Friday, May 28, 2010

SHALOM is not just a Hebrew word "...but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you."

When Yeshua sent out His 12 hand-picked disciples on their maiden voyage of ministry there were several things involved as we see from the Matthew 10 account.

He gave them the same power He had: to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all manner of sickness and disease. (Mt 10:1)

He gave them one message to preach: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt 10:7)

He gave them specific parameters for the ministry assignment: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mt 10:6)

Jesus’ ministry on the earth in the flesh was only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mt 15:24) The day would come – after His death and resurrection – when the good news of the kingdom of God would explode into the nations. For now, Yeshua limited the twelve spiritual sons He was discipling to the same parameters of His ministry which God had set upon Him: They were only to go the nation and people of Israel.

One of the things we can draw from this can only be seen from the perspective of looking back in time. Today the common disclaimer from the Jewish people is that Jesus is a “Christian god” and that any Jew who “converts” from Judaism to faith in Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah has broken the ancient covenant of Israel with YHWH. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that God set limits on Yeshua to minister only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and that Yeshua would also place those same limits upon His own disciples while He was still in His earthly ministry.

There could be no question that before His salvation was opened to the nations after resurrection, Yeshua presented Himself only Israel. To the Jew first, and so to the Greek. (Ro 1:16)

What would have happened if Yeshua had said within Himself, "This doesn't make any sense. I know I am going to be light to all the nations, so why should I be limited to the national boundaries of Israel? Maybe I ought to travel up to minister in Damascus or over to Antioch?"

Who knows what would have happened because instead of DIS-obeying His Father's direction, He did what He saw the Father doing, and He said what He heard the Father saying.

Now Jesus was very specific to his 12 disciples about where they were to go and where they were not to go. ‘Stay in Israel,’ He told them. ‘You are not being sent to the nations but to your countrymen. You are not even being sent to the Samaritans who are close by and cousins to Israel.’ They obeyed His instructions as Yeshua had first obeyed the Father's instruction to Him.

He tells them, 'I am sending you out to announce the good news that the kingdom of heaven is drawing near. You are bringing the kingdom of heaven to Israel because I am sending you out with My gifts of power to heal and to cast out demons from the people.'

Jesus is instructing His disciples how to step out in ministry for the first time on their own, going two by two. He is asking them to trust that He has transferred His power to heal and deliver to them. They have seen Him demonstrate the power of God time after time and now is asking them to trust that, 'What you have seen Me do, you will also be able to do.' This is a big step of faith.

Now Jesus narrows the parameters even more about where and how they are to minister.
Not only is He telling them they are going out in the same power they have seen in Him, but He is really putting their trust to the test by telling them not to even prepare provisions for their trip. They are to take no money bags for expenses, no extra sandals or cloaks - just go out in the faith that as you are freely giving, you will be provided for.

Now here is the thing. Jesus was not telling the twelve that forevermore these narrow parameters would apply to their ministries. This time, however, they needed to learn that they could trust God for provision when they had no provisions.

He already knew they quickly forgot the miraculous provision in the multiplying of fish and loaves. When we forget spiritual miracles like these, it is because it did not penetrate our hearts where trust forms. We can know something intellectually, but until it springs out of our heart where spiritual understanding initiates, we cannot act in faith. Faith comes from trust built in the heart.

Eventually some of the 12 would receive instruction from the Spirit to go into the nations – not only ministering to Jews or within the borders of Israel. Whether to the foreigners in Israel, Samaria or other nations, the 11 would take the good news to all men who would receive it.
For now, their proclamation and demonstration that the kingdom of heaven was near was only towards their countrymen.

Likewise, this time they were to go out to minister without any material provisions to fall back on. In the future though they would go out with financial provisions in their belt, or an extra coat or spare pair of shoes.

We cannot make a specific formula out of the instructions Yeshua gave to His first 12 disciples because the instructions were specific to the moment. But we can draw general spiritual principles from this entire chapter about how God prepares us to minister in the power of Yeshua with the good news of the kingdom of heaven.

The issue in Matthew 10 was not just a test of their obedience to Jesus’ instruction, but it was the development of trust within their hearts that what He said about them was true: They were anointed with gifts to set at liberty the captives just like they knew He was. And as they freely gave these gifts to the men, women and children who would receive the gifts, that they would not have to worry about what they were going to eat or where they were going to sleep.

The issue was trust. We have to trust for the anointing to work through us and we have to trust that as we go about the Father's business He is our Provider. We have to trust that even though sometimes the specific instructions we receive defy “common sense” – like going out with no money to cover expenses – that it doesn’t mean we will not be provided for.

We have to be able to hear the instruction of the Spirit for the moment. God doesn’t work in neat little formulas that we can memorize and apply like some instructions on a recipe card. We can’t put God in a neat little box that says every time something is going to happen in the same way and in the same ministry formula. We must be prepared: to hear from God for the moment.

The next issue Yeshua dealt with is discernment and once again, He gave the 12 precise directions in how to discern where to stay and how long to stay there.

Jesus told the 12 when they entered into a town, to ask around and find out who was a person of merit in that town and then go stay in their house. Remember, they are in Israel and Israel has a covenant with God. When Yeshua tells them to ask around to find out who is "worthy" in this town, He is telling them to find a godly man.

He said when you enter into that person's house, embrace the household joyfully, and "If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you."

We don't have to wonder what that means because Romans 14:17 tells us exactly what it means: "for the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

Yeshua sent the 12 out with a specific message: Come and get it! The kingdom of heaven has drawn near to you on earth and we are passing out heavenly gifts to men who will but receive!"

