Month 6:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5937:171 AM|
TESHUVAH Day #22
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 27 September 2013
The Eight Valleys
& the Messianic Evangelical Mission
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and may the chesed (mercy) and grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be upon this congregation and all those joining with us today in spirit.
When Yahweh Stands Afar Off
Today's message was given to me a couple of days ago early in the morning while I was answering some questions send by one of our African brethren. Indeed it came in answer to a question of my own which I have been wrestling with for months now. And though this isn't the way I have been phrasing my question, it was the way that King David and many others did and which we all feel deep down at one time or another:
He Waits For Us to Come
"Why do You stand afar off, O Yahweh?" (Ps.10:1, NKJV).
And when we get into this spiritual state of feeling ignored or rejected we start doubting, don't we? And then doubting leads to complaining, and if we are not very careful, what then happens is that we can get even further away from Him. Hopefully - and I mean that profoundly and sincerely - this will lead us to realise that what Yahweh is actually doing "standing afar off" is waiting for us to go to Him and not the other way round. Why would He do that when He so often comes to us? The answer is because of the ground He is standing on.
Our Vision and Mission
In looking for articles for our African brother to study that would answer his specific questions, I recommend one that set out our mission based on a vision Yahweh had given me nearly seven years ago that consisted of a very simple message: walk between current evangelical Christianity and Messianism because the narrow Deresh (Way) of Emet (Truth) and Chayim (Life) was to be found between it. And as I re-read my original statement I realised, very clearly, that Yahweh was now waiting for us to move to Him to a point beyond this stretch of the Derech (Way). We had indeed walked carefully and (I hope) diligently between these two Houses - evangelical and messianic - but now He was waiting at a place "afar off". It was not that He had left us but that He had moved on to our next rendez-vous. For those of you not familiar with this vision, I think it's important that I share it with you again so that we can orientate:
The Vision of the Two Houses
I saw a road heading through a valley towards some distant mountains over which it passed to some unseen final destination. It was a very narrow road, more like a path or country lane. Ahead of me was a small hamlet consisting of only two houses beyond which was a gentle descent into a valley and beyond that the mountains. There was one house on either side of the road and opposite one another so that the road passed directly between them. Where the road was, there was much light (as along its entire length), as there was also in the valley beyond. There was an even brighter light coming from behind the mountains into which the road disappeared. Behind the two houses, and on either side of this little path, was first twilight and then complete darkness. The backs of the two houses jutted out into this darkness. As I looked closer I could see that the backs of both houses were crumbling into ruins so that in reality only about half of each house was habitable. As the vision ended I heard Yahweh speak: "Walk this road".
Upon the vision closing I knew that the two houses represented two systems of religious belief and practice. The house on the left represented Evangelical Christianity begun by Martin Luther and his associates in the 1500's and the house on the right represented the Messianic Judaism and Israelitism started by Jewish converts to Christ principally from the mid 1900's to today.
The solid side of the Evangelical House facing the road and bathed in the light represented the basic truths of the message of salvation: faith in the resurrected Christ and salvation by grace. The part crumbling at the back in the darkness represented all its false traditions in its many branches - its antinomianism (lawlessness), 'once saved only saved' heresy, false Sunday Sabbath, false pagan traditions (like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc.), compromises with statism, Catholic creeds, Replacement Theology, churchianity, and so on.
The solid side of the Messianic House facing the road and bathed in light represented the ancient truths of Torah-obedience required of those trusting fully in their Messiah, Yah'shua (Jesus) including observing the true seventh day Sabbath, the seven festivals of the Commonwealth of Israel, the lunar calendar, dietary rules, etc.. The part crumbling at the back in the darkness represented all its false traditions in its many branches - its anti-Christianity (failing to recognise the hand of Yahweh in Protestantism over the centuries), attachment to false Talmudic doctrine and customs (including false festivals like Hanukkah), belief that the Israeli Republic is the restoration of Biblical Israel (it isn't - it's a counterfeit), its kabbalistic occultism, its heresies concerning the deity of Messiah, its racism (viewing Jews as superior to other people, including Ephraim) and its failure to acknowledge that Joseph is the leader of Messianic Israel, not Judah, and so on.
Our goal is what lies beyond that mountain which is far greater than anything ever brought forth by either evangelical Christianity or Messianism even though it contains the indispensible elements of both of these 'houses'. Though these two houses are not the literal Houses of Ephraim and Judah, which are distinct tribal entities, they are certainly symbolic of their attitudes and behaviours, weaknesses and strengths. We represent the New Israel that will be and we are currently at the point of that road passing between the two houses to the One House of Josephite Messianic Israel. To the truths of these two traditions Yahweh has added yet more which he has restored through us and doubtless through some others. This is our vision. This is where we are going.
Time to Move On
Brethren and sisters, it is hard to move on when you have been in one place so long ministering in a particular way. You know when a particular aspect or phase of your ministry has come to an end when the inspiration for it starts drying up. And whilst there can be numerous other causes for such 'drying up', once you have thoroughly examined them and elimimnated these possibilities, you have no alternative but to consider the last remaining option: it's time to 'move on'.
