The Ram Caught in the Thicket

August 24, 2013

raminthicketIs the Torah intended for our righteousness?  Is it the measure against which we are to demonstrate our obedience to God? What is its purpose?

No single group has exerted more effort seeking to keep the Law than ancient Israel and even the Jews of today.  Has it drawn them closer to God?  I would say and most would agree, demonstrably ‘no’.

We can look back at the thousands of years of history since the Law was first given and see that no one has drawn closer to God by keeping it.  Israel has failed in its pursuit of God through the keeping of rules.

And they will continue to fail, as will all humanity, anyone who tries to obey the Law and please God through their works.  If you are able to keep the Law perfectly (at least on the outside) as Paul claimed he did in Philippians 3:6, God knows your heart, and you still fail.

If we seek God by keeping the Law, we become more aware of our sin, not less.  This is the purpose of the Law–to make us aware of our need (Galatians 3).

God is holy, completely separate from sin. No one who is unclean can come near Him. Our hands are blood red.

As the OT tells us:

There is no one who does good.
The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand,
Who seek after God.
They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one
.

Jesus said in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

What is it that Moses and the Prophets teach us?

There is no one who does good, not even one

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

Abraham, who was justified by his faith according to Paul, was about to slay his promised son in obedience to YHWH God.  As he prepared to plunge the knife into his son, YHWH called out to Abraham to stop–YHWH, seeing Abraham’s faith, instead provided a ram caught up in a thicket of branches.  The ram was the substitutionary sacrifice for Abraham, and Isaac’s life was spared (Genesis 22)

Believe and receive what God has already provided for you, the perfect ram Yeshua caught in the thicket of the cross to which He was nailed, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world.


Meditations on The Law and our works vs. faith and the Spirit

December 22, 2012

mosesHere’s what the Bible says about the Law of God and our Works in contrast with Faith and the Spirit of God:

“Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” (Romans 9:31, 32)

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

“We may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Gal 2:16)

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.(Gal 2:19)

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal 2:21)

“Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal 3:2)

“Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3)

“As many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse…no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Gal 3:10,11)

Very Important — Faith PRECEDED the Law, and is not invalided by the Law:

“Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS…it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” (Gal 3:6,7)

The Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God. (Gal 3:17)

“If the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.” (Gal 3:18)

The Law was given to condemn us and imprison us:

“Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions.” (Gal 3:19)

“The Scripture has shut up everyone under sin.” (Gal 3:22)

Before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law.” (Gal 3:23)

The Law was given to lead us to Christ; we are no longer under the Law:

The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Gal 3:24, 25)

Here’s what the Bible says about the Law and our Works, Faith and the Spirit:

“Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” (Romans 9:31, 32)

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

“We may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Gal 2:16)

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.(Gal 2:19)

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal 2:21)

“Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal 3:2)

“Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3)

“As many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse…no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Gal 3:10,11)

Once we are redeemed from the Law we receive adoption as sons:

“…so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:5)

Once you are a son that knows God (Abba Father), don’t turn back again to the Law/legalistic observances:

“But now that you have come to know God…how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Gal 4:9, 10)

The slave and the free woman contrast the Law/Flesh vs. the Promise/Spirit:

“Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.” (Gal 4:22)

These women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.” (Gal 4:24)

“Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem.” (Gal 4:25)

“But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.” (Gal 4:26)

“We are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. (Gal 4:31)

Don’t fall back into slavery; stand firm in Christ:

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

“You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)

The Law is contrary to the message of the cross; although preaching the Law will result in LESS persecution!

“If I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” (Gal 5:11)

The Law is fulfilled by Love:

The whole Law is fulfilled in… the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Gal 5:14)

Christians are not under the Law:

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Gal 5:18)

“Deeds of the flesh” vs. “Fruit of the Spirit” contrasted in Galatians 5:19-26: In the flesh our acts are unrighteous, whereas walking in the Spirit results in fruit produced by the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

The law of Christ is to love:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)

The Law results in boasting in our flesh, since it is our own obedience that is earning our favor:

“Those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. (Gal 6:13)


Should we work on keeping the Sabbath?

June 6, 2012

In Leviticus 23 we find what are mistakenly called the seven “Feasts of the Lord”;  the only problem is, there are not seven Feasts, but eight.   The chapter begins like this:

“The Lord spoke again to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these:

‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.”

The chapter continues describing the traditional seven Feasts, but we forget that the first Feast (actually the word is ‘appointed time’) is the weekly Sabbath, then comes the other seven. What is significant about these Feasts? Do we still keep them?  What do they communicate?  How were they actually fulfilled, at least the first four (or is it five?)

