Let Love Abound

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ…” Phil 1:9

From the musty prison cell where Paul sits comes a prayer for the church in Philippi. When the apostle starts something with, “And this I pray” it is best we tune our ears to those intimate words. Paul felt the need to pray for the small church of Philippi, most likely under 50 members, that their love would abound (overflow) still more and more. When dealing with people inside of a church I don’t think that any of us needs to ask why Paul might have prayed such a thing. We can be very unloving and selfish people! To understand however the love Paul is speaking of we need to revisit the place of where his definition of love would have been conceived––the Old Testament.

The love in Paul’s mind is not ambiguous and certainly not generalized sentiment, but it is a strong and well-defined love derived from his understanding of Who YHWH was in the Old Testament (Tanakh) Scriptures. The prayer that love would abound comes from the idea that YHWH had done and was currently doing this very same thing, and simply mandated for His followers also. For the Christian this might be the hardest process for the Holy Spirit to enact within us. I am rarely found letting love overflow to the people surrounding me.

The most powerful form of love found in the Old Testament is YHWH’s covenant love which in Hebrew is checed חָ֫סֶד . This word appears around 250 times in the Tanakh, always referring to the very specific promises God has made to Abraham and by relation to Israel. In our bibles it is normally translated as lovingkindness but this doesn’t quite emphasize the depth of its true meaning. It literally means covenant loyalty which to YHWH is His bond of love to Israel. When employed, it communicates the idea that His love is so strong and so faithful that the covenant He has made will never be broken on His end.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love (checed) shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Is. 54:10)

This is an amazing concept, and furthermore, the premier definition of how we as believers in YHWH and His Son Yeshua ought to understand love. YHWH defines His love in simple faithfulness to the covenant He made with Abraham. Furthermore, it gives the clearest context to the meaning of agape love, which is the strongest form of love found in the Greek New Testament. Agape love, in how Jesus and the apostles perceive agape to be when they use it, is most likely directly connected to the idea of the Hebrew word checed since this was the strongest context they would have had to define this type of love. Stemming from this idea comes the exhortation Paul makes above, as well as Jesus’ very simple words that the entire Law and Prophets are summed up in Love (agape) the Lord Your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:40; Gal. 5:14). 

When Jesus hangs all the Law and Prophets upon something, we take care to notice the hook upon what He is hanging. It is love – and it is actually the strongest type of love – a tenacious love that is forgiving seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22), turning the other cheek when hit (Matt. 5:39), blessing when reviled (1 Cor. 4:12), leaping for joy when persecuted (Lk. 6:23) and covering a multitude of sins (1 Pt. 4:8). This is why the greatest of these is love – because love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8).

Recently I found myself in a major situation with a close friend whom I love. Over a period of several months however, because of our conflict, I became very unloving. In the midst of the conflict which began to seem unbearably irreconcilable, another friend exhorted me to, “let love abound.” Though I persisted that I felt wronged and that my friend was in the wrong, this was the only exhortation that my friend had left me with – “Let love abound.”

It was the most simple thing he could’ve said but it was the “word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hb. 4:12)… and that is exactly what it did! My heart was revealed and judged before that Scripture and the solution to the problem was simpler than I had ever perceived: Let love abound. The very problem was that I was not letting love abound––I was letting my own will, flesh, and rights abound.

As this verse continued to judge my heart’s intent I became increasingly grieved to the point where I had to write this post. And here is my public confession: I have not lived as a man that has allowed love to abound! To anyone that I have harmed with my intense personality, to every person that I have wronged with my “words of truth” that have cut you, and to every person that I have slandered or back-bitten, I repent. With tears before the Father in heaven I repent! 

I want to be a man who loves like YHWH loves lest I never become a man.

YHWH picked the hardest people to love. Just after crossing the red sea, they grumble against Him. While He is there still making the covenant with them at Sinai, they make an idol before His eyes and worship it. After He delivers them into the promised land, they turn away from Him unto other idols. He expels them from the land in discipline and yet He brings back a remnant. He draws near to them in the flesh and they crucify Him. He destroys their temple and casts them from the land again, and yet God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! (Rom 11:1)Simply, For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer. (Is. 54:7-8) Yes, it is true, “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us (Israel); He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old (Mic. 7:18-20).

In the fashion of YHWH we are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

I want to love like YHWH. I want to imitate the God of Israel in my love. I want a love that passes over sins committed against me. I want a love that is compassionate in the face of betrayal, and merciful in the presence of judgment. This is YHWH’s checed, His strong covenant love, a fixed love that “shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Is. 54:10). Seeing how YHWH loves Israel in the Bible gives me hope that by His Spirit I can love in this same way. I can be wronged and forgive. I can be hit and not strike back. I can be reviled and pray blessing. This is what is bound up in the death of our great God and Saviour as He “suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Pt. 2:21).

I want to follow Him and therefore I will love as He has loved.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

“…may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” 1 Thess. 3:11

Love is not an option that is presented to the Christian, rather it is the very object which makes us disciples of Christ. It is also the standard by which we are judged on the Day of the Lord as both apostolic prayers directly connect (Phil 1:9; 1 Thess. 3:11). I have felt His burning eyes lately staring into my heart to see what’s there. I have heard Him saying to me very gently, “Son, I am not going to ask you about your biblical theology on the day you appear before me.” At this I weep and come back to the simplicity of the new commandment Jesus gave us. I want my heart to be established without blame in holiness before God our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints! I want to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ! Paul hinges both of these things upon LOVE abounding in our lives. This is our response to His Cross, this is not salvation by works! Therefore, let us continue fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hb. 12:1-3).

The Lamb to the slaughter is leading the way of love and Paul was following Him all the way to his own head being lopped off. This is apostolic––the life laid down in love––as Stephen the martyr mimics His Lord, falling to the ground and uttering the same words as His savior, “Forgive them!”

But love is so hard! Yes, so let love abound. But, that person has sinned against me in the most horrible way! Indeed, let love abound. But it’s all their fault! You might be right, let love abound! We cannot do it by our own strength, so let us not deceive ourselves with such vanity. Rather, let us turn to the Holy Spirit in prayer and cry out for the Helper’s help that we might imitate YHWH and His Son, and abound in love towards each other. This is His command and the highest honor we can give Jesus is by simply following it as best we can.

Rather than my words, let us end with Paul’s exhortation from Galatians 5-6:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 15But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5For each one will bear his own load.

The Lamb to the slaughter is leading the way of love! Let us follow Him though it cost us everything.

 

#10 Between the Lines of Exodus 20-The Deuteronomy 18 Prophet Like Moses

Diagram Position

We are chronologically working through the diagram pictured above, having started with the far left Earth icon, and are now in the second pillar titled covenantal. On the third line down we identify Exodus 20-24. We have now taken several posts to carefully meditate upon Exodus 20-24 and we are still not done. Before moving on we must dive into Deuteronomy as the Exodus is expounded upon with far greater detail.

Introduction

A couple years ago I began to reevaluate my theology regarding the first coming of Jesus. After all, I thought I had it down: Jesus, who was God, came as a man and lived and died as the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. In His death humanity finds forgiveness before the Father when they repent, and in His resurrection we have hope of the reward that is in store for us if we stand firm in the faith until the end. Surely this is true and magnificent! However, as I began to ponder the details of the life of Jesus, particularly in the gospel of John, I began to realize some very important things of which I was previously unaware. One of these things namely was that Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees and Sadducees had a specific context. His words seemed very well thought out and pointed, as that of a sniper taking aim at targets. His acts, such as his cleansing the temple, healing on the sabbath, and many others seemed to point to a greater purpose. I had generally just swept everything under the rug of, “Jesus was displeased with the Jewish authorities and their view of the law and He was making that clear.” This again is true, but it is only scraping the surface of what He viewed as the purpose of His first coming.

I now believe that the large majority of the church including some Messianic Jewish brothers are missing a vital component of Jesus’ identity. This identity is revealed in Deuteronomy 18 as a person who would be The Prophet Like Moses. This person, as we will see, was to come to the nation of Israel in the prophetic fashion of Moses, speaking words to the nation with which they would be held accountable for.

I recently read a book by a messianic brother that was a biblical theology of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Within none of its pages did I discover a single paragraph regarding what we are about to discuss. This concerned and saddened me, and although it is a topic I am fairly new to as well, I am hopeful as we look into this together. Therefore, it is the aim of this post to pointedly show how Jesus emphatically sees Himself as fulfilling the role of the Prophet from Deuteronomy 18 as well as to pinpoint the importance of teaching this part of His identity today. It is critical as the text will reveal to understand how primary the identity of the Prophet like Moses is to Jesus Himself as well as the apostles, the Jewish people of the first century, and even the Father in Heaven.

 

Here is a link to the notes for this subject, yet they end incomplete as the apocalyptic identity of Jesus will be handled later. The two other links are audio sessions of teaching I recently did regarding this subject.

PDF Notes           Audio Session 1          Audio Session 2

The Context of the Prophet from Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5 and 18

One of the most significant messianic foreshadowings in the Old Testament is found in Deuteronomy 18 even though the exchange takes place at Mt. Sinai within the very chapters we have been looking at. Although a very short segment of Scripture, it is one of the most important things to see, behold, meditate upon, and let affect how we interpret the remainder of Scripture and our premier definition (as far as expectation is concerned) of the Messiah. In Deuteronomy 18 Moses gives a snippet of previously unheard information regarding what happened that day at the mountain in Exodus 20. To produce a thorough and cohesive picture of this event we need to look at many portions of Scripture.

In Exodus 20,

All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

Now, let’s read how Moses recaps this same event in Deut. 5.

These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23“And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24“You said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. 25‘Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. 26‘For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27‘Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ 

It is here that something very unique occurs. After the people say this to Moses, God responds to their statement with His own declaration:

 28“The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken.29Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

Wow. God is overflowing with the truth of His emotions here! He is longing for Israel to be able to keep what they’ve committed to although He already knows that they cannot. Still, in all of His foreknowledge He does not respond harshly but rather optimistically.

30‘Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31‘But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’ 32“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.

Deuteronomy 18 gives us an even clearer picture as Moses gives the last detail in this story that isn’t mentioned previously.

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’17“The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19‘It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.  

In my entire life I have never heard a teaching on Jesus being the prophet spoken of and prophesied by God in Deuteronomy 18. Does that not occur to you as odd?

Let me explain why this information is so vital. Firstly, it is one of the clearest pieces of information we have regarding the Messianic figure in the Old Testament. At this stage of our story we have been given some amazing foreshadowing concerning the Messiah. In Genesis 3:15 we have been told what He will inevitably do. In Genesis 15 we behold a priest/king who foreshadows Messiah. In Genesis 22 we see Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac, for “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type,” (Hb. 11:19). In Joseph we see a man thrown in a pit by His brothers, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused and imprisoned, and then vindicated and seated at the right hand of Pharaoh while his brothers come to Him in need. Yes, we have seen many pictures that are glorious and that instruct us in the nature of the Messiah that will come to fulfill Genesis 3:15. However in Deuteronomy 18, we have very concrete information which is in fact a direct pronouncement of the Messiah’s identity. Let’s break these few verses down to further discuss the scope of what is being revealed.

