When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Passover was a special time of remembrance for the Jews. Jerusalem was full of hustle and bustle as Jews from all around came to celebrate their redemption from Egypt by the hand of God.
Jesus went to the Temple, the heart of Jewish worship and life; and as He entered the Temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and people sitting at tables exchanging money. This was the House of God, a House of prayer and a place where incense was offered up, and Jesus was incensed by what He saw. In John 2:15 in the NIV, we read that He made a whip and drove the animals out, both sheep and cattle. And with a word He drove out those selling doves, “Get out of here!” He said. “How dare you turn My Father’s house into a market!” (v16). The impression one gets from John’s Gospel is that Jesus used the whip He made to drive out the animals from the Temple courts. Some people interpret this verse as meaning Jesus used the whip on the people. It depends on how one interprets the Greek here. It can be interpreted as it is in the NIV, or it could be translated as in the KJV. (In Matthew, Mark, and Luke (The synoptic Gospels) there is record of a similar even of Jesus at the Temple, but no whip is mentioned, that occurred at the end of His Ministry, immediately after what we now call Palm Sunday. John seems to record another incident of the cleansing of the temple, one that happened near the beginning of His Ministry. I write, “seems” because John's Gospel is not strictly chronological. However, the language of the preceding context and language of the text give more weight to the assertion that what we have here in John's Gospel is a separate cleansing incident). Jesus scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables exclaiming, “How dare you turn My Father’s House into a market!” His disciples remembered what the Scriptures said, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17). We see something of the righteous anger of the Lord, or the “wrath of the Lamb”, at the misuse of the House of God. The attitude of the hearts of these people towards God was expressed in their lives. People today ask how it was that the Jews could not understand that Jesus was their Messiah. We can see from these Scriptures that their hearts were darkened and their understanding dulled because of their outlook. They were careless in their lives when it came to their religion and God. They were making religion easy for people, selling the sacrifice to them rather than them having to bring their own. In filling their own pockets they were taking away from God—don’t we see this with some of today’s preachers? The Hebrew people were failing to function as God intended. They had taken their eyes off the Lord and so a veil was placed over their eyes so that they should not see, and so that they should not understand.
Time went by, and we come to another story, again involving Passover. On this occasion we read that Jesus was Himself whipped, perhaps treated by the Roman authorities as though He were less than human (Psalm 22:6), as He was led like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7) The Jews have often been treated as though they were less than human. It was during Passover that Jesus was nailed to the Cross. His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness (Isaiah 52:14). Speaking down from the Cross, Jesus said about those who were crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24). The Jews had received the revelation of God and were the people He had chosen to reveal Himself to; yet there were Jews in the nation that disregarded Him and they used their religion for financial profit, as did Judas. The Romans did not have that privilege and acted in ignorance, not knowing who Jesus was, or who the true God was. Moments after Jesus died, one Roman soldier at the Cross appears to have come into an understanding and revelation as he exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). Both Jews and Gentiles were involved in the death of Jesus, and both Jews and Gentiles benefit from the death of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Both instances were a fulfilment of Scripture, Jesus’ zeal for His Father’s House, and His death on the Cross. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). To get the full picture we should look beyond Pilate and Herod and trace the death of Messiah to the Father, “Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
We can get our priorities wrong by allowing all kinds of clutter to build up in our lives so that God is not first but somewhere lower down the pecking order. It is important that we get our hearts right with God on a daily basis, and moment by moment.
Sometimes God puts us into situations where we are completely helpless or alone. Adam was help-less in Genesis 2. Then God did something that Adam could not do for himself. Putting the help-less Adam into a state of helplessness (Gen 2:21) God reached deep inside the man and pulled out what was there. What was there inside Adam/Ish (namely Isha), once outside, completed and blessed Adam and ultimately was to be a blessing to mankind, because what came out of woman was the Messiah.
We have much inside of us that in God’s hands can bring fulfilment and meaning to our lives. He is able to pull out all the stops. God knows us in our innermost parts and as He reveals and releases the hidden and the unseen, and as God forms it and gives shape to it and releases it, it will blossom into something that will not only be beneficial to you or me but will be beneficial to those in our churches, congregations, our families and communities. Deep is calling to deep (Psalm 42:7). What God has opened will be closed, what has been exposed will be covered as God closes up the place with flesh (Gen 2:21), the flesh and the life of His only Son, Yeshua HaMashiach. Rest in the Lord (sleep deeply) while God does His work. He is preparing something very special, very beautiful, meaningful and eternal. Even though you may be feeling alone and not worthy, your life has great value. Someone wanting to purchase a great work of art for instance will go to great lengths and pay huge amounts to acquire that object. We are of great value because of the value God has placed upon us. That value is the life of His only Son. Having given His only Son—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32). Above all else what our God wants released from that which is within, is His Spirit.
