Christians Uncompromised For Israel
By Mike Natt
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left (Isaiah 30:21)
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29)
Understanding and adhering to God’s truth is often like walking a tight rope. It requires balance in order to avoid the pitfalls on the left and the right. The moral pitfalls of legalism and license illustrate this principle. Times change, culture changes, emphases change, but God and His Word never change. He is eternal, and His truth endures forever (Psalm 117:2). Truth can be neglected or lost like the Book of the Law in the days preceding King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8). Truths can be rediscovered and reemphasized such as “Justification by Faith” and “The Priesthood of All Believers” following the Protestant Reformation. However, truth can only be lost and rediscovered in terms of man’s understanding and adherence. Truth is enduring and unchangeable. The same Spirit that inspired holy men to declare God’s prophetic truth (2 Peter 1:21) will lead us in understanding and applying truth today (John 16:13).
One truth that was lost for much of the Church Age is the understanding of God’s consummating and unchanging plan for the nation of Israel. Christians can debate and come to different conclusions on finer points of eschatology. The truth that God has a unique and unchangeable, predetermined past, present and future destiny for the nation of Israel is clear in Scripture. However, this truth was virtually lost throughout much of the Church Age, and is still disputed today. Many Christians have come to a greater understanding of Biblical truth related to Israel during the past 60 years since Israel was reestablished as a modern nation. Rediscovery of these truths has accelerated during the past 40 years after the city of Jerusalem returned to Jewish jurisdiction as prophesied by Jesus (Luke 21:24).
Respected Christian leaders both past and present have interpreted and applied the Scriptures related to Israel in different ways. Teachers and leaders will be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Those who know the Masters will (by implication, Christians living today with more understanding of God’s will than Christians of previous generations) and don’t do it are disciplined more severely than those who don’t know His will (Luke 12:47). Ultimately, each of us is responsible to search the Scriptures to determine what is true (Acts 17:11). Distinguishing God’s truth from church tradition and doctrines established centuries ago can be a daunting task! The Scriptures are the infallible Word of God in all matters of faith – including Israel. Sometimes God will overlook our ignorance (Acts 17:30). Some issues will be addressed in the present age, but all issues will ultimately be addressed before His judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
Jesus is the head of His church (Colossians 1:18). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). As He addressed issues in the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, so He addresses issues in the present church. When Jesus dealt with issues in the Ephesian church, He acknowledged positive things, and called them to deal with issues that displeased Him. There would be consequences for disobeying what the Spirit was saying to the church.
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)
There are pitfalls on the left (Dual Covenant Theology) and pitfalls on the right (Replacement Theology) that have either added to or taken away from Scriptural requirements of salvation or God’s plan for Israel.
Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32).
This is by no means an exhaustive treatment of these subjects. I am simply trying to address some key Biblical truths pertaining to God’s purposes for Israel, and how the pitfalls of Dual Covenant Theology and Replacement Theology contradict Scripture. First, let’s take a brief look at the plumb line of Scriptural truths, against which all theology must be measured.
Scriptural Truths Pertaining To God’s Purposes For Israel
1. The land of Israel belongs to the descendents of Jacob as an everlasting possession.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,” (Psalm 105:8-11)
It shall come to pass in that day
That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time
To recover the remnant of His people who are left,
From Assyria (Iraq) and Egypt,
From Pathros (Egypt) and Cush (Ethiopia),
From Elam (Iran) and Shinar (Iraq),
From Hamath (Syria) and the islands of the sea.
He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12)
2. God will bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse Israel.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. (Zechariah 2:8)
3. God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people is irrevocable.
Thus says the LORD:
“If heaven above can be measured,
And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,
I will also cast off all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:37)
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable, (Romans 11:28-29)
4. God will defend Israel against the nations that attack her.
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. (Zechariah 12:2)
In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. (Zechariah 12:8-9)
5. Israel will turn to their Messiah Jesus in the latter days.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3:4-5)
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
6. God’s work in the nation of Israel will result in an acceleration of His redemptive work in the nations (particularly the nations that are currently bound by the spirit of Islam).
