Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.”
Well, I’m back. I did not expect to be posting again but I noticed there were some issues I wanted to address and in this article I aim to that. I expect that if I am successful this will indeed be the last of several articles on this blog for a space of time unless I feel a need to post again. I dedicate this post to my great aunt Inez Morrison who passed away August 28, 2015. She will be sorely missed, but may she now bask in the presence of the Lord. I apologize in advance for the length of this post.
The Widow of Zarephath Church
In the course of my readings of other authors who are of the view that Black Americans aka (African-Americans) are Hebrew Israelites many of them cite Deuteronomy 28 in regard to the blessings and cursing of Israel in terms of the keeping or breaking of the covenant with God. Our condition is by their reading of Deuteronomy 28 due to the breaking the covenant . Thus, their answer to that is to keep the commandments. As I have written before some of them are messianic but believe the law should be kept as well. I do not have a problem with that in terms of observing the feast times and keeping the Sabbath, but one author went into more detail in how the Sabbath was established in Old testament times via the moon so that it may not necessarily be a Saturday as most today who observe the Sabbath do so on a Saturday.
If one were to be technical, it is obvious that no one can keep all the provisions of the Law as many of them had to do with living in the land of Israel. While in the land of Israel, the people were required to present sacrifices. If some people argue that keeping the covenant requires observing all of the Law then they are already falling short by not offering the sacrifices required to the priest of the tribe of Levi. If we are in exile, just how much of the Law is God requiring of us to keep in order to return to the land in a controlling position? If I asked all the various groups this question, I am sure I would get a different answer from each one.
As I wrote in a previous article the notion of Black Americans having Hebrew heritage or affiliation is not a new one. There have been Black people observing the Torah and having their own synagogues in this country as early as the reconstruction era. A group of African Hebrew Israelites who followed Ben Ami Ben-Israel are in Israel today observing the Law as they understand it. Even in Africa tribes such as the Lemba have been for as long as time has been around keeping the Law of God as they know it. Many people new to this subject have pointed this out about the Lemba as well as among the West African Igbo people and among other tribes that exhibited Israelite characteristic prior to the Atlantic Slave trade. If these people were practicing the Law of God as best they knew how, why did it not prevent them from being enslaved and sent in exile to countries among the Atlantic ocean?
In Matthew 19:16 a young man asked Jesus what could he do to have eternal life? Jesus response was if you want to enter into life keep the commandments. He asked which ones? To which Jesus responded, “You shall not murder, commit adultery, bear false witness. Honor your father and your mother and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (vs. 18) “All these things I have kept from my youth,” replied the young man (vs. 20). Notice that Jesus told him at bare minimum to keep the commandments given to Moses from God on mount Sinai and not the Levitical ordinances. In Acts 10:12, Peter has a vision where he is commanded to kill and eat all kinds of four-footed animals, wild beasts, creeping things and the birds of the air. He exclaims in horror “Not so Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
My point in citing these scriptures is that there were Israelites who were keeping the Law just as the young man and Peter were. Everyone knows about the Pharisees and Sadducees and their interpretations regarding the Law which often butted heads with Jesus. All in all I am sure there were religious sects of all kinds who felt they had a lock on what the Law required, yet none of this prevented the devastation and sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70. AD. Therefore, what is suggested is that a deeper consideration is needed in regards to why God allowed the Israelites to be sent into exile again. If He is a God of justice, would it not seem unjust or overkill to send a people into the worse exile they have ever known where they do not even remember who they are if their only issue was executing the law incorrectly, debating to eat or not to eat, to wash or not to wash, what to do or not to do on the Sabbath and other such things.
Moreover, when Israel was sent into exile in Babylon God gave them a time period of 70 years in which they would be gone and a remnant returned. He did no such thing with the Roman depopulation in 70 AD. Instead, Jesus framed the exile in the “time of the gentiles being fulfilled” so that in terms of years it remains indeterminate. Also, all of Israel’s previous exiles did not result in the extinguishment of their memory of who they were. I would suggest that the reader read my article Israel The Ultimate Dispersal Part Two, as it intimates why the justice of God would require the most horribly comprehensive exile Israel has ever known. Therefore, it stands to reason that if a return to the Torah and law by many Black groups over the years whether they are messianic or not has not ended the time of the gentiles then there must be something else God is requiring.
