Kefa Learns the Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Asks Yeshua, “What Is in It for Us?” Continuing in our chronological journey of Kefa in this post, Kefa learns the Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree.

The lesson is contained in passages from both Mathew and Mark. I have combined them, so we get a bigger picture of what Yeshua is teaching to the talmidim. The order is contained in the “Narrated Bible in Chronological Order” by F. LaGard Smith. The lesson was taught on Tuesday morning of Passion week as Yeshua and His talmidim were going to Yerushalayim from Beit-Anyah (Bethany).

20 In the morning, as the talmidim passed by, they saw the fig tree withered all the way to its roots. 21 Kefa remembered and said to Yeshua, “Rabbi! Look! The fig tree that you cursed has dried up!” ~ Mark 11:20-21 (CJB)

This fig tree that Yeshua had cursed the previous day (see Mark 11:12-14). In twenty-four hours, it had dried up from root to branch! Kefa was stunned. How could this have happened – and so quickly? The answer lies in Mark 11:22, which we will get to momentarily.

This is the second time Mark recorded Kefa addressing Yeshua as Rabbi (see 9:5). By now, Kefa is serving as spokesperson for the talmidim (see Mark 8:29,32; 9:5; 10:28).

Typically, by this time of year, fig trees near the Mount of Olives would have leaves, but only green fruit with an unpleasant taste appeared this early; edible figs appeared around early June. Often the green fruit would fall off so that only leaves remained.

Considering Micah 5:7, the fruitless fig tree symbolized Yerushalayim’s moral barrenness. The cursing of the tree forewarned of God’s coming judgment against Jerusalem and its Temple.

20 The talmidim saw this and were amazed. “How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?” they asked. 21 Yeshua answered them, “Yes! I tell you, if you have trust and don’t doubt, you will not only do what was done to this fig tree; but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea!’ it will be done. 22 In other words, you will receive everything you ask for in prayer, no matter what it is, provided you have trust.” ~ Matthew 21:20-22 (CJB)

Throwing a mountain into the sea was a figure of speech for doing what was virtually impossible. From where Yeshua and His talmidim are standing, the Dead Sea would probably have been visible; thus, Yeshua’s illustration would have been vivid to His talmidim.

Yeshua’s talmidim overlooked the symbolic significance of Yeshua’s miracle and focused on the power of His command. Although this mountain could be a reference to the Mount of Olives or the Temple Mount, it probably referred to God’s power to do humanly impossible things in response to prayer (see 1Cor. 13:2).

In contrast to the impotent, barren state of the fig tree, here, Yeshua speaks of the power of prayer and the potency of trust.

22 He responded, “Have the kind of trust that comes from God!

The answer to Kefa’s earlier question above, according to Yeshua, boiled down to trust in God. The proper object of trust is God, not the Temple.

23 Yes! I tell you that whoever does not doubt in his heart but trusts that what he says will happen can say to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea!’ and it will be done for him. ~ Mark 11:22-23 (CJB)

Some Jewish texts speak of “removing mountains” as an infinitely long or virtually impossible task, accomplished only by the most pious (later Rabbis applied it to mastering studies that appeared humanly impossible to master). [1]

Yeshua’s saying on trust and impossibilities began with His solemn formula, Yes! I tell you. He gave a negative condition (does not doubt in his heart) and a positive condition (but trusts) for the fulfillment of this promise (cp. James 1:6).

How do we satisfy the hunger of our Lord? How do we keep the hidden part of our life from becoming dry? The root of the answer is trust.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learns about the Destruction of the Temple.

Click here for the PDF version.

 

[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa Asks Yeshua, “What Is in It for Us?”

In my last post, we learned that Kefa asked Yeshua About Forgiveness. Continuing in our chronological journey of Kefa in this post, Kefa Asks Yeshua, “What Is in It for Us?”

The teaching in this passage occurs after the raising of El’azar (Lazarus) as Yeshua, and the talmidim continue their journey to Yerushalayim for the final time together. This passage is also recorded in Mark 10:28-31 and Luke 18:28-30.

The following four verses are presented to set the context for Kefa’s question:

23 Then Yeshua said to His talmidim, “Yes. I tell you that it will be very hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 Furthermore, I tell you that it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” 25 When the talmidim heard this, they were utterly amazed. “Then who,” they asked, “can be saved?” 26 Yeshua looked at them and said, “Humanly, this is impossible; but with God, everything is possible.”

There is a lot of meat in those four verses, but I will leave that for a later time.

