Friday, August 30, 2019

Beyond the Mountain

In Conclusion  (to the 10 part series)

After our Israelite forefathers passed through the waters of the Sea of Reeds, they were awe struck as to what their Almighty Elohim did for them.  They were now filled with what is called in Hebrew “yir’at Adonai” - the fear of YHVH.  Later, when they came to Mount Sinai, again, this Elohim demonstrated His presence through fire, smoke, loud sounds and quaking earth. But this time, although their physical senses were stirred by this outward demonstration, as it was awesome and fearful, it did not affect the condition of their hearts.  The proof of the ancestral rebellion (inherent in Adam’s family) was evident in them. Thus, even though called to be a priestly nation unto YHVH, the Israelites turned out to be no different than any other people group in the human family.  YHVH’s love, sovereign calling and anointing upon their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel, was the reason why He wrought redemption out of slavery for them and why He brought them to the Mountain and beyond.  All through the Torah He declares that what He was doing for Israel was for His namesake, as Moses, for example, recollects in Deuteronomy:  

"Therefore understand today that YHVH your Elohim is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire…  Do not think in your heart, after YHVH your Elohim has cast them out before you, saying, 'Because of my righteousness YHVH has brought me in to possess this land'; but because of the wickedness of these nations that YHVH your Elohim drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which YHVH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 9:3-5).  As we know from the Gospel accounts, YHVH, again, for the sake of His name “disarmed principalities and powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in Him [Yeshua the Messiah]” (Colossians 2:15).  

The descriptions of the Israelite nation and its exploits were intended for our instructions (see 1 Corinthians 10: 5-11).  So what have we learned about them that is now going to take us Beyond the Mountain?  It is not hard to assess. The ‘bottom line’ is, as YHVH Himself says it: “You are a stubborn and obstinate people”.  What does that mean other than being selfish, self-centered, proud, self-righteous, still attached to the flesh, gratifying its desires, and quickly forgetting the reverence that is due His name?  As soon as it seems to us that we lack some physical need or comfort the “fear of YHVH” along with the knowledge of Elohim and His wisdom disappears like the morning mist. In that we are just like our ancestors. Instead of wielding the power to overcome our flesh and spiritual enemies, we are succumbing to the same influences and temptations on a daily basis. In his book “Apostolic Foundations”, Art Katz speaks to these tendencies: “Our little impatient moods, our critical spirits, our irritations with one another are already evidence of how little prepared we are for the cosmic struggle before us.”

 So, what is it that will make us different than our forebears, and will help us move Beyond the Mountain?

It is incumbent upon us to own to the all-time truth that, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. In other words, we are not one another’s enemy.  It is time to no longer be babes, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, which causes us to be in strife and contention with one another as we contend for our “rightness” or “correctness”.  In Joshua 5:9 YHVH tells Joshua that He has “rolled [a verb connected to dung-ball-like idols] away the reproach of Egypt” off of Israel. We too need to roll back the flesh (the dung balls of this world and its religions) and get on with the spiritual battles that we can only win when we are in the unity of the faith, believing what the Father has already accomplished by being present in Messiah, reconciling the world unto Himself (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:17).

What we need to take from the history of our Israelite ancestors, is not so much about them, but about the Elohim who has brought their progeny (us) through thousands of years of faithfulness, love, and mercy and will continue to do so until He fulfills all that has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets of old, and on into the future of the millennial kingdom where the redeemed and restored nation of Israel will rule with Him for a thousand years. Then the reality of the following words of Isaiah will become clearly evident:  "’Come, and let us go up to the mountain of YHVH, to the house of the Elohim of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of YHVH from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.  ‘O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of YHVH’” (Isaiah 2:3-5).   

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Beyond the Mountain (part X)

Road to Victory
The Israelites are off to a new beginning as they prepare to march forward following the mighty cloud that was now leading the 600,000 strong army.  Banners waving, troops all in order under the leaders of thousands, hundreds and tens. The day that they all were waiting for had finally come. Excitement was building throughout the tribes, camps and families of all Israel.  Their unity was like “One Man”, at least for the moment.

