The Call of God’s Heart to His True Worshippers
The Call of God’s Heart to His True Worshippers
by Lonnie Lane
Is the stirring to know the Hebrew roots of our faith a call from God to draw His true worshippers to Himself in order to come to “know Him” as mankind has not known Him since the beginning? Are we responding to an end time cry from God’s own heart? Yeshua said, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). Perhaps “now is” more now than ever before. This thought led me to another: What was God’s purpose in giving us the Bible? In teaching a Bible class of Jewish/Hebrew roots, in my introductory class, I attempted to give an ultra-condensed history of God and the people who have called themselves “believers”. This is a call from God’s own heart and our response to Him is critical in the historic days in which we now live. Here’s the drive-by version of this history.
The stated reason for the Bible is that “the sacred writings…are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15b, 16). Those Scriptures being spoken of, of course, were the Tenach, the Old Testament, because the New hadn’t been written or compiled yet. The Tenach, then, is as of much value to followers of Yeshua today as it was to His immediate disciples. It is most unfortunate that whole portions of the church have considered it obsolete and irrelevant. They cannot help but have a distorted understanding of God which has too often resulted in untold suffering “in Jesus’ name.” We will see some of the consequences of disregarding the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, as we go on.
The Tenach is as of much value to followers of Yeshua today as it was to His immediate disciples.
The Torah is summed up this way: “Love is the fulfillment of Torah“ (Romans 13:10b). The commandments are basically how the people of God were to live lives of love for God, for one another, and for themselves. When God’s judgment or wrath is present, or when He is no where to be found, it is because somewhere love has been withdrawn for Him and then secondarily or consequently for others, or even a whole nation… like Israel, for instance. So now, aware that God’s love is the underlying cause for everything that comes from Him, let’s take that drive-by look at history related to God. Remember, this is the really abbreviated version.
We’ll pick up at God choosing one man named Abraham, to begin to reveal Himself to the world. He starts with blessing him which is a form of love, intending only good for him and his eventual descendents. Through this one man, eventually God will bring blessings to the whole world. From this point on, we can look at the unfolding of Abraham’s revelation of God. God has revealed Himself to Abraham as El Shaddai, the Almighty (Gen 17:1). He knows enough about God to leave where he is, go where God is sending him and be sure that no one gives him any reason to think they are the cause of Abraham’s prosperity. He will take only what God is giving him which is a lot. He gets to be very prosperous. So it has begun with this man we call the father of faith, Abraham. The call to be the people of God is extended to his son Isaac and then to his son Jacob whom God renames Israel, the name all his descendents will be known by.
Fast forward to Moses. Israel is now out of Egypt and slavery by God’s miraculous hand. God calls Moses up on a mountain to be in His presence, something no man since Adam fell into sin has experienced. There God gave to Moses a constitution that will make these children of Israel unlike any other people in the world. They alone will understand how the world was created. The rest of human kind has all kinds of speculations and theories; only Israel knows because God Himself told Moses the story. Only Israel understands why there is suffering in the world because only they understand that God created the world in perfection, that is to say with God’s kind of love permeating all aspects of life, but sin caused the glory of God that covered Adam and Eve to depart from them when they disobeyed God’s word. Here it is in a nutshell. God loves them, they are lied to by the devil through a snake and told He doesn’t really love them so He can’t be trusted, so they withdraw from loving God and act on their own behalf. Result: Banishment from His immediate presence which is the fullness of “righteous, peace and joy” (Romans 14:17).
So long as Israel lives according to the instructions of God they will be the wisest of all nations: “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’ “(Deut.4:6) …which is also to say the most loving people in the world because the instructions God gave them teaches them how to love Him and to love one another as they would love themselves (See Deut. 6:5; 10:12, 11:13). No other nation has such a high moral standard. These instructions make for a community that has no fear of being lied to, stolen from, or gossiped about when they lived by the Word of God. They were to respect one another, never coveting what belongs to another. There was to be no murder. All the children respect their parents, and poor people were provided for. On the whole, they would honor one another as God honored them. Health and healing were natural parts of life when Israel was looking to God. They all shared in being the community of God, a very bonding experience. When sin does occur, provision is made to restore the offending person back to God by appealing to Him through sacrifice so that peace with God is restored and if need be, restitution was accomplished between one another. All this plus the highest “religion” in the world of the Sovereign of the universe! Such was the word of God to Israel.
