Month 10:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5937:288 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 22 January 2014
Beyond the Rivers III
An Appointment at Ashdod
First & Second NCAY East Africa
Mission Conferences, Kenya & Tanzania
8-12 & 15-19 January 2013
Continued from Part 2
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el to all the brethren and sisters in this East Africa Conference of the New Covenant Assemblies of Yahweh in Kenya and Tanzania - may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with you all as we conclude this three-part series with the final part of the davar (word) we have received about the Chief Ethiopian Treasurer to the Queen of Ethiopia! The East African qodeshim (set-apart ones, saints) received this sermon last week, and the week before, in Tanzania and Kenya, during their respective conferences.
Interrupted and Redirected Journeys in Life
We are examining this amazing story of the apostle Philip and the Ethiopian believer and chief treasurer of the court of the Queen of Cush. We ended last time seeing how Philip did not end up in Gaza (which was the direction he was traveling in) but was supernaturally taken to Ashdod (Azotus) instead, no doubt to the amazement of the Ethiopian and his retinue. There's an important point that must not be missed here - sometimes Yahweh can send you in a particular direction and you conclude that your destination is the place at the 'end of that line', as it were. Yahweh sent me to Oxford University to study Biochemistry and the end of that road should have been a career in Biochemistry, but He had an entirely different end in mind. Using the discipline gained from that, He first made me a regular tutor and school teacher and then a teacher of the Besorah (Gospel). You might say that my ending up as a minister was my 'Azotus Journey'. I am sure that many - if not most - of you can speak of similar life stories where you did not at all end up where you supposed you would, because Elohim (God) intervened and took you somewhere else. We are all called to labour in the world just as Philip was called to minister in the Philistine territories. He thought he was going to Gaza but he ended up in Azotus and on the way Yahweh brought him to an East African, changed his life and the lives no doubt of hundreds of not thousands of other East Africans. I am praying he is impacting us during this Conference!
A Sudden Change in Circumstances and People
It's not everyday someone vanishes out of your midst within a few inches of your face, is it? But this happens too. Yahweh can suddenly change your life so totally around, bringing people into it and suddenly taking them out of it. We do not know His Plan nor to we understand why this happens. I remember the dismay I felt when one of my spiritual mentors was suddenly ripped out of my life and returned to America leaving me 'high and dry' after only a very short time. I had come to depend on him as an irreplacable interpreter of Scripture and dreams in particular. But Yahweh had His reasons. For one, He wanted me to find out things on my own with Him as my Mentor of mentors. It is easy to yield yourself to gifted teachers and forget the Teacher who wants to tell us so much directly. For two, my mentor believed in many errors that held him back (though I did not know it at the time) and he remains a prisoner of those errors to this day decades later. If he had remained, I would not have grown in the direction Yahweh wanted me to go in. Later I found another mentor who was more of a support than anything else when I was going through a difficult time but he would be one of several whom I thought were friends but who ended up betraying me. I was not nearly as discerning as I thought I was and had much to learn. And so it is with people - we are brought into close contact with people for our good and theirs, and then they are taken away from us, or we from them, because the good we could do, or have done for us, was only optimal in a certain time-frame. We're all on a journey and we cross paths with others for longer or shorter periods of time to allow Yahweh's purpose to be fulfilled. We will never know all the 'why's' until this life is over but there remains purpose even in tragic and painful encounters.
Philip's Urgent Mission in Philistia
Azotus was, as we learned previously, one of the Five Cities of the Philistines (like Gaza) which Philip passed through on his way to Caesarea. There were no farewells between the apostle and the man of Africa - Philip had other missions to perform in Philistine territory and the Ethiopian had to get back home to East Africa. As the African was a witness to the supernatural transportation of a Judahite apostle then, so in modern times a Kenyan, an American and several others have done the same thing, when, as we talked about last time, they experienced supernatural transportation. Yahweh is at work! So let us rejoice as He works!
