"Take Up Your Cross
and Follow Me"
The Call to Follow His Presence
By David M Rogers
First Edition: Summer 2006
Second Edition: June 2012
Table of Contents
Following the atrocities and horrors in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, and with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, many Jews from around the world have been making aliyah. Aliyah is a Hebrew term which means "going up." It refers to the return of the Jews to the Promised Land. It can also refer to the "going up" to Mount Zion, which is the place where Yahuwah had established his Presence in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). Thus, with the re-establishment of the homeland for Israel, many Jews have "made Aliyah" - they have returned home to the land of Israel.
The government of Israel grants citizenship to all Jews who make aliyah and present legal papers to document their genealogy. But it is very difficult for those who genuinely love the land of Israel, but who are not Jews, to make aliyah and gain citizenship. These people love the Messiah of Scripture and are in covenant relationship with the Creator and strive to obey his Torah. They want to live in the land where Messiah lived and where he will someday establish His Presence again. Those of us who love the land of Israel should do all we can to demonstrate to the government of Israel and to our Jewish friends our good intentions towards them and our desire to live in the land that was promised to those who love the Creator.
Citizenship in Israel should not be given to any and all who enter the land. Clearly, there should be necessary prerequisites. One such contemporary prerequisite is Jewish ancestry. But Jewish blood should not be a requirement. There are many who are of Israeli ancestry, though not of Jewish lineage, who want to be a part of the Israeli community. Additionally, one must be willing to fight and die for the privilege of being a part of the community who lives on that desired real estate. Those who belong to Messiah are willing to fight alongside the Jewish remnant against all hostile usurpers of Yahuwah's promised land.
Accordingly, the Jews were not the only people to whom Elohim promised this land. In fact, the land was promised to all Israel - all twelve tribes. The Jews are descendants of primarily only one tribe - the tribe of Yehudah. If we are to establish and proclaim rights to the Promised Land based on the Hebrew Scriptures, then we must conclude that Israel should belong to all twelve tribes of Ya'acov and their descendants, not just Yehudah.
The record of Scripture, regarding the rights to the land of Israel, begins in Bereshith (Genesis) 12:
Now Yahuwah said to Avram, "Walk yourself (Hebrew, Lech lecha) from your land, your relatives, and your father's household to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I will curse, and all the families of the earth will be blessed in you." So Avram left, just as Yahuwah had told him to do.... (vss 1-4, my translation)
Later, Yahuwah clarifies his promise to bless Avram with descendants:
He took him outside and said, "Peer into the sky and count the stars--if you are able to count them!" Then he said to him, "So will your descendants be." Avram believed Yahuwah, and Yahuwah counted it for righteousness (Bereshith 15:5,6).
This call out of Bavel (Babylon) and into the land of Yahuwah's choice, was given to Avram because of his faithfulness to Yahuwah's instructions and fidelity to Yahuwah's ways, which is made clear by additional statements of Writ:
Then Yahuwah said, "Should I hide from Avraham what I am about to do? After all, Avraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using his name. I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahuwah by doing what is right and just. Then Yahuwah will give to Avraham what he promised him." (Bereshith 18:17-19)
Yahuwah appeared to Yitzchak and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; settle down in the land that I will point out to you. Stay in this land. Then I will be with you and will bless you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants, and I will fulfill the solemn promise I made to your father Avraham. I will multiply your descendants so they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them all these lands. All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants. All this will come to pass because Avraham obeyed me and kept my charge, my commandments, my rules, and my Instructions." (Bereshith 26:2-5)
The "faith" that Avraham was credited with was not mere "mental acknowledgement / belief" in a Creator. The Hebrew concept of emunah ("faith") should be understood to mean "faithfulness" or "fidelity" to his covenant. Thus, as recited above, Avraham's "faith" ("faithfulness") should be interpreted as his heart's intent and the subsequent action of his obedience to Yahuwah's Instructions (written Torah). So, on the basis of his fidelity to Yah's Covenant as seen in his obedience to the revealed Instruction, and for all those who follow in his footsteps, who also walk in the way of faithfulness to the written Torah and to the walking Torah (the Messiah), Yahuwah promises the Land.
