Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on Prayer School – Addendum – To The Jews First; Date: 18 July 2010
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To The Jews First
Last week we completed our Prayer School and – as a final application of what we have learned – I introduced you to Ruth Heflin and her book “Glory. Experiencing The Atmosphere Of Heaven” (Hagerstown: McDougal Publishing 1990). The main teaching of the book was practical. Do you want to know how to pray and draw near to God? Then do this – I quote from the book: “Praise … until the spirit of worship comes. Worship … until the glory comes. Then … stand in the glory.” We spent some time learning what this means: When you pray and worship, there are three basic stages in drawing near to God and God drawing near to you. You move from a) praise to b) worship to c) standing in God’s glory and as you move along this continuum the presence of God keeps intensifying around you. (As a Christian) you can will yourself to make a start and praise God but then the Holy Spirit has to draw you into the next stage of worshipping God with loving intimacy and – likewise – the entering into his glory is also not under our control but God’s.
This teaching was practical but the book and the life’s work of Ruth Heflin also came with a prophetic edge. We looked at two developments which God pioneered through Ruth Heflin and is now confirming all over the world. 1. God is accelerating spiritual breakthroughs and the harvesting of souls in his kingdom through praise and it is the kind of praise that is vigorous – involving the whole person – with singing and shouting, dancing and arms being raised up. (Thus, in many cases – so it seems – this is no longer the season of travailing in long prayer sessions.)
2. Christians all over the world are getting a greater taste of God’s glory. “Praise … until the spirit of worship comes. Worship … until the glory comes. Then … stand in the glory.” You can experience the glory of God. You just need to exercise faith. It is easy.
Ruth Heflin declared: “The Lord wants us to be anointed to see. Anything that Ezekiel saw you and I can see. Anything that John the Revelator saw you and I can see.” Maybe our experiences will not be exactly the same as what Ezekiel and John were seeing but Ruth Heflin was right in preaching faith because the Bible encourages his church to believe for more than we are accessing at the moment – 2 Corinthians 3:8: “ … [the people] could not look . at the face of Moses because of its glory … will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?” 2 Corinthians 3:18: “ … we . with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory … ” Ephesians 1:18: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened … ” Ephesians 2:6: “ . God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus … ”
Throughout nearly 40 years in ministry and traveling to over 240 nations Ruth Heflin released many Christians into experiencing the glory realm of God for the first time. She writes (Glory. Experiencing The Atmosphere Of Heaven, Hagerstown: McDougal Publishing 1990):
Page 168-171: Earlier in Pentecost, we were not taught that we all could see. We believed in vision, and there were always those who were visionary. Because we were not taught to believe to see, many of us were without seeing for years. God spoke to us one day in Jerusalem and said that the whole man (in the natural) sees, hears, and feels. If someone doesn’t hear, we say he is “deaf.” If he hears a little, we say he is “hard of hearing.” If he doesn’t see at all, we say he is “blind” or, if he sees only a little, we say he “sees dimly.” Yet we’ve never been taught that we can all see in the Spirit.
God wants to take us in vision to His throne. He wants to show us the face of Jesus. In seeing Jesus, I am changed. Every time I stand in the glory, I’m changed a little more. Every time I look on His face, I have a desire to be more like Him. He is the example. It’s in the glory that I see Him and desire to be like Him.
There may be a general desire to be like Him aside from the glory. But in the glory I know what it is to be like Him. I know what His compassion feels like. I know what His holiness feels like. I know what His love is like. I know what His mercy is like. In the glory I know Him in a way that I can’t know Him in any other way.
The Lord wants us to be anointed to see. Anything that Ezekiel saw you and I can see. Anything that John the Revelator saw you and I can see. We simply haven’t taught enough on seeing in the realm of the Spirit. God showed me that if people are taught, it is very easy for them to see the face of the Lord. I tried it out at summer campmeeting.
Sister Gladys Faison, who has been attending our church for fifteen or twenty years, came on the platform weeping one night that week. “Sister Faison, why are you crying?” I asked. “I have been so blessed,” she said. “All these years I have struggled, wanting to see the Lord. I have struggled, wanting to see the heavenlies. I have struggled, striving to enter into something eternal. This week, while we have been singing in the Spirit, I have seen the Lord every day. I have seen the heavenlies. It has all come so easily. I never knew it was so simple.” Dozens of others had a similar experience.
I sometimes go into churches that have several hundred people, and none of them have ever seen the face of the Lord. As the congregation stands and worships for ten or fifteen minutes, at least fifty of them see the Lord for the first time.
Why does it happen at that moment and come so easily? Because they have been taught that they can see and they look expecting to see. When you look expecting to see, you begin to see.