Deuteronomy 18:15-22

  1. 15a “The Lord Your God will raise up for you a prophet like me…”
    1. God is the one choosing to raise up this prophet of His own wisdom and accord.
    2. Also, we note that the person will be a prophet. The person who was a true prophet in Scripture is someone who is actually hearing and declaring the true word of God. Also, the case is usually that this one is calling Israel to return to the covenant of God in order to, in effect, renew their vows and repent, by rehearing God’s words. We see this with Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the remainder of the biblical prophets. So we know that this is the foundation of the Deuteronomy 18 person, He will actually speak the very words of God in calling the people to repentance–– to return to the Lord their God.
    3. A Prophet like Moses has many deep implications that we can only briefly discuss here:
      1. Moses was called out of Egypt before he was the deliverer.
        1. Jesus was called out of Egypt after Joseph and Mary had fled Bethlehem from Herod.
      2. God appeared to Moses in the Wilderness
        1. Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness in which He is specifically meditating on Deuteronomy 6-8. In Deuteronomy 8 we read that Moses says “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that Me might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”
        2. Likewise, Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days, which is significant of Israel’s forty years in the desert. Jesus was also humbled and hungry in his human frame, being tested by God to know what’s in His heart and whether or not He would keep the commandments of God or not. He responds to the devil from this exact section of Scripture saying, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God!”
      3. Moses stood in the direct counsel of God
        1. 33:11 “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”
          1. Jesus was in the presence of the Father His whole life speaking to Him face to face.
        2. The command to Moses is: But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess (Deut. 5:31).
        3. In Proverbs 8:30 we see this same language applied to Jesus “Then I was beside Him, as a master workman, and I was daily His delight.”
      4. Most profoundly though is simply that the prophet spoken of will fulfill the same duty as Moses when the people requested: “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
        • This is brutally ironic in that the Prophet will come to speak the very words of God as the people requested, and yet the prophet will actually still be God the Son speaking. The mystery of God taking on a human frame and masking His glory so that He might draw near to the people and fulfill what they asked of Him on that day at Horeb, and to do it in this way, is very mysterious and awesome.
        • Whether they knew it or not the people of Israel were requesting what God had preordained before the ages in God the Son.
      5. The overarching themes to consider in Jesus being a Prophet like Moses are:
        • Moses led the Exodus
          • Jesus leads the Second Exodus at His Second Coming
        • Moses institutes the Passover
          • Jesus becomes the Passover Lamb
        • Moses was the Mediator of the Sinai Covenant
          • Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant in His blood
        • Moses read the law from Mt. Sinai
          • Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount which is in effect the Law of the Spirit by grace through faith.
  2. 18:15b “…from among you, from your countrymen.”
    1. This clearly tells us that the Prophet will have an ethnic identity––the lineage of Abraham, the stock of Israel––He will be Jewish. The simple announcement of this identity of the prophet irrefutably confirms God’s choice of Abraham and his lineage. This gives us proper context of why Jesus the Prophet is born to Mary and Joseph, ethnic Jews, in the town of Bethlehem, in the physical piece of land that was called Israel. Often times we overlook these details because they are profoundly simple. Yet, in their simplicity they are actually confirming the everlasting covenant.
      1. Jesus was Jewish and Jesus didn’t arbitrarily choose his ethnicity to be Jewish. There wasn’t a conversation in the Godhead with ten different ethnicities Jesus could pick from when He came in the flesh––There was only one story, and one people that possessed a covenant with that Godhead––the lineage of Abraham. It is the very people standing at Horeb asking for the Prophet.
  3. 18:15c “…you shall listen to him.”
    1. The word hear here is exactly the same as Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” So YHWH is employing the same word in regards to this prophet, in that Israel should Shema the prophet.
      1. It is profound that the Lord gives the Shema twelve chapters earlier, and then links the Shema to the prophet. The Shema is that the LORD your God is ONE, and here the Lord is commanding Israel to Shema the Prophet, which foreshadows the divinity of the prophet. Since the command was initially Shema the word of the Lord, and now the command is Shema the prophet, it is completely ingenious of the Lord to frame it this way as He hides within the mystery.
      2. The command to listen to this Prophet again re-emphasizes that He will carry the direct Word of YHWH.
  4. 16 “This is according to all that you asked of the Lord Your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’”
    1. The words of Israel on the day at Horeb played directly into God’s foreknowledge regarding His interactions within the covenant. It is actually quite profound that God Himself cries out, “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” Here we can see a picture of God desiring to have mercy on His people whilst knowing that He will have to bring judgment because of their unfaithfulness. And then Moses says here that with regard to all that you said at Horeb this Prophet is coming forth. So, just after God declares this to Moses, He immediately declares that the Prophet like Moses will come and speak His words. The Lord answers their request with this Prophet who will pronounthe very judgment God wishes them to avoid through obedience to His Words.
    2. It is as if God finishes what He was saying at Horeb through Jesus on the earth.
  5. 17 The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well.
    1. They have spoken well is God’s agreement with their response. Moses said that the Lord was testing them to put His fear within them. This has seemingly been achieved as the people in fear speak these words.
    2. I have several times heard people say that it was a mistake for Israel to do this and that it was at this stage that they forsook the closeness that God wanted to have with them. It is normally portrayed as if this was their one opportunity to have nearness to God but because they were afraid they forfeited the one chance they had. This however is not in accord with God saying, “They have spoken well.” God’s desire was not for Israel to draw as near as we might think that day, but that His fear would remain within them (Ex. 20:20). His desire was actually fulfilled that day.
  6. 18a “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you,
    1. Since this is repeated twice within these few verses we should note that the Prophet’s ethnicity is being emphasized.
  7. 18b “…and I will put My words in his mouth…”
    1. The word used here for words in Hebrew is the same word used in Exodus 20:1 (dabar), “And God spoke all these words.” It would only be logical to assume that YHWH is saying that He will put these same words found in Exodus 20 in the mouth of the Prophet. That is not to say that He will not speak other things, but only to say that the Prophet will confirm those very words and indeed speak them from His own mouth.
  8. 18c “…and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”
    1. Here we should note the simple yet terrifying nature of the spoken word. The promise from YHWH is that the Prophet will speak all that I command Him and that the Prophet’s words will warrant a divine accountability from all those who hear.
    2. We should rightly identify the them in this verse as pertaining to the future lineage of Abraham.
    3. This is a beautiful picture of Jesus and the mystery of God coming in the flesh. His choice was to come as a person and speak these very words, His testimony, as one of their own kinsmen. The beauty of YHWH’s faithfulness to Abraham is stunning.
      1. It is helpful to consider the juxtaposition here. In the first encounter, God comes down on the mountain trembling under His glory, with fire, lightning, thunder, and trumpets and causes His fear to be within them. He instructs them in the fear of the Lord, which Proverbs tells us is the beginning of wisdom. Yet, here is the other side of the coin! In Jesus, YHWH draws near to His people––save terrifying glory––humbly coming as a servant, a prophet in human skin, to declare to them the same words He had spoken from the mountain of Sinai. This is not a contradiction in His character but the very height of His wisdom in dealing with Israel covenantally.
  9. 19 “It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I myself will require it of him.
    1. Again we have the reemphasis that this Prophet will be speaking the direct words (dabar) of YHWH––His testimony. We also have shema again, but this time in a negative sense. Whoever does not shema the dabar of the prophet will be held accountable.
      1. We will later look at how this functions throughout the Gospel of John with Jesus often saying, “You do not listen to Me, and you do not hear Me.”
    2. YHWH’s confidence in this person to be a faithful witness to His Words is astounding. YHWH shows such confidence in this Prophet revealing a great dichotomy between the Prophet and Israel. He has already shown that He knows He cannot trust Israel to fulfill His words because of their heart, which foreshadows that this Prophet will be more than a typical Israelite––He will be God Himself, since He is the only one able to fulfill His own word.
    3. YHWH also identifies His reciprocation of judgment upon those who do not listen to this Prophet. Again, we see His astounding confidence in this Prophet in that He is willing to judge every person  according to the words the Prophet speaks.
    1. The significance of spoken words in Deuteronomy.
      1. God speaks to Moses.
      2. God speaks to the people.
      3. God promises He will speak again through a Prophet.
      4. Moses speaks to God
      5. Moses speaks to the people.
      6. God will raise up a prophet like Moses who will speak to the people.
      7. The people speak to God (usually bad things)
      8. The people speak to Moses (usually bad things)
      9. The people are supposed to listen to what God spoke, what Moses speaks, and what the Prophet will speak.
      10. The origin of speaking is rarely discussed as something that finds its premier anchor in relationship to God, His Words, and that He has created words for His purposes.
        1. Gen 1:1 God speaks words to create everything.
        2. John 1 the Word was with God and was God and everything was made through Him.
        3. The Prophet, who is God in the flesh, speaks the final Words of God which every man is accountable to.
  10. The Simple Formula of Deuteronomy 18:18-19 This Prophet will be like Moses
    1. This Prophet will be one of Israel’s countrymen
    2. This Prophet will be like Moses
    3. The Prophet will speak the words of God Himself
    4. The people should listen to this Prophet
    5. Whoever does not listen to what He speaks will be held accountable.

Now that we have established what the Prophet will be like, let us look at several Scriptures in the New Testament that confirm that Jesus truly was this Prophet like Moses.

The Expectation and Confirmation of the Prophet

There is a very clear expectation for the Prophet like Moses seen in the Gospels which gives us our first clues. We turn our attention to John chapter 1, where the Pharisees send men to speak with John the Baptist,

John 1:19-22 “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And He confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

The prophet in their minds finds its only context in Deuteronomy 18 as the one who would “speak all that God commanded him.” John the Baptist appeared to them to be that person but John explicitly tells them that he is not the prophet. Here we have a profound example showing that the leadership of Israel was expecting this prophet from Deuteronomy 18 to be a real person that would come to them.

The first disciples of Jesus profess their expectation as well:

John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote––Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'” 

After Jesus rose from the dead it is very clear that the apostles firmly believed Him to have been the Prophet like Moses:

Acts 3:22 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you.”

Furthermore, we have in the Gospels the people of Israel confirming Jesus to be the prophet:

John 7:39 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.”

With these passages we can easily confirm that there was an expectation for the Prophet like Moses and that the apostles and many others believed that Jesus was that person. But how about the Heavenly Father’s voice coming from heaven?

Matt 17: 1-8 1Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

We may have overlooked the simplicity of what the Father is saying here, since what He is saying is simply a verbatim of what He said in Deuteronomy 18: The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him! If Moses standing on the mountain with Jesus is not ironic enough, the Father speaks to confirm from heaven that Jesus is the Prophet like Moses.

