Month 3:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:81 AM|
2Exodus 4/40, Omer Count - 7 x Shabbats + Day #14
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 16 June 2017
The Great Reversal
Why It is Preferable to Be Poor
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah - may you all be the poorer for what I have to share with you today. Ah, you think I am joking? Actually, I'm not, and I'll tell you why before those of you who have dreams of becoming millionnaires storm out of this assembly room. I pray that we are all poorer and that we remain that way.
Getting Ready for a Reduced Standard of Living
The other day I sent out a message to all my online friends to start acclimatising themselves to a 50 per cent reduction in their standard of living. The collapse, when it comes, will result in a far greater reduction than that, the point being that even after the subsequent recovery, we will never be as rich as we are today. And even if you think you are poor now, be prepared to be poorer, adjust your thinking and try not to shed tears unless you are already on the very bread-line. I am aware that many of our friends in the Third World are already below the poverty level and suffering. Please understand I am not trying to make light of your plight. My audience is principally those of the First World, who, globally-speaking, have been used to the lion's share of the world's resources and wealth, because they need to know what's coming.
A Clear Message
The Besorah (Gospel) or Good News of the Kingdom contains a lot of apparent pardoxes and we're going to look at one of those this morning. I have touched on this topic before  but in the light of what is imminent I am feeling strongly constrained to treat it in greater depth. So that you know, I struggled for many days to know what Yahweh wanted me to talk to you about today and it was only late yesterday afternoon that this message became crystal clear.
Yah'shua Believes in Kingdom-Within Prosperity
Neither Yah'shua (Jesus), nor the nevi'im (prophets) before Him, ever taught His talmidim (disciples) how to be prosperous in this world. Yet He was accutely interested in prosperity in the Kingdom of Heaven. And not merely that Kingdom we shall inherit at the resurrection: He wants us to be prosperous in the Kingdom that is within us as believers:
"Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of Elohim (God) would come, [Yah'shua/Jesus] replied to them saying, The kingdom of Elohim (God) does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display. Now will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of Elohim (God) is within you (in your hearts) and among you (surrounding you)" (Lk.17:20-21, Amp.V).
The kind of prosperity that Yahweh wants us to enjoy is, of course, radically different from the prosperity taught by the 'health-and-wealth' or 'prosperity' teachers who insist that financial wealth is a sign of Yahweh's favour whereas financial poverity is a sign of His disfavour. Someone like myself who enjoys neither health nor financial wealth is regarded as faithless and sinful by the proponents of this heresy. But we'll not dwell on them any longer as the financial collapse will take care of their doctrine.
That Blessed State of the Poor
So when Yah'shua (Jesus) talks about His Kingdom, or the Kingdom of His Father, He is talking not about a realm that is imposed from without, but a Kingdom that arises from within the heart and then manifests itself outwardly in the people who possess it. We need to bear this in mind when we look at the two separate occasions that are recorded in Scripture for us that deal with the blessed state of poverty. These are the two occasions, the first recorded by Luke and the second by Matthew. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Malkut Elohim (Kingdom of God)" (Luke 6:20, NIV).
Two Kinds of Poverty?
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Malkut Shamayim (Kingdom of Heaven)" (Matt.5:3, NIV).
Now you might think that these two passages are talking about two different kinds of poverty - the first, or Lucan, account about 'physical poverty', and the second or Matthean account about 'spiritual poverty' - the first appears to be saying physical poverty is a qualification for the Malkut Elohim or the Kingdom of God, whereas the second seems to be saying that spiritual poverty is a qualification for the Malkut Shamayim or Kingdom of Heaven, as if these were two different things. But in reality, these two 'Kingdoms' are used interchangeably and without distinction in the New Testament. They're exactly the same thing, which really shouldn't be surprising as Elohim (God) is a Heavenly Being, and so that it where you would expect His Kingdom to primarily be found found - in the invisible realm. So Yah'shua (Jesus) isn't necessarily talking about two different kinds of 'poverty', with one promise for those who are penniless and one for those who are humble. I would say it was fairly certain that He wasn't and we'll see why more clearly presently.
Contrite and Lowly in Spirit
Indeed, I believe Yah'shua (Jesus) had a couple of Tanakh (Old Testament) passages in mind, both from the Book of Isaiah, where Yahweh underlines one of the chief exhibits of a true talmid (disciple):
And nine chapters later:
"For this is what the high and lofty One says -
He who lives forever, whose name is qadosh (holy, set-apart):
'I live in a high and qadosh (holy, set-apart) place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite'" (Isa.57:15, NIV).