Elohim also made to Abraham a promise to give him a "seed" as a co-inheritor of the land of Canaan: "But Yahuwah appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring (seed) I will give this land'" (Bereshith 12:7). And again, "the whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their Elohim" (Bereshith 17:8).
Elohim shortly thereafter began to fulfill this promise by raising up from Abraham the great nation of Israel through Isaac and Jacob. All of them were descendants of Abraham by human birth, but only some of them became spiritual descendants of Abraham by means of their faithfulness to Elohim. And Yahuwah gave the nation of Israel a great deliverance out of Egypt by performing signs and wonders through Mosheh, fully intending to grant them rest in the promised land of Canaan. But, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, "they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief" (3:19). So, forty years later, Mosheh spoke to the new generation and said, "Yahuwah your Elohim has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky" (Deut.1:11).
This was only the beginning of the fulfillment of Elohim's promise to raise up an offspring to Abraham, and to make a great nation from him (see Bereshith 12:2). That generation of Israelites became Abraham's spiritual descendants because they believed Elohim's promises and like Abraham, they were faithful to his Covenant with them. And Elohim allowed them to enter the promised land. But the most significant fact to note here is that the unbelieving first generation to come out of Egypt did not receive the promised land. Only the following generation who trusted in Elohim's promise won the victory over their enemies and entered Canaan.
The fulfillment of that promise is still going on today. The apostle Sha'ul wants us to
understand, then, that those who believe are children (offspring) of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that Elohim would justify the Gentiles by faithfulness, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who are faithful are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faithfulness (Galatians 3:7-9).
When Elohim promised to raise up countless descendants from Abraham and to bless them, he was not talking about just Abraham's physical descendants. Elohim's intention was to raise up and bless a multitude of believers who had faith like Abraham. In Galatians 3:29, Sha'ul explains that "if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." And in another place Sha'ul teaches us that Abraham is the father of all who believe and are not circumcised (Abraham was not immediately circumcised after he was promised the land), and also the father of all who are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of Abraham, the man of faithfulness (see Romans 4:12).
To put it another way, it is only through fidelity to Elohim that a person is considered Abraham's seed. Those who place their trust and hope in Elohim in the same manner that Abraham believes (i.e. "obeys"), become children of the promise. Not all of Abraham's descendants by birth are children of the promise, but only those who are born by the power of Elohim's Spirit. Sha'ul notes that
not all who are descended from Israel (the nation) are Israel (Elohim's true, spiritual people). Nor because they are his (natural born) descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." In other words, it is not the natural children who are Elohim's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring (Romans 9:6-9).
And Sha'ul tells the Galatian believers that "you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise" (4:28).
Therefore, Elohim's promise to Abraham to raise up a multitude of descendants to him was only partially fulfilled in the people who are physical descendants of Israel. Elohim's intent was to raise up a multitude of people who would trust in him, made up of both Jews and Gentiles (Yehudah and Ephraim). Only those of Abraham's descendants by human birth who have faithfulness toward Elohim are considered children of the promise. The remainder of Abraham's offspring by birth are not Elohim's Israel! Everyone who has placed his trust in the living Elohim and exhibits covenant loyalty through faithfulness to his written Instructions is considered to be a descendant of Abraham and a child of the promise.
Furthermore, as the apostle Sha'ul argues in his epistle to the Galatians, Elohim promised not only descendants, but a specific 'seed' who would be the recipient of the promise. This 'seed' is Yeshua the Messiah, who also is Abraham's descendant. Sha'ul writes that "the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Messiah" (3:16). The seed promise, therefore, is fulfilled in the person of Yeshua and in those who have fidelity with him.
