A Gift from God

There is a very well known passage from the Bible that opens Chapter Three of the book Ecclesiastes:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Even became a hit song in the Sixties by The Byrds! Today let’s delve a little further into his thought process.

What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:9-11.

Ecclesiastes is called a wisdom book, and your contributions now adds the wisdom of experience. This is a gift from God, to provide a greater service to others from what we have gained from simply living life.

I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives,  and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:12&13.

Life is temporal, but the gifts of God which we receive in this life, are eternal. The only thing that we take with us from life is the spiritual gifts God puts in us, which we receive FROM ABOVE.

I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past. Ecclesiastes 3:14&15.

And so the true wisdom of experience is to rightly discern the Holy, and to know the Holy One.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding. Proverbs 9:10.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  John 17:3.

But solid food is for the mature, who through practice have their senses trained to discern both good and evil. Hebrew 5:14.

I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1&2.

Lagniappe: Proverbs 9:1-12.

Abide in Mercy

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.    Isaiah 55:3.

This promise is found in 2 Samuel:

When your days are done and you sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your seed, who will come forth from you after you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My Name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to Me.  If he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and with the strokes from sons of men.  Yet My lovingkindness will not be withdrawn from him as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  So your house and your kingship will be secure forever before you; your throne will be established forever.”  2 Samuel 7:12-16.

These glad tidings are proclaimed to the church in Acts 13.

And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God has fulfilled the same unto us their children in that He has raised up Jesus again, as it is written in the second psalm, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you,  (Psalms 2:7.)   And as concerning that He raised him up from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He said: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.”                       Acts 13:32-34.

The covenant of steadfast love for David is a covenant of parental correction unto the perfection of obedience. What you have done is not as important as how you respond to God’s correction. We must look for his approval in all things.

This doctrine is discussed in Hebrews 12 and based on 2 Samuel 7.

For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. Hebrews 12:6.

Consider this house of David known as Ephrathites. Ephrathah was a Hebrew woman who became the wife of Caleb, the faithful servant to Moses. Caleb was not a Hebrew, but is identified as a Kenizzite.  Caleb was granted the region of Hebron by Moses for his faithful witness with Joshua after the scouting expedition. David’s grandmother was Ruth the Moabite. The city of Bethlehem Ephrathah was the city of Joseph and the birthplace of the Messiah. David ruled from Hebron for seven years until the elders of Israel came and acknowledged him as their king.

The line of Caleb is listed in the Chronicle genealogies with the tribe of Judah by a process known as grafting in, the same terminology Paul uses in Romans 11 to describe the gentile relationship to natural Israel. Through the house of David the wall of partition between Jew and gentile is broken down and finds fulfillment in Christ Jesus. For all the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ. (2 Co 1:20.)

Behold, you shall conceive and bring forth a son and shall call him Jesus. He shall be exalted and called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end.             Luke 1:31-33.

For unto us a child is born unto a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder…. Of the increase of his government and peace no end upon the throne of David…the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6&7.

The one true church is the house of David and the Lord Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the throne of majesty to fulfill all righteousness. Peter informs us that heaven has received Him until the restoration of all things spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began. (Peter’s sermon from Acts 3:12-26.)

The restoration of all things refers to the throne of David in Israel. This process will not be complete until the final day (1000 years).

And I will set up one shepherd over them and he shall feed them, my servant David, he shall feed them and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord shall be their God and David a prince among them. I the Lord have spoken it and I will make with them a covenant of peace.                        Ezekiel 34:23-31.

And David my servant shall be king over them and they shall all have one shepherd over them…and they shall dwell in the land I have given to Jacob my servant… and David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant…and I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.                                        Ezekiel 37:24-28.

The covenant of peace (berit shalom, also translated covenant of friendship), was originally bestowed on the house of Phineas, the son of Eleazar, in Numbers 25:10-13; and will be granted to all Israel, in Israel, at the end of the time of the gentiles.

