The Long way through the Wilderness

And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. Exodus 13:17-18

As I was waking up, the Lord spoke to me about being in the wilderness. The wilderness is hard and uncomfortable, and when we’re there, we can’t wait for it to be over so we can just Get There. When we’re in the wilderness for what we feel like is way too long we begin to think things about God.

God just spoke to me and said that when you’re in the wilderness you’re not there because I’m mad at you, or because I’ve forgotten about you, or because I don’t care about you.

See, the Israelites could’ve taken a much shorter route to the promised land, but instead God took them through the wilderness because they weren’t ready to possess Canaan. He wanted to teach them his ways and give them the pattern of worship.

God puts us in the wilderness so that we can learn what we need to learn so that we’re ready to posses the Promised Land. It is a promise that the Promised Land is coming, but God wants to prepare us for it.

What God hated the most about the Israelites is that they were constantly murmuring and complaining about what was going on when they were in the wilderness. What we need to do when we’re in the wilderness is to turn to God and say, “I trust you. I know that you have my best interest at heart. This is hard on me, but I’m going to worship you because I know that the Promised Land is going to be here soon and I will be ready in your time. Help me to be patient so that I can pass the training I’m in and move on to the richness you have in store for me.”

Hold fast. God is never in a hurry. Trust your Father’s heart and you will come through this ready to be blessed and prospered beyond your imagination.

The Great Escape

“Endure hardship as training; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not trained by his father?”  Hebrews 12:7

Wendy and I are reading a book by her friend Vanessa ( In it, she quotes her husband as saying, “I am built for the fight, not the run.”

All creatures, it seems, react to a difficult situation in one of two ways, “fight or flight.” Christians, though, are not built for flight. Have a look at Ephesians 6. There’s no protection for our backs.

Many of us are in the middle of some difficulty. The difficulty is not necessarily from God (although some certainly are), it may be of our own making, or a result of someone else’s choices. Regardless, though, Hebrews teaches us that in that situation, if we look hard enough, God is wanting to teach us something.

All of us, at one time or another, need to unplug and unwind from a situation that we’re in. This is healthy and can give us some perspective that we desperately need. If you are doing this more than once, though, in the same situation, be careful–you are probably escaping.

I’ve been seeing this week that escape leads to addiction. Your drug of choice may be alcohol, food, sex, music, TV, video games, hunting, fishing, sports, whatever, but it all leads to addiction of some sort and, in the end, will damage your relationships, your family, your home, and your walk with the Lord.

We are made to stand. That’s what Ephesians 6:13 says:

” Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

I have never served in the military, but many of my family members have. None of them liked boot camp. All of them found it to be one of the best experiences of their lives. Why? Because they learned something very important about themselves. They learned how to be an overcomer.
In your situation right now God is wanting you to learn something. He wants you to overcome. The situation may not change, but you will.

In your situation is the best experience of your life. God has something there he wants you to learn. Stand strong, overcome. The battle’s not over until we win.

The New Gentiles, Part 4, The Priesthood of the Wild Card Anointing

This is the final part of a four part series. See also: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

We said before that David lacked the ability to pass on the Melchizedek anointing. While it clearly remained over his lineage (for Jesus certainly had it on him), it surfaces and disappears again for generations. It pops into view on David’s descendants like Daniel, Zerubbabel, and Malachi, but for the most part it lays dormant in David’s bloodline, awaiting the Messiah.

So where did this Melchizedek anointing reside during the centuries between David and the Christ?

We said before that there were only three kings who ever ruled over the entire nation of Israel: Saul, David, and Solomon. During Solomon’s reign, he began taking wives from all kinds of nations around the world. Since many of these nations did not worship the God of Abraham, they brought with them all of the idols they worshiped and began setting them up in the temple in Jerusalem.

Because of this, God split the nation of Israel into two houses after the reign of Solomon. The southern kingdom, consisting of the tribes of Judah, Benjamen and Levi, would be called the kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom consisting of the remaining tribes.

One day Jeroboam was walking down the road out of Jerusalem. Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh, wearing a brand-new cloak, met him. The two of them were alone on that remote stretch of road. Ahijah took off the new cloak that he was wearing and ripped it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten of these pieces for yourself; this is by order of the God of Israel: See what I’m doing – I’m ripping the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands and giving you ten of the tribes. In honor of my servant David and out of respect for Jerusalem, the city I especially chose, he will get one tribe. And here’s the reason: He faithlessly abandoned me and went off worshiping Ashtoreth goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh god of the Moabites, and Molech god of the Ammonites. He hasn’t lived the way I have shown him, hasn’t done what I have wanted, and hasn’t followed directions or obeyed orders as his father David did. Still, I won’t take the whole kingdom away from him. I’ll stick with him through his lifetime because of my servant David whom I chose and who did follow my directions and obey my orders. But after that I’ll remove the kingdom from his son’s control and give you ten tribes. I’ll leave one tribe to his son, to maintain a witness to my servant David in Jerusalem, the city I chose as a memorial to my Name. But I have taken you in hand. Rule to your heart’s content! You are to be the king of Israel. If you listen to what I tell you and live the way I show you and do what pleases me, following directions and obeying orders as my servant David did, I’ll stick with you no matter what. I’ll build you a kingdom as solid as the one I built for David. Israel will be yours!”

