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The Leaven of Herod, Pharisees and the Disengagement

written by Asher Intrater
August 05, 2005

In Israel, as in other places, there are extremely strong pressures from the world around us. There are spiritual influences that manifest themselves in political, social and religious issues. As believers in Yeshua (Jesus), we must be careful not to be thrown off balance, but to walk down the straight and narrow, not falling to temptations on the right or the left.

Yeshua told us to beware of the leaven of the Herodians and of the Pharisees (Mark 8:15). The Herodians represent the spirit of Western liberalism, sexual immorality, moral compromise and secular humanism. The Pharisees on the other side represent the spirit of religious pride, racism, nationalism and zealotry. Both of these factors affected the recent debates over the “disengagement.”

The Herodian spirit is found on the political left, putting pressure on Sharon to make more concessions, to deny the biblical promises of the land to Israel, and to claim moral equivalency between Muslim terror and Jewish settlements. The Pharisaic spirit is found among the extremists within the religious nationalists, whose self-centered world-view deluded them about security problems involved in protecting an enclave of 9,000 settlers in the midst of 1,000,000 Muslims, and almost succeeded in bringing about a civil war and rebellion against the government.

The Christian Church needs to guard against liberal humanism and sexual immorality on one side, and against the vengeance and violence of Islam on the other. We Messianic Jews (and some of our Christian Zionist friends) also have to guard against the prideful zealotry of religious nationalism. In Israel we are flooded with the Herodian humanism and immorality from the secular community on one side, and with the Pharisaic religious pride from the Orthodox community on the other. (The Church and Israel must be united if the monster Jihad and Islam is to be defeated.)

So how do we stay on course? First, we have to keep our eyes on Yeshua and our minds renewed by the Scriptures. Secondly, we need an understanding of God’s delegated authority on earth. Yeshua has direct spiritual and moral authority over every individual person through the Holy Spirit and the person’s own conscience. However His delegated authority in the social affairs of man is divided into four main areas: Family, Church (or Congregation), Business and Government.

– The parents (with the husband at the head) have the authority in their own family. They do not have authority in some one else’s marriage or children.
– Each congregation has its own elders, pastors and apostles that provide leadership. When one enters a local congregation, he should respect the leadership there.
– At the work place, the Bible instructs us to be obedient and submitted to our employers. The boss only has authority on matters concerning the business, not in family, church or personal moral issues.
– Each nation has its own government. The government does not have a right to pass laws interfering with authority in the nuclear family. Government cannot make us commit moral sin; nor can it forbid us to share the gospel (if it did, we should be willing to go to jail instead of complying – Acts 4).

In Israel, the elected government with the Prime Minister at the head has the right to determine security and political issues, including that of the disengagement. If someone disagrees, he may voice that disagreement and also vote in the next election.

If the government should go renegade, as it did in Nazism, in Mao’s and Stalin’s Communism, and in Saddam’s Iraq, then revolution is correct; and God will raise up another nation (such as the United States, or others) to declare a legal and just war against that nation. The disengagement from Gaza was not even close to being considered on the level of Hitler or Hussein. We need discernment, but when one understands the scriptural principles, that discernment does not have to be difficult.

We can see this balance in Yeshua’s response to the Herodians and the Pharisees as to whether he should pay the tax to Caesar. (It’s like someone asking if we are for the disengagement or against it.) If Yeshua said, “Yes”, it would seem to be a betrayal of the nationalistic, messianic aspirations of our people. If He said, “No”, it would seem to be a rebellion against the governing authorities. His astounding answer of “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21) reflects this balance of not giving in to pressure on either side. He recognized God’s ultimate sovereignty, but also His delegated authority in governing bodies.

The application of this principle for us in Israel: it is the government’s duty under God to handle issues of security and politics; it is our duty as believers to spread the Word of God, while we submit to the government in its areas of authority (including taxes and army service). [Note: We are not to take up arms in rebellion (Matthew 26:52), but we are to bear arms under government authority (Romans 13:4).]

The story of Hormah in Numbers 14 is a poignant and relevant example of the depth of man’s rebellion against God. When Moses, as God’s delegated authority, told the people to attack the land, they refused. Afterwards when they saw they were mistaken, they rebelled again and tried to “go ahead” of Moses and attack the land without him (and without God). We do not want to go ahead of God, nor do we want to lag behind Him. Both are forms of rebellion.

