Discerning Life and Truth

The verses below are a quote from Psalm 118:22-23.

10 Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. 11 This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Mark 12:10–11 (NKJV)

In context Jesus was disputing with the priests, scribes and elders. He had just told the parable of the unjust stewards of the vineyard and informed them that they were going to lose it, the vineyard, in this case representing Israel. Then in His quotation of Psalm 118 Jesus was doing two things. He was pointing out something His challengers had missed, or at least missed the significance of in scripture, and He was letting them know they were wrong in their views.

Here we will look at the message inherent in construction and then apply it to discernment. In building the right stones needed to be selected to fit together. The cornerstone was foundational and every other stone need to be shaped to align with it. The leaders were charged with building and stewarding the nation of Israel and Jesus was pointing out that in their rejection of Him they were rejecting the very cornerstone they needed to build upon.

There is a discernment principle here. When we consider why they would reject the very one they were waiting for the answer is obvious. They had expectations, rules and a checklist. Jesus didn’t tick the right boxes. When they looked at Jesus, they saw not a cornerstone but a stone that didn’t into what they wanted to build. It never occurred to them that what they wanted to build wasn’t what Yahweh was building. After all, they knew and determined what was right.

This pattern is repeated over and over in the gospels. It isn’t always about rejection; it is always about how we see and what we expect. In John 4, the woman at the well and the disciples both initially missed what Jesus was pointing to because their minds and hearts were directed elsewhere. Jesus had to shift their focus.  

Often our current views blind us to new views. We are unable to see the new because we are fixated on the old. In the season we have been in for the last two years we hear from many a desire to return to normal. I think if that is our vision, we are missing the point of this season. We need to seek His heart and discern where He wants us to go from here. How do we do church in a way that community and relationships are strong for the next thing that comes? Covid exposed fault lines within culture and within the church. We need to learn from this and consider whether we have been building on the right things. Has Jesus been the cornerstone the last two years? Have we built our church communities around Jesus? If not, how do we shift in a way that sincere believers on both sides of our current divides will have a bridge to cross over and remain?

Where Wisdom Rests

This verse, specifically the first phrase, has carried great significance for me for many years.

33 Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)

The significance lies in the fact that when I think of wisdom I think of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says that Jesus is wisdom to us from God. Thus, when I consider the idea of wisdom resting within me I think of Jesus resting in my heart. There is however a qualifier, it says that wisdom/Jesus rests in the heart of those with understanding. Which means there is a need to look at what understanding means.

The Hebrew word translated as understanding is bin and refers to discerning or carefully considering. It could be translated as ‘Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has discernment/is discerning’ and we know from Hebrews 5:13-14 that wisdom is the fruit of maturity.

We have the word in understanding context in the verse and then the broader context of Proverbs. We also have a contrast in this proverb with wisdom resting in the heart of the wise, in a sense hidden, waiting to be revealed at the right time, while what is in the heart of the fool is exposed. In Proverbs the word ‘fool’ refers not to one who lacks intelligence, rather it refers to one who does not seek and honour God.

A clear implication here is that the wise and mature have less to say than the fools. The wise and discerning weigh their words carefully. We live in a time when civility has greatly decreased, in particular in online discourse. What is needed in this hour is wisdom; wisdom coming from the hearts of those who take the time to listen, weigh and consider before speaking, those who have Jesus resting in their hearts. In this hour we need not bombast and hype – we need wise words that point the way.  

Knowing that the understanding or discerning create a place for Jesus to rest in their hearts and then speak when He is speaking or prompting from within, we need to do two things. We need to practice restraint if we are not already doing so. We then need to discern and speak what Jesus is speaking into the lives and circumstances of those around. After all Jesus pointed us to the fruit of wisdom, let us heed Him.

35 “But wisdom is justified by all her children.” Luke 7:35 NKJV

Authority and Power

In the last two years the world has battled the power of Covid. We as the church have also engaged in this battle, though our battle is both with Covid and the spiritual power behind it. There have been conflicting perspectives on it, failed prophecies on when it will end and on and on. Many of us have prayed and not yet received the answer or outcome that we sought and so we live with the certainty of uncertainty, and for many of us a sense of growing weary in the battle.

