Monthly Archives: July 2016

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity Part 1

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity
by T. Austin-Sparks

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Chapter 1 – Introductory

Reading: Psalm 118.

The real title of this Psalm is the ‘Passover Hosanna Psalm’, and its theme is faith unto enlargement through adversity. Martin Luther called this Psalm his Psalm, and I think his life is a very good commentary upon it. We know why he made it his Psalm. He might well have been the originator of it, so true was his life to all that is here. It is just an explanation and a summing-up of all his experience. ‘This is my Psalm’, he said.

This Psalm was really born out of experience, and it is that that makes it live. There lies behind it very deep history, especially in two particular connections.

The Background Of The Psalm

In the first place, this Psalm, whose composer no one seems to know, was at least adapted to, if not composed for, the Passover after the dedication of the second Temple. You are probably acquainted with the history of the second Temple. You have to turn, of course, to the Book of Ezra, and alongside of it to the Book of Nehemiah, and then to the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah; and when you have read those four books, you have the setting of Psalm 118. Read again verses 5 to 16 of the Psalm in the light of that, and you will see what light is thrown upon these verses. Or take a fragment – verse 10: “All nations compassed me about: in the name of the Lord I will cut them off. They compassed me about…” And turn to the Book of Ezra, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10. Here you have a whole host of nations all gathered against Ezra and the building of the second Temple. They compassed him about – all these nations compassed him about – they compassed him about like stinging bees. Thus this description of adversity, of opposition, gives this Psalm a very real, practical application: for the remnant which had escaped from captivity had returned to the land with the building and dedication of the Temple in view, and if this Psalm is a description of things as they were then, it is indeed the story of life out of death.

Life Out Of Death

We must remember that the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ repeated in this Psalm represent the personification of the remnant or of the nation. It is as though the nation were speaking as an individual; it is a collective ‘I’. The nation is here saying: “The Lord hath chastened me sore” – how true that was for the seventy years in captivity – “but He hath not given me over unto death” (v. 18); “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (v. 17): so that the remnant speaking in these words does really embody this great truth of life out of death and life triumphant over death.

The Lord had promised His people, when they were in that far-off exile and captivity, that He would ‘open their graves’ and bring them out (Ezekiel 37:12-14), and here it is. They are out – out of that grave of captivity; and a grave it was. There is no singing in the grave. “The dead praise not the Lord” (Psalm 115:17) is a phrase of Scripture, and how true it was away there. “Upon the willows… we hanged up our harps… how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:2-4). ‘The dead praise Thee not.’ But listen! “O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His lovingkindness endureth for ever” – four times repeated at the very beginning of the Psalm, and then added as the crown at the end. It is a new Psalm on resurrection ground. So the Psalm, to begin with, is one of life out of death.

Release From Bondage

And then quite clearly it is one of release from bondage. These people are so rejoicing in this aspect of their position by the lovingkindness of the Lord, that they are reminded of their earliest great deliverance, and you will see here in the Psalm a reference to the great deliverance from Egypt, and a quotation from the Book of Exodus. They bring the two together – deliverance from Egypt and deliverance from Babylon – and the deliverance from Egypt is always, in the Scripture, termed deliverance “out of the house of bondage”. The Psalm, then, is the Psalm of release from bondage.

Now, bringing that into the rebuilding of the second Temple, you can see how the remnant were straitened, were pressed, by the nations represented by these people who had been brought into Samaria. What a time Nehemiah had from these people in building the wall! He was pressed on every side. What a time Ezra had! How those prophets suffered! The work was held up for more than a decade by reason of this opposition and adversity all around. But the point is that the Temple was built and finished and dedicated, and this Psalm was sung at the Passover which followed the dedication. It says: ‘Let men do their worst, let them oppress from every side, let them oppose as they will. The thing is done: the Lord has done it in spite of everything, and we are out.’

From Limitation To Enlargement

So “the Lord answered me and set me in a large place” (v. 5). From death to life, from bondage to liberty, from limitation to enlargement – into a “large place” – and this represented a very great thing on the Lord’s part. Consider all that the Lord had to cope with – though of course it is putting it in a wrong way to say the Lord ever has to ‘cope with’ anything, for He is so supremely superior to every situation. Yet what was against His people was no small thing. To bring them out into this enlargement meant the overcoming of tremendous difficulties. “The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” We are reminded of another word, so familiar to us: “Thou broughtest us into the net… Thou didst cause men to ride over our heads. We went through fire and through water; but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Psalm 66:11-12). It is a Psalm of triumph over limitation, bringing into enlargement.

God’s Faithfulness Over His People’s Unfaithfulness

The version from which I have quoted uses the word ‘lovingkindness’. The version which is perhaps more familiar has the word ‘mercy’ – “His mercy endureth for ever”. I think there is a note about ‘lovingkindness’ – God’s lovingkindness’ – that touches the heart, when you think of the failure and the unfaithfulness of His own people. What a story it is all the way along, right through the lives of the major and the minor prophets. It would seem that if ever the mercy of God, the lovingkindness of God, could have been exhausted, it would have been so with these people, so terrible were their reactions to the mercy of God. How far they went against the Lord! But here in the end – and with Nehemiah we are in the last Book of the Old Testament in historical order, we are at the end of a dispensation – the great note is: “His lovingkindness endureth for ever”. When they used that language, these people knew what they were talking about. It was not just poetry or sentiment.

It is, therefore, a Psalm of tremendous consolation. We know our weakness, we know our unfaithfulness, we know how we have failed and do fail. The end of the story is – “His lovingkindness endureth for ever”. You see, this is the experience – and, out of the experience, the testimony – of a people who have proved the Lord to be faithful over against all that men could do against them. It is a Psalm worth having. No wonder Luther said, ‘That is my Psalm!’

Sung By The Lord Before Gethsemane

But there is something even more than that. The second thing about this Psalm is that it is believed to have been the Psalm sung by the Lord Himself and by His disciples on the Passover night. Before I knew this, I used to say, ‘I wish I knew what it was they sang when it says that after the supper, “when they had sung a hymn, they went out”‘ (Matt. 26:30). I have discovered that, on very good grounds, it is strongly believed that this was the Psalm that they sang. The Lord Jesus actually sang this Psalm! And His disciples sang it with Him – I wonder if they really knew what they were singing? Let us look at it.

