Then YHVH spoke to Moses, saying:
- “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I YHVH your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep My Sabbaths; I am YHVH your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves cast metal gods; I am YHVH your God. You shall not curse a person who is deaf, nor put a stumbling block before a person who is blind, but you shall revere your God; I am YHVH” (Leviticus 19:1-4, 14).
The God of Jacob tells us that our own godly behavior should be rooted in the example of God’s own character. We follow His commandments because He is holy. We are made in His image (imago dei, as Latin theologians and Renaissance philosophers would describe it) and we want to imitate Him (imitatio dei). This is how God guides our ethical behavior throughout the Bible:
- And God said: “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” . . . And God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created him. Male and female created He them ( Genesis 1:26–27)
- In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them, and He named them ‘Man’ on the day when they were created. When Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him ‘Seth’ (Genesis 5:1–3)
- One who sheds the blood of man, by man his blood will be shed. For in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:6)
- Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48)
- Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36)
- Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1)
- Be imitators of me, just as I also am [an imitator] of Messiah (1 Corinthians 11:1)
The opposite of reverence for God is cruelty to one’s fellow humans and idolatry. To put a stumbling block in the path of a blind man is a violation of love, kindness and honesty. Such behavior is cruel and malevolent. YHVH describes rudeness to one’s parents as evil. And idolatry – the worship of anything other than YHVH, or the encouraging of others to worship anything other than the God of Jacob – is a foundational violation of God’s holiness, says Moses.
What is a stone of stumbling?
The Scriptures refer to stumbling stones a number of times. In certain contexts, the words refer to physical impediments or obstacles, like those preventing the exiled Jewish people from returning to the Promised Land: “Go through, go through the gates. Clear a way for the people! Build up, build up the highway. Remove the stones, lift up a flag over the peoples” (Isaiah 62:10-11).
At other times the focus of the phrase is on an individual’s sin and wrongdoing, which can cause other people to stumble (see Psalm 140:4-5):
- They will fling their silver into the streets, and their gold will become an abhorrent thing. Their silver and their gold will not be able to save them on the day of the wrath of YHVH. They cannot satisfy their appetite, nor can they fill their stomachs, because their wrongdoing has become a cause of stumbling (Ezekiel 7:19)
- So shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire (Matthew 13:40-42).
A third use of the term relates to idolatry – engaging in it (in one’s heart or outwardly) or encouraging others to do so:
- This is what YHVH God says: “Anyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts in front of his face the stumbling block of his wrongdoing, and then comes to the prophet, I YHVH will let Myself answer him in the matter in view of the multitude of his idolsֹ” (Ezekiel 14:4)
- Since they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of wrongdoing to the House of Israel, for that reason I have sworn against them, declares the Lord YHVH, that they shall suffer the punishment for their wrongdoing (Ezekiel 44:12)
The Bible – a history book whose principles have not expired
The Bible was given to the world through the Jewish people (see Romans 3:1-2). Part of this gift came from God’s heart to guide and instruct the nations (see 1 Corinthians 10:11). At the same time, these Scriptures are a totally trustworthy history of the Jewish people, waxing eloquent about God’s heart, calling, strategies and priority for the sons and daughters of Jacob (John 4:22; Romans 9:4-5). And here is a point worth stressing: the historical principles laid out in the Hebrew Scriptures still chart and shape the destiny of Israel. Seven of these principles – national stumbling stones for the Jewish people in the past, the present and the future – will be considered in this newsletter.
Stumbling stone #1 – Rebellion against the House of David
King David’s grandson Rehoboam watched as his kingdom disintegrated before his very eyes – divine payback for his father Solomon’s sins (see 1 Kings 11). The ten tribes of Israel broke away from his rule, leaving him to reign over the much tinier state of the two tribes of Judah and Simeon.
- The king did not listen to the people because it was a turn of events from YHVH, in order to establish His word . . . When all Israel saw that the king had not listened to them, the people replied to the king, saying, “What share do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, Israel! Now look after your own House, David!” So Israel went away to their tents . . . Israel has broken with the House of David to this day (1 Kings 12:15-19)
That rebellion has continued up to our day. David’s Greater Son Messiah Yeshua is still not honored and accepted by the majority of Israel’s leaders and populace. Here is a great intercessory challenge: to pray that the Jewish people repent for rejecting David their king (Hosea 3:5) and Yeshua their Messiah (see Matthew 23:39)
Stumbling stone #2 – Broken cisterns
Back in the days of the kings of Judah, the Scriptures tell us that the kings, the priests and the people mocked the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets (2 Chronicles 36:11-16). The spiritual leaders of the Jewish people found themselves ‘in the dock’ before the God of Jacob, who prophetically accused them of rebellion against the Word of God through establishing false religious traditions:
- My people have exchanged their glory for that which is of no benefit. Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder, be very desolate, declares YHVH. For My people have committed two evils: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living waters – to carve out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water (Jeremiah 2:11-13).
