May 2012 Yavoh

God Forbid

The expression “May it never be” or “God forbid” is used a number of times in the New Testament. The expression mean the same today as it did then. It is an emphatic “NO” to a propositional statement. While we may not use the exact words, it certainly means “No Way!” or “It is not going to happen” in our more common expressions. It is more than just a negative statement. Such a response carries great emotion and fervor.

The use of the expression “God forbid” (and its similar exclamations) comes at very strategic points in the Scripture. The reader does not struggle with what it means; it is clear in its meaning; however, the paradox of this expression is profound. The very thing that is answered with “God forbid!” is also what we see happen. That is why we should take note of each instance in which it occurs. Let me share where several examples of the expression are found.

The Messiah told a parable that addressed the issue of rejecting the Messiah and God’s plan of redemption. It is found in the Gospel of Luke.

And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order that they might give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. And the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it, they said, “May it never be! [God forbid!]” But He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” And the scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. LUKE 20:9-19

The scribes and chief priests were recognized as the most religious and scholarly leaders of Israel. They understood that the parable was about God sending prophets and ultimately the Messiah to Israel. They also understood that Israel had historically killed and wounded the prophets sent by God. Now the parable spoke directly to them and their rejection of the Messiah, the Son of God.  The parable spoke directly to the history of Israel and to them rejecting their own Messiah king. This is why they said, “May it never be!” or “God forbid! We would never do that even though historical Israel has.”

How could Israel reject their Messiah? Why did the religious leaders find themselves at odds with the Messiah, whom they all desired to come?

There are various answers to that question. The rejection of the Messiah was consistent with their past rejection of the prophets. Their rejection of the prophets was based on their disobedience to and rejection of God Himself. Their rejection was fueled by their egos and selfish desires to hold onto their positions of leadership before the people. It is reminiscent of Korah against Moses in the book of Exodus. In that case, Korah was a very prestigious fellow. Some say that he was the chief treasurer of Egypt and commanded 250 princes before leaving on the exodus. He thought he should be in charge, or at least, be High Priest.

It is a great irony to me that Israel rejected her Messiah. Ancient Israel was the most religious people in the world. Their culture was steeped in the traditions based on God’s Law. They longed for and looked for the Messiah. Yet, the very same people rejected without cause the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth. It was a wholesale rejection of God’s work of redemption. They also did it with prejudice and rancor (vicious in their rejection by prejudice without properly examining Him). But why?

Answer: They were fulfilling prophecy.

Just like the question Yeshua posed from Scripture about the builders rejecting the corner stone, the great Messianic story can be traced back to Joseph being rejected by his own brothers. However, religious leaders like the Scribes and Pharisees of Yeshua’s day regarded those prophecies as “God forbid” or “may it never be!” They knew it had happened but they convinced themselves that they would not make such a mistake.

But it turned out to be true. The religious leaders did reject Yeshua the Messiah and their testimony of rejection remains with us today as one the strongest prophetic evidences of Yeshua of Nazareth being the Messiah. This is why John’s Gospel shares this point in introducing the proofs of Messiah Yeshua.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. JOHN 1:10-11

…but these have been written that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. JOHN 20:31

Most of the other expressions of “God forbid” are used by the Apostle Paul. Paul understood the mentality of the Pharisees. He had been one of them. The Apostle Paul weighed in on the rejection of the Messiah by his fellow Jewish brethren and how it was a part of God’s plan of redemption. Like them, he uses the expression “God forbid” to further the claims of the Messiah.

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles [the Torah] of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be! [God forbid!] Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, and prevail when You art judged.” ROMANS 3:1-4

Paul was saying that God used Israel, and the Jewish people specifically, despite their misdeeds to achieve His goals promised to Abraham – that all the families of the earth may be blessed. It is true that many Jews have turned from the Lord and rejected the Messiahship of Yeshua, but that does not stop God from accomplishing what He wants to do, nor does it nullify the promises God made to future Israel. Paul’s quotation of Psalm 51 in which David confessed his sin against Uriah in stealing his wife Bathsheba testifies to God’s faithfulness despite our sins against Him. Look at the entire quotation.