There is no doubt that this Psalm is very largely, if not altogether, related to the Lord Jesus, because it is quoted in immediate connection with Him in several places in the New Testament. For instance: “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord” (v. 26). But the titles of the Psalm, the ‘Passover Hosanna Psalm’, is not based upon that incident of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, when they cut down palm branches and went before Him singing out of this Psalm: “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”, but upon other grounds. And then you know that on several occasions in the New Testament the words are quoted: “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner” (v. 22). The Lord Jesus used them concerning Himself (Matt. 21:42), and Peter used them concerning Christ (1 Pet. 2:7). So this is in a large sense what is called a ‘Messianic’ Psalm. It is related to the Lord Jesus.

The Triumph Of Faith

Now, if the Lord did sing this Psalm on that dark night of the Passover and betrayal, what a triumph of faith it was! “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (v. 17). Going straightway to Gethsemane, the trial and the Cross – “I shall not die, but live”. In faith He has leapt the garden, He has leapt the trial, He has leapt the Cross, right over into the resurrection. “I shall not die, but live.” What a triumph of faith through adversity, through suffering! But oh, what a meaning this gives to Gethsemane. Look at the Passover. “This is My body, which is for you” (1 Cor. 11:24). “This is My blood… which is shed for many unto remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). And they sang a hymn; and after the hymn, the next thing – Gethsemane. Look – “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (v. 27). What was Gethsemane? They bound Him and led Him away from the garden, but His interpretation of that binding was of “a sacrifice… even unto the horns of the altar”; not tied to the horns of the altar, but bound with a view to being led toward the altar. That is the meaning here: ‘Bind and lead to the altar.’

This puts a new light upon Gethsemane, upon the bonds, the captivity, does it not? This is not man’s prevailing, this is not man overcoming, this is not man’s triumph. This is the Lamb of God allowing Himself to be led to the altar. For that is the next thing after the singing. He has sung: “Bind the sacrifice… even unto the horns of the altar”; and forthwith He goes. He goes to Gethsemane, then to the betrayal, then to the judgment hall, and then to the Cross. There is the Divine side of all that, but here you see faith taking hold of this human side, as men regard and interpret it, and turning it into the redemption of the world.

The Lord’s Enlargement Through The Cross

In verse 5 again – “Out of my distress I called upon the Lord: the Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” Are these words of the Lord Jesus? Yes: out of His distress He cried: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me”. “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly…” “Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, Thy will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 22:44). “Out of my distress I cried…”; and, although it does not seem that the Lord answered and delivered, an Apostle says that Hewas heard (Heb. 5:7). And how was He heard? Have we the proof that He was heard and answered? “The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” A large place? Yes, a very large place He is in. How enlarged was our Lord through His Cross! “How am I straitened”, He said–“how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). This was enlargement through suffering: His passion meant enlargement, release from limitation. But it is the voice of faith. As He goes to the Cross, faith goes beyond the Cross and claims the answer of life, not death; enlargement, not limitation. We could dwell quite a long time upon the enlargement that has come to the Lord Jesus through suffering by faith, and this we hope to do in later messages.

Life, Liberty And Enlargement For Us In Christ

But what a testimony this is to the mercy of God. This is the point. I said a little earlier that this ‘I’ of the Psalm is an inclusive and collective ‘I’. In the first place, it is the nation speaking in this personal way, using this personal pronoun “I”. Now it is taken up in relation to the Lord Jesus – “I shall not die”. But, you see, it is not just personal. We know that the Lord Jesus had no need to go to the Cross for Himself. It has often been pointed out that those words used much later by an Apostle – “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2) – should be translated: “Who, instead of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despised shame, and sat down…”, and it takes you to the mount of transfiguration.

The mount of transfiguration was the seal to the perfection of His moral character. There is no transfiguration or glorification apart from moral perfection, and so God gave Him the great witness that He was perfect, that He saw no fault in Him, that He had passed the scrutiny of the eyes of Divine holiness, and there was not a flaw or a blemish in Him: He was perfect. Therefore He had a right to go from the mount of transfiguration right through to the glory for aye. The glory was His: it was declared His, it was shown to be His, it was His. But instead of the joy that was set in front of Him, He turned round and came down and endured the Cross, and if you will look at the context of these words in Hebrews, you will find that it was all because of ourselves – that He was not going to glory without us. Bringing many sons to glory necessitated His coming down, foregoing for the time being His right, His immediate right, to the glory, and enduring the Cross. You remember how, in that same letter to the Hebrews, it is put into the mouth of the Lord Himself: “I and the children whom God hath given Me” (Heb. 2:13). “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (2:11).

So this glorious Psalm, with its wonderful background in the life of the Lord Jesus and by the Cross of the Lord Jesus, gathers us in. We are in this collective ‘I’. We come into the good of this. “I shall not die, but live.” “The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” It is true, is it not? It is true. We have that life triumphant over death. He has given that life to us; it is ours. It is not only ours in that general way – “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23) – but it is a testimony for all our life, something for now. It is a life which has come out of His death, and has overcome death in Him. It is for us. Do not let us lose the force of that by familiarity. It is to be a testimony every day. What we have in Christ is to be experienced and manifested every day, and it can be.

But then – and upon this we shall dwell very much more fully – what enlargement we have in Christ from our limitation! How infinitely great is the place into which we have been brought, how immeasurable are the resources, how vast are the ranges, how potent are the forces into which we have come in Christ through His death!

I close by reminding you of this – that while it is all concluded in Him, that where He is concerned there is nothing more to be done in this matter: it is full and it is final, and He has entered into His rest, has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; nothing through which we go can add to that, nothing which we experience can take from it; nevertheless, in a sense – not vicariously, not atoningly, not in the sense of His great redemptive work – but in a sense of fellowship with Him while He is still rejected in this world, and of humiliation in fellowship with Him, the principle still remains: that is, that life and enlargement come through adversity and faith’s triumph therein. It is the law of life. Faith’s triumph in adversity issues in life and enlargement.

