Days of Celebration – September 19th

Days of Celebration – September 19th

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                                ‘On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried

                                 out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

                                                                                John 7:37

 

                                “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump,

                                 since you are truly unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover,

                                 was sacrificed for us.

                                “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the

                                 leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread

                                 of sincerity and truth.”

                                                                                1 Corinthians 5:7-8

 

We are approaching that time of the year when the Jewish World will again celebrate the Feasts of the Lord in that the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles are about to transpire. So, we need to ask ourselves, yet again, why should we celebrate these biblical festivals? The answer is simple; because they reflect more completely the life, ministry and death of Jesus! Jesus Himself celebrated Passover, Shavuot and the Feast of Tabernacles but He put the significance of His death, resurrection and coming kingdom into them. He even celebrated the non-biblical Feast of Hanukkah. It is important to note that we enjoy these as celebrations and not as obligations. Surely, after years of attending Church and reading the Bible regularly, we know the meaning and important truths lying behind each of these biblical feasts and memorials? The real answer is; no we do not; as we forget so easily and therefore we drift from God, lose sight of His love and grace, and disconnect ourselves from His purpose in the world. We live for ourselves, serve mammon and no longer know how to love those around us. The cycles of Biblical celebration, that God gives us, are for our renewal. This can be understood in the following ways:

 

Renewal of the Biblical truth that they so powerfully convey.

Passover, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles are rich in instruction. They remind us that we are accountable to God, that we depend upon His atoning grace for our deliverance and that we are to rejoice in the knowledge that we are part of His kingdom. As Christians we remember that Paul stated in his letter to the Church at Rome that when we no longer give God thanks in all these things, we stray from Him and turn aside to foolishness (Romans 1:21). Our world abundantly demonstrates this. We need to be constantly renewed and therefore reminded of who God is and what He has done for us. Such is the state of our hearts that failure to remember His goodness is the highway to forgetfulness and this in turn leads to weakness, corruption and apathy in our lives. A faith that is lukewarm and unresponsive to God is not acceptable to Him and is thus rejected (Revelation 3:16). Yes, indeed, we need the biblical Feasts to remind us constantly of the goodness of God.

 

Renewal of the Young amongst us.

The Bible repeatedly teaches us to take special care of the children. Jesus echoed the same truth when He placed a child on His lap and blessed him. In fact He attributed greatness to children because their faith was so innocent and trusting (Matthew 18:1-5). To harm them is to attract the extreme displeasure of their Father in Heaven (Matthew 18:6). In addition the last book of Moses, called Deuteronomy, exhorts parents to instruct their children in their homes concerning the great themes of who God is and what He has done for us and requires from us (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). A child, according to the book of Proverbs, is like a tender “creeping plant” that can be trained in the way in which he or she should go. This requires love, affection, correction and discipline. Most of all it requires from Parents that they should teach by example! The Word of God does not call people sheep for nothing (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep follow easily and parents who do not “walk the life that they talk” are teaching their children how to fail God in life and consequently they will not have success in the things that really matter.

 

Renewal of Community life

All the Biblical festivals are community celebrations. We celebrate them with the people of God. Too much of Christianity today is self centered and contradicts Paul’s frequent exhortations to relate in different ways to one another (Ephesians 4:25-32). Interacting with the family of God teaches us a lot about patience, faithfulness, submission and love. All of these are imparted to our lives when we have do things that others want us to do and we don’t really want to! Living in community is not easy but it is God’s plan for us.

 

Passover, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles teach us to fear God, walk in His grace and power and be joyful. Paul said that, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”(Romans 14:17).  Passover reminds us of the “door” to the Kingdom of God, which is the blood of the Lamb. Pentecost reminds us that the power of the Kingdom of God is the Word and Spirit of God and Rosh Hashanah reminds us of God’s holy command to be pleasing to Him and like Him. Yom Kippur, of the only way to have peace with God through His atoning love and grace and the Feast of Tabernacles of the fact that God wants His people to have life and joy in abundance. God’s people should have a lot of fun!

 

The community of God is to experience these things together. Again I want to affirm that the great Feasts of the Bible are celebrations and not obligations! We explore their meaning and significance together and thereby learn how to better love God, one another and the world. We are the poorer spiritually for neglecting them.

 

Renewal of appreciation for Israel and the Jewish people.

The great Feasts of the Bible enable Christians to understand more fully the Jewish roots of their faith and thus they learn to appreciate the people of Israel and understand that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), that all the things we hold dear as Christians are Jewish (Romans 9:1-5) and that we serve a Jewish King (Revelation 5:5) (Revelation 19:16)! In short, we share in the spiritual things that belong to the Jews and thus we are indebted to them (Romans 15:27). This takes on an important significance when we realize that Israel’s modern day restoration is the fulfillment of God’s eternal promise to Abraham and therefore, in the not too distant future, Israel will welcome her Messiah and thereby usher in for the world a time of unparalleled peace and joy. This will be the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16-19).

