The Tender Tree and Tender Eyes
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday, 7 May 2005
In my second or third year in Scandinavia, after I had brought my children from America, I bought myself a little second-hand car from an old lady living in Oslo. Because of her age she had only used it to get her to the shops and back again so there weren't too many miles on it. The price was a bargain, I thought, less than the cost of a week's shopping for a large family. True, the mice had been at work on the rear seat which was full of holes but at that price I was sure I had done well. We drove it home to our apartment and that was the last time it ever worked. It sat their rotting at the side of the road until I eventually paid a scrap merchant to dispose of it. To use the words my mother taught me, "You get what you pay for". And I had bought myself a piece of junk.
You will find a lot of people buy into religion with much the same attitude, only to discard it after it fails to work for them, or to retain allegiance to that religion in name only. There are lots of brands of Christianity which don't cost very much either - perhaps weekly attendance at church such as a meeting like this one or, if you're particularly lazy, maybe only two or three times a year at Christmas, Easter, a wedding or a christening. You basically get what you invest, and if you invest little, you get little in return. In the parable of the Pearl of Great Price, Yah'shua (Jesus) tells us that to obtain the everlasting benefits of the Kingdom, you have to invest everything that you've got (Mt.13:45-46).
Now I realise that a lot of people, understandably, invest very little in things in order to protect themselves against loss. I bought my first car with this in mind and gained nothing, in fact, ending up making a loss. Some things, however, just aren't worth buying cheaply. In our local town we have a Red Cross shop where you can buy all sorts of things at bargain prices, almost all of it second-hand. We were there the other day buying some things for the family. Most of the items are used clothes but one thing I have consistently noticed is that people almost never buy used socks or underwear. Well, you don't need me to tell you why. Some things just aren't worth buying used.
In the Bible, virginity is a prized asset. Today, people don't care if their partners are second-hand, third-hand, fourth-hand or even hundreth-hand. People simply don't put much value on sexual purity or marriage anymore. As a result, divorce rates have got out of control, with the average in the West being about 50% of all married couples, and in Sweden, which ironically claims to be one of the most advanced nations in interpersonal relationship building, a record high 67%. The statistics are even worse for common law marriages, with the failure rate around 80-90%. And the problem is, basically, that people don't value marriage relationships any more. In truth, they don't value people as people, but as disposable commodities or as temporary psychological crutches.
The things we value the deepest are the things we invest in the most. Yah'shua (Jesus) said that the Kingdom was like an expensive pearl which a man saved up for and sold everything he possessed in order to obtain it. He would not have made such an investment, however, had he not been aware of the value of the precious jewel. Yahweh too has made His investment in us, knowing just how precious we are too Him, enduring the heartbreak of sending His only Son down to earth to die for us, agonising as Abraham did at the pain of the thought of sacrificing his chosen son Isaac. We give the most for that which is the most precious to us, even to laying down our lives for it. Yahweh set the precedent by making Himself lowly as a human being and allowing Himself to sacrificed.
The apostles followed the example of this great love and offered themselves for the sake of the Kingdom they had invested so heavily in, to the point of laying down their lives. And ever since apostolic times, true believers have been laying down their all for something they considered to be infinitely precious. They were not, moreover, blind fanatics like the terror bombers of false religion - who are dying for themselves in order to supposedly attain a paradisaic reward in a heavenly whorehouse - but were motivated only by love for their fellow man and for God. We can identify them by what the late American Baptist preacher, J.M.Carroll, calls "the trail of blood". They did not seek martyrdom but were more or less forced into it because the only way they could have avoided it was by denying the truth which had so blessed them.
I must admit that our family buys most of its clothes from the Red Cross and flea markets but there are some things that one must buy new which I have already named. There is, similarly, plenty of second-hand religion on the market place which may serve you in its illusion for a short while but which simply falls short of expectations in time. The true Gospel of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), as opposed to the many counterfeits, not only costs you everything you've got but simply is not available second-hand. And it may even cost you your life.
Now what do I mean by that? Hearing me preach to you today, or hearing any other minister, can lead to second-hand religion when you simply take my word for what I say instead of going directly to the Source of true Religion. The Kingdom of God cannot be dispensed by other human beings, however eloquent we may be in describing it. We can tell you what the laws of the Kingdom are but you, yourself, must meet the resurrected Saviour on your own. Nothing can substitute for a personal relationship with Him and any person, or church, or organisation, or system that attempts to do so is a false one. My job, and the job of all preachers, is to point you to the living Christ so that you can meet Him for yourself and know the truth.
