Month 13:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5936:376 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 2 April 2013
The Sovereignty of Yah
Why It is Important to Understand
"Yahweh of hosts has sworn, saying, 'Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand'" (Isa.14:24, NKJV).
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be upon you all!
Winter Yielding to Spring
Today's passage of scripture is a reminder as here in the northern hemisphere we have waited for the banishment of winter and the slow advancement of spring that wherever we are and whatever our situation, Yahweh's purposes are neither postponed nor prevented by the designs of men no matter how unlikely the fulfilment of His Davar (Word) may appear to be.
Trusting in Messiah in an Age of Gross Wickedness
Our trusting in Messiah to be our Deliverer in times of wickedness such as our own is to be compared with the faith of Noah that a worldwide flood would indeed come and vindicate his life-long boat construction project in the face of the scorn of everyone around him save a handful of his own family, or with the faith of Job who, in spite of his misery, was yet able to declare with all his lev (heart) to his sceptical and judgmental friends:
Yearning For Heaven Before Time
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see Elohim (God); I myself will see Him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my lev (heart) yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27, NIV).
Some of you hearing or reading me today may well be wishing that life could be over for you soon. You may wish you were in heaven and away from all the trials and tribulations of this world. Yet heaven will welcome us only when it is our time and we remain simply because lessons have yet to be learned and character to be developed. Whatever trials we face are permitted and ordained to correct our path when we have deviated from the Derech (Way) or to move us from one level of sanctification to another as we learn to overcome the flesh.
The Folly of Self-Reliance
For unbelievers the lesson must be learned that self-reliance offers no final solutions to the dilemma of man's existence and his fallen condition. Atheism may thrive when things are going well but its pillars teeter when life turns sour. Only yesterday I was reading with much sadness the blog of one of our most bitter opponents who was trying not only to make sense of life without Elohim (God) but trying by their own strength alone to be successful and with each failure shifting the blame elsewhere. So many get stuck in this first lesson of reliance on the flesh and never get past the elementary school of life. The things we desire the most which are tov (good) are never realised in this mindset, and though they may occasionally appear briefly they do not last. The only things that last indefinitely are in the invisible.
Awaiting the Second Coming Busily
The surge in wickedness in high places everywhere has kindled in the levim (hearts) of all believers the hope that the return of Yah'shua (Jesus) is not far off. And it is right that we keep that hope alive provided we do not get so absorbed in it that we neglect our purpose and duty in the present. Yahweh desires that we seek other more immediate and perhaps limited interventions in our lives before He finally grants His final one and takes us home. There are things we have yet to do. We should not, in any case, be occupying ourselves with tomorrow - today's affairs are for our efforts, not tomorrow's hopes or dreams (Mt.6:34), though we may in passing make mention of them as we do the coming new sacred cycle. We do not need to wait for the Second Coming as one might wait for a dentist's appointment in a waiting room - the 'waiting room' that in life is supposed to be filled with activity. While we wait, we labour for the King and the Kingdom (Mt.6:33). And this must be true of the many situations we have no control over where we wish to see movement, just as Abraham and Sarah had to wait until they were almost centenarians before they received the promised seed.
What is the Reason for Our Existence?
"I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel" (Isa.46:10-13, NIV).
One of the reasons we fail to get the answer to pressing questions is that we often fail to realise what our own purpose in existing is. Failing to understand the answer to this fundamental question, which Job only learned after going through much suffering, was that everything that happens is ultimately for the glory of Elohim (God). This infuriates the carnal man who must, to find justification for existence, obtain some sort of glory for himself, even if it is only so that he can perpetuate his memory after he has gone. We wish to be remembered by man rather than by our Creator as though man can ever justify the reason for our existence. We can attempt to analyse happenings in life and attribute causes to various effects but these conclusions will always be tenuous and fail to answer the bigger questions whose answers we are deep down really seeking. We really want to know why we were created, for what purpose and whether this purpose will actually be for our own happiness. That is the bottom line and no questions about life can be satisfactorily answered without first obtaining an answer to this overarching one.
