One of those songs I recall singing in church as a youth begins like this:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness;
And all these things shall be added unto you,
(“Seek ye first”, by Karen Lafferty, 1971)
It is a good song taken directly from Scripture. This particular chorus is from Matthew 6:33, as rendered in the King James:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these thing shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)
Like so many things in my Christian upbringing, I do not recall a succinct explanation of this instruction by Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ). Perhaps it was assumed that we would absorb the meaning in our Sunday School classes or in our own study of the Bible. Even the Biblical instruction I received in my Christian school never included a full disclosure of what the Kingdom of God is, or a definition of righteousness. This is not to say that my Christian upbringing was without value; I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to the teachers, pastors, and counselors who labored lovingly to help me become a disciple of Jesus and to impart their love of the Word of God and the God of the Word. However, there were some holes in my education, particularly regarding the specifics of certain key terms in my Christian vocabulary.
Righteousness was one of those terms. Simply put, it is being right according to YHVH’s standards. Moses provides the details in the Torah. The rest of the Bible elaborates on that foundation, providing examples of how God’s people succeeded or failed in meeting those standards. When we get to the Apostolic Writings (New Testament), we see those standards demonstrated by the example of Yeshua, and then we find commentary by the Apostles. Consequently, even though I cannot recall anyone giving me a definition of righteousness when I was young, it was easy enough to figure out what Yeshua meant when He commanded us to seek it.
But then there is that problematic term, “Kingdom of God”. What exactly is that? The Bible tells me about the Kingdom of Israel and about the Kingdom of Heaven, but in my church upbringing it seldom occurred to me that the two might be the same. And in fact they are the same. Much Christian teaching has attempted to separate the two, but doing so leaves the Kingdom of God as nothing more than a nebulous, over-spiritualized concept. The Kingdom of Israel, on the other hand, is a concrete, definable, knowable entity, and all the people of God are part of it. It matters not whether they are Jewish or of Gentile background. The terms of the New (or Renewed) Covenant tell us that YHVH has executed this agreement only with the people of Israel and Judah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:8-11). Isaiah 56:4-8 explains that foreigners will join themselves to the Lord and come into His Temple, the house of prayer for all nations. Paul tells us how this will happen, explaining in Romans 11 how non-Jews are “grafted into” the olive tree of Israel along with Jews, and in Ephesians 2 how faith in Messiah Yeshua makes these former Gentiles part of the Commonwealth of Israel. As if there were any doubt, John records the proclamation of the angel at the end of this age that the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). With that kind of Scriptural foundation, no wonder the ancient carol proclaims, “Born is the King of Israel!”
Could it really be true that God intends to snatch His people out of this earth just before the whole thing blows up, or is that just wishful thinking? This is something Don Merritt addresses in his recent post, “Revelation 8-11 as a New Exodus”. Don’s blog, The Life Project: Finding Clear and Simple Faith, is a straightforward examination of what Scripture says about how the disciples of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) should live. His approach is Christian rather than Hebrew Roots or Messianic, so there are some points where we do not exactly agree. Even so, I have found his commentary insightful and instructive.
In the midst of this very busy summer the best I have been able to do is file away the email notifications of Don’s posts on Revelation in hope that I will be able to read the entire series. The notice of this particular post, however, got my attention immediately, and I had to read it immediately. I was not disappointed. This is the first time I can recall seeing a Christian commentator make the connection between the First Exodus and the coming Second Exodus that will restore all of YHVH’s people to the land He promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – both the natural descendants and those who are “grafted in” to the nation of Israel through faith in Messiah and His redemptive work. Don’s post is a starting point for further investigation. After you read it, check out “True Confessions of a Former Premillennialist”, another Life Project post in which Don explains the spiritual journey that brought him to his current understanding of the end of this present age.
