Of late, I have been thinking about the state of the church. It has caused a great sadness in me. We appear to have lost our way somewhat. It is as if we think we know what God expects from us and we are just marching on ahead. Clearly, this approach is not working. For some time now I have been seeking God on, not so much what the problem is, but how we get back to how it should be; to how in was in the first century.
Last year, as regular readers of this blog will note, I was challenged by God to look again at scripture from the perspective of the Hebrews. It is very easy to get drawn into thinking of the Hebrews as part of the problem. The truth is, they are not. God chose the Hebrews over all other nations. He chose them. He gave them His word and made them His people. They are the true guardians of His word, the tribe of Y’hudah (Judah) especially. Through His chosen people, all the nations of the world would be blessed. Through His own Son, whom dwelt among us as a Hebrew, all men are reconciled to God. The enmity between God and man was over because of a Hebrew. Y’shua (Jesus) is entirely human and revealed God’s true heart for all people. He is God’s word made flesh – the total embodiment of everything that God ever spoke; of all that was ever written down and recorded.
This change in perspective was a real challenge for me. I had received nearly thirty years worth of teaching that tried to view all of God’s word from the church perspective – that everything was all leading up to the church; that the Hebrews had their chance and because they rejected Y’shua, God handed His blessing over to the church. I have learned, however, that this is part of a wider deception. God hasn’t rejected, or even sidelined, the Hebrews. By opening the spiritual ears and eyes of us Goyim (Gentiles), we have received the blessing of His mercy and the reconciliation that the Cross made possible. Isra’el remains His first love. They always will be so.
As the Time of the Gentiles draws to a close, and God starts to reopen the ears and eyes of all Isra’el, He will reveal to them the truth that we are currently blessed with understanding. We only understand this because His Holy Spirit revealed it to us; not because we are smarter than the Hebrews, but because God allowed us to understand. One day, soon, like us, the Hebrews will also understand that Y’shua was the long prophesied Mashiyach (Messiah). For now, they remain blind and deaf to God’s Living Word. For now. Paul’s letter to the Romans has all the detail on this, especially chapter 11. It is very clear that there is a limit upon the number of the Gentiles that will be allowed to enter the Kingdom of God. Once that number has been reached, the eyes and ears of the Hebrews will be opened. See Romans 11:25.
Once I started to do some research into a Hebrew perspective, I quickly found that I wasn’t the only one who felt called by God to rethink everything. The internet is awash with people who, like me, are seeking the genuine experience with God that we see written in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles. And, although I found many likeminded people all seeking a similar perspective, I was disturbed to find that the modern church is still looking as though the church is God’s favoured choice. I do not doubt their desire to see God at work in their lives, but doctrine has blinded them to the truth. In their desperation, much of the modern church is accepting anything that appears to be supernatural as being of God, such is their desire to experience a deeper relationship. Much of what is supernatural, simply isn’t of God. If you compare with what is being promoted as ‘Holy Spirit revival‘ by the church with what is written in scripture, you will find nothing to collaborate any of it. Many modern churches accept the false as the truth. It is time that we humbled ourselves before God and asked Him to show us The Way.
It struck me that there had to be a better way. I knew that there once was. I knew from scripture, and from the New Testament, that people had once found that way. The Way. So, I went looking. Of course, there is only one place to start and that is in the person of Y’shua. In Matthew chapter 7, you will find Y’shua urging us, in our pursuit of God’s way, to ask, seek, and knock. I take Y’shua at His word. And, if you are persistent in asking; diligent in seeking; and determined with your knocking, He will answer. He will test your heart in the process to make sure that you are just as committed as your mouth might confess but, once you learn how He answers you, you will find the start of The Way. Remember this – Y’shua seeks a personal, one on one relationship with you. He will answer you in a way tailored specifically to you. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. If there was, then He wouldn’t be God. Y’shua follows His guidance for finding Him with a simple verse. Sometimes we fail to remember that all of this is very simple. We can’t believe that the deep and hidden things of God could ever be simple, so we complicate it, often with doctrine. But Y’shua simply said this:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” [Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV]
When Luke repeats this instruction the word frequently used is that we should strive for access to the gate. One translation says we should fight our way there, indicating just how much dedication and determination it will take just to get to the narrow gate. It takes a great deal of asking, and seeking, and knocking. Of course, beyond the gate is The Way.
