Eliyahu ~ Part 5

In my last post, we explored A Miraculous Resurrection in 1 Kings 17:17-24. In this post, we learn of God Ordering Eliyahu Back into Enemy Territory in 1 Kings 18:1-15.

Mission Impossible

Oh, no, Lord, why are you sending me back to King Ach’av? He will undoubtedly have me murdered! Why now? God had an important, but a positive message for Eliyahu to give to King Ach’av ~ the rain is coming.

1 A long time passed. Then, in the third year, the word of Adonai came to Eliyahu: “Go, present yourself to Ach’av, and I will send rain down on the land.” 2 When Eliyahu went to present himself to Ach’av, the famine in Shomron had become severe. 3 Ach’av called ‘Ovadyah, who was in charge of the palace. Now ‘Ovadyah greatly revered Adonai; 4 for example, when Izevel was murdering Adonai’s prophets, ‘Ovadyah took a hundred prophets, hid them in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 5 Ach’av said to ‘Ovadyah, “Go throughout the land, and check all the springs and vadis; maybe we can find grass somewhere so that we can keep the horses and mules alive and not lose all the animals.” 6 So they divided between them the territory to be visited; Ach’av went one way by himself, and ‘Ovadyah went another way by himself.

7 ‘Ovadyah was on the road when suddenly Eliyahu encountered him. ‘Ovadyah recognized him, fell on his face and said, “Is it really you, my lord Eliyahu?” 8 He answered, “Yes, it is I; go, tell your master, ‘Eliyahu is here.’” 9 Ovadyah replied, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ach’av to kill me? 10 As Adonai your God lives, there can’t be a single nation or kingdom where my master hasn’t sent to search you out; and in each kingdom or nation where they said, ‘He isn’t here,’ he made them take an oath that they hadn’t found you. 11 Now you say, ‘Go tell your master, “Eliyahu is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of Adonai will carry you off to I don’t know where; so that when I come and tell Ach’av, and he can’t find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have revered Adonai from my youth — 13 wasn’t my lord told what I did when Izevel killed Adonai’s prophets, how I hid a hundred of Adonai’s prophets by fifties in caves and supplied their food and water? 14 Now you say, ‘Go tell your master, “Look, Eliyahu is here.”’ Why he’ll kill me!” 15 Eliyahu said, “As Adonai-Tzva’ot [Lord of Heaven’s Armies] lives, before whom I stand, I will present myself to him today.”  ~ 1 Kings 18:1-15 (CJB)

The Holman Christian Study Bible Notes says that:

“Chapter 18 describes one of history’s great power encounters between God and evil; it is comparable to the encounter between the Lord and the gods of Egypt before the Exodus. … The power encounter with Egypt freed the Israelites from physical bondage. One might expect that God’s confrontation with Ba’al freed Israel from spiritual bondage, but it is hard to find evidence for this. Neither Ach’av nor Izebel repented. The moral life of the northern kingdom was not noticeably influenced. But we cannot know how much worse things would have gone for faith in Yahweh without this encounter. … Humanly speaking, without such manifestations of God’s power as these, the Hebrew faith might have perished long before the exile.”

For three years, Eliyahu had hidden at the Vadi K’rit and then with the widow in Tzarfat, but now he was commanded to present himself to wicked King Ach’av. But along with God’s command was God’s promise that He would send rain and end the drought that He had sent to punish the idolatrous nation for over three years. Waiting on God is one of the hardest things we can do. That means virtually doing nothing until He gives us the signal. Part of the genius of Eliyahu is that he did nothing until God gave the word.

‘Ovadyah encountered Eliyahu before Eliyahu ran into King Ach’av. He was a man of great authority, he was the administrator of the royal palace as well as steward and supervisor of whatever estates the king possessed. But was he a courageous servant of God (his name means “servant of Yah”) or a timid compromiser who was afraid to let his witness be known? The text informs us that ‘Ovadyah greatly revered Adonai, and proved it during Izebel’s purge of Israel’s prophets by risking his life to rescue and support one hundred prophets of the Lord. That doesn’t sound like a man who was compromising his testimony! Why should he tell the king and queen what he was doing for the Lord? The Lord had put ‘Ovadyah in the palace to use his God-given authority to support the faithful prophets at a time when openly serving the Lord was a dangerous thing.

Ovadyah was probably one of the seven thousand faithful men of God, of whom Eliyahu was unaware we will read about in 1 Kings. 19:18.

The Lord led Eliyahu to the road that ‘Ovadyah was using and the two men met. ‘Ovadyah had such reverence for Eliyahu and his ministry that he fell on his face on the earth and called him, “My lord, Eliyahu.” But Eliyahu’s aim was to confront wicked King Ahab, and he wasn’t about to go looking for him; so he commissioned ‘Ovadyah to tell the king where he was. We can understand ‘Ovadyah’s concern lest the king come back and not find the prophet. During the three years Ahab had been searching for Eliyahu, no doubt he had followed up many false leads, and Ahab wasn’t interested in wasting time and energy at such a critical point in the nation’s history. Furthermore, Ach’av might punish ‘Ovadyah or even suspect him of being a follower of Eliyahu’s God. But when Eliyahu assured the officer that he would remain there and wait for the king, ‘Ovadyah went off to give Ach’av the message.

Not all of God’s servants are supposed to be in the public eye like Eliyahu and the other prophets. God has His servants in many places, doing the work He’s called them to do. Nakdimon [Nicodemus] and Yosef of Ramatayim [Joseph of Arimathea] didn’t make a big fuss about their faith in Yeshua, yet God used them to give a proper burial to the body of the Messiah (John 19:38-42). Ester kept quiet about her Jewish heritage until it was absolutely necessary to use it to save the life of the nation. Over the centuries, there have been numerous believers who have kept a low profile and yet made great contributions

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:16-19. In this passage, we examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 4

In my last post, we explored The Obedience of Eliyahu and the Faith of a Goy in 1 Kings 8-16. In this post, we learn of A Miraculous Resurrection in 1 Kings 17:17-24.

