Monday, October 29, 2012

Shabbat Shalom

 “Shabbat Shalom”!   This is a greeting and salutation that one hears echoing all over Israel every Friday and Saturday.  Is there a prophetic proclamation herein?  This greeting obviously announces the coming day of rest, the Shabbat rest that YHVH established after He completed His work.  “And on the seventh day YHVH ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And YHVH blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it He had rested from all His work which He created and made,” (Gen 2:2-3).  Inherent in the seventh day is a blessing.  Thus, upon entering this seventh day rest we are blessed, and might I add, sanctified too. Halleluyah!

When our forefathers “passed over”(of the root “avor”, which also serves the word “Hebrew”) and came out of the Land of Egypt and into the wilderness (Ex. 16:22-28), YHVH established this ordinance of a seventh day rest.  Why? “And you shall remember all the way which YHVH your Elohim led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in you heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or not,” (Deut. 8:2).

The seventh day rest was one of the first commandments that YHVH asked the nation of Israel to obey.  Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, said it was a shadow of that which has yet to be revealed.  The weekly Shabbat is therefore prophetic, but as mentioned above, is also a blessing. The author to the Hebrews shed light upon the “shadow”, when he explained why our forefathers in the wilderness never entered the rest.  They hardened their hearts through disobedience, “wherefore (as the Holy Spirit says), ‘Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness. When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years…’  And to whom did he swear that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief,” (Heb 3:7-9; 18-19). 

YHVH told Moses to say to the nation of Jacob: “Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel… But if you shall indeed obey My voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy to you enemies, and an adversary to your adversaries,” (Ex. 19:5-6; 23:22).

As His redeemed nation in this generation, have these conditions changed for us?  Does YHVH still require us to obey/listen, or does He just turn His back on our unbelief and says: “Well done rebellious and unfaithful servant”?  

Our forefathers, who were an example to us, had to learn to listen from their first test of obedience.  The word in Hebrew is “sh’ma”, which has a double meaning. It means both to listen and to obey. When they wandered in the desert, they had to trust YHVH for their daily provision - one day at a time.  If they tried to store manna for a second day, it spoiled.  However, on the sixth day they were to take a double portion, enough for the seventh day too. Amazingly it did not spoil.  However, if anyone went in search of manna on the seventh day, none was to be found. Here again we see that the Shabbat contains a double portion of blessing, but it is also YHVH’s  first test of obedience in our walk with Him toward the  promised place of rest and of total provision. Please note, obedience to the voice, or word of YHVH is not legalism, it is all part of the relationship. “If you love me you will keep my commands” (1 John 5:3).
You shall bring them in and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place, O YHVH, which You have made for Yourself to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O YHVH, which your hands have established,” (Ex. 15:17). The Hebrews were on their way from slavery to a place of rest, but they had to cross, or pass through, the wilderness which was a place of no natural provision. YHVH promised He would bring them out of Egypt and plant them in the mountain of His inheritance, the place which is made for His dwelling, the sanctuary which His hands have established as His resting place. 

Where and what is Elohim’s mountain dwelling, or sanctuary? “For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for his habitation. This is My resting place forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it,“ (Ps 132:13-14). Coming into the place of God’s dwelling is coming into rest - into His rest and His peace.  A place of  “Shabbat Shalom”, a place of total trust in “He who is my life” (Col. 3:4).

We, as the body of the redeemed Ephraimite nation, the second stick or tree of YHVH, are to call out: “Arise, let us go up to Zion to YHVH our Elohim!” (Jer. 31:6). On our way up we can proclaim “Shabbat Shalom”. To come into His presence on Mount Zion is to enter into His rest, which is an eternal blessing. How do we get there? “Those who love His name [that is, who He is] will dwell in it,” (Ps. 69:36b).  Here we see that when Moses and Yeshua laid down the first of all the commandments, “to love YHVH our Elohim with all our heart and with all soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength,” they were in essence saying, “come abide in the dwelling place, in the true Shabbat Shalom”.  This eternal rest can be seen in the second of the two commandments, “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Loving our neighbor-brother as our own self makes us doubly blessed, as we enter into a peaceful relationship with our Elohim and with one another.

Come out of the desert; Let us arise,
Come gather at the river where the Lamb is the Life.
Come to the river that flows from His throne,
To His Mountain of Blessing - to His Shabbat Shalom.

The next time we say “Shabbat Shalom” may we be prophetically declaring: “Come let us love Him and let us go up together to worship YHVH our Elohim in His holy mountain of rest.” Shabbat Shalom!

Ephraim                                                                                                          29/08/03

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yeshua's return part II


Continuing to follow the scene described in the last post (in 2 Sam.19), we are now at the point where the “two houses” meet at the fords of the Jordan.  Will love and mutual cooperation unite the two brothers?  Will they bring the king back together to Jerusalem?   Will having David as their king suffice?  Or, will the old - old sibling rivalry of resentment and jealousies interfere in the occasion?

A remnant from the northern tribes, as we mentioned previously, had gone down to Gilgal in humiliation to invite the king back.  From this we may infer that they did not humble themselves but rather, that they had “egg on their faces” and were embarrassed by the defeat of Absalom, their chosen leader. Their only alternative was to possibly select another king, or invite David back. The defeat was extremely degrading, not because David's army was more powerful and clever, but because the forests of Ephraim claimed more lives than did the fighting. This may have caused them to deduce that God's hand was in the matter, and therefore they had no alternative but to reinstate David. What's more, Absalom, their leader, was also “overcome” by a large oak tree, as he hung by his head and long hair in its branches (2 Sam.18:9). In scripture trees are sometimes connected to God's righteousness: "That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified" (Isa. 61:3). In our day and age these proverbial oaks also pose a threat to would-be spiritual leaders, especially to those, who like Absalom, flaunt an elaborate self-glorifying “coiffure”.

