Priesthood, Part 2: Priests of Melchizedek

In our last newsletter we saw that Peter said, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” But Peter was not the first to call us a royal priesthood. In fact, it was God who spoke those words to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai when He gave them the Torah. He said, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine: and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” How could God speak this at Mount Sinai to all the people when He said that only the Levites would be priests? And what about us today who are not Jews? Well, for us, we have been grafted into Israel, so everything that God spoke to them and promised them we inherit when we accept the atoning work of Yeshua. But for the Jews, who God was speaking to, He was referring to those who one day would be seen in Messiah Yeshua, and when Peter was speaking on the Day of Pentecost, he was referring to what God spoke of on that first Pentecost, that those who would be in Messiah Yeshua would be the priesthood. But Yeshua was not a High Priest like Aaron, but as we see in the book of Hebrews, Yeshua is a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. So who is Melchizedek?


To know Melchizedek, we have to go back to Abraham. There was a war between the kings of the area. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was taken captive. When Abraham heard this, he gathered all his servants and went to rescue Lot. God gave Abraham victory, and as he was returning from the battle, Abraham meets Melchizedek. Moses tells us that Melchizedek was the king of Salem and that he was the priest of the Most High God. The Psalmist writes in this Messianic psalm, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'” (Psalm 110:4). Years later, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Melchizedek, whose name means righteousness, was without father or mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually.

Now, in this newsletter we are not going to debate if this was Yeshua or if this was a heavenly high priest and Yeshua became a high priest in his order. But what we learn is that in God’s sanctuary, the priesthood exists and we who are in Messiah Yeshua now become part of that priesthood serving at God’s altar. We are now priests of Melckizedek, priests of righteousness.

The Priests of Melchizedek

We saw in the last newsletter that the Aaronic priests wore vestments of sanctity, which were garments of holiness, garments of glory, garments which were like the fullness of the Lord. We too have garments to wear. As we compare our garments with theirs, you will see that our garments are not like theirs, for our garments are spiritual, for we worship at a tabernacle not built with human hands. “For we are living stones being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua, the Anointed One” (1 Peter 2:5). When we accept Yeshua then we become part of the Kingdom, and as servants of the Kingdom, we must live according to the ways of the Kingdom. One of these ways is that we are to serve God in His sanctuary. Remember, God told Moses to make the sanctuary exactly like the one he saw in heaven. That means we, as priests of the heavenly sanctuary, must also serve according to God’s ways.


The priests wore an ephod, robe, tunic, and a sash. Scripture tells us that we are to robe ourselves in righteousness. We see in Revelation that the righteous are clothed in white linen which represents their righteous acts. So what is righteousness? Righteousness is when we comprehend holy principles and live by them. It’s purity of heart, conforming one’s heart to Divine law. Righteousness is justice, honesty, virtue with holy affection. Righteousness is being free from guilt and sin in accordance to Divine law. Righteousness is obtained only in Yeshua, for our righteousness is as filthy rags. God’s sanctuary is all about holiness and purity. We see this in the Book of Zechariah. This book speaks about the Messianic Age. The book starts with a call to repentance, much like John the Baptist who preceded Yeshua. Without repentance, one can not minister before the Lord. The Psalmist writes, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully.” As we see in chapter 2 of Zechariah, the people are told to flee Babylon, which stands for the world and its ways. This is important because we can not serve two masters. We must forsake the world and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are to place our minds on things above, not on things below.

Then in chapter 3, we see Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord. This is such great insight into the spiritual realm. Joshua was clothed in filthy rags (sin) and those rags were removed. Scripture tells us that we are to take off the old man of corruption. We are to put off things like anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, immorality, impurity, evil desires, greed, and idolatry and put on the new man of righteousness, being clothed now in Yeshua, for our lives are now hidden in Him. It’s no longer I who lives, but Yeshua who lives in me. Joshua is told, “See I have removed your iniquity and clothed you with festive robes.” You see, when we repent and return to God’s ways, He then removes our filthy rags, which is our sin, and He then clothes us in clean garments of holiness and righteousness which are the festive robes, much like garments of the Bride and Bridegroom.

If you remember, we saw that these garments of splendor referred to the garments of the bridegroom. These are the garments of the priesthood. These are the garments of the service of the Lord. Scripture tells us that when the Bridegroom (Yeshua) comes for the Bride (the redeemed), the bride will be clothed in these festive garments. They will be white linen (purity) and they will be without spot or wrinkle, blameless and holy, now washed clean in the blood of Yeshua. He is our covering that we put on. It is His righteousness that we wear. We also see from the book of Zechariah that standing before God was also the accuser of the brethren. So serving at the altar of God can also include an encounter with the accuser of our soul. So our garments are holy and festive, but also garments of a warrior, for our service to the Lord requires us to fight a spiritual battle as well as doing the work of the Kingdom. We are going to take a closer look at these Garments of Righteousness.

The Breastplate

The breastplate worn by the priest was worn over the chest. We see that this covered his heart. This was also called the Breastplate of Judgment. Scripture tells us that we are to guard our hearts. It’s our hearts that lie and are deceitful. It is our hearts that the enemy of our soul wishes to have control over. So when battling the enemy, we are to put on the breastplate of righteousness. It is our protection, guarding our hearts. The heart is the center of our emotions. It is with the heart that we love or we hate, we forgive or we resent, we judge or we show mercy. We are to judge according to righteousness. We are to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience like we would put on clothing. We are to wrap ourselves in these virtues and live by them daily. When we live by these virtues, our hearts are protected from the accusing finger of the enemy.

The Head Covering

The priest wore a head covering that also included a head piece. We too are to cover our heads. We are to put on salvation as our covering. Part of the Armor of God is the helmet of salvation. This is to protect our minds. Paul tells us that we are to pray about everything and not to be anxious, for then the peace of God will guard our minds and hearts. We are to think about only good things, things of good repute, things that are honorable and lovely, that are true and right; and we are to put our thoughts on heavenly things, not on things of this world because Yeshua, our salvation, has delivered us from sin and death. God has now brought us out of darkness into His light. By dwelling on what is good, we will not allow the seeds of sin to grow in our hearts. Protecting our minds is protecting our hearts!

On the head piece was written “Holy to the Lord,” and we too have the name of Yeshua written on our foreheads. The Aaronic priest would give a blessing in which he would raise his hands and form them like the letter Shem which stands for The Name; God said, “I will put My name upon My people.” We find that Yeshua, right before He ascended back to heaven, lifted up His hands and blessed them. When He did this, He was actually putting His name upon them through the priestly blessing.