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36:22-23)
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23-25)
7. Jesus will return to Jerusalem, and reign from that city.
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:4)
Many people shall come and say, “ Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
Error of Dual Covenant Theology
Dual Covenant Theology is a Christian belief which teaches Jews can go to heaven simply by keeping the Law of Moses, because of the "everlasting covenant" between Abraham and God expressed in the Old Testament, whereas Gentiles (those not Jews or Jewish proselytes) must convert to Christianity. (Wikipedia)
Dual Covenant Theology dishonors Christ, dishonors Scripture, and it gives the Jewish people a false sense hope of their eternal state apart from embracing their Messiah.
Paul makes three important assertions in Romans 1:16:
1. The gospel of Christ (Messiah) is the power of God unto salvation.
2. The gospel is to be proclaimed to the Jew.
3. He is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
The New Testament is abundantly clear that our faith in Christ’s atoning death, burial, and resurrection is the only means of eternal salvation.
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
Paul strove in his preaching, practice, and prayer to convince Jewish people to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.
Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)
Because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28:20)
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)
Many who adhere to Dual Covenant Theology publicly distance themselves from Messianic Jewish believers so that they will not “offend” the Jewish people. While we should be compassionate, patient and sensitive to Jewish people, we must never compromise our beliefs or our association with brethren in the faith.
Paul sternly rebuked Peter who was ashamed of associating with Gentile believers.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. (Galatians 2:11-12)
He urged Timothy, his son in the faith, to not be ashamed of bearing the testimony of Christ.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (1 Timothy 1:8)
Jesus is very direct and clear about the consequences of being ashamed of Him and His words in this adulterous and sinful generation.
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
We should never compromise our beliefs. This dishonors Christ. It is often born out of the fear of man or an attempt to avoid reproach for the sake of Christ. Jewish people are intelligent and perceptive, and they will recognize disingenuous behavior. Ultimately, the Jewish people will respect a Christian who is loving, sensitive, yet clear about his faith. For an excellent example of an authentic relationship between a Christian and a Jew, I recommend the book “The Christian and the Pharisee: Two Outspoken Religious Leaders Debate the Road to Heaven” by R. T. Kendall and David Rosen.
It is a sobering truth that all people who reject Jesus as Messiah spend eternity apart from Him in an eternal state of torment. This is too important of a truth to withhold from anyone, especially the Jewish people.
Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)
Error of Replacement Theology
Replacement Theology teaches that the church has replaced the Jewish people and the nation of Israel in the purposes of God. It boldly declares that the Church is now the "New Israel," that God has rejected and is punishing the Jewish people because of their rejection of Jesus Christ, and that there is no future for the Jewish people as a nation or the land of Israel. According to Replacement Theology, all the Old Testament promises made to Israel, unless they were historically fulfilled before the first coming of Messiah, are now the property of the Christian Church. (adapted from the article “The Resurgence of Christian Anti-Semitism” by Gene Shaparenko).
Replacement Theology also dishonors Christ, dishonors Scripture, and it gives the church a false sense of identity apart from its Hebraic roots. Robbing Israel of its rightful place in God’s purposes robs the church of many blessings. Certainly, as a people grafted into the Olive Tree, Gentile believers today are partakers of the Old Testament prophetic promises originally intended for Israel. However, in context, some promises are exclusively for Israel.
There are two mysteries that all believers must recognize. Ignorance of the first mystery promoted pride in some early Jewish believers, and ignorance of the second mystery has promoted pride in some Gentile believers.
1. The Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews.
by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel (Ephesians 3:4-6)
2. The nation of Israel will be restored.
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.” (Romans 11:25-27)
Here are some additional reasons why Christians must recognize God’s unique plan for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
1. God chose the nation of Israel for a unique purpose. Israel’s election is for God’s glory:
This is God’s wisdom, God’s plan, all for His glory
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
2. God did not make a covenant with The Gentiles. The Gentiles are partakers of God’s covenant with Israel. Salvation was extended to the Gentiles in order to provoke Israel to jealousy.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31)
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. (Romans 11:11)
3. All Christians should be thankful for the blessings and inheritance they have obtained through Israel.
Who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen (Romans 9:4-5)
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. Do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:18-21)
For a more complete rendering of how a Christian should regard Israel and the Jewish people, I recommend the book “Your People Shall Be My People” by Don Finto.
Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! (Romans 11:12)
Repairing The Breach Of Past Generations By Mike Natt
Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.”
(2 Samuel 21:1)
There are many unresolved issues in the fractured body of Christ. I suspect that many of these issues will not be resolved this side of eternity. However, for those who want to move in the full purposes of God in these days, there is a necessary reckoning, repentance and restoration that must take place in order to resolve important issues from the past.
