Supersessionism, fulfillment theology, replacement theology….they all refer to the same non-biblical doctrine that has crept into the church…a teaching that says the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan, that all of the promises God made to the Jewish people and Israel now pertain only to the Church.
There are several variations of this doctrine ranging from a belief that God has completely disinherited the Jewish people to a gentler form which states that God has an end-time plan of salvation for the Jewish people as a group but does not include a restoration to the land. The mildest form says that God’s plan for Israel has been completed and that a transition has occurred in which His plan only comes through the Church.(1)
Any form of replacement theology negates the nation of Israel as being a fulfillment of the biblical promises. No matter the range of the belief, the core principle is that the New Testament church is the new or the true Israel, sometimes
called spiritual Israel, that has forever superseded the nation of Israel and the Jewish people as the people of God. In other words, all the promises that God made to the Jewish people are null and void and apply only in a spiritual sense to the New Testament predominantly Gentile church.
This principle crept into the church as early as A.D. 160 with Church Father Justin Martyr who was the first to state that the church was the true spiritual Israel.(2) His contemporary Marcion tried to purge the Church of what he considered to be Jewish errors and influences. The Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) codified it under Emperor Constantine, the first “Christian” emperor, who called together non-Jewish Christians to define Christianity.(3) Everything related to the Jews was removed from the church including the celebration the Feasts of the Lord and the Sabbath. Easter was moved away from Passover aligning it with the more pagan celebration of the spring equinox.
The result of the Council of Nicea was an increase in anti-Semitism and violence against the Jews.(4) Although mistreatment of the Jews was not a new practice, a marked increase can be seen after this edict. A timeline of anti-Semitism can be found many places on the internet showing an increase in anti-Semitism from then into the present time.(5) After all, if we can convince ourselves that God has rejected the Jews, surely it would be appropriate for them to be rejected by all.
Somehow the church lost the facts that the early church was almost exclusively Jewish, that the apostles were Jewish, the writers of the Bible were Jewish, the first congregation was Jewish, and the first missionaries were Jewish. Most importantly they seemed to have lost the fact the Jesus was Jewish!
Why did this doctrine continue into modern times? Didn’t Bible scholars understand that what happened under Constantine, whose Christianity should be questioned, was wrong? In defense of the church, before 1948, when Israel became a modern nation, the idea of the Jews returning to their land, seemed absolutely impossible. Jewish people were scattered among the nations, so how were they to interpret the promises in the Bible?
“In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.” (Isaiah 27:6 ESV)
They held onto replacement theology because it seemed the logical thing since the existence of a future Israel seemed out of the question.
So why has this false doctrine continued to plague the Church even after Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948? God’s promises are now obviously being fulfilled.
“For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” (Jeremiah 30:3 ESV)
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 11:7 ESV)
It is clear from the Word, that the promises specifically refer to a physical restoration of Israel as a nation and as a people. Once the restoration became a historical fact, why has so much of the modern-day church continued to hold onto this doctrine of man?
When something has been ingrained for so long, it is hard to break. Even if the established Church doesn’t teach against Israel, it tends to ignore her. That too is dangerous and a form of anti-Semitism. Genesis 12:3, as explained in part one of this series describes the dangers of that. “I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses (despises, dishonors, treats lightly) you…”. I don’t even want to go into what it means to be cursed by God.
Also consider the source: the devil’s hatred of the Jewish people. His kingdom opposes the establishment of God’s kingdom. First, he tried to stop Messiah from being born. To do that, he had to destroy the Jews because the One who would destroy his plan would come from the Jews. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2ESV)
He failed then; time and time again he tried to wipe out the Jewish people. What about his hatred today? His plan now is to stop Jesus from returning; he still thinks he can win. He knows that the Jews need to be in Jerusalem to welcome their Messiah. If he destroys the Jews, he thinks Jesus cannot return. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! …And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37, 39 ESV)
But the devil will not win and Jesus will return and Jewish people will welcome their Messiah. “But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.” (Isaiah 45:17 NIV)
Problems with Replacement Theology
First, the church is never referred to as Israel in the New Testament, so the idea of the Church as spiritual Israel has no biblical foundation.
Second, to hold this doctrine not only causes an increase in anti-Semitic ideas, but also distorts the scriptures because the subject of Israel is found on just about every page of the Old and New Testaments. To have a distorted view of the Bible then leads to a distorted view of God!
Most importantly, if God breaks His promises to Israel, then what good are His promises to us? Either He is the covenant-keeping God or He is One who changes His mind about His promises. “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6 ESV)
To accept replacement theology, a person must completely ignore Paul’s teachings, especially in Romans 9-11. “I ask, the, has God rejected his people? By no means! …” (Romans 11:1 ESV)
The truth is that God had not replaced Israel with the Church. His plan includes both Jews and Gentiles. If our failures negated the promises of God, we would all be in dire trouble. But our God is merciful and despite the shortcomings of His people, both Jew and Gentile, He is a loving, covenant-keeping God.
Can We Fall into the Trap?
As Gentile believers, we must be careful not to misuse the Bible taking verses that apply to Israel and assigning them to the church or to ourselves. Who has quoted Jeremiah 29:11(ESV)? “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Do we know the preceding verse which clearly makes this a promise of God to Israel? “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” (Jeremiah 29:10 ESV) This was a part of the prophet Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon.
Is it a type of replacement theology when we take scriptures out of context ignoring their application to Israel? It can be…if we are ignoring that the promise was first given to Israel. Rather we should use the scripture with the following attitude: “Lord, I know You have a plan and a promise for good for your people Israel, so I know that you have a plan for me too.”
The church, which began with Jews only, was not complete without the Gentiles. In the same way, the church today is not complete without our Jewish brothers and sisters. God’s plan includes both. “…He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” (Ephesians 2:15 NLT)
We owe a great deal to the Jewish people. “They are the Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” (Romans 9:4 ESV) Without them we wouldn’t even have the Bible!
What a blessing it is to be grafted into the promises of God! It is our duty to live lives that provoke the Jewish people to jealousy so that they may see the love of their Messiah through us. And we must guard our hearts maintaining a biblical attitude in all things, including toward Israel and the Jewish people.
“Now I am speaking to you Gentiles…For if their rejection means the reconciliation for the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?…But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” (Romans 11:13-18 ESV)
(1) Hedrick, Dr. Gary. “Replacement Theology: It’s Origins, Teachings and Errors,” Shema Congregation Shema Yisrael, October 5, 2012.
Sue Priebe is the Pastor of City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.
The Bible teaches us to not be ignorant of several things. We are not to be ignorant of the Gospel. We are not to be ignorant of spiritual gifts. We are not to be ignorant of satan’s devices. We are not to be ignorant of God’s righteousness, nor of the fact that the Gospel includes afflictions and sufferings. We are not to be ignorant of the mystery of Israel. Regarding Israel Paul tells us in Romans 11:11 – 27 (NKJV),
“I say then, have they (Israel) stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’”
We cannot be ignorant of this topic as God is bringing the issue of Israel center stage in these last days. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be about evangelism, discipleship, caring for the poor, etc. We absolutely should be! But, we cannot afford to leave the subject of Israel as a side-line issue.
Since the mystery of Israel is something we are not to be ignorant of and since Israel is a central theme in the Bible, the subject is worthy of our attention, study and time. How we deal with Israel is very important to God. God’s Word exhorts us to bless Israel in Genesis 12:3 and to comfort her people in Isaiah 40:1.
