Kol HaTor Weekly
11 Cheshvan 5769
9 November 2008
To our Jewish Associates – Articles in this Newsletter with Messianic content are identified with a label Messianic content in conformation with KHT’s formal strategy NOT to evangelize Jews. It therefore contains no proselytizing intent. This Messianic content being non-relevant to Jews, mainly has importance for Returning 10-Tribers in the process of working for Reconciliation between Judah and the re-identifying House of 10-Israel.
The Ishmaelite exile at the End of Days.
Could this apply to the newly elected US President Obama?
Our parsha teaches us about the birth of Abraham’s first son Ishmael: "And an angel of Hashem said to her behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, you shall name him Ishmael, for Hashem has heard your prayers, and he shall be a wild-ass of a man."
Our rabbis teach us why he was called that: in the future, G-d will hear the cries of His people Israel regarding what the Ishmaelites are going to do in the Land in the End of Days. Therefore, he was called Yishma-El, as it says: "G-d will hear and will answer them." This means that things will be so bad for the Jewish people from the hand of Ishmael at the End of Days that they, the Jewish people, will cry out to HaShem because of them, and G-d will hear and save His people Israel.
The holy Zohar also teaches us that the exile of Ishmael will be the hardest exile of them all, and that Ishmael will rule over the entire world, including Israel, at the End of Days. In the covenant that HaShem made with Abraham in our parsha, G-d showed Abraham all of the history that will befall the Jewish people until the End of Days. It says: "A great dark dread fell upon Abraham."
Our sages teach that "dread" refers to the fourth kingdom, Edom, as the Book of Daniel tells us: "Dreadful and terrible, and exceedingly strong." "Dark" refers to Greece, which covered the Jewish people in darkness regarding keeping G-d's commandments. "Great" refers to the kingdoms of Persia and Media, which rose to sell Israel for free. "Upon" refers to Ishmael, for it will be that Mashiach the son of David will flourish upon them.
Rabbi Chaim Vital, the arch-student of the holy ARI, taught us about the sentence in Zechariah: "I will gather the nations against Jerusalem"; at the End of Days both Edom and Ishmael will join forces together and come against the Jewish people in Israel. For we find tat Esau, the son of Isaac, went to Ishmael and took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, for a wife. From here is a sign for future generations that Esau and Ishmael will join forces; as the prophet tells us, they will come together to fight against Jerusalem, and G-d will go out and battle for His people and judge the nations through fire.
Interestingly enough, the world's new "commander in chief" is considered by Muslims throughout the world as a Muslim, as Muslim law states that a person's religion is determined through his father - and Obama's father was a Muslim. Still, his mother was White - i.e., Edom - making him a combination of both Ishmael and Edom. Could this be what the holy text was alluding to when it said that at the End of Days both Ishmael and Edom will join together against the Jewish people? Was this what the Zohar meant when it said that at the end of days Ishmael would rule over the world and Israel? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: the Redemption process has taken one giant step forward.
Cheshvan 8, 5769 / 06 November 08
EDITORIALS ABOUT THE PROPHETIC SIGNIFICANCE OF SHECHEM AND THE WEST BANK:
(One reference to the Book of Acts in the Renewed Testament, the rest of the article comes from the Tanach.)
(Comments and inserts in blue by KolHaTor editor)
By Bob Westbrook
As we continue to examine Bible prophecies that may be addressing the upcoming war in the Middle East, two related Psalms merit our examination. Psalm 60 and Psalm 108 contain several identical verses that describe a Middle East armed conflict, and a victory by Israel, with the help of G-d. As in other places in the Scriptures, the identical portions signify a substantial emphasis. When reading the Bible and attempting to discern the significance of specific Bible prophecies, there are a few cues that may indicate that we are to pay special attention. While every part the Word of G-d is vitally important, certain passages seem to be given special emphasis. When an extended portion is repeated nearly verbatim in another place, that is an indicator that it has special importance. (For example, Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-4, also Jeremiah 23:19-20 and Jeremiah 30:23-24) That is the case in these two Psalms. The introductory verses are quite different in tone and content between the two, and are then followed by the verses in common.
If you've read this far, it's likely that you have a keen interest in Bible prophecy and current events in Israel. So, be patient as we attempt to unfold these Psalms To me, these are an exhilarating and forceful expression of G-d's emphatic intentions for areas of disputed land.