Covering one’s head speaks of humility. I know that Paul, in Corinthians, speaks of this, that if a man prays with his head covered he disgraces himself. But my opinion is if a man disgraces himself by covering his head when he prays, then God has led His people into disgrace for God had the priests all cover their heads and Yeshua Himself covered His head when He prayed. In fact, Paul covered his head when he prayed because he himself said that he kept Torah to the letter. In Zechariah we see that after the filthy rags were taken off Joshua the high priest that he was given a clean turban. So once again, if this was true, God would not have had His priests cover their heads. But what we need to understand is that Paul spoke and taught according to rabbinic thinking. What Paul was talking about was that a man was to be a covering for his wife and not vice versa. We see this in Ephesians that the husband was to be the head of the wife to sanctify her. Again, Paul refers to the fact that he was speaking in reference to Yeshua who is the head or the covering of the redeemed.

Humility, which the head covering represents, is what we are to strive toward. The writer writes, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” You see, God is a holy God and we are to enter into His presence with humility.

The Sash

The sash was worn around the middle. We too have a sash that we wear, it is better known as truth. We are to put on truth as part of the Armor of God. Scripture tells us that God would send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. So when we are led by the Spirit and walk with the Spirit, we are walking in truth and righteousness. Without truth we cannot enter the Kingdom of God, for Yeshua said that He was the way to eternal life and that way was walking in truth. Of course, we know that Yeshua is the Word and the Word is truth. The middle of our body is the center of gravity to us. We are securely planted when the middle of the body is straight. So placing truth around our middle, which is the center of gravity, means that we will be balanced and we will not fall. It is like the foundation of a building: if the foundation is good then the building will stand straight and tall and will not topple over. This is what truth is to us when we put truth on as our sash around our middle; we will stand straight and tall and not topple over.

Gospel Shoes

Of course, we can’t forget the Scripture that says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” Again, setting our minds on what is good protects our minds and hearts and the beginning of that good news is repentance; if we repent, turn from our sins, and take off those dirty garments of the old man and put on the new man, the clean white garments, clothing ourselves in Yeshua, being covered by His blood, living in newness of life which is righteousness, and wearing the breast piece that covers our hearts and putting on salvation on our heads, walking in humility with the Name of Yeshua on our foreheads, with truth around our middle, this will give us a picture of who we are in Yeshua as we stand before God at His altar. This is what the Gospel is all about! These are the shoes that we are to walk in. Without these garments we can not stand before God. If there is something not right in our lives, we must make it right. Yeshua said, “If your brother has anything against you leave your gift at the altar and go make things right first.” God is a holy God and we too are to be holy, bringing praise and renown to His Name.

Are you wearing the vestments of the priesthood? Are your garments white and clean? Maybe you did not realize that we are to minister to God daily at His altar. People think that we can come as we are; well, that’s true when you first come to find Yeshua as your Lord and Savior, but then He cleanses you and gives you the garments of the priesthood. Today, if your garments are soiled, quickly stop where you are and repent, turn back to truth and righteousness, and Yeshua, who is our faithful High Priest who lives to make intercession on our part, will take those filthy garments off of you and give you the clean garments of the priesthood, the garments of service. He will welcome you to His altar where you can come and minister to Him in His presence once again.

Priesthood, Part 1: The Garments of the Priesthood

The last several months we have been looking at holiness. This month we are going to look at the priesthood and how it pertains to holiness. Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). This was not a new revelation to Peter. God tells Israel at Mount Sinai, “Now if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). Now, the tribe of Levi was the only people who could be priests, so how could God tell the whole nation this? Well, the Levitical priests were the priesthood to the nation of Israel, but the nation of Israel was to be the priesthood to the world. To understand this, we must understand the priesthood.

The Duties of the Priesthood

No other people except the Levites could approach God or minister to Him, and only the descendants of Aaron could be High Priests. They were set apart by God because God requires holiness in His temple. Everything that was done at the Temple was exclusively done by them. The Levites were divided by families, and each family would take their tour of duty. We see this in Luke’s account of the announcement of John the Baptist: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division….” (chapter 1:5). So it was the function of the priests to maintain the Temple, fill the oil in the menorah, put in new wicks, clean the vessels, replace the show bread every week, etc. But what we most likely think of is what they do at the altar. Now, there is great depth in all of their duties, so we want to look at only a few but first we want to look at their garments and as we do, we will see how Israel was a chosen race, a holy nation, a royal priesthood.

The Garments of the Priesthood

God spoke to Moses and said, “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and beauty” (Exodus 28:2). Like everything with God, He requires a specific way to everything that has to do with Him because He is Holy! God often said to Moses, “Be careful to do everything that I have spoken.” This is very important to note because there is no place for “man-made” anything when it comes to God. We must always do things God’s way, not ours.

There were eight garments which were called “vestments of sanctity.” The Hebrew word for “sanctity” comes from the word for “holy,” which is Kadosh. Therefore these garments were only used in the service of the Temple and at no other time. We also see this with the utensils used in the Temple; in fact, everything associated with the Temple was considered holy and was to be handled in a special way. These garments were called garments of glory. The Hebrew word for “glory” comes from the root word which has the meaning “heavy,” as in full, like the fullness of the Lord. The garments were a picture of the dignity and beauty connected with serving God.

The Ephod

Biblical scholars did not know what to compare the ephod to because there was no piece of clothing to compare to it. The symbolism behind it could not even be determined because there was nothing similar to it in the ancient Near East: that is, until 1920 when they discovered tablets from Ugaritic. Ugaritic was in the modern Ras Shamra near the Syrian coast. We find that the ephod was referred to as an expensive robe, something worn by the upper class in the Near East. An ephod was worn by people other than the priests. Gideon made a gold ephod which caused Israel to go after other gods. An ephod had a permanent place in the Philistine sanctuary; it was behind this ephod where Goliath placed his sword.

The word seems to be linguistically connected with teraph, which was the household idol of Rachel. The fabric of the ephod was the same kind of fabric used in the curtains and veil of the Mishkan, the Tent of Meetings, thereby making a connection between the High Priest and the Sanctuary. The ephod contained all five colors of the Mishkan. The main function of the ephod was the “stones of remembrance.” These were two stones of onyx which the names of the twelve tribes were written upon, six to a stone. Aaron wore this on his shoulders, symbolic of the shepherd who carries his lambs on his shoulders.

The Breastplate

The breastplate was called the “breastplate of judgment.” The breastplate was a rectangular plate with jewels hanging from gold chains. It was worn by kings. Its purpose? Well, the high priest was considered the mediator between God and the people. He was to bring the sanctity, glory, and splendor of God to the people, and he was to bring the sinful man to God. The breastplate was worn over the heart. The breastplate was set with four rows of small square stones, each row containing three stones. The first row was a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle. The second row was an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. The third row was a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row was a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. These beautiful stones had the names of Israel engraved on them. When Aaron entered into the presence of God, these precious, beautiful stones were a memorial and testimony to God of His love for His people. These same stones will be used in the New Jerusalem which is described in Revelation 21.

The breastplate, along with its pouch, contained the Urim and Thummim. If the stones are a picture of the high priest representing us before God, the Urim and Thummim is a picture of the high priest representing God to us. The Urim and Thummim were two stones used as a means by which God’s judgment might be made known. Their meaning is light and perfection. They were considered like a lot, to determine God’s light in a matter or His perfect will. After the days of David, we no longer read about them in God’s Word. Those stones seem quite the mystery; scholars feel that this, too, like the ephod, may have been used before the time of Moses.