Many Christians have heard the verse in Genesis 12:3 but do we know what it is actually saying? If you know this verse in NIV, KJV, NKJV, or NASB then you are reading the second half of it as “those who curse you (Israel), I (God) will curse.” There are those who do curse Israel but probably not Christians, or at least hopefully not. What is important here is that the translation is not clear. In the Hebrew, two different words are used for the word translated “curse,” and they profoundly affect the meaning. (Please see the Interlinear here.) Notice that the first usage of “curse” is the Hebrew word qalal which also means “to esteem lightly, to think of as insignificant, and to dishonor.” The ESV and NLT versions make this distinction and do not use the word “curse” in the first usage of the word. When God says, “I will curse,” the word curse is the Hebrew word arar which means what we think it means “to curse.” Therefore as ESV says, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” It is a better rendering of what is meant. Therefore, according to this verse, it is not enough just to refrain from cursing Israel; those who ignore Israel or think she is insignificant in God’s plan are also under His curse!
When it comes to “Comfort my people.” (Isaiah 40:1) no further explanation is needed. It means the same in Hebrew and English. We see the Apostle Paul in agreement when in Romans 15 he says, “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” Please keep in mind that the “saints” in Jerusalem at that time were Jewish believers. Following Paul’s example, Gentile believers should bless the Jewish believers, especially those in Israel.
Bringing comfort to “my people (Israel)” also entails bringing them the Gospel. This is the highest comfort we can bring to anyone. In Matthew 15 Jesus said that he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As he was sent, so he sends us! The Great Commission includes bringing the Gospel to the Jews. When entering a town, Paul always went to the Jews first! He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) They may resist, but it is still our responsibility to exemplify our love for them and make them jealous of what we have so they are drawn to the Lord.
Our theology concerning Israel must be aligned with what the Bible teaches. The Church does not replace Israel. God still has a plan for Israel and because He is a faithful God, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled.
The next installment in this series of blogs will explore the theologies concerning Israel further. For now reading Romans Chapters 9 – 11 will be of great help! Shalom in Yeshua/Jesus.
When I was a child, Good Friday was always a very serious day. Banks and some places of business were closed from noon until three, kids were supposed to be very quiet during these hours, and I was convinced that the sun never shone on Good Friday afternoon. It was a very serious religious day. The church service was always quiet, the cross was draped in black and sometimes the lights would grow more dim as the service progressed, ending the service in the dark. It was kind of scary. We didn’t understand everything, but we knew we had to be quiet AND serious.
The term Good Friday has evolved over the years. The English phrase “Good Friday” came from the Old German name Gottes Freytag which means “good” or “holy” Friday. In the present time the Germans call the day Karfreigta, which means “Care Friday” of “Friday of Mourning.” Other nicknames include “Black Friday,” (not to be confused with the day after Thanksgiving) or “Sorrowful Friday.” 1 Even when I was very young, I began to question why everyone was so sad about it. It was the day Jesus paid for my sins…a debt that I couldn’t begin to pay. He went to the cross so I didn’t have to go to hell. I thought this should be something to be happy about.
When it becomes a day of mourning instead of thanksgiving, the question comes up “Who is responsible for this death we are mourning?” There are two possible answers: the most common one is the Jews! The term “Christ killers” has been used against Jews for centuries. If you want to get it historically correct, the Jews had no power of crucifixion. It was the Romans who gave the death sentence. (I don’t see anyone blaming Italians.) The second response is more correct — my sin! However, that can cause a problem if Good Friday is a day of mourning for my sins, the focus can become my sin instead of my Savior! Focusing on sin allows the enemy to bring new accusations against us, even for old sins. Why should we spend time meditating on sins that have already been forgiven? In Isaiah 43:25 the Lord Himself says “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Now, if there are sins we haven’t repented of, mourning is still not the answer….repentance is.
Another problem was the math--I knew even as a child that Jesus said He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. No matter how I counted it out, Friday just didn’t work! Those who chose Good Friday negated the fact that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were all related to Passover! He couldn’t have died on a Friday.
You might ask, “What’s the difference when we celebrate the Lord’s crucifixion? After all, isn’t the important part the fact that it happened? And besides, we celebrate Christmas, and we know Jesus wasn’t born December 25.”
The connection with the Spring Feasts of the Lord is the answer: Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. The chart below shows the correct sequence of events regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord during the Biblical month of Nisan from the 14th – 18th.
Separating what has come to be known as Holy Week or Passion Week from the Spring Feasts of the Lord happened in 324 CE; the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, which is usually March 21. This decision wasn’t made just to keep the date consistent; it was made to remove from the church anything connected to Jews. The basis for moving the date was anti-Semitism! The following is from an article which discusses the Council’s decision.
… And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast, we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul….Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd, for we have received from our Savior a different way….and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast… it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord.2
Apparently the fourth century church forgot something that many today often forget: JESUS WAS A JEW! The Bible was written almost totally by Jewish people. God calls these feasts not the Jewish Feasts, but the Feasts of the Lord.
God was very specific in describing the dates and times of Jesus’ death. Why? He wanted us to see how Jesus fulfilled the Feasts that have been celebrated from the times of Moses. Understanding that Jesus fulfilled these ancient feasts to the exact day and time, would make it almost impossible to deny that Jesus is Messiah.
Passover was so important to God that He made the month in which it occurred the beginning of the year (Exodus 12:2). On the Jewish calendar, a month begins with the sighting of the new moon, so the months don’t directly match the months of our western calendar. The chart below shows the relationship of the calendars.
Overview of Spring Feasts
• The Feast of Passover comes first (Nisan 14) and is followed directly by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (on Nisan 15).
• The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the longest of the three Spring feasts, lasting for seven days.
• After the Feast of Unleavened Bread, comes the Feast of First Fruits, which is celebrated the Sunday following Passover.
• Sometimes all three feasts are collectively referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and sometimes all three are called Passover (Acts 20:6; Luke 22:1).
Let’s look at the details set out in Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27
• On the tenth day each man is to take a year-old lamb without blemish for his household.
• They were to watch over the lamb until the 14th day. It became part of the family for those days.
• The whole congregation are to slaughter their lambs at twilight
• The blood was put on the two doorposts and the crossbeam of the house
• The meal had to be eaten that night (now it is the 15th) with matzot and bitter herbs
• If there were any leftovers, they must be burned in the morning.
• They were to eat it dressed and ready to travel
• This day must be a memorial throughout the generations
On Day 1 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15, the Israelites left Egypt in haste. (Exodus 12:31 – 34, 39).
The Feast of Firstfruits was to take place when they entered the land; it was to occur on the first Sunday after Passover. On this Sunday the priest would wave a sheaf (omer) of green barley of the new harvest before the LORD (north, south, east, then west) as a symbolic gesture of dedicating the coming harvest to Him. As they returned to the Temple with the sheaves, the choir of Levites led the worship music with these words from Psalm 30:1-3– “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me. O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive…”
Jesus Fulfilled the Spring Feasts
Nisan 10, Lamb Selection Day was what we call Palm Sunday (which probably wasn’t Sunday, but Saturday), Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Up until that day, Jesus had avoided being called king, but on that day, He not only accepted the praise, He deliberately arranged for it to happen. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.“ Zechariah 9:9
According to Exodus 12, the people kept their lambs for four days examining them to be sure they were without blemish. What was Jesus doing during those four days? After his triumphal entry on Nisan 10, Jesus spent the next four days in the temple area: the lamb was on display for all to examine. “And in the daytime, He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.” Luke 21:37-38
Jesus the Passover meal with His disciples the beginning of Nisan 14. (Remember, that the Jewish day begins in the evening —“the evening and the morning were the first day” from Genesis) The only thing is they didn’t have a lamb at that meal. It was there that Jesus presented Himself as the Lamb. “This is my body given for you; do this is remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
We know Jesus was arrested after the Passover meal and condemned to die. He was on the cross on Nissan 14 from nine in the morning until three in afternoon, and at the exact time that the Passover lambs were being killed at the temple, Jesus said “It is finished.”