Both of these Psalms consist of three sections: first, a prayer to the L-rd, then the L-rd's response, and finally, another petition. It is the first of the three sections that differs between the two Psalms. Both of the Psalms are speaking of military conflict. Let's begin with Psalm 60.
(Background information from an English Translation of the Aramaic text by Edward M. Cook. http://targum.info/pss/ps2.htm
For praise. Concerning the ancient testimony between Jacob and Laban. A copy made by David, for instruction.
When David had gathered troops and passed by the Heap of Witness and fought with Aram-on-the-Euphrates and Aram Zobah, and afterwards Joab returned and smote the Edomites in the Plain of Salt, and twelve thousand from the army of David and Joab fell.)
"You have rejected us, O G-d, and burst
forth upon us; you have been angry--now restore us! You have shaken the land (the Aramaic text translation has “the land of Israel”)
and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger." (Psalm 60:1-3 NIV)
Israel finds itself in a crisis situation. Not only that, but the people who make the plea have begun to realize that their troubles are due in part to the L-rd's long-term disfavor with them. But even the admission of this is a major step in the right direction. The "rejection" which the people mention in their prayer is not a recent development; on the contrary, it was a process that has endured for centuries, but now is about to end. The prophet Isaiah gives us more details about this in language very similar to the "you have given us wine that makes us stagger" of verse 3. "Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the L-RD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger." (Isaiah 51:17 NIV) But Isaiah doesn't stop there; no, he informs Israel of the good news that G-d's attitude towards them has changed, that their time drinking from that dreadful "cup" has come to an end. (Isaiah 51:22-23 NIV) "This is what your Sovereign L-RD says, your G-d, who defends his people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, 'Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.' And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over."
So time has come for the L-rd to hear their calls for help, to take the cup of His wrath out of their hands and put it into the hands of their oppressors. It is on this basis that they call to Him in Psalm 60. They appeal to the L-rd to "restore" them and "mend" the land. This accurately describes the developing situation now in Israel. Though relatively few in Israel have truly acknowledged the need for the L-rd's help since the state was founded in 1948, this is changing. Psalm 60 describes this change, and even more importantly, it describes the eventual shift to an attitude of accountability towards G-d. The people move towards an acknowledgment that the "desperate times" they have experienced have been because of the L-rd's anger. But despite the seemingly despondent tone of these first verses, they do express an expectation of hope - a belief that G-d, in his great mercy and compassion, will hear and heed Israel's plea. All of the negative aspects of G-d's dealing with Israel in these first three verses is expressed in past tense.
However, in verses 4 and 5, the tone of the prayer changes drastically. The tone shifts from the confession that their past rebellious actions were the grounds for G-d's displeasure with them, to a confident expectation that G-d would respond to their present plight.
"But you have raised a banner for those who honor you—a rallying point in the face of attack. Use your strong right arm to save us, and rescue your beloved people." (v 4-5 NLT)
(This same verse from the Aramaic Translation reads: “You have given those who fear you a sign to be lifted up by, because of the honesty of Abraham forever. Because of the merit of Isaac, those who love you will be delivered; redeem with your right hand because of the piety of Jacob, and accept my prayer.”)
(From “The Complete Jewish Bible” by Dr David Stern: “To those who fear you because of the truth you gave a banner to rally around, so that those you love could be rescued; so save with your right hand, and answer us!”)
Israel is still G-d's "beloved people," even after such an extended period where they have not listened to His voice. And whether He hears their cry for help is based solely on that love. He had promised them, "My lovingkindness will not be removed from you," (Isaiah 54:10) and on the basis of that promise He will take action.
What follows is the description of that action, the response by the L-rd to their cries for help. While the plea was general in nature, the response is very specific. In the most emphatic terms and direct manner, G-d declares His disposition towards specific lands and peoples. The regions that G-d specifies in his forceful response give us an indication that this prophecy may be directed at the situation today in Israel.
His response begins with this: "G-d has spoken from his sanctuary: (v 6 NIV)" This is so that we make no mistake about the authority of who is speaking, and the gravity of the pronouncement forthcoming. All of the Bible is G-d's W-rd, but there are special instances when He declares "the L-rd has spoken" to put special emphasis on a pronouncement.