East African Endurance and Stamina
We must be rugged for the tasks ahead for there is much to do in a short space of time and with few physical resources. Kenya is renouned for its long distance runners like Aasif Karim, Alfred Yego and David Rudisha - and I know those of you in Tanzania have your famous athletes like Agapius Masong and, in more recent times, Amani Kyata too - your endurance and stamina is proverbial in athletic circles! But apparently you are called to be the same in the Besorah (Gospel) too. You have been called in the past and a 'Philip' of sorts is calling you now.
David Rudisha, 800m world record holder & world champion
The Spiritual Meaning of Azotus and Caesarea
We must ask ourselves the question whether there is any symbolic importance to the fact that Philip was transported out of a baptismal location and to a Philistine city? The answer must, of course, be yes. What could Yahweh possibly mean in extracting Philip out of a baptismal site? Because to enjoy this kind of blessing you must come from a place of death and burial - a place of total surrender to Yahweh such that you are dead to self and alive to Him! And once you have surrendered your life properly and fully to Yah'shua (Jesus), so He will use you and send you into the very bowels of the enemy camp! First to Azotus or Ashdod, a key Philistine city, and thence to Caesarea, the domain of Caesar, as Paul was! Oh yes, there is most definitely a deep revelation is these cities, and this is what we are going to examine now.
Dagon of Ashdod/Azotus (false religion) and Caesar (the secular state)
Ancient Ashdod or Azotus was one of the five principle Philistone cities ruled by a local lord or sheikh, and was the seat of the worship of Dagon, the national god of the Philistines. Every nation that is not ruled by Yahweh has its 'national deities' like Dagon and it is at the feet of these gods that the nations worship. Dagon was worshipped at Gaza (Judg.16:21-23), at Ashdod/Azotus as late at the Maccabean period (1 Macc.10:83-85; 11:4) and at Beth-shan in the days of Saul and David (1 Sam.5:2-7; 1 Chr.10:10 & 1 Sam.31:10). Originating in Babylonia, this fertility god moved west and became the Philistine god of fertility and fishing...you'll remember that Ashdod/Azotus was by the Mediterranean Sea. The Philistines worshipped other gods too, being polytheistic, but Dagon was the head of their pantheon. Dagon is alive and well in our day too, but goes under another name. Whenever you visit a Catholic and traditional Protestant church and a bishop, archbishop, cardinal or even the pope himsel is present, you will find this priest wearing the Hat of Dagon. Today it is simply called a mitre, a hat which is split at the top and was originally a fish's mouth, the head of the fish-god Dagon.
A 'Christian' bishop, cardinal or pope and a Priest of Dagon
Pictures of the Ministry
Philip being transported to Azotus (Ashdod) is a prophetic picture today of one of two chief aspects of our ministry as Messianic Evangelicals. Azotus is a representation of false Christianity. The remainder of Philip's mission, you will recall, consisted of him journeying to Caesarea and sharing the Besorah (Gospel) along the way. What do you suppose Caesarea represents spiritually in our day as it did back then? The authority of the secular state, of atheism, secularism, Marxism and its god of self-worship, another name for satanism. As Philip was supernaturally transported from the Ethiopian just south of Jerusalem on the Jerusalem-to-Gaza road, so we, brethren and sisters, are transported from the place where we were saved in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) into corrupt Christianity and must learn to remove all that is false in that system. That is what Azotus symbolises on one level. Two of our chief enemies are false Christianity-Messianism, and secularism.
Do Not Pursue or Marry Unbelievers!
We have to destroy the Temple of Dagon in our own souls, just as the Nazirite Samson did, though not imitating his temptation that has ruined many a man of Elohim (God) - he fell for an unbeliever, for a Philistine woman, Delilah, who seduced him into breaking his Nazirite vow and then betrayed him into the hands of his enemies who gouged his eyes out and made him grind corn like a beast of burden. We are commanded most forcefully in both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) not to marry unbelievers! Yahweh doesn't care what race they are, what skin colour they have, what tribe they come from, whether they are rich or poor, pretty or plain, what their age differences are, or what country they come from - He makes no such limitations: His only requirement is that you do not marry an unbeliever, that you do not marry some lawless person outside the Covenant!'