The Robe

This next piece of clothing is called “the robe of the ephod.” It was the robe that the ephod was worn over. The robe was quite unique with its bells and pomegranates on the hem. The bells were for the purpose that the people could hear them and know that the High Priest was ministering before God. This way the people could pray and repent as he was officiating in their name. Also they would know that he was not struck dead by God, but that God was receiving his offering. The Talmud (the collective work of the oral Torah) interprets the priestly garments this way: as sacrifices make atonement, so do the priestly vestments make atonement. The coat atoned for bloodshed, the breeches for lewdness, the head covering for arrogance, the girdle for impure meditations of the heart, the breastplate for neglect of civil laws, the ephod for idolatry, the head piece for brazenness, and the robe for slander because it says, “Let an article of sound come and atone for an offense of sound.” From this it seems that the rabbis considered the actual vestments worn by the High Priest on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to be in some way involved with making atonement. Now if you consider Yeshua as our High Priest, He also entered into the Holy of Holies and made atonement for us; and did He not enter into that sacred place with all His glory and splendor like those garments represent?

How about the pomegranates? Well, a pomegranate contains 613 seeds representing the 613 commandments of Torah, thus this is a picture of the high priest carrying a constant reminder of the Torah on his clothing.

The Head Piece

The head piece, or crown, was made of solid gold and upon the head piece it is written “Holy to the Lord.” Thus it is said, “When Aaron stood before the Lord fully arrayed in all of his garments of splendor, God saw the gold plate flashing forth Holiness to His Name and accepted the people through the priest.” We also approach God by His Name, for all our prayers are in the name of Yeshua. So the head piece was upon Aaron’s forehead so that he would bring forgiveness for the sacred offerings that the children of Israel consecrated. And it shall be on his head always to bring them favor before the Lord. One day, Yeshua will wear the golden crown of splendor upon His forehead.

The Tunic

Not much is said about the tunic except, “You shall weave the tunic of checkered work of fine linen.” The tunic was made of white linen. The word used here for linen is shesh, which literally means “six.” This meant that the thread used in this garment was a six-ply linen thread. It was worn closest to the body and it represented purity. It teaches us that no one may approach God with impurity/sin. Yeshua was our High Priest and He was blameless and pure, without sin. Yeshua Himself wore a one-piece tunic which was like the priests and it was this that the soldiers cast lots for at His crucifixion.

The Head Covering

There were two different types of head coverings. The priests wore one type of which Josephus writes that it was a flattish cap of woven linen that was wrapped repeatedly around part of the head like a turban and then it hung down on the back. The high priest wore a beautiful wound turban around his full head and it then hung down on his back and the gold head piece was placed upon it. Yet, the turban and head piece left enough room on the forehead for the tefillin. The covering of the head spoke of submission. It symbolized humility before God. Because the entire priesthood wore some sort of covering on their heads, this is why Jews wear a covering on their heads even till today.

The Breeches

The breeches were like pants. They went from the hip to the thigh. Some commentaries refer to them as pants, others call them underwear. Nevertheless, the reason for them was for modesty. It was to cover up any potential nakedness when the priest would ascend to the altar.

Vestments of Splendor

God referred to the priest’s garments not only as garments of sanctity and garments of glory, but garments of splendor. Splendor could be translated as beauty. These garments added beauty to the sanctuary. These garments had the finest embroidery and stitch work, detailed weaving, and handiwork. But what also added to the beauty were the colors. The colors of the sanctuary were the same colors of the priestly garments. We are going to look at these colors and what they symbolized.

Gold: Gold is the purest metal and is often used in connection with royalty. This showed that the priesthood was a royal priesthood.

Blue: The sky blue color in Hebrew is called techelet. Blue was to represent heaven. It is also the same color as the tzitzit (the cords which are worn on the four corners of the garments). The priest’s robe was made of this blue. So like the tzitzit, it is a reminder to follow Torah; the priest’s robe was like one big tzitzit to remind the people to follow Torah. Now this blue was made from the blood of the chilazon. The chilazon was a Mediterranean snail. It was very rare. It took 12,000 snails to produce 1.4 grams of dye.

Scarlet: Scarlet is a color to remind us of our human nature. The high priest then represented mankind. The crimson color was produced by a worm called the crimson worm. The crimson red was called tola’at shani.

Purple: Purple was a combination of the blue and scarlet. Again, because of the difficulty in making this color, it was a sign of royalty. This dark red color which resembled purple was called argaman.

White: White represents purity; it’s on this basis that we come to God.

What a Picture

Now, the Hebrew word for “splendor” means beauty, but it means much more. The same root word is also used in Isaiah 61:3 and verse 10 to refer to the Bridegroom. Specifically, it refers to the beautiful headwear a bridegroom used to wear. So it would seem that the picture that God was painting was one of a beautifully dressed bridegroom serving his bride in their little house, the Mishkan (the tabernacle). So here we have our Great High Priest Yeshua, who serves His Bride Israel, and those who have been grafted in, the redeemed, in their little house, represented by several things like the sukkah or the tabernacle of our hearts and most of all, we too are being built up into a spiritual dwelling, a holy temple where our Great High Priest will reside full of glory and splendor.

What a picture of such glory and majestic beauty, the Bride and the Bridegroom, the Great High Priest ministering at the heavenly altar! But what does this have to do with us being a Royal Priesthood? Well, we too have clothing that we are to wear, and we too must minister at the altar. And the purpose of the priesthood was to lead the people in their act of worship which was done by their sacrifices. But all of this we will look at the next time.

Holiness, Part 4: Preparing Our Hearts for Pentecost

The last several months, we have been looking at holiness. We started with Yeshua overturning the tables of the money changers and the warning that He told the priests of the Temple. We saw how that warning is for us today. Last month we looked at following Yeshua and picking up our cross and crucifying the flesh. This month we want to look at what we need to do to accomplish that.

Answering the Call Daily

When we answer the call to follow Yeshua, we begin our daily walk with Him. Scripture tells us that the Torah is a tutor leading us to Messiah. It is the only manual we have to teach us how to walk in holiness along with our Counselor, the Holy Spirit, who leads us in all truth. The Torah shows us our sin, and the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sin, and this process leads us to repentance. God prefers us to judge ourselves, but if we do not listen to His voice and we harden our hearts, then He must discipline us. Unfortunately, all too often, we do not repent because we have been taught that Yeshua died for our sins so they are all forgiven. Only part of this is true. Our sins are forgiven when we repent and turn from our sins, then the blood of Messiah washes us clean. Paul tells us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. We are not to be slaves of sin, but slaves of righteousness. There is no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yeshua who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. And it is this that we are going to take a closer look at.

