One of the great promises of the end times is that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. This was first prophesied by Joel, and then partially fulfilled on the day of Shavuot, when Simon Peter preached his first message under the influence of the Holy Spirit. When men accused him of being drunk, he said, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:16).

Yet, Joel’s prophecy was so much more extensive than what took place on Shavuot. There was no “blood, fire, and billows of smoke” and it clearly was not “the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Yet, like many prophecies, this one had a partial fulfillment in Acts 2, and will have a full fulfillment in the last days.

All Flesh?

In this blog, I want to focus on one misunderstood phrase. In Joel 2:28, we see the famous words, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

The NIV gets closer to the meaning, but it doesn’t really say, all people, but in Hebrew “all flesh-basar-בשר.” This is one reason I like the NIV—they used common sense to help us understand the original intent of the author. Clearly God was not saying He would pour out His spirit on dogs and cats or sheep and goats. Clearly, He meant people. But it doesn’t even mean all people.

Prophets, Priests and Kings

Not everyone under the Old Covenant could experience the presence of God at the same level. The Levites were different from the regular Hebrews. The Cohanim (Priests) were higher than the rest of the Levites. And, of course, there were those who walked in an even higher level of anointing – like the prophets of Israel. When Samuel anointed David as king, the Spirit of came on David, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” (2 Sam. 16:13). And, of course, there were differences between men and women in society, not to mention servants and slaves.

The Mystery of the New Covenant

What Joel is referring to, at least in the first part of his prophecy, is the advent of the New Covenant. It is the great mystery that even the apostles missed until that fateful day in Cornelius’ house when the Spirit of God did the unthinkable – He filled Gentiles, as they spoke in tongues.

The mystery is that under the New Covenant—initiated on the cross, but corporately birthed on Shavuot—is that anyone, no matter their gender, race or standing in society can enjoy a deep experience with the Holy Spirit. Look at Joel’s emphasis:

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams; your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29).

The idea of a servant or a woman being used by God or enjoying deep intimacy with the Spirit of God was very rare under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, it is the norm. So when He says, “all flesh,” He means without distinction. The Holy Spirit is not just going to fall on every human being, no matter their desire or lack thereof for God, but rather anyone who wants more can have more!

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

This would be the correct understanding of Paul in Galatians.

So in Messiah Yeshua Jesus you are all children of God through faith … There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. (Gal. 3:26, 28).

He is not saying there are no longer distinctions between Jew and Gentile (Rom. 11:29) any more than he is saying men and women have no distinctions. He is saying that despite those distinctions, nothing can hold you back from the Spirit of God. No one can tell you, “You can’t prophesy, because you are a woman,” or “You can’t be used of God, because you are a slave,” or “You cannot be as close to the Father as Jewish believers.”

William Seymour

God used a one-eyed, black man to birth the Azusa Street Revival in 1906. He had to overcome all kinds of racism. Forced to sit outside of the door of a bible school, he studied for ministry. White men told him he could not study the word in the classroom because He was black. Instead of getting bitter, he pursued God; and God used him to change the world.

Yes, there needs to be order. I believe in submission to authority. And I believe we all have different roles, functions and gifts. But nothing and no one can hold you back from experiencing God. When it comes to our gifts and callings, God chooses. But when it comes to intimacy with Yeshua through the Holy Spirit, there are no limits!

When Joel says that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, he means that any human who wants the Spirit can have the Spirit. In fact, it is God’s great desire to give you more.

 

 

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Peter, in many ways, was Yeshua’s most difficult leadership training project—but also the most important. The New Testament reader may scratch his head a few times, on his way to the book of Acts, wondering, “Really? This guy?” And, still, he gets a cool nickname—Rock, (Matt. 16:18). The original Rock, by the way, in case Dwayne Johnson is reading!

But his real undoing comes just before Yeshua dies. This is the same bold Peter who:

  • Wanted to build tabernacles for Moses and Elijah (not recognizing that they pale in comparison to God’s beloved Son!).
  • Walked on water before falling in.
  • Who would hours later cut off someone’s ear.
  • Who rebuked Yeshua for saying He would soon die and gets rebuked right back.

Not me, Lord!