The Theme to Be Explored
"'Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?
'This is the one I esteem:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit,
and trembles at my Davar (Word)'" (Isa.66:2, NIV).
To be poor - or poor in spirit - is to be humble and contrite. There is, however, potentially a close relationship between being physically poor (if we will exploit it) and being spiritually poor or humble and contrite, and it's that I would like to explore today, especially on the eve of economic collapse when physical poverty will become the lot of everyone except for the super-rich right at the top of the economic pile.
Triumph of the Victims vs. Survival of the Fittest
So here is my question: how can we all thrive after the collapse with a permanent reduction of our standard of living? Philip Yancey once said that "Elohim (God) may prefer south central L.A. (Los Angeles) to Malibu Beach, and Rwanda to Monte Carlo" . What he had in mind was that contrast between the Kingdom of this World and the Kingdom of Heaven or Elohim (God), which is the difference between the 'survival of the fittest' and the 'triumph of the victims'. As I am sure you will agree, triumph is an altogether more appealing alternative to mere survival. At any rate, it is to me.
Whom Do We Seek to Impress?
I am assuming - hoping - that you all - who name Yah'shua (Jesus) as your Messiah by emunah (faith) and have pledged obedience and faithfulness to His mitzvot (commandments) - are more interested in impressing Yah'shua (Jesus) with your life than you are any fellow human being? And even if you may still be struggling with that I at least hope that that is your fondest desire and goal. We want to please Elohim (God), not man. That, I hope, being so, will mean you have a keen interest in who impressed the Messiah in the Scriptures - those He praised and held up as models for us to imitate:
Politicians, Claims and the Two Kingdoms
"A widow who placed her last two cents in the offering. A dishonest tax collector so riddled with anxiety that he climbed a tree to get a better view of Yah'shua (Jesus). A woman with a string of five unhappy marriages. A blind beggar. An adultress. A man with leprosy. Strength, good looks, connections, and the competitive instinct may bring a person success in a society like ours, but those very qualities may block entrance to the kingdom of Heaven. Dependence, sorrow, repentance, a longing to change - these are the gates to Elohim's (God's) kingdom" .
I don't know if you follow politics as much as I do but but it should be pretty obvious that with the exception of one or two very lone voices, "poverty of spirit" is about as rare in that community, and in the world in general, as a solid gold Spanish dubloon in the possession of a homeless beggar on the street. So why are so many in the Christian and Messianic communities turning to politicians to save them, especially those who say they are Christians? Does your President, Prime Minister or Head of State show the kind of contrite heart and humility that is the hall-mark of a true believer? Why are you trusting in the representatives of a Kingdom, whose law and watchword is 'survival of the fittest' rather than 'triumph of the victims'? You can't belong to both those kingdoms - its' one or the other, brother - sister, and those who try to enlist both are in reality choosing the Kingdom of this World.
Blessed are the Desperate
"Blessed are the poor in spirit" or "humble men are very fortunate", as one paraprase puts it, "for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them" (Mt.5:4, Living Bible). An even better translation is, "blessed are the desperate", not because that's where Yahweh wants us to remain but because it is not untypical for someone to hold out against the Heavenly Kingdom until he absolutely has to.
Marxism and Liberation Theology
Why would the desperate be blessed? Because there is a stronger chance he will turn to the only One who can help, namely Yah'shua (Jesus). Desperation creates many a defining moment - it's when souls either turn to the Creator or to the creature or to false creature-comforts like alcohol or drugs. One of the great dangers of misinterpreting the Lucan account of the Beatitudes is the mistaken belief that if physical poverty is that which qualifies one for the Kingdom instead, as we shall presently see, being the stimulus to self-surrender, is that it can lead to Marxism. The "blessed are the poor" passage, and others like or linked to it, have been the justification for Liberation Theology - armed struggle and revolution. In Central and South America Catholic priests joined with communists in seeking to overthrow right-wing dictatorships, only to create equally repressive replacement left-wing régimes. For some reason they forgot Yah'shua's (Jesus) mitzvah (commandment) not to take up arms, for "all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt.26:52, NKJV). Like it ot not, talmidim (disciples) of Messiah are not blood-spilling armed revolutionaries
An Offer of Hope
So what did Yah'shua (Jesus) mean when He taught that those who are poor in wealth and/or in spirit - those who are desperate - were "blessed" or "fortunate"? He meant, quite simply, that they have an advantage over those who are not. An advantage?? Absolutely. Because a desperate person is more lightly to call out to Yah'shua (Jesus) for help than one than one who is doing fine and sees no need for a Saviour or for salvation. It's a sad indictment of the human race to be sure, and one that we all grieve over, especially when we see stubborn self-sufficiency reject Elohim (God), but it's reality. Yah'shua (Jesus) saw and knew that. There was virtually universal grinding poverty in his day just as there is today in many parts of the world which we, in the affluent West, have little understanding of. And for those who thought everything was hopeless, He was offering hope.