27 Kefa replied, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. So, what will we have?”

“We’ve left everything to follow You,” Kefa says. “What the rich young ruler (see Matt. 19:16) wasn’t willing to do, we’ve done. How will our faithfulness be rewarded? What’s the payoff for our commitment to you?”

Kefa was quick to see the contrast between the wealthy ruler and the poor disciples. Yeshua detected in Kefa’s question the possibility of a wrong motive for service. Yeshua gave them a marvelous promise of rewards in this life and the next. They would even have thrones when He established His kingdom. In other words, they were not making sacrifices – they were making investments. But not all of the dividends would be received in this life.

28 Yeshua said to them, “Yes. I tell you that in the regenerated world when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Isra’el. 29 Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times more, and he will obtain eternal life.

“Regeneration” was a term used for the future renewal of the world in Greek circles and naturally applied to Jewish expectations of a new world order. The Tanakh speaks of a regenerated world at Isaiah 1:25-2:5, 11:1-16, 65:17; Jeremiah 23:3-8, 30:1-31:40; Micah 4:1-5:3; Zechariah 12:1-14:21; Psalms 2, 22, 89; Daniel 7-12. That the twelve tribes would be restored was one of the standard Jewish beliefs about the end times.

You… will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Isra’el. A vital verse confirming God’s promises to national Isra’el, e.g., Isaiah 1:26, I will restore your judges as at first.” This verse gives a rationale for choosing twelve emissaries (10:2-4) and maintaining that number.

All Believers who genuinely identify with Yeshua and forsake worldly gain to obtain heavenly gain through serving Him will receive a hundred times more, and he will obtain eternal life.

30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. ~ Matthew 19:23-30 (CJB)

Because of Kefa’s wrong motive, Yeshua added the warning that some who were first in their own eyes would be last in the judgment, and some who were last would be first. This truth was amplified in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (see Mathew 20:1ff.)

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learns the Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree.

Click here for the PD version.

Kefa Asks About Forgiveness

In my last post, we learned that Yeshua asks Kefa to Go Fishing Again. He put his line in the Sea of Galilee and miraculously caught a fish with a gold coin in its mouth to pay the Temple tax for Yeshua and himself. Continuing in our chronological journey of Kefa in this post, the talmidim were sitting at Yeshua’s feet as He was teaching them by asking several questions dealing with humility and honesty.

Immediately after teaching about the subject on the discipline of a wayward member of the kehilah, Kefa asks his question on the number of times they should forgive.

21 Then Kefa came up and said to Him, “Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me, and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” answered Yeshua, “but seventy times seven! ~ Matthew 18:21-22 (CJB)

To further set the context of Yeshua’s teaching, this event happens after Yeshua had taught them how they should pray in Matthew 16 and immediately follows by saying:

14 For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours. ~ Matthew 6:14-15 (CJB)

Because true repentance should involve turning from sin, some rabbis limited opportunities for forgiveness for a given sin to three times. So Kefa may have thought he was being generous by suggesting that he forgive his brother seven times.

Interpreters and translators dispute whether Yeshua demanded forgiving one’s brother seventy-seven times or seventy times seven (four hundred and ninety times). I am not a Greek scholar, but what difference does it really make? Who would keep track of either one? Yeshua’s point is that forgiveness should be unlimited when true repentance is present.

When we start living in an atmosphere of humility and honesty, we must take some risks and expect some dangers. Unless humility and honesty result in forgiveness, relationships cannot be mended and strengthened.

Kefa recognized the risks involved and asked Yeshua how he should handle them in the future. But Kefa made some serious mistakes. To begin with, he lacked humility himself. He was sure his brother would sin against him, but not he against his brother! Kefa’s second mistake was in asking for limits and measures. Where there is love, there can be no limits or dimensions.

4 Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, 5 not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (CJB)

Love keeps no record of wrongs. By the time we have forgiven a brother that many times, we are in the habit of forgiving.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he asks Yeshua what is in it for him?

Click here for the PDF version.

Kefa Goes Fishing Again

In my last post, we learned that Kefa accompanied Yeshua, Ya’akov, and Yochanan Up to the Mount of the Transfiguration. In this post, we see that Yeshua asks Kefa to Go Fishing Again.

24 When they came to K’far-Nachum (Capernaum), the collectors of the half-shekel came to Kefa and said, “Doesn’t your rabbi pay the Temple tax?”

The Temple tax goes back to the time of the Exodus when the Israeli’s were levied the tax to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle and was carried over when the Temple was built.

