Sunday, March 30, 2014

God's Failure. Really?!

The Mosaic Law is often viewed as God's first attempt at creating a holy people for Himself. Unfortunately, it was a failure. The people couldn't keep all those laws and the sacrifices were never able to remove sin. God needed to do something else, so He sent His Son to be the final sacrifice that would actually work. His people would never have to even try to keep all those Laws again because of Grace, and no further sacrifices would ever be needed. God would have His holy people!

This little scenario is nothing more than a fantasy, a creation of anti-Semitic theology of partial truths. For example, it is true that no one can keep all of God's Laws. This situation was true in the Old Testament days as well as in the New. Grace was man's only hope. Grace was given by God when He gave the people the Laws, so that they knew what was required, and grace was given when the people accepted His covenant. Grace was given when the people made the sacrifices that covered them and allowed them to be in God's presence in the Tabernacle or the Temple. Grace was given during Yom Kippur. Grace was given when Yeshua died and rose again. The penalty for sin was paid. But grace doesn't eliminate the Laws. Yeshua's paying for the penalty of sin doesn't give man a license to violate the Laws. He paid too high a price for man to stomp on the Mosaic Law, which He kept so faithfully and perfectly. He is man's example!

Secondly, it is true that the sacrifices could not remove sin. However, that was never their intended goal. They made atonement, or covered the sin of God's people so that they could enter God's presence. Even the book of Hebrews speaks about the success of the sacrifices.

Hebrews 9:13-14 (KJV)
13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

If the sacrifices sanctified, or made holy, the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah purge the conscience? Hebrews was making a "light to heavy" comparison. Messiah's sacrifice removed sins, but the sacrifices of bulls and goats also succeeded in covering the people, a lighter result!

Also from Leviticus it is evident that the sacrifices worked exactly as God intended.

Leviticus 9:22-24 (KJV)
22 And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings.
23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.
24 And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.

The last part of this fanciful story is the claim that any who insist upon the obedience to the Mosaic Law are legalists. Somehow it is believed that they are acting as modern day Judaizers (which insisted on following all the minutiae of the Oral Law which were traditions not the Law of God). However, obedience out of love for God can never be legalistic. Rather, disobedience (lawlessness) demonstrates a lack of faith. Disobedience can never result in a holy people!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Romans 11:22-26 - The Salvation of All Israel


The olive tree represents Israel. In Paul's discussion, the natural branches were the Jews. Some of these were "cut off" because of unbelief, and wild olive branches, the believing Gentiles, were grafted into Israel. Paul ended with a warning about pride against the Jews. If God would cut off the unbelieving Jews, the same could happen to the Gentiles if they fell into unbelief.

Romans 11:22-26 (KJV)
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

In verse 22 Paul pointed out the severity of God that came upon the Jews because of unbelief. In contrast, God had been exceedingly good to the believing Gentiles by grafting them in. He urged the Gentile believers to continue in God's goodness, or otherwise, they would also be cut off. Remaining in God's goodness is accomplished by staying in relationship with Him, by continuing in faith. The alternative is to be cut off just as the unbelieving Jews had been.

But Paul didn't end there. Again he declared hope for the Jews (verse 23). If they didn't continue in unbelief, they too, would be grafted back into the olive tree.

For if the Gentiles, who believed, could be grafted into the olive tree, even though this was not their native tree, how much more easily could the cut off branches be grafted back into their own tree (verse 24)?

In verse 25 Paul spoke about not wanting his fellow believers to be ignorant of God's plan, because without understanding they might be conceited. Although Paul stated very clearly that a blindness had happened to the Jews and that it would continue until the fullness of the Gentiles had come into the Kingdom of God, Christians today act extremely conceited in their belief and the unbelief of many of the Jews. Simply put, God is not finished with the Jews! It would appear that the blindness that came on the Jews also has affected much of Christianity. Although there is belief, there has been much shunning of the Jews and Israel. Christians don't really seem to realize that they have been grafted into a very Jewish olive tree.

However, the blindness is not complete. Jews have come and are coming to faith in Messiah Yeshua. In the same way, Gentiles, for centuries, have been coming to faith. The blindness is going away! Eventually, as the full number (or more likely, the full quality or kind) of Gentiles comes into the Kingdom, all Israel will be saved (verse 26)!

Paul then quoted from Isaiah.

Isaiah 59:20 (KJV)
20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.

