Monday, September 27, 2010

In your patience possess ye your souls

Of all the miracles which Yeshua performed during His ministry nearly two thousand years ago, one of the best known is the feeding of the multitudes with five loaves of bread and a few small fishes.  This is one of the few miracles recorded in all four Gospels; and, as is evident from the record in John 6, this miracle appears to have had particular significance among the crowds as well.  For when it began to dawn on the people what Yeshua had just done, word began to spread that this Yeshua must be the long-awaited prophet--their king had arrived, the Mashiyach, for whom Israel had been hoping; the one who would deliver them from their Gentile oppressors and re-establish the throne of David!

But in their enthuisiam they missed the point.  Yeshua had never preached anything about setting up an earthly kingdom.  As Yeshua would later say Himself, His kingdom is not of this world.  (John 18:36)  The Messiah had no intention of being the king of their land; He came to be the King of people's hearts.  All of the kingdoms of this world belong to the god of this world (Luke 4:5,6; 2 Corinthians 4:4); and they will all ultimately perish with this world (1 John 2:17).  The kingdom Yeshua came to establish is not a temporal, visible one with fortresses and riches and flags and physical borders, but an eternal, spiritual one of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.  (Romans 14:17; 2 Corinthians 4:18)  Not being quickened by the Spirit, however, the crowds were unable to see, understand or be a part of this kingdom (John 3:3-5)  They were not in a place to receive the things of Elohiym, and so missed what it was that Yeshua was getting at through His teachings.  (see Matthew 13:10-16)

While Yeshua was here, many people--sometimes great multitudes--came to see and hear this Prophet of whom so much was spoken.  They gathered to hear the wisdom He taught with such tremendous authority; they wondered at the power He demonstrated by healing the sick, raising the dead, opening the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind.  And as long as they did not quite understand Yeshua, the crowds followed Him.  However, as the full sense of Yeshua's words began to burst in upon them, most would depart.  Shortly after the mircale of the loaves, in fact, as the people began to realize that Yeshua wasn't offering the sorts of things they were after, the company of Yeshua shrank to a rather small number.  (John 6)  How popular Yeshua's message ultimately was can probably best be gathered by reading how He was treated towards the end of the four Gospels.

It is an under-appreciated fact that the New Testament gives absolutely no instructions as to how Christianity is to be conducted when it is the politically ruling view, or the dominant societal norm.  Neither Yeshua in the Gospels nor the apostles in their writings have a word to say about how the government of a nation, once it is Christian, ought o equitably levy taxes, nor about what sorts of laws it should enact for the poor.  There is nothing at all about the Christian way to maintain an army, or to fight a "just war;" nothing about whether to work for democracy or defend a monarchy.  The reason for this deafening silence is that the New Testament takes for granted that wherever true Christianity finds itself, it will always be a counter-cultural element in society, both opposed to and opposed by the kingdoms of this world.  (Ephesians 6:12)  Thus, Yeshua's warnings and instructions to His disciples, concerning their dealings with the world, were specifically about the adversity the could anticpate.  "Woe unto the world because of offences!  for it must needs be that offences come"  (from Matthew 18:7).  "If ye were of the world, the world would love its own:  but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."  (John 15:19; see 18-20)  So, whenever a church becomes legitimate and mainstream in worldly society, it does not indicate that the nation among which the church dwells has somehow come to "see the light;" rather, it means that such a church itself has lost sight of the light.  False Christianity, being of the world, speaks of the world, and the world hears them.  (1 John 4:5)  They avoid persecution and affliction by being friends of the world--and so make themselves enemies of Elohiym.  (James 4:4)

As followers of Yeshua ha Mashiyach, we must let settle into our hearts an ancient truth:  that the world will never love the people of Elohiym and understand them at the same time.  A soul who is sincerely desiring Elohiym will, of course, be attracted to the light which Yeshua has given to His people; but such lambs are as precious as they are few.  Most people are, and will remain, on the broad path to destruction; and those whose hearts are ultimately with the world will in the end choose the things of the world, and hate Yeshua's light.  (John 3:18-20)  Thus, the vast majority of humanity is sure to be offended at the Gospel.  (Matthew 11:6)  If they are at first intrigued by Elohiym's people, if they for a time appreciate the message of Yeshua's ambassadors, as they would appreciate a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; it is only because they do not understand it.  When once those of the world begin to understand the full counsel of the Holy Scriptures, when once they feel the full weight of the word's terrible authority laying claim to their lives, convicting them of their favorite sins with undeniable rightness, there can be but one response:  they must hate the message, and thus the messengers as well.  "I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."  (John 17:14)  The world will never give up its reprobate course (Ephesians 2:2); and Yeshua's true church will never deviate from His narrow way, nor from the firm conviction that the works of the world are evil.  (John 7:7)  This makes a frightful collision of views inevitable.  (see Proverbs 29:27)