Wrestling With Sin

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. Paul tells us how he wrestled: “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Torah, confessing that it is good. So no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” Paul, through this wrestling, comes to the conclusion that the only one who can rescue him was Yeshua, thanks be to God! But what we miss is when he says that the requirements of the law are fulfilled in us when we do not walk by the flesh but by the Spirit. Why? Because we are no longer sinning but living in God’s commandments. For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are living according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Is your heart divided? Do you serve two masters? Do you want the things of this world more than the things of God? What do you spend most of your time doing? How far would you go for money? Do you find yourself looking at things that you ought not, even on TV? Are you angry with your brother, maybe even a little intolerable? Do you love the praises of men? Do you trust in your own righteousness, even blinded by it? We are to love God with all of our heart, all of our life, with all of our strength. So how do we begin to solve this problem? Let’s look!

I Must Die to Be Born Once More

When I accept Messiah Yeshua as Lord and Savior, than I must die to myself. I must die to the world and all its lusts and desires. I must lay down my life so that I can pick it up again in Messiah, so that it is no longer I who lives but Yeshua who lives in me. We must let go of self and robe ourselves now in Messiah. Job writes, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there.” What does Job mean when he says that he will return to the womb? Nicodemus asked Yeshua the same question, “Can a man return to his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” Job was referring to the second birth and Yeshua explained it to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.”

How is a person born again? Well, you must be born of the Spirit. Your new birth is a birth of the heart. Jeremiah tells us that, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Yeshua says, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of men proceeds the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” Sin hardens our hearts and thoughts. We no longer hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us. We have seared our consciences and we make all sorts of excuses and we begin to rationalize our thinking. We walk according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit, though we can make ourselves believe that we are in God’s will while in reality we are not, and we do not even realize that God is no longer walking with us. The solution: we must cut away that which is of the flesh, we must circumcise our hearts. How do we do that?

God tells us that He will never turn away a contrite and broken heart. We must repent. Repentance is a turning back to God and walking now in His ways. A heart always in the state of repentance is truly a circumcised heart. Now I know that this is exactly what preachers teach against. They say you should not walk in guilt. Exactly! But remember, there is no condemnation to those who walk uprightly, those who are walking according to the Spirit and not the flesh. Repentance is God’s blessing to us. Do we not wash ourselves every day? Then why would we not want to spiritually cleanse ourselves daily? Remember, God’s mercies are new every morning. The difference between a repentive heart and a hardened heart is hearing God’s voice. This is a warning from God, “Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts like they did in the wilderness when they rebelled.”

We must be willing to lay our lives down on the altar and die to ourselves so that God can consume us with His Spirit and transform us into His new creation. The old man must die so we may become the new man in Messiah.

New Birth, New Life

Paul tells the Corinthians, regarding the Feast of Passover, to “clean out the old leaven (sin) that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover lamb also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” According to Torah, no person could celebrate Passover unless they were physically circumcised. This was because they were not considered a member of the covenant. Jeremiah, when speaking of the new covenant, says that, “God will write His laws upon our hearts.” God can not write His laws upon a hardened heart, a heart of stone. We must be people who walk in newness of life, not according to our former ways. For us to take part in our Passover Lamb, we must be made new. Just like Yeshua, we too must die and be buried and rise again, not as the old but as new, not of the flesh but of the Spirit. For if any man is in Yeshua, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away, behold, new things have come. John writes, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

Now as new creations, our lives are hidden in Messiah. It is no longer I who live but Yeshua who lives in me. And what is this new life in Messiah? It is one who abides in Him. Yeshua tells us that if we keep His commandments we will abide with Him. This abiding is done by walking in the Spirit, who leads us in all truth, the truth being His Word. Yeshua tells us that if we abide in Him, we will bear fruit, and what is this fruit? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” It is in these things that there is no condemnation, because this is the opposite of walking in the flesh. But, once again, to do this we must crucify the flesh and begin to walk in the Spirit. It is in this that we no longer live out the old man but we begin to walk in newness of life as new creations.

We now read God’s Word with new insight. It not only becomes alive to us, but it convicts us of our sins and it changes us from the inside out. We no longer can live behind our excuses and our rational thinking. We see ourselves as guilty of sin and we now feel remorse for those deeds done in the flesh, and this godly sorrow leads us to a broken and contrite heart of true repentance. We no longer run from truth, but we head for the Cross of Calvary on bended knee and confess Yeshua as Lord of our lives, so we surrender our will to His. He is faithful to wash us clean, pick us up, and walk with us again. We begin to love God more than our own lives. We become attentive to His voice. We long to hear from Him not occasionally, but daily. God has so much to say to us, so much He wants to show us and share with us. We fall in love with God all over again, and we love Him more each day, not less. He becomes more apparent in our lives each day, like John the Baptist who said, “He must increase as I decrease.” This is abiding in Him. This is the New Man. This is the Spirit filled life. And those who walk by the Spirit are the children of God, obedient to our Master’s voice. We become good and faithful servants.

Countdown to Pentecost

To understand Pentecost, we must have some background information. According to Torah, no portion of the sacrifice which was for the priest could be kept past three days, because by then it would begin to decay. Yeshua was our Passover sacrifice. Because of this, Yeshua could not have been left in the grave longer than three days. This was the miracle of Lazarus. Yeshua waited four days on purpose because of the Jewish belief that one’s soul remains with the body for three days before leaving, and so the body begins to decay. By waiting four days, Yeshua symbolically showed that the body and soul would one day reunite in the resurrection. Yeshua died on Passover which is the fourteenth day of Nisan. On the sixteenth day, the barley harvest was brought in and a wave offering was presented to the Lord. This was called the Feast of First Fruits (Yom Habikkurim), because it was just that: the first fruits of the harvest, and it was brought into the Temple as a wave offering. A wave offering was done as a sign of dedication. Anything that was dedicated to the Lord was waved.

This began the fifty day countdown to Pentecost (Shavuot). This time of counting is called the “counting of the Omer.” This particular Feast must have fallen on the regular weekly Sabbath at the time of Yeshua’s death. It was after sunset, after the Sabbath evening service, called Havdalah (which ends the Sabbath and begins the new day), that most Jewish scholars believe that the women went to the tomb to find that Yeshua had risen, only to fulfill this Feast. Scripture tells us that Yeshua is the First Fruit. He is the first offering, He is the wave offering, He is the Omer. Paul wrote, “But now Messiah has risen from the dead, and became the first fruits of them that slept.” This daily counting is a time when we should prepare for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It was during this time that Yeshua spoke these piercing words to Peter: “Peter, do you love Me? Feed My sheep.”