Alas, but a hair’s breath away, a mere one verse later (Numbers 11:1) there occurs a sharp turn in the road to fulfillment. “And the people (actually the word there is “mixed multitude) were like those who are looking for a pretext, so as to make an evil complaint, within the hearing of YHVH. And He heard it and He was fuming. So the fire of YHVH burned among them, and consumed the outskirts of the camp” (literal translation). End game. Everything comes to a screeching halt. This one verse launches a chain of tragic events. The “Beyond the Mountain” venture failed at its very inception, and a new path will have to be charted though it will be a much longer one, more winding and painfully arduous. Much of the rest of Numbers (chapter 11-14, 16&17, 20-21:7, 25, 31:9-20) recounts a variety of a series of spiraling and sad episodes of rebellion, unbelief, complaints, bitterness, idolatry and fornication. It is no wonder that YHVH makes the following ominous declaration (this is after the spies’ failed mission) : “…but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of YHVH, because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,  they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it…”  “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.  Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.  But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.  And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.  According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I YHVH have spoken this; I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die" (Numbers 14:21-23, 29:35 emphases added).
The generation that consisted of the would-be military forces, those born in Egypt, who left Egypt physically but failed in ridding Egypt from their hearts, forfeited their opportunity to come into the land (except of course for Joshua and Caleb). Not only did they not have the faith and fortitude to venture the territory of the enemy and possess their inheritance, they even found the wilderness (with fewer enemies in sight) and its conditions, although all provisions were miraculously made available to them, to be too daunting and threatening. Thus they had to be exhorted to move beyond the mountain/mountains, not once but twice (Deut. 1:5-6, 2:1-4), something which they failed to do (in spirit).
We need not take up more time discussing that destined-to-die-in-the-wilderness generation. It is now time to focus on the second generation. Will they have the faith and courage to move on and to follow their (new) leader – Joshua? The prophet Ezekiel, many generations later, also makes reference to a group of people who are destined to be in the wilderness, on the way to the land of promise, but who will not make it there (20:38). With all this being said we may now turn the spotlight to our day and age. It is not the physical entrance to the land, and the enemies lurking there, which is what we are facing at the moment. At this point if “am Yisrael” is to move beyond the proverbial Mountain/s which face us, or where we are camping, it will take implicit obedience to the Leader. Following and moving behind the Leader, in this case, is also for the purpose of entering the land, at some point, and establishing YHVH’s Kingdom there. But how can that take place if the enemy which is close at hand (individually and corporately), or the mountain of obstacles that have not been overcome, is not defeated? As those who are constituted the ‘redeemed’ of the House of Israel we have every reason to move on and do so victoriously, if we but obey our Leader who “led captivity captive” when “He ascended on high” (Eph. 4:8), and exercise the faith of our father Abraham. 

 Let us allow the Word of Elohim as It speaks to us concerning this foundational truth, the bedrock of our salvation and redemption.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in Elohim for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah,  and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2nd Cor. 10;3-6). “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  And do not present your members as instruments/weapons of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to Elohim as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments/weapons of righteousness to Elohim. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law [subject to its penalties] but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
What is it that enables us to be so sure of these victories? And what makes the following statement credible, regarding “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe”? (Eph. 1:19). It is based on “…  the working of His mighty power which He worked in Messiah when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:19b-21 emphasis added). So that …now the manifold wisdom of Elohim might be made known by the assembly [kahal – kehila – that is us] to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Messiah Yeshua our Master” (Ephesians 3:10-11). That eternal purpose is that “we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Messiah --  from whom the whole body [nation] joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:13-16).

 As we believe and obey, we benefit from the victories of Him who has “disarmed principalities and powers, [and] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it…  He is the forerunner who has entered for us” (Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 6:20). “Therefore, [Israelite] brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Yeshua by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of Elohim, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:19-24)

 … You have come [now away from Mount Horeb] to Mount Zion and to the city of the living Elohim, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and congregation [the kahal] of the firstborn [Jacob/Israel] who are registered in heaven, to Elohim the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Yeshua the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel”  (Hebrews 12:22-24).
And seeing that it is not the generation which died in the wilderness that we want to identify with, regardless of our chronological age, the words of Yochanan to the “young men” have much to say to us in regards to living out our victories over the enemy: “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of Elohim abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one…”  “You are of Elohim, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world…” “For whatever is born of Elohim overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith” (1 John 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4).

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Beyond the Mountain (part IX)

Passover - A Gateway

Passover is of course the first of all of YHVH’s feast days, and one that is mentioned the most throughout the scriptures.   When examining the various aspects of Passover, there are several questions that come to mind: Why was a lamb chosen to be sacrificed in order for the firstborn of the Hebrews to be “passed over” (by the angel of death), thus also enabling Israel to leave Egypt (ref. Exodus 12:3)?  Why did YHVH remind Moses to observe the Passover before His firstborn nation Israel could take leave of Mount Sinai and begin the (intended) ‘take over’ of the land (ref. Numbers 9:1-5; 10:12-29)?  Why was Passover celebrated, again, when Israel first crossed into the land of promise (ref. Joshua 5:10)?  Why is the Passover lamb (Yeshua) also our gateway into newness of life and victory over our enemies?