Now consider the most referenced Old Testament passage in the New Testament to bring all this to a fine point. In the gospels Jesus proposes this question concerning the Messiah: Whose son is he? The teachers responded that he is the son of David. Jesus then silences them with this statement.

How is it that David in spirit calls him Lord saying The Lord said unto my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool (Psalm 110), if David calls him Lord, how is he his son? Matthew 22:41-46.

This Psalm is also referenced by Peter in Acts 2:33-35. In the letter to the Hebrews we find another reference:

But this man after he had offered one sacrifice for sin forever sat down at the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting until his enemies are made his footstool.          Hebrews 10:12-14.

Most importantly, follow Paul’s explanation of the final restitution of all things:

Then comes the end when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He has put all things under his feet. But when he says all things are under him it is clear that the exception is He that put all things under him. And when all things are subdued under him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put everything under him, that God may be all, in all.                                                                            1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

Note that the Son is subject to God the Father. The perceived equality between the Son and Father is based on the equality of granted authority. This is foreshadowed in Genesis 41 pertaining to the relationship between Joseph and Pharaoh.

“You shall be over my house and according unto your word shall all my people be ruled, only in the throne will I be greater than you.”           Genesis 41:40-44.

To serve Joseph was to serve Pharaoh, to dishonor Joseph was to dishonor Pharaoh.  Compare this to the self-testimony of Jesus in John 5.

For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son; that all should honor the Son as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son honors not the Father who sent him. (Doctrine of Christ). John 5:22&23.

This is the final restitution of all things spoken of by the prophets by the Spirit of Christ that was in them:

The time of the gentiles will soon be fulfilled as the fullness of the gentiles is a finite point in time. The end of the age and the new heaven and new earth  and the everlasting righteousness of the kingdom of God and Christ comes after all his enemies are under his feet, and the final enemy is death.

In the millennial kingdom of the house of David, people live long prosperous lives, but not eternal lives:

One who dies at 100 will be as if a child, but a sinner of 100 years will know they are cursed. Isaiah 65:20.

During the 1000 year reign the law of God will be enforced from Jerusalem and the word of God will come forth from mount Zion. Isaiah 2:3.

And after these 1000 years there will be one final rebellion. Sin will continue during the millennium and will be dealt with by the law. Satan will be bound and man will know that there is a sin nature in him that cannot be blamed on “the devil made me do it” (Revelation 20). Sinners will chafe under the law of God for 1000 years. This is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, for after the glorious 40 year reign of Solomon, a kingdom like no other on earth, the people rebelled, complaining of the severity of his reign.

The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness has surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burning?  Isaiah 33:13-17.

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.  Revelation 14:12.

By your endurance, you will gain your souls.  Luke 21:19.

 

This is Eternal Life

He said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, so the Son may glorify You.  Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, so may He give eternal life to all those You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah, the One You sent.                                                                                      John 17:1-3.

How do we come to know God and obtain this eternal life? The ones we know; we recognize their voice. When someone who knows me well calls on the telephone, they say “Hey, it’s me”, and I don’t have to ask “Who dat”?

The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them; and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  John 10:4.

Whether we are listening to the spoken Word or studying devotionals, praising God or meditating in His presence, the one goal remains constant: to know His voice. One of the earliest ways that the priesthood referred to the Lord was “The Voice.”

And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.                         Numbers 7:89, JPS Tanakh.

The Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it, the voice of the Spirit. The world will tell you that you are suffering from auditory hallucinations if you claim to hear this voice. However, scientists that study brain wave activity in people during these episodes find that the voices are processed in a different area of the brain from normal auditory stimuli. The point of this is that we can listen to the Word of God being read aloud, and hear the voice of the Spirit as a living commentary on what is being read if we abide in the Spirit. Haven’t you had the Lord drop something into your spirit while listening to preaching?

He has made manifest His Word through preaching. Titus 1:3.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.               1  Corinthians 1:21.