13 Everyone subject to the census is to pay as an offering to Adonai half a shekel [one-fifth of an ounce of silver] – by the standard of the sanctuary shekel (a shekel equals twenty gerahs). 14 Everyone over twenty years of age who is subject to the census is to give this offering to Adonai –15 the rich is not to give more or the poor less than the half-shekel when giving Adonai’s offering to atone for your lives. 16 You are to take the atonement money from the people of Isra’el and use it for the service in the tent of meeting so that it will be a reminder of the people of Isra’el before Adonai to atone for your lives.” ~ Exodus 30:13-16 (CJB)

The tax was equivalent to one or two days’ wages for an average worker.

25 “Of course He does,” said Kefa. When he arrived home, Yeshua spoke first. “Shim’ on, what’s your opinion? The kings of the earth – from whom do they collect duties and taxes? From their sons or from others?”

Like a good prophet, Yeshua responds to Kefa before Kefa even brings up the matter (see 1 Sam 9:20; 1 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 5:26; 6:32).

Remember, when Kefa was on the mountain, the voice of the Father interrupted him. Here in the house, he’s interrupted by the Son.

26 “From others,” he answered. “Then,” said Yeshua, “The sons are exempt.

In tax contexts, exempt means typically “free from obligation” concerning tax. Since a royal family did not tax itself, Yeshua’s point is that the Son of God should not be taxed for the upkeep of His Father’s house.

Because Yeshua’s disciples were children of the true King, they were also exempt from the obligation to support the Temple. This had enormous implications for Jewish Believers. If Temple taxes were no longer obligatory, sacrifices and other offerings were also now optional.

27 But to avoid offending them – go to the lake, throw out a line, and take the first fish you catch. Open its mouth, and you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them for me and for you.” ~ Matthew 17:24-27 (CJB)

Based on solidarity with the rest of the Jewish community, however, Yeshua pays the tax. If some of Matthew’s [1] Messianic readers were looking for an excuse to avoid paying the tax on their own day, this text would encourage them to pay it instead.

Through divine knowledge, Yeshua knew that a nearby fish had swallowed an amount of money that was sufficient to pay the tax. He also exercised authority over nature, ensuring that the fish would take the bait Kefa offered.

Yeshua commanded Kefa to throw out a line. Jon Courson has an interesting take on this command.

The command in itself would have been most curious because professional fishermen like Kefa didn’t use a hook and line. That was rookie equipment. It would be like Jose Canseco [2] using a batting tee. Real fishermen used nets and boats. But Kefa humbly obeyed. And I can see him walking along the shore, carrying his little pole and tackle box, as his colleagues looked at each other and whispered, “What’s he doing?”[3]

It is the only miracle using one fish. Yeshua had multiplied the fish for Kefa (see Luke 5:1-11), and He would repeat that miracle (see John 21:1ff). But in this case, He used only one fish. When we consider the complexity of this miracle, it amazes us. First, someone had to lose a coin in the water. Then, a fish had to take that coin in its mouth and retain it. That same fish then had to bite on Kefa’s hook – with an impediment in its mouth – and be caught. You cannot naturally explain all of this. It is too complicated for an accident and too impossible for human management.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he asks Yeshua about forgiveness.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Matthew’s account is the only one presented in the Gospels.

[2] For those who may not know, Jose was an MLB outfielder and designated hitter from 1985-2001 playing most of his career with the Oakland A’s. He admitted using performance-enhancing drugs (steroids) and wrote a tell-all book in 2005.

[3] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament.

Kefa Again Acknowledges that Yeshua is the Messiah

In my last post, we examined another parable of Yeshua’s that Kefa needed to be explained. In this post, we learn that Kefa once again acknowledges that Yeshua is the Messiah.

13 When Yeshua came into the territory around Caesarea Philippi, he asked His talmidim, “Who are people saying the Son of Man is?”

Caesarea Philippi was pagan territory, near a cave devoted to the worship of the Greek woodland deity Pan; Herod had also dedicated a temple for the worship of Caesar there. Few Jewish people would have expected it as a site for a divine revelation. The city was some twenty-five miles from the Sea of Galilee and about seventeen hundred feet higher. Caesarea Philippi, the present-day town of Banyas, sits at the foot of Mount Hermon, where the Yarden River springs forth. Herod Philip refurbished this town and renamed it in honor of the Emperor and himself. [1]

14 They said, “Well, some say Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist), others Eliyahu (Elijah), still others Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) or one of the prophets.”

All these answers about who Yeshua falls into the “prophets” category, though many members of the Jewish elite held that prophets had ceased, a widespread expectation of end-time prophets remained strong. Eliyahu was expected to return (Malachi 4:5), and many of Yeshua’s miracles resembled Eliyahu’s. His judgment oracles (Mt 11:20-24) or downplaying the Temple (cf. Mt 12:6; 24:1-2) may have evoked the comparison with Yirmeyahu.

