Rising Up to the Calling

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts; ‘In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, ‘We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.’”  Zechariah 8:23

Imagine that.  Imagine looking at someone and thinking, “Wow!  God is with them.  Just look at their life.”  I know people that I look at and see that.  Their life just exudes that You are with them.  And it’s not because everything in their life is always going wonderfully.  It’s something different.  It’s like in the verses in this chapter that talk about the old men and women and boys and girls dwelling in the streets of the city again.  It’s about dwelling or living in You in contentment and safety.  It’s about being brought into the midst of You.  It’s about being Yours and You being theirs.  It’s about truth and righteousness.  It’s about prospering in You and bearing Your fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It’s about receiving Your provision and Your goodness.  And it’s reflected in how we speak truth and treat others in truth and peace and fair judgment.  It’s reflected in how we don’t want to treat others wrongly, or lie.  It’s in joy and gladness and celebration because of who You are and what You do.  And others see this and are drawn to know You in their lives.

So this is what You were telling Israel that You would do with them.  You wanted to do it already but they had chosen another way.  And now You wanted to give them a flavor of what it tasted like and felt like to be a light to each other and the Gentiles again.  But You also wanted them to know that they were to be a part of the building of an even larger kingdom than themselves. 

Those who are not of Israel, must not lose sight of Your vision, Lord.  Because You still have a plan for Israel to be Your light.  And Israel is our light through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, who lived and died and rose again for Jew and Gentile to be reunited in You and to You.  But You have not forgotten Israel, Lord, and neither should we.  Maybe if the Gentile community of believers focussed more on the heart of Your word in all of Scripture instead of following “church history” we might have the kind of relationship with our Jewish brothers and sisters that would help them to see the Messiah.  And maybe we would be part of helping them to fulfill this vision as they are drawn back to You when they see others with a living relationship with You.  What if they became jealous for a relationship with the Holy One like that?

Paul was a “Jew of Jews.”  It took a “knock you off your donkey and blind you” experience for him to stop and rethink and see Jesus.  Paul knew what it was to be wholly Jewish.  As a matter of fact, he never stopped being Jewish.  But listen to what he said about his Jewish brothers and sisters who did not know or accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.  “So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall?  By no means!  Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”  Some Jews believed, but not the majority.  You, Lord, had already implemented a plan before time began and that was to use Gentiles to minister back to those who had ministered to them.  Why?  So that, “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them,” said Paul.  Why would any one want someone else to receive Your love and care, more than us?  We looked on and saw that love and wanted it for our own.  Are we demonstrating that kind of love that was shown to us so that they would want it for their own and miss it in their lives?

Listen.  The Lord of hosts wants to take Israel, and have people of every nation taking hold of the robe of a Jew and wanting to go with them, together, to the God that is with them.  Why?  To worship together.  But look at that idea of grabbing the skirt or robe of the Jew because if we stop to look back to what this is really saying in the original language, it’s beautiful.

The word for skirt or robe here is kanaph.  It means an edge or extremity, especially like that of a bird or army, like a wing.  It is also used as the word for the tzit tzit on the edge of the men’s shirts/robes in those days.  They are still used today on Jewish men’s shirts.  So a kanaph has to do with the outer edge or corners of this cover, or shirt.  And as I said, it could be used for bird wings, or wings of other heavenly creatures.  Metaphorically, it could be used for God’s protective covering.  Could this tie in with the Messiah?  Listen to Jesus’ words to Israel, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34)

So could this grabbing on have to do with the “wings” of this garment on the Jew and grabbing on to Your protection, Lord?  Kanaph isn’t just about a garment or skirt.  Canapé is about that specific part, that part attached to the corners.  That’s where the tzitzit comes in.  It’s the ritual knotted fringe worn on the edges of the prayer shawl.  It represents Your word, the Torah.  Remember that woman with the bleeding issue all those years?  Remember how she grabbed the hem of Jesus’ robe?  She was doing the same things these people from other nations would be doing.  I suppose she was setting an example for those in the future or maybe she just understood.  Why did she do that?  Maybe she understood that one could find “healing in the ‘wings’” of Jesus, of Yeshua.  So maybe what You are saying through Zechariah is that the nations will grasp Your word, even that of the Torah, the Old Testament, and join in it’s righteousness with the Jews.  Why?  Because they’ll see God in them.

