Monthly Archives: March 2016

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.

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].

Tzur Chayeinu (Rock of Our Lives)

for they drank froim the RockThroughout all creation there are many signs that witness to us about Yeshua, telling us who He is and teaching us about all that He has done and will do for us. As Peter has pointed out in some of his blogs, the stars tell us the story of salvation and Yeshua’s triumphant return to reign on the earth. The sacrifices that our loved ones make for us, the love between a husband and wife, the seed that must fall to the earth and die in order to produce much fruit, are all signs and teachings that we have with us daily.

One sign that perhaps we have overlooked are rocks and stones. Stones and rocks are mentioned numerous times in Scripture. Abraham and his descendants set up stones as  memorials of significant events Gen 28:18, 35:14, Josh 4:9). After Jacob’s dream or vision and YHVH’s promise to give him the land, Jacob set up his stone “pillow” as a memorial and anointed it with oil. Yeshua is our Anointed One, our Messiah. Yeshua referred to Jacob’s vision when he met Nathaniel. He said that Nathaniel would see angels ascending and descending and that He Himself is the staircase that Jacob saw (John 1:50-51 NLT). A mound of stones was used as a witness of a treaty between Jacob and Laban (Gen 31:47).

Sometimes stones have negative connotations. One example is when YHVH said that He will remove stony hearts and replace them with hearts of flesh. In this case, YHVH is speaking metaphorically to demonstrate hardened or insensitive hearts. Israelites who were guilty of certain sins, such as adultery, were to be stoned to death. In Joshua 7:26, rocks were piled up over the grave of the offenders who had been buried after being stoned to death for their offenses.

YHVH wrote His Ten Commandments (or summary of Torah) on stone tablets. Yeshua is our living Torah. Yeshua tells us in Matthew 7:14 that “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” We as believers in Yeshua are referred to as living stones and Yeshua is our Chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:20-22, 1 Pet 2:4-8). If we living stones fail to proclaim Messiah, then even the non-living stones will cry out (Luke 19:40).

In the second chapter of the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that none of his astrologers could interpret. Daniel, aided by a vision from YHVH, was able to explain the dream and how the different parts of the statue represented four kingdoms. During this time, YHVH would be setting up His own kingdom and the rock not cut by human hands represented YHVH’s kingdom (Ex 20:25). This “rock” of course is Yeshua. The altars used for worship and sacrifice were to be made of rocks that were not hewn, thus providing for us another picture of Messiah.

In Matthew 6:18-19, if you study the Greek text, you will find the word petros for Peter which means a small piece of a rock or stone. The small rock is movable, and shifting. The word “rock” upon which Messiah would build His church, is the Greek word petra, which means a cliff or solid formation that cannot be moved or shaken. In the English translation, rock is used in both instances and this very important distinction is lost. In Hebrew, the word for Peter is keifa, which means small rock or stone and tzur is the cliff or solid formation.

YHVH is often referred to as our Rock. Some examples are: YHVH is our rock, our fortress and deliverer (David Ps. 18). But his bow remained taut, and his arms were strengthened by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel (Gen.49:24). For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Pet 2:6).

Let us as living stones, forever boldly proclaim our solid Rock!

Speaking God’s Awesome Name

LORD of Hosts“And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it the LORD my Banner [Yehovah Nissi]” Exodus 17:15

In my previous postings on God’s Name, Yehovah, I spoke about the importance of knowing and speaking God’s holy Name. We learn from the Scriptures that His Name is holy, righteous, mighty, beautiful, glorious, exalted, a high tower, the Word of God. As far as the LORD being a helper for us in our everyday lives having to live “in the world” but not being “of the world”, here are some of the titles and roles that our God [Yehovah Elohim] fulfills: The LORD my rock (tzuri) and my redeemer (goali), my banner/miracle (nissi), my provider (yireh), our shield (mageinu), our refuge (mach’seh), our righteousness (Yehovah Tsid’keinu), The LORD of peace (Yehovah Shalom), the LORD our presence – or “He is there” (Yehovah Shammah), the One who heals (Yehovah Rapha), and the LORD of hosts/armies (Yehovah Tzeva’ot).

This final name, Yehovah Tzeva’ot, is one of the most powerful – it literally means LORD of armies or LORD of hosts.  In Isaiah, we see how this Name is associated with the Messiah in several different passages – here are a couple of examples:

  • Isaiah 44:6 – “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts [Yehovah Tzeva’ot]: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god’.
  • Isaiah 47:4 – “Our Redeemer—the LORD of hosts [Yehovah Tzeva’ot] is his name—is the Holy One of Israel.”

From other passages in Isaiah, we know that “The Holy One or Mighty One of Israel” is always used to refer to the Messiah. Putting these references together, it is clear that Yeshua HaMashiach is called the LORD of Hosts as He is the person of the Godhead who directs God’s armies (both heavenly and earthly armies). One other clear passage that identifies Yeshua as Yehovah Tzeva’ot is in Zechariah 14:16: “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts and to celebrate the Feast of Booths”. We have learned from these and other Scriptures (through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) that when we are cleansing our household of evil spirits (demons), it is very effective to use this divine name of Yeshua, as He is the LORD of Hosts.

There is truly “power in the Name” as believers often quote, but what name is that? We know from Yeshua’s own words to us that we can pray to the Father in His name and whatever we ask will be done (paraphrased from John 16:23). Yeshua also says in John 17:11 (in his prayer to Abba Father): “Holy Father, you have given me Your name; now protect them by the power of Your name so that they will be one just as We are One. During My time here, I protected them by the power of the name You gave me”. Then later in His prayer He says: “I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26). So we see from this that Yeshua’s name is holy and powerful, but He is also named with the same name as all persons in the triune Godhead, Yehovah.

So when you are praying, remember that the name and titles of our God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, are powerful, not only for salvation, but for protection and deliverance from our enemies (physical and spiritual), for healing, for victory in life’s battles, and for our times of praise and worship when we are seeking His face, His guidance, and His voice speaking into our lives. Try out these names and see how Yehovah answers you.