Thursday, August 16, 2018

BY THE GATES OF SHALEM (Salem)



The path to the unveiling of Jerusalem

In a recent article entitled Whose Tent? we made mention of the encounter our forefather Abram had with Malchi-Tzedek King of Shalem, when the former returned from his successful rescue mission of nephew Lot and his possessions (ref. Genesis 14:12-16).  In this exploit, Abram not only freed Lot and his goods, but also the rest of those taken captive and their property. By his action Abram proved to be the faithful kinsman redeemer that he was designated to be. This, then, is what qualified him for the momentous encounter with One greater than himself, namely Malchi-Tzedek King of Shalem, priest of the Most High Elohim.

Malchi-Tzedek literally means “My King Righteousness”*. The name of this King depicts him as the very epitome of righteousness. Moreover, his domain - “Shalem” – stands for perfection, completeness or wholeness.  Psalm 110:1-4 and Hebrews 6:20-7:3 point to the identity of Malchi-Tzedek, who appears to be a pre-figuration of Yeshua, a Priest of the Most High God (El-Elyon), whom Abram had no problem recognizing (cf. John 8:56).  The Kings’ Highway, where the two met, is also called the Valley of Shaveh – meaning the Valley of Equality or Worth. Psalm 16:8 helps to shed more light on the meaning of “shaveh”, by using it as a verb – shiviti – I have set before me – YHVH. This place of ‘equality’ where the King of Shalem and Abram met is where everyone is of “equal worth, or value”, when they stand before the King-Priest.

The encounter of the two is described thus: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of the Most High El. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of the Most High El, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be El Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he [Abram] gave him a tithe of all” (Gen. 14:18-20).  The bread, wine, blessing and paid tithe sealed a covenant; A covenant that tied Abram and his progeny not only to their role and call, but also to the site where this significant episode took place (as indeed is seen later on in Scripture, where it is portrayed as YHVH’s “residence” of choice.  See 1 Kings 11:13, 32, and especially 36). 

The righteousness embodied by Malchi-Tzedek soon found expression in Abram. Shortly after his encounter he is said to have “believed in YHVH (concerning his future offspring) and it was counted to him as righteousness” (15:6). The apostle Paul points out that the imputing of righteousness was granted to Abram while still uncircumcised, so “that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, AND the father of the circumcision to those who are not only of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11b-12 capitals added).

But now let us return to Shalem. In the midst of a very worldly scenario involving power struggles and greed, the appearance of Malchi-Tzedek, who is definitely not of the milieu or mindset of those with whom Abram had just been dealing with, is nevertheless anything but ethereal   The location and the interaction of the two interlocutors, although of a totally different nature, are just as tangible and real as anything that went on thus far. In fact, the gate where this meeting had taken place can be still seen today in what became, later on, the City of David, to be known as Jerusalem, or Yerushalayim in Hebrew.

When still under the direct rule and dominion of Malchi-Tzedek that place embodied the fullness of perfection, hence “Shalem”, but later on when it came under a different sort of rule and authority it was no longer in its perfect state, and therefore became the “heritage of peace-perfection-fullness”, awaiting the fullness of its prophetic designation, and thus named “Yeru-Shalayim”. We all are still waiting for Yerushalayim to become “Shalem” once again. Thus, while the promise stands, “Shalem” has morphed (though many times in Scripture it is Yeru-shalem) into Yeru-shalayim, with a plural ending, underscoring the greatness and fullness of the “shalem”.  Could this plural ending be also a prophetic statement about the two Jerusalems – the earthly one, and the one which is to come from above?

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from Elohim, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle (Mishkan) of Elohim is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. Elohim Himself will be with them and be their Elohim” (Revelation 21:1-3).

Thus, even when there are a new heaven and a new earth, there is still a Jerusalem. In order for there to be a heavenly Jerusalem, there must also be an earthly one that represents the heavenly city, according to the principle of ‘first the natural, than the spiritual’ (ref. 1 Cor. 15:46). Moreover, this New Jerusalem does not remain in heaven, but it descends to earth. Which location will it come to if not to that of the earthly one? This is the same Jerusalem named YHVH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah 33:16), with the King of the city being the One Who IS Righteousness – Malchi-Tzedek. Thus the place unites with its ruling monarch.