 15 “But you,” He said to them, “who do you say I am?” 16 Shim ‘on Kefa answered, “You are the Mashiach, the Son of the living God”(emphasis added). 17 “Shim ‘on Bar-Yochanan,” Yeshua said to him, “how blessed you are! For no human being revealed this to you, no, it was my Father in heaven.

Kefa announces for all to hear the Yeshua is the Mashiach (Messiah), the Son of the living God. Because he recognized who Yeshua was, he is blessed by Yeshua with an insight into who he will become.

Shim’ on Bar-Yochanan, Aramaic for “Shim’ on, Son of Yochanan.” How blessed you are is a standard form of blessing. A human being, literally, “flesh and blood” corresponding to Hebrew basar v’dam, a common expression stressing human limits and weakness. [2]

18 I also tell you this: you are Kefa,” [which means ‘Rock,’] “and on this rock, I will build my Community, and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it.

Kefa is an Aramaic word equivalent to Greek “Petros,” which means rock.

I want to pause for a moment and concentrate on the use of the word Community. In Hebrew, it is Kehilah, which means “assembly, congregation, community.” In Greek, it is Ekklesia, which means “called-out ones.” Unfortunately, most English translation of Ekklesia is “church,” and from it comes the word “ecclesiastical,” meaning “having to do with the church.” However, what is being spoken about here is a spiritual community of people based on trust in God and His Son, the Messiah Yeshua. This can be all people throughout history who so commit themselves, or a group of such people at a particular time and place, such as the Messianic Community in Corinth or Yerushalayim. Unlike “church,”Ekklesia never refers either to an institution or to a building. [3] Personally, I don’t go to church. I go to worship God and fellowship with my congregation (Community) of Believers, where I live.

19 I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

The keeper of the keys was one of the most critical roles a household servant could hold. Because keys were bulky and might be carried by only a single person, they also symbolized authority; a high official held the keys in a royal kingdom and God’s house, the Temple. Keys here may signify the authority to admit into the Kingdom (Mt 23:13), based on the knowledge of the truth about Yeshua. The Qumran community also had officials deciding whether to admit members; the decision was made based on the prospective member’s acceptance of the Community’s rule of life. [4]

In consequence of his confession, Yeshua makes Kefa both (1) Shammash (steward) with the keys, and (2) Dayan (judge), who, as the one who can prohibit and permit, establishes new covenant halakhah (to make authoritative decisions). From this passage, the tradition of St. Peter standing at the Pearly Gates originated.

20 Then He warned the talmidim not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. ~ Matthew 16:13-20 (CJB)

In my next post, we pick up our chronological journey of Kefa and lean that he rebukes Yeshua.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Shavuot (Pentecost) 2020 ~ God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Kefa and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost). In 2020, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Thursday, May 28th. Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, May 31st. Essentially, Jews and Christians will be celebrating on the same weekend, albeit for slightly different reasons.

Scriptural Basis

15“‘From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai. 17You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai. 18Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai. 19Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen. 21On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-21)

Basic Description

Shavu’ot was one of three festivals (Pesach/Matzah & Sukkot being the other two) appointed by Adonai where all Jewish males were to go up to Jerusalem. Shavu’ot means “weeks.” It comes exactly fifty days after Pesach. In Greek, we have come to know it as Pentecost. Pentecost means “fifty.” It was an agricultural festival to celebrate the latter fruits of the spring harvest. Recall that Yom HaBikkurim (First Fruits) immediately following Pesach celebrated the barley harvest and, as Believers, we recognize it as the resurrection of Yeshua – the first fruit from the dead. Shavu’ot celebrates the thanksgiving for the wheat harvest symbolized by the two loaves of challah.

Observance

The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and with great ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai. In addition, blood sacrifices were offered to cover the sin of the people. Since sacrifices can no longer be made with the destruction of the Second Temple, the modern Jewish observance of Shavu’ot has changed. Rabbis calculated that Moshe received the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavu’ot. Hence, the rabbinic name for Shavu’ot is Zman Matan Torateynu (the Time of the Giving of the Torah).

The custom of decorating the synagogue in greenery, flowers and baskets of fruit to symbolize the harvest aspect of Shavu’ot; the practice of marking the holiday with a meal featuring dairy products in recognition of Scripture being described as the pure milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2); and the inclusion of the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth in the service are all the primary reminders of Shavu’ot’s agricultural prominence.