We shall see more fully how true that is. The Bible is just full of it. Given a real test of faith, much adversity and opposition, everything hemming in, circling round – ‘all nations compassed me about, they compassed me about, they compassed me about’ – you see, it is reiterated, it is very real – nevertheless, nevertheless, that only constitutes the challenge to faith. Faith looks upon that as its opportunity, and when faith comes out in its declaration over against all that, and says, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord”, that is the highway to a new experience of life and a new range of fullness – to enlargement by way of faith’s challenge and faith’s victory.

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Salvation in Zion. The Sure Mercies of David

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An excerpt from :  The Hope of Israel: What Is It?  by Philip Mauro

 

 “The hope of the gospel” is for those, whether Jews by nature or Gentiles, whom God has “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:12,23); for the gospel brings a glorious hope even to those who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope” (Eph. 2:12). And briefly that hope is the promised kingdom, whereof God had spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began (for God had promised that gospel afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures, Rom. 1:2); the kingdom concerning which the King Himself in that coming day will say to those on His right hand, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you,” whereof it is written, “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him” (Jas. 2:5); the kingdom whereof it is also written, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).

     These passages refer, of course, to that eternal aspect of the kingdom, for which all creation waits (Rom. 8:19-21), when the kingdom of God, into which those who are saved by grace are immediately translated (Col. 1:12), will be manifested in power and glory. It is for this our Lord taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come.”

     In all the above passages, and in all others, so far as I can find, where the same subject is referred to, it is always one hope (not two), one kingdom, one gospel, one salvation, that is spoken of. I deem it of much importance to establish this; and therefore the main object of the present inquiry is to ascertain whether there be any ground in the O.T. prophecies for the idea that there is another “hope of Israel,” another kingdom of God (one of earthly character, as some teach) which will be hereafter given to the Jewish nation en masse, which has rejected the kingdom of God, that was preached “to the Jew first.”

     It is true indeed that in the O.T. Scriptures the kingdom was promised to Israel only, and the hope was for Israel only. What God said again and again, in one form of words or another, is just what He expressed by the mouth of Isaiah, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory” (Isa. 46:13); and it is expressly reaffirmed in the N.T. that to them (Israelites) pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants and the promises” (Rom. 9:4,5).

     But while this is the truth concerning the promised kingdom, it is not all the truth. For when Christ came, the natural Israel parted in twain. It divided itself into two parts, one of which (a small remnant) accepted Christ, and the other rejected Him. The latter part embraced the mass of the nation; whereas the former was “a very small remnant” indeed, as it is written, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (i.e., children of God, and if children then heirs, John 1:11,12; Rom. 8:17).

     Now the apostle, in the passage quoted above, declares expressly that the unbelieving part of the nation is not the true “Israel” (Rom. 9:6); and he goes on to say that “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election (the believing part) hath obtained it” (Rom. 11:7). And furthermore, in the very same passage, he declares that this “election,” which is the true “Israel,” and which has obtained the promises, embraces believing Gentiles along with believing Jews (Rom. 9:24-31; 10:19, 20; 11:11-27). And know we have the whole truthconcerning “the Israel of God,” as revealed in the Scriptures.

     It is hard to conceive how there could be a plainer statement of facts than has been given us in the above quoted Scriptures concerning the kingdom promised to Israel. How extraordinary then, and how subversive of the truth concerning “the hope of Israel” (for the preaching of which Paul was accused and made a prisoner by the Jews), is the teaching of those in our day who take the unbelieving part of the Jewish nation to be the true “Israel,” and apply to them the blessings promised by God through His prophets! This doctrine reverses completely that of the Bible, which teaches plainly that “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”; that “they which are of the flesh are not the children of God” (and hence not the heirs of God’s promises, or any of them) but that “the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:16).

     Not only does this new teaching (new among the people of God, though it was the very core of the teaching of apostate Judaism) destroy the unity of the one kingdom of God, the one Israel of God, the one hope of the gospel, the one everlasting covenant, but it also deranges the whole scheme of prophecy. For it is necessitates that time and place be made in the future for another (an “earthly”) kingdom and another people of God (an “earthly” people).

 

THE SURE MERCIES OF DAVID

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     In a preceding chapter (Chapter V) it was pointed out that Moses, the founder of the Jewish nation, clearly foretold its apostasy and its complete extermination; even describing the characteristics of the people (the Romans) whom God would use as the instrument of His vengeance.

     The next prophet of note after Moses, who has written concerning the kingdom of God, the hope of Israel, is Israel’s great King, David. His prophecies, however, are so numerous that it would not be possible within the limit of this volume to examine them. Moreover, the greater part of them are couched in language so poetical and figurative, so abounding in imagery which is obscure to us, as to require much patient investigation in order to establish the character of their fulfilment. But it is only the general purport that we need to ascertain at present; and happily that has been given to us in a single, comprehensive utterance, from the lips of the apostle Paul, spoken in a Jewish synagogue:

“And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm… And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead… He said on this wise, I will give unto you the sure mercies of David” (Ac. 13:32-34).

     These words plainly declare that the promise, which God had made to the fathers of Israel, He had fulfilled by raising up Jesus Christ from the dead; and specifically that His promises to and concerning David – among which the kingdom was prominent – implied and depended upon, and that it was accomplished in, the resurrection of Christ. Hence; when a servant of Christ proclaims the gospel of His resurrection, he is preaching (whether he be aware of it or not) “the sure mercies of David.”

     The original passage from which the apostle took the phrase, “the sure mercies of David,” connects those “mercies” with the everlasting covenant; and it most unmistakably locates the fulfilment of this great promise in this present era of the gospel. I quote the prophetic passage:

“Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (Isa. 55:1-3).

     Here we have “the Spirit of Christ” in the prophet (I Pet. 1:11) giving utterance beforehand to the gospel invitation, “Come ye to the waters”; “Come, buy, without money, and without price.” And we have also the plain declaration of the everlasting covenant, and the sure mercies of David are one and the same thing.

