Light for the Last Days

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Coming back to the idea of foundations. What were the foundations of Israel? What was this Psalm about?

In the Lord I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? 2 For look! The wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow on the string, That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? 4 The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. 5 The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. 6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind Shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.

Psalm 11

Psalm 11 was obviously written at the time when Israel was in the land. What were the foundations that God wanted them to have for their society then?

When you read the history of the Joshua going into the land, you see that, after the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land, after the defeat of their enemies, their society is based upon the Torah, the Law of God.

And it was said that this was a feasible option. It wasn’t something impossible, it was something they could achieve if they just trusted God and did His will.

“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. 

Deuteronomy 4

There obviously was a possibility they made the wrong choice, worship other gods for example. In which case, the foundation of faith would crumble.

Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal Peor; for the Lord your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you.

Deuteronomy 4

Moses’ exhortation as they went into the land was to ‘Keep God’s Word’, to make the right choice since ‘God will be with you and help you to stand against your enemy’.

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: …

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.

Deuteronomy 28

This was a reminder that they would have an enemy, an enemy who would try to remove them from the land, and an enemy who is hostile.

We also have an enemy, an enemy who wants to take us from the place where we are in God. We have an enemy who, according to Peter, is

your adversary the devil [who] walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

1 Peter 5.8-9

So, this is a reminder that we do have an enemy who wants to take us from the place God wants us to be in.

Moses, on the topic of entering the Promise Land, if you look in Deuteronomy chapter 30, says just before they go in,

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30.15-20

That’s the foundation which God wanted them to have: to walk in the ways of the Lord, not to turn away and serve other gods, but to serve and worship ‘the Lord your God’, and to keep His commandments, and to cling to Him.

And, if you do that, he says, you’re going to dwell in the land, you’re going to be safe. God says: ‘I’m going to protect you; I’m going to keep you and you can dwell in peace and safety in the land which God gave to you‘.

When Joshua goes into the land, he hears from the Lord in chapter 1.6:

6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1.6-9

Pretty clear instructions, aren’t they? God tells them how to prosper in the land, how to be blessed in the land. ‘Do everything according to the Law which Moses, my servant, commanded you‘.

Don’t turn away from it, don’t go from the left to the right, don’t follow other gods.

It even says,

meditate on it day and night‘;

think about it, let it be part of your life. That’s the whole idea of the Shema and the blessing which God gave.

To think about it, to bless the Lord, and to think about His Word, to teach your children, and let it be the guide for your actions as you go into your home, as you go out into the community, as you do whatever you do: let it be done by the Lord. Let the Lord be the guiding of you and be strong and courageous for the Lord is with you and He will be with you wherever you go.

We see that when Joshua went into the land after the first battles, he gathered the people together at a place called Gilgal and he read to them the Book of the Law.

Joshua chapter 8,

30 Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.

Joshua 8.30-35

He read them all the words which Moses had given to them, and he said, ‘this is got to be your guide, this is going to be the foundation for your society’.

Notice also that he has read all the words which Moses had commanded, and ‘there was not a word which he did not read before the assembly of Israel’.

One of the things which modern Jews say is that when God gave the Law to Moses, he also gave the ‘oral law’, the unwritten law.

There is not a mention of that anywhere in the Hebrew scriptures. In other words, it’s fiction which was made up later.

What God gave was in the written Law, not anywhere else. God said that if you live according to this written Law, then God will bless you in the land, and that will be the foundation for your society.

We read further that, in the beginning, it was so until the death of Joshua, and that, after death of Joshua, they began to depart from it.

One of the saddest books in the Bible is the Book of Judges as some of the stories there are so to speak, X-rated and you wouldn’t want to read them to your children. However, they tell about how the decline that came upon the Israelites from walking in the ways of the Lord to doing what they thought was right.

In fact, when you go to the Book of Judges, it says that everyone ‘did what was right in his own eyes’. Judges chapter 2 says,

7 So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel. 8 Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. 10 When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.

Judges 2.7-19

11 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. 15 Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.

Judges 2.7-19

16 Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. 18 And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.

Judges 2.7-19

When you read the Book of Judges, that’s the summary of what happened. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. It says there was no king in Israel, they did according to their own understanding, not according to the written Word of God.

It’s important that they had a written Word. One of the things about a written Word is that, if it’s written down, it can’t be changed. Well, you can delete it, but the actual word is there, it’s in writing.

On the other hand, if you’re making up the rules as you go along, you can change them as you go and that’s the problem we face in our society as well.

As you toe away from the written Word, written down and fixed by God, you begin to work up and make up your own rules. And, as you make up your own rules and you make up your own gods and worship them instead of the true God, you end up in trouble, which is what happened to Israel.

