Month 3:8, Week 1:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:66 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50, Omer Count - Shabbat #7
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 12 June 2016
Futile Religion III
Things Not Turning Out as Expected
Continued from Part 2
Shabbat shalom mishpachah and may the grace of our Master, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), be with us all. We continue today with the third part of our study on 'Futile Reliion' having made a close examination of the two main Trees in the Garden of Eden. The goal, you will recall, is, first, to discover why so many spiritually-regenerated believers are living defeated lives and, second, to learn and apply the remedy.
Not Turning Out as Expected
Today's passage is from the Book of Tobit and reads as follows:
Radically Different to Expectations
"Blessed are You, O Elohim (God), with every pure blessing; let all Your chosen ones bless You. Let them bless You forever. Blessed are You because You have made me glad. It has not turned out as I expected, but You have dealt with us according to Your great mercy" (Tobit 8:15-16, NRSV)
It isn't every day that I quote from the Apocrypha but when I opened my Bible a couple of evenings ago and it fell open on this passage, it got me thinking, because, I am more and more sure, the older I get and the more people I speak to, believers and unbelievers alike, that we can all truthfully say, that life "has not turned out as I expected". In fact if we are completely honest with ourselves, it would be even truer to state that it has turned out radically different from anything I expected.
Filling in an Unneeded Grave
Nobody - even the nevi'im (prophets) to whom are given small glimpses of the future as Yahweh wills - has any idea how our lives are going to unfold. My own life turned out radically different from anything I was planning or expecting would happen. Raguel, who spoke the words of today's quotation, was expecting a couple to die and had dug a grave for them. However, contrary to all expectations based on prior knowledge and experience, the couple lived and Raguel was forced - happily, I might add - that the grave be filled in (v.18). It wasn't needed after all.
Affliction and Mercy
I stand before you today a very tired and sick man. More than once I have thought Yahweh was about to take me home but it would seem, once again, that my grave needs filling in. With Tobit we can say - and have probably said it many times already:
The World Before 9/11 Was Very Different
"Blessed be Elohim (God), and blessed be His great Name, and blessed be all His qadosh (holy, set-apart) malakim (angels). May His qadosh (holy, set-apart) Name be blessed throughout all the ages. Though He afflicted me, He has had mercy upon me" (Tobit 11:14b-15a, NRSV).
I hope that most of you have by now moved out of the cities - away from urbanised areas - and into the countryside. Even before the current mess our politicians have deliberately led us into - and I am speaking principally of the time before 9/11 - it was abundantly clear that the overall direction we were going in was not leading society to a good place. And we probably had no idea just how bad it already was because the pig that lives in the swill really has little concept of what cleanliness is actually like.
The Most Degraded and Unillumined Society in History
Thirty years ago Malcolm Muggeridge sums up the West as he saw it in his day when he observed:
The Collapse of Western Civilisation
"I consider the way of life in urbanised, rich countries, as it exists today, and as it is likely to go on developing, is probably the most degraded and unillumined ever to come to pass on earth" .
Those of you who are under 30 years old will not know that for those of us who were adults in 1982, when Muggeridge penned those words, bad though it was then, today seems like a whole world apart. It is infinitely worse. In the news every day we discover more and more degrading things going on which testifies to us that Western Civilisation is on the very brink of collapse. How do we know that? Those who have bothered to study history know that every great civilisation collapses in tandem with its moral degradation. Having myself had a classical education, learning Latin as a child, I came to understand a great deal about the history of the Roman Empire.
The Fall of Constantinople
Edward Gibbon's book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is well worth reading because history is beyond a shadow of a doubt repeating itself. That great Empire was dealt its death-blow in the first half of the 15th century when Constantinople, also known as Byzantium and today as Istanbul, was besieged and conquered by the Ottoman Amurath II. Guarding south-eastern Europe, it was not long before Moslem armies began the invasion of Europe, overruning Thrace, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Serbia, to then sweep across Romania and Hungary and to Austria and Poland. I have been to Bulgaria, occupied for centuries by barbaric invaders, and seen what life under the Moslem terror was like. The Turks were finally defeated, at great cost, at the gates of Vienna. History would have been very different had they not been stopped.