So, we will take a look at what we are battling against. In scripture horns represent power. In the Old and New Testaments, we see it in both a positive and negative light.

1 And Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.” 1 Samuel 2:1 (NKJV)

10 But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. Psalm 92:10 (NKJV)

8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. 9 “I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire; 10 A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened. 11 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. Daniel 7:8-11 (NKJV)

6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Revelation 5:6 (NKJV)

11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. Revelation 13:11-12 (NKJV)

In the passages where we see a horn or horns representing power. Yet the power of the enemy is always defeated by the authority and power of the Lord. No matter how long it takes or what we have to face we can be confident in something Jesus said.

19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.Luke 10:19 (NKJV)

We also see the extent of Jesus authority in The Great Commission.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth and He has delegated us to exercise His authority in the earth. To do so we must be actively engaged in the battle that we are all in and the battle is first fought in the realm of prayer. We not have seen the things we would like to see in the last two years. In spite of what we have not seen our response needs to be one of continuing to look to Him. A response of repenting of anything that He has put His finger on in our lives (2 Chronicles 7:14) and coming before His throne seeking His face. The world needs to see a testimony of a church that reflects the Jesus of scripture not the Jesus of our culture. There are pockets of this so let us press in for more and obey what Jesus said.

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV)

Jesus never told us to pray once, never to pray until we are tired, never to pray when we feel good. He told us to pray until the answer comes. In fact, the Amplified Bible captures the Greek tense in the above verses and says to ‘…keep on asking…keep on seeking…keep on knocking.’

What we are facing looks intimidating. We need to face it with confidence in the authority that we carry. When we look at scripture and history we see these strong horns, these horns of power rising up again and again but ultimately always bowing to the authority of the King of kings and
Lord of lords. We are also assured in Revelation that this will continue until consummated in the final outcome!

So, as this year ends and we step into the coming year let us continue to battle to overcome the power of the enemy, persisting in prayer, seeking His wisdom and exercising His delegated authority. Let our lives be an emphatic yes to Jesus’ question, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The Future Hides in the Past

I generally listen to worship music. However, I also like some artists from my past. Two who I admire for their lyrical skills are Jackson Browne and Dan Fogelberg. Recently Spotify created a playlist for me so I decided to listen to it while I working out in my basement. While I was listening to an old Jackson Browne song that I was not familiar with (Something Fine) a line in the song caught my attention, “The future hides in the past.” Being intrigued by the phrase I looked up the lyrics, which actually say, “The future hides and the past just slides.” Not at all what I heard.

Be that as it may, what I heard in the phrase highlights one way the Holy Spirit speaks to me. He will often highlight a phrase someone says and give it a different emphasis or twist, or while hearing the actual words I will hear something slightly different that holds spiritual significance. When this happens, I have learned that what I hear points to something He wants me to focus on. In reflecting on ‘The Future Hides in the Past’ I was drawn to a truth of scripture. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul tells us that the things in the past were written for our example – the future hides in the past.

11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV)

While Paul’s was providing a warning to learn from, he was also pointing to a pattern we can see unveiled in the scriptures. In the Old Testament when Israel was faithful in following Yahweh, they experienced blessing and favour. When they went astray, they experienced calamity. There is a parallel truism in the helping professions, ‘The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.’ Again, for good or bad.

Paul expressed the same sentiment in different language.

11 This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. 12 If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. 13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NKJV)

The basic point – He is faithful. We can trust Him. Anytime we incline our hearts toward Him we encounter His heart

In this coming year, whatever you face, I challenge you to look back. Looking back, not upon errors or failures, looking back upon your history of His faithfulness. When we have truly depended upon and looked to Him, we know He has always been faithful. In your history of His faithfulness, see what is to come, ‘the future hides in the past.’

Prayer from Where?

In scripture there is an interesting shift in the location of the Altar of Incense from how it is presented in Exodus 30 to Hebrews 9. We begin with a little information from scripture showing what the Altar of Incense represents.