However, the nail in the coffin so to speak, is when Jesus Himself confirms by His own words that He is the Prophet like Moses. There are so many verses to quote here, but it serves us best to reveal the key to interpreting His words and then hope you continue study on your own. First we look at His direct mention of Moses speaking about Him:

John 5:39-47 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life…I have come in My Fathers name, and you don’t not receive Me… Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for He wrote about Me. But it you do not believe His writings how will you believe My words?”

John 5 is an incredible picture into our discussion where Jesus articulates that Moses wrote about Him. Many times in the gospel of John Jesus uses these references to point through the haze surrounding His identity. Those who were willing to hear His words would know that He was the Prophet like Moses sent by God. This direct line of thought by Jesus reveals how He viewed Himself and His ministry as the Prophet. Case and point is a passage like this:

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak,” (Jn. 12:49).

There is no denying that this is the quintessential fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:18:

“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”

It is almost like looking upon twins! In this passage, Jesus is very plainly revealing that He is the promised Prophet like Moses who has received words directly from YHWH, His Father, to speak to the people. This really is incredible. Let’s juxtapose another example with Deuteronomy 18:19,

John 5:24 “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” 

and its sister:

Deut. 18:It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which He shall speak in My name, I myself will require it of him.

In the gospel of John Jesus continually addresses and reinforces the fact that the man who hears His words and believes His Father sent Him has eternal life and does not come into judgment, while Deuteronomy makes clear that whoever does not receive the Prophet’s words will come under judgment. The same is true in John 8:26-28

“I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world… “So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught Me.”

The final passage that punctuates this study is Matthew 5 (thanks Yazan!). 

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…”

In the passage above, Jesus basically says, “Moses told you this, and now I am telling you this.” There can be no question that this is again Jesus directly completing the prophecy of the Prophet like Moses. Moreover, the entire Sermon on the Mount is Jesus undoubtedly expounding upon the law of Moses, which obviously makes Him the Prophet like Moses. This premier identity of Jesus gives a pointed foundational, though often neglected, definition of how Jesus perceived His own identity, role, and purpose of His first coming.

Concluding Thoughts

All of the passages we’ve evaluated incontrovertibly reveal Jesus’ identity as the Prophet like Moses. The pertinence of how Jesus views Himself with regards to this identity is revealed in many proofs throughout the Gospels and is something that should be understood and considered by any serious student of the Bible. It is not an overstatement to say that every single word Jesus speaks while in His human frame is because of the framework of His identity stemming from Deuteronomy 18. With this understanding in place you can peer much deeper into the gospels, but also assert the covenantal context of Jesus’ life in its entirety.

Jesus very plainly saw His first coming as accomplishing this very unique purpose of being the Prophet like Moses that would speak words to His own Jewish countrymen––the very words of YHWH Himself! At Sinai, YHWH appeared in a terrifying measure of glory, splendor, and awe. His power was revealed in an awesome way that taught the people to fear Him. There in their fear they cry out, “Moses you go and speak to God so that we do not die!” God then cries out, “The people have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put my words in His mouth and hold them accountable to what He says.” Then in consistency with what was said, God the Son is born in the flesh in the small town of Bethlehem. In contrast to the power and glory of Sinai, He draws near to His own people in a humble human frame to speak the very words that YHWH began at Sinai. How drastically different than the top of the mountain of Sinai where He began His speech, yet equally terrifying! The words that He would say throughout His life would effectively seal prophecy for good and present the final standard regarding the judgment of Israel and mankind at large.

The prophetic acts of Jesus’ life are testifying to the truth that He was the final prophet given to Israel by God––He was the Prophet like Moses. He chose this identity and it is precious to Him. Jesus’ Jewishness possesses the most exemplary form of Jew, in that He not only speaks the divine words of YHWH as the Prophet like Moses but He also fulfills perfectly the Ten Words spoken at Sinai. The culmination of His life breathes the life of the covenant into our tired lungs and gives hope that He will yet fulfill His promises for Israel, Jerusalem, and gentiles too. We glory in this soon coming fulfillment and say Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

Travail in Beit-El: A Short Story

The air was crisp and the sun was just rising as a golden eye taking a peek at the residents of the hill country of Bethlehem. From my bed, tucked in the window ledge of the small arabic home, I peered out over the rolling micro-mounts of Palestine. I only had a sheet to cover me during those last six hours and I had been a little cold albeit the middle of June. I rubbed my eyes and recounted the dream which I had awoke from, dropped my feet onto the cold marble floor before making my way to the bathroom. Careful not to use the wrong water, I began the monotonous practice of teeth brushing as my eyes stared into through the wall, past the neighboring houses and back into the dream. God was speaking to me and I was all ears.

I was in Bethel, or Beit-El in Hebrew, meaning House of God (It has kept its distinct name since Jacob laid his head on that ancient rock pillow and stared into the very throne room of God atop the heavenly stair). I had slept that night on a true pillow, and I had most definitely not seen into heaven, but I had seen something that awoke my senses. I had seen a person.

I had come to consciousness in the dream overlooking a wall unmistakably aware that I was in Beit-El. I knew that I had been led to the very place where I now stood with a wall in front of me, and I knew that I was to look over the wall. Peering over I saw a host of pedestrians crowding a street. Amidst the hustle and bustle of people-traffic there was a particular individual shining in gold. Not golden clothing, or weirdly sparkling either, he just appeared to be gold. He stuck out like a mole in a freshly mowed lawn and I knew I had to talk to this man. And that’s when I woke up.

Finishing my teeth and looking into the mirror the dream seemed so vivid and real. I was ecstatic to share with the team and soon the other guys began to stir from their own dreams and with excitement my extroverted personality took over. Before long the house was abuzz with fresh anticipation for the day. There was a divine expectation taking form and hope was glistening upon the cerebral heart of the team.

The night before we had had a meeting and picked our partners and discussed where we felt led to go the next day. Months prior in a prayer meeting Bethel had been highlighted on the map to our team. My partner and I both  We were going to do what we call a Matthew 10. Very simply, in Matthew 10 Jesus sends His disciples out into towns and cities of Israel to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

“These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give… 11“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12“As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13“If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15“Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”

And that’s what we were doing… repeating His instructions in the very land He had roamed with His apostles some two-thousand years ago. This was my first time in Israel… this was my first time to speak to the people of the cevenant… this was the first time I was even attempting to do a Matthew 10. You might call me naiéve and you’d be right. Fortunate for my small thirty year old mind, Jesus has chosen the foolish things to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).

My partner was a several month old friend who was as sharp as a bedouin’s sword, and as blunt as an irishman’s club. I was very glad that he was my partner. The day before he had asked a German man on the bus in Jerusalem, “What do you think it was that led your people to agree to the mass genocide of the Jews?” The German traveler, who had walked from Germany to Jerusalem to find out the answer to this very question, was stunned at the candor of my friend. Despite him basically stumbling off of the bus and running away, their conversation ended ok.

My partner was uniquely excited that I had the dream and soon we were all headed out the door to catch the 8:15 bus to Jerusalem. The bus seemed to be running late as usual, yet soon it crested the hill that comes from Bethlehem and was roaring towards us, its air-brakes hissing. As is the normal procedure we stood at the curb waiting for it to stop as it had done the days prior. But, as he neared it became obvious that he had no intention of normal procedure that day and without a second glance at the six americans standing non-inconspicuously at the only bus stop in sight, he zoomed past with us waving our arms wildly. What in the world?! Why didn’t he stop?  I wondered. My very next thought was I have to get to Bethel! This is ruining everything!

All of us surprised at what had just happened, our team leader made an unforgettable decision. “I’d like to talk to you guys about something anyway,” he said “Let’s all open our Bibles to Deuteronomy 30 while we are waiting.” As we waited, the conversation for the next 30 minutes revolved around the subject of the restoration of Israel and what it looks like when God Himself restores His chosen to their land. Needless to say, as we stood in the Palestinian streets just shy of where the Lord Himself was born, it was easily discernable that what we were seeing in Israel was not that. Before long the next bus came and without a single qualm his bus hissed to a stop to pick up the six americans standing non-inconspicuously at the only bus stop in sight.

The ride into Jerusalem usually takes about forty-five minutes to an hour even though though it is only five miles away. You have to first pass through a checkpoint going from Palestinian territory into Israeli, and then pass through a tunnel burrowed into the main mountain dividing Bethlehem and the city of the great King. I could never help thinking about that fact that Jesus would’ve skirted these hills himself on the back of a donkey––not once, but twice! First, in the womb of his mother, and secondly in the triumphal entry. We descended the final hill making the one hundred-eighty degree turn to join the main traffic heading that direction. And that’s when we saw the gridlocked traffic.

I moaned internally You’ve got to be kidding me! How in the world am I ever going to get to Bethel? The devil is trying to stop me! We soon learned that there was a wreck inside the tunnel leading to Jerusalem which had in turn shut the whole tunnel down until further notice. I was incredibly frustrated inside since this had been the second delay already in our journey towards Bethel. Yet, as the traffic started slowly creeping through the tunnel my partner began talking about the issue of death before resurrection. We opened our bibles in the conversation and began discussing Ezekiel thirty-seven’s valley of dry bones. The conversation was clear in that the the restoration of Israel talked about in thirty-six, was performed by the catalyst of the resurrection in thirty-seven. This all radically connected to our talk earlier that morning regardin Deuteronomy 30. In that conversation my spirits were again lifted and I heard the Holy Spirit clearly say, “I have orchestrated everything perfectly today. Be at rest.” From that moment on I had a different mentality about what was happening and a growing confidence that YHWH was on my side… nothing could make His plan fail, in fact, these two apparent mistakes had been ordained by His very own hand.

When we finally got into Jerusalem and took the overground train to the main bus station it was past eleven o’ clock. My partner and I had such an overwhelming peace from the Lord after I shared with him what the Holy Spirit had spoke that we decided to let the day just play our normally and allow God to lead us. We surrendered the day to God. At that moment we realized we were hungry, so we decided to take a break and casually eat some shwarma before heading towards Bethel. We even took our time, and I think I had a coke which I never do, before checking the bus times. Truly, we felt free in Christ Jesus and confidence in His ability to perform His will.

When we entered the bus station we couldn’t find the ticket counter and so we stopped a young Israeli man wearing army fatigues. He kindly pointed us towards the counter where we bought our tickets. As we went back to get in the correct bus line the same man we had spoken to was there waiting as well. His name was “Hi” which felt welcoming and a boldness rose up in my friend and I to speak to him about Jesus being the Messiah of Israel. We probably had close to a half hour exhilarating conversation with Hi before it was time for his bus to leave. We gave him all that we had leading from the passover to the crucifixion and he was as wide eyed as a wildebeast in a spotlight. My partner was so bold in regards to the crucifixion and talked about how he and his sin had crucified the Messiah of Israel. The conversation went so well that we actually thought we might ought to go somewhere and finish the gospel with him and he could potentially be baptized that very day. However, his bus was about to leave and I felt the Holy Spirit say “I will take it from here.” So, we gave Hi a Hebrew New Testament. His final words to us were, “I have so much time on the base to read, I will read every single word of this book.” He thanked us and got on his bus never to be seen by us again.