The Moral Collapse of the West
Today, in the resurrected Roman Empire  known now as the European Union, history is repeating itself, but this time the invader has been invited in by a Third Column in the person of Angela Merckel who, along with Barack Obama, will go down in history as Europe's and America's greatest traitors. These invaders will not leave voluntarily because they are bent on conquest. They intend to replace Western civilisation with a brutal one from the 7th century, as they are already doing in the ISIS-controlled territories in Syria and Iraq. A small minority of extremists, allowed in by a Fifth Column, are kicking in the walls of a House of Western Liberal and Atheistic Moral Corruption and Degradation and it is about to collapse. It's already collapsing. A long civil war is soon to erupt, a long and painful one like the one fought by the Balkan States during their long and agonising occupation by the Ottoman Turks. Only little Monte Negro held out. Remember the name of that country, which recently gained independence from Yugoslavia, because I will have occasion to return to it. And those of you who are alert cannot fail to have noticed the rising prominence of Turkey and its dark relationship with Merckel.
The People Who Need Help
My task today, as it has been for many years now, is to warn and prepare those who will listen and respond. As the chaos in the world worsens, more and more people are going to be asking questions born of despair as the world around them, and everything they knew - their economic and physical security, future plans and hopes - rapidly start collapsing. We need to be ready to have answers for those who are confused as they are being awakened and are repenting.
Not Forgetting What Yahweh has Done
Though we all have unanswered questions, though we all have waded through much affliction, though we all at times get sick to death of religion and wonder why little turned out the way we expected or hoped it would, we must not forget what Yahweh undoubtedly has done for us, what is is doing for us now, and what He will undoubtedly continue to do for for those who trust and obey Him. We can, honestly and truthfully, respond positively to this counsel:
The Two Choices
"Bless Elohim (God) and acknowledge Him in the presence of all the living for the good things He has done for you. Bless and sing praise to His Name. With fitting honour declare to all people the deeds of Elohim (God). Do not be slow to acknowledge Him. It is good to conceal the secret of a king, but to acknowledge and reveal the works of Elohim (God), and with fitting honour to acknowledge Him. Do good and evil will not overtake you" (Tobit 12:6b-7, NRSV).
A whole new world lies ahead of us and you will be enabled to face it confidently and victoriously based in your remembrance and acknowledgement of the good Yahweh has hitherto done to you. No, things have not gone the way you expected, and perhaps this has been grievous to you, but remember it is not you that ultimately controls either your own life or the lives of others. Yes, you have a degree of free agency but your situation is in reality so complex, depending as it does on the choices of so many, that you really have no choice but to walk in emunah (faith) - emunah (faith) in Yahweh or emunah (faith) in 'fate'. I don't recommend the latter.
Your Uncertain and Perilous Situations
Many of you, I know, face uncertain and in some cases perilous situations. A brother telephoned me the other day to lament over the fact that whilst he had successfully relocated to a safe place in the countryside, he had no food stored up because his economic situation was so desperate. Another has just had his wife desert him. But when I compare these decidedly unpleasant situations to what's been happening to others I know, who have not only abandoned Yahweh but who have decided to actively blaspheme Him, I consider the former highly blessed! They have huge hope! What hope is there for those who once knew Yah'shua (Jesus) but who now are actively persecuting Him? The Courtyard is on fire and such things as are in it that once sustained believers in the past are either no longer there or are rapidly dwindling into nothing. Yahweh have mercy on those who have abandoned Him and are how biting the only hand that can feed and protect them!
A Strange Dream
I had a curious experience a couple of mornings ago. I was outside my house, in the 'courtyard' of our property, indeed right up against the wall of the building. There was a tiny stream running parallel to the wall and no more than a foot or two away from it. It has been there a long time and had gorged out a bed for itself. Something was blocking it causing a head of water to build up which had also flooded our basement. I knew that something needed to be done. So I found the rock that was blocking the stream, and though it was hard to move, I exerted all the power I had and managed to dislodge it, whereupon there was a rush of water from where it had been dammed. Almost instantly, the water behind the blockage dissipated and, I suppose, resulted in the cellar draining; but what surprised me the most was that where there once had been water, it was now, very suddenly, dry like a desert! There was not a drop of water in sight. The ground was parched as though it had been under the baking sun!
