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Keyboard and Mouse



Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

Previously, we listed some of the key characteristics of the Kingdom of God as described by Jesus in His parables - how it is an unworldly Kingdom and not according to man’s wisdom and ways. In light of this, Jesus taught that those who followed Him would need to be:

Firstly, receptive in thought to His Word in order to be fruitful and a light for the Kingdom. We see this in the Parable of the Sower (References). Jesus also spoke of the need to have childlike faith, humility and persistence as seen in the Parable of the Persistent Widow (References A B C).

Next, repentant in deed - meaning to turn away from the world and follow Jesus, seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness. This involved handling wealth correctly, an important matter that Jesus stressed through several parables, and also understanding the very real cost of discipleship.

It also meant submission to God’s Kingdom rule and values in our lives as seen in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and various parables. This can be summarised in terms of demonstrating love, forgiveness and faithfulness/readiness (References A B C D E).

Lastly, reborn in spirit - that is, to be born again in the Holy Spirit, without which we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus promised that those who believed in Him would receive the Holy Spirit and be fruitful (References). Through the Spirit, God “circumcises” our hearts, cutting off the hardened and sinful parts in us.

Coming back to our earlier discussion about the Gospel message, we see that the Good News of Jesus Christ is an “un-we” message - not so much about our personal salvation and God’s plan for our lives. It was, is, and will always be about JESUS and His Kingdom rule over all of Creation and Eternity.

As we close this section on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I wonder if the Apostle John was aware of how prophetic his above words were, when we consider the numerous books, sermons etc - both good and bad - that have been written about Jesus since John’s Gospel. If we dare to be brutally honest about it, God’s Rhema in the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in danger of being drowned by all these human voices and noises, especially in this era of the information age and rise of fake news. We see, hear, and read more about God and His Word (Bible and Jesus) than we see God Himself, hear directly His Rhema voice and read from His sacred word. If you ask any genuine, God-seeking Christian out there, many will admit that they are lost and perplexed as to where to begin in their quest to know God in a more truthful and personal way.

But don’t be dismayed. God is certainly aware of this situation and remains in full control. As Jesus told Nicodemus in Jn 3:8, the Holy Spirit moves as it pleases and we neither know where it came from nor where it would go to. I am sure that much of what has been written, said or shown are truly driven by God’s Spirit and for His glory, and even those that are not are permitted by God according to His will. As we had learnt a few sessions earlier, God had already warned us beforehand through the Creation Account that even as the Holy Spirit brings forth New Life characteristic of the Fifth Day of Creation, this will be quickly overtaken by the the opposing spirit of the Antichrist characteristic of the Sixth Day that we are living in today. This unholy spirit manifests itself in the rule/kingdom of man that is opposed to God’s kingdom, even within the Church. We saw how Jesus warned us of this earlier when He described the Kingdom of God on earth as comprising both good and bad, true and counterfeit.

But how then should we proceed? How do we discern?

The answer, as you might expect, can only be found in His Word. As we move on to study the New Testament Letters, let us re-discover through our examination of the early Church what it means to live the New Life in the Spirit and Body of Christ. Let us get back to the basics - to the simplicity of the Gospel preached by the Apostles, which we should not confuse with the simplistic Gospel mentioned at the start.

Most of all, let us get back to the “Word made flesh” - Jesus Himself. When we not only know the Word of God but the God of the Word, when we not only know of or about Him but have a personal and living relationship with Him, His Spirit - the Holy Spirit - lives in us. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Greater Light illuminates our minds to His Truth and opens our ears to His Rhema voice. May we know that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God and our many words are fruitless and futile. Only God’s word never returns to Him empty but accomplishes His desire and purpose.

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Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

Previously, we saw how Jesus’ message would eventually be unwelcomed by the Jews because of their misplaced expectations, values, allegiance and focus. It comes as no surprise then that when Jesus started describing the coming Messianic Kingdom, His message was unexpected, a far cry from what everyone thought it would be, including John the Baptist and Jesus’ own disciples. They did not understand that the Messiah had to suffer first as the Lamb of God before returning in glory as the Lion of Judah; that His Kingdom was unworldly - not of this world nor according to its standards or ways; nor were His Kingdom subjects to behave like those of this world. Instead, the people wanted to make Jesus king by force and so subject the Kingdom to the violent ways of this world (References).

Because their eyes and ears were closed and their hearts hardened toward God, the people could not accept Jesus’ Kingdom message. From then on, Jesus taught in parables so that “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Mt 13:13). The true nature of God’s Kingdom would remain a “mystery/secret” to these people and revealed only to Jesus’ disciples.

Let us now go through the attributes of the Messianic Kingdom as taught by Jesus through His parables:

First, unlike earthly kingdoms that were visible to all, Jesus said the Kingdom of God was like a hidden treasure that only a few would discover, a narrow door that not many would enter. One could only see it by faith and through the help of the Holy Spirit. One had to be called by God and born again in the spirit in order to hear Jesus our Good Shepherd’s voice. But once we found God’s Kingdom and realised its true value, we would gladly sacrifice and give up all we had to possess and enter it (References).

