“Be diligent to present yourself as someone approved to God, as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Paul’s challenge applies across the board, to Messianic Jews and to Gentile believers in Yeshua; to Charismatics and non-Charismatics; to Protestants and to Catholics, to men and women everywhere who accept the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Covenant as God’s accurate love-letters.
The following is a short word of appeal to the wider body of believers regarding one aspect of YHVH’s “prophetic plumbline,” God’s call on His followers to make sure that, regarding Israel and the Jewish people, they are accurately handling the word of truth in their teaching, ministry and lives.
The Scriptures – God’s own perspective
Shimon bar Yonah, internationally known as the Apostle Peter, shared some powerful words in his Second Epistle:
“We have the completely reliable prophetic word, and you would do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For no prophecy ever had its origin by an act of human will, but prophetic people carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Peter lets us know that the prophetic Scriptures are not simply one man’s take on events. They are not merely a human interpretation of history. They are a completely accurate message spoken through these prophets and breathed out from the very lungs of God.
The Scriptures – God’s solid foundation
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:16-17).
Since the Scriptures are breathed out from the very heart of God, they are accurate and dependable. They form the foundation upon which faithful and healthy ministry can confidently stand, without fear of instability.
The Scriptures – handle them accurately!
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one who has received His approval, as an artisan who does not need to be ashamed, one who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Paul explains that there are correct and incorrect ways of interpreting Scripture. There are accurate and inaccurate approaches to communicating the word of God. The apostolic prayer for us (and our prayer as well) is that we should all communicate God’s word clearly, accurately and according to the intentions of His heart.
Baby food and grown-up food
An individual’s spiritual maturity is related to his or her ability to correctly understand foundational truths. Elementary truths are the platform on which each of us builds our house, our life and ministry.
“Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You have come to need milk and not solid food! Anyone who lives on a diet of milk is still an infant; he is not accustomed to the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant practice have their senses trained to discern good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Foundational teachings (as in Hebrew 6:1-2) involve not only Messiah Yeshua’s return and the resurrection of the dead. According to Romans 11:18, 20, 25, 28-29 these underpinnings also includes the bold proclamation of God’s gifts to and irrevocable calling on the Jewish people.
- Using apostolic terminology, it would be accurate to say that those who have not grasped and embraced God’s priority calling of the Jewish nation, are still in spiritual infancy regarding these matters.
Honoring the patent
At least 95% of the Scriptures were written by Jews. Over 90% of the Bible focuses exclusively on the Jewish nation’s history and destiny. Prophecy and poetry combine in the Scriptures, presenting the overwhelming Gentile world with a strikingly Jewish message about salvation in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In the New Covenant Scriptures the Christ of the nations dies with a placard above His head declaring Him to be the King of the Jews, while Paul proclaims that the message of salvation is to be preached with priority to the Jewish people (the sense of the Greek words proton in Romans 1:16).
In many Christian pulpits preachers preach their Sunday messages from a Jewish book written originally in Hebrew, a book which describes the Jewish people and their destiny, yet for the most part these same preachers nearly never refer to the Jewish people positively, or speak warmly of Israel’s prophetic destiny. Instead, many preachers freeze dry these Hebrew prophetic promises concerning Israel’s restoration and revival; they then remove all Jewish content from them, and then they apply these now-generic teachings, either as ethical lessons unconnected to the Jewish people, or as allegorical types and symbols relating to the latest move of the Holy Spirit among the Gentiles in that town, state or country.
Why does this happen? How can it be? Why do so many Christian ministers assiduously avoid communicating what the Scriptures teach about God’s heart and His strategies for the Jewish people? What motivates these preachers to use the Bible (a Jewish Book) to only preach Gentile-oriented messages exclusively to their own non-Jewish communities?
The answer is two-fold. On the one hand, the explanation is rather simple and very human. People (whether Jews or Gentiles) tend to be most interested in what directly concerns themselves, their own livelihood, their own families, their own comfort and blessing. So when they study the Scriptures, they are usually thinking more about what messages will bless their people, and less about what the text actually says.
- Along with this desire to please comes a false conclusion, that their own people will not really be blessed or encouraged to hear about God’s love and strategy for the Jewish people.
- On the other hand, we must be aware that the deliberate removal and avoidance of God’s strategic choosing of Israel is not an unfortunate accident. It is the result of premeditated spiritual warfare. Satan’s hand can be seen in the Gentile removal of all Jewish connections to the Messianic gospel.
The preacher who sidesteps God’s clear revelation given in the prophetic Scriptures regarding the Jewish people,who refuses to deal with 90% of the Bible in order to produce a “more relevant or more spiritual sermon”, that minister is actually engaging in “patent infringement.” He or she is not demonstrating either accuracy or maturity in handling the word of God. He is violating the priorities of God’s word and God’s ways in this matter.
Basics of Bible study methods
The three foundational steps of Bible study methods involve observation (what does the text say), interpretation (what does the text mean in context), and application (what principle is the text teaching). Careful students of the Scriptures take great pains to make sure that they exercise holy care and caution as they meditate on the divinely inspired biblical words.