With the adrenaline of such success in the gospel, since this was an odd happening indeed within the boundaries of Israel, we got on our bus ready to preach the whole bus to repentance in Christ Jesus. We divided up with my partner taking the back and me sitting in the middle thinking the whole bus would be saved on this journey… (insert record scratching noise). The next ninety minutes danced between clear frustration and faces of just shut up already! as there was a total and complete rejection of the gospel by the people we spoke to. I went ahead and moved to a seat where my partner and I met back up. “How was it?” I asked him. “Horrible,” he said, “The guy just turned his head away from me in the middle of talking and closed his eyes.” My experience was similar and we kind of laughed it off. We were affected, but not deterred. Just then we entered through the checkpoint leading into Bethel. 

Suddenly we were overwhelmingly dumbstruck with reality–– We had never been here before! We had no idea where we were, or where to go in this city. The puzzled look on both of our faces was a very clear “Oh Crap!” moment. We went to the front of the bus to try and ask some questions to the driver.

Earlier that morning when I had shared the dream, our team leader who had been to Bethel before said that he remembered a tall prayer tower and that maybe we should try that location to see if it fit the description with the dream. That was all we had to go on! Now we were trying to explain in English to a Hebrew bus driver what we were looking for. As the bus swerved and jerked we were thrown around a little trying to stand in the front of the bus and communicate our point. The other passengers became curious as to what we were asking about but no one understood what we were saying. Tower is probably not a easily distinguishable word in english. The bus driver then shouted back to the other passengers something in Hebrew as he came to a stop. We were caught off guard when a woman just behind us suddenly began shouting at us in in thick Hebrew accented English, “Here! Here! Get off now! You need to get off right here!” as she frantically pointed outside. Before the bus driver closed the doors we just hopped out not even thinking.

As the bus disappeared in the distance we very quickly realized we were not in the right place. There was a tall building to the left and we thought that this lady must’ve mistakenly thought we were talking about it. Moreover, there was not a single soul anywhere to be seen. It was as if Bethel was a ghost town or we were in a weird sci-fi novel. There was literally not a single soul in sight. But, since the building to our right was tall we decided to just go towards it. We trotted down some stairs that led its direction and then I noticed something. In front of us was a wall. “Hey,” I said to my partner, “That looks like the wall in my dream.” He looked at me with sincere surprise and said, “Well, let’s look over it.” With eager expectation of what was just on the other side of the wall we walked down and peered over (insert second record scratch sound with strong echo reverb). Just over the wall was nothing but an empty alleyway and the only living thing there was a cat digging in a trash can. My heart sank.

I looked at my partner and both of us had no idea what to do next. We were standing at the end of a street lined with newly built jewish homes. There was not a living thing visible and part of me began to wonder if we should preach the gospel to that trash-digging cat! Feeling a little hopeless my friend suggested that we walk down the empty street. Oddly I felt that he was wrong and that we should go the other way, but I just went with it. The sun was beaming now and it must’ve been around one o’clock. Lord, you must have a plan I thought. Here we are, in the middle of a city we’ve never been to. You gave me a dream last night about being here, we found the wall, and the golden person that should have been there has turned into a black cat! Witchcraft is happening!!! 

Just then a car turned onto the street and came towards us. My heart lept! Since we were the only people on the street it seemed an odd game of chicken as we were walking right down the middle. I can imagine what the driver must’ve been thinking. Here are two, very obvious gentiles, lost and out of place, walking down the middle of their street. I’m sure our eyebrows raised and the corners of our lips went up as she came near, and then just as quickly dropped as the car passed us. However, she then turned around and pulled in front of the house directly opposite where we were standing. An orthodox jewish lady got out of the car, of which we knew we were not allowed to speak to, and went up the small stairway that led to their flat. Not a word or glance from her, I got that sinking feeling again.

Suddenly, the door smashed open and a tall dark haired ultra orthodox jew with glasses descended the stairs and opened the car trunk. We stood in awe… he appeared to me to be shining gold. You could tell he was half trying to not overtly figure us out, but was also very interested in what these two men were doing outside his house. After digging around in his trunk he finally looked at us with a certain concern. How conspicuous we must’ve seemed… but his look also contained intrigue. Two white americans standing on his doorstep! “Um… excuse me, do you speak english,” I asked him. “Yes. What are you doing here?” he responded in a distinct Hebrew accent. “Um… we are looking for a prayer tower…” I managed to utter, “we believe Hashem has sent us here” hoping to at least give a credible enough response to keep the conversation going. “Oh, you’re not even near there!!” he said. “It’s about a thirty minute walk that way,” and he pointed down the street the direction we had come. He then tried to explain to us how to walk there which ended in him just saying, “You know what? I’ll just take you. Let me just finish taking these groceries into the house.” (Insert blaring warning sound) “Carry the groceries for him!” the Holy Spirit was shouting inside of me. “Here, let us help you with that,” me and my partner almost said simultaneously. We then followed him up the ten stairs and were welcomed straight into his house.

Walking into his house was like reliving a dream. The first things that caught my attention in the humble jewish home was an entire wall lined with black books in a prestigious wood book shelf. I quickly understood they were all rabbinic writings on the Tanakh. We weren’t inside the home of just any man––this man was exceptionally well read and educated in Judaism. However, it was not intimidating in the slightest, it was exciting. I knew the Holy Spirit had ordained this setting perfectly and now we just needed to let him lead. “Do you want a glass of water?” he said, after telling us his name was Nathaniel. When he said that I knew that we were inside the home of a real person of peace, just like Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke. I don’t even remembering responding and I can’t imagine what I might have looked like to him. Here we were, two gentiles, inside the house of an orthodox jewish scholar in the city of Bethel. And while we were in his house, we were also in the House of God. How ironic.

Nathaniel showed us his bookshelf and commented a little on it. He also showed us the scraped off rectangle near the door and explained to us that every jewish person had this in their homes as a sign that the temple will be rebuilt. I was internally combusting with emotions I had never felt as conversed with him. Finally, he turned to us again and said, “So what exactly are you doing here?” I took advantage of his question and I told him the truth. “Nathaniel, we believe Hashem has sent us here today. We would like to talk with you about the Scriptures. Do you have time to speak with us?” “That’s funny,” he said. “Maybe Hashem has sent you here! I am the only person in all of this area that I know speaks english, and you just happened to come to my house!” With this word I was boiling on the inside with expectation, but what he said next stunned me. “Every morning I go into Jerusalem for work, but this morning I woke up and thought to myself ‘I’m going to take the day off today!’ So, I usually would not be here now, but today I can sit down and talk with you about the Scriptures.”

I think I was about to just burst into tears and didn’t know what to say at this point. He motioned for us to sit down at his table where we had sat the groceries. He said, “Do you have your bibles?” to which we heartily responded, “Yes, of course.” It was odd to me that he even knew we called it the bible, and yet this whole situation was so dumbfounding that I felt like a child playing hide and go seek with my father. He knew where everything was and I was just trying to find Him. The next thing that happened still sticks in my mind as the most amazing thing I have ever heard or witnessed.

Looking directly at us he said, “Would you mind opening your bible to Deuteronomy 30?” I melted in that chair right there. I was as a blob of putty in the hands of God, wanting to shout and scream out loud, “The God of Israel is alive and has ordained everything perfectly!” As I was marveling at the impossibility of him wanting to talk to us about the very passage we had read that morning as we waited for the bus we had missed, it became clear that Nathaniel thought Hashem had sent us to him that he might correct us regarding our beliefs, and possibly be evangelized to judaism.

We talked about this passage in detail and the rich conversation cannot be put into words here. Suffice to say that he did not feel that he had convinced us of Israel’s current restoration, and that he also seemed as if he wasn’t convinced himself as well. My partner in this stage was so precise with his words concerning the restoration of Israel. “Nathaniel,” he said, “Do you really believe that the whole nation has returned the Lord as the passage says here.” Nathiniel reeled from the simple assessment of things. “No,” he said, “Over half of our nation is now secular,” he told us truthfully. But flipping through the pages of his Tanakh he came to his next point.

“But even if the nation isn’t fully turning back to Him… Well, look at Ezekiel 36.” That’s when my jaw literally dropped off of my face… and I looked at my partner who kept asking him superb questions in a very non-threatening way, who mirrored my expression. This was his chapter preceding the resurrection of Israel described in Ezekiel 37 which we had again discussed in the bus while we were waiting for the wreck to be cleared. God had prepared us with perfect words and insight directly from His Scriptures that very morning through the very events which I had thought were hindering our journey.

Our conversation went on for about an hour with his children slowly trickling in from school one by one, all of them with the tassels under their shirts and the slim locks of curled hair framing their faces. This was a quintessential ultra orthodox jewish family–– and gentiles were sitting at their table discussing their Scriptures! The children, although puzzled at who we could be, were not shy and several times they were climbing on their father in frenzied play.

The feeling I was experiencing seemed to be a mixture of total euphoria meddled with a creeping sour stomach. The whole situation was remarkable. Nathaniel was such a likable guy. We were able to talk upfront and honestly to him… however, in the midst of such beautiful, exciting, and exhillirating things,

“the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2“Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, 3and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, 4then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head,” (Ez. 33:2-4).

I had a distinct sobriety that these feelings were good, and the Lord loved them, but this conversation was meant to go much deeper. The Holy Spirit said that we must Warn this man regarding the coming of Jacob’s Trouble. I was to to sound the alarm as the watchman does in Ezekiel 33. Just as I asked Nathaniel if he was familiar Jeremiah 30 and the topic of Jacob’s Trouble, his wife shouted something in Hebrew from the kitchen area. Suddenly it seemed things became chaotic in the house. The kids were frantic, and his wife was displeased. We realized that they were about to eat, and it is not kosher for them to eat with gentiles, so Nathaniel told us that we needed to go. No! We are losing our chance here… I thought …we can’t leave! But, there was nothing I could do. He stood up to grab his keys, keeping his promise to take us to the tower. I looked at the grocery bags sitting on the table next to me, slipped something under them unseen, and we walked out the door.

As we descended those ten steps the Holy Spirit spoke the clearest phrase to me, “You have four minutes, preach Christ Crucified unashamedly!” We got into his compact car with me riding in the front. The ride was an acute four minutes, and I went for the jugular. “Nathaniel, we are Christians and we believe that Yeshua is the true Messiah of Israel.” And the mention of Jesus’ name he cursed his name with the hebrew acronym of ‘let his name forever be accursed.'” I didn’t skip a beat but vulnerably shared my testimony with him, “I believe this because when I was twelve years ago Yeshua appeared to me and I saw Him hanging on the Cross, and I was also hanging on the cross with Him. He showed me who He is and I know that the Scriptures also confirm that He is the true Messiah of Israel.” At this Nathaniel stopped. “Only prophets have experiences like that,” he said. “Hashem only gives things like this to prophets.” I now wish I could’ve taken advantage of him saying that but in the moment I didn’t realize how significant what he was saying was. In effect, he confessed with his own mouth that Hashem had spoken to me a gentile.