God’s vision has already started.  God was bringing it to pass when Naman took hold of his little Jewish slave girl’s advice and came to Israel for healing in the Lord.  The woman at the well took hold of it when she heard the words of Jesus at the well.  There’s no way any of us can come, Jew or Gentile, without taking hold of the wings of that Jewish carpenter who is the Messiah.  Either we come under the protection of His wings and enter into His life by living in His Word or we live outside of any true protection. 

And although Jesus is the Ultimate One we must cling to, I still believe that You, Lord, have a heart for Your people Israel to shine Your light in Jesus Christ throughout this world again for all to see.  So I pray that You would make me a light to them, to those who haven’t seen You yet, that I might see You as You really are all throughout Your Word, because You are the Word, in order that they might be able to see You where they haven’t seen You before.  It’s not that there is anything wrong with being Jewish or practicing Judaism.  It’s a vision problem.  It’s a matter of whether one sees the wings of the One who has always been there to protect and be theirs.  It’s a matter of abiding under the Mother Hen’s wings and seeing things Her way or just following the traditions of our fathers.  And the fact is, today is no different than the days of Zechariah and we can get lost in traditions of men.  And we can follow traditions of God without understanding the heart of it, or His heart.  But what a joy it would be for Jew and Gentile to grab hold of each other’s hands and run together to the city of God with nothing but rejoicing and gratitude and worship and love in our hearts.  Lord, Your will be done, and may I be a part of that and may Israel rise up to it’s calling.

Forming His Treasure

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“I know that whatever God does will last forever; there is nothing to add or subtract from it; and God has done it so that people will fear him.  That which was is here already; and that which will be has already been, but God seeks out what people chase after.”  Ecclesiastes 4:14,15

Maybe it’s funny or unusual that I’m drawn to the writings in Ecclesiastes right now.  I mean, really, it’s not one of the most encouraging books.  Solomon, the author, actually seems pretty disillusioned with things.  All his wisdom, riches, and power have become “vanity of vanities” to him.  But there are these nuggets throughout that run deeper and give me hope in a life that sometimes doesn’t seem to make sense.

“I know that whatever God does will last forever; there is nothing to add or subtract from it; and God has done it so that people will fear Him.”  But I wonder if Solomon, the wisest man ever on earth, still missed some things?  Because here he was, looking all around himself and talking about how none of it would last.  And he was talking about his legacy not lasting after he was gone.  Some fool could follow and destroy everything he had worked so hard building.  And in the midst of thinking that way, he made this statement, “whatever God does will last forever.”  Well what does God do?  What do You do, Lord?  What have You done?  What are You doing?

Weren’t You molding Solomon?  Weren’t You building a kingdom?  Was Solomon looking at things the way You were?  I’m not trying to insult his wisdom here, but if this was written later in life while Solomon had been wrongly influenced by the beliefs of his Pagan wives, maybe Solomon’s “wise” perspective was just a little off.  I mean, he was still speaking wise truth, but maybe he wasn’t seeing the full truth himself.  Was God really doing a work outside of Solomon?  Was His work in the works of Solomon’s hands, in the physical kingdom, on the outside?  Is that the real work that You were doing, Lord?

Whatever God does will last.  That word for does is “asah.”  It’s also used in the creation account.  But so is another word “bara.”  These two words carry different weights.  Bara is the essence of “created” while asah is the forming of the stuff that was created.  So maybe the thing that Solomon and I have to focus on is what You are really working on forming?  Are You using all the created things in my life and were You using all the created things in everyone’s life, including Solomon’s to form and mold and shape each one of us into Your image?  Is that the important part that will last forever?  Is it not about the stuff but about the one You are forming and the one who is allowing You to form them?  Are we the part of creation that is supposed to last with You?

