Friday, January 27, 2017

The Ketuvim--Yeshua is There!

We have been journeying through the Old Testament to find Jesus.  We have done just that: through His name, Yeshua ("salvation") we see how Jesus is a tender whisper throughout the Old Testament when the word yeshua is used to express salvation and deliverance.
   
If God implements the completion of His salvation plan with His Son, then you would not expect Jesus to just show up in the first century.  He would have been present throughout the unfolding of His Father's plan over the centuries as God chose His people and demonstrated His mercy and justice in the Jews and through the Jews.

Satan was cast out of heaven due to his overweening pride; since then, he has never cease to hound God's children.  He has been especially merciless to the Jewish people.  Satan has never had a shortage of willing human participants to join him in his slaughter campaign.

My deep respect for the Jewish people comes from their never-ending search for meaning.  Instead of viewing God as capricious, foul-tempered and unruly (just ask the Greeks and the Mesopotamians about their gods!), they sought Him and He sought them.  They then sang, wrote and prayed about this God, Yahweh, Adonai, Elohim, Who had revealed Himself to them.  They viewed history not as an never-ending cycle (ask the Greeks) but as a progression, with God as their Good Shepherd leading them on.

The finest king, whose golden rule of Israel also echoed of the Messiah to come, was David.  Despite all of his faults and sins, God loved Him and revealed Himself to him.

Let me draw an analogy here.  Sometimes I see God as the night sky in the mountains. Our sky right now is clear, black and the nights are so cold that the stars barely twinkle.  If I get out of my car, or all the lights have been running in the house, I look up and don't see many stars. My eyes are not acclimated to the dim light of a deep winter night in Idaho.  I don't stand outside and get acclimated, for it's 15 or 20 degrees outside.  But last night, I turned all of the lights in the house off, and stood, looking outside my dining room window.  The stars slowly came into view as my eyes adjusted.  I wanted to go outside and see the Milky Way, but it was too cold.

Whether I am looking up at the night sky or not, whether I am inside or outside, whether I see a few stars or bear the cold and stand outside long enough for all of them come into view, the night sky is still there.  It displays its beauty whether I am there or not.  I can stand in awe-struck wonder at its beauty or I can go to bed.

This is the beauty of the relationship between the Jewish people and God.  His beauty was there for them to enjoy, be awe-struck by and amazed.  Or when they weren't interested, for the burden of the Covenant had become too great for them, and they spiritually went to bed, God was still there, year after year, generation after generation.  He never stopped loving them.

He never stops loving us.  But He whispers.  He never shouts.  He guides.  He never pushes.  He coaxes, never compels.  He loves, never manipulates.  That is why the Old Testament and His working with His people is so lovely to read and behold the events that unfold.  He is faithful to His promises and to us:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord. (Lam. 3:22-26)

This was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah. Even in the midst of utter heartbreak, the Jews gave meaning to the chaos they had witnessed.

Let us close our journey with a celebration of where Jesus' name is heard in the verb, yesha, or is a noun, yeshua, echoing in the Ketuvim ("Writings"), that section of the Old Testament that includes the Psalms.  David authored many of the Psalms and he gloried in his Lord.  Let us always do the same. In these troubling times, the Word of God (Jesus) is needed more than ever!

Oh, that yeshua for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! (Ps. 14:7)

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my yesha, my stronghold. (Ps. 18:2)

We will rejoice in thy yeshua, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions. (Ps. 20:5)

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my yesha; on thee do I wait all the day. (Ps. 25:5)

The LORD is my light and my yesha--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1)

But God is my King from long ago; he brings yeshua on the earth. (Ps. 74:12)

Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his yeshua day after day. (Ps. 96:2)

The LORD has made known His yeshua;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the yeshua of our God. (Ps. 98:2-3)

I will clothe her priests with yesha, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy. (Ps. 132:16)

O GOD the Lord, the strength of my yeshua, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. 
(Ps. 140:7)

For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with yeshua. (Ps. 149:4)

Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.








Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is the God of the Old Testament Harsh?

In our search of the Old Testament, to find Yeshua, we have come to the end of the Neviim ("Prophets") with this post.  I have been so enriched as I journey with you on this. I didn't know where it would take us, but my prayer is that your faith has been enriched as well!  We will journey through the Ketuvim ("Writings") next.

It is significant that Jesus quoted from all three divisions (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim) of the Old Testament--the only Bible that He had.  He didn't quote from every book but quoting from each division is representative of the whole.