I tried to get through to Christ Crucified and that the passover had prophesied of atonement and that people were saved through the sacrifice of a blameless lamb. In the four minutes I must’ve been talking as fast as a bullet train. He finally interrupted me as we pulled up to the prayer tower, “You said you would tell me of this Jacob’s Trouble.” A bomb went off inside of me in that very instant and I blurted out, “Nathaniel… Jacob’s Trouble isn’t a story or fairytale, it is near, it is on the horizon!”

When I said these words I erupted in uncontrollable weeping, half-screaming and groaning right there in the front seat of his car. It was something I have never experienced, and the only word I can use to describe it being travail, I was literally making noises as a woman in labor with my head in my lap. Internally the Lord was thundering a phrase over and over, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” As I drowned there in my own tears I could hear Nathaniel asking my friend, “What is happening? What is wrong with him?” My partner responded simply, “I think he’s crying. Maybe God is moving on him.”

What was happening to me was so intense that I wanted it to stop so that he wouldn’t feel so embarrassed. I now regret this and wish that I could’ve just stayed there with the Lord weeping and weeping for hours. Here it only lasted for a couple minutes before I looked up and directly into Nathaniel’s deer in the headlight eyes blurted out what was roaring in my mind. “Nathaniel, Hashem has longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you are a stubborn and obstinate people!”

I had not intended to say this at all and it is the only time in my life that I can really say I think the Holy Spirit took control of my tongue in that moment.

Nathaniel looked at me in total disbelief. I had just quoted to him a line from Ezekiel 2:4 that I was not previously familiar with. “I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ Isaiah also uses this same language once, saying, “For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are. Your necks are as unbending as iron. Your heads are as hard as bronze.” The look in Nathaniel’s eyes told me that he was familiar with the passages I was quoting, and he was keenly aware that they were not presenting his people in a positive light.

This is why the Holy Spirit is able to perform tasks far beyond our imagination. If I was jewish and a gentile was in the front seat of my car telling me that, I would’ve probably punched him! But something amazing happened in that moment… something that only God could’ve done. Nathaniel’s heart softened.

The only way that I can describe what happened next is that it was like a veil that covered Nathaniel’s eyes was drawn back. He was puzzled. There is a gentile in his car that has had experiences that only God gives to prophets. The gentile just erupted into an uncontrollable weeping and groaning. The gentile just quoted to him scripture from the prophets. The gentile is prophesying that judgment is coming to Israel.

It is my belief that Nathaniel knew he was witnessing the Ruach Ha Kodesh upon a gentile and he didn’t understand how this was possible.

For about five minutes God opened a window of mercy for me to go from the passover to the Cross, talking about how Hashem had hidden the crucifixion of the Messiah in His wisdom. I said things that could’ve never come from my own mind, and used analogies that I had never thought of, and it seemed to possibly be going into his heart. He just looked at me with mouth partly agape at this stage and let me talk through the whole thing. And then something happened that still brings me to tears. As the last act of a play closes, the curtain was slowly drawn back over his eyes. He looked at me and said, “I want you to get out of my car now… I have to leave.” We gave one last stab wanting to leave him with something tangible. We told him that he would see three things in the future. One, a man who was not the Messiah would bring peace in Jerusalem between arab and jew. Two, the third temple would be built in Jerusalem. Three, this false Messiah would stand up in the temple declaring himself to be YHWH. We told him that when he saw these things happening to flee from Israel. He looked at us with such great confidence and said, “I am a settler here. I will never leave.”

I stumbled out of his car feeling heavier than I ever had in my life. I felt like my blood was syrup and my bones iron. I wanted to collapse on the ground and just cry. His car pulled away from us and we just watched as he left. Suddenly, his car made a loop and came back our direction. “What in the world?!” I thought. He pulled up next us and I thought that this was it, he was going to give his life to Jesus. “When you leave…” he said, and proceeded to give us directions to how to take the bus. Without giving us a chance to respond he pulled away again.

My partner and I went up on that prayer tower and I fell to my knees. I did not know what had just happened and every ounce of energy was zapped from my entire being. I just closed my eyes. The prayers I prayed over those next few minutes were those of the desperate sort. We just sat there together wondering what to do, looking into the distance at Ramallah set upon the hill. I knew I had just experienced what God said to Isaiah,

“He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”

I knew that I had just witnessed the curses spoken of in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. I knew that Nathaniel had been given over to this condition by God Himself, and that it was a judgment against His precious, unfaithful, firstborn people. I was overwhelmed with the grief Paul speaks of in Romans 9. At that very moment I also felt that I could’ve wished myself cut off from Christ for the sake of Nathaniel.

As my friend and I finally prepared to make the journey back to Jerusalem I told him something that he didn’t know. It was the only thing that kept a glimmer of hope in my mind and what still keeps a light at the end of the Nathaniel tunnel in my heart. “You know… when we were sitting in Nathaniel’s house?” I said. “Remember how the grocery bags were sitting on the table?…” he nodded. “…just before we left I slipped a Hebrew Gospel of John underneath them.”

That day ended the way it had began. With everything planned so precisely by the Lord–– from the missed bus, to the blocked tunnel, to meeting Hi in the bus line, to the woman screaming for us to get off the bus, to the particular moment we stood in front of Nathaniel’s house and he walked down the stairs, to the Holy Spirit coming upon me unaware––everything could not have been more perfectly ordained. As I told my friend about leaving the book on his table I heard the Holy Spirit say what He had said earlier with Hi. He said, “I will take it from here…”  and there was not a bone in my body that distrusted Him.

Ever since that day when I think about Nathaniel an indescribable peace washes over me. I remember the events of that day and I marvel. I literally came to tears at several points just recalling this story! I stand in awe that God used us that day to do something miraculous. I have a story that literally reads like the book of Acts and no one can take it away from me. I experienced the Bible, the covenant, and the Holy Spirit alive that day as I looked into the eyes of the Holy People and saw their blindness staring backI understood that if gentiles would understand their place in the story God is willing to go to great lengths to lead you to His people that you might give testimony of Christ and Him crucified. You may be despised in their eyes. They may curse the name of Jesus. But you my friend will be partaking in the storyline of the everlasting gospel, and you might just be provoking His people to jealousy. Let it be. Amen.

The End.

I wrote this so that you the reader would be encouraged that the story of the Bible is true. God is on the move and Jesus is truly coming soon. Have faith! Take heart! And as Daniel says, remember, the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do great exploits. Lets have faith for things like this and be available for the Holy Spirit to use us.

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The view of the settlements from the tower in Beit-El

The Idolatry of Sex and a Lifestyle of Praise

 

A form is there before you and you gaze upon it. Though your knees may not bow your heart does internally. You want it… and you want it to want you. Yet, it may not even be just that you want it, there is something deeper happening… something stronger than just a desire or want. You may have written it off just as, “humans are sexual creatures”, and that modern psychological form of deception is the puppet string causing your eyes to bob up and down upon different bodies throughout the day. Then, you go home, go into your room, close the door, and defile yourself with the unsatisfied fulfillment of selfish intimacy.

The secret place has become defiled and shameful. I know this firsthand…

Jesus says, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Yet, there is no reward for this other kind of secret place. The Father is indeed watching… and weeping. There, your act is worship to an unseen demon… a creature that hates you and wants to murder you despite your awareness of its presence. The place in your mind where you are supposed to “love the Lord Your God with all of” has been tyrannically ruled by lizards of lust for decades– their constant flicking tongues hitting the cerebral with a bombardment of sexualized emotion.

We live in a culture that is perpetually “turned on”–– driven to find release.
But, can we actually be released from it? I wasn’t sure until the last couple years.

You give in again and again and you don’t know why. You feel trapped in your mind. You have bowed before the idol of sex so many times to your own shame and you just want it to stop. You feel defeated, guilty, and ashamed of yourself. You feel a fake because you can’t speak to someone about the Lord while this hides just behind your eyes. But the truth is that you do love the Lord! This is why you feel so ashamed. You want to please Him, but you’re caught in failure. Can we transition to loving the Lord more than this lust and overcome it? Can we live whole-heartedly and self-controlled before Him and resist these horrific temptations?

Can we actually love the Lord God of Israel with all of our mind?

Yes.

Wounding

My first sexual experience was with a woman in her thirties when I was six. I still remember the “funny feeling” in my stomach and being very uncomfortable as she asked me to come into the dark room dressed in an open robe with only lingerie on. To worsen the situation, a pornographic vampire movie was playing on the TV in her dark room…  Then I black out and only come to as I leave the room feeling sick to my stomach. My mind still doesn’t know whether this is one or multiple experiences merged into one. It was during those young years I was also exposed to hardcore pornography for the first time. It was in a large meeting in the auditorium of my elementary school in the second or third grade… the crinkled up piece of magazine paper being secretly passed from small innocent hands to another was engrained upon my mind as the unforgettable snapshot. I didn’t want to see it, but I wanted to see it. When I was nine or ten my cousins introduced me to their father’s Playboy and Hustler collection that led to an insatiable addiction even though we didn’t know what we were doing. We were so young we only said that we got “that funny feeling in our stomachs.” Around that same time a male teacher at my elementary school began putting his hands on my body after school hours. My brother had the same teacher and experienced the same things and we would only come to know this many years later… Within those same years my cousin forced me to watch him masturbate, making it the only condition by which he would allow me to play video games in his room. I still remember hating it, and yet him saying over and over “LOOK! WATCH!” I was instructed in evil that day, and I followed suit soon thereafter. All these things led me to have an addiction to pornography in my young teens that provided the context to be molested by a male neighbor in exchange for pornography as a teenager, to have my first consensual sexual encounter with a woman when I was sixteen, and to fully lose my virginity by age 19. It was all downhill from there – an unquenchable slide towards immorality and disregard of my own purity as well as others’.

Many can empathize with this story. It is a very sad and grieving empathy we share…

Many, if not darn near all of us, were taught sex outside the covenant of marriage. Those illicit encounters, that I am so sorry we have experienced, undoubtedly created our “worldview” and perspective of sex. Such small minds and innocent bodies should never have had to endure the torture of others’ negligent promiscuity; and yet those very others most likely endured the same abuses themselves by their own perpetrators in a perpetuation of this gross cycle. Who is to be blamed with so many variables in play and with the detrimental effects of sin snowballing upon the children of this age? The Lord will surely judge on the day of His appearing. I know that the Father has wept many tears for the children that have fallen victim to such events – and this means He has wept over what happened to you.

Can the cycle be broken?

Yes.