The Right Bearing
This does not, of course, mean we are abandoning one grain of emet (truth) or the divine tavnith (pattern) revelations that He been showning us. The most important aspect of this walk between the two houses is not so much the doctrinal content (though this is very important too) but the bearing, that is, the spiritual direction. Yes, the road that leads to eternal life is straight but so too are a number of counterfeits, and what distinguishes them is not their 'straightness' but the direction in which they are pointed - to an immaculate Yah'shua (Jesus) rather than to a sinful distortion of Him. We don't want to find ourselves having loyally cruised in a straight line onto to find we had the wrong bearing. Backtracking is laborious and time-consuming but if we must do it, then do it we must. Sadly, we are unable for now to take with us those who once walked with us and have veered off elsewhere because of one false doctrine or another. And we hope, of course, that those who have come with us thus far will continue further.
What I have to share with you today is hard to put into exact words. What this change I am speaking of may mean is that, like a diamond carefully crafted between the two houses, it is time to set it in its clasp and then wear it. The Kingdom is not mere doctrine - it's a way of life. We'll know we have done this right or not by the fruits of the ministry to come, particularly in the area of the supernatural and miraculous which is so badly conterfeited in the Body of Messiah currently. We have, I hope, resisted the temptation to 'rush ahead', having learned from the mistakes of the past, but at the same time I hope we have been sensitive to the moving of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) to 'pull up our tent stakes' and will move to the next camping ground when that time has arrived. And whilst 'moving location' can be a bit frightening because of the comfort afforded by the familiarity of the old ground, the new one should also be an object of excitement because of the opportunity it offers to witness, serve and grow even further. The objective is, after all, to build the Kingdom by being qodesh (holy, set-apart, pure) vessels for the Ruach (Spirit).
This week my family persuaded me to do something I have been putting off for a long time - to do a complete diet 'reboot'. In fact, I started this morning, so if you hear gastric rumblings from the podium you'll know why! Worsening ill health has forced me to start radically changing my diet to food I absolutely do not like.
I'm honestly not looking forward to the rest of the 'reboot', which is an even more radical diet to the one I have been on, which in truth has been a half-way house between my old habits and the one I know I have to get on to. Moreover, it is requiring a lot of emunah (faith) on my part because I am honestly sceptical that my health will improve after so many successive downturns and disappointments but taking care of the temple is as important and seeking the Ruach (Spirit) with which to fill it. Once you get to a point of desperation, scepticism has to give way to the reality of there being no future unless there is change - then, I'm hoping, I will see results. In the face of what seems like a quagmire from which it is impossible to get out of, I am casting my dye and going ahead. I'm not promising I won't have relapses because of cravings for my old eating habits, but I am at least realising that if I don't do this, then the blessings of Caleb I have so long sought will almost certainly elude me permanently.
Beyond the Houses to a Valley
Now the reason I share this should, I hope, be obvious: Yahweh wants us to pull up our spiritual stakes and move on beyond the evangelical and messianic houses to the next position on the map. Like the children of Israel who grew accustomed to life in the desert, a time came when they had to cross the Jordan into a settled agricultural lifestyle. As I recall the vision, the path that led between the two houses rose to a slight inclination beyond them so that beneath me I could see a vast valley between where we were and the mountains which were our final goal.
An End to Familiar Markers
I have no idea what lies beyond except in the very general sense, in case that is the next question on your mind. This is an emunah (faith) journey for me too though I have every reason to be confident that Yahweh will give us clear directions along the way, as He has done with each stage of our journey. The evangelical and messianic movements are pretty visible markers, as were the Restoration ones before them, and they were well labelled. But what lies beyond is new territory for us. I suspect, though I may be wrong, that it's not been trodden by many for a very long time. I have some inklings as to what that Derech (Way) may contain but I will refrain from speculation - it rarely bodes well going into any kind of unknown as it can raise false expectations, hopes and fears.
The Restlessness of Anticipating Change
You know it's time to 'move on' when you start feeling restless and agitated. It's a bit like malakim (angels) prodding you and saying, 'Get up, stop sitting around!' Your first reaction is to question your physical location, and it may well be that it is time to physically move, but equally it may not be. Physical journeys are indeed called for sometimes, as we know from Abraham's long wanderings from Ur of the Chaldees viâ Haran and thence to Canaan, but the journey that must preceed any physical one must always be spiritual. We have to be prepared for change of whatever kind. But that also means letting go of preconceived ideas and desires which might pull us in a wrong direction. And the very first thing we must do is make qodesh (holy, set-apart) affirmations:
"Hear, you who are afar off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge My might" (Isa.33:13, NKJV).
Now there are those who are afar off because of sin and who are in need of making teshuvah (repentance) - that's all of us, though specifically in this revelation it is those who are possibly cut off from Yahweh who are being targeted - and there are those who are afar off because Yahweh has moved further down the Derech (Way) and is calling us to meet up with Him there. For those in the former position - and there are many, particularly those called to this work who have wandered away and even, in some cases, become it's enemy, there is an urgent need to recognise the fallen condition of rebellion and to do something about it:
"Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for emet (truth) is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter" (Isa.59:14, NKJV).
