Torah Portion: Deut. 26:1-29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9
New Testament: Matthew chapter 13
This week, during the Hebrew month of Elul, when “the King is in the field,” that is, He is nearer to us than any other month, listening to the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart, we are studying the 50th Torah portion of the year. Ki Tavo means “when you come,” referring to the day when Joshua will lead the children of Israel across the Jordan to take possession of Canaan. But, it is far more than that. It also refers to an even greater day when, at last, the King of the Universe will escort His Bride over the threshold (the Jordan River) as the couple settles down in the Promised Land for their one thousand year reign.
The Bride consists of those who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to obey Yahweh’s instructions. She is the one willing to come with child-like faith, bold enough to ask questions, humble enough to obey her husband’s instructions. She is the one who washes her robes of the filth of her own sin as well as that of a wicked and perverse generation. She feeds and clothes her household and reaches out to the spiritually and physically poor and needy. She rules with her Husband in purity and wakes early in the morning to see to her household. Proverbs 31 paints the portrait of her purity, purposefulness, and perfection. What a glorious return to the Land it will be when she is at last set free from the captivity of Egypt (the world’s systems and government) as well as Babylon (the unholy religious mixtures a.k.a. the doctrines and traditions of men).
The number 50 is significant, as it alludes to the yovel or jubilee year when all debts are cancelled and real estate in the Promise Land reverts back to its original owner. Five is the Hebrew number for grace; multiply it by ten, we get 50, or the year of release.
“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. (Leviticus 25:8-25:10)
This Torah portion is about identity. It is about intimate knowledge of who we are now in Yeshua as well as identifying with His people though out history. If we are the Bride, the Promised Land is our future home. After the Bride is escorted to the place the Bridegroom has prepared for her, she will present herself before the High Priest, arms laden with baskets full of gifts to express her deep gratitude to be counted among the faithful. The script for this divine appointment has already been written. Dressing all her wedding splendor, she will say to the High Priest and Bridegroom, with a heart overflowing with wondrous awe and gratitude:
My father was a wandering Aramaean, and he went down with a small number of people into Egypt; there he became a great and strong nation. And the Egyptians were cruel to us, crushing us under a hard yoke. And our cry went up to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord’s ear was open to the voice of our cry, and his eyes took note of our grief and the crushing weight of our work. And the Lord took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and a stretched-out arm, with works of power and signs and wonders. And he has been our guide to this place, and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now, I have come here with the first of the fruits of the earth which you, O Lord, have given me. (Deuteronomy 26:5-10)
Notice the language. “My father was a wandering Aramaen.” She will not say, the patriarchs were wandering Aramaens, or Abraham was an Aramaen, or the Jews’ father was an Aramaen. She will say my Father was an Aramaen. Why this language? Why is it necessary to make this identification? Because, it was the house of Jacob, the seed of Abraham, that was betrothed on Mount Sinai.
… All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy. Genesis 46:27
… The LORD called to [Moses]out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession [Hebrew: am segulah] among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.“ (Exodus 19:3-6)
Because “God so loved the world,” the House of Jacob was a mixed-multitude that came out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38). It was from the beginning, always was, and always will be that “whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) In Hebrew thinking, to believe is to hear and obey. Israel was always meant to be one body from every tongue and tribe, of one Spirit, obeying one set of instructions for both the “native and the stranger that dwells with you.” (see Exodus 12:49, Numbers. 15:16,29, Isaiah 56:1-9). Altogether, there are twenty one references to the “House of Jacob” in the Tanach [Old Testament] and it would be well worth the reader’s time to investigate each of them. But, for the sake of time, we will now look at the single use of this phrase found in the Renewed Covenant [New Testament]—and it should grip our attention.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus [Hebrew: Yeshua, literally “savior” or “salvation”]. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:30-33
Friends, the kingdom of Messiah is the House of Jacob. This does not surprise those who are beginning to understand Israel’s betrothal to the Bridegroom on Mount Sinai, but, it can be a bit unsettling to those who believe grace came only with the advent of Yeshua. “If you are Messiah’s, you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) We are called the “house of Jacob” because most of us are, or at least were, just like our father, Jacob, in that we are or have been deceivers and manipulators who make trouble for ourselves and people around us due to presumption, impetuosity, and general lack of knowledge of the Word of God and His wisdom.