In addition to the blessings which Yahuwah promised upon Avram and to his seed, he also spoke of an inheritance of real estate. Regarding the land which Yahuwah had called Avram to walk through, Elohim said to Abraham, "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" (Bereshith 13:14,15). In Bereshith 17:8, Elohim calls the land "the whole land of Canaan," and in 15:18,19, the boundaries of that land are given. So from these three references it is clear that what is roughly the land occupied by the modern nation of Israel is that promised land. (The actual land promised is much larger than the borders of modern Israel.)
One of the mistakes of dispensational theology is that they fail to recognize who the recipients of that inheritance are. Yahuwah said to Abraham, "to your offspring (or 'seed') I will give this land" (Bereshith 12:7). And again, "all the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring ('seed') forever" (Bereshith 13:15). Sha'ul identifies who this seed is in Galatians - that the Messiah is Abraham's seed, and therefore the heir to the land of Canaan. The nation of Israel does not by virtue of their "Jewishness" have the right of inheritance of land formerly occupied by the Cana'ani (Canaanites) as many contemporary Christians and Jews may think. The rightful heir to the land is the Master Yeshua the Messiah. Canaan never belonged to Israel. They were merely renting the land, as it were, from Elohim. Elohim owns the land, and his son is to be the recipient of that inheritance.
Mosheh explained to the Israelites that the land did not belong to them. Among some other regulations he gave them concerning the Year of Jubilee, Elohim commanded through Mosheh that "the land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants" (Lev.25:23). Likewise, Yeshua told a parable about Israel and himself. He explained that a landowner rented his land to some farmers and then went on a journey. When harvest time arrived, he sent one servant after another to collect the fruit of the land, but his servants were sent away empty-handed by the farmers. Finally, he sent his own son. "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'this is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him" (Matthew 21:38,39). Yeshua related this story to the religious leader of Israel, and concluded, "therefore I tell you that the kingdom of Elohim will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (21:43).
The application of the parable is quite obvious to us who have the advantage of hindsight. Yeshua was the son and heir of the land whom the farmers hated and killed. The inheritance was to be taken from these tenants, who are the unbelieving people of Israel, and given to the people who put their faith in Elohim and in his Messiah. The believers in the Renewed Covenant established by Messiah are that privileged group of people and make up Elohim's Israel. So the quotation from the law of Mosheh and the illustration of Messiah's parable confirm that Elohim owns the land and that Yeshua his son is the heir.
In fact, Elohim has appointed Yeshua as heir of all things (see Hebrews 1:2). And the land of the promise will be given to the people who put their faith in Yeshua, not merely to the physical descendants of Abraham! Sha'ul tells us that "if we are children (of Elohim), then we are heirs - heirs of Elohim and co-heirs with Messiah" (Romans 8:17). This is how Sha'ul understood Elohim's promise to Abraham when he said,
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your Elohim and the Elohim of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan...I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be your Elohim (Bereshith 17:7,8).
Therefore, we conclude by a study of the Scriptures that the Promised Land, presently occupied by people of Jewish descent (and also some Arabs and others) actually belongs to Elohim's Messiah. And those who are in covenant relationship to Elohim (those who keep Torah) through the Messiah, whether of Jewish lineage, or of ancestry tracing back through any of the other tribes of Israel, or even of purely Gentile genealogy, are the rightful heirs of the Promised Land.
The right to the Promised Land is never promised in the Scriptures to just the tribe of Yehudah. The inheritance was given to all 12 tribes of Yisrael. Thus, all Yisrael should be given the opportunity to return (make aliyah) to the land of Israel.
