Israel’s sin and God’s faithfulness

God is faithful to Israel

In the Bible, the history of humanity is one of failure, with some notable exceptions due to God’s grace. That is true of the history of the Gentiles. It is also true of the history of Israel. In choosing their own direction, all peoples have failed to fulfill God’s purpose.

 
The Biblical history of Israel, the most blessed of peoples, demonstrates what is true of all mankind. During her history, Israel rejected God’s Redeemer (Moses), His provision (manna), His land (Canaan), His Kingship, His Covenant, and His messengers (the prophets). (Ex. 5:21, 16:3; Num. 11:5-6, 13:31-14:10; 1 Sam. 8:7-8; Neh. 9:34-35; Dan. 9:6)  Yet despite all this, the Lord remained faithful.
The children of Israel turned away from the Lord to live for their own purposes. (cf. Is. 53:6)  They wanted leeks and onions rather than the Promised Land. (Num. 11:4-6)  In reviewing their history, God said through Jeremiah that Israel had not heeded His prophets, but continued to do evil. (Jer. 7:25-26)


In the wilderness, Aaron yielded to the people and made for them an idol of gold. God told Moses that He would punish the people and make a great nation of Moses. (Ex. 32:7-10) Yet Moses was not seeking a name or inheritance for himself at Israel’s expense.  Moses, like God himself, loved Israel.  So he pleaded with God to change His mind. (Ex. 32:12-13) The Lord listened to the entreaty of Moses, and spared Israel.  Even though His people had forsaken Him, God remained faithful.


Later, Israel sinned by rejecting the Lord as King.  Samuel, the servant of the Lord, rebuked the people, but at the same time he assured them of God’s eternal faithfulness: “Do not fear.  You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. . . .  For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” (1 Sam. 12:20, 22)

But Israel continued in infidelity.  After God had sent the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity, He said, “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.” (Jer. 3:8) Nevertheless, God still loved His people and remained true to His promise.  “‘Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness. . . .  If you will return, O Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘Then you should return to Me.  And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, and will not waver, and you will swear, “As the Lord lives,” in truth, in justice, and in righteousness; then the Gentiles will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory.'” (Jer. 3:22, 4:1-2)

Throughout the book of Hosea, the Lord compares Israel to an unfaithful wife who must be judged and sent away. Yet He says, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?  How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  My heart is turned over within Me, all my compassions are kindled. . . .  I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them.   I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily.” (Hos. 11:8, 14:4-5; cf. Dt. 29:23)

God declared that there would be distress and exile because of the infidelity of Jacob’s children, but went on to promise restoration.  “‘And fear not, O Jacob My Servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘And do not be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity.  And Jacob shall return, and shall be quiet and at ease, and no one shall make him afraid.  For I am with you,’ declares the Lord, ‘to save you.  For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you, only I will not destroy you completely.  But I will chasten you justly, and will by no means leave you unpunished.'” (Jer. 30:10-11) The judgment is what God’s people deserved; the redemption and restoration are the fruit of His love and grace.

In unfaithfulness, Israel refused to be separate from the goyim (Gentiles), so God drove them into exile among the goyim. Because of God’s faithfulness, He promised to bring them back to their own land. 
“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal. 3:6) As long as God does not change, the sons of Jacob will endure.
“For neither Israel nor Judah has been widowed by his God, the Lord of hosts, although their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel.” (Jer. 51:5) In the midst of Moses’ prophecy of Israel’s future unfaithfulness, God’s judgment upon it, and her eventual restoration, the Lord promised Israel, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6, 8)

Psalm 106 reviews Israel’s history of sin and unfaithfulness.  It describes the anger of the Lord toward His people, and His judgments upon them.  But then it concludes: “Nevertheless He looked upon their distress, when He heard their cry; and He remembered His covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.  He also made them objects of compassion in the presence of all their captives.
“Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the Gentiles, to give thanks to Thy holy name, and glory in Thy holy name, and glory in Thy praise.  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting.  And let all the people say, ‘Amen.’  Praise the Lord.” (Ps. 106:44-48) 

The sin of Israel was great; but nevertheless God, in judgment, remembered mercy.      
 

Reprinted with permission from http://www.elijahnet.net/

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The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant

When Israel came out of Egypt, one of the first things God instructed Moses to build was the Tabernacle.  This would be the place where God’s presence was with them in a special way.  And the heart of the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies.  Inside that place was the ‘Ark of the Covenant.’