However, Jacob’s desire was to walk like Abraham, uprightly before Yahweh. The KJV describes Jacob as a “plain man, dwelling in tents; but the marginal reading of Gen. 25:27 (KJV), describes Jacob as “a complete man, dwelling in tents.” Other versions that I consulted describe him as a “quiet man, who stayed near the tents.” The Hebrew word translated as “plain”, “complete,” and “quiet,” is tawm, which means gentle, upright, whole, and undefiled, according to Strong’s Concordance.
In the book of Jasher [referred to in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18], we learn that Noah’s son, Shem, who lived over 600 years [meaning that he lived until Jacob was approximately 50 years old], operated a “yeshiva,” or Torah school, where he taught his offspring. Jacob chose to be educated in the “tents of Shem” while Esau spent his time becoming a “mighty hunter.” This, I believe, is why Yahweh states, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated. “(Mal. 1:3, Romans 9:13). Though Jacob had many failings, he studied to show himself approved, a good workman not needing to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God. (2 Tim. 2:15). To those who may say, “but wait a minute, the Torah was not written until Mount Sinai, let me remind you that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God.” (John 1:1) It is my opinion that the Torah was given to Adam and Eve after their fall, if not before. Otherwise, how did Able know how to offer an acceptable sacrifice? And how did Noah know to bring seven pairs of the “clean” animals into the ark along with two pairs of the unclean? How did he know to sacrifice the clean rather than unclean?
After Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the LORD (Genesis 32:25), he was given the new name, Israel, meaning “prince with God,” “he who overcomes with God,” and “he who rules with God.” Thus, through wrestling with God, through trials and trouble, through sorrow and tribulation, the manipulator/deceiver became the overcomer. When Jacob arrived in Egypt at Joseph’s request, upon meeting Pharaoh, he stated, “The years of my wanderings have been a hundred and thirty; small in number and full of sorrow have been the years of my life, and less than the years of the wanderings of my fathers.” (Gen. 47:9) But, at the end of his life, God rewarded him with the desires of his heart. His beloved Joseph was restored to him and his final seventeen years were lived in peace, safety, and prosperity.
When all is said and done, the house of Jacob, the Bride, will be comprised of former deceivers/ manipulators who wrestle with God and eventually, through trouble and tribulation, are transformed into overcomers who rule with God (see Rev. 2 and 3). She will learn how to overcome by intently and diligently eating the unleavened Bread of Life, chewing and meditating on God’s word daily from Genesis to Revelation. By doing so, she will discover truth, overcome her fleshly desires, throw off man-made religious yokes, and learn to walk as Yeshua walked, keeping the commandments of His Father. This Israel, this overcomer, is the one new man, Jew and [former] Gentile, walking together in Yeshua, one body, one Spirit, one Torah, in glorious unity, loving each other and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This Bride, like Ruth, gladly forsakes her own identity and takes on that of her husband.
The high point of the book of Deuteronomy is the Renewal of the Covenant made on Mount Sinai with the Joshua Generation. Moses, aware of his imminent death, painstakingly reviews Israel’s history, recounting the Bridegroom’s instructions on Mount Sinai, as well as Israel’s victories, failures, and consequences in the wilderness. Moses pleads passionately with the Joshua generation before leading them to the altar to renew the wedding vows their forefathers made. We are not privileged to peek under the huppah and actually listen in; but, afterwards, Moses charges them with their responsibilities and reminds them of their promises:
[to the Bride:] “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession [am segulah], as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.” (Deut. 26:16-19)
In keeping with His promise to establish the bride “in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations” the Bridegroom gushes over her with extravagant promises (Deut. 28:1-14), for every area of her life, to do her good wherever she goes, to bless her children and their children to a thousand generations, to bless all the work of her hands, to protect her from all of her enemies, to provide an abundance of every good thing, including rain and wealth, so that she is always lending, never borrowing. Moreover, He promises to display His treasured people [am segulah, literally “king’s jewels”] before the nations, so that they will gasp and declare, “What great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all His Torah? (see Deut. 4:7,8) Lastly, and, finally, to sum it all up, He promises that the Bride will always be the head and not the tail, if only she will obey:
if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (Deut. 28:13,14)
What more could He possibly offer? Ah, but, lest the Bride fail to take this high and holy privilege very, very seriously, the extraordinary promises of blessing are followed by dire warnings of extraordinary consequences of curses should she fall into the hands of other lovers and walk in the ways of the pagans. Punishment for adultery would include poverty, bitter slavery, every sickness imaginable, lasting famine resulting in even cannibalism, and finally, exile. (see Deuteronomy 28:14-68).