But Ruth’s story sounds another theme, one more relevant to the celebration of Shavu’ot by modern Jewish people and Messianic Believers. When her husband dies, Ruth – a gentile – elects to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, telling her“your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16) binding herself willingly to the people Isra’el. Ruth’s story is one of commitment to the Jewish people freely made and to the covenant with God that is the core of the Jewish religion and experience. Like Ruth, the gentile woman who was in the lineage of Yeshua, we have voluntarily said to our fellow Messianic Jewish believers your people will be my people, your God will be my God.

Shavu’ot celebrates the most important moment in the Mosaic covenant – the giving of the Torah to Moshe and its acceptance by Isra’el at Sinai. Shavu’ot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education. Traditional Jews stay up all night on the first night of this festival studying the Torah. In keeping with the theme of Jewish education, Shavu’ot has traditionally been the time when many Jewish schools mark graduation.

Messianic significance abounds in this festival. From God’s perspective the time of great harvest when large numbers of Jewish believers and later Gentiles came into a personal relationship with Him was initiated at Shavu’ot immediately after Yeshua’s resurrection (Acts 2:40-43). The two leavened loaves of Shavu’ot may, therefore, symbolize Jew and Gentile presented to God and now part of His family. God set us free from slavery to sin by placing His Spirit in us to enable us to live as He intended (Romans 8:1-4). Hence God visibly placed His Ruach HaKodesh in Yeshua’s followers on that important Shavu’ot centuries ago (Acts 2:4).

The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh served as the completion of Pesach, the completion of our atonement, in the sense that through the Ruach, God gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to do evil.

The theme of Shavu’ot can be best summed up by the word revival. Isra’el was called to praise God for the first fruits of the ground, knowing that these early fruits assured the latter harvest. This also applies to the spiritual Kingdom of God. The first fruit of believers at Shavu’ot virtually guarantees a revival in the latter-day spiritual harvest for Messiah. Now we can understand why God included Shavu’ot in the three required festivals for every Jewish male. He had gathered Jewish men from throughout the region to hear the Good News of Yeshua in their own language. They would take that message back home with them to tell their families and friends. As Pesach speaks of redemption, Shavu’ot speaks of revival. The message of Shavu’ot is one of great hope and joy. It was a message heard and accepted by 3,000 Jewish people on that special Shavu’ot (Acts 2:41). Note that 3,000 Jewish people died because of their rebellion of worshipping the Golden Calf at the giving of the Torah.

When Is the Biblical Feast of Shavuot?

Many people desire to know the actual Biblical date for Shavu’ot. It is the only feast that God did not say fell on a specific date in the Hebrew calendar. Rather He gave a formula for calculating the day. Though the traditional Jewish community will celebrate Shavu’ot according to that traditional calculation, there is a difference of opinion on the matter. In the first century the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date that Shavuot was to be celebrated. The question arose over which Sabbath does Firstfruits (see Vayikra 23:9-14) take place after the day after Pesach, which is generally considered a Sabbath or the regular seventh-day Sabbath, i.e. Saturday during the week of Pesach?

The Pharisees claimed the correct day was the day after the first day of Matzah, the sixteenth of Nisan. The Sadducees taught that the correct day was Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. Since the writings of the Pharisees survived and developed into traditional Judaism, their opinion is accepted in modern Judaism.

But who is biblically correct? Remember, the Scriptures state, “you are to count seven full Sabbaths until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

For it to be the day after the seventh Shabbat, the initial Sabbath would have to be the weekly Sabbath. So, it would appear the Sadducees were right. Consequently, I believe that the Sadducees got this one correct. Amazingly, the year that Yeshua died, the sixteenth of Nisan fell on a Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath for the Sadducees as well. God worked it out that neither group would have a reason not to recognize Yeshua as the Firstfruits of the Resurrection.

In my next post, we will return to our new series on Kefa.

Click here for the PDF version.

Final Judgment and Glory of Adonai ~ Yesha’yahu 66:15-25

In my last post, we continued to examine the last chapter in the prophecy of Yesha’yahu, learning about Rejoice with Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 66:7-14. In this post, we conclude our long journey through to the prophecy of Yesha’yahu, learning about Final Judgment and Glory of Adonai in Yesha’yahu 66:15-25.

15 For – look! – Adonai will come in fire, and His chariots will be like the whirlwind, to render His anger furiously, His rebuke with blazing fire.16 For Adonai will judge all humanity with fire and with the sword, and those slain by Adonai will be many. 17 “Those who consecrate and purify themselves in order to enter the gardens, then follow the one who was already there, eating pig meat, reptiles, and mice, will all be destroyed together,” says Adonai.