The exile from and return to the land of Israel is a theme laced throughout the Scriptures. It begins in Devarim 28 when Mosheh is delivering the blessings and curses of the Covenant. Blessings are promised in abundance upon Israel on the condition that they continue in faithful obedience to the Instructions. And curses and bad times are promised to Israel should they decide not to follow in Yahuwah's ways. Among those curses to a disobedient and obstinate Israel is exile from Yahuwah's blessings and inheritance of land:
"If you refuse to obey all the words of this instruction, the things written in this scroll, and refuse to fear this glorious and awesome name, Yahuwah your Elohim, then Yahuwah will increase your punishments and those of your descendants--great and long-lasting afflictions and severe, enduring illnesses. He will infect you with all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will persistently afflict you. Moreover, Yahuwah will bring upon you every kind of sickness and plague not mentioned in this scroll of Instructions until you have perished. There will be very few of you left, though at one time you were as numerous as the stars in the sky, because you will have disobeyed Yahuwah your Elohim. This is what will happen: Just as Yahuwah delighted to do good for you and make you numerous, he will take delight in destroying and decimating you. You will be uprooted from the land that you are about to possess. Yahuwah will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other elohim that neither you nor your ancestors have known, elohim of wood and stone. Among those nations you will have no rest nor will there be a place of peaceful rest for the soles of your feet, for there Yahuwah will give you an anxious heart, failing eyesight, and a spirit of despair. (Devarim 28:58-65)
Anyone with an ounce of discernment will recognize that the punishments described above (and in the verses preceding which I left out for the sake of brevity) exactly describe the plight of the Jewish people. The wanderings of the Jews for many centuries and finally the terrible Holocaust of the twentieth century is the fulfillment of the promises and prophesies delivered to the nation thousands of years ago. Yahuwah has been punishing the Jewish people because they have refused to obey the written Scriptures and Instructions given to them by Mosheh.
But there are also numerous instances where Yahuwah, through his prophets, describes a time in the future (which is now beginning to be fulfilled) when his kindness to the Jews and all of Israel is demonstrated by bringing them back to the land of promise.
"I (says Yahuwah) will strengthen the kingdom of Yehudah and deliver Yoseph and will bring them back because of my compassion for them. They will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am Yahuwah their Elohim and therefore I will hear them. The Ephraimites will be like warriors and will rejoice as if they had drunk wine. Their children will see it and rejoice; they will celebrate in the things of Yahuwah. I will signal for them and gather them, for I have already redeemed them; then they will become as numerous as they were before. Though I sow them among the nations, they will remember in far-off places--they and their children will sprout forth and return. I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria. I will bring them to the lands of Gilead and Lebanon, for there will not be enough room for them in their own land (Zecharyah 10:6-10).
Note carefully that the promise to return to the land (i.e. "make aliyah") is given, not just to the Jews, but to all Israel (in verse 6 called "Yoseph")!
Hoshea describes this same return of the tribes of Israel. In this parallel passage to Zecharyah 10, those that return to the land also come from "Egypt" and "Assyria." This is likely a reference to the northern 10 tribes who were taken to exile in Assyria and who have not, to this point, been returned to the homeland:
He will roar like a lion, and they will follow Yahuwah; when he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will return in fear and trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria, and I will settle them in their homes," declares Yahuwah (Hoshea 11:10,11).
These "children" of His, are now called "Gentiles" but who are actually the northern tribes of Israel scattered abroad among the nations. These are the ones who are promised in prophesy to return.
Yechezqel also prophesies of the return of all the tribes of Israel:
"Therefore say: 'This is what Adonai Yahuwah says: I will regather you from the peoples and will assemble you from the lands where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Yisrael.' When they return to it, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their bodies and I will give them a heart of flesh, so that they may obey my rules and keep my laws and observe them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their Elohim (Yechezqel 11:17-20).
This prophesy is not yet fulfilled. The Jews have not done this, even though they have returned, in part, to the land. The detestable things and the abominations still exist in the land. The Muslim Dome of the Rock, which is situated on the temple mount, and is dedicated to the pagan moon god, is detestable in Yahuwah's sight. Why haven't the Jews removed these detestable things? This would indicate that the present aliyah of the Jews is NOT the fulfillment of Scripture prophesy, because they have not removed these detestable things from the land, much less, from the very set-apart place where Yahuwah's Presence tabernacled!
The prophet Yirmyahu also speaks to the issue of exiled Israel returning to the land:
So I, Yahuwah, tell you not to be afraid, you descendants of Ya'acov, my servants. Don't be terrified, people of Yisrael. For I will rescue you and your descendants from a faraway land where you are captives. The descendants of Ya'acov will return to their land and enjoy peace. They will be secure and not have anyone to make them afraid. For I, Yahuwah, affirm that I will be with you and will rescue you. I will completely destroy all the nations where I scattered you. But I will not completely destroy you. I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure. I will not let you go entirely unpunished" (Yirmyahu 30:10,11).
