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Soli Deo Gloria is the writing and teaching ministry of Baruch Maoz in Israel. Baruch is engaged in writing original commentaries on the Bible, and theological and practical works in Hebrew. Some of his books are available in English. His Critique of the Messianic Movement, Come Let Us Reason Together: The Unity of Jews and Gentiles in the Church, has been published by P&R, and his Devotional Commentary, Malachi: A Prophet in Times of Distress by Crossbooks. Both are available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon while Shepherd Press produced his Devotional Commentary Jonah: A Prophet on the Run.
Baruch has written a series of commentaries in Hebrew on Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Jonah, Nahum and Malachi,Romans and Colossians. He has written an Introdution to the Life and Epistles of Paul, an Introduction to Systematic Theology, an Introduction to Systematic Theology, and edited a modern translation of the Bible into Hebrew. He is also translating the New Testament into Modern Hebrew and engaged in other writing projects. In the pipeline are books on church life and structure, How to Preach and Listen to Sermons, and daily Christian disciplines. To date, Baruch is the only author writing Christian literature n Hebrew.
Baruch and Bracha are Israeli Jewish Christians who have served in Israel for 5 decades now. Between April 1974 and December 2006 Baruch served with Christian Witness to Israel, most of that time as Israel Field Leader. Betwen May 1975 and December 2008 he served as Pastor of Grace and Truth Christian Congregation in Rishon LeTsion, Israel. Our website reflects the experiences gained in the course of that time.
Our monthly newsletter, MaozNews, is available for the asking, with back-issues to be found on this website (Baruch's Writings/News From Israel). To subscribe, click address at bottom of this page. His faceBook and Linkedin pages serve as blogs and provide almost daily information on the scene in Israel. His postings are also avaialble via Twitter @BaruchMaoz
Installment No. 1 - Commentary on Colossians
Paul of Tarsus, the author of this letter to the church in Colossae, was born and initially educated in what appears to have been a rather wealthy Jewish family near Antioch of Syria, in the Roman province of Cilicia. (This area is now eastern Turkey. There was another Antioch, in Pisidia, which was part of the province of Asia in what is now western Turkey.) He “conformed to the strictest sect [of Judaism], living as a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5), which is why he traveled to Jerusalem to study under Rabbi Gamaliel, one of the most influential rabbis in Jewish history. There he was “taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers and was zealous toward God” (Acts 22:3; see also Phil. 3:2), so much so that he took an active part in the initial attempts to stamp out faith in Christ and “persecuted the followers of this way unto death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison” (Acts 22:4).
The apostle had all the credentials necessary for a thorough understanding of the Jewish Faith. He knew the Torah, the Jewish tradition, and the distinct interpretations of both as formulated by the Pharisees, the forefathers of modern Judaism.
When Faith in Jesus first emerged within the Jewish nation, Paul sought from the High Priests authorization to extinguish it among adherents as far away as Damascus (Acts 9:1–2). On his way there he was stopped in his tracks by the living Jesus, converted to the Faith he sought to destroy, and baptized shortly after arriving in the city (Acts 9:3–18). Following some three years of contemplation in the wilderness (Gal. 1:15–18), Paul returned to Damascus, proclaimed the Faith, and then was forced to flee for his life (Acts 9:19–25). When he arrived in Jerusalem, the church there viewed him as troublesome and sent him home (Acts 9:26–31).
Some thirteen years later, he was called to work alongside Barnabas in Syrian Antioch (Acts 11:26). When a controversy arose in the church regarding the place of the ritual law and of Jewish tradition in the Christian life, the church sent him and Barnabas to have the matter discussed and determined by the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1–2). There Paul, the former student of the famously strict Pharisaic Rabbi Gamliel, insisted that everything the Torah and tradition promised but could not deliver was to be found in Christ, and that Christian commitment was now to be directed exclusively toward Jesus, the Christ, rather than to the Torah or Jewish tradition. It was his view that won the day.
Later, sent out under the auspices of the Antiochian church (Acts 13:1–3), Paul conducted what turned out to be three missionary tours, the first in the company of Barnabas (Acts 13:1–14:27; 15:1–18:18; 18:19–21:7). With each tour reaching an ever-broader area of the Roman world, Paul laid plans to travel with the Gospel as far as Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28) and might had gone still farther if God in his providence had not chosen otherwise. The apostle aspired to conquer the world for Jesus and to bring all nations under Messiah’s sway. He passionately believed that God was not only the God of the Jews but also of the Gentiles.