I Kings 11:29-38

Notice here that Ahijah is a prophet of Shiloh—a descendant of Ephraim in the tradition of Samuel the prophet. Jeroboam is also of the house of Ephraim, descendant of the tribe with the firstborn, Melchizedek anointing.

Although this anointing has been injected into the house of David to work with the Levitical priesthood, it is finding it’s rightful home again among the house of Ephraim. The northern kingdom with its 10 tribes becomes the kingdom of Ephraim. Jeroboam sets up rule in the city of Samaria and immediately begins to set up idol worship.

In fact, all of the kings of Ephraim are idol worshipers. God grows tired of their wickedness and removes the entire house of Ephraim from the face of the planet. The Assyrians come and wipe Ephraim clean.

There is no captivity with a remnant like Judah went through with Babylon where God restores them. All 10 tribes are gone. Nearly every Jew that you read about after the fall of Ephraim is from either Judah, Benjamen, or Levi. There is no other remnant left.

The interesting thing is that Ezra, in I Chronicles 5:2, tells us to pay attention to the house of Ephraim even though this was written hundreds of years after Ephraim was wiped off the face of the earth. How are we to follow this lineage if the Ephraimites are all gone?

For that, we need to do a little more research. After Assyria had killed off the entire kingdom of Ephraim, there was all this vacant land. He decided to fill it up.

The king of Assyria brought in people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and relocated them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the exiled Israelites. They moved in as if they owned the place and made themselves at home. When the Assyrians first moved in, God was just another god to them; they neither honored nor worshiped him. Then God sent lions among them and people were mauled and killed.

II Kings 17:24-25

Eventually, these Gentiles who lived in the area of the Northern Kingdom came to realize that something was up with all of this. They began to ask around. They found a few stragglers of priests who knew about the God of Abraham and who taught them how to worship him.

The Gentiles that lived in the Northern Kingdom also set up rule in the city of Samaria, the old capital of the Northern Kingdom. As such, they became known as Samaritans. This group was among the most hated by the Jews and for one reason: They worshiped God outside of their established order.

So that we do not miss this, Jesus told us a story.

Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?” Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill – I’ll pay you on my way back.’ “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37

Many call this story “The Good Samaritan.” I call it, “The Bad Levites,” to highlight what’s going on behind the scenes.

What we miss that would be obvious to Jesus’ Jewish listeners is the phrase “leaving him half-dead”. This would have triggered a memory in his listeners of the Jewish law.

Each and every one of Aaron’s descendants who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge may not eat any of the holy offerings until he is clean. Also, if he touches anything defiled by a corpse, or has an emission of semen—a person who touches any such thing will be ritually unclean until evening and may not eat any of the holy offerings unless he has washed well with water.

Leviticus 22:4,6

If the Levite or the priest (also a Levite) were to have touched the man and he died, they would have been ritually unclean. As such, they would’ve been prevented from performing their temple work. “We have important work to do for the Lord,” they would’ve said. “Someone else will come along to help him.”

They were so caught up in “doing the Lord’s work” that they missed their opportunity to actually do the Lord’s work. This is the perfect picture of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the time of Christ. By contrast, the Samaritan, whom the Jews would’ve considered unclean, was the one who stopped and actually did the work of the Lord, and, interestingly enough, would’ve made the wounded man unclean in the eyes of the religious leaders.

On another occasion, Jesus took a trip to Samaria and met a woman there at Jacob’s well (a symbol that the Melchizedek anointing from Jacob was still in this place). This was in the village of Sycar.

[The Samaritan woman said,] “Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?” “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming – it has, in fact, come – when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. 24 God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

John 4:20-24

The village of Sycar was at the foot of Mt. Ephraim. “This mountain” the woman referred to would’ve been Mt. Ephraim. Evidently, the Samaritans had kept up worship in the exact place where it had been originally established in Ephraim all those centuries ago.

And so, from the time of David, there were two worship centers: one in Judah and one in Ephraim.

The Two Witnesses

One of the most discussed points in all of the Bible is the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.

Meanwhile, I’ll provide my two Witnesses. Dressed in sackcloth, they’ll prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days. These are the two Olive Trees, the two Lampstands, standing at attention before God on earth.

