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Which Way is Your Church Facing?

I felt inspired to begin this article by posting this cute(?) dog picture. I am not an expert on social media, but after a conversation with my good friend Andy, I learned that if you post a picture of your dog, you can get a lot more likes and comments on Facebook. He also said that if you post something about Israel, you will get very few. It would be impossible for me to stop writing about Israel, but I don’t see any reason I can’t put a dog picture up, if that’s what people like.

Okay, the truth is I don’t have a dog, but this borrowed online dog, I believe, will help me make a point, and then also see if Andy is right.

Again, this article is written to Christians. Recently, I had the privilege of joining a small group of Christian leaders who presented a declaration of repentance to the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein. The declaration was put together by Bob ODell of Root Source and Donna Jollay of Israel 365. Presented along with the declaration were 25 pages in chronological order of historical atrocities committed by Christians toward Jews. Follow the link here to see the story and sign the petition.    

Obviously, as Christians, we have a lot of ground to make up. I hope you will be good Bereans and consider what I am presenting. If you’re not dog tired after reading it, I would also appreciate your thoughts or comments.

Israel and Prophecy Today

Many Christians say they have a deeper understanding of the Bible after visiting the Land of Israel. Most would say, “The Scriptures came to life.” But even after Christians have experienced the accuracy of the Holy ancient text, it is still difficult for most of us to accept that biblical prophecy could be coming to pass right now.

It seems that a similar problem may have occurred 2000 years ago, when Yeshua walked the Land of Israel. From the New Testament Scriptures, it appears obvious that many believed the Kingdom of Israel was close to being established, and that Yeshua (Jesus) could be the one to sit on the promised eternal throne of David. The idea – even then – was difficult to grasp, under the Roman occupation. The questions of, “Could it be?” and “Is this the time?” or even, “We thought He was the One” are seen throughout the Christian Bible. (Matthew 12:23, Luke 1:32,33; 7:20; 22:67; 24:21, John 4: 29; 7:26,31,40-43; Acts 1:6).  

As I have said many times before, I was excited to see and touch the reality of prophecy when I came to Israel. So why would a Christian not be excited? How could a follower of Yeshua not be motivated to ask the same questions today, while so many prophecies are now taking place in Israel?

For one, most Christians experience God once a week/month/year, in a building not too far from home. The idea that God would place His Name in one particular place and not give us the option to create our own House of God is foreign to us. I just heard a prominent Israel-supporting pastor tell his congregation to bring their tithes and offerings into “the House of the Lord.” Where exactly is the House of the LORD or the House of Prayer, according to the Scripture? (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17; 1 Chronicles 6:32; Psalms 122:1,2)

You may feel uncomfortable with these questions. You may be thinking, “Tommy, why rock the boat? My congregation has done and is doing so many good things for our community. I feel the Spirit of God when I worship there.” Please understand: I am not questioning the need for your congregation and the good work your church is doing or your spiritual experience there, but if God has a mind-blowing world saving plan, don’t you think it would be good for your church to get on board with that plan? (Romans 11:33-36

Directionally Challenged

Yeshua, whom every Christian believes to be the Messiah, attended a synagogue every Sabbath. It also seemed that all the followers of Yeshua – even after His ascension – attended synagogues, as well. (Matthew 12:8, Mark 1:21; 6:2, Luke 4:16, Acts 13:14,42; 15:21; 18:4) What is the purpose of the synagogue? In Judaism, the synagogue is referred to as a “little Temple.” The Holy Temple in Jerusalem is the “Big Temple” – the place God chose to put His Name. (Deuteronomy 12:5,11; 16:2,6,11; 1Kings 5:5; 8:29, 2 Chronicles 6:20,26,33; Ezekiel 43:7) A synagogue is always built facing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, so its primary purpose is to keep its congregants praying and worshiping toward Jerusalem. Solomon acknowledges in 2 Chronicles 6:20 that God will hear the prayers of God’s people when they pray toward the Temple in Jerusalem. Daniel prayed toward Jerusalem from his captivity in Babylon, even after the Temple had been destroyed. (Daniel 6:10,11)

Why, then, do most churches not consider it important to face Jerusalem? Let’s look at the account in John 4:4-42, where Yeshua meets the woman at the well.