There are two situations I have in mind, both related in some way to the Lord’s testimony among the Jewish people, where major mistakes were made that resulted in a setback of the Lord’s purposes. Both congregations had received prophetic words stating God’s purpose and destiny for them, but both were falling short of these purposes because of sins that were committed. One of these congregations has been in a steady state of recovery and is moving forward in God’s destiny. The other, however, continues in a steady state of decline with no repentance and subsequent restoration because they have not acknowledged their errors. This congregation could be described as one that, although they live, yet they are dead (Revelation 3:1). There is still a lot of activity, but God’s Glory has departed.
There are several principles illustrated in Israel’s broken covenant with the Gibeonites that can help us understand how to recover our destiny as individuals and churches when a breach has occurred in the past.
1. God Defends Covenants
Paul writes that one of the characteristics of many people in the last days is that they will be trucebreakers (2 Timothy 3:3 KJV). Whether in marriage or church relationships, we often excuse ourselves much too easily from the covenants and commitments we have made.
Although the covenant that Joshua made with the Gibeonites was ill advised and against God’s stated will, it was nevertheless perpetually binding.
We have sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel; now
therefore, we may not touch them. (Joshua 9:19)
It is the one who swears to his own hurt and does not change that may abide in God’s tabernacle (Psalm 15:4). If we have a string of broken commitments in our life, we might find ourselves outside of the blessing of God.
One of the reasons Israel was under a curse was marital unfaithfulness.
Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth,
With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion
And your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:14)
I realize that some people have been victims of other’s unfaithfulness and broken promises. Nevertheless, we need to do what we can to remain faithful to our commitments.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)
2. The Holy Spirit Is Sensitive
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:30, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”. The Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove. As illustrated in Noah’s releasing of two birds after the Flood, the dove was more sensitive than the raven, and would not rest just any place (Genesis 8:9). We can not dismiss issues that God is dealing with and assume that He will remain
in our midst.
Sometimes we can be like Samson and not even realize that the Lord’s presence has departed. We try to go out as before, but something is missing.
Then she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
Consider as well that all the churches in the Book of Revelation continued to function as churches. They worshipped, taught the Scriptures, and perhaps functioned in the supernatural, but the Lord was displeased with them. Therefore, it is not too difficult to see how the following scenario can occur:
Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:22-23)
If we don’t remain sensitive to the Lord, we may become resistant to His conviction and develop a hardness of heart. This can ultimately lead to reprobation and result in an untimely fall. Therefore, we need to respond correctly to God’s rebuke. We have a choice between which of these proverbs will mark our destiny:
He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)
Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. (Proverbs 1:23)
3. Soulish Zeal For God Can Cause Great Damage
Perhaps I should call this “Saulish” zeal, for much of Saul’s works and the fruit of his life was soulish rather than spiritual. Many throughout church history have acted like Saul in their religious zeal and have inflicted great harm on many people.
Martin Luther, for example, grew impatient with the Jewish people’s lack of response to the gospel, and made some unfortunate statements which set in motion a justification for persecution that lasted 400 years.
He urged that synagogues should be set on fire, their homes smashed and destroyed. Jews should be banned from the roads and markets, their property seized, and then these poisonous envenomed worms should be drafted into forced labor and made to earn their bread by the sweat of their noses.
Thank God for the genuine repentance and reconciliation that the German church has initiated toward the Jewish people that has resulted in a greater measure of God’s blessing. Similar repentance and reconciliation has occurred between Anglo and Hispanic, Anglo and African American, and Anglo and Native American peoples. We simply can’t sweep the oppression, injustice and atrocities of the past under the rug and continue with business as usual. God is putting His finger on these issues so that we can come clean before Him and each other. Reconciliation is the path to His blessing, manifested presence and glory. Jesus said that reconciliation even precedes worship.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
4. Judgment Occurs In God’s Timing
Saul had committed the offense against the Gibeonites perhaps 30 years previously, but God chose the appropriate time during David’s reign to impose the consequences.
Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
This is a mystery! God can act immediately and decisively (i.e. Ananias and Sapphira), or He can wait a generation or more to execute His judgments. Regardless of the timing, we must deal with things immediately as He brings them to our attention.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; (1 Peter 4:17)
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:31)
He sometimes delays judgment in order to give us time to repent (Revelation 2:21), so let us therefore be zealous and repent (Revelation 3:19). If we hear his voice, let us not harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:15) or disregard it (Hebrews 12:25).