After their defeat, the tribes of Israel all fled to their own tents [local congregations], and spent the time disputing, arguing and quarreling amongst themselves (2nd  Sam.19:9-10). What were they fighting over? They had remembered how David delivered them from their enemies and saved them, time and time again from the hand of the Philistines; but they could not understand why he would flee, leaving them to be ruled by his rebellious son. Did they have a choice in the matter? Could they have stood up and opposed this would-be leader? Instead, they had chosen to serve Absalom whole-heartedly, and were even willing to fight against some of David's faithful servants. [Does this sound familiar, invoking memories of latter episodes in the history of the Ephraimite people, such as when they became entangled in their various denominations?]  However, after the defeat, a remnant of them decided to go and ask the king to return. But lo and behold, the king ignored their request (2nd Sam. 19:10-11)! These perplexed Israelites were further embarrassed when David sent for Judah to come down to Gilgal.  When the Judeens arrived and saw that their Israelite brethren were already there, they were quite upset, to say the least.

Please take note of the following small, but yet moving, episode right in the midst of this sibling rivalry (v.16-20). When the time came for David to cross over, a repentant man by the name of Shimei (root of "to listen") of “Benjamin, from the house of Joseph,” (even though most of the tribe of Benjamin were in Judah), along with other of Saul's servants, joined Judah. This group of Benjamites was made up of those who had mocked, cursed and thrown stones at David when he left Jerusalem, (2nd Sam. 16:5-8).  However, now they were truly repentant, and "rushed down to the Jordan and brought across all the king's household, and did what was right in the eyes of the king". This small company of Benjamites, that is those ("listeners" from the "son of the right hand") of the house of Joseph (v 20), were not only the first to see the king of Israel, but were also the ones to experience his heart of compassion, mercy and forgiveness. I wonder if there just might be a few around today, who have the heart to repent and to do what is right in the eyes of the king…

Meanwhile, more and more of the Israelites (or Ephraimites) were coming down to watch the procession crossing the Jordan. Their internal quarreling had stopped, but now they were incensed with Judah. When the latter escorted the king across the river, the jealousy of Ephraim (Israel) finally broiled to the surface. "Then all Israel came to the king and said, 'why has our brothers from Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household and all David's men with him over the Jordan?'" (2nd Sam 19:41).  Ephraim did not want to be left out or, rather, pushed out or even bullied out, by His older brother. He therefore lodged his complaint: "That’s not fair! It was my idea in the first place to bring the king back!" (v. 43 paraphrased).  This would seem a mere logical conclusion, right? Unfortunately, Ephraim’s sense of inferiority demanded a touch of favoritism, and measure of recognition. Having failed in his attempt to get his way, he flared up in anger.

What was Judah’s reply to this emotional assault? "… The king is a close relative of ours. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we ever eaten at the king's expense? Or has he given us any gift?" (2nd Sam 19:42). Does this response have anything to do with Ephraim's complaint? Poor Ephraim, always outwitted by his Jewish brother! Indeed, there did not seem to be any favoritism on the king’s part toward Judah, yet Ephraim's hurt feelings of pride, jealousy and anger surfaced, and not altogether without reason. To add insult to injury, Judah was not willing to walk with that remnant of Israel to escort David across the Jordan.   In fact, Ephraim's very presence, as already pointed out, gave rise to Judah's contempt. Still confused over Judah’s remarks, Ephraim made his next mistake by a business-like approach: “And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, 'we have ten shares in the king; therefore we also have more right to David than you. Why then do you despise us?’" (2nd Sam 19:43). We have ten shares in the king, they boasted. “Big deal!” So what's that to Judah? He can take his two shares and make them into one hundred well before Ephraim even begins to think about investments. “Yet the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel"(2nd Sam 19:43). The argument must have been quite intense, but the lion's roar won the conflict and left Israel even more frustrated and devastated. Thus, their only recourse was to disassociate themselves from Judah.  With these words they were going to teach Judah a lesson: "We have no share in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; Every man to his tents, O Israel.” Bear in mind that this all took place in front of the returning king.

Following this, the Ephraimites found themselves another leader, a worthless man, a Benjamite. This was just like Ephraim, who, when rejecting Judah's legitimate position of leadership in the family, always ends up with leaders who will be happy to take him up every mountain, as long as it is not Mount Zion (see Eze 34)!

Today, as back then, a remnant of the lost sheep of the House of Israel has been longing for the return of the Messiah, waiting at the fords of the Jordan for Him, but lo, here comes the Judeans, the natural branch; kinsmen of the Messiah.  They have gotten their act together and they are coming down as "one man" to Gilgal.
What will happen this time? Will the New Covenant love, the Torah written on the heart, win out?  Will Ephraim call out: “Let us return to Zion,” or will he call out "we have no share in David, nor do we have an inheritance in the son of Jesse, every man to his tents, O Israel"?  Will Judah continue to persist in their rejection, despising Ephraim's presence and newly-found identity?  Will they again say in this generation: “We don't need your help in bringing the King back, nor do we need you to return to the land! THIS LAND HAS BEEN GIVE US AS A POSSESSION!" (see Ezk. 11:15).

Will the two brothers love one another and accept each other’s role in this chosen generation in the family of Jacob, in the family that has been called to become a royal priesthood and a holy nation; the one new man, the first fruit of the new creation, a light to the nations? Or will their testimony to the nations continue to be enmity, strife, jealousy, resentment, hatred and divisiveness? 

Redeemed of the Lord, from Ephraim and Judah, if we do not accept God's prophetic plan, which has been summed up in the New Covenant, and repent of these ancient attitudes our eventual togetherness and unity will come forth only as a result of the following: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent”(Rev.3:19).