule with an iron rod (Ps 2:9, Rev 2:27. 12:5).  Until then, we welcome the Holy Spirit’s help as we follow the instructions of our loving Father and King.

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!

 

More Than Salvation

Eye has not seen

There is a traditional song for Passover entitled Dayenu that means “it would have been enough”.  It begins this way:  “If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!  If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!”  The song goes on to recount all that YHVH did for the Israelites relative to their exodus from Egypt and their move toward the Promised Land.  Actually, all that YHVH did was needed to accomplish His purpose!

For many of us, salvation seems to be all that we need.  To be forgiven for our sins and to be restored to relationship with YHVH is monumental and is far more than we have any right to expect.  Even though it seems sufficient, Yeshua’s suffering and death provide us  much more.  YHVH has so much more that He wants to accomplish.

When we accept Yeshua as our Lord and Redeemer, we are freed from slavery to hasatan and become children of the Most High God.  We are clothed in the righteousness of Yeshua, a righteousness so holy and pure that none of us could attain it on our own.   This seems more than sufficient, but there is still more.

During His first coming, Yeshua demonstrated the gifts He came to bring us.  He healed multitudes of people from physical, mental, and emotional damage and He even restored life to some who had died.  Yeshua also delivered many people from bondage to demons.  What He provided then, He provides to this day.  This should certainly be sufficient, but the blessings continue.

Yeshua taught us by His example and His words how to be effective citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  He explained Abba’s values to us and told parables to make His lessons easier to comprehend. He fed the hungry with a small bit of food that was miraculously multiplied.  He met everyone’s needs and He wants to meet our every need also.  Surely this is sufficient, isn’t it?  Ah, but there is still more.

Not only has Yeshua provided all these things for us, but He has empowered us to share the gifts with others.  Yeshua temporarily relinquished all His power as the second Person of the Triune God and was empowered solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in order to demonstrate to us how we could do the works He did and greater.  For many Christians this news is too good to be true, so many of YHVH’s gifts are denied and rejected and much of the work needed to build the Kingdom of YHVH is left undone.

A 2009 Barna survey reveals that the majority of Christians do not believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit are actual living entities.  Even though YHVH is spirit and we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth, many of us aren’t doing that because we deny the existence of a spiritual realm or are confused that there is a spiritual realm.  How much are these brothers and sisters in Yeshua missing because of blindness and/or stubbornness?

YHVH overflows with mercy, compassion, and generosity.  He knows that even though we have received our citizenship to the Kingdom of Heaven, we still reside in the Kingdom of Hell. YHVH provides for us not just a bright future, but a delightful present.  YHVH did not liberate the Israelite slaves in Egypt just to abandon them in the wilderness.  Instead, He worked with them to show them His ways and to prepare them to live as His special people in the land He provided just for them.  Likewise, YHVH does not provide us escape from the kingdom of darkness without equipping us to be effective citizens in the kingdom of light.

YHVH provided protection and sustenance (manna, quail and water) for the Israelites.  As long as they obeyed and trusted Him, they were not sick and even their clothing did not wear out over a 40-year period.  YHVH gave the Israelites His commandments and teachings, so that they could live in harmony and prosperity and all would be treated fairly.  He wanted them to be a light to all the other nations.  YHVH taught them how to worship Him.  The feasts He provided were meant to commemorate what they had experienced as well as to prepare them to recognize and receive their Messiah, who was coming to bring them even greater gifts than they had already received.  We read in the book of Exodus how the Israelites wanted to pick and choose among the gifts offered, and even rejected the gifts sometimes.  Many times they not only refused to live in the light, but were unable or unwilling to share that light with others.