Out of the many scriptures with promises regarding Jerusalem, let us cite Zechariah 8:3: "Thus says YHVH: 'I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of YHVH of hosts, the Holy Mountain.'” No wonder Yeshua lamented over Jerusalem, desiring to gather her children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings (ref. Matthew 23:37). Can we then afford to ignore: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!  If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth -- If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:5-6)?  Thus, those who “seek” or “ask for the peace (shalom) of Jerusalem and “who love” her are promised: “they shall be peaceful, serene, or carefree” (Psalm 122:6 literal translation).

It, therefore, behooves us to return to our ‘launching’ point, to the place of Heaven’s choice, where the righteous King-Priest revealed Himself to our father Abraham in a covenantal bond that will not fail or end!  This city, although not perfect as of yet, was also where the greatest of all atonements for humanity was affected to the fullest, enabling those who have embraced it (the atonement) to prepare the site even now for the coming down of perfection, both in the person of our King, and His city – the heavenly Jerusalem.
*Tzedek in Hebrew is actually “justice”, while “tzdaka” is “righteousness”. But in actuality, in Hebrew, these terms are inextricable one from the other.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Kedem


Kedem*

In investigating biblical history and our place in it, how far back can we go?   We had already glimpsed at the family of Noah and the tent of Shem, but that still does not bring us to the ‘end’ of the backward track, that is to the beginning which in a manner of speaking is also the end (Revelation 22:13). The idea of looking at the past in order to go forward is very intriguing.  Since we have been tracing the human race and the Word of YHVH back to Noah, let’s also take a closer look at Adam and Eve, keeping in mind that this journey is founded on the scriptural basis that, “the Kingdom of Elohim has been in every generation” (ref. Psalm 145:13), albeit in seed form (according to Yeshua’s parables of the Kingdom. See Mark 4:31).  Going all the way back to the Garden of Eden also reminds us what we have lost and what is being redeemed.  If Tish’a Be’av is a time of mourning the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem, should we not also mourn the loss of Eden? But if the answer is “no”, than we should ask ourselves why is it that we do not mourn the loss of Eden? Is it because it is being restored to us in some way?  Eden and YHVH’s Kingdom are undoubtedly connected, with the difference being that Eden is the garden where the ‘trees of righteousness’ are growing,  while the government/Kingdom  is the expression of the fruit of those trees (see Romans 14: 17; Galatians 5: 22).
Obviously Elohim is sovereign over all His works, and even though His Kingdom is a spiritual one, He desires it to be made manifest “on earth as it is in heaven” (see Matthew 6:10) - through His created Man (male/female).  Elohim assigned or delegated to Man to have dominion and rule over all living things (see Genesis 1:26, 28).
In Genesis 1:27 we read:  “And Elohim created man in His own image, in the image of Elohim He created him; male and female He created them.”  Created - bara - is used three times in this verse.  In Hebrew “boreh” (creates) is used exclusively for Elohim. Boreh cannot be applied to man. Man can only discover and form things, or re-arrange them.  In order to understand what is meant by man being created “in Elohim’s image and likeness”, we have to ask: What is Elohim’s image and likeness?   Moses reminded Israel that when they were at Mount Horev: "YHVH spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form-- only a voice” (Deuteronomy 4:12 emphasis added).  Yeshua further elaborates: "Elohim is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).  According to Psalms 36:9 Elohim is Light and Life.  Thus, if Man was created in the image and likeness of his Creator, we would have to conclude that he was created a spiritual entity, with the potential to develop into a full expression of a son of Elohim.  He would also have had all the qualities and attributes of his Heavenly Creator/Father.
Scripture likens Adam to a natural seed (see 1 Corinthians 15: 38; 43) with a spiritual DNA, if you will, but first, as with all seeds, it has to have an outer shell to protect it until it is time for it to be sown, falling to the ground, and begin its growth process. 
Elohim had already prepared the place (the earth) into which this special seed would be ‘sown’.  As mentioned, this spiritual Man needed an outer casing for his protection. Additionally, this tangible external form was needed so that he would be able to relate to the physical world and all the other living entities that he was to name and have dominion over. YHVH Elohim, therefore, formed (yatzar) from the soil (aphar) of the earth an animal-like body into which He “blew,” or planted, man’s spiritual life (the ‘seed’s embryo’).   Thus, the physical body became the outer shell in which this precious spiritual being was encased, destined to multiply until it would fill up the whole earth.  To reiterate, the breath of life that was breathed into the formed body was this spiritual entity - Adam himself - entering the earthly substance and becoming a living being (nephesh chaya).   Man (male and female) was/were now able to express in the created (tangible) world his/their spiritual essence through this body, as long as they walked in obedience to YHVH.  