Jesus was buried on Unleavened Bread. Remember there was a rush to get the victims of crucifixion off the crosses before the high holy day…the special Sabbath being the first day of Unleavened Bread (Thursday). If the Sabbath referred to had been a regular Saturday Sabbath, when would the women have had time to prepare the spices they were bringing to the tomb before dawn on Sunday morning? They would have been forbidden to do that work on the Sabbath. The events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion happened in rapid succession; they couldn’t have planned for it. Friday was the only day they could have shopped for and prepared the spices.
Jesus rose from the dead on First Fruits. First Fruits is always the day after the regular Sabbath after Passover (always a Sunday). “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20
Summary of the Spring Feasts
• Passover represents our salvation and deliverance by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah. We are justified by trusting in the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
• Unleavened Bread represents our sanctification as we rid ourselves of the old leaven of “Egypt” and die to the carnal nature. This is represented by the burial of Jesus and our identification with Him.
• First Fruits represents the resurrection of Jesus our Messiah and our future glorified state as part of the coming harvest of God at the end of the age.
So, I stopped celebrating Good Friday because it doesn’t fit anywhere in the biblical story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. So the question remains: Should we move Easter to line it up with First Fruits? That’s a hard one because it is so ingrained in our culture. I leave it at this–I am always very happy when Resurrection Sunday falls on the day of First Fruits, as it does this year (2022). Even though Passover doesn’t begin until Friday this year (2022), First Fruits is Sunday.
May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
Romans 14:5-6a (NKJV) “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”
2“Israel Betrayed: The History of Replacement Theology.” Published by Ariel Ministries in 2019.
Sue Priebe is the Pastor of City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.
March 16, 2022, marks the convergence of two festivals: The Feast or Festival of Purim and the Festival of Fire (Chaharshanbe Suri which means “the scarlet Wednesday”). Both began in ancient Persia, now modern-day Iran. The exact date on the Gregorian calendar is different each year. Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (normally late Feb/early March). The Fire Festival is on the last Wednesday of the last month of the Iranian calendar before the start of their New Year at the Spring equinox (late March). Celebrations for both begin on the “eve” before.
Why should we as modern-day people care about these two festivals?
Both festivals are “spiritual”. Many people today are seeking out spiritual things and think that as long as it’s “spiritual” it’s good. This is not true. The question we need to ask is “Of what spirit is each festival?”
The Feast of Purim is found in the biblical book of Esther. It tells the story of a Jewish girl named Esther who became Queen of Persia. The King of Persia, now modern-day Iran, reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1). The King’s advisor Haman had devised a wicked plot to annihilate the Jewish people because they were different. The King agreed!
The Persian King did not know that Esther was Jewish. She kept it a secret.
Her cousin Mordecai heard of the plot to annihilate the Jewish people and implored Esther to intercede on behalf of her people. Esther was afraid knowing that if she went to the King without being summoned, she would be killed unless he extended his scepter of favor to her. Mordecai pointed out that Esther would not escape the decree just because she lived in the King’s palace. She would be found out and die also.
The Jewish people in the City of Susa fasted for three days at Esther’s request. She then went bravely to the King who did extend his royal scepter of favor to her. Esther invited the King and Haman to two banquets. At the banquets the King offered Esther whatever she would want, up to the half of his kingdom! At the second banquet, Esther pleaded for the life of her people, exposing Haman’s plot to annihilate them. Now knowing that his Queen was Jewish, the King became angry at Haman which resulted in Haman’s death. Another decree was written. Hallelujah! So, instead of being annihilated on the set day of the 13th of Adar, the Jewish people were able to defend themselves and overcome their enemies. The original decree’s intent was reversed. A great celebration happened on the 14th and 15th of Adar. From that time on, the Feast of Purim has been celebrated by the Jewish people commemorating the courage of Queen Esther and the deliverance of her people from death to life! Gifts are traditionally given, especially to the poor and needy.
In contrast, the Festival of Fire is in honor of the spirits of the dead. It includes such things as “fire jumping,” which is meant to purify those jumping over the fire. Fortune telling and eating “wish granting” snacks are among some of the other practices during the festival. Does that sound at all superstitious and even occultic? It is!!
It’s a spiritual war between satan and God.
Both festivals are celebrated today all over the world wherever Jewish and Iranian people live. Many people of other cultures participate not even knowing what they are doing. Some modern-day Jews and Iranians don’t know the whole story either.
These festivals are not just meaningless “let’s have some fun” celebrations. They are rooted in an ancient conflict between death and life, between satan and God. While Purim celebrates the life and the victory brought by our covenant-keeping God, the Festival of Fire celebrates death! The powers of darkness try to entice us with “fun and games”. This is true with the Festival of Fire. After all we just want to have fun, right?? It’s all a disguise to entrap people, to get them to open a door in their hearts allowing the enemy of our souls an entrance into lives which will only lead to torment and destruction.
God, on the other hand, does require us to stand in faith and sometimes even risk our lives to be part of His eternal plan of redemption just like He did in the book of Esther. He promises to always be with us and to lead us in paths of righteousness and peace.
Right now and right here in 2022 the power of satan is trying to defeat the power of God! We see this not only in the celebration of death, but wars and rumors of wars are growing daily. Our world is in great turmoil on every level. The Bible tells us there is a path that leads to life and a path that “seems right to man” but leads to destruction. Which path will you choose?
The path of life!
When we choose the path of life in Christ Jesus we have favor with God because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We have access to the throne room of grace to ask for help in time of need. What a comfort! What an assurance! Though the earth is shaking, we have an unshakeable God. We can ask Him to reverse the wicked decrees of the “kings” of the earth bent on war. May God give us the grace and courage to be a modern day Mordecai or Esther. Our world surely needs us!
Believers in Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) also have the privilege of co-laboring with him in prayer and intercession through the power of the Holy Spirit! So let’s pray right now….
Father, in the name of Jesus we thank you that we have access to the throne of grace to find help in time of need because of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. We can come to you knowing that we will receive favor as we join together in Spirit led prayer. The earth is shaking but you remain steadfast and faithful. We trust you Lord and we do not lean on our own understanding. We ask you to shed light into the darkness. Reveal the plans of the evil one and deliver us from his schemes. Strengthen us to stand strong and be your instruments of peace. May your kingdom come and your will be done. Maranatha!
I’m going to share today something of the mystery of the Bride, and it will surely touch upon the subject of Israel, because the mystery of the Bride includes so many things. And this is what we want really to understand today. The book of Revelation, which you can say is the consummation of the revelation of God from Genesis to the end of the Bible, focuses particularly on the mystery of the Bride who makes herself ready for the coming King. And if that’s the focus and that’s the high point of the book, which I do believe it is, then I believe that the Lord would have us give this subject great priority in our lives. And it is a subject that needs much time so I will try to focus on some of the points I think are essential for us to hear today.
I would like to say that the mystery of the Bride is both an inner and outer reality. An inner reality, because it firstly speaks about our individual and our collective relationship of love and intimacy with the Bridegroom, Yeshua. And of course, an outer reality, because it works in a process that God is working on the earth in connection to Israel, Jerusalem and the nations to bring forth finally the incarnation, one can say, of the finished work of redemption of Yeshua—which is seen at the end of the book of Revelation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, which is the great goal of redemption, that is the thing that we can say that is written of in Isaiah 53, “…He will see the travail of his soul and be pleased…” (vs 11). And there is nothing more for… than the Bride …who can really bring that great pleasure to the Lord, for she is the one who fully appreciates and yields herself to the Lord for the fulfillment of that mystery in her life.
So I would like to begin with some readings, we’ll begin with a reading from: Revelation chapter 10:7 “but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished as he declared it to his servants the prophets.”