This search, for me, took several months. It involved me reading a great deal of scripture and spending much time in prayer. For some it might take less time that it did for me, but coupled with a hard heart, I had years and years of wishy-washy teaching behind me. Years of charismatic claptrap going round and round in my head, little of which had any foundation in either the scriptures or the New Testament. It all had to be discredited in my mind before I could start to even fathom the truth of the revelation of God that is found in Y’shua.
Once I understood and accepted that Y’shua was the final revelation of God – that all that is revealed to us now, is a deeper understanding of who God is; that there is to be no new revelation from God, I was able to see things differently. I realised that scripture, in it’s entirety, was all pointing to Y’shua, all along. The entire Old Testament, or Tanakh, exists to reveal the coming Mashiyach in the person of Y’shua. With this new perspective, I was able to re-read scripture and gain a greater understanding of God’s purpose for mankind, and, importantly for me, where the church stood within His purpose. Let me be clear, the role of the church is not, nor was, nor will ever be, to supersede or replace God’s chosen people, the nation of Isra’el.
I think that the pivotal moment for me was understanding the purpose of God’s law, or Torah, and that Y’shua didn’t come to do away with it or nail it to the Cross. No. He came to verify its truth; to show all Isra’el, in the first instance, that man can live according to God’s law. He proved it by doing it. The funny thing is, we have been taught for years that it is impossible to obey God’s law, but I think we missed the point – all that is impossible is to achieve is righteousness before God by observing the law in a legalistic and ritualistic manner.
Much of what Y’shua taught in His early ministry, especially what we refer to as the Sermon on the Mount, was in fact a rebuttal of the way that, over the centuries, the teachers of the law had lost the true intent of the law – it wasn’t to restrict them, but to help them. If you read Matthew chapters 5 through 7, you will notice that Y’shua frequently uses the phrase “You have heard it said”, and it is usually followed with His rebuttal, “But I say to you”. Whenever you see this written down, Y’shua was telling the people that they way the teachers of the law had taught people, wasn’t God’s way – it was man’s way, and righteousness could never be achieved by observing their unwritten laws, or Oral Traditions.
Y’shua didn’t come to do away with the law, He came to show us that if we live our lives following in His footsteps, then we too can find true freedom from the law – no longer will it be a burden, but a staff to support us on our journey.
Now, I am not in any way advocating religiously following God’s law, or Torah. That achieves nothing. Mere dead works cannot ever achieve deliverance from our sinful nature – only truly believing upon the name of Y’shua can achieve that. There is no other way. If you read Paul’s letter to the Romans carefully you will see that the apostle advocates this exactly. The purpose of the law is to make us aware of our shortcomings; our sins. This leads us to a place of repentance – a place where we turn to God for our rescue. For each of us, there existed a very long list of every occasion in which we have failed to meet God’s standard, every time we broke His law, and every occasion we will fail in the future. Thankfully, that list was nailed to the Cross(see Colossians 2:13-14, but avoid the NIV translation for that is very misleading). And, as a result we no longer have to face the condemnation of God’s judgement, providing we remain true to Y’shua.
We also need to remember that Y’shua said clearly that the law wouldn’t pass away before heaven and earth did (Matthew 5:17-18). If you are wondering why He said that, especially in light of the New Covenant, here’s why:
Our revelation of God comes in the person of Y’shua. It is to Him that we look in order to understand the Father. Y’shua said that the only way to the Father is through Him (John 14:6). However, before the first coming of the Christ, God chose to reveal Himself to His people through the law. The law must remain in place until the final Judgement Day, or The Day of the Lord. Just so we are clear when Judgement Day will be, it follows the 1,000 year reign on this earth by Y’shua and His saints (Revelation 20), which is preceded directly by the Second Coming (Daniel 7:13), in which Y’shua rescues Isra’el from the armies who will surround her, which comes at the end of the seven years of the Great Tribulation (Daniel 9), which will start immediately after the church is removed from the earth in the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4). If you want to know more about the events of the End of Days, you could look at my series on Revelation, or email me with any questions. It is not as complicated as you might think, or as many preachers would have you believe.
So, Isra’el will be judged according to the law, which means that it is right to understand that what Y’shua meant when He said that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it, truly means that the law hasn’t yet passed away and, therefore, it is still valid.
Of course, for many modern church goers, this creates something of a problem. There is an understanding that the Old Covenant has passed, and with it the law, and that we now live according to the New Covenant. We tend to think of it as the Old Covenant was for the Hebrews, but the New Covenant is just for the church. Let me tell you, that until last year, I would have agreed completely with that statement. However, our understanding of the covenants is flawed. A careful read of the letter to the Hebrews reveals the truth. But before we look to that, let us ponder for a moment all of the covenants that God established.