The Ark of the Covenant was a kind of chest, measuring two cubits and a half in length, a cubit and a half in breadth, and a cubit and a half in height. Made of incorruptible acacia wood.  It was overlaid within and without with the purest gold, and a golden crown or rim ran around it. At the four corners, very likely towards the upper part, four golden rings had been cast; through them passed two bars of setim wood overlaid with gold, to carry the Ark. These two bars were to remain always in the rings, even when the Ark had been placed in the temple of Solomon. The cover of the Ark, termed the “propitiatory” (the corresponding Hebrew means both “cover” and “that which makes propitious”), was likewise of the purest gold.

The ark was an item that pointed Israel to her Messiah. 

** The ark was made out of both wood and gold.  So, in a sense, was the Messiah made out of both wood and gold.  Wood is made from the dust of the earth.  So was the Messiah.  He was human.  Gold is a symbol of Deity.  So was the Messiah.  He is Deity incarnate.

** The ark held the Law of God inside.  The Ten Commandments were inside the ark.  So too, inside the Messiah, was the Law of God.  He never broke a single command His entire life.

** The ark held Aaron’s dead staff which came back to life.  So was the Messiah.  He was dead and came back to life.

** The ark held a pot of manna – the bread used to sustain Israel.  So was the Messiah.  He literally fed thousands (Matthew 14) and also spiritually is called the Bread of Life. (John 6).  Our spirit feeds off of Him daily.

** The ark had a place for mercy – the Mercy Seat.  Sacrificial animal blood was sprinkled on this seat annually and when done properly, Israel received forgiveness from her sins.  So too with the Messiah.  His blood (much better) is the place where we receive mercy and forgiveness for our sins.  The substitute has paid the penalty.  We are forgiven.  Hallelujah. 

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What were cities of refuge?

What were cities of refuge?

In real life – a man’s blood could be shed in two ways – on purpose or by accident.  In biblical times, if someone was killed on purpose, and there were witnesses, then it was murder.  They were put to death.  Case closed.

But what about ”accidents?”  And who determined if it was an accident or not?  This is where the cities of refuge came into the picture.

You see – in ancient near east culture, when a man died suddenly and the person with him was suspected of murdering him, it was the duty of the next-of-kin to ”avenge” his family members blood.  To track the killer down and make him pay for this.

But what if it truly happened by accident?  After the event, with the heat of the moment strong and emotions running high, the next-of-kin might not be open to a rational explanation. Therefore, God set the terms for justice under these conditions.

”Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ”Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there.  They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.”  (Numbers 35: 9-12)

The Mosaic Law stated that anyone who committed a murder on purpose was to be put to death (Exodus 21:14). But for unintentional deaths, God set aside these cities to which the murderer could flee for refuge (Exodus 21:13). He would be safe from the avenger—the family member charged with avenging the victim’s death (Numbers 35:19)—until the case could go to trial. It is assumed that the Levites would be the most suitable and impartial judges and therefore, their cites were chosen as the place to run to for protection.

city of refuge entrance 2

If the avenger of blood were to defy the law and take the manslayer’s life anyway, either inside the city of refuge, or outside it after the high priest’s death, then he would himself become a murderer. The Cities of Refuge were six towns where the Levites lived where the perpetrators of manslaughter could claim the right of asylum.

Outside of these cities, there was no protection from blood vengeance. The Torah names the six cities as being cities of refuge:

On the eastern side of the Jordan: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor.

On the western side: Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron.

cities of refuge locations

The Talmud states that the roads to these cities were not only marked by signposts saying “Refuge”, but the roads were twice the regulation width—and were particularly smooth and even, in order that fugitives were as unhindered as possible.

cities of refuge well marked

A chapter in the Book of Joshua (chapter 20) also reiterates the regulations for the cities of refuge, adding that when a perpetrator arrives at the city, he had to disclose the events that had occurred to the city elders, after which they had to find him a place to live within the city.  If he did, he would return to the city of refuge and live there safely UNTIL the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the trial, at which point he could then safely return to his property.

However, if the manslayer left the city of refuge BEFORE the death of the high priest, the avenger would have the right to kill him (Numbers 35:24-28).

So what does this mean today?  What lesson is in it for us?  It represented, and still represents, the sinner who has broken the Divine law as pursued by an avenger, JUSTICE, following with drawn sword, exclaiming, ”The soul that sins—it must surely die!” (Ezekiel 18:4)  The cities of refuge are types of Messiah, in whom the sinner will find a refuge.  A place of safety.