I don't doubt that we are "afar off" on both counts to different degrees depending what choices we have individually made. Some have gone far down the road in the opposite direction and others have left it altogether in unbelief. But to whose who have approached Him - moved in emunah (faith) to this new rendez-vous, the commandment is to "acknowledge My might". We most certainly have the opportunity to do that during the coming autumnal (fall) festivals. This is the season of making teshuvah (repentance) and Yahweh has a very incisive and direct message to everyone taking it seriously, and to those who are still hesitating to get right with Him:
More Than One Place at a Time
"'Am I an Elohim (God) near at hand,' says Yahweh, 'And not an Elohim (God) afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?' says Yahweh; 'Do I not fill heaven and earth?' says Yahweh" (Jer.23:23-24, NKJV).
Our Elohim (God) is not like mortal man who can only be in one place at a time and we see here that He can be simultaneously "afar off" in one respect but also "not afar off" in another. Just as those who love each other are sometimes "afar off" to one another, yet at a deeper level they are "not afar off" either because they love each other, in spite of any momentary difficulties. Yahweh is the same but on a much grander scale. Yes, He's waiting for us 'down the road' but He's also here to carry or lead us to the place we need to go.
Identifying the Valley
It is my task today to talk to you about the valley that lies between the slightly elevated place and the distant mountains which are our final goal. I hope you will forgive me for repeating again and again this need to expect huge change imminently but I feel it so strongly and so urgently that I absolutely must continue doing so. For several years I have spoken of huge changes in the world and begged you to make preparations. Some have responded, most have not, and others are gambling with their lives by denying all personal responsibility and expecting others to assume that responsibility for them.
Readying for War
We are about to enter into war but so far it's all been in the theoretical for most. It has even had a slightly romantic flavour to it. But like all war, it begins with idealism - when wars are declared, everyone is full of bravado for 'country', 'liberty' and other such lofty things, but all war eventually and pretty much exclusively becomes a fight for your life. Most of you who follow these sermons online will, in due course, 'disappear' because all war is local and we are far away on a different continent in most cases. That is inevitable. Once war begins, the business of survival soon swamps out the grander visage, the wider picture of 'country', 'liberty' and all that sort of thing. Most of us will be operating on a fundamental level dominated first and foremost by the need to survive. For the individual soldier, the war is the forest where he camps or the ditch and trench where he fights and maybe dies. His initial lofty thoughts of 'country' and 'liberty' soon get swamped out by the immediacy of what's going on around him. For us, we are going to be in the thick of intercessory prayer and one-to-one witnessing, making sure we can feed, clothe, house and protect our families while we do so. Cyberland in particular will radically diminish in importance as cyberspace gives way to real space. The whole game - the way we have been living life - is about to change.
The Woman on the Plane
You're probably wondering what I am talking about. I told you this would be difficult to explain. Pastor Jack Hyles relates an incident he had onboard an aeroplane . He was on his way to Chicago from Cleveland. He sat down in a seat next to the aisle. The seat next to him was empty and in the next seat beyond was a lady. After some polite small talk, he got out his Bible and began to read. She said nothing for a while but when she saw the Bible she began to weep. "Mister, when you get through with that Bible, can I read it?" He replied, "Lady, I have two others in my briefcase. You can have one of them." He then took out a Bible and gave it to her. She began to thumb through it but couldn't find what she was looking for. He offered to help her. "I want to read the twenty-third Psalm," she said. Pastor Hyles offered to read it to her and so opened up and began reading. As he did so, the tears streamed down her face and her lips began to quiver. He said, "You have a broken heart, don't you?" She replied, "Yes, my father is dying in Houston, Texas. I don't know if I will get there before he dies. I love the twenty-third Psalm." In just a few moments, Pastor Hyles had told her about the Shepherd of that Psalm, and she received Him as her Saviour.
The Comfort of Psalm 23
Of all the passages in the Bible that have comforted the hearts of troubled souls, strengthened the backs of weary travelers and encouraged the spirits of broken hearts, the twenty-third Psalm has done it the most. As one little girl once said: "Yahweh is my shepherd, and that's all I want."
The Psalmist goes on to say: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Why? "For Thou art with me. Thy rod and They staff they comfort me" (Ps.23:4, KJV).
How We View Valleys
Now my purpose in relating this incident is to especially draw your attention to the valley. This one was called, "the valley of the shadow of death" and was not a particularly pleasant place. Death never is. Perhaps you, like me, because of childhood stories or perhaps pleasant excursions, view valleys as positive things. My son and I were recently in England and soaked in the beauty of the South Downs. But in biblical symbology valleys are far from this idyll.
