The Testimony and the Law

In Isaiah right between chapter 7, which gives us the sign of Immanuel, and chapter 9, which tells us a child is born and a son is given, sits chapter 8.  I want to look at some things in this very interesting and prophetic chapter.  In verse 16 it states, “Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples.”(NIV)  This is a very compelling verse.  When I first saw this verse it was the word “disciple” that caught my attention.  I thought that was an odd word to use in the Old Testament so I looked it up and it appears that Isaiah and Jeremiah are the only two who use this word and Isaiah is the only one who uses it to refer to the disciples of God. I found this interesting because I think, like most of you probably, of a disciple as someone from the New Testament era.  I was not aware that it was also in the Old Testament.

If you notice Isaiah is being told to bind up something and seal up something.  He is to bind up the testimony and seal up the law.  This language reminds me a lot of when Gabriel tells Daniel to seal up the vision for the time of the end.  But he is being told to seal up the law.  We all know what that is.  It is the Books of Moses, the Torah.  But what of the testimony, what is that?

It reminded me of a verse in Revelation 12, verse 17:  “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”(NIV)  The commandments could very easily be another word for the law since Psalm 119 uses many different words to refer to the Law:  Law, Commandment, Precept, Ordinance, and even Word.  So we have the Law represented here, but is the testimony of Jesus the same testimony that Isaiah is referring to?  Let’s find out.

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:5 & 6.  “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.”(NIV)  Paul here is referring to Jesus as the testimony.  But can we be sure it is the testimony that Isaiah is speaking of? 

Back in Isaiah 8 let’s go back a few verses and read what is above verse 16.  Let’s start in verse 13 and go through 15, “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.  And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.  Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”(NIV)  That sounds familiar!

Romans 9:31-33 says, “but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”  As it is written:  “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.””  Paul definitely believes the “stumbling stone” in Isaiah is referring to Jesus.

Peter also speaks of it.  In I Peter 2:4-9 he says, “as you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For in Scripture it says:  “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.  But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”  They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for.  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”(NIV)  Yes, even Peter sees Jesus as the stumbling stone.

These verse are definitely declaring Jesus to be the “testimony” that Isaiah was referring to. 

The verses in 1 Peter tie back to Isaiah 8 in another way as well.  Peter speaks of being brought to His wonderful light.  We are brought to the light of Him.  If we go back to Isaiah 8 verse 20 we read, “To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.”  That’s right the Law and the testimony of Jesus is what gives us light.  He is the Light!

Finally, In Revelation 22 we see Jesus-the testimony-declaring He is coming soon and in verse 14 it says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”(KJV) 

So we have seen how Jesus, YESHUA, is the testimony of God to man and that He is linked all through Scripture to the Law, TORAH.  He is the living word, the living Torah, the living Law.  We cannot separate Him and faith in Him from the Law anymore than we can separate His humanness from His deity.  They are forever linked and meant for His disciples

Not surprising since we see in Isaiah 2:2 & 3, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.  Many peoples will come and say, “Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”(NIV)  That’s right, in His kingdom, Yeshua will sit on His throne in the House of God and teach the Torah.  How awesome is that!

Let us be ready!  Let us know His word and obey it!  In doing so we are declaring our love for Him.  Oh, what a love!  A love that seeks to obey every word that comes from the mouth of God.  It is never contrary to Grace to obey the One we claim to love.  Otherwise, it is words alone, it is faith alone, and as James (Jacob) the brother of our Lord said, “faith without works is dead.”  May it never be, may our obedience prove our faith day after day.

Yeshua-the testimony-and the Torah are forever linked.  Hallelujah!!

May we live each day for HIM!

Declaring His Praises,

Vicky

Entering Our Mikvah Waters

When we accept His pursuit and His Mohar, when He places His Name on us and seals us with His Holy Spirit we then find ourselves in the waters of the Mikvah.  In coming to the mikvah we are accepting His pursuit of us and telling Him that we are willing to follow, to take up our cross and follow Him daily as Luke 9 tells us to do.

Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”(NIV)  For Jesus it was Him telling His Father, “I’m ready to pursue this course of marriage.  I’m ready to pursue my Bride and I’m ready to pay the Mohar.  I know where it goes, it goes to me paying the Mohar and I’m willing to follow”.  That’s why the Father could say, “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.”  John let’s us know that the reason the Father loves Him is because He laid down His life.  He was willing to pay the Mohar.

For us though, remember, it’s all about our response to Him because we cannot come to Him unless He draws us.  So everything we do is in response to Him.  I Peter 3:20b-22 “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”(NIV)  Our Mikvah is not about clean verses unclean, not the removal of dirt from the body.  Do you remember as we accept His Mohar, remember from Hebrews 9, His Mohar  redeems us and cleanses our conscience.  Only with that good conscience can we respond in any way to Him.