     As we have been at pains to show in the foregoing pages, the everlasting covenant is the only covenant of God that now that subsists. For the temporary covenant with the Jewish nation was but a fleeting “shadow,” being likened in Scripture to the light that shined for a little while in the face of Moses, and then quickly faded away (2 Cor. 3:13-15). True the teachers and leaders of the Jews were, and still are, blinded to the fact that the covenant “is done away in Christ.” But that is no wonder; for both David (Ps. 69:23) and Isaiah (6:9) foretold that they should be blinded to the passing away of the old covenant Moreover, Paul points this out in Romans 11:8-10; and in 2 Corinthians 3:13-15 he explains that the vail which Moses put over his face was a prophetic sign that the Jewish nation would be blinded to the passing away of the old covenant and its promises. So that “even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.”

     But the wonder is that any of the present day teachers of the word of God, who are legitimate successors of Paul and Timothy, whom God had made “able ministers of the new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:6) should be likewise blinded to the truth so plainly declared, and should in consequence be driven to the exercise of their ingenuity in the devising of schemes of unfulfiled prophecy, illustrated perhaps by elaborate charts and diagrams; wherein provision is made for a reviving of the promises and other incidents of the old covenant, which the Jewish nation forfeited by its flagrant rebellion and apostasy, and which God has long ago “abolished” (2 Cor. 3:13; Heb. 8:13).

     It is of the very essence of the truth of the gospel that the resurrection of Jesus Christ marks the dividing line between “that which is natural” and “that which is spiritual” (I Cor. 15:46); for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the gospel, insomuch that if Christ be not risen, the preaching of His apostles is vain, and our faith also is vain, we are yet in our sins, those who have fallen asleep in Christ are perished, and we who hope in Him are of all men the most miserable (id. vv. 13-19).

     Before the resurrection of Christ, God recognized as His people a nation of men in the flesh, the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and with them He made covenants concerning earthly blessings. Also He recognized an earthly Zion and an earthly Jerusalem; and He appointed an earthly temple, an earthly priesthood and earthly sacrifices. But that system in its entirety was but “a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Heb. 9:9). Moreover, its ordinances were imposed only “until the time of reformation” (v. 10).

     Here is a fact to which we wish to direct special attention; namely, that the whole Jewish system, nation and all, had a status in God’s plan only until the fixed “time of reformation”; and the next succeeding verses (vv. 11-15) make it plain that “the time of reformation” began when Christ- not in virtue of the blood of goats and calves, but in virtue of “His own blood,” – entered in, once for all, into the true holy of holies, as the High Priest of the good things that were to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle than that ordained by Moses and administered by Aaron, a tabernacle not made with men’s hands, and not of this creation.

     Here indeed is “dispensational truth”; for “the time then present” was the dispensation of the law, and it was to be (and now has been) followed by the dispensation of the gospel; for “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4).

     With the sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the old system of natural things passed away completely and forever; and the new system of things spiritual and eternal came into being – the heavenly Zion, the Jerusalem which is above which is the mother of us all, the heavenly sanctuary, and a people – not blessed with all natural blessings in earthlyplaces through Moses and Joshua, but – “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places through Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

     The two systems cannot co-exist; for they are mutually exclusive of each other. That which had to do with an earthly people and earthly localities, was imposed only until the time of reformation. “But Christ being come” …and having “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God,” and having assumed the office of “Mediator of the new covenant, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:11-15), the former has completely served its purpose and has been wholly abolished.

     Those who attentively consider what is written for our learning in Hebrews VIII-X can hardly fail to realize the utter impossibility, in the working out of the revealed purposes of God, of a restoration of the earthly nation of Israel and the other abolished shadows of the old covenant.

 

 

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It’s Time to Change Your Clothes!

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It’s Time to Change Your Clothes! 

By Joanne Panettieri

                                                 
The Bible tells us in the O. T. that before the priest could minister before the Lord, he had to change his clothes. (Ex 28 -29) This was a requirement for the priests and a symbol of their changing from one nature to another.

The Levitical Priesthood

Ex 28: 1 “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. 2 Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. 3 You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. 4 These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests.

Ex 28:41 “And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.”

This section (Ex 28-29) is mostly concerned with a description of the high priest’s ceremonial robes known as the garments of glory and beauty. In style and color, the robes of the priests were rich in typical significance for they depicted both the wondrous beauties of Christ the High Priest and also the privileges and duties of all who are the priests of God, whether the appointed ones of the Old Testament or all believers of the New. In his garments of glory and beauty, Aaron became typically that which Jesus Christ was intrinsically in all the purity and holiness of His being.”1

The changing of the priest’s clothes was an outward expression of an inward change – the laying aside of the old manner of life. The special clothing of the priesthood signaled a change in their state of mind.

Garments speak of that which covers us. Our own righteousness is like the fig leaves that Adam and Eve sewed onto themselves to cover their nakedness, and that can never cover us! God’s intent is that we put on Christ as a garment!

Only after Aaron and his sons removed their old garments and were washed in the laver, could they put on the Holy Garments, then they were consecrated as priests. This speaks of water Baptism, but also the continual washing of the water of the Word, and our continual growth in Christian life.

Joshua the High Priest:

In the book of Zechariah the High Priest Joshua also has to change his garments:

Zech 3: 3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him,“Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” 5 Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by. 6 The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: 7 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements,then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here. 8 “‘Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.

In this verse Joshua is a type of the new order of priests under the Branch, Jesus.

Zadok Priesthood:

In Ezekiel 44 God speaks to Ezekiel about a new priesthood in a new temple. The tribe of Levi were not to be the priests who ministered before the Lord.

Ezekiel 44:10 But the Levites who went far from me, going astray from me after their idols when Israel went astray, shall bear their punishment. 11 They shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the temple and ministering in the temple. They shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before the people, to minister to them. 12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn concerning them, declares the Lord God, and they shall bear their punishment. 13 They shall not come near to me, to serve me as priest, nor come near any of my holy things and the things that are most holy, but they shall bear their shame and the abominations that they have committed. 14 Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the temple, to do all its service and all that is to be done in it.

The new priesthood is from the line of Zadok (Zadok = “righteous” / a type of the Melchizedek order of priests). The Zadok priesthood was required to change their clothes when ministering before the Lord. They had to wear white linen garments which represent being covered in righteousness.

