The ENDS of the EARTH: Q’tseh ha-arets & Af’se arets
Occasionally we look at a phrase instead of a word. Today is one of those days. The ends of the earth was a common phrase that wove its way through the Bible, from Old to New Testament. In fact, it was a key element to the overarching theme of the Bible: all the ends of the earth would someday see and understand what God had done for His created ones.
Declare God’s Goodness to the Ends of the Earth
And what had God done? He saved us! From the moment we fell down in the Garden, choosing to be our own little gods of self destruction instead of trusting in God the Creator, we were headed towards death and separation from God. But He never wavered in HIs promise to rescue us. He offered salvation through a resurrection, so that we could rise up from our fallen state… and return to the Garden and the presence of YHWH.
Although today is not that day, one day all the earth would stand up and recognize YHWH’s great gift:
By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth [kal qats’vey arets] and the farthest sea; who establishes the mountains by His strength, who is encircled with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.
They who dwell at the ends [q’tsa’oht ] (of the earth) stand in awe of Your signs.
Today, not everyone has accepted YHWH’s gift. But those who have, come from across the globe, end to end, tip to tip. Praise to YHWH comes from every direction. We sometimes forget that, when we live insularly in our own little world. We are one family and because of that we can certainly praise Him from the ends of the earth:
Sing to YHWH a new song, sing His praise from the end of the earth [mi-q’tseh ha-arets]!
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it; you islands, and those who live on them. Let the wilderness and its cities raise their voices, the settlements which Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing aloud, let them shout for joy from the tops of the mountains. Let them give glory to YHWH and declare His praise in the coastlands.
Living Amongst the Nations
Genesis 10 outlined what has been commonly referred to as the Table of Nations. Noah’s descendants… were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations (Genesis 10:5b).
These 70 nations (or 72 according to some manuscripts) turned into separate nations because of what happened at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, where …YHWH scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:9b). This scattering produced a diverse set of nations and many turned away from YHWH and towards other gods. This was no surprise to YHWH:
Furthermore, YHWH will scatter you among all the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other (end of the earth) [mi-q’tseh ha-arets w-ad q’tseh ha-arets]; and there you will serve other gods, made of wood and stone, which you and your fathers have not known. Among those nations you will find no peace, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there YHWH will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. So your lives will be hanging in doubt before you; and you will be terrified night and day, and have no assurance of your life.
This was no way to live! But YHWH had a plan to save His people, and to bring them back under one King, as one nation, living in the Dominion of the God Most High:
[David:] From You comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.
The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise YHWH. May your heart live forever!
All the ends of the earth [kal af’sey arets] will remember and turn to YHWH, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is YHWH’s and He rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, all those who go down to the dust will kneel before Him, even he who cannot keep his soul alive.
A posterity will serve Him; it will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it.
The division of nations and the tribalism it produced was not the plan for humanity. There was to be one Kingdom over all, with One King who ruled over all peoples… and one day all the nations of the earth, from one end to the other, would recognize and worship Him.
Hannah recognized what YHWH’s Kingdom looked like:
1 Samuel 2:6-10
[Hannah:] “YHWH puts to death and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and brings up. YHWH makes poor and rich; He humbles, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the garbage heap to seat them with nobles, and He gives them a seat of honour as an inheritance; for the pillars of the earth are YHWH’s, and He set the world on them.
He watches over the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a person prevail.
Those who contend with YHWH will be terrified; against them He will thunder in the heavens, YHWH will judge the ends of the earth [af’sey arets]; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His Anointed.”
Hannah’s prayer celebrated this upside down Kingdom of YHWH’s. This was a Kingdom where the poor were raised up and the rich were humbled. It was a Kingdom where death would not win, but life would overcome death. And it was YHWH’s Anointed One who would make it happen!
The prophet Isaiah, like Hannah, understood this Kingdom:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, YHWH, the Creator of the ends of the earth [q’tsoht ha-arets] does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives strength to the weary, and to the one who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for YHWH will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
The Creator of the ends of the earth had a plan for all the scattered nations. He would offer redemption and salvation to all the ends of the earth:
How delightful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when YHWH restores Zion.
Be cheerful, shout joyfully together, you ruins of Jerusalem; for YHWH has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
YHWH has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, so that all the ends of the earth [kal af’sey arets] may see the salvation of our God.
Messiah for the Ends of the Earth
All the ends of the world were at risk, but YHWH’s plan to save us would bring us back into His presence. He would send His anointed one (Messiah)… His true Son… to shepherd the flock of His people and be their Salvation:
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labour has given birth.