So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.” (Luke 1:8–10, NKJV)

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8, NKJV)

Here we see that the incense ascending from the altar represents prayer. Zechariah and the other priests took their turns each day offering incense on the Altar of Incense which was positioned before the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies so that the incense wafted into the Holy of Holies to the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. This design is seen in the Tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness. The furniture of the Tabernacle and the design of the priestly garments are described in Exodus 25-30. The placing of the Altar of Incense is in Exodus 30:1-5. We also have clear descriptions of the placement of everything in the tabernacle in Exodus 40 when the tabernacle was first set up.

This now leads us to Hebrews 9.

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;” (Hebrews 9:1–4, NKJV)

The phrase ‘golden censor’ here refers to the Altar of Incense and that is how it is translated in some bible versions. So, we have the author of Hebrews writing something that isn’t true, bear with me here. If you read Hebrews 11:8-11, the hall of faith chapter, you will find what is written there doesn’t appear to be true either. It says Abraham ‘obeyed’ and Sarah had ‘faith.’ In fact, if you read the accounts in Genesis, you have a different story. Abraham was told to leave his father’s house and go to Canaan, instead he went halfway with his father, then after he died continued on with Lot. Sarah laughed and didn’t believe the Lord when told she would conceive in her old age. I think we reconcile these differing accounts by recognizing that in Hebrews we are being given heaven’s perspective. The focus is not on the failures of Abraham and Sarah but the fruit of their obedience. Failure is ignored in heaven’s assessment.

Thus, back to Hebrews 9. From heaven’s perspective the Altar of Incense was moved into the Holy of Holies before the Mercy Seat because of what it represented. Understanding this requires looking at what the furniture in the Tabernacle of Moses represented. The Holy Place with the Lampstand, Table of Showbread and Altar of Incense represents our soul – our mind, will and emotions. The mind is the lampstand which receives light and illumination. The showbread with the ground flour represents a submitted and prepared will. The altar our emotions, from which prayer is to arise. The Holy of Holies speaks of our spirit, the innermost hidden place where His presence is designed to dwell.

This brings us to the implications of the Altar of Incense being in the Holy of Holies. In Romans 10:10 Paul said it is with our heart that we believe. Prior to that he said the following.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1, NKJV)

As I see it the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament is the transition from prayer arising from our soul to prayer arising and flowing forth from our reborn spirit. While that may not always be our practice, I think it is the scriptural design. Prayer was never meant to be an intellectual exercise; it is to arise from our passions and desires. Our heart is to be engaged.

I remember one time reading the story of a newly married pastor where he shared his journey into fruitful prayer. He said he was faithful to get up and pray an hour each morning. One day his new bride said, “Why don’t you record your prayer tomorrow?” He naturally wanted to know why. She said, “Well then you can just play the tape and you don’t have to get up so early every morning because you always recite the same thing.” While hurting his pride her question and comment also changed his prayer life, which is why he shared the story. Similarly, Charles Finney, a great man of prayer, said that if we can’t remember what we prayed about just after we prayed it wasn’t really prayer.

In conclusion, our prayers are to arise from our heart desires and the message of Hebrew 9:4 is that they are to arise from our being in His presence, not our seeking to arrive there. Let’s develop the habit of presenting our petitions from where we already are rather than from where we would like to be (Ephesians 1:3, Colossians 3:1-3).

What did He Say?

When we read the gospels we come across some interesting and challenging statements from Jesus. One of them is found in the following passage.

20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20–21 (NKJV)

Over the centuries many have sought to find a hidden meaning in the dual ideas of the kingdom not coming with observation and being within us. So a couple of points. The first is that Jesus is saying it isn’t about looking for signs. The second is that the word ‘within’ refers to being among, with or in the midst. Thus, Jesus seems to be saying ‘the kingdom is already here but you are not aware of it.’ This is where context comes in as Jesus then goes on to talk about His second coming and the signs that will precede and encompass His return. This is one of those occasions where if I were among the disciples I would have wanted one of those private conversations afterward where I got Jesus to explain what He was actually talking about!

In light of that a little cultural context is helpful as even Jesus inner circle didn’t get this and still hadn’t after Jesus resurrection and just prior to His ascension. Look at what Luke records.