God who loves us and gave Himself for us does not intend for us to live empty, shallow, lonely lives, but rather Spirit empowered lives. Lives that are aware of who God is, and lives that are lived out in His presence.
One of the blessings of the Foundations conferences for many is discovering the Spirit of God. Jo Jones leading the worship brings healing and release through the gifts God has given her, enabling people to understand and receive from God. This year there will be teaching by various ‘charismatic’, that is, gifted and experienced Bible teachers. It is a time and place of blessings and fellowship in the Lord. For details of the conference taking place in June 2014, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 0208 551 1719
Da Lifne Mi Atah Omed – “Know Before Whom You Stand.” You will find these words inscribed on some synagogues above the Torah scroll cabinet. The words are a reminder of God’s active presence in the world, and inspire a sense of awe. God’s active presence is in every believer, but sometimes, because of personal inner struggles, God’s presence is not obvious and we lose our sense of belonging. God’s love appears to be for everyone else but not for us, not for me. Kavanah must involve focus; focussing one’s heart on the Almighty God. Realise you are standing before Him when you worship, when you pray, and when you praise.
When a Jewish man attends synagogue, before he prays, he prepares his heart with songs and melodies to prepare his heart making it glad. He will then take three small steps forward, planting his feet like a tree planted by water. He stands there and does not move from side to side or take steps – his whole focus is on God. He must not be interrupted except for a life-saving emergency, because he is in conversations with the King of Creation. In our worship it does not matter what is going on around us, we are to focus on Jesus Christ and what God has done through him – focus on Him, praise Him and worship Him. Our whole concentration is to be on Him. The Hebrew word for heart – (lev/levav) refers mainly to your mind/your intellect, and to your will – to your moral self. So to worship God with all your heart does not refer to the physical heart. It means focussing one’s mind entirely on God – who He is, what He has done. The heart is the seat of the will; so it means with one’s will, one will resolve to attribute worth to Him. With the mind, and with the will – with all our hearts we worship Him. And we will say with Israel: “We will hear and we will obey all the Lord says” (Exodus 24:7; John 14:23).
We are continuously standing in the presence of the Almighty God. The Hebrew word kavanah means ‘intention’ or ‘direction,’ and expresses the idea of being profoundly aware of the One to whom you are speaking (in prayer for instance) as you concentrate your thoughts, words and heart toward heaven. The rabbi’s say, ‘A prayer without kavanah is like a body without a soul.’ Our lives and our prayers should be full of the presence of God. He is our life and our lives are His. He is our focus and He is our destiny. One day we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). We are now, already on that journey of discovery and revelation of knowing God—God unknown, yet known.
One Jewish theologian and writer put it like this:
Kavanah is “attentiveness to God, an act of appreciation of being able to stand in the presence of God … It is one’s being drawn to the preciousness of something he is faced with. To sense the preciousness of being able to pray, to be perceptive of the supreme significance of worshipping God is the beginning of higher kavanah.”
An old Jewish story tells of the Baal Shem Tov coming to a synagogue and turning back at the door, unable to enter. Too many prayers inside, he said.
“But Master,” asked his disciples, “surely a room full of prayer is a good thing?”
“But all the prayers are stuck there in the building,” the Baal Shem answered. “None of them are going up to Heaven.”
‘Jewish prayer begins with kavanah – intention. To daven with kavanah means to pray with focus, intention, meaning. It means praying from the heart, rather than prayer centred solely in the mind. Celebrating a Shabbos or a holiday with kavanah gives those days a deeper, richer texture. Kavanah gives meaning to our rituals of marriage and birth and death. It inspires one to perform a mitzvah on a more conscious and ultimately more rewarding level. Kavanah lies at the heart of Jewish devotional life. That one word encompasses an entire body of inner work necessary to live consciously in the presence of God.
The Jewish path to inner awareness begins with kavanah.’
Believers in Yeshua are not left as orphans to fend for themselves. They have the Spirit of God within to help them in their weakness. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
Kavanah should be effective in the whole of our lives – in our work, whatever we do for a living; in our study of Scripture; in our living out the Christian life in acts of loving kindness; and in our prayer lives, we should experience kavanah and practise the presence of God in our lives. Such surrender of our will and acceptance of His will for us would save us from many heartaches, mistakes and arguments if we lived our lives in the reality that we are in the presence of the Living God. May God help us to do just that, and to have a continuing sense of His presence.