And then in Revelation 11:1-2 “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod and the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the Temple of God”…(and I believe this is speaking of the Temple of Living Stones and not a temple on the temple mount as many and most think.)…..”measure the Temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. 2) “But leave out the court which is outside the Temple, and do not measure it….”
And let’s read now: Revelation 19: 6-10 “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” 7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write!: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” 10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
And as I was saying, just a few moments ago, I believe that the bride of Messiah, though obviously the whole church of the Lord is called to be part of that Bride and that bridal company, if we look more closely even to the messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation…and beyond that…we can understand that though the whole church is invited to be the Bride, the Bride is that part of the church that responds to the Lord in a very deep and real way. And understands, the admonitions of the Lord and the encouragements of the Lord the whole way long, that God would bring us finally to this great and wonderful marriage supper of the Lamb when we come into full union with the Lord. And this of course is a process and it’s a mystery. It’s a mystery because it expresses the ultimate reality of this love relationship between God and man. It expresses the ultimate fruit of what the Lord has finally laid down his life for, in perfect love and a perfect offering.
And so I believe it is the great fulfillment. And the marriage supper of the Lamb of course is the consummation, which is then the beginning of all that is to follow. It’s not the end in any way. In actuality, it’s the beginning.
And so if we have the vision of the Bride of Christ, which comes of course from the vision of the Bridegroom Himself, we submit ourself to a process of God, of yielding ourselves to Him in faith and love and giving God full access and authority over our lives to bring this fulfillment that HE so longs to bring forth in each one of our lives. But of course the Bride is not just a collection of individuals but the Bride very much is the answer to the prayer of Yeshua in John 17. And is a company of people who have really understood the heart of God, not just in a theological way, but in a walk of Life and in a vision that includes in every aspect of one’s walk with the Lord from morning to evening and through the night until the morning.
And so we can say that the Bride is truly the one who is the resting place of the Lord. The place where, the Ark of the Covenant, The Lord, can finally rest. And as we read in Revelation, it is that part of the church that God measures in the sense of those who are worshiping and living at the altar and the outer court is left out. And in order for the Bride to become the Bride there needs to be a deep correspondence between the nature of the Bridegroom and the nature of the Bride. And therefore, we can say that the Bride is the one who has the longing to behold the true image of the Bridegroom.
I think one of the main tactics of the devil throughout the centuries has been to distort the image of Jesus. And we know that He is the image of the invisible God. The book of Revelation ultimately is not just a series of prophetic events that take place, which of course it is as well, but it is ultimately the unveiling of the face of Yeshua. And the beholding of that face which reveals the fullness of the nature of God…it’s the glory of God in the face of Yeshua, as Paul says, that captivates us! It captivates us in a way that it becomes the central reality in our lives and all that we live no matter what the ministry is or the different aspects of the ministry. All become an offering up of our love to Him for His glorification.
And this is a continuous process in our lives of responding to the Living Word of God. Because, Yeshua, Jesus IS the Word of God and His word is Spirit and Life. And therefore, has the power to an abandoned heart to bring forth a transformation of mind and a transformation of heart. And as we all know, this is a process, a continuous process that God takes us through in our lives which ultimately leads to transfiguration. Which ultimately leads to our discovery of ourself in Him in the realm of His glory, because it’s in His glory that we find our true identity.
I remember many years ago I was battling with the whole question of my identity as a Jew who has found the Messiah. After I came to Israel there were very few believers at that time, it was 51 years ago and I met the gentile believers and coming from a religious Jewish background it was a little shocking for me that what the Lord was taking me through. And I was saying to the Lord, “Lord, where am I and why have you brought me to this country? And how do I find myself in You as a Jewish believer?” It was a very special day and I was actually in Germany, and one day the Holy Spirit came upon me in a very powerful way and God let me behold the face of Yeshua, actually it was more His eyes that I had seen. And the moment I looked into His eyes I found my complete identity, I found my complete identity. I realized it wasn’t an issue of outer things of putting on a tallit, or putting on a kippah. I had known that, I mean I had lived that way for many years and that’s the way I was raised. And when I saw His face, first of all I saw the perfect man, and I saw the God-Man. But I also saw the perfect Jew. I saw the incarnation of Israel in One Man and as it says in Isaiah 49. And when I looked into His face, into His eyes, for the first time in my life, I had an experience of such a similar experience when I met Him, but this was even more complete…I knew that my entire identity was in Him. And by seeing Him, I knew who I was and there was no other way for me to know who I was except to see that I was complete in Him as a Jew and as a man.
And that the whole destiny of Israel, because there’s always this struggle of Jewish identity in Israel, was Yeshua….Yeshua who was in the incarnation of Israel my servant. And also the longed for Bridegroom as God manifested Himself to Israel as the husband God Bridegroom who then comes in human flesh and is identified first by John the Baptist not only as the Lamb of God, but as the Bridegroom. And John the Baptist hears the voice of the Bridegroom. And I think this is very important in the hearing and in the seeing. Seeing the Bridegroom, not just seeing the Savior, of course, we need to see the Savior and the Savior is the Bridegroom. But we need to see the Bridegroom and we need to hear the voice, not only just the Voice of God, but the voice of the Bridegroom and to know His Voice.
I think of when we were children, there was that RCA Victor…I think probably some of you probably know what that is…there was this little dog, I think he was a terrier. And he was standing at a gramophone and he was listening to the gramophone…a very primitive thing in comparison to what we have, and it said on it, “his master’s voice.” And the voice that was heard through that gramophone was known to that little dog. And I think when we hear the voice of the Bridegroom it is always a call to go deeper, to leave the outer court, to realize that the veil has been torn from top to bottom, that we have access to live with God in the Holy of Holies and to come into ever increasing union with Him. And to allow Him to tear that veil over our mind and over our hearts, which is the deeper circumcision that we all need, and I know that I need it, and I continue to ask God to bring it forth in the whole process of life that we live… which is a process, that has, as we all know, suffering, tribulation….but surely not only that, but in these end times we experience that very much also within the body of Messiah and also in relation to the world around us which we see that we are more estranged as the time goes on from this world. And we sense more and more God’s love for this world and God’s desire to bring salvation to this world. But we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth though we are bringing at the same time the message of salvation and holding the Kingdom for the Lord during the time that we live on this earth.
And so the Bride makes herself ready. As it says in I John 3:1-3 as well that we will be like Him when we see Him. (vs. 2 Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be, but we know that, when HE IS revealed, we will be like Him; for we will see Him as HE IS.) This is something enormous if we think about it, that we will be like Him when we see Him and everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself even as He is pure. (vs. 3)
So I can say that our walk with the Lord as bridal souls is an inner highway to Zion as has been spoken of in the Psalms. And we all have to go through the valley of Bacca (Ps. 84) so that God can bring forth that inner spring of life, those inner wells, that they can be released, to release the rivers, the rivers of Living Waters that the Lord prophesied about at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. And in many ways that’s connected to our living out the reality of our baptism and entering with Him into His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, and ultimately into His priesthood.
