Tag Archives: Jews

Who They Are – The Jews

In Nehemiah 6 the wall is finished. The labor of a building project can be immense and burdensome. I have built buildings and had to repair old ones. Too often after the work is finished there is a lull or better yet a “downtime.” This makes sense for depending on the project the building efforts can be very taxing and affective to the congregation and people involved. There is a great sense of accomplishment, but many times people are just glad to get done with all the dirt and dust of building. One of the aspects that often gets overlooked after a major building project is why they built it in the first place. Sometimes it can be because the old building was in need of attention because of lack of attention over the years. Other times the building project was to facilitate new ministry. The goal always has to be kept in front of people, lest they forget why the endeavor was important to take on in the first place. CAUTION: a lull in physical activity can result in a lull of spiritual progress as well. With a sense of accomplishment, there can be an attitude creep in that says “Take it easy for a while – you deserve it.” The caution is our adversary would like us to put our guard down, and adopt a “period of comfort” and take it easy. There is still working to be done, in our spiritual and physical lives. In Nehemiah chapter 7 we find that there was significant work that needed to be done. The question now with the Temple/altar of worship restored and the walls rebuilt for a physical sense of security. The question for the returning exiles is “who are they?” We must remember that there are only two tribes of Israel remaining, the larger tribe Judah and the much smaller Benjamin. The Lost ten tribes of Israel are no more. When the exiles return from 70 years of captivity, they are identified as “Jews.” Not Israel, for Israel is the greater name of all the people, and carries with it a nation/state connotation. Like in 1948 as a result of the Belfour Agreement, that established Israel as a nation/state.

It was time for the people to figure out who was who of the returning exiles. Obviously there are the priest, Levites, singers  and gatekeepers, but what about the rest of the people? Who are they and do they have legitimate right to the Homeland? A great census was done. There were some that were excluded for “Unclean” purposes and not allowed to live inside the walls. The point of building the wall and the Temple is to become the people of God/Yahweh again. This means more than being a blood Jew for inheritance of the Land, for Us it is being a Jew for our heart is one with God. {See Romans 4}

Being the people of God means we worship and observe the Law. Ezra reads from the Law in chapter 8. We find that he uses a wooden podium, what we would call a pulpit. The people stood when the Word was read. This is a practice that I observed when I pastored churches. Today though it seems people stand for singing and sit for the Word. I have never quite figured that one out. In chapter 8, both the Governor [Nehemiah] and the Priest [Ezra] come together to honor and worship. The festivals are restored, the one mentioned in the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles [usually observed in October]; I observed this festival when I went to Israel in 1993. Interesting is the verse 8:17, it says Israel hadn’t observed the festivals since the days of Joshua; that’s a long time to just forget the “why of worship.”

As reading of the Word normally results in, the people began to make confession. Not only for their own sins, but for the sins of their fathers. The 9th chapter of Nehemiah is a history lesson of how God had literally taken care of Israel from Birth until then. The failure of Israel from the time they left Egypt until they were taken into captivity is addressed. Confession results in REPENTENCE and repentance results in COMMITMENT. The people meant business. They took an oath together and made a COVENANT with each other and Yahweh.

Finally, the Jews were getting to the point of “returning” to the Promised Land. The returning exiles meant business. I think for the first time Israel actually felt that they could lose everything. The Return began a great project of “transcribing the Law and the Prophets.” The capturing of the Word of God became an obsession for the scribes and priests. The LAW dominated life; and as we understand set the condition of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament, but that is another story.

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The Masses Do Not Get the Gospel

John 6-10; a significant change in the sharing of the Gospel occurs in John. Jesus has had great impact on teaching/changing individuals; yet seems to have little effect with the masses. The Masses, true wanted to make Him King and crown Him, but Jesus would have no part of it. In John 6 there is the great controversy with the people [crowds], sure they followed Jesus, but for the food of the bellies, not for the long haul. These same crowds that will praise and adore Christ as He enters Jerusalem on Passion week, will turn against Him at the first hint of trouble. The crowds are more than the common people, they are also the religious right – legalists of the Jewish faith.  When Jesus explains the cost to follow Him, the people balk. His presentation of what discipleship really is, even causes struggles today – what does He mean by eating His flesh and drinking His blood? Surely, discipleship means taking on the suffering of Jesus and identifying with the Cross. Jesus asked James and John – “can you drink of the cup that I will drink?” As a result thousands left Jesus [John 6:66]; left with only the 12, Jesus doesn’t change His Gospel; He didn’t run after the masses. Instead He turns to the disciples, and ask them what they will do. Jesus did more with 12 than He ever could with the masses. In today’s “church Growth” and “Mega Churches” I wonder what Jesus would think? I do not minimize the effect of the Gospel in crusades and such, but it seems that the Gospel has its greatest effect in one on one relationships. The problem of the masses continues in John 7 – everyone trying to figure out who Jesus is by the things that He does. The Feast, Passover [Jesus attends 3 Passovers in John] is the forum of controversy over Jesus. Some say He is good man, others say He leads people astray – either way the crowds are held at bay by the influence of the Religious Leaders.  I believe the masses want “a Jesus” – savior and will take whoever will give them what they want. The end result is the people – religious and common people are divided over Jesus – some things never change. The common people want a Jesus that takes care of them, heals and feeds them – the religious elite want a powerful political figure [hummm, sounds like American politics].

After having dealt with the rejection of the masses; Jesus returns to individuals in John 8. Jesus touches an adulteress and a blind man. Even in His forgiveness and compassion for hurting people, the Jews want to discredit and use people for their own religious/political agendas. Rather than see the hurting and crippled state of mankind because of a fallen society, the Jews look to test and challenge Jesus and His divinity. Jesus is the Son of God – they knew that [John 3:1-2]; but they just can’t get over the sympathetic and compassionate way He forgives and heals the dregs of society.  Even in John 9, the controversy over the blind man cause so much turmoil, even for the man’s parents. His parents wanted nothing to do with the religious leaders, even though they know the truth. I cannot help but wonder – has American Christianity become so much like the Jewish religion, in that we want people to follow our version of Christianity rather than the Christ of the Gospel? The simple testimony of the man – I once was blind but now I see.” I love the response he gives to the Jewish leaders – do you too want to follow Him!

In John 10 – there is such a wealth of commentary, this blog would be filled to overflowing – simply the Jesus from Nazareth is truly God. The focus of Jesus being the “Good Shepherd” is what the religion of the day missed. A king, especially, God’s anointed King does not have to be a tyrant. He can and is the lover of man’s soul. The desire of Christ was to fulfill Isiah 61:1-4. He did His mission; yet John has already told us – He came unto His own and His own received Him not. [John 1:10] So which Jesus are you willing to follow? The one the masses embrace or the individual Savior sent from God to save all who would believe that Jesus is the Christ? The people’s choice obviously has flaws as does the Religious Right!

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