(For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.) Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak, and blameless when You judge. PSALM 51:1-4

King David sinned against the Lord and was forgiven. Those who reject the Messiah can be forgiven also when they realize their mistake and ask forgiveness, just as David did. The prophesied rejection of the Messiah is given first in the story of redemption beginning with Joseph, and the Messiah is the Redeemer. The Hagaddah teaches that at every Passover that the Passover leads to the redemption of the firstborn.

In Genesis, when Joseph was rejected by his brethren leading to his enslavement in Egypt, God sent Joseph to Egypt to make a way to preserve Jacob and his family. This is the conclusion stated by Joseph himself after being reconciled to his brothers years later.

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. GENESIS 45:7-8

While it is true that even after God brought Israel back to the promised land after their ordeal in Egypt, Israel was scattered into the nations because of their disobedience, the same is also true that the Gospel has gone into the same nations because of Israel being scattered.

This why Paul reached out to the nations with the Gospel, calling himself the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul authenticated his ministry based on the promises of God to bring back the scattered of Israel and Gentiles as well by quoting from Hosea and Isaiah.

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ and her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’ And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” ROMANS 9:22-28

The descendants of Abraham, the children of Israel (even the aliens and sojourners with them) should in no way reject the Messiah sent by our Father. God forbid that we should not welcome Him fully.

Ancient Israel is not the only example of God’s people rejecting the plan of God and the Messiah directly.

The religious leadership of the Christians and the church advocates that God rejected Israel based on the ministry of Yeshua. They claim that Israel’s rejection of the Messiah nullifies the promises and covenants God made with Israel. They go further, claiming that God has chosen them over Israel to be God’s working relationship with the world today.

Evangelical Christians do not advocate that Israel is done away with as orthodox Christianity does, but they still hold onto the belief that they are God’s plan for today. In fact, most Christians think that the Old Testament laws and customs are just for the Jews. This is just the Evangelical version of replacement theology.

What they should be saying is God forbid that God would turn against His own word and promises! Yet, Christians and church leaders teach exactly that. They justify it by focusing on the wrongdoing of Israel and ignoring the faithfulness and mercy of God. They also ignore Scriptures to the contrary.

Paul weighs in on this idea of Israel being rejected by God. It is another God forbid!

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! [God forbid!] For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. ROMANS 11:1-5

Paul is saying that Israel still exists even in this day (well after the resurrection of Yeshua).

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partakers with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. …For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grated into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; ROMANS 11:17-26a

God has promised He will graft back in the original branch. So, where did this teaching come from that the church is now God’s plan apart from Israel?

For a moment, what if God did reject Israel and set up the church as His working model for today. Then God should have rejected the church a long time ago. The sins of the church far exceed the sins of Israel; they have slaughtered prophets and played the harlot with other gods (mixing gods of the earth with church traditions).

In another application of “God forbid!” Christians have the idea that they have a very special grace that exceeds the grace of God spoken of in the Old Testament. They believe that grace allows them to sin at will and still be forgiven automatically without paying any price. They believe that blessings come from simply having faith through the church, not by obedience to God’s commandments.

On the flip side of that coin, Christians think they have the right and authority to condemn one another focusing on the wrongdoing and ignoring God’s mercy and forgiveness. However, if you are a Christian leader who falls into gross sin, then you expect the people to forgive so that you can serve as a leader again.

Paul weighed in on this kind of thinking as well. It is another God forbid!

