POINT ONE: The way of pilgrims—kingdom people—is the way of passion. (See previous post.) POINT TWO: As we become pilgrims—those who enter into God's presence and power—his priorities are to become our preoccupation.
Our Lord taught us to pray "Our Father in heaven" followed immediately by, "hallowed be your name." That statement is better translated, "May your name be sanctified" and it is more than merely a confession that God is holy and his name is holy. If you look at it from a Hebraic point of view, you will discover that the way that God sanctifies his name is through his people.
Ezekiel declares, "Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD when I am proved holy through you before their eyes." (36:23) You and I are the guardians of God’s reputation in this world, we are his ambassadors, we are his priests, we are the ones that people look to, and what they see in us they attribute to him—for better or for worse.
Messiah Jesus who taught us to, "be about good works, so that men will see them and give honor to your Father in heaven" is saying here, in effect, that his (and our) top priority is to live in such a way as to bring honor to God's holy name. Like our Lord—zealousness for God's reputation should govern our conduct.
The next thing Jesus taught us to pray was, "May your kingdom come and your will be done." This is not a future reference; it is a parallelism. To say "your kingdom come," is exactly the same thing as saying, "Your will be done." What he was trying to say to us is that a passionate pursuit of God’s priorities must be your preoccupation. You are actually praying, "Father may your kingship rule and reign in my life by your will being done."
Then, and only then, is it appropriate to say, "Father bless me with provisions, forgive me, protect me from evil and the Evil One." Your preoccupation must be God: his ruling, his reigning, his purposes. May our cry be "Oh Abba, may I never profane your name, may I never conduct myself in such a way as to bring shame upon you. Oh Father, may I have the passion of David for your kingship, for your presence and power, may I be obedient to your will because in obeying you I bring honor to you and I further your kingship."
The kingdom of God must be our top priority! If we seek it first, then all else falls into proper alignment.
But what is it that God is passionate about? Psalm 132 tells us that it was about building a house for him. I want to suggest to you that God is equally passionate today about the same priority, about a suitable habitation being built for him to dwell in here and now. I am not speaking here about the construction of the third temple, I am speaking about the construction of his church, his body.
In Ephesians 2:19 Paul—writing to Gentiles, to those of us who are not Jewish by birth—uses similar language as that of grafting in from Romans 11. He reminds us that in Messiah Jesus we are all being joined together, being built together as a holy temple in our Lord. Pilgrimage is a corporate enterprise; you don’t go up to Jerusalem to the Feast on your own, you go as part of a community. Together we are being built to become the dwelling place of God’s Shechinah (his presence and glory) on earth, the very place where he lives by his Spirit.
Dear friends, I am convinced that God is passionate today about the building up of his church and if you and I do not share that passion, that priority, then we are not fully submitting to his kingship in our lives. Jesus was so passionate to establish this church (which he called, in Hebrew, edah which means witnessing body) to be a community forged in covenant and spiritual purpose, bearing witness to the King, doing his bidding, and being his ministers.
The Father was so passionate about it, he gave up his Son for it. Now ask yourself, how much have I given up to see God’s church built up? Most of us are Dead Sea saints. Though fed from the same source (the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River) there is nothing alive in the Dead Sea. One vibrantly teems with life and is a place where Jesus loved to be, while the other is sterile and lifeless. Dead Sea saints have the same source as Sea of Galilee saints, the only difference is that while one gives out, the other keeps taking in without giving out. Spiritual maturity comes when you become more of a giver and less of a consumer.
God cares deeply for the church and we need to be his church by serving others, together.
Now the church is not perfect and we all know that. But I find that many of the people I meet who are passionate for Israel (and I thank God for them) are extremely critical of the church. In some respects, their love for Israel seems to be more important to them than the passion of the God of Israel. Yes, we are called to be a comfort to Israel, but we are also commanded to construct the church, to build up a holy habitation. And only as it rises by living stones being jointly fit together does the glory come down.
Let me make a few clarifying comments here; please understand the spirit in which I am speaking and do not mischaracterize what I am trying to say. I feel it is important and timely to share this.
1. Please remember it is the God of Israel that must be of utmost importance to us.
a. I am as interested and committed and loving towards Israel as anyone in this auditorium tonight, but I also feel impressed to say that ultimately it is the God of Israel and not Israel that must be our top preoccupation. It is because he is the God of Israel that Israel is so important to us in the first place, not the other way around.
Yes, it grieves me when so many people so easily take on a replacement theology by replacing Israel with the church because what is at stake with God’s faithfulness to Israel is not a matter of theological interpretation of certain texts—what is at stake is the very character of God himself. Either he is faithful, even though his people are fickle, or he is not the God that we serve. The very reason we must stand for Israel is to honor the God of Israel.
b. On the other hand, there is also a faulty theology, what I would call (for lack of another term) soulish Zionism. Zionism is not a disrespectful term properly understood, but there is a kind of soulish Zionism I find among many Jewish roots believers that does not speak of God’s purposes nor his character. I am speaking of the kind of attitude in which your political ideology becomes a surrogate for your kingdom spirituality. You count the number of times you have gone up to Jerusalem when God is concerned about how many times have you come up into his presence.
There are many, I fear, that develop a soulish attachment to Jewish people, to Jewish culture, to ethnic identity. We think that by singing songs in Hebrew and having a tallit and maybe speaking Hebrew and going to Israel frequently, that somehow we are more spiritual. It is not so, far from it. I have seen among some of my messianic brethren, a kind of ethnic pride, a superiority over against Gentiles. This is the very thing Paul so passionately criticizes. Please remember that ultimately it is the God of Israel that must be most important to us.
2. Also, remember that Jesus' movement, the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven) is not a political kingdom—though it has implications for politics.
It is not a kingdom of this world, though it has profound implications for this world. It is a kingdom over which he spiritually rules and reigns now, to the extent that you submit to his authority and obey his will, to the extent that you are passionate for his purposes. Wherever you are, his kingdom is there: if you are submitting to his authority, if you are obeying his will, if you are sanctifying his name, if you are entering into his presence and experiencing his power—then he is reigning and the Father is glorified.
Please don’t overlook the priority of God’s kingdom in your life here and now. Why do so many want to build the third temple when they should be building the house of the Lord? Have they not read 1 Corinthians where Paul specifically says that you are the temple of the living God, the very place where God’s Spirit desires to dwell? May we learn from Psalm 132 how a right understanding of David's passion to build a habitation for God can help us take on Jesus' passion to build his church.*
* Master the biblical concept of church from Jesus' Hebraic perspective by taking an amazing online class with Dwight A. Pryor entitled, On This Rock.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
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