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:4–8 (NKJV)

In verse 6 they essentially asked the same question that the Pharisees had asked in Luke 17. In essence, “That’s nice Jesus but when do we get to rule and reign over everything as Israel?” Leading up to Jesus earthly ministry was the expectation of a conquering messiah who would restore power to Israel and rule over their enemies, the restoration of the Davidic kingdom. I won’t go over it in detail but even John the Baptist expected this as evidenced by his question to Jesus from prison (Luke 7:18-23). Even John was expecting that his forerunner ministry would usher in the cultural messiah who would restore the kingdom to Israel.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus hearers in the culture of the day we would have likely been equally confused. They didn’t see two things. The first was that the messiah was coming not just for Israel but for all (Luke 4:18-19) and that the messiah they were awaiting was inaugurating something much greater than the restoration of the Davidic kingdom. Jesus brought the kingdom with Him but the evidence of it was the release of power to heal hearts, restore broken lives and unveil reality. All of this would lead to the spreading of His kingdom in hearts and lives across the earth leading up to His eventual return as conquering King, the King of all creation! So, our looking won’t being the kingdom. Our recognizing when it is moving in our midst will however allow us to participate in and further it. Let’s do that.

Walking in Authority Part 2

Obviously to walk in authority we need to have authority. To take this further I will look at how we have authority or authority becomes operational in our lives by coming under authority. In a future post I will look at the connection between authority derived from ‘love for’ and ‘commission from.’ Now to coming under authority.

A great example of authority gone awry is Saul, the first king of Israel. If you are not familiar with the story, Saul was anointed king by Samuel the prophet at the Lord’s command. He was positioned for success. However things went terribly wrong when Saul ignored Samuel’s commands regarding sacrifice and bowed to the people. Saul was insecure, and whether consciously or not, he saw his authority as coming from people liking him and following him. When Moses was under pressure from an unhappy nation he responded by seeking Yahweh’s face. When Saul was under pressure from unhappy people he acquiesced. A brief summary of Saul’s response is in 1 Samuel. Here Saul was waiting as per Samuel’s direction but when Samuel did not show up on time and the people were leaving him Saul took upon himself the role of priest, Samuel’s role, and offered the sacrifice. He went beyond his sphere of authority and while it did satisfy his insecurity it brought a rebuke from Samuel. The event is laid out below.

Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him.

11 And Samuel said, “What have you done?”

Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”

13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:8–14 (NKJV)

Saul’s decision that day eventually cost him everything because he never got back on the right path.

In great contrast we have Jesus only doing what He saw His Father doing, walking in continual submission to His Father’s authority.

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 (NKJV)

30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:30 (NKJV)

To be clear, Jesus as part of the Trinity is not less than the Father or Spirit but in His mission on earth as fully God and fully Man the testimony of scripture is that somehow He denied Himself access to His divine attributes and knowledge and walked in dependency on the Father and Spirit. This is a subject books are written about. Suffice to say for our purposes that we see it in scripture and Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 that all authority had been given to Him as a result of His obedience. Jesus authority was derived from submission to authority. That is also in scripture.

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Matthew 21:23–27 (NKJV)

Jesus was directly confronted by the religious leaders as to the source of His authority and seemingly never answered their question – or did He? There is a direct connection to John’s baptism. When Jesus was baptized the Spirit descended and the Father spoke audibly and affirmed Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17). At the same time John was offering a baptism symbolizing repentance from sin. John recognized that Jesus had no sin, and that in fact he needed to be baptized by Jesus. Yet John submitted to Jesus request based upon what Jesus said.

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:15 (NKJV)

Jesus told John that his baptism of Jesus would ‘fulfill all righteousness.’ We might logically wonder how and the answer is that John was the last in the line of Old Testament prophets. His was a transitional ministry and he represented all those who had gone before. In essence Jesus was telling the religious leaders who confronted Him that His authority came from submitting to, coming under, all of the prophets who came before Him and pointed to Him.

Thus, given that even Jesus in His humanity derived authority from coming under authority who are we to think that we could arrive at authority any other way? Let us submit to those He has placed over us and come under the authority of His word.