Yeshua restores us when we repent. Our hearts are now open to obey His voice. Every day that we count the Omer we remember His death and resurrection. It was also during this time that Yeshua returned to heaven with these words: “For John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha Kodesh, the Spirit of Holiness) has come upon you; and you will be my witness both in Jerusalem and the remotest parts of the earth.” We acknowledge that we too are His witnesses, and we are ready to serve Him. We also are demonstrating that we are anxiously awaiting the Lord’s return. Pentecost is the second wave offering of the wheat harvest. This is very significant because it was Yeshua who said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

This brings us full circle. Unless we die to ourselves by crucifying our flesh, we cannot bear fruit. We cannot be a new creation; we cannot walk in newness of life. Only by picking up our cross and dying to our wants, desires, and the world can we live for Yeshua. We must put on the yoke of the gospel to be a true disciple of Yeshua, following Him in every step of obedience. It was at the Feast of Pentecost, which is an Appointed Time of God, a Sabbath, in which they were all gathered at the Temple, that Peter rose up and spoke to the crowd that was gathered for Morning Prayer: a restored Peter, no longer living according to his righteousness, but now walking in the Spirit of God. He was sober and ready to meet the challenge that Yeshua had placed before him to feed His sheep. Peter preached the message that Yeshua commanded them to preach, that “Repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47) and, “To make disciples, teaching them to observe all that He commanded them” (Matthew 28:19-20), and “All who would believe would cast out demons, speak in new tongues, pick up serpents, and drink deadly poison without harm, they would lay hands on the sick and they would recover” (Mark 16:16-18). They would be His witnesses (disciples). They would walk no longer by the flesh, but now by the Spirit: that same Spirit that raised Yeshua from the grave, that same Spirit which is the two-edged sword, the Word of God, which pierces as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The same fire that came down on Mount Sinai came down on the followers of Yeshua. It was on that day that lives and hearts were changed.

Now, when the people heard Peter speak the words of the Torah to them, they were pierced to the heart and asked what should they do? And Peter said, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”

How about you, have you repented? Have you taken on the yoke (the cross) of the kingdom? Have you answered the call? To walk in holiness is to walk in the Spirit, and it begins by losing your life to gain it.

Holiness, Part 3: Carrying Your Cross

We have been looking at God’s holiness in His people and in their place of worship. Yeshua’s warning is one of judgment. This is a side of Yeshua that we do not always want to see or believe of Him. Yet we have to see that there is sin in our congregations. We have to also see that people are falling away from our congregations. We are not seeing an influx of new people coming to salvation, but what we are seeing is people going from church to church looking to be fed. All the gimmicks, all the drama, all the music is not what people need. What we need is truth; it is the truth that will set us free, it is truth that will make us strong, and it is truth that will allow us to be blessed. We are going to be looking at what is missing in the lives of Christians today.

The Covenant

When we accept Yeshua as Lord and Savior then we, by faith, enter into covenant with Him. By doing this, it means that we must keep all the requirements of that covenant. This knowledge of covenants is something that is not taught in the church. We do not understand how these ancient covenants worked. If we did, we would understand that the Torah is actually a covenant. Now, when we look at Yeshua we see that He lived out the Torah to the very stroke of the letter. It was because of this that He could be the spotless Lamb of God. Yeshua said that He was now going to renew the covenant; in other words, He was not doing away with the covenant but He was going to, let’s say, “amend” it. He was now going to be the Mediator and His blood was going to be the blood that would be sprinkled on the altar and on the people. We see this in Exodus 24. He spoke this at the Passover Meal. A meal was also a big part of ratifying a covenant. We see this in Genesis 31:54. One day we will eat at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which will be the fulfillment of the New Covenant which is spoken of in Jeremiah 31.

Some believe that God is the God of the Jews and Yeshua is the God of the Gentiles, but this is completely false. Yeshua is God and He is the God of the Jews and He is the King of the Jews and He is the Savior of the Jews. God’s revelation was ongoing from the time of Adam to John in Revelation. Throughout the years, God revealed more and more to His people. He began with a covenant with Adam (one man), and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (one family), Moses (a people), and Yeshua (all those who would believe). Paul tells us that we have been grafted into the covenants. He was speaking of the covenant of Adam, that a Savior would come; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was a promise of land and protection and financial blessing; and the covenant of Moses, which requires us to be obedient and to walk in holiness. Yeshua did not do away with any of this, but He did make the way for us to now be partakers by grafting us in if we would believe in Him and be obedient to His commands.

Imitators of Yeshua

In Hebraic thought, to be one’s disciple was to imitate his teacher: his every word, mannerisms, and even thoughts. I guess we would say that the disciple would be a “clone” of that person. In a manner of speaking, this is what Yeshua was of the Father. Yeshua spoke only His Father’s words and He did only what He saw His Father do. Yeshua was the exactness of His Father. He told Philip, “If you have seen Me than you have seen the Father,” (John 14:9). We, too, must imitate Yeshua this same way, and so too His disciples learned from Him. When they asked Him how to pray, they, being Jews, knew how to pray, for prayer is the foundation of Judaism. But every rabbi taught his disciples their own forms of prayer; usually it was a shortened form of the Amidah (the eighteen benedictions) which was said only when they would be on the road traveling. The prayer he taught them is what we call today the Lord’s Prayer.

So as followers of Yeshua, we too must do entirely what He did. We must not just pray any prayer, but the prayers He prayed; Mark 11:25 refers to the Amidah which is said standing in the morning and the evening. We too must call people to repentance (Matthew 4:17) and show mercy and compassion (Matthew 20:29-34). We too must heal the sick and cast out demons (Mark 16:17-18). We must keep God’s Appointed Times, not man’s; in other words, we must take on the yoke of the kingdom. Paul tells his readers to imitate him as he imitates Yeshua. This means that Paul kept Torah. He kept the seventh day Sabbath and all of God’s Appointed Times, which we know from reading Scripture. He did everything Yeshua did. He did not change ONE thing! If he had, he could not have imitated Yeshua, nor could he have been Yeshua’s disciple. Scripture tells us, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments (speaking of Torah) and so teaches others shall be called least in the kingdom” (Matthew 5:19). So we must imitate Yeshua to the letter. When Yeshua tells His disciples to go out and make disciples, He was saying, “Go and teach people to imitate Me.”

Yeshua’s Call to Follow Him

Yeshua went through the countryside and called people to follow Him. But He took it a step further and said if you wish to follow Me, then you must deny yourself and pick up your cross daily (Luke 9:23). What did Yeshua mean by this? Many people think that Yeshua meant that if they have an illness then that is carrying their cross, or if they have a problem child that they have to deal with that they are carrying their cross. But is this what He meant? Well, let’s take a closer look.

Yeshua continued by saying, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it… For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.” Paul tells us this: “Brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship,” (Romans 12:1). So we see that carrying our cross has to do with laying down our lives for the Kingdom of God. So let’s look at this.

The Cross

The cross was an instrument of death. It was designed to maximize pain and suffering. It was also designed to bring shame, for the person was hung naked. Paul tells us that, “We should not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek… For the word of the cross is, to those who are perishing, foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” So despite the shame, as disciples we must pick up our cross and crucify ourselves along with Yeshua. Does Yeshua mean literally crucify ourselves? Well, we know the answer to that is “no,” but what He does mean is that we are to deny our flesh, our desires, our life by dying to ourselves. Paul writes, “But what ever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Messiah. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Messiah, and may be found in Him not having salvation by the keeping of the law, but that through faith in Messiah I may have salvation which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

What does it mean to know Him? Well, this word “know,” yada in Hebrew, is the same word which is used when referring to the covenant. It’s not just to have the knowledge of Him, but to personally experience Him. God revealed His Name to the Israelites and through His judgments on Egypt and their deliverance from slavery, they experienced that this Name was true. He then further revealed Himself by the giving of the Torah. John writes, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we know Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” This word, “know,” is parallel to fearing Him (1 Kings 8:43), to serving Him (1 Chronicles 28:9), to trusting Him (Isaiah 43:10), and to walking in a straight path worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10).