How then shall they call on the One in whom they have not trusted? And how shall they trust in the One they have not heard of? And how shall they hear without someone proclaiming? And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!”                  Romans 10:14&15.

This is why the message must not deviate from what was presented by the first apostles.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no benefit. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life. John 6:63.

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment. John 16:7&8.

It is always the work of the Holy Spirit to convict someone to repentance. This is why Paul said:

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the mystery of God. For I decided not to know about anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  so that your faith would not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.                        1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

The public reading of scripture is a true tradition of the Witnesses of Israel.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to encouragement, and to teaching. 1 Timothy 4:13.

The Message of the Messiah must register to the listener through the Voice of the Spirit, not our own. In this knowledge of God is the continual blessing.

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Rev. 1:3.

All Things New

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  Rev. 21:5.

Recently I have taken up the command to Write, for inspiration is found in the words that are true and faithful. The Greek word kainos, for new,  is used 44 times; which isn’t surprising since we are partakers of the New Covenant.

For this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matthew 26:28.

Spending time with my fellow blogging brethren has caused me the think often on this parable of Jesus:

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better. Luke 5:37-39.

 

Now that I am older, I look back at my youthful zeal and in comparison I think, old is better. That being said, I have really come to enjoy the fresh insights shared by younger Christians as they grow and receive revelations from the Spirit. Clearly both are of great worth. The Church cannot neglect the wisdom of the elders, but they also must continue in the right way and not fall into trusting only in their own experiences.

The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. Pr. 16:31.

I have also found that many bloggers like to include lengthy passages from the teachings from saints of the past. Many people seem to find a continuity by reading the sermons and writings of well respected men and women of God. This too can be a blessing, while avoiding becoming dogmatic and creating opinionated conflicts. His Grace is Sufficient.

who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Co 3:6.

May we always seek to build up the church, by being led by the Spirit at all times. The presence of the Lord is our WiFi connection for the Truth. We may need to offer correction, even rebuke, for instruction in righteousness. Let their be first a strong bond of Grace and Love in our fellowship that this can be received. For us the Ten Commandments have been condensed into One.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34.

We are being prepared by the Holy Spirit to stand as the bride of Christ without spot or wrinkle. We seek a new heaven and new earth where righteousness abides  (2 Peter 3:13). We should take advantage of every opportunity for fellowship to pursue a mature faith. Let us rid ourselves of all things carnal!

Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. 2 Co 5:17.

 

The First and Greatest In Christ

 

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul with all your understanding and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. Mark 12:30.

 

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus who became for us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30.

 

Redemption is necessary for the Lord to be your strength. To love the Lord with your all is to receive from Him and to give only what has been given. The fullness of this redemption comes in the day of the Lord.

And when these things begin to come to pass then look up and lift up your heads for your redemption draws near. Luke 21:28.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together up to the present time. And not only this but also we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans chapter 8, verses 19, 22 and 23.

In whom we have redemption through His blood for the remission of sin according to the riches of His grace. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise which is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:14.

John (the Baptist) answered and said, “No one can possess anything except it is given to them from heaven. He that comes from above is above all, he that is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. He that comes from heaven is above all. He that receives His testimony has set to his seal that God is true. John 3:27-36.

To love the Lord with all your heart requires the wisdom that comes from above. When the Lord told Solomon to request whatsoever he desired, he asked for a hearing heart to have the wisdom to rule God’s people. The wisdom of God overcomes all opposition to the Truth.

For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. Luke 21:15.

And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Acts 6:10.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory. We speak not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches.  1 Corinthians 2:6 & 7.

The wisdom that is from above is first pure then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruit without partiality and without hypocrisy.      James 3:17.

The love the Lord with all your soul requires the righteousness of God in Christ. Only those who hunger and thirst after righteousness can attain the blessedness of a satisfied soul. The Greek word translated soul is also translated life forty times. The righteousness of God requires that we love the Lord with all our life. Again, this culminates in the day of the Lord.