Most of the time Paul itinerated, spending only a few weeks in any one location. But he chose to stay in Corinth (Greece) and Ephesus (what is now western Turkey) for extended periods (Acts 18:1–11; 19:1–10). In the course of his tours, he wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, the two letters to the Corinthians, and Romans. At the end of each of the first two tours, he returned to Antioch and reported to the church there (Acts 14:24–28; 18:18–24). The third tour ended in Jerusalem (Acts 21:1–15).
While in Jerusalem, he was arrested after being falsely charged with desecrating the temple and almost lynched by an angry mob (Acts 21:27–36). He remained for two years under arrest in Caesarea (Acts 23:12–26:32) and then was shipped at his request to be tried before Nero, the Roman Caesar. In Rome, he awaited imperial decision while under detention for another two years (Acts 28:16–31) before being released. Meanwhile, he wrote Ephesians (probably a circular letter to churches; the copy we have was delivered to the church in Ephesus), Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians, and his first letter to Timothy.
Upon release, Paul traveled to Crete (Titus 1:5), among other places (2 Tim. 4:13, 20), and wrote his final letters to Timothy and Titus. He was executed in Rome somewhere around AD 64. This would date Paul’s letter to the Colossians somewhere around AD 62–63. The exact dates of the apostle’s career are a matter of scholarly debate into which we need not enter. The dates quoted here are approximate.
A central theme in Paul’s preaching and writing was the completeness and sufficiency of Messiah’s achievements. These, the apostle insisted, were the grounds of saving, sanctifying grace. They were also the grounds for Christian fellowship. Paul could not imagine a salvation that did not include sanctification; that is to say, the spiritual and moral transformation of individuals, communities, and nations. Nor could he image such a transformation apart from grace. Grace was God in action; it pointed both to God’s independence of and love for man. It secured the purposes of God for the world and was, therefore, the impetus behind both the doctrine of the church and the doctrine of last things (also known by the term eschatology). Grace was to find practical expression in the lives of those who experienced salvation: they were to conduct moral lives, with their morality being motivated, shaped, and directed by a loving fear of God and an appreciation of his kindness.
That, in Paul’s mind, was a fundamental expression of true spirituality.
Christians were to proclaim the Gospel by their conduct, pointing to the sufficiency of grace by pointing to the sufficiency of Messiah’s achievements in all walks of life. Among other ways, this was to be shown by the fact that distinctions between people were rendered immaterial: social standing and gender (both major issues in the Roman world), nationality (a major issue to Jewish minds), culture—none of these could form the basis for anything of value before God. It did not matter if you were a slave or a freeman, a man or a woman, a Jew or a Gentile; only grace made a difference, and it made all the difference in the world.
That is why Paul insisted on unity between Jews and Gentiles as well as others in the church. Such unity pointed to Christ, demonstrated the power of the Gospel, taught men and women to rely on no one but Christ, assured them of God’s ultimate victory on the grounds of Messiah’s life, death, and resurrection, and provided them with a vivid, practical view of Messiah’s wondrous glory.
Paul did not think of church life off extemporaneously. Nor did he look for the most “effective” way to promote his message. While no one in history could claim more evangelistic zeal than Paul, his concept of church life was not focused on evangelism but on Christ and the nature of the Gospel. He understood the church to be a visible manifestation of the Gospel. He was guided by the essential principles of the Gospel. There was nothing ad hoc or motivated by practicality in his understanding of the required conduct of the church. Was he wrong, or is there something we need to learn with regard to our church practices?
On Being Christian in Our Respective Cultures
Prepared for La Grange Baptist Church, Louisville KY
Modified and enlarged for Briarwood Presbyterian Church,
© 2015 by Baruch Maoz
Some moments in history are turning points; others are but a flash in the pan. Some become turning points because of the immediate import of their content; others because they mark the beginning or the culmination of a trend. The latter are especially dangerous because their gradual nature renders them less obvious, more difficult to detect. The church in American is presently at a turning point which is neither the beginning nor the end of a very dangerous trend. The church must respond with an honest fear of and love for God that create the the courage, the moral commitment and the willingness to sacrifice that are necessary for the moment.
I am an outsider. I do not live in America. But the implications of the American church's failure to rise to the occasion created by the moment will reverberate around the world. I am obliged to address you on this pressing matter.