In the meantime the church once the apostles were dead and Jerusalem destroyed fell into the hands of the gentiles and it is without doubt filled with all kinds of wrong practices that many an Israelite would find offensive. As some have pointed out it is undergirded by pagan ways simply because Constantine was a pagan gentile and yes many of those practices have stayed with the church until this day. It is as a wise teacher used to say “gentilic” and generally far away from its Hebraic roots. It is a widow of Zarephath church. What do I mean by that? When Israel missed who was sent to them, God post the death and resurrection of Christ would sojourn with them who believed on the one He had sent. He would sojourn with people who were outside the covenant, many of whom did not know the laws let alone follow them. He would dwell with people who were illiterate and only knew what the Roman Catholics would tell them.
Somehow in all the gentile mishmash of Catholicism and Protestantism some people would manage to become a part of the spiritual house of Israel and the biggest irony is that Hebrew slaves in exile would come into that which they did not come into when Jesus was among them. In this sense God fulfilled his word when in Ezekiel 10 it states, “Thus says the Lord God. “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.” (vs. 16). It is notable that in addition to a being a place of refuge a sanctuary is the room of worship in a church or previously the holy of holies in the ancient temple of Jerusalem.
The widow of Zarepahth of Sidon was not of the house of Israel but Elijah would nonetheless dwell with her during the famine he instigated. Jesus makes reference to this in Luke 4:24 and foreshadows the same the event occurring with the church. Specifically, the passage reads, “Assuredly, I say to you no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months and there was a great famine in the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” (vs. 24-26).
What Jesus brought home to the people in the synagogue who he angered with his words was that God was not above leaving the confines of his own law and the ways of Israel to do the unconventional. Consider that the widow of Zarephath would be seen as beneath the Hebrews someone not to associate with and not only that but she was a woman without a husband housing a strange man. That surely would have raised a few eyebrows in Elijah’s day. In conclusion , it is evident that ending one’s examination of the plight of Black Americans of Israelite heritage to the curses of Deuteronomy does not go far enough. Israel’s house being left desolate may have encompassed those curses but for the purpose of fulfilling the times of the gentiles a deeper contemplation is needed.
What Is The Church?
In our society today definitions do not mean much. The people in the media will take definitions and re-define them in accordance to whatever agenda is being pushed. The issue that has been on radar for the last several years is gay marriage and now transgender people. It is without question that homosexuality has been as demonstrated by the bible around for quite some time. It was around during the days of Abraham and during the days of the early church and with that during Jesus’ time. Although I have never read about it in gentile society, they could have had same sex marriage. When God called Israel to be his people he set out for them ways to conduct themselves sexually. In the early church the apostle Paul reaffirmed this with the gentile believers as they were coming into the covenant of Israel. If God wanted to make an exception to homosexuality being a sin if people were married he certainly could have done so when he was giving Moses the law for living in the land by the Israelites. Additionally, if the early church fathers wanted to make such an exception because Jesus loves everybody and we live by grace they could have done so if God had given them such a revelation.
In Abraham’s time people were not just engaging in homosexuality, but fornications of all kinds including what we would call today married couples swinging. This is noted in the book of Jasher and was equally cited as an abomination being done in Sodom and Gomorrah. In that book one really gets a view of just how crazy they were as their sense of justice was equally horrible. They like our society would probably call two men getting married husbands even though it makes absolutely no sense definition wise. They would probably call a man a woman and vice versa even though they do not have the anatomical equipment to support those definitions despite modern day surgical advancements. But that is the world and there is a certain expectation that in our natural sinful state without any sort of moral standard we are inclined to do whatever evil in the eyes of God that our hearts can imagine.