He that finds his life (soul) shall lose it and he that loses his life (soul) for my sake shall find it. Mt 10:39.

Therefore I say unto you: take no thought for your soul, what you will eat, or for your body, what you will wear. The soul is more than food and the body more than clothing. Therefore seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:25-34.

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17.

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Galatians 5:5.

And fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28.

For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26.

In your patience possess your souls. Luke 21:19.

To love the Lord with all your understanding requires sanctification from all worldly influences. This first requires some clarification for the Greek word dianoia translated as understanding in Mark 12:30. This word denotes “the means to attaining understanding” or to rightly comprehend a truth. Paul refers to “the eyes of your understanding” in Ephesians 1:18, and then refers to those who are alienated from the life of God as having their way of comprehension darkened resulting in “blindness of their hearts”. Ephesians 4:18.

Jesus said: “If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness! Mt. 6:23.

This follows from Jesus warning his disciples to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. Luke 12:1. The teachings of the Pharisees was the very thing that Paul had to renounce from his education to walk in the Spirit. Jesus prayed in this regard for all who would follow Him.

Sanctify them through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth. John 17:17.

Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8.

To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan unto God that they may receive remission of sin and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me. Acts 26:18.

And let this be a prayer for you today:

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly and your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Th. 5:23.

Every Word of God

Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.  Psalm 105:19.

There is an unction upon every word of God for man to live by and receive empowerment from for victorious living.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.  Luke 4:4, Deut. 8:3.

To access this divine power, we first enter into a relationship with the “author of life” by faith.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.  Romans 9:30-32.

Once we receive the word in the spirit of truth, we have access by acts of obedience.

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  James 2:18.

We see this as a clear example in the life of John the Baptist. His anointing flowed directly from Isaiah 40:3;  “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” The Lord described him as the greatest of prophets. And yet, when he came out of the wilderness and went to Jerusalem and condemned a king’s behavior, he found himself in prison. From there he sent word to the Lord, “are you the one who was to come, or should we expect another.” This crisis of faith came upon one who had declared “behold the Lamb of God” and bore witness to Him receiving the Spirit from heaven. Jesus replied to him: “blessed is whoever is not offended in me.” Please read the John the Baptist trilogy in this blog for more on this narrative.

Whenever I engage in a study of the word of God, I keep my faith centered on the words of Christ found in Matthew 13:

Then said He unto them, Therefore every scribe  instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like a man that is a householder, which brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.  Matthew 13:52.

When I am struggling, I find inspiration from this proverb:

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2.

Whenever we minister to one another, we must always rely on the gifts of the spirit, even more so interacting with the world. I could never have survived managing the intake at a rescue mission without the gift of discerning of spirits. 1 Co 12:10.

To engage in any type of outreach or street ministry without an anointing is a formula for failure, if not disaster. God has not called us to do anything that He has not empowered and equipped us for in Christ. Until your word has come, expect to be tried by the word of the Lord.

Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him. James 1:12.

A Lover not a Grumbler

Be a lover of hospitality. Titus 1:8.

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9.

For many people the mention of hospitality calls to mind Martha Stewart more than the gospels. While it is worthy to mention the value of opening your home to others, there is a bit more being conveyed in these words. The word being translated hospitality actually means loving kindness to strangers. And the word strangers refers to resident aliens, minorities, and sojourners in the land. In other words, these scriptures are dealing with the age old problem of ethnicity, prejudice and racism. Do you really think that will ever be properly dealt with outside of Christ?

To demonstrate this truth, let’s start with a narrative from Luke 17 where Jesus is met by 10 lepers seeking their healing. He orders them to go show themselves to the priests. As they departed they discover that they have been cleansed and one of them returns to glorify God in giving thanks before the Lord’s feet, and he was a Samaritan. Jesus comments “there are none found that returned to give glory to God, besides this stranger.” Luke 17:18. The Samaritans were the despised people living among the most despised people in history, and are enshrined in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by the words “Good Samaritan”. These strangers stand out among the members of society by whose treatment the Lord will judge the nations. Matthew 25:31-46.