Moreover, I am your fellow Christian and a Minister of God's word. I tremble to think of what is sure to happen if the church in America does not respond as it should. God's word is clear: the true burden of biblical prophecy is not the kind fascinating prediction which seems to entertain so many as they throw about their texts, write their books, draw their charts and argue over sequences; it is a declaration of the holiness of God, an exposure of national sinfulness and a reminder of the terrible wrath of God in response to sin. It is a call to alter course and turn back to God and his ways.
In spite of ineffectual protestations since 1973, according to Abort73.com
, every year between 1973 and 2011 1,358,974 babies were murdered in their mother's womb, totaling 53 million unborn, defenseless children -- nothing less than a cold-blooded Holocaust, more horrific than any Nazi concentration camp. A few bold voices were raised and we thank God for them, yet the church in America, as the church, was largely silent. Apart from wonderful clinics in various places, often operating under the radar, most of the effort against this atrocity is political in nature or morally inappropriate. A thunderclap of rage and concern has not been heard. God's voice has not been heard because the church has not sounded it. I ask, Does God's word not condemn the murder of the innocent and demand a life for a life for the unborn as it does for an adult (Exodus 21:23)? Are we, the church, not to defend the weak?
According to the Huffington Post of July 23 2015, 70% of Americans support euthanasia. It is legal in Washington, Oregon, Vermont and in Bernalillo Country New Mexico. Other States in the Union are considering the legalization of this form of murder. A few bold voices are raised and we thank God for them -- yet the church in America as the church is largely silent. God's voice has not been heard because the church has not sounded it. I ask, is not life a gift of God, not to be tampered with nor destroyed? Does God's word not forbid murder, self-inflicted or otherwise? Is the life committed to us our own, to be dispensed with as we wish, or a gift of God given for his glory?
For years, pronounced sexuality, promiscuity and homosexuality have been promoted as options, valid ways of life. Cross-dressing, disgusting behavior and crassly suggestive lyrics are common among performers, particularly those armed withe electric guitars, while Hollywood feed us with with increasingly overt forms of pornography. Yet the church in America as the church is largely silent. Is there no shame? Are there no limits to human depravity? God's voice has not been heard because the church has not sounded it.
Hedonism has become the American way of life, shopping a central life experience. Shopping malls and outlets have become modern temples of success, pleasure and security. Pleasure -- that's it! Comfort! Immediate, maximal satisfaction. So foods are flooded with sugars and carbohydrates, and the portions served on any one plate could feed a family in a more rational society. Obesity is so common that no one seems to notice it any longer in spite of the clear biblical injunctions against gluttony. Even Pastors and church officers waddle about because of the shameful weight imposed on them by their gluttonous, irresponsible eating habits, yet the church in America as the church is silent. God's voice has not been heard because the church has not sounded it. I ask: are we to eat and drink and do all to the glory of God, or have we somehow now been released from that privileged duty?
Christians have been stupified by shallow sloganeering in the name of the Gospel instead of true preaching that exalts God and humbles sinners. The church is becoming more and more like the world. Real engagement of the mind and of the heart with God and his word is rare. Instead, we have mega-churches where a feel-good atmosphere replaces true worship, where there is ne'er a whisper of a call to tremble before a Holy God; where hell is the unspeakable topic and where Christians are not called upon to sacrifice anything more than that bit of money they can spare without pain.
It is time to remind ourselves what it means to be Christian. It is time to remind ourselves of our duties.
To a meaningful extent, we are shaped by our upbringing, our culture, our experiences and the expectations of our seniors and peers. Yet, surely, the primary factor that should shape us must be the will of God as expressed in his word. That being so, there is not an individual on earth who does not need to be challenged and changed. Certainly that is true of us today.
We need to be changed for a number of reasons. First, because even in the Garden of Eden, prior to his sin, Adam was to change. He had much to learn, internalize and implement of the image of God in which he was created. Human perfection is relative, virile, ever-progressing. In eternity, as we gaze with wonder at the infinite majesty of our God and Savior, we shall eternally learn more of his glory, ever increasing in love and adoration. Man was created to aspire and to grow.
As a result, the very best of the factors that shaped us are but partial perceptions of the ultimate for which we were created and to which we should aspire. Our education, our culture and our personal backgrounds can, at best, provide aspects of truth and glory. They can also provide us with perspectives others might not have. At the same time, their limitations incline to become blind spots. We need the contribution of others to be more of what we are intended to be. That is why the full measure of the stature of Christ is attributed to the church as a body rather than to individuals. Adam needed Eve: It was "not good for man to be alone." He needed "a helper suitable to him" - - and the Hebrew indicates the kind of help that complements him, that provides by way of contrast what he lacked.