Next, although the nations of the world were also meant to benefit from God’s covenant blessings given to Abraham, Jesus had purposely reached out to only the Jews as they were God’s chosen people. He already knew that they would reject His message and crucify Him as part of God’s divine plan of salvation but nonetheless, they remained responsible for their choices and actions. Through these series of parables, Jesus delivered God’s judgment on His existing Kingdom subjects - the lost sheep of Israel - for their unbelief and rejection, opening the way for sinners, outcasts and ultimately Gentiles to enter into His Kingdom first before God turns His attention back to Israel again. In this way, the first (Israel) shall be last and the last (Gentiles) first (References).

Again, contrary to the values of this world that defined success in terms of results, accomplishments and numbers, Jesus emphasised the value of the least over the greatest, of the one over the many, and how the lowly and humble would be exalted in the Kingdom of God (References).

Moving on, Jesus devoted the most number of parables to explain that while the Kingdom of God would experience extraordinary growth, it would be a mixed group comprising those who belonged to Him and those who did not. The extraordinary growth itself was something that was not only unnatural but ungodly, as seen in the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast (because mustard does not usually grow into large trees but become bushes, while yeast is associated with sin in the Bible). All this, however, should come as no surprise - we had already seen earlier that both Israel and the Church are imperfect vessels for God; also, we just saw how God’s ways are different from the ways of this world (References) - what appears good to us may not be good to God, and what is not good can yet be good in God’s hands.

Lastly, we will consider in future the end-time Bible passages where Jesus spoke of His return to bring to completion His Kingdom. What we want to highlight here are Jesus’ words that it would be a long time in coming - again, contrary to our human expectations and impatient desire to have things according to our times and ways. But when it was time, His return would be sudden, at a day and hour that was unknown - again, when we least expect and are least prepared for Him (References).

These are the messages of our Lord - may we see, hear and understand what is being spoken to us today.

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Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

In this and the next two sessions, we will look into greater detail at what Jesus said so as to understand God’s full Rhema for us today.

Jesus kicked off His ministry here on earth with the proclamation of the above words from Mk 1:15, which had great prophetic significance - “The time has come … The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! In other words, in God’s Kairos - which was being fulfilled then at the end of the Fourth Day of Creation - Jesus came to bring the good news or Gospel to God’s chosen people Israel about the soon arrival of God’s Kingdom. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is therefore not so much about us as it is about God and His Kingdom rule over Israel, His chosen people and lesser light, and the Church the ingrafted branch of Israel. Our salvation is the means through which God will establish His Kingdom here on earth in Jesus, and not the end goal or purpose.

In fact, the Jews in Jesus’ day understood what Jesus meant perfectly. Earlier, we saw how the Old Testament Prophets had comforted God’s people with the hope that a promised Messiah would come to restore the glory of David’s Kingdom to Israel. The day when this Kairos event would happen was also known as the Day of the Lord. The Jews believed that on this special Day, God would restore His rule over Israel in fulfilment of His promise to David. This promise can be found in 2 Samuel 7:11-13 - God would raise up an anointed one - the Messiah, a son of David - who would rule Israel forever even as Israel drew all the nations to God as His lesser light.

Now, although the Jews had returned to Jerusalem in 538 BC to rebuild the city and God’s Temple following their exile to Babylon, this promised kingdom never did come to pass. For the next 500 years, Israel was ruled and oppressed by a string of foreign powers - Medo-Persia, Greece and finally Rome in Jesus’ time. In fact, the voice of the Prophets would go silent for over 400 years after the Prophet Malachi. In his closing words however, Malachi reminded the people of God’s faithfulness and prophesied that He would send a messenger, the prophet Elijah, before the Day of the Lord comes when God would suddenly appear in His Temple (Mal 3:1, 4:5).

So, when John the Baptist suddenly came on the scene announcing that the Messiah was coming and later identifying Jesus to be the Anointed One, the Jews naturally had misplaced expectations that Jesus would rise up as a political leader to re-establish Israel as an independent kingdom. They remembered how a group of Jews had earlier led a revolt against the ruling Greek Seleucid Empire to establish what was known as the Hasmonean Dynasty. That kingdom lasted a century before being invaded by the Romans and replaced with the Herodian Dynasty just a generation earlier in 37 BC to act as their puppet rulers.

Other Jews, meanwhile, were more superficially drawn to the healings and various miracles that Jesus performed. Their misplaced values led them to seek after the gifts rather than the Giver.

On the other hand, the Jewish political and religious leaders reacted in hostility and rejection toward Jesus. King Herod, who was actually only half Jew, feared for his own position and would not tolerate another “King of the Jews.” The Sadducees, who were the elite of Jewish society then, did not want to see their comfortable lives shaken should the Romans come down hard on the Jewish nation for supporting this potential rebel King. Their misplaced allegiance to Rome revealed a heart that was far from God.

The Pharisees, meanwhile, hated Jesus for pointing out their hypocrisy. Theirs was a case of misplaced focus - they could not see the very God whom they claimed to worship because they majored in the minor, emphasizing slavish obedience to the smallest details of the Law but missing entirely God’s spirit and heart behind these regulations.

For all the above reasons, Jesus’ message would eventually be unwelcomed by the Jews. Let us not follow in their footsteps but instead ask God to correct our expectations, values, allegiance and focus, so that we truly understand Jesus’ message for us in this Kairos moment.

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