The "descendants of Ya'acov" are NOT just Jews. Ya'acov had twelve sons! Thus, the scattered tribes of Israel, who repent and return to covenant loyalty to their Creator, are going to be given the Land of promise to inherit, in the last days. When this prophesy finds fulfillment, there will be lasting peace and security for all Israel, which we are well aware is not the case now!
The reference above where Yahuwah will destroy the nations where Israel was scattered is the topic of Yoel's statement:
For look! In those days and at that time I will return the exiles to Yehudahh and Yerushalayim. Then I will gather all the nations, and bring them down to the valley of Yehoshaphat. I will enter into judgment against them there concerning my people Yisrael who are my inheritance, whom they scattered among the nations (Yoel 3:1,2).
This gathering of the children of Israel will take place at the time of judgment when Messiah returns to intercede on behalf of his people.
Again, Yirmyahu speaks of the return of Rachel's children:
Yahuwah says, "A sound is heard in Ramah, a sound of crying in bitter grief. It is the sound of Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are gone." Yahuwah says to her, "Stop crying and don't shed any more tears. For your continuous mourning will be rewarded. Your children will return from the land of the enemy. I, Yahuwah, affirm it. Indeed, there is hope for your posterity. Your children will return to their own territory. I, Yahuwah, affirm it.
If I'm not mistaken, Rachel's children did not include the Jews. Rachel bore Yoseph and Binyamin. And Yoseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Again, this is a clear indication that the Jews should allow all who are making aliyah to Israel to have citizenship in Israel, not just the tribe of Yehudah.
Finally, Yirmyahu details the return of the northern and southern kingdoms to the land of Israel. Both Israel (the Northern kingdom) and Yehudah (the southern kingdom) are named as those who are to return to inherit ha-aretz:
Indeed, the people of Yisrael are my dear children. They are the
children I take delight in. For even though I must often speak against
them, I still remember them with fondness. So I am deeply moved with pity
for them and will surely have compassion on them. I, Yahuwah, affirm it. I will say, 'My dear children of Yisrael, keep in mind the road you took
when you were carried off. Mark off in your minds the landmarks. Make a
mental note of telltale signs marking the way back. Return, my dear
children of Yisrael. Return to these cities of yours. How long will you vacillate, you who were once like an unfaithful
daughter? For I, Yahuwah, promise to bring about something new on the
earth, something as unique as a woman protecting a man.'"
The children if Yisrael are Yahuwah's delight. They will be restored to their land. Note that both Yisrael and Yehudahh are named in this text. Then in verse 27, both the lands of the northern and southern kingdoms will be inhabited in the end times.
Israel's journeying in the desert between Mitsrayim and Yisrael, provides for us valuable insights into the inheritance of the land of promise. All those, who in faithfulness to Yahuwah, put blood on the doorposts and lintels of their homes, were spared the death messenger. These, along with many sympathizing Gentiles who put their trust in Yahuwah, came out of Mitsrayim in a great deliverance.
At this point in the story, many Gentiles were joined to Yahuwah's people and became Israel, along with those native born citizens. These Gentiles were on the journey to the promised land and would have inherited the land, just as the native born. But then came the testing in the desert. Yahuwah brought their way situations which tested the people and the people continuously grumbled, griped, complained and failed to trust and obey their Elohim. Finally, Yahuwah became very angry with those people. Psalm 95:8-11 records Yahuwah's judgment of his people:
He says, "Do not be stubborn like they were at Meribah, like they were that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors challenged my authority, and tried my patience, even though they had seen my work. For forty years I was continually disgusted with that generation, and I said, 'These people desire to go astray; they do not obey my commands.' So I made a vow in my anger, 'They will never enter into the resting place I had set aside for them.'"