Pages 143-145: God is revealing His glory visibly to many people. I was speaking at Dr. Fucia Pickett’s church in Dallas. A brother came up to me after the service and said, “Sister Ruth, as you were speaking we saw the glory as a cloud enter and begin to rise in the aisles, slowly covering the congregation. The more you spoke the more the cloud rose. By the time you finished, it was over the heads of all the people. You were on the platform and that glory continued to rise until all we could see was your head.”
There have been times when I have spoken that people couldn’t even see me. They could only see the light of the glory of God. Many times people have told me that as I was preaching they saw a cloud form like the figure of a man and stand beside me while I was ministering. The cloud has also been seen above me, beside me, behind me, in front of me, and engulfing me.
Sometimes the glory comes down as dewdrops. Sometimes it comes down as golden drops of rain. Sometimes it comes as a pillar of cloud. Sometimes it comes as a pillar of fire. Sometimes it comes as a mist. Some people see little sparkles, the glory dust that falls from His garment. Some see it as a gray or yellow smoke. People see it in many different ways. It doesn’t matter exactly how you see the glory, just see it.
One of our young people in Jerusalem saw the glory and described it as a “giant marshmallow.” Well, if it looked like a marshmallow to him, that’s okay. Some see the fire of God coming down as a ball of flame or tongues of fire. The vocabulary with which we describe the glory is not the important thing. Experiencing it is. Let the glory come into the midst of the people of God, the glory of His presence.
Last week we confirmed that the prophetic nature of Ruth Heflin’s ministry has also touched us here at Living Grace. (1) God is accelerating his kingdom work even among us and (2) – by growing faith (God also encouraging us with gold dust manifesting from his glory presence) – we are also experiencing a greater taste of God’s glory.
Today we want to add another pioneering and prophetic component of Ruth Heflin’s ministry and that is her interest in Israel and the Jews. On the one hand – there have always been Christians throughout the ages who had a special love for God’s chosen nation – the Jewish people – but – on the other hand – with Ruth Heflin (she was also the founder and director of Mount Zion Fellowship, an international prayer ministry in Jerusalem, where she lived for more than 25 years) and others something fresh was happening. Under their influence there has been a growing awareness that the end-time glory of God – the final acceleration of God’s saving presence on earth – was connected with his plans for the people that he chose first – the Jews.
Ruth Heflin lived in Jerusalem for twenty-five years and it was early on that God led her into the effectiveness of praising him and God taught this lesson – this change of seasons – in relation to the Jews first. This is where it became practical for the first time:
Pages 6-7: One night a visiting American minister, who had been working in Nigeria, spoke to us. He looked over our group of young people, saw that they were all vigorous, and decided that they should be out passing out tracts. With his past experience he could visualize how we could reach the whole city of Jerusalem in a short time and was calculating how many thousands of tracts could be distributed. “You must be out sowing the seed,” he said.
Everything the brother said was biblically true. We believed in sowing the Word and had done great Bible and Gospel distribution programs in other countries. In Nepal we even rented helicopters to lift us into remote areas with our Gospels and crossed barriers, with the help of the royal family, to distribute them. But in Jerusalem, there were certain restrictions. If we were going to live there we would have to abide by the law.
What the brother said was biblical, but it just wasn’t God’s answer for Jerusalem at that time. In every country God has a plan. There is not necessarily one single answer that works everywhere or one practical solution that fits every situation.
As the brother was speaking, however, I could sense that our young people were being challenged. I could visualize twenty-five young people lined up the next morning to ask, “Where are the tracts? We are ready to go give them out.”
That night I prayed, “Lord, give me Your answer for them.” In the middle of the night the Lord spoke to me and said, “You sow to the heavens, and I will sow to the earth.” That was the way our ministry of praise on Mt. Zion was born. I didn’t have a precise Scripture verse at hand to back up what God was saying to me. And I didn’t understand yet all that He meant by “You sow heavenward, and I will sow earthward.” But I was determined to learn.
Pages 10-11: On New Year’s Eve the Lord spoke to us and said, “Even now, while you are praising Me, I am pouring out My Spirit in another part of the city.” We got so excited. We could hardly wait until the next day to see what God had done in some other part of the city.
The next day we learned that a group of twenty-five Arab Baptist young people had gathered for a social evening when suddenly the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon them and they began to speak in other tongues. Twenty-five at that time in Jerusalem was like two thousand, five hundred in the United States.
How thrilled we were!
Page 12: A few weeks passed. God spoke to us of an outpouring of His Spirit in the Galilee. Subsequently we heard of the outpouring of the Spirit in the Galilee. A little more time passed and the Lord spoke to us and said, “I will come to My people, the Jews, and will reveal Myself to them where they are — in the kibutzim, in the fields, in the factories.” Jewish people began coming to our place of worship, telling us that they had received a personal revelation of Jesus.