"G-d has spoken from his sanctuary: "In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter. Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph."" (Psalm 60:6-8 NIV)
(From the Aramaic Translation: “G-d speaks in his sanctuary: I will be glad, for those of the house of Israel will prevail; I will divide the spoil with the sons of Joseph who dwell in Shechem, and in the plain of Succoth I will measure the measure and divide the booty. My people were of the house of Gilead, and my people were of the house of Manasseh; and the warriors of the house of Ephraim are the strength of my head, and those of the house of Judah are the scribes of my school. I trampled on the Moabites, my feet were dipped in the blood of their warriors as in my washing-basin; on the nape of the neck of the warriors of Edom I set my shoe; shout and prevail over the Philistines, O congregation of Israel).
(The NKJV and The Scriptures both translated the last part of verse 7 as: “Judah is my lawgiver (Hebrew: Mechoqeck as in Gen.49:10.”)
In a series of staccato, pounding declarations, G-d from His holy throne issues His response to Israel's plea for help. The significance of "I will parcel out Shechem" can only be understood by those who have followed the recent developments in that area. First, however, a little background is needed, for Shechem is a very important place in Biblical history. It was the first place that Abraham stayed after arriving in Canaan from Haran. It was the first place that Jacob stayed after arriving in Canaan from Paddan Aram. Jacob purchased a plot of land there, and promptly built an altar to the L-rd, calling it "G-d, the G-d of Israel." Even more significantly, Joseph and his brothers are buried in Shechem. It is today called "Joseph's tomb," but Stephen provides us with the additional detail, from Acts 7:15-16, that the other sons of Israel are also interred there.
When Joseph was nearing the end of His life in Egypt, he made a decision of great symbolic importance. "And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "G-d will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place." (Genesis 50:25 NIV) Joseph understood the importance of the covenant G-d had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob regarding the land of Canaan. It is difficult to overstate the significance of Joseph's action regarding his bones. It alone is singled out by the Holy Spirit as the most meritorious act of faith in Joseph's life. This in incredible when one considers the other great acts of faith performed by Joseph! His bones are still there today, a perpetual testimony to the faithfulness of G-d's promises to Israel.
Today, the area of Shechem is home to the largest Palestinian city of Nablus, a cauldron of anti-Israel hatred. In October 2000, when the violent Palestinian uprising began, Nablus became one of the flash points of Arab rioting and mayhem. The site of Joseph's tomb in Shechem, which had long been protected by the IDF (Ed. Israel Defense Forces), was targeted by the Palestinians. In an attempt to placate Arafat and his legions, the IDF naively came to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority that they, the IDF, would withdraw from Joseph's tomb in exchange for an agreement that the Palestinian police would ensure its safekeeping. The very next day, mobs of crazed Palestinians attacked the structure housing Joseph's tomb, wreaking great destruction. Since then, it's been in Muslim hands, and they are said to be building a mosque there.
I was in Israel at that same time, and it was my great desire to visit Shechem. But if I had tried to set foot in this area where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph had sojourned, I would have been killed by the Palestinian sniper fire. Is it any wonder, then, that the first place mentioned in G-d's response in Psalm 60 is Shechem? G-d has been watching all of these dreadful developments, and in response has vociferously cried out "In triumphant exultation I will parcel out Shechem!" Some may ask, "How do we know this Psalm is talking about future events?" Simple: we know because G-d has not yet parceled out Shechem and given it back to its rightful owners.
Next, G-d says, "I will portion out the Valley of Succoth." If you have not yet viewed the animated map that accompanies this article, please do so by clicking here. (It is worth looking at this map presentation, to understand the present day implications.) You will see that Succoth is a place on the east bank of the Jordan river. A large portion of land in what is now the country of Jordan has been designated by G-d as belonging to Israel. The next declaration by G-d, "Gilead is mine! Manasseh is mine!", emphatically reinforces that.