And so our intercession is not just a prayer that we offer up to God for different things, even with a deep burden of the Holy Spirit, but our intercession becomes an offering of our lives for the very things that we are praying for. Through the offering up our lives for those things, God begins to manifest those things in us so that we can become an expression of the Lord and even that people can eat from us the broken body and drink of the blood of Yeshua as we partake in His very life. In Revelation 19:10c we read..”Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Now I’d just like to speak about this and explain how I have come to understand this in the last years. First of all, the whole book of Revelation is a prophecy, as I said it’s the unveiling of Jesus Christ, of Yeshua Ha Mashiach. It’s the beholding of the true nature of the Lamb. And as we follow Him, wherever He goes and wherever HE leads us, HE reveals Himself to us from within. That’s part of the mystery, it’s not just a revelation that we receive, it’s a revelation that comes as we follow the Lamb wherever HE goes. He reveals Himself to us and He begins to manifest HIs Name and His Father’s Name upon our forehead which has to do with the whole way we think, the whole way we see, the whole way we live our lives which become an act of true worship. And as we all know, worship is not only through song, and what we call worship….but worship is really, again as I said of intercession, it’s the offering up of our lives to the Lord at the altar as an expression of our love and making a place for Him to live His life out more and more in us as He captivates us, as we yield to Him. The Lord begins to take deeper and deeper possession of our lives within and that taste is so sweet to us that it creates a deeper longing, a deeper desire to surrender to Him.
So the true testimony of Yeshua, of Jesus in our hearts is to live in the Spirit of prophecy. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. Not only through faith in the prophecy but that the prophecy which here, in Revelation 19, is the prophecy of the Bride making herself ready. That prophecy becomes our life vision. We live in that prophecy, we see through that prophecy, we relate to all things that are happening on the globe, in Israel, in the nations, in relation to that prophecy. When I live in Israel of course I see the various aspects of the prophecy speaking to Israel and the end times to the restoration of Jerusalem, but I see through that prophecy, I understand through that prophecy. My heart longs to see the first fruit from Israel and the nations that the prophecy becomes flesh and blood. That is we have dove’s eyes we see all things good and bad. The dealings of the nations, the dealings of Israel we see all in relation to the Lord summing up all things in the Messiah to bring the ultimate fulfillment of the mystery. Because when the Bridegroom will be married to His Bride, We know that the Kingdom age will follow and he will rule and reign with His Bride on this earth for a thousand years.
Jerusalem from above is actually the picture of the ultimate fulfillment first of all of the mystery of the Bride. That’s what John sees …the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bride. But the Jerusalem from above is also the ultimate fulfillment of the mystery of Israel who was called at first to be the Bride of the Lord. We know there is a whole chapter in the book of Ezekiel that speaks about God’s marriage covenant with Jerusalem and how God found Jerusalem and made her into His Bride and she became a terrible harlot and prostituted herself with other loves. God chasens her bitterly and finally brings her back to Himself and restores the covenant with Jerusalem. Jerusalem of course being the sign for the whole nation of Israel. So the Jerusalem from above we see the 12 foundations are the 12 apostles of Israel, the 12 gates are the 12 Tribes of Israel. And it’s a cube that is that the height, the length, the width it’s all the same measurement. Just like the Holy of Holies in the Sanctuary of God. It’s also a cube. And we see the transparency of the City, the glory of the City, and it shows how the mystery of Israel who is called to be the Bride of Messiah comes into her ultimate fulfillment in the word Yeshua. And of course as we know, the Gentile part of that community has been grafted in and has been received into the full citizenship of that commonwealth of Israel.
So the restoration of the earthly Jerusalem in our day, is leading to the return of the Lord to the establishment of His Kingdom. And so we believe that what God is doing in Jerusalem today to restore His House of Living Stones is to join together, ultimately…. It’s the heart that is to join together ultimately all the different parts of that remnant church, the remnant Bride who the book of Revelation says, are the called, the chosen, and the faithful. The called, the chosen and the faithful who are the overcomers in the end time battle. And so this united Bride, and I believe that…we know that the gospel has gone out for 2,000 years and the church over many centuries was known as the church of Rome. Of course after the protestant reformation we know the whole story of how many breakaways there were and how many denominations there are. But the mystery of the Bride is the answer of Yeshua when HE celebrates that evening of the New Covenant meal and beseeches the Father that the unity and the union that exists between Father and Son through the Holy Spirit would be manifested in His people and literally that we would come into that unity.
Now Jerusalem is the city where the Lord laid down His life. It’s the city of the altar. It’s the city where the redemption has taken place. It’s the city where the wall of partition was broken down between Jew and gentile. It’s the city where the New Covenant meal was celebrated as the clear sign of the union of Yeshua and His people. And so we believe that as we move more and more into the end time and we see a growing apostasy in all of the traditional churches which is spreading also into the evangelical churches, there is coming a calling as we read in Revelation 18: “Come out of her my people.” Come out of that part of the church which has become a prostitute and has married herself to the world system. And this is the great exodus of the end time. It’s the exodus of the church from Babylon, even the evangelical church, of all that which is Babylonian and it speaks of a homecoming….a homecoming out of Babylon to Zion, but to the true meaning of Zion in the Spirit. And it’s the time of exodus for Israel as well coming out of everything that is other than the true faith in Yeshua and a restoration of Israel to the true foundations of God in the end time.
So this Spirit of prophecy is bringing all things together into Yeshua the Bridegroom. That means that all the tribulations of the end time, the purification of the earth, the preparing of the earth for the Kingdom age, the tribulation that Israel will go through, whatever it is, it’s to work redemption. It’s the work salvation, but not only salvation, but salvation that will lead to transformation. Because the goal, the goal of course is that the Bride would be transformed into the very image of the Bridegroom. I mean that is the work of the new creation…we are a new creation. All the old things have passed away, all things have become new! But the work of God through the tribulations, through the sufferings, through His dealings, through His revelations, through our worship, through our prayers it’s all to bring forth this great reality. And of course it must take place in Israel and of course the Bridal company in Israel is very, very precious to God and has a very specific calling to fulfill in the end time just as the gentile remnant…..the Bridal remnant amongst the nations has a very key calling to fulfill in relation to the Jewish people through prayer, through intercession and all the other ways God works through gentile believers to provoke Israel deeply to jealousy….but a holy jealousy that will really allow Israel to taste this amazing thing that is taking place. Because for the Jew to really consider that God has put us aside for 2,000 years and has gone to the nations and that all that we have suffered from the side of the church, that now God is working redemptively and bringing forth a holy remnant that actually loves Israel….this is the wonder of wonders! This is the ultimate sign of the work of redemption amongst the gentile believers. And bringing us together into one in the humility of the spirit. And Each recognizing each other in the one new man not to dissolve identity, but to bring identity in Messiah into true focus. Because God is a god of tremendous, tremendous diversity and variety and ultimately everything has been created through the Word Yeshua and for the Word Yeshua. And redemption is to bring us all back into that which was in the heart of God from the beginning in the Word who is Yeshua.
And that is the process that we are going through in these end times. So prophecy has many workings. But this I believe must be the great reality that should be our main focus….preparing ourselves for the marriage supper of the Lamb. And it does not in any way make the other aspects of prophecy insignificant. It, I believe, it just brings all of the other aspects into their right correspondence to that which is ultimately in the heart of God for the end time.
And so the Lord is bringing us together to share that one, let us say that one covenant meal that He celebrated on that Passover eve when He made the New Covenant with His disciples. And of course we know that the Covenant meal, the Lord’s supper, has been something that rather than expressing the unity of Yeshua with His people and the covenantal relationship between the people of God, satan has used that specifically to divide the people of God over a period of 2,000 years. And that Covenant meal is the expression, ultimately, to manifest the reality that we are flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone that we share together in His life giving blood and that we partake as the early church did in the Lamb of God together as a community. And this is the reality that the Lord has been waiting for for 2,000 years….that only the Bride can manifest the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers the joining of Jew and gentile. The true unity that Messiah prayed for. This is the ultimate destruction of the power of satan, because it’s the hidden mystery of God that is now being, not only revealed, but being made flesh on this earth as the testimony of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy, that is being complete as Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” And now God is completing and finishing that mystery.