In the midst of this same sex marriage wave in secular society, the church necessarily gets drawn into the conversation because surely if people including people who are in our families and who we love are homosexuals than surely the church cannot still consider it a sin. Inevitably, there have been some churches who have agreed with the secular adherents and allowed homosexual clergy and conducted same sex marriages and what not. Thus, the question becomes what is the church? If I asked several people this question I would likely get several different answers. What the church is not is a building where people merely assemble to hear a good message preferably one that does not offend them in any way. What it is most definitely is a body of people who have been called to be the people of God. It is a calling and a high one at that. It is not a social club ,which when you neuter what makes it unique, is exactly what it becomes-a place where the power of the holy spirit is never manifest to change anyone’s life and one in which even low level demons laugh at because they know you are a hollow shell and no threat to them.
Christians often give off the impression that God is desperate for everyone to be a part of his kingdom. Often times in church they will give blanket invitations to accept Christ with no explanation of the sacrifice which is required of one’s life to follow him. Jesus had already stated that if anyone desired to come after him that he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23) . If you can sit in a church day in and day out and not give up any of your ways that are contrary to what God demands to be a part of the kingdom of heaven then you have not been called or born again. In this sense the church is analogous to the marine branch of the army. As they advertised in their commercials years ago they are only looking for the few and the proud. They are looking for people who have the courage to want to be among an elite class of people and will sacrifice a cushy life to do so.
I am not saying homosexuals should not attend churches because that would be like saying fornicators or other sinners should not attend churches. However, what they should not do is bring a worldly mindset into the church where they have concluded they were born a homosexual and there is nothing no one can do about it including God and therefore, the church should just accept it and not speak against it. That is a dangerous attitude to have because with knowledge comes accountability and if you know what the word says and persist in not doing it what argument will you have when you stand before him. What sacrifice for sin is left? An attitude of Father have mercy on me is what anyone who understands the holiness of God should exhibit when they are challenged to bring their life into conformity with his Word. It is this demeanor which caused Jesus to tell the one criminal who hung on the cross next him , “Assuredly I say to you today you will be with me in paradise,” when the man insightfully said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Conversely, the criminal who had a haughty attitude and blasphemed him received no such assurance. (Luke 23:39-43).
It is better that people who have a problem with homosexuality being a sin from the church perspective and want to live that life find another faith to practice or belief system. They should live the best life they can and take their chances in the court of God when they are resurrected on the day of judgment. This doesn’t mean that parents who are a part of the body of Christ can’t continue to love and pray for their children who are of this lifestyle as well as other family members but loving family and friends of the homosexual lifestyle should never usurp the standard of God as it is us who must come up to Him and not Him down to us.
To conclude, when God called Israel he set the standard high for them to be his people. If he had wanted to come through nations who worshipped other gods, he could have done so. But it is axiomatic that he would not come through nations who worshipped demons so he called Israel to be set apart in order to have a vehicle in which to spoil principalities and powers and make an open show of them. He continued this high call with the church that would now include gentiles. Whenever some nation or some people purport to be of God and behaves in ways that are opposite of what God requires it is dubbed a mystery. Therefore, if Jerusalem is suppose to be the city of God and all kinds of wickedness takes place in her God calls her Mystery Babylon. If the church engages in all sorts of behavior which is contrary to God’s standard it becomes a mystery and a mystery is good for no one.
The church is a separate institution from secular society and government. Although it is lamentable for many Christians that the government has redefined marriage and now want to redefine gender in sync with the popular culture, what must be remembered is that the US is not called to be the church. When God turned the world upside down in the days of the Apostles, he did not do so by appealing to the Roman government to change their laws about how they viewed sexual relations in their society. He did it through the power of the Holy Spirit. If people are being changed by that same power then it doesn’t matter how many definitions pop culture redefine because people will leave the kingdom of darkness for the greater treasure of the kingdom of heaven.
The following are songs that are gold and accompanied many of my ruminations. The first is a song performed by the great grandson of my aunt Inez at her funeral in mime.