A Miraculous Resurrection

17 A while later, the son of the woman whose house it was fell ill; his illness grew increasingly serious until his breathing stopped. 18 She said to Eliyahu, ‘What do you have against me, you man of God? Did you come to me just to remind me how sinful I am by killing my son?’ 19 ‘Give me your son,’ he said to her. Taking him from her lap, he carried him into the room upstairs where he was staying and laid him on his own bed. 20 Then he cried out to Adonai: ‘Adonai my God! Have you brought also this misery on the widow I’m staying with by killing her son?’ 21 He stretched himself out on the child three times and cried out to Adonai: ‘Adonai my God, please! Let this child’s soul come back into him!’ 22 Adonai heard Eliyahu’s cry, the child’s soul came back into him, and he revived. 23 Eliyahu took the child, brought him down from the upstairs room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Eliyahu said, ‘See? Your son is alive.’ 24 The woman replied to Eliyahu, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of Adonai that you speak is the truth.’” ~1 Kings 17:17-24 (CJB)

This is the first recorded instance in Scripture of the resurrection of a dead person. The evidence seems clear that the widow’s son actually died and didn’t just faint. He stopped breathing, and his soul left his body. According to James 2:26, when the soul departs, the person is dead. The great distress of both the mother and the prophet would suggest that the boy was killed, and both of them used the word “killing” concerning the event.

The mother’s response was to feel guilty because of her past sins. She believed that her son’s death was God’s way of punishing her for her misdeeds. It isn’t unusual for people to feel guilty in connection with mourning, but why would she point her finger at Eliyahu? She recognized Eliyahu as a man of God, and perhaps she thought his presence in the home would protect her and her son from trouble. Her words remind us of the question of the talmidim asked Yeshua, “Rabbi, who sinned — this man or his parents — to cause him to be born blind?” ~ John 9:2 (CJB)

Eliyahu’s response was to carry the boy to his upstairs room and to cry out to the Lord for the life of the child. He couldn’t believe that the Lord would miraculously provide food for the three of them and then allow the son to die. It just didn’t make sense.

Eliyahu didn’t stretch himself out on the boy’s dead body in hopes he could transfer his life to the boy, for he knew that only God could impart life to the dead. Indeed, his posture indicated total identification with the boy and his need, and this is an essential factor when we intercede for others. It was after Eliyahu stretched himself on the child for the third time that the Lord raised him from the dead, a reminder that our own Savior arose from the dead on the third day.

The result of this miracle was the woman’s public confession of her faith in the God of Israel. She now knew for sure that Eliyahu was a true servant of God and not just another religious teacher looking for some support. She also knew that the Word he had taught her was indeed the Word of the true and living God.

During the time he lived with the widow and her son, Eliyahu had shown them that God sustains life (the meal and oil didn’t run out) and that God imparts life (the boy was raised from the dead).

This miracle teaches us three crucial lessons:

  1. not all illness is the result of sin;
  2. God has power over sickness and death; and
  3. the purpose of the signs is to produce faith in the God’s Word.

Eliyahu hadn’t been in public ministry for a long time, yet his private ministry to the woman and her son was just as essential both to the Lord and to them. Eliyahu had proved the power of God in Ba’al’s home territory, so he was now ready to challenge and defeat Ba’al in the kingdom of Israel.

During these three years as an exile and a hunted man (18:10), Eliyahu has learned a great deal about the Lord, about himself and the needs of people. He has learned to live a day at a time, trusting God for his daily bread. For three years, people have been asking, “Where is the prophet Eliyahu?” Is he able to do anything to ease the burdens we carry because of this drought? But the Lord is more concerned about the worker than the work, and He has been preparing Eliyahu for the most significant challenge of faith in his entire ministry.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:1-15. In this passage, Eliyahu is ordered by God to return to Ach’av and meets up with ‘Ovadyah, who oversaw Ach’av’s palace.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 3

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s prophesy of an extended drought in Israel and his being instructed by God to hide at the Vadi K’rit near the Yarden. In this post, we learn how he helped a widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

The Obedience of Eliyahu and the Faith of a Goy (Gentile)

8 Then this word of Adonai came to him: 9 ‘Get up; go to Tzarfat, a village in Tzidon; and live there. I have ordered a widow there to provide for you.’ 10 So he set out and went to Tzarfat. On reaching the gate of the city, he saw a widow there gathering sticks. He called out to her, ‘Please bring a little water in a container for me to drink.’ 11 As she was going to get it, he called after her, ‘Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.’ 12 She answered, ‘As Adonai your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a pot and a little oil in the jug. Here I am, gathering a couple sticks of wood so that I can go and cook it for myself and my son. After we have eaten that, we will die.’ 13 Eliyahu said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go, and do what you said; but first, use a little of it to make me a small loaf of bread; and bring it out to me. After that, make food for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what Adonai the God of Isra’el, says: ‘The pot of meal will not get used up, nor will there fail to be oil in the jug, until the day Adonai sends rain down on the land.’ 15 She went and acted according to what Eliyahu had said; and she, he and her household had food to eat for a long time. 16 The pot of meal did not get used up, nor did there fail to be oil in the jug, in fulfillment of the word of Adonai spoken through Eliyahu.” ~ 1 Kings 17:8-16 (CJB)

After Vadi K’rit near the Yarden dried up, God told Eliyahu to leave. God’s instructions may have shocked the prophet, for the Lord commanded him to travel northeast about a hundred miles to Tzarfat, a village in Tzidon. God was sending Eliyahu into Gentile territory. Tzarfat was not too far from Izevel’s home city of Tzidon. He would be living in enemy territory!

Yeshua Himself gave a theologically proper interpretation of this passage that God sent His messenger with beneficial signs and wonders to a Goy. It’s true, I’m telling you — when Eliyahu was in Isra’el, and the sky was sealed off for three-and-a-half years, so that all the Land suffered a severe famine, there were many widows; 26 but Eliyahu was sent to none of them, only to a widow in Tzarfat in the land of Tzidon.” Luke 4:25-26 (CJB) God’s witness through signs was not given to Israelites alone.