What is inside you and what God wants to bring out, is a heart for God through the Spirit within. Interestingly enough, God’s name is built into the human heart. The next time you are in a hospital or your doctor’s surgery look to see if they have a wall chart with a diagram of the heart. If they do, you will see, as in the picture here, there is a three pronged piece resembling the Hebrew letter Shin. Shin is the first letter in God’s name ‘Shaddai.’ He has put His name in the place He has chosen to dwell. However, with human beings He has given us the choice as to whether we want God in our lives or we do not. He perhaps has given us a further physical, tangible (in the deepest sense) proof that the desire of His heart is that our hearts desire Him above all others, and that all men everywhere repent and be saved. He is not concerned with our colour of skin, who we are or where we come from. He is concerned with our hearts, the innermost being where His Spirit dwells in the believer.
In the picture follow the curve going under the right and left ventricles, and the ‘finger’ going up in the middle, where the shape of the letter shin can be clearly observed.
We also find the letter shin in Yeshua, but not at the beginning of the word. If you want to know the power of God unto salvation/Yeshua in your heart and life there are other things that must come first. Faith and repentance are necessary.
“He who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Yeshua, potentially, is written on our hearts – that is our destiny, but it is down to us whether or not we choose to fulfil the destiny and purpose God our Father has chosen for us. By giving His Son to die for us, God has invested in each of our lives. If we follow Yeshua, His Name is not only written on our hearts but also in the Lambs Book of Life! Just as our blood is pumped around our body by the heart, God’s eternal life soars through us by His Spirit. The human heart will one day wear out and stop and the blood will cease to flow, but the Spirit of God is the Eternal Spirit and His life continues in us throughout eternity. We are made alive in Him (Yeshua/Jesus).
One day, on the Day of Judgement, we shall all stand before our God and Creator. It is better now to, Da Lifne Mi Atah Omed (“Know before whom you stand”). If we are profoundly aware of Him now in this life, if we are following Jesus, we need not fear when we see Him face to face in the Age to come, for we shall see Him and we shall be like Him. We will know as we are known. “Those who are wise will understand” (Daniel 12:10).
The first letter in the name “Yeshua” is the “Yod”. The Yod is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and Jesus used it in Matt 5:18 “…not one yod (iota in the Greek text) will pass from the Torah.” For added emphasis Yeshua said, lo' yod ve-LO' ko-TSO shel yod, “not a yod and not a ‘thorn’ of a yod.” God’s Word is wrapped up in His Name. God’s Word is eternal.
In Exodus 3:15, God revealed the Name that is to be remembered from generation to generation; and the meaning of the name, ‘Yahweh’ is God’s affirmation that He is the God Who is always present, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5) Jesus, God Who took on human form and walked amongst us said: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The presence of the Lord is the place of blessing.
Body, mind, soul and spirit are involved in worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth. The body used in worship to glorify God, in Greek the word is proscuneo and in Hebrew it is shachach. It includes falling to the knee before God, to bow down, to prostrate oneself. Making oneself low in order to make God higher. In the Hebrew the word ‘to bless’ God (barakh), or barakhi naphshi et Adonai—‘I will bless the Lord O my soul’ (Psalm 103)—the word barakh is related to the word berekh (knee). To bless God is to bend the knee. The haughty spirit has no place in the presence of God. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18)
When Jesus walked the earth 2,000 years ago, one of the highest expressions of worship was study – the study of the Scriptures that leads to obedience. Today, people want constant drip-feeding with information. They want the latest on everything—information for information’s sake. The study of Scripture was worship and lead to obedience. It was not simply a matter of the mind, or mind over matter. It includes our whole being, responding in worship and obedience – “If you love Me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
The early church worshipped in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the gift from God. It is disturbing to see how leaders at some meetings and conferences have tried to generate and to manipulate God, sometimes putting up the amplification on the sound system and booming out commands for the Spirit to come; and playing music that drones on forever. They behave as though the Holy Spirit was at their beck-and-call to do their will. You see them blowing on their helpers with the result they all fall over. Jesus never used His power to entertain and refused to do so when asked. The Holy Spirit comes in the presence of God’s people when they are of one mind and spirit, as they were on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, when they were praying to and worshipping the true and holy God. Let God be God! It is not the worship leader or the great preacher; it is God’s responsibility to pour out His Spirit. It is our responsibility to worship and obey Him. The word for worship in Hebrew is ‘avodah’. It is the same word as work. Get involved in the worship. Don’t leave it to those up front or the singers and choir; get involved with mind, body, soul, and spirit as we have already discussed.
Writing to the Galatians, the apostle Paul said: “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.” To the Ephesians he wrote of Him who “filleth all in all.”
Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,
And triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Jesus, the Saviour, reigns,
The God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains
He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
His kingdom cannot fail,
He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell
Are to our Jesus given;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Rejoice in glorious hope!
Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up
To their eternal home;
We soon shall hear
The archangel’s voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!
Blessings and shalom,