It Will Happen So Fast
That, brethren and sisters, is a picture of how quickly circumstances are going to change. Furthermore, the things you relied on in the metaphorical 'courtyard' will all of a sudden be gone. Just like that. Pay cheques (checks), social security benefits, food stamps, pensions, handouts - you name it - will suddenly be gone, things which you relied on to keep you and your families alive. The Courtyard will provide neither protection nor nourishment. It will not only be an invaded and despoiled place but will be a dead space. It will not provide you with anything.
Beware of Courtyard Fellowship
Courtyards seems not to be the best places to be in during storms or times of trouble. It was in the courtyard of the Cohen Gadol (High priest) that the apostle Peter found himself after Yah'shua's (Jesus') arrest, and there he had an experience there that he would come to bitterly regret. For courtyards are often places where Messiah is denied - in Peter's case, three times, as prophesied. We really do have to be in the Sanctuary at this time, away from the Courtyard where trouble ever lurks. Be careful not to seek the company of, or make common cause with, the unbelievers in the courtyard, no matter how comforting and alluring their fires may be:
Peter's Unpleasant Courtyard Experience
"But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them" (Luke 22:55, NIV).
A nice warm fire on a chilly evening might seem a good prospect until Satan's folk start noticing you and are egged on by their demons to accuse you. In the space of an hour - far too long a time to be hanging around with the heathen when thay have accused you twice already - Peter did the unthinkable. And sadly, we are finding increasing numbers of people doing what Peter did but without repentance. Will you tell the invaders of the Courtyard, "I don't know what you're talking about!" (Luke 22:60, NIV) when they accuse you of being a believer, the very people who would, if they could, put Yah'shua (Jesus) to death as they did 2,000 years ago?
The Charge Against the Courtyarders
The Courtyard is not a good place to be, brethren and sisters, so why are some of you still lingering there? Did you think you could remain anonymous there? Did you think you would remain unnoticed there by the enemies of the Cross? Instead of cowering in the dark or huddling next to the Enemy's camp fire, you should be inside the Sanctuary praising the Most High, dancing to Him, and wailing for those outside? Against those who choose the Courtyard, Yah'shua (Jesus) will make the charge:
Why Fear the Sanctuary?
"We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep" (Lk.7:32, NRSV).
I have to say that a very great grief is welling up in my soul as we approach the long awaited day of Yahweh's Judgments. It started two nights ago as the trampling of the Courtyard gets louder and more noisier by the day (Is.1:12b). Everything you have ever relied on there is going to suddenly dry up, overnight, and if you are still outside, you will find yourself destitute. What do you imagine is so fearfully bad or dangerous about the Sanctuary to your soul? King David said:
Mud Huts are OK
"I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my Elohim (God) than live in the tents of wickedness" (Ps.84:10b, NRSV).
That was before Solomon's magnificent temple was built. At that time the Ark of the Covenant lived in a humble dwelling place, a mud hut, as it does now. Is it too humble for you? Is it not grand enough for you to make your allegience - to make your commitment - to Yahweh? It matters not how small the house is or how impoverished its furnishing - for David, it would have been an honour and a joy to be a doorkeeper in such a place simply because it was Yahweh's - simply because Yahweh's Presence was there.
A 'No Frills' End-Time Community
The end-time work of Elohim (God) is strictly 'no frills'. There won't be gold and silver in evidence, no fine buildings, no carefully orchestrated church programs. The needs of His people will continue to be great but they will not be desperate as in the Courtyard. He promises revival and abundance in Ruach (Spirit) for those who trust and obey:
Do Hardship and Persecution Produce Spirituality?
"For He will speak shalom (peace) to His people, to His faithful, to those who turn to Him in their hearts. Surely His salvation is at hand for those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land" (Ps.85:8b-9, NRSV).