Even more, he was instructed to live with a widow whom God had ordered to provide for him, and widows were usually among the neediest people in the land. Since Tzidon depended on Israel for much of its food supply (1 Kings 5:9; Acts 12:20), food wouldn’t be too plentiful there.

But when God sends us, we must obey and leave the rest to Him, for we don’t live on man’s explanations ~ we live on God’s promises. ~ Warren Wiersbe

Note that the widow said: as Adonai your God lives. She readily discerned that Eliyahu was a Jew, but likely she probably worshiped Ba’al. We learn in 1 Kings 18:1 that it’s probable that Eliyahu remained with her for two years, and during that time, the widow and her son inevitably turned from the worship of idols and put their faith in the true and living God.

The woman’s assets were few: a little oil in a flask, a handful of meal (barley), and a few sticks to provide fuel for a fire. But Eliyahu’s assets were significant, for God Almighty had promised to take care of him, his hostess, and her son. Eliyahu gave her God’s promise that neither the jar of grain nor the flask of oil would be used up before the end of the drought and famine. God would one day send the rain, but until then, He would continue to provide bread for them ~ and He did.

Grain and oil were two of the major exports of the city of Tzarfat. The fact that they were in short supply is an indication of how severe the drought was. They are also two of the essential commodities for survival. The contest between God and Ba’al continues as God demonstrates that He can provide for “Ba’al’s people” in “Ba’al’s territory” just as quickly as He can provide for His people and just as soon as He can withhold from whomever He chooses.

This miraculous sign illustrated that God rewards faith and obedience, even that of a Gentile.

A couple of final thoughts on this passage. How did Eliyahu know that this widow was the one to whom God had instructed to provide for him? And, how did the widow realize it was Eliyahu was the person to care for? Note that in their brief dialogue both referred to Adonai the God of Israel. He confirmed this divine appointment.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu by looking at A Miraculous Resurrection in 1 Kings 17:17-24.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 2

In my last post, I introduced a new series dealing with the ministry of Eliyahu. We explored some background information on him as well as the other two main characters in this saga: King Ach’av and Queen Izevel. In this post, we will begin to explore the actual Biblical story of Eliyahu.

God Stops the Rain

Eliyahu from Tishbe, an inhabitant of Gil‘ad, said to Ach’av, ‘As Adonai the God of Isra’el lives, before whom I stand, there will be neither rain nor dew in the years ahead unless I say so.’” ~ 1 Kings 17:1 (CJB)

How would like to be in his shoes? Here he has a word from the Creator of the Universe that he is to go to the King and proclaim that there will be a drought for the years ahead unless I say so. Living in the San Joaquin Valley of California, I can certainly relate to this story. In recent years, we have experienced devastating drought conditions.

The people depended on the seasonal rains for the success of their crops. If the Lord didn’t send the early rain in October and November and the latter rain in March and April, there would soon be a famine in the land. But the blessing of the seasonal rains depended on the people obeying the covenant of the Lord. God warned the people that their disobedience would turn the heavens into bronze and the earth into iron (D’varim 28:23-24). The land belonged to the Lord, and if the people defiled the land with their sinful idols, the Lord wouldn’t bless them.

It’s likely that Eliyahu appeared before King Ach’av in October, about the time the early rains should have begun. There had been no rain for six months, from April to October, and the prophet announced that there would be no rain for the years ahead! The people were following Ba’al, not God, and the Lord could not send the promised rain and still be faithful to His covenant. God always keeps His covenant, whether to bless the people for their obedience or to discipline them for their sins.

God had held back the rain because of the fervent prayers of Eliyahu, and He would send the rain again in response to His servant’s intercession (see James 5:17-18). For the next three years, the word of Eliyahu would control the weather in Israel! The three and a half years of drought would prepare the people for the dramatic contest on Mount Carmel between the priests of Ba’al and the prophet of the Lord. Like a faithful servant, attentive to his master’s commands, Eliyahu stood before the Lord and served him. An extended drought announced and controlled by a prophet of God, would make it clear to everybody that Ba’al the storm god was not a real god at all.

R.T. Kendall makes this interesting observation on Eliyahu:

What strikes me most about Elijah is that he was both extraordinary and ordinary. He was spectacular ~ stating boldly, for example, that it would not rain until he gave the word; and there was not a drop of rain for three and a half years. Yet James noted that Elijah was a man “just like us” because he was so very, very human (James 5:17). Elijah took himself too seriously; he felt he was the only prophet around who was worth a grain of salt and fancied he was a cut above all before him. He was very human indeed. This is what makes a study of Elijah so thrilling. If God could use a man as human as Elijah was, there is hope for all of us! [1]

Eliyahu, Get Out of Town

After delivering this message to King Ach’av, Eliyahu received the following message:

2 Then the word of Adonai came to him: 3 ‘Leave here, turn to the east, and hide in Vadi K’rit near the Yarden. 4 You are to drink from the stream, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.’5 So he went and acted according to the word of Adonai ~ he went and lived in Vadi K’rit near the Yarden. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the stream. 7 After a while the stream dried up because there was no rain in the land.” 1 Kings 17:2-7 (CJB)

After Eliyahu left the king’s presence, Izevel probably instigated her campaign to wipe out the prophets of the Lord. As the drought continued and famine hit the land, Ach’av began his search for Eliyahu, the man he thought caused all the trouble. In one sense, Eliyahu did cause the drought, but it was the sins of Ach’av and Izevel that led the nation into disobeying God’s covenant and inviting His chastening.

The Lord had a special hiding place for His servant by a brook east of the Yarden, and He also had some unusual “servants” prepared to feed him. The Lord usually leads His faithful people a step at a time as they tune their hearts to His Word. God didn’t give Eliyahu a schedule to follow. Instead, He directed His servant at each critical juncture in his journey, and Eliyahu obeyed by faith.