Yes, this same Peter is now sitting around the Passover table with Yeshua and the disciples, when Yeshua shocks them by saying, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (Matt. 26:21). Later in the meal, Yeshua tells them something even more difficult. “You will all fall away because of me this night.” (Matt. 26:31).

And then this famous exchange:

Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Yeshua said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. (Matt. 26:33-35).

Wow! Willing to die with Him. And then…later, on that evening, Yeshua is arrested. The disciples are stunned! They are in the Garden of Gethsemane praying…or at least Yeshua was praying…when Judas shows up, “with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.” (Matt. 26:47). They take him away.

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Yeshua the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Yeshua of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” (Matt. 26:69-74).

He, our bold father in the faith, didn’t just deny him; he called down curses on himself! And then, Peter has a moment just like when Nathan the prophet pointed his prophetic finger at the murdering, adulterer King David, and said, “Thou art the man!” (2 Sam. 12).

And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Yeshua, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matt. 26:74-75).

Peter the bold was broken. The most radical disciple was ruined—the most courageous of them all was crushed. The Messiah was arrested, and in a few hours, crucified and dead. The humiliated Simon hunkered down in the upper room—all had been lost.

Charcoal Fire

Now we know from John that a fire had been started:

Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. (John 18:18).

And that before Peter denied knowing Yeshua, he went to warm himself by this very fire. I’ll come back to this.

Looked like the end for Peter

The Lord has His work cut out for him in terms of rebuilding the ruined Rock. Peter was guilt-ridden. Much like Joseph felt in jail all those years after thinking that God showed him he would be a great leader—or like David, after being anointed to be king, slaying the giant and leading the armies of Israel—suddenly finding himself being chased by a demon-possessed King for next decade or more—Peter, who had planned to be a general in Yeshua’s revolution, must have felt so foolish and presumptuous.

But then the Angel appears to Mariam Hamagdalit and tells her,

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7).

How encouraging. He singles out the denier, as if to say, I still have a plan for you, Peter.

Going Ahead of you into Galilee

Then a few weeks later, back in the Galilee, the guys go fishing. Yeshua has revealed himself to the disciples twice but they have no real direction. Peter and Yeshua still have some unfinished business. At the end of a long night of fruitless fishing, they are on their way back, when a man calls out…

“Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

These were grown men and He calls them children. That should have been the first clue. Next, he asks them to cast on the other side. How could they not remember that first calling of the disciples in Luke 5, where He had them cast on the other side and they were overwhelmed by the number of fish?

But, it seems, they still were dull. However, once they saw the number of fish, John turns to Peter and said, “It’s the Lord.” Bold Peter, jumps out of the boat and runs through the water to get to Yeshua. Who knew when He would appear again?

Now it gets real!

When Peter gets to shore, he sees a familiar, painful site: a charcoal fire.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” (John 21:9-10).

Yes, it was next to a charcoal fire that the Rock denied the Lord. He called down curses. It was time for a little internal surgery. After the meal, Yeshua asks Peter three times if he loves Him. The only place in the New Testament that this term “charcoal fire” is used is in John 18 and 21—the first, the place of the denial, and the second, this place of healing.

Yeshua starts by calling him Simon and not Peter (or Rock). It would seem silly to call him Rock after such an astonishing failure. First, it was time to get serious. Much has been made by the changing of the Greek word for love there, and clearly there is something to that—but my focus here is that next to the charcoal fire of denial, He is restored to be the Lord’s first evangelist.

Three denials and three times Yeshua asks him, “Do you love me?” Then, He presses him hard, until, finally, Peter seems to respond sharply saying, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” (John 21:17). Okay.  Yeshua follows with, “Then feed my sheep.” And He begins to tell Peter that He is going to become a martyr for the faith. In other words, He is saying…

Peter, this is not about sitting at my right hand or my left…this is not about you being a big shot…this is life and death. It is about spreading the gospel and watching over my sheep. If you accept this calling, you will indeed die for me, as you proclaimed you would on Passover.

It is not about titles or position, it is about self-denial and sacrifice.

Why 153?

When they counted the fish, there were 153 fish in the net. Did you know that the New Testament shows Yeshua leading 153 people to the Kingdom in all four Gospels? In other words, you guys are still my fishers of men. It was a prophetic sign regarding what would happen in just a few days.