 

Even so Lord Jesus come!

 

Malcolm Hedding

Watch and Pray / September 12th

Watch and Pray / September 12th

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                        “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be

                         serious and watchful in your prayers.”

                                                                        1 Peter 4:7

 

                        “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon,

                         and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations

                         with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.”

                                                                        Luke 21:25

 The “mystery of iniquity”, about which the Bible has much to say (2 Thessalonians 2:7) is essentially an attempt by the powers of darkness to ultimately enslave the whole human race by eradicating or diluting the message of the true Church and by destroying Israel the visible reminder of God in the world (Psalm 83:1-8). To a certain and indeed terrifying degree the powers of darkness will almost achieve their goal by the fact that a super human being will arise who will solve the world’s growing problems. His solution will outlaw Christianity as we know it, harness the global financial systems and regulate the possession of weapons by the imposition of global government (Revelation 13:1-3). In short a new world order will be ushered in that will put mankind at the center of all things, banish the unseen God and instead install a visible god who will receive the adulation and worship of the world (Revelation 13:8). Great celebrations will be held across world heralding the arrival of peace; all the peoples of the world will rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

 

The drama unfolding across the world at present is a sure sign that the picture described above is drawing nigh to reality. The rise and proliferation of nuclear weapons, the volatile situation in the Middle East, the emergence of Russia as a renewed and weaponized super-power, the North Korean determination to provoke conflict, the spread of Islamic terror attacks across the globe and the hatred of Israel and of Jews everywhere is going to erupt in conflicts that will shake and scare the world. It is because of this that the nations of the world will willingly give up their sovereignty and demand world government. The Bible has warned us about all of this.

 

But God Himself has warned the world, not only through His word, but also by strange signs in the heavens and by natural disasters on earth. This has always been the manner in which the God of Israel seeks to get the attention of the world and to write these off as inconsequential is to be naïve and really biblically illiterate. It was God Himself who stated, in the very first book of the Bible, that the luminaries were put in place, not only to give light by day and night, but also to act as signs of God’s great works on the earth (Genesis 1:14). That is, works of blessing and of judgment as in the birth of Christ (Matthew 2:1-2) and the coming great Day of the Lord (Acts 2:17-21). So, while we should not become sensational and goofy about these things, it is true that the double Tetrads producing a blood moon over Israel at Passover and Succot for two years in a row mean something and the total eclipse of the sun on the 21st August over America also meant something as did the two hurricanes that have hit the country in quick succession and then there is the sign of Israel that will appear in the heavens shortly.

 

I truly believe that the message is clear:

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is calling His people to purify themselves and live lives of prayer and godliness (Ephesians 5:15-21).

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is calling the world to repentance as He is warning of more acts of judgment and of a great judgment to come (Revelation 16:8-9).

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is drawing attention to Israel as the custodians of the Word of God and as the platform for the soon return of the Messiah (Romans 3:1-2; Acts 1:11).

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is seeking to mobilize His Church to preach the Gospel everywhere, as never before, because the hour is coming, of such darkness and persecution, wherein no one will be able to work (minister) (Matthew 28:18-20; John 9:4).

 

My friends, these things are real and, while scoffers will mock and discount them even from within the church, we must discern the times we are living in (Matthew 16:1-3) and watch and pray as Jesus taught us to (Mark 13:33-37) (2 Peter 3:1-7). Do not bury your head in the sand and ignore the warning signs all around you; warning signs on the earth and in the heavens. The people in Noah’s day laughed at him and ignored him, writing him off as a goofball but they were wrong and he was right. Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah so will it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:36-39).” We discount God’s acts around us to our peril. I say again; watch and pray!

Malcolm Hedding

Biblical Community – Week 32 / August 7th

Biblical Community – Week 32 / August 7th

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“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing
that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease
teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Acts 5:41-42

The Bible is clear about the fact that the people of God are a Kingdom under the dominion of God Himself. In the Hebrew Scriptures this took the form of a theocracy. The nation was to be a holy nation, separate from all other nations and regulated by a priesthood and sacrificial system. In the New Covenant this changes as all nations are called into the household of faith and they are to be part of a gathering of believers called the ecclesia or “called out ones”. The temple is now not brick and mortar but people who have embraced Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the cross (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Their main purpose in life is twofold:
1. To be conformed to the image of Christ….and,
2. To be witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection in the world.
Their social interaction is transformed by the power of the indwelling Savior, which in turn means that they love and care for one another. Their mutual life together has no set structure other than that they should gather regularly for the prayers (meaning many prayer meetings), bible study, breaking of bread and fellowship (Acts 2:42). This they can do in a building especially built for this purpose or they can gather in a private dwelling. Paul for instance, at one time, held meetings in a school hall (Ephesians 19:9). However, no matter how they gather their “body life” should and must be “set in order” (Titus 1:5). This means that they are under the spiritual protection of ordained elders and gift ministries designated as Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists and Teachers (Ephesians 4:11).