Finding Ultimate Happiness
Where emunah (faith) fails is whether or not we believe that Yahweh's purpose is for our good especially when a considerable amount of loss and suffering may be entailed along the way. We need not suppose that there are those who successfully escape this suffering and therefore can find ultimate happiness without answering the overarching question, because everybody suffers both from their own stupid mistakes as well as because of the situations Yahweh ordains for us in order to perfect us to allow real happiness to come to pass. Separating out these two is pretty hard. Nevertheless both are ultimately beneficial, the one being remedial and the other for a higher purpose beyond our own personal good and interests. Both bring Yahweh glory because their effect is always to draw the soul closer to Him and to seek His will.
The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart
When Yahweh hardened Pharoah's lev (heart) to make life unspeakably harder for the Israelites in slavery it was not because Elohim (God) took some perverse pleasure in seeing His people suffer. He did so to demonstrate His power in such a way that His Name would be proclaimed far and wide whilst bring about redemption. He Himself says so:
From Salvation to Covenant
"I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you My power and that My Name might be proclaimed in all the earth" (Ex.9:16, NIV).
The moment we accept salvation we also sign on the dotted line of the covenant to serve Yahweh's purposes and not our own. So many believers forget that. We are not our own even if the illusion of self-sovereignty may sometimes make life appear otherwise. Even unbelievers have to at some point come to that realisation, whether through being saved or through an appointment with hell.
Resisting Yahweh's Sovereignty
Elohim's (God's) sovereignty is a tough one for those who would retain a degree of autonomy and though they may resist it in anger their resistance is ultimately futile, not because ministers like myself say so, but because life itself will teach this emet (truth) to those who choose to keep their eyes open. And you cannot ultimately excape from the emet (truth)
Is Yahweh Unjust?
The Higher Purposes of Yahweh
"What then shall we say? Is Elohim (God) unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on Elohim's (God's) mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display My power in you and that My Name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' Therefore Elohim (God) has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden" (Rom.9:14-18, NIV).
Because He is capricious? No, because He has higher purposes that we cannot grasp even if we may be given occasional glimpses of them when we momentarily dare to yield just a little more sovereignty to Him. It is interesting, I think, that even having been given such glimpses, we quickly forget them - perhaps because we are compelled to - so as not to minimise the impact and blessing of continued emunah (faith).
Faith Cannot be Traded for Knowledge
The need for emunah (faith) does not diminish even when we have been shown things and know them because we have exercised emunah (faith). Emunah (faith) does not give way to, nor is it replaced by, something called 'knowledge' - the two are not similar, equivalent or exchangeable categories like peas and carrots. You can never say, Because I have exercised emunah (faith) and have obtained a sure knowledge, I now need proportionately less emunah (faith). Emunah (faith), once lost, immediately leads to a loss of knowledge too - emunah (faith) diminished is always a step backwards into darkness because knowledge never saves! Emunah (faith) is not an exchangeable commodity else knowledge would become the 'highest thing' and we would then be saved by our intellect...which is impossible. That is Gnosticism.
Fractional Faith Always Fails
Everything that delivers and progresses us is by a full emunah (faith) from beginning to end, and not in fractions (Lk.7:50). We are not ultimately saved by 95 per cent emunah (faith) but only by 100 per cent. If knowledge is like food then emunah (faith) is like air - the moment you stop breathing, no ammount of food is going to do your dead body any good. The breathing body needs food, obviously, but air comes before food - just as emunah (faith) in Messiah comes before intimate knowledge of Messiah. The first thing a baby that is being born has to do is take its first gulp of air - putting the baby on mother's breast before it is breathing is folly and yet so many believers are deceived by the Gnostic lie (which is basically just philosophy) that we are saved and improved by brain-power and knowledge alone or at the very least that this is the 'main thing'.
Why Do People Choose Mind Over Heart?