I want to talk to you about that phrase, “pledge of a good conscience” because it is essential, it is the whole crux of the matter.  The word “pledge”, if you have a different translation you might see the word “response” or “answer”.  That word in the Greek literally means “question”.  What question might that be?  Take a wild guess.  Will you marry Me?  Will you marry Me?  What we do is a response to His question.  It is our pledge, our vow, our answer and our response.  It is our “yes” to Him. 

It’s important that you let your yes be yes.  Numbers 30 let’s us know that vows and promises and pledges are irrevocable.  They’re forever binding.  So we give Him our “yes” in the waters of the Mikvah.  We give it to Him out of the good conscience He has given us, the conscience that He purchased for us.  Did you catch that?  We give Him our “yes” through the waters of the Mikvah, that physical act, out of that good conscience that He purchased for us.

There is a second part, though, to our Mikvah.  Do you know that when we come to Christ were entering a nation?   We are acknowledging our rebirth into the nation of Israel by the Name of Jesus.  I want to share with you what happens when anyone converts to Judaism to this day.  A convert to Judaism, whether male or female, is required to immerse themselves in the mikvah waters two or three times marking their rebirth as members of the people of Israel.  Isn’t that interesting?  Are you aware that in very early Christian history it was very popular that when one was baptized they would be immersed three times, in the Name of the Father, in the Name of the Son, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit and some denominations still practice that?  Upon doing so, they exit the waters as a Jew, a citizen of the nation.

Unfortunately, the Christian church has distanced itself from it’s heritage and roots in Judaism.  Even though the Old Testament is still read and preached, the church has in a lot of ways removed itself from that same Old Testament.  Yes, we are under the New Covenant, but that New Covenant writes the Old Covenant on our hearts.  To say it another way, it writes the Israelite Constitution on our hearts.  Therefore, we are exiting the waters of our mikvah as citizens of God’s Kingdom, members of God’s household.

This leads us to Acts 2:38-39 where Peter responds to the people on the day of Pentecost when the people ask the disciples, “What shall we do?”  “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”(NIV) 

In other words, go through the waters of the Mikvah, everyone of you.  You see, on this particular day and in very early church history there was no separation in the accepting of the pursuit, the accepting of the Mohar, the coming of the Holy Spirit and going through the waters of the Mikvah.   Today, we tend to think of  those as separate steps or stages.  But for them, it was all one fluid motion. 

Whereas, we tend to dissect it into different pieces, making salvation more about us getting the steps right than on the work of the Messiah and God’s ability to call us and justify us through His Holy Spirit.  Upon exiting the mikvah waters they had re-identified themselves with Yeshua and the New Covenant.  They became true citizens of the Kingdom of God, God’s Israel, God’s Royal family (His princes and princesses) under King Yeshua, God’s Ambassadors, God’s Holy Priesthood under His High Priest Jesus Christ.

We also find in Isaiah 44:3-5 the following words:  “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground;  I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.  One will say, `I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, `The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel.”(NIV)

All who go through this process of Kiddushin, go through the waters of the Mikvah and receive the Holy Spirit, it’s all one fluid motion, remember that.  Don’t try to divide it in your head like we often do today.  It is all one fluid motion.  Those who do that, who receive the Spirit, look what it says, one will say I belong to the Lord, another will call himself by the name of Jacob, still another will write on his hand ‘the Lord’s’ and will do what, will take the name Israel.  Those of us who are not Jewish by birth, we have to take on that name because it is completely foreign to us.  We take on the name of Israel.  Therefore our Mikvah gives Jesus our pledge or our answer to His marriage proposal and confers our citizenship as part of Israel.

I know that the book of Romans can be a very deep, deep theological book, but I am going to attempt to sum it up in just a few sentences to show how it fits our theme here.  First of all we are dead in our sins in need of a redeemer.  We call on the name of the Lord and we are baptized, we go through the water of the Mikvah in the name of Christ and receive and live according to His Spirit, the Seal.  We are brought into the nation of Israel and made God’s children and heirs of His promise.  And Israel lives how?  According to the Spirit by giving sacrifices acceptable to God, living sacrifices.  That’s the book of Romans.  If you ever wondered why that talk of Israel is right in the middle of the book, that’s why.  Because when we call on the Name of Jesus and go through the waters of the Mikvah we are entering the nation.  The blessed nation of Israel.

I want to make it very clear that I am in no way advocating Replacement Theology in any way, shape, or fashion.  I do not believe the “church” replaces Israel and God still has some very specific promises for the land of Israel and the Jewish people.  However, we are now included in those promises in the way God sees fit because we have been grafted into that nation and those Jews who place their faith in Yeshua will also be grafted back into that nation.  We are all one nation.  There is not one way of salvation for the Jew and one for the Gentile, but one way for all, Jesus Christ.  My Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith have their part to play and I have mine as a non-Jewish believer and God decides what those will be.  The “church” does not become the new Israel, but upon belief Jews enter into God’s true Israel – the Assembly of the Saints.  To say the the “church” becomes the new Israel separates the Old Covenant from the New and thereby separates God’s story into two stories.  God’s story is one story.  It is one truth and Jesus/Yeshua is the center of all of it.  You see, all of the Bride awaits the same beloved Bridegroom!