The second reason we need to change is that sin has impacted every factor that shapes us from the moment of conception to the day we die. No culture, no experience, no social or educational background is exempt. "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19). We are conceived in sin, born with a distorted image of God in us. We are brought up by families and in societies that have likewise been impacted by sin. As a result, some influences are not only partial but wrong, contra-biblical.
These two realities teach us on the one hand that aspects of the forces that shaped us are positive because they reflect God's wonderful purposes, either because they are premeditatedly Christian or because of the gracious work of God in what we often describe as "Common Grace" -- positive influences apart from the Gospel. On the other hand they teach us that we should be bring those influences to the bar of God's word, measure them by it and then modify, embrace or reject them in proportion to their compatibility with that standard.
In other words, we do not have the privilege of being carried by the rush of the crowd. We are not free to embrace all of the standards, customs and values of our culture. We are obliged to be consciously, premeditatedly Christian. Rather than automats, the product of influences, we are responsible human beings created in the image of God and called upon to glorify him by reflecting that image in the course of our lives.
Of necessity, this means that we will have to swim against the tide of our culture, to labour to change the direction of that tide. We are called to a truly prophetic ministry in our homes, churches and in society both as individual Christians and as the church. We must rage against evil in our society and the horror of some of our laws. We must be willing to stand up and be counted, to pay the price of ostracism, mockery, imprisonment the loss of tax exemptions and anything else society or Government may choose to impose upon us. We must dare to be Christian in our society, promoting and striving for holiness, decrying sin.
The Biblical Background
Culture in the ancient world was as all-pervasive as today but far more compelling, primarily because it enjoyed overt religious sanction. Opting out of the accepted standards was equal to opting out of society and risking the fate of outcasts: defenseless exposure to the whim of every passer-by, to abuse and often to death.
Ancient Middle Eastern culture was syncretistic. Most people worshipped the same gods under different names and in the same way. The gods were represented by visible images. They were placated or moved to act on man's behalf by way of ritual, sacrifice and payment to temple priests. They were thought to be in perpetual contest with one another. They made few if any moral demands apart from those that helped maintain the status quo and support those in power. Their primary appeal was rooted in the way they served human needs and expectations. The people became much like the gods they served, which is why we should be very careful as to how we think about God.
Israel was under pressure to adapt to these standards. To deny the existence of the surrounding nations' gods was the height of arrogance. To question the validity of the surrounding nations' religious and social practices was to threaten national income and to disrupt crucial international relations because the primary source of Israel's income and security had to do with the conduct of international trade.
The human tendency to conform in an effort to find acceptance and the natural tendency to laziness also came into play, all the more so when, as we said, many of the cultural norms appealed to the human heart because they tended to fulfill felt human needs and expectations. Yet the Lord instructed the nation,
When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, "I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me," you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses...
Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
Israel was to learn from God, not from the nations.
What is more, the God of Israel expressly forbade any attempt to represent him by way of a visible image, regardless of how common such a practice was among the nations. Sacrifices were said to be God's gift to man, not a means by which man procured the favor of God. Israel's God claimed not supremacy but exclusivity, his demands were eminently moral and man's interests were made subject to the will of Jehovah. Israel was not to take its cue from the nations; it was subject to the commandments of God: "for you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2).
Rather than being embarrassed of being different, Israel was called upon to recognize the value of their cultural and religious giftedness: "What great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today" (Deuteronomy 4:8)? Israel's conduct was to be subversive of all other cultures and religions, and thereby serve as a light to the nations so that
it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob that He may teach us concerning his ways and that we may walk in His paths”(Isaiah 2:2-3).
The New Testament requirement is identical. Our light is to "shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify" our Father "who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). The message of the Gospel is so subversive that, at the beginning, the majority of the apostles did not recognize its implications. They viewed Paul's endeavors with reservation when he insisted that there is "no difference" between Jews and Gentiles. They could comprehend the erasure of differences between slaves and freemen -- a revolutionary thought in Roman society of the period -- but not that between Jews and Gentiles.
One reason they found such equality difficult to comprehend is that recognition would threaten their standing in Jewish society: the difference between Jews and gentiles, drawn, emphasized, thickened and accentuated by Jewish history, culture and religion was a major plank in the nation's self-identity. Anyone questioning that difference would be vomited out of society. After all, the apostles were engaged in preaching the Gospel to the nation. How could they effectively do that if their national loyalty the nation was called into question? Ought we not, contextualize, identify with the people so as to reach them? Paul was too radical, even if he was right.