The Church in every generation is subject to pressure and persecution. This may, as it did in the book of Acts, drive them together for survival purposes to live in closer proximity. That is, in shared housing of some type. The early church in Jerusalem was forced to do this (Acts 4:32-37) but elsewhere, as it took root, it structured itself differently. The style of housing is not important! Rather the purity of essential doctrine and preservation of the believing community is. It is true that a Church in persecution and living in shared housing is more holy but it is equally true that a Church living in shared housing and or in community, but free from persecution, can end up in cultic and controlling behavior. Both of these insights are worth nothing.

What matters is not the housing style but the preservation of the life and witness to Jesus. Some huge Churches, housed in big buildings, are a great blessing filled with God’s life. This we cannot deny. On the other hand, as in China, the Church has grown and multiplied in homes. Its very existence was dependent upon it. In all aspects the rule of thumb is that we should not neglect our gathering together (Hebrews 10:23-25) and we should assemble with those who uphold biblical faith and office. A Church, so called, in a house without ordained leadership is as much a problem and a contradiction as a Church in a fancy building without properly ordained leadership. Both problems exist. A Church “housed together” is a shelter from the storm but it could also be a breeding ground for manipulation and brain washing. Our calling is to read the signs of the times around us and structure the Body of Christ in a manner that enables the people of God to worship freely, be conformed to the image of Christ and bear testimony to the good news of Jesus in the world.
Malcolm Hedding.

Days of Deliverance – Week 28 / July 7

Days of Deliverance – Week 28 / July 7

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“ Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us as prey
to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from
the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we
have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord Who
made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 124:6-8

There is no doubt that the context of this Psalm has to do with Israel’s deliverance from her enemies. The Psalmist affirms that the God of Israel is “on our side when men rose up against us (V2).” Not much has changed since David’s time and today Israel is once again in the “gun-sights” of her enemies. This brings the restored nation to daily vigilance but, while this is necessary, the truth is God watches over Israel to defend and protect her. Her modern history is testimony to this.

Israel’s God is deeply concerned about her spiritual condition and well being and so He allows Israel to go through trials and conflicts in the hope that she will by them hear His voice, repent and return to Him. This was ever so and we see it today as well since the God we serve is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will yet deliver Israel from the teeth of her enemies but she will have to learn the lesson of Who He is and what He requires of her.

It is also true as a principle that we too are caught in the “cross-hairs” of those who hate God. Indeed Paul stated that anyone wishing to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). This pathway is unavoidable but by it we too are brought into better alignment with the will and purposes of God. Christians are not strangers to trials and difficulties and God, by Jesus Christ, will bring them through these so that they can give testimony to the fact that the have escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers! Once escaped, like a bird, they will fly higher and therefore soar to greater heights in Christ.

I wish I could tell you that there is a different way but there is not. It is through many tribulations that we enter into the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22) and so we need patience and endurance (James 1:2-3). God will help us, and always will, if we respond appropriately to Him. We should not look upon the present in all of this but upon the eternal future where we will reap an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So, Israel is a living example to us of God’s faithfulness and we should not let discouragement pull us down. As David once did, strengthen yourself in the Lord since He will never leave or forsake you. After all He is the God that made heaven and earth.

Malcolm Hedding

Life in the Word and Spirit – Week 22 / May 28th

Life in the Word and Spirit – Week 22 / May 28th

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                                                “So now, brethren, I commend you to God

                                                 and to the word of His grace, which is able

                                                 to build you up and give you an inheritance

                                                 among all those who are sanctified.”

                                                                                                Acts 20:32

                                                “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father

                                                 upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem

                                                 until you are endued with power from on

                                                 high.”

                                                                                                Luke 24:49

 

 

Pentecost

In just a short a few weeks we will celebrate Shavuot or Pentecost which is one of the three great pilgrim festivals of the Bible, the others being Passover and Tabernacles. The Feast of Pentecost is a harvest festival plus it was on this Feast that the Torah (five books of Moses) or Word of the living God was given to Israel at Sinai, that is, fifty days after leaving Egypt, and it was on this same day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting Disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4).

 

Pentecost is in every way a joyous celebration as it focuses on God’s “marriage” to Israel at Sinai for it is here at this holy mountain that the Lord God of Israel gives His people a Law that is rich in revelation and instruction and thereby galvanizes them into statehood. The journey of Israel in the wilderness to this climatic place and beyond is most interesting as, apart from the ritual pertaining to the priestly consecration, the focus falls upon; the pillar of cloud and of fire that hung over the camp in the wilderness; the ordination of the seventy elders; the provision of quail and the grace and power that brings forth the Temple of God or Wilderness Tabernacle.