In the Name of Our King,

Vicky

The Two ONE

In the book of Acts we see the apostles having to learn to accept Gentiles into the faith.  This took a dramatic event in the life of Peter when God lowered a sheet with unclean animals for Peter to kill and eat.  God did this three times and the message was not the food, it was “do not call unclean what (God has) made clean”, meaning the Gentiles.  Immediately following this Peter goes to a Gentile home and shares the good news of Jesus with them in their home, something that was forbidden for a Jew to do. 

We then see Paul becoming the apostle to the Gentiles.  He took the good news as far as he could, no matter the personal cost.  Immediately on his heals were the Judaizers who claimed that the Gentiles first had to become Jews before becoming a believer in Jesus.  Paul flatly rejected this in very graphic terms.  In fact, I want to be clear on this point, once one is a believer in Jesus they are no longer a Gentile because a Gentile is a foreigner and alien, but in Christ we are made citizens of His nation, the holy nation of Israel over which He is king.  This was the situation in Bible times.

Fast forward 2000 years and what do we see happening in the land of Israel today?  We see many who want to separate the Arabs and Israelis living in the land onto different sides.  Truth is they are on different sides.  On one hand Jews have the right of return to the land of Israel, the land promised to them, and on the other side the Arabs want the Jews completely out of the land and consider the Israelis to be occupiers and colonialists.  There are those who wish to divide the land calling a part of it the West Bank.  What some like to call the West Bank in indeed a part of the historical land of Israel once known as Judea and Samaria. 

This land is proportioned specifically in Scripture among the tribes of Israel.  It was to eventually be the Israelis land.  So how can this be resolved?  How is reconciliation in a land that just about everyone seems to want to divide possible?  There is only one answer to this question.

Those who believe in Yeshua the Messiah are the light in a dark situation.  For the Arab believers in the land there is a group called Musalaha (www.musalaha.org), which is Arabic for reconciliation.  They organize camps for Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  This effort needs our prayers. 

Musalaha also puts events together so that Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians can come together in worship experiencing how both sides worship Messiah.  At the same time they also reach out to Muslim Arabs in the land to show them the love and truth of Christ through different outreach opportunities.

On the other side there are Messianic Jews in the land who want a strong bond relationship with Arab Christians as well.  These Messianic Jews are trying to reach out to their fellow Jews with the love and truth of the Messiah.  One such ministry in Israel is Heart of G-d Ministries (www.heartofg-d.org).  While Heart of G-d seeks to encourage Aliyah (Jewish right of return) of all Jews both Messianic and not Messianic, there are some elements of the Israeli government that are trying to keep Messianic Jews from having the right of return, claiming they are not real Jews.  They too need our prayers.

Both sides report a good relationship with the other.  A relationship that is only possible through Christ.  These two sides are coming together.  As they do they will begin to look more and more like each other.  Why?  Because they will look more and more like the Savior. 

The Arab does not have to become a Jew and the the Jew does not have to leave behind his roots, on the contrary they are both the spiritual nation of Israel.  Both grafted into the one tree that is Israel, God’s nation of princes, His holy nation and priesthood.  The root of that tree being the Old Testament (Covenant) fulfilled in Yeshua who spilled His blood, the blood of the New Covenant.

It should be our prayer that as more and more Jews come into the land they will come to know their Messiah as they are surrounded by the truth of who they are and who He is.  Also, that the Arab Christians will spur them on to jealousy as they continue to grow in their own faith and grow closer and closer to the Messianic Jews. 

Jesus is the answer for the peace of Jerusalem and the land of Israel, ONLY Yeshua.  What an awesome time we live in.  We have before us a living example of the two becoming one if only we will take the time to see.

Yes, Jesus has put to death their hostility.  Now it is up to these believers to live that out in a land and an environment that would rather them not.  Yet it is the life that Yeshua calls them to live.  A life that the cross of Christ demands.  They must pick up their cross daily and follow Him where others do not want to go.  How blessed they are as they daily live out the mystery.  May God grant them His grace and His power to live this life.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all the land.

Vicky 

The Hope to Which You are Called

 Ephesians 1:15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

This is an awesome prayer that is great to pray over ones personal life and family. Paul commends the believers on their faith in Yeshua/Jesus and also in their love for all the saints (whether Jew or Gentile).  Their priorities are just what God the Father would want them to be and this is commended by Paul.  Their love for all the saints is essential to everything we are talking about.  It is because they have faith in Jesus our Messiah that they know obeying His command to love one another must be followed, and follow it they do.  Because of this evidence of faith that Paul continually gives thanks for them and expands his prayers for them.