And as I said, it’s only the beginning. After the marriage supper, comes the Kingdom Age where Israel will take up her place as a nation among the nations as the firstborn son. And after that we come into the eternal reality of all that which God has prepared for us. But we need to focus on what will be. And what will be, should also affect what is today. When the Lord celebrated the supper, He spoke of the supper, the supper speaks of what He has completed, what He has finished. It speaks of His Presence amongst us now and it speaks of the fact that He will not take it with us again until all is fulfilled in His Kingdom. So it’s past, it’s present, and it’s future and it’s that reality that we are to celebrate as a Bridal company. So this mystery continues in all eternity.
And just to conclude, I think it’s important with all that I said to remember Paul’s words to the Corinthian church that He was concerned that the enemy had led the church astray from the simplicity of devotion to Jesus Christ. There are so many things connected to the Kingdom of God. And they’re all, I mean the Bride is the Kingdom. If we look at the early Jerusalem church, it was already a very pure and beautiful expression of the Kingdom. That’s what the Lord spoke to them about for 40 days when the Spirit was poured out. The Kingdom came in their inner most person and they shared the Kingdom life, they lived that unity of the Bride. It was a reality of what God promised to do and what God will continue to do. But there was a simplicity, a simplicity of love, a simplicity of devotion and that’s why we need to get back to that simplicity and have those dove eyes and allow God to teach us to see all through those eyes of the Bridegroom who gave His life for this world, who is yearning for His Bride, who is calling us into intimacy who wants us to know Him in a very deep way in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings and being conformed to it with Him in His death that we might come into that union of Life with Yeshua Ha Maschiach. And really know the deeper things that are in His heart.
And I think if we have this focus and come into this simplicity it will affect all of our other ministries in relationship to the Lord. I think one of the great challenges is to be so occupied and to be so busy to lose the focus, to lose the first love for the Lord. But not only to lose the first love, but to lose that deep reality of union with Messiah, which ultimately is the thing alone that can bring fulfillment into our lives. Even if we saw millions coming to the faith, even if we saw millions being healed and we did not have that inner life walk with the Messiah, we would rejoice for the things that we would see and experience, but there would be a vacuum and an emptiness which would just leave us in many ways unfulfilled. And so the Lord wants to conquer us….the Lord wants to take possession of us, like He wanted to take of the land of Canaan. And He wants to complete this mystery of the Bride of Jew and gentile. And Jerusalem and Israel and the Messianic community are key to this mystery. And therefore, we need to see again, and with this I’m concluding. The Lord wants us to see all through the focus of the eyes and the voice of the Bridegroom. And if we do that we will see all of the other things, all of the other things in the light that God wants them to have in relation to the bullseye focus of His heart as His heart was pierced and He poured out the water and the blood to give birth to that Bride…that Bride who was before but the actual birth came at the cross and that’s the bullseye that the Lord wants His Bride to focus upon. And as we come deeper and deeper into Him we find our unity with each other. That’s the message of John 17. As we abide in Him and He in us, He shares His glory with us and we experience the unity of the Godhead and we share it with Him and we share it with each other and we have His mind and His heart and His Spirit.
Reuven’s Closing prayer:
Lord we thank you, we thank you for that which is Your Heart for this time and Lord we ask you to open these things up unseal them to our hearts that we can find fulfillment, deep fulfillment in our walk, in our life with You. Not only as individuals, but collectively and wherever we are located. Lord that we can bring that fragrance, that fragrance of love, that fragrance of Bridal union, that fragrance of life which is the most attractive thing there is. Because once we lose that fragrance Lord, everything becomes black and white. And that fragrance, Lord, makes the Kingdom life technicolor because we behold the true face of, we behold the true image of God in the Face of Yeshua Ha Maschiach which draws us, which transforms us, O God, and which brings us into the true worship of God….which we all long for. So we bless you and we thank you for this time together, Father in Yeshua’s Name.
Reuven Berger, along with his brotherBenjamin pastor the Congregation of the Lambon Mt. Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family they came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah over 50 years ago and were called of the LORD to move to Jerusalem. The Congregation is a Hebrew-speaking Congregation that meets at Christ Church inside the Jaffa Gate opposite the Tower of David.
Thanks to Beverly Doty for taking the time to transcribe the message!
Our Bible is a LOVE Story – not a romantic one, although it has elements of romance. God does draw us and allure us. The Bible is a story of God’s love first for the people of Israel and then also for the Gentiles. It shows us His covenant love and faithfulness over thousands of years. The Old Testament, which is also known as the Hebrew Bible contains the story of God’s love for Israel. The Hebrew Bible (OT) consists of three parts: the Torah (the first five books), the Prophets and the Writings. Together they show a picture of God’s love.
To begin to understand God’s kind of love, let’s look at some words that mean love. In English we have one word LOVE. We know there are different levels of love. While I love ice cream, that’s different from a deeply committed covenant type of love as exhibited in marriage for example.
In Hebrew and Greek the context in which a word is used is very important.
There are basically two Hebrew words used for love in the Old Testament (OT). They are ahav and hesed. The two words used in the New Testament (NT) in Greek to describe love are phileo and agape.
Ahav or aheb (to love) basically means to have affection for, love, like, to befriend. The Greek word phileo is similar in meaning. In describing God’s divine love, the Hebrew word hesed is used in the OT and agape in the NT. Hesed is difficult to translate into English because it has a range of meanings. Context is important!
Hesed can be translated into English as unfailing love, steadfast love, mercy, faithfulness, faithful love, lovingkindness, goodness, loyal, unchanging love, covenantal faithfulness
One definition of hesed is “completely undeserved kindness and generosity” (John Oswalt).Hesed is not just a feeling, but it is love put into action. Author Lois Tverberg states that hesed “intervenes on behalf of loved ones and comes to their rescue.”
The word hesed is used to describe God himself. When God revealed Himself to Moses, the Bible tells us that God proclaimed Himself as merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6 )
God has called us to be a holy people! .
In Deuteronomy 7: 6-9, the Torah says, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations….”
Just as God calls Israel to be a holy people, He also calls believing Gentiles to be holy and set apart unto Him (see 1 Peter 2:9-10). What is true in the book of Deuteronomy for Israel, is also true for us today as we are grafted into the rich olive tree that is Israel (see Romans 11:17-18). He loves us with a steadfast love.
In the Writings Psalms 136, which is the Great Hallel (praise) Psalm, hesed is used in every verse as the Psalmist recounts many of the mighty things God has done for His people. “His steadfast love(hesed) endures forever.” It is good to remember and reflect upon how God has shown us His steadfast love throughout our lives.
In Isaiah 54:10 (Prophets) God makes a beautiful promise to His people. “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love (hesed) shall not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD who has compassion on you.” We can count on His steadfast love to bring us through even the most difficult of circumstances.
Basically, HESED is the expression of God’s covenant love for His people expressed throughout the Bible.
Remember the children’s song, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so?” The Bible does tell us so! There are times we don’t “FEEL IT.” That’s when we have to remind ourselves what the BIBLE says and believe it. Have faith!!!!
To be sure God’s covenant love also involves discipline and correction. God expects his people to keep (obey) His commandments, and He disciplined them when they didn’t. We see this pattern throughout the Bible. Israel possessed her inheritance when she obeyed God. When she stopped obeying and went down the path of sin, practicing idolatry and sexual immorality, she eventually was driven into exile. But, she was restored when she repented of her sin. God will restore when we sincerely repent; this requires not just words but action !!! See , we can honor God with our lips but our hearts can be far from him and so we worship Him in vain (Matthew 15: 8,9 ).
God highlighted the above verse to me once over 20 years ago. I remember where I was standing that day. I had been struggling with a sin, and God wanted to deal with me! It was time to stop talking and start doing!! It was time to repent (change my mind), acknowledge my sin, and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit working through me to change my behavior. I felt very convicted, but I also knew I was greatly loved. God took the time to CORRECT ME!!
