The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21
Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:
ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’
Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.
When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!
Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.
Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.
In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.
Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.
When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2,3)
The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.
“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, bridegroom, children, Christ, creation, daniel, death, egypt, evil, Exodus, freedom, God, Hebrew, holiness, hope, Jesus, Jordan, Kingdom, life, Old Testament, Red Sea, resurrection, Revelation, Scripture, Son of God, yeshua
In some incredibly twisted logic, a “theologian, seminary professor, and ordained minister” named Patrick Cheng posted an article on Huffington Post entitled ‘Ex-Gays’ and the Ninth Circle of Hell in which, as Randy Thomas of Exodus International (one of the “ex-gays” Cheng is describing) describes, “he basically said that ex-gays were going to hell and really, really deserved it.”
Thomas and Exodus President Alan Chambers both provided excellent responses on the Exodus Blog to the accusations made toward John Paulk (he’s really doing great, despite popular conception) and George Rekers and Jo-Vanni Roman by Cheng. However, there was another point made by Cheng that was of particular interest that I had not seen put forth in gay activist circles previously . Below is a selection from his article that calls for those that have left homosexuality to “repent”:
The good news, however, is that Christian theology teaches us that it is never too late to repent. Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, the two founders of Exodus International, one of the earliest and most prominent “ex-gay” organizations, ended up falling in love with each other. They have acknowledged that, as a result of their “ex-gay” ministries, many of their former clients had become “suicidal” or resorted to “self-mutilation.” They repudiated their views publicly, separated from their wives, and abandoned Exodus International. They exchanged vows and remained together for another nine years until Cooper passed away.
Nobody knows for sure if traitors are in fact consigned to the lowest circle of hell, as Dante vividly described in the Inferno. I am certain, however, that the grace of God is available even to those who have betrayed their loved ones, the LGBT community, and even themselves through the “ex-gay” movement. It is time for people involved in the “ex-gay” movement to repent of their sinful ways and to proclaim the real “truth in love,” which is that all authentic love between people — queer, straight, or in-between — should be supported and encouraged as a wonderful blessing and unmerited gift from God.
Remarkably, the example of “repentance” Cheng puts forth as the model to follow is two professing Christians who claimed to be ex-gay that left their wives, had sex with each other, and returned to gay lifestyles that ultimately resulted in the death one of them to AIDS! And keep in mind that Cheng is a “theologian, seminary professor, and ordained minister!”
As Bryan Purtle points out in his recent VOR article, “the degree to which we have come into a true knowledge of God is directly related to the measure of our own awareness of sin.” Sadly, that Cheng would put forth that those that have left homosexuality need to “repent” of the “sin” of abandoning their gay lifestyles, and embrace the model put forth by the Exodus co founders of abandoning their wives and diving back into homosexuality, is clearly evidence that he not only has no awareness of sin, but is actively calling people to abandon holiness in pursuit of sin (and perversely calling it holiness!) Whatever religious titles Cheng may have by his name, this act of open rebellion to the clear will of God disqualifies him from the position he claims to hold in the Kingdom of God, and if Bryan is right, is clear evidence that he does not have a true knowledge of God. May his eyes be opened to the truth.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. – Isaiah 5:20
Posted in News, Sexuality & Gender Tagged with: Exodus, gay activism, homosexual agenda, homosexuality, repentance, sin
Will we wander and die during visitation or go into Jesus-centred identity during visitation?
“Do you still not understand?” Mark 8: 21
I am convinced that to understand the true meaning of the Gospel disclosed by the New Testament writers, we have to get a grasp and revelation of the account of Israel’s Exodus. Even more so, I believe the Exodus will have special spiritual significance in the life of the Church in these early years of this new millennium. Perhaps the Exodus is the key moment in all of Israel’s history. It is central to their existence and understanding of the one true God and their role as His chosen people. I am a deep believer that it was with the Exodus in mind, the Gospel writers understood the emergence of Christ and His powerful victory on earth. In fact on the mount where He was transfigured and the disciples saw His glory, it is recorded that He spoke with Moses and Elijah regarding His ‘departure’ or ‘exodus’.
I believe that there are vital revelations deeply ingrained in the Exodus for the New Testament people of God. And to add to that, they will bear special significance and power in the imminent move of God that is about to break into the Western nations. At the time of writing there is a fresh excitement of imminent revival. It is as though Christ in His great compassion is about to feed the thousands, and cause a genuine move of the miraculous from the provision of His Kingdom. There are many signs beginning to take place among the hungry of heart. However, this move is about more than feeding the masses, good though that is. I believe God is speaking in the midst of this stirring, however only some may choose to listen to His voice. What is in my heart is in connection to the following question from Jesus.
“Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8: 21)
This is a monumental question from the Lord, after His disciples had just witnessed the feeding of the four thousand. Previously, they had seen the feeding of the five thousand, and so we must understand that their faith for this kind of miracle was not what was being questioned. Rather, Jesus was questioning their lack of insight into the signs and their deeper meaning. To get further insight into these events we have to look at John 6, where John the beloved disciple gives his own account of the feeding of the five thousand. He is the only Gospel writer who provides us with an explanation by Jesus of these unique feeding miracles. The two feeding miracles are closely connected. The message and meaning are the same, and yet each one is specific to those who witness them and are fed.
John recalls that after the first of the two miracles, Jesus is followed by the people. Jesus sees their hearts and knows that they are following because of what has just happened, not for who He is. Their cry is “give us a sign and we will believe…” In other words, they partake of His miraculous provision for their earthly needs, but will not see the miracles as manifestations of a spiritual truth. Jesus is the true ‘Bread of life’, which He embodies. He gives them eternal life through union with Himself. Jesus thus warns them for their lack of understanding in John 6: 49 & 50, and likens them to the early children of Israel who ate the miraculous manna from heaven in the wilderness AND STILL DIED! However, Jesus states that He is the true Bread of heaven, of whom men may eat and never die. But this is not the only thing Jesus is conveying here. He goes on to make further startling and even offensive statements to those around.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” John 6: 56
Jesus is here giving the ‘deeper meaning’ of the feeding miracles. He is actually calling those that are pursuing His benefits, to go deeper and to partake of Him. To eat the miracle bread is one thing; to eat of Him is the real deal! In other words – it’s a very awesome and deeply spiritual issue. It is not enough that we enjoy His awesome signs and visitation (although we are to rejoice when they happen!) but it is more an issue of experiencing the heart of visitation, through identifying with Him and becoming part of Him spiritually. To find that deeper meaning and experience in Christ is what it truly is to become His body – the one loaf.
1. The ‘deeper meaning’.
Every move of the Spirit has one issue at the very heart of it. Despite their unique characteristics in each generation, whether the great awakening in England during the 1700s, the Welsh revival of 1904, or the Hebridian revival of the 40s & 50s, or even modern renewal / revival movements of the recent years in the USA and UK, the key issue has always been one grasped by some, and missed by others. It is the issue of a deep knowing of Jesus and our joining to Him, and He to us. Yet in the midst of outpouring the words, ‘Eat my flesh…’ are still as costly and offensive today as they were when originally spoken. Our soulish appetites still long for the peripheral activities of God, rather than the heart of Him who provides. Yes, it is God who moves in supernatural ways, and we rejoice in His great power, but if we do not become a ‘Jesus person’, or become a ‘Jesus people’, we can still die in our vain wandering in a kind of spiritual wilderness when in fact we were called like Israel to ‘go in and possess…’
The Lord in Deuteronomy 8: 3, spoke regarding His miraculous power given for His people, and yet gave them the ‘deeper meaning’ of the bread given for them.
“And feeding you with manna… to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of Lord…”
The mouth that spoke this to the children of Israel is the same mouth of the one God-man who spoke after the feeding of the five & four thousand, and the meaning is the same.
2. A deeper meaning still.
In the same chapter of John, the allusion is made to the forefathers of Israel who ate of this provision from heaven, and died in the wilderness. This people were uniquely called of God to an apostolic type ministry, led by Moses. They were called out of Egypt, to prove God’s delivering power. They were called through the wilderness, to know of the leading of the Angel of the Lord. They were called to be a priestly people of a unique Kingdom, carrying the Ark of the Presence. But the ultimate purpose of all of this was to go into the land of promise, dispossess the nations, and establish God’s true reign. What an awesome calling and destiny, and yet they failed because they could not fully identify with the Lord God, His righteous ways, His purpose, and the unique role they had in pointing ahead to the Messiah of God – Jesus! Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, warns the Church of the same tendency at work in them. He says:
“They all ate the same spiritual food… Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them.” (V3 – 5)
By the way, neither did Moses and Aaron go in! Despite their apostolic-type calling, they disobeyed the Lord.