The Seven Valleys
In the Bible seven actual valleys are mentioned: Siddim, Eschol, Kidron, Elah, Achor, Gehenna and Jezreel. My purpose is to take you through each of them because in life we must pass through each - not literally, of course, unless you happen to be a tourist or resident in the Holy Land, but spiritually. Each has a practical and prophetic significance and together represent some of the challenges we are going to face individually as well as a fellowship in the years to come. It makes sound sense to become familiar with their nature and purpose before we actually walk through them, even though in truth we have all been walking through one or more of them already. But this time we shall be doing so with a very clear purpose in mind.
The Nature of the Valley That Lies Before Us
You will recall that in my vision the valley was a very large, extensive one, covering a vast area, from which we may deduce that the rest of my and your life life, and the very long lives of our young ones, will be occupied walking through it. I have already prepared you to some extent with a couple of sermons before which I recommend you read over again after the meeting or now if you are online:
1. The Valley of Siddim
The first of the biblical valleys the valley of the slime pits. If you haven't already guessed, this is the place where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were located. And you all know what happened to them, and why. Yahweh destroyed them with "fire and brimstone" to blot out their offense and to prevent the inhabitants from cursing the land any more. This is the valley where sin abounds. It is the valley of sin in our lives, and we must walk through it until we have overcome.
Every time you go into a nightclub, strip club, pub, bar, or other place of ill repute, in order to indulge your fleshy nature, you are entering Satan's territory. And yet when, before you were saved - or after, when (Yah have mercy) you relapsed - you went into these places to drink the draft of alcohol, to inhale the smoke of demonic offerings, to take mind-altering drugs and so enter into demonic space, to fill your eyes with filthy sensuality - or worse, to commit acts of fornication and whoredom - when you descended into the depth of sin, drinking the very last dregs of vileness, did you know that Elohim (God) was there? Did you know that He cared, and still cares if you are unfortunate enough to still be frequenting these twilight zones? Did you know that when you have gone to the bottom of the pit where the prodigal lay eating with the pigs, that Elohim (God) was there waiting for you? When you finally come to your senses and have nobody to go to, and pull yourself up off the ground and say, "I will get up and go back home to my Father", did you know that the Father is always there waiting for you?
I pray that if you are of the last generation you have been spared from such calamity but know you will be tempted anyway. The wise amongst you will stay well clear of them and only go in them when they are strong of character, matured in the Besorah (Gospel), filled with the Ruach (Spirit) and burning for the salvation of souls. Only then may they enter, and then only for the purpose of witnessing, just as Yah'shua (Jesus) did when He ate with sinners. I speak of the last generation raised in godly homes. But most are not so protected. But for the rest, these dens of sin will have been commonly frequented and probably without so much as a twinge of conscience because it was 'normal', the 'done thing'. If any of you have been to such places and done such things and have not got right with Yahweh - of if you are still frequenting them, and are not saved, then know that Yahweh is here in this hour knocking on the door of your heart and seeking entrance. He wants to be your Deliverer, to forgive every sin, and to come fully into your life, and control it for your happiness and the happiness of your families. He wants to say to your soul, "Your sins are forgiven you", to lift the burden of guilt and the acrid stench of death on your breath, and to set you free.
Whether you are in the position of one who has partaken of the fleshpots of this valley of slime pits, whether you have resisted them and have simply observed them as a non-participant, you have to go through it and deal with it either as one exiting it or one entering it to bring the message of salvation. If you are in the Valley of Siddim - in the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah and waiste-deep in the mire, or even gone to the very bottom - if your life is empty and friendless with no one who seems to care, know that Yahweh is saying, "I am here with you", and that He's offering you a lifeline.
2. The Valley of Eschol
The second iblical valley is called Eschol is located just inside the Promised Land. Perhaps some of you have heard of the grapes of Eschol? This is the first valley of the Holy Land that the Israelites wandering through the wilderness of Sinai encountered. You will recall Moses sent out 12 spies into Canaan at Kadesh-barnea who returned with a report that the land was flowing with milk and honey. They brought huge clusters of grapes on poles - they were so large that two men were required to carry a single bunch! These were the grapes of Eschol and it was in this valley that the Israelites had to make a fundamentally important decision in their lives: "Do we go forwards or backwards?" It was here that they decided whether they would eat to the full or be content with far, far less. The Valley of Eschol is the Valley of Decision, where the choice to walk the high road or the low road is made - to walk in obedience or rebellion, in Torah or in lawlessness, by the way of the Firstborn or that of the children of the Second Resurrection.
Sadly, most of us at different times choose what is less than best not because we are pious but because we are proud, for the Father wants us to have the best, and to have the best means to walk the most exacting and sacrificial path there is. The 'easier way' actually turns out, in the end, to be the harder one, because along that road we stand to lose all if we drift back far enough. Here, in the Valley of Eschol, we decide whether we shall be at our fullest or whether we shall be less than we ought to be. We decide whether we shall walk as we were created to walk or to choose something lesser and shadowy.
Nobody escapes this Valley. If the truth be told, we walk through it constantly with every decision we make. In it we are forced to examine our motives, and to check our faithfulness or lack of it. In it we share the ahavah (love) in our love-bucket or we hoarde it all for ourselves, only to discover that it goes sour like manna stored beyond its sell-by-date. Most of all, in this valley we decide whether to give our entire life to Yahweh or only part of it, and we keep returning to it until we have either yielded all or taken all back to ourselves.