The question we need to ask is not so much does God love us, but have we learned to love as He loves?
God requires surrender and obedience from His people. Whenever I have felt a distance between God and me, it’s because I hadn’t surrendered or hadn’t obeyed. I know this can be painful to walk through, but it is absolutely necessary!!
Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “My son (my daughter), do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness forsake you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart so you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”
We are to have steadfast love towards God !!
Jesus was clear when he said, “Hear (in Hebrew “Shema” which means to listen and obey), O Israel, the Lord our God is One (Only). And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 refers to Deuteronomy 6:4. This is the GREATEST commandment.
In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep (obey) my commandments.” He repeats this principle in John 14:21. “Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.”
God spells love O-B-E-Y. Can we do this on our own? No, we can’t. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do it, and we do it because we have learned to love God. God will still love us if we don’t obey, but we lose the blessing of intimate fellowship with God and the protection that obedience brings.
A friend shared something that happened in her life that illustrates the above principle.
MartyLee shared an experience she had years ago. She often struggled thinking that God did not love her when she sinned but that He loved her when she was “good.” She had two dogs that she loved very much. Fred was very obedient; Barkley was not. One day they were in the yard playing and a squirrel ran into the street. The dogs started to run after the squirrel. MartyLee yelled “STOP!” Fred stopped immediately, but Barkley ran into the street and was killed. She was heartbroken. She felt the Lord ask her, “Did you love Barkley less than Fred because he was disobedient?” Of course not! Fred’s obedience, however, saved his life. And so it is with God. He loves us no matter what. Obedience protects us. It’s really for our benefit.
Exercises to help you live out the Word!
Write out Deuteronomy 7:9. Then list some ways in which God has shown you His steadfast love and faithfulness in concrete ways in the everyday circumstances of your life. It may be helpful to list each one, and then follow each one with the sentence “His steadfast love endures forever.” Use the format of Psalm 136 to guide you.
Write out the “Greatest Commandment” from Mark 12:29-30 which Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Remember “Hear” is the Hebrew word “Shema” which means to listen and obey!
Write out John 14:15 and John 14:21. List specific action steps you will take in obedience to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and He surely will!
Be accountable. Share this blog with a friend and invite her do the exercises too. Then set a time to call each other or meet to talk it over.
Hanukkah took place around 165 B.C. and has something to say to us today. It should move us to prayer and action!
Should Christians even care about Hanukkah? The answer is “yes” because according to John 10:22 (NLT) Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Temple during “the Festival of Dedication” (Hanukkah). While Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory won during the Maccabean revolt it also points to Jesus because it is also known as the Festival of Lights and Jesus is the Light of the World. Most importantly if what happened during Hanukkah had not happened the Jewish people would have been wiped out and so our Savior would not have been born. Jesus was prophesied to be of the House of David and God’s promise would not have been fulfilled if His ancestral line had not continued.
God brought a victory to the Jewish people against all odds during the Maccabean revolt – the real Miracle. But there also had to be people for God to use that were willing to stand up to the injustices of an oppressive regimen. Enter the Maccabee family which were of the tribe of Levi and therefore had a divine calling to be priests of the Lord. Jerusalem and the Temple were under the control of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (means “God Manifest”- oh my!). He persecuted the Jews, decreeing that they could not keep the Sabbath, nor celebrate their Feasts, nor read their Bible. They were forced to participate in pagan practices. Antiochus went so far as to desecrate the altar in the Temple by sacrificing a pig on it to Zeus! Under the leadership of the Maccabees the Jews said “NO!”, revolted and ultimately succeeded.
The Legend of the Hanukkah menorah.
The legend that a one day supply of oil to light the menorah was found that lasted for eight days did not come into play until about 400 years after the Maccabean revolt and is probably a fake-news miracle!
An Eight Day Festival
It does seem that the reason that the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), which is a celebration of the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem lasts for eight days is because the Jewish people were not able to celebrate the eight day Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) that year because it was forbidden. So when victory was won and the Temple rededicated in the winter the people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. This is recorded in 2 Maccabees 10:5-8, written less than 100 years after the event and is more likely. Regardless, the tradition of lighting the Hanukkah menorah is over eight days and a beautiful symbol of how God empowered a people willing to stand against oppression and for HIS ways.
“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.” (Matthias Maccabee, 1 Maccabees 2:19-22)
God will bring deliverance to His people even in extremely dire circumstances!
That is the real miracle! But God is looking for people who will co-labor with Him in the working out of the victory. That’s what speaks to us today. The Hanukkah story is a source of inspiration and also a call to stand-up and not bow to a godless society! As never before believers in the Lord Jesus Christ must pray and stand together for righteousness and Biblical truth.
Jesus is the Light of the World
While Hanukkah is known as the Feast of Dedication (referring to the re-dedication of the desecrated Temple back to the God of Israel), it is also known as the Festival of Lights. Traditionally some Jewish people place their Hanukkiahs (a 9 branched menorah) in their front windows as a symbol of victory of light over darkness. When I light my Hanukkiah I think of the courageous Maccabees and the victory won against seemingly unsurmountable odds. Only God could have brought the victory! I also think of Yeshua (Jesus) who is the light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NKJV) When Jesus returns there will come a day of total victory over evil. Until then may we, His disciples, shine brightly in this dark world bringing hope and faith to others, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 3:4-5 NIV).
Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus Come!!
A Hanukkah Miracle
In December 2020 Karen Davis and Chaya Mizrachi joined us on Zoom from Israel for a special time of anointed worship, messages and prayerfor the US and Israel. Karen spoke powerfully on “A Hanukkah Miracle” about the ongoing struggle of the Sons (and Daughters) of Zion (those that believe in the One true God) against the Sons of Greece (the world). See Zechariah 9:13. This is where we are! God is rousing us to fight the good fight of faith!. Chaya told us a very moving, inspiring and personal family story regarding how Jews were saved in Bulgaria during WW2. They were saved because the King of Bulgaria and the Church rose up and said “NO!” to Jews being deported to the death camps! The King lost his life over it!
For more history on what happened in Bulgaria watch the 30 minute film put out by Frontier Alliance International entitled “The Fox and the Fuhrer”. Definitely worth the watch! For more understanding on Hanukkah read articles written by Avner Boskey, a Messianic believer who lives with his wife Rachel in Israel.
This blog was originally published in December 2020. It has been updated.
Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren who are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.
Ask the Lord of the Harvest…(Written last year) It’s harvest time in New England. I went to pick up my veggie share at the local farm and they have tomato plants where you can pick tomatoes when you go to the farm. The frost has mostly killed the plants but they are still laden, laden, laden with tomatoes. I went to glean as many as I could but did not make a dent in them. I could hear them calling out “pick me” (I’m joking but I almost could) but there were too many of them and only me, so far, to pick them.
Harvest time, at the end, yields a lot of abundance. At other local farms, the harvest of pumpkins and winter squash are way more abundant than can be used. Farmers pile extra produce, some with small blemishes, or in unsightly shapes into bargain bins, almost begging you to take it. Waste is sad to me. The food is grown to be enjoyed, eaten– a source of nourishment, not left to rot on the vine.
But now approaches a time for spiritual harvest also. God’s love and care for us is so great that He wants to gather us up so that none are lost. A harvest of souls is waiting like an overstocked pumpkin patch in the fields of the Lord, waiting right here in New England. But who will help them to be brought home to the Lord? Who will tell them that we are grown for a purpose, grown to bring joy and sustenance to each other and happiness to God. Some produce is more beautiful than others but who will take time to gather the bruised, the late fruit, the misshapen, the leftovers? All has worth and purpose.
