From Job to James to Gamliel -
Can there be Victory out of Suffering & Death?
| By Moshe Morrison |
Simon Peter and James and John, sons of Zebedee, were the three closest disciples of Yeshua. They were the inner circle of the twelve apostles. Yeshua spent more time with them than with the others and invested much of Himself in them. He took them to places where the other disciples could not go and they were able to see things that the others were not privileged to see.
The logical conclusion would seem to be that these three men would be extremely significant and accomplish extraordinary things for the kingdom of God. This would necessitate many years of faithful service and leadership in the body of Messiah.
With that in mind, Acts 12:1,2 comes as a great shock. "Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the kehila in order to mistreat them. And he had James, the brother of John, put to death with a sword."
How can this be? Only a few years after beginning his service to the rapidly growing community of believers, James was killed. It doesn't make sense. Why would God allow it to happen, especially to one of His most important leaders?
Didn't the believers earnestly pray for his safety and quick release after he was taken by Herod's soldiers? Why didn't God answer those prayers? Was there not enough faith?
I have wondered about this for years, but it has only been now, with the death of our friend and co-leader Gamliel Asher, that I believe I have received some insight on these questions. While this doesn't erase the loss or remove the suffering that comes with it, it does strengthen our resolve and ability to continue. This is because we are able to see victory in Gamliel's passing, rather than defeat.
What I recognized was that the other things that are described in Acts 12, were directly related to the martyrdom of James. The sudden supernatural escape of Simon Peter from jail and imminent death and his going on for many years to serve God was fixed firmly by the paid price of James' life. And I believe, that as a direct consequence of Herod's role in James' execution, the demonic shield around Herod was broken and he himself was struck down by God.
Throughout the Bible and throughout history there have been many who have given their lives for the kingdom of God. Their love for the Lord caused them to bring His light into very dark places, knowing that they might have to pay with their lives for the effort. In our natural understanding we assume that the best thing and highest expression of the will of God is always to preserve His servants from harm.
While we are sure that a demonstration of God's supernatural power to rescue His people is the optimum way to move the kingdom forward, this is not necessarily so. The death of the servants of the Lord in their service to Him sometimes accomplishes things that can be brought about in no other way.
But one might ask how this can be applied to Gamliel's situation. He wasn't executed with a sword by a wicked king. He wasn't thrown into a lion's den or into a fiery furnace for preaching the good news of Yeshua. Didn't he just get sick with cancer and die? If that is our diagnosis, then I believe our spiritual eyes need to be opened.
Gamliel arrived in this country nearly ten years ago. Since then he has had an unwavering commitment to see the message of Yeshua break the strongholds of darkness over the city of Akko and the northwestern coast of Israel. His prayers and actions to this end stirred up the ancient spiritual forces of evil that have dominated this region. The fact that they struck back with cancer makes it no less true than had they done so with swords or lions.
Even if that is so, why wasn't he healed? Wasn't there enough fasting, prayer and faith? There was absolutely enough, and none of it was in vain. Every bit of it only increased the preciousness of the sacrifice of this valuable brother's life. In 2 Samuel 24:24, David said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing." However, in a way that we cannot fathom, the Lord chose that Gamliel would not be healed (anymore than James was rescued) and that he would pay the ultimate price of his life because that would bring the greatest victory. While we would prefer that he were here with us for many more years, God saw a higher purpose.
Just like the death of James made the way for the greater release of God's power and brought about the breaking of Herod's power, I believe that through Gamliel's death something has been released in the spiritual realm.
Those who will follow after him in this area will experience greater freedom and power than ever before. And knowing Gamliel, I am certain that his desire, above all things, was to give whatever would bring the maximum results for the kingdom of God. This is not a victory for the dark forces, but a severe blow to scatter them.
In 1 Corinthians 2:8 we read, "...none of the rulers of this age has understood [the mystery of God's hidden wisdom]; for if they had understood it, they would have not crucified the Lord of Glory." The ultimate and uniquely redemptive example we have is of Yeshua Himself. The invisible forces of evil that brought about His death thought that in so doing they had eliminated Him and the trouble He was causing to their kingdom. But instead, they only brought about their own defeat. This principle of sacrifice is repeated each time someone lays down a portion of his life for the Lord in any capacity. Our brother Gamliel gave all that he had and the returns will be equally significant.
While we miss him dearly, we rejoice that he has faithfully completed his race and is resting in the arms of Yeshua until the final battles here are won and we all can rejoice together.
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