When one approaches a text which clearly describes the Jewish people (for example, Zechariah 2 or Isaiah 60, though of course there are tens of thousands of such Scriptural passages, since most of the Bible describes the Jewish people!), it is clear that an accurate interpretation of those texts will present them as talking about the Jewish people. As well, an accurate application of those texts would do the same.
Though these above statements seem glaringly obvious, it is necessary to re-emphasize them continually, since much of present-day preaching and teaching ignores these foundational hermeneutical principles.
Putting the toys back on the shelf
An illustration from a kindergarten setting may shed some helpful light here. Let’s pretend that the prophetic promises to the Jewish people are like kindergarten toys. Many toddlers can come and play with them, having a great time flying the toy planes through the air, or pushing dump trucks, or having plastic knights confront each other with plastic swords. But when the time comes to move on and grow up, the management asks that these toddlers carefully put the toys back on the shelf for the next group of toddlers coming.
We are happy when believers from the nations draw personal encouragement from the God who dispenses all promises. Yet these prophetic promises for the Jewish people are the life and breath of our nation. If Gentile toddlers walk off with our promises and refuse to honor the Jewish people to whom these promises belong, there will be confusion in the kindergarten, and perhaps even a ruckus.
Let’s take an example from Isaiah 60:1-3: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of YHVH has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and thick darkness will cover the peoples, but YHVH will rise like the sun upon you and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
The passage states that the nations will one day be covered by a thick and dark spiritual fog. Precisely at that time YHVH will shine His face on Israel according to Psalm 67, and that all the nations will seek out the Jewish people based on that Jewish spiritual revival (as in Zechariah 8:20-23).
This passage reveals a latter day secret which ties in Israel’s revival to the revival of the nations. When the passage is used incorrectly to refer to a Gentile spiritual revival apart from the Jewish people’s central role, violence is done to the word of God and to His heart intentions.
The Holy Spirit often takes Scriptural principles and applies them to the specific situation of local believers, congregations or movements. Every preacher or teacher knows the joy of applying Biblical principles in a Spirit-breathed fashion to their listeners bringing grace to those who hear and encouraging them in the ways of the Lord.
At the same time the faithful preacher should point out to his listeners in every instance that the passage at hand refers primarily to the Jewish people and to Israel’s prophetic destiny and that, while the Holy Spirit may be applying those same lessons to the gathered believers at that meeting, the ultimate fulfillment of this passage concerns Israel, and that fulfillment will come to pass for the Jewish people at the appointed time (see Psalm 102:13).
When teachers don’t take the time and care to explain this important point to the congregation, the unintended result is “practical Replacement theology.” The listeners leave the meeting assuming that the passage in question does not ultimately or primarily refer to Israel or the Jewish people, but instead that Isaiah (or Zechariah or Obadiah etc.) refers specifically to their local congregation or spiritual movement. When this happens, one has to conclude that God’s Scriptures have not been accurately or adequately handled.
Though God may have invested thousands of years insuring that believers possess an accurate and trustworthy Biblical text (full of His heart and strategies for the Jewish people), the people who hear the abovementioned sermon walk out of the building totally in thick darkness about what God was trying to communicate regarding Israel’s resurrection, restoration and connection to world revival.
- People who are confused about these foundational matters cannot healthily engage with Israel in passionate intercession, in bold evangelism or through burning works of compassion, mercy or rescue. They have not been set on fire with a Scriptural and prophetic vision of Israel’s need, her vital challenges ahead, and the future riches of life from the dead that will be manifested when the Jewish people enter into their promised destiny.
God’s prophetic plumbline
The Hebrew Scriptures occasionally use the concept of a plumbline (Isaiah 34:11; Amos 7:7-8; Zechariah 4:10) to describe aspects of God’s judgment. A plumbline consists of a string with a weight at one end that, when suspended, points directly towards the earth’s center of gravity. Plumblines are used to determine the straightness and architectural soundness of a building. To “use a plumbline on something” is another way of saying that you are about to determine whether or not the structure has been built accurately and up to standard.
- Israel is God’s prophetic plumbline. The nations of the world are even now being judged based on their treatment of that nation, her people, her land and her borders (Joel 3:1-2; Jeremiah 30:16-17 et al.)
- Christian ministries and ministers are also being lined up to God’s plumbline, to see if what they teach lines up with what God’s word teaches regarding the Jewish people’s gifts and calling (Zechariah 2:8-12)
How can we pray?
- Pray that revelation (Ephesians 1:17-19) would be imparted to those who minister God’s word, that the God of Jacob would grant them a deeper understanding of His heart and priorities for the Jewish people
- Pray for courage and boldness for preachers and teachers to proclaim these truths (Ephesians 6:19-20) without fear of man (Galatians 1:10)
- Pray for the leaders of your congregation, stream and country to receive a new and throbbing revelation of these truths (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Isaiah 45:3-7)
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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