We see in the Book of Judges an example of what happens when the foundations are destroyed, and everyone does what is right in their own eyes. They become their own judges of what is right and wrong instead of what God says is right and wrong.

That is, fundamentally, one of the big problems we face in our society today too.

This issue ultimately led to the dispersion and the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon.

Later, at the time of the restoration under Ezra, if you read through to the Book of Ezra, you’ll find that first thing which Ezra did when he brought the people back to the land was to do what Joshua had done on entering the Promised Land for the first time: to read the people the Word of the Lord and to base the returning community on the Word of God so that, from the time of Ezra onwards, they should be turning back to the one true God and basing their society on the Word of the Lord.

Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.

Nehemiah 8.1-3

Nevertheless, even that went wrong because they then started adding laws to the Law and, by the time you came to Jesus, they were following to a greater degree the traditions of the fathers than the actual Word of God.

You then read in the New Testament the arguments which Jesus has with the Pharisees and how these are not about whether you should keep the Torah but about whether you keep the additional laws which the Pharisees themselves have brought in.

This led to the final rejection of Yeshua the Messiah and the death of Jesus.

Of course, that was all in the will of God so that He would bring in a New Covenant and we should now be living under the New Covenant but also to end the dispersion of the Jewish people into the nations by their return to the land.

One of the interesting things that I think about in giving this talk is that, now, we have Israel back in the land, and a restoration that has taken place since 1948.

And one of the questions then is, once more, what should be the foundation for faith or for the society of the Jewish people as they come back to the land of Israel?

This question came up even at the very beginning of the foundation of the State of Israel, when Ben Gurion was bringing the people together and they signed what was called the Declaration of Independence for the State of Israel in 1948.

There was, at the time, a big question about whether they should conclude the Declaration with the words ‘Trust in God’ or not.

The Rabbis and the religious amongst the early Zionists wanted to put ‘with trust in God’, the secular humanists, especially from a group called Mapam which was Marxist said ‘No, we don’t want mention of God, it’s going to divide the people’.

Mapam – Wikipedia

It ended with a compromise in which they said ‘with trust in Israel’ which means in the rock of Israel and that’s the word which was used in Deuteronomy for the for God.

3 For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. 4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.

Deuteronomy 32.3-4

Ben Gurion said, ‘Well, if you want to believe that, sure, Israel is God, that’s fine. Israel is the nation of Israel or the land of Israel, that’s fine, whatever it is, we’ll just agree to have ‘with trust in Israel’.

David Ben-Gurion (jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

It’s interesting they couldn’t agree on putting the name of God into Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and this sets up a further question: from the beginning of the State of Israel, what should be the foundation, what should they live upon, what should be the basis for faith and for society in the modern State of Israel as the Jews returned from the different nations to the land of Israel?

I remember talking to an Israeli guy once and he said (he was one of the early immigrants) when he came off the boat in Haifa somebody said to him call Israel, the whole of Israel is one family. He said he spent the next 20 years finding out that that wasn’t the case, that, in fact, there are two families or three families, or different families striving to set the basis for faith in the modern state of Israel: the secular, the orthodox, and the ultra-orthodox.

Basically, they don’t agree. If you go to Israel, and you and go to Tel Aviv, you can go to a very secular, modern society nightclubs. Tel Aviv is known as the gay capital of the Middle East. You have all kinds of influences which are against the Torah.

Go a few miles further to Bnei Brak which is an ultra-orthodox city, and you’ll find ultra-orthodox Jews living according to the Torah as they understand it.

And, in Jerusalem, you’ll find areas which are extremely orthodox and areas which maintain a modern secular society. You’ve got these two diverging foundations.

What should be the foundation now? Of course, we live in the time after Yeshua and, since Yeshua has come, He has now replaced the Torah with the New Covenant.

Therefore, what should be the foundation of modern Israel in God’s eyes? it should be faith in Yeshua / Jesus the Messiah who is rejected for different reasons by both the secular and the orthodox in Israel.

You also have in the midst of it the Messianic Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah and, when you look at the Bible prophecies, one of the issues which are going to come into play in the last days as Israel is gathered together and the battle over Jerusalem heats up, is that the revelation that Yeshua is going to come to the Jewish people and

10 “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

But, in the meantime, there’s this battle about what should be the foundation for Israel: should it be secular Judeo-secular humanism or should it be orthodox Judaism or some other form of Judaism?

It’s a battle which is going on and the answer is: it should be neither, it should be Yeshua / Jesus the Messiah, and you should pray for the Jewish people and for the Messianic Jews who are claiming this message,

groups like One for Israel which are effectively telling Jewish people how Yeshua is the Messiah and the answer.

Tony Pearce

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