At the Vadi K’rit, Eliyahu had safety and sustenance. Until it dried up, the brook provided water, and each morning and evening the ravens brought him bread and meat. The raven was considered “unclean” and “detestable” on the Mosaic list of forbidden foods (Leviticus 11:13-15), yet God used these birds to help sustain the life of His servant. The ravens didn’t bring Eliyahu the carrion that they were accustomed to eating, because such food would be unclean for a dedicated Jew. The Lord provided the food, and the birds provided the transportation! Just as God dropped the manna into the camp of Israel during their wilderness journey, so He sent the necessary food to Eliyahu as he waited for the signal to relocate.

We can’t be sure how long Eliyahu was at the Vadi K’rit, but we do know it must have been pretty lonely hiding out. What would you do with that kind of solitude? Personally, I much too gregarious to tolerate much seclusion. Sure, I like my quiet times, but usually, a half-day here or there will do.

Kendall observes that:

A person who is highly gifted needs to pray more than anyone. You develop intimacy with your heavenly Father. You develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. You get to know God’s ways. You and I are required to know essentially two things: God’s Word and His ways. You know His Word by reading the Bible. You know His ways by spending time with Him. [2]

As the drought grew worse, the brook dried up, leaving the prophet without water; but he never made a move until the Word of the Lord came to tell him what to do. It has well been said that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us and care for us, and Eliyahu knew this from experience.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu by looking at how he helped a widow in 1 Kings 17:8-15.

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[1] These Are the Days of Elijah by R.T. Kendall.

[2] Ibid.

Eliyahu (Elijah) ~ Part 1

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of the Letter to the Messianic Jews. In this post, I am starting a new series with a new format. I have never done a character study before, but I want to do one on the prophet Eliyahu (Eliyahu).

Introduction

Eliyahu ~ Who is this guy and what gives him the right to confront the King of Israel? Once you meet him, you’ll never forget him. He is best known for his confrontational leadership style and incredible spiritual victories, Eliyahu was characterized by an unwavering tenacity. Despite experiencing periods of fearfulness, hopelessness, and depression, Eliyahu remained steadfast. The result? God used him to tear down Israel’s alters and idols and change the moral and political landscape of his day. Eliyahu is one of the most unforgettable men of the Bible. On the one hand, he dared great exploits for God. On the other hand, he experienced fear, loneliness, and dark depression. Despite Eliyahu’s flaws, God used him mightily and took him to heaven before he died.

Background

We first meet Eliyahu (“I AM is my God”) in 1 Kings. Eliyahu from Tishbe, an inhabitant of Gil’ad, said to Ach’av (Ahab), ‘As Adonai the God of Isra’el lives, before whom I stand, there will be neither rain nor dew in the years ahead unless I say so.’” 1 Kings 17:1 (CJB). Other than being identified as a Tishbe from Gil’ad (Gilead), his parentage and early history are unknown. Gilead was located east of the Jordan River and settled by the tribes of Manasseh and/or Gad. Tishbe is situated near the Wadi Chorath.


Graphics courtesy of Wikipedia

Eliyahu shows up on the scene during the reign of King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel, we meet her in 1 Kings 19) in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in approximately 918-908 BCE.

My fascination with Eliyahu is best summoned up by this description by Henry H. Halley:

Elijah’s rare, sudden, and brief appearances, his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliance of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his reappearance with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration make him one of the grandest characters Israel ever produced. [1]

That doesn’t include my belief that Eliyahu is one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.

Before we get into an in-depth look at Eliyahu’s ministry, I want to lay a brief background of who he was dealing with in King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel). Six chapters are given to Ach’av’s reign, while most of the kings of Israel are covered in only part of one chapter. The reason is that the story of Ach’av is mostly the story of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was God’s answer to Ach’av and Izevel. God sent Eliyahu to eradicate Baalism, a cruel religion.

Ach’av

Ach’av is a good mystery, combining in himself qualities both good and evil, but, primarily evil. His life and reign include: his marriage to Izevel, a heathen princess; his alliance with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, by the marriage of his daughter Athaliah to Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, by which union the two kingdoms were brought into peaceful relations with one another for nearly eighty years; his building enterprises; his prowess and success in warfare; his attitude in the matter of Naboth and his vineyard; and his contacts with Eliyahu.

Izevels character was uniformly and consistently wicked, but Ahab’s was not. That he never abandoned the worship of God is seen in the names of some of his children: Ahaziah, ‘God supports’; Jehoram, ‘God is exalted’; Athaliah, ‘God is strong’; and in the fact that his attendant, Obadiah, was, both by name (‘worshipper of God’), and confession a servant of God. His sin was not that he forsook God for Baal, but that he tried to serve them both.

Like a football at training camp, he was tossed about between Izevel and Eliyahu, between what was wrong and what was right.

Izevel


Photo borrowed from Patrick Hawthorne from SGM.

Izevel must be reckoned among the wickedest of women; in a class with Potiphar’s wife and Lady Macbeth, and with all who have used their femininity to seduce, and to oppose and persecute truth and those who proclaim it. She was reckless, fierce, and licentious, fanatical and subtle; a proud heathen Canaanite, who, when she came into the stream of Israel’s history, cursed it beyond recovery. Her arrogance, her thirst for power and her heartless cruelty, have given her a unique place in history. So obsessed in her attempt at killing Eliyahu or other prophets, Eliyahu thought he was the only one left.

With this background information, in my next post, we will begin to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu.

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[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook, Deluxe Edition.

Request for Prayer, Personal References and Benedictions

Messianic Jews 13:18-25
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we explored the Warnings in Messianic Jews 13:7-17. In this post, we conclude our examination of Messianic Jews by studying a Request for Prayer, Personal References and Benedictions in Messianic Jews 13:18-25.

18 Keep praying for us, for we are certain that we have a clear conscience and want to conduct ourselves properly in everything we do. 19 And all the more I beg you to do this, so that I may be restored to you that much sooner. 

