Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No Weapon Formed Against You Shall Prosper

There is a reason “no weapon formed against you shall prosper”. The reason is our inheritance in Yeshua gives us the delegated authority to pass judgment on the condemning words beamed at us. Weapons may form against us, but we do not have to allow the weapon to prosper against us. This is our inheritance when our righteousness is of Him and not of our own.

"Refiner's Fire," watercolor by Jana Winters Parkin, 2007

Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by Me:
whosoever shall gather together against you shall fall for your sake.
Behold, I have created the smith that blows the coals in the fire,
and that brings forth an instrument for his work;
and I have created the waster to destroy.
No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;
and every tongue that shall rise against you in condemnation
you shall pass judgment upon.
This is the inheritance of the servants of the LORD,
and their righteousness is of Me, says the LORD.

Isa 54:15-17

This is a remarkable passage of scripture explaining so many things that we wrestle over in our faith. Understand that it is first addressed to Israel, yet we who are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel by faith in the Messiah of Israel, also enjoy the inheritance promised by God to Israel – the servants of the Lord whose righteousness springs from the LORD.

Sunday morning as I began this article, it was at first to talk about all the things God revealed through the prophet Isaiah in these three short verses – but it quickly began to unfold as I wrote. Surprisingly, the Purim story of Esther figures into explaining this passage in spiritual warfare terms, and naturally the greater context of Isaiah 54.

In my Bible program the heading on Isaiah 54 is “A Perpetual Covenant of Peace” and verse one begins by describing the state of Israel today,

“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,' says the LORD."

The prophet is speaking of the time when God will return to Israel in salvation, or you could say, to save her from her enemies. When that takes place it will come in a way that is probably different than how we have been thinking, in that we will play a much more active role in the deliverance from enemies than we think.

“Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by Me,” God says of that time.

Even though He says He has “created the (black)smith that blows the coals in the fire, and that brings for an instrument for his work” – a weapon formed against you – God tells His servants that those gathered together are not sent by Him, and “whoever shall gather together against you shall fall for your sake.”

That is a pretty severe warning, and the wars against Israel since her rebirth in 1948 are testimony to the fact that God is serious in this declaration.
The fact is that those who have gathered against Israel have fallen for her sake – but not without Israel fighting.

We too have to fight for our deliverance from the weapons that form against us and those that gather against us. We have to fight, but even with overwhelming odds, the promise of God is that no weapon formed against us has the legal right to prosper. This is our inheritance – to fight back in His power.

In the Purim story of Esther, the evil Haman was able to get the king to make an irreversible decree against the Jews, but that did not mean this weapon could actually prosper. It could be formed, but it could not prosper. Of course, our 'inheritance' described in Isaiah 54:17 doesn't mean we are nonchalant about the weapons that form against us either.

In trying to convey truths about spiritual warfare today, and to convince us that it is part of our inheritance in Messiah/Christ that "God is in control," at times it seems we communicate too much nonchalance about the battle.

In Esther we do not see Mordecai taking a nonchalant attitude about Haman's plan to annihilate the Jews. He didn't say, 'Well, God is in control! We win. I read the back of the book.'

No rather, he did the classic Jewish grieving and despair thing, "Mordecai tore his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry." Mordecai was not going to go quietly and neither should we.

“So Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them.“ Esther 4:4

Esther was in a good place, so good that others had to come and tell her what the state of her closest relative was. Mordecai had secured this good place for Esther which removed her from the street level view of what was happening among her people.

In Romans 9-11, the apostle Paul explains how God used laying aside Israel for a season to open salvation beyond the Jews. In the story of Esther, it is a parallel situation to the state of Christianity today which has also been secured in a “good place” that removes us from seeing the street level view of what is happening to our people, Israel.

“I say then, have they (Israel) stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Romans 11:11

“For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?“ Romans 11:15

The Gentile Church is like Esther, situated in a good place by our ‘uncle Mordecai,’ the saved remnant of Israel, the chosen nation that has been temporarily set aside by God so salvation could be opened to all the nations, not just to Israel. So the inheritance of the servants of the Lord that Isaiah speaks of, the righteousness which Israel, and now we, walk in, is of God, not of our own righteousness.

This right here is enough to end the argument that Israel failed so God withdrew from them and bestowed salvation on a people more deserving. Do we just give lip service to the idea that none of us deserve the salvation of God? Not Israel and not the Church. Yet He has given us both the opportunity to receive His righteousness as our own.

The apostle Paul could not have laid it out more clearly in Romans that the time would come when the opportunity to receive salvation by faith in Yeshua would return to Israel, and in reality it was never fully lifted. There have been saved Jews throughout the ages since Yeshua was lifted up from the earth.