 

The Pillar of Cloud and of Fire

The first of these, the pillar of cloud and of fire, reminds us of the heavenly call to be obedient. When the pillar was lifted, by day or by night, camp was struck and the Israelites went out to follow the cloud or fire and thereby they followed God Himself. Samuel reminds us that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1Samuel 15:22-23) and the book of Acts tells us that God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts5:32).

 

 

The Ordination of the Seventy Elders

The ordination of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-17) places the biblical emphasis upon delegation and ability. The “seventy” could not function until the power of God’s Spirit was upon them. The message is clear; to obey without the means to obey is obedience “still born”. For this reason Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were endued “with power from on high” (Luke24: 49)(Acts 1:8). Once again the message is clear; if we have the Word of God without the Power of God we shall dry up; if we have the Power of God without the Word of God we shall blow up. But, if we have the Word of God and the Power of God we shall grow up and serve the interests of God’s kingdom on earth! Without the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot go into the world and truly build Jesus’ Church.

 

The Quail

The Quail episode recorded in Numbers11: 31-35 is also interesting because God’s supernatural provision leads to an outburst of His anger. Anger because the Israelites gorged themselves and thus behaved as if God would not be in their future. A reminder of Who we serve and that we are stewards of His blessings. Having forgotten this they died and were buried at a place called “Hattaavah” meaning, “graves of the craving.” When we abuse God’s provision and abundance we die spiritually and lose our way. Many a Christian has died at Hattaavah because they have been too busy receiving and getting than serving and doing! The Church of Jesus is not a grandstand and should not be filled with spectators but with participators. This too is the abiding message of the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter two. The Disciples of Jesus were filled with the Spirit so as to go into all the world and serve.

 

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Lastly, Zechariah, the restoration Prophet, reminds us that all of God’s work is pursued through God’ ability. “Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord.” This power of God’s Spirit builds a Temple that is completed with shouts of grace (Zechariah 4: 6-7). All this also reminds us that spiritual life is sustained by corporate life. That is, we should worship together and we fail God when we forsake our assembling together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Certainly the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first Christians in the upper room was a “together experience” (Acts1: 1). Only the Holy Spirit can give us real unity and order and so, when we claim to have His anointing but cannot live together with other believers in unity and love we contradict our claim. Pentecost birthed the Church and formed a people into a community of love no matter what their national, racial, status or gender differences were. When the Spirit came the confusion of tongues that began at Babel was reversed and the multitude heard them speaking as one in the tongues of men (Acts 2:5-12). The multitudes without Christ are ever waiting for the truth about God to be lived out before them and consequently they will respond, as they did on the Day of Pentecost, when the Church embraces and demonstrates this truth through the Word and Spirit of God.

 

Given all of the above it is clear that we have much to learn from the Festival of Pentecost.

 

Malcolm Hedding.

 

 

The Message of Repentance – Week 17 / April 25

The Message of Repentance – Week 17 / April 25

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“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel. For He has visited

                                                 and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn

                                                 of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.”

                                                                                                                Luke 1:68-69

                                                “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but

                                                 now commands all men everywhere to repent.”

                                                                                                                Acts 17:30

                                                “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus

                                                 it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise

                                                 again from the dead the third day, and that repent-

                                                 ance and remission of sins should be preached in

                                                 His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

                                                                                                                Luke 24:46-47

As days of violence, anarchy, wars and natural disasters cover the earth we can be tempted to give way to despair and therefore wonder where it will all end. Add to this the degradation of the environment and the picture only worsens. Our world is in trouble, we are in trouble!

The root of this trouble lies in humankind’s nature. To put it simply; there is something wrong with the human heart because it has rebelled against God and consequently, having been cut off from God, is predisposed toward evil. The Prophet Jeremiah put it this way; “The heart of man is desperately sick and wicked above all things” (Jeremiah 17: 19). David, the great Psalmist of Israel, declared that, “There is none good no not one,” (Psalm 14:1-3) and Paul writing in his Roman epistle said, “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He also asserted that the human heart has become a enemy of God and is therefore not neutral but antagonistic to the things of God (Romans 5:10). These notions of humankind’s sinfulness are of course rejected by our secular world and sadly even by some in the Christian church. For “these worlds” humankind is essentially good and all its problems are largely caused by one’s position in life or by circumstances outside of one’s control. We are all victims and not responsible for our behavior and misery! The Bible affirms that we are indeed the sinful troublemakers that it makes us out to be! Addressing the human condition Dr. Peter Watt writes:

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during the Second World War

wrote, “There cannot be a God of love’, men say, ‘because if there was,

and He looked upon the world, His heart would break.’ The Church points

to the cross and says, ‘It did break.’ It’s God who made the world men say.