Then the remainder of His kinsmen will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of YHWH, in the majesty of the name of YHWH His God.
And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth [ad af’sey arets]. This One will be our peace.
This Anointed One, great to the ends of the earth, would bring true peace… full completeness.
Isaiah recorded a poetic contemplation in the words of the Anointed One:
And now says YHWH, who formed Me [the Anointed One] from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (for I am honoured in the sight of YHWH, and My God is My strength), He [YHWH] says,
“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth [q’tseh ha-arets].”
The Anointed One was not just a servant to the tribes of Jacob, He would be for everyone! Salvation was to be for the entire earth, end to end.
Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
And I will eliminate the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be eliminated.
And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth [ad af’sey arets].
This was the great triumph of God for His people. The humble Anointed One would come to the world to save us and bring peace to all the nations.
But who was this Anointed One, the Messiah?
Yeshua, King to the Ends of the Earth
Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth [kal af’sey arets]?
What is His name and what is the name of His Son? Surely you know!
Yeshua fulfilled all the prophecies regarding the Messiah. He was born in Bethlehem, and proceeding His death He rode a donkey into Jerusalem and humbled Himself to the authorities of the nations. He was arrested, tortured, and crucified. His death was the sacrifice that saved us. And His resurrection took power away from death and the Adversary of God… the grave would no longer hold us down.
Now the people are called to be His image bearers on this planet. To the ends of the earth they are to share His love and His generous gift of life eternal in YHWH’s presence.
[Jesus:] “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends.”
But Yeshua did not leave us on our own to fulfill this commission. After His death, Yeshua came back to His disciples to encourage them. Kindly, He did not leave them to fend for themselves. He promised a Helper:
[Jesus:] “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. After a little while, the world no longer is going to see Me, but you are going to see Me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you.”
And so the Spirit of God was sent to the people. Just before Pentecost (which was the Hebrew pilgrim festival of Shavuot) Yeshua (Jesus) encouraged his followers to wait for the promise of the Spirit:
Gathering them together, He [Jesus] commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So, when they had come together, they began asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
But He said to them, “It is not for you to know periods of time or appointed times which the Father has set by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth [Greek: eschatou tes ges].”
The Spirit of YHWH would be intrinsic to the followers of YHWH. It is the beautiful understanding of God within us. But that Spirit needs to be fed and nourished, so that it is strong within us, because we have a job to do. We are meant to be God’s witness of love, to the ends of the earth.
Paul held onto this great commission when he announced that YHWH was not just for the Jews, but all the earth:
Acts 13:44-47 (quoting Isaiah 49:6)
The next Sabbath nearly all the city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you repudiate it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us,
‘I HAVE APPOINTED YOU AS A LIGHT TO THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’”
Paul knew of the seventy nations outlined in Genesis 10. The message of God’s love and salvation was for all the nations to the end of the earth. It was why Paul was so determined to be a missionary to all the nations, to the far outlying countries, from Asia to Spain:
[Paul:] But now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain (for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there [to Spain] by you when I have first enjoyed your company for a while) but now, I am going to Jerusalem, serving the holy ones.
Paul was back and forth, all over the known world, but he always intended to get to Spain. Why did Paul want to go to Spain? Because, it was the far outlying country listed in the Table of Nations (as Tarshish) and Paul wanted to fulfill his commission to reach the ends of the earth, to spread the message of God’s love and salvation. Tarshish was also the place Jonah tried to escape to when he disobeyed God’s command to go to Ninevah. Why Tarshish? Because it was the far corner of the known world… as far as you could get from Ninevah.
From Tarshish to Tatamagouche, YHWH sees the whole planet. Every corner of the earth is His domain. We cannot hide from His Presence… nor does He want us to hide. Rather, from the far reaches of the planet, He wants to bring us home to Him. That’s worth singing about:
Sing a new song to YHWH, for He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
YHWH has made His salvation known; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His graciousness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth [kal af’sey arets] have seen the salvation of our God.
You are part of this world. YHWH’s message of salvation has reached you. Now it’s time to pass it on… and present God’s love to the ends of the earth.
Next week: Revisiting STARS
Postscript: Today also marks 100 days since Kevin passed away. Today also would have been our 24th wedding anniversary. Thank you to all of you who have reached out to me and offered condolences. I also know that many of you been praying for me and my daughters. Your support has meant the world to us. With the deepest gratitude, I thank you. Shalom.