As we studied last week, Jeroboam’s House of Israel, under the reign of his nineteen successors who clung tenaciously to the doctrines and traditions of Jeroboam, was finally carried off into Assyria and scattered throughout the world around 740BC. The faith practiced by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was utterly lost to them and they were assimilated among the heathen, effectively becoming gentiles. The Bible is silent about the treatment that the Northern Kingdom received at the hands of their captors; but, we get a clue when a few centuries later, the ambassador of the Assyrian King Sennacherib warned King Hezekiah of Judah that he and his subjects were doomed to ” eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?” (2 Kings: 18:27) Archaeological discoveries of Assyrian ruins have revealed horribly cruel practices, including slicing off limbs of their captives, impaling, and beheading them.
So influential was Jeroboam’s leaven, Judah the Southern Kingdom was corrupted by it, as well, and, ultimately, was taken captive in 586 BC by the King of Babylon where she would remain in exile for seventy years. It is painful to read the account found in the book of Lamentations; but before their exile, the curses we read in today’s Torah portion became a horrific reality:
…the beasts of the waste land have full breasts, they give milk to their young ones [but] the daughter of my people has become cruel like the ostriches in the waste land. The tongue of the child at the breast is fixed to the roof of his mouth for need of drink: the young children are crying out for bread, and no man gives it to them. Those who were used to feasting on delicate food are wasted in the streets: those who as children were dressed in purple are stretched out on the dust. For the punishment of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of Sodom, which was overturned suddenly without any hand falling on her…Their face is blacker than night; in the streets no one has knowledge of them: their skin is hanging on their bones… Those who have been put to the sword are better off than those who [are starving] for these come to death slowly, burned up like the fruit of the field. The hands of kind-hearted women have been boiling their children; they were their food in the destruction of the daughter of my people. The Lord has given full effect to his passion, he has let loose his burning wrath; he has made a fire in Zion… To the kings of the earth and to all the people of the world it did not seem possible that the attackers and the haters would go into the doors of Jerusalem. It is because of the sins of her prophets and the evil-doing of her priests, by whom the blood of the upright has been drained out in her. They are wandering like blind men in the streets, they are made unclean with blood, so that their robes may not be touched by men…Our eyes are still wasting away in looking for our false help: we have been watching for a nation unable to give salvation.(Lamentations 4:3-17)
Note that the kings of the earth never dreamed that Jerusalem would be penetrated. Yahweh had shown His power and might over and over to the nations that came against Judah. Her corrupt priests and false prophets, as well, believed that God would not dare allow “the place” where He chose to place His great name (Deut. 12:5,11,14 see also Nehemiah 1:9) to be violated. To their way of thinking, the glorious Temple that Solomon built, the jewel of the whole earth, would stand forever. What they failed to understand is that the jewel that Yahweh desires most is not a Temple made by human hands; it is His people walking in holiness, collectively creating a sanctuary in which He will dwell in their hearts. Yahweh’s name is more than a label; it is His very authority to rule. After centuries of numerous attempts through the holy prophets to bring Judah to teshuva (repentance), it became clear she would not bow to the authority of the Holy One of Israel. The Bridegroom was left with no choice. The Holy Spirit of God departed His beloved Zion, and the king of Babylon entered the city.
And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siege works all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city… But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon. In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the [Temple] of the LORD and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. 2 Kings 25:1-11
A similar thing happened in 70 A.D., when Titus utterly destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, with loss of life over at over one million people and nearly 100,000 enslaved. No wonder Yeshua wept over the city and cried, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed the prophets and have stoned the messengers who were sent to you. I have often wanted to gather your people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you wouldn’t let me.” (Mat. 23:37)
The religious leaders of His day were certain that Rome would not dare to destroy Herod’s magnificent temple. Like their ancestors before them, they lacked ears to hear John the Baptist’s and Yeshua’s messages: “REPENT! For the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” and “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” (see Mat. 3:2, 4:17) According to the view of a well-known modern day Orthodox rabbi, baseless hatred was so prevalent among the Jewish people in that day, that the Temple was destroyed for that very reason.
“This dreadful self inflicted wound had infected the Jewish people and ultimately brought about the destruction of the Second Temple. The Talmud bears record to this spiritual decay, and declares that this national tragedy reached its height exactly 40 years prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. It was during this turbulent time that murders became so widespread that the Sanhedrin ceased to adjudicate capital crimes such as homicide… The Jewish judicial system was not set up for a lawless society where murder among the people of Israel was widespread. It is for this reason, and under these deplorable conditions, that the glory of the Temple was dimmed, the miracles in the sanctuary ceased, and the Sanhedrin withdrew itself from adjudicating capital punishment.”