The sober warning is this. God is now about to bring a fresh move of His glory, power and presence into the Church again. Jesus is the One providing a new outpouring of grace. The people of God today are knowing of heavenly manna. However, Jesus, will not fail to enter that promise with His people, in the way Moses did. His intention is that those that are ’in Him’ will go in too. Therefore, whatever He is now pouring out is for that one aim alone, to create a ’Jesus people’ who will no longer wander aimlessly in the wilderness and die, but rather go in! Jesus people are those that eat of Him, and DO NOT DIE! They, in their union and identification with Him, go where He goes. His destiny is theirs. This is the deeper and ultimate meaning of revival in every generation, and definitely today’s! Young person don’t miss it at this point, it is central to the Spirit’s work. People may make of revival-type things what they will but the Spirit of God has this central issue in His heart – to create a Jesus generation. ‘Jesus people‘ go in! They are of a resurrection kind and they do not wander or die. Don’t miss the meaning of His outpouring – it has deep purpose in it!
3. Eating Him means identification not isolation.
This issue is not just a matter for the individual in becoming a ’Jesus person’ but it is a corporate one. It is about a people embracing Christ and His Kingdom as a unique body of called-out ones on the earth. This is not so much an ecumenical ‘all are involved‘ kind of calling where anything goes; in fact it is a particularly unique and exclusive one. Yes all are welcome but because of Christ’s demands for our soul, our life, our all, it is a very particular thing to become a ‘Jesus people’. Yes, Jesus prayed for unity among His congregation, but centred solely around a fellowship with and in His dynamic person. We have been guilty of watering down the uniqueness of the man Jesus. We have preached mental assent to Christ in order to get people ‘saved’ rather than the original concept of becoming His and joining Him in His exodus. God forgive us!
One of the key moments in a disciple’s life is the moment of his calling to follow. That’s how it was in the life of Andrew & Peter, Phillip & Nathanael. It was deemed so important that John in his Gospel (Chapter 1: 35 – 51) gives a lengthy account of their time of forsaking all to follow Christ. Andrew, after hearing John the Baptist’s words, ‘Look the Lamb of God’, goes to find his brother Simon Peter, and ceases from being John the Baptist’s disciple and becomes a dedicated pursuer of Jesus. The same is true of Phillip who goes to find Nathanael. They both leave all to follow. What is the meaning of this? It is simple. For them, believing in Jesus meant identity with Him, and it was all or nothing for them. They became a ’Jesus people’. They became the ’ekklesia’ (called-out ones) of God, in Jesus. For them this was eating the bread of Him who came to bring eternal life. Yet today, things are often different. ‘Becoming a Christian’ is about a mental assent to the right thing or doctrine. “Jesus Christ is my saviour, He died for my sins; I am forgiven and am going to heaven.” And then the individual remains the same, isolated, and never enters ‘into God’. They fail to eat His flesh and drink His blood until He is in very union with them. Their identity in and with the Master is not grasped.
Some have said because of the influence of this western-type individualistic centred message, “Faith in Jesus is a personal thing. I don’t need to come to meet with God’s people. I can have my faith where I am. “ I was confronted with these words when visiting Poland, after one young lady had had dramatic experience of Jesus, only after which the enemy came and robbed her with the following deception. She believed that because her new ‘faith’ was a personal issue of forgiveness and granting access to heaven alone, that she did not need to become a key member with God’s people. She could not grasp the costly demands of identity with Jesus the Master, and all that faith in Him meant. I was deeply troubled by these words and did not know how to answer them. I did not want to come up with the spiritual clichés of how we need to meet together as the Church etc. I wanted God’s answer, not only for that situation but for wherever we proclaim the Gospel. After days of seeking, the truth suddenly came alive in me. I began to see that to the early disciples believing in the Gospel was not just a matter of personal forgiveness (though we have that). I became aware that our Gospel preaching in the West had become focused on the individual benefits from God to us, and it had produced an ‘individualistic salvation’. I became aware that the first century concept of the Gospel was in stark contrast to the one today. We preach justification without identification, and we teach baptism as symbolic of ‘new life’ without emphasising the individual’s immersion into Jesus and His body. The results of this are disastrous, and are sadly evident in churches across the UK, USA & other neo-western countries today.
We have missed the essence of our salvation, which is in the account of the feeding of the thousands – i.e. the Bread of Life must be eaten and recognised for who He is, so that we become part of that one body / loaf. To see God’s miraculous power alone is great, but insufficient if we fail to become a true ‘Jesus person’ and join with a true ‘Jesus people‘, of whom all are inseparably linked to this glorious God-man. This is what that young lady in Poland had failed to see. Again, with the words of Jesus I ask: “Do you still not understand?”
