Stand With Israel

Part 4 Why Does Israel Still Matter: Joni Mitchell & The Divine Council

Before I try and summarize the idea of election in Part 5, here’s something a little unusual. I hope you will at least find it interesting.

Joni Mitchell once sang that she didn’t know clouds or life or love but that it was just their illusions she recalled. With the heart of an Irish poet and a voice as crisp and clear as mountain air on a frosty morning, she made a substantial contribution to the soundtrack of my youth… probably yours too.

Joni may not have known life or love or clouds, but it turns out she knew the Lord, at least back then. She said in an interview in the early 1970’s that although she’d given up on religion, she very much believed in and loved God. She’d found herself caught up in the “born-again-Christian” thing that was happening in the late 60’s and early 70’s… we know it as “The Jesus movement”. 

At just 27, Joni Mitchell realized the ears of a generation of young people were listening to her and she had a moment of prophetic clarity. On the eve of a music festival being held on a farm in upstate New York she wrote a hymn that became the anthem for a generation of peace lovers. The song “Woodstock” was named for the village hosting the music festival and was immortalized by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. 

You might be thinking, what does Joni Mitchell’s song “Woodstock” have to do with the subject, “Why Does Israel Still Matter”? 

I’ll tell you… but first, let me connect some dots from the Hebrew Scriptures and The Greek New Testament that will bring some definition to the big picture so, like long distance swimmers, we can sort of pick up our heads and see where we’re going.

In the Hebrew Bible, the “Divine Council” is the ruling body consisting of Yahweh as the supreme monarch accompanied by various created yet supernatural attendants. According to Princeton Theologian Patrick Miller, the “Divine Council” is one of the central cosmological symbols in the Hebrew Bible and one of the ways used to explain how God maintains order in creation. 

Biblically speaking, God creates and then rules the visible and invisible universe by working through innumerable hosts of angelic and human volunteers.

Could God do it alone? Yes and No. As the early Church Fathers taught, when we say God we mean Father, Son & Holy Spirit, a being whose very essence is relationship, so to use the word “alone” in respect to God would be inaccurate.

So, as God IS relationship, it follows that his creation would reflect that reality. 

It was the Jew Albert Einstein who said the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. Einstein discovered a deep logic hidden within nature in which light, space-time, matter and energy are all bound up together in relationships.

Again, it follows that the way the FS&HS manage the cosmos mirrors their essence, a being in relationship. For this reason they rule the cosmos by allowing their created beings, both spiritual and physical, to help them without coercion which is, admittedly, a mystery to us.

For some context and as a backdrop, here are excerpts from some of the oldest Hebrew scriptures; Job 1:6; Psalm 82:1; Deuteronomy 32:7-9 and Deuteronomy 4:19-20. (The oldest and best manuscripts use sons of God versus sons of Israel)

In Genesis 10, centuries after Noah’s flood, we are given what’s called “The table of nations” where Noah’s 3 sons and their sons are listed. Approximately 339 years later, in Genesis 11 we come to the story of the tower of Babel. Babel is where Yahweh and His entourage come to see the tower Nimrod was erecting, eventually resulting in the confusion of their language and the establishment of nations. Afterward, Yahweh disperses all 70 nations across the face of the known world. From that point forward all of the descendants of Noah were given over to be ruled by members of Yahweh’s divine council, the “bene-elohim”… aka the sons of God.

It turns out that some of the “sons of God” remained loyal to Yahweh while others became disloyal (see Psalm 82). 

We pick up the trail of these disloyal “sons of God” later on in the Greek New Testament when St. Paul warns the Ephesian church in Ephesians 6:12.  St. Paul understood this was the common world view of the first century Jew not to mention of the surrounding nations.

What happens next, in Genesis 12, is that immediately after turning the nations and the bene-elohim over to one another we get another clue to Yahweh’s redeeming genius. God plucks Abram right out from the middle of the nations that he had just turned over to the bene-elohim, to be ruled by them… and promises Abram that he would become a great nation… and that through him, all the nations would be blessed. 

Abrahams grandson, Jacob, would wrestle with God and Yahweh would change his name to Israel and Israel’s descendants would become Yahweh’s own inheritance (Isaiah 19:25). 

It was a promise first made in Genesis 12:7, then reiterated in Genesis 26:3, and again in Genesis 28:3-15 and Leviticus 25:23, and then, fast forward through a few thousand years to Psalm 2:7-8. 

St. Paul picks up on this theme in the Greek New Testament. See Ephesians 3:4-6, Colossians 1:6-7, Colossians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 and 1 Corinthians 15:24 

In these passages, St. Paul discloses the secret of the ages that had been hidden in God the whole time. He always knew and intended that the temporarily disinherited nations from Genesis 11 would become fellow-heirs. 

It was given to St. Paul and also to us to declare to those temporarily disinherited nations the stunning news of their reconciliation to God. That He no longer held their transgression against them.

Like the most ridiculous plot twist of all time, the mystery of Yahweh’s wisdom was finally revealed to those disloyal principalities, powers, and rulers when Yeshua/Jesus disarmed them and made them a public spectacle both on the cross and through his resurrection. 

Recall how Yeshua told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem and they would receive power from the Holy Spirit. When that day came, the streets of Jerusalem were full of Jews returning for Shavuot/Pentecost, many from an earlier diaspora. These scattered Jews would hear the gospel preached to them in their own language, languages that had been confused since Babel.

That day, 3,000 people were added to the number of believers and many would eventually return to the nations… carrying a seed. St. Paul would spend the rest of his life watering and planting to carry out Yahweh’s master plan to redeem the nations … a process that continues today through us. 

Yahweh gave his covenant people Israel plenty of warnings and, although being scattered to the nations was discipline and punishment to the Jew, it was and still is a blessing to the nations.

It reminds me of the special forces motto, “No man left behind” a burden that issues from the very heart of God. Yahweh’s eternal plan has always been to circle back and redeem the nations through the one seed of the woman, a Jew named Yeshua/Jesus.

Israel, the people entrusted with the oracles of God, has been scattered across the earth like seeds more than once and, to this day, remain mostly scattered. Somehow, they continue to be the key to how Yahweh is going to redeem the entire cosmos. 

And now, like a long slow curve ball coming back in over home plate, this is where the theme of Joni Mitchells song, “Woodstock” comes back into focus.

Why did the Father of Yeshua do all of this? Maybe because the end game He had in mind from the very beginning was to get all of us, in the words of Joni Mitchell, “Back to the Garden”. 

The policy of the British Crown at the height of its power was to make the world England. Although corrupted by men, this desire for world hegemony that has played out through kings, emperors, tyrants and maniacs originates in the heart of our triune God who will one day BE all IN all. 1 Corinthians 15:28

The Father, Son & Holy Spirit placed Adam and Eve in the garden and commissioned them to make the world Eden. We get to help fulfill Yahweh’s original vision, and to subdue the earth and make it Eden again.

Next in Part 5 of Why Does Israel Still Matter

The inner logic of election

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