Praying for Israel Part 2

In my last post I established that Jesus is not returning until the leadership of Israel welcomes Him as their Messiah. Here I use prophetic scriptures to highlight some of what Paul had to say about Israel in terms of salvation and the Lord’s purposes. First, think about this, we refer to the scriptures and speak of the Old Testament and New Testament. Another way of referring to them is as old and new covenants, which they are. This begs the question, for those of us not ethnically Hebrew or Jewish, did we have an old covenant? No, we did not. The Lord’s plan was to bring salvation to us through the covenant He made with Israel. Some expressions of that covenant are below.

1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1–3 (NKJV)

5 “And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), 6      Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” Isaiah 49:5–6 (NKJV)

1 Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1–3 (NKJV)

Salvation came to those outside of ethnic Israel through the Servant above, Jesus. He broke down all the walls and barriers and opened wide the door of salvation to all (Ephesians 2:14-20). The final process is outlined in Romans 9-11. Here Paul lays out that the rejection of the gospel by Israel led to it going to the Gentiles, bringing the light of salvation to the Gentiles. At the same time Paul sees a future where Israel is brought to salvation. He is clearest about this in Romans 11:26-36. This is summarized in 11:26-27 where Paul quotes from Psalms and Isaiah.

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Romans 11:26–27 (NKJV)

I believe this will be fully fulfilled in the future as prophesied.  

11  It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. 12           He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 11:11–12 (NKJV)

8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; a great throng shall return there. 9   They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.

10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’

God is going to return the people to the land and again open up the fountain of salvation in a national way prior to His return.

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10

In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. Zechariah 13:1

I pray regularly for these things to fully come to pass and hold to what Jesus said.  

28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28 (NKJV)

Praying for Israel Part 1

I am providing some teaching on praying for Israel as it is an important but often neglected responsibility the church needs to embrace. I begin with a focus on the why, next I will focus on the how. I recently read a long post someone did on Facebook regarding all the signs of the end times and how we should be prepared for Jesus any moment return. There was not a single word of encouragement there, no faith for the harvest, and nothing regarding Israel. Yet when I look at scripture Isaiah 19:19-25 tells me that before the end there will be a great harvest of souls in Egypt and they will turn to Yahweh and worship Him. That is just one thing that needs to happen prior to Jesus return. While it is a significant pending event, even more significant is the end time role that Israel plays.

We begin with the timing of Jesus return. Psalm 118 was one of the Hallel Psalms sung at Passover. Here is verse 26.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. Psalm 118:26 (NKJV)

This was viewed as a Messianic Psalm, looking forward to the coming Messiah. The Israelites knew the significance and we see the recognition by the crowd when they proclaim it over Jesus as He enters Jerusalem prior to Passover.

Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 NKJV)

Thus we have the promise in the Old Testament and the fulfillment in the New Testament. The psalm was about the coming Messiah and the crowd welcomes Jesus as the promised Messiah. This happened as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He was welcomed as the messianic deliverer and His next act was to cleanse the temple and declare that it was to be called a ‘house of prayer.’

Jesus then tells a parable about the wicked vineyard keepers which He summarizes by quoting an earlier verse from Psalm 118.  

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. (Matthew 21:42-43 NKJV)

Thus far we have the people worshipping and welcoming Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus receiving their praise, then cleansing the temple. Right after that He confronts the religious leaders of the nation over their rejection of Him and says what they thought they had was going to be taken away. We now come to Matthew 23.

33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” Matthew 23:33–39 (NKJV)

This is a huge accountability passage. There were always some righteous in the history of national Israel. Yet over and over again the leadership rejected the prophetic voices the Lord sent to them. In referencing Abel to Zechariah Jesus is covering the entire Old Testament period. So we have Jesus pronouncing judgement over their rejection of Him, which in the next chapter leads to His declaration of the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in 70 AD. What is significant is we have an end time timing event woven in here. Jesus publicly declares that even though the people had welcomed Him as the Messiah the leadership of the nation had rejected Him, as they had all the previous prophets. Now judgment was imminent and the nation would not see Him again until the leadership welcomed Him as the Messiah.  