Ezekiel 44:15 But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. 16 They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge. 17 When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments. They shall have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court, and within. 18 They shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat. 19 And when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments.

Jacob and His Family

When God spoke to Jacob to go back to Bethel (the House of the Lord and the Gate of Heaven), He told him that he had to change his clothes!

Gen 35:1 God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.”

Bethel is the place where Jacob had a dream about a ladder and he saw the angels of God ascending and descending on it. The bottom was on the earth and the top reached to heaven. Jesus told his disciples that he was Jacob’s ladder!

John 1:51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Jesus is the connection between heaven and earth! He is also the head of his house, the ekklesia or assembly of believers. We are His body, and He is our head. He is raised and seated in heaven, and we are on the earth.

Believers in Jesus:

The New Covenant calls believers a Holy Nation, and a Royal Priesthood. We are no longer ministering under the order of Aaron and the Levites, but we minister under our High Priest, Jesus, in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:6as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

Heb 3:1 “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.”

The book of 1 Peter tells us that the Body of Christ is a royal priesthood.

1 Peter 2: 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Under the Levitical order only one tribe could enter the priesthood. Under the New Covenant we are a whole nation of priests and as such we offer spiritual sacrifices to God, through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2: 5 “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The assembling of the saints, as living stones, is God’s Bethel, where we are to offer spiritual sacrifices to God! But as priests of this new order we ALSO must change our clothes before we can enter the presence of the Lord!

Isaiah 61 tells us that under the Reign of Messiah God gives us thegarment of praise instead of a faint spirit; (verse 3) and that we shall be called the priests of the Lord; and ministers of our God; (verse 6). It also says in verse 10 that God has “clothed us with the garments of salvation; he has covered us with the robe of righteousness”

This is none other that putting on Christ! Gal 3: 27 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

We take off the old corrupt man and put on the new man!

Eph 4: 20 “But that is not the way you learned Christ! 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Our New Garments:

Romans 13: 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Rom 13: 14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”

Through the faith that comes through the renewing of our minds we put on the new man:

Eph 4: 23 “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

We are to put on the armor of God:

Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

1 Thes 5: 8 “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

The priest’s bonnet was made out of white linen, which symbolizes righteousness (Rev. 19:8) and wisdom (Prov. 16:31) and speaks of having a renewed mind. The word bonnet is derived from a word which means hill, as in “to elevate or lift up”. Our High Priest has “raised us up and seated us with him in heavenly places”. (Eph 2:6) Our minds are raised out of the earthly realm and into the heavenly realm.

Psalm 24: 7 says: Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in”

The word “heads” is the Hebrew word ro’sh which means chief place, hill or summit and comes from an unused root meaning to “shake” the head (as most easily shaken, whether literally or figuratively. (Strongs 7218).

Our heads must be lifted up to heaven to see the righteousness that comes by faith to us through Jesus Christ. When our minds are renewed we are not easily shaken by the circumstances of the world. Psalm 62 tells us that our hope is in God he becomes our rock and we will not be shaken!

Psalm 62: 5For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

Having a renewed mind means that we have the mind of Christ and can see things through a Biblical perspective.

1 Cor 2: 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” 16 But we have the mind of Christ.

This is a lifting of our heads! Psalm 3:3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

As New Testiment Priests we are to put on the new self:

Col 3: 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,free; but Christ is all, and in all.

We are to put on the nature of Jesus:

Col 3: 12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, … 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

These are the Holy Garments of the New Covenant Priests!

1. “The Priestly Garments” http://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_Priestly_Garments.htm

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God’s New Israel

heart-circumcised

God’s New Israel
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 – The Foundation Law of God’s New Israel

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generation. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every male among you shall be circumcised” (Genesis 17:1-10).

“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28,29).

“In whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11,12).

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).

“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).

The Covenant of Separation and DistinctivenessWe ought to add Scriptures to those, for there are many more which are of the same nature, but these are sufficient to bring us to the point of our consideration, which is the foundation law of God’s Israel, the law of God’s covenant, and that covenant is symbolized in circumcision. The sign of the covenant with Abraham was circumcision. In the Old Testament it was literal and material. In the New Testament it is spiritual, but the meaning is the same. It is a spiritual law of God’s Israel and that law is separation and distinctiveness. It lays down the law that God’s Israel is a separate people; separate from all other people, and different from all other people – clearly distinguished from all other people. Did you notice, as we read those Scriptures, that God said to Abraham that He would make many nations out of his seed? Now God is taking out of the nations a people for His Name, something in the nations, but separate from the nations, and that law of separation and difference is the foundation of God’s Israel.

We can see God keeping to that law in the Old Testament. It is written that “the God of glory appeared unto… Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said unto him, Get thee out!” (Acts 7:2). Later, Moses was in Egypt, and God just sovereignly took him out before He did anything else. Moses had to be out of Egypt first, and that was a very thorough thing, as you would think if you were out in a wilderness for forty years! Then the Lord sent Moses back into Egypt to get the people out, and the Word is: “Out of Egypt did I call my son” (Matthew 2:15). God could not proceed with His purpose until He had got His people out, for there is a place where God will fulfil His purpose, and He will not fulfil it anywhere else. I would like you to put a lot of lines under that statement, for I think it is the key to everything. Let me say it again: there is a place where God will fulfil His purpose, and He will do it nowhere else. God means business. He is a God of purpose, and He is very serious about His purpose, which is a purpose of blessing. To Abram He said: “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee… and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2,3). God’s purpose is a purpose of blessing; blessing to the instrument that He will use and to the people to whom He uses that instrument. “I will bless thee… and thou shalt be a blessing”. That is the purpose of God, and I say it with a strong voice, because I know that some will say: ‘If we are going this way it is going to be a very difficult way. We are going to have to give up everything!’ Well, wait a little while – we have not finished yet!