So, we must have this intimate relationship with God. Paul was saying to know Him completely. So when we truly know Him we will also know His power. For the same Spirit which raised Yeshua from the grave lives in us when we truly know Him. Paul writes that “there are those who have a form of godliness but deny the power,” (2 Timothy 3:5). Again, this takes walking in the covenant, for this is the only way we can know Him in truth. This power is walking in salvation, which includes having the authority over rulers and principalities and evil forces in the heavenly places, over every kind of sickness and disease. These are the signs that shall follow a believer (Mark 16:17-18). But because we do not always see these signs and wonders, we say that they do not exist. We cannot keep justifying our wrongs by denying truth.

When we know Him and walk in His power, we will have fellowship with Him. John writes, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin.” The Book of 1 John is full of knowing God in that covenant relationship. To know God and to walk in His power, fellowship with Him will always bring about suffering. Yeshua told His disciples not to fear, for the world hated Him and it will hate them too. Yeshua, on the mount, tells His followers, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Peter writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Messiah, keep rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation. If you are reviled for the name of Messiah, you are blessed, because the Spirit of Glory and God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is the time for judgment to begin with the House of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved, what will become of the godless man and sinner? Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

But all too often we think that fellowshipping in Yeshua’s sufferings are just when we tell someone about Him and they start to call us names or think us to be crazy, but to know Him and His power and to fellowship with Him means we have to take things one step further, and that is to be conformed to His death. Until we do this, we truly can not know Him the way we need to know Him, as to know His power and to fellowship with Him in truth. This is the point to which many Christians never reach.

I Too Must Die

For us to be conformed to Yeshua’s death, then we must die also. Paul writes, “Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Paul tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world, but to “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” John writes, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world; if anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world.”

To be a follower of Yeshua, we must put down the world and pick up the yoke of the kingdom. Peter writes, “Therefore, since Messiah has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries (Torahlessness). And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and malign you.”

Yeshua tells His followers, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” In other words, if we do not imitate Yeshua by carrying our cross and crucifying our flesh, by denying this world’s sinful lusts and pride, we cannot be one of His followers. We preach grace and faith, but not what it takes to know Him. We preach the love of God but not what He demands of us. We do not hear enough about sin and dying to self. Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Messiah Yeshua have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Holiness, Part 2: Idolatry of the Heart

Last month we looked at Yeshua clearing out the moneychangers and overturning the tables on those who sold doves in the Temple. The priests and Levites who ran these tables began to get greedy and overcharge the people. Yeshua was against the unholy practice of these priests and Levites. I realize that the following may be harsh, but Yeshua’s warning was just that. Remember, it was a rabbinic practice that when you quoted part of a verse, it was as though you quoted the whole verse. So now we want to look at the second verse that Yeshua quoted in the Temple.

Jeremiah 7:11-12

Yeshua said, “Do you consider this House, which bears My name, to be a den of thieves? As for Me, I have been watching, declares the Lord. Just go to My place at Shiloh, where I had established My name formerly, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.” Verse 13 goes on, “And now, because you did all these things, declares the Lord, and though I spoke to you persistently, you would not listen; and though I called you, you did not respond. Therefore, I will do to the House which bears My name, on which you rely, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, just what I did at Shiloh.”

Shiloh was the place of worship before David moved the Ark of God to Jerusalem. So, what were these things that the people were doing that angered God? Verse 18 tells us, “The children gathered sticks, the fathers build the fire, and the mothers kneaded dough to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven and they poured libations to other gods, to vex Me.” So let’s go through this.

The sanctuary at Shiloh was destroyed because the people failed to observe God’s Torah, and Jeremiah was saying that the Temple in Jerusalem could be destroyed for the same reason. Yeshua was reminding the people that the Temple in His day also could be destroyed because of sin, which we know took place in 70 CE. In Jeremiah’s day, God tells Jeremiah not to even pray for the people (Jeremiah 7:16). Yeshua, when going to the cross, tells the women not to cry for Him, but for themselves because He knew what was coming in the future. So we see that it was this sin of idolatry that brought down God’s House.


Idolatry is a misunderstood concept; we just tend to think of a wooden image. The second commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” So is this commandment done away with? I think not! I think it is for today even more so.

Ezekiel gives us the answer. He writes in chapter 14 regarding the elders, “Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through their idols.”‘” Yeshua said, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me,” (Matthew 15:8). We are to love God with all of our heart, life, and strength. We can not serve two masters. Idolatry can be anything that we have in our hearts that keeps us from God, like lust, greed, unforgiveness, bitterness, lies, immorality, pride: it’s all sin. For the moneychangers, it was greed and dishonest gain; they were stealing from the people with their dishonest rate of exchange.

Paul writes, “Let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run the race that is set before us.” You see, if we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are His holy priesthood, then we have to be holy, godly people, clean from any hint of uncleanness, any unrighteousness, anything that may suggest anything other than what is holy and pure. Yeshua was telling the people that the Temple had become common and corrupt. The leadership was not representing or teaching God’s holiness. Sin had crept into the Temple and was defiling it, and even though there were no carved images in the Temple, the leadership had set up idols in their hearts and in turn led the people astray. 1 Corinthians tells us, “Now these things happened as an example for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’ Nor let us act immorally as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example and they were written for our instruction, upon which the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” If this was written for our example, then we must live by it.

Sin separates us from God. The Psalmist writes, “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god, would not God discover this? For He knows the secrets of the heart,” (Psalm 44:20-21). Our hidden sins become our hidden lives. When the Word is allowed to convict us of our sin and those idols that we have put before God, then we will repent and turn from our evil ways and idolatry cannot take hold in our hearts. Yeshua cleaned out the Temple because of sin, because of idolatry. David wrote, “Search me, O God and know me,” (Psalm 139:23). He also wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10). Shouldn’t we examine our hearts to see if there is any sin in us?

An Idealistic Messiah

Just as sin can be an idol, we can fashion for ourselves an idolistic God, an idolistic Messiah. Yeshua was a Jew. We have made Him anything but a Jew. He has become a Western, Greco-Roman style Messiah. We called Him Jesus Christ and we have stripped Him of His Jewishness. Yeshua dressed like a Jew. He wore a kippa, prayer shawl, phylacteries, and tzitzit (fringes). Yeshua kept all of God’s Appointed Times including the Sabbath. Yeshua is the Word made flesh, and that Word is the Torah. When we did away with the Torah, we did away with the Jewishness of Yeshua. We have Hellenized the Scriptures with allegory, philosophy, and Western ideology. But Yeshua used none of this thinking. He used Rabbinic thinking, based on tradition and culture and a Jewish world view. The writers of the Scriptures also wrote from this point of view.