We learned that we could praise the Lord in Jerusalem, sowing to the heavens, and that God would take our praise and sow it back on the earth — in Jerusalem, Gaza, and Galilee — all over Israel. Later we were enlarged to see that praise would likewise reap a harvest in the ends of the earth. Praise is one of the most powerful tools of harvest in the kingdom of God.
When I first read Ruth Heflin’s book, I noticed that Israel and the Jews had played a big part in her life but I was not sure that this was important for us here at Living Grace. However, then I took notice when one of her spiritual sons who is continuing her work – David Herzog – also continued to emphasize the importance of our relationship to the people and land that God chose first. He writes: “I have noticed something important about those who walk with the greatest mantles – they also honour Israel and the Jewish people who are the spiritual parents of all believers and the church” (David Herzog: The Ancient Portals Of Heaven, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2008, p161).
As a consequence he is also active in Israel. For instance, this is the kind of ministry that is happening. I quote:
“[In Aberdeen, Scotland] … Several ladies experienced instant weight loss, decreasing several dress sizes. They came forward to demonstrate their now-baggy clothes. One even brought a scale up to the front to show everyone that she had indeed lost weight miraculously. As you can imagine, souls were gloriously saved in those meetings.
In Tel Aviv, Israel, God performed the same miracles. Many people received gold fillings and crowns, including the pastors. Russian Jews reported that several of them saw the living Messiah walk into the meeting. They were stunned. One night during a time of intercession, gold dust fell upon the congregation. It was the first time this phenomenon had been reported in Tel Aviv” (David Herzog: Mysteries Of The Glory Unveiled, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2000, p34).
“While on a ministry trip to Israel, God began to release to me some very crucial revelation in this regard. He performed great signs and wonders and miracles there, and we openly shared with the Jewish people concerning their Jewish Messiah. We spoke to congregations, but also to people in hotels, hospitals, and even with rabbis praying at the Wailing Wall – the results were exciting.
Israel has had the reputation of being a hard country for the Gospel, but this situation is changing. The new wave of glory affecting the Church has splashed over onto the Jewish people, and wonderful things are happening all over Israel” (David Herzog: Mysteries Of The Glory Unveiled, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2000, p170).
Then – over the last few weeks – I had been reading another book on another topic. The author is a pastor and he was teaching on the stewardship of money when all of a sudden he added a final chapter which – at first – seemed rather strange – out of place. He writes:
“ … I strongly felt that this Afterword needed to be added … Understanding that God is concerned for the Jewish people (as each believer needs to be) and that His road map has a prescribed order is paramount to the successful application of the principles of giving outlined in the chapters of this book. … Before you read any further, I want you to ask yourself, ‘Am I concerned for the Jewish people?’ Be honest, because this is a heart issue. God has dealt with my heart in a new way, and He may be asking you to change your heart as you read further” (Robert Morris: The Blessed Life, Ventura: Regal Books 2002, p206-207).
“ … we began to give to Jewish evangelism – first. Before we give to any other ministries or missionaries, we give to Jewish evangelism. It’s such a priority with me that I told our business pastor, ‘On the first day of every month, I want you to write a check to such-and-such Jewish ministry. I want you to do it on January 1, February 1, March 1, April 1, throughout the year. Make sure the very first check we write each month is not the electric company or even to pay the staff – the first check we write is for Jewish evangelism.’ As a result, God has blessed us tremendously as a church … ” (p209).
“ … More Jews have accepted Jesus in the last 40 years than in the previous 1,960 or so combined. Jews are coming to Jesus all over the world. Every month in [our church] … Jews are accepting Christ. That was unheard of only a few decades ago. The revival has begun” (p215).
What are all these people on about and what does all of this mean for us at Living Grace? [In October last year I already felt God’s prompting to preach a message on Jesus the Jew. Then just now I read still another book where the author was challenged to add to his writings on Job a chapter about the Jews.] It is time to hear from the Bible. I read from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile [all those that are not Jews].”
Romans 2:9-11: “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favouritism.”
Romans 3:1-2: “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew … Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.”
Romans 9:1-11:36: “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.
Theirs is the adoption of sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! …
Brothers [and sisters], my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved … I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew …
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
… if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary nature were grafted into a more cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers [and sisters], so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you … Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out! … To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Much is contained in these verses and there is much that concerns us. I will make a few points: Who are we and who are the Jews in relation to us? In God’s history with humankind they are first and we are second – Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” [Romans 2:9-11: “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile … ”] God chose to work through the Jewish nation first – they were his first love – and then – through them – God planned to reach all nations in due time. He began with one man – Abraham – who would become the father of the Jewish nation, and then – hundreds of years later – there was Moses – (another key figure). He brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and received God’s holy law on Mount Sinai. Much later again – King David received a promise from God of an eternal dynasty and – finally – after about two thousand years of God’s history with the Jews – Jesus Christ came and was born of Jewish parents. He was a descendant of Abraham and David (he was the one that had been promised to come) and he brought the history of God with the Israelites – and all of God’s promises to the Israelites – to a first conclusion and then invited the Gentiles – all those that are not Jews – to be part of this same history. On account of him the Bible can say even to the Gentiles – Romans 4:16: “ … Abraham is the father of us all.”
