Israel’s Continuous Disagreement
Moses tells Israel in Deut. 9:22-24,
22 Again at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the Lord to wrath. 23 And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, “Go up and possess the land which I have given you,” then you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice. 24 You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you.
At Taberah (Num. 11:1-3) the people angered God by complaining instead of inquiring of the Lord, and God judged them by fire.
At Massah (Ex. 17:7) the people ran low on water and thought God had abandoned them. This is perhaps one of the most common incorrect views about God’s dealings with us. We assume that God would never lead us into a place without water, so to speak. When it happens, then, we conclude that God has abandoned us, when, in fact, He promised, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
At Kibroth-hattaavah (Num. 11:34) the people said they were tired of manna and wanted meat, so God gave them their desire for an entire month even though it killed some of them. They called the place Kibroth-hattaavah, “graves of lust.”
It reminds me of the old saying, “The gods curse us by answering our prayers.” Just because God gives us the desires of our heart does not mean that we are being blessed. It is only when our desires are in agreement with God's desires that we are truly blessed. Psalm 37:4 says,
4 Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Considering the history of Israel, it is amazing that any Israelite, past or present, could think that he was somehow righteous on account of his genealogy from Abraham or even on account of his calling. It is obvious that Moses knew better, saying, “You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you.” When he told them that they did not believe God or listen to His voice, Moses was telling them that they lacked FAITH.
Having the Faith of Abraham
The Hebrew word translated “believed” is aman, which is the root word of amen and is spelled the same, though pronounced a little differently. Aman means to support, sustain, be firm, or be faithful. Amen is used when responding to a statement that one believes to be true, indicating that the person believes it, supports it, ratifies it, and agrees with it.
So when Moses said that Israel refused to believe God, he accused Israel of never being in agreement with God, never supporting what He did, always complaining about where He led them, and never believing that He was always there to provide for them. In other words, Israel as a whole was never an Amen People. Obviously, the overcomers among them, Caleb and Joshua, were exceptions, for they did believe God and manifested the faith of their father Abraham.
It is plain, then, that the vast majority of genealogical Israelites lacked the faith of Abraham. Metaphorically speaking, they were never truly sons of Abraham in the sense that Paul described in Galatians 3:29. Paul made the point that the promise of God came by faith. To manifest the faith of Abraham was to have faith in Jesus Christ, Who was the incarnation of the Old Testament God of Abraham.
Paul insisted that anyone with such faith would receive the promises given to Abraham and to Israel (Galatians 3:14). He says in verses 26 and 29, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. . . and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
The Faithless Church
Moses tells us that genealogical Israelites have the same problem with faithlessness or unbelief that is common to all men. Thus, the vast majority of Israelites throughout history have lived and died without being justified by faith. The strange part of this is that Moses was speaking to the church in the wilderness! How could the church have no faith? Is it possible to be part of the church without having faith?
If we break this down further, we can see that there is more than one level of faith. All the Israelites had sufficient faith to leave Egypt. They had faith to kill the Passover lamb and put the blood on the doorposts in order to avoid the death of their firstborn. In fact, that faith is what made them part of “the church.” However, their faith hardly increased from that point. They lacked the faith to hear God's voice at Pentecost in Horeb, and so also they lacked faith to enter the Promised Land at Tabernacles. Their faith was strictly limited to Passover, which was insufficient to actually receive the promises of God.
Speaking of the Israelites in the wilderness who died without receiving the promises, Hebrews 4:2 and 3 puts it this way:
2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
The word of justification by faith in the blood of the lamb was preached to the Israelites before they left Egypt, but greater faith than this was required to enter God’s rest in the Promised Land. There were two levels of faith—one for the church and the other manifested by the overcomers, Caleb and Joshua.
For this reason we have inherited the dilemma between faith and works—whether or not works is necessary to be “saved.” Paul insists that faith alone justifies us, for he was speaking of the Passover experience. James insists that faith without works is dead (or “lazy”), and he taught the necessity of a living, growing faith that was manifested by the “works” of Pentecost (i.e., the law given at Horeb). These works, he says, are the fruit of faith, and a fruitless tree lacks true faith. Both Paul and James are correct, because they spoke of different feast-day experiences on their way to the Promised Land.
Israel's example shows us the condition of the church today. Many have been justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb of God. But not many have followed through to a Pentecostal level of faith that James advocated. And of those who have experienced Pentecost, many have remained lawless.
The key is in understanding the force behind the Hebrew words aman and amen.
Hebrews 10:36 tells the church,
36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
Endurance goes beyond justifying faith. It is illustrated by Israel's journey to the Promised Land and not merely their Passover faith which had released them from the house of bondage in Egypt. Endurance encompasses true Pentecostal faith which prepares our hearts to experience Tabernacles, the final Promise of God.