The first was between God and Noah after the flood. You can find it in Genesis chapters 8 and 9. To say that it was a covenant between God and Noah isn’t really correct. The covenant is between God and Noah and all his descendants and every living creature. You will have noticed that I used the present tense is, instead of the past tense was. The covenant that God made with Noah still remains in place. It has never been superseded. And you will find that this is how God works with His covenants – none supersede the previous one.
In chapter 15 of Genesis we see God make a covenant with Abram. Of course, like with Noah, Abram’s descendants were included in that covenant. Further on in Genesis, in chapter 17, we see that God makes with Abraham a sign of the covenant and says to him, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” [Genesis 17:7 NJKV]
So, just so we are clear about the first two covenants. Everyone alive today is descended from Noah’s bloodline, through his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Everyone. That means that we, along with every living creature, are included in that covenant. And we know it is still in place because the earth remains (Genesis 8:22) and we still see the rainbow (Genesis 9:13).
With Abraham’s covenant, it speaks of his descendants, which is clearly the nation of Isra’el. However, we learn from the apostle Paul that when we Goyim were grafted onto the olive tree of Isra’el, we also are co-heirs to everything promised to Abraham (See Romans chapters 8 through 11).
Still with me? Good, because these seemingly little things are vitally important, as you will see shortly.
My point is this: neither of the covenants made with Noah or Abraham were ever made obsolete. They are just as valid today, as they were the days upon which God first spoke them. We are all (potentially) heirs to these wonderful promises, provided we remain faithful to Y’shua. Incidentally, Abraham’s covenant was reaffirmed with his grandson Jacob. You can find the account in Genesis 28.
Several hundred years later, God then reaffirmed again the covenant He made with Abraham and Jacob when He spoke to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3). With the exodus from Egypt, the law was given as a further sign of that covenant. And, for the next few hundred years the Hebrews entered a cycle of trusting in God and following His law; then falling away and worshipping other gods; which led to oppression from the nations which Isra’el failed to drive out of the Promised Land (Judges 3); before they would cry out to God; who would then come to their rescue; restore their nation and renew their covenant. Until the next time.
God, however, decided that enough was enough and warned Isra’el that unless they truly changed their ways, He would hand them over to the hands of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. It is clear that whilst Isra’el did break their side of the deal, God never went back on His word over the covenants. Instead, He promised them a new covenant; a new deal, only not straight away.
One thing that is important to realise about every covenant that God has made is that they are always for the future. Not one was ever retrospective; all looked forward. Promises were made for a better future than the present. Not one of His covenants dealt with the right now. It is an important point, as you shall see when we get back to the letters to the Hebrews.
The first mention of this new covenant is found in the book of Jeremiah. It is vital that you get to know the history of the nation of Isra’el because what happened 2500 years ago will shape what is to come. The book of Jeremiah isn’t set out in chronological order, so when you read through it make sure you find a good commentary and always ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand its wisdom. I do firmly advocate reading through it in order first, but I want to draw your attention to the New Covenant.
In chapter 31 Jeremiah’s prophecy looks forward. As with all prophecy there is a right now application, a near future and often a foreshadowing of the End of Days. God is talking to Isra’el through Jeremiah and telling them that after their enforced captivity for their unfaithfulness, God will restore them, and He did. You can read about it in Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, and Haggai. The Hebrews were returned to the land of Isra’el and were allowed to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. But the prophecy also looks ahead to another restoration, set to take place at the end of the final seven years of the earth as we currently understand it. When you get to verse 31 you will find this fascinating passage:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Isra’el and the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was husband to them, says the Lord.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” [Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV]
Of course, those of you familiar with the letter to the Hebrews, will recognise that this same passage is also quoted there in chapter 8. In fact, when you read it carefully, it is not difficult to see that this has not yet been fulfilled. It looks forward to a time when Isra’el will once more know God, and no longer follow the false religion of Judaism, but instead live life by the law written in their hearts and minds, rather than the one written in stone.
So, if the New Covenant has not yet arrived – if it had we would see the evidence of it, why do we, as the church, say that it has? It is a very good question, especially as Y’shua, Himself, makes reference to it at what we call the Last Supper. Take a look at what He says:
“Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” ” [Luke22:20 NKJV]
Obviously, the cup itself isn’t the New Covenant. But, if you are prepared to do just a little research into Hebrew culture, you will find that agreements of all sorts, whether it be marriage vows or property transactions are all sealed with each party drinking from the same cup. What Y’shua was doing in saying this and initiating the Lord’s Supper was giving us a sign of the New Covenant; the guarantee of what is to come, just as Abraham was given the sign of circumcision for the promises to come; and just as Moses was given the tablets of stone. Like with all previous covenants, it was for the future, not the past, or the now.
