Friday, December 28, 2007

Day 4: Defeating the Enemies

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .

4 crawling birds from
Wait a minute . . . isn't that supposed to be "calling birds?" I'd better stick to the program -- "The 12 Days of Liberty: How Christmas brought Liberty to the Modern World." We're on Day 4.

We’ve been learning that the meaning of “salvation” in the Christmas story means more than "going to heaven when you die." Jesus’ name comes from the Hebrew word for “salvation,” yasha, as the angel announced:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21

Scholars give us this definition of the Hebrew word for "salvation":

Yasha and its derivatives are used 353 times. The root meaning . . . is “make wide” or make sufficient: this root is in contrast to sarar, “narrow,” which means “be restricted” or “cause distress.” To move from distress to safety requires deliverance. [T]he majority of references to salvation speak of Yahweh granting deliverance from real enemies and out of real catastrophes. That which is wide connotes freedom from distress and the ability to pursue one’s own objectives. Thus salvation is not merely a momentary victory on the battlefield; it is also the safety and security necessary to maintain life unafraid of numerous dangers.
John E. Hartley, “yasha,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Vol 1, pp. 414-15

Yesterday we started looking at the prophecy of John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, in Luke 1, who was filled with the Holy Spirit after John was born, and prophesied, saying:

68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

We’re looking at several themes in Zechariah’s prophecy. We looked at the first two yesterday:
• The House of David
• His Holy Prophets
Today we’ll continue with:
• Saved from our Enemies
• His Holy Covenant to Abraham
In coming days we'll get to:
• Serving in Holiness and Righteousness
• The Way of Peace

“Saved from our Enemies”
Zecharias’ prophecy is a major stumbling block for many Christians. It seems like Jesus the Messiah did not do what Zecharias (and other Old Testament prophets) said the Messiah would do. Certainly the unbelieving Jews of Jesus’ day would agree that Jesus failed as a Messiah.

It seems very likely that Zecharias, like most Jews of his day, considered the Roman occupation forces to be the “enemies” of Israel. Zecharias seems to be prophesying an end to the Roman occupation. He says one of the effects of Christmas––the birth of the Messiah––is

That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
Luke 1:71,74

The idea of Israelites not being under foreign occupation goes back hundreds of years, to previous occupations, and is a major theme of the Old Testament, beginning at least back in Deuteronomy 28. Not just a “major theme,” it is at the heart of the Biblical word for “salvation,” as we have seen.

Let’s look at some of the references to “salvation” (yasha) as “being delivered from enemies”:

Numbers 10:9
“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.

Deuteronomy 20:4
for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’

Deuteronomy 33:29
Happy are you, O Israel!
Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord,
The shield of your help
And the sword of your majesty!
Your enemies shall submit to you,
And you shall tread down their high places.”

Judges 2:16,18
Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.

And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.

1 Samuel 2:1
And Hannah prayed and said:
”My heart rejoices in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

1 Samuel 4:3
And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”

1 Samuel 25:26
Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal.

2 Samuel 3:18
Now then, do it! For the Lord has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.’”

2 Samuel 22:4
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

Psalm 3:7
Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Psalm 18:3
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

Psalm 106:10
He saved them from the hand of him who hated them,
And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

Psalm 138:7
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
You will revive me;
You will stretch out Your hand
Against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.

Being "saved from our enemies" is surely a part of the salvation (yasha) that Jesus (yeshua) was to bring.

But Jesus told Zecharias’ countrymen to love their Roman enemies.
This was a stunning shift in thinking.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed this thinking head on:

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: 41 If a Roman soldier forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles.[1]
43 You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” 44 But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. 45 Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. 46 If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors [2] love their friends. 47 If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that? 48 But you must always act like your Father in heaven.
[1] Under Roman occupation law, a Roman soldier had the right to force an Israelite to carry the soldier's military pack as far as one mile.
[2] These were usually Jewish people who paid the Romans for the right to collect taxes. These "tax farmers" were hated by other Jews who thought of them as traitors to their country and to their religion. See chap. 7 in
TREASURE AND DOMINION: An Economic Commentary on Luke by Gary North.

These were shocking statements to Jews in Roman-occupied Palestine. Rome’s military occupation of Israel was constantly in the minds of that generation. Loving these enemies rather than seeking vengeance against them was a big leap. Statements like this dashed the hopes of many disciples that Jesus might be the Messianic King (John 6:66).

But there was an even greater shift in Jesus’ teaching as He approached the hour of His execution: Zecharias’ countrymen -- not the Romans oppressors -- became the “enemies” and Jesus said their enemies would triumph over them! This was in fact part of the Old Covenant which wasn’t emphasized as much as the good part about being "saved from our enemies." But it was there all along: Israel would not be saved from her enemies:

Deuteronomy 28
15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

29 And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.
31 Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it; your donkey shall be violently taken away from before you, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you shall have no one to rescue (yasha)
45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:
52 And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
53 And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:[3]
[3] The Jewish historian Josephus records that during the 42-month siege by the Romans, some Israelites, cut off from trade, resorted to cannibalism before they were destroyed. (Wars, 6.3.4)

Jesus said that these prophecies were going to be fulfilled against “this generation”:

Matthew 23
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
36Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

Luke 19:41-44
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city [Jerusalem] and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus was prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem when Roman armies put the city under a siege that would take place shortly before the year A.D. 70.