We make this statement: God’s purpose is to bless and to make a blessing, but it demands a position. The blessing and the vocation depend upon where we are. Of course, in the Old Testament it was literal. Abraham was in Ur of the Chaldees, and God said: ‘You must get out of this city. I am not going to do anything here! I must have you somewhere else.’ In the New Testament it is spiritual. Where do you live? In Bern, in Zurich, in New York, in London, in Paris, or in some other city? God is not saying to you: ‘Get out of Paris!’ or any of these cities, but He is saying, just as forcefully: ‘Get out!’ You may be living in your body in a city, but you may not find your life there. You may have been born there, physically, but now, as a true Israelite, you were never born there. You were born from above.

God’s covenant is bound up with this spiritual position, and we must really take serious notice of this. God has made a covenant with His Israel, but that covenant demands that they are out of somewhere and in somewhere else, and for us that means a different spiritual position. God’s covenant is a covenant of blessing, of life, of service – that is, Divine vocation – but all that blessing, that life and that vocation are bound up with this matter of spiritual position. Spiritually we are out and we are different. That first Israel is not now in blessing, nor in life, nor is it in the Divine vocation. It is where the Lord Jesus said it would be if it rejected Him – in outer darkness, where there would be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and for these many centuries the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem has fulfilled that prophecy! Why is that? There is one little fragment of Scripture which is tremendous but it has a terrible statement in it: “The covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;which my covenant they brake” (Jeremiah 31:32). Israel broke the covenant of separation and distinctiveness.

A Circumcised HeartNow we come to this matter of circumcision. I can only touch it very lightly, for it is a very delicate matter.

We have seen that in the Old Testament circumcision is a type, or symbol, for in the New Testament it is stated that circumcision of the heart – not in the flesh, but in the spirit – and it just means this: a heart that is wholly devoted to the Lord. By that symbol the seed of Abraham became God’s exclusive people for the time being, and everything that we have in the Old Testament about God’s wish for this people shows us how jealous He was over those people. God called Himself their husband (Jeremiah 31:32), and there was never a more jealous husband than He! Let Israel have anything to do with any other husband and you will hear the thunder, and the weeping, of the Prophets, God was so jealous for Israel.

Now see what Paul says about the covenant seed of Abraham. He heads this whole thing up into Christ: “Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew (or an Israelite), which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit.” So Jesus Christ is the seed of Abraham, and Paul speaks of the circumcision of Christ.

Let me ask you a question: Has there ever lived on this earth a person more utterlycommitted to God than the Lord Jesus? He was indeed separated unto God, and different from all others. No one has ever borne the marks of spiritual circumcision more than the Lord Jesus. He was the Man of the undivided heart.

Let us go back into the Old Testament to that great Messianic chapter, Isaiah 53: “He shall see his seed… He shall see of the travail of his soul.” Well, we know more than the Prophet Isaiah knew about that! We have been with Him in Gethsemane in the time of the travail of His soul, and we are with Him, on the other side of the travail. How many are the seed of Christ since then! Dear friends, if ever you are tempted to think that Christians are few, and that we are only a very small people in the millions of this world – open the windows! Look into the book of the Revelation: “A great multitude, which no man could number… ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” The number cannot be expressed in human language – and they have been gathered since the travail of the Lord Jesus. He is indeed seeing His seed! Gethsemane has been the most fruitful garden in all history – and you and I are of His seed! We are born out of His travail and are in the covenant made with the new Israel.

But do remember that the meaning and the value of the covenant depend upon our devotion to the Lord! This is a thing which is so evident: the greatest fruitfulness has always come from the lives most devoted to the Lord, the people of the undivided heart. This covenant has two sides. As we have already said, the New Testament takes many warnings from the history of Israel, and we may fail of all that that covenant means if our hearts are divided and we try to live life in two worlds. Let us look at a little incident in the life of Abraham.

It is in chapter 15, when God came to make His covenant with Abraham and his seed, and something happened which many people have not been able to understand. The Lord commanded Abraham to bring certain things for a sacrifice either to a large altar, or to two altars, for the Lord told him to divide the sacrifices in two and to put one half on one side and the other half on the other side. Now notice that these are two sides of the covenant. On the one side is Abraham and his seed and on the other side is God. God is about to enter into a covenant with Abraham and his seed, but the covenant has two sides. Now notice what happens! The vultures came down to try and steal the sacrifices. How greatly significant this is! All the powers of darkness are against this covenant, and all those evil fowls of the air are out to rob God and His people of this covenant. It says that Abraham beat them off. His rod was busy that day, and the vultures said: ‘It is no good. We had better give up and get away from here.’ Then Abraham went to sleep and “an horror of great darkness fell upon him”. My point, and, I believe, the point of the Scripture is this: there is always a terrible battle with hell to secure a life utterly committed to God. No one who is going to be utterly for Him is easily won.

It may be that battle is going on in this very room. If the devil can prevent you from being utterly for God he is going to make a great big fight for it. Is that battle going on? The battle of the very covenant, the covenant in heart circumcision, a heart wholly for the Lord, a heart that is right out for God. If Satan can prevent that he will put up a good fight. What is your attitude to this? Are you careless about it? God alone knows how much is involved in it. Oh, take the rod of God and lay about these evil forces! Stand for the covenant! And when you have made that stand the evil forces will withdraw, the darkness will go.

There is a change of atmosphere in this story. At first the atmosphere is full of conflict and fear, for it is “an horror of great darkness”. There is a battle in the very atmosphere over this matter, but when Abraham has fought the battle for the covenant the whole atmosphere changes and becomes one of victory. If we put the history of many consecrated believers into this story, there would be many testimonies like this: ‘My, there was a tremendous battle over this matter! I was full of fears, but I took a stand, and with God’s help I came to a decision. I stepped over on to God’s side of the covenant and said: “Lord, I am Yours! I am with You!” then peace came, the peace of His victory. I went to bed that night feeling as though I had come out of a great battle, but it was into great peace.’