In His day, Messiah Yeshua confronted the developers of what would become the traditions of rabbinic Judaism, challenging with the same message as Jeremiah had presented (Matthew 23).
Rabbinic Judaism’s foundations and influence continue up to our day, and Messiah Yeshua’s challenge remains as valid today as it was in Second Temple times. Here is another huge intercessory challenge: to pray that the Jewish people and our leaders will repent for rejecting Yeshua ‘the Fountain of living waters’ (see Jeremiah 17:13) and whole-heartedly receive the living waters of the New Covenant (Hebrews 12:24).
Stumbling stone #3 – Wanting to get accepted by the nations
Moses warned the Jewish people that a spiritual temptation would come upon the entire nation in days to come – the desire to be accepted into the pagan world and be part of the superpower ‘Old Boys’ Network.’ This political hunger would lead to an embracing of pagan values and demonic influences:
- When YHVH your God cuts off from you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and live in their land, be careful that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from your presence, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?” You shall not behave this way toward YHVH your God, because every abominable act which YHVH hates, they have done for their gods. For they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire for their gods (Deuteronomy 12:29-31)
This same misguided passion was manifested in the days of Saul, when the entire nation was seduced (see Isaiah 57:7-9; 31:1-3; Ezekiel 16 and 23) into the trap of spiritual and political compromise in order to hobnob with top kings, generals and diplomats of that day:
- When you enter the land which YHVH your God is giving you, and you take possession of it and live in it, and you say, “I will appoint a king over me like all the nations who are around me,” you shall in fact appoint a king over you whom YHVH your God chooses. One from among your countrymen you shall appoint as king over yourselves. You may not put a foreigner over yourselves, anyone who is not your countryman (Deuteronomy 17:14-15)
- Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. And they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the matter was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to YHVH. And YHVH said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, because they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day – in that they have abandoned Me and served other gods – so they are doing to you as well . . . Yet the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, so that we also may be like all the nations, and our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord’s hearing (1 Samuel 8:4-8, 19-21)
The God of Israel is a good judge of character. When He addresses his people, He reveals their ‘heart secrets’ – their carnal desire to fit in to a rebellious and pagan world: “But you said, ‘It is hopeless! No! For I have loved strangers, and I will walk after them’” (Jeremiah 2:25). God’s perspective on this issue is adamant and dogmatic. Addressing His people, he emphatically declares: “And whatever comes into your mind certainly will not come about, when you say: ‘We will be like the nations, like the families of the lands, serving wood and stone’” (Ezekiel 20:32)
Israel’s desire to have a seat at the table with the international power-brokers continues up to our day, even though the majority of those groups look upon the Jewish state with barely concealed antipathy. Superpowers and Arab ‘peace partners’/ ‘potential peace partners’ avoid displays of warmth and friendliness to Israel. Yet the Jewish state keeps bending over backward as it attempts to win the favor of these cold suitors. Here is another intercessory challenge: to pray that the Jewish people and our leaders will receive clear revelation and strategies regarding the true hearts of our quasi-allies and avowed enemies alike – and will respond according to God’s perspectives, values and strategies.
Stumbling stone #4 – Narcissism and materialism
The biblical prophets spoke plainly about the spiritual condition of the daughters of Zion, who focused in ancient days on outer appearance while ignoring godly virtues (see 1 Peter 3:3-5):
- Moreover, YHVH said, “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps and jingle the anklets on their feet – YHVH will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and YHVH will make their foreheads bare. On that day YHVH will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festive robes, outer garments, shawls, purses, papyrus garments, undergarments, headbands, and veils. Now it will come about that instead of balsam oil there will be a stench; instead of a belt, a rope; instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; instead of fine clothes, a robe of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty” (Isaiah 3:16-124).
Looking into days yet future, Isaiah prophesies that there are some future aspects of the same dynamic which will yet be purified by the God of Jacob:
- “When YHVH has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then YHVH will create over the entire area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy” (Isaiah 4:4-5)
The God of Isaac warns His people that spiritual temptations come when God pours out material blessings. He cautions His nation that prosperity raises challenges of its own (see Ezekiel 18 & 20):
- When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless YHVH your God for the good land which He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget YHVH your God by failing to keep His commandments, His ordinances, and His statutes which I am commanding you today. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, and you build good houses and live in them, and when your herds and your flocks increase, and your silver and gold increase, and everything that you have increases, then your heart will become proud and you will forget YHVH your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the House of Slavery. He who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions, and its thirsty ground where there was no water. He who brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness it was He who fed you manna which your fathers did not know, in order to humble you and in order to put you to the test, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” But you are to remember YHVH your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, in order to confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:10-18)
We are thankful for the blessing of the God of Jacob upon the fledgling Jewish state. And herein lies another intercessory challenge: to pray that the Jewish people and our leaders will receive spiritual revelation that these material blessings are an unmerited gracious gift from YHVH, and not that our brilliance and hard work have earned us this wealth.