Luke 21
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Revelation 11:1-2
1 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. 2 But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

These are the months from A.D. 67-70, when Israel was destroyed by Roman armies (see Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13).

So what about Zecharias’ prophecy? What happened to the angels' announcement to the shepherds: "Peace on Earth"? Why is it Israel was not saved from her enemies? All of this is a far cry from the salvation that Yeshua the Messiah was supposed to bring.

Here’s another incredible shift: Not only would Israel not be saved from her enemies, Israel herself became the “enemies.” Israel rejected her Messiah, and became the real enemy of the faithful. In numerous parables and sermons, Jesus indicted faithless Israel:

Luke 19
11 Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. 12 Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’
24 “And he said to those who stood by, 26 ‘I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 27 But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’”

Matthew 21
33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
’The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

True Israel, it turns out, was the remnant that believed in Jesus as the Messiah. And soon this remnant would grow to include believing Gentiles who would be grafted into True Israel, while unbelieving Israel would be cut off as the enemies of God:

Romans 11:28
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

Matthew 10:36
and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’

Philippians 3:18
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

Jesus created a New Israel, suitable for a New Covenant:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Galatians 6:15
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.

Ephesians 2:15
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,

1 Corinthians 5:7
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Galatians 6:16
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Romans 9:6,8
But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

So believers in Jesus, both Jew and Gentile, are the New Israel, under the New Covenant.

You’re still asking, “So who are the enemies of the New Israel, and how does Jesus save us from our enemies? When's armageddon when all the bad guys get fried?”

Before answering this question, let’s look at this idea of the old and new Israel.

Zecharias said that one of the reasons Jesus came that first Christmas was so

71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to
our father Abraham:
74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,

We need to learn more about

His Holy Covenant to Abraham
The Scofield Bible says that God’s promise to Abraham was “unconditional,” and no matter how evil unbelieving Israel became, even if they murder their own Messiah, they would still be entitled to be saved from their enemies and possess the land of Palestine. This is why the formation of Israel in 1948 by Great Britain and “The Anglo-American Establishment" is important to Scofield and his theological descendants.

Jesus and the prophets disagree with Scofield, and Israel was repeatedly warned that if Israel did not repent, they would be “cut off” and dispossessed of the land. Matthew 23-24 is a terrifying indictment of unbelieving Israel.

The old Israel under the Old Covenant was a failure.

Hebrews 8:8
Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The salvation promised to Abraham, like all of God’s promises, beginning in the Garden of Eden, was conditioned on Israel's obedience to God. God’s promise to Abraham died, as it were, with old faithless Israel, and was resurrected in the New Covenant with a New Israel. The perfect obedience of Christ is imputed (credited) to the accounts of those who believe in Him, and they become the true spiritual descendants of Abraham, the true Israel.

Galatians 3:7
Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

Galatians 3:9
So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

Galatians 3:14
. . . that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:28-29
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. {29} And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 4:28
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

Romans 4:13
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

Romans 9:8
That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

1 Peter 1:23
having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,

Galatians 6:16
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

The promise to the New Israel is not just the land between the Tigris and Euphrates, but the entire planet:

Psalm 2:8
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5)

Matthew 28:18-20
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Acts 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Romans 4:16
For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

There are some Christians, believing the “dispensational” truths of the Scofield Bible, who say that Gentiles are not a part of the New Covenant. That covenant is reserved for the genetic descendants of Abraham only, and the New Covenant with Israel will not come into effect until a future restoration of genetic Abrahamites into the land of Palestine.

If you believe the Christmas Child is the promised Messiah, then you are a part of the New Covenant spoken of in the Bible, and you have no need to wait for a restoration of unbelieving Israelites to a plot of land in the Middle East. Christians are the seed of Abraham, and our inheritance is the entire world.

The question now is, how do we, the True Israel, take possession of the entire world? And further, why do we still have "enemies" to contend with?

We’ll answer those questions in more detail tomorrow. (We're only on Day 4!) But think about what we've already seen. The Jews alive at the first Christmas focused on the Roman occupation of Palestine. They wanted to be delivered from these enemies by a Messiah riding on a white horse who would blast all the Romans and give Israel control of the land. But being delivered from enemies is a by-product of submission to God's Commandments. And the promise of "salvation" is not just deliverance from temporary enemies. It's broader and more long term. Remember the definition of "salvation" includes these ideas:

That which is wide connotes freedom from distress and the ability to pursue one’s own objectives. Thus salvation is not merely a momentary victory on the battlefield; it is also the safety and security necessary to maintain life unafraid of numerous dangers.

When the angel announced the message of Christmas:

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Luke 2:14

much more was intended than a momentary respite from Roman oppression. The idea -- as we'll see over the next 8 days -- is an enduring libertarian civilization.

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