This is quite important, not only for how we relate to Yeshua, but how we live our lives. You see, rejecting the Torah is rejecting the one true God because we have based our teachings on a different foundation. We have eliminated God as though He was obsolete. Yeshua and the Father are one, not two different gods. Yeshua, before His death, prayed, “Set them apart in truth; Thy Word (Torah) is truth. As Thou did send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I set Myself apart, that they themselves also may be set-apart in truth,” (John 17:17-19). If we truly are disciples of Yeshua, then we must imitate Him. Paul wrote, “Imitate me as I imitate Messiah,” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This is true discipleship, that one must imitate his master. To do this we must have His mindset. When our idolatry controls our minds and hearts, there is only one way we react to that, and that is to live an idolatrous life. We now begin to serve a different master. We begin to think humanistically and we begin to build on a foundation of relativism, which, simply stated, is a concept of truth and moral values without absolute standards, so that what is right for you may not be right for me. My beliefs may tell me, “It’s OK to do what I am doing. Once I have accepted Jesus I can no longer fall. All my sins are forgiven and I never need to repent because I am not saved by my works.” We have substituted works for obedience. We are not saved by works, but we do live to be obedient to God, and God requires holiness and keeping His commands.

Where Has Holiness Gone?

Yeshua was very determined, when He overthrew the moneychangers, to set an example and warn the people that God does not tolerate sin and corruption in His leadership or in the lives of His people. The Temple of God was to be holy and the things of God sacred. We are to be holy just as God is holy. We must ask ourselves, “Do I live a holy life, one that represents the holiness of God? Is the music I listen to the music that God would listen to? (And I must add, just because they use the name of Jesus in the music does not make it holy, because many of these so-called Christian artists are not themselves living a holy life.) Is the TV that I watch holy and pleasing to God or have I just become accustomed to the trash? Are the movies that I watch something that God would sit down next to me and watch?”

Have we moved so far away from the “Turn or Burn” message of the 1800s that brought such great revivals? Have we no need for the principles of the “Holiness Movement” or the organizations that monitored purity and decency, or have we become callous and even blinded by our sins and the idols we have set up in our hearts? This is what our idols have done to us by telling us that we are OK in what we do. We close our ears and no longer hear, we hardened our hearts and our eyes have become blind. This is the process of sin. We take the parts of Scripture that we want to hang on to and pull them out of context and throw away the parts that we don’t like and say that Jesus got rid of them. Yeshua said that heaven and earth will pass away, but not one jot or tittle of God’s Word will be done away with.

Scripture tells us that judgment will come to the House of God first. You see, throughout Scripture it tells us to purify our hearts and unless we purify ourselves, we will not see the Lord. In Revelation it says, “These are the ones who have made their garments white,” (Revelation 7:14). You see, if we do not purify ourselves, then God will, and of course, God will always discipline His children. We have been taught that we will be raptured because God does not want to bring us wrath. He doesn’t, that is why we must repent of our sins and live a holy, godly life or, like the Scriptures tell us, we will be judged with the wicked.

This idea of the rapture is a fairly new concept. It really became popular with authors like Hal Lindsey and movies like “Left Behind,” and even at that, the concept is once again based on a Hellenistic view instead of the Jewish worldview; but we will address this in another newsletter. Yeshua warned the people in His day of judgment, and judgment did come to the House of God. I believe that we have begun to see that judgment once again with the abuse cases in the Catholic Church and ministers like Jim Swaggart and Jim Bakker and so many other ministers in all denominations who are being exposed for their idols, the sin that is in their hearts. We will see God expose even more, for God demands holiness from His people and in their places of worship. Yeshua is returning for a bride that is spotless, blameless, and holy. He will put His bride through the fire to purify them. He will judge His church so that He can rightfully judge the world. Because of the sin that is in the church, we have been taught that God will overlook our sin, but God does not overlook anyone’s sin. He has made the way for us to be forgiven. He has given us His Word so that we may know how to walk in His ways. He has given us everything we need unto salvation, but He has not given us a free ticket to live our lives how we choose. We are the light of the world and we are to imitate Yeshua. Yeshua was holy and blameless and a Torah-keeper. He did only what His Father required of Him. This was obedience to His Word.

Why will there be a great apostasy, a great falling away? Because we believe our idols saying that God requires nothing of us. He does! He requires of us to circumcise our hearts, to crucify the flesh, to put away our idols, and to walk holy and blameless lives totally devoted to Him. We are to honor Him and give Him our best. We are to have no part of the world. We are only to be a light to the world. And if you say that this is “works,” then that is exactly what it is! Yeshua’s message is for us today; it was written for our example and we need to heed His warning. With everything that is going on in the world today, and as we see God already beginning to judge His congregation of believers, it should open our eyes to see that His next step will be to judge the wicked. But first He will purify His people.

How close we are to His return! The position of the believers should be one of repentance and humility, one of prayer and intercession, one of weeping and mourning. This is Yeshua’s prayer: that one day the idols will be done away with and His House will be a House of Prayer, which the incense of the saints will be brought to, even to the altar of God by His holy priesthood as a holy and pleasing sacrifice before the presence of God. Paul writes about the peril of apostasy: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied the power… Beware of men who enter into households and captivate the weak, men always learning and never able to come to the truth. Men like Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards to the faith,” (2 Timothy 3:1-8). This is talking about Christians. This is talking about the result of unrepentive sin.

The apostasy of the last days is here, and judgment has begun in the House of God. Won’t you open your eyes and see? Won’t you open your ears and hear? Yeshua’s message was written for all of His people throughout the generations. God is holy and He demands holiness in the lives of His people and where they worship!

Holiness, Part 1: Clearing Out the Temple

We want to look at a time in Yeshua’s life that was considered very controversial. I suppose it was the most radical time in His life. It was when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. I have heard people even say that this could have been a time when Yeshua sinned because He was angry and He did this destructive act. We know that Yeshua was sinless, but we do want to take a closer look at this time in Yeshua’s life. We might find that Yeshua’s message is for today and it is still as shocking as it was then.

The Moneychangers

Matthew 21:12 tells us, “Yeshua entered the Temple and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the Temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” So who were these moneychangers? The moneychangers (shulchani) were there to exchange foreign currency into the Temple shekels. You see, at the time of Yeshua, the people would have used Roman currency which had the image of Caesar on it, and it was forbidden to carry this currency into the Temple because of its pagan image; Caesar was considered a god. Most likely, those who sat at these tables were priests and Levites who had become dishonest. They were adding service charges and collecting far above the rate of exchange. Because of the Diaspora, many Jews had to travel to Jerusalem to make their sacrifices. At times it was too difficult for them to carry their sacrifices with them, so doves were sold to these people in the outer courts of the Temple. Though these people were offering a service for these travelers, it was against God’s Word to be doing this in the Temple; they should have been buying and selling on the street, not in the Temple courts.