People often come to me for advice about Christian living and one of the most common questions I get is: "How can I draw closer to Yahweh? How can I discern Him better? How can I know what His will is for my life?" In answering these questions I could offer you many platitudes. So instead I'll share with you the times I am closest to Yahweh and am best able to hear Him, and I know others have had the same experience. When I am very ill and the flesh is unable to 'please' me in the way it does when I am well, I often hear Yahweh's voice crystal clear. Also when fasting, as the effect of stilling the flesh is much the same. There have been times when I have been very ill that I have felt this extraordinary closeness. So the question is begged: how can one hear Yahweh clearly when one is not ill? And the answer is simple: by cutting off the fleshy nature, because so long as it is operative, it will be sending out counter-signals to obscure what Yahweh is saying.
You are all familiar with the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 but it is worth repeating as we dig for some deeper clues as to why we don't hear Yahweh as often as we would like to:
"Who has believed our report? And to whom was the arm of Yahweh revealed? For He grew up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or splendour that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should desire Him ...." (Is.53:1-2, ISRV).
In these opening verses we see displayed the qualities of the spiritual man and, whilst this is applicable to the Messiah primarily, it also reflects on us. "To whom was the arm of Yahweh revealed?" The arm here denotes strength and power so what follows tells us the kind of person Yahweh reveals Himself to. The first clue is tenderness - Yah'shua (Jesus) is described as a "tender plant" which means a twig from a felled tree that is sprouting. Tenderness - this kind of tenderness - is the product of calamity represented by a tree cut down. Now a felled tree make look pretty disastrous - "how the mighty are fallen!" we sometimes hear people say - but "from the ashes of disaster come the roses of success", a famous children's song also goes. Yah'shua (Jesus) was cut from the mighty Tree of Judah which had been felled so many times in the past and which was, to all intents and purposes, felled again when He was born because Judah was under Roman occupation and never obtained her independence again. From the disaster that was the land of Judah, arose the Messiah, a tender twig. You see, the things of the Kingdom are tender twigs also, which is why Yah'shua (Jesus) said that children were the stuff of the Kingdom. The King and the Kingdom are not great and mighty ones with 'successful' ministries or churches, but lone, tender twigs that have taken root in the good soil of the Word of Truth.
Secondly, we observe that this tender twig arises out of "dry ground" - there is no obvious nourishment and yet it is being supernaturally provided. The Kingdom does not appear desirable to the carnal eye - it has no glory, splendour, grandeur, magnificence - it is small and unattractive. It is not of the world.
Now Jacob, before he had his carnal disposition burned out of him, judged by the eye of flesh. As we know, Yahweh gave Him four wives through whom the Twelve Tribes of Israel were to be born, and from two of these wives - Leah and Rachel - the two principle leaders of this Kingdom or Nation were raised. From Leah came Judah and the Messianic line and from Rachel came Joseph and the Kingdom Rulership line. For three thousand years these two women's progeny have been divided following Assyrian and then Babylonian deportation of northern Israel and southern Judah. Only today are they coming together as a unified Israel - please note that it is Judah who is coming to Israel since Israel is the common name of them both.
What is interesting is the way Leah and Rachel are described in the Bible and I am indebted to my wife for pointing this out. I would like you to listen to what it says whilst holding in your mind what the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53 says about Christ. This is what it says:
"Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured" (Gen.29:17, KJV).
Now there is so much revelation packed into this single verse that it is hard to know where to begin. We all know that Jacob was tricked by his father-in-law into marrying Leah when his eye was on Rachel. As a result, it says, that at first he did not love Leah and so she spent her time trying to win his affection by giving him sons. Yahweh deliberately kept Rachel's womb barren to bring this carnal-eyed patriarch to repentance for as you know his name Jacob means 'deceiver' - and Yahweh repaid him for his deception of his father Isaac by getting his father-in-law Laban to deceive him in return.
Unfortunately, some English translations say that Leah was "weak-eyed" (NASU, NIV), which can give a negative impression, and some say "delicate eyed" (NKJV) which is slightly better. In other words, this woman whom Jacob was supposed to marry but whom he was tricked into marrying because of his earlier deceit, was the tender-eyed of the two woman - the gentle, spiritual woman of Isaiah 53. Indeed it was through her loins that Yah'shua (Jesus) was born. Does this mean that Rachel was some sort of carnal woman? No, not at all, for she birthed the most spiritual of Jacob's sons, Joseph. Both women birthed carnal men - Rachel's second son, Benjamin, is described as a "ravenous wolf" (Gen.49:27) and many of Leah's other sons did despicable things. The problem lay not with the women - they were not 'opposites' like Sarah and Hagar - but with the carnal discernment of Jacob. He did not see Leah's tender eyes for if he had he would have fallen in love with her too. Instead he saw Rachel's "comely form", her beautiful figure, and no doubt a wild sparkle in her eyes that Benjamin was to inherit.