Remember, that when you are brought into this Valley of Decision, Yahweh is with you and has brought you into it for a purpose. Be sure to listen to Him and respond affirmatively. And if your emunah (faith) is weak, ask Him to strengthen it. Do what He asks you to do, ask Him to help you, and then to lead you. Be sure to do His will or you will keep having to return to make the same old decisions again and again until time runs out for you. This valley is clearly one of huge importance.
3. The Valley of Kidron
The third valley is known as Kidron and also the valley of Jehoshophat. It is located between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and lies just beyond the eastern wall of the city. If you have ever been there you will know it is a very big, deep valley. There is a large cemetry there today which has been there since the days of King Josiah. Many of the greats are buried there like the judge Samson, the prophet Samuel, David's rebellious son Absalom, and the apostle James. This, brethren and sisters, is the Valley of Suffering and we all have to pass through it. There is not a soul alive, past, present or future who has not passed through it, is not passing through it now, or who will not pass through it in the future. When David declared in the 23rd Psalm, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou are with me", it was this valley that he had in mind.
If Elohim (God) is to be found in the Valley of Siddim or the Valley of Sin, and if He is in the Valley of Eschol, or Valley of Decision, as we have seen, then you can safely trust that He is also there in the Valley of Suffering.
I know people, as I am sure you do too, who believe the sun will never rise. And I include myself in that number sometimes. We know a lot of people with debilitating and sometimes life-threatening illnesses. We know those who are dying from cancer, whose lives are slowly ebbing away. We know people whose marriages have been smashed and who are in despair. We know those who are going through the nightmare of the state kidnapping their children. We know those who have just lost loved ones in death, old and young. We know those who are being maimed and killed in wars and in terrorism, and those who are being mentally and physically destroyed by psychotropic and other kinds of drugs, legal as well as illegal. We know those who feel utterly alone and misunderstood, who are serving in a hostile environment where people are trying to destroy them. They are in the Valley of Kidron, in the Valley of Suffering. But Yahweh is in that Valley of Suffering with us, right by us.
For many, life is just a game or a good laugh. But it is not always that way because sooner or later heartaches, burdens, problems and valleys came along and we are forced to sober up. And when the tough times come, many yet try to keep the pretense up of the party, in part to avoid responsibility and repentance. The apostle James can only have had these in mind when he said:
We all have to walk through the Valley of Kidron, the Valley of Heartache and Suffering. But when that time comes, Yahweh is there for us!
"Therefore submit to Elohim (God). Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to Elohim (God) and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of Yahweh, and He will lift you up" (James 4:7-10, NKJV).
4. The Valley of Elah
Once you remember what happened in this fourth valley you'll easily remember it. This was where the lad David faced off Goliath and felled him. The Valley of Elah is the Valley of Battle. And Yahweh was in that valley as He is in the Valley of Decision and in the Valley of Suffering.
Many of our battles seem hopeless, don't they? They seem larger than life - and that's because Goliath is big. But the thing is, Yahweh is bigger still. So long as you don't rely on conventional weapons but on what will do the job, trusting in Yahweh to see you through the battle, you won't have much to worry about. The real battle is in overcoming fear enough to step forward in emunah (faith) in El Elyon, the Most High.
Our battles may not necessarily be against external enemies. Indeed our biggest ones are usually within, that one temptation you feel you can't resist. Remember, Elohim (God) is there. Please rememebr this promise:
Don't pursue the coward's antinomian way by 'decriminalising' sin in your own mind. That's the sure way to apostacy and a long spell in any number of different valleys! Acknowledge Yahweh's Torah, admit you have a problem, and get onto the battlefield! Be like David, not like his brothers! No man is an exception to temptation and Yahweh nowhere allows him to bend the rules to pander to his self-image, justify sinful impulses and avoid repentance.
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but Elohim (God) is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor.10:13, NKJV).
Whatever your difficulties of temptations, lean heavily on Yahweh because He's there in the midst of the battle!
5. The Valley of Achor
The fifth valley, like thr fourth, is often hard to remember until you recall what happened there. I speak of the Valley of Punishment or the Valley of Achor for this is where Achan the thief and covenant-breaker was stoned to death after he helped himself to the spoil taken from Jericho which was consecrated to Yahweh. He was instrumental in bringing sin into the Camp of Israel and attempted to keep is hidden. The result was that everyone suffered. Whereas the mighty Jericho had fallen because the people were echad (one) and true to the b'rit (covenant), once Achan sinned they were defeated in trying to take a little village called Ai! The stain of iniquity was not removed from the community until the proper punishment was executed.
Families suffer when the father and husband fails to deal with sin issues. Congregations suffer when its leaders do the same. Nations suffer when their leaders sin and cover up their crimes. Because of the work of Yah'shua (Jesus) on the Cross, we do not have to suffer the penalties due to us if we will but genuinely repent. We will likely get a chastening but that will refine our character. The only thing to suffer will be a bit of dead-weight pride that was slowing us down anyway.