After more than 20 centuries of Gospel impact on Western society, we are unaware of how fundamentally the Gospel challenged Roman society and its culture. Rodney Stark's THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY (HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1991) serves as an excellent summary documentation of that challenge.
Stark tells us that pagans were helpless in the face of epidemics. Those who were able fled while Christians remained and tended to those afflicted by the disease. He quotes the anti-Christian Emperor Julian as writing "that the pagans needed to equal the virtues of Christians, for recent Christian growth was caused by their 'moral character, even if pretended,' and by their 'benevolence toward strangers' " (pp. 83-84). Infanticide, particularly of girls, was rife in Roman society except among Christians, who also ran against the grain of society in their opposition to abortion, divorce, incest, polygamy, homosexuality and marital infidelity, in their generous care for widows and in the respect they displayed toward women.
Talk about contra-cultural: imagine slaves and slave-owners such as Onesimus and Philemon greeting one another as equals in the context of Christian community while retaining their relative status in society! Imagine a Christian slave owner treating his slaves with love and kindness, as fellow image-bearers, giving their fair portion, caring for their needs and defending their dignity in a society in which the skin of living slaves was used to burnish copper vessels and their very lives depended on the whim of their owner.
How, Then, Should We Live?
Since you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory...
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry for it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another since you laid aside the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— in which there is no such thing as a Greek and a Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Colossians 3:1-13).
In other words, be different. Live out the Gospel.
What does that mean? Well, let's go back to where we started. We said, "the primary factor that should shape us must be the will of God as expressed in his word." We discover the implications of living out the Gospel from God's revelation to us, a lamp to our feet and a light on our path.
There we learn that God is to be first in our lives. That we are to love him in all that we do, even to the extent of eating and drinking to his glory rather than for the meeting of our legitimate needs, let alone our craving for ice cream, mammoth cokes and big mac cheeseburgers. There might well be times when the right thing to do is to forgo legitimate needs, even life itself, for the glory of God. Our love for God should be visible through the lives that we lead. Christ died so that we who live might no longer live for ourselves but for him, who died and rose again.
Next we learn than God demands of us in relation to others an uncompromising morality. Our yea should be a solid yea and our nay no less dependable. Our measure should be exact, somewhat beyond or at least true to our undertakings. Our conduct should be characterized by kindness and generous sacrifice rather than selfishness; by God-orientated holiness rather than an effort to achieve worldly success; by humility rather than a striving after power, influence or popularity. Our conduct should be premeditatedly tuned to the word of God and our standards consciously derived from and constantly mended by the Word. We must be willing to pay the price of faithfulness to God and his word. Rather than acceptance with men, we should be given to pleasing him who created and redeemed us.
In other words, we need to be carefully thoughtful Christians, seeking to understand the principles of the Gospel rather than expecting those who teach us to provide detailed how-to manuals of behavior in the various circumstances of life. We need to understand and internalize the truths of the Gospel, by which I do not mean merely the facts presented in scripture but the underlying principles that gave those facts the shape and content they have.
To that end we need to be serious-minded Bible students and lovers of good preaching. We must not succumb to the laziness that characterizes the world around us, when people know more and more about less and less, when today's newspaper and broadcast provide more inane gossip and irrelevancies than real information that equips us for life.
When the Final Day arrives, "we will each have to give account of ourselves before God" (Romans 14:12). We are responsible individuals and will be held accountable as such. In others words, to a meaningful extent and to the utter limits of our ability, we all need to be theologians and moral philosophers. We all need to think about and understand God's word. It will not do to quote verses without truly plumbing their meaning in context. We need to examine ourselves, our values, standards and practice in the light of God's word and to undertake an ongoing process of reformation, what a friend recently described so aptly as ongoing conversion. That is what the Bible describes as sanctification. In other words, we need to invest everything in growing in Christ. If we are not radical Christians it is likely that we are not Christians at all.
We should take nothing for granted, not even the values and practice we taught at home and at church. We need to be able to either correct these or make them truly our own by arriving at them by way of the engagement of our hearts and minds with the word of God.
Every sphere of our lives should be impacted, every relationship, everything we own and do. Our duty is to be Christian in every walk of life and in the hidden recesses of our hearts. To that end we need to be dedicated, truly in love with God and therefore morally courageous. That is what will make us truer Christians, better persons, better members of our society, better citizens and better spouses, parents and children. That is how we, with "unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord," will be "transformed into the same image from glory to glory" by the work of the Spirit of God (II Corinthians 3:18).