The prayer of Paul in this chapter is amazing when you take a close look.  He begins with a very interesting statement, “I keep asking”.  This is not a one time prayer for Paul on their behalf.  If is one he prays for them time and time again.  Therefore, one might say that this is very much on his heart for these believers, not just a casual thought now and again. 

He asks the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ – that’s right Jesus worshiped, honored, obeyed, prayed to, praised, and glorified His Father during His earthly life, God the Son did all these things in regard to the Heavenly Father – for the Holy Spirit to give wisdom and revelation to the believers.  He offers this prayer so that they will know God better and thereby so that they would be able to properly acknowledge their God.

In this knowledge and acknowledgement of Him, as they gaze at His glory and brilliance, Paul asks that the God would shed His rays of light on them.  In other words, “that the eyes of [their] heart may be enlightened”.  Or to put it another way, as the believers looked upon God’s light that God would share that light with them or reflect it upon them.  Our glory is not our own, it is merely a reflection of His.  We would do ourselves a great service to remember this. 

Paul asked for this reflection of God’s glory in their lives for three reasons: 1) that they would know the hope to which they were called 2) that they would know the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints and 3) that they would know His incomparably great power for all (Jew or Gentile) who believe.  Let’s break them down one at a time.

The first one, that they would know the hope to which they were called, reveals the foundation of their faith.  The hope that Paul speaks of here is a confidence, not wishful, in the promised expectations.  Knowing that they can fully rely on the promises of God with joyful anticipation and steadfast confidence.  This hope is unshakable.  This hope or joyful and steadfast anticipation is firmly imbedded in their calling or God’s invitation in their lives.  God’s invitation to wholeheartedly follow Him in all His ways.  Just as Jesus called the disciples.  He did not just say, “come”, He said, “come follow me”.  We come to God through Jesus and then proceed to follow Him.

The second reason God reflects His glory on us, making us more like Him, is so that we can know the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.  These riches are the abundant life in our Messiah.  As we know the abundant life is not just for the here and now, but also for eternity.  It is the life lived to the full forever.  A life lived to the full, think about that for a moment.  To know this life that can only be lived with His glorious inheritance that He has placed in His saints.  This refers back to the love He has commanded to have toward one another and ahead to the power of the Spirit in our lives.  However, for this particular point it is important to note that the whole of the saints are in view here, not individuals.  We, as the saints of God, can only live the life to the full, the abundant life, or experience God’s glorious riches in our lives when we live within the whole of the body of Christ.  We cannot forsake the assembly of ourselves together as the writer of Hebrews to eloquently put it.

Lastly, on this list, is to know the power and not just a little power, but super dynamite power for us who believe.  To say it another way, a super-duper magnitude of power for us who come and follow.  Power that goes beyond anything that you and I can comprehend and yet that is the vastness of power that He has placed in His people.  It is also not an arbitrary power, but it is His power.  Then just to make sure his readers understand the true magnitude of this power Paul describes it.  And what a description. 

A power that is according to God’s mighty strength, or strength strength, or power power, or might might.  The two Greek words used here could have easily been translated this way.  They are two different words with very similar meanings.  In other words, Paul was driving home the enormity of God’s power, strength or might.  It was this power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead and to seat Him at His right hand.  No small task to be sure.  Again to be clear, Paul explains the powerful seat of the Messiah.  Yeshua is above all and not just a little above them, but far above or super-duper above.  It is the same Greek prefix used above on “immeasurably”, it is the “hyper” prefix.  So Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”  Needless to say, that is a High Seat. 

Paul does not stop at just how high that seat of power is, but also let’s us know what God placed under His (Yeshua’s) feet.  He placed everything or “the whole” under His feet.  He is the head, the One to take hold of, of the church or the “assembly” of His saints.  He was given this position by His Father, to say it another way, this position was committed to Him by His Father.  He is our head, He is the One we take hold of, in everything – absolutely everything – that concerns His people.  He is our Rock, our Firm Foundation, our Anchor, our Cornerstone and He is the One who holds us steady in any storm.  He has absolute supreme authority over His body.

What a body it is, it is what He died for – it is of utmost importance to Him.  His body, His people, are the fullness of Him – the One who fills everything in every way.  WOW, the fullness of Him.  That is who we are.  Do not let that escape you.  The whole of the body or bride of Christ is the fullness of Him.    We were given His fullness when He gave us His Holy Spirit.  We lack nothing in Him.  Everything we need for life and godliness has been given to us.  We are His reflection to a lost world.  Let us live a life worthy of that calling!

According to His Power That is at Work in Us Who Believe,

Vicky