4. The Bread of Presence.
The amazing thing about the command to ‘eat the flesh’ of Jesus is that it contains not only an experience of identity with Him, but also a knowing of Him with us, “…and I in him” – (John 6: 56)
So there is a remaining in Him on our part, but also of Him in us on His part. When we eat bread in the natural we eat and enjoy its taste. It goes down into our digestive system, giving of its nutrients, and if you like, it becomes a part of us. This is the case with those that eat the flesh of the Son of Man. It is a guarantee of His presence – always. The bread to be kept in the tabernacle in Exodus was called, ‘the Bread of Presence’, and the bread we eat in communion is a celebration of the same reality – our union with Him, and He with us. It is to be experienced, tasted and known. Whilst many have said that feelings are not what following Christ is about, I find the deeper I look into what Jesus’ life and message was about, the more I see that it was all about a true & living experience that is entered into through faith. This is what He called men into. Praise King Jesus!
5. Finally… Mark’s insight on the issue.
And so now we return to Mark’s account in chapter 8 of the second miracle of this two-part act from Jesus. As in the first miracle, there are similar themes:
- Belief and unbelief.
- Obedience and disobedience.
- Signs in and of themselves versus signs that penetrate the heart and lead to Christ.
- Wander and die during visitation or go into King-centred identity during visitation.
Mark puts the emphasis on Jesus’ questions to His followers. ‘Are you hard of hearing? Are you blind? Do you still not understand?’
What are they not getting? Firstly, there is significance in bread. There is bread which contains yeast, causing it to rise. In the Exodus, God commanded Israel to make bread without yeast in order to have a quick escape from Egypt. They would not have time to wait for the yeast to grow. So to Israel yeast was a sign of holding onto former ways, worldliness, disobedience and sin. Jesus is saying here that those who are identified with Him and are one in Him, are like a loaf without yeast, for He is not of Egypt but of the land of promise. The people that went in to the land were those who believed, obeyed, captured the heart of God’s activities and were those who took into the new land His Kingly rule and presence. They are those who will not hold on to former things but embrace His ways. Therefore the manifestation of Herod and the Pharisees sinfulness is like yeast in the people of Israel that did not enter the promise. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. God’s Old Testament congregation Israel was now leavened, yet Christ had come to form a new people of God – His called out ones, in whom no yeast dwells – they are to know Him! In other words, the deeper meaning of the visitation and outpouring of the Spirit is the light of Christ’s righteousness that shines through those who embrace the heart and depth of what’s happening. Unrighteousness and unbelief cannot enter into the promise of God. Jesus people do, because their Master has already stepped into the promise!
So today’s application is simple: The unrighteous do not believe or go after identity with Jesus, but they want to keep the supernatural provision. The righteous believe, they gladly lay down all for this union with Jesus, and they experience His Kingdom reign and know fruitfulness. They in their allegiance will go in. Do we now understand?
Finally, Christ also puts an emphasis on the number of baskets left over and the connection between the two events. Here is a glorious ministry of Jesus to the Jew and Gentile. Scholars agree that the first was to a Jewish audience, the second feeding to both Jew and Gentile.1 Now in God’s new day of visitation, through His Son, Gentiles become part of the congregation of God, with Jews, to go into the promise land and carry the Kingdom. The One new man is a reality through Him. This is what the Spirit is now calling for in this fresh move of His Spirit. Hence in Mark 8 the mention of only one loaf in the boat after the miracle. Out of the Jew & Gentile He forms a ‘Jesus people.’
So this is the meaning of the Bread of Heaven.
- It is to be eaten – that is absorbed into our spirits, through identification with Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit’s entrance into our hearts. Remember, you are what you eat. No yeast in this bread.
- It’s meaning is also exclusively Jesus-centred not ‘sign-centred‘. Yet out of this union, great Kingdom demonstration is evidenced.
- It’s meaning is about a body of people, who embrace the above, who in fellowship and apostolic movement form God’s new people. Thus they are called to inherit and dispossess nations. We are to be led by the Angel of the Lord who is the Lord Jesus. We are now to carry the Ark of His presence in our hearts. We are to experience supernatural signs of power but also grasp their significance. They are signs of the Kingdom! HOWEVER, we are not to die, for those in Christ do not die but live, they know, they do, they are – I.e. they ‘go into promise‘. This is a King-centred move of the Spirit – let’s not forget it.