Early followers of Yeshua adhered to His teachings which were entirely Torah aligned.
Of utmost importance is that in Israel there was to be no hierarchy of persons, no one whose position overpowers any others. This is to be a theocracy in which God is King (though in time they would want their own king; that’s another story) and all were equally His faithful subjects. The only prescribed leadership is the priesthood but since priests are not permitted to own property as God is their inheritance, they have no economic clout over the people even though they have spiritual authority. God in His love is no respecter of persons and makes it clear that none of His people are to be either. None is to be higher in position so as to oppress or abuse the rights of others. Equality is God’s way; He loves us all. And while people have different roles to play, no persons are more or less valuable in God’s eyes. The Kingdom of God is built on this kind of mutuality of honor for everyone. Keep this in mind as we move forward.
Now that He has given Israel His Word, He warns to do away with any part of it or to violate it by changing it will bring dire consequences. The command is stated: “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2, emphasis added and forward). As long as they adhered to His word, God told them that things would go well for them: “This book of the law (lit. instructions) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success “ (Joshua 1:8). The Bible concludes with this critical warning: “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18). Wow, that sounds like you could loose your salvation and place in God’s eternal city if you add to or do away with any words of the Bible! He is the Almighty and He says don’t alter My Word!! Was this warning always heeded? Let’s move on and see.
Fast forward now to Shavuot, a.k.a. Pentecost. We’re in the Temple where all Jews would be on Shavuot (not in the upper room, by the way) and Peter speaks these prophetic words: “…and that He (God) may send Yeshua the Messiah, appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the [period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:21). What did he think had to be restored? Quite likely adherence to the Word of God which had been mishandled so that the priesthood was corrupt, and the high priest was no longer held by a son of Aaron, but went to the highest bidder. Remember the Hanukkah story? Well, following that, the sons of Judah Maccabee, who was a priest, took it upon themselves, one at a time, to become not only high priest but king as well, which was forbidden in the Word of God. They were to come from two different tribes. When you see that kind of religious and political power linked together, watch out! There’s loss of freedom about to take place. So here we have a church hierarchy that is contrary to God’s will and His ways. When these king-priest leaders got themselves into a problem they couldn’t handle, they called the Romans in to help (they needed help from God whom they evidently never thought to ask, not from the pagans). The Romans never left and Israel wound up being subjugated by them. When leaders of a land turn away from or violate the Word of God they loose the blessings of God on their land!
Now keep in mind, what the followers of Yeshua would have returned to was a biblical understanding of God’s Word. We see the Kingdom of God flourishing as they adhered to Yeshua’s teachings, which were entirely Torah aligned. While the apostles had revelation and spiritual authority, never was it to use their authority to dominate the people. The people met house to house, mostly without leadership, for many years following the leading of the Spirit of God and all was well among them.
Then it happened. In 70 A.D. not only the Temple but Jerusalem was destroyed and hundreds of thousands of Jewish believers fled Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Wherever they went they shared the Messiah and told of His Kingdom coming to earth. But it was not long before there were more Gentile believers than Jewish believers, so when error began to creep in contrary to Torah, there were less and less Jews to correct the errors. As the errors increased, so did misunderstandings of who Yeshua was, whether He was really God, really in the flesh, really crucified, really resurrected. A doctrinal war took place between the various theological interpretations of Scripture, mostly only of the New Testament, but also heavily laced with Roman philosophical thought, despite Paul’s warning: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Messiah.” (Col. 2:8). With all this going on, it seems no one really noticed that the Holy Spirit was no longer running the church; men were.
Around 156 A.D. a man named Montanus was gathering quite a following based on his preaching that the church needed to return to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, such as prophesy, he himself being somewhat of a prophet. It was at this time that the powers-that-be, the bishops, for the first time, excommunicated Montanus (which to them meant, sending him to hell) for heresy. From that time on they ruled that they, the Bishops, would make the decision as to who was “anointed.” No longer would the church look to see whom God was raising up and then lay hands on them to “ordain” them, as Moses had ordained Aaron following God’s choice of Aaron. Now the bishops laid hands on and commissioned their choice of only those of whom they approved. As a result, the hierarchy that was developing was now institutionalized and the “ministry” became political.
