Friday, March 23, 2012

Ram and Goat


As the U.S. and some of her allies are poised for war, some thoughts have come to mind regarding this present situation here in the Middle East. One cannot help but think particularly about the book of Daniel and end time prophecy. In a sermon given by a brother from the German Christian kibbutz in Northern Israel, a very interesting interpretation of Daniel chapter 8 was offered. This particular chapter presents an intriguing scenario of historical events that have actually been fulfilled (ref. v. 20-21). However, history does have a tendency to repeat itself. The brother pointed out that in verse 17 it says, “understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end” (Dan. 8:17). Thus, the ram with the two horns, that back then represented the Mede- Persian kings, is now representing the area that they had dominated, and is therefore symbolic of Islam which has taken over that region. The two horns seem to be more specifically Iraq and Iran, or the two main factions of Islam: the Sunnis and Shiites.

The ram was defeated by a goat, which came from the west (v. 5). The goat had one large horn and attacked the ram ferociously, trampling it to the earth and in the process broke off its two horns. In the days of the Mede-Persian Empire the goat represented Greece. Presently it does not take too much analysis to figure out that the western world and its super power (the U.S.) is under the influence of the ‘beast’ of ancient Greece. One only needs to look at its form of government of democracy, or at its Hellenistic mindset, which is seen in every aspect of western culture. The interesting thing about this goat is that its feet did not touch the ground as it went over to attack the ram. “Suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground” (Dan. 8:5). Could that be symbolic of the American and British air forces? The American army’s mascot just happens to be a goat. Thus the goat comes against the ram (Islam) through the air. We may not see yet the full extent of the conflict between the ram and the goat, but if indeed it is portrayed by this vision of Daniel, the one large horn (the American-British alliance) will ultimately be broken and four other horns – entities – will arise in its place. This could mean that the western world will divide into four main areas. Already there is a “quartet” that is mentioned often, at least here in Israel, in relationship to the so-called “roadmap” plan for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and its ultimate aim of securing a “safe Israel” and a “peaceful and democratic Palestinian state”. The “quartet” consists of the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia.

I’m not going to venture into the rest of Daniel 8, but the Spirit of YHVH will unveil all these end time prophecies, as He Himself brings them to pass. Meanwhile everyone in Israel is counting down the hours and minutes to the start of the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. May YHVH’s judgments be overridden by His tender mercies.

In light of the situation, this is being sent in place of the Friday letter. We trust that you will all have peace from the Prince of Peace, regardless of the outcome of the war.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The prodigal son


I am sure we all are familiar with Yeshua’s story of the prodigal son as recorded in Luke 15:11-32. If you will bear with me, I would like to relate this story somewhat differently.

Once upon a time there was a God-fearing man named Ya’acov, who had two wives and twelve sons. One day the two firstborn, Yehuda, the eldest of the unloved wife Leah, and Yoseph-Ephraim, although younger also a firstborn, of the beloved wife Rachel, came to their father and asked for their portions of the birthright. Ya’acov was a little reluctant to grant them their respective portions at that point, as they both were still quite immature and neither had really proven himself worthy of the honor, but because he loved them he eventually gave in to their wishes. Yoseph-Ephraim, however, was not happy with the arrangement and became jealous of Yehuda who, because of seniority, had leadership and more power and prestige in the family. Little by little Yoseph-Ephraim’s jealousy led to an open rebellion against the ways of his father’s house. He started to live only for himself, and desired the customs of the foreigners. His waywardness ultimately drove him further and further from the righteous ways of his father’s God and his family.

Yoseph-Ephraim decided to sell off all that he had, pack his bags and leave home for bigger and better things. Having received a goodly sum of money from his portion of the inheritance, he had the means to live it up, but after a few years of moving from place to place his life began to go downhill. He had to work to earn a living, and the pay he was offered was very scanty. Additionally, his addictions to alcohol, drugs, and sex had drained him of his youthful strength and resources. Finally things got so bad that a pig farmer took pity on him, and had him feed his herd. One day, while wallowing in the sty, he thought to himself that the pigs’ food was a delicacy compared to the leftovers he had been getting.

Yoseph-Ephraim had completely lost his perspective on life. After so many years he could hardly remember who he was and where he had come from. But when things really hit rock bottom, he suddenly had a dim recollection of his previous identity. It dawned on him that his father’s servants’ lot was much better than his present circumstances. He knew he was not worthy of being reinstated as a son in his family, but he was determined to ask his father’s forgiveness and see if he could work as a servant.

The journey back home was not an easy one, as he had to travel the same way that he came. He now had to face all the previous temptations, and turn away from the way of life that he had been accustomed to. Yoseph-Ephraim was a broken man, who was humbled through life circumstances; there was no other way for him, but to repent and return as a servant to his father’s house! Yoseph-Ephraim did not know of course whether his father was still alive, or whether he would even allow him to come anywhere near his property. However, nothing seemed to matter to him, except this faint glimmer of hope that he might be able to live under his father’s care once more.