It grieves me when Christians make statements such as, "The God of the Old Testament is harsh, but the God of the New Testament is loving and kind."  What?  The God of the Old Testament is the Father of Jesus, and Jesus Himself.  This sentiment shows a woefully inadequate understanding of the Old Testament and of God Himself.  If anything, we are the harsh ones, with murder being the first act once our parents left the Garden.  Brother killing brother, no less.

The OT chronicles rape, murder, manipulation, incest, child sacrifice and unethical warfare...all done by us.  Perhaps it's easier to focus on God's reactions to our sin than to focus on why He reacted the way He did.

Yes, to our modern sensibilities, slaughtering the Canaanites seems harsh and unfair; but they engaged in child sacrifice and sexual immortality.  Just because our reaction to sin is blunted should in no way lessen God's response.  Raining down sulphur and fire onto Sodom and Gommorah seems harsh; but what about the negotiation between Abraham and the angel for its salvation if even one righteous person could be found?  This was a town where citizens were eager to gang rape guests, a clear violation of hospitality and morality.  We are angry about prisoner rape in our penal system and want justice for the victims, yet we label God harsh when He dispenses justice.

As I read the OT in the light of Jesus' shadowy presence, I see every effort being made to redeem mankind.  Our species could have had a very short stay on this planet after our first parents rebelled. God could have seen them right back into the dust, then and there.  But He covered their naked bodies with the skin of an innocent animal, and sent them out into a world where the seasons would allow for food to be cultivated and they would survive.

Look at all the covenants made between God and His people.  Clearly stated agreements where God will be present and providing if His children continue to be obedient are strongly affirmed throughout the OT.  His children violated the agreements constantly, but even in the midst of punishment, He preserved His children and He restored them to their land and to their lives.

Why?  Not because the God of the OT is vengeful and harsh but because He loves us.  His own Son is the very embodiment of that redemptive desire that God possesses for His children.  Let's look at the final three verses in the Neviim that speak loudly to God's desire to redeem His people and how His Son is named in that very desire.

Micah 7:7-9 declares: "Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation (yesha): my God will hear me.  Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.  I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness."

If God is as harsh as many Christians claim, then how could Micah have such assurance?  It is because of God's character.  Micah bases his confidence not on what he sees but Who he is keeping his eyes on.  God's character is one of justice and mercy.  Micah knows that salvation is coming because while God will punish sin, He loves His people enough to withdraw His hand when enough justice has been dispensed.  Because God loves His people with an everlasting love, punishment itself is temporary.

Jesus, Yeshua, when He came, demonstrated that same principle.   Because He bore the sins of mankind, His Father's judgement was deep and severe; but even death could not hold Jesus down.  He arose, gloriously restored and ascended into the Father's arms.  So, even though the penalty for sin was death, God in His love allowed His Son to pay the price and set us free.  

In Habakkuk 3:13, the prophet declares: "Thou wentest forth for the salvation (yesha) of thy people, even for salvation (yesha) with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck." (KJV) 

In the NIV, the meaning of this verse is a bit clearer:  "You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot."  

God saves His people, pure and simple.  Habakkuk saw God come down and take out the enemies of His people and save the Davidic king ("the anointed one").  Here I see two references to the Messiah and how God wants to save and preserve His people, despite the fearsome armies that descend upon His people:  One is that salvation is from God Himself.  Secondly, He has not forgotten to preserve the Davidic line through which Yeshua (the ultimate Deliverer and King) will come.  

Charles Swindoll's Insight for Living Ministries webpage puts it beautifully:

"Habakkuk’s prophecy was directed to a world that, through the eyes of God’s people, must have seemed on the edge of disaster. Even when the northern kingdom had been destroyed in 722 BC, God’s people remained in Judah. However, with another powerful foreign army on the rampage, faithful people like Habakkuk were wondering what God was doing. Hadn’t He given the land to His people? Would He now take it away? Habakkuk’s prayer of faith for the remainder of God’s people in the face of such destruction still stands today as a remarkable witness of true faith and undying hope." (https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/habakkuk)

So, in the midst of evil and wondering where God is, Jesus' name echoes in the verse.

Finally, the day of the Lord's Anointed--the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah--will come. Zechariah 9:9 proclaims:  "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."

Jesus' ride into Jerusalem, a week before His death, is rich with meaning.  In fact, He sent His disciples to obtain that foal, knowing because of the OT, it would be there, waiting for Him.  

Yeshua brought salvation, is salvation and fulfills God's redemptive plan.  He came humbly to His people, offering grace and mercy.  But He will come again to dispense justice.  His work is being done, but He will not endure the cries of victims and the laughter of the evil ones forever.

Harsh?

No. Just...just.















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