That is all in this little story in Genesis 15. It may be your story! This is something of what it means to have a heart that is circumcised, for the circumcised heart is a heart set free from all self-interest. Was that true of Abraham? After many years what had seemed impossible came to pass and God gave him a son; and that son was God’s miracle. You would expect Abraham to say: ‘God gave me that son and I am going to hold on to him. I will never let him go, because God gave him to me.’ There was a little boy once, and a baby came into the home. One day the mother said to the little boy: ‘We are going to take Baby to the meeting and give him to the Lord.’ The little boy’s face fell, and he said: ‘Mummy, you can lend him to the Lord, but we must have him back again.’ You know, that is the kind of consecration that a lot of Christians make; they have some personal interest in their consecration. But about that God-given gift to Abraham God said: ‘Take him and offer him!’ Friends, learn this lesson! Do not think that because God has given you something by a miracle you can take it for yourself. I will not try to say what it might be. It might be your very ministry, for there is always a peril of taking our ministry and using it for ourselves. But Abraham was truly circumcised in heart, and the same was true of Hannah. How long she waited for that child Samuel, and how much she suffered! How earnestly she prayed! And then, at last, God gave her the child. What did she say? ‘Thank you, Lord. I will never let this child go now!’? No, she said: ‘For this child I prayed and the Lord has given me my request. Therefore I have given him to the Lord for as long as he lives.’ She, too, was circumcised in heart.

From some of his Psalms we know that the one great ambition of David’s life was to build the temple, and he worked and sacrificed for that temple. He said: “I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids until I find out a place for the Lord, a tabernacle for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Psalm 132:3-5). He was collecting private money, as well as materials for the temple, for he said: “I have a treasure of mine own of gold and silver” (1 Chronicles 29:3). Then he received the pattern of the temple from the Lord, and said: ‘The time has come, and my life’s ambition is about to be realized. The one thing for which I have lived is now going to be mine – but what is that? Someone is at the door. Come in! Oh, it is a Prophet. Yes, my friend, what have you come to say?’ ‘I have come to tell you from the Lord, David, that you shall not build the house. Thy son shall build it.’ What did David do? What would you do? Well, what did David do? He said: ‘It does not matter about my disappointment! The thing is that the Lord must have what He wants. My interests are nothing beside His interests.’ So he gave everything to Solomon. Perhaps he had seen something more: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6), and that is better than any earthly house!

We never lose anything when the Lord has everything, and that is what it means to have a circumcised heart. May that be true of everyone!

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A True Hebrew

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Taken from:   God’s Pilgrims: Their Dangers, Their Resources, Their Rewards by Philip Mauro

 

The true Hebrew is one who has come out of the country of his birth, leaving all its advantages and associations, because he has heard and believed the report of a better country which he has never seen; and he is now passing through the intervening territory, not settling therein, and not mindful of the country whence he came out, though having opportunity to return thither. Of such it is written that God is not ashamed to be called their God, and He has prepared for them a city.

Abraham was not an Israelite. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Sarah, Isaac, Rahab were not Israelites. Moses was, rather a Hebrew than an Israelite, for he never  had a place in the Land of Promise. These were all true Hebrews, who had seen by faith the far-off promises, and were persuaded of them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

The Scriptures speak of many things that God has prepared for them that love Him—things which are in the nature of rewards, not gifts, and are quite distinct from remission of sins and eternal life. These latter are gifts bestowed upon all who believe; but not all believers will obtain the rewards. Great is the reward promised to those who maintain the character of Hebrews “to the end”; and correspondingly great is the loss that will be incurred by those who, through neglect or unbelief, turn aside from the pilgrim’s path. In view of this, we would point out, as plainly as possible, the dangers to which God’s pilgrims are exposed, and the provision that He, in wondrous grace, has made to safeguard them from those dangers. May it be the purpose of both writer and readers to be “not slothful, but followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises.”

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PROCLAIMING THE UNKNOWN GOD TO A GENERATION Acts 17:23

Another post by guest blogger DeAnne Loper

 

“For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.”

 

 

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The Circle Maker Fable: Introducing Witchcraft to the Church

By:  DeAnne Loper

 

“Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men that turn from the truth.” 

Titus 1:14

 

“…that thou might charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables…For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 

1 Timothy 1:3 4, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 

 

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you thepower and  coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

2 Peter 1:16 

The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington D. C. is a book based on the legend of Honi the Circle Maker.  The story – or fable – comes from the Talmud.  The Talmud is an extensive collection of Jewish legends, fables, and man-made laws.  It is commonly referred to as the Oral Tradition and is considered by many in Judaism to be as divinely inspired as the Old Testament. A passage in Erubin 21b of the Talmud says, “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah (Old Testament).” 1   In the book of Aboth 1:1 of the Talmud it states that this Oral Law was handed down by God to Moses who handed it “down to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, the Prophets to the men of the Great Synod and the Men of the Great Synod to the Rabbis…” ­2  Truly this brings a greater understanding of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees when He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.  And many such things you do (Mark 7:9, 13).” 

 

I first discovered Batterson’s book while searching the internet for a quote from The Book of Legends.  When The Circle Maker came up next to The Book of Legends I was immediately alarmed by its blatant target toward Christians to incorporate the use of the circle – an ancient pagan practice – into their prayers.  The Book of Legends is a compilation of stories from the Talmud and Midrash and on page 21 of The Circle Maker Batterson tells readers that it is one of his favorite books.  What Batterson and so many other pastors of late who are referencing these extra biblical sources with more and more frequency (including the Zohar or Kabbalah) are not telling Christians about is the occult origin and antichrist writings contained in these “sacred” Jewish texts.  For example, the Talmud states that Jesus suffered four methods of execution and is now in hell boiling in hot excrement (Sanhedrin 90a, Gitim 56b).  It also says of Mary, the mother of our Lord, “She who was the descendant of princes and governors, played the harlot with carpenters (Sanhedrin 106b).” 