One day, the nation of Israel will recognize Yeshua, accept Him as Messiah, and turn from transgression. This is the outcome of Paul's discussion that began with his concern over his fellow Jews. How this must have comforted him!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Romans 11:16-18 - Natural and Wild Branches


Paul continued his discussion of the salvation of the Jews.

Romans 11:16-21 (KJV)
16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

Paul began this section of Romans by alluding to Numbers (verse 16).

Numbers 15:20-21 (KJV)
20 Ye shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough for an heave offering: as ye do the heave offering of the threshingfloor, so shall ye heave it.
21 Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the LORD an heave offering in your generations.

If the first fruit of the dough, the cake, is holy then the entire lump of dough is holy. In the same way, if the root is holy, then so are the branches. What was Paul specifically referring to? Who or what is the root? Who or what are the branches? Let's deal with the second question first.

Paul informed us that some of the branches had been broken off and some wild olive branches had been grafted in (verse 17). These grafted in branches took hold and received nourishment from the root of the olive tree. Paul clearly indicated that the wild olive branches that were grafted in were Gentile believers. Unbelieving Jews must be the natural branches that were broken off.

In verse 18 Paul warned the Gentile believers not to boast against the branches (the Jews). The Gentile believers did not support the root, but the root supported the Gentile believers.

In verse 19 Paul imagined what a Gentile believer might boast about. "The branches were broken off, so that I might be grafted in!" Paul then explained that the branches were indeed broken off because of unbelief, while the Gentile believer is grafted in because of faith (verse 20). However, the Gentile believer should not be full of pride, but should fear, because if God didn't spare the natural branches (the Jews), He might not spare the Gentiles either, if they are found in unbelief (verse 21).

So, the natural branches are the Jews, the natural branches that are broken off are the unbelieving Jews, and the wild olive branches are the believing Gentiles. Who or what is the root? The root is holy according to verse 16. It provides nourishment for the branches (verse 17). Beyond this Romans doesn't necessarily define the root. However, traditionally, the olive tree itself has been viewed as a symbol of Israel. Paul's use of the branches as Jews was consistent with this well-known symbol. The root therefore could refer to the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), Israel, or Yeshua, as many have postulated. In any case, Paul depicted the root as being a Jewish entity. Believing Gentiles are grafted into Israel, the olive tree.

Lastly, let's consider Paul's warning about not boasting against the Jews. Not only historically do we find that the church has treated the Jews horribly, but attitudes today throughout Christianity towards the Jews are less than stellar. Even in situations where Jews aren't ill treated, Christians act like Jews need to be grafted into the church, rather than the other way around. Christians snub their noses at all things Jewish and ignore Torah. But if the Jews were cut off because they strayed from God in unbelief as demonstrated by disobedience, we Gentiles cannot afford to boast against the Jews, or our pride will show that we have strayed into unbelief through disobedience, and will be cut off, as well. This definitely was Paul's wake up call!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Romans 11:13-15 - Jewish Nation Reconciled to God


It is the Gentiles' obligation to provoke Israel to jealousy. Paul spoke more on this.

Romans 11:13-15 (KJV)
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

In verse 13 Paul stated that while he was speaking to Gentiles, because he was the apostle of the Gentiles, his work was visible and open to the Jews. By teaching and preaching to the Gentiles he believed that he would provoke the Jews to emulate the believers and some might then be saved (verse 14).

Paul then reiterated that if the Jews' temporary rejection of Messiah meant reconciliation between the world (Gentiles) and God, how much more would be accomplished by the Jews receiving Messiah in faith? Ultimately, it would mean the salvation of the Jews, not only individually, but nationally, as well.

Stay tuned for more!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Romans 11:11-12 - Provoked to Jealousy


Many of the Jews, Paul said, were blinded, and did not accept Messiah. Yet there was hope!

Romans 11:11-12 (KJV)
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Paul again asked a leading question in verse 11. Have the Jews stumbled, so that they have fallen away permanently? Paul answered negatively, "God forbid!" Instead, because of the Jews' stumbling, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Then as Gentiles come to faith in Messiah, the Jews will be provoked to jealousy.

Gentiles in great numbers have come to faith and salvation because the Jews stumbled over Messiah Yeshua. This is a profound blessing that has been extended to them. Yet, how has the Christian church often treated the Jews? What crimes against the Jews have been committed in the name of Christianity? Why does antisemitism reign in many so called "Christian" lands? Obviously, Christians have acted like God has thrown away the Jews and has made the Church the new chosen people. This is not to say that all Gentile Christians behave in this manner, but the number of incidents has caused a distrust of Christians on the part of many Jews. This has not caused the Jews to be jealous of Christianity.