The surroundings began to look more and more familiar to the returnee, as he drew closer and closer to home. Finally the house was in view, but his strength was almost completely drained. Weak-kneed, thirsty and hungry he staggered down the road. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, his father was embracing him, with tears rolling down his face he was sobbing, whispering in his ears, “my son, my son, my son”. Yoseph Ephraim’s emaciated body was now under-girded by his father’s love. Two of Ya’acov’s servants lifted him and carried him back to the house. All the way down the road Yoseph-Ephraim could hear his father singing, “Ephraim, Ephraim my dear son, you were lost and now are found, you were dead but now you are alive, Oh Yoseph-Ephraim, my beloved.”

Ya’acov ordered his servants to prepare the best of all his calves for a festive celebration. Some went out to buy the most expensive and ornate of all garments for Yoseph-Ephraim. However, when Ya’acov put a very costly gold ring on his son’s finger, Yehuda could contain his anger no longer and lashed out at his father: “How can you do this? Yoseph-Ephraim is just as worthless as he was when he left. I have served you all these years, being faithful in all the duties of your household and you never once gave me such a party, let alone a gold ring! I bore your name and fought your battles against our enemies. I was even taken captive, tortured and almost killed! But what did I get out of it, but these scars and bitter wounds while this brother of mine squandered your wealth and was living it up with prostitutes and sinners!” Ya’acov tried to console Yehuda, reminding him that all that he had was his, and that Yoseph-Ephraim, who was buried in the tomb of humiliation, had risen from that grave of disgrace and had returned home. But because of what seemed to him so totally unjust, Yehuda could not accept or comprehend his father’s merciful ways and refused to come to the celebration.

Yoseph-Ephraim found it very difficult living under the shadow of his father’s comforting love and unconditional favor, while his brother’s envy and jealousy raged about him. Every day the burden to love his brother as his father loved him pressed on his heart like a giant rock. He thought that giving his brother gifts and displaying willingness to serve him would break through these barriers, but nothing was good enough.

What would it take to bring the two of them back together again as one in the family of Ya’acov? One day Yoseph-Ephraim remembered something that his father had taught them while they were still very young: “No greater love has a man than to give up his life for his brother.” He knew that this was the answer to the problem, but how does one give up his life for one’s brother? Can it be done, and if so how??? Perhaps the answer lies in the mighty right-hand of YHVH, Elohey Israel…

Thursday, March 08, 2012


There is a saying here in the land, “it is better to be wise than right”. I have been pondering that thought for sometime, and have been trying to understand what it really means. In the dictionary I found that the definition for “wisdom” is a little obscure: “Understanding of what is true, right, or lasting; Common sense, good judgment, scholarly learning, knowledge” (American Heritage Dictionary). Although this sounds like a legitimate enough definition, when checking the Scriptures for the Hebraic viewpoint, I have found, in some cases, wisdom listed first and separate from understanding and knowledge. In reference to the craftsmen building the Mishkan, it says: "He [YHVH] has filled him with the Spirit of Elohim, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship” (Ex. 35:31). YHVH bestowed wisdom on those whom He called to build His house, whether it was in the days of Moses, Solomon or Nehemiah.

The Scriptures say “Behold, the fear of YHVH, that is wisdom” (Job 28:28). In Job 28:28 and Psalm 111:10 it is written: “The fear of YHVH is wisdom, even the beginning of wisdom”. Why is awe or reverence (fear) of YHVH the beginning of wisdom? James gives us a clue in his writings: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). In Proverbs 2:6, even the answer is more direct. “For YHVH gives wisdom”.

If wisdom were a virtue Paul the apostle would have listed it as one of the “fruit of the Spirit” (see Gal. 5:22-23) that grows in us as we mature. However, we must conclude that for wisdom that is “from above” one has to approach YHVH. The proud will receive nothing from Him, but those who will walk humbly, in reverence and awe of Him, those He will answer. “ He [YHVH] regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar” (Psalms 138:6). Both James and Peter write, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Thus our hearts have to be right before YHVH when we approach Him for this wisdom.

The Scriptures often personify Wisdom. “Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares” (Proverbs 1:20). “Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars” (Proverbs 9:1). But in no place in the Word is it made more clear than when the Father’s wisdom was made manifest in His Son, who is “Wisdom” in His very person (1 Cor. 1:24). We get a good glimpse of the true nature of the Father when Yeshua took off His outer garments (the traditional Jewish dress of the day), girded himself with a servant’s towel and washed the feet of His disciples. The Scriptures say that Yeshua knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, He also knew where He came from and where He was going when He performed this act (see John 13:3-4). However, that was not the end of His testimony, nor of His demonstration of the knowledge of who He was, where He had come from and where He was going. In his letter to the Philippians Paul encapsulates it best: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the tree” (Philippians 2:8). Again, when the time came to manifest the wisdom of His Father, Yeshua hung naked on the execution tree. He did not need outer garments to remind Him of who He was - “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29,36; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:6).

During His ministry on earth Yeshua not only taught the principles about His Father’s kingdom, but in His very nature also exemplified the “Torah written on the heart”. Being the king and high priest “after the order of Melchizedec”, He laid down His life for the People of Israel. Our Messiah said that whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but that he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11, 18:14). “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land” (Matthew 5:5). “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing" (Rev. 5:12)!

If it is YHVH who holds the key to our wisdom, then perhaps we should pray along with Paul and James: “We pray YHVH that You, the Elohim of our Master Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of glory, may give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Yourself”(Eph. 1:17), “and that we may be filled with this knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9), “especially the wisdom that is from You Abba, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” Amen.