Those who claim this do so usually because thay have shut down the spiritual organ that allows the soul to live so that it may acquire knowledge, namely, the lev (heart). The reasons people do this are many but it usually because they have been hurt and seek remedies apart from Elohim (God) because they are angry He did not intervene when they expected Him to. The Israelites were angry with Moses (and by extension, with Yahweh) for promising freedom and then making things a lot worse. In this their emunah (faith) was stretched as they were tested. Indeed, their emunah (faith) was never 100 per cent, save that of the Three - Moses, Joshua and Caleb. It's usually only a remnant that ever gives their all, and even then they usually have to struggle from fractional emunah (faith) to complete emunah (faith). The rest trust in their flesh and end up perishing in the wilderness. Fractional faith always fails which is why we have to struggle until we have completely overcome (Rev.2:7,11,17; 2:26; 3:5,12,21; 21:7). Suffering puts emet (truth) into perspective.
Like a Little Child
The emet (truth) is we are saved in exactly the same way a trusting litte child joyfully runs up to a parent without a fear or doubt in the world. Emunah (faith) is spontaneous, it is not calculating. You can't 'plan' it or 'think it through'. You either exercise it or you don't. The fact that you may be thinking it through means you do not yet have it. For the atheist who has closed down emunah (faith) in Yahweh completely, all that is left for self-validation is cold philosophy and science. Many understandably commit suicide when the full realisation of the implication of their bleak world-view impacts them.
Orphans and Widows
Atheism is the response of one who feels he (or she) has been abandoned as an orphan. And there is nothing worse than feeling like an orphan. Thus Yahweh says early on in the Scriptures
You will also recall a passage a cited to you recently:
"Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless" (Ex.22:22-24, NIV).
"Leave your orphans; I (Yahweh) will protect their lives. Your widows too can trust in me" (Jer.49:11, NIV).
That is why one of our first duties as believers is to take care of orphans and widows because of their dependency on parents and husbands, respectively. And to those who are spiritually parentless, Yah'shua (Jesus) calls to those who will reach out in emunah (faith):
"Religion that Elohim (God) our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27, NIV).
The Glorified Elohim Embraces Orphans and Widows
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18, NIV).
That's a hard and fast promise. He will come. Indeed, this is the demonstration that the glory He obtains by our conceeding full sovereignty to Him leads to "orphans" and "widows" like ourselves being generously and lovingly taken care of, for we are all spiritually these without Him. His delight is to do this when we give Him the glory in our service. When this tavnith (pattern) is applied to families and everyone occupies his or her rôle as husbands, wives and children correctly, there is no sense of spiritual alienation, orphanhood or widowhood.
Sovereignty vs. Free Will
We could potentially get into the great debate about Yahweh's Sovereignty and man's free will when it comes to many of the things we have raised today, such as hardening the levim (hearts) of our opponents, as He did Pharaoh, to promote His own glory ultimately. Was Pharaoh completely helpless in the heart-hardening process or did Yahweh simply use Pharaoh's natural condition and choices of His purposes? I will steer clear of the Arminian-Calvinist controversy today if I may and limit myself to one comment:
Free Will, Individuals and Groups
"[Elohim] (God) in His omniscience foreknew exactly how Pharaoh would respond, and He used it to accomplish His purposes. [Elohim] (God) ordained the means of Pharaoh's free but stubborn action." 
There is never a need to override our free will because Yahweh is brilliant and powerful enough to integrate all the choices we all make into the tapestry of life and make it redemptive for those who trust Him and progressively corrective (usually over a longer period of time) for those who do not. He puts the 'choosing units' (us) together and engineers circumstances so that His will is achieved while we each have enough freedoms to work out our salvation (Phil.2:12), even if we may think we are being unfairly 'limited'. So Yahweh's sovereign will does not compete with our basic free agency to choose.
At the same time there are boundaries in the form of other people and circumstances put in place by Him out of loving concern for us. However, those who are stubborn and rebellious enough are moved and engineered into other situations so that they do not impede the spiritual growth and development of others who are yielding to Him so that it becomes possible to speak of different "limiting zones of agency", as it were. So there is no such thing as 100 per cent free agency but Yahweh does 'fractionate' it to protect the faithful and limit the rebellious.