Along with the spirit that now entered a flesh body was also Elohim’s determining anointed word to humanity’s progenitors to “have dominion and rule over all living things”.   In other words, they were to establish Elohim’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, bringing life and light to their domain as they were walking with Elohim, their Creator.  Wow, what a wonderful world to be living in! And to make it even better, Elohim placed the pair in a special location, a garden which they were to tend, but to also enjoy and partake of its delightful plants and trees.  Indeed, everything was pronounced by Elohim as “very good”!   Yet in the midst of the lovely garden YHVH Elohim planted a tree that was not only “good” but also “evil”, and charged the man not to eat of its fruit. 
The question we might ask at this point is: What happened to make this idyll environment collapse in one moment, after ‘only’ one act of disobedience - partaking of the fruit of the banned tree? Notwithstanding, the Creator did warn Man (before the woman was taken out from his side) that, such an act of disobedience will bring about death (ref. Gen. 2:17). 
And so, at some point the woman (again, who ‘came into being’ after the warning had been issued to the man), had an encounter with a serpent. That creature questioned Elohim’s words regarding what He had said about eating the fruit of the trees in the garden, and especially the one “in the midst of the garden”. He not only voided the death warning connected to the latter, but also continued to falsify Elohim’s intention regarding this tree and its fruit (ref. Gen. 3:1b, 4): “it will make you wise, intelligent and you will be like Elohim, knowing good and evil.” That is, now you will be in a position of a king and a judge having the ability to know and especially determine what is good and what is evil (in your own eyes). The tested woman looked at the forbidden fruit of that tree, and it was indeed “pleasing to the sight and good for food”. But this of course did not end there, she partook and “also gave to her husband who was with her(v. 6 emphasis added). 
After eating the fruit man and woman’s eyes were opened (to see that they were naked). But did they really gain the ability to discern good and evil? Or was it that at this point they merely became aware of the ‘concept’, and hence acquired a propensity for judging? What’s more, seeing that their relationship with the Creator was now severed, they also lost the genuine Godly wisdom without which there can be no true judgment and discernment.  This act not only spelled death to their relationship with Elohim, but became a killer of relationships ever since. 
YHVH who is great in mercy, loving kindness and quick to forgive, gave Adam and Eve only one chance. This act of violation and its consequences, therefore, was not about Elohim’s characteristic of long suffering (or a seeming lack thereof).  There is something more to this episode than meets the eye.  I believe that Paul was privy to a mystery hidden in the Gospel of the Kingdom that he taught from the Torah of Moses and the Prophets (ref. Acts 28:23).  In his letter to the believers in Rome and Corinth, the Apostle makes statements that allude to a plan of YHVH that this formed, earthy man would fall to temptation and disobedience (see Corinthians 15:42-44), subjecting the entire creation to futility and decay: For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of Elohim. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of Elohim”  (Romans 8:19-21 emphasis added). 
(To be continued). 
*This idea is well illustrated by the biblical Hebrew word that denotes east – kedem. Kedem also means past, antiquity and that which was, AND that which is ahead of us.  Another similar word is “achor” or “achar”, with some of its derivatives being “acharey”, “achoranit” or “achrit”, which like “kedem” means both back or backwards but also the “future end”, such as “acharit ha’yamin” – the latter days, or days to come  (e.g. Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30;  Isaiah 46:10 to cite but a few). In Job 23:8 both terms are used together: "Look, I go forward (kedem) but He is not there, and backward (achor), but I cannot perceive Him.” Interestingly, the garden of Eden is also mentioned in relationship to “kedem”, as it says in Genesis 2:8 “YHVH Elohim planted a garden eastward (mi-kedem) in Eden…” and in 3:24, after expelling Adam and Eve from the garden: “He placed the cherubim at the east (mi-kedem) of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword…”.  Therefore on our path backward to the future we may call out with Jeremiah “Turn us back (hashiveynu) to You, O YHVH, and we will be restored (ve’nashuva); Renew our days as of old –  ke’kedem” (Lamentations 5:21). Notice that “turn” and “restored” are both rooted in “shuv” that is, making “teshuva”.