16 August 2010 (Shanee/Matzah)|
Day #154, 5934 AM
Teshuvah #8 Keruvah
The Kingdom Being Offered to You
Yahweh's New Covenant messenger or prophet of teshuvah was John the Baptist and in the words we have just read we see, in the Hebrew original, a interesting pair of matching words: "Teshuvah" and "keruvah" which we traditionally render in English as "repent" and "at hand".
"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Make Teshuvah (repent), for the malchut haShammayim (kingdom of heaven) is keruvah (offered/at hand)!'" (Matt.3:1-2, NKJV).
In Hebrew the two words rhyme so they would have stood out to the orginal Hebrew audience - teshuvah-keruvah. Not only that, but the full sense of the Hebrew keruvah is lost in the Greek translation, egizzo which only conveys one of its two shades of meaning, namely, the idea that the Kingdom is 'drawing near', 'approaching' or 'is at hand': for the other, equally important shade of meaning (the Greek translator was forced to choose between the two) is "offered". In other words, John is not simply telling people to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven is close by but because it is being offered to the repentant!
This would have seemed strange to those schooled in the idea that the Kingdom was essentially a political entitiy - a country. Most, if not all, Judahites of the day were expecting the Messiah to restore the glory of the Davidic and Solomonic Kingdom by ending the Roman occupation. They were looking for another revolutionary leader and deliverer like Judah Maccabee. Yet here was John, using the word keruvah, to make sure that the Kingdom he was presenting was not to be understood coming purely externally - it was being offered to each pennitant personally and therefore inwardly. The Amplified Version (which I am coming to like less and less the more human antinomian bias I keep finding in it) does at least get this sense absolutely correct when they render Yah'shua's words into English thus:
The point of entry of the Kingdom of Yahweh is each human heart, not a sword and not am organisation (see The Kingdom is People, Not Boxes). The Kingdom is not established by a prophet or an apostle 'restoring' it - it comes about as the result of a supernatural action of Yahweh when each individual has made Teshuvah or repented of his sins. However, once it has penetrated a human heart, it does not stop there, because that individual, filled with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), will start spreading the Teshuvah message. And what exactly was John the Baptist's message? It was twofold:
"Nor will people say, Look! Here [the Kingdon of God] is! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you (in your hearts) and among you (surrounding you)" (Lk.17:21, Amp.V).
When a believer today preaches teshuvah then that should be his identical message - obey the commandments of Yahweh and surrender self-sovereignty to Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), our Cohen Gadol (High Priest) and deliverer from sin!
- 1. To honour the Covenant to Israel by obeying the Torah again; and
- 2. To receive the Messiah when He came for He would additionally baptise them in the Ruach haQodesh!
As we saw in a recent sermon, repentance requires some very concrete actions on our part. It isn't a question of forcing yourself to feel bad but about changing direction and moving towards the goal, which is Yahweh. John the Baptist insisted that this consisted of adhering to the national covenant by submitting to the commandments and by trusting in the Messiah, just as the resurrected Messiah would confirm to John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation Rev.(12:17; 14:12; 22:14).
The modern excuse not to bey the commandments is 'priorities' as though the 'major' matters somehow cancel out the 'minor' ones. Yah'shua did indeed make it plain to the religious leaders and to His talmidim or disciples what the weightier provisions of the Torah should not be neglected, namely, justice, mercy and faith (Mt.23:23). And yet He also said that we should not find any excuses to neglect the smallest commandments either or there would be eternal consequences:
There can be no question but that the Torah is arranged hierarchically, starting with the Great Commandment, then the Ten Commandments, and then all the minutae or 'small' commandments (remaining mitzvot). But as one messianic minister from First Fruits of Zion recently pointed out, even the 'small' commandments turn out not to be so small after all. Let's take a look at one of the "least...commandments" to see what he meant. First some context so that we may know the heart of Yahweh, namely, His view of animals:
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19, NKJV).
The Torah contains a very 'unusual' (at first sight) commandments about animals:
"A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel" (Prov.12:10, NIV).
This seemingly 'little' commandment ends with the words, "that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days". The first time this promise is made is if we will honour our father and mother, one of the Ten Commandments! (Dt.5:16; Eph.6:3). But it's used in an ever broader sense to refer to all the commandments:
"If a bird's nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days" (Deut.22:6-7, NKJV).
Driving the mother away before taking the young ones has traditionally been viewed as an act of mercy and kindness to the mother bird so that so that she does not have to experience the pain of watching her little ones being taken. We are to treat animals with the same care as we do humans as a condition of being blessed by Yahweh, and this to develop our sensitivity, compassion and care over nature over which we have been made stewards. So really this isn't a small commandment at all. And yet our priority must always be people, and especially those in our immediate family like parents.
"Therefore you shall be careful to do as Yahweh your Elohim has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which Yahweh your Elohim has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess" (Deut.5:32-33, NKJV - also see 6:3,18; Jer.7:23).
These acts of compassions are all fruits of the Kingdom which is given to each soul who repents of his sins and accepts the Messiah as His Sovereign:
The way we treat people and animals is surely a good indicator of whether our teshuvah is perfect or not, and whether we have experienced the life-changing remission fo sins that comes from Yah'shua (Lk.3:3). When Isaiah prophesied that "all flesh shall see the salvation of Yahweh" (Luke 3:6; cp. Is.4:3-5), this is what they would "see" - the Kingdom incarnated in people's behaviour and attitude to the Creator and to the creation. One day everyone will see and understand this, but not until they see it on a one-to-one basis in Yah's chuildren today.
"Therefore bear (bring forth) fruits worthy of [perfect] teshuvah (repentance)" (Mt.3:8, based on Shem Tov Matthew).
What teshuvah essentially offers you is a new character, a new personality, a new attitude and a new vision of living that comes from being inwardly changed by the resurrected Messiah...and of course the promise of eternal life beyond earth's mortality. Repentance brings new and everlasting life. That is the keruvah of effer that is being made to you. Seize it by repenting!