Christianity, current events

Thoughts on this Shemitah year of 2015 (5775)

January 16, 2015

Tevet 25, 5775

Koli El Adonai

Not everyone is familiar with the concept of the Shemitah year, especially those who have been influenced by replacement theology. We are already well into the current Shemitah year, so I will give a brief summary of the Shemitah year. I also have some applications to honor the Shemitah year and put its principles into practice that I would like the audience to prayerfully consider. There are five points I would like to mention about the Shemitah year.

First, the Shemitah year can be described as a Sabbath year. Just like the week includes six days for work and one for rest, every seventh year was a Sabbath year:

The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

Lev 25:1-7 (ESV)

Sowing and reaping were prohibited during the Shemitah year; the land was to rest and enjoy its Sabbath. The land became public domain during the Shemitah year because everyone was free to take whatever grew of itself in the fields for food during this year. There was no stockpiling during the Shemitah year; you were allowed to only take enough for your daily needs. This is similar to the command God gave concerning the manna (Ex 16: 16).

Second, the Shemitah year was a year of release. There was an old song by Tennessee Ernie Ford that said “I owe my soul to the company store,” and it expressed the despair of always being in debt and never being able to get out from under it. The Lord did not intend for perpetual debt to exist in Israel, and the Lord commanded that all debts be cancelled at the end of the Shemitah year:

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed.

Deut 15:1-2 (ESV)

The last day of the Shemitah was Elul 29; all debts were cancelled at sundown on this day  and everyone got a fresh start. No matter how bad your situation was, you would never “owe your soul to the company store” in Israel. This also brings me back to God’s command about the manna. The Israelites were commanded to take an omer apiece from the manna, and they were warned that if they left any over until the next day, it would breed worms and stink. In the same way, any debts that that survived the Shemitah year were also unacceptable before the Lord. The Shemitah is therefore an R & R year (rest and release).

Third, the Shemitah year reminds the people that everything belongs to God, and we are just stewards of His resources. A brother may agree to work for you to pay off a debt, but even if the debt has not been paid in full, he is released on the Shemitah. If you buy the fields of another man, they also have to be returned one day. You really don’t own anything, and you certainly can’t take it with you.

Fourth, the Shemitah year reminds us of our dependence on God and builds our faith. Sowing and reaping stopped during the Shemitah year, so the people had to depend on God to provide for all their needs until the next harvest is gathered. And just like the Israelites in the wilderness, they had to have faith that the manna they needed would be there at the start of the day. The Shemitah causes people to look up to the Lord for their provision, not to the fields and the strength of their own efforts.

Fifth, the Shemitah is a blessing or a judgment. When the Shemitah was observed, the Lord’s blessing chased after the people and overtook them. It causes a nation to be exalted and its enemies to be abased. On the other hand, when the Shemitah was disregarded, tragedy overtook the nation. When that happens, the nation is brought down and its enemies are strengthened.

Does the Shemitah have any relevance for us today? Replacement theology would tell us no because we are under grace and not the Law. I don’t think we should dismiss the Shemitah so quickly however, especially since the effects of the Shemitah still impact us today. The last two Shemitah years have been particularly bad for our nation. In 2001 our nation experienced the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and there was a subsequent stock market crash on September 17, which was Elul 29 on the Jewish calendar. Then on the next Shemitah year of 2008, there was another devastating stock market crash on September 29.

This does not necessarily mean that we are in for another stock market crash, but considering that the time of this Shemitah year also includes four blood moons, the Daniel’s among us who can read the writing on the wall are rightly concerned. When America’s hedge of protection was breached and the Twin Towers fell, Senator Tom Daschle’s reply included Isaiah 9: 10. If you read this passage by itself, it does appear to be a message of hope after a tragedy. But if you read the previous verses, you learn that these words were spoken from a heart filled with pride and arrogance. Instead of repenting and reconciling with God, the people of Israel (and America) have distanced themselves even more from God. As the behavior of the people in riots associated with Ferguson, MO and New York, NY shows, the love of many has grown cold. Lawlessness, division, and anarchy are increasing. The quality of state and national government is no better. It has recently been revealed that Jonathan Gruber, the architect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), boasted that lack of transparency, voter ignorance, and deception were strategies used to pass this legislation. It has been reported that a Virginia politician  has been elected to office in spite of the fact he is currently in jail for a scandal involving a teen. America’s moral and spiritual condition has gotten worse since 9/11, not better.