It’s He who should bear the load.’ The church points to the cross and says,

‘He did bear it.”

For those then who love God and who have consequently cast themselves upon His grace and redeeming love in Christ, there is a bright, glorious and eternal future (Psalm 1:1-3). The key then to rectifying our “broken and diseased hearts” is, and always will be, repentance. This means owning up to one’s personal wickedness and repenting at the cross for all that one has done and has become. Again, this notion is generally rejected by our arrogant world because of pride. The fallen heart does not easily come to terms with its awful condition but when it repents and embraces Jesus as Lord it enters into God’s only solution for it. This solution is grounded in that which Jesus did for us on the cross. For this reason God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and Jesus began and concluded His ministry with a call to repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 24:46-47).

For those who have the courage to embrace God’s gift of repentance and atoning love in Christ there is laid up for them a pathway of hope, joy and eternal life. This is the unfailing promise of God and this is the only way to travel through a world fast falling apart. We have heart trouble and only the God of the Bible can permanently rectify this condition. In fact His love for the world is so great that His word states that “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9).

As we continue to reflect on the great events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection we are reminded of God’s grace and love and of His willingness to redeem lives that are sinful, broken and even given over to the Devil. This redeeming love was first brought forth and seen in Israel and then it has gone to the four corners of our world (John 1:6-13). It seeks for and redeems hearts that are humble enough to submit to it and it constantly reminds the world that Jesus came into the world not to condemn it but to save it (John 3:17). This He did by bearing in His own body the awful consequences of the world’s rebellion against God; His sufferings were substitutionary or in our place but He rose from the dead triumphant enabling us all to begin again in fellowship and friendship with God and free from our sins and fallen natures. This is good news!

May you experience the joy, peace and blessing of God in this special season of contemplation.

Malcolm Hedding

Passover and Easter – Week 15 / April 10th

Passover and Easter – Week 15 / April 10th

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                                “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed

                                 the Passover Lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do you

                                 want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?”

                                                                                                Mark 14:12

                                “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,

                                 “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the

                                 world.”

                                                                                                John 1:29

                                “….and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,

                                 “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do

                                 this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also

                                 took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new

                                 covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in

                                 remembrance of Me.”

                                                                                                1 Corinthians 11:24-25

 

This year, as in some previous years, Passover and Easter fall in the same week. Their connection is not just one that has to do with our annual calendars but they mirror each other, though separated by thousands of years in terms of their historical context. The one took place 3300 years ago in Egypt and the other 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. What they both have in common is:

  1. The condemnation of the world.

Without the vicarious suffering of another the world, including all of Israel in Egypt, would fall prey to death at the hands of the Angel of Death. Death is more than just our physical expiration; it is being separated from God for all eternity.  We are all a people condemned to die because of our sins.

  1. The marvelous grace of God.

That which saves us from death is not our good works or efforts but the grace of God alone. The Jews in Egypt were as much at risk as the Egyptians were when the Angel of Death approached. Their only hope was the blood of a lamb that had to be appropriated on the door posts and lintels of their homes. In like manner only the blood of the Lamb of God, applied to the doorposts of our hearts can save us from death. God’s grace is wonderful and frees us from a “works based” attempt to please Him. By grace we have been saved!

  1. The changing of our circumstances.

The Israelites of old had to be dressed and ready to leave Egypt in haste. They would now be a changed people who would find their new life in God who came down to deliver them by His mighty hand. They would never be the same again. In like manner we leave the world (Egypt) and follow Christ Who has transformed us, changed our hearts and made us “new creatures.”

  1. The pursuit of the enemy.

Though redeemed and brought under God’s protection, the Israelites were relentlessly pursued by the Egyptians at many levels and not just physically. It’s one thing to come out of Egypt but it’s entirely another to get Egypt out of your heart! For forty years and more the Israelites battled and struggled with the latter. We too have been saved from sin but it takes a lifetime to get sin out of our hearts! In both cases however the enemy has been defeated. “The horse and rider has been thrown into the sea!”

  1. The care, provision and protection of God.

The Exodus story serves as a marvelous lesson about the love that God has for His people. Those redeemed by the blood of a lamb are God’s precious people a holy nation and a royal priesthood. He watches over them day and night. Likewise the Church is also deemed a holy nation and a royal priesthood and Jesus said “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the age.” The lesson is clear; those that are” blood bought” enjoy God’s presence and cannot be separated from Him.

  1. The hope of a promised land.

The Israelites went out of Egypt with the sure assurance that they would inherit a land of milk and honey; and they did. We too have gone out of the Egypt of sin looking for a city that has “foundations whose architect and builder is God.” God desires to dwell forever with His children and indeed He will. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also.”