David Ravenhill has in recent years written timely words for these days of visitation we live in:
‘How could Israel ever forget this incredible sight as they stood there on the banks of the Red Sea? They watched the entire Egyptian army being swallowed up by the mighty torrents of water cascading down upon them. God was unleashing His mighty hand of judgment against those who had helped impose Israel’s forced captivity of oppression and slavery… As wonderful as this experience was, it was merely the beginning – the first step in God’s plan and purpose for His people. Even as they celebrated, God had His goal in mind – to “bring them and plant them in the mountain of (His) inheritance.” (Exodus 15: 17) His purpose was to have people passionately in love with Him, a people who shared His heart for others who were in slavery and bondage.
This then, was the first stage in God’s plan to bring Israel out of their bondage; through the wilderness of testing, growth and preparation; and into the land of promise, where they would dwell in the very presence of God… God’s plan was to bring His people into Zion and establish them in a life that revolved around His presence… The same thing is true for the Church… His ultimate goal is to gather all nations to Himself.’ 2
So one more time, with the words of Jesus, I repeat, “Do you still not understand?” He’s moving again out of His great compassion, grace and favour. He is visiting His people but His deep callings remain the same, and if anything, during times of revival the intensity and power of those deep callings increase.
Jesus has come as ‘Emmanuel – God with us’ to reveal a deep and great mystery for all ages, that despite satan’s assault on mankind, God can and will have a people for Himself. They as one new man will demonstrate what the early disciples became through their association with Jesus. The Jewish disciples of a Jewish Jesus accomplished what their ancestors did not, not because of their own ability but because of their identity in and with this glorious God-man, who is greater than Moses and succeeds where even Moses failed. Let’s not make the mistake of disassociating the power of God from the God of power. He moves in signs and wonders in order to reveal His heart, and for us to share in His heart. Today the prophetic call is the same and to this end. Today the apostolic mandate and mission is the same and to this end.
In the challenging words of Bob Gladstone, ‘A new Jesus people are arising…’
Will you become part of the new ‘Jesus people’?
1 William Lane, NICNT on the Gospel of Mark (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974) Comments on Mark 8 account of feeding of 4000.
2 They drank from the river and died in the wilderness, David Ravenhill (Destiny Image 2000) Quote taken from Chapter 6: P67 & 68
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Apostolic Church, awakening, Bob Gladstone, Church, Exodus, forgiveness, Jesus-people, John the Baptist, judgment
Acts 7: 37 – 45 (Stephen’s address)
This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.
But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?
You have lifted up the shrine of Molech
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.’
Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them.
To begin with in this article, I am going to make a controversial statement: ‘The Western Church today is struggling in many areas of its ministry because it does not understand its Jewish roots!’
You may wonder how I can make such a statement, especially against statistics of unprecedented Church growth in the last 100 years or so. (Which even if it is the case, doesn’t validate or invalidate everything we do.) And what do I mean by Jewish roots? I do not mean becoming Jewish per se, or taking on another culture when you are not of Jewish decent. Rather, I mean the ways of God revealed to those key men and women of faith in Israel in Biblical history, of whom Jesus is the pinnacle in every way.
The Church can continue to be used by God, because His heart is gracious and wanting ALL to come to repentance. But His plan of salvation is more than access to heaven. It is about becoming a Kingdom people. That is why Christ came. There is a text, which demonstrates something of the difference between seeing God’s power, as opposed to those that go deeper to see His ways as well as His power.
Psalm 103: 7 – He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
This for me is an interesting Scripture. God’s people can know His power without knowing His ways. It takes a unique person to find out God’s ways. Moses was such a man. He not only found out what God could do for the people of Israel, but what God wanted to do for them in terms of purpose and strategy. How we could benefit from doing such a thing!
It is my firm belief that with every reformation, revival, renewal and outpouring of any kind comes not only an intensifying of God’s power and presence, but a revelation of God’s ways. The same Lord who came to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob; the One who visited Moses at the Bush & Sinai; the One who led the people of God into the land of promise; the One who revealed Himself to David, Daniel and all the other prophets and kings – this God came in flesh and met with humanity. In particular, this God met with a people, and revealed His Son according to the flesh through and to a Jewish people, that through His death and resurrection Israel might reveal His Kingdom to men of every Nation. This was Israel’s unique call and destiny! This is why 12 uneducated men saw themselves as the beginning of that fulfillment. From them, and other early disciples, the people of ‘the Way’ continued to minister Jesus Christ according to a unique understanding. They saw themselves as an ‘eschatological people.’ They were a newly formed people of the age to come, foreseen in OT prophecy, living in the present and carrying the Kingdom because of the visitation of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God. Yet they knew that it was not yet all consummated as the prophets had also foretold. Israel as a nation had not yet fully turned (many had rejected Jesus) and all the nations had yet to experience the Gospel of this inaugurated Kingdom. These things would have been central to the early Jewish believers and their mission. So was their understanding of the gospel and the Kingdom of God on the earth, which was steeped in Jewish history and Scriptures, even if Christ came to redefine what some of that would look like. It was a very Jewish thing to be a follower of King Jesus.