Get used to it. Yahweh chastens, He corrects, and because He loves us. He is even so with us in the Valley of Chatstening or Punishment - He doesn't lock us up and throw the key away. His punishment is reformatory, not vindictive. Sadly He may, at times, be forced to put us in the hospital, cause is to lose a job, put us in the middle of the road in an automobile accident, cause us to go bankrupt, lose our home, or any number of different things to break the back of our stubborn pride. Only He knows what's best to put us on the straight and narrow again.
Whether in the Valley of Siddim (Sin), the Valley of Eschol (Decision), the Valley of Kidron (Suffering), the Valley of Elah (Battle), or the Valley of Achor (Chestening), He is there.
6. The Valley of Gehenna
The Valley of Gehenna was the city garbage dump of Jerusalem. A fire was burning in it continuously so it came to be used as a picture of hell. The fire in that Jerusalem valley has long since gone out, as the fires of hell will one day be extinguished in the Cosmic Jubilee, but until then it'll be there until we have had our sins burned out of us the long and hard way - without the benefit of acquittal offered by Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) to those who will repent and accept Him as Master and Deliverer while they are alive. I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through that for even a minute.
Sadly, there are all to many who refuse to submit to Yah'shua (Jesus) in this life. They must pass through the Valley of Gehenna or Valley of Death but without relief or the edge of Yahweh's protection. Not for the unrepentant sinner is the promise, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou are there."
You and I have to die one day. It could be tomorrow, we have no promise of a long life. There is no future reincarnation to have 'another go. Repenting tomorrow could be too late. If you know you're a sinner and have done nothing about getting right with Yahweh, now's the time to do something about it before it could be too late! On the other hand, death is not such a bad thing for the saved, it is not an enemy for them. Why? Because even in death, Yahweh is there! If you suffer, He's there. If you're tempted, He's there. If you are in battle, He's there. If you have to make an important decision, He's there. And if you are facing death, He's there if you are saved!
7. The Valley of Jezreel
The last of the named as opposed to purely symbolic valleys is the Valley of Jezreel. This one you are bound to have heard of because it's the place where the last great end-time apocalyptic battle is to be fought. Now there are a lot of theories as to who these end-time protagnonists are but we'll not get into that today.
In the middle of this valley is the famous Mount Megiggo from which we get our English word 'Armageddon' from - literally, harMegiddo. The Valley of Jezreel is a bit like the Valley of Elah except this one is the 'Battle of Battles' - the one that settles the all the other battles combined, the one that determines the outcome of the whole war.
We all of us, I believe, have a 'final battle', the one that finally settles our place in eternity. For Jacob, it was the battle he fought with the malak (angel) at the River Jabbokk. For the price of a dislocated hip-joint which left him with a permanent limp, he finally overcame the carnal, deceitful Jacob-nature and received a new nature and name, Israel. For Abraham, it was the offering of his son Isaac that proved his mettle. For most of the apostles, it being a faitjful testator until martyrdom. Each would declare in his own words, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me." You see, what matters is how we finish this race, not how we start it. The Valley of Jezreel may therefore be called the Valley of the Last Battle. And that last battle is the one that determines our place in the eternities once we die, like the penitent thief on the cross. ALl the other valleys in a way converge on this last one.
May I make a request of you as we gear up for Yom Kippur in just a few days? Please, someone who is in the Valley of Sin, come to Yah'shua (Jesus) - trust in Him as your Deliverer and obey His mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah. Please, someone who is in the Valley of Suffering, depend on Him. Someone who is in the Valley of Chastening, just thank Him for being there during the spanking. Someone who is facing death, realise that He is there too. And everyone, realising that He is coming back!
8. The Valley of Vision
That completes the seven named valleys which even today may be visited in the Holy Land. If you ever visit there, recall what they represent in the spiritual life. But now, to finish off our medley of valleys, we come to another valley, one that has no geographical location but only a symbolic name. It's importance will become self-evident as we take a closer look at it:
The Falsification of True Worship
"The burden against the Valley of Vision...For it is a day of trouble and treading down and perplexity by Yahweh-Elohim of hosts. In the Valley of Vision -- breaking down the walls and of crying to the mountain" (Isa.22:1-5, NKJV).
What is this "valley of vision"? It is one that many walk in to their great cost. It is the valley of dreaming, fantasy and intellectual reasoning. This where self becomes disconnected from Elohim (God) and we come to believe that our inner 'world' is the whole universe! We, who are but images of the greater reality in our inner constructs, are but the tiniest fragments of the whole. Yet when we separate ourselves from Elohim (God), we quickly deceive ourselves into thinking that what we experience is somewhow the whole or very close to it. When we rejoice in this inner universe of ours, we falsify true worship and corrupt it:
"How can you say, 'I am not polluted, I have not gone after the Baals'? See your way in the valley; know what you have done" (Jer.2:23, NKJV).