Our wounds are very real, and I was recently awakened to the reality of just how deep these things can affect a person especially later in their adult life. As the childhood mind forms, the pathways it is taught to think in become highways by which information travels into the mind and is interpreted. Many of these paths were defiled for many of us as children which taught us to think sexually therefore – even about the things that are innocent and pure. But friends, there is hope! I will address victory, but we first must handle the other side of the coin.

Idolatry

Our minds being given to sex is not purely because of wounding. Although it started there, we must also admit the truth––we have surrendered to our wounds and allowed our minds to wave that white flag instead of fighting the good fight. We have allowed our wounding to become the scapegoat for sex being our idol.

The sin of idolatry is rarely equated to sex today. We look on every corner of our western worlds and there is sex, and yet somehow we are removed from the idea that it might be an idol. Instead we call it a “struggle.” To put all of the blame on wounds is to not admit the truth of our love of sex. This is a reality that must be addressed by believers.

We love sex. But can we love the Lord our God above it?

If on the corners of western streets there were enormous golden idols with many arms covered in snakes and a Christian were seen on that corner bowing down before the golden creature, and later say in his accountability group, “I was struggling with idolatry today,” who would scoff? That man would be rebuked! Yet, we passively distinguish. This is the clever reality of billboards, magazines, tv, and movies––although it is that same type of foul false-god receiving attention and worship, it has learned to disguise itself well and mask its agenda. This idol has learned to charade itself as another thing altogether…

 

Idolatry is so easy to label in nations like Nepal and India because of its blatancy. It still happens there in the flagrant fashion of bowing down before golden statues. This form of idolatry manifests mainly in external form. Not so in the west. On the contrary, idolatry has become a predominantly internal practice. Indeed, with both forms the heart is what is engaging in the idolatry, but I am primarily speaking of the practice. With Nepal, there is a daily practice of going to the temple and touching, kissing, and bowing down before physical idols. With the West, there is a daily practice of opening up magazines, watching movies, checking out people as we check our social media, and then touching ourselves. Within all of those spheres there is a driving relentless agenda of sexualized content which in turn turns the heart, and moreover keeps the heart constantly swamped with erotic material even if you’re not looking for it.

Does the mind bow to the image? 

Yes.

Is this idolatry?

Yes.

This is not loving the Lord with all of our mind. But can it be overcome?

Yes! But we must be sober minded!

Think about ancient cultures. Sex is often a part of the rituals contained within the programs of idolatry. The false gods have always had sex within their scheme of worship because they themselves are un-pure, and defiled––apostate from what is holy. Behind the false gods however are very real creatures, demons, who hate humanity and exist for the purpose of deceiving us. They long for the worship that belongs to Jesus…

Have you ever considered the pagan god statues of greco-roman culture? They are typified as naked and sexualized, and yet powerful and secure. Surely that has some odd effect on the psychology of humans. Sex and power is embodied in the pagan gentile gods because they are actually unholy and powerless demons. This is the paradox.

Temple prostitutes are a character we’re familiar with from the Bible. Sex and idolatry went together throughout the bible, likewise in this modern era. The forces of darkness understood long ago that sex was an integral part of idolatry and it has been incorporated into their worship for millennia.

We must open our eyes to the truth of what’s happening!

The same idolatry is in fact still happening today. When sex has been equated and related to idolatry of all sorts for history past, then it should inform us of something deeper than a struggle taking place today. We must have this foundational understanding of the roots of idolatry and its application to sex if we are to ever see it for what it is and overcome the temptation to bow down to its idol. We must see it as turning away from the Lord God of Israel and worshiping another god.

It is idolatry.

In stark contrast to the pagan gods of the nations, YHWH––the God of Israel––has always maintained a standard of beautiful and undefiled purity. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). He commanded that no form of Him ever be made because he knew what was in men’s hearts. I think He foreknew that men would inevitably portray Him the way the Greeks and Romans did their gods. The Greeks and Romans are case and point of what man believed the “gods” were doing––partaking in drunken orgies! The God of Israel wanted no such gross portrayal of Himself. He has kept Himself and His form more pure than the god-concoction man could have thought of. Even today, His main expression is seen not in a powerful deity seated on a throne with naked women surrounding Him and lightning bolts being thrown from His hand–– but in the glory of a weak man hanging upon a Cross!

Oh the depths of the wisdom of the knowledge of God!

The wisdom of man is there confounded and the glory of YHWH is magnified. This is the God that we worship. This is the God we long to be faithful to! There on that crossbeam is

“…Christ, in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2

YHWH’s biblical worldview presents the context of sex as a life giving act that affirms and validates the covenant between a man and a woman every time that it takes place. In that holy act, the man and the woman are one flesh, testifying of their vow and the day that they left their father and mother, joined themselves to each other and forsook any chance in the future of doing that act with another person. In this light, the act of sex within covenantal marriage is worship unto the Creator who thought of this and created it for the purpose of purity. It is in fact the only act that humans partake in which is directly creational–– a life is made by the act and a person is born. It is remarkable that something that is so exploited today as filth in the industry of pornography, is actually so filled with light and truth within the marriage bed!

I see your point, but why is the struggle so deep?

Recently it all just seemed so simple to me. Wounds and idolatry––

We are broken, and sex is worshiped…

Adultery is the anti-climactic end of the idolatry of sex. After having worshiped this filthy idol for so many years it is the fatal outcome and the very reason why so many succumb to its trap.

Upon the first act of adultery the biggest deception of having believed that it would be fulfilling becomes plain. I doubt that any man thinks to himself just moments after the first act of infidelity, “This was worth it!” At that very moment the woman who has carried his seed in her womb for nine months enduring the pain of childbirth multiple times out of love for him–– the very woman who has endured the in-laws and attempted to overcome the hurdles out of love them for years, the same woman that has spent endless hours of working through problems and coming to resolution with him, the only woman who has fallen asleep next to him in bed for many years is not there in the bed with him––she is at home alone with their children! The adultress, with whom he just defiled himself, has endured nothing for him except her own driving lust and brokenness that produced this horrible outcome. His true lover, His own flesh, the one who bears the vows of their wedding day in her heart and on her ring finger lies helplessly alone at home with their kids wondering why he had to work late again. She will almost certainly, very soon hear the crushing words of, “There’s someone else.” What a tearful, grievous outcome, and yet is one that is now commonplace.

The weighty implications and perspective of such a scenario when viewed outside the “hot perspective” of those within the deception of adultery is staggering. Adultery is the most paradoxical conclusion a person in the covenant of marriage can make. What great betrayal it is that takes place in total contradiction to the covenant between the husband and the wife!

In reality, separated from the gross fantasy the adulterer has now lived out, he is simply worshipping the idol of self-indulgent sex. He is actually worshipping himself even though he might not ever be conscious of it. It is controlling him and driving him. It is possessing him and usurping worship that belongs to Jesus, and praise that belongs to his wife, his flesh, his covenant. Oh what a great devastating lie this one has believed. It is no wonder the God if Israel has such strong regard toward this sin.

All of the men reading this now will secretly attest to this truth: our hearts are incredibly adulterous. It is only by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and an unrelenting cry before the throne of God to keep us pure that we do not commit adultery. I know this because I am a man, and I’ve walked in total transparency with a lot of men. I’ve also grown up in a church where a fair percentage of the men therein committed adultery in some way or another. I praise God that I have an earthly father who has remained faithful to my mother for these 41 years and never given in to this horrific sin––keep up the good fight dad!

The bombardment will soon find its end!

The Lifestyle of Praise

By the time I reached my thirties, the abusive events of my childhood had taken a detrimental toll on my mind. I did not feel that I could love the Lord with all of my mind many days, because my mind interpreted simple everyday events and interactions as sexual. A mere compliment from a woman could filter through the sexualized pathway created in my six year old mind and turn into something it was not. A simple smile or introduction could lead my mind to immediate improper thoughts. It seemed adultery was creeping closer and closer to me and I feared being the man that would let his wife and family and most of all, the Lord Jesus, down.

This is about as raw and transparent as it gets.

I would hear about other people’s struggles and it never seemed to be at nearly the same level of intensity as mine. I wasn’t intending to peg myself as unique, but the battle that I experienced was very different from others’ I knew. There were times when I would have demonic dreams, intensely pornographic and defiling, for weeks on end––waking up gasping for air and wondering how to escape the trial. I would fight the desire of lust, and keep my eyes on the Cross as much as I knew how. I would cry out to the Lord, I would remain in prayer and the Scriptures, and yet about every six months I would finally come to a place of feeling overwhelmed and give in to pornography. Even though I had previously been free of pornography for a 5 year period, this took place for the last 3-4 years. With this as the reality, loving brothers encouraged me to step down from leadership for a while and seek healing. This is when this blog was put on hold.

Making myself idiotically vulnerable did not come without a cost. I made it my devastating goal to tell all the details to other brothers of every sin I would commit. This transparent sharing of struggle with other brothers seems to often be the first step that is neglected by other Christians I know who have fallen into adultery.

Whether deeply wounded, or giving into the worship of sex, we, brothers, cannot afford to hide our sin!

I am convinced that the Lord Jesus carried me through the hardest of trials because of His great mercy, and because I was willing to embarrass myself over and over before other brothers with the truth of my darkest sins. If you are in that place of hiding in your sin, HUMBLE YOURSELF AND COME INTO THE LIGHT. Boldly I would like to ask you to come out and tell someone what’s happening before it’s too late and you really mess up. This pre-strike mentality does something in the Spirit that certainly thwarts the enemy. If you keep hiding he will prevail over you and it is only a matter of time. This isn’t pessimism, this is honesty based on 35 years of personal experience and observation.

When it all peaked for me, our family was still overseas as missionaries in Nepal. There was a lot of deliberation with my leadership over what was happening. The demonic dreams got to a place where I was overwhelmed, very discouraged, and tired of enduring such horrible nights. I would fast and pray, and remain in the Scriptures, but it would not cease. By the grace of God, our mission in Nepal was in a place where it was time to turn things over to the indigenous leaders we had discipled. It was their turn to run with the torch. Even the guys we discipled knew my weakness and walked with me through it. How could I hide it from them? This also led the way in vulnerability being part of the gospel witness in showing our need for the Cross.

In November of 2016 I officially posted the message that has been on my blog static page since. I wanted this open confession to be the help others might need to break free. I wanted my tiny candle of light to pierce the great darkness of this world wide web with a brutal confession of weakness that I might boast in Christ alone. I also wanted to be completely transparent with those who have read this blog and received encouragement from it, or help in the Scriptures. It needed to be known that the man writing these things was broken, and that He wanted to give himself to this time of consecration so that with purity he could be a faithful witness for the future. I didn’t want to be a fake.