In a way, provoking the Jews to jealousy is a command for Gentile Christians. This seems to be God's way of bringing the Jews to faith, but up to now the Gentiles have failed to a large degree. How can this be accomplished? If Christians were to act with love and to follow the high moral standards of God's Word, many Jews would perhaps think twice and embrace Messiah Yeshua. However, from the Jews' perspective, Christianity is a separate religion from Judaism. Christians worship three gods, violate the Torah by eating non-foods, and celebrate pagan holidays, while ignoring God-given feasts. They worship a false prophet called Jesus who has instructed them to turn away from God. With all of these elements in play, the Jews are unlikely to come to faith in great numbers. Obviously, there is some misunderstanding on the part of the Jews, however, it is true that Christianity doesn't look much like what is described in the Torah, nor does it resemble the first century church. This needs to change. The only way that Gentiles can provoke the Jews to jealousy is to live out faith and salvation by following God's Torah in total, putting aside Gentile tradition, and embracing a life that outshines the Jews' observance. Once they see Gentiles living according to God's Word, they will be jealous.

Paul then stated that if the fall or stumbling and the diminishing of the Jews resulted in riches for the rest of the world, how much more will be accomplished by the Jews coming back on track in faith in Messiah (verse 12)?


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Romans 11:7-10 - Blindness


There will always be a Jewish remnant of true believers! Paul continued.

Romans 11:7-10 (KJV)
7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

According to verse 7 Israel had not wholly obtained the righteousness that she sought. The elect of God (the remnant) had obtained it, but the rest were blinded.

This blindness, according to Moses in the Torah, Isaiah in the Prophets, and David in the Writings (Psalms), came from God, like a spirit of slumber (ex. Isaiah 29:10). Most of the Jews could not see, nor could they hear (David H. Stern. Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, MD, 1992. p. 405). However, it must be remembered from earlier discussion, that God never blinds the eyes of those who would be willing to respond to Him.

Verses 9 and 10 are quotes from Psalm 69:22-23.

Psalm 69:22,23 (KJV)
22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.
23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.

Paul used these verses to demonstrate the results of the blindness. Although the Jews had everything they needed for understanding, a virtual feast of truth, it became a snare, a trap, a stumbling block, and a recompense to those who disbelieved. Their eyes were darkened, and they remained slaves to sin (bowing down their backs is a picture of slavery).

Thankfully, Paul didn't end there. Romans continues with a message of hope! Stay tuned.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Romans 11:1-6 A Remnant


Paul said that God was not at fault for the Jews not believing in Messiah. He ended by calling them a disobedient and obstinate people. It was their own fault. Yet, before we begin to think that Gentiles are some how better (they aren't), Paul continued to teach on God's plan for the Jews.

Romans 11:1-6 (KJV)
1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

In verse 1 Paul again used a leading question to shape his argument. "Has God cast away his people?" Paul answered negatively, "God forbid!" Paul then used himself as an example of how God had not cast the Jews aside. Paul was a Jew, a descendant of Abraham, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

God had not cast away the Jewish people which He had foreknown (verse 2). Paul then used Elijah as his second example. After Elijah had confronted the prophets of Baal, he fled and complained that he alone was left of all the prophets of God (verse 3). Yet, this was not true (verse 4). God had reserved seven thousand men who had not turned to Baal. God had preserved a remnant.

In verse 5 Paul affirmed that during his own day, there was still a Jewish remnant of believers in Messiah, that were saved by grace.

While much of Christianity today has also decided that God is through with Israel (Replacement Theology) and that the Church has replaced her, Paul's words and examples show that there will always be a remnant of Jews that responds to God's call. There will be more as chapter 11 continues.

Then in verse 6 Paul returned to one of his major arguments, that since the Jews' salvation was by grace, it was not of works, otherwise grace would not be grace, but payment of a debt. And if salvation came by works, it was not of grace. Then works would not be the loving and thankful result of salvation, but the striving for something that was unattainable. Again, Paul stressed that, as always, salvation came by grace!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Romans 10:18-21 - A Disobedient and Obstinate People


Paul stated that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Next, he returned again to his leading question, "Isn't it God's fault that most of the Jews don't believe in Messiah?"

Romans 10:18-21 (KJV)
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

In verse 18 Paul asked, "Haven't the Jews heard the message about Messiah?" He answered a resounding, "Yes." He then quoted a part of Psalms 19.