The Complexity of Yahweh's Will
This is admittedly over-simplistic. I like John Piper's take on this (even if he is a Calvinist):
Two Things to Know
"There is a genuine inclination in [Yahweh]'s heart to spare those who have committed treason against His kingdom. But His motivation is complex, and not every true element in it rises to the level of effective choice. In his great and mysterious heart there are kinds of longings and desires that are real... Yet not all of these longings govern [Yahweh]'s actions. He is governed by the depth of His wisdom expressed through a plan that no ordinary human deliberation would ever conceive (Romans 11:33-36; 1 Corinthians 2:9). There are holy and just reasons for why the affections of [Yahweh]'s heart have the nature and intensity and proportion that they do." 
The whole equation is beyond our ken. What's important to know is:
Our Choices Determine the Zones of Limitation Which We Must Occupy
- 1. He is intimately involved; and
- 2. He is in complete control.
Our choices will determine which "zone of limitation" we occupy, whether it be a physical location, the people who are around us, or both. He changes the circumstances - opens or closes doors - depending on the choices we make and the lessons we are required to learn, combining this with the work we are called to do in our service to Him.
Ministers, Counsellees and the Ruach
One of the heavy burdens and responsibilities a minister must bear is dealing with people who bring their problems to him. Though he may have insights from experience, ultimately he depends on the revelation given Him by the Ruach (Spirit). More importantly, he has to cultivate in those he is counselling the desire to assume sufficient responsibility to both hear the Ruach (Spirit) for themselves and to take positive action at the ordained time. We cannot possibly get it right without the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which is why the rebirth is essential and why we must keep strictly on the Torah track at all times, repenting swiftly when we deviate from it. The longer we wait, the longer the journey is to get back to where we were supposed to be. Either way, we have to be proactive. Life is not a dentist's waiting room.
So my job as a counsellor is not to tell people what to do, let alone advise them as to courses of action they should take (though sometimes this is needed as a stop-gap while the counsellee gets back onto his or her own two feet until they are hearing Elohim (God) again. The goal of the minister is to make heads of households in particular independent once they have acquired the wisdom to properly handle it. Yahweh does not give the minister the full picture anyway - it isn't his business - his job is to support and point.
Obtaining Confidence and Strength in Understanding Sovereignity
Once you come to realise that Yahweh is in control - whether directly or indirectly through proxies (such as husbands over wives) - it will give you a confidence and a strength that you lacked before. It all boils down to a central emet (truth):
He Has a Set Purpose For, and Foreknowledge of, You
"[Yahweh's]’s sovereignty is defined as His complete and total independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent, [Yahweh] does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. [Yahweh] is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes." 
If Yahweh had a "set purpose and foreknowledge" for, and of, Yah'shua (Jesus) (Acts 2:23, NIV), then you can be absolutely sure that He has a "set purpose and foreknowledge" for, and of, you too. Nothing is accidental even in the apparent chaos of the determined thrust by the globalists to seize power planet-wide as we speak. He has control over them too even if the 'zones of free agency' appear to be contracting alarmingly fast. You just wait and see what He does in the weeks ahead particular after the New Year in 8 days' time. This has been, and remains, a stripping season for the Body of Messiah.
Please get right with Him quickly so that "[you] will not be found naked" (2 Cor.5:3, NIV) but properly clothed by the Ruach (Spirit). We will gather again for the last Sabbath of the 13th month and year, and then the day after for Aviv 1. May Yahweh bless you and prepare you for the newness that lies ahead! Amen.
 Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask, Victor Books: 1992
 Cited in Daryl E. Witmer, Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
 gotQuestions.org, How can I learn to trust that God is in control?
Comments from Readers
 "This is a great sermon today I am really blessed! Bless your heart, Brother" (SW, Germany, 2 April 2013)