Revelation 11:3-4

To understand this, one simply has to go back to the only other time two witnesses are mentioned in the scriptures.

God spoke to Moses: 2 “Send men to scout out the country of Canaan that I am giving to the People of Israel. Send one man from each ancestral tribe, each one a tried-and-true leader in the tribe.” 3 So Moses sent them off from the Wilderness of Paran at the command of God. All of them were leaders in Israel, one from each tribe.

After forty days of scouting out the land, they returned home. They presented themselves before Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation of the People of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They reported to the whole congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told the story of their trip: The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak. Amalekites are spread out in the Negev; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites hold the hill country; and the Canaanites are established on the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan.”

Numbers 13:1-3, 25-29

Ten of the witnesses swore to the report of fear that came from Canaan. Only two of the witnesses brought back a good report. The names of these two witnesses were Joshua and Caleb. Caleb was from Judah and Joshua from Ephraim.

And so we see the two priesthoods from the time of Moses onward: The Melchizedek priesthood represented by the tribe of Ephraim, living on through the Samaritans, and the Levitical priesthood, represented by the tribe of Judah. Both priesthoods existed until the time of Christ. But God had a different plan.

God’s Message came to me: “You, son of man: Take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, with his Israelite companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph – Ephraim’s stick, together with all his Israelite companions.’ Then tie the two sticks together so that you’re holding one stick.

“When your people ask you, ‘Are you going to tell us what you’re doing?’ tell them, ‘God, the Master, says, Watch me! I’ll take the Joseph stick that is in Ephraim’s hand, with the tribes of Israel connected with him, and lay the Judah stick on it. I’ll make them into one stick. I’m holding one stick.’

“Then take the sticks you’ve inscribed and hold them up so the people can see them. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says, Watch me! I’m taking the Israelites out of the nations in which they’ve been exiled. I’ll gather them in from all directions and bring them back home. I’ll make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and give them one king – one king over all of them. Never again will they be divided into two nations, two kingdoms. Never again will they pollute their lives with their no-god idols and all those vile obscenities and rebellions. I’ll save them out of all their old sinful haunts. I’ll clean them up. They’ll be my people! I’ll be their God! My servant David will be king over them. They’ll all be under one shepherd. They’ll live in the same land I gave my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their grandchildren will live there forever, and my servant David will be their prince forever. I’ll make a covenant of peace with them that will hold everything together, an everlasting covenant. I’ll make them secure and place my holy place of worship at the center of their lives forever. I’ll live right there with them. I’ll be their God! They’ll be my people!

“’The nations will realize that I, God, make Israel holy when my holy place of worship is established at the center of their lives forever.’”

Ezekiel 37:15-28

The New Gentiles, Part 3, The Age of the House of Judah

Caanan in the time of Joshua
Caanan in the time of Joshua

This is the third part of a four part series. See also: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4.

Joshua began the conquest of Canaan at the fortified city of Jericho. The reason that Jericho was equipped with the walls it had was because it was in the middle of a river plain. This was a horrible spot to be defending yourself in case of an attack.

Once God demolished the walls of the city, there was no refuge for the Israelites. Joshua had hundreds of thousands of women and children grouped up like sitting ducks awaiting a counter-attack from one of the seven nations occupying the region of Canaan.

So Joshua does what any good commander would do. Immediately, he begins moving this vast people to higher ground. He heads north and west and settles in the area of Shiloh on top of Mt. Ephraim. This becomes his headquarters for the conquest of Canaan.

Here, the tabernacle is deployed and Shiloh is now the center of worship for all of Israel. Shiloh is firmly in the middle of Ephraim’s territory, and the home of God’s worship remains there until after the birth of king David. Later Saul screws up and the ark of the covenant ends up at the house of Obed-Edom in what would later be the northern kingdom of Ephraim.

During David’s reign in Israel, he moves the center of worship for the first time into Jerusalem in the territory of Judah and sets up the ark of the covenant there on Mt. Zion. Now David, flowing out of the Melchizedek side of his anointing, builds a temporary home for the ark of the covenant out in the open behind his palace and everyone in Israel has access to God’s presence for the first time in the history of Israel.

But David lacks the spiritual “sperm,” if you will, to pass on the Melchizedek side of his nature. He places Solomon on the throne, and one of Solomon’s first acts is to put the presence of the Lord in a box (the temple) and re-institute placing a man (the priest) between the people and God.

Because “Judah is my lawgiver” (Psalms 60:7, KJV), the house of Judah is forever tied with the Levitical priesthood and anointing. You see this as you read through the history of the kings of Israel in I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, and I & II Chronicles. Every time you read of a strong king, he is joined by a strong Levitical priest. Every time you read of a strong priest, he is joined by a strong king.