Psalm 19:1-4 (KJV)
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

Paul focused on his earlier argument (Rom. 1:19-20) about creation and how it declared that there is a God. Just as he had said before, no one could claim ignorance about God. Considering that the Jews had the Torah, they especially could not claim ignorance.

Paul asked another leading question, "Didn't the Jews understand (verse 19)?" Although many didn't, Paul again left them no room for not understanding. He quoted Deuteronomy 32:21.

Deuteronomy 32:21 (KJV)
21 They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

Because of the Word of God the Jews should have understood. Moses had even foretold what was going to happen. Because Israel had provoked God to jealousy, the Jews would also be provoked to jealousy by "them that are no people." God would also allow them to be angered by a "foolish" nation (probably a parallel phrase meaning the same group of people) because they had provoked Him to anger by the "work of their hands" (idolatry).

Deuteronomy 31:29 (KJV)
29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.

In verses 20 and 21 Paul quoted Isaiah.

Isaiah 65:1,2 (KJV)
1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.
2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;

The instrument of the Jews provocation would be the Gentiles. If the Gentiles were able to find Messiah, when they hadn't even sought for God, then the Jews had no excuse. Rather, God had continually stretched forth His hands to the Jews who were a disobedient and gainsaying (contradictory) (obstinate) people.

The story of the Jews doesn't end here. Chapter 11 will continue to address their issue. Perhaps a clue can be found at the end of the Deuteronomy passage.

Deuteronomy 32:43 (KJV)
43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Stay tuned!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Nations vs. Israel

During our Women's Bible, while we were discussing Isaiah 18 and 19, we discussed the judgment of the nations of Ethiopia and Egypt. Clearly, through these chapters we find that God judges Israel's enemies. In fact, this principle can be found throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. One such example is found in Matthew 25.

Matthew 25:31-34 (KJV)
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

When Yeshua returns to earth He will bring all the holy angels with Him, and He will sit on His throne in Jerusalem (verse 31). At that time all the nations will be gathered to Him and He will separate them into two groups, the sheep and the goats (verse 32). The sheep will be on His right and the goats will be on His left (verse 33). The sheep will be called, "blessed of My Father," and they will enter into the Millennial Kingdom (verse 34).

Matthew 25:40-41 (KJV)
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

In verse 40 King Yeshua explains that the sheep will be admitted into the kingdom because of the good treatment that they gave to His brethren. Their doing good to others was as if they had done the same to Yeshua, Himself. The goats, on the other hand, had neglected and treated poorly Yeshua's brethren (verses 42-45). The end result is that they are told that they are cursed and they are to depart from Yeshua into everlasting fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels (verse 41).

There are two important elements found in this passage and I'm not talking about the sheep and the goats. Who are being judged? The nations are the ones being judged. What is the criterion for judgment? The criterion is how Yeshua's brethren are treated.

What did Matthew mean by "the nations?" Who are Yeshua's brethren? Thankfully, the book of Joel contains a companion passage that can help us answer these questions.

Joel 3:2,12 (KJV)
2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.

According to verse 2 the nations will be brought down into the Valley of Jehoshaphat for judgment. However, in verse 12 it is the heathen that will be judged. The Hebrew word used in both of these places is the word for Gentile. According to Joel, the Gentiles are judged. Verse 2 also specifies who are Yeshua's brethren. They are called Israel.

Together these two passages show that it is the Gentiles who will be judged based on how they treat Israel!

Although these passages seem clear, they raise some further questions. There appears to be only two groups of people, the Gentiles and Israel. What about the church, the true Christian believers, that are for the most part Gentiles? Where do they fit? And what about Jewish unbelievers? Since this is the time of Yeshua's return after the Tribulation, this is the time in which Paul indicated that all Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26). The unbelieving Jews would see Yeshua and recognize Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). As far as the church is concerned, as soon as a Gentile becomes a believer and is born again, he or she is no longer a Gentile (spiritually), but becomes a part of Israel through being grafted in (Romans 11:17).

Christianity seems to seek a severe differentiation between the church and Israel, but this is contradictory to what we see in Scripture. If we want to reap the benefits of Israel, we need, not only to stand with the nation of Israel, but we must begin to see ourselves as a part of Israel. Her history, benefits, and responsibilities (including Torah observance) are ours. After all, when it comes to the judgment of the sheep and the goats, do we really want to be on the side of the Gentiles or do we want to be a part of Yeshua's brethren, Israel?