Friday, January 20, 2012

Firstborn - First Fruit

Letter 166 (firstborn – First fruit)


The first reference to firstborn is seen in Genesis 4:4, when Abel brings to the Creator the firstborn and choicest of his flock, while his brother Cain offered of the fruit of the ground. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted, as it wasn’t in accordance with the requirements of the Creator. Somehow, even at that early stage of human existence, there was an understanding regarding the importance of this concept, and thus, in subsequence to disobedience and unbelief, Cain himself lost to Abel his own rights as a firstborn.

In Exodus we find the first mention of the ordinance of first fruit: "The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of YHVH your God” (Exodus - 23:19). In today’s world, there is very little significance attached to first fruit or to firstborn. However, in the eyes of YHVH and in His plan of redemption the principle of firstborn, or first fruit, is of paramount importance. In his epistle, after addressing the 12 tribes, James writes: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruit of His creatures” (James 1:18). Paul also writes: “For if we are in the Messiah we are a first fruit of a new creation order” (ref. 2Cor. 5:17; Rom 8:23). James’s mention of the twelve tribes is not a mere coincidence; for they are the ones who had been designated as first fruit - firstborn, even before Messiah’s redemptive work had been executed.

When Moshe was commissioned by YHVH to bring His people out of Egypt, he was sent to Pharaoh with the message that, “Israel is My son, my firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). Later, after killing all the firstborn of Egypt, YHVH announced to Israel: "Consecrate to Me all the firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine" (Exodus 13:2). "You shall set apart to YHVH all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be YHVH’s” (Exodus 13:12).

The Hebrew word for firstborn, in Exodus 13:12 is “peh’ter”, meaning to separate, or first to open. Other meanings for the same root are: remove, set free, depart, split, and break through. Interestingly, the injunction to “set apart” or to “dedicate” (as translated in English), in the above verse (12), is derived from the same root as the noun for “Hebrew”. (Note: generally, the root for “to set apart”, or “to consecrate” is, and for “firstborn” it is This unusual choice of words, here in Exodus 13:12, seems to highlight the idea of breaking through and passing over, while being recognized as belonging to YHVH. This lends emphasis to the fact that the Hebrews, whose name originates from their forefather Ever, who also was of the firstborn genealogy, are a firstborn nation dedicated and set apart unto YHVH their God.

But what does it actually mean to be a firstborn or a first fruit?

According to the Torah statute it means that one does not belong to oneself, or to anyone or anything else except to YHVH. Those who are His are identified as His property by being stamped (literally, or figuratively), or marked out through circumcision (flesh and/or heart). This principle of possession is articulated in the oft-occurring expression: “for My namesake”. The notion of ownership and possession, commonplace in the world, applies no less to YHVH’s relationship with His people. "But YHVH has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day” (Deut. 4:20). ”For YHVH'S portion is His people; Ya’acov is the place of His inheritance” (Deut. 32:9).

Moshe understood this Torah ordinance of possession or ownership; for when YHVH was about to judge Israel, he reminded Him concerning His own inheritance: "O Adoni YHVH, do not destroy Your people and Your inheritance whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand…. Yet they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your outstretched arm” (Deut. 9: 26,29). Later Daniel and Ezra interceded for YHVH’s people in the same way (see Daniel 9 and Ezra 9). True intercessors for Israel always understood this principle of the firstborn or first fruit. It was the most effective prayer on behalf of Israel in addressing the Almighty.

It is not only the ‘possession’ that is marked for the sake of identity, but the ‘possessor’ too is stamped for the sake of His beloved. In Isaiah, YHVH points out that Zion is engraved on the palms of His hand: “See, I have inscribed, [engraved, etched] you on the palms of My hands” (Is. 49:16). Is there a more direct illustration of this than Yeshua’s “burrowed through” hands, described so graphically by King David: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me. The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet” (Psa. 22:15-16)?

YHVH’s unalterable love and faithfulness to His covenants is seen in the redemptive work of the Messiah. We are the witnesses in this generation of His mercies and truthfulness, for He cannot lie. Thus we do not dare bear false witness against the Almighty. The Body of the redeemed remnant of Israel must come to an understanding of what it means to be a firstborn, a single restored Israelite nation, with a kingdom government and one head or king. The “one new man”, or the “new creation life” that now makes up our innermost being, is the life and nature of the Father that we have received through His Son Yeshua, who is the Father’s firstborn.