  • David and Zadok
  • Solomon and Zadok & Abiathar
  • Josiah and Hilkaih
  • Zerubbabel and Ezra
  • Nehemiah and Ezra
  • And many more…

This marriage of the line of Judah and the Levitical priesthood continues until completed by Jesus upon his arrival on earth. To continue this tradition, he needs to be joined by a powerful priest.

During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a [Levitical] priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old. It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear. But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John [the Baptizer].

Luke 1:5-13

All of this was to wrap up the Levitical anointing.

Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.

Matthew 5:17

And so, Jesus did.

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last. At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces.

Matthew 27:50-51

And once again, as had only happened once before in back of David’s palace, the people had direct access to the Holy of Holies, to the very presence of God. The Levitical priesthood had ended. There was a new priesthood in charge. This is the next chapter.

On to Part 4.

The New Gentiles, Part 2, The Priest, the Prophet, and the King

This is the second part of a four part series. See also: Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.

There once was a man who lived in Ramathaim. He was descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah. (He was connected with the Zuphs from Ephraim through his father Jeroham, his grandfather Elihu, and his great-grandfather Tohu.) He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not. Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there.

I Samuel 1:1-3

And so begins the next chapter of our story. We see the family of priests Eli and his two sons ministering in the tabernacle in a place called Shiloh. There are references here to the “temple” but the temple is still nearly a hundred years from being built. For now, some temporary structure, probably some oft-repaired version of the tabernacle built by Moses, houses the ark of the covenant and the other items of worship.

This is the scene where something quite extraordinary is going to happen. A minor upset in the way of things that’s going to have impact for centuries to come.

Eli, as with all of the priests, is a Levite, a descendant of Jacob’s son Levi. These were selected from all Israel by God himself to belong especially to him as a replacement for the first born, which belonged to God.

This was because the final plague in Egypt, as you may recall, was the death of all the firstborn. To protect themselves, the Israelites had to take blood from a lamb and sprinkle it on the door posts of their houses. When the angel of the Lord passed by to slay the firstborn, they would see the blood on the door and “pass over” the house. This is the origin of the feast of passover.

Consecrate every firstborn to me – the first one to come from the womb among the Israelites, whether person or animal, is mine. You are to set aside the first birth out of every womb to God. Every first birth from your livestock belongs to God. You can redeem every first birth of a donkey if you want to by substituting a lamb; if you decide not to redeem it, you must break its neck.

When the time comes and your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you tell him, ‘God brought us out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery, with a powerful hand. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, God killed every firstborn in Egypt, the firstborn of both humans and animals. That’s why I make a sacrifice for every first male birth from the womb to God and redeem every firstborn son.’ The observance functions like a sign on your hands or a symbol on the middle of your forehead: God brought us out of Egypt with a powerful hand.

Exodus 13:2,12-16

As a result, God claimed the firstborn of every womb, the people and the livestock both, for himself. But God knew that this was going to be disruptive, so, instead of the firstborn, he claimed the Levites.

God spoke to Moses: “I have taken the Levites from among the People of Israel as a stand-in for every Israelite mother’s firstborn son. The Levites belong to me. All the firstborn are mine – when I killed all the firstborn in Egypt, I consecrated for my own use every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They belong to me. I am God.”

Numbers 3:11-13

The Levites then ministered to the Lord and served him as a proxy for the firstborn. It was always the firstborn’s place, but the Levites stood there for them.

And so Eli ministered in the house of the Lord as a Levite. He offered the sacrifices and trimmed the oil lamps and ran the team of Levites that were responsible for taking care of the place of worship in every way.

But things were changing. Troubled by her barrenness Hannah cried out to God.

Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried – inconsolably. Then she made a vow: Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me By giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

1 Samuel 1:10-11

God gives Hannah a child as she requested and she names him Samuel. After she weans him she bring him into the temple and leaves him to grow up as a priest before God.

Also, something was happening with Eli as well.

Eli’s own sons were a bad lot. They didn’t know God and could not have cared less about the customs of priests among the people. Ordinarily, when someone offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant was supposed to come up and, while the meat was boiling, stab a three-pronged fork into the cooking pot. The priest then got whatever came up on the fork. But this is how Eli’s sons treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh to offer sacrifices to God. Before they had even burned the fat to God, the priest’s servant would interrupt whoever was sacrificing and say, “Hand over some of that meat for the priest to roast. He doesn’t like boiled meat; he likes his rare.” If the man objected, “First let the fat be burned – God’s portion! – then take all you want,” the servant would demand, “No, I want it now. If you won’t give it, I’ll take it.” It was a horrible sin these young servants were committing – and right in the presence of God! – desecrating the holy offerings to God. In the midst of all this, Samuel, a boy dressed in a priestly linen tunic, served God. The boy Samuel stayed at the sanctuary and grew up with God. A Hard Life with Many Tears.