These questions may be answered by the ‘cosmic’ Passover, alluded to in Revelation 13:8: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world(emphasis added). Likewise 1 Peter 1:19-20 states: “… the precious blood of Messiah, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (emphasis added). 

Thus it would appear that Passover was already established before the foundation of the world, as a means to pronounce and execute a judicial sentence against YHVH’s enemies (the kingdom of darkness).  Similarly, the Passovers mentioned above also have to do with a release or change that the Almighty was bringing about in the lives of His people.  In every one of the cases YHVH was confronting an enemy that was standing in His way of fulfilling His purposes. The specific timing of Passover (at the commencement of a new year), along with all of its statutes and ordinances is how YHVH ensures His peoples’ victories over their enemies. The importance of this appointed time for Israel’s Elohim is illustrated by the fact that even the cloud did not lift from the Tabernacle until all had been fulfilled concerning the Passover requirements. Thus this feast was the gate through which YHVH’s redeemed would move on beyond the Mountain.

Back at Mount Sinai, where YHVH has just enjoined Moses to observe the 14th day of the 1st month.  Immediately after, provision is made for those who were not able to celebrate at the prescribed time, so that they may do so on the 14th of the second month (ref. Numbers 9:10-11).  On the first of the second month, a census is taken of all the tribes’ males, 20 to 50 years old, for the purpose of conscripting them into the army (ref. Numbers 1:1-3).  At the same time, Moses makes two silver trumpets in order to communicate specific messages to the leaders, and to the people as a whole (ref. Numbers 10:2-10).

 “Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony.  And the children of Israel set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; then the cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran.  So they started out for the first time according to the command of YHVH by the hand of Moses” (Numbers 10:11-13). Next is the detailed description of all the hosts of Israel being arrayed according to their tribal (and not birth) order (ref. Num. 10:14-28).

It is now approximately 34 days after the celebration of Passover, and “they departed from the mountain of YHVH on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of YHVH went before them for the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them.  And the cloud of YHVH was above them by day when they went out from the camp” (Numbers 10:33-34 emphasis added).

 Hallelu-Yah! This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. It’s almost a cliff hanger…  “they departed from the Mountain of YHVH…”. At last we are starting to move “beyond the Mountain”!  

Safe under the cloud, the army of Israel is about to follow their Commander and Chief.

We read on:  So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: ‘Rise up, O YHVH! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You” (verse 35). YHVH was about to march in battle before His (obedient and believing) army. He was going to fight for them. And “when it [the ark] rested, he said: ‘Return, O YHVH the many thousands of Israel’" (verse 36, literal translation).  The army’s entrance to the land would have, by necessity, excluded the many non-combatants. But upon the cessation of the battles and with the ark coming to its rest, the others, “the many thousands of Israel”, would come in and join their countrymen. This is also a powerful prophetic picture pointing to the ultimate ingathering of YHVH’s people – the returning of the many thousands of Israel. 

In addition to the above accounts, it is also worthwhile to cite Moses’ reflections about that particular time, as he does retroactively in Deuteronomy. In 1:8, 21 he recalls what has been said to the Israelites at that time: “See, I have placed the land before you [“to your faces”, emphasis added] go in and possess [“r’shu” – wrest it by impoverishing its present residents] the land which YHVH swore to give to your fathers… and to their seed after them”.  This declaration is preceded, in 1:7, by the imperative “p’nu” (turn), which stems from the same root as “face” (see also Deut. 1:40, 2:1, 8). It seems that before YHVH was going to “give/place” the land before His people, they were required to make a “turn”, set their faces toward Him, as He has stated that He has already “given/placed” the land before them (Deut. 1:20, 21, 39). After “turning” they had to “see”. That is, they had to realize, by exercising faith, what their heavenly Father had already accomplished. Secondly, they had to go and take/wrest the land, based upon the former realization and premise, and act, again, in faith.

 Although YHVH declares (in Deut. 2:5, 9, 19 respectively) that He also “given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession” and “Ar [Mo’av] to the sons of Lot as a possession”, which also includes the Amonites, but nevertheless, He significantly omits the expression “before them”. Thus, although YHVH is sovereign over all peoples, He was notably going to treat His own in an exceptional manner.  He declares again to Israel (literal translation): “See, I have begun to give/place – “natati” – Sihon and his land over to you. Impoverishing begin to impoverish his land” (Deut. 2:31). It is YHVH who has also “hardened his [Sichon’s] spirit and made his heart obstinate that He might deliver him into your hand…” (2:30), having “mercy on whom He will, and whom He wills He hardens” (ref. Rom. 9:18).