We can surmise from this that brotherly love had all but ceased to exist among the Jewish people in Yeshua’s day and afterwards. Perhaps that is why He focused so much on the injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mat. 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27) a direct quote from the Torah (Lev. 19:18). Think of His parable of the “Good Samaritan” wherein the priest and the Levite both passed by one of their own countrymen who lay nearly dead in the road, while the Samaritan half-breed, much hated by the Jews, not only stopped to help; but paid for the victim’s full recovery out of his own pocket. (Luke 10:3 ff) Note also, that only the church of Philadelphia “brotherly love” is the only one that is promised to be preserved in the Great Tribulation (Revelation 3:10)
Yeshua sums up His Father’s instructions for mankind in one simple statement, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the [Torah] and the Prophets.” (Mat. 7:12) When asked by a lawyer who tried to trick Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Yeshua answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat. 22:36-40)
In light of Yeshua’s statement, those who say the Torah has been nailed to the cross are really saying the Golden Rule was nailed to the cross. They are really saying that after Yeshua’s death it is no longer necessary to love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. Those who say that Torah is only for the Jews are really saying that only the Jews should love God and be kind to their neighbors and brothers. Obviously, this is foolishness. The Torah is eternal; the Word of God endures forever and it was given for all mankind; because “God so loved the world”!
The woes that Isaiah pronounced cited cruelty and oppression to widows and orphans as the straw that broke the Father’s back:
You people are in for trouble! You have made cruel and unfair laws that let you cheat the poor and needy and rob widows and orphans. But what will you do when you are fiercely attacked and punished by foreigners? Where will you run for help? Where will you hide your valuables? How will you escape being captured or killed? The Lord is still angry, and he isn’t through with you yet! The Lord says: I am furious! And I will use the king of Assyria as a club to beat down you godless people. I am angry with you, and I will send him to attack you. He will take what he wants and walk on you like mud in the streets.
Isaiah 10:1-6 CEV
Over and over, in the book of Deuteronomy, 43 times, including this week’s portion, the Torah pleads the case for the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the Levite. He makes it perfectly clear that His eyes are upon the poor and the needy (Deut 14:29, 16:4,11,24:16,19-21,26:12-13). Remember, friends, Deuteronomy is the book most quoted by Yeshua.
It is the heart that is sincerely concerned over his brother and his neighbor that Yahweh is seeking. God saw Abraham and Sarah’s penchant for hospitality. Theirs would be the perfect union to bring forth a nation to radiate His loving kindness. Did you ever notice the verse which says, “…Abraham heard My voice, kept my charge, and obeyed My statutes, ordinances, and laws”? (Gen. 26:5) Abraham’s deeds of hospitality were in perfect alignment with God’s instructions. God knew Abraham would instruct his entire family how to love their brothers and neighbors. Of course, there were many failures, Abraham’s lie that Sarah was not his wife, Jacob’s deception of Esau, and Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery, to name a few, are hardly good examples of loving our neighbor as ourselves. But, in the end, love won out, repentance was made and forgiveness granted. Joseph pictures Yeshua, the ultimate example of laying down his life for his brothers.