Fast forward again to Constantine (306-337), not a very long life for all the effect he had on history. He was Rome’s 57th emperor, but the first emperor to “convert” Rome to Christianity. It is impossible in a few short sentences to convey the impact Constantine had upon what we now call Christianity. Some consider he invented it. With the intention of unifying the empire he decreed a statement of tolerance of all religions but with a preference to Christianity since he felt that the symbol of the cross of Christ brought him the victory that made him emperor over the whole of the eastern as well as the western part of the empire. (Till that point the cross was not a Christian symbol as it was a sign of a curse according to the Old Testament. He made it an emblem of victory.) A dictator, he summoned 220 bishops in 325 A.D. for the Council of Nicea to establish what “Christianity” was and was not, thus defining the “religion” of the empire. It dealt with issues as the divinity of Christ (notice I say Christ, not Messiah, because they basically outlawed the Jews from participation in anything having to do with this “Christ”). They made observance of anything “Hebrew” in the Old Testament cause for serious church discipline or even excommunication. They basically did away with the Old Testament as valid Scripture and incorporated pagan practices into what was now the State religion. We’ve already seen how God feels about adding to or taking away from His Word.
Christianity was divorced from its Hebrew birthright and evolved into a mixture of pagan cultic practices.
It was at this council that the date for Easter was set, so that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus no longer had anything to do with Passover, which was in fulfillment of Biblical prophesy. Christianity was divorced from its Hebrew birthright and evolved into a mixture of pagan cultic practices. Yeshua became the Jesus who from that time on was no longer Jewish. No Jew, including His disciples would have recognized Him in this new religious construct. I can only imagine Peter and John railing against them as heretics of the worst order. At this time, prohibitions against the Jews were instituted which were to influence the attitude of Christians and even Arabs from then on. Needless to say, the imperial oversight of “Christianity” which made every citizen of the empire a “Christian” but preached no sin-forgiving gospel meant that it robbed the world of the salvation that Yeshua came to bring. Add to that a church hierarchy that entirely subjugated the people and the church got richer as the people were more and more in debt to the church, which in time would require that they pay for their souls with money to those who ruled over them. What could be further from God’s Word than to pay money to over-lording leadership for your soul? Yeshua paid the only price that could be paid with His blood and offers it free to whosoever would come to Him! The “church” leadership now stood in the way to that salvation.
As you can understand the Holy Spirit was basically no where to be found in such an institutionalized church, though I’m sure He was with the hearts of those who managed to find Him. As Yeshua is “the Light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), when He was replaced with an alternative Jesus, the light went out in the world and the world entered into the Dark Ages, led there by the so called “church.”
Fast forward once again to the Reformation. Actually the Anabaptists preceded Luther in their quest for true Christianity, but you can now understand what courage it took for one Catholic priest named Martin Luther to nail his 95 objections to the ways of the church to the church door. He called for reform, which is why it’s called the Reformation. A bloody war begins in which the Catholics seek to bring the Protestants, those who protested against the oppressive church practices that kept people from salvation. Luther saw that “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4) and salvation by faith was once again restored to the church. Luther expected that the Jews would come back to the Lord Jesus at that time but he evidently missed the prophesies that said Israel had to be back in their land. But then it had been almost 1500 years that Israel was dispersed, so who could blame him. But when they didn’t come to the Lord, he turned against them and wrote the most venomous anti-Semitic literature the world has known. Basically all that Hitler did came from Luther’s writings. Perhaps this accounts for the severe depression Luther suffered. He certainly didn’t have the joy of the Lord. One wouldn’t when they were filled with malice and hatred for anyone, let alone the Jews (see Gen. 12:3).
The Reformation, nonetheless, took hold and lifted Christianity out of the grip of the oppressive medieval hierarchical grip of the Roman Catholic Church that still existed at the time. Faith for salvation was restored, thank God, but some of the structure remained and the church still didn’t carry the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit that it did in the first century, nor had it returned from celebrating the two pagan influenced holidays of Christmas (the Bible does NOT tell us His birthday; it would not have been important to the Jews. Jesus’ birthday was attached to a Roman pagan holiday) and Easter (Ishtar, the fertility goddess, hence the ‘bunnies’ and the Ishtar, I mean Easter eggs). The feasts of the Lord and the Sabbath had not been reinstituted, which God commanded be celebrated by all His people, including any gentiles following the God of Israel (which means followers of Israel’s Messiah, by the way). Yeshua and his disciples, as well as the early gentile believers, always fully observed both of these.