Remaining True to Unbelieving or Torahless Spouses
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with Torahless (Lawlessness)? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Messiah with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of Elohim (God) with idols? For you are the temple of the living Elohim (God)" (2 Cor.6:14-16, NKJV).
Now if you are a convert and your spouse is an unbeliever because he or she has not converted along with you, that is no fault of your own, and you must continue to love that spouse and remain true to him or her (1 Cor.7:10-16). You must attract them to Messiah through your righteous living and remain with them unless they choose to desert you. Notice that Paul says that you must not consciously marry a lawless or Torahless believer either! For that is to enter the Temple of Dagon and to worship there alonside the Temple of Yahweh. Again, if you are a convert and your spouse is a Torah-rejecting believer, then you have ever more reason to remain together and be true to your marriage covenant, for you both share a love of Messiah!
Do Not Imitate Solomon
Caesarea is the 'City of Caesar', the place of secularism. So don't go marrying a worldly man or a worldly woman for it will bring you much grief. And if you are already married, then do not be a fool like Solomon who married non-believers who tempted him to worship their gods. They were the indirect result of his fall.
Double-Mindedness and Dagon's Mitre
I bring these matters up for you young, unmarried folk especially for you have yet to make the second most important decision of your lives after choosing Yah'shua (Jesus) and His Torah (Law). Dagon has a split mitre or hat which also represents being divided between two positions or living a double life. The Scripture says through the apostle James that "a double-minded man [is] unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8, NKJV) and that is not a place you want to find yourself in, for it will not bring you happiness. Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself declared that "no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other" (Matt.6:24, NKJV). He was specifically talking about the conflict between serving Elohim (God) and serving mammon or money but the principle is applicable here when it comes to conflicting religious ideas too. We cannnot serve Dagon or Caesar along with Messiah. Rather we must witness in the territory of Dagon and Caesar - in the world - and call people out of them, something that is impossible to do if part of us already owes allegiance to one or the other...or, Yah forbid, to both!
So get your allegiances sorted out for a Philip may soon be coming your way and call you to become single-minded like the noble Ethiopian was, your righteous spiritual ancestor!
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of Elohim (God) abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17, NKJV).
That Fishy Christian Symbol
One last thing in this connection. You may have noticed that many Evangelical Christians use the sign of the fish as their symbol consisting of two imntersecting arcs with a dot for an eye or having 'Jesus' written between them (see below left) or sometimes a cross. Sometimes it has a Greek acronym in place of 'Jesus', I-CH-TH-U-S in Greek letters (which means 'fish') that are the first letters of the sentence in Greek of 'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour' (see below right). Though this is a beautiful idea, this symbol surrounding it is not what it appears to be.
You will remember I told you that the worship of Dagon, like so many pagan deities, was a fertility cult. This 'fish', with
it's unusual design of two thin overlapping crescent moons, is a universal symbol of the pagan mother goddess and so-called 'sacred prostitution'. If you turn it so that it is standing up on its 'tail' you will immediately see that it represents something completely different (see above centre). And though there is, of course, nothing unholy about the female private area, or yoni, being the creation of Elohim (God), it is neither for public display nor is it for worship as part of some fertility cult! Putting 'Jesus' or 'ICHTHUS' 'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour' in the middle of this is clearly blasphemous. Rather, it presents all that is vile and unclean in apostate Christianity with its mixed-in Roman paganism. And yet you would be amazed if I told you that this pagan symbol is to be found on old Romanesque 'Christian' churches in at least eight European countries  too in the form of a common stone carving known as a Sheela na Gig (see right). This is what I mean about getting all Catholic and Protestant corruption out of our worship, including their pagan symbols and images.