Could we aspire to anything higher? Dare we aspire to anything lower?
Yet all of that is not enough, certainly not in these days. Individual Christians who are politicians should stand up for the truth in the political area while laws are framed and passed. But that is not the church's duty. Rather than engaging in politics, the church must sound the word of God energetically, loudly, firmly and uncompromisingly from every pulpit, on every street corner. Nations should be challenged; they should be called to the bar of Gods word, their sin exposed and their guilt declared. They should be called to turn from sin to God. THAT is what biblical prophecy is all about:
Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.
There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery.
They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed (Hosea 4:1-2).
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, “Bring now, that we may drink!” The Lord God has sworn by His holiness, “Behold, the days are coming upon you when they will take you away with meat hooks and the last of you with fish hooks (Amos 4:1-2).
Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown (Jonah 3:4)..
Hear, O peoples, all of you; listen, O earth and all it contains
and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place (Micah 1:2-4).
Where is the million-men march on Washington in defense of the defenceless, warning of judgement? Where is the ten million march agains lust, gluttony, the love of money, homosexuality, calling for purity and the fear of God? Why is the voice of the church not heard? Some courageous individuals have spoken up and we thank God for them. But is that enough? Are these and similar issues not sufficient to unite American Evangelical churches to engage together and at any cost for the Gospel? How petty are our denominational differences in light of the momentous implications of the crass, ungodly reality that surrounds us!
We dare not be like those among whom we live and we dare not be silent. We are to shine as lamps in the darkness, holding forth the word of life. We are to call our nation to repentance. Our Gospel chatter about sin and salvation is vacuous so long as we do not understand the terrible, beautiful, awesome, glorious, terrifying, endearing holiness of God and do not declare it to the nation:
Hear the word of the Lord... because the Lord has a charge to bring against you...: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed... my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge... You have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children... I will punish ... them for their ways and repay them for their deeds (Hosea 4:1-9).
God is jealous, and the Lord takes revenge; the Lord takes revenge, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserves wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea, and makes it dry, and dries up all the rivers: Bashan languishes and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languish. The mountains quake before him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yes, the world, and all that dwell in it.
Who can stand before his indignation and who can bear the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire and the rocks are thrown down by him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows those who trust in him. But ... darkness will pursue his enemies (Nahum 1:1-8)
It is high time for the church to rise up and be the church, a city on a hill, the salt of the earth. It is high time for the church to regain the message: "repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." Society must hear God's thunderous voice through the church, calling the nation to repent, mend its ways and embrace God's will and commands.
That is true evangelism, not the promise of peace, success and happiness but a call to turn from our self-seeking, egoistical hunger for comfortable pleasure to him for whom the worlds were made.
Could we aspire to anything higher? Dare we aspire to anything else?
Let us pray
We first seek not your forgiveness
but the grace to be what we ought to be
rather than what we are.
Change us, God.
We then seek your forgiveness for not being fulfilling the duty you have laid upon us
in spite of the grace with which you have treated us in Christ.
We are unlike those who overcame by blood of the Lamb
and the word of their testimony,
who loved not their lives even to death.
We have loved our lives.
We have loved comfort, popularity, pleasure, food, financial security
and the bland religiousity that serves to salve our conscience
But we have not loved you
with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Rather than leaving the dead to bury the dead,
we have engrossed ourselves in society.
We have become so much like the world
that we have lost the sharp edge of the Gospel.
We have entertained ourselves with the truth instead of obeying it.
We are ashamed. We have sinned. We seek your forgiveness.
We seek grace to be different.
You are all-glorious, our truly beloved,
worthy of every sacrifice, worth more than any loss.
We commit ourselves to work at being different.
We will follow you wherever you choose to lead us
and we undertake to serve you more faithfully
both as individuals and as members of the church.
Be merciful to us, Lord, for your own glory
and be merciful to our nation.
Almighty God, turn the nation to yourself,
and use us to that end.
This we ask, unworthily, in Jesus' name,
August 11, 2015
Where do you stand on the various millennial positions? Do you believe that the future kingdom promised to Israel will be manifested according to the prophets? What does "all Israel will be saved" mean to you? Thank you. These are important concerns to me and I need answers before I can support your ministry.