Our nation needs to repent and reconcile with God while there is still time, and I pray that all of my readers will pray for their nation and be obedient to God’s direction for our lives. We know that when Israel disregarded the Shemitah year, it lead to the Babylonian captivity of the nation. With this in mind, it is prudent to focus on the Shemitah year itself and honor its principles. We can still honor the Shemitah year, and in at least some small way we can realign our lives and a small part of our nation back to God. For now, I am proposing that we follow the Shemitah mandate for rest and release.

Rest

There was to be no sowing or reaping during the Shemitah year, but since most of us do not live on or near farms like the people of ancient Israel, what does that mean to us? It is true that we are not primarily an agrarian society anymore, but I believe the principle of sowing can still apply. Sowing does involve seeds for a harvest, but sowing is not limited to seeds. We can also sow money (as in investments in a new business venture), time, resources, etc. I would ask you to consider not sowing into anything that can give you a return (or harvest) during the Shemitah year. This allows you to honor the prohibition against sowing without actually being a farmer. If you are a businessman or are involved in investments, this can be particularly challenging since your livelihood depends on this the same way ancient Israel depended on their harvests. I have already mentioned that the Shemitah can be a faith builder. Do you believe God will bless you for not sowing during the Shemitah? Then prayerfully consider honoring the Shemitah and don’t sow for a harvest (or a return on an investment). There is one exception to this that I want you to be aware of.

Good works Scripture

I will not say that all sowing must cease, because I must acknowledge that good works must not cease, even on the Sabbath or the Shemitah. The Lord Yeshua talked about these things when He walked among us:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”— so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Matt 12:1-12 (ESV)

If you have an opportunity to do good and bring glory to God, do it with all your might! The Shemitah principle doesn’t stop us from sowing for a harvest of righteousness. It pleases the Lord for us to sow good works into the lives of others to bring in a harvest of righteousness, even during the Shemitah year. Good works never go out of style!

Release

I also propose that we honor the Shemitah principle to release those in debt to us. The Shemitah mandate calls for all debts to be cancelled on the Day of Remission. On the Jewish calendar, that day is Elul 29, but on our calendar it will fall on September 13, 2015. As the sun sets on this day, cancel all debts, and not just the material ones. Here are some examples: Does someone at work owe you a favor (even if it’s a big one)? Release them. Did you loan some DVDs to a neighbor? Don’t ask for them back. Does someone owe you a lot of money? Cancel the debt and honor the Lord’s release. Did someone offend you? Forgive and set them free. Forgive all debts whether they are material or immaterial. If you are hesitant to forgive material debts, is it because these possessions are more important than honoring God’s Shemitah? Don’t let your possessions possess you.

Being set free

Set the captives free.

I think this is the best part of the Shemitah, because you can set someone free. When you confessed your sins to the Lord Yeshua and received forgiveness, didn’t that feel wonderful? Why not pass that feeling along to others? Jesus came to set the captives free, and when we honor the Shemitah and release others who are indebted to us, we are doing the same works He did. We are called to walk as He did, so let’s release our debtors!

I did mention that unforgiven debt is unacceptable to the Lord because it dishonors the Shemitah, but there is one debt that we are allowed to keep in force; it is the debt we have to love one another. Always keep this debt in force: Love the Lord you God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Those who love fulfill the Law!

Please prayerfully seek the Lord for His direction on what He wants you to do this Shemitah year, and then pursue it with everything you have. Remember also that you don’t have to wait until September 13 to cancel debts; you are free to cancel them at any time as the Lord leads you. When you are obedient to the Lord’s commands, you make Yeshua real, and the invisible God becomes visible to the world when we do His works. His light shines in the world through your obedience and good works, so let there be light!  Friends, I encourage you to sow good works among your neighbors. I will close with the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6: 24-26) and song to encourage you.

He came to set the captives free

 

 

 

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Completing the Reformation: Restoring the things lost by replacement theology

 

14 Nov 2014

21 Cheshvan 5775

“Let the Lion Roar” made a great start in alerting us to the damage caused by replacement theology (RT) so we can make the necessary changes and return to the original condition of the Church. There are some additional things not mentioned in the movie we can all do that will help mend the damaged caused by RT. These things may not seem profound in themselves, but they are all things we can do on an individual level that can help complete the Reformation.