The eye is the window to the soul and it is with the eye of Yahweh that we must see. Nevertheless the "comely body" is not unimportant because it represents the Body of Christ, the Messianic Community, the Church. There is nothing wrong with a "comely body" - the problem arises when that's all you can see and miss the spiritual eyes. Yah'shua (Jesus) desires a "comely Body", the Messianic Bride, desirable as Rachel was, but He first of all looks into the eyes of His people to make sure that what is there is pure inside.
Sad to say, it is the spiritual people who are most often rejected because the people who reject them are carnal and see only outwardly. Thus of the Messiah, Isaiah says He is:
"Despised and rejected by men, a man of pains and knowing sickness. And as one from whom the face is hidden, being despised, and we did not consider Him" (v.3).
This, brethren and sisters, is also a description of the tender-eyed spiritual man or woman. Now I am not saying, of course, that all sick people are ultra-spiritual, for we know sickness is a product of many things. It is to say, however, that those who are of the Messianic spirit often have to carry great burdens which the carnal despise, even sometimes accusing them as Job's useless friends did of him. Leah bore great grief because she was invisible to her carnally-minded husband. All Jacob could see was his beautiful second wife. All he could feel was resentment towards Laban which he must have transferred to Leah when in fact it had been Yahweh's plan all along that Leah be his first wife as it was his plan all along that Jacob inherit the birthright and firstborn blessing. But because certain parties were not spiritual, Isaac being blinded by the carnal nature of Esau's physical prowess and hunting ability, he did not have the discernment that Jacob would later have, after he had been renamed Israel, when he demoted carnal Reuben and put Joseph in his place as the firstborn, and appointed Ephraim the firstborn over Manasseh even though he was the younger of the two!
Brethren and sisters, please do not despise Yahweh or His Torah because your carnal eye is trying to appease someone in error. If you do that you will reap the whirlwind as Isaac did. If Isaac had been spiritual and strict, Jacob would never have been forced into cheating Esau of what was rightfully his as the spiritual of the two bothers, and he would not have had to be punished by being forced to marry a woman he should have loved because she had every right to claim the same affections as the woman whom he did love. So Leah, Rachel and Jacob were made to suffer because of Isaac's carnal weakness!
Later on in the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah we read:
"We all, like sheep, went astray, each one of us has turned to his own way. And Yahweh has laid on Him [Yah'shua] the crookedness of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, but He did not open His mouth. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, but He did not open His mouth" (vv.6-7).
Brethren and sisters, right now there are people in this Church who are making the mistake of Isaac and reaping sorrow for their wives and children and their children's children. They are compromising Yahweh's Torah in a bid to appease demonic manipulation and threats. Don't do it! Consider your responsibility to do what is right. Repent at once and return to the narrow way. Learn to be despised and rejected for the truth's sake instead of seeking a false peace and acceptance at any price. Don't sell the Gospel Pearl but buy it with everything you have. Don't buy peace from people but buy everlasting Shalom from Yahweh. The people won't thank you because you are merely contributing to their destruction and your own. Don't sell out to lies! Grasp the Truth and never let it go. For if you try to purchase people or time both will slip through your fingers.
At the end of the Messianic prophecy we are given hope:
"He would see the result of the suffering of His life and be satisfied" (v.11).
I invite you all to choose the path of godly peace so that you too may be satisfied in your soul. Do not sell the truth as Judas did but buy it instead. Don't sell Yah'shua (Jesus) down the line in a vain bid to try and save others in the flesh - it never works and only leads to sorrow. I've done it so I know what I am talking about, and to this day I am still untangling the knots from that foolish decision - a decision based on fear - the fear of losing someone whom I lost anyway because I compromised with the truth.
The victorious Messiah, like those who imitate His ways, are given many wonderful promises in this Prophecy. Yahweh will give such "a portion among the great, and He divides His spoils among the strong, because He poured out His being unto death ..." (v.12). Was Yah'shua's (Jesus) death a terrible thing? No! He died with the full knowledge and assurance that His death would bring Him everlasting satisfaction for those who would be saved - us - who trust in Him. We too are supposed to imitate that path, not as atoners, but as sinfully disposed human beings with a carnal Adamic nature that needs to be removed. We too must pour out this evil disposition in us to do things Satan's way by surrendering all to Yah'shua (Jesus), doing things Israel's way and not Jacob's. We must not miss those beautiful eyes of Leah because we have become transfixed by the comely form of Rachel, because both are of Israel, as we are. Joseph needs Judah, and Judah needs Joseph, because both are Israel.
"Blessed are the pure in spirit, for they shall see God" (Mt.5:8, KJV).
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