From the frame of your questions it appears to me that we will not agree and, while I assume you will not enlist in the support of our work, I trust you will pray that God will lead me to understand his word increasingly and that I would be useful for his glory in spite of what you consider to be my errors.
I a not premillenial. In fact, I do not subscribe to post- or a-millenialism either. It seems to be that each of these schools of thought leave unanswered questions and that the church was much closer to the truth when it embraced the tensions created by biblical revelation before the three were framed, in the middle of the 19th century, in an effort to resolve those tensions.
I am confident that, in accordance to his covenant, God will yet restore the people of Israel to his manifest favor because his gifts and calling are irrevocable. I further believe that those divine favors include the granting of the Land. However, I do not seek the restoration of the temple and of temple worship in any form and believe that, should the temple in fact be rebuilt, this would be a major setback in terms of the evangelization of my people. Since we twice lost the land due to sin, as I read the prophets I am persuaded that, unless we establish a just, moral, kind, godly society, we are liable to lose the land yet again and I desperately fear for my people in light of that conviction.
I do not await a 1,000 year messianic Kingdom but believe that the Son, Messiah, has ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father and that he will continue to reign until the Father makes all his enemies his footstool. He will then deliver the kingdom up to the Father and God will be all in all.
I believe that the “all Israel” that will be saved is a mass of people from among my nation, but not every Jewish individual alive at that time or at any other time.
In love with Christ, thrilled by the beauty and power of the Gospel, driven to preach it to the Jew first and also to the gentile, I long to grow in Christ, to be more godly and to serve the Lord with purer, greater fervor.
In Christ by grace,
In This Issue:
USA Travels, pg. 1
Isaiah 53, pg. 2
Shame and Horror. Israel -- An Update, pg. 3
Gulf States Concerns over US Policy in the Middle East
(MEMRI -- Middle East Media Research Institute -- Special Dispatch 6047, May 12 2015)
May 14, 2015 is the date set for the summit at Camp David between U.S. President Barack Obama and heads of state of the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman. A meeting at the White House with President Obama and the conferees is planned for the preceding day, May 13.
The objective of the Camp David summit, as announced several weeks ago, is to reassure the GCC countries about the nuclear agreement slated to be signed with Iran next month, as well as to discuss tighter U.S.-Gulf security cooperation. In advance of the summit, the GCC held several preparatory meetings at various diplomatic levels, including: an April 20 meeting of GCC foreign ministers; a May 4 summit of GCC heads of state which was attended also by French President François Hollande; a May 7 meeting in Riyadh of Saudi Foreign Minister 'Adel Al-Jubeir and his U.S. counterpart Secretary of State John Kerry; and a May 8 meeting in Paris of all the GCC foreign ministers and Kerry.
However, on May 9, Saudi Arabia announced that Saudi King Salman would not be at the Camp David summit as planned, and that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be participating in his stead. Saudi Foreign Minister 'Adel Al-Jubeir explained that the monarch would not attend because he had to stay home to ensure peace and security in Yemen and to oversee the arrival of humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people.
Later, it was reported that the Bahraini king, the UAE president, and the Sultan of Oman would also not be attending the summit, sending representatives instead. As of this writing, the Emirs of Kuwait and Qatar are the only GCC heads of state who are planning to attend.
The downgrade of the level of representation at the summit appears to constitute a message to the U.S. that Saudi Arabia and the other GCC member countries were not pleased with the preliminary talks with Secretary of State Kerry, and also that they were disappointed at what the summit would achieve. According to a May 2, 2015 New York Times report, the Saudis had even then hinted that they would downgrade their representation if they felt that the summit was not going to produce results that conformed to their expectations.
In fact, Arab press reports that preceded the announcement of downgraded representation pointed to what the GCC countries were demanding from the U.S., as well as to dissatisfaction on their part. At the May 4 summit of GCC heads of state with Hollande, Saudi King Salman called on the international community, especially the P5+1 that is negotiating with Iran, to "set stricter rules that guarantee the region's security and prevent it from plunging into an arms race." The king also stipulated that any final agreement with Iran must include unambiguous security guarantees. Additionally, on May 7, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba announced that the GCC would demand from the U.S. guarantees in writing that the latter would defend it from Iran. Likewise, on May 9, the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat reported that even at the May 8 meeting with Kerry, the GCC foreign ministers had demanded U.S. guarantees that their countries would have military superiority over Iran.