How do we know the difference? In order to avoid the Hormah rebellion, we simply need not to demand more than the government, nor demand less. Many of the ultra-Orthodox Jews fought against the state of Israel when God was directing the early leaders under Ben Gurion to go forward. Then in reverse, many of the religious nationalists fought against Sharon and the Israeli government when they deemed it necessary to withdraw from Gaza.

I believe it is God’s will for Christians and Messianic Jews to stand with the Prime Minister of Israel on security, political and land issues. We should stand against the huge international rebellion of both Muslims and Humanists as they try to make Israel cave into pressure to give up our land (Psalm 2). On the other hand we Messianic Jews also need to resist zealotry and pharisaism in our own midst, which tends toward Hormah-like rebellion or religious nationalist delusion.

How could God have said, “No” to all the prayers and tears of the Gaza settlers and the Messianic/Christian Zionists? Well, because it wasn’t His will. God also didn’t answer the prayers of the Lubavitchers when they prayed for Rabbi Schneerson to be raised from the dead. He also didn’t answer the prayers of Rabbi Akiva and his messiah Bar Kochva in leading a rebellion against the Roman invaders, nor of the Zealots who committed suicide at Masada.

Whenever there is a possibility of spiritual deception, we should always be quick to check our hearts for the inherently deluding influences of pride, lust, racism, rebellion, resentment, greed, religiosity, etc. Yeshua warned us that there will be many deluding spirits in the end times (Matthew 24, II Timothy 3). False messianism is so deceptive that Yeshua warned that even the elect need to be careful not to be deluded (Mark 13:22). An example of that deception occurred recently when eight Arabs were killed in two incidents by Jewish terrorists.

God has covenanted to give this entire land to the people of Israel, and He is in the process of restoring the land and the kingdom to our people. All the nations of the world who fight against the land of Israel will be destroyed (Zech. 14, Ezek. 38). However, the primary task of the prophets was to challenge our people to social justice and true faith toward God. If we will seek God’s righteousness, then He will help us enlarge our borders. The job of the prophets was not to encourage nationalistic zeal, but to demand moral repentance (Micah 3:8).

The exception is the book of Joshua, where our people were exhorted to conquer the land. However in that case, there was one requirement: The military and government leader (Joshua) had to bow down to the Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate figure of Yeshua) before the conquest of the land (see Joshua 5:13). The issue was not that God was coming to fight for Israel, but that Israel had to submit to God.

To stand in faith is to stand between a rock and a “hard place,” or as we say in Israel, between a hammer and the anvil. Those who were heroes in my eyes during the disengagement were the soldiers and police. They operated with firmness yet sensitivity and patience. They carried out their duties yet their eyes were wet with compassion. That speaks of the character of Yeshua, with authority and justice on one side and self-sacrificing love on the other.

Leadership authority demands responsibility. Responsibility means taking into consideration the outcomes of one’s decisions. Israeli Prime Ministers often make great claims to the left or the right during their campaign speeches, but they always move to the center when they get into office and have to deal with the reality of an extremely complex situation. Sharon has demonstrated strength and responsibility in handling the disengagement. His motive for the decision was the welfare of the people of Israel. The pressure against him from both the right and the left would have killed a lesser man.

Sharon’s position, as well as that of the majority of the Israeli Knesset and the Israeli people, is that the disengagement from Gaza and a few isolated settlements in northern Samaria are necessary for security purposes and to provide an opportunity for the Palestinians to start to rebuild their society. Further widespread concessions were NOT promised. Ultimately, the destiny of this little nation is to say, “No” to the pressure from all the nations of the world, whether humanistic or Islamic. May we have the strength to do so, and may our Christian friends around the world stand with us.

While some of the settlers showed signs of rebellion and delusion, most of them bravely cooperated with the decision of the government in the midst of a heart-breaking situation. In some sense, they are suffering this loss for the sake of the greater good of the world around them, which also reflects the spirit of the redemptive servant as prophesied in Isaiah and demonstrated by Yeshua. My prayer is that their commitment to the Scriptures and the land of Israel will lead them to faith in the true Messiah.

Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.

He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.

Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.

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