Instead of ushering in the New Covenant, Y’shua was encouraging us to look forward to the time when what was spoken of in Jeremiah becomes a reality – when Isra’el is finally restored to her rightful place, as God’s bride. And just so you can see that I’m not making this up, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, after quoting directly from the full text of Jeremiah 31, says this:
“In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” [Hebrews 8:13 NKJV]
Most preachers don’t include the final sentence of that verse. They prefer to preach that the old has gone. It is clearly true that because of the New Covenant, the old one is made obsolete, but note that it is a state of transition in that it is growing old and is ready to vanish away. It clearly shows us that whilst the old is fading, until the new arrives fully, we are in fact somewhere between the two.
I have tried to take you on a simple journey to show you the true state of both the nation of Isra’el and of the church. The Old Covenant wasn’t just for the Hebrews, it was, and still is, also for us. What God has also promised for both us and the Hebrews is unity. We know from Paul’s epistles that both Hebrews and Gentiles are treated the same under God’s plan for salvation (See Romans 10 and Galatians 3 for examples). And, because of God reconciling all of us back to fellowship with Him, we are all to share in the promise that is to come – the New Covenant. That is why Y’shua, on the night He was arrested, took the cup and drank from it with His disciples – a sign of what is to come, to seal the deal and give us the hope for the future.
Now, I have, in various other posts on this site, detailed much more of what I have learned since taken a look at what it means to walk with God. At the end of this post I will leave links to those posts for your further research. But, for now, I want to finish where I began – the seeking of The Way.
I found my first real clue in Jeremiah chapter 6. The text below confirms for me that there was always a path which all people who would seek God should follow. I knew it had to be there somewhere. Y’shua echoed what Jeremiah said, as well as what was written in the scrolls of Isaiah too. These two texts show us clearly that, even before the coming of Y’shua, there was, with the law, with the old covenant, a way in which we should walk. King David found it, as did many others, all chronicled in the pages of the Old Testament.
I am not talking of a set of religious instruction, or of the following of laws with the vain hope of achieving some kind of spiritual righteousness. I am talking about true worship, true discipleship. I am talking about not living life according to the desires of the flesh, but according to the way that God’s Spirit directs us. The Narrow Gate which Y’shua spoke of is just the start. It takes great humility to pass through that gate. It takes conviction that, before God, you are nothing, that your very life has always been in His hands. It takes each and every day to renounce everything that the world tells us we should have and deserve; it will mean putting away all selfish ambition or vain conceit; it takes a willingness to surrender totally and without reservation to whatever comes your way that day, and to accept it all as God’s will for you; it takes repentance; it takes private times of prayer with God. Those things, practiced daily, will get you through the gate. Beyond the gate is the Narrow Path, and freedom.
“A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” [Isaiah 35:8-10 NKJV]
We will have to choose a life of holiness. To enter that way, we will have to be clean. We can only be made clean by Y’shua.
This way, The Way, can be found by us all. The modern church needs to find it soon, before it is too late and they become like the five virgins denied entry to the wedding feast (Matthew 25). The wicks of our lamps need to be trimmed and made ready, the oil needs to be in plentiful supply. Then, and only then, can we seek the path.
“This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient path, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” ” [Jeremiah 6:16a NIV]
I plead with all of you to think again about your relationship with God. Practice humility. Be patient. Seek Him in all things. Ask Him questions and practice patience in waiting for Him to answer. Don’t run on ahead. He will let you go. He won’t stop you making mistakes. Find the Narrow Gate. Fight your way through the things of your life that would prevent you getting there. Resolve today to follow Him with all of your heart. Every day. Not just Sundays. If you seek Him, He will be found by you. He is waiting now. Always be humble. Be grateful. Ask, seek, and knock. He will open the gate for you, if you do.
For more about this journey that I have been on, you might find these posts interesting:
The Shape of Things to Come – Detail on the covenants.
Make No Provision – a guide to life by the Spirit over the flesh.
What’s in a Name – a Hebrew perspective on the name of Y’shua.
Lost in Translation – the timeline of the week of the crucifixions.
A Sabbath’s Day’s Journey – Why we observe the Sabbath on a Saturday.