I Samuel 3:12-18, 21b

Eli was not a bad man, but he had grown old and fat and blind with age. His sons were bad men and were running rampant. The remainder of the Levites was falling apart. Many people teach that the time of the Levitical priesthood lasted until Jesus, but it did not. The High Priest line ended with Eli. It was time for this priesthood to be replaced with a priest from Ephriam.

But the boy Samuel was very much alive, growing up, blessed by God and popular with the people. 27 A holy man came to Eli and said: “This is God’s message: I revealed myself openly to your ancestors when they were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. 28 Out of all the tribes of Israel, I chose your family to be my priests: to preside at the altar, to burn incense, to wear the priestly robes in my presence. I put your ancestral family in charge of all the sacrificial offerings of Israel. 29 So why do you now treat as mere loot these very sacrificial offerings that I commanded for my worship? Why do you treat your sons better than me, turning them loose to get fat on these offerings, and ignoring me? 30 Therefore – this is God’s word, the God of Israel speaking – I once said that you and your ancestral family would be my priests indefinitely, but now – God’s word, remember! – there is no way this can continue. I honor those who honor me; those who scorn me I demean. 31 “Be well warned: It won’t be long before I wipe out both your family and your future family. No one in your family will make it to old age! 32 You’ll see good things that I’m doing in Israel, but you’ll see it and weep, for no one in your family will live to enjoy it. 33 I will leave one person to serve at my altar, but it will be a hard life, with many tears. Everyone else in your family will die before their time. 34 What happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be the proof: Both will die the same day. 35 Then I’ll establish for myself a true priest. He’ll do what I want him to do, be what I want him to be. I’ll make his position secure and he’ll do his work freely in the service of my anointed one.

I Samuel 2:26-35

Samuel grows up in the presence of the Lord and becomes the final Judge of Israel—a prophet of the Lord most holy and honored, from the tribe of Ephraim.

Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel’s prophetic record was flawless. Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing – a true prophet of God. God continued to show up at Shiloh, revealed through his word to Samuel at Shiloh.

I Samuel 3:19-21

The Israelites came to Samuel and demanded that the Lord give them a king so they could be like the other nations. After warning them what this would cost them, God tells Samuel to anoint Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin to be king over all of Israel. Saul was everything you’d want in a king—tall, handsome, charismatic, and powerful.

Also, many people don’t realize that there were only three kings that reigned over all twelve tribes of Israel and Saul was the first of the three. But even though God chose Saul, he wasn’t the one God wanted to be king. Saul was there to set the scene for another king, one that would come from the house of Judah.

You, Judah, your brothers will praise you: Your fingers on your enemies’ throat, while your brothers honor you. You’re a lion’s cub, Judah, home fresh from the kill, my son. Look at him, crouched like a lion, king of beasts; who dares mess with him? The scepter shall not leave Judah; he’ll keep a firm grip on the command staff until the ultimate ruler comes and the nations obey him.

Genesis 49:8-10

Saul wasn’t a bad man, but the hand of the Lord had appointed a replacement for him because Saul had obedience problems. He wasn’t exactly disobedient, but he had a knack for just missing the mark of what God wanted him to do.

Instead, God appoints David to be king—David of the house of Judah—David the eighth son of his father Jesse.

Wait a minute! How can God appoint the eighth born son to be king? The firstborn belonged to him. Why wasn’t David’s oldest brother appointed king? How can this be?

Think back to what we’ve already learned. When Jacob bought the birthright from Esau, he bought it for all time. I call this birthright “the wild card anointing” because it doesn’t appear to obey any of the rules. Issac wasn’t the firstborn either, but was the younger brother of Israel. And yet, this Melchizedek anointing was passed through him, for “Your descendants will come through Isaac” (Genesis 21:12).

That birthright Jacob passed on to his grandson, Ephraim. I Chronicles 5 tells us that that birthright stayed in the line of Ephraim. This anointing was for the Chief Ruler. Keep in mind that, when we’re discussing these things, David and Jesus are interchangeable.

For the Messiah to come, his bloodline had to be established with the proper anointing. To ensure this, David was anointed king three different times.

God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.” Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.” 11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?” “Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.” Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.” 12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health – bright-eyed, good-looking. God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.” 13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. Samuel left and went home to Ramah.

I Samuel 16:1,10-13

After all this, David prayed. He asked God, “Shall I move to one of the cities of Judah?” God said, “Yes, move.” “And to which city?” “To Hebron.” So David moved to Hebron, along with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David’s men, along with their families, also went with him and made their home in and around Hebron. The citizens of Judah came to Hebron, and then and there made David king over the clans of Judah.