Isn’t it amazing how Passover and Easter reflect each other? The truth is, they do reflect each other and are really one and the same! Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples and in the middle of this celebration, as He drank the cup of Redemption, He stated that this represented His blood that, like that of a lamb, would be poured out for the saving of the world and as He broke the Matzos Bread, He called their attention to the fact that this was a symbol of His body that would be broken for the world and for the healing thereof.

As we therefore celebrate these things let us do so with great reverence and fear, for God Himself has come down to save and deliver us from our sins and to give us a new and glorious start in life. To Him be all the praise and glory!

Malcolm Hedding

Some Thoughts About Purim – Week 11 / March 17

Some Thoughts About Purim – Week 11 / March 17

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                  “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief
                   and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another
                   place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet
                   who knows whether you have come to the kingdom
                   for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14

The story of Purim, which records the deliverance of the Jews, from certain genocide, by Esther is an interesting one indeed. We of course have this record preserved for us in that book of the Bible that goes by Esther’s name. Given that the festival of Purim has just been celebrated by the Jewish world it is worthwhile to meditate on a few things concerning this story.

Some things are unaltered.

As it was in Esther’s time, the hatred of Jews and Israel continues as an evil phenomenon. The Festival of Purim is taken from the word Pur which actually can be interpreted as, those who cast lots (vote for) the destruction of the Jews. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that this evil desire has not gone away. In one sense Haman lives on today.

Just think of the following:
There has been in one year a 34% rise in anti-Semitism in the UK alone. The Jews of France, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands are constantly being subjected to anti-Semitic attacks of one type or another and then in recent weeks the Jewish community of America has been consistently targeted by anti-Semites who have desecrated Jewish grave yards and community buildings and have consistently threatened their schools with bomb attacks. Israel, the “collective Jew”, exists under the constant threat of attack from the north, south and east. All of this just seventy-five years after the Holocaust.

Some things are unusual.
Esther was the Queen of a Gentile Media-Persian King, the truth is she had held her Jewish identity a well kept secret. It also means that to a great degree she had assimilated, and thus in every way she had lived like a Gentile. How else can one explain the fact that not even the King knew of or suspected her Jewish identity and yet God had planted her at the very heart of the kingdom? The God we serve does unusual things in terms of His protection of Israel and the Jewish people. Even now He has Esthers planted in the right places of power and prestige in order to save His people. Joseph is another example of this; he dressed as an Egyptian, worked as an Egyptian and even looked like an Egyptian but he was a Jew sent before his people to save them from starvation and extermination. This is indeed unusual. Ruth, a Gentile woman, is another example of this and she gave hope to Naomi, saved her from poverty and shame and then took her place in David’s lineage.

Some things are unexpected.
Mordecai said to Esther, “…you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Most Christians understand this coming to the kingdom as referring to the kingdom of God. This is not true and is a violation of the context. The “kingdom” to which Esther came was the pagan kingdom of the Media-Persian empire. In other words she had been cunningly placed by God, Who in fact is not referred to at all in the book, in the heart of this pagan empire so as to use her influence in it to save her people.

In like manner, we all have a sphere of influence in the world and we must use it to defend Israel and the Jews and in fact to proclaim the Gospel. Our ” kingdom” is our place of influence in an ungodly world.

Some things are undecided.
Giving verbal support to these things is not good enough and thus it remains undecided whether we will arise like Esther and use our position in the world to defend the purpose of God and even risk our lives for the Church and the Jewish people. There comes a time when having meetings and even praying is not enough to please God, we have to act. The book of Esther is about action and this is why God is not mentioned in the book but His purpose is clear and it needs defending!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the now famous Lutheran Priest, fled Germany just before the Second World War as he wished to escape from the tyranny of Hitler’s Reich. He thus went to New York. One day, as he stood gazing at the Hudson River, he heard the voice of God say to him, “Who are you and what are you doing here.” In short, God was saying to him, “What are you made of and why have you abandoned your sphere of influence?” Consequently he went back to Germany and in his ministry stood up against Nazism. He embraced his sphere of influence that he had abandoned and eventually gave his life for it as the Nazis hanged him just before the war ended. The lesson is, as it was with Esther, will we decide to take the challenge and embrace our world of influence? Mordecai knew, when he spoke to Esther, that the issue was undecided and therefore he told her that if she didn’t rise to the challenge someone else would. This challenge applies to you and me today and the outcome remains undecided!

Malcolm Hedding

Behold I Make All Things New – Week 9 / March 2nd

Behold I Make All Things New – Week 9 / March 2nd

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“For behold, I create new heavens and a

new earth; and the former shall not be

remembered or come to mind. But be

glad and rejoice forever in what I create;

for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,

and her people a joy.”