I think it is true to say that there are many, who take this message seriously, who believe that the difficult times that lie ahead are going to be 'good' for the Body of Messiah. I won't disagree with that, in one way. It will wake many up and cause the false to flee. Tares always become visible at harvest time. However, there is no guarantee that hardship or persecution will produce more spirituality because the person who is persecuted must struggle with the self-life just as the person who is not persecuted must too. Persecution is not - and will not be - a shortcut to spiritual maturity because spiritual maturity is not a function of a special set of circumstances but of the Ruach haMashiach - the Spirit of Christ! You see, whether the world loves you or hates you makes no difference. Circumstances are not a hindrance to spirituality.
That Old Deadly Tree
The problem lies eating from that old deadly tree, of being trapped in that endless and fruitless ping-ponging between the 'good side' and the 'bad side' of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's easy to get into 'Star Wars' mode and 'choose' the 'light side' over the 'dark side' but that isn't Christian salvation. Salvation is quiet trusting in the Saviour.
What Yahweh is Interested In
Yahweh is not at all interested in your religion. He is interested in whether you trust Him or not and especially in what He has already done for you, what He is doing for you now and what He has promised to do for you in the future, near and distant.
What's Been Done For Us Already
Let's start with the first of those - what He has already done for you. They're very straight-forward to understand:
The Problem of Unbelief
- 1. Firstly, through emunah (faith) in Him, we can be born again - spiritually regenerated, transformed;
- 2. Secondly, through His atoning blood we can be forgiven of our sins; and
- 3. Through His life we can be saved (delivered) - every day.
Our greatest difficulty as a species concerns the third item. Plenty of people have been forgiven and born again but few have entered salvation in their daily lives. They have not found Yah'shua (Jesus) in those troubling sins that control them, they have not been saved (delivered) from the guilt that follows those troubling sins and they have not been saved (delivered) from the unavoidable, inescapable bondage that follows. And the reason is very, very simple, because it all boils down to one thing: unbelief. Yes, we have that interesting but very common thing called an 'unbelieving believer' - we believe in the first two propositions but rarely in the third.
The Biggest End-Time Problem
When we feel the weight of concerns upon our shoulders, when we are once again courting the sin we thought long gone, when we are withdrawing from those who love us, and when we find ourselves returning to the world, is not unbelief the cause? Is this not the root of every evil? What's the biggest problem Yah'shua (Jesus) will find when He returns?
Why Salvation is By Faith
"When the Son of Man comes, will he find emunah (faith) on the earth?" (Luke 18:8, NIV).
Emunah (faith) is the central theme in the Scriptures, mentioned 230 times in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) alone, for those who want to live a simple life of victory. Every issue we have boils down to this simple emet (truth) - that it is because we have weakened in, or totally lack, emunah (faith). Is it any wonder that we are saved by emunah (faith) alone? Should we surprised when the Scriptures tells us, over and over again, that to be right with Yahweh we must have emunah (faith) in Him? To be saved, every day and in every situation, we must continue to exercise emunah (faith). Trust. Believe. Then act on the basis of that emunah (faith):
Why the Elect Need Not Worry
"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Messiah. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one ruach (spirit), contending as one man for the emunah (faith) of the Besorah (Gospel) without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved - and that by Elohim (God)" (Phil.1:27-28, NIV).
Are you worried about the destruction that's coming? Have emunah (faith). Don't be frightened. Stand firm. Whatever your situation, whatever your issues, trust Him. For whenever you do, you are being saved, you are being delivered, in the present, in the here-and-now. Yes, of course, be obedient - respond pro-actively, but do not waiver in your emunah (faith). So many are right now. So many are making the fateful decision to stop trusting Him altogether because things aren't turning out the way they hoped, expected or demanded. Emunah (faith) doesn't demand anything - it rests in that trust.
Next week we will continue in that foundational principle of the Besorah (Gospel). May Yahweh bless you as you make the choice to trust even when you don't understand, even when things have not turned out the way you hoped. It simply means that Yahweh has different plans. Amen.
Continued in Part 4
 Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered (Collins: 1982), p.52
 See Belgium and the Rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire
 Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness: Find the Way Back to a Victorious, Abundant Life (Devotional Life Press, Littleton, CO: 1991)