So what does the Law and the Prophets have to say about this thorny topic? Let’s consider this survey:

You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21.

Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9.

The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34.

One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord.  One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you. Numbers 15:14, 15.

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.  Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deut. 10:18, 19.

Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.  The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”                    Isaiah 56:1-8.

Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jeremiah 22:3.

The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.    Ezekiel 22:29.

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:5.

So we see beyond the prophets condemning society’s injustice, a Law given to Moses that was acutely concerned for the rights of strangers. How then did this wall of separation come to exist that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians chapter 2?

At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Verse 12.

How could this be true when the Law of Moses had made every accommodation for the foreigner who desired to seek the Lord? In verse 15 he says that the enmity was created by the law of commandments in ordinances: nomos entole en dogma. This expression refers to what Jesus referred to as the traditions and rules of men undermining the Word of God. Because of the mutual hatred and distrust that existed between the Jew and all of the neighboring societies, no Jew would even sit at a table and eat a meal with a gentile. This is something that even the apostle Peter was called out on by Paul, the apostle for the gentiles. In contrast, Jesus always ate with publicans and sinners.

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Galatians 2:11-14.

Even though he had fully embraced the gentile as a fellow believer when the Lord had given him a vision that corrected his views in Acts chapter 10, his fear of men resulted in hypocrisy.

Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful (Pharisee) it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:28.

And finally he concludes:

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. V. 34, 35.

As an elder of the first church in Jerusalem, Peter was fully acclimated to the complications of a Jewish/gentile fellowship. When he wrote in his letter to show hospitality without grumbling, the word used is more often translated murmuring. This grumbling or murmuring began early on in the church.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Acts 6:1.

Note the clear racial overtones to the situation at hand. The solution the apostles came up with to deal with the problem was to have the congregation choose for themselves seven men to appoint over the administrative duties.

The apostle Paul recalls for us in 1 Corinthians 10 how murmuring and complaining was the “original sin” of the congregation in the wilderness. The people had just passed through the Red Sea and witnessed a great deliverance when they soon were murmuring against God and Moses.

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what shall we drink? Exodus 15:24.

 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: Exodus 16:2.

Now in their defense I would point out that they had traveled three days in the wilderness and not found any fresh water. Most Christians have murmured and complained about far less. The point is that this is far more serious than most give consideration.

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11.

When Paul says that this is the issue where the ends of the ages meet, he was ushering in the end of the age of justification by works of the Law and bringing in the age of justification by grace.

 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.

But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 1 Corinthians 10:5, 6.

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom He swore  that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.  Hebrews 3:14-19.

In other words, regardless of the covenant, grumbling and complaining are an offense to God and will be considered an act of unbelief.  And now we can look to Abram to complete the picture and find the purpose. Paul taught that Abram was the father of justification by faith, for when he was told his offspring would be as the stars of heaven, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. James pointed out that Abraham later proved his faith by offering his son Isaac in obedience to God. But in Hebrews we are reminded that the first great act of faith, without which nothing else would have followed, was his departure from his home land.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went… he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:8-16, highlights.

James wrote that true religion is to care for widows and orphans and to keep ourselves unspotted by the world.  James 1:27

Why then does he not mention strangers along with widows and orphans as the Law of Moses and the prophets do so often? Because we are called to be the stranger, the pilgrim, the sojourner in this world. We cannot conform to this world and expect to be translated into a heavenly homeland. A community church may compromise to be inoffensive and socially acceptable, but any individual who hopes to go from the called to the chosen, or elect; must be willing to step outside that comfort zone. To set hands on the plow and not look back until you have completed your course and remain faithful. Here is how:

Do all things without murmuring and disputing, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.                    Philippians 2:14-16.