These areas are on the east bank of the Jordan. Though the conflict today between the Israelis and the Palestinians is centered on the "West Bank," very soon Israel will take possession of the "East Bank" and annex it as part of Israel! If you recall from Biblical history, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh received their allocation of land on the east bank of the Jordan. Moses recaps for us, "Of the land that we took over at that time, I gave the Reubenites and the Gadites the territory north of Aroer by the Arnon Gorge, including half the hill country of Gilead, together with its towns. The rest of Gilead and also all of Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half tribe of Manasseh." (Deuteronomy 3:12-13 NIV) The region of Bashan today goes by the name of the Golan Heights. It is the area that Israel captured from Syria, and over which Syria regularly threatens Israel with war.
Next, G-d says, "Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter." These are the two historic houses of Israel, but much more is implied here. As you can see from the animated map, the territories of these two tribes comprise much of the "West Bank," territories that have been given to Israel. That Biblical heartland, where the patriarchs roamed and the kings ruled, will once again be in full possession of Israel.
The next three places mentioned are much different. Unlike the high regard and respect which G-d attributes to the places mentioned previously, these next three are regarded with disdain. "Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph." These were historical enemies of Israel, and in the war about to break out, their successors will once again find themselves fighting Israel. Yet G-d has already decided the outcome for these places.
Moab, east of the Dead Sea in present-day Jordan, is regarded by G-d as a basin in which He washes His feet. Edom, also in Jordan, east of the Negev, is described as a place where at which God metaphorically throws his shoe. This may also allude to the ancient custom of removing one's sandal and tossing it to seal a contractual agreement of transfer of possession.
Transfer of possession of this land to Israel is imminent. We know from other Bible prophecies that Moab, Edom, and Philistia are major players in the next war. When G-d leads Israel to victory, they will begin to realize that it is He who is trampling down their enemies.
In the third major section, after the L-rd outlines what He is going to do, the people respond. "Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not you, O G-d, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With G-d we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies." (Psalms 60:9-12 NIV)
(From the Aramaic translation: “Who is he that led met to the ruined city of Tyre? Who is he that guided me to Edom? Is it not you, O L-RD? You have abandoned us; and you will not go out, O G-d, with our forces. Give us help against the oppressor, for in vain is the redemption of a son of man. By the word of the L-RD we will exercise might, and he will subdue our oppressors.”)
Ed. Could it be that the repossessing of these politically disputed areas of the Promised Land could be conquered simply by the physical presence and implications of multi millions of Spirit led 10 Tribers returning to the Land of their Heritage (as the ‘Helmet’ of HaShem)?
He will indeed give them aid, and the victory. They have seen that He for a time had rejected them, but all that is about to change. "Together they (the Jews) will be like warriors trampling the muddy streets in battle. When they fight, because the L-RD is with them, they will rout the mounted men. 'I will make the house of Judah mighty and the house of Joseph victorious. I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the L-RD their God and I will answer them.'" (Zechariah 10:5-6) The reason is solely because of G-d's compassion for Israel.
REFLECTIONS IN OUR PROCESS TOWARDS UNITY AND RESTORATION:
Excerpts from an article:
THE RETURN OF THE REST OF ISRAEL
The full article is available at:
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When Moses had told the twelve spies to "explore the land", what he had literally said to do was "follow after it"-- let it take hold of their hearts, "fall in love" with it.
And the same thing is happening there again. Just seeing and experiencing the Promised Land can stir up something that has lain dormant deep within one's bones.
But for many thousands of people, there's
something more. Though they are not Jewish, when they arrive in the Holy Land
for a pilgrimage, they have an overwhelming sense of being back home again. And it's
affecting their lives in a radical way.
These "Gentile Zionists" are more than just supportive of the State of Israel. They are pointing to Scripture after Scripture and saying, "This is commanded, so why doesn't the church do this anymore?" And in whatever way they can, they're returning to the practices actually mandated by the Bible, forsaking aspects of the church that they've discovered to be tainted, taking on the Sabbath and the other festivals that are actually found in Scripture, and even learning Hebrew!
Is something truly significant happening?
The answer is found in some very ancient prophecies...
Many people recognize a connection between Ezekiel's vision and the return of the Jews to Jerusalem in our own generation. The preservation of the Jewish people despite so many attempts to obliterate them, and their unprecedented return to their own land after nearly 2,000 years, is miraculous enough in itself to prove that our Creator keeps His promises.