II Samuel 2:1-4

Then all Israel assembled before David at Hebron. “Look at us,” they said. “We’re your very flesh and blood. In the past, yes, even while Saul was king, you were the real leader of Israel. God told you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel; you are to be the ruler of my people Israel.'” When all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, David made a covenant with them in the presence of God at Hebron. Then they anointed David king over Israel exactly as God had commanded through Samuel.

I Chronicles 11:1-3

God has a plan for everything he does. The three anointings of David were each to inject him with a different portion of God’s anointing.

  1. Anointing from Samuel, representative of the tribe of Ephraim. From this anointing, the blessing that Abraham received from Melchizedek was injected into the House of David.
  2. Anointing from Judah. The authority to rule given to Judah prophetically by Jacob in Genesis.
  3. Anointing from Israel, almost certainly given by the Levites. Injection of the Levitical anointing for carrying out of God’s law.

David was the first to be anointed prophet (by the prophet Samuel of the Melchizedek line), priest (by the Levitical priesthood), and king (by the house of Judah, the royal line established by Jacob). So with this triple anointing, God has set the stage for the coming of the Messiah. The bloodline is ready. Now lets see what David does with this triple anointing.

On to Part 3.

The New Gentiles, Part 1: Jacob’s Birthright

This is the first part of a four part series. See also: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Jacob’s Birthright

Joseph took [his sons] from Israel’s knees and bowed respectfully, his face to the ground. Then Joseph took the two boys, Ephraim with his right hand setting him to Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand setting him to Israel’s right, and stood them before him. But Israel crossed his arms and put his right hand on the head of Ephraim who was the younger and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the firstborn. Then he blessed them: “The God before whom walked my fathers Abraham and Isaac, The God who has been my shepherd all my lifelong to this very day, The Angel who delivered me from every evil, Bless the boys. May my name be echoed in their lives, and the names of Abraham and Isaac, my fathers, And may they grow covering the Earth with their children.” When Joseph saw that his father had placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he thought he had made a mistake, so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s, saying, “That’s the wrong head, Father; the other one is the firstborn; place your right hand on his head.” But his father wouldn’t do it. He said, “I know, my son; but I know what I’m doing. He also will develop into a people, and he also will be great. But his younger brother will be even greater and his descendants will enrich nations.” Then he blessed them both: Israel will use your names to give blessings: May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh. In that he made it explicit: he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

Genesis 48:12-20

For many years I have read this scripture and always thought Joseph’s behavior here a bit odd. He is going to see his sick father with his own children and then he suddenly bows to the ground and presents his children to Jacob in a formal way after they had been sitting casually on his knees.

Remember for a moment the stories of Jacob and Esau. Esau, as firstborn, had a privileged spot in his father’s house. The firstborn son was nearly always given what was called the birthright. This was the head of household status. The largest portion of the inheritance of his father was given to him and it was his responsibility to take care of his brothers and sisters and nurture them into adulthood. As such, this was the most honored position in a house and the oldest brother was the most deeply respected.

Jacob’s name means “heel.” This is because he and Esau were twins. Rebekkah noticed that while she was carrying them there was a lot of turmoil in her womb.

Isaac prayed hard to God for his wife because she was barren. God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant. But the children tumbled and kicked inside her so much that she said, “If this is the way it’s going to be, why go on living?” She went to God to find out what was going on. 23 God told her, Two nations are in your womb, two peoples butting heads while still in your body. One people will overpower the other, and the older will serve the younger.

Genesis 25:21-23

When they were born, Esau came out first and Jacob followed immediately holding on to his brother’s heel. That’s how he got his name.

His whole life, he hungered for the position of Esau, although not always honestly. Nevertheless, because of the prophesy we just read, we know that this desire came from the Lord.

As you may know, Esau came in starving from hunting one day and Jacob had made some stew. Esau asked for some. Jacob said he’d give him some in exchange for his birthright. Esau agreed saying, “what good will it do me if I starve to death.”

And Jacob makes good. Instead of just handing him some stew, he actually sits Esau down and waits on him, bringing him bread and wine as well.

Later in his life, he and his mother, Rebekkah, cook up a deception. They go before Issac, who is now blind, and tell him that it’s Esau and Issac gives Jacob the blessing to go along with the birthright.

I’ve heard many a preacher stand in the pulpit and condemn Jacob for being a deceiver. Interestingly enough, though, the scriptures never do. The scriptures all condemn Esau for thinking so little of his birthright in the first place.

Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite.

Hebrews 12:16

And so Jacob, under less than honorable circumstances, obtained the blessing and the birthright that the Lord had wanted him to have. He took the place of the firstborn in his father’s house.

The Tradition of the Birthright

I am an American and land has never been an issue in our country’s history, because there’s always been plenty of it. In the East, though, they came to realize that 100 acres was a nice piece of land, but if you had 10 sons, and gave them each an equal share, they each got 10 acres. Not so good. One more generation and you’re down to 1 acre a piece.