The manslayer was to stay within the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. This concept indicates that the high priest bore the iniquity of the spilled blood to his own grave. By doing this he released the manslayer from the burden of accountability.

The manslayer could only leave the city of refuge after the death of the high priest. The believer today will never leave the city of refuge as the high priest will die no more.  But that city is a glorious one!  Why would we want to leave?  (Hebrews 11:1)

Today we urge sinners to run to the city of refuge!  The high priest (Jesus) will protect us from Justice!  And we can live in His city forever as He will never die again!

Jesus city of refuge

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Doug’s Story

Doug bar mitzvah

A Jewish Young Man Meets His Messiah –
The Testimony of Douglas Carmel

Doug
Doug

I was born in New York City to a newly immigrated Israeli man (Sephardic) and an American Jewish woman (Ashkenazi.) Their marriage lasted only two short years. My mother eventually left and went back to her mother’s house. It was under the care of these two Jewish women that I received much of my traditional Jewish upbringing.  We also attended a Conservative “Shul” in New York City and I attended Hebrew School there for several years preparing for my Bar-Mitzvah.

My mother had to find work to support us which meant that much of my time was spent with a dear Jewish immigrant from the old country affectionately known as my grandmother. She spoke fluent Yiddish and as a result I learned to understand much of the old country language.

My grandmother’s sense of Jewish tradition burned bright against the NYC gentile background. We kept two sets of silverware: One for milk, and one for meat. We lit annual Yortzit candles in memory of her husband, my grandfather. We always observed the Jewish holidays in the Spring and Fall. We attended Seders.  I loved looking at our Shul’s  Sukkah. We celebrated Hanukkah.  We even took vacations to Collins Ave in Miami!  We were a very typical Jewish family in New York City!

While most of my friends were allowed to play ball on the street almost every October day, there were two specific days during that month that I, as a Jew, was not to participate in such activity. It was not under the threat of mom’s punishment that I abstained, but rather from a sense of belonging to my people. On the Jewish Holy Days of Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanna I simply did not act as the gentiles did. Why? We had to attend synagogue for special services.  In synagogue, I was told that Yom Kippur was the day that we were to fast. God would forgive us of our sins on that day for the year. We were not to engage in any normal activities that day – not even turning on a light switch! You can imagine how difficult this must have been to this ten year old boy, but we were Jewish… And if this is what God wanted us to do…

As I entered my teens I began to ponder the meaning and value of these and other traditional observances. This idea of just fasting one day a year for the forgiveness of my sins raised perplexing questions in my heart and mind. How could I fast just one day a year and the rest of the year do whatever I wished? No one in synagogue ever spoke about avoiding sin. And then the question of forgiveness began to loom greater and greater as time passed and I progressed into areas of life that I inherently knew were not pleasing to God.

I graduated from High School at the age of sixteen and went on to college, becoming fascinated by a lifestyle that would eventually shape all of my activities during that period of time.  The life of wine, women and song. Rock music and my large collection of albums and tapes became a kind of inner haven as the rock musicians seemed to strike chords deep within my soul. I was also lured by the beauty of women in different girlfriends, videos, etc – all the time trying to keep things hidden from my parents.

I recall one day at college noticing a button on a girl’s jacket which stated, “Sin now, pray later.”  The impact of that statement I will never forget, because I thought, “That’s me!” My religious Jewish upbringing was still there, buried deep under outer layers of sin. I still respected God and His standards.  In retrospect, I believe that by God’s Holy Spirit, the button on that rebellious girl’s jacket was used gently by God to convict me of my sins that day.

I graduated from a NY State University (SUNY) in 1985 at the age of 21. In May of 1986, I was up in the late hours of the evening watching television (as was my habit then) when I heard a slight rumbling sound outside possible coming from the sky. I went to our seventh floor apartment window and stuck my head out, but saw nothing. It stopped. I went back to the couch and watched TV.  A few moments later, the low sounding strange noise outside occurred again. It almost sounded like the sound a plane leaves when it takes off from a runway, but this was at about 2AM and there were no planes taking off nor did we live near a runway.  Also, it did not just fade out, but had a definite start/stop moment.   I went over to the window once more but saw nothing in the sky… And then suddenly a thought crossed my mind for a few seconds that changed my life and eternity…. “This is it! The Christians are right! JESUS IS COMING BACK and it’s tonight!!” For a few seconds, my eyes were riveted to the sky as I waited for horses to appear in the sky and for this Jesus to return as I knew the Christians said he would do one day.