We are not justified by endurance, but by faith. Endurance is needed to become an overcomer who receives the promise and enters into God’s rest. Endurance is only possible when the quality of our faith exceeds that of mere justification.
Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). When the Israelites refused to hear God’s voice on the day of Pentecost at Mount Sinai, their faith was too weak to bear the fruit of Pentecost. For this reason they lacked biblical endurance to finish the course. They needed greater faith to enter God’s rest.
Biblical endurance is manifested by those who follow the leading of the Spirit wherever He leads without complaint or fear. If that place has no water, they have faith that God will provide for them in some way. If that place has serpents, they have faith that God will render them harmless.
In all things, they agree with God’s leading, knowing that even difficulties are designed to teach and train them, so that they might be brought to the place of spiritual maturity. This is the place of rest, where all that one does is a rest work. This is the key to having the endurance necessary to survive the long journey to the Promised Land.
The Calling of the Amen People
While Israel was given only a type and shadow of the promise under the Old Covenant, we are given something much greater under the New Covenant. Abraham went to Canaan, but he was only a “stranger and pilgrim” in that land, because he sought a better country and a heavenly city (Hebrews 11:16). So also the Israelites should have understood the transient nature of the Promised Land that they were given in Canaan.
Those having the faith of Abraham, those who are of the true seed of Abraham, still seek a better country instead of attempting to return to the type and shadow. The Amen People have a better inheritance, and it is associated with the new heavens and the new earth. Isaiah prophesies this in Isaiah 65:16-20.
16 Because he who is blessed in the earth shall be blessed by the God of truth [Hebrew: amen;]; and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth [Hebrew: amen].... 17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth . . . 18 For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, and her people for gladness.
The context above shows that the prophet was speaking not only of the new heavens and the new earth, but also a new Jerusalem. None of the prophets make a clear distinction between the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem, except in the fact that the name “Jerusalem” is actually a “dual” in Hebrew (Ierushalayim).
The Hebrew language uses both plurals and duals. A dual means precisely two items. The ayim ending on Ierushalayim makes it a dual, so it should be understood properly as “two Jerusalems.” The rabbis debated the reason for this, but it is not likely that many understood it prior to the revelation of the New Testament.
Those distinctions are clearly made in Galatians 4:22-31, Hebrews 12:22, and Revelation 21:1 and 2. In fact, Revelation 21 takes many of Isaiah's “Jerusalem” prophecies and applies them to the New Jerusalem. This shows that the New Testament writers understood clearly that the prophecies about “Jerusalem” could be applied to either the Old or New Jerusalem, depending on the context.
Paul tells us in Gal. 4:25 that the Old Covenant is the earthly Jerusalem, while in verse 26 the New Covenant is the heavenly Jerusalem. These are also compared to Hagar and Sarah in order to show which city is the true “mother” of the chosen inheritors. The chosen people are not the ones who claim the earthly Jerusalem (Hagar) as their “mother,” but those who claim the New Jerusalem (Sarah) as their mother. For more in-depth proof of this, see chapter 8 of my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
In other words, the new heavens, new earth, and new Jerusalem are the inheritance of those who are “blessed by the God of AMEN.” Isaiah did not explain his words. However, we see that Jesus Christ was the great AMEN of God, for He did only what He saw His Father do, and He spoke only what He heard His Father say. For this reason, when Christ spoke to John in Rev. 3:14, he called Himself “The Amen” and then clarifies that title: “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.”
It was by the power of the Amen that He provided the double witness to the Father's creative words in the beginning. Hence, “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3), that is, through His double witness. The Father spoke, and Christ said AMEN, “so be it” or “let it be.” By the law of the double witness, then, the first creation came into being. Likewise, by the law of the double witness, the new heavens and the new earth and the new Jerusalem are to be created.
This time, however, the AMEN is not only Jesus Christ Himself, but includes His body. This New Creation Man has both a head and a body. The head is Jesus Christ, and the body is composed of the AMEN people. Those AMEN people are the overcomers, those whose faith goes beyond justifying faith, those who have experienced Pentecost in its true meaning, those who are able to hear, agree with, and live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
As they are led by the Spirit, the law is written on their hearts. They do not complain as Israel did, for their faith matures by such experience. Each difficulty is overcome through prayer and hearing His voice, so that they are transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:2).
These are the ones who are set apart from the church as a whole, even as Caleb and Joshua distinguished themselves from the church in the wilderness under Moses. Whereas the main body falls short of being an AMEN people, the overcomers are those who are truly led by the Spirit, and each difficult experience in life is an opportunity for growth and an expression of faith.
We are exhorted, therefore, to learn the lesson of Israel. Let us not be as the Israelites, who, though justified by faith, were rebellious continually when Pentecost should have matured them. They fell short of the promises of God, for they had no “endurance.” We, however, can learn by their actions how not to live the Christian life.