20 The God of shalom brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua, by the blood of an eternal covenant. 21 May God equip you with every good thing you need to do his will; and may He do in us whatever pleases Him, through Yeshua the Messiah. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 

22 Now I urge you, brothers, to bear with my message of exhortation; for I have written you only briefly. 23 Know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he comes soon enough, I will bring him with me when I come to see you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. The people from Italy send greetings to you. 25 Grace be with you all.” ~ Hebrews 13:18-25 (CJB)

The author requests his readers to pray that he be restored to them. Imprisonment may be preventing it (verses 18-19), and he offers a benediction for them (verse 21). He fixes the direction of his brief prayer by summing up the six key points of his letter:

  1. God is a God of shalom. By reconciling sinful humanity to Himself through Yeshua, God has taken the initiative in restoring peace, integrity, and wholeness.
  2. Yeshua has been brought up from the dead. He is alive, our cohen gadol forever making intercession for us at the right hand of God.
  3. Yeshua is the great Shepherd of the sheep, both Jews, and Gentiles. This is testified to in many references in the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah.
  4. Yeshua is our Lord (1:2-4, 8-13; 3:6), who disciplines us for our benefit (12:5-10) and expects obedience (5:9).
  5. Yeshua has come to have this role in God’s administration of world history because He gave his blood to atone for the sins of humanity (1:3, 2:9-15, 9:12-10:14).
  6. Through this blood, Yeshua also inaugurated an eternal covenant, the New Covenant (7:22, 8:5-13, 10:15-18), the Brit Hadashah promised by Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34).

Bear with my message of exhortation; for I have written you only briefly. This supports the idea that the author is summarizing a series of sermons he previously gave orally to some of the brothers.

Verses 23-24 lend weight to the theory that Sha’ul is the author of Messianic Jews; for although he spent his last days imprisoned in Italy (2 Timothy 4:6-8), by then his co-worker and brother in the Lord Timothy, who had at one time been jailed with him, had been released, so that Sha’ul could write 2 Timothy to him. On the other hand, I will bring him with me suggests that the author was not in prison when he wrote this letter but was free to move about. See my first post in this series here for my take on the authorship.

I will close with this admonition from the author of Messianic Jews:

“Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne from which God gives grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:16 (CJB)

In my next post, I am going to strive to do something I have never, ever done before. My posts (and past sermons) in the past have been thematic or verse-by-verse exegises. In my next series, I’m planning on doing a character study of Elijah. Depending on how that goes, I’ll probably move on to also do a character study of his protégé, Elisha.

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Exhortations and Warnings ~ Part 2

Messianic Jews 13:7-17
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we move on the final chapter of Messianic Jews were we study General Messianic Obligations in Messianic Jews 13:1-6. In this post, we explore the Warnings in Messianic Jews 13:7-17. [NOTE: This post is a little longer, but I did not want to break it up. You may want to click on the link below for the PDF version.]

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke God’s message to you. Reflect on the results of their way of life, and imitate their trust – 8 Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by various strange teachings; for what is good is for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods. People who have made these the focus of their lives have not benefited thereby. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve in the Tent are not permitted to eat. 11 For the cohen hagadol brings the blood of animals into the Holiest Place as a sin offering, but their bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 So too Yeshua suffered death outside the gate, in order to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Therefore, let us go out to Him who is outside the camp and share His disgrace. 14 For we have no permanent city here; on the contrary, we seek the one to come. 15 Through Him, therefore, let us offer God a sacrifice of praise continually. For this is the natural product of lips that acknowledge His name. 16 But don’t forget doing good and sharing with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your lives, as people who will have to render an account. So make it a task of joy for them, not one of groaning; for that is of no advantage to you.” ~ Messianic Jews 13:7-17 (CJB)

Stern writes that the references to your leaders in verse 7, 17 and 24 suggest that Chapter 13 was appended as a covering letter accompanying the summary of sermons constituting Chapters 1-12 and was addressed to individuals in the congregation whom the author knew personally. Perhaps they had heard him give this series of sermons orally and had requested a written summary from him. The Greek phrasing seems to imply that the leaders mentioned in this verse had died, perhaps as a result of persecution.

Imitate their trust. It should be more comfortable for the readers to emulate the faith of leaders they had known and loved than that of their distant forefathers (10:35-12:4). Compare Sha’ul at 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Try to imitate me.” The chief argument for imitating these leaders is the results of their way of life.

Verse 8 connects back to those who spoke God’s message to you.  The author implies that they acted on the message then but are forsaking it now. If Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever; if His sacrificial death remains the only true atonement; if holiness, without which no one will see the Lord,” (Messianic Jews 12:14) comes only through Him; then why are you slacking off or seeking other paths to God? Regain your former loyalty to Yeshua, and behave accordingly!

Moreover, Yeshua’s being the same yesterday, today and forever means that He is still Jewish and will return as a Jew. The Messiah has not been transformed into a Gentile. Yeshua was born a Jew, died a Jew and was resurrected as a Jew. He is a Jew now, serving in heaven as a Jewish cohen gadol. He will return as a Jewish king to occupy the throne of his Jewish ancestor David. His humanity makes Him the savior of all, both Jews and non-Jews.

For me, it is essential that we put our trust in Yeshua from the mere fact that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Do not be carried away by various strange teachings. This is evidence that verse 8 warns against seeking ways apart from Yeshua for reaching God. (Compare Galatians 1:9, 3:1; 1 Corinthians 2:2).

Okay, what is the reference to foods all about? This has nothing to do with whether Messianic Jews should keep kosher, which is not at issue in this book. Moreover, scholars agree that the early Jewish believers observed kashrut. The only question which they needed to solve concerned how Jewish believers should behave at the dining table with Gentile Believers (Galatians 2:11-16).

There are two possibilities for interpreting foods here. The more likely, based on the way in which verse 10 elaborates the subject, is that it refers once again to animal sacrifices, this time somewhat ironically – recall that those who offered ate the animal sacrifices.

The other is that some members of this community thought that eating certain foods would enhance their spirituality. This could be a reference to an early health-food craze. However, one’s spiritual condition of sin is affected by God’s grace appropriated by trusting, not by foods. People who have made these the focus of their lives have not benefitted thereby. Rather, faithfulness to God and Yeshua should be the focus of everyone’s life; this provides eternal benefits.