So how do you fix this problem?

They came up with the concept of the birthright. In their tradition, the firstborn would be set up to rule the house in place of his father. Each of the other sons could not be dis-inherited, but all of them had their inheritance as part of the oldest brother. All the sons had rights, but the house would be ruled by the firstborn.

But Jacob’s desire wasn’t after his father’s lands and other possessions. We know this because the first thing that happened after he stole the blessing from Esau was that he fled in fear of his life and left all of that behind. Esau ended up with his father’s possessions. Everything Jacob got, he had to earn himself from his Uncle Laban.

So what was it that Jacob wanted so desperately?

For that, we have to look at some family history.

Jacob received the birthright and blessing from his father Issac. Issac, in return, received it from his father, Abraham. So Jacob wanted the same blessing that Abraham had.

Where did Abraham get it from?

The Battle of Kings

Then this: Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim went off to war to fight Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar.

The four kings captured all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, all their food and equipment, and went on their way. They captured Lot, Abram’s nephew who was living in Sodom at the time, taking everything he owned with them.

A fugitive came and reported to Abram the Hebrew. Abram was living at the Oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and Aner. They were allies of Abram. When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken prisoner, he lined up his servants, all of them born in his household – there were 318 of them – and chased after the captors all the way to Dan. Abram and his men split into small groups and attacked by night. They chased them as far as Hobah, just north of Damascus. They recovered all the plunder along with nephew Lot and his possessions, including the women and the people.

Genesis 14:1-2,11-16

As you may remember from Sunday School, Lot was a righteous man, but had chosen to live in Sodom and Gomorrah. When four armies attacked, they captured these cities along with several others and led them off in captivity.

When Abraham learned of this, he got all 318 men in his house and went after them. Keep in mind that Abraham wasn’t a solider and that these 318 men were servants and so forth in his house. They are chasing down four armies with kitchen knives and pitchforks.

Amazingly, Abraham defeated them and wiped them out. This day, Abraham is the king of war. He has with him the kings he has allied with—the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, kings of wickedness.

But this isn’t even the best part. That happens next.

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and his allied kings, the king of Sodom came out to greet him in the Valley of Shaveh, the King’s Valley. Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine – he was priest of The High God – and blessed him: Blessed be Abram by The High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. And blessed be The High God, who handed your enemies over to you. Abram gave him a tenth of all the recovered plunder.

Genesis 14:17-20

Ephraim and Manasseh

And so we come to the story now of the next generation. There’s been a problem in Jacob’s house. His firstborn son, Reuben, has slept with one of Jacob’s concubines and has disgraced his father as a result. Everyone knew that Reuben had now forfeited his birthright in the same way as his uncle Esau had. So, then, who was Jacob going to choose to receive this birthright and blessing?

As he’s sitting with Joseph and his two sons, Jacob tells Joseph that he wants to make his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, equal to Reuben and Simeon, and Joseph suddenly realizes that he wants to pass on the blessing and the birthright to them.

This is the reason for the abrupt mood change. Joseph suddenly realizes something very special is about to happen. He grabs his two sons who’ve been sitting on their grandfather’s knee and sits them in front of him in the traditional way to receive the blessing—the oldest, Manasseh, on Jacob’s right and the youngest, Ephraim, on Jacob’s left.

Then Jacob does something that surprises and annoys Joseph. He crosses his arms and places his right hand on Ephraim. When Joseph tries to correct him, he says, “I know what I’m doing,” and proceeds to pass that same blessing and birthright down on to Ephraim.

God has selected Ephraim, not one of Joseph’s brother, to receive the birthright and the blessing for the house of Israel.

Many teach that the replacement for Reuben was Judah, since that became the ruling line, but the Chronicler, probably Ezra, makes it clear:

The family of Reuben the firstborn of Israel: Though Reuben was Israel’s firstborn, after he slept with his father’s concubine, a defiling act, his rights as the firstborn were passed on to the sons of Joseph son of Israel. He lost his “firstborn” place in the family tree. 2 And even though Judah became the strongest of his brothers and King David eventually came from that family, the firstborn rights stayed with Joseph.

I Chronicles 5:1-2

In place of King David, the King James says “the chief ruler” because he wasn’t just talking about David, but about the Messiah, Jesus, as well. Jesus was of David’s royal line and, as such, a descendant of the house of Judah.

And so, something amazing has happened. Instead of one of his sons, Jacob adopts Joseph’s first two sons as his own and passes the birthright down to his grandson Ephraim. This is extraordinary. This also sets the stage for thousands of years of God’s plan that leads to the present time and into our future as well.

On to Part 2.

Ground Zero (Word given at World Trade Center site)

Just as Abel’s blood cried out to me from the earth, so does the blood of millions cry out to me. For millennia, people have used religion as a purpose and as an excuse to slaughter their brother.