But is this the whole story? No! The same Scriptures that tell us about the Exodus from Egypt also say that one day the recalling of Israel from among all nations will eclipse the first exodus so overwhelmingly that we'll no longer even mention it! Now the Jews no longer have to end Passover by saying, "Next year in Jerusalem!" They can already move back. But their numbers there barely exceed those who came out in the Exodus--and the Passover Seder hasn't changed. So something even bigger is still to come!
A clue as to just what is found in the fact that Ezekiel was told his vision of the dry bones represented "the whole House of Israel". At the time he prophesied, the Jews had not even been dispersed yet. There was, however, another part of Israel that had.
By 722 B.C., HaShem had had enough. Ephraim had "mixed himself with the Gentiles". They wanted to be just like any other nation, rather than His unique treasure. So they got what they asked for; their punishment was to actually BECOME Gentiles! HaShem used the brutal Assyrians to carry the Israelites away into exile and resettle them in other parts of the empire. Some broke away and became separate nations early on, but they all eventually migrated in every direction. (2 Kings 17 records the first places they were taken.)
But HaShem had a far-reaching purpose even in this, and when we understand what He was doing behind the scene, it gives a whole new--and very important--perspective.
The name "Jezreel" (Hosea's first son) is an agricultural term which means "Elohim scatters" or "Elohim sows seed". Both apply. Elohim did indeed scatter the Northern Kingdom like seeds--but a sown seed is hidden in the ground for the very purpose of later showing up again to bear much fruit.
When Rehav'am tried to take the northern tribes back by military force, HaShem warned him not to do it, saying, "This thing is from Me."
Batya Wootten (Hebraic Restoration 2-house commentator) has identified one positive reason
why HaShem divided Israel: To confirm a matter in Israel, two witnesses are required. So HaShem split the Kingdom into two parts so there could be two separate groups bearing witness to different aspects of His Truth.
But now we have a strange paradox: Moses told Pharaoh that Israel was HaShem's firstborn. HaShem later says, "Ephrayim is My firstborn." But in the New Testament, Messiah is also called HaShem's firstborn. How can this be? Is this just an analogy being loosely thrown around? You can only have one firstborn! So there must be a connection between Messiah and Ephrayim.
Abraham's covenant could not be passed on to an adopted son; in fact HaShem says specifically that his servant Eliezer would NOT be his heir. Abraham's lack of a biological heir was the very conflict that makes his story so riveting. HaShem promised that his own seed, from his loins, would be a blessing to the entire world. That exact same blessing was passed on by Jacob to Joseph's two sons.. He said Ephrayim's seed would become "Millo haGoyim". Goyim is a familiar term meaning "Gentiles" or "nations". The word "millo" is used in Psalm 24:1-The earth is HaShem's and the millo [fullness] thereof."
So what Jacob prophesied was that Ephraim's descendants would become "the fullness of the Gentiles". Doesn't that ring a bell? It shows up again in Romans 11, when Paul says a partial callousness would remain over Israel "until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in". He says all creation waits for these sons to be revealed.
So when Y'shua said he was sent to the "lost sheep of the House of Israel", it was Ephraim that he meant! He said the kingdom was like a field full of good seed, as in Hosea's prophecy of "Jezreel". But an enemy (through Constantine) also sowed a different crop there that looks just the same--until the harvest, when it proves inedible and useless. (Matt. 13:24ff)
But if Ephraim's seed mixed with all nations in this way, then many, if not most, of the people who respond to the Gospel may be Gentiles only in a secondary sense.
Almost every time Y'shua mentioned the Gospel, he connected it with the Kingdom, which we've already seen is inseparably linked to Israel (Ed. That is, the Ten Tribes). But this focus got lost in the push to reach every last tribe with what was turning out to be a new religion rather than a call back into the same covenant they had abandoned.
Batya Wootten's husband, Angus, emphasizes that if we are truly to carry out the task that Y'shua gave to his disciples and those who would come after them (Yochanan/John 17), we have to understand what the disciples believed their primary task to be. Only then can we really understand what our job is. When he met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, they told him, "We had thought he was going to restore the Kingdom to Israel."