There are those who will claim that they do not engage in worship of any kind because they are irreligious or because they are atheists, but everyone, without exception, is engaged in worship of some sort. There is not a person who does not worship, and usually he worships vigorously and with passion! I mentioned the "valley of fantasies and intellectual reasonings" - what, I ask, is the chief way that modern man indulges in such things in the absence, as he claims, of any sort of 'organised religion'?
The Sunday Assembly Atheist Church
I was dumbfounded the other day when I got to learn that some atheists in England had gone and organised themselves into a church and that their movement is spreading internationally. They meet on Sunday mornings when Christian churches assemble, they have charismatic-type 'preachers' extolling secularism, they sing worldly music, profane, and have their own existentialist encounters, but all without Elohim (God). It even has a crede of sorts: "live better, help often, and wonder more". The church I saw was started by two stand-up comedians in a decommissioned Anglican Church! So far they have about 20 congregations internationally and hope to double that number by the end of the year. They call themselves, simply, The Sunday Assembly.
Why have they done this? Because, they say, on the evidence of 'scientific data':
The Organised Atheist Church
"Studies have shown that those who go to church are happier, more optimistic, and healthier than others; attending religious services helps kids fight depression and by some (admittedly biased) accounts makes people more charitable. Obviously most atheists won't have a very good time gathering at a church or synagogue or temple where everyone is devoted to praising and beseeching an imaginary being, but if you believe these studies, they could do with attending something like church".
They mean to go further and organise Sunday schools, weddings, funerals and non-religious baptisms called 'naming ceremonies'. Imitation is certainly the sincerest form of flattery and if 'scientific data' does indeed establish that the Christian assembly model is healthy, then these atheists have to answer the difficult question: what actually unites them? What is their 'common faith'? They still can't answer that. But Ian Dodd, the Los Angeles Assembly co-founder, isn't apparently troubled by atheism's definitional lack of common faith: "The church model has worked really well for a couple of thousand years. What we're trying to do is hold on to the bath water while throwing out the baby Jesus" . The 'bathwater', which Christianity throws out, by nailing it to the cross, is the very thing that makes atheism a cult: self-worship. It's 'spirituality' is psychology, its system of ministry psychiatry and its pretended mode of 'salvation' dangerous, failed and espensive psychotropic drugs.
Psychiatry as the Inversion of Salvation
What does psychiatry do? It proclaims mankind free from sin and moral accountability and in place of 'sin' it substitutes that intangible commodity called mental illness. Since there is practically no evidence for it scientifically, it requires far more faith to believe in than in Yah'shua (Jesus) whose effect in people's lives are very definitely tangible. In substituting 'sin' for 'illness' the atheist has become lost in a bottomless pit of existentialism, the belief that the only thing that is real is what you experience. In thus permitting himself to become amoral, ethically neutral and 'free', as he supposes, he has cut the very roots of his being, and lost his deepest sense of self-hood and identity. And as a result of this self-inflicted perplexity, atheistic man has joined the ranks of the neurotic and finds himself asking the question, 'Who am I?'
No Sin, No Accountability
The great benefit of the doctrine of sin is that it reintroduces responsibility for our own behaviour, the responsibility for changing, as well as giving meaning to our condition. The core of the Christian faith is grace (undeserved loving-kindness) whereas the core of the atheist psychiatric system is ultimately self-entitlement. The psychologist O.H.Mowrer astutely noted:
The Atheist's Great Fear
"Just so long as a person lives under the shadow of real, unacknowledged and unexplained guilt, he cannot (if he has any character at all) 'accept himself'; and all our efforts to reassure and accept him will avail nothing. He will continue to hate himself and to suffere the inevitable consequences of self-hatred. But the moment he (with or without 'assistance') begins to accept his guilt and sinfulness, the possibility of radical reformation opens up; and with this, the individual may legitimately, thought not without pain and effort, pass from deep, pervasive self-rejection and self-torture to a new freedom, of self-respect and peace" .
The very thing the atheist fears, the admission that he is a sinner and with all the guilt that that induces, is in reality the only thing that can lead him to freedom and shalom (peace) once he accepts the only known solution to sin, which is embracing and surrendering to the eternal sin-bearer and atoner, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). He fears to humiliate himself in repentance, believing the lie that his whole identity and worth set in a high place of pride will be destroyed by it. So he chooses to live, instead, in the "valley of vision" - the valley of fantasy and dreams where he worships his own intellect, will and heart, instead of the Creator who both loves him and died for him that he might attain the liberation he do desprerately craves. Until he does, he remains an idolater, building up high altars to self and inviting a terrible slaughter:
The Valley of Slaughter
Perversion of Truth and Goodness
"'And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart. Therefore behold, the days are coming,' says Yahweh, 'when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter'" (Jer.7:31-32 & 19:6, NKJV).
The valley is, again, unclean worship, so the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) denotes hell, both the place to which the unsaved go and the inner condition of the unsaved while they are yet alive. The valley is unclean because it represents the profanity that comes from perverting emet (truth) and tovah (goodness) which is in Elohim (God) alone.