Moshe was instructed by YHVH to tell Israel what His intended plan was for them: “’You are My first born Son, My precious possession; you shall be My treasured inheritance among all the peoples of the earth and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel" (Exodus 19: 5-6). In these verses we see that a firstborn also had the calling of a priest. As we know from the biblical account, because of sin the people could not live up to the requirements of becoming that nation of priests. As a result, through the words of the prophet Hosea, YHVH rejects Israel from being His priests. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the Torah of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hos. 4:6), which He ultimately did by calling them “not my people” (Hos. 1:9).

But now that sin had been dealt with, the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites, who were only chosen to hold the position temporarily, has come to and end. It is interesting to note that aside from meaning “accompaniment”, Levi also comes from the root “to borrow”, which denotes a transitory state. Because of sin, YHVH ‘borrowed’, or temporarily selected the tribe of Levi to replace the first-born. "Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine” (Num 3:12). Please note the connection between first-born and priesthood, as neither BELONGED TO THEMSELVES. Their purpose was to be of service to YHVH.

The provisions for the new covenant were announced by Moshe even before our forefathers entered the land (see Deut. 30:1-7), later to be reiterated by the prophets (e. g. Jer. 31; Ez 36;). However, after the manifestation of the new covenant, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Israel’s kinsmen Redeemer the suffering Messiah, everything was put in order and set in place, so that the nation could take its God-given priestly position among all the nations. Sin had been atoned for; the charge sheet and penalty for disobedience was nailed to the cross in the body of the Redeemer. The blood was now able to sanctify the Israelite believer, so that the promised priesthood “after the order of Melchizedec” could be reestablished in the Israelite nation. YHVH the God of Israel was in the Messiah reconciling the “kosmos” (translated “world”) unto Himself (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:19). [Note: “kosmos” means to put back into right order]. Thus, the Aaronic priesthood came to an end on the day the sinner died, for it is written that He, Himself, became the guilt offering and did bear the iniquities of us all, and the sin of the transgressors was permanently removed as far as the east is from the west (ref. Is.53; Ps. 103: 12).

The apostle Peter, addressing the elect seed of Israel’s race, those who were living alongside the heathens out in the nations, those whom he compared to “Not My People”, and to “She Who Obtained No Mercy ” (ref. Hos. 1:6,9), says that they “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; God’s special people, who are to proclaim the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1Pet. 2:9). Yes, we, who were once “not My People” (house of Yoseph/Israel), have been transferred to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, to be a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Again, through Hosea, YHVH says that He would raise Israel up on the second day, and on the third day they would live before Him (ref. Hos.6:2). Living before Him is a priestly position and calling. We are the witnesses of the grace and mercy of a loving Father, who in the place where He called us “not My people” declares that we are the “sons of the living God” (ref. Hos. 1:10). We are “the precious sons of Zion weighed against fine gold” (ref. Lam. 4:1-2), mined from the rock of Abraham (ref. Is. 51:1-2), smelted in the fires of the Holy Spirit, and poured into the mold of a precious priesthood. 20/12/02

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Anti-Mashiach 06/12/02

Islam, the Vatican, Democracy (and other institutions), respectively, have all been ‘targeted’ by various ones for the role, or possible expression, of the “Anti Christ”. Others look for a certain individual to fulfill that position, and head a one world economic and political system. As believers in Yeshua the Messiah, perhaps we all, at one time or another have had (or still have) our opinions concerning this subject. If you will bear with me, I would like to share some thoughts that I have had for some time now, but have never put down in writing. Please note that the following is not intended as a polemic designed to dispute any one, or all, of these ideas or opinions.

The Apostle John is the one who formulated the term “Antichrist”. He writes: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). After addressing the “little children”, he points out that there are many antichrists and more to come, and concludes by saying that this is a sign of the end times. Why does John, when dealing with this particular topic, address “little children”? In a previous verse John identifies the “little children”. “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake… I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father” (1 John 2:12-13; 20). The Greek word for children is “paidion”, and portrays immaturity. However, there are two things that the “child”, which John speaks about (the new believer), is to understand; Firstly that his sins are forgiven through the work of Messiah Yeshua, not for the “child’s”, sake but because of the purpose and nature of Elohim. The other point is that he has the anointing or “chrisma” of the Spirit of Holiness, which enables him to know his Heavenly Father. These two things seem to be essential in overcoming antichrist, or the teachings that emanate from that source.