Restore the Sabbath. Many Christians are surprised when I say this because they believe they are already observing the Sabbath on Sunday. Even some major businesses like Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby close on Sunday so their employees can attend services and be with their families, so why would I ask my readers to restore the Sabbath? I say this because Sunday is not the Sabbath. The actual day of rest that God gave us falls on Saturday, not Sunday. In the course of church history, men influenced by RT changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. One of the reasons the early Church gave for this change was the fact that the Lord was raised on Sunday, and Sunday was also the day God began the work of creation, not Saturday. The attitude of the early Church to the Sabbath can be seen as follows:

The sabbath symbolizes Moses, and Christians hope not in Moses but in Christ; the Christian does not think himself pious for keeping one day idle, but for keeping a continual sabbath. The sabbath was given for the hardness of the Jews’ hearts—(Dictionary of Christian Biography)

The fathers did not regard the Christian Sunday as a continuation of, but as a substitute for, the Jewish Sabbath, and based it not so much on the fourth commandment, and the primitive rest of God in creation, to which the commandment expressly refers, as upon the resurrection of Christ and the apostolic tradition. There was a disposition to disparage the Jewish law in the zeal to prove the independent originality of Christian institutions. The same polemic interest against Judaism ruled in the paschal controversies, and made Christian Easter a moveable feast. Nevertheless, Sunday was always regarded in the ancient church as a divine institution, at least in the secondary sense, as distinct from divine ordinances in the primary sense, which were directly and positively commanded by Christ, as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Regular public worship absolutely requires a stated day of worship.—(The History of the Christian Church)

It is a fact of history that men changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, but there is no Divine mandate for this change. God never changed the day the Sabbath falls on. If the Lord of the Sabbath never made the change, who are we to change God’s calendar on our own authority? As we can see from the second quote, this change resists the Jewish law since it sought to “prove the independent originality of Christian institutions.” It’s time to end this travesty and restore the Sabbath to Saturday, but this won’t be easy.

Restoring the Sabbath to Saturday may make many people uncomfortable. Saturday has a special place in our hearts, but not as a day of rest and worship. For some, Saturday has become a day of recovering from the excesses of Friday night. Others occupy Saturday with Little League practice, soccer games, shopping, and generally doing whatever we want. The original intention of God to make this as a day of rest and devotion to God has clearly been effaced. In order to restore the Sabbath (and also help complete the Reformation) we must be willing to set these things aside and make Saturday the Sabbath again. This has many advantages for those who will pursue it and no disadvantages, unless you count missing out on your former Saturday activities as a disadvantage. When we observe the original Sabbath, we are really obeying the command of God to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20: 8-11). And the testimony of Scripture is clear about this; obedience brings blessing. Obedience also brings us closer to Him, can there be any higher reward than that? As we approach Yeshua’s return, God is realigning the misshapen and deformed beliefs the church has embraced in RT to its original defaults.

This course of action may not be accepted by all my readers. Many people may be loath to make this change because they want their Saturday for themselves. Some may hide under RT’s argument that this change would be counted as legalism, which is something we shouldn’t do since we are under grace. Some may just say “Saturday or Sunday, what’s the difference?” To all these objections I ask this: What’s really in your heart? Is your heart devoted to God and doing the things that please Him, or following the flawed doctrines of men who arbitrarily changed the day of rest to Sunday? Without Divine sanction, how can we ever say that changing the Sabbath day is acceptable? When we honor the Sabbath and keep it holy, it is a witness to the world of our covenant with God, marks us as a peculiar people, brings honor to God, and it allows the world to see the Father’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. Where is the disadvantage in any of this?

Restore the name Yeshua to the Son of God. Some people may argue that this is just splitting hairs. After all, what does it matter if we call the Son of God Jesus or Yeshua as long as we know who we are talking about? Some may argue that the name Jesus was wrongfully appropriated by unenlightened people in the past, and that it should be our job to reclaim the name and restore it to its proper place of veneration. Whatever your conviction, I won’t be dogmatic about this, but I would like to explain why I believe this has merit. The names of Yeshua and Jesus have different origins. According to Derek Frank, the trend to replace Israel:

had even gone so far as replacing meaningful Hebrew names with Gentile ones. We can only speculate about the extent of the demonic strategy that lay behind the stripping of these names. Especially because there is power in honoring the name of Yeshua, Jesus real name, which means “God is salvation.” (Escaping the Great Deception, p. 18)