Eating pig meat, reptiles and mice is another description of foreign rites, probably of Canaanite origin. There is no extrabiblical evidence illuminating this custom. [1] The wicked who receive the punishment described are those who entered illegitimate worship sites. They ate the most unclean food, defiantly rejecting Adonai’s law for Isra’el.

18 “For I [know] their deeds and their thoughts. “[The time] is coming when I will gather together all nations and languages. They will come and see my glory,

Adonai was never interested in Isra’el alone. His promise to Avraham extended to the nations (Genesis 12:3). Yesha’yahu looked forward to the day when the nations would recognize Adonai’s glory. When Yeshua returns to rule the earth, people in the farthest corners of the world will know of His salvation.

19 and I will give them a sign. I will send some of their survivors to the nations of Tarshish, Pul, Lud (these are archers), Tuval, Greece, and more distant coasts, where they have neither heard of my fame nor seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory in these nations;

The survivors, the remnant of Adonai’s people who survive the judgment, will go out to the nations to speak of Adonai’s glory. Among the representative nations named are those at great distance. Tarshish is modern-day Spain; Pul (ancient Put) is equivalent to modern Somaliland (though some think a part of Libya); and, Tuval is an area near the Black Sea. The distant coasts represent all the nations of the world. [2]

20 and they will bring all your kinsmen out of all the nations as an offering to Adonai — on horses, in chariots, in wagons, on mules, on camels — to My holy mountain Yerushalayim,” says Adonai, “just as the people of Isra’el themselves bring their offerings in clean vessels to the house of Adonai.

Again, this describes the great gathering that will take place in the Kingdom Age, resulting in the Jews’ return to Yerushalayim.

21 I will also take cohanim and L’vi’im (Levities) from them,” says Adonai.

Yesha’yahu presented a remarkable picture of the nations producing people set apart for service to the Lord like cohanim and L’vi’im.

22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making will continue in my presence,” says Adonai, “so will your descendants and your name continue. 23 “Every month on Rosh-Hodesh and every week on Shabbat, everyone living will come to worship in my presence,” says Adonai.

In this future day, no one will neglect the regular worship of the Adonai. Rosh-Hodesh (the New Moon festival) was a monthly sacred observance. What a great day it will be when the Jews join all people in converging upon Yerushalayim to worship. Sometimes I think we get a little taste of this in times of intense worship and fellowship even now.

24 “As they leave, they will look on the corpses of the people who rebelled against me. For their worm will never die, and their fire will never be quenched, but they will be abhorrent to all humanity.” ~ Yesha’yahu ~ 66:15-24 (CJB)

Sadly, while the Kingdom is celebrating, there will be incredible suffering as those who reject the King will be left to the consequences of their own will.

For those of you who have been on this journey through Yesha’yahu from the beginning, we started on January 20, 2019. This last post is the 140th post in the series. I hope and pray that you have enjoyed this as much as I have enjoyed digging into the Word as proclaimed by Yesha’yahu.

In my next post, we will begin to examine the character and writings of Kefa (Peter).

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] HCSB Study Bible.

Rejoice with Yerushalayim ~ Yesha’yahu 66:7-14

In my last post, we learned about The Humble and Contrite Spirit in Yesha’yahu 66:1-6. In this post, we continue to examine the last chapter in the prophecy of Yesha’yahu, learning about Rejoice with Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 66:7-14.

7 Before going into labor, she gave birth; before her pains came, she delivered a male child.

The fate of the wicked will not spoil the rejoicing of those who enter Yeshua’s kingdom. Isra’el’s restoration in the Kingdom Age will be accomplished so quickly it will be like a woman delivering her baby before going into labor.

8 Whoever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Is a country born in one day? Is a nation brought forth all at once? For as soon as Tziyon went into labor, she brought forth her children.

Tziyon (Yerushalayim) has been described as Isra’el’s mother before. Here the return to Y’hudah after the exile is described as Tziyon giving birth painlessly to many children.

9 “Would I let the baby breakthrough and not be born?” asks Adonai. “Would I, who cause the birth, shut the womb?” asks your God.

In previous passages, God is imagined to be the husband of Tziyon. That idea might also be operative here, but He is pictured as the doctor who delivered Tziyon’s babies. Isra’el’s rebirth is inevitable because God never begins what he doesn’t finish.

10 Rejoice with Yerushalayim! Be glad with her, all you who love her! Rejoice, rejoice with her, all of you who mourned for her; 11 so that you nurse and are satisfied by her comforting breast, drinking deeply and delighting in the overflow of her glory.

Yerushalayim, the mother of the returned exiles, will not only give them birth but will nurse them and give them life.

12 For Adonai says, “I will spread shalom over her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried in her arm and cuddled in her lap.