5. It Sometimes Takes a While For Us To Figure Out What God Is Doing
David was a discerning, God fearing and faithful shepherd, yet it took him three years to figure out that there was a correlation between the famine in the land and God’s judgment upon the nation for the sins of a previous leader.
The sadder truth is that some people never get the message and continue in a state of rebellion for many years and miss God’s purpose for their life.
6. Innocent People Are Affected By The Sins Of Leaders
It was Saul’s sin that resulted in God’s judgment on the entire nation. Therefore, James states that teachers (by implication leaders) are subject to a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)
David, the current king of Israel, was innocent of this crime, yet it was his responsibility to fix the problem. However, there was another situation where David sinned and as a result the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and 70,000 men of Israel perished (1Chronicles 21). A pretty stiff price to pay for the sin of a leader!
In this incident, we are clearly told that Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number the people (1 Chronicles 21:1). Satan was the instigator, but David was the perpetrator. We can’t blame the devil when God’s people fall, just as a football team can’t blame the opposing team for sacking the quarterback. That’s their mission! We
as God’s people need to take responsibility for the welfare of our leaders. The enemy wants to bring down the quarterback (spiritual leader), so we need to provide the necessary blocking and tackling (prayer cover) for them. Satan knows that if he can strike the shepherd, the sheep of the flock will be scattered (Matthew 26:31).
7. We Need to Seek God’s Face
David was committed to hearing from God and doing whatever He said.
I will hear what God the LORD will speak. (Psalm 85:8)
Too often we present our agenda to God rather than listening to Him, receiving His instructions and obeying them. Our relationship with God must take us beyond praying for our needs to seeking His face.
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
8. Reconciliation Is Required To Resolve Past Offenses
David had to seek out the Gibeonites and ask them what needed to be done to resolve the problem. Their request was demanding, but appropriate for the offense committed against them.
"What shall I do for you? How shall I make amends so that you will bless the LORD's inheritance?" (2 Samuel 21:3)
They answered the king, "As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and exposed before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul—the Lord 's chosen one." (2 Samuel 21:5-6)
David was not defensive, but was quick to respond and comply with their request.
Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.(Matthew 5:25) So the king said, "I will give them to you." (2 Samuel 21:6)
9. We Need To Exercise Discernment In Carrying Out God’s Judgments
God was willing to withhold judgment on a large population (Sodom and Gomorrah) if he had found 10 righteous people in the cities (Genesis 18:32-33). He holds back His judgment in our day so that innocent people (wheat) are not inadvertently affected.
The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. (Matthew 13:28-29)
Likewise, David was decisive, yet discerning the implementation of his judgment, so that his covenant with Jonathan was honored and the innocent were set apart from the guilty.
The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the LORD between David and Jonathan son of Saul. (2 Samuel 21:7)
10. God’s Mercy Supersedes His Judgment
Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13)
Thank God that He extends to us mercy (not giving us what we deserve) and grace (giving us what we don’t deserve). He extends mercy to us when we fall and grace to us to enable us to stand.
It is His goodness that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) Who could stand if He called us to account for all of our sins and shortcomings (Psalm 130:3)! He deals with us and disciplines us according to His mercy that we might be partakers of His holiness
(Hebrews 12:10). He delights to show mercy. (Micah 7:18) After David had fully carried out the Gibeonite’s requirements, God released His blessing upon the nation.
They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul's father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land. (2 Samuel 21:14)
No matter how far an individual or a congregation has fallen, there is always hope for restoration. The nation of Judah spent 70 years in captivity for continually disobeying God, but God had a plan to restore them and enacted it. The nation of Israel rejected their Messiah, but God has a plan to restore them as well (Zechariah 12:10). Judgment is a necessary process for restoring the wayward to the Way.
God has committed to His church the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. (Isaiah 58:12)
Beyond “The Call” By Mike Natt
The Call was a national prayer event that was held at Titans Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on July 7, 2007. Christian leaders called a 40 day fast in preparation for this event.
We have all heard the cliché “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”. I know something about marathons (26.2 mile races). Although I have meager natural athletic ability, I have completed 120 distance races including 15 marathons during the past 18 years. I say “meager” because I have never finished in the top half of a race. I even finished dead last in the 1999 Jackpine Classic 25K in Bemidji, Minnesota. I may have finished last, but at least I finished the race!