But just as religion has leveled these two towers, so am I going to level religion. I am no longer going to tolerate the use of my name to spread violence and death, but am going to use the power of my name to destroy human religion once and for all.

And those that are bound up in religion are going to be suddenly be blinded by the light. In their confusion, they will turn to me and I will heal them and my peace will reign on the earth once again like it did in Eden.

Be still and know that I am God.

Strength in Weakness

“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” Hebrews 11:21

When Rabbis taught in Old Testament times, they’d sit down. Jesus taught sitting down on numerous occasions. Why on earth would a crippled old man stand up on his staff to worship and prophesy over his sons?

Jacob was a shepherd. The staff he leaned on was a shepherd’s staff. The staff was what the shepherd used when he was leading his sheep. When one of the sheep started to wonder off, he would smack the sheep with the staff and the sheep would get back in line. The shepherd’s staff, in scripture, is a picture of correction.

Jacob understood this because he’d been corrected. Years earlier he had wrestled with the Lord. In his arrogance he wanted to extort a blessing from the Lord by his strength. The Lord wrestled with Jacob all night, hoping that Jacob would give up–that he would, by his own will, yield trying to extract something from God by his own abilities.

When Jacob stubbornly refused to repent, God grabbed Jacob’s thigh. The word thigh means the place where a sword would be worn or the reproductive strength (loins) of a man. God hit him in Jacob’s place of strength and Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

And then, when Jacob yielded because he could go no further, God then blessed him.

The reason Jacob was standing up the day when he blessed his children was so that he could lean on the weakness in him, where God had made Himself strong in Jacob’s life. For, like Paul, it was in his place of weakness that God made him strong.

The Year Everything Changes

For weeks now, when I’ve meditated on 2009, I’ve heard the Lord say to me over and over again, “This is the year that everything changes.”

I know some of the things in my life and my friends’ lives that will change dramatically this year, but I don’t know the full meaning of everything. It sounds like a lot of things, though.

I keep seeing in my spirit the United States. As I look down like from a satellite, I see a darkness spreading across the face of this country. This darkness certainly includes the economic downturn and the despair that accompanies it. Do not look for the economy to get better in 2009.

The good news is that 2009 is the beginning. When historians look back on this phase of history, they will stab their pencils on 2009 and say “that’s the year everything changed.”

As the darkness spreads, people’s securities will be dismantled and they’ll be left with nothing. Those of us whose hearts burn for the Lord will have our securities in him and the difference between us and them will become dramatic. They will begin coming to the church for answers because their are no answers anywhere else.

Church, focus your eyes on him and not on the economy and you will see the most exciting revival the church has ever witnessed. I’ve heard people talk for centuries about the coming persecution, but I’ve never seen it. This doctrine comes mostly from a mis-reading of the Revelation.

Of course, there will always be those who must trade their lives for the gospel, but all I see is revival. I see a revival that will change the world.

As the darkness engulfs the map I see the true church starting to emerge as crystal. It’s important that it’s crystal because crystal is the only kind of rock that grows, and I see that as the church comes together in unity for Christ, that a crystal tower is growing in the midsts of America. And just like the tower of Babel was once raised to reach heaven without God, this tower will reach heaven by God’s holy power.

As I watch this tower grow, God’s light shines brighter and brighter on it. I see beautiful brightness and amazing colors spreading through the earth. I see as this tower grows, that people in countries all around the world start looking at it. As they look at it, the colors show up in their eyes, and soon, I see towers growing up in every country.

Keep your eyes on the Lord and you will see revival like you’ve never seen before.

Earning Grace

We are working with a client today for whom we did some work last year. When we worked for them last year, it came at a time when we were extraordinarily busy with other clients.

This client had some real issues with our software and some of those issues were beyond our control and so we never fixed them. I am a nice man, but if I had been in their shoes, I would not have been nearly as nice as they treated us. They were always gracious and patient and are even a referenceable client, even though, by all rights, they really shouldn’t be.

When this project came up for us to do some more work for them, I told my developer about our history with them. I told her, “I would like to be so good to them and so responsive so as to earn the way they’ve treated us in the past.”

Afterwards, I reflected on this and realized that this is really what grace is all about. God’s salvation is like a line of credit that has been extended to us for free and we never have to pay back. We are free to draw on it as needed to deal with whatever we need through life with no strings attached.

Christian maturity though, is that one day, maybe, we’ll become the person God wanted us to be when he extended his grace to us in the first place.

It also occurs to me that this is why we are supposed to do unto others as you would have them do to you. We extend God’s grace to others in the hope that they will one day live up to the gift that’s been given to all of us.

God help me to be gracious and peaceful so that I may also be a good example of your amazing grace.