So when the same Spirit of God of the early Church visits today by outpourings of various kinds, He comes to restore the NT faith as prescribed by Jesus and then the 12. This can often be startling, even offensive, and bring a great shock to the system if God’s people today do not allow His Spirit to enlarge their spirit during such a season of visitation. You see, we westerners have put the faith into a mold and we view it through a certain western shade. Hence, Church history has known its fair share of turmoil. Yes, there have been splits due to the division of the enemy, or the spirit of rebellion in a people, or even an abuse by a key leader. But not all schism has come because of this. Some have come, because God has revealed who He really is, and a return to the NT faith & practice is required, and reformation has had to come as a return to His ways – it’s the only wineskin that will hold the new wine!
The theme of Jewish roots is a big subject and thus I will not have time to even scratch the surface of it. So with the above issues in mind, I would like to look at one particular theme, which I believe is absolutely crucial in the ongoing purpose of the Church. I believe if the Western Church grasps this in the near future (as I believe the Chinese Church has), we could be hearing of powerful transformation coming to people, houses, communities and nations. It is what I call the New Testament Exodus.
Recently, I wrote these words in a booklet I put together:
I am convinced that to understand the true meaning of the Gospel disclosed by the New Testament writers, we have to get a grasp and revelation of the account of Israel’s Exodus. Even more so, I believe the Exodus will have special spiritual significance in the life of the Church in these early years of this new millennium. Perhaps the Exodus is the key moment in all of Israel’s history. It is central to their existence and understanding of the one true God and their role as His chosen people. I am a deep believer that it was with the Exodus in mind, the Gospel writers understood the emergence of Christ and His powerful victory on earth. In fact on the mount where He was transfigured and the disciples saw His glory, it is recorded that He spoke with Moses and Elijah regarding His ‘departure’ or ‘exodus.’
I believe that there are vital revelations deeply ingrained in the Exodus for the New Testament people of God. And to add to that, they will bear special significance and power in the imminent move of God that is about to break into the Western nations.
Getting back to the basics.
You see, we have to believe that when Jesus came to this earth, and when the early Jewish disciples ministered before and after His resurrection / ascension, they saw everything in a particular light. All their words, actions and perception, were deeply grounded in the revelation of God and His Kingdom, progressively promised in the prophets, shown in glimpses through types and shadows, revealed and fulfilled in Jesus! Matthew really seems eager to lay hold of this theme. In chapter 2: 15 in quoting Hosea, Matthew says:
‘Out of Egypt I called My Son…’
Already here Jesus is being described in ways pertaining to Israel as a whole. Even as Israel, as a son, was called out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, Jesus – the Son fulfills and embodies Israel and fulfills her destiny. (Even Isaiah’s prophecies use the terms ‘son’ & ‘servant’ and they hold double meaning in the light of the NT.)
Then to add to that Jesus is baptized in Matthew 3. Why did the Pharisees get offended at such a thing? Because ‘washings’ were an important part of Jewish practice. To receive the ceremonial washings in Israel was to identify with the Nation; and even Gentiles, if wanting to become a part of the Nation, had to go through such strict washings. Yet Jesus, identifies not with the traditions of men but rather John the Baptist’s baptism, and with all those of a humble heart – sinners, poor, weak and those without hope. Luke records in his Gospel narrative that Jesus was baptized, ‘…when all the people were being baptized…’ What a gracious & merciful Master!
He goes through a true baptism, not one of hypocrisy. He does it to fulfill righteousness. And what’s more, he is identifying with the people of God and the Exodus of the OT, and He is introducing a new Exodus. Paul, a Jew of Jews, in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 & 2 says:
‘For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.’
And later in verse 11:
‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.’
So, even in the act of Baptism Jesus is identifying with a people, ‘called out of Egypt’, and going through the waters, which signifies the cutting off of the old life, and entering to the new as a fulfillment people. Jesus really is making big statements even with His actions! How many times do we perceive in the West today, Baptism as just symbolic of an inward change? When whilst it carries that symbolism, it also has deeper significance in terms of our identifying with this glorious God-man Jesus and His end-time people. So then this was a very Jewish thing and an understanding of the early Jewish ‘Jesus -sect’ (as some would have called them) would have added a weightier meaning to this important act in response to faith. We as a NT people joined in union by Jesus, our Sacrificial Lamb, Deliverer and Apostle, have left Egypt (the world and its hold) and have become heirs of the promise – the Kingdom now and to come.