The nation of Israel had forfeited the promised inheritance by refusing to obey Yahuwah's instructions. The writer to the Hebrews says it this way:
Look out, brothers, lest there be in any of you a wicked heart of unbelief in falling away from the living Elohim, but encourage one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened by the deceivableness of sin. For we have become partakers of Messiah if we hold fast the beginning of our trust firm to the end, while it is said, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who, having heard, rebelled? Was it not all who came out of Mitsrayim, led by Mosheh? And with whom was He grieved forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter into His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they were unable to enter in because of unbelief (Hebrew 3:12-19).
These Scriptures tell the same story as those in regard to the faithfulness of Avraham. Inheritance does not depend upon physical descent. Just because one is a Jew or a descendant of the sons of Israel does not guarantee that one gains the inheritance of the sons of Israel. Elohim has promised to pass on that inheritance, not to all physical descendants of Israel or of Avraham. Those who follow in the footsteps of the faithfulness to the covenant which Avraham exhibited and which Isaac displayed will gain the inheritance of the land of Israel.
Therefore, the land of Israel should belong, not just to Jews because they are Jewish, but to all who place their allegiance to the Elohim of Israel - who show covenant loyalty to Him by keeping and obeying the written Torah.
The second generation of the sons of Israel who left Mitzrayim did enter the land. Why? Because they obeyed Yahuwah's commandments and did not doubt his word. They entered as they were instructed without grumbling. They destroyed those peoples who dwelt in the land - just as they were instructed. Again, obedience to the words which proceed out of the mouth of Elohim (the written Torah) results in one being counted among the sons of Israel who enter into the inheritance promised to Avraham and to his seed.
Remember that our father Avraham was told to
Walk yourself from your land, your relatives, and your father's household to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I will curse, and all the families of the earth will be blessed in you" (Bereshith 12:1-3).
And we are told that Avraham journeyed from Ur to the land that Yahuwah was showing him. His travels consisted of wandering from one end of the land to the other. He walked from north to south, from east to west in that land.
Now as we read through the narrative, an interesting pattern emerges:
12:4 So Avram left, just as Yahuwah had told him to do.... 5 ...They entered the land of Canaan. 6 Avram traveled through the land as far as the oak tree of Moreh at Shechem.... 8 Then he moved from there ... and pitched his tent... 9 Avram continually journeyed.... 13:3 And he journeyed from place to place from the Negev as far as Bethel. He returned to the place where he had pitched his tent at the beginning.... 12 Avram settled in the land of Canaan, but Lot settled ... and pitched his tents next to Sodom.... 14 Yahuwah said to Avram, "Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west.... 17 Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you." 18 So Avram moved his tents... (Bereshith 12).
Avraham and his household lived in tents. Their journeys required that they take down their tents, break camp, travel, establish camp by setting up their tents. Thus, Avraham literally picked up his tent and followed Yahuwah and went wherever Elohim told him to go.
The journeying of the camp of Israel in the Sinai desert followed a similar pattern. They, too, lived in tents in the wilderness.
On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle--the tent of the testimony--and from evening until morning there was a fiery appearance over the tabernacle. This is the way it used to be continually: The cloud would cover it by day, and there was a fiery appearance by night. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the sons of Yisrael would journey; and in whatever place the cloud settled, there the sons of Yisrael would camp. At the commandment of Yahuwah the sons of Yisrael would journey, and at the commandment of Yahuwah they would camp; as long as the cloud would settle over the tabernacle they would camp. When the cloud prolonged its stay many days, then the sons of Yisrael kept the Instructions of Yahuwah and did not journey. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a number of days, they remained camped according to the commandment of Yahuwah, and according to the commandment of Yahuwah they would journey. And when the cloud remained only from evening until morning, when the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed. Whether by day or by night, when the cloud was taken up they journeyed. Whether it was for two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud stayed longer over the tabernacle, the sons of Yisrael remained camped without journeying; but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of Yahuwah they camped, and at the commandment of Yahuwah they journeyed; they kept the Instructions of Yahuwah according to the commandment of Yahuwah, by the authority of Mosheh (Bemidhbar 9:15-23).)