Ten Advantages to Being Poor
But why the partiality toward the poor? The rich need salvation as much as anyone else. Monika Hellwig  who did a lot of research and thinking about this subject, came up with 10 distinct advantages to being physically poor:
Different Combinations Leading to Desperation
- 1. The poor know they are in need of urgent redemption;
- 2. The poor know not only their dependence on Elohim (God) and on powerful people but also interdependence with one another;
- 3. The poor rest their security not on things but on people;
- 4. The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy;
- 5. The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation;
- 6. The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries;
- 7. The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence;
- 8. The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want;
- 9. When the poor have the Besorah (Gospel) preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding; and
- 10. The poor can respond to the call of the Besorah (Gospel) with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.
Now many things can, and do, contribute to such a state of affairs, and not just material poverty, as Yah'shua (Jesus) points out in the rest of His Sermon on the Mount - mourning, persecution, hunger and a thirst for righteousness are in the same league and may arise out of physical poverty, along with bad health. Life can serve you all kinds of different combinations. You can be rich financially but have terrible health which confers a special kind of 'poverty' all of its own. You may be well-to-do but lose your family, as Job did. Job was 'poor' too.
Wisdom Literature vs. Yah'shua
It's interesting because the Wisdom Literature of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and Apocrypha (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, etc.) describes the blessed man who has obedient children, a good wife, faithful friends, is successful, and so on. And, yes, these are belssed things in one way. But Yah'shua (Jesus) is talking about a different kind of 'blessedness', one that seems to be the diametric opposite. Whereas prosperity, success and a happy family in the material world are things much to be thankful for, they're only good for as long as you are alive. Yah'shua (Jesus) is concerned about the bigger picture - eternity.
A Posture Befitting Grace
Now we may urgently wish that our circumstances were the very opposite of what they are. In my ministry, I receive desperate pleas for prayer and spiritual intervention from all kinds of people, and most of them do not understand why they are being permitted to go through the affliction that they are. They complain loudly about their woes. I do too, if I'm honest. Yet all of us - poor people, whether poor financially or 'poor' in other ways because of persecution, disease, family troubles, or whatever - we find ourselves, as Philip Yancey puts it, in a bowed "posture that befits the grace of Elohim (God)" . And no, in our state of neediness, dependence and dissatisfaction with life, we may welcome Yahweh's free gift of ahavah (love).
Interestingly, in the Lucan version of the Sermon on the Mount, Yah'shua (Jesus) adds some woes to the list of blessednesses:
The Comforts Sought and Received
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false nevi'im (prophets)"
(Luke 6:24-26, NIV).
Notice what He says about the rich - they already have their comfort, whereas the poor will, Yah'shua (Jesus) teaches, will yet be comforted. I don't suppose He had riches in mind as a comfort for the poor - He's rather talking about the riches of being in communion with Elohim (God) and knowing His ahavah (love).
This is the challenge that Yah'shua (Jesus) is making to those of us who claim to be believers:
My Own Experience
"Do I easily acknowledge my needs? Do I readily depend on Elohim (God) and on other people? Where does my security rest? Am I more likely to compete or cooperate? Can I distinguish between necessities and luxuries? Am I patient? Do the Beatitudes sound to me like good news (gospel) or a scolding?" 
I can say quite openly that my rapidly declining health and a number of other problems have driven me personally to desperation. My British upbringing taught me to grit my teeth and be a survivor, but surviving is the opposite of the Besorah (Gospel). We all are tempted to cling on to various things which we feel are indispensible to surviving, but Yah'shua (Jesus) wants all of those survival tools because He is sufficient.