God did not replace Israel with a people more deserving of salvation, and His promise of salvation to Israel has never been withdrawn. In not understanding this simple truth – that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance – much of the Church is like Esther, who was made a queen, was situated in a palace, but became 'out of sight, out of mind' in what was happening to uncle Mordecai and her people.

Do you see this? Esther was so far removed from the realities of the rest of her spiritual family, that her servants had to come tell her that her uncle was on the street, crying bitterly in torn clothes – sack cloth and ashes.

Esther's reaction at first is a little like Marie Antoinette’s famous line when told that the people had no bread to eat, “No bread? Then let them eat cake.” So removed from the reality of the street these queens were that they could not even grasp the desperation of the situation. For Esther, the focus was, 'Mordecai is out there in torn clothes, so the answer is send him some new duds.'

I don’t want to belabor a story we all know, but only to get you thinking how much the Church is like Esther the queen, installed in the palace and insulated from the threats bearing down on her uncle and her people.

Many Christians do not regard Israel as related to them but this does not change the fact that we are grafted into Israel, we have been made the commonwealth of Israel, and that God has promised clearly to return His salvation to Israel.

Salvation is by no other name than Yeshua, so to participate in the salvation of Israel is to help bring the gospel to them. That's why 'uncle Mordecai' is among them. The saved remnant will sure be facilitated by the Esther church to bring salvation to all Israel.

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12

It is true today, as it was when the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans (11:5) “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

Today, that remnant according to the election of grace is destined by the purposes of God to come to know the salvation by faith in the Messiah Yeshua.

"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant to them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as in times past you have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now have not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all." Romans 11:26-32

The Church today has the same role as Queen Esther in helping Israel by heeding the distressed cry of her closest relative Mordecai to act on the behalf of her people before the king.

Can you see that “uncle Mordecai” is the saved Remnant of believers in Israel? These are the Jews who by faith in Yeshua, like the Church seated in the inheritance of faith, are standing still in the streets in order to bring the gospel to all Israel.

Whether it is in the salvation of Israel, or in terms of our own personal, individual spiritual warfare in our lives, Queen Esther went through several stages to secure deliverance for her people.

1. She had to become aware of the distress that she herself was insulated from in the palace. She had to identify with her people even though she was personally unaffected in a good place that had been secured for her by her uncle Mordecai.

2. She had to receive the bad news that not only were her people under severe threat, but that she was in a position to intervene, though it meant sticking her neck out and possibly having it chopped off!

3. She had to make herself ready to hear from God and she did that by fasting and praying – not to change God, but to ready herself to hear His direction to her.

4. At the completion of the third day of her fast, Esther then had to act by faith on the plan she been impressed in the Spirit to take to undo an irreversible decree of her husband, the King.

These are the steps before the Church to play the part that we are called to play in the return of God’s salvation to the people of Israel.

As Mordecai warned Esther, "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

In other words, the participation of the Church in the deliverance/salvation of Israel is not optional. We have a choice, but if we refuse to stick out our necks for them, we are surely going to lose our necks and God will use others who are willing.

As I wrote last week, we have two majority extremes in the Church of how to relate to Israel. One extreme is in denial about God’s faithfulness to His promises about the calling upon Israel. They have concluded wrongly that Israel is tossed overboard so a Plan B replacement can reign in Christ. The other extreme acknowledges God’s eternal covenant for the salvation of Israel, but they gravitate towards unsaved Israel and amazingly ignore the existence of saved Israel. They are trying to be as Esther to her people while flat out ignoring her closest relative, uncle Mordecai. Both are crazy positions.

But the Church that not only embraces ‘uncle Mordecai’ in the face of the Jews who believe in Jesus, and who are also moved with compassion to stick their necks out – to get out of the comfort zone of the palace of their inheritance in Christ for the sake of the salvation of Israel – these are the Esthers that God has brought forth for a time such as this.

All of these things can be understood as part of the big picture – the salvation of Messiah being released to all Israel – and also in our own individual lives as we contend with our inheritance to neutralize the weapons formed against us, as well as every word that rises to condemn us.

The weapons of spiritual warfare are not passive, we must know they exist, why we can use them effectively and then we must contend with active participation.

The Jews would not have survived Haman’s plans for them if all Esther did was fast and pray. We fast and pray to position ourselves to hear the plan from God’s own lips. Then we must move forward with confidence that our righteousness is of Him, and that the weapon-forming blacksmith and the destroyer are on God’s leash. That understanding will give us the courage to stick our necks out when He says, You are going to secure this deliverance for My people.

I hope this will help us in our personal battles, as well as to contend for the salvation of all Israel.