Well and good. Now all is in place – the army, YHVH’s presence in the Tabernacle, and His encouraging and strengthening promises. Nothing more need be said. It is time to act!  Elohim has demonstrated His faithfulness, and the time has come for His people to respond in kind. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Beyond the Mountain (part VIII)

Preparations to Leave the Mountain
As we know, after the second forty days on the Mountain, Moses descended with the two stone tablets and a glow which indicated to every one in the camp of Israel that he had been in the presence of the Almighty. It seemed that now that the golden calf episode and its aftermath was behind them, that the Children of Israel were willing to take seriously the instructions they had received after Moses had his first encounter with Elohim. However, YHVH was not going to go with them as before (that is, He was no longer going to carry them on the proverbial eagles’ wings; see Exodus 32:34, 33:3). Yet He still desired to dwell in the midst of their tribes, within the nation (ref. Exodus 25:8).  But without there being a tabernacle – a Mishkan -  a priesthood, and sacrifices this could not happen.  A Holy Elohim could not dwell among sin-bearing, stiff-necked people without an arrangement that would satisfy His righteousness.  
YHVH had already left the instructions for the Mishkan with Israel even before the golden calf rebellion. So now, when asked to contribute toward this portable abode the people’s response was tremendous generosity. In fact, some were moved in heart to give so liberally that Moses had to restrain them. And so we read: “The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to YHVH, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which YHVH, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done” (Exodus 35:29).   Following this, the skilled workmen said to Moses: “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which YHVH commanded us to do” (Exodus 36:5). 
At last it seems that YHVH’s called-out ones are on the right track, ready to obey, help and participate with His program wholeheartedly.   When all the individual parts that made up the Mishkan were completed, they were brought before Moses who examined the work and found every article to be exactly as YHVH had commanded (Exodus 39:43).  This may be compared to our own situation with Yeshua being at the helm, preparing each of us to be a part of His national Mishkan of priests! 

There are those among us who, like Bezalel, “have been filled with the Spirit of Elohim, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 35:31), in order to assist in the perfecting of each part, so that all will fit together and will bear the image of the heavenly.   “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, for the edifying of the body of Messiah [the Mishkan],  till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah …speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Messiah --  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11,14 -16 emphases added). 
Moses was commanded by YHVH to set up the Mishkan on the first of the first month, in the second year after the Exodus.  One cannot help but notice the significance of that day and what followed it.  A whole new chapter in the life of Elohim’s redeemed family was about to unfold.   But first YHVH’s dwelling place had to be intact. Moses anointed it and all its holy articles. He then washed, dressed, and anointed Aaron and his sons.  On the days to come, from the 2nd to the 13th of the first month, each tribal leader brought to the Levites all the necessary sacrifices and offerings required for the dedication of the altar (ref. Numbers 7); one tribe each day.  One would think that the order in which the offerings would have been brought would be according to birth, but surprisingly it was not. 
Judah was first. “His [and all the others’] offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering;  one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense;  one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering;  one kid of the goats as a sin offering;  and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year” (Numbers 7:13-17 emphasis added). 
The men who brought the offering for each of the tribes turned out to be, on the next month, the chief tribal officers of the Israelite army (ref. Numbers 10:14-28) that was to lead on, to the mountains of the Amorites/Canaanites.  With the completion of the last tribe’s offerings, on the 13th day, YHVH told Moses that the hosts of Israel were to observe the Passover on the 14th day at evening, according to all its statutes and ordinances (ref. Numbers 9:1-5).
The Passover that was observed on that day was a game changer, just like the one that was honored in Egypt.  But with a difference. YHVH was now dwelling in the very midst of the camp of Israel, and ready to take them into the land and vanquish their enemies by His Mighty Right Arm.
When the Father sent Yeshua the first time, as the Passover Lamb and High Priest, inaugurating a new covenant with Israel and Judah, He changed entirely the dynamics of the spiritual powers and authorities in high places. In this way a complete victory was won for His people (and the entire human race). But just as it should have been in the case of our ancestors, so too now; there has to be an implicit and unreserved trust and obedience to Him who has won the battle, being in full submission to His combative headship and leadership (as an example see Matthew 8:5-10).
For the analogy of Yeshua’s Passover events and their ramification regarding personal and corporate salvation and redemption, we usually focus on the Passover of Egypt. But we also have to take a good look at the significance of this Passover, the one that occurred passed the giving of the Torah, Shavuot and the outpouring of the Spirit of Holiness, as it will take us beyond the Mountain.
Next time we will explore what became a (missed) opportunity for our forefathers, and what is now an even greater possibility and opportunity for us.