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! [God forbid!] How shall we who died to sin still live in it? ROMANS 6:1-2

Sin is the transgression of the Law (Torah). The Torah is the first five books written by Moses. They define who God is, what He expects of us, what is good, what is evil, what is food, what is not food, how to treat other people and animals, what to do when we make mistakes or do something deliberately wrong, what to do when we hurt or kill someone, and the plans God has for His people. We all have sinned by transgressing God’s Law. But Yeshua, through the Lamb of God sacrifice, has fulfilled the requirements of the Law which called for death against our sin. As result, we are no longer subject to the penalty of the Law being against us anymore. But does this enable us to continue sinning and breaking God’s Law more. God forbid! Absolutely not! We are to instead walk according to God’s commandments (instructions in righteousness) with God’s grace.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law [subject to its penalty of death and judgment], but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! [God forbid!] ROMANS 6:12-15

Did you know that most Christians and Christian leaders teach the opposite of what Paul wrote here? They actually think that the words under the law means keeping the commandments. They scorn their fellow believers because they keep the commandments of God including Sabbath, Kosher, and Festivals accusing them of “being under the law.” The truth is that “lawlessness” puts you “under the law of sin and death.” But following God’s commandments is how you walk out your faith in the Messiah.

The Messiah taught “If you love Me, keep my Commandments?”

The Apostle John declared that a person who claims to know the Lord and does not keep His commandments is a liar?

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 JOHN 2:3-6

Maybe the Apostle Paul makes my point even better than I.

But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God [let us sin that grace may abound], what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! [God forbid!] For otherwise, how will God judge the world? [If grace always trumps God’s judgment...] But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. ROMANS 3:5-8

As bizarre as it may seem, some Christians believe that God’s grace gives them a complete pass to be willfully ignorant of the Law and willfully dispute the commandments of God. They express their defiance and willful disobedience with words like “well I don’t see it that way” or “that is your interpretation” or “that was done away with.” Each of those statements is an example of blasphemy worthy of death when spoken against the Torah (the Law).

Some Christians argue that keeping God’s commandments is a legalistic effort to be saved. To this day, I have never met a Messianic believer learning the Torah who believes that keeping the commandments results in salvation. It is true that Judaism advocates salvation by good deeds. Their doctrine is as follows: “Prayer, penitence, and good deeds avert the severe decree,” but I have never met a believer of Yeshua who says that. And just because Judaism reveres the Torah does not mean that studying the Torah makes you a Jew. Studying the Bible does not make you a Christian either.

Even so, some Christians say that any attempt to keep God’s commandments or honoring the Torah is a departure from faith in the Messiah. They say this based on something the Apostle Paul said in the book of Galatians.

...nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Messiah Yeshua, even we have believed in Messiah Yeshua, that we may be justified by faith in Messiah, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. GALATIANS 2:16

But Apostle Paul said this about faith in Yeshua and the Law.

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! [God forbid!] On the contrary, we establish the Law. ROMANS 3:28-31

The fact is that having faith in Yeshua is a confirmation of the righteousness in God’s Law. Paul is saying that anyone suggesting that the Law of Moses (the Torah) is in conflict with our faith or salvation is wrong. God forbid that anyone should think such a thing!

Paul goes on to teach that Abraham, whose faith was counted for righteousness, came before circumcision, Moses, and the Law. The Law did not make the faith of Abraham go away nor does faith in the Messiah make the Law of Moses go away. They show that having faith and obeying God’s Law are the progressive revelation of God’s plan of redemption for us all.

Without Abraham, we would not have a definition for God’s kingdom (the promised land and the promised Lamb). Without Moses, we would not have a definition for sin.

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! [God forbid!] On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet." ROMANS 7:7

Without the Law we would not know the penalty for the sin—death—nor God’s substitution system (the altar service) for the Lamb of God to work redemption—being passed from death to life.

Without the Law, we would not have John the Baptist (a Levite priest) proclaiming Yeshua as the “Lamb of God” and witnesses to that event saying, “We have found Him spoken of by Moses and the Prophets.” All of these things from the Law have given us the very definition for the Messiah and permitted us to discern Yeshua as the Messiah. All of this is in accordance with the Word of God. In fact, we would not have a “Word of God” without the giving of the Torah and Moses writing it down for the benefit of generations to come.

Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” EXODUS 24:7

God forbid that we would in any way undermine the validity of the Law. It is the very basis for the Messiahship of Yeshua. In John 5:46-47 Yeshua validates the importance of Torah.

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? JOHN 5:46-47

Additionally, Yeshua came to explain to believers the meaning of Torah and the prophecies, that indeed the prophecies are encouragements that God’s plan is in progress and that He fulfills some of those prophecies – the Law. See what Yeshua had to say to those gathered in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets. MATTHEW 26:56

Despite the fact that God has not rejected Israel and that faith in Messiah is not the rejection of the Torah, these two false concepts run rampant throughout Christianity today. Both concepts are given with the explicative “God forbid!” in the New Testament, yet they happen.

How is this so? What can we do to correct this?

When I was 12 years old, very shortly after calling upon God to save me, I had an intriguing thought that I turned into a prayer. To this day, 50 years later, I still remember the thought and my prayer.

“What if we had it all wrong about God? What if mistakes were made early on and we believers today were subject to false teachings and precepts affecting us today (all contrary to God)? What would we do? How would we know?”

This is a substantial theological thought for a new believer at the age of 12. I have always believed it was my first instance of the Holy Spirit working in my heart to learn truth.

I concluded and began to pray, “God, You must save us, You must teach us, and You must lead us to the truth.”

I believe God has been answering my prayer by leading me back to the Torah and to His commandments. Earlier, I quoted Paul when he said that faith establishes (which is the strongest form of confirmation) the Law (Torah). Most Christians have no idea what that means. I have discovered how faith establishes the Law. Let me share just a bit of that discovery.

I believe that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah according to the Scriptures and by His testimony of doing the works of God. It is the Torah that gives us the basis to evaluate Yeshua’s Messiahship. Instead of believing in Yeshua because my Grandmother told me He was the Messiah or me willing myself to believe it (making presumption of the truth), I have found the evidence to prove His Messiahship. In doing so, I have also discovered the profundity of the Torah and God’s commandments as well.

My faith has taken me back to Abraham where God promised to “bless all of the families of the earth” by the seed of Abraham (the Messiah). I have heard Abraham’s promise to his son Isaac when he promised that God “will provide the lamb in that place” as he walked with his son up to Mount Moriah to offer a sacrifice. I have seen the ram whose head was caught in the thorns that was actually sacrificed that day. Yeshua’s head was caught in a crown of thorns for crucifixion.

I have seen the Messiah, just as the Father saw Him from the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies looking out above the altar. The Messiah was elevated on the cross on the Mount of Olives and was sanctified by the altar in the temple to be the “Lamb of God” sacrifice in accordance with the requirements of the Passover sacrifice.

I understand how God put forth the plan of redemption starting with the life of Joseph, then leading to the blood of the lamb upon the doorpost and lintel passing us from death to life.

I have gone back to the foot of Mount Sinai to hear with my own heart the commandments spoken by God and hear the same voice of Yeshua say, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

I have bowed low in the cleft of the Rock of Salvation and prayed the prayer of Moses while receiving my own set of commandments written on the tablets of my heart. I have discovered they are the same set of commandments written to my fathers on tablets of stone.

I have gone back to the Garden of Eden and seen the deception of the enemy leading to death. I have seen Yeshua in the garden arrested, buried, and raised from the grave to restore the original garden planted by God Himself.

I have come to understand that with great emotion we should exclaim “GOD FORBID!!!” that Israel would not receive her Messiah King. I have also come to understand why we should exclaim the same when Christians—those who claim to know the Messiah—say the Torah is not valid or essential to the faith of every believer today. Maybe the most profound thing I have come to understand is that willfully sinning and blaspheming the Torah is not the grace of God. Faith in Yeshua, based on God’s grace, establishes the Torah; it does not nullify it nor abolish it whatsoever. The Torah validates the Messiah and the Messiah validates the Torah.