Stand With Israel

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

Before I summarize the idea of election in Part 5, here’s something unusual. I hope you find it interesting.

Joni Mitchell once sang that she didn’t know clouds, 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… maybe yours too.

Joni may not have known life, love, or clouds, but she knew the Lord back then. She said in an interview in the early 1970s that although she’d given up on religion, she believed in and loved God very much. She found herself caught up in the “born-again-Christian” thing happening in the late 60s and early 70s… 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 songs, and she had a moment of prophetic clarity. On the eve of a music festival 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 festival and 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 between the Hebrew Scriptures and The Greek New Testament. Hopefully, this will bring more definition to the bigger 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 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 said, “when we say God, we mean Father, Son & Holy Spirit,” a being whose very essence is a relationship, so to use the word “alone” concerning God would be an oxymoron.

Interestingly, it was the Jew Albert Einstein who said the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. Among other discoveries, Einstein found a profound logic in nature in which light, space-time, matter, and energy are all bound together in relationships. Since God IS a relationship, it makes sense his creation would reflect that reality. 

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 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 three sons and grandsons are listed. Three hundred thirty-three years later, in Genesis 11, we come to the story of Babel. Babel is where Yahweh and His entourage come to see the tower Nimrod was erecting. The scene eventually resulted in the confusion of their language and the establishment of 70 nations. 

Afterward, Yahweh disperses them 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 the disloyal “sons of God” later in the Greek New Testament. St. Paul warns the Ephesian church about them in Ephesians 6:12. He understood this was the traditional worldview of the first-century Jew, not to mention 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 them and promises to make him a great nation… and that all the nations will be blessed through him. 
Later, Abrahams’s grandson, Jacob, would wrestle with God, Yahweh would change his name to Israel, and his descendants would become Yahweh’s 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, Paul is disclosing a secret of the ages 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 us to declare the startling news of their reconciliation to God to those temporarily disinherited nations. That He no longer held their transgression against them.

In 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 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 descended from an earlier diaspora. These scattered Jews heard 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 those seeds and planting others 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. Although being scattered to the nations was discipline and punishment to the Jews, 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, have been scattered across the earth like seeds more than once and, to this day, remain mostly scattered. Somehow, they remain the key to how Yahweh will redeem the entire cosmos. And now, like a slow curve ball coming back over home plate, this is where the theme of Joni Mitchell’s 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 beginning was to get all of us, in the words of Joni Mitchell, “Back to the Garden.” 

I’ve read that at the height of the British Empire, the unofficial policy of the British Crown was to make the world England. Although corrupted by kings, emperors, tyrants, and maniacs, this desire for worldwide hegemony 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, subdue the earth, and make it Eden again.

Next: Part 5 of Why Does Israel Still Matter: The inner logic of Election

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