We, Believers, have an altar. This altar is in heaven; on the heavenly altar Yeshua the Messiah made the once-for-all sacrifice of himself. But the altar is also outside the camp, so that although those who serve in the Tent, the Levitical cohanim, representing the pre-Yeshua dispensation and nonbelievers, may eat the thank offerings and peace offerings, they are not permitted to eat the sin offerings, because the bodies of those animals are burned outside the camp. Since Yeshua was a sin offering, nonbelievers are not permitted to partake of Him unless and until they put their trust in Yeshua.

Many churches today do not allow non-believers to participate in their communion services.

In verses 11-14 the author evokes at least five images here:

  1. Sin offeringYeshua suffered death, and this had the significance of a sin offering in two ways. First, just as the cohen gadol brings the blood of the animals into the Holy Place, so Yeshua suffered death in order to make the people holy through his own blood. Second, just as the bodies of the animals used for a sin offering are burned outside the camp, so Yeshua’s death took place outside the gate of the city of Jerusalem, which replaced the camp in the wilderness.
  2. Impurity: Just as lepers and other people declared impure had to remain outside the camp in disgrace, so Yeshua was wrongfully regarded as unclean and suffered death with disgrace by being executed as a criminal on a stake outside the gate at Gulgolta.
  3. Separation: Being outside the camp in disgrace implies not only impurity but separation from the Jewish people. Yeshua is indeed separated; however, His separation is in fact not from the Jewish people, due to impurity, but unto God, due to His holiness; so that His separation from the Jewish people is wrongful, illusory and not disgraceful. Moreover, he can make the Jewish and Gentile people holy through his own blood, ending their genuine and justified separation from God due to sin. Messianic Jews, who go out to him who is outside the camp to share his disgrace, remain, like him, part of the Jewish people, even though, like Him, we may not be so regarded. Like Yeshua, we experience the pain of exclusion; but we must stand with Him and not seek respect or inclusion on any terms except God’s.
  4. Red Heifer: The reference to Yeshua’s making the people holy through his own blood recalls Messianic Jews 9:11-14, which mentions the red heifer. The body of the red heifer too was burned outside the camp; by suggestion, then, Yeshua is also our red heifer.
  5. Permanent city: Having mentioned the gate of the city, the author returns to the language of 11:9-10, 13-16; 12:22 in reminding us believers that we have no permanent city here but seek the one to come, heavenly Jerusalem. There is no implication of otherworldliness, in the sense of neglecting the needs of this world; instead, we live simultaneously in both the ‘olam hazeh and the ‘olam haba.

We are not accustomed to using the word sacrifice except metaphorically, but the author here may be referring to real, physical thank-offerings. This would be consistent not only with the context of verses 10-16 but also with the End-Time prophecies of Jeremiah 33:11, the Messianic prophecies of Malachi 3:1-4 and with rabbinic Jewish understanding. Does that mean we will be able to have BBQ’s in Heaven still? I certainly hope so!!

But for two reasons it seems at least equally likely that he is, in fact, speaking of metaphorical sacrifices, like Sha’ul at Romans 12:1-2. First, lips that acknowledge His name should offer God a spiritual sacrifice which consists of praise. Second, doing good and sharing with others are spiritual sacrifices with which God is well pleased.

Obey your present leaders and submit to them. Many who call themselves believers in the Bible are unwilling to live by this verse of inspired Scripture; possibly because of fear and distrust of authority figures or excessive individualism (read self-centeredness). They are rebellious, undisciplined, and unwilling to be part of a team to accomplish the work of the Body of the Messiah. Such people should acknowledge this attitude as sin and seek the Body’s help and counsel in overcoming it.

On the other hand, some leaders misuse this verse to exploit their charges, to brainwash or to force them to submit to unreasonable and ungodly demands.

But the verse itself encourages cooperation between leader and led for the good of the led and the glory of the Lord. On the one hand, your leaders have work to do: they keep watch over your lives. Moreover, they are not their bosses: they will have to render an account of their stewardship to the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua (see verses 18-21). On the other hand, you who are being led can make it a task of joy for them, not one of groaning; and it is to your advantage to do so.

In my next post, we conclude our study of Messianic Jews through Prayer, Personal References, and Benedictions in Messianic Jews 13:18-25.

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Exhortations and Warnings ~ Part 1

Messianic Jews 13:1-6
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we wrapped up with the topic of the Trust and the Believer in Messianic Jews 12 by exploring a Final Warning Against Apostasy in Messianic Jews 12: 18-29. In this post, we move onto the final chapter of Messianic Jews were we study General Messianic Obligations in Messianic Jews 13:1-6.

1 Let brotherly friendship continue; 2 but don’t forget to be friendly to outsiders; for in so doing, some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels. 3 Remember those in prison and being mistreated, as if you were in prison with them and undergoing their torture yourselves. 4 Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. But God will indeed punish fornicators and adulterers. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money; and be satisfied with what you have; for God himself has said, “I will never fail you or abandon you.” 6 Therefore, we say with confidence, “Adonai is my helper; I will not be afraid – what can a human being do to me?” ~ Messianic Jews 13:1-6 (CJB)

As he comes to the close of the letter, the writer to the Messianic Jews turns to practical things. Here he outlines five essential qualities of the Believer’s life.