Isaiah 65:17-18

 

The world we presently live in has been subjected to futility and consequently decay and death are everywhere evident (Romans 8:18-22). Even we are “trapped” by physical death that, while having no sting because of what Jesus did for us, nevertheless still holds a certain foreboding in all of us. Then there is the raging of the ungodly that brings misery, sorrow, destruction, persecution and war to our earthly experience. This should not be because a lonely cross set on a hill in Jerusalem defeated these things 2000 years ago but it remains ignored and even mocked and so the rot continues.

The good news is that God is going to make all things new again! This is His promise and indeed it is required because of what Jesus did; the cosmos must be set in order (Ephesians 1:9-10). A “new creation family” must have a new world to live in and in this world they will shine like the sun (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43). So, the final two chapters of the book of Revelation tell us about the coming:

New World Order (Revelation 21:5)

For those who overcome there will be a new order that is truly beyond description. It will be the inheritance of those who have embraced Jesus as Lord and who, in their lives on the present earth, have honored God with transformed lives and deeds of righteousness in the face of great and overwhelming challenges (Revelation 19:8). They have “overcome” this evil age and have become what God wanted them to be by the power of the cross (Galatians 1:3-4).

This new order will be characterized by:

  1. A new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:1)

The beauty and glory of this coming creation will be amazing because it will not be retarded by the principles of death and decay. These will be things of the past.

  1. A new city (Revelation 21:2)

The great Patriarchs of our faith went out in pursuit of God because they were given a glimpse of the City of God (Hebrews 11:10; 13:14). Indeed, like them we too abandon the “attraction of the earthly city” because God has something better for us. The eternal City of God will be 1500 miles wide, long and high; its glories are indescribable but John does give us a description of them (Revelation 21:10-21).

This city will have Jewish under-pinnings thereby eternally memorializing the particular role that Israel has played out for the redemption of the world (Revelation 21:12-14) Jesus recognized this when He said, “Salvation is of the Jews”(John 4:22).

  1. A new relationship (Revelation 21:3-4)

God Himself will be visible and amongst His people and He will personally remove the “former things” from them. What a glorious day this is going to be! This embodiment of the divine presence will find its full expression in the person of Jesus. The passage tells us that He:

  • Will be the joy of the city (Revelation 21:9)
  • Will be the desire of the city (Revelation 21:22)
  • Will be the light of the city (Revelation 21:23)
  • Will be the door to the city (Revelation 21:27)
  • Will be the life of the city (Revelation 22:1)
  • Will be the King of the city (Revelation 22:3)
  1. What is absent? (Revelation 21:8; 22:15)

This list is challenging because it tells us that those who:

  • Worship themselves or things other than God
  • Reject the sexual boundaries created by God
  • Practice the occult in rebellion against God
  • Habitually lie and contradict the character of God…and,
  • Take life and thereby dishonor the image of God……………

Will go to hell! They will find themselves “in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.

The abiding expectation and longing that God’s new people have is for the coming of Jesus. We should constantly hold this before our spiritual eyes as it is certain and it constitutes a blessed hope that will keep us true to our confession of faith in Him. “Behold, Jesus says, “I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:7, 12,16, 20)

“Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

 

Malcolm Hedding

Biblical Christian Zionism – Week 6 / February 2nd

Biblical Christian Zionism – Week 6 / February 2nd

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“Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s

           house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation;

           I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a bless-

           ing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who

           curses you, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3

“And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him,

           ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are-

          northward, southward, eastward and westward; for all the which

          you see I will give to your descendants (seeds) forever.”

Genesis 13:14-15

“In your seed (singular) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

           because you have obeyed my voice.”

Genesis 22:18

“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does

           not say, ‘And to seeds’, as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your seed”,

          who is Christ.”

Galatians 3:16

“For if the inheritance is of law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave

           it to Abraham by promise.”

Galatians 3:18

“And this I say, that the law, which was given four hundred and thirty

           years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before God

           in Christ.”

Galatians 3:17

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear

           by no one greater, He swore by Himself…………Thus God, determining

           to show more abundantly to the heirs (seeds) of promise the immuta-

           bility of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable

           things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong

           consolation, who have fled for refuge  to lay hold of the hope set before

           us.”

Hebrews 6:13,17-18

 

Recently, in response to one of my weekly devotionals, an individual claiming to be Christian accused me of deception, of misleading the people of God and warned me that Jesus was going to judge me for these things. He thus presented himself, very proudly I might add, as my prosecutor, judge and jury. He pressed the case, judged the case and gave his verdict. For him the modern state of Israel is an accident of history, is antichrist and guilty of apartheid.