The first reason we ought to restore Yeshua as the name of the Son of God because we need to end the work of RT and complete the Reformation. “Yeshua” is our Savior with His Jewish identity intact, but He became “Jesus,” who was a Savior who did not have a clear Jewish identity, which was something RT wanted. If RT had influenced Martin Luther to believe the Church now possessed the covenants and promises, he may have had this non-Jewish Messiah in mind when he believed that the Jews would “come over to us” when they heard the good news of the Gospel. On the other hand, “Yeshua” reminds us that the Son of God was Jewish, and so when we are saved, it becomes clear that we are in communion with Him, and that we are grafted into the tree of the people of Israel. In other words, it helps remind us that we go over to the Jews when we become believers, they do not come over to us.

The second reason we should consider this is because “Jesus” has become associated with many bad things in the Jewish community. RT has so altered the teachings and perception of Jesus that the Jews have now come to associate persecution and violent aggression with the name of Jesus and the church. It has hardened many Jewish hearts against the Gospel and caused them to turn away from the truth. Referring to Yeshua as the Son of God allows us to break with the past and move away from the bad things that have been associated with the RT’s version of Jesus. In this sense, Yeshua and Jesus couldn’t be more different. RT’s version of Jesus created by the church demanded forced conversions and total repudiation of Jewish identity. On the other hand, Yeshua humbly knocks at the door of our heart and allows us to decide whether we will open the door. When I use the name Yeshua, I mean the authentic Messiah of Scripture who knocks at the door; the same Yeshua who makes Jews and Gentiles into one flock. I also prefer Yeshua because it is more faithful to the original. I encourage everyone who finds value in this to begin using Yeshua as the way to refer to our Savior. Let us work together to end RT, complete the Reformation, and introduce Yeshua to the Jewish community and the world.

The sins of RT are a matter of historical record; therefore part of completing the Reformation and healing our relations with the Jewish community must take this into consideration. Even a cursory reading of history shows how the visible church mistreated, demonized, and persecuted the Jews in the name of Jesus through the centuries. The sins and errors of our ancestors are clearly part of this problem; sins committed in the past leave a legacy that can still have detrimental effects on us today and keep us from reaching our full potential. Confessing the sins of the fathers must not be confused with our personal confession when we first believed. Our initial confession forgave the sins we committed, but the entanglements of the sins of our ancestors remains in force until they are confessed and their power is broken. Don’t take this lightly; the sins of the past can be powerful influences in life as this portion of Scripture shows:

In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

2 Kings 15:8-9 (ESV)

If you read about the kings of Israel, you cannot help but notice that the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat are constantly mentioned as their downfall. The sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat still had an adverse effect long after he died. Not only that, it appears that unresolved sins of the past can also increase in intensity:

And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done.

1 Kings 14:22 (ESV)

The only way to stop the effects of sins committed in the past is to confess the sins of our ancestors. Confessing the sins of the past is the first step to departing from them and breaking the power they have to affect us today and our posterity. The Scriptures tells us:

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

Lev 26:40-42 (ESV)

When the Babylonian captives returned to the land of Israel, Nehemiah and the people confessed and broke with the sins of the fathers (Nehemiah 9: 1-38). They did not want to repeat history; they wanted to be free from the entanglements of sins in the past so they could be a holy and righteous people for the Lord. Derek Frank includes a testimony on page 106 about this also in his book “Escaping the Great Deception.” We need to confess these sins so our walk will not be affected by past sins. When we are free from the power of past sins, we can walk before the Lord and be perfect. This good witness provokes the Jews to jealousy so that they will want what we have (unlike the fruit of RT, which dives the Jews away). This helps complete the Reformation because it reunites Jews and Gentiles again in one flock, which was the original condition of the church Yeshua established (John 10: 16).

Having said all this, everything I have mentioned is within the power of every reader to perform. You must decide whether the true Sabbath will be honored in your home, whether you use the name Yeshua to refer to our Savior, and whether you will confess the sins of your ancestors and break their power. If you would like to craft a prayer to confess the sins of your ancestors, you can use the prayer of Nehemiah 9: 1-38 as a template which you can customize for your own circumstances. Pray about these things, and if Yeshua leads you, pursue these things fully.

May the Lord Yeshua bless you, my beloved.

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