  1. Let brotherly friendship continue. The very circumstances of the early Kehilah sometimes threatened brotherly love. The very fact that they took their religion as seriously as they did was in one sense a danger. In a Kehilah which is threatened from the outside and desperately in earnest on the inside, there are always two dangers. First, there is the danger of heresy-hunting. The very desire to keep the trust pure tends to make people eager to track down and eliminate the pagan and the person whose trust has gone astray. Second, there is the danger of stern and unsympathetic treatment of the person whose nerve and trust have failed. It is a great thing to keep the trust clean; but when the desire to do so makes us critical, harsh and unsympathetic, brotherly love is destroyed, and we are left with a situation which may be worse than the one we tried to avoid. Somehow or other we have to combine two things – an earnestness in the trust and kindness to the person who has strayed from it.
  1. There is hospitality. Some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels. This matter-of-fact statement (like those of 1:5-2:16, 12:22) takes for granted that angels exist. Do they? Science cannot answer such a question, because science doesn’t deal with metaphysics. Modern first-hand reports, of which there are many, are no more conclusive; since those inclined to disbelieve in angels explain them away and are not convinced. The writers and characters of the Bible considered angels real, reporting encounters with them as straightforwardly as we would describe driving off in a car; therefore, whoever can accept the Bible as God’s revealed Word should have no difficulty acknowledging the reality of angels.
  1. There is sympathy for those in trouble. Remember those in prison and being mistreated. It is here we see the early Kehilah at its best. It often happened that the Believer landed in jail and worse. It might be for their trust; it might be for debt, for the Believers were poor; it might be that pirates or brigands captured them. It was then that the Kehilah went into action. It was a renewal weekend where I heard other Believers visiting the prisons that I gave up and fully accepted all the Lord had for me. I thought the recent movie “Paul” depicted this quality excellently.
  1. There is purity. Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. First, the marriage bond is to be universally respected. This may mean either of two almost opposite things. (a) Some ascetics despised marriage. Some even went the length of castrating themselves to secure what they thought was purity. (b) There were those who were ever liable to relapse into immorality. The writer to the Messianic Jews uses two words. The one denotes adulterous living; the other denotes all kinds of impurity, such as unnatural vice. Into the world, the Believers brought a new ideal of purity. Even the heathen admitted that.
  1. There is contentment. The Believers must be free from the love of money. We must be content with what we have, and why should we not be for we possess the continual presence of God? Messianic Jews quote two great passages – Joshua 1:5 and Psalms 118:6 – to show that Believers need nothing more because we have the presence and the help of God. Nothing that humanity can give us can improve on that.
Adonai is my helper; I will not be afraid.

In my next post, we explore the Warnings in Messianic Jews 13:7-17.

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Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 6

Messianic Jews 12:18-29
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continued on our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Exhortation to Endurance in Messianic Jews 12:12-17. In this post, we wrap up with the topic of the Trust and the Believer in Messianic Jews 12 by exploring a Final Warning Against Apostasy in Messianic Jews 12: 18-29.

18 For you have not come to a tangible mountain, to an ignited fire, to darkness, to murk, to a whirlwind, 19 to the sound of a shofar, and to a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further message be given to them – 20 for they couldn’t bear what was being commanded them, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it is to be stoned to death”; 21 and so terrifying was the sight that Moshe said, “I am quaking with dread.” 22 On the contrary, you have come to Mount Tziyon, that is, the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim; to myriads of angels in festive assembly; 23 to a community of the firstborn whose names have been recorded in heaven; to a Judge who is God of everyone; to spirits of righteous people who have been brought to the goal; 24 to the mediator of a new covenant, Yeshua; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better things than that of Hevel.

25 See that you don’t reject the One speaking! For if those did not escape who rejected Him when He gave divine warning on earth, think how much less we will escape if we turn away from Him when He warns from heaven. 26 Even then, His voice shook the earth; but now, He has made this promise: “One more time I will shake not only the earth but heaven too!” 27 And this phrase, “one more time,” makes clear that the things shaken are removed since they are created things, so that the things not shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we have received an unshakeable Kingdom, let us have grace, through which we may offer service that will please God, with reverence and fear. 29 For indeed,

“Our God is a consuming fire!”  ~Messianic Jews 12:18-29 (CJB)

This passage is a contrast between the old and the new. It is a contrast between the giving of the law on Mount Sinai and the new covenant of which Yeshua is the mediator. Through Messianic Jews 12:21 the story echoes that of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. See Exodus 19:16-20, 20:15-18(18-21); Deuteronomy 4:10-13.

In the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, three things are stressed.

  • The sheer majesty of God,
  • The absolute unapproachability of God, and
  • The sheer terror of God.

Then in Messianic Jews 12:22 comes the difference. The first section deals with all that man can expect under the old covenant, a God of lonely majesty, complete separation from humanity, and prostrating fear. But to the Believer, we have a new covenant and a new relationship with God. Messianic Jews makes a kind of list of the new glories that await the Believer.

A theophany (an appearance of God to mankind) was often accompanied by fire (Exodus 13:21, Judges 13:20, 1 Kings 18:38), darkness (Genesis 15:12; Exodus 10:21-22, 14:20; 1 Kings 8:12; Joel 3:4(2:31); Amos 5:18) and a whirlwind (Nahum 1:3; Job 37:9, 38:1; Zechariah 9:14).

The sound of a shofar will be heard at the end of days at the final manifestation of God (Isaiah 27:13, Zechariah 9:14), identified more specifically in the Brit Hadashah as the Messiah’s second coming (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

When God gave the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-18), called the Ten Words in the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:13), all the people of Israel heard His voice, and those words made the hearers beg that no further message be given to them, but only to Moshe as their representative. This is described in Deuteronomy 4:10-13, 5:20-25 and 18:16-17 (which comes in the middle of Deuteronomy 18:15-19, where God promises to raise up a prophet like Moshe; according to Acts 3:22-23 Yeshua fulfills this prophecy).

Moshe said, “I am quaking with dread.” Not only the people were frightened, but Moshe was as well. However, by quoting a remark which Moshe made not on Mount Sinai but upon returning and discovering the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:14-19), the author of Messianic Jews shows us that as a result of Moshe’s personal experience with God, he developed a healthy fear of God (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10) which lasted not only while he was receiving the Torah, but also afterwards – indeed throughout his life. And the author’s point is that it should be so with all of us – those who begin well with Yeshua should not slack off later.

In verses 22-24, the author lists eight things to which you have come.