Posted on The Life Project, July 23, 2015
I mentioned earlier that there is a parallel structure between the story of the Exodus and John’s vision in Revelation 8-11 that might help us to understand this section better or more easily. To show you what I mean I have set out the parallel below. Take a look, and let’s see what you think…
How do children learn to be adults? More importantly, how do they learn to be real men and real women? More importantly still, how do they learn to be godly men and godly women? Two men of God, Moses and the Apostle Paul, give us the answer:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. (Deuteronomy 6:4-8 NKJV, emphasis added)
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV)
Molding godly people out of irresponsible children is a task for mature, godly men and women who determine purposefully to pass on what they know. It is a conscious decision which carries weighty responsibility and a lifetime commitment. The heartaches can be many and wearisome, but the rewards are far greater, not only for the individual, but for all humanity, and for the Kingdom of God. Few answer the call of godly mentorship and discipleship. That is a tragedy played out before our eyes in broken lives and broken nations. And yet it only takes a few to reverse that trend. One man may speak volumes into the lives of many young people. Our Messiah Yeshua showed us the model; the 12 men He discipled changed the entire world.
Why do we follow God? When we get alone, away from people who expect us to be good disciples of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ), and have a chance to be honest with ourselves, what is the real reason we proclaim our allegiance to Yeshua? Is it just for “galactic fire insurance” – that promise of eternal salvation (John 3:16)? Is it the promise of a rewarding life on this earth (Mark 10:29-31)? Is it in hope of escaping trouble and stress (John 14:27). Or is it truly to follow God whatever He requires, and whatever circumstances come about?
These questions fall into the category of “counting the cost”. Yeshua presented the concept in this way:
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33 NKJV, emphasis added)
One of the most familiar Bible stories is that of Yeshua (Jesus) feeding the five thousand. This amazing and encouraging story is the only one of Messiah’s miracles recorded in all four gospels. Since all four gospel writers deemed this event significant, there must be some deeper meaning to it than is apparent in a casual reading. Yeshua demonstrated His compassion and ability to meet human needs, but He also taught His disciples a valuable lesson in faith and in doing the will of God. By satisfying the hunger of 5,000 men and the women and children with them, Yeshua brought the Kingdom of God into their midst in ways none of them had experienced before, and He did so in a demonstration of Holy Spirit power. What more could there be to the feeding of the five thousand than this? Much indeed. In this one miracle, Yeshua provided a sign of His Messiahship, a teaching on the seven thousand year plan of God, and a prophecy about the end of this age.
I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12 NKJV)
It would seem that God’s words through the prophet have direct application to us modern followers of Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach). Even though our God has recorded many great things both in His Law (Torah) given through Moses and in the Prophets, Christians tend to avoid those books of the Bible. Whether it is fear of “the Law” and potential legalism associated with observing it, or a perception that the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures, or Tanakh) does not carry the same weight as the New Testament (Apostolic Scriptures), there is a definite lack of understanding of the first two thirds of the Bible. This is a great tragedy, chiefly because it robs us of much blessing, including understanding of our identity as the seed of Abraham, spiritual depth, and fruitfulness in our walk of faith in Messiah.
This is the second in a two-part series offering a Hebraic view of the miracle of feeding the five thousand.
But what is the connection of fish with Yeshua? To understand that, we must delve into jots and tittles. Yeshua brings these things to our attention:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV, emphasis added) Please click here to continue reading
This is the first in a two-part series offering a Hebraic view of the miracle of feeding the five thousand.
One of the most familiar Bible stories is that of Yeshua (Jesus) feeding the five thousand. This amazing and encouraging story is the only one of Messiah’s miracles recorded in all four gospels. Since all four gospel writers deemed this event significant, there must be some deeper meaning to it than is apparent in a casual reading. Yeshua demonstrated His compassion and ability to meet human needs, but He also taught His disciples a valuable lesson in faith and in doing the will of God. By satisfying the hunger of 5,000 men and the women and children with them, Yeshua brought the Kingdom of God into their midst in ways none of them had experienced before, and He did so in a demonstration of Holy Spirit power. What more could there be to the feeding of the five thousand than this? Much indeed. In this one miracle, Yeshua provided a sign of His Messiahship, a teaching on the seven thousand year plan of God, and a prophecy about the end of this age. Please click here to continue reading