Now, we have to put this in its proper perspective so that we can understand Yeshua’s actions. It was the time of Passover, and according to Torah, one was to thoroughly clean one’s house and rid it of any leaven, even if it was just a crumb. Leaven symbolized sin and corruption. How appropriate, then, it was for Yeshua to go into His Father’s House and clean it of the leaven, the sin and corruption. Yeshua, as He overturned the tables, quoted two Scriptures. We will be looking at both of them over the next two newsletters to get a better understanding of what Yeshua was thinking.

Isaiah 56:7

Isaiah tells us, “I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcomed on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” We want to see why Yeshua would have quoted this verse.

First, I want to say that Rabbinically, when one quoted a part of a verse, it is as though he quoted the whole verse. So what was the content of this section of Scripture? The Scripture starts with “Observe what is right and do what is just; for soon My salvation shall come and My deliverance be revealed. Happy is the man who does this, the man who holds fast to it: who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and stays his hand from doing any evil,” (Isaiah 56:1-2). Isaiah declares that doing what is right and just and being obedient and careful in observing the commandments would give the people identity as a community. The declaration also states that the foreigner would also be allowed to become members of the community. Verse 3 goes on to say, “Let not the foreigner say, who has attached himself to the Lord, ‘The Lord will keep me apart from His people.'”

The prophet, speaking for God, tells the people, mainly foreigners who felt excluded, that Torah observation makes them complete members of the community. When we obey God’s Word, we will be a light to the nations and people will be drawn into our congregations. It seems as though Christians play the revolving door game. They just circulate from church to church, but this is not true church growth. This is not the lost coming out of darkness into the light. Throughout history we see many foreigners attaching themselves to Israel. We see this in the Exodus from Egypt; also, people like Rahab and Ruth who attached themselves and became part of the royal line of Yeshua. When the Jews left Babylon, many people turned to the one true God and went back with the exiles. In Yeshua’s day we see the Centurion who was a God fearer and also Cornelius who sent for Peter. This is why the Torah specifically addresses the issue of the foreigner and alien who sojourns with Israel.

In verses 6-7 God says, “As for the foreigners who attach themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—all who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it and hold fast to My covenant—I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” We clearly see that Yeshua’s heart was that all people would worship on His holy mountain and indeed they will, as He declared, “For My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.”

But this requires more than what we may think. He was not just referring to people going to their local church, but one day all people would be worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth. One day all people would be keeping Sabbath and the whole of Torah.

A Heavenly Picture

As we go on, we will see that what Yeshua did that day and what He was declaring to the people was quite a serious charge and one that we need to heed today. God made it clear to Moses when He told him to be careful to do all that He had told him to do in the making of the tabernacle. God’s sanctuary here on earth is to represent the throne room of God in heaven. Every detail and every item represented the exactness in heaven. God is holy and He demands holiness and obedience to His Word. Isaiah declared, “I beheld my Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple. Seraphs stood in attendance on Him. Each of them had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly. And one would call to the other, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy! The Lord of Hosts! His presence fills all the earth.’ The doorposts would shake at the sound of the one who called, and the House kept filling with smoke. I cried, ‘Woe is me; I am lost! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have beheld the King, Lord of Hosts.’ Then an angel took a coal from off the altar and touched his lips.” We see that even the angels must cover themselves in the presence of God. Isaiah, in the presence of God, recognized his sinfulness and his need to be cleansed.

The Temple laws were all about holiness and purity. The priest would stop at the laver, which was symbolic of one submerging himself in God’s holiness, cleansing himself from sin. There were many laws concerning purity which we are not going to go through now, but remember that the unclean represents sin and the clean represents purity. They both represent the two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness. The Psalmist writes, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, and has not sworn deceitfully.” This is talking about who may enter God’s presence.

God requires holiness; in fact, He demands it. Before we can approach God, we have to repent and confess our sins so that we remain in right standing with God. Then, we can approach God with confidence and liberality. We take that Scripture so out of context that we can approach God with boldness and a confidence. Yes, we can, but only if we have cleansed ourselves before God. We must understand that God is holy and He takes His holiness quite seriously. Paul tells us that we should examine ourselves before communion so we do not partake in an unworthy manner. Examine ourselves for what? SIN. When we pray, are we not having communion with God? James, writing to believers, says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you,” (James 4:7-10).

Cleansing is not just a one time deal, but daily we are to come before God and confess our sins. Scripture says that everyone who has the hope of His coming purifies himself, just as He is pure. Sin separates us from God and only repentance cleanses us. God says, “A broken and a contrite heart I will never turn away.” Even though the physical Temple is gone, the operation of the Temple still remains. Now we are the Temple of the Lord. Our Temple must be pure and holy. Nothing unclean must enter our Temple. We are the priesthood and we must be clean and holy as we are going to approach the altar of the Lord. Only holiness can approach a holy God.

Let’s continue.

The Flesh vs. the Spirit

Yeshua tells us that God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must be in spirit and truth. Paul writes, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Yeshua the Messiah and put no confidence in the flesh,” (Philippians 3:3). So what is this putting confidence in the flesh? Yeshua tells Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” (John 3:6). He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God,” (verse 5). Paul writes, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that please you. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law,” (Galatians 5:17-18). Why? Because if you are following the Spirit you are keeping the law.

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. You who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God… But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh… For those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God,” (Galatians 5:19-21, 16Romans 8:14). What are the deeds of the Spirit but love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, to mention a few.

Yeshua was against those who were corrupt, those who did not live by the Torah, those who were not living a holy life, and they brought this corruption and sin into the sanctuary of God. John writes to believers in his first letter, “Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever,” (1 John 2:15-17).

We Christians like to believe that when we accept Yeshua as Lord and Savior that we now have a license to live as we want, for all our sins have been washed away. But this is only part true. Yeshua made the way for us to be forgiven and to be made right with God, but we must live according to His Word and keep His commands. Sin still separates us from God. We still must repent of our sins daily. John writes to believers, “If you say that you are without sin you are a liar,” (1 John 1:8). I know that I don’t always walk by the Spirit, and I know that if you are honest with yourself that you don’t always either. John writes in that same letter, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:6-7).

We must daily walk with God, living by His Word, being led by His Spirit and walking in truth and righteousness. But, because we wrestle with the flesh that is at war with the Spirit in us, we struggle and we do not always walk as we should. We must repent and return, walking in God’s ways. We must not continue to lie to ourselves and think that God has overlooked our sins because of Yeshua. God is holy and He demands holiness from His people and that requires us to walk daily in the Spirit, crucifying our flesh. The leadership of our congregations must speak out about sin and they too must deal with their own sin. Scripture tells us in the last days that people will not accept sound doctrine but they will only want their ears tickled.

As the days go on, deep darkness will cover the earth and the evil deeds of men will increase and the Bible speaks of a great apostasy, the falling away of the saints. And we can only wonder, “Why?” The answer is in the second part of Yeshua’s message.

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