The sons of Yisrael learned this valuable lesson in the wilderness: wherever Yahuwah leads, we must follow. When the cloud of Yahuwah's presence stopped, the nation stopped and setup camp by pitching their tents. When the cloud of Yahuwah's presence moved on, all of Yisrael picked up their tent poles, broke camp and followed Yahuwah to wherever he led them.
This is how it is to be for all those who make covenant with Yahuwah. He issues the commands, and we obey. Yahuwah says "go this way," and we are to go that way. Yahuwah says, "pitch your tents here," and we pitch our tents. Yahuwah says, "Pick up your tent and follow me" and we pick up and follow. This denial of one's own will and accompanied submission to Yahuwah's will is the essence of discipleship such as we see with the Messiah and his disciples.
This is exactly what Messiah Yeshua was teaching his disciples in a much misunderstood and misinterpreted saying in the Brit Chadashah.
Then Yeshua said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to follow after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what can a person give in exchange for his life? (Mattityahu 16:24-26).
Popular Christian interpretation views this as Messiah's invitation to join him in his march to death (i.e. the cross as symbolic of death). Much is made of Christians "taking up their crosses" as if Messiah were telling everyone that they must be hung on a tree like he was.
But this is not the main thrust of what Yeshua was instructing here. At the time and in the context Yeshua made this statement, there was no reason why the disciples would have understood his words as suggesting that they must thrust their own cross on their back and follow Jesus. The disciples didn't even have a clue to this point that Yeshua would be hung on a stake.
The Greek word translated "cross" in most English Bibles is stauro,j pronounced "stauros." A stauros is defined by "New Testament scholars" as an 'upright, pointed stake’ or ‘pale,’ a pole to be placed in the ground and used for capital punishment, and is usually translated by "scholars" as cross. It comes from the root word stauro,w “stauro-ow” which means 1. to stake, drive down stakes 2. to fortify with driven stakes, to palisade: or 3. to crucify, hang.
Put yourself in a Hebrew frame of mind, which is set in a culture which understands the history of Israel and the Hebrew language and you will come to understand this: When instructing his followers about how they are to be his disciples, Yeshua was alluding to the well known principle which was the lifestyle of all of the prophets and the people of Israel, particularly the experience of Avraham and the children of Israel wandering in the desert. Their experience in following Yahuwah was to pick up their tents and go where he told them to go.
The stauros in the New Testament text corresponds to the pole of a tent! It is a stake or a pole. When you pick up your tent to move on, you literally have to take up your pole and pull up your stakes to move your tent. Thus Yeshua was not telling his disciples to carry their death symbol on their backs, but to move their tents by picking up the pole and pulling up their tent stakes and follow the cloud of Yahuwah's Presence as in the wilderness wanderings!
Discipleship is all about doing what the Master wants us to do. This saying from Yeshua was all about that. The Master is not asking us to carry around our "electric chair" or our "noose" or our "cross"! What would be the purpose of that?! He is telling us to be ready to move our tent (and thus ourselves) wherever Yahuwah leads us to go. So, we understand the saying to be interpreted as this: "If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must lay aside his own plans and desires and pick up his tent and follow me where I will lead him to go." What follows in verse 25 is explanatory to the need to go where Yahuwah wants us to go. If we do not go where he leads, we will surely die without him. But if we forfeit our own desires and go where he leads, we will gain eternal life.
Supporting this interpretation are the details which immediately follow this saying of the Master. After the recording of this saying in Mattityahu 16, we have the account of the transfiguration of Yeshua. He shone as bright as the sun. And we are told that while he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!" (17:5). This overshadowing cloud in which Yahuwah (the Father) dwelt was reminiscent to the disciples of the overshadowing cloud of His Presence while Israel wandered in the wilderness. When the cloud lifted and moved, the Israelis picked up their poles and followed until the cloud settled and then they set up their tents again.