We often shake our heads at their blindness and stubbornness, yet we fail to first remove the plank from our own eyes.  Yeshua has offered us forgiveness, salvation, His righteousness, eternal life, health, protection, teaching through Scripture, His example and the Holy Spirit, deliverance from bondage to demons, and empowerment to do the same works He did.  We fail to recognize that every single thing that Yeshua provides for us is absolutely essential to us for both our well-being and the building of YHVH’s kingdom.  Yeshua not only shares what He has with us, but He sacrificed Himself so that we might have all that He offers.  Will we continue to insult Him by devaluing some of His gifts?  Yeshua humbled Himself in every way to obtain for us what we could never get for ourselves.  Are we too proud and foolish to admit that we need what He offers?  It is not sufficient (dayenu) that we pick and choose only what appeals to us.

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.

Oil vs. Oil

precious oilFor when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,…(Matt 25:3)

If you have been wise enough to heed James Corbett’s documentary (How Big Oil Conquered the World) relating the history of how the oil industry has taken over medicine, finance, education, and agriculture, then you know that Satan once again has his counterfeit of YHVH’s genuine provision.

Satan’s workers have manipulated events, industries, and perceptions in order to attain wealth for themselves at severe and often devastating cost to others. Yeshua warned us to be wise to the enemy’s ways, to understand how the enemy works. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.…” (Matt 10:16)

Yeshua also warned us about the values of the kingdom of darkness. “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15) Those who desire to attain this world’s wealth have made crude oil their god and it will lead to destruction. Those of us who follow Yeshua must pursue another type of oil. This Oil is our God, better known as the Holy Spirit. Yeshua set aside His power to show us the power and glory of His Oil. Philippians 2:1-11 shows us how to use this Oil properly. Yeshua did not grasp the power that was rightfully His, but emptied Himself to show us how to thrive in YHVH’s kingdom.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. . . . (Luke 4:18)

The world’s oil is pursued by a few to enrich themselves, thus resulting in impoverishing many.  YHVH’s Oil is intended for all who pursue Him and is designed to enrich all.

When one day we stand before the Judge, crude oil and all that it can buy will be as dung. If we have selfishly pursued building our own kingdom instead of pursuing YHVH’s kingdom, we will stand condemned even if we were revered by the world.

Those of us who have pursued YHVH’s kingdom and His Holy Spirit with reckless abandon will be rewarded with treasures far superior to any treasures the kingdom of darkness can offer. Kingdom of darkness treasures will wear out, but Kingdom of light treasures will never be destroyed.

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:19-21)

How is it that the masses have been so gullible and allowed themselves to be manipulated and deceived? Is it possible that the majority of those who profess to follow Yeshua have not pursued His Oil with a fraction of the vigor and zeal that Satan’s servants have demonstrated in pursuing the world’s oil? How active have we been in increasing YHVH’s kingdom on earth and teaching His values? Yeshua has restored dominion of the earth to His followers, but how zealous have we been to restore the earth to Yeshua? If we have dominion over the earth, then through Yeshua’s power and authority, we can change the very atmosphere of our environment.   Our Oil enables us to blaze forth to vanquish the darkness that currently prevails.

 Of course, there is great risk in promoting values that oppose the world’s current culture. Yeshua Himself suffered the consequences for doing so and warned us to expect the same treatment. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also (John 15:20).

These are harsh words to ingest, especially for those of us who have been nestled in our comfort zones for so long. Our comfort zones provide nothing more than a delusion that we are secure. We must renew our minds and realize that our only security lies in risking all for YHVH’s kingdom. We will only be able to carry out our assignments if we have the Oil that YHVH provides.

 “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matt 10:19-20)

There has long prevailed a distorted teaching that the Holy Spirit and all that He brings are “not for today, but was provided only to get the church established.” Actually it is YHVH’s kingdom that needs to be established and when we call it “church” we seem to lose sight of the true goal.  If we are not guided by the Holy Spirit, we will be guided by earthly values and our efforts will merely contribute to Satan’s kingdom.   Yeshua’s words in Matthew 25 refer to the Holy Spirit as the Oil that will prepare us for the Bridegroom’s return. Since the Bridegroom has not yet returned, we should be diligently pursuing the Oil of the Holy Spirit, lest we are caught unawares and be shut out forever. May the Bridegroom find each one of our lamps brimming with Oil when He returns.