I blame my (perhaps misguided) passion for distance running on my 5th grade friend, Mark Schlosberg. Mark was the wise guy in my group of friends (in the good sense, he was wise beyond his years). Mark told me once, “Mike, you are not the strongest, you are not the fastest, but you have the most endurance”. Thanks Mark, for setting the course (no pun intended) for my life! Whether marathons or 40 day fasts, I seem to be drawn to activities that demand a high degree of endurance.
However, I laud my friend Randy Kastler as “Mr. Endurance”. Randy, a tri-athlete, recently had a flat tire nine miles from the end of the bicycle course. Rather than drop out of the race and ring up his first DNF (did not finish), Randy ala Hebrews 12:2, for the finish line set before him, endured the flat, despising a DNF, ran his bike nine miles to the running transition area so that he could drop off his ailing bike and then run the final 10K to the finish line. He even managed to pass a few back of the pack athletes and avoid joining me as a last place finisher.
I know something else about running marathons. I experienced an emotional letdown after I completed my first marathon. Six months of discipline and training were over, the crowds were gone, my focus was gone, the camaraderie of my training partners dissipated, and it was back to normal life (junk food and all). However, it is at this time when one decides whether he or she is content to just run a marathon or whether he or she decides to become a marathoner. I decided that I was a marathoner.
I am also a finisher beyond “The Call”. Paul was one too.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7).
He said this despite repeated beatings, sleepless nights, comrades forsaking him, and facing rejection from some of the churches for whom he poured out his life. Paul, like Randy, despised DNFs and finished his race strong.
Jesus calls us to be finishers also.
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Mark 13:13)
He tells us that we are called to endure and finish strong in spite of challenging end times events. Thank you Mark (Schlosberg, that is) for inspiring me early in life. I hope that your words continue to motivate me to finish my course.
I believe that significant things were accomplished during “The Call”. As Doc Brown joined electrical cords during the lightening storm to propel the Delorian back to the future, so the church was reignited with the vision of our Jamestown ancestors who planted a cross in the soil 400 years ago, dedicating our nation to God.
As one of tens of thousands of Jewish people who were ushered into the Kingdom of God during the Jesus movement that began 40 years ago, I pray that “The Call” will be the beginning of a massive end time revival both for the Jewish people as spoken of by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 12:8-12)and for the youth as spoken of by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29). Beyond “The Call”, this is my ongoing unceasing prayer,
However, I would like to focus on some things that God did in my life (and perhaps yours as well) during the process leading up to “The Call”, and what I believe He is calling us to beyond “The Call”.
1. We Have Comrades In The Call
I worked for a Jewish evangelistic ministry in New York during the late 1970’s back when Jimmy Carter was still president. His sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, was invited to be the keynote speaker at our annual conference. Pressured by her brother President Jimmy Cater, I was told, she backed out of her initial commitment to us. The conference went on, with Jamie Buckingham as her replacement. During the meeting a contingent of young people from the Jewish Defense League broke into the meeting, grabbed a microphone and issued death threats. As a precaution, the ministry set up an all night sentry guard schedule for several weeks. There is a certain bonding that occurs among men at 2:00 AM during challenging times. Even though I haven’t kept in touch with some of these men, I still esteem them as my “true yokefellow” 30 years later.
I recall the words sung by Ted Sandquist, “You give marvelous comrades to me; the faithful who dwell in your land”. During the time leading up to “The Call” I felt connected to many new “true yokefellow” both near and far who joined in this fast and intercession for our nation.
Although I am a “Boomer”, I am comfortable living in the virtual world. I work from home and have been part of a virtual work team for nearly two years, having never met one of my team members in person. The connection is there; albeit via the internet. I was truly blessed to connect with the International House of Prayer (IHOP) Virtual Prayer Room during this time where I joined in many hours of worship and intercession.
In Nehemiah’s day families worked as one nation, though geographically separated, to rebuild different sections of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. Sometimes we can feel isolated and disconnected from others, and utter misinformed complaints to God as Elijah did.
So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (1 Kings 19:10)
God did two things for Elijah. He reassured Elijah that he was part of a larger contingent of 7000 who remained faithful to God. Then God brought an individual into Elijah’s life with whom he could bond. We too need to be joined to both the larger body of Christ and its local expression for the strength and encouragement necessary to continue the battle.
Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat (1 Kings 19:18-19)
2. Fasting For Mortals
This was my first 40 day fast. Endurance athletes, even slow ones, are not known for sparing the carbs. Extended fasts are particularly challenging when you work in the marketplace (even if it based is in your own house) and need to stay somewhat grounded in order to interact with others to get your work done. This is how it worked out for me: I felt that God spoke to me to set aside the period between April 20th and June 20th as a time of deeper consecration. This is before I knew about the 40 day fast related to “The Call”. I fasted several days during the period between April 20th and May 10th. Then on May 11th, I felt that the Lord called me to a “Galloway” fast for the remaining 40 days.
Let me explain. Jeff Galloway was a U.S. Olympic marathoner during the early running boom of the 1970’s. These were the days when running a marathon meant running a marathon (no walking allowed) Later in life, Jeff developed a run/walk training program where you take walk breaks during your runs. For example, you walk one minute after every four minutes of running. This is called doing fours and ones. Diehard marathoners might frown on this, but Jeff’s training method has enabled countless “normal” people to finish a marathon.
Following Jeff’s methodology, I purposed in my heart to drink liquids and eat ten meals during these 40 days. I am not sure how diehard 40 day fasters like Moses and Elijah would look at this, but it worked well for me and enabled me to finish my first 40 day “race”. No DNF for me! By the way, I fasted an additional five days during the week leading up to “The Call” to atone for my slackness in eating ten meals during my fast. I hope that this counts, Moses (and Elijah).
3. Pressing On
We need to have the same attitude that Paul had. Twice in the following passage he makes it clear that he has not “arrived”, but he continues to press on. We need to have the same mind as Paul and realize that even though we might have finished a race, we are marathoners, and there is a lot of road ahead of us.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Philippians 3:12-16)
4. True Intercession
I believe the Lord wants to transform me and my prayer life. I am still way too focused on my own needs. My heart is not touched with the feelings of other’s weaknesses as Christ’s heart is (Hebrews 4:15). It is not that my heart is totally calloused. I can say “amen” to this statement:
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)
But not to the following one; this is well beyond where I am, but definitely where I need to be.
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-3)
As I worked through these issues during my time of prayer and fasting, I had an amazing revelation. I have a greater desire to pray for others as I pray for others. In other words, just do it, and your capacity to pray for others will grow. This is still a struggle, despite the tremendous power that is released when we pray for others. As Daniel interceded for his nation, God gave him an amazing revelation of the time the Messiah would come. During one particular time of breakthrough, God gave me a very specific word for a church I was praying for. As a prophetic guy, I LOVE to receive clear words from the Lord. God wants to bring me into a greater intimacy with Him. He spoke in visions and parables to many prophets, but He spoke face to face with His servant Moses. Some saw God’s works, but Moses knew God’s ways.
God wants to mature us in our role as intercessors.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)
Back to running analogies - A heart rate monitor shows you whether or not you are operating in your target heart rate zone. In my life as an intercessor, I sometimes hit my target heart rate in praying for others, but I don’t consistently run in this zone.
5. Beyond Revelation
When I fast, I deny my physical cravings that I might concentrate on my spiritual life. Therefore, I am usually more receptive to revelations both from the Scriptures and by the Spirit. And yes, there were some powerful revelations in the first week of my fast, but they kind of leveled off. God is not interested in just imparting revelations to me, He wants to change me and bring me into greater conformity to His character and into a greater intimacy with Him. So much of my experience during these days of fasting was a continuous call to the cross. This is what Paul yearned for.
… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10)
I want to walk in the power of His resurrection, but I also yearn, beyond my natural inclination, to experience a deeper working of His cross in my life.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)
Do I seek God just to receive more from Him, or am I content to be with Him? Thank God for revelations, I live by these words that proceed from His mouth, but what I take out of this experience is a longing to just be with God and worship Him.
6. The Root Canal Effect
Thank God I have only had one root canal in my life; and that was 30 years ago. I boast of my running accomplishments and the pain I have endured in order to complete a marathon. I look at the winners who can complete a marathon in under two hours and ten minutes, and I think that anyone can run a marathon in two hours and change, but how many can run a marathon in five hours? Nevertheless, marathon pain does not compare (so I am told) to the pain involved in giving birth to a child.