Many years ago, in my senior yearbook, I wrote the verse, “Many are called, but few are chosen” underneath my senior picture. I picked that verse because I felt a sense of destiny to find my deepest purpose in God and fulfill it. So today, as I heard the unharvested tomatoes crying out to be harvested, it was not hard for me to hear the cries of souls crying out also. People are not meant to wither on the vine and die. We are meant for rich, full, purposeful lives. A young man in our town passed away unexpectedly. We do not know when our moment to pass over will come. Will we have found peace with God?
In 1734, Jonathan Edwards stewarded one of the most famous revivals in American history– a revival that changed the American landscape and history. We stand on the edge of another such time: a troubled time in our history where people are searching for meaning and hope that can only come ultimately when they are in right relationship with God and each other.
But where are the workers to midwife this? Jesus teaches on this when he says,“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) .
For it is surely His Harvest, and His hope that people would come out of the darkness of hopelessness into the marvelous light of the Kingdom of God. He is not willing that one should perish, that one should be sick or hurt or depressed or in need. But He has given some of that responsibility to us to partner with Him. Will we? Or are we pre-occupied with our own interests? busy with our own lives?
There is surely a clarion call being sounded, louder than the call of the wild geese migrating southward. It is time to gather the harvest of souls that is out there, waiting, clinging to the vine in hopes that their lives have some meaning, some purpose and will not be wasted. It is not just a soul here or there, but an abundant, overflowing harvest that will break our capacity to receive them unless we prepare.
Where there was no interest for God or His ways, suddenly will spring forth the Presence of God calling people home to Himself. And they will respond. So we who have known Jesus, and walked with Him, all these years through thick and thin, must get ready to gather with Him. Let nothing and no-one go to waste.
Harvesters, get ready. Get ready to help people know the Good God they never knew. The One who often has been sadly maligned and misrepresented— the Living God who is Life, and Love and Truth.
Discipleship making online classes
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In Matthew 11 we read the story of John the Baptist in prison.
John heard about the things Jesus was doing so the Bible tells us he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus what may seem to us a very strange question. “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?” How could John ask such a question?
This is the same Johnwho is described in John 1:6-8 as the man sent by God “to tell about the light so that everyone might believe of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.”
This was the same John who recognized the Messiah while they were both in their mothers’ wombs. Remember his mother Elizabeth proclaimed that the baby leapt within her.
This is the same Johnwhose father was given a prophetic word that “he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God…He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)
This is the same Johnwho was confronted by the Jewish leaders about his identity. He replied quoting Isaiah in John 1:23, “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”
This is the same John who identified Jesus when he saw Him saying “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! He is the one I was talking about then I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for He existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel…I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that He is the Chosen One of God.”
So, what happened that would make John send his disciples to Jesus to ask if He really was the One?
His entire ministry had been based on declaring that very revelation. What brought such doubt to his mind?
What expectations might he have had? Did he expect Jesus to work a miracle and get him our of prison? Surely Jesus would at least come to see him. I am sure his mind was working overtime …..”maybe Jesus really isn’t who I thought He was.” His circumstances may have been causing him to doubt what he absolutely knew to be true.
Historians tell us that John was in prison for about a year and a half. This man who lived outdoors was now imprisoned with very little light, very little fresh air, very little company. He was definitely in quarantine!
Science tells us that prolonged social isolation can actually change the shape and function of our brains. The region responsible for learning and memory can shrink in response to long-term isolation and the part that regulates fear and anxiety goes into overdrive.
Unexpected circumstances, isolation and distancing can cause us to doubt what we know to be true! This was definitely a time of isolation for John. Even though John said “He must increase and I must decrease,” I don’t think he had counted on ending his life in prison.
As we enter another month of isolation and distancing, we must not let our minds “shrink” away from what we know to be true. In times of isolation and stress, we too can begin to doubt. We can begin to wonder where God is in the midst of this pandemic when economies are shaking, when our whole world changed in a matter of days. We might ask, “Where are you God?” or “Why aren’t you doing something about this? We can’t even go to church! People are dying!”
Jesus’ answer to John might seem strange to us.
There is a message in it for us too. Did Jesus even answer the question? Jesus sent His answer, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
It may seem to us that Jesus’ answer was obscure, but it would have been clear to John who would have recognized that Jesus was quoting Isaiah 35 and 61, prophetic scriptures describing the ministry of the Messiah. John also probably recognized the portion of the scripture that Jesus didn’t say: Jesus did NOT say the phrase from Isaiah 61 that “prisoners will be freed.” What was the message Jesus was sending? “Yes, I am the Messiah, but you will not be getting out of prison.”
Jesus also added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.” Some versions say “those who are not offended by me.” Basically Jesus was saying to John—“Don’t turn away from me, don’t doubt what you know to be true because I don’t do what you expect me to do! You know who I am. Trust me even in your current difficult circumstance.”
I believe the Lord is saying the same thing to us today. Our desire is for Him to intervene and stop this virus. Perhaps we have an unmet need for which we have been praying. The message Jesus is sending us is, “Don’t fall away, or don’t be offended by me because I am not doing what you think I should be doing.” It is time for us to stand firm on what we know to be true!
An encouraging part of this story is that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves when we have some fear and doubt in these difficult times. In Luke 7: 28 Jesus said, “I tell you of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.” If the greatest one who ever lived (besides Jesus, of course) can have moments of doubt, so can we.
We may have those moments, but the key is not to stay in that place of doubt or fear. Remember what the Word of God says. Remember who God is. Remember that He is a good God and His character has not changed. After hearing the report from Jesus, I think John faced his situation with confidence, and we can do the same. Jesus reminded John what the Bible said about the Messiah, and I believe Jesus’ response reminded John what he himself had seen and heard.
In times of difficulty, we must hang on to what we know to be true and not give in to doubt. God is still God, and He is working in ways that we may not yet see, but that does not mean He is not working. It is a time to stand firm in the Lord and the power of His Might!
“In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier] so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (spiritual) places. Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. So stand firm and hold your ground having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. Above all, lift up the [protective]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.” Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP)
Sue Priebe is Associate Pastor at City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, a Chaplain for Marketplace Chaplains and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.
Let us be watchful gardeners and keepers of the inner treasure.
As natural gardeners of our flowers and vegetables, there is much care and foresight given. The necessity for proper soil and healthy seeds and seedlings are understood and due diligence is given for the hope of an abundant harvest.
What of the garden of our hearts? It is from there, the Bible tells us, that the issues or the overflow of our lives will stem. So, the condition of our heart foretells the condition of our lives.
Take care that seeds of discontentment are not allowed to flourish there. Those are like the pesky weeds that grow deep roots and choke out the wonderful things you are trying to grow .
The Bible refers to this in Hebrews 12:15, ‘See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled’. These deep, dark roots of offense become tangled and twisted causing distress for oneself and will spread to others if not dealt with immediately.
In Mark 4, we see another scenario. Here, the condition of our heart is addressed. “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.” Even when good seed is sown (God’s word), if the condition of our heart isn’t right, it will not flourish and produce properly.
If good seed can be choked, what happens when “bad seed” (negativity, divisiveness) evil is sown? Be vigilant over the soil of your heart and do not receive these words as truth. At the very least, take the time to get the “whole story”.
Do you remember when we first came to know the Lord?
There were strongholds that were deeply rooted in our hearts and minds. Over time, our minds and hearts were renewed by the good seed of the Word of God. We need the truth and the love of God to realign our mind and thinking. This is true for every season of life.
Let’s be watchful gardeners of our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 warns us to “Keep our heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
Thankfully, we are then instructed how to do this:
Verse 24 “ Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.”
Verse 25 “Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.”
Verse 26 “Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.”
Verse 27 “Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”
How do I know what is good seed and what is bad seed? The good seed brings forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness and the bad seed brings forth distress. The watchful gardener will reap what is sown.