I think the significance of this is generally missed. Many are expecting Jesus to return at any moment and looking for a rapture prior to tribulation. I for one am not. I welcome and look forward to His return. I also recognize that it isn’t going to happen until some other events take place. One is multitudes from Egypt worshipping Him, as I noted at the beginning, but of much more significance is Israel recognizing Him as their long awaited Messiah. So, not matter how much I may long for Jesus to return now, if I want Him to return I would do well to intercede for the salvation of Israel.  

I will take this further in my next post but for now I encourage you to join me in being a watchmen on the wall for Israel and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7 NKJV)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:6-7)

 (Isaiah 62:6-7Psalm 122:6-7).

Wisdom and Revelation Part 3

We now focus on the application of love motivated wisdom and revelation in our lives. I know in my life I see patterns and connections in scripture, as in the previous two posts. He works this way in my life because one of the things He has called me to do is to teach. He is working in your life based on your gifts and calling. Romans 11:29, referring to the nation of Israel, says God’s gifts and callings are irrevocable. I see this as both a corporate and individual truth. I believe if we are sensitive to His presence there is an internal restlessness and sense of discomfort if we are not fulfilling our calling and purpose. Regarding his own life Paul articulated it this way.

16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NKJV)

Paul could do nothing other than fulfill his calling. The Greek word translated as ‘necessity’ means to press, compress or constrain. Paul is referring to an internal driver that he felt he could not turn away from. Thus we have his recognition of the need for Jesus love to motivate him.

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 2 Corinthians 5:14–15 (NKJV)

In Greek the word compel means to ‘hold fast’ or ‘hold together.’ Putting the two passages together Paul is saying he couldn’t do anything other than preach the gospel. Doing so was a necessity on his life and he was held fast and compelled, not by fear of judgment, but of love for the lost. From this place Paul recognized the need to walk in wisdom and revelation to fulfill his debt of love.

Out of the awareness that he carried Paul recognized the need for wisdom and revelation to operate in his life to fulfill his calling. Hence his prayers for the Ephesian believers, and by extension us, all believers of all time, needing these things operating in our lives to fulfill our calling and purpose. I teach because I am internally driven and because I care about people and what happens to them. I want people to know and understand the scriptures. However, these things are needed not just in church settings. When my children were younger I needed His love, wisdom and revelation as a parent. I needed to function in it at my place of work. I still do some mediating part time for small claims court. I pray for His wisdom and revelation in mediating the conflicts of others and I regularly look for opportunities to speak into the lives of others. 

Let’s make a broader application to other gifts and callings. Evangelists need the wisdom to know what to say when and may need words of knowledge to touch lives and open hearts. They also need to share with love. Pastor needs to love the flock and call out for revelation on what to teach when and the wisdom to know how to deliver it. As parents we are called to train up our children. That is not just about giving them a Christian foundation, though that is important, it requires revelation as to their calling and wisdom to know how to train them to walk in their gifts and callings.   

Think of worship leaders and intercessors. Worship leaders impart more to others when they draw their hearts into intimate worship out of their own love for Jesus. Paired with love they need the revelation of what songs to sing, or to write their own. They need the wisdom as to when to release exuberant praise and when to lead us into quiet intimacy. Intercessors are called to lay down their lives in prayer out of love for Jesus and for His people and the lost. They need the wisdom to ground their prayers in the scriptures and the revelation regarding what to focus on when in their intercession. They need to know when to press in and refuse to give up and they need to know when they burden of prayer has lifted and they are released from an assignment. 

These are selected examples to illustrate the importance of wisdom, revelation and love. So some closing thoughts. Know your calling and purpose. If you don’t know it seek His face and the wisdom of godly people you trust. Pray for revelation regarding the scope of your calling. Is it your family, your community your city or beyond? Size is not the indicator of importance or obedience. Susanna Wesley raised 19 children and imparted to them a solid foundation in the truth of scripture. That was her focus. Two of them, John and Charles had a major impact on the Western world. Yet if she had not been found faithful with her gifts and calling we would not have had them. We are all called to seek His heart and faithfully walk out our calling wherever He leads. Let’s seek wisdom and revelation and desire to walk in love.