In the very next verse John continues, and he points his finger at the ones responsible for introducing lies, and leading the young believers into deception. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (2:19). These individuals were either apostles, or perhaps disciples of the apostles, but they did not remain in fellowship with the others, because of a lying spirit that operated in them. “Who is a liar but he who denies that Yeshua is the Messiah? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.” “… Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either” (v.22-23). Yeshua said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). There is no other way to the Father, because the Father Himself was in the Son reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). "… the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24).

Apparently there were those who perhaps at first were believers, but then denied or rejected the fact that Yeshua was the Messiah, and thus are labeled liars. But John does not stop there. He goes one step further, calling them “anti-christs”, that is, being opposed to the anointing of the Spirit of Holiness, as it is only in the anointing, or the indwelling of the Spirit, that the Father and Son are present in the life of the believer. John exhorts the “child” to recognize this fact, saying: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth…He who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Therefore, let that abide in you, which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us----eternal life” [being the life of the Father]. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you” (1 John 2:20-21; 24-25).

Yeshua said that He would send the Comforter, meaning the Spirit of Holiness, who would lead us into all the truth (see John 16:7; 13). The first revelation truth that the Spirit brings into the life of the believer is that Yeshua is the Messiah, and that our sins are forgiven. The second is to cry out “Abba” (ref. Rom. 8:15). This anointing of the Comforter is the indwelling presence of the Father, and is also the life of the Son -“Yeshua”. They are one and the same in the Spirit of Holiness. The Apostle Paul exhorts us to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith: “Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Yeshua the Messiah is in you?” (2 Cor 13:5). “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

John continues his instruction to the youthful believers by telling them not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits, whether they are of God because many false prophets and teachers have gone out into the world. This simple examination is the acid test to let you know whether these prophets, teachers (and apostles or pastors for that matter), indeed have the Spirit of God: “Every spirit that confesses that Yeshua the Messiah has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Yeshua the Messiah has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1-4). Thus the spirit of Anti-Christ is seen to be against the anointing of the Spirit of Holiness in the life of the believer, and will reject the fact that the Father and the Son are present in that anointing.

Since John’s letter deals with the indwelling presence of the Spirit (the Father and Son), the “flesh” that is mentioned is not only Yeshua’s natural body of two thousand years ago, but also pertains to His “flesh” body on the earth today, meaning you and I, and all those who are in Messiah Yeshua through faith. The following verse, I believe, confirms that John is referring to Yeshua’s body of flesh today: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Yes, He (the Father in the Son) in you, in your natural being, is the target of an Antichrist spirit, because that spirit knows that through that anointing we overcome and grow into young men. “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one [the liar and deceiver] ” (1 John 2:13). “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world----our faith” (1 John 5:4).

The faith that the Apostles are speaking about is the faith of Abraham our earthly father (see Rom. 4:16). It is that faith which brings us into the knowledge of He who “is our life” and abides in our flesh bodies, and we (abide) in His Spirit. “For we who live are always delivered to death for Yeshuas’ sake, that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11; see Acts 17:28 and Col. 3:4). An antichrist spirit attacks “the faith” and this is why many will fall from the faith in the last days (ref. Dan. 11:35; Mat. 24:10,12,22,24), and so we must be reminded daily: “Above all, take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Eph 6:16).

In conclusion let us read again 1 John 2:24: “Therefore, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father”. In light of the usage of the word “beginning” in the previous verse, let’s read the opening lines of John’s letter: ” That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life---- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us--- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Yeshua the Messiah. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:1-4).

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Firstborn continued

Letter 162 (firstborn con.) 25/10/02

Years have now gone by and Esav, who had despised the birthright (Gen. 25:34) when in need of immediate gratification, was not, however, willing to give it up altogether. Knowing that aside from the ‘automatic’ rights of a firstborn, there was also the father’s right hand blessing upon death, he felt quite confident that he still had his share coming (and what with being daddy’s favorite an’ all…! 25:8). Indeed, Hairy Red’s projections into the future did not fail. When the time came for his father to bless him, Yitzchak called him over and put in an order for that delicious venison delicacy that his son the hunter was so noted for (27:1). But, remember Rivka (Rebecca) and her devised plan? Being keenly aware of the latest developments, she now set out to implement the plan (and menu).

While Esav is out in the field hunting for that nice portion of venison, Rivka calls her beloved Ya’acov, instructing him in what will become one of history’s most crucial impersonations. Rivka tells Ya’acov to go out and get two young kids, which he does. After making them into a stew, she plasters the hides over his hands and neck, as the crux of the plan was that Ya’acov would go to his blind father as his brother. Being blind, Yitzchak would naturally communicate through his other senses and with the obvious differences, of one son being hairy and the other smooth-skinned, something had to be done… To make sure that the plan would not fail, Rivka also gives Ya’acov the best of Esav’s wardrobe (country odors included).