So, it remains for true disciples of Yeshua to arm themselves with a mind to suffer for Yeshua's sake.  (1 Peter 4:1)  We should not think it strange when we are evil spoken of or mistreated.  (1 Peter 4:12)  This is what we are to expect; it is what Yeshua told us to expect, it is how the world in the end always treats Yeshua and His people.  (see John 16:2; Matthew 10:16-25; Acts 28:22)  Woe to us, in fact, if the world is speaking well of us! (Luke 6:26)

Those who live chasiyd in Yeshua must expect persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), for the world has not, and never will, really get used to Elohiym's light, anymore than a true servant of Yeshua will ever come to rejoice in iniquity.  Those who follow the Word must therefore be willing to accept the affliction and tribulation which the Word unfailingly brings.  (Matthew 13:21; Mark 4:17)  In fact, not only are we to expect these things, but we are to accept them with gladness when we are counted worthy to partake of them.  (Luke 6:22-23; Acts 5:49; 1 Peter 4:13-14)

Of course, we are not to seek out persecution, but rather use wisdom to avoid it when possible.  (Matthew 10:16)  Sometimes this wisdom may mean fleeing the city (Matthew 10:23), as is recorded of the brother in Acts 9:23-25.  Other times it may require hiding or other tactics which could be described as secretive, as David did in 1 Samuel 23:15-23, or as the prophets did in 1 Kings 18:4 and Jeremiah 36:19,26.  And when actually faced at last with adversity, our response needs to be both just and loving, in Christian charity; not in a vengeful or bitter spirit.  (Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:17-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9)  The persecutions to truly rejoice in are those in which we suffer for righteousness' sake (Matthew 5:10-12), as Christians (1 Peter 4:16); not when we suffer for foolish recklessness or for doing evil (1 Peter 4:15).

As surely as the sun arises each day, persecution and affliction must eventually arise upon the righteous.  We can be certain that by going out of the world unto Elohiym, we will have to bear His reproach; there is simply no way around that (2 Corinthians 6:17-18; Hebrews 13:13).  But there is no reason to fear the things we must suffer (Revelation 2:10); rather, we ought to fear Him in whose hand is the eternal recompense for every living soul.  (Luke 12:4-5)  Let not thoughts of suffering affliction move us, therefore.  (Acts 20:24)  Many in our society so given to pleasures spend enormous amounts of time and energy in an effort to insulate themselves from affliction, or even from inconvenience.  But suffering affliction is not the worst thing a soul can encounter.  The righteous, indeed, can take pleasure in such things, knowing that Yeshua is with us at every moment when we are suffering for His sake.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

"In your patience possess ye your souls."  (Luke 21:19)  Why would Yeshua say such a thing to His disciples?  Because He knew that the road to the kingdom of Elohiym must of necessity lead through the valley of tribulation (Acts 14:22)  and that only those who are willing to patiently bear their cross for Him, enduring hardness as a good soldier, would make it through such things.  (Matthew 10:38; Luke 14:27)  So, we have need of patience, that after we have done the will of Elohiym, we might receive the promise.  (Hebrews 10:36)  Patience is needful, because the opposite of patiently enduring is drawing back, and that leads to perdition.  (Hebrews 10:38-39)  Take the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Adon (Lord), for an example of suffering affliction and of patience.  (James 5:10)  For surely there is an end, and he that endureth unto the end shall be saved. 

And in the end, after all we have endured for Him, with Him, and by His help, we will pull up to the end of our road, and lay down our burden at last; and letting our Father wipe away our tears, it will all be over.  We'll be Home. 

The above writing is composed by Hatzier, a dear brother.

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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160