Now add to this Exodus viewpoint, there is also this thought coming through: Jesus is being baptized in the river Jordan, quite a dirty river, and indeed forbidden as a place of purification by early rabbinic tradition. Jordan was the second major body of water that the children of Israel crossed by miraculous intervention. After their crossing into the Land, 12 men were chosen to take 12 stones from the river and place them as a memorial for the 12 tribes of Israel. (Joshua 4: 1 – 9) The Gospel’s closely link the choosing of the 12 disciples / apostles in their narrative shortly after the Baptism & wilderness accounts. God is speaking in a significant way!
Now regarding the wilderness account in Matthew 4, Matthew then carries the Exodus theme further with these words:
‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights…’
Recorded here is how the Spirit leads the Lord into the wilderness (a place of significance for Israel.) There He is tried and tested, yet triumphs in weakness. He is there for a symbolic number of 40 days, without food, in comparison to the children of Israel who complained for lack of food. So the fulfillment of Israel’s existence and role is now starting to really take shape. Where a generation of the children of Israel under Moses did not go into promise because of unbelief and disobedience in the wilderness, this glorious Leader is different: He defeats the testing of satan in that wilderness and comes out filled with power of the Spirit! He has demonstrated that ‘man will not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ He did this in the power of God, and is making up for Israel’s unbelief in the God of their fathers. Israel’s glory and victory is in this glorious Man!
Now something quite phenomenal begins to take shape in the account of Matthew. From there he tells of Jesus going into the region of Galilee, or as quoted by Matthew from Isaiah – ‘Galilee of the Gentiles.’ In the OT, Israel when led out was given a unique mandate from heaven in Deuteronomy 7: 1 – 6, that they were to ‘drive out the nations… and burn their idols…’ and they were to then possess the land of inheritance. Jesus begins to demonstrate a whole new meaning to this. As mentioned earlier, He then gathers twelve young men to Himself (remember the symbolism.) However now, He begins to preach the Kingdom as drawing near, and it is recorded, ‘healed every disease and sickness… news spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering with pain, the demon possessed…He healed them ALL. ’
Jesus is redefining to the Jewish people what their calling really is all about. It is to be a light to nations covered in darkness. As He drives out all the affects of darkness on a poor and helpless people, so too are they called to bring Light to the Nations. As He is delivering them from idolatry, which culminates in demon possession, so are they to reveal the One true God in His Son – Jesus, and a possession of His Spirit. As He deals with the tyranny of satan, so too are they to preach release to the captive and an entrance into a new Kingdom which is not of this world. They – the people of Israel, in Jesus, are to be a people who fulfill what their ‘Moses / Joshua led ancestors’ foreshadowed – drive out the works of evil, inherit the promise of God, bless the nations, and enter the rest of God.
Later on in Matthew, Jesus teaches ‘the sermon on the mount,’ (which is itself symbolic of Moses & Israel receiving the OT law on Sinai) He comes down from the mountain and does powerful signs of the Kingdom, even to a gentile centurion with great faith. Make no mistake, Jesus really is moving and fulfilling things in an unmistakable way to the early disciples, and the nation at large.
I believe what is being portrayed is powerful and glorious. Because it is then the 12 disciples, after Jesus demonstrating to them and teaching them His law and His ways, who are then ‘sent’ or ‘apostlized’ to do the very same thing – take the Kingdom message and power, drive out demons and proclaim ‘peace’ to the house that receives them. They are embodying Israel’s rediscovered calling. Initially, they are to go only to the lost sheep of Israel for it is firstly a matter of fulfillment and significance to them as a historic covenant people. But Luke later records, that the 12 were to become a group of 70, and no such geographical or racial boundary is given at that time of sending. Thus the prophetic call to Israel as God’s son and servant is fulfilled in the Messiah – Jesus Christ, and all those who attach themselves to Him. Therefore, it is a VERY Jewish thing for a Jew to embrace this glorious God-Man; it is a very Jewish thing to be a missionary for God; in fact it is very Jewish to be Apostolic, and it is a very awesome thing for a Gentile to be accepted as part of the people and share in that calling!