Idols Visible and Invisible
21st century man doesn't, for the most part, bow down and worship outward stone or wood idols (though Hindus, animists and Catholics certainly do still) yet the inward motions of these heathen is no different from your atheist or satanist who worships himself.
A Bad Place to Be
The Valley of Dreams is not a good valley to be in, and yet it is very much the valley of the present world system - it is the valley of everything intemperate and vile that surrounds us while either we await to be taken out from in death or wait for the Master to return, raising and valleys and leveling the mountains to their proper respective places, for Yahweh will not permit this state of affairs to go uncorrected and unpunished:
Valleys as Places of Judgment for Sin
"Now the word of Yahweh came to me, saying: 'Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the davar (word) of Yahweh-Elohim!' Thus says Yahweh-Elohim to the mountains, to the hills, to the ravines, and to the valleys: 'Indeed I, even I, will bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places'" (Ezek.6:1-4, NKJV).
Valleys are places of judgment for sin and we, brethren and sisters, are called to walk through this mighty valley and bear witness against it, per chance that some will repent, until Yahweh of Hosts buries those who claim it to be their natural home and who labour to preserve it!
Mountains Tend Not to Repent
"It will come to pass in that day that I will give Gog a burial place there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea; and it will obstruct travelers, because there they will bury Gog and all his multitude. Therefore they will call it the Valley of Hamon Gog...The search party will pass through the land; and whenever anyone sees a man's bone, he shall set up a marker by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon Gog" (Ezek.39:11,15, NKJV).
The valley, being lower than the mountain, represents low or inferior things scripturally. The élites occupy their mountains or 'high places' but it is to the valleys that we must go in search of the 'low' or people reduced in their circumstances on account of their having been ravished and so reduced by the élites. Though we are to offer repentance to the élites in the high places (mountains), few if any will embrace it, which is why Yah'shua (Jesus) told His talmidim (disciples) to search elsewhere:
The Biyqah or Plain
"The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, 'See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.'' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests" (Matt.22:2-10, NKJV).
There are, of course, different degrees of sin, different degrees of profanity in worship. When the worship is not so profane, then the Hebrew word biyqah is used, meaning a 'plain'. You will recall that the valley which separated the mountain from the slightly elevated place beyond the two houses in the vision I saw was one vast plain or biyqah. Our work of gathering is to be undertaken there, in this vast area, similar to that described in Genesis:
This same word biyqah is also used in another place that is unfortunately translated "valley"
"And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain (biyqah) in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there" (Gen.11:1-2, NKJV).
Repentant Valleys To Be Elevated into Mountains
"I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys (biyqah); I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water" (Isa.41:18, NKJV).
For those who repent in the biyqah, plain or this kind of valley, there will be good things, and the valleys where they repented shall be elevated into mountains, and those who claimed the high places but would not repent shall be brought low into the valleys!
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of Yahweh; make straight in the desert, a highway for our Elohim (God). Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth" (Isa.40:3-4, NKJV).
I expect that some of you have seen the connection between the eight valleys and the eight overcomings of the Book of Revelation. The valleys, however challenging, serve a necessary function for our mortal sojourn. Our presence in them is part of the spiritual refining process and part of the sevenfold salvation process detailed in the seven annual festivals. The eighth 'festival' of Shemini Atseret marks the beginning of the Millennial Age and comes to pass only as we 'die' out of the old one with its valleys of tears. As the world rapidly changes and as the Last Generation is born among us, so we must prepare them for the final trekk across the Great Biyqah or Plain that separates us from the Mountain of the final Kingdom. So we are today declaring our willingness as a ministry to 'move on' once more into our next and final phase of work of both witness and gathering. Amen.
 Dr. Jack Hyle, From Vapor to Floods, Chapter 5
 O.H.Mowrer, Sin, the Lesser of Two Evils in American Psychologist (1960): Vol. 15, p.303
 Peter Weber, Why atheists are starting their own global church
 Dr. Jack Hyles, Seven Bible Valleys
Comments from Readers
 "Really Enjoyed this Sermon about the valleys and will study each one out. Thank you for the Word" (RH, UK, 28 September 2013)
 "Amen, I completely agree with what you are saying, my husband and I had a conversation with a woman about the exact same thing two days ago! It all started off with the fact that we dont believe in giving 'what we are' a name, because there are many people out there who have the need to become something, associate with something...find their identity in the shared beliefs rather than in Him. As humans we tend to reach a certain point and then decide to pitch our tents and then build a city, you can see that with all of the many denominations in Christendom. So many groups and individuals managed to get to a certain point of truth in their walk with Him, then built a city around it instead of pressing on further into His Presence and further into His Truth. I really have felt a real stirring the last couple of weeks, and YES!, I really get that itc[hi]ness like it's time to move (I won't lie, I did look at houses to rent closer to where our fellowship is coming from!) That stirring is like a call to alertness, be ready, pack your things (in your heart) and be ready because we are about to start moving again. Although I know that each part of the journey brings us closer to persecution, I am excited and am looking forward to what we learn, see and experience in the future, and more importantly, I am just love getting to know Him more" (T&SP, Ireland, 7 October 2013).