On the Jewish Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit, healed emotionally, knowing who He is in Yeshua, gives his first sermon…

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:

“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. (Acts 2:14-16).

The rest is history my friends…

Application: What horrible thing have you done that you think disqualifies you from being used of God? Peter had to learn humility, God had to humble him, because he could not see the need to humble himself. It is always better to humble ourselves, but if we don’t, God, out of His loving desire to mold us into the image of Yeshua, will humble us. It is His love, not His anger.

Hey, friend: God is not done with you.

Yesterday was a difficult day in Israel. Hamas, the terror organization that controls the people of Gaza by force, unleashed more than 120 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli population centers. One shell exploded in a kindergarten. If not for the fact that the school did not open for another hour, we would be looking at all-out war in Gaza, in addition to burying young children whose only crimes were: 1) being Jewish, and 2) living in the restored nation of Israel.

This unprovoked attack was so grievous that even nations that normally wink at Hamas violence, or make excuses for the terror group, condemned their actions.

Germany

“Germany unequivocally condemns the escalation of violence. There is no justification, under any circumstances, for the continuation of the massive mortar attack on Israel from Gaza. Especially malicious was the firing of a large portion of the rockets at Israeli cities and communities exactly during the hours of heavy traffic when people go to work. As a result of that barrage, a kindergarten was hit, among others. We wish the wounded a speedy recovery. It is Israel’s right to [preserve] its security, defend its borders and respond proportionately to attacks.”

I have an app called ‘red alert’ that sounds a siren whenever there is a rocket launch. Not since the 2014 war with Gaza have I seen my phone blow up like that. Sirens went off 166 times as more than 100 shells and rockets were fired at Israel during rush hour.

Ireland

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney had strong words for Hamas, tweeting,

“I strongly condemn firing of rockets from Gaza at Israel today. I continue to advocate strongly for people of Gaza who live in impossible conditions, but this Hamas-led violence undermines Palestinian cause plus it is counterproductive to political progress.”

Of course, he might blame the “impossible conditions” on the Israelis, but my wife can remember shopping in Gaza as a seven-year-old with her dad. In 1967, Israel liberated the people of Gaza from Egypt, who treated them horribly—worse than a prison. But Israel gave them freedom, commerce and friendship…until they chose to follow Yasser Arafat over peace. And then, in 2006, they voted in the Hamas terror group to lead them.

European Union

Emanuel Griaufret, the European Envoy to Israel, understood the reality of the situation for the traumatized Israeli children of the south:

“As kids were preparing for school this morning, a barrage of rockets from Gaza fell on southern Israel. One landed outside a kindergarten. I know the resilience of communities in southern Israel but indiscriminate attacks are totally unacceptable and to be condemned unreservedly.”

Even the uneven UN was critical of the attack, but could not help itself from issuing the typical verbiage that makes it seem that Israel and Hamas are equally at fault: All parties should show restraint and avoid escalation.

Israeli Restraint is Unmatched in World Conflicts

Let me tell you something UN, if Israel was not showing restraint, Gaza would be no more. It is only because Israel has more love and respect for the people of Gaza than Hamas does, that we don’t demolish it.

Last night, thousands of Israelis in the south had to sleep in bomb shelters as 40 more rockets were shot at our southern communities. While there were no casualties, the affects of terror wreak havoc on the souls of the young.

Now, to be clear, these outbursts usually cause little damage and I am not even sure Hamas is looking for a direct hit on Israelis, as it would bring a response that would not be beneficial to their existence. There seems to be some unwritten rules of engagement. If you don’t actually kill anyone, our response will be minimal. But heaven help them if there ever are mass civilian casualties.

Tel Aviv

While Tel Aviv has not been targeted, we know they have the capabilities. Please keep our Tel Aviv community in prayer, that we stay the course of preaching the gospel. Pray that God will use these circumstances to open up the eyes of Israelis to the truth of Yeshua. And pray for the innocent Arabs of Gaza who are under the oppression of Hamas, especially the Christian Arabs.

(Pic: A mortar shell landed on the grounds of a kindergarten — Shay Machluf)