Tag Archives: Hebron

From weeping to leaping..(2)

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Continuing our journey to Hebron…

A place of Redemption (goel) – A City of Refugeredeemed_t_nv

 “So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah.  On the east side of the Jordan of Jericho they designated Bezer in the desert on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh.  Any of the Israelites or any alien living among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood (goel)  prior to standing trial before the assembly.”      Joshua 20:7-9

 If you miss your goal (hamartia – sin), you need a goel!

Redemption is everything. The “avenger of blood” represents the just punishment of the sinner. In God’s gracious economy the avenger is avenged by his own blood – “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” The “kinsman redeemer” (see Ruth and Boaz) is another type of Christ, another goel. One emphasizes the buying back of souls, the other the redemption of land and inheritance. Redemption is not just for a future heaven but it includes a bringing in of God’s Kingdom to our present earth.

Christian thought over the years has given us three major currents which interpret the idea of the atonement.

  1.  The “traditional” position of the early church who taught that Christ’s blood paid a ransom to Satan for our redemption.
  2. Writing at the end of the 11th century Anselm was the origin of the “objective” doctrine which teaches that Christ died in order to satisfy God’s justice. It is God who needs to be reconciled to us.
  3. In contrast to Anselm at the beginning of the 12th century Peter Abelard (call him Pierre as he was a Breton!) formulated the subjective doctrine which states that Christ came and died in order to change us, rather than to change God’s attitude to us. It is we who need to be reconciled to God.

In the 20th century the Swedish theologian Gustav Aulén expanded the “traditional” view seeing it as a more “classic”, dramatic idea of the atonement. He stated that the atonement is “a divine conflict and victory” over the evil powers of this world. “It represents the work of atonement or reconciliation as from the first to last a work of God himself.” Indeed Aulén’s work echoes the Apostle John’s words that: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

It is most useful to interpret these three views as being complimentary rather than contradictory. Through the teaching of scripture echoed in the voices of many of the Church Fathers, we glean that Christ is the one who has put us right with God by his death (objective view); whose love for us awakens our love for God (subjective view) and who has won the victory over the powers of evil (classic view).

Spend some time meditating on these different facets of the atonement and apply their truths to your life and prayers. Find your refuge in redemption.

A place of Priests – Ministry and Intercession

 “So to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Libnah,  Jattir, Eshtemoa,  Holon, Debir,  Ain, Juttah and Beth Shemesh, together with their pasture lands–nine towns from these two tribes.”  Joshua 21:13-16

Intercessory-Prayer-Ministry-LogoSee the article ” Big heart, Broad shoulders” for an encouragement to renew our priestly ministry. Recently I’ve been challenged by the notion of “Watchtowers”, “Houses of Prayer”, “Holy Places.” I think that Catholic theology handles these concepts more easily than Protestant views.

A few years ago I was quietly eating some Kimchi with my Korean friends at our ministry base, Le Château Blanc in France, when one of them  began to speak to me in earnest.

“I have come here for a purpose,” he said. “This is a Watchtower place and you must gather intercessors here. You are to especially pray for young people. In fact God tells me that you are to specifically declare that one million young French people are to come to Christ!”

I choked on my Kimchi. Was he mad, presumptuous, a mixture of both …or a man with a prophetic word. I’m still waiting to answer that question, but I do feel deeply challenged to understand more about the place of intercessors together, praying world-changing prayers and yet living in the hands on reality of owning the responsibility and consequences of the prayer.

A place to gather Tribes – Platforms of Ministry and Collaboration

All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king.  The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them.  Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.”     1 Chronicles 12:38-40Many tribes

 May the Lord grant us a fresh determination to accomplish His work. Surely this is a time to look to work together with other tribes and ministries. I recently heard a long serving missionary from Egypt say that rather than just pray for Egypt with a bunch of foreigners he wanted to join with the Egyptians who were developing their own powerful prayer movements. This is not to despise the faithful pioneer work of many “foreigners”, but more to encourage a “breaking out” of our talents to humbly serve alongside other streams.

“Plentiful supplies” and “joy” are the fruits of such Hebron gatherings.

We started our journey at a place of weeping with the promise bearer dying. I strongly believe in a God who redeems dreams, so I trust that we can arrive at a place of “leaping” for joy as an honored daughter of Sarah, Mary – the ultimate promise bearer, conceives fresh life at Hebron. Jesus was born at Bethlehem but was he conceived at Hebron?

A place of Joyful Anointing to Conceive New Beginnings

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”      Luke 1:39-45

Many Bible commentators agree that the “hill country of Judea” is a clear reference to the town of Hebron. I’ve included a snippet from Mathew Henry who raises the question of Christ’s possible conception at Hebron:

john the baptist leaps in his mothers womb “…she went to a city of Judah in the hill-country; it is not named, but by comparing the description of it here with Jos_21:10, Jos_21:11, it appears to be Hebron, for that is there said to be in the hill-country of Judah, and to belong to the priests, the sons of Aaron; thither Mary hastened, though it was a long journey, some scores of miles.

Dr. Lightfoot offers a conjecture that she was to conceive our Saviour there at Hebron, and perhaps had so much intimated to her by the angel, or some other way; and therefore she made such haste thither. He thinks it probable that Shiloh, of the tribe of Judah, and the seed of David, should be conceived in a city of Judah and of David, as he was to be born in Bethlehem, another city which belonged to them both. In Hebron the promise was given to Isaac, circumcision was instituted. Here (saith he) Abraham had his first land, and David his first crown: here lay interred the three couples, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, and, as antiquity has held, Adam and Eve. He therefore thinks that it suits singularly with the harmony and consent which God uses in his works that the promise should begin to take place by the conception of the Messiah, even among those patriarchs to whom it was given. I see no improbability in the conjecture, but add this for the support of it, that Elisabeth said (Luk_1:45), There shall be a performance; (will be accomplished) as if it were not performed yet, but was to be performed there.”