I know of one ultra-marathoner who ran 62 miles in a 24 hour period and gave birth to a son the next day; she appropriately named him Miles. 62 miles is nothing for her, she normally runs more than 100 miles in this 24 hour event, but took it easy that year because she was nine months pregnant.
Back to something more pleasant – root canals. Maybe the technology has improved in 30 years. I am not eager to find out. I remember that this procedure, the most painful thing I have ever endured, took three sessions to complete. The dentist couldn’t clean out the entire root in one shot, so he performed this by a series of deeper intrusions into my nerve system scheduled over several weeks until the job was done.
Here’s the application. I believe the Lord, like my dentist, knows how much I can handle, so he schedules these invasive procedures according to His wisdom. God got to some areas in my life during this period of dedication to Him, but He has more work to do and I believe he has these sessions scheduled for me in His appointment book.
Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)
7. Youth Movement
When a sports team realizes that their chances of winning their respective championship are out of reach, they often go into a rebuilding phase. A rebuilding phase means that the team will reduce the playing time of their older veteran players so that the younger players can get more experience. The manager of the team hopes that the increased experience will pay off in future years when the team can once again compete for a championship. This process is also called a youth movement. I don’t believe that God has given up on Boomers, but I realize that much of what is taking place in the area of 24x7 prayer is being initiated and staffed by young people. The very children that many of my generational cohorts have discarded through marital abandonment or abortion are rising up in the Kingdom of God. This is a good thing. I am encouraged by the zeal and sincere devotion exhibited by this generation. Not too long ago, I was a youth myself. Joshuas and Calebs are still needed to lead the way, but God is definitely doing something powerful with the Gen X generation.
8. The Job Is Not Done Until It Is Done
We are instructed to pray until either our prayer is answered or the burden lifts. I believe we have experienced and will continue to experience more spiritual breakthroughs as a result of obeying Him in “The Call”, but the job is not done.
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. (Isaiah 62:1)
He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; (Isaiah 42:4)
We may have slain the giant Baal at “The Call”, but there is more plundering that needs to be done in the camp of the enemy.
And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents.
9. The Call To Incarnational Ministry
Being a disciplined introvert, I excel at activities related to prayer and the study and meditation of the Word. However, I need to grow up into Christ in all things (Ephesians 4:15). There are times to go up the mountain to be with the Lord, and there are times to follow Him down the mountain to minister to the people below. During my 40 days fast, I actually had to go out of my house a few times and run some errands! During these times I felt a particular sensitivity and unction to interact with people. From post office clerks, to department store salesman, to people waiting in line with me at the supermarket, the Spirit was actively working through me to engage people in conversation.
I sense a greater call to this type of incarnational ministry. I believe that there will be a greater anointing and release of the gifts of the Spirit outside of the church walls than inside. This is a shift that the Spirit of the Lord is doing. There’s a revelation for you!
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18)
We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)
One encouraging trend I have recently learned about is the movement of prophetic ministry into New Age venues. Christians often avoid New Agers like the plague, falsely believing that they will catch some contagious spiritual disease if they interact with these folks. John Paul Jackson and others have reported some amazing results as they have proclaimed the gospel and released the power of God to save, heal and deliver lost sheep who have found the true Light in places like the Burning Man, a New Age festival held annually in Nevada, which attracts thousands. I am well aware of the dangers involved in going into these environments unprepared (Acts 19:13-17). However, we are called to set the captives free by the power of the Holy Spirit [Who is greater in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)].
10. Pray Without Ceasing
I come from a Jewish background, so I had no doctrinal predisposition for or against any of the gifts of the Spirit. When I was told about the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues several days after my salvation, I received it gladly. I have had some periods when I have been less active in expressing this, but I have been growing in my capacity and expression to pray in the Spirit with fluency and multiple dialects in order to fully express myself to God in prayer. I have found that a combination of praying with my understanding and with the unknown languages of the Spirit enables me to fulfill my calling to pray without ceasing. So, as a refresher for some, and perhaps something new for others, here are a few reasons why exercising the gift of tongues is an essential tool available to believers for the work of intercession:
a. To Praise God
For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (Acts 10:46)
We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! (Acts 2:11)
b. To Build Ourselves Up Spiritually
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself. (1 Corinthians 14:4)
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20)
c. To Pray According To The Will Of God
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
d. To Speak Mysteries
For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. (1 Corinthians 14:2)
There is no emotional letdown for me now after my first 40 day fast. So where do I sign up for my next one? I am a marathoner.