They are not just carrying words with them, but the power of God to heal and deliver, the power to call the righteousness, peace and joy of heaven into the earthly realm.

This "shalom" they are to bring upon the homes of worthy town elders where they stay is not about just saying something in Hebrew to the homeowner. Those who carry the gospel of the kingdom of heaven also carry the environment of heaven with them. Righteousness, peace and joy accompany those who are bringing the good news of the kingdom of heaven.

Righteousness, peace and joy from the Spirit of the Lord within us is something we are carrying everywhere we go. When we walk into a room or a home or a job if the authority of that place receives us, our "shalom" will permeate that place. If the authority of that place rejects us, then the environment of "hell" will be the thing that prevails there.

In terms of the cities of Israel in those days, Yeshua was saying that if the “worthy” town elder is indeed godly, he will receive you. But if he rejects you then he is not godly, and you withdraw from that home – whatever peace you have brought into that home cannot flourish because it is not “authorized.”

Note that if the most "worthy" person in an Israeli town was rejecting the proclamation and demonstration of the kingdom of heaven that His disciples were bringing into their homes, Yeshua is saying this is a good barometer of how unfruitful their ministry in this town was going to be. The 12 were starting off in each community at the home of the most meritorious person. If they did not receive the disciples’ message, then the twelve were to move on to the home or township that welcomed them – and the gifts from God they were freely giving away.

It is possible, when we refuse to accept that the Father is not moving in a place or among a certain group of people, that that the environment of hell will batter us into a state where all our righteousness, peace and joy has shriveled up to nearly nothing. It is important to know when to move on to where the Spirit of God can move, and this is what Yeshua was teaching His disciples.

We need to recognize that moving on is not always giving up, but it can be the witness of the Spirit to leave those entrusted to God. Don’t believe it? See how many time Jesus “departed” to another place. Who carried the environment of heaven in Himself more than Yeshua, yet when the authorities in a place began to stir up the environment of hell, Yeshua did not dig His heels in. He removed to another more fruitful place of ministry and waited for a more open season of ministry in that place.

This is not to say we should only minister in places where there is absolutely no opposition to the gospel because reality is there is no place on earth like that! Matthew 10:17 makes it clear that opposition to the gospel is guaranteed to come against us. But even when this is the case, we can discern when it is time to depart from a place or to change our locations for maximum fruitfulness.

In Israel today, we know that the more fruitful season of His ministry is blossoming in our day and still this lesson holds: it is important to discern where Israelis are open to receive, and where only hell is churning.

Even though Yeshua withdrew Himself from Jerusalem when hell was churning violently against Him, He always found a way to return to be about the Father’s business. Maybe He sent his disciples on and arrived alone unexpectedly, but He did not just place Himself in harm’s way when hell was churning against Him. So it is with Israeli ministries in this day – in some places there is more freedom and openness than others. Even though there is great opposition to Yeshua and His followers in Israel, the gospel of the kingdom of heaven is still to the Jew first. It is a Light that God will not allow to be extinguished in Israel.

Yeshua told His 12 disciples that they could discern if they were to stay and bless the townspeople, or if they were to move on shaking the very dust of the town off their sandals as they left.

Now in this, He was speaking specifically of the generation of Israel at that time because Yeshua knew the plan of God was for Israel to be set aside for a season so that salvation could be extended to all the nations. (Read Romans 9-11). He knew that for a season only a remnant of Israel would respond to the good news, but in due season and according to the plan of God “all Israel shall be saved.”

All of us – Christian and Jewish disciples of Jesus – need to be able to discern between our sometimes stubborn desire to hang in there trying to make people respond to the good news or accepting when God have us move on. None of us wants to be a quitter, but in this passage Jesus is teaching us that fruitful fields are receptive. We need to be able to trust that. It may be that we are only to withdraw for a season, or it may be a field for someone else to harvest.

The important thing is that we have discernment from God not our own stubborn spirits, and that we do not get robbed of all righteousness, peace and joy by trying to minister in an environment where hell is churning.

That can be a hard one. I would imagine that many of us have experienced trying to minister in a place where we are not received - like maybe parts of our families.

Here is the thing about that. When the good news that the kingdom of heaven with gifts of healing and deliverance from bondage has drawn near, and the authority of the house rejects it - even when it may be people we love, family members - we must DISCERN that God is NOT presently working there and move to where we discern He is working. We have to trust that He has got this. We can't force it no matter how much we may want it for someone else.

Yeshua broke it down for us in John 8 as He was speaking to those who were rejecting Him, saying, "I do nothing of myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things. And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." (v.28-29) As we go out to minister, we can expect the same. We can expect that we are also not left alone, but He is with us.

Bottom line: We need to discern where the Father is moving and speaking. In that place the good news of the kingdom of heaven will be welcomed and embraced. If the message is not welcomed and embraced, don't keep banging your head against the brick wall - trust God and move on to where His Spirit is moving! It takes fully trusting God to let go and move on sometimes, especially when we have strong emotional draws to the people we are trying to minister to. It is good to remember that we could never love them more than God does.

As He wrapped up His instructions and guidance to the first twelve "sent ones" Yeshua said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Mt 10:16) We need to discern when to depart from a place where hell is churned up to a more fruit place of ministry. We need to discern because Hell would like to rob us by convincing us that we can never move on because it would be "giving up."

Clearly there is a verse that applies to this lie: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Messiah."

To get His results, we must do it His way.

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