He states these things as a Christian and all because at the root of it all he subscribes to Replacement Theology which considers the Abrahamic Covenant to be either abolished or adjusted. The result of this re-arrangement of the Abrahamic Covenant is that the modern day restoration of Israel enjoys no biblical significance. It is, as I stated above, a mere accident of history and indeed an immoral one. But is this true? Of course not as it is all based on the false exegesis of scripture.

The passage of scripture this person used to bolster his claims was that found in Galatians 3 where Paul, commenting on the covenant that God made with Abraham, stated that the promises of God were not made to many but to one proved by the use of the word seed as in singular (one person) and not seed in the use of many. So, for this person this proves that the covenant has now been adjusted or indeed abolished as it is all fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Jews therefore no longer have a claim then to the land of Canaan.

The truth is, Paul is not here adjusting anything and he is certainly not addressing the land issue of the Abrahamic Covenant at all. Actually he is addressing the contentious issue that arose in his time between law and grace. That is, are we saved by the keeping the law or by the grace of God brought to us by virtue of Christ’s death on the cross?  This is the only context of the passage in question. He is in fact just stating what the Abrahamic Covenant stated in its original form and thereby demonstrating that the covenant in its original form promised that salvation would come through the nation of Israel in the form of a seed, a single seed. It will be by this seed that all peoples, Jew or Gentile, would be saved. This promise Paul says was given 430 years before God gave the law to Moses and he then reinforces the immutability of the Abrahamic Covenant by staying that it can never be annulled in its original form. In other words the law of Moses has not replaced it.

It is this Covenant that not only promises the coming of a “Seed Savior” but which also bequeaths the land of Israel to the Jewish people (the seeds as in plural) as an everlasting possession and which promises a blessing and a curse depending on how people or nations respond to it. It is one Covenant with a number of components and Paul is only appealing to one of these components to prove his point; namely that salvation will not come to the world by the keeping of the law but in fact by exercising faith in the redemptive work of the “Seed”. The subject of Galatians 3 is that only of law and grace and Paul’s punch line is, “The law is our teacher to bring us to Christ” (3:24) since by hanging on a tree He became a curse for us. The law Is not not our savior but the way to the Savior (the seed) as it convicts us of our sin (Romans:3:20).

Here Paul is actually upholding the veracity of the Abrahamic Covenant not disavowing it. Hebrews 6 asserts that God will remain faithful to the Abrahamic Covenant because it is ratified by His word and character, two immutable things by which it is impossible for God to lie. My detractor is indeed challenging God’s immutability and thereby accusing Him of lying. For him God is actually not faithful to His covenant with Abraham and therefore does mean what He says!

The Abrahamic Covenant is both conditional and unconditional in that it was conditional only upon Abraham’s obedience. Genesis 22, dealing with the “binding of Isaac”, demonstrated Abraham’s faithfulness and obedience to God resulting in the promise that a “seed” would come through the nation (the seeds) who would bless the world with salvation. There is no adjustment here to any part of the Covenant as this promise is made in its original form and therefore it is a part of the whole. This “whole” vouches for the fact that the land of Canaan is the everlasting possession of the Jewish people. The Covenant, according to Paul, will never be annulled, not in whole or in part, and therefore the modern day restoration of Israel to the land of Canaan is evidence of God’s faithfulness to it. Just as Israel’s restoration to the land after the Babylonian exile also was.

This is no different to a binding contract made today in that these have many clauses or components to them and sometimes one or two of these have to be defended to ensure compliance with the whole contract. Paul in Galatians 3 is doing only and just that, nothing and more and nothing less.

This is the truth of God’s word and it is the truth that many of God’s great servants believed on and acted upon including the first century church leaders, John and Charles Wesley, the Puritans, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Bishop Ryle of Liverpool, Derek Prince, Jack Hayford, Franklin Graham and presently the world’s greatest expositor of the Bible, David Pawson. This is just a very small selection of well known and proven teachers of God’s holy word who support the biblical position I have set forth above. I will be most happy, as my detractor has asserted, to be scrutinized with the Wesleys and Charles Spurgeon on that great day when Jesus comes again.

As a biblical Christian Zionist I want to encourage all of you not to be deterred by those who assert that God has no destiny for the Jewish people in the land of Canaan. They are wrong and will be proved to be wrong as they have no biblical grounds for their assertions. Least of all any support for them from Galatians 3. Finally, the Bible teaches that when the Messiah comes again in great power and glory to the Mount of Olives He will do so to defend His people Israel and a Jewish Jerusalem. I pray, please tell me why He would defend, what some assert to be, a political accident!

Most of all dear friends, God’s faithfulness to every part of the Abrahamic Covenant is held up before us by the writer of the book of Hebrews as undeniable proof that the God of the Bible does keep His promises and especially all those made to us in the New Covenant. You can trust His word because He does not lie!

Malcolm Hedding