Even though I was Jewish, I had listened to a few TV evangelists growing up, and obviously something had stuck with me. The Messiah obviously did not part the clouds that night, but His Spirit DID begin to penetrate through my heart. I suddenly realized that night how afraid I was of dying (because I knew that was a sinner) and on that couch I told God that I would give up things that I knew were wrong, that were sin. The fear eased, but…..

Forgiveness. Real forgiveness.  How does one really get it? That was now my question. It consumed me.  Deep down I knew there had to be something more than just Yom Kippur (that one day of fasting a year,) but what was it? Somehow the TV evangelists had impressed on me the fact that somehow forgiveness and Jesus went together. I also knew vaguely that Jesus was Jewish.  That week I was very much passionately driven to understand how it all worked. There was no putting this off any longer. As the girl’s button had said, “Sin now, pray later,” but now I knew for certain that God had not promised me that there would be a ‘later’.  I sought out how to be forgiven with all my heart. The synagogue I attended had never spoken clearly of any afterlife and I didn’t want to walk into the foreign territory of a church – I was Jewish! But I remembered an organization in Manhattan that was made up of Jewish people who believed in Jesus. (Messianic Jews as I now know they are called.) I called information and got the phone number.  Obviously there were other people who are Jewish and believed in Jesus.  I needed to speak with them.

I called their offices and told the man on the other end that basically, I wanted to be saved. He offered to meet me downtown. When we met, he answered some of my questions and gave me some good Bible literature to read that had information from the Hebrew Bible (commonly called the Old Testament) which pointed to the Messiah. One of the pieces included a prayer on how to receive the Messiah. I think I prayed it on the subway while returning home. I also called “The 700 Club” and prayed to receive Jesus into my life with a phone counselor.  She assured me I was forgiven, saved and heaven bound.

My behavior changed drastically after that, not because anyone told me, but I inherently knew it was right.  Needless to say my family was NOT pleased with me.  I was now breaking up with my girlfriend, breaking all my rock albums, etc…  No one told me to do this, but I wanted to please God now.  I was ushered in to see our family Rabbi, and then a family counselor, then a psychologist and then two trained anti-missionaries. These were top men in the NYC area trained in how to bring Jewish children “back” to the Jewish faith.  One of them (Gerald Sigal) gave me a copy of his book and invited me into his home.  I visited him there and we had many discussions.  But even with all his words throwing me into confusion, God still had His hand on me. The more I studied their writings, the more I realized what they (the Jewish community against Jesus)  wrote was ultimately not in line with what the full picture of the Hebrew Bible was saying.  One Friday, at a Shabbat Messianic service in Manhattan, I heard a tremendous message by a Jewish believer in Jesus named J’han Moskowitz. God used that message and the man mightily in my life, and that night all my doubts and fears began to literally melt away. I knew for a fact that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah, and I responded during the invitation / rededication. 

I began reading all that I could about the Messiah and the Bible.  I went back to Gerald Sigal to say goodbye and to show him how the messianic prophecies in the Jewish scriptures (like Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:24-26, etc.- tons more) pointed to Yeshua (Jesus) so clearly! That if Jesus did not fulfill all these prophecies then no one in future history could fulfill them.  Of course he wanted nothing to do with it. 

Each day I grew closer to Yeshua, and eventually I was asked to leave my family’s apartment. It was causing too much stress.  This was just before my sisters’ Bat-Mitzvah.  I was very upset at this, however, it worked out for the best. I was able to move in with another Jewish believer in NY and slept on his couch. Then I began to read the scriptures like never before – without fear of having my Bible confiscated this time (like my mother used to do.)  As I studied more, it became so very clear that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel who fulfilled the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The prophecies of the suffering Messiah are fulfilled in Him.  The prophecies of the reigning King Messiah will be fulfilled when He returns.  The rabbis said in their writings there were going to be two Messiahs – a suffering servant and a reigning King.  I now see there is really only one who will fulfill both roles.

Since then, the Lord has been with me.  Married with five children and sharing the message of the Jewish Messiah before evangelicals for over 24 years now.  I have shared and taught about Jesus in the Feasts of Israel and similar topics in over 900 services.  I have traveled to over half of the United States sharing my story and teaching. I have been a part of the Rock of Israel Ministries since 1995.