Although I do believe that I will be partially broken until the resurrection of Christ, and that my mind will not be fully sanctified until it is completely changed on the day of His appearing, I can tell you that this time has taught me many things and matured me in the faith in many ways. Having undergone 12 weeks of counseling sessions, prayer, and deliverance the first couple months of this year, there were many things that were “gotten to the bottom of.” I steadily emerged to a new place in my mind where I felt space to “love the Lord.” A new strength arose in my spirit that loved the Lord deeper and more fiercely than the lust of the flesh and its temptations. For the first time in many years I felt strength to overcome the sin of lust.

It has now been over two years since I have given into pornography! I have resolved to never return to its vomit.

The Lord’s work is not finished, and yet I am finding new strength to love with Him with all of my heart. The despair and embarrassment that I and my family underwent as we submitted to the consequences of my sin has born fruit that I would never take back. Submitting to the discipline of the last two years was well worth it.

Christ

This is likely where many will stop reading. Oh how sad and detached we are from this beautiful Man! This is the only place to find freedom and hope so please keep reading!

Yes, there is a living Man who has never worshiped the idol of sex! Oh, how often we forget this! Jesus walked this earth for 30 odd years and never bowed his knee, mind, or heart to lust! The great Conqueror of wounds, sex and idolatry we worship! We often do not remember that this Man was killed because of our idolatry though He was infinitely pure, and then He rose from the dead, passed through the heavens and is seated at the right hand of God as our Great High Priest living to make intercession for us! If this reality were not true then the climax of this post would have been set upon that horrible hopelessness of us “just doing better in our own strength.” Yet, because of the sureness of this reality we can lift our eyes to the hope of glory and find the reason for choosing willful sanctification and worship no matter the cost.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). 

This biblical reality is stunning. The Man Christ Jesus never bowed his knee or his heart to idolatry of any sort, and yet He became those nasty things on our behalf, so that we are no longer in ourselves, but we are IN HIM––trapped in the glorious bosom of His righteousness, pure children of God destined to inherit glory and a kingdom with Him forever. The Father looks at us and sees His Son’s blood and righteousness, and He smiles with acceptance at our union to His Son.

This reality empowers us to abstain from sin as worship of Him.

What a testimony He has, and what authority Jesus’ prayers have before His Father to guard us, protect us, and deliver us from the temptations of the evil one. His vascular arms, pumping the very blood that was poured out on Calvary will carry us through to the day of His appearing!

We have very clear evidence of the strength of Jesus prayers in Luke 22:31-32. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Oh the power of the prayers of God the Son! As satan prepares the wheat sifter, Jesus is there before the father crying out that Peter would stand firm. On the hem of those prayers Jesus knows the outcome because Jesus prayers get answered! There is no one with more authority to pray for you then our High Priest, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Hb. 4:15).

It must’ve affected Peter deeply to hear the cock crow and know that the Son of Man had been on His knees for him. But the power of Jesus prayer is revealed not in Peter succumbing to the pressure of denial, but in the restoration that takes place as Jesus restores him. The power of Jesus prayers led the traitor to become the leader who was crucified upside down. We also, upon the failure of our sin, must remember that His prayers have prayed beyond the sin that just consumed us and will carry us through to the end. Take heart!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

This passage is immensely powerful. We fix our eyes upon Jesus so that we do not grow weary in striving against this idol of sex that so easily entangles us in our culture. He is the author of our faith because He walked it out perfectly, and will complete it in us!

In this cultural inundation of idolatry we do not lose heart because Jesus didn’t. Even in failures amounting seventy times seven, and in the grief and shame and remorse of our sexual deviances, we continue to try to lay aside every encumbrance. We do this by His Holy Spirit which He has given us to forsake the idols of our lives, the lust of the flesh, to turn away from her sexualized corners and fix our eyes upon Jesus! We must keep trying to cast down that idol of sex by the power of His Holy Spirit, and walk in His Spirit for you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). We must be willing to crucify those desires because those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires knowing that the Bible is clear that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10).

Our desire to enter the kingdom of God must be stronger than our other desires so that we might overcome the lust of the flesh.

Beloved friends, let us take up that Cross together, giving Jesus a fragrant life of praise instead! Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1). Let us worship Him by continuing to sacrifice those evil inclinations to His Cross and letting praise ascend in their place. That Jesus may receive in our life the reward of His suffering, let us press on towards the day that His and our joy are fulfilled together in the consummation of the ages when His kingdom comes and every idol is abolished and our heart is renewed in the New Covenant of His Holy Spirit dwelling in us in fullness. That is the end-game, let us not forget!

We will be fully delivered! Our mind will be fully pure! Our heart will once again be fully innocent!

We can make it with our eyes fixed upon Him! So, let us un-fix our eyes from anything that would hinder the glory He deserves.

Can we do it?

Yes.

He is worth it.

Even so, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

 

#9: Israel’s Agreement to the Sinai Covenant

exodus_covenant

Diagram Position

Our placement in the diagram above is in the second vertical pillar titled Covenantal. On the third line of this pillar we identify Exodus 20-24. In the previous post we covered several details of these chapters, however there are a couple more events left remaining which need appropriate attention. If you have not read the previous posts (#7 and #8) then you may have missed some critical information and context regarding where we are in the large story of Exodus and Sinai. The aim of this post is to help us understand in a simple way the following two things:

  1. Israel’s Agreement to the Sinai Covenant
  2. Identifying the “remnant” in Scripture

Israel’s Agreement to the Covenant

Now that we have sought a proper understanding regarding the importance of the Ten Words, we can observe the final stages of this Exodus in chapter 24.

The divine Creator has just stepped into human history in the most dramatic way possible. Even with this statement our propensity can be to theologically jump ahead to God in the flesh in His Son Jesus as when He enters human history in the most dramatic way imaginable, but we must not do this… yet! This is when our theology can become a stumbling block and often make us blind to the foundational layers that provide the context for Messiah. As humans, we are often times drawn to the biggest event and thus lead ourselves to believe we understand everything else because the biggest event is in sight. Yet thus far in our story, Sinai is the biggest event in sight and we must process it accordingly.

I know many people, myself included, that never watch soccer/football. Every four years however, these same ones gather together and dedicate many hours to watch the World Cup. Why? Because the World Cup is the grand event! However, one cannot watch the World Cup and actually understand what has taken place the previous four years. Yes, we understand the game of soccer, but of the painstaking amount of hard work, training and preparation that have led these few choice teams to the World Cup we are completely unaware. Before the grand event there are many formulative events, and it is within the context of these events that we ought to understand the grand event.

Likewise, too often a person’s theology begins at the Cross even though this grand event is 2/3 of the way through the story. In such cases one might be able to understand simply the idea of salvation, for God has made it very easy to grasp––repent, believe in Jesus, and let your life reflect His waiting for the hope of His second coming. However, the long and grueling process that has unfurled since creation until the time of the Cross is the story that belongs to Israel and their history. This is why we must stop here and revel in the astonishing events of the Exodus and let them inform our understanding of what will come thereafter.

After God speaks the Ten Words and the ordinances, the people heartily confirm with their own mouths that they will obey what He has said.

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’… Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words,” (Ex. 24:3-8).

The all powerful God of the heavens and the earth spoke words from heaven in a conversation with Israel and the people responded to Him. Does this strike you as incredible? This is not a section of Scripture that can be overemphasized. As I’ve encouraged us many times, we must re-sensitize ourselves to these great events of Scripture. At Mt. Sinai  Moses recounts the words of YHWH and all the people answer with one voice before YHWH, saying, “All that YHWH has spoken we will do!” Moses then takes the book of the covenant and reads it aloud in all of their hearing and the people respond, “All that YHWH has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”  The implications of this conversation are astounding.

The Creator of the heavens and the earth is purposefully continuing the promises He previously made to Adam, Noah and Abraham by making a covenant with their direct lineage at this mountain. He is remaining infallibly faithful to His previous words to those men because His words are covenantal in nature as we’ve already discussed many times. What is noteworthy here is that whereas YHWH had been their God previously, in these Words He becomes the God of this great slave-people, turned free-men, at the mount. In this covenant, the people are taking responsibility upon themselves to uphold all of the words God spoke. In effect, Israel is now saying their vow to YHWH to become His wife, and He their Husband.

Words from Numbers 30:1-2 come to mind here:

“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the word which the Lord has commanded. If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

Israel has admittedly made a binding vow to the Lord to keep His words, which by relation make them His people––His possession. We discussed in the creational pillar that the original Creator owns His possessions, which are the heavens, the earth, and man. We also discussed in the bottom portion of that pillar that the only other thing given creational language in the Bible is when God speaks about Israel. He emphatically says,

“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel,” (Is. 43:1). 

Quite literally the former lineage of Abraham were a no people living in the quagmire of slavery, confined to hard labor within the borders of Egypt. This was not a nation, this was an oppressed slave-people. Yet this was the wisdom of God. His miraculous deliverance of Israel from their bondage is what creates the nation that is standing before Him at the mountain. They had been led through the womb of the Red Sea, and being birthed through God’s very own hand they now stood as His newborn child at Sinai as a fulfillment of what YHWH had spoke to Abraham. He created Israel through this deliverance, and He plans on being faithful to her as the remainder of the above verse says,“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” It is important for us to keep the creational idea at the forefront of our understanding of the people Israel because this is how God identifies Israel in Scripture. The nation of Israel is quite literally God’s treasured possession.

Deut. 7:6 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Sinai is also a covenant of blood as was the case with the covenant with Abraham where the animals were cut in half and the pieces laid on opposite sides for God to pass through.

“So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words, (Ex. 24:8).

Then another amazing thing happens:

Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.11Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank. 

Wow. The elders of Israel ate and drank with God. There is a lot one could say about this, but we must refrain at present. God is seemingly making the covenant official by eating and drinking with His new people – a glorious testimony of the event in the future when Jesus returns––the wedding supper of the Lamb. In the midst of this event the Lord calls Moses to come up to where He is.

12Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” 13So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14But to the elders he said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.” 15Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

I feel like saying, “It was finished,” here in regard to the truth of the covenant made between God and Abraham’s lineage, Israel. It actually happened in the blazing glory that is described. YHWH Himself, who sits in the heavens, who formed the very earth we live on chose this people to be His own that day and nothing has changed in the days that have passed between then and now. I cannot fathom why or how we could ever arrive at the New Testament and think that all of these passages we have belabored no longer mean anything because they were subsumed in Jesus’ life. The only change I can identify is the tragic loss of reality with regard to what happened that day, and what people, yes even Israel itself, believes happened. We must continue fighting the good fight and recover this truth!

The Golden Calf

It’s only shortly after this covenant is affirmed by the people that we hang our heads in disbelief at the speed with which the people turn from God and His commands to worshiping the golden calf. So often the brazen nature of Israel’s actions can cause us to point the finger at her failure.

After hearing the voice of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth speak from within the fiery, quaking, and thunderous storm that engulfs the mountain, and only days ago having vowed to be obedient to His words–while Moses is atop that very same mountain meeting with their God and speaking in their stead because the people had beheld His power and thought they might die if He kept speaking–– the people renege on their promise and create a golden idol there in the immediate sight of YHWH, breaking the very first Words that had come out of His divine mouth. OMG.