  1. Mount Tziyon is where King David placed the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:2); in the Brit Hadashah, Yochanan sees Yeshua, the Lamb, “standing on Mount Tziyon” (Revelation 14:1). Already in the Tanakh Mount Zion is identified with the whole of the city of the living God.
  1. But the identification transcends earthly Yerushalayim and applies to the even better heavenly Yerushalayim (Galatians 4:25-26, Revelation 21:2), about which the author has more to say at 11:10, 13-16; 13:14. The idea that what is seen as spiritual truth here on earth is but the shadow of the heavenly original pervades this letter.
  1. Myriads of holy angels: God “came from the myriads of holy ones” in heaven to give the Torah on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2). From Messianic Jews 1:14, Daniel 7:10, Luke 2:13-15 and Revelation 5:11-12 we learn that their festive assembly consists in ministering to God and His people.
  1. A community of the firstborn (which I have identified as the Kehilah or assembly of Believers) whose names have been recorded in heaven in the Book of Life (see Revelation 20:12b).
  1. A Judge who is God of everyone. There is no escaping God “the righteous Judge” (2 Timothy 4:8); many Brit Hadashah and Tanakh passages attest to a final Day of Judgment for all.
  1. Spirits of righteous people (11:4, 7, 33) who have been brought to the goal (7:11) along with us (11:39-40) by Yeshua, the Completer of our trusting.
  1. The mediator of a new covenant is Compare Messianic Jews 7:22, 8:6-13.
  1. The sprinkled blood of Yeshua. That speaks better things than that of Hevel (see 11:4). Hevel was the first to die (Genesis 4:3-10), Yeshua the last (since his death is timeless); Yeshua’s blood brings life (Leviticus 17:11), Hevel’s brought only death.

Since I have written at length on the issue of apostasy, I would refer you to my series on Eternal Security here.

Let us have grace. Let us accept God’s gracious gift of His Son, whose sacrificial death graciously atones for our sin – rather than continue adherence to the now-defunct animal sacrifices for sin, or any other form of trying to persuade God to reward our works by considering us righteous. The animal sacrifices, though prescribed initially by God’s grace, have become works righteousness now that Yeshua’s sacrifice for sin has taken place since they no longer avail for anything.

Remember, “Our God is a consuming fire!”  

In my next post, we begin to look at the final chapter of Messianic Jews. Chapter 13 presents us with two last topics: Exhortations and Warnings and Personal References and Benedictions.

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Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 5

Messianic Jews 12:12-17
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continued on our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Messianic Jews 12:3-11 ~ Chastening for Spiritual Developments. In this post, we will move on to Exhortation to Endurance in Messianic Jews 12:12-17.

12 So, strengthen your drooping arms, and steady your tottering knees; 13 and make a level path for your feet; so that what has been injured will not get wrenched out of joint but rather will be healed. 14 Keep pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses out on God’s grace, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and thus contaminates many, 16 and that no one is sexually immoral, or godless like Esav, who in exchange for a single meal gave up his rights as the firstborn. 17 For you know that afterwards when he wanted to obtain his father’s blessing, he was rejected; indeed, even though he sought it with tears, his change of heart was to no avail. ~ Messianic Jews 12:12-17 (CJB)

With this passage, the author to the Messianic Jews comes to the problems of everyday Messianic life and living. He knew that sometimes it is given to us to mount up with wings as an eagle; he knew that sometimes we are enabled to run and not be weary in the pursuit of some great moment of endeavour; but he also knew that of all things it is hardest to walk every day and not to faint. Here he is thinking of the daily struggle of the Messianic way.

The contrast between Messianic Jews 12:1 and 12:13 is striking; the author no longer offers a pep-talk with advice to keep running but concerns himself with those who can barely walk because of physical and social disadvantage, emotional injury or be spiritually backslidden.

Strengthen your drooping arms: gradually increase your spiritual capacity for trust-grounded obedience to God. Steady your tottering knees: get hold of your emotions, stop fearing the world. Make a level path: “He restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name.” Psalm 23:3 (CJB) For your feet:  Of the wicked, Isaiah writes, “Their feet run to evil, they make haste to shed innocent blood (Isaiah 59:7). But of God’s servant He writes, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the bringer of Good News, announcing peace… and deliverance!” (Isaiah 52:7).

Someone who is hurt in any of these ways and neglects himself will have what has been injured get wrenched out of joint,“so that in the end, the person is worse off than he was before” (Matthew 12:45). But, if we give out situation proper spiritual attention, what has been injured will be healed.

Holiness without which no one will see the Lord. The warning which climaxes at verse 29 (which we will explore in my next post) begins here. Those who fail to heed it, who suppose that mere intellectual acknowledgment of God’s existence and Yeshua’s Messiahship, unaccompanied by good deeds and submissiveness to God, will “get them into heaven” are in for rude awakening and disappointment.

Keep pursuing shalom with everyone is reminiscent of Romans 12:18.

The root of bitterness again reminds us of the Tanach. When presenting the covenant to the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:1), Moshe warned lest there be among you [anyone] whose heart turns away from Adonai… to serve other gods,… a root that bears gall and wormwood” (instead of “the peaceful fruit of righteousness,” Messianic Jews 12:11), “and it come to pass that when he hears the words of this curse” (Deuteronomy 28:15-68), “he blesses himself in his heart and says, ‘I will have peace, even though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart….’ Adonai will not be willing to pardon him” (Deuteronomy 29:17-20).

Speaking of Esav, even though he sought it with tears, his change of heart was to no avail. As rendered, this says that even though Esav had a change of heart between Genesis 25:27-34 and Genesis 27:30-41, it did not avail in getting his father Yitz’chak to bless him with the blessing reserved for the firstborn son.

Even if the change of heart spoken of was Esav’s, not Yitz’chak’s, there is no implication either here or in Genesis that Esav ever truly repented. His tears did not flow from the kind of pain that, “handled in God’s way, produces a turning from sin to God which leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Rather, his “repentance” was only in valuing his rights as the firstborn (Genesis 27) instead of despising them (Genesis 25).

We need to remember that there is a certain finality in life. If like Esav, we take the way of this world and make material things our final good, if we choose the pleasures of time in preference to the joys of eternity, God can and will still forgive, but something has happened that can never be undone. There may be certain things in which we cannot change our mind but must abide forever by the choice that we have made.

It is never too late, God’s arms are always open, it is still “his purpose that… everyone should turn from his sins.” (2 Kefa 3:9)

In my next post, we look at a Final Warning Against Apostasy in Messianic Jews 12: 18-29.

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