Where did they get THAT idea? Col. Wootten says, "I don't know of a single church, denomination, or even cult which has that goal today!" Yet when the disciples asked that infamous question in Acts 1:6, it was right after Y'shua had just taught for 40 days about the Kingdom. (Matt. 24, 25) Now the question they all had was, "Is it now...?" What follows-the "Great Commission"--was not some new proclamation. It was Y'shua's answer to their question. He said (HaShem) had already established a time for the Kingdom to be restored to Israel. He only said it was not for them to know when. (If he'd told them it would be 2000 years later, it would have taken much of the urgency out of their message, and they might have slacked off.)
So Y'shua never did deny that he had come to restore the kingdom to Israel. What he did on the Mount of Olives was simply turn the disciples' focus toward what turns out to have just been the first step--finding the subjects of the northern Kingdom--his long-lost relatives--and again making them into people worthy to be its citizens.
One reason HaShem placed Israel's inheritance by the sea and on busy trade routes was that those now eligible to reconnect to their lost inheritance were all over the world.
The apostles, sent out to other nations, soon reported that many were returning to HaShem from among the Gentiles. Those who were "far off" were being brought near again (Eph. 2) -- for Daniel 9:7 defines "those who are far off" as a PART OF ISRAEL who were driven away because of their trespasses. They had once been under the covenant, but had alienated themselves from it.
But HaShem promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that people from all nations would be grafted into their seed. In other words, every tribe or clan on earth would, somewhere along the line, intermarry with at least one of Jacob's offspring.
But what if you can't trace your roots back so far? Well, first of all, there was always a "mixed multitude" from other nations becoming part of the people of Israel.
When we first established a relationship with HaShem, no certificate fell out of heaven telling us so. The Holy Spirit informs us that it is true.
Paul says that if you belong to Y'shua, you are Abraham's sperm, and his heirs. Scripture tells us that Ephraim was scattered and mixed among every tribe and tongue, out of which the followers of the Lamb come by the book of Revelation. We can look deeper: Dan went to Denmark, etc. But if you know the history of Rome, you know that when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in 50 A.D., there were no Jews in Rome, yet he says to those he is addressing that Abraham was their "forefather according to the flesh"!
Even James, who at first hesitated to allow these supposed Gentiles into the household, later addresses his epistle overtly "to the twelve tribes of Israel who are scattered abroad".
But if this is really "Gospel Truth", and not some new wind of doctrine, how is it that we are only now beginning to recognize it?
Paul tells us that a temporary slumber was imposed on ALL Israel for a time, in order to allow HaShem to do something else in the meantime. That "slumber" in the passage Paul was quoting is the same word for the deep sleep HaShem brought over Adam when He was creating Eve. It was so HaShem could bring forth ...a bride!
Ezekiel was told to lie on one side for 390 days for the number of years HaShem would punish Israel's unfaithfulness, and the other side for 40 days for the years of Judah's discipline.
In Jeremiah 16, HaShem doubled Ephraim's sentence, but Leviticus 26 also says that if they would not repent, He would increase their punishment seven times. So there are two sentences running concurrently for Ephraim. The first ran out in 46 A.D., right when Paul was beginning his missions to the Gentiles. Individuals from Ephraim began responding to Y'shua, and Hosea's judgment of "no pity" was no longer in effect. But Hosea's other sentence--that of not being a "people"-lasted 2,730 years from the time Assyria took Israel into exile, and it was not up until right around 1996! That's why the blinders are only now being removed from our eyes.
Now, if we are indeed Israel, there's a particular lifestyle that comes with it...and a proper way by which we need to enter. Remember, we have been outside the covenant for all this time. When someone was put outside the camp of Israel in the wilderness, there were ceremonies he had to go through in order to be restored to the fellowship of the community of Israel.
HaShem told Ezekiel that the Northern Kingdom's ticket to full restoration to citizenship would be our response to the Temple. That sounds strange to modern ears, but let's see what he meant. (And credit goes to Web Hulon for many of these insights.)
"You, O Son of Man, confront the House of Israel with the Temple, and they will blush from shame over how they have distorted it." (Ezek. 43)
Ephraim's idolatry wasn't so much overtly turning away from HaShem, as dedicating to Him things that He never asked for. He wasn't pleased when Jeroboam changed the month in which the festivals were observed. And how is that any different from our substituting the day pagans had dedicated to the Sun for the Sabbath that He ordained?