Let’s take a big leap forward again to around 1900. Till now if any Jews came to the Lord they were assimilated into the gentile Church because retaining your Jewish identity was considered heresy. About that time, some Jews decided to move to Palestine and started working the land to turn it from desert and swamps to farmland. (Palestine has always been a Jewish term for Israel since the 1st century until the Arab “Palestinians” co-opted it for their own purposes) About that same time, Jewish believers started feeling they wanted to maintain their Jewish identity and formed the Hebrew Christian Alliance in England which spread to the United States and elsewhere. There is a principle in Scripture says, “the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. ”(1 Cor. 15:46). We see it happening again and again where Israel and the church is concerned. The short synopsis is this: 1900 Jews long to be back in their land and Jewish believers long to retain their Jewish heritage. In 1948 Israel is once again a sovereign nation on her own land and there is a move of God that brought the healing evangelists back to the church.
Then in 1967, for the first time in almost two millennia, following a war that Israel miraculously won, no doubt by God’s grace (for they didn’t start the war, and they were outrageously outnumbered), the area in which Israel’s Temple stood was once again under their authority. 1800 years of praying and finally it was again theirs. Surely the Messiah could not be far from coming to them. At this same time, the corresponding spiritual event that paralleled in significance to the Jews having access to the Temple area, the Holy Spirit re-entered the church in power and in signs and miracles and what we call the Charismatic Renewal was birthed. No coincidence. This was God’s doing. The natural and the physical. (Please Note: This may give you some idea of what the significance of forcing Israel to relinquish the land acquired in 1967 would mean, both in the natural and in the spiritual, to Israel and the corresponding effects to the church. Please pray!)
This brings us to today and back to Peter’s statement about “restoring all things” (Acts 3:21) in order for the Lord to come. As you can see, contrary to the belief of many that He could come at any time, Yeshua cannot come until there is a restoration, first of all, of Israel to her land (which has happened but which is being threatened today) and to all His people (the church) embracing the integrity of the original revelation of God as holy and loving, as the God of mercy balanced with justice which He gave to the Hebrews, and the respect for His entire Word to them as the foundation of their faith. This does not by any means mean that the church must come under obligatory laws. Or that the sacrificial system must be reinstituted. Yeshua was the final atonement, though the Temple system will likely be restored by those Jews who do not know Yeshua.
After centuries of the absence of God’s full Word being revered and obeyed, and therefore loving God for who He really is, He is drawing a people to respond to the cry in His own heart for true worshippers to know Him by His Spirit and in truth, not with any impure motives. The longing of the Bridegroom for His bride, to know her and to be known by her is in the revelation of the covenant which Yeshua fully embodied. Yeshua is not returning for a bride who is involved with pagan beliefs or practices. We must find out what God has said about what is good and what is not, what is of the light and what is of the darkness. He made a clear distinction between Israel and the world. Again, that needs to take place so that a distinct difference is seen between the ways of the world and the ways of God’s remnant. Part of that is the respecting of Israel and the Jewish people, and the recognition that the whole Bible is the Word of God to us. “Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). Let’s pray.
Abba, we come to you in the most precious name of Your Son Yeshua. Lord, we ask forgiveness for the church for straying so far from Your truths and denying the Lordship of Your Spirit among us over the centuries. Abba, we want to be a part of the restoration You are bringing about in this time. We together ask you to please restore Your truth to us where we have been deprived of it through traditions that have nullified You Word to Your people. Correct the wrong understanding and concepts we have of You; restore us to the integrity of being jealous for Your honor and for the honor of each other so that we will be known as Yeshua disciples by our love. Abba, give us discernment and wisdom, courage and entirely yielded hearts to You so that we may be those to whom You fully reveal yourself and count as faithful. Dress us in robes of righteous deeds to prepare us for Yeshua’s return for us. May it all be for Your glory and praise. Amen.
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Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.