Tensions were running high as Ya’acov carried in the savory meal, with some freshly baked bread and a little wine. All of the delicious fragrances, as part of the cover up plot, were to have an intoxicating effect on the “old man”. Then the test begins. Yitzchak was already suspicious of foul play (Esav had just left for the hunt, how could he make it back so quickly?). It would take divine intervention to pull this off… Ya’acov, who just barely manages to pass the test, receives the following blessing of the firstborn. “May God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!" (Gen. 27:28-29). One can see from the nature of this blessing, that losing it is no small matter.

Adam, Noah, and Avraham all shared in YHVH’s kingdom order as firstborn and patriarchal heads of the human family. Each was like a prince, who would ultimately rule with Elohim. Now, Ya’acov, is the 22nd elder to join the list of the 24 who are sitting around the throne (ref. Rev. 4:4). However, Ya’acov, unlike the others, does not represent merely himself; he is a promised and chosen nation (Gen. 25:23) that would one day be the Israel of God (the prince who rules with Elohim).

After the death of his father, Ya’acov becomes the sole heir to the throne of Elohim on earth, as it was in the course of his generation that all the rest of the firstborn from Noah onwards died, only to be seen again, as mentioned above, when their Kinsman Redeemer would take the scroll out of their Heavenly Father’s hand (ref Rev. 5:1-7). It is imperative for us to understand this. One of the 24 elders, called out: "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals." No one, in heaven, on earth or under the earth qualified to open this scroll, not even these 24 elders sitting around the throne. Michael the Archangel did not qualify either. In order for someone to take the scroll and open it, one would have had to overcome and to legally qualify for the position of a redeemer. Why is that so important to understand? Because we, who have been called into the body of Messiah as a first fruit, or firstborn, have to also qualify by overcoming in order to fulfill the position that all Creation is groaning for and waiting to see. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs----heirs of God and joint heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory, which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:16-19). We must be careful not to be like Esav, and give up our birthrights for the tantalizing ways of the flesh.

Ya’acov and mother danced for joy upon the completion of the mission, which was but short lived, as the will of Elohim was going to continue to be done. Ya’acov’s brother returns home from the hunt, only to find out that his younger sibling had stolen his double portion and the right hand blessing. It is interesting that in order to receive the blessing Ya’acov had to lie to his father, which seemed to have been an acceptable tactic, according to divine justice. However, it did result in a very strong reaction from Esav, and understandably so. Loss of this magnitude produces rage and bitterroot judgment, while bitterness and anger of this degree, will always turn into hatred and murder. Esav, now possessed with these thoughts and emotions, set out to kill his brother. This is quite reminiscent of the story of Ka’yin (Cain) who killed his brother over the same issue. In our lives today, as a redeemed remnant, the battle that rages inside us is also of a similar nature; the conflict between the rightful firstborn – that is the natural man - and the second one - the spiritual man. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption" (1Cor. 15:30). “But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now…For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another" (Gal. 4:29; Gal. 5:17).

Ya’acov was now fleeing for his life from his twin brother, who was a mighty hunter.

"Behold, I will send for many fishermen," says YHVH, "and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks” (Jer. 16-16). Since “there is nothing new under the sun”, and “that which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done (Ecc.1:9), could these descriptions be referring to the “mighty hunters” (such as Esav and Nimrod), and to the fishers of men, as defined by Yeshua?

What we see in a microcosm in the book of Genesis is a macrocosm today, for the seed or progeny of these forefathers is still alive in people groups (see letter 76 “battle of the firstborn”). The same murdering spirit that was in the heart of Esav was transferred over to his firstborn’s firstborn son, Amalek. YHVH tells us that even in this generation the conflict continues.

“Then YHVH said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven… Because YHVH has sworn: YHVH will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’" (Ex. 17:14,17). It is obvious that there can be no peace treaty signed between the flesh and the spirit.

The following is the list of what we give up if we sell our birthrights for a portion of tantalizing flesh.

But to him who overcomes:

“I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God"' (Rev 2:7).

“shall not be hurt by the second death" '(Rev. 2:11).

“I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it"' (Rev. 2:17).

and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Rev. 2:26).

“shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev 3:5).

“I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (3:12).

“I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21).

“shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Rev. 21:7).

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world----our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God?” (1st John 5:4-5).