The Reformation went a long way in dealing with the paganism in the Church, but much more remains than we often realize. For example, Christmas and Easter are not just secularized; from the very start they have been mixtures of biblical truth and outright paganism.
So those who leave Christmas or Easter behind and take on the festivals actually given by HaShem are finding that not only have they lost nothing important; rather, they are in fact learning much more than ever.
"If they ARE ashamed over all they have done", HaShem told Ezekiel, "let the House of Israel measure the plan of the Temple. Acquaint them with its design and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances."
But why are Exits mentioned before Entrances?
HaShem made a promise to Jacob, which he passed on to Ephrayim, that his descendants would become a "company of nations", or "a congregation of Gentiles".
Y'shua's congregation is identified in Scripture as the ek-klesia, or "called-OUT ones". ("Come out from among them and be separate." There's the "exit".) Those who left the covenant are being called OUT of any paganism into which they were assimilated and back INTO the commonwealth of Israel. Now, that means responsibility to the covenant which our ancestors agreed to, at Mount Sinai. What we call the New Testament was really a renewal of this covenant.
HaShem then told Ezekiel, "Show them all the Temple's walls--and its laws... so that they may observe them and carry them out."
The Renewed Covenant says the festivals prescribed in Scripture and Temple procedures are the basics--the "milk" that we have to understand first before we can get to any of the deeper meanings of Scripture. Of course, the laws in the Torah are only a few concrete examples of an attitude meant to pervade our every thought, but many people want to skip right to the meat and forget the milk! For a baby, that would be disastrous!
The Sabbath and the Festivals were given as a "statute forever". To say they had somehow ceased would mean that HaShem’s own word had been broken. Paul said he had done nothing against the Torah. He even remained a Pharisee all his life, and told us to celebrate Passover.
Y'shua said he would again celebrate that feast with us in the Kingdom as well. "Not the letter but the spirit" is a Hebrew idiom meaning the heaviest emphasis should be placed on the heart of the matter, not that the letter is invalid. Otherwise, we make HaShem contradict Himself. Isaiah warns that every Scripture must be taken within the boundaries set up by the Torah.
We have to think of the New Covenant in context of the way the ancient ones worked. If the situation changed for one party, a covenant could be amended. But only what no longer fit would be revised; everything else remained in effect exactly as before.
The Apostles knew it would take time to make the transition back from living like Gentiles, and they made allowances for the returnees to do that gradually. In Acts 15 they decided not to burden them with too much too soon--one reason the northern Kingdom had separated from Solomon's son in the first place.
But the Apostles also expected them to learn the rest of the Torah week by week in the synagogues. The view was toward getting to where we no longer needed special interim measures. It's not completely possible to live every aspect of the Torah lifestyle without a Temple intact, or even outside the Land of Israel... and we have a stopgap; Y'shua does take care of the essentials. But it is good to learn all we can, so that as soon as it IS possible to carry out more of it, we'll be ready.
HaShem overlooks past ignorance and our mis-steps while we try to learn to walk again...this is a far cry from permission to totally disregard many of His commands! "Grace", as used in the New Testament, means rather the provision of whatever we need in order to rise above our natural inclination to sin, and fulfill the requirements we once thought unattainable.
The festivals are a hands-on way to learn many things HaShem wants us to know about Himself. That's grace, not legalism--and remember, as Paul says, that the only real alternative is slavery.
The main point of the physical Temple is indeed to teach us what a community in which HaShem can make His home is meant to look like. Some people got the idea.
In the world's oldest remaining synagogue, atop Masada, you can see how the original design was for congregants to face each other, just like the cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant --because the fruit of a renewed obedience to His Torah, when we understand its spirit (or underlying attitude) will be to love those of the same "flock" as ourselves--unselfishly using our gifts to become that "One New Man" who can repair the breached walls.
More than anything, HaShem wants a people for His own possession, and that people is called Israel." If you asked a Christian what his relationship with the "G-d of Israel" is, he will speak in very personal terms, unrelated to genealogy or heritage. Ask a Jew the same question, however, and he will probably say he is part of the covenant people of Israel. The call in our day is to stop being a kingdom of Robinson Crusoes, and again become a PEOPLE-a NATION, the nation of Israel. This is what the Temple teaches us.