Therefore – in God’s conception of history – the Jews are first and we are second. We become part of their history in God [every single page in the Bible is written by a Jew and part of Jewish history] which causes us to be humble before them. We owe them something as Paul also explained to the Gentile Christians in Rome with these words – Romans 15:26-28: “ … [they] were pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” We – the Gentiles – owe them something. The first disciples of Jesus were all Jews and if they had not ventured out preaching the good news none of the Gentiles – none of us – would have received salvation. How will we act on this here at Living Grace?
The Bible reading from before kept hammering the point of our identity – who we are and who the Jews are in relation to us. I repeat some verses: “ … if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you … Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. … if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a more cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.”
Again – for us – this is a humbling exposition of the truth. We – the Gentiles – not being the nations that God chose first – are branches of a wild olive tree – that is: we are of secondary importance – but – by God’s grace – we were grafted into the more cultivated olive tree which is the Jewish history with God and their inheritance. Therefore – as Paul admonished the Roman Christians – never ever be boastful over against the Jews. We owe them something.
Furthermore, we owe something to God in relation to the Jews. He loved them first – Deuteronomy 32:10: “In a desert land he found him [the Jewish people], in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.” Zechariah 2:8: “ … whoever touches you [the people of Israel] touches the apple of his eye … ” God never canceled his love for the people whom he had chosen first and our Bible reading from before made the same point: “ … What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew … Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God … Theirs is the adoption of sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! … I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! … they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable … ” God is still loving the Jews – his first love – with an intensity which we may not suspect today. They are his people – the apple of his eye.
Therefore, how are we to respond? The best response was also in our Bible reading. We cannot do better than share the attitude of Paul who exposed his innermost feelings when he wrote to the Gentile Christians in Rome: “ … I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel … my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” This is what is pleasing to God because God is feeling the same “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart about his people – the Jews. He has not canceled his love for Israel.
Our history with the history of the Jews is further intertwined as Paul explained in his letter to the Romans. I read again from our first Bible reading: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers [and sisters], so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’”
There is a mystery that touches on our very salvation and it involves – in a rather tragic way – the people of Israel. For some reason when they – in overwhelming numbers – rejected the good news of Jesus Christ – their own Messiah – the good news came to us – the Gentiles. Hear the Bible again: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” And another verse from our first Bible reading: “ … because of their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”
This is a mystery. Israel’s rejection of Jesus impacted us for salvation. How? First of all – in practical terms – we can see that the first persecution of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem made them flee from the city and – thus – led to the first mission work among Gentiles (cf. Acts 8). Then, it is in God’s design that the enjoyment of his promises among the Gentiles (love and peace, the fullness of the Spirit, the worship of the Messiah, signs and wonders) would cause the Jews to become envious. They may look at us and ask themselves: “Why should they enjoy the fruit of our history and not we ourselves?” [Cf. “Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.”]
Thus, there is a deep connection between our faith in God and Israel’s current behavior and this connection will continue until the end of time. Hear the words once again: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” However – when the full number of the Gentiles has come in – when the Gentile mission has reached its completion – in the time just before Jesus will return – then the Jews will also overcome their hardening and become believers in Jesus Christ. They will become Jewish Christians with the consequence that in this time there will be a last climactic increase of God’s presence and power over all the earth. I quote again the relevant Bible verses: “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! … if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” There will be resurrection power in the church – including Jews and Gentiles – like never before.
This is a mystery and there may be much that we still do not understand. However, I come to a close. What we have learned is this: The Jews are first and we are second. We owe them something – we have become partakers of their history – they have been entrusted with the very words of God – and we owe it to God that we share his first love – the nation that he chose first. They remain the apple of his eye and like Paul we may be feeling “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” until they are saved.
The Jews are first and we are second and then our respective fates remain intertwined. They experience a current hardening until the full number of Gentiles has come in but then they will also receive salvation as a people which – across the world – will release even greater riches in God.
Therefore – and this is a fitting addition to the lessons of our Prayer School – when we pray, we will always pray also for the Jews. Without them the good news of Jesus Christ would not have come to us and God loves them so much. We find ways of loving and supporting the people of Israel.
This is practical for us at Living Grace because – in accordance with everything that has been said in this message – the Bible – making this foundational – and this is the last word – the Bible encourages a positive attitude toward Israel with these promises – Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless those who bless you, and curse the one despising you. And in you all families of the earth shall be blessed.” Psalms 122:6 “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; those who love you shall prosper.”
Therefore – all of us today – we bless Israel and pray for Jerusalem’s peace. Amen