also reported, on May 9, that the Gulf heads of state, headed by the Saudi monarch, would not settle for aid, military contracts, and defense systems provided by the U.S., but that they were seeking "clear, honest, and practical clarification, by means of absolutely firm, long-term resolutions, that Iran would be prevented from actualizing its expansionist aspirations in the region and from developing nuclear weapons…" Elaph also reported that "the Gulf leaders are headed for confrontation with the American president, and they want answers and explanations about his positions on these burning issues…"
On May 12, three days after the Saudis announced that King Salman would not be attending the summit, it was reported that President Obama and King Salman had spoken by phone about the preparations for the summit, and had discussed the agenda of the meetings that would take place during it. Both the White House, in an announcement, and Saudi Foreign Minister 'Adel Al-Jubeir, at a press conference, emphasized the continuing Saudi-U.S. partnership. According to the White House announcement, Obama and Salman had, in their phone conversation, "reviewed the agenda for the upcoming meetings" and had "agreed on the necessity of working closely, along with other GCC member states, to build a collective capacity to address more effectively the range of threats facing the region and to resolve regional conflicts." The two also discussed "the importance of a comprehensive agreement between the P5+1 and Iran that verifiably ensures the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program" and "emphasized the strength of the two countries’ partnership, based on their shared interest and commitment to the stability and prosperity of the region, and agreed to continue... close consultations on a wide range of issues." Also, at a Washington press conference, the Saudi foreign minister stressed that King Salman's "absence from the summit is not in any way connected to any disagreement between the two countries," adding, "We have no doubts about the U.S.'s commitment to Saudi and Gulf security. The U.S. will present the Gulf countries with a new level of cooperation that will meet the needs on the ground."
At the same time, the Saudi press published numerous articles, including op-eds and editorials, fiercely attacking the Obama administration's Middle East policy, stating that it had repeatedly disappointed the Arab countries, in its positions on Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran. The articles accused the Obama administration of reinforcing Iran's power in the region so much so that it was now threatening GCC interests and claimed that it was not the Iranian nuclear bomb but Iran's imperialism in the region and Iran's interference in the affairs of the Arab countries that was the "real bomb threatening [the Arab countries'] security," and called on the U.S. to curb these. These articles focused on the demands that the GCC countries would be presenting to Obama at the summit, including that he change his policy towards Iran and "restore the regional balance," while at the same time he would undertake unprecedented security military cooperation with the GCC. The articles emphasized that "the Gulf countries no longer believe the U.S.'s promises and guarantees," and that they would now demand guarantees in writing. Some of the articles even warned that U.S.-GCC relations were now at a point of a grave, even critical crisis of confidence, and that the Camp David summit was a chance for the U.S. to prevent the collapse of its alliance with the GCC. If this alliance did fall apart, they said, U.S. interests in the region would suffer, and the smoldering regional conflict would erupt into a conflagration.
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I have deep respect and love for Baruch Maoz, and the work that he is carrying on in Israel, despite obstacles and opposition. He has been a dear friend for many years. I’ll never forget doing a conference for him in Israel several years ago. I pray that God may use his sound theology, helpful preaching, excellent books, and numerous gifts for the conversion and spiritual maturation of thousands of Israelis and for the abundant glory of God. Rev. Joel R. Beeke, Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Author
Baruch Maoz has been a minister of the gospel, author, publisher, and voice for believers in the land of Israel for four decades. I have seen firsthand the fruit of his ministry and I cannot recommend it too highly. Baruch’s preaching, teaching, and writing ministry should be supported by all who care about the gospel and its impact in Israel and beyond! Pastor Jerry Marcellino, Audubon Drive Bible Church, Federation of reformed Evangelicals – Laurel, Mississippi
Knowing and embracing our Lord’s clear directive to bring the Gospel to the “Jew first” I, along with BPC have been extraordinarily blessed to work in partnership with the effective biblical and faithful ministry of Baruch Maoz. His ministry of evangelism, discipleship, along with his strategic and insightful writing/translation projects, only enhance my opportunity to recommend him and his ministry. Rev. Harry Reeder, Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA), Birmingham AL
Tom Ascol of the Founders Movement writes: "Baruch and Bracha Maoz serve in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Baruch has served as a pastor, publisher, author and church reformer in his homeland of Israel. He has ministered several times with our Grace Baptist Church family in Cape Coral and our people have come to love Bracha and him dearly. I highly recommend his and his ministry to any church that values expositional preaching and the gospel of God's grace." Dr. Thomas Ascol, Grace Baptist Church (SBC), Founders Movement, Cape Coral FL
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