"I am the vine, you are the branches"
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.
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!