 In addition, the Babylonian Talmud is the legal basis for the Noahide Laws, a universal moral code of ethics for “righteous” Gentiles. “While Jews are commanded to observe hundreds of laws, non-Jews are expected to follow seven that are presumed to date from the time of Noah. Judaism regards any non-Jew who keeps these laws a righteous person who is guaranteed a place in the world to come.” 3

Included in these seven laws is the prohibition of idolatry (worship of Jesus Christ) and the penalty for breaking any one of the Noahide Laws is death by decapitation. Sanhedrin 57a of the Talmud states, “One additional element of greater severity is that violation of any one of the seven laws subjects the Noahide to capital punishment by decapitation.”  In 1991 the U.S. Congress, under the presidency of George H.W. Bush, established the Seven Noahide Laws as Public Law 102-14. 4

The use of the circle in Witchcraft

 

 

Saced Circle 2

 

There is nowhere in the Bible that teaches the ritual use of a circle – or any other symbol – to gain power, protection or possessions from God; even so, Batterson tells his readers on page 13 that the circle Honi “drew in the sand became a sacred symbol.”  Contrast this with the fact that it is widely known in the occult and New Age movement that the circle has been used for centuries in magic and witchcraft to cast spells and to control and ward off evil spirits:

 The Circle – “The circle has many different meanings.  One relates to eternity.  More often the circle is used for protection from evil without and to contain power within.”

Circle within a Circle – “used for protection from unruly forces.”

Magic Circle – “The Medieval Grimoires (demons) showed how to draw a magic circle, a necessary step in evoking demons, summoning up the dead, and other magical practices…used primarily in black magic ceremonies.”(Exposing & Confronting Satan & Assoc., Wendell Amstutz, Lifespan Publ., 1992)

 “In modern Paganism, one of the facets common to many traditions is the use of a circle as a sacred space.  While other religions rely on the use of a building such as a church or temple to hold worship, Wiccans and Pagans can cast a circle pretty much any place they choose…A ceremonial circle is a place in which positive energy and power are kept in, and negative energy kept out. The size of your circle will depend on how many people need to be inside it, and what the circle’s purpose is.”  

(http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/wiccanandpaganrituals/ht/Cast_Circle.htm)

 

“A magic circle is a circle or sphere of space marked out by practitioners of many branches of ritual magic, either to contain energy and form a sacred space, or as a form of magical protection, or both. It may be marked physically, drawn in salt or chalk, for example, or merely visualized.  Its spiritual significance is similar to that of mandala and yantra in some Eastern religions.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_circle)

 

Considering the seriousness of Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees in Mark chapter 7 why would a Christian pastor who claims to know and love the Talmud introduce such fables to their congregations?  Regardless of how many happy anecdotes or feel-good stories there are in The Circle Maker, there is enough spiritual error and occultism in Batterson’s book for discerning Christians to avoid it at all costs.  In addition to being a Christian bestseller, The Circle Maker also holds the prestigious title of “New York Times Bestseller” and, despite the warnings in Scripture, is gaining a foothold in many churches with its new method to answered prayer; an evident fulfillment of Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 4:1 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 of a great end-time falling away and departure from the faith.  More than ever the Church, by the “fervent and effectual” prayer of faith in Jesus’ name, must seek God for discernment according to the unchanging Word of God in these times of great apostasy. 

 

FOOTNOTES

1) http://www.revisionisthistory.org/talmudtruth.html

2) Israel, Our Duty…Our Dilemma; Ted Pike, Big Sky Press, 1984, p. 17; Ref. The Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 337.

3) www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/The_Seven_Noahide_Laws.html

4) http://watch.pair.com/church-on-trial-intro.html

 

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Entering God’s Rest

Entering God’s Rest by Joanne Panettieri

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Ex 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. ”

Jeremiah 31: 33“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

2 Cor 3:3 “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

I recently ran across a Christian sister on Youtube who made the comment that she was a “Sabbath keeper”. After a lengthy chat she challenged me by saying, “What, don’t you obey the 10 commandments??” The question that arises for a New Testament believer is “are we still required to keep the 10 commandments”? Unfortunately for anyone trying to keep the them, you just can’t go one day without breaking them!

The apostle Paul clearly states that we are not made righteous by obeying the law. That is why Paul said he didn’t know what a lawbreaker was without the LAW. Paul says this, “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.” You can never be justified by religion or any practice outside of faith! If you replace faith by grace with obeying the law (or any of the 10 Commandments) you come under witchcraft (Gal 3). And in order to be justified by the law you must obey ALL of the laws. The point is that we can NOT keep the 10 commandments no matter how hard we try! This is why a New Covenant was given, “to write the laws on our heart”.

Ezk 36: 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; (The promised land, or Kingdom of God!) you will be my people, and I will be your God.

The apostle Paul takes this one step further in his constant battle against the Judaizers of his day where he states:

Romans 2:

25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

Is Keeping the Sabbath-rest a once a week occurrence?

For the New Covenant Christian the sabbath is NOT a day of the week any more! A careful reading of Hebrews 3 and 4 clearly shows that. The Sabbath Rest that God gave to Moses under the Old Covenant was a type and a shadow of a fulfillment of something found in Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 4 it is Canaan, the promised land, which is a type of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The following verses show that the REST is Canaan and NOT a day of the week!

Hebrews 3 – 4

3: 7: So, as the Holy Spirit says:

Today, if you hear his voice,

8 do not harden your hearts

as you did in the rebellion,

during the time of testing in the wilderness,

9 where your ancestors tested and tried me,

though for forty years they saw what I did.

10 That is why I was angry with that generation;

I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,

and they have not known my ways.’

11 So I declared on oath in my anger,

They shall never enter my rest.’ ”

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said:

Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts

as you did in the rebellion.

16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Hebrews 4: 1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

So I declared on oath in my anger,

They shall never enter my rest.’ 

8: For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

It is not OUR Rest!

The Sabbath rest is typified by the 7th Day of creation, when God rested from His works and said “it is good”. God’s first day of rest is man’s (Adam’s) first day of taking up the work of God and continuing it on earth! It’s not OUR rest, we enter GOD’S rest! and it is TODAY! “TODAY if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts” The Sabbath of God is to enter the promised land by hearing his voice and obeying! Anytime you hear God’s voice and obey him you are entering God’s Rest! It is any time, any day! This is why Jesus was the living Sabbath because he ALWAYS DID WHAT HE HEARD THE FATHER TELL HIM TO DO! (John 5: 19-20)

We enter God’s rest when we cease from our works and enter HIS!

Isa 58: 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

and the Lord’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,

and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

The apostle Paul tells us that if we try to gain our righteousness from keeping the law that grace is of no effect!

Gal 5: 3 “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”

 

Phil 3: 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 3:4

 

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