Reminiscent of Moses on Mount Sinai, Yeshua sat down on the Mount of the Beatitudes (Mat 5:1-7:29) and explained in practical terms what it looks like to be the light of the world, to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven. Don’t suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a period or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen. If you reject even the least important command in the [Torah] and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom. You must obey God’s commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don’t, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven
.”(Mat 5:16-20) CEV
Yeshua taught them that murder and adultery, both capital crimes, begin in the heart and that if we hold a grudge toward a brother or neighbor, or lust after his wife, we are not only guilty, we are absolutely wasting our time to bring a gift to the altar to worship the Father. To observe Torah, the way it was meant to be utilized, is to bring the love of the Father into our families, neighborhoods, cities, and counties by way of feeding and clothing the needy, visiting the sick, bereaved, and lonely, reaching out with arms of love and assistance, and, if need be, emptying our pockets in the process. We are to have equal weights and measures. We are not to move our neighbor’s boundary stone or favor the rich. We are to be honest in our dealings. We are to elect righteous officials. We are to protect the helpless. We are to assist our neighbor in getting his donkey out of the ditch. These are the “weightier matters.” Yeshua castigated the Pharisees for tithing mint and cumin while stealing widow’s houses; for parading their tzittzits and phylacteries and saying long-winded pretentious prayers while neglecting mercy and justice. (see Mat. 23, Luke 6 and 11)
The wedding vows renewed, it would seem that Moses would be joyful. But, in anguish, he cries, “But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deut. 29:4)
Many years later, Isaiah would declare of Judah,
The Lord says, “These people worship me with their mouths and honor me with their lips. But their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is based on rules made by humans… The wisdom of their wise people will disappear. The intelligence of their intelligent people will be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:13-14)
When Yeshua came on the scene, he repeated Isaiah’s accusation:
“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans. You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.’ He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions! For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a person tells his father or mother that whatever he might have used to help them is corban (that is, an offering to God), he no longer has to do anything for his father or mother.’ Because of your traditions you have destroyed the authority of God’s word. And you do many other things like that.” (Mark 7:6-13)
Just like Jeroboam, the Pharisees and rabbis had made their own rules and laws. They added doctrines and traditions to the Torah to try to keep people from sinning. Modern Judaism claims their rules are the “Oral Torah” given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Of this, the majority of Christianity is ignorant. Thus, when the average church member reads Yeshua’s words, he wrongly believes Yeshua is castigating the religious leaders for observing Torah, rather than the man-made rabbinical rules contained in the Talmud. For example, the rabbis eventually layered a mountain of 1500 rules over our Father’s command to keep the Sabbath holy, whereas, Yeshua said, “My burden is easy; my yoke is light.” His yoke is His Father’s instructions.
But, the thing that offended Yeshua most of all was the rabbinical prohibition that forbid Jews to fellowship with gentiles. The rabbis saw gentiles as common and unclean. It is this doctrine of man to which Peter refers when entering the home of Cornelius. “And he said to them, You yourselves have knowledge that it is against the law for a man who is a Jew to be in the company of one who is of another nation; but God has made it clear to me that no man may be named common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) This is what the Holy Spirit showed Peter in regard to the sheet coming down filled with all type of four-footed animals. Peter never saw it as an invitation or license to eat unclean animals. In fact, he was aghast at the mere suggestion, exclaiming: “No, LORD, I have never eaten that which is unclean!” When re-telling the story in Jerusalem, he summed it up by saying, “And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.” (Acts 11:12) The Spirit showed Peter that the gates of Heaven were open to receive gentiles who would likewise grow with the rest of the saints into a Holy Temple. Paul also understood this:
But now in [Messiah Yeshua] you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of [Messiah]… And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [the exiles] and peace to those who were near [the Jews]. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God [Israel], built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, [Messiah Yeshua] himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Eph. 2:11-13, 17-22, (brackets mine)
At the end of the book of Isaiah, having been shown the destruction of both kingdoms, one wholly swallowed up by the nations into which they would be sown, the other bound in future captivity in Babylon, the prophet pleads with Yahweh for restoration:
Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Your holy people held possession for a little while; our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary. We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name.
The Northern Kingdom became “like those who are not called by Your name .” In other word, gentiles. Hosea said it another way (Hosea 1:9) “Lo ami.” Not a people. But, Paul proclaims the mysterious conclusion. The King of the Universe allowed it all, so that He could make known the riches of His glory to us! Friends, we are vessels of mercy prepared for glory!
“…God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.‘” (Rom. 9:23-26)
Friends, can you see it? Is it fully dawning on you that if YOU are being stirred to read your bible and to keep the commandments of God, that YOU are the “vessels of mercy prepared for glory”? We have the opportunity to be the “sons of the living God” that the King of the Universe has been waiting for, longing for, since He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden! Do you recall the fantastic, stupendous, unbelievable, and undeserved opportunity that was laid in Jeroboam’s lap, which he totally squandered? What will YOU do with this fantastic, stupendous, unbelievable, and undeserved opportunity that is laid in your lap? Will you see the rich promises and the unfathomable grace being poured out on YOU? Will you study to show yourself approved, a good disciple, rightly dividing the word of God? Will you throw away everything else in order to win the prize?
Yeshua said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)
Beloved, the King is in the field, drawing near to the crop He is growing into a Holy Temple. Go to Him, confess, and make teshuva! Ask Him to write His truth upon your heart and to strengthen you to walk His narrow way. Until next week, shalom!
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