You might say that Azotus, the place to where the apostle Philip was supernaturally transported, was the centre of this false fish- or fertility-worship. It appears in different forms here in Africa but it is equally vile: whether as Ala (the Igbo goddess of fertility), Asase Ya (the Ashanti earth goddess of fertility), Denka (the male Dinka god of the sky, rain and fertility) or Mbaba Mwana Waresa (the Zulu goddess of fertility, rainbows, agriculture, rain and beer), it is all the same. And though it is not immediately obvious in Christianity, it appears both in such false doctrines as feminism and in various symbols like the mitres of orthodox Christianity and the fish symbols of evangelical Christianity. Though the liberal-minded and spiritually careless regard these as being of no importance and therefore harmless, we have to remember what Scripture says always, namely, that "every davar (word) or Elohim (God) is unalloyed" (Prov.30:5, JB) - His Davar (Word) is never mixed with falsehood, and neither must ours be. We must keep our hearts and symbols pure. Yahweh is not a liberal and neither are His true talmidim (disciples).
Pagan Symbols in Judaism and Messianism
We are in the midst of the 'Philistines' and we must be careful to keep our religion pure, for Yah'shua (Jesus) hates impurity (Mt.5:27-29)  whilst lovingly and patiently pointing out the paganism present in the belief systems and outer symbols of Christians and Messianics. Yes, Messianics too have their paganism including the kippah or skull-cap (which is the hat of the Greek god Hermes) and the six-pointed star of Remphan or so-called 'Star of David', a dangerous universally used occult symbol that is as widespread across the world in every religion like the mother-goddess. So remove any of these objects if you have them because like a pagan idol they serve as contact objects for evil spirits. Judaism worships many heathen gods though on the surface at may seem otherwise because they don't name them! 
Don't Mix Paganism with the Gospel!
If you want to know what Yahweh thinks of mixing paganism in with the true emunah (faith) in any form you need only consider what happened in ancient Azotus or Ashdod when the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines in the days of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam.5:1). It's loss was the consequence Israel's disobedience - they thought that by bringing the Ark of the Covenant into a battle that they were losing because of their faithlessness that it would serve as a lucky charm! Yahweh hates lucky charms so never wear them! They do not bring 'luck', only cursings, whether pagan or supposedly 'Christian' charms like St.Christopher medalions. Now you know what happened when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ashdod (Azotus) - the Philistines put it into the Temple of Dagon, just as apostate believers have done with the true emunah (faith) and paganism in the past and mixed them together. Christmas is a perfect example of this religious syncretism which Yahweh hates so much. Yahweh was so angry that He knocked over the idol of Dagon onto its face (v.2 - see image at top of article). When the Philistines put up the idol again, the next day they found the head severed from its body as well as being flat on his face. From that day onwards the temple of Dagon was never entered again - no worshipper ever trod on his threshhold (v.5) just as one day humans will stop worshipping the devil.
Don't mix the Gospel with paganism
A Prophetic Picture of Christendom
Now this is an important prophetic picture. If you allow paganism into your spiritual life, Yahweh will humble you by knocking you onto your face to persuade you to let go of it. But if you do it twice, the end may be fatal. That's why Yah'shua (Jesus) warned the woman caught in adultery not to do it twice (Jn.8:11). The idol of Dagon is also a prophetic picture of Satan. Those who carry the Ark of the Covenants in their hearts - and remember the Ark symbolises Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) - they will defeat Satan again and again, and in the final battle, He will be destroyed. So long as you are pure and you worship with a clean heart, the Enemy will not be able to stand against you. He is defeated and must fall prostrate before the Messiah who is in you!
Yah'shua the Messiah, our eternal Cohen Gadol (High Priest)
Do Not Exploit Yah's Grace
Now this was the fate of the stone idol but what happened to the inhabitants of Ashdod (Azotus) when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the temple of Dagon? They were smitten with cancerous tumours and this was enough to persuade them that the Ark had to be returned to the Israelites. They endured this suffering for seven months (1 Sam.6:1), the number seven signifying completion, and in their case, the fullness of their suffering, for you see every man has his limits as to what he can endure in sinning. Every man has his breaking point when he either repents or falls never to stand up again, like that statue of Dagon with the severed head. He is given at least one chance to get his life right but there is a time when Elohim's (God's) grace is exhausted and the Law of Justice must have its way. So if you are sinning, and know it, get right with Yahweh's quickly! You do not know how long His grace will be extended to you, however patient He is.