But as archaeologists sift through the physical rubble of the ancient Temple, they are now able to isolate stones that were actually part of the sanctuary-seemingly a sign that its loss was only meant to be temporary. The Temple as Ezekiel describes it has never yet been built, so sacrifices will once again be offered in Jerusalem.
But during his Kingdom, there will still be more people to teach about all the nuances of what his redemption entails, and nothing does that better than the sacrifices. In fact, Zechariah says that during the Messianic Kingdom, people from every nation on earth will be required to come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Sukkoth, and those who don't come will not get rain. And that festival mandates the slaughter of 70 bulls, among other animals. (The killing, by the way, has to be painless to the animal for the sacrifice to be acceptable.)
Not all the offerings have to do with sin; many are voluntary expressions of just wanting to draw closer to HaShem, and that will certainly reach unprecedented proportions at that time.
We've been to the ends of the earth; now the fully-extended net is being drawn back into the boat. The outward thrust toward a faith that could be practiced anywhere in the world will soon be replaced by a kingdom once again centered in one geographic location. In anticipation of this "time of the restoration of all things", while the world is obsessed with things modern, He's calling us back into ways we once considered outdated. The spirit and the letter are becoming one and the same again.
Today, Northern Kingdom believers are beginning to recreate the ceremonies that took place in the ancient Temple during that holiday. But they are also rehearsals for the day when the real thing will again be possible.
That time is drawing near. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem is already preparing the actual implements for use in the Temple itself --everything from the harps to the firepans. Among the furniture already completed are the menorah, the laver (where the priests will wash their hands and feet), and the table of showbread.
Right now, the particular location where the Temple must be rebuilt is occupied by a Muslim shrine. But the political realities in Israel today are not the only thing holding back the fulfillment of these prophecies. Paul said that if we are indeed free in Messiah, the choices we make should be ones that make it easier to fit together with Judah into one Temple--and all the Apostles together decreed that one of the ways to do this was to eat only kosher foods so we can all sit at the same table. But most believers could not even maintain this simple consideration, and the two houses became separated yet again. But a divided house cannot stand.
Today we are being offered another rare opening!
Will you Perpetuate the Division, or Join in the Reunification of all Israel?
As Batya Wootten points out, the two kingdoms have been given different promises as well as two different purposes. Ephrayim's was to be scattered. However, he has, as Hosea put it, considered the Torah "a strange thing". Judah came back from exile without foreign gods, and he has a pretty good record of trying to be faithful, and has upheld the great truth that HaShem has a law. But Ephrayim and Judah have been trying to do one another in, even after both left the Land, and they are still at war. Ephrayim has been jealous of Judah's roots, but as long as he is, he cannot live out who he really is and stand with Judah as a brother.
But Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones shows that there is still a spirit that HaShem will not send until both houses are reunited. The King is, after all, Jewish, and when the rest of his kingdom is ready to receive him in that context, the dry bones can come fully to life!
19th-century Russian Rabbi Zvi Kalisher predicted (perhaps based on the prophecy that "the tents of Judah will go up first") that the House of Judah would return to the Land and set up an infrastructure that would make the Land habitable again. (At that time, it was all either desert or malaria-infested swampland.) Anyone who has visited the Land has seen that this stage is basically complete. Kalisher said that next, a small portion of "Joseph" would return to the Land and help rebuild the Temple. Then, only afterward, would the rest of the House of Joseph be able to come back home. This fits well with scores of Biblical prophecies concerning the return of the
House of Israel. But such a Holy Venture requires a very High Degree of Heart Preparation.
HaShem is calling out a corps of fore-runners. So much more awaits those who do repent when they see what the Temple is meant to be, and rejoin the covenant through which HaShem is reversing all the downhill tendencies of human history. Don't shrink back from this awesome privilege! Joshua and Caleb did fall in love with the Land. But the other ten spies saw only the difficulties, and the two who did have faith ... had to wait in the desert for 40 more years until that generation died off. A lot of people came out of Egypt, but never got past this wilderness; the Promised Land is only for those who want it badly enough. Do you?
PEACE AND BLESSINGS
Compiling editor: Agatha van der Merwe
Content control: OvadYah Avrahami
Participating editors: Dr Robert Mock, Geoffrey Messervy-Norman, Stephen Spykerman
Torah Guidance: Rabbi Avraham Feld
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