Those of us interested in End Times topics know the significance of the first four Feasts:  Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Shavu’ot – these speak of Yeshua’s  sacrificial death, sinlessness, resurrection and pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost. Many of us believe too that just as Yeshua fulfilled each of these Feasts on their very day in the same year, Yeshua will do likewise for the last three when he returns–perhaps returning on Trumpets, separating the Sheep and Goats on Yom Kippur and inaugurating the Millennial kingdom on Sukkot.  As Christians we are not compelled to keep these Feasts (they are “a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ”, per Col 2:17).

But what is the Sabbath doing in this list of Feasts of Yeshua’s accomplishments in Lev 23, at the very head of the list, no less?   Are we being reminded to keep the Law of God before we even get to the Feasts?  No!   The Sabbath belongs in this group because, more than anything, Yeshua is our Sabbath rest.   We don’t have to keep the Law, Yeshua did, and so consequentially we do, because we are “hidden in Christ”:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4-5)

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  (Eph 2:10)

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (Eph 2:13)

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:3)

Yeshua perfectly kept the Law, fulfilling it:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Mt 5:17)

After doing so, Yeshua was the Passover lamb on our behalf, and died a substitutionary death in our place.  But beyond that, he has abolished the Law for those in Christ – the Law is what separated God from Man (it was the enmity).  But now for Christians, those “in Christ”, the Law has been “put to death”, not according to me, but the Word of God:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.  (Eph 2:14-16)

So back to our review of the Leviticus 23 “Feasts of the Lord” – This is the meaning of the EIGHTH Feast of the Lord, the SabbathYeshua is our Sabbath rest:

Hebrews 4:2-4, 9-11,  “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.  For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“ As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “ And God rested on the seventh day from all His works…

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest…

Don’t work on keeping the Sabbath, receive by faith the Sabbath rest that Yeshua won for you by His obedience to God and His death on the cross.  Enjoy the Sabbath of complete rest, not on this day or that, but in Yeshua the Messiah.


Is Jesus the Son of God also God the Son?

March 31, 2012

Is it correct to worship Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, a.k.a. Jesus Christ?

A few days ago a reader posed this question to me:

So Adam is a son of God, I am a son of God, you are a son of God, Jesus is a son of God. If this is the case – I am a human, you are a human, Adam is a human and so Jesus is also a human. I do not worship Adam, who is the son of God. I do not worship myself, the son of God. I do not worship you, the son of God.

Can you give me a single reason when all of us are sons of God and we do not worship anyone for being the sons of God, why Jesus alone should be worshipped as a son of God?

Please give me reasonable evidence from the bible if it says to worship Jesus, the Christ.

I would start with understanding the importance of the term “the Christ” – it means “anointed one”, but anointed for what?  I addressed this at length in a previous post here.   In short, Jesus is anointed to sit eternally on David’s throne per a prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and Psalm 132:11.  He is called “Lord and Christ” by Peter in the first sermon of the church in Acts 2 – this is no less than a claim that Jesus is God, for it is Yahweh God who is our savior per the Old Testament book of Joel, verse 2:32, which Peter claims as being fulfilled by Jesus in Acts 2:21.

But if that is too much “in the weeds” for you, here are a few, rather plain scriptures (there are hundreds, at a minimum) from both Old Testament and New showing worship of Jesus as Son of God, co-equal in essence with the Father and Holy Spirit…

Jesus, Son of God, who will rule the nations, from the Old Testament—My comments are in brackets:

Psalm 2:4-12:

He who sits in the heavens [God the Father] laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me [God the Father], I have installed My King [God the Son]
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

“I [the Son] will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:
He [the Father] said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You [the Son] shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the LORD [this is the word YHWH, or “Yahweh”] with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage [נשק nashaq, “kiss”] to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His [the Son’s] wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Read the entire chapter to get a picture of Yeshua coming into His Millennial Kingdom (see also Rev 20:4-6).

Dan 7:13-14:

“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man [Yeshua, in human form] was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days [the Father]
And was presented before Him [the Father].
“And to Him [the Son] was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve [פלח pĕlach, “serve” or “worship”] Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.

This is also an amazing chapter, giving a picture of both Father God and God the Son as the Millennial Kingdom is being set up.  It also describes the destruction of the last days’ “Beast” empire.  I wonder what empire that would be?  I’ll give you one guess…

The chapter ends with this verse:

Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One [in context, the Son of Man, Yeshua]; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey [it is only proper to serve and obey God] Him.’