Yerushalayim will be a place of abundant peace (like a river) and overflowing wealth (like a flood). Adonai, the mother, will care for and play with her children, the returned inhabitants of Yerushalayim.

13 Like someYerushalayim, you will be comforted.”one comforted by his mother, I will comfort you; in 

Likening Himself to a mother, Adonai says, “I’m going to bounce you upon My knee.” He identifies Himself not only as a strong Father but as a tender, nourishing Mother.

14 Your heart will rejoice at the sight; your bodies will flourish like newly sprouted grass. It will be known that the hand of Adonai is with His servants, but with His enemies, His fury. ~ Isaiah 66:7-14 (CJB)

Adonai’s people will flourish, but his enemies will receive His fury.

In my next post, we conclude our study of Yesha’yahu, learning about Final Judgment and Glory of Adonai in Yesha’yahu 66:15-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Humble and Contrite Spirit ~ Yesha’yahu 66:1-6

In my last post, we learned about The New Heavens and A New Earth in Yesha’yahu 65:17-25. In this post, we learn about The Humble and Contrite Spirit in Yesha’yahu 66:1-6.

1 “Heaven is My throne,” says Adonai, “and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house could you build for Me? What sort of place could you devise for My rest?

One of the presumptions of the pre-exilic people of Adonai was that the Temple was the place where Adonai lived. This attitude had no justification, especially considering the speech King Solomon gave when he dedicated the Temple (1Kings 8:27). Thus, Adonai began the final prophesy in the book of Yesha’yahu by reminding His people that His presence fills heaven (My throne) and earth (My footstool).

The house spoken of here refers to the Temple. Before the Tribulation, Antichrist will work out a compromise between the Muslims and the Jews, allowing the Temple to be rebuilt on the Temple Mount. This will give him even greater power in the geopolitical, political arena.

2 Didn’t I Myself make all these things? This is how they all came to be,” says Adonai. “The kind of person on whom I look with favor is one with a poor and humble spirit, who trembles at My Word.

Adonai made everything. This means that people should honor and fear Adonai, which will result in humility, submissiveness to Adonai, and total obedience to His commands.

3 Those others might as well kill a person as an ox, as well break a dog’s neck as sacrifice a lamb, as well offer pig’s blood as offer a grain offering, as well bless an idol as burn incense. Just as these have chosen their ways and enjoy their disgusting practices,

The dog was not a sacrificial animal in Isra’el, although it was used in this manner in Hittite Anatolia. Pigs and dogs figured prominently in the rituals of the Hittites in Anatolia in the Late Bronze Age. When confronted with a ritual impurity, the Hittites often slaughtered a pig (usually by cutting it in half). Pigs and dogs were particularly prominent in worship of chthonic deities (those having to do with the netherworld. Some have suggested that the treatment of the pig in this type of ritual may have been one reason why the pig was considered unclean. [1]

Here, the Lord says, “I’m not impressed by your structures or your sacrifices. After all, you can’t offer Me anything I don’t already own. What I want is for you to humble yourselves before Me and be obedient to Me.”

4 so I will enjoy making fools of them, and bring on them the very things they fear. For when I called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not hear. Instead, they did what was evil in My sight and chose what did not please Me.”

Adonai would choose also; He would choose their punishment.

5 Hear the word of Adonai, you who tremble at His Word: “Your brothers, who hate you and reject you because of My name, have said: ‘Let Adonai be glorified, so we can see your joy.’ But they will be put to shame.” 6 That uproar in the city, that sound from the Temple, is the sound of Adonai repaying His foes what they deserve. ~ Isaiah 66:1-6 (CJB)

Trembling at Adonai’s Word indicates the kind of submission to Adonai that leads to obedience. The brothers (fellow Israelites) mocked the faithful by saying, let Adonai be glorified because they did not think that would happen. Adonai will see that the mockers get what they deserve.

There will come a time when the grace of Adonai will end, and those who reject Him will be confirmed in their choices. With Adonai repaying His foes what they deserve, no one will stand, no one will escape.

In my next post, we continue to examine the last chapter in the prophecy of Yesha’yahu, learning about Rejoice with Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 66:7-14.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament. As I have stated in the past, there is no passage in Scripture that specifically explains why God considered pigs as unclean and therefore not to be eaten.

God’s Announcement of Good News ~ Yesha’hayu 61:1-11

In my last post, we concluded our examination of the Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 60:13-22. In this post, we learn of God’s Announcement of Good News in Yesha’hayu 61:1-11.

1 The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me because Adonai has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark; 2 to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

Many of us are probably familiar with the opening verses of Yesha’hayu 61. Let me set the stage by looking at the Gospel of Luke.

