Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Have Spread Out My Hands

I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, "Here am I, here am I." All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not upright, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, "Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you!" Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.
[Yesha'yah (Isaiah) 65:1-5]

It seems to be our tendency today to read passages such as this and look down our noses at ancient Israel--"What was wrong with those stubborn, rock-hugging, idol-worshiping people?!" But if we examine the charges that Yahveh God is bringing before them, it hits a lot closer to home than we may like to admit.

Yesha'yah (Isaiah) begins by quoting from the Song of Moses, describing how Yahveh will use the willingness on the part of Gentiles who desire to live in covenant with Him to provoke Israel (the wayward bride) to jealousy to return to Him.

They have moved me to jealousy with [that which is] not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with [those which are] not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. [Deuteronomy 32:21]
Next He gives a simple contrast between His actions, and those of the bride He is desperately in love with. The Hebrew word translated as "day" is yom, and refers to any period of time, regardless of size. Yahveh is telling them, "All of this time I stand here with arms reaching out to you!" In spite of that, His bride has:

1. Walked in ways that are not upright (i.e. she has pursued a lifestyle that is not according to the righteousness set forth in conditions of marriage found in Yahveh's Torah),

2. Pursued her own imaginations (by following their own lusts),

3. Provoked Yahveh to His face (by openly practicing idolatry),

4. Offered sacrifices in gardens and burned incense on brick altars (This refers to private persons offering sacrifices of their own free will and the idolatrous burning of incense in honor of a deity on altars of brick (The guidelines for free will sacrifice are described in Leviticus 17;  for building an altar in Exodus 20:24-25),

5. Sat among the graves and continued in hidden places [shrines of gods in sepulchral caves],
(Numbers 19:16 pronounce those who touch graves ritually unclean, thus those who continually dwell among them declare themselves unfit to worship in Yahveh's presence)

6. Eaten what He deemed as unclean (Ignored God's dietary instructions by eating animals that He refers to as unclean, and never refers to as food at all). [Guidelines found in Leviticus 11]

7. Displayed the attitude, "I'm am holier than you!" to those around them.
In short, Israel was trying to worship God in the way they chose, and didn't hide the fact that they were serving other gods at the same time--and living as if that behavior was acceptable for God's spotless bride.

But yet through it all, Yahveh is still standing with arms outstretched saying, "Return to Me! You are My beloved!"
__   __   __   __   __   __   __   __

This passage has really disturbed me since I read it earlier this week. Maybe it's because I have seen myself in most...okay, all of the charges against Israel--from having my heart turned away from Him, to following my own lusts, to serving self and other things right before His face, to choosing to live an unclean life, to partaking of things that are not beneficial and only serve to addict, make sick and depress me, to having the attitude in the midst of being so far from Him that represent Him better than anyone else and self-righteously taking credit that only belongs to Him.

I've heard his call to "Return to Me!" and I can honestly say that I'm doing more to build a relationship with Him now than ever. It just terrifies me to think that someone could live a life in complete opposition to God, all the while claiming to be His spotless bride and more spiritual than others.

I have been that person, and I just can't be anymore.

"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin...Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." [Psalm 51:2, 10-12]

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Working of the Ruach Kodesh

Throughout my life, I have subscribed to many misconceptions as to the purpose and intent of the giving of the Holy Spirit. For the longest time, I mostly associated it with emotional release, holding to that understanding and refusing to take a deeper look. I have given the Holy Ghost credit for revelations that in reality were my own self-righteous attempts to elevate myself above other believers. I have treated It as the miracle cure that I expected to take away all my problems and make my walk with God easier. However, it was not until I began to study what Scripture teaches about the purpose and intent of the Ruach Kodesh (Holy Spirit), that I began to understand the benefit of It in my relationship with the Creator.

I believe the best way to avoid misconceptions and misunderstanding is to firmly stand on the authoritative record of Scripture. As David wrote in Psalm 119:89 [LAMED] “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” At the time when David wrote the Psalms, the Word of God he referred to (and wrote Psalm 119 in adoration of) was the Torah, which became the foundation of the prophets' actions, words and writings. The Torah and prophets were the foundation for the life and teachings of Messiah. The Torah and the prophets coupled with the life and teachings of Messiah became the foundation of the Apostles—the same foundation that has been passed on to us through their writings.

It was in the Torah where the record of God anointing Moishe (Moses) with the Holy Spirit, which was also given to the 70 elders of Israel to assist them in teaching Torah to Israel. (Numbers 11) There are many accounts of the Holy Spirit active in the lives of those who loved God and sought to live by his commandments, from Yehowshuwa' (Joshua), to David, to the prophets which wrote of the time when the finished work and sacrifice of Messiah would pave the way for God's Spirit to be freely given to all nations of the world drawing them into a right relationship with Him.

The foundation of the prophets is important in establishing a clear picture of the work of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the New Testament. Yirmeyah (Jeremiah) wrote (31:33) “But this shall be the covenant [literally: sacrifice] that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put [literally: cause to receive] my Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The Hebrew idiom translated as “write it in their hearts” refers to God's Spirit becoming so ingrained in our heart, (our decision-making center) that we will not deviate from It's guidance.

Yechezqe'l (Ezekiel) expressed the same concept this way: (36:26-27) “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” The intent in God freely giving humanity His Holy Spirit was to encourage and enable us to live by and keep the statutes and judgments of His Torah.

The same understanding is seen in the Apostolic writings. Sha'ul (Paul) wrote in Galatians 5:16, 18 “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh...but if ye be led of the Spirit, you are not under the Torah.” [literally: subject to punishment from transgressing Torah] According to Paul, the opposite of walking (living) in the Spirit is to live a life in opposition to the commandments of God.

Yochanan (John) the beloved as a disciple of Messiah, gave a clear summary of the purpose and intent of the Holy Spirit in our lives: (1 Jn. 3:24) “And he that keeps his commandments dwells in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.” The purpose and intent of God giving humanity His Holy Spirit was to draw all men into a right relationship with Him, which culminates in our loving and serving God. 1 John 5: 3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”

Shalom to you and yours.