Worship of Jesus when He was on earth, in Israel:

Matt 8:2:  A leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

John 9:38:  Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

It is axiomatic that you will be “put out” of the synagogue, mosque, Shinto temple, university faculty, your group of friends, almost everywhere, when you start to declare the truth of who Yeshua actual is.

Matt 28:9:  Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

Angels worship Yeshua:

Hebrews 1:5-9:

For to which of the angels did He ever say,

YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”?

 And again,

I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM
AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”?

 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,

“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

 And of the angels He says,

“WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS,
AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”

 But of the Son He says,

YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.
“YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;
THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU
WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”

The capitalized words in the passage above to alert readers of old testament scriptures being quoted by the author of Hebrews.

Phil 2:5-11:

Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [the term reserved for God in the Old Testament], to the glory of God the Father.

It is impossible to avoid seeing worship of Yeshua when reading the Bible.  How one responds to this reality is the real question—will we try to explain it away as either mistakes or misinterpretations?  Will we ignore it and go on with our lives?  The Bible says Jesus is the Son of God, worthy of worship—won’t you bow your knee to God and acknowledge His great salvation and love poured out for you?


There is Only One ‘People of God’

November 12, 2011

There is one ‘People of God’ called the ekklesia.  This Greek word from the New Testament, translated “church,” means “the called out ones”.  It was used to describe a distinctly called-out group, for instance, a political body of representatives.  The ekklesia does not replace Israel as the people of God, nor is it a scripturally unforeseen interruption in His plan for Israel, to once again be resumed when the Church is secretly raptured, today’s two most common errors in understanding who God’s people are.  The ekklesia has been God’s elect (or chosen ones) since before Israel even existed-it would be prudent to find out how one gets into this highly desirable group!

These two errors, the first of which is called Supercessionism or Replacement Theology, is championed by many Covenant theologians in the Reform movement.  It says, in essence, that Israel/the Jews dropped the ball and so God instituted a new plan called “the Church.”  All promises made in the Old Testament specifically to the Jews are now forfeited by them and become the Church’s spiritual inheritance; i.e., replace the O.T. word “Israel” with “Church”.  Where this view most negatively impacts Israel concerns its land: the Supercessionists say that Israel returning to its ancient homeland has no prophetic or end times significance; in fact, many will state that it belongs to the Arabs and the Jews shouldn’t even be there.  Obviously, their wrong understanding of scripture has serious consequences to Israel.

The second error, that the Church “dispensation” will end with the Rapture when God will resume His dealings with Israel, is called Dispensationalism.  This group believes that God will use a 7-year long Tribulation to chastise His people Israel; He will use the plagues and disasters described in the Book of Revelation to turn their hearts back to Him. Dispensationalists make esoteric distinctions like ‘Israel is the wife of God, but the Church is the Bride of Christ’.  They infer these types of beliefs from scriptures that do not actually make such plain statements.  This view got its start in the 19th Century, most prominently with John Nelson Darby.  One of the problems with this belief is that they see God having two distinct peoples—Israel and the Church.

Here are several important concepts and scriptures to help us in our understanding:

Faith in God’s Provision Has ALWAYS Been Pleasing to Him, Not the Works of the Law   ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Rom 4:3-5)   God did not have a different means of justification for the Jews and the Church–only one, which is faith.  Faith existed before Israel with Abraham, during the days of Israel in the Tenakh, and continues after Yeshua came to reveal God.

The New Covenant was Promised TO THE JEWS, Not to a Future Church   “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah”  (Jer 31:31)  The new covenant didn’t signal a break in God’s relationship with His people, but a new start. God continues: “They will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (v34)  Yeshua instituted the new covenant with the Jews, not the Church.

Gentile Believers in Yeshua are GRAFTED IN to Israel, Not the Other Way Around   The branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. (Rom 11:17-20)  To hear some believers, God allows Jews to become part of “the Church”.  No!  The ekklesia is “called out” of the world and is “grafted in” to the Olive Tree, clearly Israel, as the context of Chapter 11 shows.

The Ekklesia (or “Church”) Existed During ‘The Exodus’    …This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.’ This is the one who was in the congregation (ekklesia) in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai (Acts 7:37-38)  Jesus also uses the word ekklesia twice—the exact term translated “church” in English is used to describe God’s elect prior to the Day of Pentecost.

Yeshua Will Return TO ISRAEL and Jerusalem from Where He Will Rule the World  There are many verses indicating this; stay tuned for the next installment of this series.  The significance of this to our topic is that our savior Yeshua is a Jew, the promised Messiah.  We are grafted in because of the promise made to Israel.  We should not therefore proudly assert our identity apart from, or in replacement of, them.


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