The other text in which the "cross" is mentioned, further supports this understanding of the text. Avram was told to "walk yourself from your land, your relatives, and your father's household to the land that I will show you." (Ber 12:1) The command was essentially to regard father and mother as of lesser importance to Yahuwah's will. Thus, Avraham left his father and mother in order to go where Yahuwah wanted him to sojourn.
So, in Mattityahu 10, Yeshua instructed his followers,
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his stake (tent pole, usually translated "cross") and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it (10:37-39).
Like Abraham, we who are followers of the Messiah are instructed to leave father and mother, and our place of residence and our relatives (son and daughter). We are told to pick up our tent poles (our residence) and go to the land that he will show us. And that land which we will someday inherit is Eretz Yisrael. This should be the lifestyle of all who follow Messiah. The Holy Spirit leads us the in way we should go. Thus, we should be listening to his still, quiet voice in order to follow him wherever he leads us.
Avram's call out of Babylon to the promised land is not for him alone! The Scriptures record that Avram's father, Terah, had set out to go to Cana'an:
Terah took his son Avram, his grandson Lot (the son of Haran), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Avram's wife, and with them he set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. When they came to Haran, they settled there (Bereshith 11:31).
The map below, of the Middle East at that time, shows that Ur of the Chaldeans was a city located in ancient Bavel (Babylon):
Avram's call to leave his father's house was essentially a call to come all the way out of Babylon! What his father had failed to do (go all the way to Cana'an), Avram was instructed to do:
1 Now Yahuwah said to Avram, "Walk
yourself from your land, your relatives, and your father's household to
the land that I will show you....
Avram obeyed when Yahuwah instructed him to "come out of Babylon, my people." And this call out of "Babylon" is for all who walk in the footsteps of Avraham:
He shouted with a powerful voice: "Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great! She has become a lair for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detested beast. For all the nations have fallen from the wine of her immoral passion, and the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have gotten rich from the power of her sensual behavior." Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, so you will not take part in her sins and so you will not receive her plagues (Revelation 18:2-4)
All who walk in Avraham's footsteps, who follow the Messiah, who love Yahuwah and who seek to obey Torah are called out of Babylon and to the land which Yahuwah will show us.
As recorded in Revelation 14, the people who belong to Yahuwah and to the Lamb at the time of his return out of the sky are seen standing with the Lamb on Mount Tsion:
Then I looked, and here was the Lamb standing on Mount Tsion, and with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand, who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (verse 1)
Note that these standing with him are the faithful ones. "They are those who were not defiled with women, for they are maidens" (verse 4). And like Abraham, like those wondering in the desert on the way to the promised land, and like those who are exhorted by the Lamb to "take up your tent pole and follow me," these are described as "those following the Lamb wherever He leads on" (Rev. 14:4). Those who obey the call of Yahuwah are found to be, in the last day, standing with him on Mt Tzion, at the time of his return. These are those who have made aliyah.
The Holy Spirit will lead some to relocate to Israel to see him descend upon Mount of Olives. Others will be led elsewhere and will be gathered from the four winds by the angels at the time of the last trump. Either way, let's follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
Not only did Messiah tell his disciples to leave father and mother and take up their tent poles and follow him, but the followers of Yeshua are also instructed to "come out of her (Babylon) my people." Avraham and all who faithfully commit to covenant relationship to Yahuwah by following the written Torah are told to leave Babylon, leave father and mother, leave relatives to go to the place which we will one day inherit.
Aliyah to Israel in not just for the Jews anymore! That Scriptural call is for all who love Yahuwah Elohim with all their mind, life and strength. Making aliyah is for all the followers of Yeshua the Messiah - for all who want to inherit eternal life with Messiah in his set-apart kingdom, the home of righteousness. Aliyah is for Jew and Gentile who are in Messiah.
We hope that someday soon, the secular state of Israel will recognize the claim on the land of Israel that those have who follow the Messiah and the written Torah. May Yahuwah turn their hearts toward Him and open up Israel for those who love Her and who will prosper Her - those who are committed to peace, Messiah and Torah observance.
May it be so.