So here You are forming us, moment by moment.  And there is nothing in this world, no wisdom, no fortune, no power, no thing that exists on earth that can make us more complete, more formed than what You are doing in us.  You, God, are doing this work in us so that even when we lose everything, we and the people looking on see You and they think great things about You.  Or, if You bless me with much for Your glory, they see and are amazed by You again.

Isn’t that what happened with Solomon?  Didn’t the queen come and glory in what God had done with him?  It wasn’t that she gloried in Solomon.  She knew it was of You.  There are people I have met, and they’ve been through really hard experiences in life, but Your hand is so glorious upon them, and You shine so brightly.  It’s not the stuff around us that is Your masterpiece.  That’s not the solid stuff, that’s not the stuff that is going to last.  That’s all perishing.  But what really matters and what will last forever is the workmanship of Your beautiful, glorious hands in Your people.  Solomon was the treasure.  Those who put their trust in You and let You have Your way in their lives, they are the treasure that lasts.  They are the ones who shine Your glory and instill the fear and reverence of God in others.  And they do it by letting You be You in them.

“That which was is here already; and that which will be has already been, but God seeks out what people chase after. “  Now, I’m not saying I get all this.  But it’s making me think.  And it’s making me ask You questions, Lord, because I think there’s a lot to this.  And I want to know what You want me to know.  I think this all relates to the fact that there is nothing new under the sun.  You, Lord, already established everything.  You have it all under control.  You know all the answers.  And the clincher is in the last part of that sentence where it says, “but God seeks out what people chase after.”  What are we chasing after?

What was Solomon chasing after?  Was he chasing after all those things on the outside bringing fulfilment?  Maybe You, Lord, are wanting me to ask myself what I’m chasing after?  Is it You?  Are You going to place things in my life to get me to figure out what I’m chasing after?  Do You care enough to get Solomon to focus on what he’s chasing after?  And me?  Would You take the time to show us the futility of the things we chase after when it ought to be all about You?

There is something interesting about that word for seek.  It’s the word “baqash” and it does mean to search out, but specifically in worship.  It’s about what we strive after.  Maybe this whole thing is about You getting us to really understand our own hearts and desires and strivings and to refocus them on the One who ought to be our Focus.  Yes, everything else is vanity.  But You are not.  And in You, our lives are not in vain.  In You our lives have meaning and purpose and eternity.  In You, we are the glory of God.

Peter reminds us, “You will have to suffer only a little while; after that, God, who is full of grace, the one who called you to his eternal glory in union with the Messiah, will himself restore, establish and strengthen you and make you firm.”  (1 Peter 5:10)  This is what You are doing.  We are the work of Your hands.  Solomon himself was the treasure.  I am the treasure.  And You continually care for us and shape us and mold us to Your glory.

So what was Solomon’s final conclusion?  “Here is the final conclusion, now that you have heard everything:  fear God, and keep His mitzvot (commands); this is what being human is all about.” (v. 13)  But there is this one thing.  Here’s the wisest man on the earth by the power of God, but He didn’t fully understand about Jesus yet.  But I know You, Jesus.  And when I hear these wise words and put them into perspective with You, I am able to draw the right conclusion.  And it’s not just about obeying commands.  It’s all about fulfilling our created purpose and living in You.  That’s what humans were created for, to live in You and to glorify You.  That’s the only satisfying purpose of life because You are LIFE.

Solomon has treasures for us, but he was missing some parts of the picture.  Listen as Paul explains it through Ephesians.  “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel…this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.”

Yes, His people are His treasure.  We are what You are doing, Lord.  We are the kingdom that You are forming and shaping as Your very own bride!  We people are the church.  Those glorious unsearchable riches are being invested in each one of Your children.  If only Solomon had gotten to see Jesus, it would have all fallen into place.  But that’s the good news for us.  We can see Jesus.  Yes, Lord, we can see You and know You.  You are not a hidden mystery any more.  If only I learn to worship and chase after You so You can reveal Yourself in me.  Because every part of beautiful You that You bring to life in me will last forever.  Keep forming me, Lord, I love being the eternal work of Your hands.