16 Now when he went to Natzeret, where he had been brought up, on Shabbat, he went to the synagogue as usual. He stood up to read, 17, and he was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha’yahu. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of Adonai is upon me because he has anointed me to announce Good News to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned and renewed sight for the blind, to release those who have been crushed, 19 to proclaim a year of the favor of Adonai.” 20 After closing the scroll and returning it to the shammash, he sat down; and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He started to speak to them: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled! ~ Luke 4:16-21 (CJB)

When Yeshua read the appointed passage from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Natzeret and proclaimed, Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled the people knew He was claiming to be the Messiah. His earthly ministry did fulfill this messianic prophecy – at least part of it. He came to announce Good News, to heal, and to proclaim freedom. He came to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai. But that’s where Yeshua stopped when he read from Isaiah in Luke. At His first advent, He brought salvation. At His second advent, He will bring proclaim…the day of vengeance of our God. God’s judgment awaits His second coming when He will crush His enemies and restore Isra’el to the ultimate place of glory.

3 yes, provide for those in Tziyon who mourn, giving them garlands instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a heavy spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by Adonai, in which he takes pride.

Following the vengeance of the Tribulation, God will comfort. He will give beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for mourning, the cloak of praise for the heavy spirit. This speaks of the Millennium to be sure, but also of our present situation. You see, a garment is something you can put on and take off. That is the way praise is. You can decide to slip it on or cast it off. It is a decision we make every day. When your spirit gets heavy, start praising and worshiping. Speak praise out loud. Sing songs of praise. Worship the Lord. The cloak of praise or the heavy spirit? It’s our choice.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins, restore sites long destroyed; they will renew the ruined cities, destroyed many generations ago.

Recall from my first post in this series (way back when) that Yesha’yahu wrote this prophecy sometime between 745-686 BCE. The Babylonians devastated Yerushalayim and its surrounding towns and villages in 587 BCE. This prophecy looks to the future when the cities will be restored and rebuilt.

5 Strangers will stand and feed your flocks, foreigners plow your land and tend your vines; 6, but you will be called cohanim of Adonai, spoken of as ministers to our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and revel in their riches.

Isra’el will go from being despised among the nations to becoming the head of the nations – a rebuilt and glorious land that will be fitting as the place from which the Messiah will rule. As the Gentiles enrich and serve Isra’el, God’s people will finally be what they were always meant to be – a nation in which all of the people will be called cohanim of Adonai, ministering His grace to all the world. Therefore, they are spoken of as ministers to our God.

In the Millennium, when Yeshua comes back, the Jews again will be ministers of God. God is not through with Isra’el. The prophecies of the Bible will not make sense to you unless you see clearly that the Lord still has a beautiful work to do with her. In Romans 9-11, we see God’s plan and heart for His people, the nation of Isra’el.

7 Because of your shame, which was doubled, and because they cried, “They deserve disgrace,” therefore, in their land, what they own will be doubled, and joy forever will be theirs. 8 “For I, Adonai, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offerings. So, I will be faithful to reward them and make an eternal covenant with them.”

In other words, the Jews would experience twice as much joy and blessing upon returning to their land as the confusion and shame they felt when they left it as they were carried into captivity.

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations, their offspring among the peoples; all who see them will acknowledge that they are the seed Adonai has blessed.

In the Avrahamic covenant, God promised that Avraham‘s descendants would enjoy a great blessing, which pointed to happiness and prosperity. As Believers, we live under the new covenant. Still, one-day, Isra’el will also rule when Yeshua comes to rule on the throne of David in His millennial kingdom, and Isra’el receives Him as their Messiah. In that day, all people will acknowledge that they are the seed Adonai has blessed.

10 I am so joyful in Adonai! My soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in salvation, dressed me with a robe of triumph, like a bridegroom wearing a festive turban, like a bride adorned with her jewels. 11 For just as the earth brings forth its plants or a garden makes its plants spring up, so Adonai, God, will cause victory and glory to spring up before all nations. ~ Isaiah 61:1-11 (CJB)

This is the song of the ransomed and redeemed. The Jews sang it upon their return from Bavel. It is sung by Believers, covered with the robe of Yeshua’s righteousness. And it will be sung in the kingdom age -all to the glory of God.

Yesha’yahu used the theme of clothing to describe his take on God’s salvation and righteousness. These were not just any clothes but the clothes of a bride. This image implies the metaphor of God as the husband of His people.

In my next post, we will explore Tziyon’s Restoration in Yesha’yahu 62.

Click here for the PDF version.