As I quoted earlier from my book, in Luke 9, Jesus speaks of ‘His exodus’ later on when on the mount of transfiguration. He is to die a terrible death and become Israel’s Passover Lamb, as well as their deliverer in leading the people out of bondage. But His death is not final, rather it is a doorway. He is to go to the depths of the grave, as Psalm 68: 15 – 18 & Ephesians 4 says, and lead captivity captive. And He is to lead that formerly sinful idolatrous people, (Jews & Gentiles alike) into His rest, through death, resurrection, reigning and granting us access and peace with God, through Himself! Hebrews 3 even likens the greater ministry of Jesus to the lesser one of Moses. In fact the whole of that epistle is about this theme. It really is awesome, this New Testament Exodus!
This is another mountain experience with God, as was the Sermon on the Mount. Again, God is alluding to the Sinai experience. This time it is not only about His law entering the heart of men, but rather Jesus now being the fulfillment of the Law & Prophets. His Jewish disciples were not to see the preparatory types and shadows as an end in themselves. God thus hides the two OT figures away after Peter’s desire to build tabernacles for them. God centers His will and revelation in His Son. After this powerful experience on the mountaintop with the inner circle of Peter, James & John, (not forgetting Moses & Elijah) Jesus goes down and finds a mess. The disciples cannot cast out a demonic spirit from a boy. There is a large crowd watching. Jesus gives a startling indictment against that generation (not just the apostles) that they are ‘unbelieving and perverse!’ He subsequently casts out the demon and the people are amazed.
This carries with it tones of what Moses faced upon his coming down from the ‘mount of God’ after receiving the law. He came face to face with demonic activity in the form of worship of a golden calf. He too faced an ‘unbelieving and perverse generation.’
The difference now with Jesus, as opposed to the day of Moses, is that our Lord has not failed to deal with the powers of the darkness that affect the nations. Moses may have destroyed the golden calf, but later on he is himself disobedient and filled with unbelief over the use of the rod of God. Moses did not go in to inherit. Jesus, full of faith and the Holy Spirit has overcome! He was perfectly obedient to the Father’s will. (Phil 2: 8 / Romans 5: 19 / Hebrews 5: 8 -9) He has inherited and will possess the Nations. The decisive victory at the Cross has been accomplished! He now has entered the rest for us, and we are to know of this inheritance also, now and in the ages to come.
The book of Acts shows how seriously the early Church took the words, mission and methods of Jesus, and how they perceived them. They carried on in that pilgrim spirit, exporting and sending, dispossessing and inheriting. Jewish disciples and apostles bringing people of all tribes into Israel’s inheritance of the Kingdom, through the message of Jesus Christ. God had revealed His New Testament Exodus to His people – how could they do anything but respond!
Now because of God’s grace revealed in His Son, we have inherited a Kingdom! We must pray much and examine the early Jewish Church life and practice. Pray for the same understanding of God’s ways, grace and power to be upon us. The first Jewish disciples saw everything in this light (as well as much more), and so too must we! We are a chosen race, as Peter declares, to declare the praises of God, who called us out of darkness. That’s Exodus type language. Paul says in Ephesians 3, the Church is called to ‘make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers…’ – that’s Exodus understanding!
So then people of God, Jew and Gentile alike, through faith in Jesus Christ, let us rediscover our Jewish roots. If we do, it will affect our understanding of who we are, and where we are heading, in this age and in the age to come. I thank God for the Jews, chosen and elect of God to a unique destiny. I thank God for the early band of Jewish disciples – holy radicals for Jesus who turned the world upside down. I thank God mostly for Jesus. Who by His grace brought me – ‘an alien’ by natural birth, and adopted me as a son. So that with the faithful remnant of Jewish brothers we can see an Apostolic witness of ‘sent ones’ taking the Kingdom of God, through the message of Christ to the Nations and the Nation of Israel.
Finally, I believe that as we see the day of the Lord approaching, the Church will more and more understand her origins and identity. In that moment she will become by the Spirit, all that God has called her to be. Israel needs to witness an authentic apostolic expression of Jesus Christ today, as prescribed in the early Church of the 1st Century. Only then can a jealous Israel, like Moses, turn aside and ‘see God’ in us earthen vessels – a type of burning bush, and come closer and believe. My prayer with Paul is for ALL of Israel to be saved, and for the Nations to join with her to form a ‘Jesus-people’. When such a ‘New Man’ is formed we will see Christ’s return. May I encourage you to pray for revival in the Nations, including the Middle East. And pray for revival in Israel, for as Paul says in Romans 9: 1 – ‘…my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit…’ – it is God’s desire!
May God do it in our day! Amen & Marantha!
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: Exodus, israel, Jesus, Jewish roots of Christianity, jews, Kingdom of God, Moses, New Testament, Old Testament, the church