May we hear a fresh invitation, a Holy Spirit greeting that will spur us to joy and the conception of hope. The journey to Hebron may be tear-stained, but it ultimately crowns Christ King of the nations and Lord of our lives.

                                                                             

From weeping to leaping..(1)

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A journey to HebronHebron_Basketball_Tower

As we celebrate the bitter-sweet journey from Good Friday’s crucifixion to Easter Sunday’s resurrection we might also think of another journey of a nation to Hebron. Hebron was just a piece of land, but it also represents “an inheritance” , an experience of the divine promises.

Easter has also brought its season of difficult news from around the world. I cannot help being gripped by the tragedy that is being worked out in Central African Republic at the moment. Friends are being molested and persecuted and unburied bodies have littered the streets like refuse. It is not the full story of this beautiful country which has so much potential.

I think of happier days pioneering a mission movement amongst the Pygmy tribes of this nation –  a gentle, artistic people in tune with earth and sky, and intimately acquainted with the God who sends his holy breeze to rustle the leaves of the trees and to carry colourful butterflies in flight. They are discovering this same God of Easter, who, beyond his historic Jewish incarnation, took on Pygmy flesh. No chocolate bunnies for them, only the naked wild worship in dance and song which encapsulates their forest offerings. I shared in their story for a few precious moments, becoming one with them in a  dance offering around a huge, life inspiring fire which sent sparks, like prayers, into the star filled African nights.

People are now dying in Central Africa…and Syria…etc

What do we die from?

I’m glad that although many die, many also live and find even greater life as the Gospel is brought to them by faithful servants of Christ. Central Africa possesses such servants in abundance. The Gospel was brought  for the first time to the Pygmies by the faithful African apostles of Nations en Marche. They were not part of the tribe that lives long on the couch of comfort in front of screens and illusions, stretching out the years in selfish survival. They were the warriors of the moment, living a precious life each day with the coming and going of light and birdsong; a people of cosmic community, investing their lives for the greater good of the tribe. Fires are being lit in heaven, and the little igloo leaf houses are putting the pearly gates to shame.

oubanguiI would like to think that the anonymous sacrifices in Central Africa and beyond have some meaning and value. My prayer is that all those associated with the “Hebron tribes” principle, those committed to investing their lives into the greater good of seeing indigenous mission movements born and nurtured, will be somehow encouraged and inspired. “Death is at work in us” cried the apostle Paul, “but life is at work in you.”

The following is my own inadequate homage to the Central African people who have found a greater life in a greater forest.

I am part of a mission movement which speaks about the “Hebron principle”. Our family principles handbook says the following about it. 

“In Chronicles the different tribes came together to make David King over all Israel. We aspire to see many people and ministries come together in their diversity and uniqueness to make Jesus king over all nations. We are called to start or facilitate new indigenous movements of mission.”

 I believe that we are at a kairos moment of opportunity to strengthen this value in the Body of Christ today.

So, over these next two articles (today and Easter Monday), we will take a closer look at this place called Hebron.

A place of Vision and Worshipvision

The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you….So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.”    Genesis 13:14-18

The Lord had a word for Abraham at a painful time of division and separation in his family. He told him not to focus on the problem but to lift up his eyes and receive fresh vision. We may be suffering our own various difficult partings at this time, and no work is ever immune from division. Never be dominated or discouraged through division but hear the Lord speak afresh to bring a new perspective. “Lift up your eyes!”

Having found the courage to move on, he also found a fresh impetus to worship, as his shepherd’s hands placed stone upon stone to build an altar to the Lord. Allow the Lord to bring together all the strands of your personality, carefully meshed with a new sensitivity and hunger for the Holy Spirit, in order to build your own special place of intimacy. Hebron was renowned for the goodness of its stones. An old Jewish saying goes:

“You have no stones in all the land of Israel harder than at Hebron; hence they buried the dead there.”

 Build the altar with field stones.

A place of Weeping and Sacrifice

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”     Genesis 23:1-4

tears_in_heavenAbraham’s title-deed for his first patch of promise land was stained with tears. The promise bearer died at the threshold of the land of promise. Do not be surprised if the road to your dream, your inheritance, leads you to an eve of weeping. Over the last years my own heart has been inwardly weeping as I have felt that a context or mechanism for mission building in the Church has been strangely absent. Like Sarah, a movement which once gave life, may find itself growing old. However, death is also the prelude to new life. Perhaps the moments of death we experience, our personal “Good Fridays”, may well give us fresh access to our own tear-stained title deeds of our dreams.

A place of Warfare and Inheritance

“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)…Then the land had rest from war.  Joshua 14:10-14

Are you still up for it? How’s your spiritual vigor? Are you still dreaming of possessing your mountain, your “hill country,” your Hebron?

Caleb could have grown bitter during the long waiting and wandering in the desert. He could have sunk into self-pity, blaming circumstances and others who had negated his faith through their unbelief and fear. Unbelief and fear in myself and others drives me bonkers! I don’t think God is too pleased either! However, there is a place beyond frustration. It is a place that hangs on and believes in the promise no matter what. Caleb found that place and became better rather than bitter. He found a place of wholehearted devotion to God which transcended his circumstances.

After forty-five years of dreaming about crushing Anakite heads, he was finally unleashed to take his inheritance. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the first man in his way! Those who have learnt to wait are also the most aggressive in the battle for their promise land…

(to be continued…)

You can find another Easter article at Neil Rees’ Eating with Sinners blog