I Give Up
I actually shocked myself a few days ago. I woke up, as I do many times each night because of pain, and I heard a voice from deep within my soul cry out: "I give up!" It was my voice, the core of my being. Striving with health, ministry, family, finances - the kinds of things most of you will be readily able to relate to - has just brought me to the end of what I can do, at least in some major areas. I wonder if each sermon will be my last one. I was writhing with stomach pain preparing this one last night but I needed to hear this emet (truth) as much form myself as I am quite sure many of you do, which is why I completed it.
Hopefully most of you are more surrendered than I am currently. I acknowledge that I have not been. And whilst money is very tight, I am hardly poor as compared with the millions of others around the world, many of whom are in desperate straits, unable to pay bills, unable to take care of their families, orphans and others in their care. I feel for them - I feel for you and often feel just as helpless. Yahweh feels for you too and bids you come to Him.
The Disciplines of Poverty
I am begining to realise now why so many devout believers have, over the centuries, voluntarily submitted themselves to poverty's discipline. The fruits are quite amazing: dependence, humility, simplicity, cooperation, and abandonment which carnal people, in love with their creature comforts, revolt at. These qualities are virtually impossible to find if you live in comfort. There may be other ways to Yahweh but according to Yah'shua (Jesus) they are as hard as squeezing a rope  through the eye of a needle (Mt.19:24; Mk.10:25; Lk.18:25).
A Great Reversal
This is the 'Great Reversal' of the spirit over the flesh. Yah'shua (Jesus) is not, of course, teaching that all poor people are more virtuous than the rich, even if the poor often tend often to be more compassionate and generous. But not always. The poor are less likely to pretend to be virtuous, at least, because they don't have the arrogance of the middle class who know how to cleverly hide their problems under a façade of self-righteousness. Poor people are more naturally dependent on one other simply to survive.
I have struggled a lot - and still struggle, more so recently as my health has worsened - over to the mystery of life down here on earth. Things I was sure I understood about existence years ago I find I understand even less about now. The dilemma is that no one would ever choose poverty, hunger, pain and suffering for their own sakes (unless they were completely mad or just trying to be religious and prideful in some perverse sort of a way) and yet Yah'shua (Jesus) wants us to understand that there is nonetheless a great advantage to them in terms of the working out of salvation for eternity. Yah'shua (Jesus) is very keenly interested in justice, mind you, a reason he is coming back to establish a Kingdom of Justice on the earth for a thousand years. Yet in the meantime, in a strange sort of way, He's telling us not to miss the golden opportunities that those negative things can afford those who prize spiritual things more than the material.
Crossing a Dangerous Line
It's hard to admit our desperation without accusing Yahweh of terrible things. We sometimes want to but hold back, knowing that such is not only wrong but actually totally insane. Job refused to curse Elohim (God) (Job 2:9). And yet I know a couple of people who have crossed that dangerous line and are cursing Yahweh to His face - once strong believers. One is actually going quite insane. I can't say I am shocked because I think we all come to that line at some time or another. A lot of people are going to come to it after the collapse and, sadly, many will cross it only to bitterly regret it one day.
Reliance on Natural Gifts or on Yahweh?
Philip Yancey said:
"People who are rich, successful and beautiful may well go through life relying on their natural gifts. People who lack such natural advantages, hence underqualified for success in the kingdom of this world, just might turn to Elohim (God) in their time of need" .
That's what we're here for, especially as the system collapses and people get desperate, perhaps for the first time in their lives, or sufficiently desperate to cause them to finally cry out for help. Then we can take their hand and guide them, and offer them the Plan of Salvation. Meantime, let's help one another, become more dependent on Yah'shua (Jesus) and more inter-dependent amongst ourselves. We don't, unfortunately, readily admit desperation, but when we do, the Kingdom of Heaven draws near. Yahweh bless you all. Amen.
 See The Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes, the Covenant of Salt and the New Covenant Law and especially, The Heart of Torah II: What Yah'shua Most Loves, Part 1: The Poor in Spirit
 Philip Yancey, The Jesis I Never Knew (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1995), p.114
 Monika Hellwig, Good News to the Poor: Do They Understand It Better? in James E.Hug (ed.), Tracing the Spirit (Paulist Press, NJ: 1983), p.144
 Philip Yancey, op.cit.., p.115
 Ibid, p.116
 Wrongly translated as a "camel" in most English translations. In Aramaic, the word for 'camel' and 'rope' are identical and the translator must pick the correct one. The Greek translator picked the wrong alternative
 Philip Yancey, op.cit., pp.116-117