Stumbling stone #5 – Idolatry and uncleanness
The testimony of the Hebrew prophets is painfully clear: the Jewish nation repeatedly abandoned pure worship of YHVH and turned to the demonic and pagan worship of its neighbors (Psalm 106:34-40; 2 Kings 17:9-13; 2 Chronicles 24:18). God’s strategic response is also clear: YHVH would turn to the Gentiles and offer them access to Israel’s spiritual blessings: “They have made Me jealous with what is not God. They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).
The God of Jacob promises that, as He gets ready to re-establish His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, He will burn away all idolatry from the Jewish people, as He orchestrated in the days of King Josiah:
- Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums, the spiritists, the household idols, the idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he might fulfill the words of the Teaching which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the House of YHVH (2 Kings 23:24)
- I will first repay them double for their wrongdoing and their sin, because they have defiled My land. They have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and their abominations (Jeremiah 16:18)
- On that day a fountain will be opened for the House of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for defilement. And it will come about on that day, declares YHVH of armies, that I will eliminate the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered. And I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land. (Zechariah 13:2)
This future prophetic process is summed up by Hosea. A Last Days revival will occur, and on that day, Israel will turn, trembling and will bow before her true Messiah:
- For the sons of Israel will live for many days without a king or leader, without sacrifice or memorial stone, and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek YHVH their God and David their king. And they will come trembling to YHVH and to His goodness in the Last Days (Hosea 3:4-5)
Our intercessory challenge: to pray for divine revelation for the Jewish people and religious leaders, to recognize unclean spiritual sources and teachings and leaders, to repent individually and nationally for the many facets involved, and to ask YHVH for deep and full cleansing from all physical and spiritual impurity.
Stumbling stone #6 – Division
The civil war and tribal divisions that occurred in the days of King Solomon’s son Rehoboam, still continue in our day. The division between streams of the Jewish people may not be clearly defined tribally in our day, but the prophetic reality of this division is clearly laid out by the Jewish prophets:
- Then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel (Zechariah 11:14)
- I have watched over them to uproot them, tear them down, ruin, destroy, and bring disaster on them, declares YHVH (Jeremiah 31:27-28)
On a more positive note, Jeremiah tells us that, in spite of the grievous division, “neither Israel nor Judah has been forsaken by his God, YHVH of armies, although their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel” (Jeremiah 51:5).
The divisions will be healed, and the scattered twelve tribes will be restored back to their Promised Land:
- And He will lift up a flag for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12)
- For behold, days are coming, declares YHVH, when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah. YHVH says, I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers, and they shall take possession of it (Jeremiah 30:3)
- In those days the House of Judah will walk with the House of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance (Jeremiah 3:18)
Weeping will be involved in the process of return (Jeremiah 50:4), and the New Covenant will be fully established with the nation of Israel: “Behold, days are coming, declares YHVH, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31).
In that day all divisions will be healed between the divided tribes of Israel: “Behold, I am going to take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions. And I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand” (Ezekiel 37:19).
Our intercessory challenge: these prophecies over the Jewish people are also invitations to us – to ask God to quicken the fulfilment of His promises to the Jewish people, speedily and in our day.
Stumbling stone #7 – Fear
Moses reached far into the future and described the Exile of his precious Jewish people. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he spoke over Israel regarding their sojourn in the diaspora: “In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ And at evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the terror of your heart which you fear, and the sight of your eyes which you will see” (Deuteronomy 28:67). We are thankful the beginning of the gracious restoration and return to the Land of Israel that we are seeing in our day. We recognize that the enemy of both our souls and our people is not pleased (as per Revelation 12:13): “And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.”
The 20th century has seen much cause for fear among the Jewish people – from Hitler to Stalin and Islamist terror. The citizens of Israel also know something about sirens, rockets, missiles, bombs and assorted terror attacks involving car-rammings, guns and knives.
The words of Proverbs 3:25 and Isaiah 8:10 comfort us here: “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of the destruction from wicked people when it comes . . . You all may devise a plan, but it will be overthrown. You may speak of a plan of action, but it will not stand – for God is with us [Immanuel].”
And let us not forget who our God is, as it is written: “A bent reed He will not break off and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish” (Isaiah 42:3). This is our confidence.
- Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are greater than those who are with them (2 Kings 6:16)
- You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)
- The Spirit of YHVH God is upon me, because YHVH anointed me to bring good news to the humble. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of YHVH and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn; To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the cloak of praise instead of a disheartened spirit. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of YHVH, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Our intercessory challenge: to ask God to use us and other believers to comfort those Jewish people who are dealing with fear, with the same comfort with which we ourselves are being comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for divine revelation to be imparted to Israel’s people and leadership on all seven of the points above
- Pray for fear to be melted away and for a new heart to be given to the sons and daughters of Jacob
- Pray for the outpouring of Holy Spirit on Israel, the Spirit of grace and supplications, leading to national salvation through Messiah Yeshua
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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