The Ark Returned
So the Ashdodites returned the Ark to Israel at Ekron, sending it together with guilt offerings in the form of five golden tumours and five golden mice (6:4), one for each of the Five Cities of the Philistines, for they were not only afflicted with tumours but with a plague of mice too! They remembered how Egypt had fared when Pharaoh had dealt wrongly with Israel (v.4) and they were afraid. The Ark had to be returned because the presence of Elohim (God) cannot dwell with unrepentant heathens! And He will not share His glory with Satan in one of his defiled temples! The Ark was put on a cart and attached to two milking cows which had never previously been yoked (v.7) symbolising, on one level, the yoking or submission of the mother-goddess (the number two symbolising the division she causes) which took the Ark to Beth-shemesh without human aid, arriving in the field of Joshua the Bethlehemite. There the cows were sacrificed by burning the wood of the cart, symbolising the complete severance of all that is Yahweh from all that is of the devil by destroying the works of Satan by fire. Because the Ark, representing the glory of Yahweh-Elohim, was uncovered and the Beth-shemeshites gazed at it with impure eyes, 50,070 of their number were struck down dead!
Three Important Lessons
There is much that should both gladden us as well as alarm us in this story. Number One, you do not mess about with the Glory and Purity of our Elohim (God)! He is Almighty and should be given our deepest reverential fear: the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom (Ps.111:10; Prov.1:7; 9:10) and a godly man's treasure! (Is.33:6c) Secondly, Yahweh defeats His enemies, which are our enemies, provided we love Him and obey Him! Thirdly, I want you to notice to whose field that Ark was taken. Did you notice his name? He was called Joshua the Benjaminite, which in Hebrew is Yehoshua, which is a variant spelling of the Name of Yah'shua (Jesus), meaning 'Yah is salvation', the Name above all names! Thus this Benjaminite is a picture of our Messiah, for the glory of Yahweh will always lead the honestly searching soul to His Son in whom alone is salvation, because He bears the name of Yah in His own. Therefore let us obey the adminition of Paul who wrote to Timothy, saying:
The ark arrives at the field of Joshua the Benjaminite
"Let everyone who names the Name (Yah'shua/Jesus) of Messiah depart from iniquity" (2 Tim 2:19, NKJV).
This has been a long journey that began with an unsaved, yet faithful Torah-obedient Ethiopian who met Yah'shua (Jesus) on the road to Gaza and was saved. Yahweh sent His own apostle, Philip, to minister to this man of Elohim (God) and then was suddenly snatched from his presence supernaturally and delivered to Azotus to witness to the unsaved heathen there. Meanwhile the Ethiopian presumably set out for the southern port of Ezion-geber  for his homeward journey. This is a picture for all of us, is it not, and yet in a distinctly African context! You, brethren and sisters, are collectively that Ethiopian nobleman in our day, and you too have a commission to take this wonderful Besorah (Gospel) to your countrymen, following the example of your Pastors and Evangelists, to the glory of our Father in Heaven, Yahweh. May His qodesh (set-apart, holy) Name be praised through Yah'shua (Jesus) our Messiah. Amen.
 Also see, The Heart of Torah I: What Yah'shua Most Hates, section #A3
 These female figures are found in Ireland, Great Britain, France, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, and in the Czech Republic. The illustration is from SS Mary and David's Church, Kilpeck, in England
 See Michael Hoffman, Judaism's Strange Gods (Independent History and Research, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: 2011
 Meaning, 'backbone of a mighty one' or 'backbone of an elohim (judge in Israel)'. This is also one of the names Yahweh gave to the author many years ago, though I rarely use it. Its prophetic significance to Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon (MLT), NCAY's headquarters in Sweden, is shown in the composite map below showing the geography of our headquarters in Arvika compared to the Red Sea area. The link to East Africa becomes self-explanatory when you consider where the Ethiopian nobleman must have journeyed onwards from Jerusalem on his way home to Ethiopia.