It has always been exciting for me to be in a place where so much Scripture has taken place. No one within HaYovel feels as if we chose Mount Gerizim (Mount of Blessing) to begin our work, but it has become clear to all of us, on many levels, that we are not here by accident. I’m not sure exactly when I was awakened to this significance, but the words of the Samaritan woman spoke directly to my own deeply rooted replacement understanding when she said in verse 20, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Verse 21 seems to settle the issue, when Yeshua replies that soon we will not worship here or in Jerusalem, but then in verse 22 He lovingly but firmly fires a shot right at her Bible belt, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”

Unfortunately, a short time later, we see what the stranglehold of a false religion can do to a religious community. In Luke 9:51-53 we read that when it was time for Yeshua to be received up, His face was steadfast toward Jerusalem. Verse 53 may be the most sorrowful Scripture in all the Christian Bible. “The Samaritans did not receive Him, because His face was set toward Jerusalem.”

I would like to submit that most of us still unknowingly share the same replacement religion as the Samaritans. Not only are we not facing Jerusalem, we reject the idea that our Messiah is facing Jerusalem. We are content in worshiping God on the mountain of our choosing – not His.

What is the evidence that we or our congregations are practicing some form of replacement theology?

Let’s look at a few examples of songs that are sung regularly in a typical charismatic Christian congregation. The popular songs “I’m Trading My Sorrows” and “This Is How We Overcome” get their inspiration from Psalms 30:5,11. This Psalm or song was originally written by King David as a dedication for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem or what is also referred to as the House of David. Is it possible that King David believed the Temple in Jerusalem would turn his mourning into dancing? Of course he did. Could it also be that Yeshua’s obvious frustration with the corruption in the Temple came from this place of knowing that His Father’s house could not be a den of thieves, but that it should be a House of Prayer – a place of worship and dancing? (John 2:13-17; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46; 2 Samuel 6:14,15)

It was common when I attended church over the years for someone to quote Romans 10:13, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  If your Bible has a center column reference, you can see that Paul is quoting a verse from Joel 2:32. We can see the verse in its complete context, where Joel continues and says, “For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls.” If the verse is quoted from Joel, which 100% of Bible scholars believe, then we have to also believe that deliverance or salvation would come from Jerusalem. For this discussion, let’s assume, like Joel does, that “Jerusalem” means the actual physical city of Jerusalem.

You may have also heard someone say, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts,” from  Zechariah 4:6. In context, again, Zechariah was a Prophet who inspired the rebuilding of the Temple in Ezra and Nehemiah. If you look at the next 4 verses, you can see that he is edifying Zerubbabel to build the Holy Temple, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this Temple; His hands shall also finish it.” It is important to say it may be possible for this verse to be used in a secondary application, but I believe and I think you would agree that the primary application is most important. If someone moves the secondary and/or tertiary application permanently to the primary position, this is not sound doctrine. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)   

If you or your church has prayed that God would give you or someone else “Beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” then you just prayed a verse from Isaiah 61:3 that came from the Spirit of the Lord, specifically about Zion (Jerusalem). Again, is it okay to make a secondary application? Maybe, but why throw out the primary, as if it never existed?   

Please hear me: I am not saying that we don’t need churches. We desperately need churches all over the world who are zeroed in on God’s prophetic plan. (Luke 16:31; Luke 13:24, 28-29) What we don’t need are congregations that teach a replacement ideology on any level. The followers of Yeshua 2000 years ago, those that sat at His feet – who continued in the faith – were in the Temple night and day, praying for the Redemption. (Acts 2 through 4)  The same Redemption in Jerusalem that Anna was praying for, when she witnessed Yeshua as a baby in the Temple. (Luke 2:36-38)

As the Messiah makes His way back to the earth, are you excited that His face is once again set towards Jerusalem? “Men of Galilee, why do you stand (on the Mount of Olives) gazing up into heaven? This same Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion…” (Revelation 14:1)

Please, do not reject the Messiah – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Embrace Him and the place His face is set to return, to bring the Divine Presence of God to His Holy Temple, to reign over the whole earth. (Luke 1:32,33; Zechariah 8:3;14:4 Ezekiel 37:24-28)

There is still time for the Samaritans – I mean Christians – to worship God in Jerusalem. There is still time to follow the example and the teachings of our Rabbi, our King, our Messiah and face Jerusalem.

Even a dog with terrible eyesight can eventually find its way home.

 

 

 

Tommy Waller 

Founder and President, HaYovel

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