4″You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments,” (Ex. 20:4-6).

The golden cow formed by the hands of man must’ve been so measly compared to the power emanating from Sinai’s summit! Again, it seems so terribly preposterous to consider how these people bow down to something formed of yellow metal when the One true God is seated up there in majesty! But here is man at his finest, and we must not accuse them.

In such an instance we cannot point the finger and wag our heads in disbelief, without first seeing ourselves there also participating in the gross absurdity and atrocity of worshiping this golden beast. We must admit that it would have been us drunken-dancing about the desert bush intoxicated with laughter and immorality. If we deny this, then we are deceived about our own hearts and Jeremiah 17:9 is calling out wisdom to our ear: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? May the lingering blindness to our own condition be recognized as we look upon Israel in hindsight, and let us grieve there with God over what happened to them on that fateful day.

What we should see in this instance follows the very vein of the previous post: Man is totally unable to deliver himself from his own deep rooted depravity and sinful nature. We are incapable of carrying within us the knowledge of good and evil and choosing good apart from Him! It’s only just after the encounter that we are found bowing down to the golden idols. His voice was just heralded through the heavens, yet shortly after drowned out by our befuddled laughter and idolatrous howling. In Israel we clearly see the condition of man and His need for the redeemer promised in Genesis 3:15… and even there in such great loss that promise shines through as the rainbow after a great storm.

Nevertheless, we emphasize again that God did not have an unrealistic expectation concerning Israel and their perfection regarding the covenant. His anger indeed burns against them and Moses intercedes on their behalf before the Lord relents. Moses later recounts this story of Mt. Sinai in Deuteronomy 5:29 relaying to us that when the people said, “We will keep this covenant and be obedient,” then God cried out in response,

Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! (Deut. 5:29).

The overflow of God’s heart here is not exaggerated! He is not deceived about their inability to keep His commandments on their own. As we discussed, it seems that God in His great understanding and mercy would have looked ahead to the future fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 when the head of the serpent is finally crushed and He puts His Spirit within Israel forever enabling them to keep His commandments perfectly.

“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ 18When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. 19And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God,” (Ezek. 11:17-20).

and,

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances,” (Ez. 36:27).

We strengthen ourselves with the continual reminder of this apocalyptic hope and long for this eschatological reality to come to pass in the physical land of Israel!

The Birth of the Remnant

The idea of the remnant in Scripture is defined from the very beginning of our Bible and traces the veins of Scripture all the way to Revelation. It is something that we must be well acquainted with so that we might understand how God’s plan of salvation functions and how the good news in our Bible comes to fruition. We can simply begin with the flood.

In the flood judgment we see a principle instituted by God: 8 people are saved out of the judgment upon the whole of the earth. Though this may initially offend us, the right response rather would be to ask, ‘Why were 8 even saved?’ God could’ve ended the whole thing at the flood if He had chosen. As we’ve discussed however, it would have broken His promise which He will not allow. It was His mercy to save 8 and continue His promise which would save many more.

Moving forward to Joseph at Pharaoh’s right hand in the midst of the great famine of Egypt, the idea of the remnant is directly articulated by Joseph, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Again, in the context of judgment a remnant is preserved––this time the direct lineage of Abraham. It should be noted that God Himself is divinely preserving a posterity in order to bring about His original promise of Genesis 3:15–this Seed must be born as a man to crush the head of the serpent and this is done through the preservation of a physical remnant in Noah and his family, and in Joseph saving all of Jacob/Israel’s lineage.

There at Sinai in the midst of gross idolatry there is called out from the midst of the assembly the ones who have not joined themselves to this defiling act. We know that Joshua and Caleb must’ve been among these ones since they are praised by the Lord for their faithfulness to Him, and we also see 3000 Levites come to Moses. Let’s read:

“Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— 26then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. 27He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’”28So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”

Surely as soon as Moses appeared in the camp there would have been an outcry of surprise, utter shock, and dreaded fear of the imminent consequence. They had figured him dead! In the passages just before they had petitioned Aaron saying “We don’t know what happened to this Moses, make us a god to worship!”, and now here was this Moses filled with the fury of YHWH, the stone tablets that had been written by the finger of God leaving his tired hands and flying through the air in protest of their abdication. The face that still shone from its mountaintop experience would’ve certainly held a long scowl of anger and grief as he commanded the Levites who crossed onto his side to slay each one’s brother, friend, and neighbor. A great loss occurs as the correct response to a great sin. Then, he commands them to grind the beast into dust and mix it in the community stream for them to drink as a punishment. While the bitter taste of their idolatry lingers on their thirsty tongues they bury their families in the sands of that great desert. The metallic remnant in their mouths reminds them of their error with each shovel full of dirt covering the corpses of those they loved most. The Prophet whom God had chosen to lead this people then hikes the same trail back up the mountain where he will double-down on the forty-day fast in the glory of God.

Enter the Remnant. 

The Levites, you could say, were the first identified remnant called directly out of the new nation of Israel because it is in the context of necessary judgment that some are preserved from the judgment. This is a principle that YHWH will use from this time forward throughout the journey of Scripture with regard to His mercy and kindness in saving as many wicked men as possible from required judgment or punishment. The Levites who are just as carnal and possess the same heart condition as the others present in the camp make a righteous decision and then become protected from the judgment that Moses declares upon Israel. However, we are told that they fall in the wilderness with the others, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun,” (Num. 14:30). Six-hundred thousand men left Egypt in the Exodus and two crossed the Jordan into the promised land of that entire generation. Remarkable. It is not by exaggeration that Jesus says, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matt. 7:14). It is with the remnant that we identify the original context of such a powerful statement.

To be brief and to stay on point, let’s evaluate the idea of the remnant by simply looking at a couple passages of Scripture whilst remembering that the linear trajectory of our Gospel is pushing all things to an apocalyptic end. What I mean in other words is that the idea of the remnant may be found here and there but the idea finds its fulfillment at the very end. Let’s look at a few examples.

Isaiah 10:20-24 Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord GOD of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land. 

In this passage Isaiah is prophesying of the Babylonian Exile of Israel, and that after that captivity a remnant will return to the land. Although this prophecy finds partial fulfillment in the context of Isaiah’s day, it also looks towards its final fulfillment out of the final judgment since the context is that they will never again rely upon the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord. This is clearly yet to be the case. We will do well to understand this regarding the prophets: Their words are ultimately prophesying about the end times and millennial fulfillment. Many will disagree with this view but my solace lies within YHWH, His Bible, and a method of interpretation that is consistent from Genesis to Revelation, seeking to let it stand upon itself.

Another passage;

“As for you, son of man, take a sharp sword; take and use it as a barber’s razor on your head and beard. Then take scales for weighing and divide the hair. 2“One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them. 3Take also a few in number from them and bind them in the edges of your robes. 4“Take again some of them and throw them into the fire and burn them in the fire; from it a fire will spread to all the house of Israel… (Ch. 6) However, I will leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries. 9“Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations. 10“Then they will know that I am the LORD; I have not said in vain that I would inflict this disaster on them.”’

In Ezekiel, this idea shines forth over and over but here is one of the clearest pictures of what we are trying to define. The remnant are the hairs tucked into Ezekiel’s robe signifying that the Lord draws the few to Himself (that have sought to be faithful) and protects them for survival in the midst of judgment. The idea is the same in Ezekiel 9 with the men who have their heads marked by the Lord:

The LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”5But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. 6“Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.”

I would argue that this is the same marking that is seen in Revelation 7 with the 144,000:

And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads. 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel (v. 2-4).

I believe these two to be the same event of marking in the end-times. It may have also happened in Ezekiel’s day, but the point of the idea is again pushing towards the apocalyptic revelation and fulfillment of what the prophet saw. There will be a very literal number of 144,000 Jewish persons saved/preserved in the land of Israel as the remnant that is present to receive their Jewish Messiah when He returns on the clouds of heaven. This is clearly seen in Zechariah as well:

“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones. “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’

Here we see that 2/3 of the people of Israel will eventually be cut off from the land but the Lord will bring 1/3 through the fire of tribulation, at the end of which they cry, “The Lord (YHWH) is my God!” Again we are seeing the Lord’s principle of preserving a remnant. This remnant is the same remnant that is literally in the land crying out when Jesus returns:

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn,” (Zech. 12:10). 

This is the same event that Jesus mentions in Matthew 23, “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

It is the remnant of Israel that sees Him and it is a very literal seeing since He is descending on the clouds of heaven. It is these ones who are mourning over the One who comes to deliver them out of the great fire of tribulation – the One whom their ancestors crucified on the Cross.

I firmly believe that the Bible presents a final time of judgment which will come upon the house of Israel because of covenantal unfaithfulness stemming back to Sinai. This is known as the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30).

7‘Alas! for that day is great,
There is none like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,
But he will be saved from it.

As in the judgment that proceeded from Sinai when Joshua and Caleb were preserved to be able to enter the promised land, during this final judgment a few are preserved as the hairs tucked into Ezekiel’s robe, as the 1/3 that passes through the refiner’s fire in Zechariah identified as an actual number of 144,000 Jewish people living in the land during the judgment in Revelation 7 and Ezekiel 9. They are the very ethnic jews who will look upon Him whom they’ve pierced and be saved out of Jacob’s Trouble with Messiah’s return.

The idea of the remnant is also prevalent in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans 11, “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” It is actually the very first verse we mentioned in Isaiah that Paul bases this idea off of starting in Romans 9:27, “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED.” So we see that even to the chief apostle the idea of salvation for Israel exists in the form of a remnant being saved.

God has preserved a remnant from man since Adam left the garden with the promise of Genesis 3:15 and that concept translates to the stock of Israel since He made His promise continue in Abraham. Whether Noah’s family, Joseph’s family, Joshua and Caleb, Nehemiah and Ezra, the apostles and the early Jewish church, even to Messianic Jewish believers today, God has preserved a remnant because His promise will not fail. He will continue to do so, even through the coming climactic judgment of Jacob’s Trouble. We will of course take a thorough look at this subject in another post.

Conclusion

The covenant that was confirmed that day at Sinai was with the ethnic lineage of Abraham–his seed. It really happened! Israel has carried these promises for roughly 4000 years, all the way through to Messiah, and rest assured they will carry them into the millennium. Let us not forget their sacrifice and their striving to obey the Lord all those years of their wandering. It is their journey, although feeble and rebellious at times, that has brought about the Messiah Himself, and will bring about His future Kingdom. Yes, even the entire fulfillment of God’s promises depends upon them – the very restoration of the earth and our bodies!

15For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rom 11:15)

Indeed, all of our hope as gentiles is attached to the promises of passages such as we’ve examined here, and my prayer is that those promises are beginning to become your hope as well. We press on together in this glorious Gospel, stewarding it as faithful shepherds, and regarding it as holy unto the Lord.